I’m ever so pleased to announce that my new book, Boy Without, is out right now! Sorry about the late post, but I’ve been ever so busy working on some new stuff. But more on that some other time…
For now, I’ll leave you with a sample of the new book, plus a link where you lovely people can go buy it from.
I’ll have more information on the new project that I’m working on soon. Hopefully it will be done by mid-May, before I go on vacation for two weeks in the Algarve.
As usual, happy reading and stay safe out there!
A cold harsh wind rattled through the eerie alleyways and streets of London. It was four AM on a Bank Holiday Monday. The club and pub goers had now ventured back home. The only people remaining on the streets were the troublemakers and the police trying to contain them.
It was the same scene more or less every weekend. But this weekend was different. It was a long weekend. One of only a few. And most people liked to take advantage of the extra day off. If anything, it was an incentive to drink more. To enjoy life to the fullest.
But for some, it was business as usual.
As the crowds of drunken revellers thinned out and returned to their respective homes, one man in particular was still on the clock. He was an average-looking man. Of average build and average height. He didn’t possess any characteristics that made him stick out. If anything, he was a master of blending in. He’d slip on by, and nobody would be none the wiser.
This man was a pro at his job. It was a job that required a certain level of finesse. He wasn’t boisterous, nor was he flash. He was everything that a modern man wasn’t. But it wasn’t by accident that he was like this. He was like this because of his training and his experience. This man was all about his business, and as he walked through the silent alleyways on this particular street, he could feel the atmosphere change slightly.
Minutes before, he’d had to traverse his way through a crowd of drunken men and women. Men and women that were going about their lives without a care in the world. And as he’d gently pushed his way through the crowds, an uneasy thought had popped through his head.
What if tonight is the night?
What if tonight I become like everyone else?
This man was far from normal though. The very idea of being normal was terrifying to him. For so long now he’d been able to go about his life without anybody noticing. He’d been able to live a life of secrecy and he’d profited greatly from remaining hidden in the shadows.
But unfortunately, there was always the very real chance that one day someone would find out about what he actually did to earn his living. And when that day finally comes, then everything he has known so far will crumble into a million sharp pieces.
Pieces that will leave scars.
But this man knew what he was doing. Most people allow unhelpful negative thoughts to bring them down. To affect their game. But he was different. This was nothing new to him. The human body always tries to sabotage its owner. In some way, shape or form, the body is known to be treasonous.
But this particular man was not afraid of his body. He had trained it meticulously to do and act as he pleased. And it was with this training that he’d managed to rise through the ranks as one of the top hitmen in England. Ten years of blood, sweat and tears – mostly from his victims – had made him quite the success.
This wasn’t about the money for him. This was never ever about the money. This was about cleaning up the filth on the streets. The filth that the police just didn’t have the stomach to face. But he had the stomach. And it was quite the stomach. An iron stomach. A stomach that housed a reliable gut – a belly that always turned him in the right direction. And the direction he was headed in tonight was a phone booth. A good old-fashioned red phone box located in some back alley near a mosque.
With his gut feeling keeping him company and the route firmly locked within his mind, he continued to walk down the sodden dirty streets and back alleys that seemed to plague East London these days. The further he got away from the borough centre, the closer he got to his job point.
Some things just don’t change. And tonight was no different. Every time he found himself approaching a job point, a nervousness would fall over him. It was silly really, after all these years on the job, after all the successful contracts he’d completed, he still felt nervous taking on a new assignment.
But that was just the way he was wired. He still had a conscience. And at times, his conscience had cost him big. There were some jobs that he was just not willing to do.
Jobs that included killing women and children.
Assignments that could affect the political and ecological world negatively.
Hits that could be considered an act of terrorism.
He wasn’t a mercenary. Nor was he some sort of martyr that sought vengeance on so-called wrongdoers.
He was just a man doing his job.
A job that needed to be done. And even though many would disagree, people like him were an integral part of society. He and many others like him had stopped bad men in their tracks before they could do harm to the innocents out there. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t men out there that did the exact same job as him who didn’t enjoy spilling blood for cash.
Like in all walks of life, there were plenty sickos out there.
He wasn’t a spokesperson or advocate for contract killers. But then again, he didn’t agree with turning a blind eye to the many evils of the world, and allow them to flourish unscathed and unchallenged.
That’s why he did what he did. And that’s why he would continue to do so until the very last beat of his heart. There were many risks that came with this sort of vocation, but none of them matched the danger of him burying his head in the sand and going about his life like a normal civilian.
He would not stand by and watch the world burn.
After a ten-minute brisk walk, the phone booth appeared like a mirage out of an industrial fog. Thankfully, the location was quiet. There was a large factory a few yards down the road. But it looked as if it had been closed for the Bank Holiday. To his left there were a few kebab shops and market stalls. But at this time of the night, they too were obviously abandoned for the comfort of central heating, and a toasty bed. To his right, fifteen or twenty meters from the booth was a mosque. Its curvaceous top glistened in the noir spectrums of this East London alleyway.
He found himself staring at the mosque for a few seconds, metaphorically breathing in the culture and history of the various people that would visit it during the day hours. Just because he killed people for a living didn’t mean that he was not interested in religion and peace. There were many ways that you could take somebody’s life, but there were also many ways that you could save a person. Be it with a defibrillator or a holy book of some kind.
Even if only for a short while.
The man looked at his watch and noticed that it was four-fifteen AM. In forty-five minutes, the mosque would be open for morning prayer, and soon enough the borough would be filled with believers going to their place of worship. Which was in stark contrast to the so-called non-believers he had just passed in the borough centre. Those people were night and day compared to the folks that frequented this area. He was pretty sure that at least the believers wouldn’t be hung over from drinking their own body weight in spirits the night before.
But then again who could resist an Apple Sour off some good-looking girl’s abdomen while electronic music pounded in the background? He knew that if he’d believed in God, he’d probably end up missing a few morning prayers too because of that particular temptation.
Sensing that time was of the essence, the man stopped staring at the mosque, and turned on his heels toward the red phone booth a few paces in front of him. He slowly walked toward the booth, counting his steps. It was a habit of his. He never knew when it would come in handy, but knowing the exact measurements of your surroundings always helped in a profession like his. Things could change at the drop of a hat, and certain life changing decisions would need to be made. Knowing where escape routes were, and how many steps would be needed to reach them was paramount to a successful brush against death.
Reaching the phone booth, he opened the door, and got in. Closing it behind him, he stared at the ads plastered on the walls. It was the usual suspects. Escort agencies. Homosexual hook-ups. Cleaning services. Religious passages. Taxi cabs. He continued to stare at the ads on the wall for a few minutes before taking out his mobile phone and looking at a recent text. The luminous white light from the LCD screen encroached on the various shadows that hung in the air inside the claustrophobic booth, revealing his tired eyes as he winced at the words on the screen.
That was all the text message said. But then again that’s all he needed to know. It was always from the same number. And it was always the same message.
The time he needed to make contact with his handler.
But the target or place wouldn’t be sent via SMS. First, he would receive an envelope through his door. An envelope with a single piece of A4 paper inside of it. And upon opening the envelope, there would be the name of a location. He would take stock of that location and then destroy both the envelope and the message inside it.
Soon enough after receiving the envelope, he would then receive a text message stating the time he needed to be at the job point. Hence why he was here right now, standing inside a darkened phone booth, at four-nineteen AM, waiting for his contact to ring. Time seemed to tick by slowly. The closer it got to four-twenty AM, the slower things became.
He could feel his heart fluttering in his chest. The anticipation of receiving the name of his next target and the monetary amount to be rewarded usually left him in quite an excitable trance. He was like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to pay his house a visit.
But the person that was about to ring the phone booth was no Santa Claus. In fact, he was no Saint at all. Far from it actually. The man in question was only known by a single name; Gallows.
A nom de guerre.
And just like criminals in the early 1900s that swung from high beams as crowds watched on gleefully, Gallows held no mercy in his thick black heart.
The phone box suddenly cried out in a high-pitched ring. He picked the phone up almost immediately.
He listened in for his instructions, not daring to breathe.
“Target: Manuel Sanchez. Last known location: Bow, East London. Address: High Green Lane, flat 72, ninth floor. Sanchez is considered dangerous and is a top priority for the firm. All witnesses should be dealt with accordingly. Failure to do so will incur a financial penalty. Your instructions are to enter the premises covertly, and deal with the target in a swift and precise manner. I have wired you the first half of your payment. £50,000. Total compensation for this job is £100,000, plus expenses. After the assignment is complete, we will need confirmation via a JPEG file that the target has been neutralised. Upon receiving the image via encrypted email, we shall send you the remainder of your money. Any questions?” A deep voice said on the other end of the line.
It was Gallows.
“What’s the timeframe on this?” the hitman said, clenching his fingers around the receiver, the plastic creaking between his hand.
The phone hissed in the hitman’s ear as he waited for a response from Gallows.
“You have twenty-four hours to complete the assignment. The clock began counting down the moment you answered the phone. I suggest you get a move on. Wouldn’t want this to be your last job for the firm.”
The line went dead. The hitman stared at the metallic dangling wire connected to the receiver and wondered how secure the call had been. He didn’t like public places, or phone boxes. But he hated the Internet even more. No matter how hard you try to cover your tracks online, there’s always somebody watching and waiting in the shadows. Be it the government, or some spotty hacker trying to make a name for himself.
So public places and phone boxes were a must, even if he wished that they weren’t. He placed the receiver in its slot, and quickly turned around, opening the phone box door, and walking out into the bitter cold.
He only had twenty-four hours to complete his contract. And by the tone that Gallows had spoken to him in, he sensed that the job was urgent, and could very well end badly if anything went wrong.
He wasn’t going to waste any time. In twenty-five minutes, he would be back home. Under the guise of a normal everyday man, he would enter his flat, and shut himself inside. The outside world would never come to know that he was a professional contract killer. And within the confines of his flat, he would begin to prepare his equipment. Equipment that he would use to snuff out Manuel Sanchez.
And after that was done, he would cash in another lucrative pay cheque.
But he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was as if there was a tornado brewing inside of him. His gut was trying to tell him something, but what?
He knew that he couldn’t get distracted here. He had a job to do, and he’d stop at nothing to make sure that his mission was a success.
But success always came at a price. Especially in this line of work.
And that price was always doled out in blood.
Gallows tapped his fingers on his desk as he stared into the darkness that surrounded him. His mind was distracted even though he had company. Seconds ago, he’d been on the phone with his go-to contract killer. And now he was in a meeting with his number one accountant/advisor.
As usual, it was business first and pleasantries later.
“You think he’s going to do it?” The accountant said.
She was a young pretty thing. Voluptuous hair. Equally fulfilling lips. A nice and tight business suit. High heels. And no wedding ring. Just the way Gallows liked it. But frankly speaking, she was too young for him.
Thirty years too young.
And as he sat there in his chair, still tapping his fingers on his mahogany desk, a frown fell across his face, intertwining with the hundreds of other creases on his forehead, melding into one unattractive gaze.
A gaze he held firmly in her direction.
“Do I think he is going to do it? Of course I do. He’ll do it if he knows what’s good for him. After everything the firm has done for him, he’ll do it without thinking twice about it. But then again, people are unpredictable. You never know where they’re coming from these days. And even though Blake has been an asset to this company, I’d be stupid not to admit that every man is fallible to some extent.”
The accountant nodded her head, pursing her lips. She stared at Gallows as he continued to tap his fingers on the mahogany desk. His large thick thumbs thumped on the wooden surface, closely cut fingernails tapping against the grain, scratching at the wood and peeling off flecks of varnish.
“I’ll admit, when I first met Blake, I didn’t trust him. He seems to me as if he has ulterior motives. Like this isn’t just about the money for him, while most people we meet in this line of business are all about the cash, he seems to be about a bit more than just that.”
She sat back in her chair and crossed her legs. Her skirt lifted slightly, revealing a smooth right thigh. She caught Gallows staring and smiled. He ignored her glance and continued to thump his fingers on the desk, only stopping to light a cigarette, an orange tinge lighting the otherwise dark and damp office.
“It’s not that I don’t trust Blake to get the job done, it’s just the circumstances surrounding the hit that I’m worried about. There’s a reason I told him to deal with any potential witnesses accordingly. There’s also a reason why I didn’t go into detail about who those specific witnesses may be. But I trust when it comes down to it, Blake will pull through. If he doesn’t, then you know what to do.”
The accountant nodded her head, her long wavy hair bouncing off her shoulders.
“I’ve already got Smith on standby. Any snags along the road, and he’ll be able to pick up where Blake left off.”
Gallows stopped thumping his fingers on the desk to take a long drag on his cigarette. He battered the ash into an empty Styrofoam cup and pulled a face. His large frame creaked and cracked as he sat back in his chair and stretched. He then stared off into the void once again, contemplating the various potential outcomes of this mission.
“Daddy, daddy! There’s a monster under my bed!” Pedro Sanchez said as he tried to stir his father from his sleep.
It was 5:10 AM and like clockwork, young Pedro was out of bed, frantically trying to wake his father. This wasn’t unusual in the Sanchez household. The kid would frequently wake up at night, suffering from night terrors or vivid nightmares. These unfortunate recurring events started shortly after Pedro’s mother, Bella, had passed away. Ever since then, Manuel has had to deal with his terrified kid, and the hurdles that came with an active ten-year-old’s imagination.
Manuel began to stir, opening his eyes to see Pedro’s face staring blankly at him, his complexion akin to a sheet of white printer paper. Manuel sat up quickly, frightened of what could possibly be wrong. He’d seen his son like this before, but never this scared. It sent a shiver down his spine just thinking that something terrible could happen to him. He’d already lost so much and losing his son would be the death knell to an already loss-filled life.
“What’s wrong?” Manuel said, grabbing Pedro by the arm, and pulling him closer.
But Pedro couldn’t talk. His lips weren’t moving. The more he tried to speak, the more his eyes welled up. Tears began streaming down his face, and his father shook him gently.
“Come on Pedro, you can tell me. I promise, whatever you’re scared of, it can’t hurt you. I’m here to protect you. I’ll always be here to protect you.”
Pedro nodded his head, a stray tear rolling down his cheek. His breathing was laboured as he sniffled and tried to catch his breath. He then swung his arms around his dad’s neck and hung on tight. Embracing him in a hug, he began to cry some more.
“I dreamt that you died, daddy. You died just like mummy! I was all alone in this house. I didn’t have any food, and nobody came to get me. I cried and cried and cried. But nobody would come. And then I woke up. The room was dark. I didn’t know where I was. I thought that you were gone. And then when I came in your room, it looked like you weren’t moving. I was scared daddy. I’m sorry for waking you.”
Manuel shook his head, smiling at his young son. Pedro’s big brown eyes glistened in the dark as the dim light of the morning horizon creeped in through the half-opened blinds.
“Don’t ever be sorry for waking me, son. I know it’s difficult for you. And it’s difficult for me too. But I’ll always be here for you. Even when I’m old and grey, and you need someone to talk to, I’ll be here, making sure that you’re happy. Anyway, it’s nearly time to get up, what’s a couple hours’ difference?”
“Well, I don’t have school today. It’s a blank holiday!”
Manuel began to chuckle as he got out of bed and stretched.
“Blank holiday? I think you mean Bank Holiday, Pedro…”
Pedro stared at him, the cogs of his young brain turning much faster than his could ever do at this time of the morning.
“No dad, it’s blank holiday. On my planner, it says I don’t have school, so that means it’s blank holiday!”
Manuel shrugged his shoulders.
“Maybe you’re right. It doesn’t matter anyway, holidays are holidays, no matter what they call it. I’m off work, and you’re off school. So that means we can have some fun today. Sound good to you?”
Pedro nodded his head emphatically, like only an excited child could do.
“How do you fancy going to the zoo?”
Pedro began to nod even more. His tiny face going red as the blood rushed to his head.
“Careful there, your head will fall off!”
Pedro stopped shaking his head and frowned at his dad.
“No it won’t!”
Manuel laughed as he scuffed Pedro’s hair up with his right hand.
“Okay, okay! Let’s get you in the shower and get you dressed. After that, it’s breakfast, and then we’re off to see the lions and tigers.”
Pedro began to jump up and down excitedly.
“Lions and tigers! Lions and tigers!”
Manuel watched as his son turned around, and bolted off toward the bathroom, where he stripped naked, and jumped into the shower in record time. A wry smile crept across Manuel’s face. He’d never seen his son this happy. Well, not since his mum had passed. But maybe his friends were right.
Maybe time would help heal their wounds.
For the time being though, all they could do was live each day at a time. There was no use dwelling on the past, especially when the present was just as important. Manuel was determined to turn Pedro back into the smiling lovable child he once was.
And when the boy finally got over the loss of his mother, Manuel could also move on. But unfortunately, he’d made a few mistakes along the way. Borrowing money he could not afford to pay back. From people that you shouldn’t default with. But it had been for a good cause. It had been to save the life of his terminally ill wife. At least he’d convinced himself that.
Bella didn’t take to the treatment though. And he was left out of pocket, and in debt to people that he had no business doing business with. He was working on paying them back though. In fact, he was working four jobs. But even he knew that the money he earned would never come close to the interest that’d already been whacked onto the ever-growing loan.
Today wasn’t going to be about his money troubles, or regrets. Today was going to be about making Pedro smile. Everything else could be pushed aside until tomorrow.
Because at least he had that. Which was more than his wife had.
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