Excerpt: Invisible Curtain – A Corey Shaw Mystery by Alex Morgan

 

 

Invisible

Invisible Curtain – A Corey Shaw Mystery

by Alex Morgan

Excerpt:

 

Faruq Boussora gauged the distance between vehicles driving westbound on Lower Thames Street and when a gap appeared, he dashed across to the median, ignoring the horns blaring at him.  His heavy backpack jostled on his shoulders, causing him to stumble.  The straps rubbed sore spots on his back no matter how he tried to shift its weight.  He hacked a few times to clear his lungs of the diesel smoke and the stench from his nostrils.

He was on a mission of peace.  Although he knew many would think it was one of murder and terror, he didn’t care.  The infidels would see the truth, see the error of their ways.  They had developed weapons that were an abomination to mankind.  The infidels were abominations.  How would they like having those weapons turned against them?

Would that make us just as guilty if we use them as well?  No.  The ends will justify the means.  Isn’t that the phrase the infidels always used? 

Faruq fancied himself being part of the new ambitious program.  Why else was he chosen for this mission, hand-selected from dozens of candidates?  He trained for months and now he was ready.

Faruq crossed Byward Street and entered the relative quiet of Great Tower Street.  A few steps away, he walked into the Hung, Drawn and Quartered Pub, a popular gathering place in London despite its macabre moniker.

He scanned the interior, noting with satisfaction the place wasn’t completely full.  The smell of food made his mouth water and his stomach growl with anticipation. More people entered behind him but his favorite booth sat empty and he made his way to it, avoiding waiters and waitresses carrying trays of food and pitchers of beer.  He sat his backpack on the floor underneath the table, relieved to be unburdened from its weight, and slid into the seat.

A young waitress with bleached white hair hanging to her shoulders appeared at his elbow.

“ ’allo, Mr. ’alliwell,” she said, giving him a bright smile and making an effort to pronounce his name.  “’aven’t seen you in ‘ere for a while.”  Her tongue piercing glinted in the dim light of the pub as she spoke.

Faruq bit his lip, preventing a smile from splitting his face at the alias he’d given her.  It sounded so proper, so British.  And Sarah was so sweet, so gullible.  “Hello, Sarah.  It’s been a few weeks, yes.  I had business in America,” he said.  He had worked hard to drop his middle-Eastern accent and perfect the Queen’s English.  Maybe I should add a South London drawl?  No, that would be overkill.

“Well, it’s great to see ya again. Gonna be stayin’ with us a spell?”  Sarah asked.  She balanced a tray in one hand and put the other on the table, shifting her weight.

Faruq ignored the question and tried to divert his gaze from Sarah’s ample cleavage.   “The place looks just the same as the last time I visited.”  He glanced around the pub.  Nothing has changed.  That’s good.

“Expected us to tart the place up, did ya?”  She laughed.  Faruq smiled back.  “The usual?”  He nodded and Sarah withdrew.

Faruq leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table, resting his chin on interlaced fingers.  Of course, he hadn’t expected them to renovate.  He would’ve found that out weeks ago if they had.  Therefore, no last minute changes to his plans.  From his earlier surveillance of the place, he chose this booth as the most advantageous spot from which to launch his mission.

His handsome and uncharacteristically fairer-than-normal features let him blend in with the Londoners without drawing attention to himself, and his mastery of their speech and even a few dialects made his disguise complete.  Since 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings, Faruq felt all eyes were on him and anyone who even resembled someone of middle-Eastern descent.

As well they should be, he thought with grim satisfaction.

Out this week – Exclusive Excerpt from Fair Play by Josh Lanyon

Fair Play by Josh Lanyon

CARINA_1114_9781426898976_FairPlayExcerpt:

They walked the three-mile loop called Old Road, crossing Little Bridge and then Big Bridge, moving deeper into the wilderness at the center of the ten-mile-long island, not talking much except to point out the occasional rabbit or fox.

“Any word from the arson inspector?” Elliot asked after a time.

“Nah.” Roland sounded untroubled. And maybe that was good. If Roland really could take a philosophical attitude about this catastrophe, more power to him. Elliot was probably worried enough for both of them.

Birdsong filled in the comfortable silences. Bees hummed in the liquid gold of the closing day, and clouds of gnats drifted over the long sun-tipped meadow.

“‘In wilderness is the preservation of the world,’” Roland observed, when they stopped to study a distant blacktail doe urging her fawn into the safe shadows of the woodline.

“Thoreau.”

Roland smiled. “Very good.”

“See. Even storm troopers can appreciate a nice turn of phrase. And a pretty day.”

Roland chuckled.

Of course, Thoreau had also said, Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. Elliot glanced at his father’s profile. Roland was still smiling, but it was clear his thoughts were miles away.

It was tempting to view your family as an extension of yourself, but it was a mistake. And no one knew that better than Elliot, having had the clearest possible illustration when he’d been accepted into the FBI and his father had effectively disowned him for betraying the values he’d been raised with. Roland had backed down from that stance, but by then Elliot had been wounded and furious over his own sense of betrayal.

That was all in the past now. All but forgotten.

“Your mother would have liked this place,” Roland said suddenly.

Elliot nodded.

His mother had been killed in a hit-and-run several years earlier. In fact, it was his mother’s death that had brought about his reconciliation with his father. It was hard to say how long he might have hung on to his hurt and anger. Tucker had occasionally accused him of being intractable, and he was probably right.

Elliot said, mostly thinking aloud, “I don’t know how you do that. Stay friends with someone you used to be in love with.”

“I can’t think of a better reason to stay friends than that this is someone you’ve loved.” Roland eyed him consideringly. “You don’t stay friends with your ex-lovers?”

“I never have. It’s too awkward. Most people don’t fall out of love at the same time. One person always wants more than the other person can give them. And that ends in bitterness.”

“You wouldn’t want to stay friends with Tucker if things didn’t work out between you?”

Elliot was silent for a moment, absorbing the pain the idea brought him. “Honestly? I don’t want to think about that.”

“Of course. No reason you should think about it,” Roland turned away from the green, sunlit sea of the meadow.

“Do you think you’ll ever marry again?”

Roland laughed shortly. “I don’t think so. I’m pretty old and pretty set in my ways now to try to set up house with someone new.”

And the person he would most likely want to set up house with was married to his best friend.

They continued on their way in silence, walking toward home now. Roland suddenly chuckled.

“What?” Elliot glanced over at him.

“I just remembered something. When you were about seven you used to sing along with ‘Purple Haze.’” Roland sang in his raspy baritone, “‘Actin’ funny but I don’t know why. Excuse me while I kiss this guy.’”

Elliot laughed.

There was a hard, dull thunk to his right. He glanced over, but it took his eyes a moment to pick out the shining slender shaft protruding from the trunk of a towering Douglas fir. And then another second to make sense of the red-and-yellow fletching, the red nock…

An arrow.

An arrow lodged in a tree. Not two arms’ lengths away from where they stood.

“Christ.” Elliot rushed at Roland, hustling him off the sandy road into the trees, yelling over his shoulder, “There are people here, you asshole!”

“What’s the matter with you?” Roland sounded astonished, trying to free himself and face Elliot.

Elliot was already second-guessing his instinctive dive for cover. Tree foliage was a mistake if they were dealing with a hunter having trouble telling humans from deer. But no. That couldn’t be. Not a hunter. There were no hunters on this island. Hunting was prohibited by law. Besides, Elliot’s T-shirt was red. Roland’s denim shirt was blue. They had been walking in the middle of a road. In full view. Their voices would have carried.

Not a mistake then. Not a hunting accident. Not an accident at all. Someone had tried to kill them. Or, more likely, tried to kill Roland.

“Don’t stop!” Elliot kept pushing his father toward the shelter of thick trees. Another gleaming missile whistled past, this time to their left. Elliot veered sharply, feeling the ominous twinge in his bad knee as he tried to drag Roland the other way. “Christ almighty, Dad. Didn’t you see that? Didn’t you hear that?”

Another arrow cut through the air—to the right again. Elliot jerked away from the thin, tight-pitched hum it made, his heart jumping. The hum was followed by another heavy, dead thud as the arrow penetrated a tree trunk a few feet beyond the bigleaf maple they landed behind.

The sick knowledge of what that missile could do to flesh and bone…

It was impossible to know how far away their attacker was. There were too many variables. The design of both the bow—draw weight of the bow and the shooter’s draw length—the design of the arrow, as well as weather conditions, particularly wind, were always going to be factors. The shooter could be a thousand yards away, for all he knew.

Or he could be moving up on them right now.

 

Buy link:

http://www.amazon.com/Fair-Play-Alls-Book-ebook/dp/B00KV5Z7M0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415216995&sr=1-1&keywords=fair+play+josh+Lanyon

Twitter: @JoshLanyon

Chatting with north Londoner and Suspense, Thriller author, WD Jackson

Interview by Jon Michaelsen © 2014

WD, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.

WDJackson1

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

Though I grew up in Birmingham, I now live in North London.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Well, I live with my boyfriend Roberto and our French bulldog Oscar. Our flat is pretty small but nice, and our home life is quite simple. When we’re not at work we watch an awful lot of American tv, I write, give the PS4 a blast, and we go to the theatre or galleries quite a lot, which is huge perk of living in London.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

I’d say being able to have a full time job, having my first mortgage, being able to write (and actually getting a publishing contract) and managing to sustain a long term relationship all at the same time. Sometimes my life feels very hectic and I’m always tired, but I’m pretty lucky to have such a combination of things to be proud of.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

I haven’t ever faced homophobia due to my writing – I think that comes from being fairly anonymous as a writer up until recently. I never really had much online or offline presence as an author before my latest novel. I am fortunate to also live in a city where being gay is not really an issue for the most part. It is something I am quite aware of in the back of my mind though as I have obviously faced homophobia before. I would imagine as my profile grows it may become an issue at times, but hopefully not!

redlight

How long have you been writing? Publishing?

Technically over a decade, but seriously for about three years. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, really just as another way to vent some creativity, but nothing came of it at the time. I wrote little bits here and there, but not with much effort, until I discovered self-publishing on Amazon. I was like ‘Oh, I have a book, let’s release it and see what happens,’ and amazingly it sold quite well, so I finished my second novel which had been languishing on my laptop for months, and it was then, probably about two years ago, that it occurred to me that actually writing is something I would really like to do as a profession.

Your novels seem to have a common theme in that they are mainstream thrillers, not gay-themed, but do include gay characters; can you clarify and share your influences?

Well all my novels are suspense thrillers, and now crime, with horror elements, which comes from my parents. I picked up their loves – crime fiction and murder mystery from my mum, action and horror from my dad. I was brought up on Poirot and Ellen Ripley!

As for how I include gay characters, I think that came as a reaction to having read a huge amount of books in my lifetime and as far as I recollect, unless they were classed as gay fiction, none ever featured gay characters. I still find this odd, and so I decided I always wanted to feature gay characters where appropriate. It’s part of everyday life for me to be around people of all descriptions, and on tv a range of people are pretty well represented these days, albeit often stereotypically, so why not in commercial fiction? What I don’t do is gay themed fiction. This is because it is not my aim to write about gay people and about being gay. I don’t think my stories would benefit from simply making everyone gay, but they do benefit from featuring what I hope are realistic representations of gay people because I think it makes them more realistic and reflective of modern life. They are not written to be about being gay, they just happen to be. In Red Light, my second novel, one character’s sexuality does affect the narrative to an extent, but none of my main characters have been gay yet. However, this is more because it hasn’t made sense in the story for them to be – so I reckon in future books I will have some main characters who are gay, but again the books won’t be gay themed.

Your latest novel, Slasher, is a serial killer thriller featuring police officer protagonist, Joshua Matthews. Can you share more of the plot with our readers?

Of course. Slasher is very close to my heart for a number of reasons. I love the genre wholeheartedly so it was great to write a book that plays with the genre, and also it came out of a bad review I got for my first novel. A woman on Amazon said Loose Ends, the book I wrote when I was 18, was nothing more than a slasher movie in print. I remember thinking that clearly she had never actually watched one, because it’s nothing like a slasher movie, but it certainly inspired me to see how I actually could successfully write a slasher novel.

looseends

In the novel, a serial killer is targeting actresses who have played final girls in slasher films for a horror production company called Hitlist Pictures, and they happen to have a new high profile film, actually called Slasher, in production. This of course means that the new Hollywood starlet that has landed the lead also find herself directly in the crosshairs of the killer. Trying to catch the killer is Sergeant Joshua Matthews, a man whose painful past has stopped him from working homicide. After being handed a murder case out of circumstance, he must overcome his pain in order to stop the killer before Hollywood’s latest star is murdered. The serial killer is building up to a nasty finale staged at the world premiere of Slasher, and so it becomes a race against time for Matthews and his partner Detective David Crawford.

It’s a very pacey, filmic story, which I hope is a really interesting mix of horror and crime, something which I have found to be quite rare.

Slasher is billed as a Joshua Matthews Thriller. Do you have plans of serializing the cop?

I do indeed, in fact I have already started the next novel. It too takes a familiar horror genre and again throws it in to the world of crime fiction. While I don’t want to reveal much yet, I will tell you that the genre this centres around is demonology, and will force Matthews into a case of science versus the supernatural, leaving him doubting what is real. Matthews is also promoted in this one, he’s now a fully fledged detective.

slasher

Do you ever see yourself writing a gay-themed novel in the future?

Honestly I’m not sure. As I said, I think a gay protagonist is likely – Joshua Matthews is straight but there could be a more prominent character in his series that is gay, but I also have numerous ideas for standalone novels, so perhaps one of those will go that way. Actually gay themed? Probably not a full length novel, because I would always want a mixture of people, but maybe a short story, that could be good fun. Incidentally, I did start a gay romantic comedy once, many years ago, after quite a painful breakup. I didn’t get far with it, and to be honest romance is not the genre for me when it comes to writing, but there are certainly elements of that which could emerge somewhere else.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

Well my current WIP is the next Joshua Matthews novel. I do have another novel that I started that is on hiatus until I finish Matthews 2, which I’m pretty excited about, and is a standalone, but it’s a long long way off yet.

Slasher is my current release, brand new to the world. It released on October 27th on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Foyles, iBooks and a few other retailers. So far it has been pretty well received and fingers crossed it will do well! I love writing, and it means a lot to me when people get a kick out of something I wrote, so go check it out everyone!

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

 

Find WD Jackson on the web:

http://www.wdjacksonbooks.co.uk/

http://www.wdjacksonauthor.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/wdejackson

Exclusive Excerpt from Calvin’s Head – a Psychological Thriller by David Swatling

“Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.”   –  F. Scott Fitzgerald

calvins-head-300-dpi

Calvin’s Head – Excerpt

by David Swatling

A strong wind blows wispy clouds across a bright full moon. I realize this is why I have been anxious all evening, agitated, with an unreasonable desire to go to a bar and get shit-faced. The Cancer side of my cusp is powerfully affected by the pull of the moon. On those rare occasions when I actually know in advance the full moon is approaching, I lock myself inside as one would a nascent werewolf. Too many nights lost to too much alcohol have proved this necessary. It was Willy who first noticed how much hotter I was when a full moon shone through the skylight of our bedroom.

I don’t want to think about that tonight, must not must not must not think about that tonight. I lock the door and automatically start walking left toward the little park. I stop when I realize Calvin is not ahead of me. Turning around, I see him standing poised to head off in the opposite direction.

I don’t want little park, Dekker. We went to little park this morning. I want canal walk.

– Fine. We’ll do the canal walk tonight.

Calvin leads the way, tail bouncing happily.

I won. I won. I won.

We have not walked the Admiralengracht in a few days. It’s a little farther away than I prefer to go at this hour, but it’s a mild night, apart from the wind, and I feel like being outside. Even though there’s no street traffic, Calvin waits for me to catch up at each corner.

– Okay.

We cross together. People who see this are impressed by how well trained he is but it wasn’t difficult to teach him not to cross the street alone. He doesn’t even chase his ball into the street, always waits at the curb for me to retrieve it for him. He didn’t bring a ball tonight.

No ball for canal walk.

In front of the snack bar at the corner, a pair of Moroccan youths pretend to fight, egged on by a couple of friends. Calvin stops and growls at them.

Bad boys. Bad boys fear Calvin. The leash he carries in his mouth muffles a bark.

The youths stop their horseplay, back off a bit. I don’t know what it is about Arabic culture that makes them so fearful of dogs. Okay, Calvin is almost fifty kilos of growling menace right now, but I’ve seen similar reactions to puppies.

– Come on, Cal. Let’s go.

He shoots them one last warning look before following me.

Arriving at the canal, Calvin drops the leash for me to carry and begins sniffing the grass that borders the water. It must be full of messages left by his canine neighbors but almost immediately he is distracted by a sound, a soft plaintive woman’s voice.

– Aaaaaandy. Andy. Aaaaaaandy.

Cal looks around, ears alert, and spots an old woman across the street. I think she must be trying to find a lost cat because no one calls a dog so quietly. The anxiety in her voice upsets Calvin.

Where is Andy? Must find Andy. His head darts up and down the canal, searching. He sniffs under parked cars. I assume he’s hunting for another dog since he has little interest in cats.

– Calvin, let’s walk. The lady is looking for her cat. You’ll just scare it away.

Calvin is still concerned as we head off along the canal, but within a few meters the old woman’s voice is lost in the wind.

We reach the next bridge, cross over, and begin to walk back down the other side of the canal. Ducks line the edge between two docked boats until Calvin spooks them into the black water. Ripples reflect the moonlight.

Calvin stops, stands rigidly at attention for a moment, then takes off at a quick trot. Up ahead I see Sela, a gorgeous Siberian husky, almost as big as Calvin. We’ve encountered her a couple of times, and she’s always friendly. But Calvin has little interest in her. He once snapped at her nose when she continued to ignore his threatening growls.

Tonight is different. Maybe it’s the full moon. Or more likely, Sela is nearly in heat. I assume not fully or her handsome young owner would have her firmly in tow on a leash. That’s another thing about the full moon. Almost every man suddenly looks more attractive.

Sela takes charge of this encounter and Calvin is reduced to a pathetic, lovesick puppy. All signs of his machismo norm vanish as he attempts to get a good sniff of her rear end. She teases him mercilessly, twisting her body away from his prying nose after a few seconds, and then hugging up against him seductively. She never allows him enough time to assume the position, running circles around his growing frustration. Calvin gives her a sharp bark, and for a moment she appears receptive, rolling onto the grass, belly up, smelly fanny fully exposed. As soon as Calvin is close enough to give her a good lick, she rolls away and jumps quickly to her feet.

Come and get me, big boy!

Calvin is left with his tongue hanging out, drooling like a sex-starved tourist in the red-light district. He looks at me with a forlorn expression.

Could you help me out here, Dekker? Please?

– Sorry, Cal, you’re on your own.

By now Sela’s dad has caught up with her. I always remember the names of the dogs but never their owners, especially when they’re as obviously straight as this young hunk. With some difficulty, he manages to get the leash clipped to her collar.

Calvin uses this opportunity for a last futile attempt to get a good lick of Sela’s ass. It’s her turn to snarl him off, obviously annoyed with her boss’s intervention. I grab Calvin’s collar and begin to drag him away, tail between his legs in despair. He actually starts to whine like a child.

Please, Dekker, please, she smells so good, Dekker, please.

– How about a little dignity, Calvin, huh?

When Sela has been led far enough away, I release him. He takes one long look back at his nearly beloved, raises a leg to piss a love note, and we continue our walk along the canal.

– Aaaaaaandy. Andy. Aaaaaaandy.

The old woman is standing on the bridge we normally cross to get back home. Her long gray curls are windswept and she looks so frail I fear she might be blown into the canal. She grasps the railing tightly and continues to call out for her missing cat. Calvin has lost interest in her plight, avidly tracking a trail left behind by Sela.

– Aaaaaaandy. Andy. Aaaaaaandy.

It sounds like a mantra, more chanted than called, as if part of a nightly ritual. An unnerving thought insinuates itself into my psyche. Perhaps Andy has been lost for more than a few hours. Perhaps Andy has been missing for days or weeks, months or even years. Perhaps Andy was not her cat but her husband. Maybe she doesn’t do this every night, only those lonely nights when she feels his absence like an amputated limb, when his voice is heard in the rattle of the wind on the window, when his heart beats in the ticking of the old clock on the wall, when she reaches for an empty space on the bed.

– Wiiiiiilly. Willy. Wiiiiiilly.

I pass the bridge quickly, trying to block out the old woman’s voice. I must not must not must not think these thoughts tonight, tonight of all nights. Not while the moon is full and Calvin in love and Andy lost and Willy gone and Dekker on the verge of losing his mind. I stumble along the canal until I reach a bench, midway to the next bridge, collapse on it, my whole body shaking.

Minutes or hours later I open my eyes. Calvin sits in front of me, leveling his ever-inquisitive gaze into my face.

What’s up? We don’t sit on a bench in nighttime.

I look back toward the bridge. The old woman is gone. The streets are empty but the moon is still full. I decide to take a roundabout route back to the house. I don’t want to hear her haunting cries again this night.

Two blocks from home, I see her crouch by a parked car. Her voice is barely a whisper as she coaxes a frightened white kitten into her arms. I’m convinced this is not Andy. This is some stray she found to replace the empty basket in her heart. If not Andy, any cat will do. She disappears around the corner, ghost cat in her arms, two lost spirits in the mist.

 

 

Find David Swatling on the web:

http://davidswatling.wordpress.com/