Lies Ripped Open – Chapter 1
So, it’s just under a month away from the launch of Lies Ripped Open, and I thought I’d post the first chapter. if you want to pre-order, the links will be at the bottom.
C h a p t e r 1
New Forest, England. Now.
There are people out in the big wide world who don’t believe in luck. They don’t believe that luck plays any kind of part in our lives. These people are, if I’m brutally honest, fucking idiots.
The idea that luck plays no part in our day-to-day existence on this massive rock ignores the fact that it played a part in us being able to exist in the first place. Luck is evident in our lives wherever you look. Sure, ability, coincidence, and just downright hard work all play a massive role, but luck can sometimes mean the difference between being in the right place at the right time and, well, not.
Case in point, it was clearly a little bit of luck, whether good or bad, that saw me in the living room of my house, turning on the large HDTV and switching to one of the twenty-four-hour news channels at exactly the same moment as they cut to a clean-shaven, young man with short, dark hair, wearing a dark suit and talking in somber tones about a hostage situation that was taking place in the Southampton shopping center, West Quay.
I went to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and returned, taking a seat on my leather couch and increasing the volume of the TV.
“We’re now entering hour four of the standoff,” the man said.
Hour four? I’d been working out in the forest that surrounded my property, running and practicing various fighting and magical techniques, and had no idea of the crisis that had unfolded during that time.
“What, if anything, can you tell us about the situation?” asked a pretty blonde woman as the picture cut to include those sitting in a studio.
“We know that at approximately 10:30 this morning, an armed man entered Hopkins jewelers and proceeded to take the occupants hostage.” The reporter turned aside to give a better view of the Southampton high street and the entrance to West Quay. Police vans littered the area, along with several ambulances.
The police themselves were either shielded behind their wall of cars, or stood at the cordon not allowing anyone to get close to the situation.
“Has anyone been injured?” the news anchor asked.
The man nodded slowly, showing sadness, although I wasn’t sure it managed to reach his eyes. This was clearly a big news story, and he was front and center. Still, it would have been nice if he wasn’t quite so excited about the possibility of being part of such a big story. “It’s believed that one man was shot as he fought back against the armed attacker. We haven’t been updated as to his status since we learned that information.”
“And is there anything else the police are saying?”
“Not at this time. As you can understand, it’s an incredibly complex and fluid situation, where at least eighteen people’s lives are at risk. The police are planning on giving a press conference in an hour, but it’s believed that the information given out will be slight.”
“Keep us informed,” the anchor said as the camera cut back to her. She quickly started discussing the situation with an expert in the studio, and I switched the TV off. Studio experts being dragged in only meant one thing; they had nothing other than speculation and theory to fill the news with, but didn’t want anyone to change the channel. Just in case something exciting happened.
I stood up and walked back to the kitchen to throw the now empty bottle of water into the recycling bin, before making my way upstairs and having a nice long shower in water that was hot enough to ease any tension from my shoulders.
Once out, and dry, I threw on a pair of dark blue jeans, and a black T-shirt with blue and red lightsabres crossed over the front and Darth Vader’s head behind them. My best friend, Tommy, had picked it up for me a few months back, presumably in the hope that I’d join him in his love of Star Wars.
It didn’t work, but then his level of geekdom for those movies was something few people could possibly hope to match. I’m pretty sure he owns his own storm trooper costume. Which worries me greatly.
I sat back on my bed and breathed out slowly. A year previously I’d been involved in trying to stop Pandora from massacring everyone who’d ever pissed her off, including the woman I loved, Selene. We’d gone our separate ways after it ended—for various reasons—though I was hopeful that one day we’d be able to reconcile. But as Tommy’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Kasey, explained, I couldn’t sit around and mope about it.
Both Kasey and her mum, Olivia, had tried to set me up with various people over the last few months, but relationships should probably start off with the truth, and I don’t think most people who’ve just met me want to know exactly the types of things I do.
As Tommy had helpfully pointed out, “trained killer” is probably not what most people want in answer to the question, “What do you do for a living?” In the last five months, I’ve been on several dates. So far, I’ve been “ex-military,” “an Avalon specialist,” and on one particularly boring date, “shark trainer,” mostly just to see if she was listening to a word I was saying, or more interested in playing on her mobile.
Dating was a relatively new concept and one I don’t think I was destined to master. I could be charming, I was in good shape, and was what most people would describe as ruggedly handsome, but apparently that didn’t translate to “good at this dating thing.”
So I’d thrown myself into my magic, trying new things and mastering those I could already do. I was able to merge two elements that I could wield—fire and air—into lightning, which now came easily to me.
Two of the six dark blood curse marks that sat on my chest had vanished, bestowing on me an increase in power, and my necromancy, in that order. No one knew what would happen when the remaining marks vanished, nor how long that might take, but I needed to be prepared for whatever their disappearance might bring. Be it good or bad.
I’d just decided that I hadn’t bothered Tommy at work for several days and thought I’d take the drive to the massive building that housed his security firm, when I remembered that he was in Avalon with Olivia and Kasey. While trying to figure out who else I could contact, my mobile rang.
“Nathan Garrett?” a woman asked. Her voice sounded young, but the massive amount of stress in it could be clearly heard.
“That’s me,” I told her.
“My name is Kelly Jensen. I’m an agent with the SOA. Have you seen the news about the hostage situation in Southampton?”
“About twenty minutes ago,” I told her.
“I’m liaising with the police in charge of what’s happening. It’s been escalated to a specialist branch of the armed response teams, Level 2 Cadre.”
The Level 2 Cadre were the people who took over a firearms incident when the situation escalated and required a specialist approach. That’s when a Regional Specialist Ops Unit moved in and took command. They have the authority to come in and take over the situation, no questions asked.
“Okay, what does that have to do with me?”
“Level 2 Cadre’s entire staff are humans who have been placed there by Avalon.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you’re calling me,” I pointed out.
“Because the man who has taken the hostages wants to see you. In fact he’s requested you by name.”
I was a little surprised. It was certainly the first time anyone who’d taken hostages wanted to talk to me. Usually I was pretty far down on the list of people they’d be happy to see.
“What’s his name?” I asked, hoping to jog something loose.
“He won’t give it. He wants to be known as God.”
“That’s what he calls himself ? God?” I asked, making sure I’d heard her right.
“Yep. He says seeing how he decides who lives and dies, it’s a fitting name. I think he’s seven kinds of crazy, but that won’t help get those hostages free. We need you to come down here and see if you can help.”
“You want me to go in?”
“Hell no,” she said derisively. “Olivia told me all about you. I don’t need a dead hostage taker, and with all the media and human police here, I also don’t want the Cadre to be seen sending in a civilian. You come down, you talk to him, find out who he is and what he wants.”
“Why is SOA involved?” The SOA, or Shield of Avalon, was Avalon’s internal security force, sort of a combination of MI5 and the Secret Service. They were usually only involved in crimes that directly involved Avalon members, otherwise the LOA, or Law of Avalon was involved. The LOA was a sort of cross between the FBI and Interpol. They investigated crimes against, or perpetrated by, members of the nonhuman community as a whole.
“There was a hostage injured when the shop was taken. We told the media that he was shot, but he was burned on the leg. The hostage taker is a fire elemental from the sounds of things, possibly a sorcerer. But the victim said the man’s entire arm turned to flame, so I’m leaning toward the former.”
It certainly sounded like an elemental, a being that was one with their element, able to control it with incredible ease and capable of immense power. But this sounded like something for LOA, so why were the human police involved at all?
“You haven’t told me why the SOA are involved,” I reminded her.
“We think the hostage taker might have been employed by Avalon.”
“What makes you think that?”
“You know I can’t share that kind of information with you. Will you come down here, or not?” she snapped, a little anger in her voice.
I really hated Avalon political bullshit, and I got the impression that Kelly didn’t like me much. I’ve met several Avalon employees who see my leaving Avalon—and the manner in which I left—as a sort of betrayal of the principles they believe in. Personally, I didn’t much care what she thought of me, so long as she could remain professional. “It’s an hour’s drive,” I told her. “I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
My proximity alarm rang, signaling that someone was coming up the drive toward my house.
“Did you send people here?” I asked. “It seems I have visitors.”
“Those would be the two LOA agents I sent to find you. They’re going to escort you to Southampton.”
“You don’t trust me to turn up, Agent Jensen?” I asked.
“Actually I trust you to turn up fine. It’s what you do when you get here that I want to control. See you in forty-five minutes.”
She hung up and I opened the door to reveal two very large men with shaved heads, both wearing black suits. “Wow, you guys are very intimidating,” I said with a smile. “What are you, half troll or something?”
The man-tower closest to me smiled. “You ready to go?”
“Let me get some shoes and a jacket,” I said, grabbing both from beside me, and putting them on before pocketing my keys and wallet from the table next to the door.
“You’re not going shopping,” the second man said, his voice much deeper than his friend’s, and his accent was South African, unlike his friend’s English. There was some animosity in his voice. He was probably unhappy at having to give me a lift, which, considering the circumstances and that people’s lives hung in the balance, was more than a little childish on his part.
“Just in case I see a bargain,” I said. “Or, as is more likely, I have to make my own way back here when everyone is suddenly too busy to drive me home.”
They moved aside and let me pass, walking with me to their black Mercedes SUV.
“Shotgun,” I called.
“Fuck off,” the South African said, and both men laughed as they got in the front of the car, leaving me to sit in the back. Couldn’t blame them for having to babysit me on the way from my house to West Quay, but I could dislike them intensely for being dicks.
“The rules of the road clearly don’t apply to you guys then,” I said and lowered the electric windows, letting in a nice breeze as we sped off to deal with a probably very angry man and his scared hostages.
And there’s chapter 1. Lies Ripped Open is out on 25th August and can be pre-ordered from:
And whichever other Amazon you wish to use.