This is my first non-self-published book. I put the novel on Amazon's Kindle Scout site where novels compete for thirty days, and to my delight it was selected for publication by Kindle Press.
BLURB: It's 2045. Jace Carnady works for the Time Police, dedicated to the prevention of timecrime. Life is good; he loves his girlfriend and enjoys his work. But when the team gets wind of a rogue time machine and fails to find it, Jace suspects one of his colleagues may be involved, and his life begins to unravel . . .
In 2015, Floss Dryden is snatched from her own time and taken to the future – but will this really prevent the extinction of humanity?
Here are the first chapters:
It’s hard to arrest a man who owns a time travel device; if he sees you coming he can press a couple of buttons and be sometime else. For this reason, Jace had been in favour of a honey trap. Kayla could have picked him up, no problem; one wide-eyed gaze from her violet eyes, a flutter of dark lashes, and McGuire would have followed her anywhere, tongue hanging out. But at the briefing in the deserted IEMA headquarters that Saturday evening, as they sat round Quinn’s desk in a pool of light, Quinn overruled this.
“He’s dangerous. If he smells a rat Kayla would be vulnerable.”
“She can handle him,” Jace said. “The guy’s a stick insect. A child could push him over with one finger.”
“Thank you,” said Kayla.
“Let alone Kayla with her superb combat skills,” he added, too late. She gave him a look.
Quinn shook his head decisively. “We’ll do this by the book. A raid at first light, surprise him while he’s asleep. You and me at the front, Kayla and the others round the back in case he runs for it.” He turned to Kayla. “Bring Scott.”
“Is that a good idea? He’s had no experience.”
“He won’t get experience sitting in the office. I’ll keep an eye on him. We’ll meet here tomorrow at zero five hundred hours.”
Kayla emailed Scott, then Quinn got to his feet. The meeting was over. In the lift Jace put his arm around Kayla’s waist. “Stay at my place tonight.”
“Hmm. Not sure you deserve it.”
“I’m thinking of you! It’s nearer for tomorrow.”
“I suppose that’s true . . .”
Jace pressed her against the elevator wall and kissed her, drinking in her perfume, feeling the muscles beneath delectable curves. He murmured, “Why don’t we get married?”
She gave him a slow smile. “Now that’s a novel idea. Never been asked that before. I’ll give it some thought.”
The lift doors parted and they walked hand in hand through the warm spring night towards Jace’s flat.
* * *
In the pale Sunday light of a May dawn, Jace, Quinn and Scott stood outside the derelict warehouse, dressed in dark trousers and hoodies. The day was colder than it looked.
Though he must have been on a dozen IEMA raids by now, Jace still got the adrenaline rush, the sensation of being extra alive, every sound, sight and smell heightened. Going by Scott’s trembling hands, bright eyes and flushed face, their new recruit evidently felt the same. Jace’s doubts about him resurfaced. Not that he wasn’t intelligent. He was. He was also enthusiastic – if anything, too enthusiastic. Scott was young, had only been on the team three weeks, and tended to be impulsive. To Jace’s mind, he should be with Kayla, not here at the sharp end where he was likely to get in the way. Still, at least he wasn’t lumbered with him.
Quinn nodded to Jace. Silently they moved in opposite directions, hugging the wall in case McGuire glanced out of one of the huge windows. He had no reason to expect them, but most likely he’d have the TiTrav on his wrist and they weren’t taking chances. Funny that Quinn thought him dangerous; had told them to shoot if necessary. Jace was the only one of the team to have encountered McGuire before, and he didn’t think the man clever enough to be dangerous – he was a loser, a drifter, a jackal hovering round others’ prey, easily scared. He wondered how someone as useless as him had managed to get hold of a TiTrav in the first place. They’d only been on the open market for six days in 2032 before the World Government passed a hasty bill to outlaw their sale, possession and use. No one knew how many illicit TiTravs were still in circulation, but the number probably wasn’t in double figures.
Jace picked his way over fallen masonry and scrubby plants till he reached the small door within the big one and slipped inside, careful to avoid crunching the broken plaster that littered the floor. He waited for his eyesight to adjust so he could check for tripwires, though he couldn’t imagine McGuire setting traps. Pale shafts of sunlight from high windows traversed a vast dim space dotted with pillars. He couldn’t see Kayla and Farouk, but they’d be there, concealed in the shadows at the back. Above him was a low mezzanine, reached by spiral staircases at either end.
Quinn, followed by Scott, appeared beside the far staircase. Quinn got out his weapon and lifted his thumb to signal Go. They began to climb the stairs, stealthily, making no sound.
Jace slowed as his head levelled with the mezzanine’s dusty floorboards. Staying at the side, he gradually moved upwards until he could see the long narrow space bordered by a scabby white wall on the left, a metal railing on the right. Sunshine streamed through the window, illuminating a sleeping bag curled like a grub on a mattress on the floor. Someone was inside the sleeping bag. At the top of the second staircase, two faces appeared. Jace frowned. He had assumed Scott would be left at the bottom of the staircase. They moved slowly towards each other, closing in on the mattress. The floorboards creaked beneath their feet and they stopped. Quinn nodded.
Jace switched on his vidcam and shouted, “McGuire! On your feet! Hands in the air where I can see them.”
The sleeping bag writhed and a pale face appeared, topped with chaotic hair. Hands emerged, then shoulders and torso clad in a thick over-sized sweater. McGuire wriggled his scrawny limbs out of the sleeping bag, eyes on Jace, hands above his head. The baggy sleeves slipped a little. Not seeing a TiTrav on either of his wrists, Jace relaxed, put his gun away and got out flexicuffs. Hardly worth cuffing this pathetic figure, but Quinn had said to do things by the book.
McGuire made an effort to sound affronted. “What d’you want me for?”
“Peter William McGuire, acting as an officer of the International Event Modification Authority I am arresting you on suspicion of committing timecrime and being in illegal possession of a TiTrav. You will be given the opportunity to contact a lawyer in due course. You do not have to answer our questions. Everything you do and say is being filmed and may be used as evidence against you.”
“I haven’t done anything! I’m innocent! You’ve got no proof.”
“Then you have nothing to worry about. After a few unproductive but cordial hours with the time team at IEMA you can go back to bed. I don’t expect you’ve much else on this morning – urgent appointments, people to see, things like that? Nah. I’ll buy you breakfast.” He lifted the cuffs. “Turn around.”
Grudgingly, McGuire turned. He saw Quinn and Scott for the first time, and it was as if an electric shock went through his body. Before Jace could react, he had leaped for the railing and vaulted over. As they all rushed to the rail, they heard the thump when he landed. For a moment, seeing McGuire motionless in a heap on the floor, Jace thought he was dead. Then McGuire jumped to his feet and ran.
Quinn said, “Jace, after him.”
As Jace sprinted for the spiral stairs, a sound made him swivel. Quinn and Scott both had their guns out. He yelled, “Don’t shoot! He’s not got it!” but his voice was obliterated by gunfire. Jace raced to the foot of the stairs.
Alone in the middle of the wide space McGuire lay face down on the gritty boards like a pile of old rags, as ruined as the building. Jace ran to him and turned his limp bony frame over. Faded blue eyes stared unblinking at the ceiling. One bullet had hit his right arm below the elbow in textbook style, the other gone straight through his heart. Jace pulled up McGuire’s left sleeve. As he’d thought, no TiTrav. He tried his right wrist, then his pockets; a packet of grey-market legal highs, a dataphone, a couple of thousand pound notes. Nothing of importance. No weapon. His death had been a stupid, unnecessary mishap. He got slowly to his feet as the others gathered round. Scott’s face was drained of colour and he was shaking.
Jace said to Quinn, “Why did you shoot? Didn’t you see his wrists were bare?”
“No. You were closer than we were. You should have told us.”
“I thought you knew! You saw me put my gun away because I didn’t need it. I was talking to the guy!”
“He’s dead. This discussion is irrelevant. Get the body collected and taken to the pathologist. Tell him I want the autopsy done straight away.” As Jace got out his phone, Quinn turned to Scott. “Don’t take it to heart. These things happen. It’s hard to shoot a moving target accurately in the heat of the moment. And McGuire’s no great loss to humanity.” Scott stared dumbly at him. Quinn put a hand on his arm and said, his voice sympathetic, “I take full responsibility for bringing you on this mission. You have nothing to answer for.” He turned to the others, who looked shaken and sombre. “Now find the TiTrav. We know he had one. It has to be here.”
* * *
McGuire’s death cast a pall over the day. The atmosphere was subdued, lacking the usual light-hearted jokes and banter. As the light faded that evening, Quinn gathered his team together. They had carried out an inch by inch search of the entire warehouse with barely a break. After this proved fruitless they had scanned the building and surrounding area with metal detectors. The TiTrav hadn’t been found. Everyone was getting tired and tetchy, except Scott who was tired and silent. Quinn looked round the group.
Scott stared at his boots. Farouk rubbed his hands over his grimy face, making it grimier. “Are we sure he even had it to begin with?”
“The alert came from his house.”
Kayla said, “Yes, but it didn’t have to be him flicking the switch. We made the assumption his landlady was telling the truth. Perhaps she wasn’t. Perhaps there was someone else in the house.”
“She seemed okay to me,” Jace said. “Why would she lie?”
“Covering up for someone?”
“I suppose it’s possible . . .”
Farouk said, “Here’s another idea: he could have hidden it somewhere we can’t get at, like buried six feet down where the detectors won’t reach.”
Jace shook his head. “Can’t see McGuire doing that. Too much work. And the ground’s not disturbed.”
“He could have hidden it somewhere else entirely.”
Kayla said, “I think his instinct would have been to keep it close. Maybe he sold it on. We could check out places he might do that.”
Jace was already scrolling through the contacts list on McGuire’s dataphone. He looked up. “I might have guessed. Ryker. This could be the time we pin something on the slippery bastard.”
The team made a brief stop at a pizza restaurant to refuel, with the exception of Scott, whom they dropped off at his home. While they ate, Quinn filled out, filed and printed a search warrant; not the first for Ryker’s premises. They’d pulled him in a couple of times too, but had failed to get anywhere on either occasion. Officially, the man remained as clean as a whistle.
Ryker’s workshop was under a railway arch south of the river. In contravention of the terms of his commercial lease he lived there too, so was likely to be in, though it was now 8.45 on a Sunday evening. When they emerged on to the pavement the pod they had ordered waited for them, glowing in the dark, blue light on to show it was picking up. They stepped inside, Jace told it the name of a street round the corner from Ryker’s and the pod glided off. Rain spattered against its curved glass windows; Jace stared out, yawning. It had been a long discouraging day, and wasn’t over yet.
As they neared their destination the streets got less like anywhere you’d want to live; rundown, neglected and looking their worst in the rain and the streetlights’ harsh glare. The pod let them out in a main road with mean brick buildings on either side, ripe for redevelopment. They followed the pavement under a railway bridge, and turned right into an unlit dead end lined with Victorian railway arches, each housing a small business. Only one had light shining through high up windows in the bricked-in arch; above the door bell a cracked plastic plate offered:
BEWARE OF THE DOG
Quinn pressed the bell push. Immediately a frenzied barking started up the other side of the door. Jace pounded the wooden panels, making as much noise as the dog, playing the role of hard cop. “Open up, Ryker, or we’ll break the fucking door down.”
Kayla murmured, “There’s nothing quite like a charm offensive to win friends and influence people.”
Jace grinned at her as the grating sound of heavy bolts being moved replaced the barking. The door opened and Ryker stood on the threshold, lean, scruffy and hostile, a big German Shepherd beside him. Muffled shots sounded from a film playing on the computer in front of an upholstered swivel chair; on the desk stood three bottles of beer and a half-eaten carton of fast food, the accoutrements of his interrupted cosy evening.
Quinn handed him the search warrant. Ryker read it sourly, then stood aside to let them in. Though things being worked on lay about, the place was organized, with no extraneous clutter. More workshop than home, the workbenches, a small forge, lathes, a pillar drill and a milling machine occupied most of the area. The computer desk was at the back, and bed and kitchen units fitted in where they could round the edges of the space, jostled by racks and shelves. The benches were littered with tools and electronic bits and pieces. Damp and crusted lime discoloured the brick-built arch of the ceiling.
Quinn sat in the one comfortable chair as if it were his, switched off the computer’s sound, and helped himself to a chip. Like Jace, Quinn was over six foot, but a little heavier, his neck nearly as wide as his close-cropped head. This might have given him an air of menace, but for the intelligence and humour in his eyes. He swivelled gently to and fro, watched by everyone in the room. Jace wondered how he managed to exude authority so effortlessly.
Finally Quinn said pleasantly, “We arrested a friend of yours today, Mr Ryker. Peter McGuire. Have you seen him lately?”
Ryker’s eyes were stony. “As it happens, he dropped by yesterday. What of it?”
“Why did he come to see you?”
Ryker shrugged. “He was in the area. We had a bit of a chat.”
“This and that.”
“Did he have a TiTrav with him?”
“If he did, I didn’t see it.”
“Our information suggests he may have left one here with you, maybe for repair.”
Ryker said piously, “Repairing a TiTrav would be timecrime. Unless it was for you lot, obviously, when I’d be pleased to help, and do keep me in mind should you have the need. Otherwise I wouldn’t touch it. I’m strictly legit.”
There was a pause. “If I hit him,” Jace suggested to Quinn, “he might get a bit more cooperative. Shall I?”
“No need for that,” Quinn said, getting to his feet. “Mr Ryker, would you open that safe for me?”
Ryker’s safe was so old it opened with a key. Inside were a dozen dataphones and a small bundle of bank notes. Quinn counted them before putting them back and letting Ryker shut the safe.
“Most honest citizens don’t have a use for cash,” Quinn remarked. He turned to his team. “Search him. Then take the place apart. Remember we could be looking for a dismantled TiTrav.”
The search that followed went on into the small hours, and Jace’s conviction right from the start that they were wasting their time didn’t make it any more fun. Not that he believed in Ryker’s innocence; he didn’t. But the man’s demeanour was the giveaway. Ryker wasn’t anxious. He sat impassively throughout and watched them, waiting for them to finish and go. The dog watched them too. So did Quinn, between bouts of trawling through the computer; but while he watched he wandered around, picking things up and putting them down again.
Jace took photographs while Farouk summoned the van with the equipment. When it arrived, they unloaded ladders and a platform, put on vinyl gloves and systematically examined every inch of the ceiling, looking for a concealed hiding place behind a loose brick. Grit fell in their eyes as they worked and the dust made them sneeze. Finding nothing, they moved on to the machines and workbenches.
There was only one small piece of excitement all evening. Jace was testing hand power tools on one of the benches to make sure the TiTrav wasn’t hidden in any of the casings when Farouk, on his knees behind the kitchen units, jumped up and used an expression that had not been heard to pass his lips before.
Jace said, “Fuck me, that’s a first. I thought swearing was haram?”
“He got it from you,” Kayla said. “You’re a terrible influence. Are you okay, Farouk?”
Farouk kicked the cabinet. His foot went straight through the flimsy panel. “A bastard mousetrap got my fingers!”
Quinn looked up from the computer screen and told him to calm down. Ryker cracked his only smile of the evening, which drew Quinn’s attention to him.
“I’m finding a surprising number of TiTrav resources in your files. Technical stuff, service software, updates, diagrams, coding . . . I doubt our own technicians have as much. I’m wondering why anyone without a TiTrav would need this.”
“It’s interesting,” Ryker said. “It’s my hobby.”
They applied stickers as they went, a different colour for each operative, so that nowhere would be missed or gone over twice. These were left in situ. By the time they’d exhausted every possible hiding place – and many impossible ones – it looked as if a hurricane en route from a giant’s wedding had spread confetti through the workshop. The team communicated in monosyllables, working mechanically, longing to get home. Two unproductive searches in one day was two too many. When they ran out of places to search, they stood in a disconsolate group, tacitly admitting defeat.
“We’re done here,” said Quinn.
“Happy now?” said Ryker, standing up. “I suppose there’s no chance of an apology for time wasted and nuisance caused. If you lot will bugger off I’ll tidy up and go to bed.”
“Mr Ryker, on behalf of IEMA I apologize,” said Quinn. “Once again you emerge without a stain on your character. Few people have been so frequently subjected to repeated scrutiny and found to be blameless. I can only congratulate you on your record and hope you retain it.”
They were halfway to the door when Quinn turned. “Perhaps I should tell you, as you were his friend, that Peter McGuire resisted arrest this morning. So we shot him. Dead. Goodnight.”