Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Shooting Season by David Gatward. Today I’m sharing an extract to whet your appetite. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for my spot on the blog tour. Shooting Season the 4th in the SCI Harry Grimm series is available in paperback, audiobook and ebook format. Do visit the other stops on the tour and see what readers think! The full list of dates and blogs is below the extract.
Extract: Chapter 1
Harry heaved himself out of his vehicle and into the chill Wednesday night air, pulling the darkness around him like a thick blanket against the cold. Hunching his shoulders, he glanced briefly up at a sky that was thick with low clouds, and a creeping dampness, that told him rain was coming, and soon. He could smell and taste it, too, the tang of it just on the edge of each breath.
It was the kind of weather, he thought, that a film director would be keen to use at just such a time as this. What he was about to do, what he was there for at all, was not an activity for bright evenings and warm nights, for stars and the moon and the promise of tomorrow. No. It was something best left to the shadows, hidden and secret, and talked of only in whispers.
The street he had parked up on was, by its very normality, not normal at all. These houses were average family dwellings, over-priced boxes people worked hard for, used to keep their families safe, and perhaps where their occupants dreamed of moving to something bigger one day. Semi-detached houses with driveways for two cars and small front gardens of artistic gravel and a bush or two. The occasional detached property standing apart from the others as though shunned.
And yet, up one of these drives, and behind one of these front doors, something darker sat, and Harry doubted that anyone in any of the other houses had the faintest idea about any of it, about what the occupants got up to while everyone else was running the nine to five. Which was a good thing, really, all things considered. A killer or two on a street could easily impact house values. Though with the way the world was, Harry wondered if such news would make prices go up rather than down.
Harry locked his vehicle, an old green Toyota Rav4, which he had purchased a few weeks ago for a few hundred quid. So far, it had been very reliable and despite being not exactly the fastest thing on the road, it certainly had no problem with farm tracks and fields. All rather useful, seeing as he was still up in Wensleydale, and not back down in Bristol.
He gave a moment’s thought to what life used to be like, chasing down criminals through the bright lights, sounds, and smells of a busy city. If someone had asked him a couple of months ago if he missed it, the answer would have been an emphatic yes. Now though, he wasn’t so sure. There was something about the dales that was getting under his skin, and no amount of scrubbing in the shower was going to shift it. Harry wasn’t even sure that he wanted to now. The green fells cut by lightning strikes of thin becks alive after a downpour, the winding lanes working like a seam on a quilt of patchwork fields, it was all starting to feel rather like home.
Stepping away from the Toyota and getting his mind back into what he was actually there for, Harry recalled something he’d read or heard somewhere about never being more than six feet away from a rat. Well, here he was, in a quiet street somewhere in England, and the same, he decided, could be said of the people he spent his professional life dealing with. The criminals of this world. The members of humanity who liked to help themselves to the stuff everyone else worked hard for, who considered themselves beyond the law, who just didn’t see the world like everyone else. Thieves. Drug dealers. People traffickers. Killers. Rats . . .
Walking up the street, Harry double-checked the address he’d scrawled on a piece of paper in his pocket, the blue ink smudging as the promised rain made its entrance. It was just a few metres further, and although he was in no real hurry, Harry upped his pace just enough to show the rain that he wasn’t going to just stand around in it and wait to get soaked, thank you very much.
A sharp left and Harry was heading up a driveway between two black BMWs. Which, if he were honest, was enough of a giveaway that if he’d known, he wouldn’t have even bothered checking the address. What was it, he thought, with people buying into an image? After all, any car would, he was sure, be adequate. A bright red Honda, perhaps, or a sun yellow Toyota.
Instead, the people he was about to speak to, they’d clearly fully bought into the whole criminal image and gone for something fast and badass. Fair enough, Harry thought, because they were nice motors, and he was pretty sure he’d enjoy having one himself if he could afford it. But whatever the owners believed about the wheels giving them status, Harry was about to do his absolute best to destroy it. Cars, he was pretty damned sure, did not maketh the man. And they certainly didn’t improve one’s ability to take a punch. Not that he was going to be punching anyone. Well, not unless he really had to.
Standing outside the house, the front door stared down at Harry through a single-glazed window, a cyclops’s eye glowing with a sickly warm yellow light from the hallway behind it. To his right, a curtained window, to what he assumed was the lounge, seemed to almost vibrate with changing colours, flickering out from a television he could just make out at the edge of his hearing.
Harry took a long, deep breath and forced himself to relax. There was no point going into this wired to the moon, worried about what might happen if things went south. Fear was different though, he could use it, keep himself alert. He’d learnt that in the Paras. He couldn’t recall a single firefight where he hadn’t been absolutely bricking it, but in each and every case, that fear had given him an edge, made the soldier in him come alive, and helped him stay alive.
Harry’s left hand toyed in his jacket pocket with something he’d made before setting off. His hand reached around it and his strong fingers clenched it, feeling cotton material brush against his skin. He smirked.
Reaching out with his right hand, the black leather glove which encased it squeaking a little, Harry pressed the doorbell. Deep inside the house, the faint sound of an electric bell chimed.
Nothing. No movement. No sign that the occupants of the house had heard it.
Harry reached out again, only this time he kept the doorbell pressed just long enough to let those on the other side of the door know that he wasn’t about to give up any time soon.
Harry growled, the rumble in his throat the churning of wet gravel and broken teeth. He reached out again, only this time, he kept his finger on the doorbell, pushing it hard enough, he hoped, that the damned thing would break and stay on for the rest of the night.
From inside the house, Harry heard movement. It was the kind of movement that reeked of annoyance, with lots of muffled swearing and slamming doors. This made Harry smile, though he knew full well that a smile wasn’t something that sat all that well on his face. The scars he bore, a mask of a face ruined by an IED, never took well to expressing happiness. Wasn’t there a phrase, something about having a resting bitch face? he wondered. His was that, only worse, the disturbing visage of a man who knew war, had seen it, tasted it, survived it, but still wore it and carried it with him everywhere he went. But then, what soldier didn’t?
Harry heard a scuffling from behind the front door. He stepped back. The door opened.
‘Whoever you are, I’m going to give you five sec—’
The owner of the voice got no further as Harry’s booted left foot hoofed the door inwards. It cracked the man hard in the face, knocking him backwards, and then Harry was inside.
‘What the f—?’
Again, Harry cut the man’s voice in half, this time by grabbing him at the shoulders and hurling him through the door immediately to his right, and into the lounge. The door, unable to withstand the force of the impact, crashed open, and the man tumbled forwards, did his best to stop himself from falling on his face, only to end up doing the worst roly-poly Harry had ever seen. He laughed. This was already proving to be more fun than he’d expected.
Harry followed the man through the door, at the same time pulling from his left pocket the thing he’d made and stowed in there before setting off on the journey earlier that evening. The air filled with swearing, all directed at Harry, but he wasn’t listening, he was taking aim.
With a roar that could wake the dead, Harry hurled the thing from his pocket at the other man in the room, who was dressed much the same as the one on the floor, Harry noted, in a shiny black leather jacket, white shirt, and jeans. He was doing his best to clamber out of a black leather La-Z-Boy armchair as the thing from Harry’s pocket flew through the air to hammer into his face with a nose-crunching thud.
The man, having made it to his feet, dropped like liquid, and Harry grabbed the first man from the floor, pulled him to his feet, then flung him once again, this time directly onto his companion, with the ease of a farmer lobbing bales of hay.
As the two men struggled to deal with what had just happened, Harry walked over, relieved them of the very obvious pistols they were both sporting, grabbed the thing he had thrown at the second man, stowing it in his pocket, then sat himself down in a very comfortable armchair. He reached for the remote control for the television and switched it off.
The two men pulled themselves apart and made to stand up.
‘I’d be staying on the floor if I were you,’ Harry said. ‘Make yourselves nice and comfortable.’
‘You’re dead,’ one of the men spat at Harry. It was the one who’d come to the door, and for the first time, Harry was able to take in the truly epic facial hair the man was sporting. It wasn’t a beard so much as a work of art—long and so neatly trimmed that Harry wondered if it could be classed as a topiary.
‘You can’t just walk in here,’ said the other man, whose head was shaved cue-ball smooth. ‘You any idea who we are, who we work for, you ugly b—?’
Harry pulled something from his pocket and the bald man fell silent. It was the twin of the thing which had knocked the other man to the floor.
‘You don’t scare us,’ the bearded man said.
‘I’m the one armed with a sock full of birdseed,’ Harry said, lobbing it from hand to hand as though warming up for some impromptu juggling. ‘So, unless you want twatting on that fancily bearded bonce of yours, hows about you shush and just listen?’
The bald man reached to where he, only a few moments ago, had a pistol stowed.
Harry stuffed the sock back in his pocket then raised one of the two pistols in front of him.
‘Looking for this?’
‘Give the man a coconut,’ Harry said, then stripped the thing in seconds and dropped the components on the floor. He did the same with the other.
‘A coconut?’ the bald man said. ‘What are you on about?’
Harry decided not to explain. It was pretty clear from the look on the man’s face that it would only serve to confuse him more.
The men were now both sitting on the floor and facing Harry like two naughty schoolboys.
‘Right, then,’ Harry said, leaning back, ‘to business! First things first. You both know me, obviously, and I know you, which I’m guessing is quite the surprise. And everyone loves a surprise, don’t they? So, we have no need for introductions. Best we just crack on with the reason for my visit then, agreed?’
‘What the hell happened to your face, anyway?’
The question was from the one with the beard.
‘Something wrong with it?’ Harry asked, staring down at him.
‘Everything’s wrong with it,’ the man replied. ‘It’s a mess.’
‘That’s brave talk from someone who just had his arse kicked.’
‘You got lucky,’ the beard said, and Harry heard a faint hint of bravado bubble to the surface of his words. ‘Anyway, we don’t know what you’re talking about or why you’re here.’
‘Oh, I think you do,’ Harry said. ‘You visited my flat a few weeks ago, remember? Hung around for a while but got spooked by one of my officers. Left something for me. A little gift.’
‘We don’t know nothing,’ baldy said.
‘That’s a double negative,’ Harry said. ‘By telling me you don’t know nothing, what you’re actually saying is that you very much know something. But, judging by that gormless look on your face, I’m guessing even that simple explanation just went over your shiny head, am I right?’
The bald man opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out.
‘Do you polish it?’ Harry asked. ‘That head of yours? Spray it with Mr Sheen?’ He turned to the beard. ‘And you, with that ridiculous facial hedge on your mush. You must spend hours keeping it like that, am I right? And why’s it so shiny?’
‘Your beard,’ Harry said, pointing at the man. ‘It’s shiny. What have you done to it?’
‘I’ve not done anything to it.’
‘I can smell a lie a mile off,’ Harry said, ‘but right now I can see one. It’s shiny. Beards aren’t shiny, are they? So, what have you done to it?’
The man was quiet.
‘Cat got your tongue?’
‘Oil,’ the man said. ‘I use beard oil, to condition it.’
‘You what? You oil your beard? Seriously? Does it squeak, is that the problem?’
The men looked at each other, clearly baffled.
‘Anyway,’ Harry said, ‘I digress. Back to business.’
Harry slipped his hand inside his jacket and pulled out an envelope. From inside it, he removed several photographs.
‘You delivered these,’ Harry said. ‘Photographs of my brother in prison. And the person who hired you to deliver them to me, I want his address.’
The men stayed silent.
‘So, still not speaking then, is that it?’ Harry said. ‘I know he sent you. I know his phone call to me was bullshit. The whole thing just another way to try and get me to back off. Well, I’m not. So, you’re going to tell me where he is, aren’t you?’
Silence sat in the room for a second or two, as the three men stared at each other.
‘He said you’d say that,’ the beard said.
‘Did he, now?’ Harry replied. ‘So, this is all part of his cunning plan, is it? You daft sods on your arses, and me up here?’
The bald man smirked. ‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with. We know who you are, we can find you.’
‘Who do you think you are, Liam bloody Neeson?’ Harry asked.
‘We can find you, find your brother, anywhere,’ the bald man continued. ‘That’s what all this was about.’
Harry leaned forward. ‘You fully expected me to turn up at your door and have you on your arses, is that right?’
Neither man looked too sure of that, Harry thought.
‘That’s not what we’re saying,’ the beard said.
‘So, what are you saying?’
‘That he wants a truce,’ the bald one said. ‘He wants to meet you. Face to face.’
‘Bollocks he does,’ Harry said.
‘No, it isn’t,’ the beard answered. ‘He knew that you’d find us. Not like this, obviously, because if we’d known this was going to happen, we wouldn’t have agreed to it, would we?’
‘So, what happens now?’ Harry asked. ‘Because my plan was to tie you together, call the police, and let them roll in here to pick up two armed idiots. That’s you by the way, in case you were wondering.’
‘He’ll call you,’ the beard said. ‘He has your number. But you need to do exactly as he says.’
‘Or this just gets worse,’ the bald man said.
Harry rose to his feet, his shadow casting darkness over the men that Hell itself would be proud of.
‘It’s already worse,’ Harry said. ‘For you. For him.’ Harry jabbed a finger at the beard. ‘You, stand up.’
The man climbed to his feet. Harry spun him around and snapped his wrists together with a plastic cable tie, then toppled him onto the leather sofa. He used another plastic tie on the man’s ankles.
‘Now you,’ Harry said.
The bald man hesitated, so Harry grabbed him, flipped him over onto his chest, and tied his wrists and ankles together just the same.
‘You’re dead! Both of you!’ the beard cried out, trying to sit back up on the sofa. ‘You and your brother!’
‘You know, I don’t think we are,’ Harry said. ‘Now, why don’t you make yourself comfortable, and I’ll just give the old plod a call.’
As Harry made to leave the room, the bald man shouted, ‘You can’t do this!’
‘And yet, here we are,’ Harry said, then left the room and wandered back outside.
On the way back to his vehicle, Harry punched in a call. Detective Superintendent Alice Firbank answered.
‘Can I assume that no one was injured terribly?’
‘Yes, you can, Ma’am,’ Harry replied. ‘We just had a little talk, that’s all.’
‘Send a car to the address. They’re not going anywhere. And whoever does turn up, let them know that there are weapons on the premises. Not that they’re much use, seeing as I dismantled them, but worth knowing anyway.’
‘So, were you right? That your father’s supposed olive branch was anything but?’
‘I’m afraid so, yes,’ Harry replied. ‘Apparently, he wants to meet up. Face to face.’
‘This is not an excuse for you to go all Lone Ranger on me,’ Firbank said.
Harry laughed. ‘The Lone Ranger? Aren’t you a bit young for that reference?’
‘You know full well what I mean,’ Firbank said. ‘If you go ahead with this–’
‘I will, of course, only do so with backup,’ Harry said.
‘Is that a promise, Grimm?’
‘Cross my heart.’
‘Hope to die?’
‘Not yet, Ma’am,’ Harry said. ‘Not yet. And things are sorted with Ben, as discussed?’
‘They are,’ Firbank said. ‘If you’re still happy with the arrangement.’
‘I am,’ Harry said. ‘Very.’
Phone call over, Harry climbed back into his vehicle, then watched as blue lights filled the night sky and two patrol cars came to a quick stop outside the house containing the two men. Then he flicked the engine into life, pulled out onto the road, and turned around to head back to Wensleydale.