Morning on this grey Saturday. I have a chapter for a new WiP. The only trouble is I have no plot, no real idea of where it will lead. I am asking for your help. Read the first chapter (yes, it's unedited, don't nag) and then in the comments, tell me what you'd like to see happen next. The best idea as picked by the boss (my daughter) gets a choice of either a copy of any of my backlist OR a copy of In-Decision (due out 15th April), and the book dedicated to you.
The competition closes Friday 10th April at 6pm BST.
Help me please, my lovelies. I need your ideas.
Morning My Angel
As expected the message pops up as soon as I log on.
Quickly I type a greeting in return.
Anything further will have to wait until I’ve had my fifth cup of coffee. He knows that now.
Of course, my name’s not Angel and his isn’t Charlie but if we want to greet each other like we’re relics from a seventies show then it’s no one’s business but ours.
I smile at the computer and wander off to find more coffee. It’s just gone nine in the morning and I’m just about to drink cup four. This will elevate me from zombie to almost human. Yes, I will talk a lot about coffee. I’m addicted and if you’re one of these ‘green tea plucked from the Himalayas only on a full moon in a month beginning with Z’ types we’re probably not going to get on. I like my coffee black and strong, just like my dog.
I know what you thought I was going to say but you’re wrong. I don’t give a fuck if my men are built. If you think picking me up and banging me against a wall is a sign of a real man you can think again.
“Morning, Darryl.” I paste on my brightest smile for the man who walks past me.
Darryl mutters at me as he walks past. Darryl doesn’t like me much. It’s mutual. The guy’s a dick at the best of times but he’s the best decoder we’ve got so I leave him alone.
I sigh in relief as I down half the coffee in three swallows and top up my mug full to the brim.
“You’ve got no time to drink that. Conference room now!” Dominic Cook, the coordinator, stalks past, his usual frown pasted to his face.
I take another swallow, fill the mug again and follow him at a leisurely pace, admiring Dominic’s tight ass. There’s no point rushing. Landry and Gill will take six minutes and forty-five seconds to arrive from two floors up. I know their routine. I pull a face. Meetings all morning. No time to talk to Charlie. Morning Angel was all I was gonna get until crisis 5440 was over. You think I’m joking about the number? I log each and every single one in a folder labelled Full English. Why yes, I am OCD. Thank you for noticing.
The usual suspects take their place in conference room 1. Dominic who coordinates the operations. A red-head with a vile temper and an eye for detail that makes me green with envy.
Landry and Gil, the muscle. Tall, black twins. Da-yam. Darryl. You’ve met him already. Ryan Winslow, the accountant. Blond, sharp. If we can’t afford it he won’t let us do it.
Jimmi Fortune. At your service. Thirty-four. Dark hair, brown eyes, I don’t break mirrors. The brains of the agency.
Dominic glares at us until we all sit down. We all sit in our usual positions. I lean back and stick my feet up on the table, crossing them at the ankles. Landry knocks them down before Dominic explodes. I think about doing it again but decide against it. Instead I look around the table and wonder which one of them is Charlie. Landry and Gil have girlfriends. Gil likes dating models. Landry’s girl is half his height and twice as scary. Dominic has a wife – supposedly. None of us have ever seen her. Darryl likes men. I send up a silent plea that Charlie’s not Darryl.
Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been talking to this man for two years since I joined the agency, and I still don’t know who Charlie is. It’s a game. For both of us.
“If you’re ready to do your job, Mr. Fortune,” Dominic snaps.
I slurp my coffee loudly and pretend to pay attention.
Dominic scowls and taps at the iPad on the table. The screen springs into life showing the round face of middle-age man, balding on the top and grey around the edges.
“Who is he?” Landry asks. Six minutes older and half an inch taller than his twin he is shy in a public situation but he’s the one with all the questions. It’s easy to underestimate Landry. I don’t.
“Jonathan Michaels,” Dominic says. “Entrepreneur. Now an investor in London. He’s gone missing.”
Gil taps the table. “So why’re we involved?”
The agency didn’t work missing persons cases.
“Because he’s a friend of a friend,” Dominic says. “We have to find him before Scotland Yard or the FBI do.”
“We don’t do cases for friends,” Landry says in a flat tone. “Company policy.”
Dominic inclines his head. “Normally yes, but not this time. He’s insisted.”
He is the boss. Him upstairs. The owner of the agency and generally a sleeping tiger who only emerges when we screw up. Which isn’t often.
He has a name - Callum David Ross - but we never use it.
From the way the twins are scowling they’re about to say something stupid, so I decide to get down to business. “When did he disappear?”
“Three weeks ago,” Dominic says. “He left the office at 9pm and never arrived home. The journey takes thirty minutes.”
“And we’re only just getting involved?” The agency usually gets involved within forty-eight hours. Three weeks was a long time in a K&R.
“Local LEOs thought he’d been in an accident. His car was found by the Thames but divers didn’t find a body. They contacted the embassy as he’s an American citizen. The FBI thought it was a kidnapping but no ransom demand has been made.”
So no kidnap and ransom. “Why us?”
“Because money has gone missing.” Darryl spoke for the first time. “A lot of money. From his clients’ accounts.”
“Michaels took the money?”
“That’s the general belief, yes.” Dominic’s frown intensifies. He seems personally pissed off about this case.
Landry leans back in his seat and slurps his coffee. “This sounds more like the FBI’s bag than ours.”
Dominic looks at Darryl who just shrugs. They’re having a whole unspoken conversation with their eyebrows – just the two of them. A fact which doesn’t go unnoticed by the rest of us.
“What are you not telling us?” Gil demands.
Dominic takes a long time to answer but finally he says, “Jonathan Michaels is a partner in this agency. If he isn’t found this agency is at risk.”
Jonathan Michaels. I thought I knew the name. The real silent partner of CDR. An old college buddy and extremely successful businessman, he’d lent the money to him to start the business eight years ago. Now he was in trouble and so was the agency.
“Where do we start?” I ask.
“I’ve sent you everything we already know about Michaels,” Dominic says. “You, Landry and Gil are booked on a flight to London this evening.”
“You’re not coming?” I raise an eyebrow an eyebrow. Dominic’s like a head louse. He never lets go.
“Not this time. I’m going to follow the trail this end. There’s no record of him entering the states but that don’t mean jack. You coordinate the London operation and report back to me. Darryl and I will stay here. The whole agency is working on this. Nothing else matters until we find Michaels, dead or alive.”
I finish my coffee and head for a refill. I have planning to do before we leave.
London. Could be worse.
Charlie pops up on screen just as I sit down. I’d swear he had a camera on me if I didn’t check for surveillance every day.
Going to London tonight.
Of course he does. He knows me. I don’t know him. He knows it drives me wild that I can’t track him down. He also knows it’s a turn-on. Fucking bastard.
You coming too?
Not this time, Angel.
Shame. Away from home – you never know – the mice could have played. I swallow down the disappointment and scan through the information on Michaels.
There’s a long pause before he replies. It’s not unusual. Sometimes hours go between our replies.
I know? That was it? Geez, sound enthusiastic, why don’t you? I don’t bother to reply.
You’re sulking, Angel.
I raise a finger at the screen and then realize he can’t see me.
Fuck off, Charlie.
You don’t mean that.
Yes, I do. Go away. Got work to do.
I’m going. Mustn’t disturb my Angel.
If there was one person I’d like to disturb me it was the mysterious Charlie.
Goodbye Angel. Don’t get into trouble.
‘Bye Charlie. I wasn’t making that promise.
I sigh and look at the face of Jonathan Michaels. “You’d better be worth it.”