Wednesday 20 February 2019

Where No Shadows Fall Extract Alert!

EXTRACT TIME! And it's from an adult crime novel. That has swearing and everything! How un-YA of me!

But as I am doing a Year of Blood and Magic - magic and murder - I saw this and went "Oh, this sounds a little dark and up my street!"

A quick info dump of the book. Detective Grace Macallan is happy with her 9-5 job at police desk. Expect, it's not what she was expecting it to be, so when she gets a chance to escape and investigate a suicide at a notorious Glasgow prison, she jumps at the chance.

Tommy McMartin committed suicide. Heir to a dangerous gangland family, his murder conviction threw him out of the family, not only due to the level of violence, but because he murdered his gay lover.

As Grace slowly looks into Tommy's death, she finds herself slowly getting pulled in with Tommy's old enemies coming out of the woodwork. Not only that, she has the feeling she's being followed, being watched and as the vultures being to circle round the McMartin family, waiting for them to fall, Grace is put into an impossible situation: bring the truth to light or let the dead sleep...

I don't have anything more to add to this as this is an extract and this sounds a tad darker than what I am use to with my murder reads, but intrigued to share and see what your thoughts are. I just want to thank Alastair at Black and White Publishing for asking if I wanted to be involved in this! If you want some more info, check out the Black and White's website.

Now, onto the extract!!!

Late 2008

Tommy McMartin shivered in the cold air of the Glasgow night. His jacket was fashionable but not worth a toss for keeping him warm. The boy cared more about impressing the ‘talent’ than his body temperature, and that was what being twenty-five and living in the city was all about in his world. He was a good-looking boy: something positive had passed through from his parents and gifted him, along with other features, straight white teeth that looked like he’d paid a fortune to a top dentist, but it all came packaged up in the genes. He was on the short side, but a ringer for Tom Cruise apart from his hair colour, so he played that for all it was worth and had perfected the little actor’s eye and mouth movements. That natural gift gave him all the sexual attraction he needed, and more. He was lucky, because although he was a violent bastard when it came to the day job, otherwise he was great company and people gravitated towards him. Not all the sentiments he attracted were heartfelt and genuine, though, because he was the possible heir to a well-known family business.

The McMartin clan controlled a lot of people plus a shitload of illegal cash that they washed with the assistance of bent lawyers, a couple of local politicians and some friendly accountants, who were all happy to fill their boots for the family. They provided their professional services regardless of the butcher’s bill paid by the addicts so dependent on the product that saw them through their miserable lives. The business was mainly drugs, but also prostitutes or anything that could be turned into a profit. If there was a problem that stood in their way they maimed or killed it at birth, and after a few turf wars they’d come out as one of the leading crime families in the West Central Belt of Scotland. Nobody but nobody fucked with a McMartin. They bred like rabbits on Viagra and it gave them an edge. There were simply more of them than anyone else, so killing one or two did nothing but bring the whole nation down on your head. It was like killing a couple of Mongol soldiers when Genghis Khan was running the show. Tommy McMartin’s father and uncles had done the fighting then built up the business to what it was. They made old Arthur Thompson’s gangsters look like a bunch of well-intentioned social workers.

Tommy’s uncle, and the man who’d led them to glory, was Benny ‘Slab’ McMartin, who’d earned his handle not through a trade in the building industry but because of an incident at the height of a gang feud. The story was that he’d used a concrete slab to flatten the nappers of two captured hard men who’d tried to take him when he was at his front door one night. Unfortunately for the two would-be assassins, Slab was harder, faster and possessed the instincts of a sewer rat when there was a threat coming at him. He sensed them before he saw them hiding in his prized herbaceous border, and that was the last mistake they ever made. He took pictures of the finished job and sent copies to their employers, who presumed that like their recently departed colleagues they were probably fucked. That presumption proved on the money over the following weeks, and the carnage continued till the opposition ran out of fight, pulled up the white flag and buried their leaders.

Slab was a legend, and even though he was part of a family largely made up of part-time psychopaths, they all looked to him for leadership because he could think as well as act. Without him the family empire would have crumbled into civil war and their enemies would have picked them off a piece at a time. The CID and crime squads used to call him Tito after the famous Yugoslavian Marshal who managed through sheer force of will to keep the warring tribes in the Balkans under one flag, at least as long as he lived.

The problem for Slab was that it turned out he was mortal like everyone else. Long years of hyper-stress, gang feuds and a passion for treble rum and Coke with the powdered version on the side had stressed his heart once too often. He collapsed in a heap one night as he beat the soul out of a low-level drug courier who’d lost a big consignment to the law. The poor bastard – through no fault of his own – had lost the H when he ran straight into a waiting police operation set up by his ex-girlfriend. It was the oldest story in the world: he’d been caught playing away with his fiancĂ©e’s best friend and she had her revenge. Slab told the terrified courier that there was no excuse for blabbing details of the job to the cow and there had to be penalties for failure. Especially when failure cost Slab the best part of eighty grand. ‘It’s no’ the social work department, son. I mean, do I look like a fuckin’ social worker?’

Slab’s team laughed because it was in their interest to join in the fun. The courier just couldn’t do humour with four of his teeth already scattered on the muck-stained garage floor. Fortunately for the victim, who was already saying his final prayer, the heart attack intervened just as Slab was getting bored, wanting to head home for his evening meal and thinking it was time to finish what he’d started. It was a bad one and Slab only survived thanks to the paramedics. In fact his team nearly killed him before the ambulance arrived by moving him away from the scene of the beating in case the medics were offended by what was lying bleeding all over the floor. The courier for his part could certainly have used their expertise at the same time, but at least he was able to stagger away into the darkness and, a couple of days later, head for London to start a new life as a homeless jakey.

Slab was finished with leading from the front, and he accepted that he’d have to delegate the violent jobs to the men and family in his team because his damaged heart couldn’t be present at another torture session. The emotion generated at these gatherings might just stop his ticker completely the next time. He was still the one with the brain, but all his weakened heart would allow was to give orders and direction.

The McMartins were bred for aggression, committed violence with extra toppings and never quite got the concept of diplomacy or compromise. Only Slab knew how to parley with the other main men who controlled their own part of the west Scotland market. He knew that if he snuffed it the family would break into factions eventually, and he worried there was no way to stop that happening. His siblings were just as damaged as he was – too knackered or too old to think of taking the top job. The man he’d been closest to when he was younger, his cousin, the elder Tommy McMartin, had already gone to meet his ancestors. Slab had another problem: although he had a son and daughter of his own, they were hundred per cent bams and he knew that giving either of them control would be a disaster. Their nicknames said it all: his son was Bobby ‘Crazy Horse’ McMartin and his daughter was Brenda, sometimes known as ‘The Bitch’, and in a less enlightened age they would probably have been locked away safely in an institution. Even among the clan they were regarded as plain fucking mental and therefore incapable of ever running the business. They just created enemies through dead or badly injured competitors. But they thought they had what it took, although they were under no illusions that their old man felt anything for them other than a sense of genetic failure.

Slab thanked his God most days that his poor devout wife had died screaming giving birth to Big Brenda, because the result of their union would have broken her heart anyway. The family and foot soldiers saw the contempt between Slab and his offspring, took it as a bad omen and shook their heads when they contemplated the future stability of the team. His siblings had produced little McMartins as if they were coming off a conveyer belt, and every one of them sniffed the air like the predators they were when the king was struck down and weak.

Tommy McMartin junior was one of these heirs and just as greedy for the top seat as the rest of his cousins. His old man had been stabbed to death in a drunken brawl when Tommy was still on his mother’s breast, and all he knew was that his father had been Slab’s closest friend, and according to the legend, every bit his equal. The old-timers said that he would have led the family team if a twelve-inch meat knife hadn’t entered his chest just below the breastbone and then pushed upwards, cutting through all the plumbing that mattered.

Tommy was his father’s son in every way and in due course had developed the big advantage that he was mostly liked and had proved himself a smart operator who might just have his Uncle Benny’s business nous. Most of the other McMartins barged through life under the impression that just being violent was enough to succeed in the business. Unfortunately for the other contenders, Tommy’s good looks were another big plus; he was a one-off because almost all of the clan were born ugly bastards, and particularly the women. All in all, his appearance, together with his violent disposition and abundant grey matter, made him the man to beat for the top job. What gave Tommy this advantage while also making him vulnerable was that Slab thought the sun shone out of his arse, and he wished he could have been the boy’s father. Although Tommy had always regarded him as Uncle Benny, Slab’s obvious preference made Crazy Horse seethe at the injustice, and like his sister he hoped his old man’s trip to heaven wouldn’t be too far off.

Tommy tried to put the dynastical problems to the back of his mind as he headed for the city and a night away from the business. It had been a tough couple of days. He’d travelled to Liverpool with a couple of gorillas to take a consignment of H from a new source, some Pakistani boys, and it turned out not to be the start of a long-term relationship. The suppliers had badly underestimated the Glasgow men they were dealing with and tried to rip them off with moody gear. It could have been a disaster; Tommy had tested a sample when they picked it up, and it had passed, but something hadn’t felt right, and he’d thought the Asian boys were a bit amateur in their attitude. Amateurs were always dangerous in the business and invariably caused unnecessary headaches. You knew where you were with an out-and-out bad bastard, but when it was some fucking wannabe who’d learned his trade from watching The Wire on the telly, there were going to be problems. He’d tested another sample halfway to Glasgow and cursed the stupidity of anyone trying to rip them off; the gear was rat-shit quality.

‘Fuckin’ wankers.’ Tommy had been disgusted and gobbed on the pavement at the affront. He’d said it several times more on the way back to Merseyside, and again when he was checking the sawn-off just before he blasted the Asian boys, who by then had been begging for their lives. ‘No can do, Abdul. Say hi to Osama for me,’ he’d said as he pulled the trigger, shaking his head at what had been a needless development.

He’d done a good job, and the deceased had a fridge full of cash that more than made up for the inconvenience. It was the sort of job that had come just at the right time for his profile, and the men who worked for the McMartins nodded to each other over their drinks that young Tommy was the future. But while it might have impressed most of the neutrals, it pissed off the other family contenders who had an eye on Slab’s legacy.

If Tommy had a weak spot that made him vulnerable it was that he was bisexual and right into men at the time. He headed for the club and the guy he’d only known for a few weeks, but who pushed all the right buttons in all the right places. They just couldn’t get enough of each other, and he could barely suppress the grin of anticipation when he saw the lights of the club bouncing off the shaved heads of the two bouncers protecting the door. The boy he was involved with was called Mickey Dalton, and the big plus was that he wasn’t from Tommy’s world. He seemed a completely straight peg, at least in his day job, and worked in banking. Tall, slim and definitely non-scene, he was educated and just great to be around. He’d travelled, done all the things that Tommy regarded as a bit glam and that were missing from his own world, where two weeks in Ibiza was all you were going to get, and all the human body could stand. Right out of the blue, Mickey pulled Tommy one night. He’d just appeared at his arm when he was having a quiet drink after the big game. It had never worked that way in the past – Tommy did the pulling – but he was hooked from the start. The guy had blue eyes that just said come to bed, and that’s exactly what he did. It was fun, nothing to do with the hard men who tended to be limited in their experience of the world beyond the business. It made him think about life outside the team, and he imagined maybe a bit of travel with Mickey in the future. He told him he was involved in the family haulage business and hoped he could keep it that way for the time being, but he would have to tell him the truth at some point if the relationship developed. The thought that Mickey could be frightened off by the McMartin reputation gnawed at his guts, but he was where he was, and all he could do was run with the cover story for the time being. Mickey had to have seen stories about the McMartins in the Herald or Record but fortunately hadn’t tied Tommy to the infamous crime family.

Tommy put the worries over his sexuality to one side; he needed a night off just to relax and be young. Those worries hung about the back of his brain every day – in his family being gay was still regarded as a sickness and a mortal sin by the parts of their souls that still believed in the validity of the Catholic faith.

Another flaw in his personality that went virtually unnoticed in a land where half the population regarded getting rat-arsed as normal was that he worked hard for the family business and never touched the bevvy during office hours. However, on his rare days off he didn’t know when to stop and just couldn’t hold it like the professional drinkers he kept trying to match. Occasionally when he really wanted to unwind he’d add lines of coke, just to make sure the next day was really fucked up.

He always convinced himself that he deserved it, but for an ambitious young man it meant he was exposed and vulnerable, although he never saw it through the blindness of youth.

The doormen nodded him in without checking because McMartins didn’t line up in the pissing rain with ordinary mortals. When Mickey quizzed him about the A-list treatment he said his uncle was a friend of the owner. It was almost true.

As soon as Tommy was inside, one of the bouncers made an excuse that he needed the bog and slipped into the lane at the side of the boozer. He made the call and hoped to God it never came back to him, but felt he had no choice. He’d run up a sack full of gambling debts to the wrong type of lender: the type who offered only a terminal solution unless the liability was not only paid in full but accompanied by enough interest to pay off the national debt.

Tommy staggered out of the club four hours later with Mickey and could hardly bite his fingers or feel them for that matter. He was vaguely aware of the taxi ride back to the flat and snorting a line of powder off Mickey’s pectorals when he got there. Somewhere along the line the lights went out and his memory was just a big black fucking hole.

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