Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The Chemical Extract

I have an extract for you! And it's an adult crime. But with a twist. Hence why I got a little excited over this title!

The Chemical Detective follows Dr Jaqueline Silver, a scientist and explosives expert, who is working on avalanche control in Slowenia when she discovers something odd about a recent consignment of explosives. When she raises a complaint to the supplier, a multinational chemical company (and her former employer), the evidence vanishes mysteriously.

She is then warned, threatened, accused of professional incompetence and suspended. In the end, Jac goes to the head office to file her complaint, only to narrowly escape death and then is accused of murder. On the run from the Police, Jac has to figure out what the truth is, and time is running out fast for her...

Now, when Margot emailed about this, it caught my eye and asked if I wanted to do something with this, I asked if I could do an extract as my TBR was a little out of control. So, here is a sneak peek of Chemical Detective! 

But before I go, I want to say thank you for Margot for allowing me to do this. And if you want to check the author, Fiona Erskine, out, you can check her on via her website - thechemicaldetective.blog - or via her Twitter of @erskine_fiona. Plus, if you want more info about the book, you can visit Point Blank's website.


Thursday 24 February, Teesside, England 
The trouble with Semtex is the smell. Dogs can sense it. Most humans can’t. Boris could. Not the plastic explosive itself, you understand; neither RDX nor PETN – the main components – have much of an odour. The scent comes from the tracers added, to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Hands like his. Chemist’s hands. Wide hands with long fingers, calloused from handling hot glassware, thickets of black hair curling over the knuckles, little copses between the joints. Hands now gripping the steering wheel of a five-axled articulated lorry hurtling towards the Zagrovyl factory in Teesside. 
Boris only carried a small amount of Semtex these days, just enough for his own personal use. He kept it in a Tupperware container, wrapped in cling film, under his sandwiches. Sentimental value, really. He’d moved on. To some it might look like a backward step, from laboratory shift work to long-distance lorry driving. But only to those who didn’t know the tedium of analytical testing. The same samples, the same tests, the same results, hour after hour after hour. Not like the old days, when you had thorny problems to solve and real fires to fight. Nothing more boring than a well-run factory. He was glad when they sacked him. Glad to be free of the monotony. Glad to be out on the road. These days, his insight into tracers was a key skill for the job. 
Boris yanked the wheel to the left and hauled the artic into a lay-by with a view. The chemical plant skulked on the far side of a silver fish-scale fence. One factory was much like another. Plumes of steam billowed into the sky, glowing orange in the sodium lights, bright against a dark winter day. He traced the familiar shapes in the condensation of his side window: an hourglass – the cooling tower curving to a waist and then flaring out again; two thin vertical lines – the nitric acid absorption columns lit up like Christmas trees; three circles – the ammonia storage spheres, massive metal balls trapped by sturdy legs to stop them rolling away; a rectangle – the ammonium nitrate prilling tower looming over the A19, the main road out of Teesside. 
The wind whistled up the river, screaming through the gap between the warehouses, bringing with it a faint whiff of sulphur, reminding him of home: Pardubice in the Czech Republic. The Semtex factory where he trained. 
He watched the car park from the lay-by, waiting until the last company car roared away, before driving up to the gatehouse and presenting his papers. At the collection bay he plugged a small black box into the vehicle’s lighter socket. It bleeped and flashed, a red light showing it had located the Zagrovyl computer network. He tucked the jamming device under the passenger seat before turning off the ignition and stepping down from the cab. 
‘Snow Science, right? Two tonnes?’ The bald warehouseman tapped his keyboard. ‘Bloody system down again.’ 
Boris slid his papers though a hatch. ‘Twenty tonnes.’ ‘Fertiliser grade?’
‘Technical grade.’ Boris jabbed his finger at the product code on the order.
‘You sure?’ Baldy frowned and inspected the order line by line. He picked up a phone, running a hand over his eggshell- smooth head as he waited. When there was no response, he shook his head and cursed. ‘Lazy tossers, all buggered off early.’ He slammed the receiver back into its cradle. ‘I’ll get you loaded up in a jiffy, mate.’ 
The metal ramp screeched against the concrete floor as a forklift truck drove into the back of the lorry, delivering the first pallet. Two forklifts worked in tandem, an intricate dance, weaving and turning on a sixpence as they loaded the cargo. Within fifteen minutes it was finished. Fast and skilful, these old men of the north. 
Boris secured the load, signed the paperwork and drove out of the factory gate. 

Click. Location 54.597255, -1.201133. Intensity 800X 

Instead of taking the A19 south, he headed east to Haverton Hill and a decrepit warehouse lying in the shadow of a blue bridge. A damp chill rose from the misty river. Boris shivered as he opened the cab door and scanned the quayside. 
A tall, thin man materialised out of the fog, moving slowly with laboured, jerky movements. He emerged into the sidelights: dark coat, spiky black hair, gaunt white face. The Spider. Christ, this run must be important.
‘So?’ The question came out as a hiss.
‘All good.’ Boris pointed to the trailer. ‘No problems, boss.’
The Spider pressed a button and battered doors began to open, groaning and squealing with neglect.
Boris backed the lorry into the warehouse and hopped down from the cab. ‘How long will it take?’ he asked as he unlocked the back doors and dropped the ramp. 
‘Assist,’ The Spider ordered. ‘Time is of the essence.’ 
Two hours later, Boris’s arms ached as he manoeuvred the artic onto the southbound motorway. Bloody amateurs. Leaving him to do all the heavy work. 
Boris made good time to the south coast, skirting London after the rush hour. Transport of explosives was not permitted in the Channel Tunnel, so Boris and his lorry boarded the ferry to France. 

Click. Location 51.12646, 1.327162. Intensity 152X, 648C 

He stood on deck, sipping at a watery English coffee, as the white cliffs of Dover receded into the mist. Plain sailing from here. He shivered as the towers of the titanium dioxide factory beside the Port de Calais hove into view, and returned to his lorry. 

Click. Location 50.96622, 1.86201. Intensity 152X, 648C 

The drive through France was uneventful as far as Strasbourg, but a young border guard flagged him down at the crossing into Germany for extra checks. So much for a borderless Europe. Boris remained calm. It had happened before. Nothing to worry about. 
The ginger-haired guard puzzled over the papers, wrinkling his brow. ‘You do know what you’ve got in there?’ 
‘Yes.’ Boris lied easily now. After the first few runs he knew how unlikely it was that anyone would check. And even if they did, what would they see? 
Ginger picked up a phone and moved out of earshot. After a few minutes he marched back. ‘Drive carefully.’ He waved him on his way. 

Click. Location 48.5857412, 7.7583997. Intensity 152X, 648C 

Boris drove on past Baden-Baden. After lunch, near Munich, he took a nap in the back of the cab. When he woke, the stars guided his way to Salzburg and the crossing into Austria.

Click. Location 47.7994, 13.0439. Intensity 152X, 648C

As he approached the mountains, snow started falling, wet flakes that melted on impact. A weather report on the radio warned of treacherous conditions and several inches of snow up ahead. Great for the skiers, bad for lorries full of explosives and worse. Best to cross in the morning. He slid into a lay-by. A police car drove towards him, slowing as it passed on the opposite side of the road. Boris stared into the snowstorm, craning his neck to make sure it didn’t turn back. 

Not that he need worry too much. The dispatch papers matched the Dangerous Goods Note. The bags had the correct hazard warnings. All the papers were faultless. None of the inspections, on any of the runs, had ever uncovered a thing. After all, who wanted to poke around inside bags of explosives? You could hide anything in there. 

No comments:

Post a Comment