A snippet from the first draft of my forthcoming novel, edited to remove spoilers. Enjoy, and feel free to criticise. Be gentle is you do, however. It is only the first draft after all.
“Whoa, feller! Take it easy. You OK?”
Greythorne stood over me, looking concerned. I was back on my arse, sitting on the chair.
“What? Oh. Yes. That was one of my episodes.”
“You dreamt? How interesting! What did you see this time?”
“It’s not interesting. It’s dodgy. The visions give me a headache and make me woozy. I saw… oh, I don’t know. A corridor. Red corridor, paintings. Some sort of panel with diagrams on. A man pressed some.”
“Maybe if these really are memories from Crabtree, you should write them down? They might be useful later.”
“That makes sense. There were other things too – a painting and a clock… not sure, it’s fading away.”
I made a note of the icons that had been chosen from the wall panel, as close as I could remember them. Mountain, flame, cloud, wave.
“Hmmm,” commented Greythorne, “Earth, fire, air and water. The four classical elements.”
“I haven’t the faintest idea, I’m afraid. Those four elements appear all over the world, and throughout history. Sometimes there’s a fifth element, literally a quintessence, which the Greeks called Aether. Represented by a circle.”
“Leeloo Dallas mul-ti-pass.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Nothing. A quote from a film, ‘The Fifth Element’.”
“I can’t imagine that helps us in the slightest. Come on, finish your doodling and let’s get moving. We’ll take my car. I’m not sitting on that fanny freezer of yours.”
I swiftly jotted down the little more that I could remember about the clock and the painting (had it been a lion or a leopard?), and stood up. We left the Refreshment Room to a darkening sky. Greythorne led me past my bike to a blue BMW estate car. We got in.
“So where are we going?” I asked.
“Nowhere, until you put your seatbelt on, feller.”
“Oh, come one, do I have to? It’ll hurt my wounded arm. I did tell you I was shot? In the arm? With a crossbow?”
“This car is not moving one inch until you put that seatbelt on, young man.”
“You’re not my real Mum,” I grumbled. Then I obediently fastened the seatbelt across me. It didn’t hurt my arm at all. She turned on the headlights as we drove out of the car park.
“So, Greythorne. Where are we going?”
“Cumbria. The Vixens are your only hope now.”
“OK, you’ve lost me again, sorry. Are The Vixens some sort of rock band?”
Greythorne snorted with derision.
“That’s a very unattractive sound,” I complained, grumpily.
“Oh cheer up,” said my companion, “The Vixens are… well, that’s my collective name for a small group of friends. Between them they possess a range of extremely valuable skills. I find jobs for them from time to time, too. You’re not my only client, you know.”
She glanced across at me.
“Do you remember when I said that my girlfriend was more than capable of killing you?” she asked.
“I thought you were joking.”
“Ah, no. She’s a bit deadly, literally so, when roused to anger.”
“And she’s one of these Vixens?”
“Stop guessing stuff. No, she isn’t. She is however being trained by The Vixens. Or, to be more accurate, by one of The Vixens. Motoko. She’s… well, she’s the most skilled assassin that I have on my books. Deadly, fast, invisible
“I’ll warn you now, though. The women I’m about to take you to see are unique. You might think them peculiar, bizarre even, but I love them and their odd ways to bits. They’ve done more in the last few years to earn my respect than you have ever done. So don’t you dare embarrass me by being crass.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
An hour later, we turned off a dark road into a darker farmyard. I know, I know, I just blithely skipped ahead in the space of a sentence there, but not much happened during the drive up. We talked about cheese, and what I now knew of amnesia, and farting. You don’t need to know any of that.
Lights came on in the yard as we drew to a halt. We got out of the BMW and walked towards the farmhouse door. As we neared, it was opened by a petite young blonde woman smiling broadly. She was wearing a figure-hugging, red catsuit. The figure it hugged was slim and trim. She also had what appeared to be a horse’s tail emerging from her posterior. I gawped.
“Don’t gawp,” said Greythorne, then “Hi, Sam Mia, I thought Friday was Catsuit Day?”
“It is,” smiled the blonde, “This is simply because I felt frisky. How are you, Greythorne?”
She had an accent I couldn’t recognise. I made a mental note to ask Greythorne about it later. The two made small talk, and I tried to stop staring at the blonde’s tight body. I dragged my eyes over to a lighted window in the farmhouse. I’ll swear I saw a red-haired woman in full pirate outfit gazing back at me. I blinked and she’d gone. Peculiar people indeed. I tried to remain nonchalant.
“Motoko shall see you in the barn,” the blonde girl was saying, “She is training in there. Follow me.”
We trailed her across the yard. The tail rising from her bottom bounced cheerfully with every step. It was an eye-catching addition to her attractive posterior.
“You shall wait here,” we were told as we reached the barn door, and the blonde girl stepped inside. A horse whinnied somewhere nearby.
“So tell me a bit about this Motoko,” I told Greythorne, “I’d rather be prepared, if you don’t mind. Or do you enjoy springing your odd, eye-candy friends on me?”
“I did quite enjoy your expression, yes,” she grinned, “Your eyeballs almost left your head. But I’ll be kind, this time. Motoko is ex-Japanese air-force, a top shibari model…”
“Literally ‘the beauty of tight binding’. A sort of Japanese bondage appreciated for the aesthetics of the binding.”
“Um,” was all I could think of to say. Greythorne looked at me, frowning.
“You’re not shocked, surely? You used to take this sort of thing in your stride. Did you lose your open mind as well as your memory?”
“Sorry. In the last couple of days I‘ve had to learn all the things in the world. Well, except for old films and television for some stupid reason. It all gets a bit overwhelming sometimes.”
A smile appeared on Greythorne’s lips along with a twinkle in her eye.
“I understand,” she said, “It must be difficult for you. But only films and television? What an odd thing to stay in your head.
“Anyway, concerning Motoko: do not take her lightly. Among assassination circles her name alone invokes awe. The dark slayer. A lethal combination of beauty, power, and death. For years and years, or to be more accurate months, she fought on the side of good, terrorizing the evil community. But like so many tragic heroes, she was seduced by the lure of the dark side. She wrapped evil around her like a large, evil Mexican serape. She became a cold-blooded killer. Nobody was immune to her trail of destruction….”
“Stop testing me,” I interrupted, “You’re quoting from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode ‘Dirty Girls’, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Correct. You’re good! Mind you, that’s the only quote I know. I learned it for a speech. I’m not a pathetically sad trivia buff like you. No offence. As it happens, every word of that quote is true of Motoko, anyway. She’s a specialist in covert, unorthodox infiltration and assassination, and an expert in unarmed combat. She’s kunoichi, a female ninja if you like.”
“Then she sounds like someone I definitely want on my side. I’m glad we came, thanks. How about your friend, Sam? What’s her story?”
“Don’t ever call her that, it makes her angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. Oh look, I was wrong. I do know more than one quote. Yay me. The point is, always use her full name; Sam Mia.”
“Noted. Interesting accent she has,” I observed.
“Icelandic,” Greythorne informed me. “She comes from the only town in the world with a Penis Museum.”
“I swear, woman, if you’re making any of this up I will fong you until your insides are out, your outsides are in, your entrails will become your extrails…”
“Honestly, it’s true!” she reassured me. “Look it up later, when you and Dawbes have time to relax in a library once more.”
“Don’t think I won’t. And what’s with the tail?” I asked.
“The Vixens have interesting…. interests,” she told me, “And they like playing.”
She glanced at the door before speaking again, in a quieter voice.
“You know how they attach the tails, don’t you? They…”
The barn door creaked open, and Sam Mia invited us inside. The interior was brightly lit, and although the stone floor was scattered with straw, it looked little like you might expect a barn to look. Gym equipment filled the space; vaulting horses, trampolines, beams, weights, and all manner of other apparatus. Wall bars covered much of the perimeter and ropes of varying width dangled from the beams above, and from the darkness above that.
I could see no sign of the expected Motoko, however. The place was empty. Perhaps we were wasting our time here, time that I could not afford to squander.
“So, you want someone killed?”
There was but a faint trace of accent in the voice that emerged from the dark roof space beyond the beams above our heads. I peered up there, but could see nothing.
“Motoko, hello!” called Greythorne, up into the air above us, “This man is also on my books. He has a big problem. He also has a big bank balance. Come down and talk.”
A small part of the shadow above detached itself from the rest, and a rope trembled. A girl – no, a woman – descended rapidly, twisting down the rope using her legs more than her arms, and performing manoeuvres that seemed physically impossible. She released the rope and somersaulted the last ten feet, landing unmoving on the balls of her feet.
She was fit in all senses of the word; lithe, slim, and apparently ever so bendy. Only faintly eastern eyes gazed out of an elfin face that was framed by a mop of hair that was dyed both red and blue. She wore dark leggings and a baggy T shirt, across the front of which was scrawled “Nightwish”. She grinned hugely and cutely.
“Hello, rich man. I’m yours, if you want me. Tell me your story.”
So once again I had to relate my recent history. This was the fourth time, now, so I had the reciting of it down quite well. What’s that? No, it’s four, I’m sure. I told Dawbes, then I told Greythorne, then I told Motoko. And then there’s you, dear reader. That’s four. Gotcha.
When my story was finally told, Motoko looked me up and down appraisingly. Her mouth curved upwards.
“Honourable man,” she decided, “I’m in.”