Tag Archives: marketing

Exploring

Standard

Tonight the world of Smashwords was introduced to me…I haven’t mastered Amazon yet! But, regardless, I am going to spend the next few days (while I am house bound with chicken poxy children) exploring this new world and see if it opens up any new doors for me. My marketing skills are still hiding somewhere just beyond my reach and I am failing miserably in that department. Any help I can get is much appreciated. Everyday is another step in my learning journey as I aim to master the world of publishing and make a success of myself.

Advertisements

The greatest fun

Standard

I have to admit that I have allowed my learning journey through the world of marketing to fall to the wayside a little. The reason for this is simple. I am having the best fun writing and researching for Don’t rock the boat. The writing itself is allowing me to explore the deepest, darkest crevasses of my mind and after taking some of the constructive criticism I received for Above The Limit on board I am letting myself run free without holding back this time. It really is a liberating experience and I shall be keen to see what people think of the results when I am finally finished.

The research side of it is fascinating too. Some of the things I have learned so far are: how to build a wind turbine (basic understanding), how to distill sea water and that I really really want an 85′ catamaran!

 

Dreams are free and the catamaran will have to wait but the fun is far from over with this book!

Excerpt from Above The Limit, Chapter 19

Standard

We drove north on state highway one under an overcast sky, sleet beating down on us, for about five minutes before pulling into the parking lot of the Bay Front Motel. It was a quaint little place whose walls were painted a burnt orange and potted flowers brought a splash of colour to the place. Entering through the sliding doors we headed to the reception desk. An older Maori woman sat reading behind the pale wood desk, a cheap flat packed desk that had been thrown together in a hurry and there was a small gap between one end and the desk top. She looked up from her book as we approached and smiled.

“Sorry no vacancies tonight. But you could try the Bay Viaduct just across the road.”

“Actually we are here to see someone. Mr David Robinson and a Ms Shelly Robinson checked in earlier today I believe?”

“Oh right. Hold a minute let me check. Yes here it is. They have asked not to be disturbed though.”

“We’re here on police business.” I stated giving my most disarming smile as I showed her my badge. Louisa followed suit. The woman lowered her voice and in a hushed tone asked,

“I do hope there won’t be any trouble? They aren’t fugitives are they? We can’t afford to lose customers. They are in room 101 at the end of the hall.”

“No we are just here to ask a few questions. They haven’t done anything wrong. It’s just routine.” I reassured her before heading through the fire door and down the short corridor. The paint was a funny shade of green and a well-worn olive coloured carpet adorned the floor. The bland pan lights were spaced every few feet overhead and produced a most unnatural brightness. Stopping outside room 101 we both braced ourselves for what came next. Dealing with families of the recently deceased was never a job to be enjoyed. It was one of the most harrowing and stressful parts of the job. It needed to be done however and on this occasion it fell to us. I gave sharp knock at the door and stepped back. After a minute we heard the lock unbolt and a tanned athletic looking woman stood before us, dressed in a sombre outfit of black. I presumed that she was Shelly Robinson and couldn’t help thinking that she looked good for a thirty eight year old.

“Ms Robinson?”

“Yes. And I’m guessing that you must be the police.” She extended her hand and gave a firm shake.

“I’m DI Luke McIntyre.”

“DC Louisa Speer.” Louisa stepped forward and shook Ms Robinson’s hand.

“We just need to ask you and your brother a few questions if we may?”

“Yes come in. but will you keep it short.” It was a statement more than a question, “David isn’t in a good way. I honestly don’t know why they released him from the hospital.”

“Of course.” We headed into the small room which was home to two single beds clad in flowery sheets, two mismatched dining room chairs and a small vanity table. To one side was the bathroom and opposite the door was a spectacular view of Caroline Bay, or at least it would have been had the weather been better. So this was why people came here. Up until now I had been struggling to find any appeal at all in this scruffy little motel.

“Hello again Mr Robinson.” I wanted to ask if he was feeling better but it only took one look at him to see that he wasn’t. Instead I decided to jump straight in and get this whole unpleasant conversation over and done with as quickly as possible. “David can I ask if the front door was usually kept locked?”

He just looked blankly at me; it was almost as if I were invisible.

“I can answer that.” Piped up the sister, “no they rarely locked the door in the day. At night it was always locked though.”

“Thank you Ms Robinson. So the door wouldn’t have been locked after David went for his run I assume?” even as I asked the question one of my favourite quotes resonated in my head, assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.

“I wouldn’t have thought so. It would have been very unlike mum or dad to lock it behind him.”

“Can either of you tell me if it was locked the night before the murder?”

“No sorry I really couldn’t say. I would assume so but I can’t be sure.” Shelly answered again.

“Ms Robinson can you think of anyone who would want to hurt your family? Any ex’s or anything?”

She shook her head and looked me straight in the eye, “no. I have been trying to think of someone, anyone, who might do this but I can’t. I’m sorry but I can’t. I know people make my parents sound like saints, and I know that most cops wouldn’t buy it but in this case it is just about true. They loved everybody. They were kind to everybody and they would help anybody who needed it. I’m sorry I just don’t see why anyone would want to hurt them.”

I nodded sadly. I was starting to believe that this was a random act. In the past I had always refuted the fact that any act, criminal or otherwise, was completely random, but this case was starting to make me rethink my belief system. A sudden animalistic sound erupted from the corner causing us all to jump. David Robinson was sat with his knees pulled up to his chest, and his forehead pushed hard against his knees, rocking back and forth.

“It wasn’t….it wasn’t….it wasn’t.” He repeated over and over. Louisa and I stepped back to give Shelly room to calm her brother.

“What wasn’t sweetie? What are you saying?” Her voice was soothing and nurturing.

“The door…it wasn’t.” Came the choked reply.

“The door wasn’t locked the night before?”

“No!” He wailed almost hysterically, “it’s my fault! It’s all my fault!”

“David no! This is not your fault! You couldn’t have done anything differently.”

“It is…it is…I went to the pub…I was drunk…I didn’t lock it…I didn’t…” his voice trailed off leaving just the sound of his distressed cries echoing around the room. Shelly wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly, whispering inane words of comfort in his ear.

After what seemed like hours I broke the silence. I had to finish these questions or I would end up running from this building screaming.

“I’m sorry to have to ask you these questions but the answers could be really very helpful. Did anything happen at the pub Mr Robinson? Anything that might have seemed strange or out of place?”

“No not that I remember. I was pretty drunk.” He had managed to calm down for the time being and was back to staring through me. “There was one guy who brought me a drink. Said I looked like I needed it. I told him I was having woman trouble. You know? The sort of conversation blokes have in pubs. I had a fight with Becky before I went to the pub. She was pissed off at me for some reason that I still can’t fathom. It all seems to childish now…” his voice drifted off.

“What was the fight about?”

“I was drunk; she was pissed at me for it. I was on holiday you know? I was letting my hair down for a change. I work so hard all the time back at home and I was just making the most of my holiday…it all seems so silly and pointless now…”

“Which pub were you drinking at?”

“The one in Pleasant Point opposite the station. I can’t remember the name.”

“The Steam On Inn?” offered Louisa. David nodded meekly.

“And one last question. May I see your running shoes?”

“Why in the world would you want to see his running shoes?” Shelly asked.

“Just for elimination purposes. We found a print at the house and just need to know if it belongs to your brother or to the killer.” I didn’t dare tell them that, due to its position, it could only be the killers and that we were just ruling David out.

Shelly pulled his trainers from a carrier bag that sat by the bed and handed them to me. Reebok size 12.

“Thank you.” I smiled as I handed them to Louisa who looked at them just long enough to see they weren’t a match before she passed them back to Shelly. “Will you be staying here for a while?”

“Until you have finished with your enquiries, yes.” She replied sadly.

“Thank you very much for your time and we will do the best we can to get this guy. You have my word.”

“Thank you detective.” She walked us the door and said good bye.

 

Once outside Louisa and I conferred under the shelter of the porch.

“Well it definitely isn’t his shoe print. And I’d say there is a good chance that the killer just walked straight in. God this sucks. I shall never leave my door unlocked again. Not even for a minute.” Louisa said.

“Yeah I know what you mean. What do you make of the guy at the pub? Sounds innocent enough to me but might be worth checking out?”

“Umm. Yeah I suppose. Don’t see it getting us anywhere though.” I nodded my agreement and we hopped back in the car and back to the station, where we spent the rest of the day writing reports and continuing the hunt for the dark coloured car and large alcohol sales. We did learn, from the specialist pathologist that had been called in, that all the victims had definitely been alive when the fire was lit, and we also learned the fingerprints of all three adults had been preserved well enough for comparison. All was not lost and the day was not a total washout. 

 

Want to read more? Above The Limit is available on Amazon

Excerpt for the upcoming Don’t rock the boat, due for release Dec 2013!

Standard

Chapter one

Carrie’s heart was pumping in her chest, her adrenaline running wild. She was so sick of this every day, running for her life just so she could deliver food. Christ where had they gone? She looked about frantically knowing that they hadn’t given up yet. Not seeing them was often more dangerous than being right in front of them. At least that way you knew where they were. 

            She hooked a left and ran down a deserted alleyway. Gloomy shadows fell everywhere casting long fingers of blackness that reached out to her, trying to grab her and swallow her. Carrie embraced these dark and terrifying recesses of the abandoned city, they were her friends, her saviours. They offered hiding places in the dark hours of desperation; they offered shelter when the gangs attacked.

            Like right now. Right now she was in desperate need of these dark shadows. She couldn’t out run the gang but she could hide from them. One on one she stood a chance against them but it was never just one on one. It was always six or more on one and that never ended well. The gangs were well known for their violence and they were also known to be partial to a gang rape or two.

With this knowledge at the front of her mind she crouched in a damp doorway which smelt like piss. Her nostrils flared against the offensive odour and her limbs trembled from the physical exertion of the hunt. She hugged the precious food parcel to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut as she heard the sound of a motorbike drawing closer. She heard the footsteps that echoed off the cold uninhabited buildings of the forsaken city. She smelt her own fear in the air.

Making herself as small as was humanly possible she pushed herself back against the door and prayed that it would hold. The sound of a splintering door would give her away for sure. The hum of the bike was almost on top of her now and she opened her eyes. She watched nervously through the mountain of rubbish that blocked the view of the doorway from the open street and held her breath as the gang thundered past. Three large, rugged looking men on bikes, three running behind and a feral looking woman holding a baseball bat bringing up the rear.

They disappeared into the distance and she finally allowed herself to breathe again. She slipped out of the doorway and, keeping to the shadows, she headed back the way she had come. Ducking in and out of doorways and walking in circles to ensure that she wasn’t being followed she headed to a familiar house. Once upon a time it had been a beautiful house, solid brick with neatly painted windowsills and perfectly manicured gardens. It had always had a cute quaintness to it, like a house from a movie. Now however it was a depressing sight, run down and dilapidated just like every other building in the city.

She quickly located the key, hidden under a brick in the now empty woodshed. Without even knocking she walked in through the back door and called out,

“Hello? Violet? I’ve got another package for you.” Setting the parcel down on the kitchen table she made her way through the gloomy house. All the curtains were pulled and a thick layer of dust covered all the visible surfaces. The TV had been used to block the front door and heavy locks adorned the doors and windows. This was no way to live, she thought to herself.

“Thanks Aunty Carrie.” The voice startled her.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you jump.” The voice said, tinged with a hint of sadness.

“It’s ok Charlotte. I was off in my own little world.” She replied. “Is your mum about?”  Carrie knew the answer to this but asked any way. Violet hadn’t left the house since it had happened. It had been more than twelve weeks now and things just got worse. It saddened Carrie to see her best friend so afraid and lonely. The part that really upset her was that the old feisty Violet seemed to have disappeared. It wasn’t like her to just sit and stare like this, day after day. She was a fighter and always had been. Somehow Carrie had to pull the old Violet back and she thought she might just know how to do this.

Carrie and Violet had known each other for coming on ten years, they had met at the hospital where they both worked, Carrie in admin and Violet as a nurse. Violet had taken a young 20 year old Carrie under her wing. She had taught her how to manage her money, how to manage a house, how to manage her life. This was something Carrie had desperately needed. She had lost her mother when she was six and her father hadn’t been able to care for her. He had served in the Navy and had been away a lot so Carrie had been sent to various different foster homes. Once she had turned fourteen her father had had a sudden change of heart and had taken early retirement in order to care for his troubled teenage daughter. During their short time together they had rebuild the bridges that had crumbled between them and developed a strong bond. Tragically her father had died of a sudden heart attack when she was just sixteen. She had been fending for herself ever since.

“Upstairs.” Carrie was pulled from her reminiscing by the sound of Charlotte’s voice and looked up just in time to see her nod her head in the direction of the stairs, her platinum blonde hair flicking as she did so. Charlotte was sixteen, drop dead gorgeous and the spitting image of her mother. She had the most piercing blue eyes that complimented her almost white hair beautifully. She was clad in tight jeans and gorgeous pink gypsy top which hugged her figure neatly. She had the lean body of a dancer and a mind that could have gone far in the old world. The old world was little more than a lost dream now though, replaced with disorder and chaos.

“Thanks hun.” Carrie patted the girl on the shoulder lightly and bounded up the creaky stairs. “Hey Violet I need to talk to you.” She found Violet sitting on her bed hugging her knees. This was how she found Violet every day now. Her blonde hair had lost its sheen and taken on a dull lifeless look, her skin was pale and her eyes glazed. Even the clothes she wore had changed; she had gone from a smart and elegant look to wearing jog pants and baggy sweaters. Taking all this into account though Carrie had to admit that even at thirty nine and under the worst possible circumstances Violet Anderson was a stunner.

“Hey. Thanks for bringing the food over,” whispered Violet, her bright blue eyes peering out from the mop of blonde hair that hung in front of her face.

“No problems now listen; we both know this can’t continue. What this new world is doing to you is, well I just can’t watch it anymore. I want the old Violet back so I’ve been thinking.  I’ve talked to this guy, Frank. He was in the Navy with my dad and he is a sound guy. We both agree that it is too dangerous to stay here. There are a couple of options but we reckon the safest one is the sea. Now Frank has a boat. You with me so far?” When this elicited no response Carrie felt a familiar frustration begin to wash over. She crossed her arms and made a loud sighing noise.

“Don’t worry I’m listening. Just not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggesting we all live on some little boat?”

“It’s not a little boat but yes that is exactly what I am suggesting Violet. Things need to change but nothing is going to change around here. The only way things can change for us is if we do something to make it happen. Moving on is the only option. “

“Violet!” shouted a loud male voice up the stair way. Carrie instantly jumped into a defensive position behind the doorway her adrenaline starting to pulse once again. Adrenaline was surely the only thing keeping her alive at the moment.

“It’s only Peter.” Violet said calmly, staring at Carrie with a blank expression. Carrie instantly relaxed although not completely. There was certainly no love loss between her and Peter. She felt that he was an arrogant, opinionated prat and he felt that she was a conceited loud mouthed bitch. It was fair to say that they clashed quite often.

“Violet? Come on get dressed please. Enough moping around. How is this helpful to Charlotte?” the strong voice said from down the hallway. Carrie stepped out from behind the door and squared up her shoulders as Peter came into view, his short brown hair, and tanned skin and light brown eyes looking as sexy as usual. In fact it annoyed the hell out of Carrie that he looked so damn hot in his navy blue shirt and dark jeans.

“Oh. You’re here.” He muttered.

“Yes I bloody well am here so you can pack in the eye rolling.” She fired back.

“Stop it! It’s bad enough that everyone else is fighting, I don’t need you two fighting to!” Violet suddenly seemed to develop some strength and Carrie felt a wave of hope wash over her. Violet rose from the bed and turned to look Carrie straight in the eye.

“I’ll do it. But only if Peter comes too.”

“Of course he can.” Carrie answered stiffly. She wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of spending that much time, cooped up in a confined space with Peter, but she knew she needed to get Charlotte and Violet on that boat. There was no other way round it. It was simple. Peter was the husband of Violet’s late sister. Her sister who had been killed when the virus hit. She had been one of the first to fall and Violet had never really dealt with it properly. Now she clung to Peter in the vain hope that she could keep a slim part of her sister, Ivy, alive.

The virus had hit hard and fast. Over two thirds of the world’s population had been wiped out in a matter of days. In fact over two thirds of the entire animal kingdom had been wiped out. It was a horrible thing to watch, first the sickness came, then the dizziness. This was followed quickly by bleeding from every conceivable orifice which was coupled with intense muscle cramps, often muscles you didn’t even realise you had. Eventually the internal organs began to rupture and the skin began to disintegrate and just started to fall from the body. Death was rapid, if not instantaneous, from this point on as septicaemia often took over and finished the job. Those who didn’t die from septicaemia died of organ failure.

Bodies had littered the streets and a vile stench had begun to seep into every corner of the crippled towns and cities. Governments had collapsed and everyday living became a fight for survival as the gangs started to form and quickly took over, looting and pillaging where ever they could. No body really knew why some had survived when so many others had fallen. It was assumed that the lucky few carried some sort of immunity but nobody really knew and the result was terrifying. Everybody was scared senseless by the fact that they could be next. This fear didn’t help in this lawless environment and just gave those who fuelled it a further sense of justification.

“Come where? Anyone want to let me in on this plan?”

“We’re leaving. A friend of mine has a large yacht and we are heading out to sea. It’s not safe here. If anything happened to Charlotte…” Carries voice trailed off as she considered the terrifying possibility of the gangs getting their hands on Charlotte.

“Right.” Said Peter slowly. He was clearly not thrilled about spending that much time with Carrie either but he could definitely see the need to get away. Really when he thought about it, it was a no brainer.  “Let’s go.”

“Ok.” Carrie jumped into action and her authoritive side took over. “Violet, pack a small bag. Peter, see if there is anything useful around the house. Charlotte!”  Charlotte responded with a loud shout and Carrie barked instructions at her. Charlotte hurried off to pack a small bag, fear and excitement taking over before she had a chance to process what was happening.  Peter, although he didn’t like to be bossed around, particularly by Carrie, did as he was told and emptied out the medication cabinet, the food cupboards and a few other places looking everywhere he could think of. The end result was a handy backpack filled with a first aid kit, food, water and medicines.

Carrie took the chance to catch her breath in the toilet. Splashing cold water on her face she dug deep within herself for the strength she knew she was going to need for this journey. Catching sight of herself in the mirror she was a little taken aback. Her fiery auburn ringlets were little more than waves of frizz now, after weeks of not being conditioned and her green eyes were lined by heavy bags as the sleepless nights took their toll. Her baby blue tee shirt was stained and grubby and her jeans could definitely do with a wash. She didn’t have time to hand wash, she was too busy hunting for food and other essentials needed for everyday living, and not just for her but for Violet and Charlotte as well.

Carrie Thompson had always been a proud woman but now she was always on her guard, always ready for the gangs to attack. She didn’t have time for concern over her looks. She had never considered herself pretty but what she saw now reminded her of some down and out junkie. A lack of food and sleep were starting to affect her physically as well as mentally and she was nowhere near as sharp and fit as she had been. At least half of her food went to Violet and what Carrie managed to collect was meagre in the first place. No wonder she was feeling so tired and on edge.

She also allowed her mind to drift to her father. God if only he were here now. He would know what to do and how to protect her. Frank was the next best thing. He had received the same training as her father and, as a result, thought the same way. If this was his suggestion then it was the right way to go. She had a few niggling doubts herself but she knew that staying here wasn’t an option. No, she had known Frank and his wife for a long time, in fact she had called them uncle and aunty as a child even in the years that her father wasn’t really about, and she trusted him and his judgement one hundred percent. When it came to getting away from this hell hole is was now or never. No room for doubts.

Snapping herself out of her self-contemplation she hurried back out to help the others with the preparations.

Half hour later and they were gathered in the living room, bags in hand, ready to go. Anticipation hung heavy in the air and an eerie silence fell upon the group as the reality of the situation sunk in and they said a last good bye to the place they had all called home at some point or another.

Violet and Charlotte had lived in that very house since Violet’s husband had left ten years ago, Charlotte had grown up there and the house, no matter how run down and gloomy it was now, was filled with memories of happier times. Peter had lived there for six months with Ivy after he had been forced into bankruptcy when his business folded some four years ago. And Carrie, well Carrie had spent many a night there after painful break ups with boyfriends, every year on the anniversary of her father’s death and on the more cheerful occasions when she and Violet had decided to let of steam and open a bottle of wine. Yes there were certainly many happy memories in that house. But now it was time to say goodbye and they all did so silently in their own special way.

A solitary tear rolled silently down Violet’s cheek and Charlotte stood with her eyes squeezed shut, trying not to let the emotions overwhelm her, trying to pretend that everything was normal.

“Right let’s get this show on the road,” said Carrie quietly. She started to head for the back door; the others traipsed solemnly behind her looking down cast and anxious. A certain electricity sparked in the atmosphere around them as they began the journey to their new lives.

“Wait!” Violet’s voice trembled a little as she spoke. “What about Carolina? We can’t just leave her.” Carrie shut her eyes and cursed Violet silently. Carolina was a friend of Violet’s, someone she knew through work. She was seven and a half months pregnant and her husband was, well to put it frankly, he was a bastard. Carrie knew for well that Michael beat Carolina on a regular basis, she also knew that the child that Carolina now bore had been the result of a violent rape. She knew that Carolina lived in constant fear and she knew she couldn’t just leave her here. She was also painfully aware though that Michael was the last person on earth that she wanted on the boat with them but there was no way his wife would ever agree to leave him. Her loyalty to him was her greatest downfall and now maybe the downfall of Carrie and the others.

“Shit.” Carrie mumbled under her breath.

“Who’s Carolina?” asked peter with curiosity. His eyes fixed on Carrie and she noted how they looked like pools of liquid chocolate. Suddenly she felt naked under his gaze. It was as if he was reading her mind, stripping away the protective layers that she had built and looking right into her soul. She could feel him judging her for her lack of compassion. She wrapped her arms around her chest self-consciously as if it might stop him from peering into her hardened heart.

“Carrie, she’s pregnant. We can’t leave her.” Violet’s voice was firmer now. She had made up her mind.

“I know that Violet, by God don’t you think I don’t know that, but what about Michael?” Carrie turned her attention to Violet and ignored Peter.

“Who the hell is Michael?” demanded Peter. Still no one acknowledged him.

“We can handle him. We can. It’s him or the gangs but we are not leaving without her. Think of the baby Carrie!’ Carrie felt herself relent. She knew Violet was right, there was no way she could live with herself if she knew she had left someone as vulnerable as Carolina behind in this hell hole. At least if they were all on a boat together they might be able to control the violence she lived with every day.

“Come on then let’s go get her.” There was more than a hint of defeat in her voice. Peter stepped forward and his muscular frame filled the doorway.

“Who is Michael and why do we need to handle him? Don’t make me ask again!” his voice was quiet but it was laced with poison.

“He’s Carolinas husband and he is a violent asshole. There, happy now?” Carrie spat back. She didn’t like being intimidated by anyone and Peter was the last person she was going to tolerate it from. “Now we don’t have time for this so get out my fucking way and let’s go.” She slung a bag over her shoulder and pushed past him, her shoulder catching his chest dead centre and knocking him off balance.

“Charming friends you’ve got.” He muttered to Violet as he turned to follow Carrie.

The small party made their way through the overgrown garden towards the alley that ran along the back of the section. Great thistles clawed at their legs and the dry grass tickled as they walked. They jumped the little creaky gate that had been claimed by the sticky weed that know bound it in place.

Carrie nodded her head towards the East and placed a finger on her lips. She knew only too well of the dangers out here and she knew that with Violet and Charlotte in tow they became all the more vulnerable. Charlotte was the sort of easy prey that the gangs loved. Pretty, young and not overly streetwise. In a twisted sort of way Carrie was glad that Peter was with him. At least this way if they ran into trouble Carrie had some back up.

They headed down the dark alleyway and into the open street. This was where things got dicey. They were exposed and for a change the sky was against them. The clouds had momentarily thinned and the sun strained to break through. Recently, since the virus, the skies had remained forever overcast and gloomy. How a virus could create this effect Carrie didn’t know but it did seem to have impacted on the weather. Either that or the weather was mimicking her emotions.

She turned and headed north through the abandoned streets, rats sprinted across the road in front of them. A crashing sound echoed off the walls in a building to the left of them and she dived into an open garage where she pressed herself up against the cold walls, hidden by the shadows. The others followed suit. Silently they watched and waited. Finally the culprit of the sound emerged. It was just a stray cat. All cats were strays now. Well all the ones that had survived.

They collectively let out a sigh of relief and continued on their treacherous journey. Two blocks down they turned into a section with a long driveway. The houses on either side were long since abandoned and the red crosses that symbolised death could be plainly seen on all the surrounding buildings. The driveway was cracked and uneven and Charlotte stumbled as she jogged up it. Peter caught her elbow and steadied her.

“Thanks,” she whispered with a weak smile as the reality of the situation had begun to sink in.

At the end of the drive way sat a little old house. It had been fairly run down before the virus but now it was close to a wreck. The guttering hung loose and the paint had chipped off the wooden panelling a long time ago. The garden was a dry desolate patch of brown and several rusty old cars sat in one corner. Peter gave Carrie a dubious look as if he suddenly understood her previous trepidation. She returned his look with a smile and a roll of the eyes that said ‘yeah tell me about it’.

Violet rushed forward and banged on the shaky old door.

“Violet get back!” shouted Peter. Anyone who had an ounce of knowledge about how things worked in this new and scary world knew that every household had a secret knock, a signal that you were friend not foe. It was a defence mechanism against the gangs.

Violet turned and gave him a surprised look as he charged forward and rammed straight into her. They slammed into the wall where he stayed pressed against her, head down. The sound of gun fire erupted from the house and bullets began to fly past them as they all dove for cover. Carrie pulled Charlotte down hard and sheltered her with her body.

“Stop Michael its Carrie and Violet! Michael stop!” a bullet whistled past her head as she shouted. Then the gunfire ceased. The door creaked slowly open and Michael strode out, his muscular frame casting a shadow across the driveway. He stood with his thick tattooed arms folded across a black tee shirt which strained against his rippling chest muscles. His black board shorts revealed heavily defined leg muscles. Everything about him screamed intimidation and bad ass.

“What the fuck you think you’re doing? You tryin’ to get killed? What the hell you want anyway?” his dark eyes glowered at them, an inner hatred boiled deep inside. Michael was truly a hateful man; it was obvious to anyone who met him. He was model handsome, with a beautiful physic and dark hair, but the danger was evident.

“We’re…we’re getting away. We’ve got a safe place to go,” stuttered violet as peter eased off her. Her nerves were getting the better of her. She looked everywhere but at Michael.

“What the fuck that got to do with me?” demanded Michael.

“We…well we…we want you and Carolina to come with us.”

“No.” he started to shut the door. Carrie stepped forward and jammed her foot in the door.

“Don’t be a dick. Carolina needs a safe place to give birth.”

“Ain’t nothing to do with you bitch.” He fired back.

“Um yeah I think you’ll find it is. Her welfare and the welfare of that baby are my concern because she is my friend. Now if you give a damn about your unborn child you will stop being a prick and come with us.” Carrie stood her ground. Any doubt she had had before was washed away and the stubborn part of her took over. She was determined to show this asshole of a man who was boss.
            “Oi Carolina!” barked Michael. “Get here you stupid cow. You got visitors.”

A scared and meek figure appeared at the door, her swollen belly leading the way. Dressed in a large flowery blue housedress, which did nothing to flatter her growing figure, she pressed close behind Michael, anxious to please her husband. Her hair fell in gorgeous honey coloured ringlets around her cubby pregnant face and her skin glowed with that marvellous pregnant shine. Her eyes gave her away though. They were distant and twitchy, jumping from one face to another in a search for answers, wordlessly begging them not to upset Michael who was looking dark and furious.

“Hi,” she whispered in a meek voice. “What are you doing here?” Her eyes jumped to Michael looking for a clue and at the same time asking for permission to speak. He gave a curt nod of the head.

“They want us to go away with them.” He answered for them. Carrie, not one to be spoken for, chipped in,

“We’ve got a safe place. A boat. Away from the gangs. Somewhere you can bring that little one into the world without the fear of the gangs getting them. Come with us?”

Carolina knew she couldn’t answer, this wasn’t her decision. It was Michael’s choice as to what they did. She would follow him where ever he went. He may be a nasty piece of work but she loved him and she knew that he was capable of great kindness and generosity. It hadn’t always been like this. No back in the beginning he had been the nicest, sweetest man she’d ever met. It had been two full years before he had lifted a finger to her. She knew this violent man he had become wasn’t the real him.  It was the result of bad circumstances. It had only started after he lost his job. He had been made redundant ten years ago and that was when it had started. She knew deep down that if she tried hard enough, if she loved him hard enough then the real Michael would come back to her. He was only nasty to her when she had done wrong anyway, when she had upset him. Like when she had burnt his dinner this evening. She had deserved that slap. She should have been more careful. She should have paid more attention. She knew he only hit her for her own good. She was useless and didn’t pay enough attention and she needed to learn.

Carrie could see Michael weighing up his options. She could almost see the cogs turning. After what seemed like an eternity he left his eyes settle on Charlotte, a cruel sneer creeping across his face. Violet shivered involuntarily and felt herself start to tremble. No way was she letting that man anywhere near her daughter. Maybe Carrie had been right in the first place; maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

“Alright we’re in.” he said. A small smile crept across Carolina’s face and her eyes filled with relief.

“Charlotte, go with Carolina and your mum and help pack a couple of bags.” Carrie’s gaze remained firmly fixed on Michael who now turned to face her. Charlotte and Violet scurried into the house with Carolina.

Peter stood back a little, watching Carrie, waiting for her to pounce. He had seen the way Michael looked at charlotte too and knew that Carrie was about to deliver a firm warning. He might not be her biggest fan but in this instance he most certainly had her back. For once they were fighting for the same thing.

“Ok I’m glad you are coming with us but here are a few ground rules which will be obeyed. You never ever go within six feet of Charlotte, got it? You do not hit Carolina or anyone else, understand? These are rules which are not to be broken or I will personally throw you overboard. Do we understand each other?” her warning was issued in a quiet menacing voice, quiet enough that the others wouldn’t hear, menacing enough that he would know she was deadly serious.

Michael puffed out his chest and flexed his muscles. His evil eyes pierced deep into Carrie’s soul and sent shivered down her spine. Peter stepped forward to send the message that Carrie was not alone and these were indeed the rules.

Michael saw that he was outnumbered and relaxed his stance.

“Yeah I got it. Wouldn’t touch that little slut with a barge pole anyway.” He muttered before turning and walking back into the house to oversee the packing.

Ten minutes later and the party of six were ready. The journey was considerably slower now that Carolina was with them. Her pregnant waddle caused a massive drop in speed particularly when they reached the Northern Hill. Not so long ago it had been a great place, a steep hill lined with lively cafés and quaint shops. People from miles around had flocked here for the friendly atmosphere and novel establishments. All that was left of these good times was the rubbish strewn on the ground and the buildings themselves which now sat empty and desolate, looking sorrowful and lonely.

“We’re heading into gang territory.” Peter whispered to Carrie.

“I know but there is no way round it. The gangs have pretty much surrounded the port. Whichever way we go we have to cross through.’ Her voice was grave and her expression showed that she fully understood the gravity of the situation. The gangs posted lookouts every few metres around their boundaries and all of those look outs carried guns. To get through they were going to have to be smart and quick. Very quick.

Night was beginning to fall which was a blessing. The darkness would make their encroachment onto enemy territory much easier. Carrie glanced over her shoulder at Carolina and lowered her voice a little more,

“We’re going to need a distraction. I am going to lead the guards away. Trust me they will chase me. While they are after me you slip the others through and head to the port. Down West Port Lane and onto Harbour Road is the quickest route. I’ll meet you there in half hour.”

“Maybe I should do it?” Peter felt that he should at least offer himself as the decoy. He didn’t want to go up against the gangs in their own territory but he also wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of being responsible for a teenager girl and a pregnant woman.

“No. I know these roads like the back of my hand. And I know the gangs. You go straight to the port and look for the boat. She’s called Marybelle. She’s a forty foot white yacht with a blue and gold band running around her. Frank will meet you there. Knock three times on her hull and he will come get you.”

“Ok but if you aren’t there in thirty minutes then we’re going without you.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” she muttered. They slowed as they neared the border and peter ushered the small group into a disused warehouse where he explained the plan. The three women were horrified to learn of Carrie’s potential sacrifice but Michael’s eyes twinkled at the thought of her death.
            “Carrie no!” shrieked Violet. “You can’t! We need you.” Peter quickly wrapped his arms around her and whispered soothing words into her hair.

“Violet I have to. It’s the only way. Trust me; you’ll see me real soon ok?” Carrie did her best to sound convincing although she wasn’t feeling all that confident about her upcoming mission. If anyone was going to survive it though it would be her. She was easily the most streetwise among them.

Violet nodded although she clearly wasn’t convinced. She held back the tears that threaten to break forth for the sake of her daughter.

 Not wanting to hang around for a bunch of painful goodbyes Carrie slipped quietly back out of the door and into the dragons den.

The others waited patiently until they heard the signal. Nobody really knew what the signal would be yet but they knew there would be one. Suddenly the sound of dogs and shouting erupted outside, gunfire joined the cacophony. Every person in that warehouse held their breath as they listened. The sound of footsteps added to the discord of noise then started to move away. Within minutes the sounds were barely audible and peter knew the time had come.

“Right let’s move out,” he barked. They all ran as fast as they could towards the port, sticking to the shadows and keeping their wits about them.

Carolina lagged behind and Michael lost his temper. In a fit of rage he grabbed her by the arm and yanked it hard, she gave a small yell as pain ripped through her arm.

“Keep up you silly cow. You’re gonna get us all killed!” his voice was a low growl and the menace was clear.

“Hey knock it off. You were warned buddy,” Peter hissed from the shadows. “Keep on moving. I’ll take care of Carolina.” He dropped back and offered his arm to steady her. She smiled gratefully at him. At least from the back he could keep an eye on everyone. From the front he was blind to the actions of his comrades behind him.

They moved silently and steadily towards their target. The harbour was almost in sight. This was where the danger grew ever more present as Peter knew that the gangs had the ports and harbours locked down tight. They halted on the corner of the aptly named Harbour Road and crouched in the shadows, vigilantly looking for any signs of danger. Movement in an upstairs window of a nearby building caught Peter’s eye and he signalled to the others to standby. The guard moved away to check another point of the building and he waved them on. One more stretch and they were home free.

Sprinting across the road they once again headed for the safety of the shadows. Even Carolina managed a full speed sprint and reached the other side in time with the others. Here they found themselves lost in a maze of huge shipping containers and vast warehouses. Navigating their way in the general direction of the harbour they travelled in a soundless bubble, ever watching for the look outs that were stationed everywhere. They made it to the harbour without incident where they quickly located the Marybelle.

She was a beauty alright. A sleek white goddess with stunning lines and grace. A light flicked from somewhere deep within her bowel. There was no gang plank that the others could see. Peter did as Carrie had instructed him to and rapped sharply on the hull three times in quick succession. Then there was nothing left to do but wait patiently in the shadows until they were allowed access. Five minutes later and a dark figure appeared on deck. A gang plank was quickly and efficiently deployed and Peter began to usher the others on board, woman first. He glanced nervously at his watch. Twenty eight minutes had passed since Carrie had separated for them and while he may not be her biggest fan it was her that offered them all this escape in the first place. He certainly hoped that she would not pay the ultimate price for their freedom.

Where the hell was she?

On a high

Standard

Still on a high from the good result of the newspaper interview I have decided to take it one step further and branch out. It had never really occurred to me before but, after a recent conversation with my grandfather, I have realized it might be prudent to also make Above The Limit available in large print. I am hoping that this will become a reality within the next week. I have discovered though that it is not as easy as one might think as resetting the font size to 16 has left me with several formatting issues which I am now trying to conquer! Any and all advice welcome!