For my first post, I have decided to show you guys the first chapter of the novel I wrote, ‘Broken Mirrors.’ It has never been published, and it probably never will, but this was my first attempt at writing something this big, and despite its many failings, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors (apologies to all the grammar nazis out there), I am immensely proud of it. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading this little piece of it. Full disclosure- I named the character, a woman from Northern Ireland, Marie. I’m not a narcicist or anything, I just named all the characters after people I know. This book is a complete work of fiction, and is in no way autobiographical! Just so you know…
The premise of the book is this: Marie, who moves to London to escape abuse and poverty at home in Belfast, meets Malcolm Carter, who seems to be the perfect man. He is handsome, wealthy, intelligent and charming. He is also incredibly dangerous. Malcolm is the leader of a powerful gang, who runs most of London’s criminal network. He is a ruthless mobster and a killer.
Fraser Duncan is a Detective Constable for the London Metropolitan Police special Gang unit. He is new to the city as well, and has just been assigned the worst of London’s criminal hierarchy: Malcolm Carter. But with a bloody gang war looming, and an even worse individual than Malcolm rising to power, Fraser begins to move his focus from bringing down Malcolm, to saving his wife, the beautiful and innocent Marie.
This book is about how the parts of ourselves we believed unshakeable, such as our morals and our sense of right and wrong, can be so easily compromised by the decisions we make and the terrible consequences of making such a decision.
Marie stared out of the small window into the police station car park while she waited for the officer to arrive for their appointment. It was a dull, rainy day and the weather seemed to reflect her mood. Every six to eight months or so, over the past four years, she had stood in this same position, staring out this same window, waiting for whichever new officer they had appointed to her husband’s case. It always seemed to rain.
The door opened behind her, and she heard a man with a thick Scottish accent apologise for being late. She didn’t turn around immediately, and instead watched him in the reflection of the window while he adjusted the messy pile of papers he had brought with him, and set down a paper cup containing what she could smell was cheap vending machine coffee. He was younger than the others had been, perhaps mid-thirties, and he was also distinctly scruffier. He had longish, brown hair, with a slight curl, stubble which must have taken at least a couple of days to cultivate, and he was wearing a pale blue shirt with the top button undone. He was also handsome. His image took her by surprise; she was used to balding, chubby, middle aged men who sweat profusely and wore cheap, striped ties.
“Please, take a seat Mrs Carter.”
She pulled the heavy chair out from the table, as far as the chains connecting it to the floor would allow, and sat down directly facing the detective. She wondered how many times a chair had been thrown before they felt the chains were necessary. He continued to shuffle through the papers on the desk, and was yet to make eye contact with her. She took the time to appraise him, like a competitor assessing her opponent. She knew what was to come. He seemed relaxed, and confident. Again, this surprised her. Marie was used to making men nervous, particularly police officers. It had become habit to make them uncomfortable, to make them squirm. She saw it as their reward for hauling her in here over and over again, wasting her time. But what struck her was that there was something different about him. Something inexplicable, which made him stand apart from the other detectives she had encountered over the years.
After what seemed like several minutes, he looked up from the papers, and stared at her. He had grey, blue eyes that matched the drizzly day outside, and he wore a friendly, half smile. He’s attractive, for a peeler, she thought, as she stared right back at him. It continued like this for a few seconds, with each expecting the other to break eye contact first, something Marie was not used to, but she played along nonetheless, too stubborn to look away. Eventually he glanced towards the clock behind her, and she felt pleased she had obtained a small victory so early on in the game.
“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” he said, motioning towards the paper cup filled with unappetising looking fluid.
“No thank you, I would just like to get this over with.”
“Have you got somewhere to be Mrs Carter?”
“To be honest Detective…?”
“Detective Duncan, but please call me Fraser.”
“To be honest Detective Duncan, I would rather be anywhere than this place, so if you could just ask your questions.”
He appeared to be a mildly amused, which just irritated Marie further.
“Well I’m terribly sorry to be taking up so much of your valuable time, however I assure you, it’s for a very good reason.”
He had that half smile again. I know exactly why I am here, she thought, and I know exactly what you want me to do. You want me to betray him.
“Well I was hoping that we could get to know each other a little better Mrs Carter, but since you are so impatient, I guess we will just get right to it. Tell me about your husband.”
Typical, they always lead with that.” The question was so infuriatingly vague. What exactly about my husband are you curious about? His inside leg measurement? His drink of choice? How he liked to fuck?
“What specifically would you like to know detective?” she said, trying not to roll her eyes.
“Well, let’s start at the beginning. How did you two meet?”
“Five years ago, at the club he owns, Capone’s.”
A memory floated briefly into her mind. A handsome man in a suit, champagne, a goodnight kiss. As quickly as it came it was gone again.
“And how long have you been married now?”
She hated these banal background questions. They had all of this information stored in their computers, and within the bland coloured paper folders they insisted on carrying around all the time, as if they were trying to look busy.
“You’re from Belfast, is that correct?”
“And when did you move here?”
“Just over five years ago.”
Why? They had never asked that question before; it seemed so abrupt. She was briefly taken aback, unsure how to answer. Why? An abusive father, an emotionally absent mother, a desperation to escape my poor, bigoted neighbourhood, a chance at a better life, excitement. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
“I wanted a fresh start.” She had no intentions of telling this stranger her life story. She got the sense he knew not to push the point any further; he seemed unusually perceptive. Empathetic even.
“What does your husband do for a living?”
“He is in trading and acquisitions, antiques mostly. I do not help him with his work, nor do I know anything about it. If you want to know details, I suggest you ask him.” She had that same feeling of deja vu she got during these little “meetings”, and wondered how many times she had uttered this same sentence before.
“That’s one way of putting it, Mrs Carter. Another way would be that he is a criminal, a gangster. A… murderer.”
“My husband has never been prosecuted for any criminal offences detective. He has never had so much as a parking ticket and for that matter….”
He interrupted her, “That doesn’t prove he isn’t what I say he is, Mrs Carter.”
She snapped, “Proof is something you don’t have detective, isn’t that what this little fishing expedition is all about?”
She was getting angry now. They had never been so forward about it before, so cocky about the whole thing. She was used to a dance, a game, not this bull in a china shop routine. He reached over to the pile of papers, choosing a brown folder, and pulled out a crime scene photograph. It was a man, or at least what used to be a man. He was covered in blood, and had multiple gaping wounds all over his bare chest, including a rather large and fatal looking one directly across his throat. Marie gagged, she couldn’t help it. She had only seen something like that in the horror movies her sister had made her watch as a child, through fingers and from behind pillows. But they didn’t compare to this; it was his eyes. Those staring, dead eyes that conveyed only one thing –terror.
“Mark Smith, thirty-five years old, father of two boys, eight and five years of age. Husband, son.”
Before she could gather herself, he pulled out another photograph. This time it was a body without a head, the white of the spinal cord unmistakeable against the bright red blood.
“Paul Black, twenty-nine years old, father of none but a brother to two, a husband, son.”
Again, another was removed from the folder, this time she couldn’t look. She pushed the photographs away and stood up, walking over to the window, using the ledge to steady herself. He continued despite her absence from the table.
“Michael Williams, Thirty-three years old, father of three children, all under the age of ten.”
She heard the rustle of a crisp page being removed from the folder, and slammed onto the desk behind her.
“Rodger Mathews, Forty years old, father of one child, a six-month old baby. A husband and son.”
And again. He was yelling now.
“Richard Davis, Twenty-two years old.”
“David Whyte, Twenty-six years old.”
“Stop it.” she said, quieter than she had meant to. She was upset, and desperately trying not to show it.
Again, “Peter Adair, thirty….”
She turned to face him, tears welling up in her eyes, “Please stop.” She shouted it this time. He was standing now; the coffee, spilled on the desk in front of him, narrowly missing the stack of papers. He looked at her, and put the folder on the table.
“Do you know what all these men had in common Mrs Carter?” He spoke quietly, deliberately, “Your husband. I told you this was all for a good reason, and I meant it. I want to stop this from happening anymore.”
They stood in silence for what seemed like a lifetime, just staring at each other, both trying to compose themselves, both trying to read each other.
“Marie,” he said, softly now. This was new, they never called her by her first name, and it just unsettled her further. He continued, “I know you don’t know anything about these murders. I know you don’t really know what your husband does. I just want to show you what kind of man he really is, what he is capable of. I didn’t want to upset you.”
It was at this point she realised she was crying, a single tear cutting a warm line down the length of her face. He stepped towards her, and handed her a white handkerchief. She didn’t know how to react. These interviews had never gone like this before. She took the handkerchief from him, noticing the embroidered initials GD. She wondered who they referred to.
You knew,” she thought, “You’ve always known.
“I need your help Marie. You can stop this from happening if you help me. We can protect you.”
That expression, that same fucking phrase. It was as if something had just hit her in the chest, and brought her back into the room. This was the same game, the same dance, it was just that Detective Duncan had changed the rules.
“Protection?” she said through slightly gritted teeth, “I don’t need your fucking protection.” She looked at him directly in the eyes for the first time since before the photographs. She could see he knew he had lost her.
The interview room door opened behind him, and a chubby, red faced, middle aged man wearing a mismatched stripy tie and shirt half entered the room. “Is everything OK in here? I heard shouting.” Marie smirked when she spotted the half eaten doughnut in his hand.
“Everything is fine,” she said, “I think we are all done here, right detective?”
She looked at him, steady now, once again in complete control.
“Right.” He sounded disappointed, but there was something else in his tone – concern. He sounded concerned. Regardless, she wasn’t going to spend a second longer in this place.
She walked back to the table and lifted her handbag, now dripping from the coffee, which had pooled beneath it. She didn’t care, she just wanted out of there. He moved to the door, catching it as it was shut by the other officer leaving, and held it open for her. Just as she walked out, he placed his free hand on her arm, so gently it sent a slight shiver throughout her body. She paused in the doorway, without really knowing why, and he leaned towards her so she could smell a mixture of cheap coffee and cigarettes on his breathe. “Take my card,” he said, producing one from his shirt pocket, “It’s not for if you change your mind, I doubt you will, it’s just in case.”
“In case what?”
She looked into his eyes, and saw it there again; concern. She took the card, although she wasn’t sure why.
When she stepped out of the station, it was still raining, and the air was muggy and oppressive. She had never wanted to go home so badly. Her driver came running towards her, holding an umbrella aloft, and walked her to the car. She was so preoccupied with getting the hell away from the station that she didn’t notice Detective Duncan watching her from that same, small interview room window, with that same concerned expression.