I wrote a book!

Hi everyone, I’m Gontranno47 (obviously) and for as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to write. For years, I’ve been working on a dark spy thriller that I’ve been writing and re-writing until finally I am happy with it. And now it is published and available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle! :grinning:

I’m still fairly new to the forum, so I’m not sure what kind of feedback I’ll receive, but a lot of you guys seem very well-read and as this is quite a dark book along the lines of Hitman Contracts, I thought it would interest some of you to read. Many of you have a deeply analytical nature, I’ve seen it in the Story Speculation thread, and discussions of Providence, and I think you will enjoy this because while the book can be enjoyed on a basic superficial level, it is also designed to be analysed and dissected. To this end, there are lots of hidden things in the book, and an overarching plot where not everything is as it seems. But I can assure you there is a grand explanation at the end, where you will likely go “Ooooh!” in epiphany, as you realise what it was all about. In short, this novel can be for people who just like shooting and action and all that - or for people like yourselves, who like to analyse and speculate.
I’d also like to thank @BogdanMD for his help in checking the medical aspects of the book before I sent it off to be published, I hope we can do this again with whatever I write next! :grin:

The novel is called Privatising Freedom and this is the blurb:
"In a dystopian near-future, where privatisation has run rampant, society’s police forces and militaries have been replaced by mercenary companies with questionable loyalties and limitless influence. Amongst this sea of corporate imperialism and withering governments, is Sherman Saffel: an ageing MI6 assassin whose long career of murder has more than taken its toll on him. For Saffel, death has become routine.

But when an ordinary mission hints at foul play from the corporations the world has come to rely upon, everything changes. Saffel embarks on a journey to uncover a terrorist attack nearly 50 years in the making, chasing shadows across a spider’s web of calculated deception - from the battlefields of unseen wars, to the corridors of power so skilfully consolidated. Tested beyond his limit, both physically and emotionally, Saffel discovers a conspiracy so powerful it could change the very nature of mankind. A conspiracy to which he has a deep personal connection."

The book is quite long (about 668 pages!) and so I thought it would be unfair to ask readers to take a chance on an unknown author before knowing the quality of their work. Consequently, I’d like to present to you the first chapter (and a bit) of Privatising Freedom. Please feel free to give me constructive feedback, positive or negative, and I hope you enjoy it :slight_smile: Due to word limits on posts, I’ll have to paste it in pieces

CHAPTER 1 – Alive. Mission: Active.

26th September.
The Rue d’Église train station in Accra was the latest addition to yet another so-called ‘smart city’ where everything from public announcements to police dispatches was controlled by a central operating system outsourced to its manufacturer.
Distracted commuters milled about the enormous dome-roof station as they called down mobile phones pressed into their cheeks by their shoulders, lugging suitcases while their free hands frantically looted their pockets for an elusive ticket. Overrun desk clerks struggled to tend to the hundreds of travellers trying to buy tickets to earn them passage aboard the bullet trains that were nestled between the concrete platforms being pounded by the boots of station guards.
Mercenaries stood in cream bulletproof vests and caps, their eyes sweeping the station and its commuters from behind shatter-proof sunglasses as hands clad in fingerless gloves gripped assault rifles optimised by their company for use in urban environments. The ignorant masses didn’t give a second glance to these ‘private military contractors’, choosing instead to focus solely on their own concerns. Many of them had been there since the early hours of the morning as they arranged meetings and mistresses at their destinations.
Littering the walls of the train station were jumbo-sized monitors adorned with a screensaver that featured a company logo of a globe rotating on its axis, with a shield and a baby blue backdrop behind it. Every few minutes, the logo would fade into this backdrop as an attractive man came into view. With manicured brunette hair and a confident, albeit false, smile that exposed his whitened enamel, he was wearing a grey suit whose colour scheme matched that of the logo. He opened his mouth and out poured corporate propaganda.
Phoenixwood International,” the words of French were dubbed onto his beaming lips. “Faire de meilleures vies, pour les précieux.”
Such advertisements bombarded everyday citizens wherever they went, conditioning them into accepting the broadcasts as the norm and rendering them brainwashed into blindness. Years ago, such a thing would have only been heard of in an Orwellian novel. But that’s the thing about dystopian societies: you don’t realise when you’re part of one.
In a temple of noisy conversation and constant motion, it was near impossible to be out of the sight of the surveillance cameras erected on high steel poles as they processed the stressful lives of the hordes below. Commuters, mercenaries, station staff and train marshals – no one could evade the prying eyes of their for-profit protectors.
No one but him.
He stood there in a dark suit with a perfectly straight posture as his grey eyes observed even the slightest of movements around him. A gaunt ageing face featured such sunken cheeks and earnest eyes that it seemed almost fox-like in appearance. But his skin was light, coupled with faint wrinkles across his forehead and in the shadows under his eyes.
This fox was getting old.
This was reinforced by the stray grey hairs reaching down across his forehead from an otherwise neatly combed head being invaded by such greys. Clutching a briefcase in his left hand, his chest heaved an uneasy sigh as his face sported the remorseful look of a fox tired of hunting.
Effortlessly negotiating the shape-shifting crowds of civilians, he slipped his way through to the exit as his ears picked up every conversation around him and translated them into English.
“Is this the train to Ouagadougou?” a man muttered under his breath.
“So then she turned it off!” a baggage handler complained to a colleague.
“Foster to Command,” a guard reported into a wireless earpiece. “I’m in position on platform 3.”
“I’m at the station now!” a woman shouted on the phone over the din.
“Now boarding: the 4:15 train to Tamale will be departing in five minutes,” an announcer spoke from a number of compact speakers lining the building’s walls.
Reaching the exit, he passed through a security checkpoint before being released out onto the sun-baked streets of Accra.
The capital city of Ghana was a metropolitan utopia of impressive skyscrapers, sports arenas and other ways of demonstrating its municipal might. Known as the City of Castles, Accra was originally centred around historical forts left behind by the British, the Dutch and the Danish, but since then the city had spilled out across much of the southern coast of Ghana – dominating both the fishing and tourism industries as previous mayors had successfully managed to encourage multinational corporations to invest in the city. Hotels, corporate headquarters and executive apartments housed Ghana’s rich and powerful of the highest class in their hedonistic pursuits of further wealth, not caring to gaze out of their lofty windows to the Korle Lagoon below.
On the banks of this black body of water was Agbogbloshie or “Sodom and Gomorrah” as the locals called it, due to its high rates of crime. Red Cobra, the private military company that provided the municipal police, turned a blind eye to the crimes committed here because of the clandestine profitability of the site.
Agbogbloshie was a sprawling electronic waste dump populated by roughly 80,000 of Accra’s poorest citizens across eight acres of what could only be described as a sea of discarded computers, laptops, mobile phones, cameras and games consoles as far as the eye could see. This was where the first world countries exported their unwanted or outdated electronic goods by the shipload, under the guise of donations. Now that Accra was a developed city in its own right, such ‘donations’ had to be re-labelled as imported goods ordered by Ghanaian shell corporations, complete with shipping addresses, port papers and invoices.
Gangs of young boys no older than sixteen scavenged the man-made mountains of outdated technology in search of copper, aluminium and other metals used in such electronic devices – often pulling them apart and wrenching out the metals with their hands and teeth. With all this water pollution, burning plastics and non-existent plumbing: Agbogbloshie was arguably one of the most hostile environments known to science, where only the strongest immune systems survived. The people there were born into such harsh conditions, taking to living in a mass of lean-to huts made from rotting wood, while they relieved themselves amongst the very electronics they had to rifle through. The fact that such extreme poverty in the lagoon was neighboured by such extreme wealth along its banks was one of society’s cruellest juxtapositions.
The traveller hailed a taxi, climbing into the back with his briefcase, and asking the driver to take him the short distance to this slum.
“Agbogbloshie? Are you sure?” the taxi driver asked over his shoulder in French.
“Yes, I’m a UN inspector,” he produced a gravelly voice that disguised a mild British accent.
“Oh we get a few of them,” the driver replied as he manoeuvred his vehicle through Accra’s difficult streets. Luckily, after the recent completion of a five-year government initiative: the street layout of Accra had been re-configured to one more akin to a grid, like that seen in New York City – to ease congestion and fuel wastage. “I’m Kofi Nikubi by the way – I run a lot of the taxis around this area,” he added enthusiastically.
“Leon Vega,” his fare responded as the driver exploited a gap in the traffic.
“So, are you going to shut the dump down?”
“It’s not as simple as that. I have to check the air for lichens and the lagoon itself for pollution indicator species – like rat-tailed maggots,” Vega informed him, tapping the briefcase on his lap.
“But you do know that environmental inspectors aren’t treated very well down there, right?” Nikubi spoke concernedly. “The last guy they sent – well woman – ended up being – ”
“ – I can handle it,” Vega bluntly interrupted him.
It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the ramp leading down to the waste dump. To innocent eyes it would have been a shocking sight of waste, desperation and extreme poverty in the shadows of high-rise hotels. But to Vega, it was nothing in comparison to the horrors he had witnessed.
He paid the driver and ignored his wishes of good luck, before stepping out of the taxi with his briefcase in one hand. Having acclimatised to the African sun, Vega didn’t boil in his suit as he began to walk toward Agbogbloshie with a straight and firm military gait.
Marching across the wetlands of the Korle Lagoon, he passed an archaic fax machine that had been robbed of its metal and then later, a laptop that was almost completely bare. As he walked, the electronics were coming in greater frequency and within twenty minutes he was stepping cautiously across a sheet of every device imaginable. All around him, there was no flat land in sight as Ghanaian children briefly paused their work to observe the well-dressed white man treading across the e-waste dump with surprising balance.
Then the smell hit him like a bulldozer.
A putrid stench of faeces, urine, vomit, burning rubber, smoke and rotting flesh penetrated his nostrils and made him blink back stinging tears as the sun did its best to intensify the experience. He negotiated a way over the flatter electronics, confident in the assumption that falling over would not only injure him, but also infect him with enough diseases to kill a man within a week.
As he ventured further into the pit of reclamation, Vega found himself surrounded by stumbling prostitutes foaming at the mouth, and gang members in torn clothes swinging chains as they watched the outsider step into their territory. Vega was unfazed by their group intimidation tactics and their brandishing of weapons – such thugs were often poorly trained and had low pain tolerance, because they were used to hurting people who couldn’t hit back.
Stepping over the smouldering blanket of computer parts, he advanced on his target: a lone shack larger than the rest and made up of sheets of corrugated steel, with a piece of cloth for a front door. Substantially larger than the others, this isolated abode had two topless thugs stood either side of the improvised door, both in their mid-twenties and malnourished.
Partez,” Vega spoke quietly but authoritatively to these two men when he reached this piece of prime real estate. From his jacket, he produced two stacks of 800 Ghanaian cedis fastened with elastic bands, before giving the thugs one each.
Without hesitation, they abandoned their posts and wandered off back home for the day – no doubt to show their families, before rallying a mob to beat and rob Vega for the rest. It would take them fifteen minutes to accumulate the men across this terrain. Vega only needed five in that shack.
Moving a suspiciously wet cloth-door aside with the back of his hand, he stepped into a dark room populated by old laptops and lithium batteries littered across the ground. Bright sunlight endeavoured to squeeze through the cracks in the metal walls as cockroaches scurried across the batteries below, climbing up and over one of his shoes.
In front of him, a scruffy Ghanaian with a holey cap looked up from his soldering on a stolen table he was sat behind – his pockets bulging from money hastily stuffed into them.
“Who’re you?” he demanded to know as he rose to his feet, nudging something on the desk behind a disused laptop.
“Mister Kandiala, my name is Ryan Little and I represent the interests of Cross Seas Insurance,” Vega introduced himself without poising for a handshake.
“H-How do you know my name?”
“Mister Kandiala, I’m a professional,” Little spoke as he gave him an intolerant look. “I know everything about you.”
This seemed to offend Kandiala, whose brows furrowed with contempt.
“Look at you with your fancy suit and your briefcase. You have no idea what it’s like down here!” Kandiala viciously mocked him before spitting on the floor. “You don’t know what I’ve had to do to survive. You don’t know the first thing about me!”
“Gumbin Kandiala. Five feet, nine inches,” Little proceeded to reel off the man’s file. “120 pounds. Eyes brown. Hair colour brunette. Born 14th of July. 38 years of age. Migrated from Botswana five years ago with a doctored passport. Involved in the narcotics trade the following year. You established yourself as an information broker for Agbogbloshie gangs, while building a business recovering private financial information from waste computers,” he added, his grey eyes not moving as they bore in Kandiala’s. “One prison term, three years for grand theft auto in Kumasi Central Prison. Prison medical records suggest a cocaine addiction and syphilis at a young age. Never married. No formal education. No firearm licences. No official address. In possession of a 41 gigabyte USB stick containing both semi-literate poetry and gay – “
“ – Alright alright!” Kandiala nearly screamed. “How do you know so much about me?”
“I’m looking for a computer that was salvaged from this waste site,” Little deflected the question, his gravelly voice steady under the man’s shouting.
“Look around you, computers are my business!” Kandiala proclaimed irritably, spreading his arms to encompass the room and all its dissected electronics.
“The one I’m looking for used to belong to the British foreign secretary. David Barrett. Cross Seas Insurance would like to recover the computer’s hard drive intact and uncompromised.”
“Un…compromised…?” Kandiala replied dimly, struggling with the man’s wording and husky voice.
“Where is the hard drive?” Little asked him sternly, quickly losing his patience.
“Err…yeah the hard drive…” Kandiala stalled as he backed up to a laptop and discreetly slipped a hand behind it to grab something. Noticing this movement, Little allowed him to reach for it as he dropped his briefcase to the floor.
Suddenly, Kandiala’s hidden hand swung up a handgun.
Little effortlessly grabbed the impeding arm with both hands at the wrist, twisting it behind his back to make the man bend double in pain as Little moved to his side and held the arm straight. A hand clamped around his skyward arm and another on his back, Little merely had to nudge the arm a little in an unnatural direction to get Kandiala to drop the firearm to the ground with a clonk.
“I’ll repeat the question: where is the hard drive?” Little calmly interrogated him as Kandiala spat and swore angrily, bent over with his left arm pointing up in the air like a beacon.
“What kind of insurance company do you work for?!” Kandiala snarled in disbelief. “I don’t know nothing!”
“Is that why you need two guards outside? To protect you from people who want their useless information back?” Little asked him rhetorically. “Is that why you attacked me at the mere mention of the foreign secretary?”
“I thought you were here to rob me! I don’t know anything about Barrett’s laptop!”
“Mister Kandiala,” Little began quietly and menacingly. “I didn’t say it was a laptop.”
Little booted Kandiala’s legs out from under him, making him face-plant the dirty floor with a grunt. Little put his knee on the man’s back and pushed his arm a little further out of place. “In this position, your humerus will break with very little resistance, so stop stalling and tell me where the hard drive is.”
“I sold it!”
“Did you remove, tamper with or distribute the data on the hard drive first?”
“Do I look like I have internet connection?!” Kandiala exclaimed, his face shoved uncomfortably into a battery.
“One more question. Who did you sell the hard drive to?”
“I can’t tell you that!”
“On the contrary, you can and eventually you will,” Little defied him logically. “But not before a number of bones are broken in your body.”
“Please, he’ll kill me if I tell you!” Kandiala begged.
“And I’ll kill you if you don’t. They only difference is that I’m very good at prolonging the agony.”
“I’ll kill you, you ba- AAAARGH!
“Concentrate,” Little uttered simply as he pushed the arm bone to breaking point. “This is your last chance before you have to seek medical attention.”
“Gerogi Halprax! Gerogi Halprax!” the words erupted from Kandiala’s lips in desperation.
“Thank you,” Little spoke quietly.
Leaning down, he released Kandiala’s arm and slipped his own around his throat, pulling him into a tight choke hold.
What are you doing?!” came a stained cry as Little squeezed, cutting off the blood supply to Kandiala’s brain. The man’s arms flailed wildly in an attempt to fend off Little as he quickly fell unconscious.
Leaning back from the body and into a squat, Little slowly pushed himself up into a stand while still retaining his perfect posture. He used one hand to brush aside a stray grey hair that invaded his face, as the other one pulled a disposable mobile phone out of his pocket and dialled an otherwise unused number. Placing the phone on the table in the middle of the room, Little pressed a button to put it on loudspeaker after checking for eavesdroppers outside the ‘door’.
After one ring, the recipient of the call answered but didn’t say anything – as per protocol.
“Saffel to MI6, field code: 55/49/44,” Little addressed the phone with a tone of formality. “I’ve located the hard drive. I need you to run a name check on Gerogi Halprax – try all spellings.”
“Searching,” came a woman’s amplified voice that was peppered with a British accent similar to his. “What do you need?”
“Basic information – along with criminal career, financial dealings, medical history and any unusual connections,” he requested. “Get immigration to pinpoint a country and a city, if possible.”
As he spoke, ‘Saffel’ as was his real surname, grabbed the briefcase that he had dropped prior to the encounter and settled it on the table next to the phone. Clicking it open revealed black padding shaped specifically for a hard drive to fit in. However, it was currently holding a pair of white latex gloves draped across drug paraphernalia undisturbed by the train station’s security because it was not illegal to take the paraphernalia into Ghana.
A tourniquet, a Bunsen burner, a tiny handheld gas canister, a dirty cotton bud and a burnt spoon sat under the gloves. The tools of today’s work.
“I have a Gerogi Halprax with a registered address in Accra,” his MI6 handler got back to him.
“Basic information?” Saffel asked, pulling on the white gloves with an elastic snap.
“Halprax is the founder and CEO of an electronics firm of the same name. He was also, as of last year, the mayor of Accra. He was forced to step down due to concerns regarding conflicts of interest between his political and business careers.”
“Corruption,” Saffel spoke simply as he grabbed Kandiala’s body and with a strained grunt, he hauled it into a chair behind the table.
“Apparently the mayor had been offering smart city contracts to his own Halprax firm, but was also in league with Red Cobra PMC,” his handler continued as he secured the body. “Halprax is now a high court judge working in Accra, with a house in the suburbs. He does a lot of business through shell corporations and launders bribes through charities, so a full financial breakdown could take time, but if you need something to be going on with then I can tell you that during his tenure as mayor of Accra, Halprax’s Cayman account received large routine deposits of £5 million on the first of every month – transferred from an address in Washington DC.”
“US government?” Saffel asked openly as he went to work squeezing Kandiala’s finger onto each of the pieces of equipment, to imprint his fingerprints onto them.
“It’s a Wohlstand bank branch and even that took a bit of digging to get to.”
“What do we know about Halprax’s residence?” he continued to question his handler.
“14 Kingston Drive, in the Cantonments suburb of Accra. Three floors, a two-car driveway, no gas or electrical vulnerabilities, no surveillance cameras. He has a personal security detail of ten professionals – making him the most well-protected judge in the country.”
“That’ll slow me down,” Saffel spoke reasonably as he lifted the padding out of the briefcase to reveal a stoppered syringe taped to the underside, filled with clear liquid cocaine.
“Hargreaves doesn’t care how you retrieve the hard drive. Make a mess if you have to.”
“Understood,” Saffel replied bluntly before hanging up the phone and stowing it away in his pocket.
He carefully took the stopper off the syringe and – taking the time to press Kandiala’s fingers onto the instrument – squirted some of the solution to check that it wasn’t blocked, before tapping it gently a couple of times to burst any air bubbles. Force of habit.
He took the syringe in his white gloved hands as he penetrated the brachial artery of the unconscious man’s cubital fossa and pushed the plunger, dumping the liquid cocaine into his bloodstream.
Within seconds, Kandiala began to violently convulse, his eyes rolling back in his head and turning them into two white orbs. Thick red foam bubbled out of his mouth as the fits flicked it around the room, with blood gushing from his nose and ears without relent. Convulsing, twitching and bleeding from all orifices, Saffel left Kandiala as he packed the padding back into the briefcase and de-cocked the handgun on the floor.
Upon this, he took his briefcase, clicked it shut and calmly left the shack.

14 Kingston Drive was the same as the rest of the houses down its street: a cream villa-style residence with smooth outdoor lighting that contrasted with the darkness of the night.
A knee-height stone wall skirted the property with an electronic gate at the front. The wing of the house to the right led away from the gate as it connected to a horizontal wing – creating an inverted and upturned ‘L’ shaped building. Between the gate and the front door of the horizontal wing was a drive where a sports car and the latest Jaguar sat proudly. Dark wooden shutters matched the railings of two small balconies on the second floor as their open doors revealed brightly lit rooms within. As with many of the houses down the street, all of the indoor lights were on, as Halprax’s bodyguards could be seen occasionally passing the windows. Although they were professionals, for an experienced operator like Saffel, it would have been child’s play to outsmart them.
He was a couple of houses away, walking methodologically along the paving of an orange-lit street that was eerily silent as though baiting its breath in anticipation.
He was one house away, clutching his briefcase tight as he one-handedly unbuttoned the jacket of his suit so he could reach a silenced handgun in his hip holster. He had sourced it on the black market since leaving the waste dump at Agbogbloshie. Using the free fingers of his case-toting hand, he gripped the skin-tight black leather gloves around his hands, pulling them tighter, before breathing a sigh of resignation.
“It begins…” Saffel spoke to himself mournfully as he reached the residence.
He took a moment to observe the building, before putting a shoe on the knee-high wall and boosting himself over it.
Striding towards the front door, Saffel pulled a flashbang grenade out from his outside jacket pocket, removing the pin with his thumb, and tossing it up and over the balcony railings up to the right – through the open doors and into a first-floor room. As he reached the front door, a blinding flash of light burst out through the balcony doors – accompanied by an ear-splitting bang.
On this cue, Saffel booted the front door off its hinges, sending it soaring into the hallway of the building and bouncing off an end table as he dropped his briefcase.
Ga!” three bodyguards in the hall all cried at once as they scrambled for their weapons.
Within the space of two seconds: Saffel swiftly knocked his jacket forepart behind him to reveal the hip holster, whipping out his pistol and flicking the safety off as he brought it up into his hands.
He shot the three of them through the head with surgical precision, switching from one to the other before they could raise their weapons. The three bodies hit the floor of the hallway as he jogged inside and pressed his back up against a panelled wall to his right, next to a doorway that led into a lounge. He gripped his firearm low, as he slowed his breathing and calmly listened to another bodyguard in the next room.
“Contact!” they shouted into their earpiece as they ran at the doorway Saffel was beside, unaware of the intruder’s location.
Suddenly, swinging out into the doorway, Saffel put his left arm around the man’s neck from the front – with his bicep pushing into his larynx.
His victim struggled and gasped as Saffel followed him down to the ground while the man’s body went limp. Deprived of cranial blood flow, he reluctantly fell unconscious as Saffel aimed his pistol into the cream-coloured lounge, in search of more targets paid to prevent him from accomplishing his mission.
When his victim was incapacitated, Saffel released him onto the floor and returned his second hand to his weapon as he rose to a stand. A distant authoritative voice shouted from upstairs, muffled by the ceiling, made it evident that the flashbang’s effects had passed. By Saffel’s count, there were still six men upstairs for him to deal with or bypass.
“You two, go down there and kill that son of a bitch!” came panicked English that he managed to pick out from the floor above.
Moving into action, Saffel traversed the lounge and moved through a pair of doors into a dining room, proceeding into a large kitchen fitted with marble worktops and all manner of cookery gadgets. Stealing a kitchen knife, he ducked behind a counter in the middle of the room and he patiently waited.
Eventually, one of the two guards walked cautiously into the dining room before stepping into the kitchen, pointing his submachine gun at a wooden door that led to a side room. He began to walk towards the door and as he did, Saffel flew up from behind the counter and put the knife around his neck.
“Drop it,” he ordered in French as he pulled a startled bodyguard into a tight grab, the knife digging into the man’s throat. He dropped his submachine gun as Saffel twisted him to face the dining room.
“Clear!” came a voice from the other side of the wing.
“Call him,” he commanded the bodyguard in a low voice.
“No please, I ca- “ he pleaded but cutting into him silenced him abruptly.
“ – I take no pleasure in taking lives. But if you don’t do this, then I won’t hesitate to kill you right here,” Saffel breathed into his ear, his gravelly voice made ominous by its tone. “Call him.
“And you won’t kill me?”
“I won’t. You’re of no interest to me.”
“Kwame!” the guard called out.
“Yeah?” a distant voice replied.
“Now what do I say?” the guard asked Saffel.
“You’ve done your part, let curiosity do the rest,” he replied quietly as he brought up his pistol in line with the lounge door that led into the hallway. After ten seconds, curiosity fulfilled its part.
An SMG-toting guard wandered in with a confused look on his face, pushing one door open with his free hand. Saffel pulled the trigger and a muffled round coursed out of the nose of the silencer.
It cut through the air and lodged itself in the man’s forehead, slapping blood up the door as he collapsed.
His hostage was panting from the sight.
“And now?” he asked exhaustedly.
“I’m sorry.”
“What?! You said – “
“ – I lied,” Saffel replied before promptly slitting the man’s jugular veins and stepping away from him. He gritted his teeth and his eyebrows rose, squeezing together as he remorsefully watched the man die.
He wasn’t upset by the sight of death, or horrified at what he had done. He was upset that after all of his years doing this: it was still happening. That it was still necessary. And that he was still doing it.
The world never changes.
Snapping out of his grim daze, Saffel proceeded through the dining room and lounge, into the hall and – retrieving his briefcase from the doorway en route – up the stairs. Pistol at the ready, he silently ascended to the next floor, moving so slowly that not even the dust betrayed his presence.


Making it to the first floor, Saffel carefully checked all of the cream-clad rooms for the remaining four men. The floor was well-lit, with lamps on end tables in every room and corridor while expensive artwork and upholstery populated the rooms as permanent occupants. Grandfather clocks, desks, four poster beds and leather studded sofas were testament to the money that Halprax had made during his career.
It didn’t take him long to find them, all hunkering down in the judge’s office, where he had thrown the flashbang grenade earlier. There followed the sound of something grating across the floor, in the office, behind a single oak door that Saffel found himself in front of.
“That should hold him back Mister Halprax,” someone spoke from inside the room. The guards had barricaded themselves in the room with their client – effectively trapping themselves in a corner.
But those five men couldn’t spend the rest of their lives in that room, least of all the rest of the night. Either through starvation, thirst, adrenaline surge, curiosity, boredom, desperation or a mixture of them all: someone would eventually come out of that room.
So he doubled back down the corridor and opened the door of a wardrobe that contained a number of garish overcoats. With a couple of clonks of his shoes on the wood, Saffel stepped into the wardrobe and pulled the door shut behind him, leaving it ajar for him to peer out through the crack.
He was a patient man, and so he waited.
And waited.
And waited.
After about an hour of standing in the wardrobe, Saffel’s honed senses began to pick up the sound of the furniture in the judge’s office being pulled aside very slowly and very quietly.
“We need to go, Mister Halprax,” a low voice came as Saffel watched the office door open through the tiny crack.
He could see two men aiming their submachine guns down the corridor as two more stood protectively either side of their client.
A tall Ghanaian man with curly white hair, Gerogi Halprax was no longer the no-nonsense high court judge that he was known to be. Right now, he was just a greedy old man scared of dying.
“I’m not going out there until you make sure he’s gone! Go look for him!” Halprax ordered, snapping his fingers at the two bodyguards by the door.
“Lock yourselves in,” one of the two men spoke as they slowly walked down the corridor with their submachine guns raised, stocks tucked into their shoulders. As the office doors shut and clicked, Saffel watched the two men walk passed the wardrobe and into a room each.
Silently opening one of the doors and stepping out into the corridor, he left his briefcase behind as he followed the first guard into a master bedroom. The room was, like the rest, cream-coloured and maple furnished, with a four-poster bed.
Dropping to the floor with a grunt, the bodyguard aimed his weapon under the bed in search of a homicidal intruder. With a mechanical tunk, Saffel fired a muffled shot into the back of the man’s head – killing him instantly, as brain matter hit the carpet.
Backtracking into the corridor away from the carnage, Saffel listened for the location of the second guard. For a moment, the house was silent.
His heightened senses detected a noise in a room on the right, two doors away. Gripping his firearm low with both hands, Saffel stalked along the corridor to the door.
It started to swing open.
He slid behind it, aiming at the edge of the door as he waited for the guard to walk around it.
He didn’t.
He had left the door open while he walked away to the staircase leading to the ground floor. Hugging the door as he peeked around it with half of his face, Saffel switched the weapon to his left hand before raising its sights to the back of the man’s departing head.
With a gentle squeeze of the trigger, he lodged a .22 round into the man’s skull, causing him to collapse forwards in a spray of blood.
Moving around the door, Saffel advanced on the prone body and flipped it over on to its back with his free hand. The semi-shocked face of the guard stared up at him as Saffel grasped his wrist and spoke into the microphone band that fed into the earpieces of Halprax’s remaining two bodyguards.
“All clear,” Saffel spoke into it in French.
Without waiting for a response, Saffel moved back to the open door and crouched behind it as he carefully took aim at the corner of the corridor where it bent into the other wing.
Before long, he could hear the sound of three sets of footsteps on the carpeted floor getting louder as they drew closer to the corner in his sight.
All at once, the trio rounded the corner.
With two sharp tunks, Saffel shot both bodyguards through their foreheads and was advancing on his target before they had even hit the ground.
Nooo!” Halprax cried out desperately as he spun on the spot to flee. But he twisted his ankle, and fell to the ground with a graceless thud. “Aaargh!” he whined through gritted teeth, grabbing his ankle in a useless attempt at subduing the pain.
He abandoned this and put his hands up defensively when he saw his suit-clad assailant advancing on him. “No no please! Wait a minute! Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it! Triple it!”
Saffel didn’t so much as blink.
The professional levelled the silencer of his pistol with Halprax’s head and, with a muffled bang, snuffed out the man’s life.
Saffel’s immediate response to retrieve his briefcase and continue down the corridor into Halprax’s office might have seemed apathetic, or even flippant, to an outside observer. But during his missions, he saw no advantage in lingering around his victims. He would be seeing plenty of them in his dreams.
Halprax’s office was minimalistic in design. What little furniture there was had been used to barricade the door, and now sat beside it. The displaced remains of the room’s broken identity were contrasted by a single oak desk, with no chair. And standing to attention at the side of the desk was a briefcase that rattled as Saffel picked it up.
After he took the time to close the doors to the small balcony, he opened the briefcase and found what he was looking for: the hard drive. He put his own briefcase on the desk and clicked it open one-handedly as the other holstered his weapon and dialled his handler’s number.
“I have the hard drive,” Saffel spoke as he looked around the room for any others.
“And Halprax? What have you done with him?” his handler responded, almost fully suppressing the interest in her voice.
“Dead,” Saffel replied curtly as he transferred the hard drive into his own briefcase.
“Right,” his handler responded, taking a moment to think. “If the police aren’t there, they will be soon. I have your field runner on standby. Proceed to N’gaul Street.”
Keeping the phone a couple of centimetres from the side of his face, Saffel doubled back to the ground floor with the briefcase in his free hand.
He made his way through a utility room at the back of the residence, which opened out into a small garden. It was big enough to hold a small party and, in the darkness, he could make out the outline of a brick grill and two lawn chairs. More importantly, Saffel was faced with an eight-foot wall that ran down the backs of all the properties in the street.
Temporarily pocketing his phone, he turned a key left in the wall’s thick wooden gate and unlocked it, before passing through into an alleyway outside flanked by two garden walls of streets facing back-to-back, with Saffel standing in this outdoor corridor in the middle. It was shrouded in both the darkness of the night and the shadows casted by the two walls blocking the interior lights of the properties whose rears they covered.
Striding through the darkness with the confidence of a man whose eyes had long since adjusted to it, Saffel knew that one of Halprax’s neighbours would have called the police after hearing the man’s pleas for mercy. This was why he took the liberty of checking the city’s police response times to the suburbs: he had 60 more seconds.
“What is the address on N’gaul Street?” he asked down the line in a low voice after fishing the phone back out.
“Number 14,” the woman’s voice replied immediately while he halted at a left turn, looking out into the street. “Club Rendezvous Rouge.”
He suddenly heard the sound of police sirens approaching, before three dark blue pick-up trucks whizzed passed from right to left, sweeping red and blue light down the street as they went. The logo for Red Cobra flashed by on their liveries.
“How do I access the club?” Saffel spoke down the phone as he calmly rounded the corner and ventured through to the street, before turning right and walking away in the direction of the city.
“Through the front door,” his handler replied simply. “There’s no admission fee. The runner will be sat at a table in an alcove; the code question is: ‘Is somebody sitting there?’, answer: ‘Not yet, but I live in hope’, understood?”
He’ll also be carrying a suitcase, Saffel simplified it as he hung up and stowed the phone back inside his jacket.
Continuing down the quiet street lined with affluent homes and exotic cars – including a desert-camouflaged Lamborghini – Saffel eventually came to the end of this exclusive community, marked so by reaching a pair of electronic gates erected to the high hedge-wall that skirted this part of society. It was a members-only club, where the wealthy insulated themselves from the contagion of poverty. These were the same people whose high-rise offices lined the Korle Lagoon in all their splendour, accomplishment and decadence, using this gate to comfortably segregate themselves from those who were not welcome in their world.
Beyond the gate was a row of small businesses that made their money selling luxury goods to the gated community, and there was a turning that rolled further into the city that a sign identified as N’gaul Street.
Escaping this community through a hole in the perimeter hedge, Saffel made his way towards the street in question, listening to the rhythmic metronome of his shoe soles tapping the ground as his eyes searched for the flash of gun metal or a face in the shadows.
Also established to profit from the frivolous spending habits of the city’s elite, N’gaul was full of cigar bars, discreet hotels, massage parlours and Club Rendezvous Rouge. He advanced on its non-descript entrance, over which loomed a green neon sign exhibiting the nightclub’s name.
Using his free hand, Saffel pushed open the door and stepped into a large dimly lit room. The only positive was that it had air conditioning. With his eyes having already adjusted to the morning’s low light levels, he had no problem making out a bar at the other side of the room, where two Ghanaian men were being served on stools by an elderly bartender.
As Saffel blindly closed the door behind him, he noted a number of tables built into circular alcoves around the sides of the club, with curved leather benches for its patrons to sit at.
Marié,” one of the well-dressed men muttered to the other as Saffel advanced on a handsome Ghanaian sitting in an alcove with a suitcase under the table.
“Is someone sitting there?” Saffel asked the man in French, gesturing to a space next to him on the curved bench.
“Not yet,” the man smiled up at him, cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief. “But I live in hope.”
Saffel didn’t oblige him, merely sliding the briefcase across the table towards him. The field runner smiled, before producing a wheeled suitcase from beneath the table, and pushing it to Saffel’s leg.
“One 50-by-70-centimetre airport-style suitcase with rotating latch access. Picked that up at the airport.”
“Passport and boarding pass?”
Saffel crouched down, ignored by the club’s patrons as he inspected the contents of the suitcase, which was mostly clothing. The passport and boarding pass were both in there.
“Satisfied?” the runner asked expectantly, as though to invite his gratitude.
“Good,” was the closest thing to praise that he was going to receive as Saffel clicked the suitcase shut and left the club, pulling it along behind himself.
Back outside in the cool breeze, he ventured deeper into the sleeping metropolis, in search of James MacGuffin International Airport. Fortunately, Accra was unique in that it was one of the only cities in the world that hadn’t had a curfew imposed on it by the private military companies that protected it.
The world’s addiction to such companies stemmed from the fact that they removed the need to recruit, train and maintain state armies during peace time and so saved tens of billions for governments across the world – which was ideal when they were recovering from a succession of economic crises a few years ago.
The secondary reason was that today’s mercenaries were simply better than anything the state could produce. Major private military companies – or PMCs – were financed by profits and offshore holdings which arguably generated income streams to rival taxpayers’ money. As a result, these companies were better equipped, better supplied than the average professional war fighter and there had been an undeniable increase in the quality of corporate mercenary training in the past twenty years. While soldiers attributed their new-found capabilities to a lone instructor whose teachings had revolutionised combat training and had been vastly exaggerated over the years, military experts stated that a more plausible explanation was the introduced of performance-enhancing drugs on the black market.
Easy access to low-cost high-efficacy armies that the public didn’t have any emotional connection to meant that world leaders became overconfident and started wars over the smallest of infractions. The public were outraged when their brave young soldiers were sent out into the world’s warzones, but didn’t make a sound when opportunistic mercenaries fought and died in those warzones. Competitive salaries and widespread privatisation meant that more and more people chose to work for a PMC and so, in a sad twist of irony, the mercenaries that the public so readily condemned were now in fact the same brave young soldiers that they had been crying out to defend.
It was the public’s ignorant apathy towards mercenaries that allowed the politicians to wage their petty wars and accumulate the enemies that would later use their own hired forces to seek revenge. So now the world was in a stalemate, with every country being protected by elite forces provided by some of the biggest companies in the business. Blackhelm, White Pillar, Nightwing, Shadowacre and Starklight were the dystopian-sounding names of enormous corporations who dominated the market for hired guns from skyscraper offices all over the world.
To prevent any one company privatising the entire armed forces of a country, governments took a precaution of using multiple companies from a register of trusted mercenary service providers compiled by independent oversight committees. Predictably, these committees were infiltrated by industrial spies working for a private intelligence firm called Vyndisoth, who used every trick in the book to ensure that the names of 45 PMCs made it onto those registers. When the intelligence community found out, a series of badly hidden bank transactions surfaced from the now ‘trusted’ PMCs to Vyndisoth’s numbered accounts in Damascus, implying that the intelligence firm had taken money to secure their names on the registers. However, this was nothing more than a ruse.
Four years ago, a conglomerate was founded that boasted virtually limitless military power, despite the fact that the world’s armed forces and police had been equally privatised by these 45 PMCs. Then it was revealed that this conglomerate was the mother company to these corporations, along with Vyndisoth and several others.
This conglomerate was called Phoenixwood International.
The governments had been played and there was nothing they could do to take back the 94% of the world that Phoenixwood – accumulatively – now had defence contracts for. They had given over their armed forces and police on a silver platter.
The domed roof of the James MacGuffin International Airport was peeking at Saffel from over a neighbouring building on the outskirts of the inner city.
Halting three buildings away, Saffel turned down an alleyway created by the gap between a pair of office buildings. The muggy air was slightly cooler here in the alley between the steel and brick buildings lined with commercial-sized dumpsters. The alleyway was empty, save for the gaunt-faced man in a suit walking down its dark reach with a suitcase in hand and an unusually straight posture. Shifting his eyes up and down the alleyway, then up to the small number of illuminated offices of the buildings that loomed over him, Saffel waited until he was satisfied that he was unseen, before using a gloved hand to open the lid of a dumpster next to him and dexterously remove his hip holster. He dropped it into the dumpster’s cradle of refuse, not caring to bury it, and vacated the alley.
If his hip holster and firearm were to be found at a later date, then a ballistic analysis would have shown that it was the weapon used to kill eleven people at 14 Kingston Drive. Saffel had carefully removed the handgun’s serial number from its body – all investigators would have found was his accuracy and the type of gloves he had used. It didn’t matter if he had been caught on CCTV fleeing the scene, or even pulling the trigger: they would have had no idea where to look for him. Nobody would have recognised any footage of him. Any paper trail of his would have reached a dead end with a false name of man who was never born in a place that never existed. And any DNA evidence left behind would have brought back a ‘0 matches’ message to any criminal database in the world because when the British government recruited him, Saffel ‘died’ in a car accident and all records of his existence were permanently deleted. Birth certificate, university degree, service history, commendations for bravery and longevity, marriage certificate, transfer records, employment history and medical files vanished from the face of the Earth.
A life that he had built over 55 years was erased in 15 minutes.
He was a metaphorical shadow, but he still had to take certain precautions to ensure his continued usefulness to his employers – including discretion and efficiency. Having his face plastered across the news would have compromised him on any assignment he was sent on.
Now unarmed, Saffel calmly strided through the automatic glass doors of the James MacGuffin International Airport. The airport was a pristine new-build with a check-in area that had a high concave ceiling. Despite it being nearly 3AM, the airport was fully staffed with customs officers and boarding agents in cyan shirted uniforms as black-clad mercenaries observed the clusters of hopeful tourists who had booked a small-hours flight due to their low cost.
With their short-sleeved shirts, stab-proof vests and submachine guns, the mercenaries worked for the border security part of the Oritotus Corporation, a multi-billion-dollar subsidiary of Phoenixwood International. Oritotus employed a vast swathe of Ghana’s adult population and had contracts for the protection of 24% of the country, including airports, train stations, schools, hospitals, ports, government buildings, missile defence arrays, universities, sports arenas and courthouses – in addition to a myriad of policing and warfare contracts.
This airport security eyed Saffel suspiciously as the well-dressed man was processed through their checkpoints. As he was frisked and questioned, his suitcase pulled apart, his thoughts turned to the hard drive.
It wasn’t uncommon for Saffel’s missions to be favours from MI6 to its allies, or companies that it needed good standing with. In this case, Foreign Secretary David Barrett had thrown away his laptop without properly cleaning it and sensitive information was still on it. It was a simple mistake, but it had cost eleven people their lives. It wasn’t the first time Saffel’s mission was at the behest of a selfish bureaucrat – and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
15 years ago, an outspoken British Member of Parliament – and former classmate of Barrett – called Harold Wakefield was one such bureaucrat. Wakefield had visited Jamaica during an earthquake relief campaign while staying in a hotel outside of the impact zone. Unbeknownst to the campaign workers, Wakefield had hired the services of a local prostitute, who then went on to blackmail him when he returned to the United Kingdom. Wakefield, who was known by the tabloids as ‘the Westminster Groper’ for repeated office misconduct, used his private school contacts to have the woman dealt with and the blackmail evidence destroyed.
Saffel was the operative they selected and within a week, she was dead. Wakefield dodged a divorce and another attack by the press, and managed to worm his way onto the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security in the process.
Within 15 minutes, Saffel was boarding a Falcon Air flight along with a handful of red-eyed passengers shuffling up the aisles. Sat in his seat, with his luggage in the cargo hold and a television screen on the back of the seat ahead displaying a menu for in-flight entertainment, Saffel knew that the mission wasn’t over until he was out of the destination airport.
Once the pre-flight checks, warnings and demonstrations had been performed, the plane taxied onto the runway and began its take-off. Saffel gripped the metal arms of his seat as the aircraft rocketed down the runway, his stomach lurching back while the landscape shot passed the window. Then, with gradual ascension, the plane rose up off the runway and soared into the sky, throwing him back in his seat.
Many assassins, mainly freelancers, felt relieved when they took off, but as the plane began to level off, Saffel experienced no such sensation. He never felt relieved at the end of his assignments, instead being left with a perpetual alertness – a paranoid inertia which had proven to be both physically and psychologically draining over the years.
Now cruising through the clouds as the sparse passengers rose from their seats, Saffel tapped the television screen on and selected the world news as he inserted a pair of earbuds into his ears.
“ – and that US defence contractor DeHavilland Armaments holds contractors for 32% of the world’s nuclear arsenals,” a newsreader spoke in guttural French into the camera, his suit expensive and his hair carefully dyed. “And tonight, our top story,” he began as the screen transitioned to a stock photograph of a child playing a games console. “Are video games becoming too realistic? A recent study showed that first-person shooters like Atlas Games’ Art of War franchise have become dangerously similar to experiences of real battlefields, calling into question the effect this is having on the mental health of the younger generation.”
Saffel’s phone vibrated, causing him to slide it out and read a text sent from one of MI6’s anonymous proxies:

Expect a call tomorrow. It isn’t over.

It never is, Saffel thought to himself, dropping the phone back into his pocket with a sigh of resignation. It never ends.
Unbeknownst to him, this mission had started a chain of events that would ripple through the corridors of power, sparking discoveries that would take him across the world and fighting in its darkest recesses against overwhelming odds. All to discover a secret that had been eating at the world since before living memory.
His mission wasn’t over.
It had just begun.

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CHAPTER 2 – Shadows in the Shape of Men

28th September.
The rain in the Surrey countryside was relentless in its downpour, turning grassy fields into muddy sludge and the roads into sleeked death traps.
The precipitation pounded the earth without mercy as rough winds kicked it in all directions, forming a deafening block of a million tiny droplets that were puppeteered by black clouds that seemed to obsessively target this area on a daily basis.
The sole victim of these pattering arrows was the roof of an old Edwardian manor that stood solemnly on the sodden landscape, gloomy and ominous. A dark brick wall surrounded the property at a wide berth, with a lone set of wrought iron gates being the only entrance to this seemingly abandoned piece of British heritage. The interior was bitterly cold, with rare instances of furniture barely visible through the shades of grey that cloaked the large empty rooms.
In a downstairs bathroom, an ageing man stood at the porcelain sink, washing his hands quietly. He splashed water at his face before looking up at himself in the mirror.
The assassin watched the water run down the wrinkled contours of a fox-like face that bore an expression of enduring lassitude. This face and greying black hair belonged to a 55-year-old man who officially didn’t exist – even though he was standing there, staring at himself. Breathing. Blinking. Aching.
This was Sherman Saffel.
The ethnic ambiguity of Saffel’s name was the result of both Belgium and Swiss ancestors, the latter of which began a time-honoured tradition of giving bizarre and archaic names to their offspring, or so he had been told.
In the bleak greyness of the manor, the only sound was the distant tapping of the rain hitting the roof, the vibrations traveling freely through the barren chambers beneath.
Turning the sink’s cold tap off, he stepped out of the bathroom into a small hallway, the front doors to his left. The soles of his shoes echoed out across the hard wooden floor, the sound reverberating around the building as his eyes adjusted and scouted a journey through it. One could justifiably question why a government hit man lived in an Edwardian manor. The answer was that it fitted his cover as a retired army official called Bernard Travelle, who had no family and enjoyed his twilight years spending his pension on frequent holidays abroad. Travelle was recorded as a French citizen who owned the manor as a second home but never used it. This way, Saffel minimised immigration and tax paper trails in the UK while he technically squatted in the fictitious Travelle’s unwanted manor. It was the last place anyone would look for a man of such trained discretion, and its location offered a tactical advantage against would-be intruders.
And as per Saffel’s rightful paranoia, the manor was entirely ‘off the grid’ to avoid his own government, or anyone else, tracking him down – meaning that only one other person knew the manor’s exact location.
With his arms covered in customary goosebumps from the cold, Saffel stepped into a silent lounge that housed two armchairs and a disused fireplace crowded by a mantelpiece. Carefully lowering himself backwards into an uncomfortable armchair with a low grunt, he placed his hands on its arms as his chest heaved a gravelly sigh.
This was when, in the darkness of his abode, he allowed himself to succumb to the invading thoughts of past mistakes and harrowing loss. People he had killed, people he had sacrificed in vain, people he achingly missed – they all came flooding out of his mental vault where he kept them bottled up when he was working. Every gunshot, every stab. Every last breath, and every last goodbye.
Forgive me, the thoughts bombarded his mind in a mad frenzy.
You make my blood boil.
I lied to you.
Why him, of all people?
Death was too good for you.
I had no right!
I killed them all.
I hate you.
I hurt you.
I’m sorry.
They celebrate you now.
I’m weak. Worthless.
You deserved better.
I don’t even remember your name.
That bullet was meant for me.
Leave me!
I killed the wrong person.
Which one were you?
I miss you.
I was wrong.
I hurt you.
You died in vain.
I used you.
I still hear your voice.
I let them take you.
You weren’t supposed to die.
I didn’t help you.
You’ll never grow old.
No one will ever know your sacrifice.
I tortured you.
I told your family it was quick.
Why can’t I forget you?
FORGIVE ME! I beg of you!
Depressed and traumatised by his actions, Saffel sat in a melancholy trance as feelings of regret, self-hatred, remorse and deepest sorrow boiled inside of him like a volatile cocktail strong enough to break a lesser man.
But he soldiered on. His job as an assassin and an intelligence officer involved him discovering the darkest parts of what humans do to each other, from human experimentation in Slovakia, to genocide in Senegal. He continued to step into the shadows because he was accustomed to the horrors that they hid, and he knew that some of the assignments he was sent on would save thousands of lives. He put himself through the dangers of the world’s seedy underbelly so that innocent strangers would never have to. He could take it because he had seen it all before and he pent up his emotions.
Saffel had gradually trained his body to require half an hour less sleep per year, to the point where he now only needed three and a half hours in total. During his military career, Saffel had found this to be strategically advantageous, because it reduced the window of opportunity that the enemy had to ambush him in his sleep. But now he was older, this had become a curse because it increased the amount of time he spent around the house, sighing slowly as he brooded over the memories that felt like they were eating him alive.
Less sleep. More time trapped with…this pain, he thought to himself, pushing the words through the thoughts that attacked him without relent.
You were made to do this. The moment they put the gun in your hand!
You were never supposed to survive!
You don’t deserve to live. And you don’t deserve the relief of death!
You take what’s not yours to take!
Servant of the innocent. A tool of the ignorant.
She never loved you! She pitied you!
You’re a hypocrite. A stain on the world!
You deserve this pain. It’s your punishment!
Kill yourself, if you think it’ll make a difference.
Couldn’t even raise your own children!
You ruin everyone you ever love!
What kind of man does that?
You push them all away!
How can you live with yourself?
You’re just a sad little boy!
Monsters aren’t supposed to be happy!
Who could love you?
How many have you killed? How many lives have you shattered?
No one cares if you live or die! You’re not wanted or needed!
You’re an object, not a person!
Mum and Dad wer- !
The doorbell interrupted his thoughts, making Saffel jump. Before he could even think, he was already on his feet with a handgun gripped in his right hand as his left one was cautiously screwing a silencer onto it. Saffel’s muscle memory was so advanced that arming himself was automatic. Then he relaxed as he remembered that his son, Alastor, said he would be visiting him today. He quickly hid the firearm down the side of the armchair before plodding through manor to answer the front door.
It would have been an understatement to say that Sherman Saffel wasn’t very social. He was blunt, pedantic and didn’t make small talk. He only had two close friends still alive and he never contacted them without a good reason because he saw no point in making idle chit-chat – which was why he partly dreaded his son visiting him.
It wasn’t that he didn’t love his son – he would have done anything for him – but since before Alastor was born, Saffel’s work had always required that he kept the same detached and logical perspective he had developed from a young age. Only by suppressing his emotions and burying any other thoughts than those of the mission, could he remain pragmatic when lives were at stake. As effective as it was in maintaining a cold methodical killer at the government’s disposal, this unyielding stoicism had a side effect. He had quashed his feelings for so long that to express them seemed unnatural, almost impossible, as he felt that to open his heart even in the slightest would result in the flood gates forcing themselves open and 55 years’ worth of excruciating agony exploding from his mental vault.
So in fear of losing his sanity and his ability to protect his country, Saffel bottled it all up, resulting in him displaying an aloof exterior even to his son. The person he wanted most dearly to connect with.
At 22, Alastor was a businessman whose sudden rise into corporate success was still today viewed as noteworthy of someone so young. A modest prodigy of sorts, he secured entry into the University of Oxford at the age of 16, reading economics and Russian while setting up a solar panel firm that quickly grew into a national franchise. Upon graduating, Alastor was headhunted by a water supply company called Greenway Utilities, whose fledgling operations he transformed into a multi-national powerhouse before spearheading a swift and aggressive expansion into the lucrative oil industry under the new name of Greenway Enterprises. Alastor’s hard work earned him the position of CEO last year, making him the youngest in the company’s history as his estimated net worth skyrocketed, settling just above the billion-pound mark. But unlike his frivolous contemporaries in far more glamourous industries, the utilities and oil magnate kept a low profile – probably the only trait of his that his father could claim responsibility for.
Reaching the double doors at the front of his inhospitable abode, Saffel resignedly swung one of them open to reveal his son stood under an umbrella, atop the entrance steps.
Unlike his father, Alastor was a handsome man whose fox-like features were subtle enough to be considered endearing as he wore a black head of hair that Saffel once possessed, and a sharp blue suit he would never have possessed. His son smiled at him, something he must have learnt from his mother, as he produced a voice peppered with an amalgamation of English accents.
“Hello Dad,” he spoke, his respectful tone carrying under the patter of rain on his umbrella.
“Hello,” Saffel replied with a polite greeting, as though they were nothing more than colleagues. Alastor seemed unaffected by his father’s formality, instead watching him as his eyes travelled over his shoulder and to an Aston Martin parked on the gravel drive.
“Can I come in?” Alastor prompted him, to which Saffel responded by stepping aside, still holding the door open.
“How long do we have?” Saffel asked his son while he entered the hallway and closed his umbrella.
“I think it was warmer outside,” Alastor commented as Saffel pushed the door shut behind him, slightly confusing him. “You’re not going to lock the door?”
“If they’re good enough to find me, they’re good enough to bring a lockpick,” Saffel reasoned, watching his son slot his umbrella in a stand before they began to walk slowly down the corridor. “You didn’t answer my question,” he probed.
“We’ve got about an hour,” Alastor estimated, his voice carrying over the sound of their footsteps on the wood. “The plane’s waiting for me at Heathrow, but I told them I was visiting friends in Northampton.”
“Your security detail still suspects nothing?”
Nobody suspects anything. As far as they and the rest of the world are concerned, you’ve been dead for 15 years.”
“They’re not far wrong,” Saffel uttered gloomily, causing Alastor to chuckle a little.
“Stop it, you sound like an old man.”
“I am an old man.”
With this, Alastor jokingly pretended to be concerned for his father, placing a hand on his arm as he peered into his wrinkled face.
“Have you been eating properly?” he patronised. “Taking your medication? Do you need me to show you how the phone works again?”
“Didn’t your father ever tell you to respect your elders?” Saffel joined in, shrugging his arm off as they turned left and entered the lounge.
“No, he was too busy saving the world,” Alastor quipped.
“Are you still married?” Saffel interrogated as they split towards an armchair each in the otherwise empty room.
“Yes Dad, I’m still married,” Alastor chuckled at the irony of his father having to ask such a question. They lowered themselves into their seats, with Alastor being visibly uncomfortable on his.
“Is she well?”
“Yeah she’s fine, just recovering from a stomach bug at the moment. She’s back at the UN next week,” he replied distractedly, shifting his weight on the seat before returning his attention to his father. “She’s started going to classes for unpronounceable yoga, at the gym.”
“What happened to Pilates? Or whatever it was called.”
“That was before salsa dancing,” Alastor pointed out. “She’s gone through a whole menu of overpriced classes since then. Did mum ever go through phases like that?”
“Only if you count learning to use an armour-piercing sniper rifle. She wasn’t the kind of woman to act on a whim,” Saffel replied, before a memory came to mind. “We once went horse riding for the day though.”
“You? On a horse?” Alastor sniggered, sitting back and crossing his legs.
“Briefly, yes,” Saffel grunted, beginning his story. “When you mount a horse, you have to step into the foothold thing – the stirrup – on one side, and use it to boost yourself up and swing your other leg over into the stirrup on the other side. Your mother did it perfectly first time, like she had been born a horse.”
“But you didn’t.”
“I did not,” Saffel put it mildly. “I stepped into the first stirrup and boosted myself up too far. I overshot the saddle and fell down the other side of the horse. I grabbed something, its mane I think, and it reared up,” he explained, making Alastor laugh. “It bucked me up into the air, and I landed in a trough,” he concluded, causing Alastor’s laughter to grow louder, to which Saffel joined in as best he could, producing a kind of grunting convulsion.
In the trough!” Alastor exclaimed in his amusement.
“Naturally, your mother was full of concern for my safety,” Saffel added sarcastically. “So much so that she was laughing too hard to dismount.”
They continued to laugh a little, with Alastor waiting for it to die down before poising a soft question to his father.
“Do you still think about her?”
“Every waking moment,” Saffel replied without hesitation, his voice loaded with sorrow. “Her. And your sister.”
“Yeah…” Alastor trailed away with a sigh, the atmosphere now becoming far more solemn. “Mary’s birthday is coming up soon and I was thinking of holding a small memorial, if you want to go together,” he proposed quietly, although his lack of attention to his father’s answer implied he already knew what it would be.
“I’ll watch it the same way I watched her funeral: half a mile away, through binoculars,” Saffel dismissed the dangerous sentiment, no matter how desperately he wanted to accept the offer. At this point, Alastor had taken to examining the bare interior of the lounge that no doubt paled in comparison to the splendour of his own home in America.
“It’s a shame you didn’t keep any photos of mum or Mary, you could have put them up in here to remind you of them,” he spoke idly, gesturing to the mantelpiece. This did nothing more than earn him another dismissive comment.
“I remember them perfectly,” Saffel replied, his voice quiet as the memories tried to push through. “Every laugh. Every tear. Every…touch.”
Alastor watched his father stare distantly into the fireplace, his eyes glazing over as vivid recollections visibly sapped the life from him.
“How’re you coping?” Alastor’s voice snapped him out of the degenerative trance, causing him to turn suddenly in his direction as though awoken from slumber.
“I’m alive,” Saffel evaded the question before changing the subject. “Do you want something to eat?”
“No thanks, I had lunch before I left,” Alastor shook his head. “The hotel was making lamb ravioli, so I stayed for that, and the- “ he stopped himself, shuffling uncomfortably in his seat. “and the Gorgonzola cream sauce it came with.”
He shuffled again, frowning a little as something about the seat irritated him. “It was pretty decadent, especially the tiramisu, but so – ”
This time he shuffled again, realising that it was something in the chair. Twisting, he delved a hand into the side of the upholstery, his fingers wrapping around the source of his annoyance. He gave a sigh of disappointment, recognising the shape. Alastor pulled out the silenced handgun Saffel had stuffed down there earlier, promptly ejecting the magazine and racking the slide, sending the chambered round through the air without breaking eye contact with his father. “Are you missing a Smith and Wesson?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, as he placed the weapon on the floor.
“They’re always in the last place I look,” Saffel responded mildly as the discarded cartridge rolled away, but Alastor was not amused.
“You’re still doing it, aren’t you?” Alastor addressed him with an accusatory tone. “Skulking around in the shadows, chasing terrorists in the ugliest parts of the world.”
“I’m protecting my country,” Saffel attempted to defend himself, reluctant to argue with him.
“You’re a slave to your country,” Alastor firmly defied him. “Your life is blueprints, ballistics and airport checkpoints. Even before MI6, you let the military use you like a…”
“Like a soldier?” Saffel offered sarcastically. “This is what it takes to keep you safe, Alastor. You and everyone else. But it takes sacrifice: saving lives by taking them, protecting my- “
“ – Protecting my family by having to leave it,” Alastor finished the sentence. “I’ve just about memorised the speech.”
“Do you think I wanted this life?” Saffel began to lecture him sternly. “To spend years in the shadows, existing in constant motion, surfacing only to take the lives of strangers? To miss so much of my family’s lives that I couldn’t see my son graduate, and I had to learn of my daughter’s death through an obituary?” he asked rhetorically, before stopping himself with another sigh. When he spoke again, his words were cold and matter-of-fact. “Technology and diplomacy are no longer enough to hold back the unseen tidal wave – they must be killed so the public can be safe. I am an assassin, this is what I do.”
“But why you?” Alastor persisted, trying to appeal to him. “You’re not the only man they’ve got. Why can’t you leave it for someone else to do?”
“For someone else to see what I’ve seen? To have it engulf them as well?” Saffel responded quickly, his chest tightening as though to suppress him. Once again he paused, and continued in a more measured tone. “I’m already tainted, Alastor. I can take the pain so no one else has to.”
Alastor shook his head defeatedly, speaking quietly as though trying to bargain with him.
“The army, SAS, MI6. You’ve given more than 30 years to this country, you don’t owe them a single day more. It’s time to let a new generation take responsibility for your burden,” he uttered before adopting a more philosophical tone. “One day they’ll try to kill you. But if you let them, you’ll never learn the true nature of their…ascendancy.”
“I- “ Saffel began, but he struggled as his throat involuntarily tightened. His life-long habit of stoicism had made it near-impossible for him to express personal sentiment. “I am proud of you, Alastor,” he spoke through gritted teeth, his gravelly voice faltering a little. “I can’t show it because – “ he continued before his throat stopped him again as he was overcome with a smothering feeling of discomfort. “because…”
“Because you’re cold and unemotional,” Alastor mused with an understanding smile. “I know what you’re trying to say, even if you don’t have the voice to say it.”
There followed a thoughtful pause, during which Saffel looked into his son’s deep hazel eyes, silently struggling to utter all of the things he wanted to say. It was like being trapped in the body of a mute, unable to open himself up to him, no matter how hard he tried. But Alastor understood completely, being one of the only people capable of appreciating the slightest signs of affection that leaked from between the lines of his monosyllabic responses. Alastor’s mother, Victoria, had had that same understanding.
A phone vibrated in Alastor’s pocket, breaking their focus as he fished it out to check the caller’s identity. “Excuse me, I have to take this,” he announced, bouncing to his feet.
“Go ahead,” Saffel responded as Alastor crossed the threshold and disappeared through a doorway into a side room. Sat in his armchair, he couldn’t help but eavesdrop.
“Medrison,” Alastor answered the phone quietly, his volume quickly rising after he heard what his caller had to say. “What, now? We’re not scheduled to see them until next month,” he tutted to himself. “Wait, which man from Pamatrol? Stanford or the other one?” he added, falling silent during their reply. “Okay I’m on my way to Heathrow now, tell him I’ll meet in the VIP lounge at O’Hare in six hours,” Alastor concluded the conversation, consulting a watch. “Okay, talk to you soon. Bye.”
Hanging up, Alastor returned to the lounge as Saffel turned towards him in his chair.
“You have to go,” Saffel pre-empted his next words, to which he confirmed with an apologetic nod.
“I’m sorry Dad, an associate’s called an urgent meeting – something about a new player entering the market,” Alastor explained, pulling at his lapel with one hand as he tucked the phone into his inside jacket pocket. “We’re in the process of negotiating the price for a reservoir in Colombia and I don’t want any delays that might give Tokolishi an opportunity to underbid us.”
“You’re too smart to let that happen,” Saffel assured him as he rose to a stand and they walked to the door.
“Either smart or stubborn, it’s getting harder to tell these days,” Alastor mused, leading them through the open door and down the hallway outside.
“It’s a fine line.”
“By the way, are you still in contact with Mister Gonzalez? If- aargh!” Alastor exclaimed as he stubbed his foot on something in the darkness.
“I am, why?” Saffel replied, using the shadows to conceal his hands as they quietly holstered a pistol that had automatically been pulled out in response to Alastor’s sudden noise.
“I just wanted to know that you had someone to talk to if you needed. What about Mister White with a ‘y’?” Alastor asked as they continued to walk to the door. “Do you still talk to him?”
“As little as possible,” Saffel commented, opening the front door and allowing his son to leave first after grabbing his umbrella from the stand.
Stepping outside, Alastor went to open it, but stopped as he examined the grey skies above.
“Ahh it’s stopped raining,” Alastor announced happily, returning his umbrella to his side as Saffel joined him outside, following him down the handful of entrance steps.
“We’ll see if it’s permanent,” he spoke as they crunched across the gravel, to the Aston Martin. “The roads are safer when the weather’s better.”
“I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Alastor predicted when they reached the car, putting his hand out to feel for rain. “No, this is just the calm before the storm.”
He turned to his father to see him on the ground, examining the underside of the car with a grunt of effort. “I doubt I’ve been here long enough for someone to do anything to the car.”
“It takes three seconds to arm a radio-controlled IED,” Saffel informed him, rising to a stand upon the completion of his inspection.
“Okay action hero, I’ll see you when it’s all over,” Alastor smirked at him.
“When what is over?”
“The reservoir deal,” he reminded him. “Maybe then you could take some time off, and we could go somewhere together. Just you and me, for a week or something.”
This filled Saffel with a kind of hope that he couldn’t express. In the past 15 years, he hadn’t been able to spend more than a couple of hours with his son without exhausting himself.
Alastor, my heart is bursting from the thought of spending more time together, his mind bounced through his head. I can only dream of a week alone with you, and the things we could do together. I’m alone and I can’t stop missing you.
“I’d like that,” was all Saffel replied, the softening of his features acting as the only indicator of his joy. “Very much.”
“I’ll meet you here when it’s over. Bye Dad,” Alastor produced a smile as he pulled him into a hug.
“Goodbye Alastor,” he replied into the side of his son’s head, gingerly embracing him as though frightened that holding him too tight would cause his emotions take over.
Releasing him, Saffel walked passed a circular garden turned into an island by the gravel and approached the front gates that offered the only escape from the high walls that surrounded the grounds. He manually swung the gates back open as Alastor climbed into the Aston Martin with his umbrella in the door pocket, and started the ignition to power the pocket’s heated section. With a mutual wave through the windscreen, Alastor drove through the open gates, rolled down a dirt track, and sped up as he pulled away into the distance.
Saffel watched him until he disappeared from view, then he closed the gates and plodded back inside the manor, up the entrance steps and through the front door. Shutting the door behind himself, he gave out an uneasy sigh as he recovered from the emotional exposure talking to Alastor had caused.
I’m sorry, Alastor, he thought to himself. I can’t open myself up. Not even to you. My own son. My only family. The things I would say, if only I could…
This brief period of self-hatred was interrupted by the vibrating of a burner phone in his pocket, which he pulled out, answering it bluntly.
“Do you recognise my voice?” a male voice spoke with a posh accent.
“You’re Dermot Holding, deputy chief of MI6,” Saffel ascertained from his long memory. Well-kept and half-Chinese, he had met the man on an assignment in Moldova four years ago.
“Very good,” Holding responded, impressed with his recall. “I know that Ashley Hargreaves was your operations commander for this hard drive business, but it’s now been passed to me due to an increase in its priority. I’ve got a small team of intelligence analysts with me.”
“I was told to expect your call. That it wasn’t over. What did you find on the hard drive?” Saffel got straight to the point as he slowly walked down his hallway.
“Nothing yet. It’s still in circulation but we don’t foresee any problems on that end,” Holding assured him. “But during Gerogi Halprax’s term as mayor of Accra, he received a series of substantial payments on a monthly basis.”
“The equivalent of £5 million into his Cayman Islands account on the first day of every month from an address in Washington DC,” Saffel finished his sentence.
“Yes quite,” Holding replied mildly. “The origin of the money is just a bank branch, but we’ve traced the authorisation of the transfers to a computer terminal in the Kobin Building in Maryland.”
“Why are you investigating the bribery of a dead man?” Saffel questioned, not wanting to waste time.
He turned left into a kitchen and leant forwards on a countertop as he watched his courtyard garden through a watery window.
“4 hours before you arrived in Accra, this same terminal authorised a payment to Halprax,” Holding explained. “The evidence suggests that Halprax had been paid through his former briber in the United States, to obtain the foreign secretary’s hard drive from Agbogbloshie.”
“Which means that whoever was behind the terminal in America knew the hard drive would be there,” Saffel reasoned. “You need to contact MI5, there’s a leak in the foreign secretary’s office – most likely a hacker piggybacking a GCHQ listening post with a rogue backdoor into Whitehall. What information do you have on the Kobin Building?”
“This is why this situation has received an upgrade in priority level,” Holding spoke gravely. “The Kobin Building is the headquarters of Shadowacre PMC.”
“The Phoenixwood subsidiary?”
“Exactly,” Holding confirmed. “That’s why this operation is being kept between a small group of people. Phoenixwood International’s companies run our armed forces and police force. If we were to be found spying on them, then it would be a catastrophe – they might stop protecting this country and we don’t have any back-up troops. We’d be completely defenceless.”
“And would they remove Britain’s armed forces?”
“Realistically, they’d just use the threat to raise their rates, but we can’t afford to risk it.”
“So we investigate Phoenixwood’s involvement in the acquisition of the hard drive,” Saffel stated.
“And pray to God that this was the act of a rogue element within Phoenixwood, acting independent of the conglomerate,” Holding added. “That way we don’t go to war with the world’s most powerful military force.”
“Is this an officially authorised assignment?”
“As official as it can be without someone signing anything, yes. You know how it is. We need to know if Phoenixwood is working against us.”
“How far have you got?” Saffel asked openly, shifting his weight on the countertop. “Satellite surveillance? Employee monitoring? Test intrusions into their firewalls?”
“Better: we have an insider.”
“Installed or enticed?”
“Installed. She’s an intelligence officer working as an executive assistant in Shadowacre’s public relations department,” Holding elaborated. “We’ve been using her for the past couple of years to tap into the media relations subdepartment, but now she’s being used to feed information to an asset we have in Washington. They’re preparing to smuggle him inside the Kobin Building to find out whose terminal was used to authorise the Halprax payment to acquire the hard drive. The insider can’t do it alone or she risks her cover.”
“If you have an asset in the field, then why do you need me?” Saffel asked the obvious question.
“Ramirez, the codename of the asset, dropped from contact 16 hours ago,” Holding informed him curtly. “And our time slot is slipping: the insider managed to obtain the server room door code from a technician over a social network, but it changes in a week.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Your orders are to fly out to Washington and find Ramirez,” Holding spoke with a tone of authority. “Then make contact with the insider and, if Ramirez is unable to, continue the planned intrusion into Shadowacre’s servers as his replacement. We need to know who authorised the Halprax payment.”
“Then what do I do?”
“It depends on who authorised it. If they’re an executive, then direct action cannot be taken. But if they’re lower level then we might be able to extract them for interrogation. So take a gun,” Holding commanded him before promptly hanging up.
Putting the phone down on the counter, Saffel heaved a slow sigh.
I always do.
[end of sample]

If you enjoyed that, I thank you for reading and offer you the link to the Amazon page where you can - if you would like - purchase a copy. Regardless of if you do, I thank you for reading the sample (sorry about the formatting), and I’m happy to answer any questions about the book, or about publishing with Amazon in general :slight_smile:


I’m going to buy it! Didn’t read the chapters yet, I prefer reading on paper, but the blurb and first paragraph, on which I base any book buying decisions, look good.
I used to be massively into reviewing books on Goodreads. Don’t know if I’ll ever get back into that but it’s within the realm of the possibility that I’ll give you extensive feedback.
No deadlines though! :wink:
Congrats on getting published!


Thank you Mr. Fuchs! I do hope you enjoy it and a Goodreads review, especially an extensive one, would be really helpful in getting it off the ground! Is this in the genre that you typically read, or is it simply something you’re willing to explore?

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I read across different genres, my comfort zone is quite vast as long as the writing and/or story are good. Classics, sci-fi, mysteries, dystopians, adventures, fantasy, magical realism, thrillers, everything goes really.

My goodreads profile is here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9889835-matthias. There aren’t many books I rated only one star.

Ah so you enjoy quite a broad range huh? One day, I’d like to write at least one book in each genre, well, within reason! I won’t be writing vampires or erotica :laughing:
Wow, you’ve read a lot of books! I hope I can be a contender for your favorites shelf, either with this book or another one!

You’re very good at writing! A lot better than i’ll ever be- I do sometimes as a hobby, but it’s always short/bad and i’m going to go into IT or database administration anyway.

What genre’s your favorite? What do you usually write about?

Thank you but I’m sure you’re not that bad! :grin: At the moment, spy thrillers are my favorite because you get access to the whole world and you can touch on issues that affect everyone. Whereas horror, crime or love stories are usually in one small location, spies/assassins like 47 can go across the world, which makes for interesting storytelling.
At the moment I’m writing books that link into this one, as they form a kind of story universe and the books reference each other. In fact, Privatising Freedom references events from books that I haven’t even written yet! But one day, a reader will have read this book and the others and one day, years later, when they re-read Privatising Freedom, they’ll go “Hey, that thing from the other book is mentioned in here and I didn’t even notice it!”
Similarly, I have prequels and side stories I’m writing and when some of the characters in Privatising Freedom are reminiscing, they’re referring to those books. So on the first read-through, the audience will learn more about the characters and their relationships with one another. On the second read-through, years later, the audience will hopefully feel part of those reminiscing scenes, because they’ve since read the prequels and they get the inside jokes they missed the first time round. It’ll probably only be a handful of people that notice these pre-planted references, but for those people who notice, it will be something special :slight_smile:


It has arrived.
Book is so big I’m pretty sure it should be categorized as a lethal melee. Looking forward to get into it.


Thank you @Franz! It gladdens me to see my book in your hands and this has put a smile on my face :smiley: It is a big book, but I hope it’s worthwhile!


I just saw this post and i think it is so cool that you wrote a book and got published! Congratulations! I will read what you have posted once I get a chance. If it is good I definitely will buy it :wink:. However, honestly I don’t read too often due to my lack of focus and comprehensive abilities. That being said I do still read here and there it just takes me longer than most.

Thank you for your kind words, Ladydeath :slight_smile: I’m very fortunate to be able to promote it here on the forum, but I don’t like to mention it too much or people will get sick of hearing about it! Although I do mention it for comedic reasons sometimes :smile:
Please do read the sample above and let me know what you think! And don’t worry about your reading :slight_smile: as long as you enjoy yourself it doesn’t matter if it takes you all year to read it. It is a dense book and the lore is designed for you to really sink your teeth into it, but if your focus isn’t sharp, then it can also be enjoyed for the story and the action.

However, if you do want a challenge, the book is full of secret codes, foreshadowing and even carefully hidden hints as to the later parts of the series!

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No problem, you don’t seem to be pushing it at all, to me anyway, but we all have different opinions. But you have to promote and start somewhere! So don’t worry about that too much. I always worry about me and my tendency to talk to much especially turning it all about myself, oops there I go again :roll_eyes::joy:

That sounds awesome and now I am even more excited to check it out! My sister is a big reader and likes things like that too and Christmas is coming up so… lol

That’s some really amazing writing my man! Definitely inspired me as well :smiley: Would love to purchase your book!

As long as you’re saying something of quality, there’s no such thing as talking too much :slight_smile: unless it’s your bank details! If your sister is into the spy genre then please send her the sample, she may like it :smiley:

Thank you, I hope you enjoyed the sample! :smiley: Are you a writer too?

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I always like to plan writing books, and if I was ever determined enough to write one I would do it in a similar style to you, where there are hidden foreshadowings and a linked world. I really want to get into this book and dissect it piece by piece, maybe start a discussion of the book on this forum! Really exciting work.

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You are the ideal audience: someone who is as interested in analysing the book as I was in writing it :smiley: I think you will definitely enjoy dissecting the hidden clues and references and as you say, this ‘linked world’. This is my first book, but as I write more in this story universe, those books will reference things from this one and even vice versa. This book references things from the other books, even though I haven’t even written them yet! :sweat_smile:
I would consider it an honor if you thought this book was worth discussing, with or without a thread about it! :slight_smile:

Im more of a rapper/poet, but I’ve been trying to write a light novel for quite some time now :smiley: I do lack the knowledgeable astuteness of writing something impactful but im learning everyday :wink:

Rap and poetry do have a lot in common, and I agree with the struggle to create impact in writing - but I guess that’s what all artists chase, isn’t it? The power to create something that touches someone in some way, and makes your art special to them.

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