HAGAR IS COMING HOME
The lives of Hal and Jenny are turned upside down when a deadly serial killer returns to Cardiff.
SOMEONE WANTS THE TRUTH
Struggling with love, despair and belonging the cyber-slayer desperately tries to uncover the meaning of existence.
SOMEONE WANTS REVENGE
From the vibrant capital city to the urban decay of the industrial Welsh heartland a battle will rage that will push everyone to their limits.
WHATEVER THE COST
“The final confrontation doesn’t disappoint. Yet another tour-de-force from Lewis as we find out what drives a psycho-killer from the hinterland of the south Wales valleys. A fitting end to a great trilogy!” – Aled Jones, BBC Wales.
March 1st 2014
The crossbow was introduced into Britain by the Normans in the 11th Century and quickly earned a reputation as a formidable weapon for being able to penetrate a man’s body as well as his armour. However, by the 16th Century the crossbow began to lose favour as a weapon of choice as newly invented firearms began to appear on the scene.
Technology advances of course. Man’s newer creations are forever replacing the older, more obsolete models. Time marches on relentlessly and many things become yesterday’s news so very quickly. But while some people forget about the old ways completely others see a vast resource of creativity just ripe for plunder.
These days we have the internet – a vast library of easily accessible, and mostly free, information. A place where the violent past can be swiftly revisited, all from the relative safety of our own armchairs. A place where almost anything can be acquired, if only you have the money, the time or the imagination.
Most people don’t have the money, many don’t have the time and lots don’t have the imagination. However there are some rare individuals out there who have all three in abundance.
And some of these unique people have a very vivid imagination indeed…
It was Saint David’s Day in the UK, although the majority of the populace of England, Ireland and Scotland didn’t know it. Within Wales though the day was still celebrated in primary schools up and down the principality, with pupils still dressing up in traditional costume, and the BBC Wales news programme usually having some ‘feel-good’ story at six o’clock.
In fact, many amongst the Welsh nation wanted their special day elevated to a much higher level. A poll in 2006 found that eighty seven per cent of people in Wales wanted the date of their saint’s death to be a bank holiday, with sixty five per cent even prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this. Various petitions to former Labour Prime Ministers’ Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were rejected as was a recent campaign aimed at the old Etonian, David Cameron.
Recent years had seen a mini-revival and various ‘wear-red’ campaigns, while Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, had even started a parade through the city centre.
Outside the city though, in a south Wales village, not many miles from Cardiff, there was one very proud Welshman and online campaigner who couldn’t give a shit about any of this anymore.
He had a rather more pressing, and some might say, extremely urgent, fight on his hands. One, which might see him cease to exist on the very same day as his patron saint, albeit over 1,400 years later.
Large beads of sweat had formed on the big man’s forehead. Occasionally they dripped down from his chubby face, or ran down the length of his squashed nose and fell sporadically, like a light rain shower, onto the well-used and slightly dirty keyboard in front of him. It wasn’t helping his concentration at all.
The man’s mind was racing. His stubby fingers relentlessly tapped out a tune on the plastic keys. The clickety-click echoed around the large room. His brain was running in overdrive.
To say the man was desperate to solve the problem he’d been set, would be the understatement of the century. In fact he’d never been so determined to achieve anything in his entire life.
Although his eyes were bloodshot and stinging sore with tiredness he knew he couldn’t rest. If he stopped, he died.
The man was wearing a loose-fitting, geeky t-shirt that showed the rising temperature on the planet of Alderaan. It seemed quite appropriate seeing as he was in serious danger of overheating himself. But unfortunately he didn’t have time to consider whether Princess Leia had ever endured this amount of mental strain, because he had to keep typing.
Even though he’d never considered himself particularly competitive, in actual fact he was. He’d been poor at sports in school that was true. He was always the last boy standing in a line. Always the one boy the rest of the kids ignored. Past over, invisible, while the fitter lads were excitedly pointed out, their finer motor skills appraised in a second, then harvested before him, for football, rugby or murder ball. He used to beg his mother to write him a note for Mister Lease, the tough P.E. teacher at his local comprehensive school. He’d plead to be excused from class. And she did, most of the time, unfortunately for him…
That was on the sports field. But in the school’s newly formed computer class he’d excelled. Light years ahead of his teachers by Form Three he’d had to retreat to a fast-growing, gaming sub-culture to find like-minded nerds from then on. He was always in good company there, not exactly a competitive environment but certainly a fostering one.
His lunchtime addiction to, and subsequent prowess, in Space Invaders finally gave him a degree of acceptability with his peers in the late nineteen eighties. The internet wasn’t mainstream then of course, it would come much later, but when it did the big guy just soaked it up.
He continued to type, even in the face of insurmountable odds, because he was utterly motivated, but also because he was very much afraid. Determined to overcome this challenge, the biggest challenge of his life so far. He knew he wouldn’t rest until he’d beaten it, or it beat him.
He repeatedly told himself he wasn’t going to let it win. Not now, not ever. Not after all he’d been through. He knew he was easily good enough to succeed. There were few people alive on the planet as gifted in computer programming as he was. He was supremely talented, driven by an innate desire to problem solve, and he knew it.
Pausing momentarily, he leaned forward to allow himself to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand. The larger than life forty four year old, whose legs and torso were securely tied to a chair with a number of plastic zip-tie handcuffs, took a brief second to peek beyond the computer monitor in front of him. He was half hoping it was gone but unfortunately it was still there. It wasn’t a bad dream, it was all very real.
The pistol crossbow might have been much smaller and a lot less powerful than a more traditional weapon but it still had the ability to shoot a bolt at extreme velocity. Over fifty metres per second he’d once read, and he also knew it was extremely accurate and effective at short range. And six feet, in his own bedroom, was very short range indeed.
He studied the mechanism very closely. He even had to admit to himself that he admired the setup. It was very simple. Very cunning. Very calculated. The handgrip trigger was connected to a homemade remote control device. The wireless attachment on top looked a lot like a modified camera sensor and he assumed it was waiting for a signal to be sent to it from the PC that he was currently working on. A signal that would be sent if he didn’t solve the complicated programming puzzle he’d been set.
To make matters worse there was also a timer on the screen, ticking away relentlessly in the corner, like you get in some online exams. It had initially read three hours, when he’d first woken up to discover he was enslaved, but now it read fifteen minutes and twenty two seconds.
It didn’t take long, a few short-lived moments after coming round, that’s all. Seeing the crossbow, knowing he was tied up, had caused the man to instinctively struggle with his bonds, but as he frantically shuffled about in his chair the PC on the desk in front of him began to whir into life.
Music began to play, emanating from the computer’s speakers, which made him freeze. Tom Petty reminded him how lucky she’d been to have gotten found. As the words took on a new and frightening meaning, he had to disagree. He used to like that song. Not anymore though. And as for the woman he’d first played it to. He used to love her. Now all he felt was betrayal and hatred.
Quickly realising it was useless to try to escape he then sat, statue-still and listened. Not daring to move now that he appreciated what he was facing.
As soon as the track finished the computer began to take on a life of its own. Obviously pre-programmed, it had started to execute the program he was now playing with when he’d shuffled uncomfortably around in his chair – another sensor no doubt.
He scratched an itch on the side of his neck. Felt a small scab of dried blood. Then he watched in horror as the monitor slowly began to reveal a set of on-screen instructions.
He read them carefully. He read them slowly. Then he read them again and he knew he was dead.
It was then that the inevitable questions started. The sixth sense we all have but mostly ignore. All those ‘too good to be trues’. All those nagging doubts. The path to the door to freedom and safety, shrouded in mist, choked by love.
Why hadn’t he listened to his inner voice? Why had he let his guard down? Why hadn’t he run when he’d had the chance? Kept on running, phoned the pigs. But no, everything had seemed to be working out alright. Everything had seemed wonderful.
He told himself over and over it was all OK. He foolishly ignored the warning signs.
Everything made perfect sense. Well, it had done at first…
Apparently, the webcam staring coldly back at the man was beaming a picture to an iPhone far away. The earlier words he’d read on screen had said so. He was left in no doubt that he was being watched. Like always.
He had no real way of knowing if this was true right now but he’d be a fool to disregard the information. For now though, he did believe it, because he understood exactly who he was dealing with, and he also knew that to underestimate his opponent would be a mistake he would only make once. He also hoped and prayed that this was his first chance, not his second, otherwise he was already dead.
He returned to focus on the problem in hand. The directives had been crystal clear. If he didn’t find the answer he was searching for, the crossbow would fire. If he tried to escape, the crossbow would fire. If the countdown was completed, the crossbow would fire.
He thought about leaning to the side, trying to tip his chair over to avoid the weapon, but there was too little play in his bonds. It wasn’t really an option. And even if he could somehow manage to move out of harm’s way he was still bound tight. His hands were free and so were his forearms, but his flabby upper arms were held taut by zip-ties too.
The man was also pretty sure that the plastic quarrel with its small metal tip would have no problem piercing flesh and bone like a knife sliding through butter at this range. Exactly where on his body he got hit might be the only real decision he’d make today. The grisly thought of the pointed end of the bolt causing a substantial entry wound in his chest cavity stirred him back into action. He began typing wildly again.
The timer read thirteen minutes, unlucky for some.
The overweight man was thirsty, parched in fact. It was probably to do with the adrenaline rush he was enduring. He was sweating profusely, he could feel his heart beating in his chest and his anxiety levels were off the scale.
As the minutes ticked by, he realised things were going quite well, all things considered. He was sure he’d almost cracked the puzzle he’d been given to unravel. The answer was in sight for sure. Then he hit a brick wall.
After nearly three hours of serious hacking it couldn’t come down to this? A riddle. A guessing game. No, this just wasn’t fair! He wasn’t very good at guessing. He was a logical thinker. He dealt in certainties, in absolutes. The timer read two and a half minutes.
‘Shit! No!’ he screamed. ‘I don’t know.’
He needed to think of three words or the crossbow would fire.
The bolt that was poised to spear his rib cage loomed large in front of him. A lung would be punctured for sure, maybe his heart… the timer clicked relentlessly on.
One minute to go. Fifty nine seconds. Fifty eight, fifty seven…
The man jerked violently in his seat, desperate to topple his chair over, desperate to live, but it was no use.
Thirty two, thirty one, thirty seconds…
His eyes grew large, he stared at the crossbow, he stared at the screen.
Twenty five, twenty four…
Then, all of a sudden, a calm descended upon him. All his rage, his anger and pent up frustration subsided. Maybe an acceptance of sorts. This was it. His final moments. He thought of Rutger Hauer’s immortal lines from one of his favourite sci-fi films.
‘Time to die,’ he said out loud.
He racked his brain one last time but nothing came.
‘Yes, very funny,’ he cursed through gritted teeth.
Ten, nine, eight…
He looked down at the grubby and worn keys. He thought about the last two months. The time they’d spent together. The things they’d done. He thought about last night. The things they’d said. He replayed every conversation in a split-second. He went over and over every discussion. Why was this happening? What had he said wrong? What had he done wrong? He didn’t deserve this at all. He was a good person. He’d never hurt anybody. Life just wasn’t fair…
You better watch what you say.
You better watch what you do to me.
Don’t get carried away.
Then he suddenly had a thought. He knew she wouldn’t miss this moment. That she’d have to see what it was he’d type. He imagined her reading what he would say. He knew it was no use trying to appeal to her sympathetic side. He was sure she didn’t have one, but he had to try something.
If he’d had more time he might have come up with something more profound, but sometimes life is like that. Death doesn’t hang around for a re-take. Just when we think things are going our way… bang!
The big man thought about her terrible, tormented life so far, he thought about the last few days, he thought about last night again. Had that meant nothing to her?
He tried to second-guess a woman’s mind. Impossible. Could he really appeal to her compassion? Like fuck he could! But he had to type something…
So, slowly but surely…
He hit the keys one by one. He tapped out ‘I Love You’ on the sopping wet keyboard. He paused for a valuable second of life to see what he’d written on screen, took a deep breath, and then banged his forefinger down hard on the Enter key.
For a couple of seconds nothing happened. Maybe she was reading his final words? Then the computer began to make a humming sound and the small red light on top of the remote control sensor started to blink…
He’d given it his best effort. He’d been tense for so long, even though he knew his life would be over very soon, he could now finally relax a bit. It was a weird feeling. He slumped back in his chair and took a long, slow, deep breath. Ready to accept the inevitable.
The red light blinked faster, like a camera on its timer, counting down.
Then he gave out an even longer, prolonged sigh and closed his eyes.
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