Book Review: Realms of Ghosts & Magic by J S Malcom

This is a well-written, entertaining book about magic in our present day world, with a well thought out, logical magic system and a recognition that being a witch doesn’t pay the bills. The pacing was great, with some variation, the descriptions had depth and supplemented the story and the characters were well thought through.

It is written in the first person present tense, which can be an acquired taste, particularly with the use of the present tense. That means that you get quotes like:

A few moments pass as Dean considers his options. Which are basically zero, so I’m not bothered. The fact that my skin has gone from tingling to crawling tells me he’s got a serious problem on his hands. A problem that I seriously doubt a psychic could deal with. Add to that, I can’t imagine one being dumb enough to try. Any true psychic would steer clear. So Dean has me or no-one…

I love the details included, the way that everyday, mundane life is used as a touchstone and counterpoint to the magical world and I love the reality of the language. It is an interesting, detailed, well imagined world with great plotting and lots of hints that don’t give the game away until the end. I can say that it is a good book to settle down with.

I have two issues. The first is that it ends on a cliffhanger, but not an irrational cliffhanger, so that is down to personal preference. It isn’t my preference, but it isn’t a bad end to the book. It is a logical, sensible, rational and consistent end to the book that leads well into the next of the series. If you don’t mind this sort of cliffhanger, then you will be fine.

The second issue is my completely irrational prejudice against first person present tense. It has it’s value as a method of story telling as it makes all the action very immediate and, if well written (and this is), it can make it very relatable. I think it is utterly awesome for short stories. My completely irrational dislike is that I feel that it can affect the flow of information so that you get more ‘tell’ than ‘show’ and that it can affect pacing. JS Malcom has done a wonderful job conveying the information necessary for the plot and the pacing works great. In fact, the way that the background is gently introduced during the story is wonderfully handled. I still have this completely ridiculous aversion to first person present tense.

If you are okay with a cliffhanger ending and a story in the first person present tense then I would be happy to recommend this book and to perhaps check out the sequel.

A Brief Snippet: The Forgotten Village


Photo by Gábor Veres on Unsplash

It was a sad place, and a sadness that Karen had come to know very well in the last few
days. This garden had once been loved, as Miriam had once loved her garden. A small
cottage seemed to be fading away behind the weeds, with broken windows and the front door missing. Bindweed and nightshade were writhing over the doorway and into the house. Karen didn’t recognise all the plants, but she could see the remains of raspberries, the dregs of some strawberries, an apple tree that was full of ripe apples, plum trees surrounded by rotten fruit and mint running wild up to the ivy filled, bushy hedge.
“It seems such a sad place.” Karen said.
“I try not to think of it.” Carl shook some carrier bags from his pocket. “Right, let’s do my Mum proud.”
“How about things like the apples?” Karen asked as she shook out a well re-used carrier.
“Sam’s having the apples, he should have said about the plums, but he normally has them as well.” Carl started picking the blackberries nearest the gate. “Come on, city girl! You start over there, I’ll pick towards you, let’s see who fills a bag first.”
“Deal!” Karen said with a laugh and waded through a patch of raggedy grass to her
starting point.

Blackberrying, Karen found, was very absorbing. There was always one more berry to
find, one that bit out of reach, one more head of luscious, juicy berries nodding just a little way up… It was marvellous. With the sound of birds and the soft sun, Karen felt more relaxed than she could ever remember feeling.

Karen, don’t move, stay absolutely still.”
Karen froze. There was an edge to Carl’s voice. There was no sound, not even the birds
now. Then a rustle as Carl put down his bag.
“Come out, show yourself. I know that you are there.” Carl sounded like, well, like a
policeman or a seasoned soldier. There was a deep calm in his voice, an assurance and a
steadiness around a core of steel. “Karen, I want you to slowly move behind me towards the gate.”
“Don’t want to share?” A scrawny man slipped out of the cottage, wearing some dirty
track suit bottoms and nothing else. “Come on, it’s lush round here, there’s plenty to go
around.”
“Have you introduced yourself to Tyr Armstrong yet?” Carl kicked off his shoes as Karen eased herself around him. “Or Lord Lothar? Not a good idea to upset them.”
“Why should a wolf answer outside his own pack?” The thin man had ratty, shoulder
length brown hair, but it seemed to Karen that it was growing longer. “We aren’t all puppies, like round here. Does the meat know what you are?”
Karen felt sick. This was a werewolf as well, but not like Carl. This was a werewolf from
the horror movies – the nasty ones that she hated watching on her own. She eased around a little further, to give Carl room. She had no idea what to do.
Carl flexed his shoulders and worked his neck. “There are always rules, the rules of the
territory. Tyr Armstrong rules the pack here, and his word goes. Better stick to the rules, stray, or you could regret it.”
The skinny man was twitchy. “Yeah, well I have got to feed and I have got to feed now
and I aren’t letting a puppy try and stop me.”
Karen had reached the gate. She looked quickly up and down – she couldn’t see anything, but then, she had had no idea that there was this creature waiting for them. She looked back. Carl seemed to flow out of his clothes in an easy, controlled movement. He really was built like a barn, the strange werewolf must be crazy. He, too, was also flowing out of his clothes and into a wolf like shape. Again she glanced up and down the empty lane. How could she get help? Mobiles didn’t work and there wasn’t a soul around. She wasn’t even wearing a silver ring.
Carl started his growl, low and menacing. Karen felt a shiver down her, this was so much more frightening than anything she had ever seen. Surely the strange werewolf would flee. As a wolf, Carl was huge, with thick, glossy fur over well-muscled flanks. His gleaming teeth were exposed in a chilling snarl but unlike a dog there was a cold intelligence in the eyes, and a steel framed determination. The strange werewolf was scrawny with matted fur, with his eyes flicking all around. Carl looked solid, perfectly ready to leap, but the strange werewolf paced regardless of the chilling growl. He barked at Carl’s growl, hesitated, looked about to leap, hesitated, looked as if he may flee and then the strange werewolf leapt.
Karen was terrified. The two snarling wolves met in mid air and landed snapping and
rolling. For a few moments Karen could only see a whirl of fur. The two werewolves tussled and struggled for advantage. Carl slammed into the strange werewolf, then leapt into his rib cage, knocking the breath out of him. The stranger crashed into the cottage doorway and the doorpost broke. Fragments of wood flew in the air, but the stranger just rolled back into the garden. He tried a snap at Carl’s belly that didn’t connect and a vicious swat from Carl threw him back into the brambles, with Carl snapping as he fell. But Carl’s snaps at the throat of the stranger didn’t quite meet as the stranger managed to wriggle away. Carl tried to follow but was caught in the brambles and the stranger was heading straight at Karen. Carl managed to pull himself away from the tangle of thorns, leaving a huge hank of fur behind as he threw himself at the back of the stranger with all his weight behind him. The stranger crashed into the gatepost and Karen backed into the road, terrified. Carl coiled himself and then sprang as the stranger tried to get away from the brambles and they both fell snarling and growling into the hedge. Karen looked around frantically and picked up a long piece of the fencing that
seemed solid enough. She held it in front of her like a baseball bat as the two werewolves rolled out of the hedge and into the lane. Carl ripped into the stranger’s shoulder and spat out fur and blood. The stranger yelped, rolled away and paused, his eyes focused on Karen. There was a shot and the strange werewolf fell.

If you enjoyed this snippet, you can find the novel on Amazon: The Forgotten Village by Lyssa Medana

A Gentleman


Photo by Hean Prinsloo on Unsplash

Daisy shifted nervously in her seat. “Grandpapa, are you sure about this?”

Her husband held her hand. “It’s okay. We’re doing the right thing.”

“It’s okay for you, Russ, you didn’t grow up with Grandpapa.”

“He’s not exactly your grandfather, though, is he?” Russ said. “I mean, he’s your great-great-great grandfather. And he’s old enough to know his own mind.”

Daisy looked across at the ghost sitting next to the fire. It was an open fire, hissing softly with the smokeless coal they had to use in this part of the city. Grandpapa had never countenanced changing to central heating. “But it seems so final.”

“I know what I’m doing, girl.” Grandpapa puffed on his ghostly pipe. “But I’ve stayed here long enough.”

“Is it about Mrs Henderson?” Russ asked.

“Russ!” Daisy hissed.

“I’ll have you know that I was always faithful to my wife, your grandmama…”

“Great-great-great grandmother,” Russ whispered to Daisy.

“… but I do admit that when Mrs Henderson moved in next door I was struck by her character.” Grandpapa ignored Russ’s comment. “And, yes, now that she has passed over, it has made me think that perhaps I should go and join my Millie…”

“Or Mrs Henderson” Russ murmured to Daisy.

If you don’t mind.” Grandpapa snorted. “It’s time to join my Millie. I just hope you found someone suitable to take my case.”

“Are you sure you need help, Grandpapa?” Russ asked. “Can you not just, I don’t know, decide?”

Grandpapa shifted awkwardly. “I’ve not had any luck so far.” He admitted. “I may be a special case.” He puffed on his pipe again, enjoying the thought. “But hopefully you have engaged a suitable specialist, one who can manage matters with appropriate dignity.”

“He is the only one we could find,” Daisy said. The thought of the familiar, irritating figure disappearing left her unsettled. “But three separate people said he was very good. All the other people we asked were, well, fakes.”

“And he isn’t asking a fortune, like some of them out there.” Russ added. “If he can’t help us, it will have to be a priest.”

“No priests!” Grandpapa snapped. “I don’t approve of them. The old vicar ran off with his secretary and his replacement cooked the books.”

Daisy and Russ exchanged worried glances. There were plenty of stories about bad priests, but who else could get rid of ghosts? Daisy waved her hand at the table. “Are you sure we need to have this ready for him?”

Grandpapa snorted, “Anyone who can get rid of me will be a man of some courage, a man of discernment, a man of taste and refinement. It won’t be some teddy boy in a silly jacket or one of those punk mohicans. He will be a gentleman.”

Russ looked over the small table set aside for the ‘ghost whisperer’. “I hope he smokes.”

“All gentlemen smoke.” Grandpapa said. “Or they should. A man should be able to choose a good cigar. That’s how you can tell the quality of a gentleman. It may make all the difference in whether he accepts the case or walks away. And have you water for the whisky? I know we have soda, but some of the old guard take water with their whisky.”

Daisy and Russ avoided looking at each other. Grandpapa was becoming more and more out of touch, but Daisy had had the opinionated ghost in the background all her life and Russ had grown to love the old man – more or less. Neither could imagine the house without him. But now that the sprightly and scandalous Mrs Henderson had gone, a spark had gone out of the old spirit and he had become quieter and a little less visible. They jumped as the doorbell echoed through the room.

“Don’t keep him waiting!” Grandpapa said, “Or he may realise we no longer have staff! Go on – answer the door!”

Daisy and Russ raced into the hall and then paused at the door. Daisy looked at Russ. “If we open this door, we won’t be able to stop it.”

“If we don’t open the door, Grandpapa will carry on being miserable.” Russ said, “And he’ll make our lives miserable with it.” He looked at the door as if seeing it for the first time. “But I know what you mean.”

The doorbell rang again. “Open the damn door!” Grandpapa roared from the sitting room.

Daisy swallowed and, despite shaking fingers, opened the door. “Oh!” She looked at the skinny lad in the thin jacket and supermarket jeans and wondered what Grandpapa would say about this.

“Mr and Mrs Smyth? I’m Kane Thelwell. We spoke on the phone about a ghost.” Kane smiled nervously. “May I come in?”

Heavenfire: Interview with JK Allen

Latest from the awesome JK Allen

Not that I’m name dropping, but I was privileged to have an interview with J K Allen whose latest title, Heavenfire, is available for pre-order. I feel very smug.

Welcome, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write.

Hello! My name is Julia aka JK Allen when I’m writing. I write primarily YA urban fantasy, but do dabble in lots of other genres, including poetry. I actually did my senior thesis in college in poetry and it’s a love of mine. I studied English and Creative Writing in college, and that’s when I decided to become an author. After graduating, I worked on getting published in several anthologies, and then released my debut series of novels, the Angelborn series starting with Angelborn. Now Heavenfire is coming out and I’m so excited to continue the journey of Ginny and Aiden.

I am also the President and Head Editor of Three Furies Press, an indie publishing house that I started with Isa McLaren and Rebekah Jonesy. We are starting out strong, with a full publishing schedule for this year already! I love my job as editor, because I get to get my grubby little paws on a ton of great books before they even come out! And I love helping authors make their stories shine. Check us out at threefuriespress.com!

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since the day after I learned how to write. I learned how and thought to myself “what now?” Then I realized I could write a story! I wrote a fairy tale, complete with pictures, and showed my sissy proudly. She teased me mercilessly for spelling beautiful like “but”iful, and that’s how my love of editing began.

What inspires you most?

I find that reading and watching movies sparks my imagination most. When I’m not reading enough, I can tell because I get less ideas. As far as my writing style though, what I’m most inspired by lately is a dreamscape tarot deck I got for plotting. I do like to do some planning ahead and know where I am heading before I sit down to create the first draft. This tarot deck gives me great insights into my characters and different scenes. It’s a very intuitive way of looking at your story that really inspires me.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is Jane Austen. Her characters are real and wonderful, and she writes about the everyday in such a beautiful and exciting way. If I can write my characters half as well as hers, then I’m very happy.

Who has influenced your writing the most? Is it different than your favorite?

I would say that Austen is my favorite and has influenced my writing the most. My stories are about character first, and I try to glean lessons from her with regular rereading.

Where do you get your ideas?

I get them from the things that inspire me and what if situations. Always ask yourself, “what if?” It leads you to wonderful places.

Do you have a process? What is it like?

I am a reformed pantser (one who flies by the seat of their pants) so I would say I’m a plantser (mix of plotter and pantser) who maybe leans more on the plotting side now. I used to never know where I was going, but then I also never finished anything. I started novel after novel, loving the storylines and characters, and then I would get “writer’s block” because I didn’t know what happened next and set it aside. When I got serious about publishing, I knew I had to rethink my writing process. So I researched different ways to outline and realized there were all sorts and I found the one that worked for me. I also employ scene lists, using index cards to add, subtract, and shuffle around to get the perfect order. Try something new and you may find the perfect process for you!

What’s one piece of advice you would give another author?

Write first, edit later. For me I need to just focus on being creative when I’m writing the first draft. If I put my editor hat on too soon, then I get too analytical and critical, and it kills my creativity. You can also start obsessing on making what you have perfect, instead of just moving forward. As someone said, you are shoveling sand into a box so you can make castles later. Get the draft down, then polish.

What character that you’ve written do you love most?

I really love Ginny from the Angelborn series. She is kind and caring, sticks up for her friends even when she’s scared, and does what is right rather than what is easy. I love writing characters who have the kind of courage found in ordinary people.

What character someone else has written do you love most?

My favorite character (that isn’t an Austen character lol) is Hermione. She is unabashedly who she is and doesn’t change herself to make herself more popular. She is intelligent, passionate, and brave. And definitely relatable.

So Heavenfire is releasing, it’s book two in the series. Tell us more about the Angelborn series and what happens in this new installation.

Ginny Gracehurst thinks she’s a normal teen until she gets a bruise that won’t fade and starts having strange dreams. Turns out she’s half-angel, and a half-demon is after her to bring his plans to life. Angelborn follows Ginny as she discovers who she is and what this new world is as she tries to protect the ones she loves. Heavenfire finds her on a new mission halfway across the world, trying to protect some precious relics from the half-demon who still wants her. Here’s the blurb to Heavenfire.

A divine sword, magic tomes, and uncontrolled power. Can 16-year-old Ginny Gracehurst keep them from an obsessed half-demon?

After retrieving the only thing that could set Jacob’s demon father free, half-angel Ginny has a new mission. She and Aiden are charged with collecting the Eternal Tomes, which teach how to use sigils in the Angelic Tongue.

They are in a race against Jacob and his minions, who can travel anywhere in a matter of seconds. Allowing demonkind to learn those sigils would spell disaster for them all. In order to get what he wants, Jacob needs one more thing besides the Tomes—Ginny herself.

What future projects do you have planned?

Right now I am plotting a new series set in the Angelborn world, but a few generations later. So we have new characters we will follow as things get dangerous once again.

Where can we stalk you online?

Here’s where you can find me!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/hijinkswriter

Facebook: www.facebook.com/hijinkswriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/hijinkswriter

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/juliakyong

Website: hijinksblog.wordpress.com

amazon.com/author/jkallen

No Rest for the Wicked: All About Prudence


Phoebe Darqueling, the awesome author of ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ has kindly shared some insights on one of her wonderful characters and a brief taster of her latest novel.

Prudence Thorne started seeing the dead when she was a child. Her brother had no time or patience for the little girl who trailed him like a shadow, so the spirits who drifted into Thorne Manor became her closest friends. Prudence believed the ghosts were a delicious secret for her alone. Then, everything changed.

The ability to see the dead and channel spectral forces didn’t belong only to Prudence, it was a family trait. It didn’t affect all of the Thorne women and it didn’t manifest at the same time, but most of her family line had some kind of ability enhanced by their close connection to the spirit world. Much to her delight, Prudence’s aunt Magda came to live in the Manor and immediately recognized her potential. In no time, they became closer than sisters, closer than mother and daughter. Prudence learned all about her family history and how to expand her potential, and the day that Magda passed peacefully into the afterlife was the loneliest of her entire life.

But there was a ray of hope. For though Prudence never married, her brother had a daughter whom she hoped would connect with her the same way when her powers manifested. She kept a sharp eye on Vi and sent her ghost companions into her path in the hopes that her niece would show some inkling of power. But even though the energy that pulsed off of the child was the stronger than anything Prudence had ever felt, the little girl either never saw the dead or refused to admit the truth of her eyes. The feeling of betrayal caused a deep, painful schism between the two, and when Vi was old enough to strike out on her own, she leaped at the chance, leaving Prudence alone and bitter, rattling around an empty mansion.

Then, everything changed again. After a long absence, Vi and some companions arrived on the doorstep of her ancestral home…

Prudence Thorne

From No Rest for the Wicked by Phoebe Darqueling

The room was so quiet, even the ticking of the grandfather clock reached their ears. Every tiny scrape of a utensil or creak of a floorboard under the butler’s foot echoed all the way to the tall ceilings of the dining room. A golden chandelier encrusted with crystals and dust in equal measure hung over the center of the table. A huge, Venetian mirror reflected the stoical scene from over an ornate mantel; a tall woman, with gray hair cropped close to her skull, scowled at

one end of a long wooden table, while two other women sat in awkward silence staring at the other.

Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about George enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fare in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.

Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”

Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”

The other woman rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”

A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she searched for the source, Bonnie found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.

The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”

The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor-sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said, voice soft but her tone wrought with iron.

Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”

“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”

I didn’t say anything.”

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know.”

Prudence waved away her concern with a skeletal hand, but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”

Vi began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”

“And why do we do that?”

She mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”

“Indeed,” her aunt replied. The barest hint of a smile crossed her lips, then they returned to a straight line. “I rather thought you’d taken that particular lesson to heart. All I’ve had from you is silence.” She balled up her napkin and threw it onto her half-eaten meal. “That will be all, August. I’ve lost my concentration completely. Clear the dishes.”

The grifter slanted protectively over her plate. “I’m not finished.”

“Very well.” Prudence let out a long-suffering sigh at the small act of defiance. “Carry on. I suppose we’ll all simply have to wait for you.” The butler shuffled over and cleared away his mistress’ plate and utensils while she stared at her former ward over steepled fingers. When August went to Bonnie’s place, she allowed him to take away her unfinished dinner, her

eyes flicking uneasily from one woman to the other. With a saccharine smile, Vi cut a tiny piece of potato and placed it delicately into her mouth with a theatrical ‘mmm.’

Prudence clucked her tongue, then turned to her other dinner companion and gestured widely. “You’re right. It is a lovely home.”

Bonnie let out a squeak, withering under the unexpected turn of the woman’s granite gaze. She recovered her aplomb, replying. “Yes, er… has it been in the family long?”

“There’s been a Thorne in this house since it was built,” Prudence replied proudly. “Though I don’t know how much longer that will be true. I thought to leave it to her when I pass, but Viola seems to have made her home…elsewhere.”

“You’re going to leave me the house?” Vi exclaimed, choking on her half-chewed bite.

“This is why we don’t talk and eat,” her aunt scolded, then returned her attention to Bonnie. “So, tell me. How do you two know each other?”

Her friend shot Vi another look, uncertain of how to proceed but unwilling to be the one to spill the secret. “It’s quite a long story…” she hedged.

“I see,” Prudence replied coldly. “And you believe I am somehow unequipped to listen to a long story?”

“Well, I—” Bonnie stuttered.

Vi re-entered the conversation. “Leave her alone. You’re angry with me, not her.”

“Do I sound angry?” the older woman replied with an infuriating lack of emotion. “I’m not the one raising my voice,” she pointed out.

“You never sound angry,” her niece replied. “But that doesn’t mean you aren’t. I know you too well to believe you aren’t furious with me right now.”

“Are you quite finished yet?” Prudence sighed. “We could adjourn to the study like civilized people if you would surrender your plate.”

The corner of Vi’s eye twitched, but she pushed away the remains of her supper. As August rounded the table, he stopped to whisper something in his mistress’ ear.

“Apparently, I already have a visitor waiting for me in the study. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll see to what he wants.”

The butler assisted Prudence with her chair as she rose, but Vi’s next words stopped her halfway through the motion. “He’s with me.”

Her aunt regarded her skeptically. “I highly doubt we’re talking about the same… person.” She brushed at non-existent wrinkles and straightened her cuffs before stepping away from the table.

“The ghost?” Vi asked, savoring the moment. Her heavy heart lifted a little as she watched her aunt stop dead, confusion twisting her features. With a smile, Vi continued lightly. “Yes, Peter is my guest, but he preferred to take a nice stroll rather than arrive with us in the carriage.”

Prudence lifted her chin and glowered down her aquiline nose at her niece, but she couldn’t keep the curiosity, and perhaps even pride, out of the creases of her stately face. She gestured at the study door. “Come along,” she said, her eyes momentarily flashing with satisfaction. “And tell me everything.”


Walk in the Park


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

As first dates went, it hadn’t been too bad so far. I had met him at the local coffee shop and we had drunk a few lattes. He looked like his online profile, which was something, and the conversation had been light. He was studying computers and something that I didn’t catch or really understand and getting some side hustles with web design on the side. We shared a love of Doctor Who, agreed to disagree on Star Trek and I felt more relaxed with him than I had in a long time. I should have known it was too good to be true.

“Let me walk you home.” Ryan said. “It’s a shame to end the conversation. I feel like I could talk with you for hours.”

“I’m good.” I said. “And if you walk me home and we get talking there then I won’t get to bed early enough and I have work tomorrow.”

“Come on, let me walk you at least part of the way.” Ryan said. “Don’t pretend we haven’t had a marvellous time.”

“It’s been a great evening.” I said, “And I hope we have another one like it, but I do need to get up tomorrow.” What with one thing and another I would be lucky to get even a couple of hours sleep before work, even if he didn’t come in.

“Spoilsport.” He smiled at me and I smiled back. “Okay, let me walk you some of the way back. I promise I won’t go all the way.”

“That sounds like such a cheesy line!” I shook my head. I either gave in or he made a scene here. “But you said you lived over the other side of the city. Why don’t we walk as far as the subway terminus? Then you can get the subway back and I will be near home.”

“You aren’t that near to the subway terminus.” Ryan sounded a little sulky.

“Someone’s done their research.” I said. “But we can hang out together until you get on the subway, so we have a little more time.”

Ryan smiled. “I know you haven’t lived in this part of the city long, but I grew up around here. I know a great short cut, through the old park.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be haunted?” I asked. “I mean, I was warned about going into the old park after dark as it was dangerous.”

“Nobody believes in ghosts.” Ryan said, “And I can protect you.”

I looked at him thoughtfully. He was in good shape, but he didn’t look like he could take on a pack of muggers. What was worse, if we cut through the abandoned park, we would have to go past my home to get to the terminus. It looked like Ryan could be a problem. “I’d rather stay in public. You know all the advice that they give, about online dating, to stay in public for the first few dates and to be really careful who you give your details to? Perhaps I should just get an uber home.”

Ryan put a hand on my shoulder. Somehow it felt heavier than it should. “Please, we are having such a good time. Let’s just walk for a little while, carry on connecting and you can wait with me at the subway station.”

“And we can go past the supermarket.”

“Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure. There is nothing wrong with the park. It’s just neglected, that’s all.”

“It will be dark.” I said.

“It will be romantic.” Ryan held my hand and smiled at me. I felt incredibly uneasy.

The old park had effectively been abandoned by the council. Once it had been carefully landscaped but now it was an overgrown of tangled bushes and trees with some worn tracks through the dense growth. It was dimly lit even in daylight. We walked through the rusted gates in the dark and away from the street lights and we were suddenly in an eerie dark. I dug a mini torch out of my handbag.

“You’re prepared.” Ryan said. “I admit, it’s darker than I was expecting, but I thought you would use your phone.”

“Wouldn’t that run the battery down really quickly?” I asked as I found a path. “Is this the way?”

“I think we need to go down here.” Ryan said, pointing to a different path.

“No, this way will get us through the park quicker and nearer the subway.” I insisted pointing my torch.

“But this way will be more fun, I promise.” Ryan said.

He set off ahead of me, and I sighed and followed. The park was not safe after dark just because it was so overgrown and badly lit. If he fell, he could hurt himself badly and not be easily found. I decided that I would see him off at the subway and then send him a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ text. “Hang on!” I shouted after him.

“The park is supposed to be haunted, you know.” Ryan said as I scrambled after him. “They say that you can see ghosts here and that vampires and werewolves come here to meet.” Ryan looked around as much of the park as he could see in the small beam from my torch. “It’s a shame it isn’t a full moon.”

“Vampires and werewolves, seriously?” I said, as I hurried after him. “We’ve left the path.”

“I grew up here, remember?” Ryan turned and smiled in the glow of the torch. “I know all the tracks, like this one here.” We stumbled out onto a slightly wider path that was heading downward towards the neglected artificial lake.

“I need to get home and you need to make sure you get to the subway in time for the last train.” I said. “This is silly.”

Ryan looked around. “I’m just trying to get my bearings. Does your phone have GPS?”

“I thought you knew this place?” I was trying to keep calm. I really didn’t want to have a scene. “Come on, lets get out of here.”

“Seriously, which way is North?”

I ignored his hand open for my phone and pulled up the map function myself. “It’s that way, and if we follow this path, we’ll come out almost next to the subway. And you won’t miss your…” I was interrupted as I turned to point to a path. Ryan snatched my phone out of my hand and threw it into the bushes. I whirled around to glare at him. “What are you doing?”

“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” Ryan said, in a low voice, running his hand over my arm. “You are in the middle of the haunted park, in the dark, possibly surrounded by werewolves, and with a handsome stranger. Anything could happen. And you have no way to call for help.” He tried to pull me towards him for a kiss, but I struggled free.

“Okay, that’s it. This date is over, lose my number.” I shone my pitiful torch where I thought my phone landed.

“I don’t think you understand.” Ryan said. “You are alone, in the dark, with a stranger. You are in no position to tell me what to do. I’m in charge.” He moved a little closer. “I could even be a werewolf. That would be something, wouldn’t it, to be rescued by a werewolf.”

I swore at him and headed to where I thought I saw a glint of grey. “What are you going to do? Leave me for the ghosts. Leave me alone.”

“Or what?” Ryan was smirking as he followed me. “There are no werewolves around to rescue you.” He pushed his hand into my hair and pulled my head back. “We are going to have a nice time here, and then we are going back to your place and by the morning you will see that I am the best thing that could happen to you. No werewolves needed.”

“You’re right.” I snarled, my fangs lengthening as I grabbed his arm and twisted until he was on his knees, screaming. “No werewolves needed at all.”

Family Jewels


Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

“Can you see anyone?” Justin asked. He stood at the window, tension in every line of him.

“One moment, Mr Birstall.” Kane tried to concentrate on the sobbing ghost in front of him. “Calm down and just try and…” You couldn’t tell a ghost to take a breath. “Just take it easy.”

“All my life I’ve heard the story of the family jewels.” Justin said. “I’ve waited my whole life to buy back my family home.”

Kane nodded distractedly as the ghost slowly straightened up and looked at his sister’s great grandson. “That’s better. Now, this is Justin, and he wants to know what happened to his great grandmother’s jewellery.”

Justin looked between Kane and the gap that Kane was apparently speaking to. “Dad said that the jewellery wasn’t much, but it would be great to be sort of reconciled with that, to be part of the family.”

“I never thought she would leave.” The ghost started sobbing again. “I thought if I forbade her to marry then we would be together and comfortable. But she wanted to go to London with this clerk.”

Kane nodded politely. “I’m sure you missed your sister…”

“I missed her so much. How could I know that I would drive her away.” The ghost pulled out a spectral handkerchief. “I mean, if I had realised perhaps I would have at least had letters.” The ghost looked between Kane and Justin. “I have to know – did she die in poverty? Did she die in pain? Did she have a family? I’ve worried about it for so many years, I can’t rest.”

Kane looked at Justin. “Your great-grandmother, was she happy?”

Justin smiled. “I grew up with stories about her life. She loved the theatre, was devoted to my great-grandfather – she was so proud of him. She was always well dressed, and had all the latest fashions, especially when she went to the big dinners and galas.”

“What do you mean, big dinners?” The ghost forgot to sob into his handkerchief and stared at Justin.

“The ghost is surprised your great-grandmother went to big dinners.” Kane said, a little timidly. A skinny kid just out of local authority care shouldn’t ask questions of a high flyer in the City.

Justin didn’t take offence. “My great-grandmother ran off with my great-grandfather to the horror of all their families. But they settled in London, he went back to his father’s firm and they were very happy. Once he took over, there were shareholders’ dinners and charity events with the Lord Mayor.” He smiled. “Granny used to tell us stories about how they met with royalty and all sorts.” He sighed “But she used to whisper to Granny that all the fancy necklaces she had didn’t have the same feel as the locket her brother gave her and that she left behind.” He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here. One last chance.” He sighed. “Who am I kidding? That locket was probably sold or thrown long ago.”

“How dare you, sir!” The ghost stood, indignant. “The very thought that I would do something like that! Of course, I didn’t want the maids finding it and perhaps sending it on to London, so I hid it.” He turned to Kane. “Boy, you can fetch it for me.”

“What?” Kane said, bewildered. “I mean, what do you mean? Where is it?”

“I put it in the kitchen.” The ghost said. “No-one would think to look in the kitchen for something I hid. I never went there as an adult.” He shook his head. “Everyone forgot that I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny. Come on, lad, smarten up.”

Kane followed the ghost out of the empty study and down the echoing, uncarpeted hall and into the kitchen. Justin trailed after him.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m following the ghost, Mr Birstall.”

“What ghost?” Justin said. “I can’t see anything. Don’t you have to have a seance and call on them or something.”

As Kane walked into the kitchen, he wondered what it would be like to have to ask a ghost to come instead of trying to get them to shut up and leave him alone. “I’m getting a message.” He said.

“Hmph, a message.” The ghost snorted. “Anyone would think you were some sort of spiritist. Come over here, lad, and put your hand up the chimney, quick as you like.”

Kane looked at the soot-encrusted mantle and took off his jacket. “Whereabouts up the chimney?” He asked doubtfully, rolling up his sleeves.

“What?” Justin asked.

Kane ignored him and, following the ghost’s instructions, slid his hand behind the mantle. “The ghost, your great-great-uncle, would like to know if his sister was happy, and how she died.” The soot felt unpleasantly damp and a little slimy.

What?” Justin asked. He stared at Kane and then shrugged. “Everyone said she had a happy heart. She died in the Blitz, direct hit on the house.”

“She wouldn’t have suffered.” The ghost said quietly. “And she was happy.” He sighed. “Try a bit further left, boy.”

Kane looked down at the soot streaking his newest jeans and trainers. “Are you sure? Hang on…” His fingers found a loose stone and he wiggled it a little before he managed to prise it out. He set the stone carefully down on the hearth and tentatively reached in. “I think this is it.”

Justin took the small tin box from Kane, regardless of the soot falling on his bespoke suit and, after a struggle, opened it up. He swallowed and tipped the contents onto the dusty windowsill. “Great-grandmother’s locket.” He pushed aside the discoloured pearls and the garnet necklace and pulled out a simple locket, still faintly gleaming under the dust.

“She didn’t die poor, she died happy.” The ghost sighed as he started to fade and pass over. “I didn’t drive her to poverty. She was happy.”

Kane watched the ghost go home and turned to Justin. “The ghost has gone, Mr Birstall. I don’t think that there’s anything else.”

“Hmm?” Justin was staring at the picture in the locket. “Sorry, I was caught up with this.” He showed the facing pictures to Kane. “My great-grandmother and her brother. I have a similar picture of her at home, look.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled through to show Kane the picture of the same laughing young woman that was in the locket.

Kane looked at the faded photographs and smiled politely as he tried to brush the soot off his jeans. “So, I’ll see myself out.”

Justin came back to the present. “I’ll give you a lift to the station.” He handed Kane an envelope. “Agreed fee.” He added a second envelope. “And the bonus for finding the locket.” The smile on his face grew. “The family jewels.”

Book Review: The Omega Prize by Leann Ryans

This is erotic fiction. I practically never read erotic fiction and I blush very easily. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The Omega Prize is a science fiction story set in a world where there are dominants and submissives, alphas and omegas, and many are ruled by their pheromones. The story is set on a rough and ready space station with the heroine, Brie, trying to hide her nature as she works as a bartender. The hero, Zander, spots her true nature and, well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers.

I usually avoid erotica as there is often more biology than story. The Omega Prize is definitely a story – a well written story with real characters. It is relatively short, but there is a journey that the characters make and it’s an interesting journey.

I found the dialogue crisp and believable, and I enjoyed the description of the settings, with a great flavour of the darker scenes of sci fi movies. I am not sure how qualified I am to comment on the quality of the erotica, but I found it, well, erotic. It wasn’t mechanistic but had a wonderful, sensual, feline feel to it.

Now for something surprising. Alongside with a great setting, crisp dialogue, sensual scenes and three dimensional characters, there are some really excellent descriptions of hand to hand combat. It is great to see such a vivid description of a fight. Again, I don’t want to put too much in, but the combat, the passion and the characters are all legitimate parts of the story. I loved it

Another in the series is promised, and I am looking forward to it.

The New Building

Old foundation stone in the new building of the Church of the Nazarene, Morley

Kane Thelwell looked around nervously and slid into the church hall. It should be safe enough. All he had to do was keep his head down and no-one would look at him twice. He was just so desperate to get out of his small room and at least be around living people, even if he didn’t feel comfortable speaking to them, that he risked this trip to the church coffee morning.

It was standard stuff. Three old ladies were serving tea and coffee from a huge, overcleaned urn in one corner, together with a selection of bacon butties, sausage sarnies and toast. Another table had a selection of home made cakes. Kane looked over them and decided to buy one later. In his experience, competition between the ladies meant that the cake stall was always worth a visit. There was a sad selection of battered paperback books that had probably been trundled out every Monday for years, and a rail of ‘nearly new’ kids’ clothes.

The best thing about this was that the church hall was new. It was so new that you could hardly find it on the internet. It was a brand new, purpose built complex with a church, a church hall, a selection of meeting rooms and a large and extremely modern kitchen area. This was not a haunted building. It hadn’t had time. Besides, it had been blessed, so it had to be ghost free, right?

Kane couldn’t remember when it had started. He had always been faintly aware of ghosts, even when he was a child. There had always been the faint whisper on the edge of his hearing, the faint flicker on the edge of his field of vision and the sensation of not being alone. It was only as he got older, however, that the ghosts had started talking to him. As a young teenager in foster care, he had been glad of a sympathetic conversation and the old railwayman who had died forty years before in the bedroom now allotted to Kane had been a good listener with some sound advice. Kane had missed Eddie when his placement ended there. Then there had been Millie. She hadn’t been very helpful when it came to sorting out survival in a hostile household, and she hadn’t always listened, but she had some good stories and some great advice about how to talk to girls, which had been a real help to a fourteen year old.

The placement after that hadn’t been so much fun, and the elderly schoolteacher who had died in that room five years before was not sympathetic. He was, however, surprisingly tolerant when it came to helping Kane with his homework. Kane’s school attendance had been erratic at best even before he got into the system, but Mr Kettering had stood behind Kane as Kane scrolled through teaching sites on the council issued laptop and then patiently talked through the work Kane had missed. Kane had been almost sorry when the acerbic Mr Kettering finally passed over, comforted by the knowledge that he had got one more troubled boy through his exams.

His next placement had been a halfway house. There was no question of him going to college, despite his good grades, but the converted Victorian townhouse had been okay, and with the three ghostly parlour maids, the spirit of the old lady who had been the matriarch of a large family and the shades half a dozen kids and teenagers, there had never been a dull moment.

But that’s when it turned. One of the other, living, members of the facility had overheard Kane’s half of a long conversation with Mary, the maid from 1908, and had reported him to the resident social worker. When blood tests showed Kane to be drug free, a few further observations and careful questions led to Kane being held for psychiatric evaluation. That had been six months ago, and while Kane had illicitly stopped taking his medication, he was aware of being monitored in that same halfway house. Now he was careful.

Kane smiled nervously at the old lady as she poured him his tea, picked up his sausage sarnie and found a seat in the corner. As a defence he pulled out his battered phone and put in the headphones. There was nothing to listen to. Kane hadn’t been able to afford to pay for any phone calls for months. But if anyone saw him talking, perhaps they could assume he was having a conversation.

The sandwich was perfect – the sausages were crispy and brown sauce oozed from the soft, white roll as he bit into it. Then Kane’s heart sank. He could see ghosts. He could see their faint outlines as they wandered around the hall and inspected the latest information on the notice board. He started to bolt down his sandwich. He had to get out of here before the ghosts realised that he could see them. He drained the last of his tea, but he was too late. The ghost of an elderly lady caught his eye.

Kane’s heart sank as she grabbed her companion’s insubstantial arm and tugged the elderly gentleman towards Kane. He looked towards the door but it was too late.

“Hello, dear, I’m Margaret and this is Herbert. Herbert was the first minister on this site.”

Kane positioned his phone so he looked like he was making a call. “I thought this site was new.”

Herbert shook his head. “They rebuilt on the same site. I was completely against it, of course. I always said that there were issues with the traffic when the new supermarket was built.”

“Nobody listens to us, of course.” Margaret said sadly. “And now all we can do is listen to the endless rumble. It affected the foundations of the old building.”

Kane looked out of the window and onto the busy street. He could see the ghosts’ point. Traffic was edging along in a jam just before the turn off to the massive supermarket. “It’s progress.” He said quietly.

“We noticed the cracks in the cellar in the old building before anyone else.” Herbert sighed. “They never listened to us, and by the time the committee had spotted them, it was too late.”

“The old building had its problems, of course.” Margaret said. “They had a lot of trouble with the heating.” She looked wistfully out of the window. “Everything is working well, but there is so much traffic.”

“If there was only a way to escape this.” Herbert followed Margaret’s gaze. “Some way of leaving this endless rumble.”

“Is there a way?” Kane asked.

Margaret leaned forward, sinking slightly into the table. “You can see us. Perhaps you can find a way to get us some peace. That’s all we want.”

“If we could just find a way to silence the endless rumble.” Herbert said. He looked around the bustling church hall. “It is all so different from my day.”

Kane looked at Herbert who was wearing a frock coat and stiff collar and then glanced over to the young mums in leggings. “Time change.” He managed.

“And not for the better, young man.” Margaret said. “Surely you are willing to help us?”

Kane drew a breath to answer and then froze as a stern and elderly minister stalked over towards his table. Kane shrank back into his chair, miserably aware that a skinny youngster apparently talking to himself was never going to get a warm welcome.

The minister leaned down on the table and, to Kane’s utter shock, spoke directly to Margaret. “Are you causing trouble again?” He looked over at Herbert. “You both know better than that. This poor lad came in for a drink and a sandwich. He did not come in to be harassed by two ghosts barely better than poltergeists.”

Herbert pursed his lips. “I beg your pardon!”

“Which story were you telling? The tale where you just needed a picture of your descendants? Or the one where you needed to see pictures of the town.” The minister looked between the two ghosts. “Don’t tell me you were trying the traffic one again. You are on your last warning.”

“You are no fun.” Margaret pulled herself upright, drifting slightly above the ground. “It’s not like we meant any harm.”

“You never do.” The minister snapped. “But I’m still having to counsel those you contact.” He shook his head. “I think you need to leave this young man alone. And I am warning you, one more episode like this and I’m banishing you back to the churchyard.”

Kane watched the two affronted ghosts drift away through the nearest wall and then turned to the minister in surprise. “You can see them?”

“Most of us here can,” The minister smiled sympathetically. “But we’re an unusual bunch.” He hesitated. “I can talk you through some techniques to avoid the supernatural, if you like, or learn more about it.”

“I would really like to learn more about it.” Kane said without thinking. He paused. “I’d like to be able to ignore them as well, at least, the annoying ones.”

“I’m Charles Easton, the minister here.” Charles held out his hand. “If you’re free on Wednesday, I’m in my office all afternoon. We can have a chat.”

Kane automatically shook the minister’s hand. “I’m Kane Thelwell.” He said. “Pleased to meet you.” He took a breath. “I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“Excellent,” Charles said briskly. “Excuse me, I need to speak to Mr Matthews.” And he was gone.

Kane took the last mouthful of his tea and stood up slowly. He couldn’t wait to tell the ghosts back home about this.

Everything Changes


Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

Hal pressed himself against the cold stone wall and tried to catch his breath. He had to risk using the torch on his phone. He didn’t want to run the battery down, but he needed to know if he was safe. The quick sweep of light showed bare stone. The fan vaulting overhead told him he was in the Chapter House. Surely Kirkstall Abbey was a safe place from werewolves. Surely they wouldn’t be able to come onto sacred ground.

Hal tensed as he thought he heard a growl near the bare stone doorway, but his mind caught up with his terror and he realised it was just the sound of a motorbike. He leant back against the rough stone. Surely they wouldn’t come in here. This had to be a safe spot. He ran a reluctant hand over his left forearm. It felt damp and sticky and far too warm. His body ached.

If he could just hold out until morning, that would be alright, wouldn’t it? Hal knew he wasn’t thinking straight as whatever was in that werewolf bite ran through him, but he felt himself holding on to a tiny core of rational thought. Werewolves could cope with sunlight, he thought, but this was Kirkstall Abbey. It wasn’t some remote spot out on the moors but only ten minutes from the centre of Leeds and next to a busy main road. Werewolves wouldn’t want witnesses, would they?

Hal found himself sinking down the cold stone wall and slumping on the damp flags. All his bones throbbed and he hunched smaller, trying to ease the pains shooting through him. He had been bitten by a werewolf. His head felt like it was on fire. He felt his thirst was ripping his throat but he didn’t dare look for water. He just needed to hold out until morning.

Lord Marius looked around in irritation at the man stumbling across the damp grass towards Kirkstall Abbey. “You are not Sergeant Anson.”

“I’m DC Jamie Flint.” He held out his hand towards Lord Marius who completely ignored it. There was an awkward pause. “Sergeant Anson is on leave at the moment. I’m covering for him.”

Lord Marius looked at him carefully. Jamie was in his late twenties with thinning hair, an oversized uniform jacket and an anxious expression. “Did Sergeant Anson tell you everything?” He asked.

“I’ve read the briefing notes.” Jamie shifted uncomfortably. Half an hour earlier he had been trying to convince an old lady to turn her music down because not all of her neighbours were fans of Frank Sinatra. He had wanted excitement, but the brief skim of the notes left by Anson hinted at more excitement than he ever wanted.

“Come this way.” Lord Marius gestured imperiously and Jamie followed. They skirted the main building and headed towards the river. A man in a battered raincoat and holding a large sports bag was there surrounded by an orderly pack of very large dogs. “We have an incident and I think it best that you deal with it.”

“Me?” Jamie nodded to the man standing around the back of the main structure and automatically holding out a hand to the nearest dog. They were immaculately groomed and in peak condition. “Good boy.”

“Don’t call him a ‘good boy’.” Lord Marius said, sardonic amusement dripping from his tone. “That is Mark Davies, leader of the local pack. I’m sure he will have much to say when the moon is not full.”

Jamie went cold. As the moon came out from behind the clouds and added to the reflections of the local street lights, he could see the pack a lot clearer. They looked like wolves. They looked like very big, well-muscled, well-fed wolves. “I’m sorry, my mistake.” Jamie said. What was it that they said in college? Never show fear. It was easier said than done. The wolf gave a sharp bark. Lord Marius shrugged.

“Mark Davies is remarkably understanding. Of course, he has a lot on his mind. Inside the ruins of the abbey is a man who has been bitten by a werewolf. You need to bring him out.”

“Is he badly hurt?” Jamie asked. “Do I need to call for medical back up?”

The man in the middle of the pack walked up to Jamie and shook his hand. “I’m Dr Dave, and I’m the medical backup.” He turned to Lord Marius. “The stray didn’t make it. His heart gave out. Perhaps it was for the best.”

Mark gave a series of sharp barks, and for some reason Jamie felt chills running down his back. “Stray?”

Dr Dave looked between Lord Marius and Jamie. “You’re new, aren’t you. Never mind. In brief, a stray is a werewolf that isn’t attached to a pack. They usually turn bad if they spend too long alone and this one managed to pick up a case of white jaw – it’s a little like the werewolf version of rabies, and there has been the first outbreak in decades running around the country. It’s treatable, if caught in time, but the stray wasn’t able to get treatment. He may not have even realised he had it. The trouble was, the condition comes with delirium and hallucinations and he bit a normal – someone who doesn’t know about werewolves. They ran inside the ruins.”

Mark gave a few staccato barks and a deep ‘woof’.

Lord Marius nodded. “Quite.” He turned to Jamie. “The pack can’t get into the building as it is too holy. They can manage most churches, but there have been some great, if unknown, saints here over the centuries who have left their mark and it is out of bounds to the pack. Besides, they can’t risk getting the white jaw themselves. Dr Dave can treat the man if he can reach him, but he may need help restraining the victim. I’ve asked for help from the Knights Templar, but they’ve been caught up with a nest of vampire fledglings in the north of the city and it will take time for them to get here.”

“Will you be able to save him?” Jamie asked.

Dr Dave looked worried. “If I get to him in time, I can treat the white jaw. I can’t stop him changing, but Mark is a good leader and will look after him. I just need to get to him.”

Another deep ‘woof’ from Mark was translated by Lord Marius. “And as he transitions – which may be tonight or at the next full moon, depending on his infection – he’s going to be affected by the site. He won’t be able to stay there long.”

“How many exits can he reach?” Jamie asked.

“Just this one.” Dr Dave said. “We’ve blocked all the others with silver, so he should come out here.”

Jamie was not reassured by the uncertainty in the doctor’s voice. He looked over the ruins. Kirkstall Abbey was a mass of broken walls, uncertain pillars, dark shadows and council railings. The roof was intact over large parts of the medieval building, creating unlit, inky caverns. In the uncertain light, it was impossible to check all angles. “I think I need more support. Like, animal control…” He flinched as Mark took a pace forward and growled. “Sorry, but I don’t know what I can do.”

“You can help save a man’s life.” Dr Dave said briskly.

Jamie peered into the matt black shadows. He couldn’t see a thing. He pulled a torch from his belt. “What are we waiting for?” He had never been so scared in his life.

There was a yelping sound from within the building, then a growl. The pack took a collective step back as the whimpering and yelping came closer. Dr Dave pulled out a syringe. “You may not have to go in.”

Jamie stared, transfixed, as a huge, bedraggled wolf limped out, its left foreleg stained and matted with blood and the great jaws drooling foam. He groped for his taser. “Everyone stand clear.” Did he give the standard warning to a rabid werewolf? Where was the damn taser? He took a quick look around. All the wolves were standing, alert and with hackles raised. Lord Marius had taken a step forward and had a large and illegal knife held in front of him. Dr Dave was moving slowly towards the new werewolf.

“Hello, I’m Dr Dave. Let me help you. All you need to do is relax and I’ll…” Dr Dave paused at the rising growl from Hal.

“I’m DC Flint.” Jamie dredged up his courage and stuck to his training. “If everyone stays calm then no-one will get hurt. Lie down on the floor…” Jamie stumbled to a halt. Hal didn’t have any hands to keep in sight. He had four paws and a tail that was stiff and angry looking. The huge head turned towards Jamie. He took a breath. “Stop there.” Jamie held up the taser. “Get down on the floor and allow the doctor to give you treatment.” His hands closed on the handle of the taser. “Police! Taser! Taser!” And Jamie fired.

To his horror, the werewolf didn’t go down. For a few awful moments, Hal twitched, then instinctively the new werewolf ignored the shaking running through him and crouched to leap.

I’m going to die. Jamie thought as the werewolf seemed to rear up, almost in slow motion, Then he recoiled as a shot rang out next to him. Whirling around he saw a thickset man with a shaved head and neck tattoo lowering what looked like an automatic pistol. Jamie looked back at Hal. The werewolf lay limp with a dark stain spreading over the thin fur.

Mark bounded up to the shooter, barking urgently. The man nodded. “It’s okay, it was only loaded with lead. Everything alright?” He looked questioningly at Jamie.

Jamie looked over to where Dr Dave was checking over the victim as the rest of the pack gathered around. He nodded. “I think so. Thank you, I think you saved my life. I’m DC Flint.”

“Sir Dylan, Knights Templar.” He held the gun pointing at the ground, showing an uncomfortable familiarity with it.

Jamie took a breath. Less than an hour ago he had been dealing with a delusional ninety-year-old and her traumatised neighbours while Frank Sinatra had been belting out at window shaking volumes. Now he had seen a werewolf. He had not only seen werewolves but he had called one a ‘good boy’ and lived, tasered one, seen one shot and seen the shot one starting to regain consciousness, although looking a lot less feral but seriously frightened. In front of Jamie’s horrified eyes, the battered wolf flowed until he was a naked man, blood smeared over his arm and chest, curled up and shivering. And Jamie was standing next to the man who had shot him without hesitation.

Jamie dragged all his training, all his small experience and all his time as a copper and turned to Sir Dylan. “I hope you have a licence for that firearm.”