Noir Futurism with a Dart Gun

Bristol park st“Bristol 2070. It’s a drowned city, caught in the rhythm of its 40 foot tide. But life still throbs there, even if most of it’s mean and dirty.

When ex-cop Matt Nixon is called to a murder on the wrong side of town he thinks it’s business as usual. He couldn’t be more wrong.

But who’s going to believe he’s chasing a killer who’s already dead? And how will Nix stop him when he doesn’t know whose body the killer is wearing?

When the tide starts rising, it’s a race against time. And the clock is ticking.”

High Tide in the City was released in May 2013.  Available in both Paperback and on Kindle, this novel is already achieving a lot of interest, thanks to  its strong noir style and cyberpunk environment.

Imagine a city whose tide rises and falls six feet in one hour.  Imagine the sea now three metres higher than today.  Add to that a psychopath with the ability to swap bodies.  In a place where half the city is abandoned architecture and rotten buildings and the other half sprawling skyscrapers with mini-turrets for doormen, what must a disgraced detective do to survive?

Take this chance to enjoy the opening pages.

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Chapter 1

Always knew there was a chance I’d kill someone. It was bound to come down to it one day: me killing someone, someone killing me. When it finally happened, the penny came down in my favour. Can’t say I’m sorry, though there’s those who might wonder why, given this is me. There’s some who’ve seen and done the things I’ve seen and done and come through it feeling nothing any more. So I always hoped I’d feel something, taking my first life.

As it happened, I did.

Couldn’t have been happier deleting the fucker’s ass.

*

Seem to remember it starting out on a night pretty much like any other. But back then, for me, most nights tended to be pretty much like any other. This one adopted the standard format – it was busy and it was raining.

Most cases are easy. Some, not so.

I already knew this wasn’t one of the simple ones. I knew because when I swung my hydro-job into the car-port, the ambulances were already there but the sense of urgency wasn’t.

This was my third call tonight – one rapist, one joy-riding senior citizen and now this. Which brings me to my job. What I do.

There’s this Native American saying.

‘Don’t judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.’

These days that mile can get a person arrested. But it doesn’t stop them. If you’ve never tried it, you might wonder why. You might wonder what makes someone want a digi-chemical cocktail injected straight into their brain.

They say it’s for the experience – taking on a new persona, becoming someone else. Escaping themselves for a while. To an extent it’s true, but often it’s just for the needle. The cold, sharp stab at the base of the skull which gets colder and sharper as it goes deeper. Until your brain fills with stars like the universe has just been born inside your head and the endorphin rush hits, making you feel invincible. It fades as the squirt comes on. But some people do it, all of it, for those few seconds of feeling like God.

For others it’s the surrender. Because you have to, to get it in you. It’s impossible to upload a squirt yourself, get the needle just right so it goes in at the right angle, the right depth. Get it wrong, you’re blind or a vegetable. Or dead. So someone else has to do it. Usually the same someone who just sold you your black-market fix.

Handing your life over to a stranger, a criminal – letting them do something to you a qualified doctor would baulk at – it demands something of you. Gets to be a thrill, that total surrender, that flirting with death or coma.

Just so you can ‘Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’.

That was the tagline, back when it all started. Everyone wanted it then and everyone did it. Until it was found to be addictive, caused brain tumours, then suddenly doing it was illegal.

Then the trouble started for real, and black-market squirts aren’t clean – you can never be sure what you’re getting. Dirty squirt. The users mostly come off badly and their victims, worse.

Rain greyed out the street lamps like vertical smoke, but it hadn’t deterred the onlookers huddled outside the address. The night flickered white as two dozen data-cams strobed across me. Looked like someone had cashed in with a call to the Media Desk.

Media. I could almost read their minds: Photo opportunity – some guy stepping out of a car. They didn’t know who I was, why I was there, but they had to have me. Just in case there was a tasty morsel waiting there to be plucked over.

I might even make it onto the morning download again.

At least I’d shaved. Mind, eight hours later is long enough to make it look like I hadn’t bothered, but even so. Plus I always seem to miss that bit, just under the jaw – the bit the other guy never misses when he’s throwing punches at it.

Fuck ‘em, anyway. Wasn’t like I had to keep Public Relations sweet these days. With any luck the black stubble and sour face’ll keep me off the splash page. Ugly don’t sell.

I heeled the door of my converted Ford shut, blinking at the after-image scored across my retinas. Turned my collar up against the downpour and glanced round for whoever was in charge.

They saw me first.

‘Oh, for Christ’s sake!’

The voice came from behind – what I call clean British, not the cut-glass type, just clean. Barely any accent. The whip-crack tone made me wince.

‘Nixon. I forgot you worked nights.’

Yeah. Course you did.

I didn’t need to see the face to know who was standing there. My shoulders tensed anyway. I breathed it out before turning.

Rain had given her panda eyes. It dripped off the bun she’d pulled her hair into, turned escaped strands into slick dark lace which clung to her cheeks. The coat she wore fell to just below her calves and a stream ran off the bottom like a Japanese waterfall.

‘Need an umbrella?’ I asked.

She rolled her eyes. ‘My night’s already turned to shit. And now they send you? Who did I piss off this time?’

I managed a grin. ‘You look fantastic, by the way. Done something with your hair?’

She gave a sneer, but her bracer jangled before she could add anything. She flipped back the sleeve of her coat, turned away so the front fell open, showing me a tantalising glimpse of curvy figure beneath the fitted suit she wore. She twisted her wrist, so the screen lit her face, and gave the facia a brutal stabbing.

I sucked my teeth, feigning indifference while she answered.

Maybe I should explain. This was Lian. Detective Inspector Morrison. We used to be partners. Friends. More than friends. Before I got hooked. Before I got fired. Nothing like getting kicked off the Force for squirt addiction to turn a girl against you. But we’d been a team once. A good team.

Yeah, okay. Her approach and mine had always been different. Psychological profiling was her special skill, her strength. All very well for regular crims, but once we’d been assigned to the sparkling new Persona Task Force, all that extra schooling was pretty much redundant. Not according to her, though. I never understood why she didn’t get it. How can you profile someone who’s playing out a fantasy through another persona? Soon as the squirt dies, they’re different people – model citizens.

Me, I’d always gone for the suppliers. The sack-of-shit hard-asses who sold the squirts in the first place, after downloading them from some sad fuck arrogant enough to think other people wanted to be like them. So I went undercover. I entered that world. Did my best to turn it upside down.

I walked a lot of miles in that time, wore out a lot of different shoes. Closed down a few shoe-shops, too. Before it got out of hand.

I’d always known there was a price to pay – there usually is. But it was more than I’d counted on. Wasn’t the first time I’d heard that excuse from a user.

Pretty pathetic when I heard it from me.

Lian finished her call and turned towards the taped-off apartment block. Colour washed over her, radiating down from an infrared hover-cam passing overhead. It warmed the pinched features for a second, brightened the street enough for me to pick out the vertical lines on her forehead, the ones which always appeared when she scowled.

I didn’t need to ask what she was thinking. The crowd were still there, waiting in morbid anticipation.

Lian looked me up and down, disapproving. ‘Got your kit?’

‘Always.’

I strolled to the back of my car, opened the trunk and pulled out the aluminium briefcase holding my magic cap.

Cerebral Anomaly Projector. The CAP. Probably still warm from the last skull I’d put it on.

That familiar smell was drifting up from the exhaust. The smell you always got with these hydro-jobs, like wood-smoke. How the hell do you get the smell of wood-smoke from an engine which hadn’t seen a carbon atom since Tokyo pancaked? Made you wonder what they put in the tap-water these days.

‘So,’ I said. ‘Got a scenario yet?’

I slammed the trunk shut and headed for the doorway, but Lian snatched my sleeve, turned me back.

‘You’re not a policeman any more – remember? All you have to do is get a reading, work out what he’s had. That’s it.’

‘I need to know what I’m looking for, don’t I?’

‘You’re looking for evidence of an upload. That’s it. Stay in your little box, Nix. We don’t pay you to think.’

Shit. Can’t you play nice, just for once?

I sighed. ‘Okay. Where am I going?’

‘Second floor. And get a move on. The squirt’s probably wearing off by now.’

‘You’re not coming with?’

‘In the unlikely event I even wanted to, nope.’

‘But you’re SOCO, aren’t you?’

‘Yep. Which makes it my job to talk to the press.’

‘My. You get all the plum gigs. Must be your sunny and carefree disposition.’

That earned me another scowl. She turned and started towards the building. I shrugged, followed.

Lian halted when we reached the waiting bystanders, leaving me to shoulder through them alone. There were a few curious residents milling about, but most of the crowd appeared to be journalists. One or two had recognised me by now, jostled in my direction shouting questions. A data-cam was pushed under my nose. I shoved it aside, fixed my gaze harder on the doors ahead.

There wasn’t much I liked about my job. Getting into the news was one of the things I hated about it. I broke through, flashed my bracer at the fractious uniform barring the building’s entrance. He checked the data which then appeared on his own forearm and let me in, just as Lian Morrison announced behind me that an official press release would be issued in ten minutes. The door whispered shut, cutting off the feeding-frenzy which followed.

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