Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and Tension: Number 4, M T McGuire

Peril and tension, This scene is the moment when the main female character in the K’Barthan trilogy first sets eyes on the super-villain of the piece, Lord Vernon. She doesn’t know who he is at this point, only that he’s following her. He’s not the first person she’s noticed following her but it’s the first hint she gets as to why she’s being followed. Anyway, here you go, I hope you enjoy reading.

She walked on a little way, until she could hear the footsteps start up again before stopping a second time. Once again, they stopped when she did.

More than a coincidence then? Maybe and that was grim.

OK. One last try. She walked on, the footsteps walked on.

Hmm, an echo? Possibly. She tried tap dancing a yard or two but the accompanying footsteps continued their measured, one, two.

Or maybe not.

As she reached the end of the road and turned the corner she ran fast along the next street. It was a long row of three-storey terraced houses with small, walled gardens in front, many of which were bounded by privet hedges.

Hoorah! Somewhere to hide, thought the irresponsible, frivolous part of Ruth which treated existence as a glorified spy movie.

Running as fast as she could but at the same time trying to make no sound so her shadowy pursuer, if there was one, wouldn’t realise what she was doing, she decided to try to reach one of the hedged-in gardens and hide there, before the person making the footsteps got as far as turning the corner.

Not the first one. That’s exactly where he’ll look, she thought as she made to duck through the nearest entrance. She ran on to the third enclosed garden and nipped in through the open gate. It was a completely mad thing to do, she knew. Behind the hedge were a pair of bins.

That was a stroke of luck.

She ran over and found that, a little way behind them, there was a hole in the foliage that allowed her to creep right inside the hedge. Even better.

She crept in, pulled one of the bins towards her to help hide the gap at the bottom of the privet and waited.

A few moments and there it was.

Footsteps. Running.

They stopped. She could hear somebody in the road, the other side of the hedge, walking backwards and forwards as if looking for something. Please no. He, it had to be a he, didn’t appear to be out of breath even though he’d just sprinted up the street – he was obviously marathon-runner fit – only bigger, a lot bigger than a long-distance runner. As she watched the dark shape moving to and fro she shuddered and the hedge rustled a little. He stopped, stood absolutely still and… yes… sniffed the air.

Lord no! That was too creepy. He was after her and he was also, clearly, a member of the serial killers’ guild. Normal people don’t use scent to track others, come to think of it, normal people don’t tend to track others, anyway. Good plan to hide behind the bins, then. He moved out of sight but she could feel he was still there and then, yes, she knew it. He’d come into the garden. He stole silently over to the dustbins and lifted the lids, he even peered between them, but in the dark didn’t notice the gap in the hedge. Luckily the glaring, tell-tale patch of damp concrete that would show the second bin to be recently moved was obscured by shadows. He paused, as if in thought, before taking something from his pocket and rubbing it on the front of his coat. He was wearing a long, dark trench coat, probably black or blue, open, with brass buttons which glinted as they caught the light. Underneath he wore a jacket made from a similar material but it had a stand-up collar, like a military uniform and was fastened with a single button in the middle – she could see a contrasting white v shape it made against the stock or cravat – too many ruffles for a shirt – which he was wearing with it. His belt had a holster hanging on it, complete with gun, she assumed, and it was one of those military-style belts with a strap that goes diagonally across the chest with… yes. He was wearing a sword. His trousers had a stripe of different-coloured material down the outsides and with them he wore knee-high boots in a matte black material; suede? A dress uniform? A disguise for a sci-fi convention? He didn’t have a hat, but was wearing a pair of dark glasses – please dark glasses and not night vision glasses – and in a cruel and unpleasant way, he was extremely good looking. He was also wearing gloves, with rings on the outside. Except for that bit, his getup was as if she’d dreamed up Mr Darcy’s dark alter ego or Evil Adam Ant and he’d come alive.

Nice touch, My Brain, throwing the handsome thing in there. Had somebody spiked her drink? Silently, he crouched down.

No. These events were real.

He pointed the object at the hedge and, ah yes. It was a torch. Ruth did the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. Hoping he wouldn’t train the beam down and see the gap she had squeezed through or the soggy black circle showing where she’d moved one of the bins, she took her glasses off and closed her eyes. Slowly, as quietly as she could, she moved the hand clutching her spectacles behind her back. He must be looking for a reflection. If she kept the specs out of sight and her eyes closed he wouldn’t find it.

Every part of her screamed “RUUUUUUN.” But her only chance, she knew, was to wait where she was.

“Come to me. I know you are there,” he whispered as he shone the torch back and forth across the hedge. His voice had a hypnotic quality and without thinking she almost did as she was told. But she managed to keep still and sat, frozen, trying to subdue her breathing, not to mention her trembling. The darkness behind her eyelids changed colour as the beam of his torch played over her face. It was taking all her self control not to look.

Please let the hedge be thick enough to hide her.

The beam of the torch stopped moving and he laughed quietly. A laugh conspicuously lacking in mirth or human warmth. A laugh so utterly evil Ruth felt a shiver run down her spine.

“Now I have you,” he said and the little hairs on the back of her neck stood up. His voice this time was soft, malevolent and very, very scary. She suppressed another involuntary shudder.

A sudden flurry, and with a loud scream a cat leapt from the bushes beside her and ran past him into the street. He breathed out with a hiss, straightened up to his full and considerable height and turned the torch off. While she willed him to go, he stood there and tapped it thoughtfully against the palm of his hand.

“You will not evade me forever, Chosen One. I will find you,” he told the darkness quietly.

She watched from her hiding place as he turned on his heel and strode out into the street. She stayed where she was long after his footsteps receded into the night and waited another half an hour before daring to creep out of the hedge.

“No further chances to be taken, tonight, Ms Ruth Cochrane,” she said to herself and headed straight back to the Edgware Road and the night bus, which was arriving as she reached the stop. Wow! Had that taken a whole hour? She consulted her watch. Yes.

So. Had somebody spiked her drink?

No, but oh how she wished they had.



Filed under Gumbee Fantasy Writers' Guild

4 responses to “Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and Tension: Number 4, M T McGuire

  1. Nice piece, MTM. I liked the touch about the glasses reflecting the torchlight.

    • Eee… thank you very much pet. In all these things, I try to imagine what I would do if I was in that position, I suppose. Glad you liked the excerpt.


  2. david staniforth

    I’m currently reading this book, and really enjoyed this scene. There’s a similarly perilous encounter on a tube train that I enjoyed.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I’m hoping to read your book too, actually, when I’m on holiday… although it depends how restful said holiday turns out to be.



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