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COMING SOON: A Spot of Vengeance – C.J. Anthony

Every violent death paints a story

The intelligence community believe something big is coming; something coordinated; a terror spectacular to rival anything seen before.  The key lies in a cypher hidden in works of art.

Ex-Army intelligence officer, Danny Swift has always yearned to be an artist.

By coincidence, he meets art dealer Hafiz De Mercurio who promises to help him launch his career. Little does Danny know that Hafiz hides behind a deadly cloak of deception. That is, until British intelligence recruit Danny.  His perilous mission is to covertly observe the elusive Hafiz.

Unable to refuse, Danny is drawn into a world he’d turned his back on, a world of lies, deception and double-dealing.

As the clock ticks down, Danny begins to crack the code surrounding the enigmatic Hafiz.  He will be tested in ways he never imagined… including preventing the massacre of innocent people and artworks on display in the eleven Gagosian galleries around the world.

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About the author

Born in Birmingham, C. J. Anthony’s debut, A Spot of Vengeance, draws on his experiences as a former British Soldier, technical advisor and security specialist in the Middle East. He is passionate about anything creative, an avid art collector and a keen painter who has exhibited in London.

Excerpt

The party outside had moved up a gear, with the champagne flowing faster than the water in the fountain. The music had been cranked up, and all the reception areas had been designed to allow dancing. Food was purposefully scattered in a buffet-style arrangement on the garden terrace to stop the need for waitresses and waiters and avoid them being crushed and banged into by dancers who had limited control or style, having gaily drunk through the afternoon to what was now almost dusk.

Eight-year-old Sophia was playing hide-and-seek with friends from the party. She ran around the enormous space of corridors, her golden ringlets practically airborne from her face as she tried to find a place to hide. She was gloriously happy that she had been allowed to wear her favourite pink and white flowery patterned summer dress. She’d been given the present of ruby red pumps that morning and she felt like a princess. Hearing her friends laughing and getting closer to her, she pushed open the nearest door with her fingertips to hide. She stopped in the doorway, creasing her vision, looking towards the bed and the person lying motionless on it. She crept forward, confused as to what weird silvery thing was poking out of his arm.

She nudged him gently. ‘Hey, mister, are you hurt?’ she said softly. There was no reply.

Nervously, she wobbled the syringe that was still embedded in his arm. ‘Hey, mister, are you sleeping?’ she whispered.

She looked down at the blood on the point of the needle. Panicking, she removed the syringe and left the room to find her mummy, to get help for the poor man.

The sound of the door closing behind her woke Hafiz, and the darkness around him alerted him to a time lapse. Shivering with cold, instinctively, he sat up on the bed and looked around the room, dazed and confused; the light made the furniture visible due to the garden lights on outside. Damn, how long have I been here? he thought, sighing as he looked at his watch; it was just after 8pm. How the hell am I going to explain this?

Maybe no one would have noticed he’d been absent for so long. A burning acid taste rose from the pit of his stomach. His torpid body got up and headed to the en-suite. Pushing the plug into the hole, he filled the white ornate sink up with cold water, taking a couple of desperate sips of water from the tap; then taking a deep breath, he completely submerged his face. What is happening to me? he thought, his mind frazzled. He emerged from the cold water, with a deep gasp, face tingling. He grabbed a white fluffy hand towel that hung on the silver rail. He rubbed himself dry, staring at his reflection in the mirror, barely recognising himself. He tried to focus on the room and noticed, through the reflection in the bathroom mirror, his jacket lying on the bed behind him.

Returning to the bedroom, he switched on a side lamp. In the brighter light, he noticed his paraphernalia box beside his jacket. In a panic, he quickly placed it back inside the pocket, safely concealed from sight. His tie was still in place around his arm; his limb hurt and was becoming numb. Feeling cold, he untied his arm; he noticed blood on his tie, so he put it into his trouser pocket then adjusted his shirt collar. He smoothed his hair, tidied his appearance and eventually put his jacket back on. He cleaned his teeth with his tongue and made a final check that the suave art dealer was back in place – at least in terms of his appearance – before heading out of the room to return to the party.

Sophia, meanwhile, had suddenly felt frightened on leaving the bedroom. The corridor was darker than when she had arrived and she wanted to get back to her mummy. She ran back, remembering the big dresser at the corner of the corridor which had a mirror; she knew this would take her to the main entrance where she had left her friends. As she ran, she snagged her dress with the needle, which made her more anxious and upset as she knew her mother was going to be angry with her for ruining her pretty clothes.

She entered the reception hall, scanning for her mother’s green dress. Everyone was so tall and people were dancing around, obscuring her vision. Eventually, she spotted her mother just behind the water fountain and innocently took the syringe to her, more worried about her dress than the silvery needle. Their eyes locking in an eternal gaze, her mother’s expression scared her and she started to cry at once.

As for Sophia’s mother, she froze rigid as she watched her daughter running towards her with a syringe. Scanning the child, she saw the rip in her daughter’s dress and instantly feared the worst.  Trying to stay calm, she carefully held out her hand to take the syringe.

‘Darling, where did you get that from?’ She tried to keep her voice light, knowing her daughter was scared. She stretched her hand out further, willing the shining syringe to come to her. ‘Please give it to Mummy now’. Her heart was beating as she took the needle.

‘I took it from a man asleep in the bedroom’, Sophia said in a quavering voice. ‘He isn’t very well, Mummy’. She was still crying as she pointed towards the door on the other side of the fountain, showing the direction she had come from. She could see the anger in her mother’s face, and other guests started to stare at the increasing commotion.

‘Mummy, I’ve torn my dress!’ Sophia was now causing a scene. Her mother tried to remain calm as she checked her daughter’s hands and arms for signs of pinprick marks, having safely put the needle on the marble side of the fountain. Satisfied her daughter was safe, she picked her up and hugged her until she too cried; she called out for her husband and for Donald Harrison. First, she was scared, then angry, then scared; now, she was distraught and furious.

Both men came over and she spurted everything out, crying still, even though her daughter had finally stopped. She was happy in her mother’s arms and was looking towards the water fountain when Hafiz suddenly appeared from the door.

‘That’s the poorly man, Mummy’. Sophia pointed towards Hafiz but her parents didn’t hear. Her mother was becoming hysterical. She herself was fighting to blink back the tears and wanted her daughter checked out by a doctor; a crowd had gathered around them. ‘That’s him, Mummy!’ Sophia shouted, tapping her mother’s shoulder and pointing at Hafiz as he tried casually to walk amongst the guests, oblivious.

The small crowd and her parents turned around in silence and stared at Hafiz, who hadn’t put two and two together. He saw only the look of disgust and shock on their faces, instigating paranoia into him. The host, Donald Harrison, picked up the syringe and carefully wrapped it in a thick napkin. The anger on his face was blazing and his rage spoke with such magnitude that it frightened some of the guests. Looking straight at Hafiz, he held the syringe up, pointing it directly at his shamed guest.

Hafiz stood perfectly still, with his mouth slightly open in shock and confusion as it all registered, everything unfolding in front of him. He thought back to the velvet box on the bed, the tie around his arm… and no fucking syringe! Oh fuck, he thought grimly. How the hell could he rectify this situation?

 

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