Saturday, 9 July 2016

Guest Author Paul Hollis of St. Louis, Missouri.


Paul Hollis always had wanderlust, living in twelve states and eventually working in all fifty, luring him with the idea of touring the world at someone else’s expense.  He has lived and worked in forty-eight countries across five continents while teaching companies about growing global implications.

Paul’s travel experiences inspire the novels in “The Hollow Man” series, bringing the streets and villages of Europe to life and offering a unique viewpoint to his mesmerizing thrillers.
This is Paul's second visit to the Scribbler. The first visit was to highlight his Hollow Man novel and if you missed it go here: Hollow Man His links are below.

This week we can read an excerpt from his newest novel London Bridge is Falling Down.

Copyright is owned by the author. Used by permission.


                              
 
 
 
 
 
                                        Chapter 1

 

Five men lay against the rise of a hill on the outskirts of Clones, barely a stone’s throw south of the border dividing Ireland. They were hidden beyond the tree line where thorn bushes grew out of rock and dead leaves. The men hunkered low, waiting for the night to begin.

The temperature dropped ten degrees in the last hour. It was near midnight and the half-moon had climbed high into a clouding sky, deepening the darkness and dissolving the black-clad raiders into the heavy shadows of the underbrush. The wind rustled the budding trees of late winter and when the breeze caught the new grass exactly right, the soft whistle of an old Gaelic lament could be heard in the distance.

One light remained in the Pierson cottage and occasionally, a shadow passed behind the curtained window. It was the girl. Once, she pulled the linen back to gaze out across the backyard. They froze though there was little chance she could have seen them. Jack the Ripper with his bloody knife might have been standing under the lone blackthorn tree at the garden’s edge and the night would not have given him up. The curtain reluctantly swung back into place.

In contrast, the mobile home thirty yards across the property to the east was lit up like Heuston Station in Dublin. There was no movement in the trailer but they knew the eldest Pierson boy was inside watching television. An announcer’s shrill voice periodically pierced the tin walls and canned laughter rattled the windows.

One of the team peeked through a side window earlier and saw cigarette smoke curling up from the boy’s fingers as he lounged on the couch. Robert Pierson wasn’t asleep though he might as well have been. A long ash dropped onto the thin carpet leaving yet another inch long black mark. The cigarette burns under his drooping arm oddly resembled the Chinese characters for approaching storm.

None of the men hiding in the woods spoke but they were all restless. The leader of this hand-picked local band of Provos, Kenneth Bunney, stared down the slope behind them. Where the hell was the IRA team from Belfast? When the Northman met with him the prior week, there was urgency in the discussion. The raid had to be done tonight.

He listened. Closing his eyes helped him focus his hearing back through the dense night. But he heard nothing except the soft lull of the wind that crept up under his jacket with a chilled hand. Bunney felt cold fingers walking up his spine.

“Kenneth, where are they?” whispered his brother. He replied with two quick shakes of his head and turned away, signaling the end of the conversation. He didn’t want his brother to see the concern in his face. Bunney felt anxious in the darkness. The Northman was almost an hour late. Another ten minutes and his team would be gone.

The wind faded and the air fell dead in the forest. A long way off, Bunney thought he heard something faintly sluice through the trees then quickly recede. Was it imagination? A dry leaf crunched, a winter twig snapped from rotten bark. No, he was sure. Someone was coming.

Within seconds the night lost its quiet to the low thumping of feet. How many men had the Northman brought? It sounded like a whole brigade, for the love of God. Why did he need our help? Bunney counted eight as the group split in two and settled on both sides of his volunteers.

No one said a word as the newcomers surveyed the houses.

“They’re inside then?” Someone finally asked. It was the man who approached him a week ago. Bunney nodded.

“The lad’s there,” he said, pointing to the mobile home. “And the rest of the lot are in the house.”

“Where’s the girl?”

“Upstairs,” Bunney said.

“The telephone line’s cut?”

“Yeah.”

“Then we’re settled.”

The Northman motioned to his associate. The man pulled a backpack from a shoulder and emptied it on the ground between the Provos. They stared at five handguns.



 “Twomey, we agreed there’d be no shooting,” Bunney said.

“Relax,” Twomey replied. “What’s there to shoot at?” He watched Bunney uncertainly then added, “Take ‘em. They’re just for the muscle.”

“I told ya, I’m not having guns.”

“You’ve done time for robbing. What’s the big deal?”

“Yeah I done my share but I never stole nothing with a gun. Robbery is one thing and killing’s ‘nuther.”

“You fecking Brits know it all, don’t you?” Twomey sighed. “Look, I told you. We have solid proof the Piersons are Ulster sympathizers and they’re holding a cache of weapons for operations down south here. The same guns used in the Cooney bombing November last.”

Bunney remembered. He and his brother were staying with their cousins, the McGillens, though staying was a fairly vague term. They took refuge in Ireland whenever the British coppers applied too much grief about their latest crimes.

Two cars came across the border carrying half dozen men, slowing to a stop down from the McGillen house. Armed men surrounded the Cooneys, intending to burn their property. But something went wrong. The raiders stormed the house to find the Cooneys were throwing a party that night. Houseguests assumed it was part of the entertainment. No one took them seriously. Instead of following orders, the drunken partygoers continued to roll to their own tune, scattering like a jar of dropped marbles. After a frustrating thirty minutes, the intruders were able to herd most of the crowd into the yard.

In the chaos, one of the guests broke free, running to his car to retrieve a camera. Shots were fired after the fleeing man but he kept running. The UVF men panicked and fled before igniting the fire. Bunney heard the commotion and ran outside in time to see the last of the retreating cars.

“We’re only interested in the guns.” Twomey broke into Bunney’s thoughts. “We get ‘em, and we leave.”

The Provos hesitated until Bunney reluctantly grabbed a firearm. He considered it a long time before shoving it in a pocket. The others accepted their weapons and quickly secured them inside their coats.

The Northmen pulled Templar caps down over their faces. Only the whites of their eyes could be seen against the black night. The locals followed suit and the group moved up over the rise.

Twomey sent six of the Northmen to set up a perimeter along the property line facing the road. They crouched behind the brickwork fence and waited. He held up three fingers and chopped an arm toward Pierson’s mobile home. The rest of them headed toward the cottage.

One of the Provos planted a booted foot near the flimsy door handle, kicking so hard the thin metal buckled as it gave way. The noise brought Robert Pierson fully awake. The new cigarette fell from his hand as he struggled to rise. It was already too late. Three armed men stood in front of the twenty-four year old and he was driven back onto the couch. He tried to stand again as a shotgun butt flattened his nose.

Two gunmen pulled him off the couch by his hair and a handful of shirt. Pierson landed hard on his face and blood splattered across the threadbare carpet. A twenty gauge double barrel pinned the back of his neck while his hands were ripped from his face and tied behind his back. He struggled to breathe, twisting his head from side to side.

“Where are the guns?” shouted the Northman commanding the raiders.

“What guns? I don’t have any guns?” He blew his nose to clear it.

“We know you’re supplying Loyalist activities in this area and we want your arsenal.”

“Look around. Do you see any place to hide a store of guns? There isn’t room in this bloody hellhole for anything but me and my beer.”

“Take him up to the house before I smash the rest of his head,” ordered the Northman.

Pierson was yanked up by his bindings and slammed against the wall face first. He yelped in pain. His breath came quick but shallow. A forearm crushed the back of his head, giving his nose little relief.

“If you’re lying, I will find out.” The voice near his ear sprang from the devil himself and smelled of raw onions and sour sweat.

 
 
 
 
Pierson was forced through the door. He stumbled and landed hard on the packed clay at the trailer’s entrance. The earth spun. He thought he was going to vomit. One of his captors hauled him to his feet by an arm. He staggered, disoriented.

The collision with the ground dislocated a shoulder. His left arm was riding low on his neck. A fierce pain marbled down his arm. An unbearable spasm drove him to his knees but he was promptly jerked back to his feet. A pistol tap to the back of his head drove him toward the main cottage.

Twomey and the others waited for the small team at the cottage entrance. He rapped on the door with the butt of his pistol then again when an immediate answer didn’t come. A harsh, smoker’s cough echoed above indistinct noises coming from far back in the house. Twomey kicked the door.

“Who’s there?” A sleepy voice came from inside. Another coughing fit.

Twomey turned around and the man closest to Robert placed a gun at his temple.

“It’s Robert, dad.” His voice croaked.

“Son, are you hurt? I told ya those friends of yours were nothing but trouble.”

The old man spoke as the bolt released and the heavy barrier swung inward

 
 
Thank you Paul for sharing this captivating first chapter of your newest work. Discover more about Paul and his novels here.
 
 
 
Next week on the Scribbler I will be posting an article I wrote for The Golden Ratio, a local magazine that features arts, culture and science with input from artists and writers all over the world. I am honored and deeply indebted to publisher/editor Melanie Chiasson for including me.
 
 
 

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