Hello and welcome to Teaser Tuesday where every week I’ll be posting a teaser from a range of books and genres. This post is all about fun, so sit back with a coffee and enjoy a short tease from talented authors.
This week we have Double Edged by Narrelle M. Harris
Martine Dubois is a disgraced cop whose main sin was to trust a partner she should not have trusted.
When spymaster Philip Marsden, who has a painful past of his own, recruits Martine as an agent, it’s her chance to find redemption, and a chance for both of them to find love – unless duty kills them first.
At the start of her seventh month working for the Grey Ghost, Philip Marsden called Martine Dubois into his office for her first one-on-one mission briefing for her first proper assignment.
“One of the minor members of the Pietrov family’s Lvov branch is bedding down in Sydney. Designer drugs, aimed at teenagers; he’s looking to be a modern Fagin. Do something with him.”
“Have him arrested, you mean, Sir?”
“If you must. Other interesting options present themselves. The rival gang from the western suburbs, for instance.”
Away she went, with files to study, a list of other departments to liaise with and the knowledge that Philip Marsden did not define the parameters of how the job should be done, but expected results.
She returned, three weeks later, and at the one-on-one debriefing slapped a now much fatter file on his desk. “Mission finalised, Sir.”
Philip Marsden folded his hands together and looked up at her, not bothering to read the file. He took in the cuts and bruises, the scrapes on her knuckles, her steady gaze and the proud tilt to her head.
“Arrested after all, then, Dubois?”
“Yes. Not quite what I expected.”
“A manufactured turf war just gets civilians killed, Sir.”
“But a simple arrest does not get us deeper in, Dubois.”
“No, Sir, but compromising the second in command, bugging the backup HQ and slipping an undercover federal agent into the regime change does. Without killing civilians. Sir.”
Philip Marsden regarded her with faint surprise, an eyebrow lifted. An unforeseen laugh emerged suddenly and was just as abruptly suppressed.
“Well, Ms Dubois,” he said, “You don’t seem to be afraid of me.”
“Should I be?”
Marsden’s eyes – pale blue, Dubois noted, not unlike glacial ice, but not unlike an Australian summer sky, either – regarded her steadily.
“I’ll keep it in mind, Sir.”
A smile flitted across the curve of his lower lip and, like the laugh before it, was ruthlessly suppressed.
“Perhaps you should. I’m told I have a reputation.”
“So am I, Sir. But I have one of those myself so,” Martine’s left should shifted in a nonchalant shrug, “If it’s all the same to you, Sir, I’ll reserve judgement.”
That sudden slip-and-gone of a smile again, a moment of summer-sky warmth hardening to ice in his eyes again. He tapped his finger on the top of the file. “An unorthodox approach,” he said, “But the results are satisfactory. Dismissed.”
“Sir.” Dubois nodded curtly and left his office, thinking as she did that Marsden’s reputation for slipperiness, for slyness, certainly preceded him, but that’s not who she saw. He had a huge capacity for ruthlessness, certainly, but Philip Marsden was not sly. He was… smoky. Shifting. A grey ghost indeed. If he was slippery, then that quality wasn’t apparent to her. Or perhaps, being hard herself, she found some kind of traction. All she knew was that she had nearly made him smile and nearly made him laugh, and she looked forward to trying that again.
Three more successful missions followed, and one that was a stupendous cock-up. Until the latter, she’d been straightforward, forthright, even a little challenging during their briefings, and was rewarded each time with those tiny moments of almost-smiling, almost-laughing. She loved seeing the crinkling around his eyes before he buried the reaction, and each time the summer warmth lingered a little longer.
Facing him when she had failed – the target dead, the link to the Australian faction of the Doomsday Adventists dead, one agent on life support – she stood at attention outside his office and waited to be fired. The smallpox virus had been destroyed, at least there was that, but the clean-up and cover-up effort to keep a nation protected from how close it had come to destruction: that was expensive and difficult and appallingly necessary.
Marsden left her standing outside his door for five hours. He walked past her four times on his way to other meetings. On the fourth pass, he stopped.
“And what should I do with you, Ms Dubois?”
Looking straight ahead at rigid attention, she answered: “Expect me to learn from my mistakes, Sir, or fire me.”
“Which would you choose?”
“I took a lot of money and time to train, Sir. I am also not as stupid as recent events would indicate. I believe learning from my mistakes is both achievable and cost-efficient, Sir.”
“And if you make a mistake of this magnitude again?”
“I confidently expect another cock-up of that magnitude to kill me, Sir. One way or the other. I’m not cut out for filing.”
Martine made herself not react to the crinkling of his eyes. He made himself ice again before he continued.
“Oh, there’ll be other cock-ups, Ms Dubois. This business was made for them. For all it cost us this time, you still managed to neutralise the greater threat. In any event, I don’t believe I’ll ever have you executed for screwing up. Not while there’s so much filing to be done.”
“You provide marvellous incentives to strive for success, Sir.”
“Don’t let them go to waste, then.” A hint of that crinkle around his eyes again.
“Back to work with you.”
Two successful missions later – the threat of a life of disgrace spent in a filing room was indeed a strong incentive for success – and Dubois brought back a gift for her boss. It was a stick of rock candy, the name Phillip Island written through the middle of it in scarlet peppermint-flavoured sugar.
“Thought you might like a souvenir, Sir, since I’m not allowed to bring you MacMillan’s head on a pike. I’m assuming you don’t actually own the island.”
He laughed then, properly for a moment, before swallowing up the sound.
“Yes, well, heads on pikes are apt to distress the cleaners and ruin the carpet,” he allowed. He placed the stick of rock candy in his in-tray. It was still there, holding down papers, on the next mission briefing, and the one after that.
The Clan Destine Encounters Series:
About the author:
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer of crime, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and non-fiction. Her books include Fly By Night (nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Novel), fantasies Witch Honour and Witch Faith (both short-listed for the George Turner Prize) and vampire book, The Opposite of Life, set in Melbourne.
In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, was released by Clan Destine Press in June 2012, and was nominated for the Chronos Awards for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing.
In 2013, Narrelle also began writing erotic romance with Encounters (Clan Destine Press) and Escape Publishing. Six short stories have been published to date. Her first full-length work, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy – a Holmes/Watson crime story and romance set in Australia in 1893 – was published by Improbable Press in 2016.
New works, in fantasy, romance and adventure, are in the pipelines with Clan Destine and Improbable Press.
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