Not exactly a bye bye because it’s just for Book 1 of The Caregiver Series. I’d probably drop Torn in the near future, that’s still to be decided. I want to make Book 1 perma-free to try and give the rest of the books a kick in the butt. Let’s see how that goes.
Anyway, The Caregiver is now free of the Amazon exclusivity shackles and will become available through other channels before the end of the year, in time to celebrate the release of Book 3. Yay!
In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer.
This vignette is a BONUS! In this one she meets characters that will make their appearance in Book 2: Ollie, Bradley and Cat.
Heaven was pissing down at us. The Bentley’s wipers weren’t enough as George drove us both to where we were heading: to meet with three of Armand’s most trusted men.
I must confess I was nervous about it. These guys weren’t known for their gentle ways. That, and the fact that George wasn’t exactly the nicest of people when it came to interacting with me, made of this endeavor one that threatened to leave the palms of my hands bleeding, with my nails dug into them.
Yeah, yeah, I’m a hitwoman, and a fucking undercover agent, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel nervous every now and then. We’re all human after all.
All the tension vanished, however, when we met with them on a street corner in Vauxhall. Standing under two matching black umbrellas were three men in equally black coats.
“Cat. Bradley. Ollie.” George said dryly. “This is Scarlett.” He wasn’t happy I was there. We were both out when Armand called us. He’d tried to convince him it wasn’t a good idea to take me with him, to no avail.
“About time we met you!” Ollie, with his longish curls and matching bright eyes, shook my hand eagerly. He wasn’t as tall as the other two, which made me like him instantly. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
“Hope it was good.”
George cleared his throat. Heh.
The one in the middle was the tallest, Bradley. He just smiled, and, oh god, what a smile… And then there was Cat, with his dark brown skin and green eyes. He waved at me and we made our way into the hotel.
Cat led us to the lifts, while Ollie and Bradley had an animated conversation that eased all my uneasiness.
“So, I waited and waited for the couple to show up.” Ollie’s raspy voice echoed through the hotel’s lobby, “it’s a two-million-pounds property and it’s exactly what they’re asking for. Armand would murder me if I let a client like that down.”
The lift’s doors slid open and we got in. George’s facade was as stern as always, yet the other three were grinning all the way.
Nobody would’ve guessed what they were really there for.
“Did they show up?” Cat asked when Ollie paused.
“They did, yeah… with a fucking dog.”
“A dog? There’s nothing wrong with that.” Bradley’s Australian accent clashed with the Brits’, as he leaned on the back wall, his umbrella dripping on the carpet.
“Not just any dog, you muppet. A Great Dane. The thing was the size of a horse.” They all laughed, even George. “No,” he proceeded, “but that’s not it. They bring it into the house, and it has wooden floors. The thing is scuffing the wood as it sniffs around. I tell the client and he just cocks an eyebrow at me and keeps walking.”
“Armand would’ve given him a piece of his mind.” Cat commented as he held the doors open for us. “Last time I had a client with a pet in an open house I shut the door on them.”
The corridor was dimly lit and the carpet had already been stained by wet shoes.
“You guys work for Armand’s real estate firm?” I had to know.
They turned their heads slowly to me, their longer strides leaving Ollie and me a few steps behind.
“Yeah, we all do.” Ollie stayed with me once we reached the room they were looking for. “It’s our day job. Except for George, of course.”
George merely looked up, then back towards the closed door in front of us.
“Open up, Geoffrey.” Bradley knocked and received no answer. “We know you’re in there.”
“So, what happened with the dog?” I brought Ollie’s attention back to me.
“Open the door, Geoffrey. Or else,” Cat warned.
“Not only did it scuff the floor. It pissed on one of the bedroom’s carpets!”
“Liar!” Bradley swiveled towards us.
“It bloody did! And, well, you know, the buyer didn’t want no stains on it.”
“Geoffrey!” George was knocking now. “Open the fucking door.”
“I had to pay to get the carpet cleaned and the floor restored before Armand learnt about it. With me own money!”
“Bradley,” George stepped back from the door, “do your thing.”
Ollie pulled me to safety as we watched Bradley kick down the door.
Forget stealth. These men got in and rummaged through the room like rabid dogs, except no pissing on the carpet.
“Geoffrey… come out, come out and play,” Cat crooned sarcastically.
It was a small room with only a dresser with a TV on it, a bed, a wardrobe, and an equally small bathroom.
George signaled me to stay by the door by raising an open hand at me.
Bradley opened the wardrobe to find a thin man no older than thirty-five hiding behind a large coat. “There you are!” He caught him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him out with a swift movement and threw him face up on the bed. “You think you can hide from us?”
Ollie cocked his head for me join him while he thrashed the dresser, throwing its contents all over the floor. I glanced at George.
“Oh, don’t mind ‘im.” Ollie nudged me, then whispered, “he’s a bit of a stuck up, ain’t ‘e?”
“You don’t have to say that twice.” I dug my hands into the drawer and felt my way around it until my fingers hit something cold and solid.
A folding knife.
“Where’s the money?” Bradley was shaking the poor man against the mattress. “Where the fuck is it?”
“I…” He could barely answer over the manhandling he was being subjected to. “I don’t…”
One rough push threw him, face down, on the floor and Cat was on him, punching his face mercilessly.
I gave Ollie the knife and he scoffed at the sight of it.
George knelt down next to the now broken-nosed man. “The money, Geoffrey. This is your last chance. We’ve given you one too many already.”
“Look what he had hiding in a drawer.” Ollie handed the knife to George.
“I did’uh mean to use it.” Geoffrey cried, his knuckles white from his tight grip on Cat’s wrists, who was holding him down by the neck. “I don’t have the money, but I will. I swear.”
“MacGowan said he lent it to you,” George said in a nonchalant tone while holding the knife to his face. “He didn’t want to get on Armand’s bad side, since he was the one who recommended you.”
George stood, giving the man no time to retort before Bradley and Cat went back to beating the crap out of him.
A gesture from Ollie cued me to follow him to the wardrobe where the bloke had been hiding and resume our search. There was nothing there either.
“Stop! Please!” Geoffrey’s screams were muffled by Cat’s fist.
“Not until you tell us what you did with that money!” Bradley’s shitkickers landed on his ribs, getting a loud crack in response.
“He did’uh give me nofing!” He rolled to his side, his arms wrapped around his torso. “MacGowan’s a fucking liar.”
Ollie glanced at me and I had to peel my eyes from the scene unfolding in front of our eyes to meet his glance. I hadn’t realized how mesmerized I was by it.
Bradley’s leg was travelling backwards when Ollie called him out, “Oi, give her a chance.”
“No,” George snapped at him. “She shouldn’t even be here.” Then he turned his eyes to me. “Get Armand on the phone.”
The built-up momentum of Bradley’s kick wasn’t put to waste as the force of it made contact with Geoffrey’s torso once more, making him squeal.
I rang Armand’s mobile and he was quick to answer. I told him what was happening and he asked me to put him on speaker so Geoffrey could hear him.
“You’ve messed up enough times, Geoffrey.” Armand’s deep tones made everyone perk up. “Your pathetic excuses are reason enough to kill you.”
“MacGowan lied to you!”
“I have no reason to believe that.”
“It’s true! He did’uh lend me nofing. Said he did’uh care.”
Armand went silent for a moment. I kept the phone pointed towards the beat up man even when my arm was starting to shake.
All of a sudden, George had yanked the mobile from my hand, turned off the speaker and started talking into it in a low voice.
Ollie took the opportunity to push me towards the man lying on the floor. “Come on, just a couple of kicks,” he said, with an ear-to-ear smile.
Geoffrey’s eyes bulged as I approached him, my stare blank on his bleeding face. He muttered something I couldn’t comprehend.
“Excuse me?” I leaned forward, holding my hair away from my ear.
“Don’t let them kill me.”
Oh, he was begging to the only source of estrogen in the room.
A rush of adrenaline ran through my system. It made me straighten my back and kick his already aching body twice before answering:
“Sorry, pal. Boss’s orders.”
Another kick and George’s grip was on my elbow. “Enough.” He handed me my mobile before turning to Bradley and Cat. “Take him to bathtub.” He then unfolded the same knife I had retrieved from the drawer, “It’ll make it easier to clean.”
In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met Romulus Moretti, the one that would become her superior at Interpol, years before the story on the book starts. It gives a glimpse of how and why she became an agent. Enjoy!
It was a fucking long corridor. I kept glancing at the backs of the two men walking in front of us, thinking how wrong all of this felt. The air conditioning was a nice change from the scorching Miami sun, that was for sure.
Their names were Douglas and James. They introduced themselves when we reached the lobby of the unidentified building we were in, right after we exchanged some of the most uncomfortable handshakes I’ve ever experienced.
Cisneros’s incredibly sober look didn’t help either. I was sure they were cops, it showed in the way they walked with their puffed chests and the permanent grimace in their faces. Why we were there was beyond my comprehension. All Cisneros told me was to trust him.
He’d never given me a reason not to.
But, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.
The officer by the name of James opened the door to an office and ushered us into a pair of chairs in front of a cheap-looking metal desk, then left. Douglas stood behind us in silence.
Cisneros was fidgeting with the edge of his jacket over his lap. I was starting to believe it hadn’t been a good idea to leave my gun in the car, like he asked me to.
James opened the door –apparently, he was the designated doorman– and a tall man, dark hair peppered with gray at the temples, appeared. We stood to greet him but he crossed us.
“No need for that.” His English accent struck me. “I promise this will be quite quick.”
He was the oldest of them all. Douglas didn’t look more than forty, and James could only be a couple years older than me, nowhere close to thirty.
Cisneros stirred in his seat. He had deals with some London people but they never came to the States, he always flew to meet them there.
“My name is Romulus Moretti.” He proceeded to sit behind the desk and place the folder he had been carrying on the desktop. “I’m a Detective Inspector from the Metropolitan Police in London, and do believe me when I tell you I’ve been looking forward to this meeting, Miss Lang.”
“Have we met?” As soon as I spoke, Cisneros gave a little jump. Odd.
“No.” He drawled, as he started pulling pictures out of the folder and setting them on the desk. “But I know more about you than you think. Come. Take a look at these.” I stared into his eyes and he gave me a half-grin. “I don’t bite.”
I don’t need to say that phrase didn’t make me feel any better about this.
I pushed myself forward and felt the color on my face vanish. An array of pictures lay between us. Pictures of victims I had murdered. Blown heads, bloodshot eyes, brain matter scattered on the pavement.
“What is this about?” I flashed Cisneros an angry glance that he didn’t meet. “What the fuck is this?”
“It’s OK, Miss Lang. We’re not here to prosecute you. We’re here to make you an offer.”
“Whatever it is, I’m not interested. Thank you.” I rose, but a pair of hands were immediately at my shoulders, pushing me down.
“Not so fast, Miss Lang,” Moretti barked, nodding at James, encouraging him to make sure I sat back down. “You can’t jump to conclusions if you haven’t even given me the chance to explain.”
I rearranged my shirt and stared angrily at Moretti, all the while shooting darts out my eyes at James.
“Good. Now that I have your attention, I can proceed by telling you that after being in contact with your grandfather for a while, we’ve decided to make you a deal. I’m currently working for the Interpol in the United Kingdom and have taken part in an interagency project that is seeking recruits…”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Moretti, but I think you’re mistaken.” My interruption drew a nice frown in his face. “If you know me as well as you say you do, and if you’ve spoken to my grandfather, you should know there is no way an agency like the Interpol would even consider hiring me.”
The frown melted into a sardonic smile. “That’s exactly why this is a deal and not a job proposition. You see, Miss Lang, this project requires both expertise and… connections. We’re not looking to recruit sheltered young men and women that dream of becoming agents just to put a spice in their lives. We’re looking for people that have been there, and – literally – done that. Young people like you, with the skills and the desire to get out of that life.”
“Get out?” A sideways glance confirmed Cisneros was looking intently at me.
“Yes.” He leaned forward, his hands steepled over the desk. “Get out. We are aware of the tension that has permeated in your relationship with your grandfather. And Rafael here has told us about your intentions to leave the murder-by-contract business as soon as you finish studying. You will not be removed from the life you lead, all you will have to do is pick up the phone when we call and be available to go on missions when we ask you to.”
“Missions? Military kind of missions?”
“There will be some akin to military jobs. Undercover work may also be necessary. You’ll have a steady paycheck and agency credentials. In your case, since you will be working under my supervision, we would be arranging for you to have Interpol credentials.”
This didn’t make any fucking sense.
“I’ve been working with them for the past year.” Cisneros spoke like someone that had broken a vow of silence. “Scarlett, I know how much you want to leave all this behind you.” He turned to me and some of the nervousness had slipped off his features. “It’s not too late to change paths. At least not for you.”
“What if I refuse?” I switched to Moretti. “What if I don’t want any of your shit?” I spat out that last word in utter disgust.
Moretti snorted, then looked at me from under his eyebrows. “When was the last time you spoke to your grandfather?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Six years ago?”
“He’s never shown any repentance from the things he did to you, or has he?” He was staring at me, searching for whatever sign my face was giving away. “He still regards you with that nickname he had for you. What was it? Scumbag?”
Oh poker face, don’t forsake me now. “Yes.”
Again, Cisneros was looking intently at me. Fuck this psychological shit.
“This doesn’t make sense at all. They could’ve sent someone from the Miami Police Department, not you from the other side of the Atlantic.”
“It is in our interest that you work far from where you’re already known. I was randomly selected to recruit you. As I said, this is an interagency program, so you will be working with other agents with Interpol credentials, as well as from other agencies. It really doesn’t matter as long as we can guarantee that travel won’t be a problem.”
“What’s the catch?”
“There is no exact catch. Just the fact that you will be working for us, all under my strict supervision. You will have to travel, and it may be required that you spend some time in London, but that hasn’t been decided. Other than that, you will receive, as I said, a steady paycheck, while having the liberty to go on with your current job.
Once your work with us is done, your record will be clean. You’ll be given a clean slate, a new life, Miss Lang. Away from the world that has hurt you, from those that have deserted you. The same world that took away your parents and forced you to live a life of misery and loss. Isn’t it time you took your knowledge and used it for good? We are giving you what you crave, a second chance in life. We don’t give this out to just anyone, you know?”
I rested my eyes on Cisneros and, when he faced me, it was with a solemn plea in his eyes. He was mentally setting his hand on the small of my back and pushing me, ever so gently. Like a father would.
Like he always did.
“I’ll have to think about it.”
“Take all the time you need, Miss Lang.” Moretti rose from his seat, collecting the pictures and putting them back into the folder. “We will be in touch.” He strode to the door, where James was, already waiting for him. “This is James, by the way, but we all call him Jimmy, and that is Douglas.”
Cisneros and I were standing next to our chairs. “Yeah, they introduced themselves.”
“Great. After you, then.” He gestured us to the open door and when I had crossed it, he cut between Cisneros and I to set his hand on my back while leaning into my ear. “Your grandfather told me you were no good. That I would be disappointed.” He then shifted to step in my way. “I beg to differ.” His teeth gleamed through his smile. “And I would love to prove that old man wrong.”
He patted my shoulder and started down the corridor, an air of casualness in his stride.
I looked at Cisneros and he held my gaze.
“Please?” The porter called James nicknamed Jimmy interrupted, beckoning us to follow him out.
I rushed towards Romulus’s receding back. “Hey!” He paused, waiting for me to reach his side. “What if I say yes?”
He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side. “Then I swear I will make it worth your time.”
The second book in The Caregiver series is already in my editor’s capable hands and, well, it’s been something like a storm in my head. I believe you all realized it from my last post, so no use in dwelling on that.
It’s very satisfying to be working like crazy on something you love so much, and I have awesome friends rooting for me all the way. Even the kindness of strangers make me feel elated. So, excuse me if I don’t make much sense in this post.
However, what I really want is to make a quick post about stuff that have inspired me for book 2. I don’t want to spoil anything, what I do want is for everyone who has read Book 1 to know that you will get answers, and then some. I’ve wanted to give a view of the characters in this series as humans, not just blobs cussing and shooting and stabbing, but real people with genuine feelings. Because, even when you’re a contract killer or a drug lord, you want to be able to find solace in the comfort of the people you love.
I’m no feminist or anything like that, however, I believe this quote is necessary since it has worked on me:
Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you’re not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.
-Bette Davis as Margo Channing in ‘All About Eve’
And now, I thought I’d share some of the song in my playlist for Book 2 and hope you start getting a vibe of what is coming:
In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer. This vignette is about the day she met with his sister, Helga Sayer, days before the story on the book starts. Enjoy!
If you haven’t read Vignette #1, what are you waiting for?
I was rushing around my flat, pulling my jeans on while searching for my nurse uniform. It had been ages since I wore it and, quite frankly, I didn’t even think it would fit me anymore. Cisneros told me to bring it to the meeting in case Helga, Armand Sayer’s sister, wanted to see it. He said she was hard to please. I promised I would do my best.
Take the sniper rifle with you. I reminded myself as I slid inside the shoulder holster and secured my Sig Sauer in it.
Some makeup ― not too much, not too little, ― a jacket and a scarf wrapped around my neck… I shoved the uniform into a messenger bag and slung it over my left shoulder.
I hailed a taxi, gave the address to the driver, sat back and tried to relax. I’d been to Cisneros’s place multiple times, but this was something new altogether. The butterflies in my stomach said it was so.
Yeah, yeah, Ferdinand, I better not fuck this one. Blah, blah, blah.
The cabbie dropped me off in front of the gates, giving the rifle case a long hard look while I produced the notes to pay the toll.
“You don’t want to know what’s in it.” I winked at him.
His answer was to drive away as quickly as he could.
I walked up to the gate and smiled into the security camera, waving my hand sheepishly. The gate opened and I made my way through the driveway to find Ferdinand walking towards me, followed by another one of Cisneros’s henchmen, one by the name of Marco.
“Come with us, Miss Lang.” Fer grinned, welcoming me with an extended arm, ready to take my rifle case. “Mr. Cisneros is waiting for you in his study.”
Sure, sure, protocol and shit. I could walk into that house through the backdoor in the middle of the night and no one would give me any trouble. We climbed the stairs in silence and he held the door to the study open for me.
“Scarlett!” Cisneros rose from his comfy leather armchair, a scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other. “Always a pleasure to see you.”
He pulled me into one of his hugs. His, because they were the really awkward kind, the kind some men give to feel you up instead of greeting you. Ferdinand hated them. I just plain ignored it. I’ve known the man since I was a child. He was there for me when I needed him and I had always been grateful for that.
When had I needed a sly git like him? Back when I was eighteen years old and I had gotten on my grandfather’s bad side, with nowhere else to go. He gave me my first job, treated me like a real pro and kept an eye out for anyone who gave me any shit. He was like a father to me, in a dysfunctional kind of way.
“Meet Helga Sayer.” A woman with thin lips and defiant eyes stepped forward.
I tried to smile as I met her outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” Her eyes traveled from my face all the way down to my feet and back. I was tempted to ask her how much I ranked after she tallied me, when Ferdinand interrupted.
Fer took my rifle and led us downstairs, to the backyard. They had set a shooting range for me. This was going to be fun!
They stood inside a bulletproof cabin and not a word was spoken as I laid my weapons on a table and took my time to set my rifle. Helga’s eyes were trained on me and I made a point out of showing her how much of a professional I was.
That’s when I saw someone jumping over the concrete wall to my far right and make a run for it behind some bushes. I didn’t think twice before I pulled the Sig and aimed it at the bush where the figure had apparently halted.
Then there was a shuffling to my right, and a masked man was running towards me, gun in hand. Two bullets whizzed past my ears as I ducked, shooting him right in the heart. The one behind the bush moved again, running towards the left side of the garden. I couldn’t see him but I could easily hear his steps on the grass, the light brushing of his boots as he shifted.
Straining my ear a bit more, I could hear his low panting.
A quick mental calculation, knowledge embedded into my subconscious, alerted me when he raised his gun to aim at me through the green thickness.
One shot. His body fell on the ground with a thud.
I trod cautiously on the grass, approaching my victim with my gun still aiming at him, even though I already knew he was dead.
He was on his back, legs bent under him, a blood-gushing hole right between the eyes.
I lowered my gun when a slow clapping rang from behind me.
“She always delivers.” Cisneros and Helga appeared at my side. “Always.”
The woman’s eyes inspected the dead man on the ground, then turned to me. I held her stare and she seemed content to find my breathing was as steady as hers.
“Come with me. We shall rehearse your interview.”
Rehearse? What the fuck?
I wrinkled my nose at Cisneros but he wasn’t looking at me.
His eyes were on Helga’s backside as she made her way back into the house. “You’re in,” he turned to me, “just go with it,” patting my shoulder before following her steps.
I walked over to the table, where Ferdinand was waiting for me.
“What the fuck was that?”
“I’ll take that for you.” He took the gun from my hand. “You better go before she changes her mind.”
“Cisneros was the one who told me to bring my rifle.”
“You were brilliant.” He was unloading my gun without looking at it, his sight on me.
“Don’t do that.”
“The smile on your face.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“Oh, grow up!” I did an about face and stepped into the house to face whatever crazy thing was in store for me.