The New Year is off to a flying start for all of us here at Mightier Than the Sword UK – some of the more interesting things you’ll all find out about in due course, but we felt that today was a very appropriate day to post an extract from Beginnings, the first book in the Nicolette Mace: the Raven Siren series by C.S. Woolley (you’ll understand why in a few weeks time)
Beginnings: an extract
When I walked into the living room, Louise was sat on the sofa cleaning her favourite rifle. The coffee table was covered with a multitude of other weapons, including six revolvers, a colt that had been a gift from my dad to me, a shotgun and my dad’s favourite assault rifle.
I never thought it was fair for a P.I. to carry an assault rifle, but he mainly used it for intimidation since it had a high tendency to misfire. Most people tend not to argue with someone carrying an assault rifle, but then again there are always exceptions.
I can remember my father being hospitalised for three weeks after he had to use it against a small time gang that seemed immune to intimidation. Any normal person with any amount of sanity would have probably gotten rid of it after that, but honestly, I think it increased his love of the stupid thing.
At least it wasn’t a misfiring shotgun, though there were days when I am sure that Danny had tried to sell him one.
I walked over and sat beside Louise and picked up my colt. It was a beautiful antique six shooter that I lavished more care and attention on than spinsters do on their cats.
Louise always mocked me for it, said a love affair with a gun wasn’t normal – rather rich coming from her considering how much time she spent talking to her rifle.
What it came down to is that our weapons were our greatest friends, the only things we knew we could count on as long as we took care of them. Dad had taught us from a very early age that we couldn’t rely on each other, but if we looked after our guns – we could rely on them.
Louise took this very seriously. She spent more time cleaning and maintaining all our weapons than I have spent sleeping in my fourteen years on the planet. As I sat down next to her I picked up the small brushes and began examining my colt for the smallest specks of dust that could have gotten past my sister’s inspection.
It didn’t take long for my father’s voice to reach decibels that shook the building and caused glass to fall out of the rotting window frames.
“He’s getting worse.” Louise shook her head in despair. She always did think that dad lost his temper too easily, especially when he was on the phone to Danny.
“I don’t think he is, I think you’re getting less tolerant as you get old.”
“You mean older.”
“No, I know what I meant. Definitely old.” I said, staring down the inside of the barrel of the colt.
Louise would have retaliated for a comment like that, normally with some form of excessive violence, but it was this moment that my father chose to throw down the phone and storm into the apartment.
“We’re going out.” He growled in our general direction.
“Why?” I asked, putting down the little brushes. Louise hadn’t missed even the smallest speck of dust.
“Because Danny knows how to push the old man’s buttons and he thinks we have nothing better to do than come along.” Louise sighed as she polished the barrel of her rifle.
“You don’t have anything better to do.”
Dad was never very good at recognising we had our own lives to lead.
“Niccy doesn’t.” Louise shot back.
“And you do?” I always hated it when she called me that.
“I have my own case to work on.” Louise always was more independent than my father liked. After Laura had died, he’d always been very protective of us both – at least that’s what Louise always told me. She said that before mum had died, he’d been different, much more easy going than he was now, not quite so prone to violent outbursts of temper.
He wasn’t a man that doted on his daughters in the same way that I have seen most men dote on them. He didn’t try and buy love because he couldn’t really afford to – there were no ponies or promises of trips to Disneyland, there was no coming home from being on a business trip laden with foreign gifts – there was always the possibility that he would come home from the hospital; bleeding, carrying pizza, but that’s about as far as it went.
The way my father showed his love was teaching us to shoot, teaching us to fight and teaching us how to survive. Louise had learned these lessons very quickly. She had a tougher skin than even my father did, and her ability to shoot straight under pressure was legendary. I, on the other hand, hated the sight of blood, flinched at loud noises and missed every target I shot at.
Arthur said it didn’t matter, that I would get better with practise, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t cut out to be a private detective, but then again, there was nothing at school that interested me either. It’s an odd feeling that you might not have a place in the world. But at fourteen, I hardly let that bother me.
“What case is that?” Arthur growled. He wasn’t very good at hiding when he was angry, or supporting what he disapproved of.
“It’s none of your business.” Louise said bluntly. She never liked sharing really, was always a problem when it came to our toys.
There wasn’t a lot that my father could say to that. He tried to form several sentences several times before he gave up completely. I was glad in a lot of ways that he couldn’t come up with a retort; it meant not having to suffer through the carnage of Louise vs. Arthur, round nine hundred and thirty seven.
Louise didn’t give my father the opportunity to argue back either; she dropped the gun parts on the table, grabbed her coat and headed out of the door. It slammed behind her and caused the walls of the office and apartment to shake like they were made from paper; to this day, I am not entirely convinced that they aren’t.
“Get your coat.” Arthur snapped at me and disappeared back into his office. Louise had gone out unarmed, but she was more than capable of defending herself without the use of weapons. The only thing I could take was my colt.
In the office there were plenty of places that my father had guns hidden that I knew existed but had never had any great success in finding. I realised that I hadn’t eaten yet so threw some of the leftover rabbit stew Louise had made two days before, into the microwave and turned it on.
There was a great crash, a smell of burning and the next thing I knew there was a flash of light, I was lying on my back and the smoke alarm was going off.
Arthur came rushing in to see the remnants of the microwave smouldering on the side, rabbit stew sprayed about the apartment with an assortment of electronics.
Who knew putting rabbit stew in a microwave would make it explode?
My father hauled me to my feet without a word, strode across the apartment, opened the window and threw what was left of the microwave out onto the street below.
“You can clean this up later. We have work to do.” He growled as he picked up my coat and threw it at me. I checked over my arms, legs, torso and face and found only four wounds. None of them were particularly deep, the bleeding mostly superficial and there weren’t any scraps of metal lodged in them.
Walking out of the building, my father was already halfway down the street; he didn’t like to be kept waiting. I stepped over the smoking remains of the microwave on the pavement and ran smack into someone walking the other way.
“Hey, watch it!” I shouted as I nearly fell backwards into the pile of ruined electronics and melted plastic.
“Sorry.” The man I had run into replied. I realised that I wasn’t falling because he had grabbed my arm to keep me on my feet.
I looked up to see a young looking man with blue eyes, dark hair and the shadow of stubble that had been left intentionally unshaven. I felt my cheeks flush as I looked at him.
“Colt!” My father shouted, dragging my attention away from the attractive man. I pulled my arm from his grasp and ran off down the street. I could feel his eyes watching me as I chased after my father and couldn’t put my finger on why him watching me didn’t bother me.
“Stay away from him.” Arthur said gruffly as I caught up to him.
“Why?” I said, frowning and turning my head to look back at the man who still stood by the smouldering remains of the microwave.
“Bacon has never been a very healthy thing for private investigators to associate with.” Arthur grunted. For those of you who suddenly feel offended at the thought that bacon, being possibly the greatest meat product after steak, could be seen as something that private investigators shouldn’t associate with; by bacon what Arthur meant was the police.
I didn’t say anything in response as I looked back at the young man. He didn’t look like he was a cop; he looked like he should have still been in high school, not locking up criminals on the street and getting in the way of the work of a private eye.
I hoped I wouldn’t come across him again, not because I have anything against the police really, it’s just they tend to end up getting shot by my father for interfering and surprisingly I didn’t want to see this nice young man end up with a bullet between his shoulder blades.
More about Nicolette Mace: the Raven Siren
Nicolette Mace: the Raven Siren is a book series by author C.S. Woolley. Written in the first person, this modern twist on the private detective pulp novel brings a refreshing take on the film noir world. Nicolette Mace is the private detective known as the Raven Siren and the eponymous heroine of the five books that come together to create the main narrative of the series. There is also a sub set of books within the Nicolette Mace: the Raven Siren series that come under the title of Filling the Afterlife from the Underworld. These books are shorter tales that are written to fill in the gaps between the stories in the main five novels and round out the universe that C.S. Woolley has created. Some of the volumes follow cases that the Raven Siren has taken on whilst others are comprised of shorter thoughts and exploits from the day-to-day life of the female private investigator.