I have been quiet again because Em and I have been battling lots of different battles from thugs committing Hate Crimes against us to the police all while I’ve been trying to finish off my dissertations and get over my Spring Covid booster jab (MUCH better than getting the real bug).
If I find the right words, I will talk about our experience with Thug and the police but I’m going to concentrate on nicer topics today. That being said, I did think twice about adjusting my new novel C.H.I.S (Covert Human Intelligence Source)
When I started writing C.H.I.S four years ago, I wanted to write about character from the wrong side of the tracks and was inspired by research I’d done into the Regulations of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which was brought in for many reasons but one of the stories was how the Metropolitan Police (often a villain in their own right) sent policemen undercover in groups who then went on to father children with the very people they were informing on which led to a significant case where the UK courts found that lying about who you were to the point you were an informant was not deception enough to constitute committing rape. Bear this in mind about a similar case where a transgendered teenager was misinformed by their legal counsel to plead guilty for a Section 2 offence (carrying the same maximum penalty) because they had told their teenage girlfriend that they were male. It did occur to me that there was one rule for the police deliberately deceiving others, another for the rest of society who are merely being themselves. I could go on but, the point is, that it formed an idea in my head—what if a criminal went undercover as a police officer?
Every contact leaves a traceLocard’s Principle of Forensics
I then had a good old think about where I could place this rogue character and decided it would be amazing to set the book in Swansea which is an eclectic Welsh city, home to Catherine Zeta Jones, gateway to the Gower which houses the 9th most beautiful beach in the world, and a city I spent wandering over with my mum on a Saturday afternoon when I was growing up when she’d head to the shops and I’d had to LaserQuest then we’d grab food in a Wimpy or McDonalds (very healthily) and head to the cinema. It was a city I loved playing in with Women In Jazz, where I learned of how Bessie Smith rode the train around gigging around the US and how Jazz and Blues epitomized the courage of those held against their will.
I wrote and rewrote the first chapter over and over, as all writers and authors will attest, it’s hard to give enough, without giving too much; hard to hide enough, without hiding too much; hard to set enough of the scene without losing the reader’s interest; hard to show enough of the character without running the risk the reader won’t like them… but… I like to think that a reader is also someone who enjoys picking up a book and wants to be entertained and has enough of an attention span to see what the story is about (at least I know my readers are intelligent, patient and fantastic people!)
Nikki Bayliss is a woman I hope you’ll love with her sarcastic sense of humour; her suitability on-the-edge temper, her passion for helping (in spite of herself,) her love for her very scary dad and growing feelings for her best friend. She’s very much the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who was influenced by the seedy world she grew up in yet, when you meet her, she’s served her country and she’s escaped her past yet… when you are a kid from that side of town, the past is never too far behind…
C.H.I.S is the term for those who work undercover to informantsRIPA ACT 2000
So, please enjoy the below first chapter and meeting Nikki Bayliss and I’m intending on releasing the book in the week after next so I’ll be releasing chapter 2 next week for you to enjoy too.
(Covert Human Intelligence Source)
Copyright © 2020 Jody Klaire.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the author and publisher.
Please note: all scenes are the intellectual property of the author and that online exclusive scenes may differ from the published version.
Every contact leaves a trace.
Swansea was a city of two faces. On her surface, she was a growing Welsh city blessed with golden stretches of sand lined with palm trees, parks and abundant with sheer artistic flair. She was the glamourous Miami to the urban sprawl of her rival, Cardiff.
The capital was the intense, insular sister who thought she held the upper hand, but Swansea, she was the beautiful one, the gregarious one and no matter what money Cardiff hoarded for herself, she could never come close to the draw of Swansea’s green hills dotted with brightly painted houses or her gentle hidden coves. There was nothing Swansea loved better than to outshine her nemesis because sisters they were, but rivals they were also and under Swansea’s sweet façade, she was more addictive than any illicit substance.
I’d been bred in her merciless back alleys next to a storm fuelled sea that battered the gritty docklands. Swansea had her own rules and her own ways to enforce them and I’d tried everything to be free of her.
‘… and so we came here to chat and she was much more open.’ Sam, cute, kind, cuddly Sam, perched on the bench beside me and studied me in a way that only psychiatrists can. ‘Nikki, did you hear any of that?’
‘Yes?’ I rubbed over my pale, purpling hands. The sky was clear so the night air was sharp and burned the back of my throat, then again, that could be the fact my shoulders were hunched enough I could suffocate my earlobes.
‘Is this about Freshwater again?’ Sam shifted to peer at me full-on. Her feathered blonde hair bouncing as she did so. ‘I don’t know why you came running back here because she called but you’re never jumpy.’
‘I’m not jumpy.’ I rubbed over my hands again but a car door slammed and I ducked then sighed and tried to straighten up. ‘I’m just hungry.’
Sam pursed her lips.
‘Go get the fish and chips.’ I rubbed at my hands again fighting off the memories of them covered in blood—Childhood had been a bitch.
‘You’re always like this when I mention Freshwater,’ Sam muttered but reached across and gave my hand a squeeze. ‘It would help if you talk.’
‘Okay, I’m hungry and my dearest, most loyal friend is starving me after subjecting me to icy sea air.’ I poked my tongue out. I’d managed to walk around the Mumbles for an hour to keep Sam happy. It was a cute place, a touristy haunt with pubs and restaurants and a shit load of memories I wanted to forget, but still.
‘Nik…?’ Sam sighed then got to her feet. ‘You…’ She pursed her lips, turned and wandered toward the little hut selling hot food—The guy was shutting up then stopped and grinned as Sam reached him. She had that way about her, sweet, warm and friendly.
I was anything but. I’d say it was because I’d been a Marine Mountain Leader and that, if a girl was a Marine then she had to be something beyond insane. They didn’t let girls in but Freshwater had worked around that. Freshwater seemed to be able to work around a lot of things.
My phone rang in my left pocket and I ignored it. Very few people knew my personal number and I wasn’t in the mood to talk to any of them. I really wasn’t in the mood to talk to Freshwater either. It’d be Freshwater. It was always Freshwater but I wasn’t answering, I was going to have fish and chips with Sam then hope she’d frozen enough we could go home.
Something cracked behind me and I hunched enough my neck clicked. I glared over my shoulder at the skate park. Just kids. The roll of the wheels down one side if the ramp, the crack as the tail hit top of the half pipe: roll, crack, roll, crack.
My phone rang again. Nope, I was still ignoring it. Didn’t matter that I wanted to yell at the kids to stop making a noise, that my heart was about to pump its way clean of my rib cage or that I was shaking so hard the bench was rattling back in protest, I was in the Mumbles having fish and chips. Sam wanted fish and chips.
Roll, crack, roll, crack. I folded my arms trying to block out the sound. I’d been an undercover specialist in the Marines. I’d trained special forces. I shouldn’t be hypervigilant over skateboarders. I’d focus on the sound of the sea, the crispness of the wintery air, the delicious smell of chips doused in enough vinegar to sneeze at.
My phone rang a third time and I sighed. I was off-duty. In fact, I was meant to be unemployed. I’d done a favour for Freshwater, that was all, and Sam hadn’t seen much of me for months. Sam understood, she supported me, and if she didn’t hurry up with the food, I was going to rattle the bench apart.
My phone rang yet again and I growled, yanked it out of my pocket and flicked to answer. ‘You said I could leave.’
‘I said you could leave when you’ve secured the city,’ Freshwater shot back in her edged-tone. ‘I have a problem that needs your delicate touch.’
Sam was chatting to the guy serving her food like she was his best friend. He laughed and joked like he was enjoying every bit of attention he could get.
‘You made sure I was unemployed, remember?’ I got to my feet and shook off my heavy legs in a bid to calm myself down. ‘I did what you asked and you said I could leave.’
‘Nikki, I’m not in the best of moods.’ Freshwater’s tone was always deep, smooth yet it carried the unspoken threat like an electrical surge. I hated it. I’d say I hated her but I owed her far too much for that. ‘And you know that you’ll do as I ask you to.’
‘You dragged me back here and I fixed your problem.’ I focused on Sam. She looked like she was giving the guy an impromptu therapy session. ‘I’m leaving.’
‘Nikki, you are not leaving.’ Freshwater hardened her tone. ‘I want you to join Swansea’s MIT—’
‘You what?’ I pulled my phone away and stared at it. She couldn’t be saying that? The Murder Investigation Team? I must be hearing things. I turned my back to Sam hoping she couldn’t see the panic on my face.
‘You are going to join Swansea’s MIT,’ Freshwater snapped. ‘Someone shot one of my officers in the middle of Singleton Park, Nikki.’
‘What do you want me to do about it?’ I mumbled then shoved my free hand in my pocket. ‘I could pull off undercover in a town thirty miles away, yeah, but don’t you think someone will recognise me here?’
‘You’ve been an undercover specialist for years. If you can fool Sam, you can fool anyone.’ Freshwater’s voice grew ever more deadly. ‘I’ve provided the same cover as you used before. You’ve been transferred in from Blue Team.’
‘Find me the killer, Nikki.’ Freshwater cut the line.
I glared at my phone. ‘You’re nuts.’
‘That’s harsh,’ Sam said from behind me. ‘Mushy peas are lovely.’
‘Fuck.’ I spun around and shoved my phone in my pocket. ‘You snuck up on me.’
‘No, you were busy talking to Freshwater,’ Sam said mid-glare under her blonde eyebrows and headed toward the car with our food.
‘How did you know it was her?’ I followed and opened the car door for her.
‘I’ve seen you head off on tour, seen you come back, seen you in more compromising situations than is natural,’ she said, got into the car and nestled the food haul on her lap. ‘But, only she makes you this jumpy.’
I got in and started the car, trying not to clench the wheel so hard my knuckles blanched. ‘She wants me to pose as a police officer again… but here, in the city.’
‘And that makes you ashen because…?’ she asked picking a chip out of her cone. The vinegar stank but she loved it that way and her green eyes twinkled as if to show it.
‘Because…’ I pulled out into the traffic and attempted to keep to the speed limit. ‘…well… my ex… my family… they live here.’
‘I didn’t know.’ Sam smiled and rolled her chip to encourage me and ketchup dropped off the tip onto her jeans. ‘Your ex as in the guy you left when you joined the Navy?’
‘Yeah… sort of…’ I drove us out into the traffic past some yacht club with a swing band tooting away. ‘You could look at it that way.’
‘Or…?’ She rolled her chip again .
I sighed. ‘Dom isn’t the kind of man you leave. My family aren’t the kind of people you leave.’
Sam raised her eyebrows. ‘You sound like you were in the mob.’
I focused on the road and the red light. I had the urge to drive through it, maybe drive through enough lights that I could inspire the traffic section to follow so then Freshwater wouldn’t be able to use me… but, I slowed and stopped because Sam didn’t like breaking the law.
‘Nikki?’ Sam chomped on her chip and wiped the ketchup off her knee with a tut.
‘You should eat those up, they’ll get cold.’ I mumbled then hunched as a police car hurtled in the other direction with its lights and sirens on full throttle.
Sam placed her hand on my arm. ‘Please tell me that you weren’t in a gang or something.’
I leaned back in the seat and sped up as we hit the motorway. ‘I wasn’t in a gang or something.’
‘Nikki?’ Now she sounded like Freshwater.
‘They preferred the term outfit.’ I shrugged and stared hard at the lorry in front as another police car hurtled by. ‘And I didn’t have a choice.’
‘But Freshwater is the Assistant Chief Constable…’ Sam wagged a chip at me then at the third police car whizzing past. ‘That’s what she has over you?’ She wagged her chip hard enough it broke and flopped back into her cone. ‘Did she arrest you?’
‘Plenty of times.’ I winced as more chips got wagged at me. ‘I helped her to remove some problems.’ I rubbed at my forehead. ‘Family issues.’ I could feel the sweat on my fingertips. ‘So, I was the good guy… ish.’
‘You were an informant?’ Sam had forgotten her chips and stared at me.
‘The term is CHIS now.’ I gripped onto the wheel. I didn’t like it when she scowled; Smiley, upbeat people shouldn’t scowl. ‘Covert Human Intelligence Source.’
‘Either way, against whom did you give evidence?’ Her eyes were as wide as her mouth. It was distracting.
‘Eat.’ I picked up some chips and shoved them at her. ‘It doesn’t matter who I ratted out, I just don’t fancy anyone recognising me as a detective sergeant. The whole point of witness protection is that no one knows who you are.’
‘You’re in witness protection?’ Sam scowled so deeply her forehead had ridges. ‘Is Freshwater nuts?’
‘That’s where I was when I put the phone down, catch up.’ I snatched some chips and shoved them in my mouth. ‘It’s been a long time since anyone saw me. I’ve changed since then… Good thing I’m used to undercover, right?’
Sam blew out a breath. ‘Good thing you’re exceptional at it but even then, I can’t see anyone who’s met you ever forgetting you.’
‘Infamous, huh?’ I eased the accelerator down and tried for a smile.
She squeezed my shoulder. ‘No, Nikki, you’re unforgettable.’
I hoped not. I really needed to be forgotten. I was back in my home city and, if they did remember me, I doubted I’d get a warm welcome. No, I really needed to remove my trace.