Monday, 9 September 2013

Short excerpt from Harm by Titus Powell

My third novel, Harm, is a thriller set in the fashion world and is out now (available here). So you can read a quick sample, here's the opening scene.

(WARNING: contains violence!)


A rancid smell was coming from the mound of plates in the sink. He had been away for two months and the crusted remains were evolving into a new ecosystem. The state of the fridge wasn’t much better. He would have to hire someone to sort things out around here once everything settled down.

Vincent never understood the desire to identify oneself with a place, a house and a pile of possessions. Freedom was the ability to move, to put everything behind you and reinvent yourself as often as you wanted. To escape your mistakes and be whoever you wanted to be.

Maybe after he was done he would leave London and be a nomad again for a while. He really didn’t need to rent a flat as expensive as this. He could melt into the darker corners of the world. Lose himself in Singapore, or a remote village in Morocco. It would be refreshing to start again.

If you can do it.

The doubt nagged at him, the possibility he might fail.

His practice session would be good. That was important. Then he would know. Without that, no matter how sure he was that he could go through with it, there was always the chance he would freeze again.

Vincent worked his jaw from side to side to ease the ache in his dead eye socket. He took his knife from the table near the door, unsheathed it and felt comforted by its weight. He let it lead him to the collage on the wall, where he had taped all the pictures he had found of the girl. The initial ones he had found on fashion websites and printed out, and the others he had gathered from magazines in Rio and added to the wall last night when he got home. Twenty-two photos in all, including the Time Magazine shot of her with her father in their exotic mansion.

He absently tossed the knife from hand to hand while he looked at the photos. Yes, he was ready all right. This time there would be no hesitation.

There was a thump and a clatter from the bedroom. Vincent rolled the knife handle in his palm. His gaze lingered on the photos on the wall. Unknowable forces were at work. Things kept falling into place. He hadn’t needed to go back to Brazil at all; the universe was bringing her here. Bringing her to him.

Another clatter. Vincent tore himself away from the photos and limped through the foul smelling kitchen to the large bedroom, making no sound as he went. He pushed the door open.

The whore had knocked her chair over backwards and was lying on top of it, looking up. She recoiled as she saw him, her bare feet twisting against the rope. Muffled vowel noises came through the ball gag.

Vincent felt his determination wane. Three hours of crawling London’s underworld looking for a mixed race brunette, and this was the best he could find? She looked nothing like the girl.

He bent down and hauled her chair upright. Her eyes bulged at the sight of the knife.

You should be so lucky, he thought.

A headache took hold at the back of his skull. He sat down on the bed behind her. The whore squirmed and moaned more now that he was out of sight. He thought of the photos on the wall. His girl wouldn’t whimper like this. She would come to him and surrender to her fate with dignity.

He watched the whore fight her bonds and pressed a finger to his temple against the throbbing there. His fingers were trembling. It disgusted him that he had thought her a viable practice object. Cutting her would sully him; it would be a regression to the days of his pitiful relationship with Diana, who would sit in the corner for hours waiting for him to abuse her and then be pathetically grateful for every knock. Hurting this whore would prove nothing, and then he’d have the mind numbing task of disposing of her, cleaning up the blood, getting the image of her out of his head. Picking her up had been a mistake. He should have just been patient and trusted the universe.

He smelled urine and saw the sheen of liquid trickling down the chair into the bedroom carpet. He sighed. Why the hell hadn’t he put her in the bathroom? It was tempting to abandon the flat altogether at this point, skip the clean-up, just get on with his mission. Maybe burn it down or rig it to blow a hole in East London. But he couldn’t afford to rush things. He needed a base while he waited for the right time, and there would be too many eyes if he stayed in a hotel.

The whore was mumbling again, an incoherent stream of whimpers and sobs. Vincent tried to imagine how other men would look at her, as a sexual object, tried to imagine having the desire to clasp her sweaty body close and penetrate her. The thought made his headache worse.

He grabbed the shopping bag of bin liners and cleaning products he had bought earlier. He tipped the contents on the floor and moved to stand behind her. His heart was pounding. He wished he still had one of those little brown potassium cyanide capsules so he could force her to bite one and then let her walk free, knowing she would drop dead within minutes, sparing him the clean-up. But those pills were hard to come by and his last batch were long gone.

Vincent whipped the plastic bag over her head and tightened it around her jerking face. His own breath had deserted him. He blinked moisture from his eyes and tried to steady his shaking hands where they met at the back of her head. A stupid, pathetic part of him just wanted to let go and curl up at her feet.

Man up, you pussy.

The weakness passed and he found himself thinking clearly again. Could he could get away with disposing of her whole? If he did his heroin trick, wrapped her up and dumped her in an alley somewhere, no one would care or suspect foul play. He just had to be careful no one saw him leave the building.

Yes, that’s what he would do. In the small hours, when everyone was asleep. Then he could get back to the task.

The whore’s head, locked in white plastic, finally became still. He let go after a minute and walked around her to inspect her. A shallow concave dome of plastic curved across her open mouth. Other parts of the bag were still attached to her cheekbones and forehead where it had stretched. There was a beauty in the shrink-wrapped geometry of her face that she had lacked in life.

He started to feel better.


If you enjoyed this opening scene, you can get the full book on your Kindle for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Thank you!


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