Its a big one – 145000 words!!!

Up now on Amazon as ebook and paperback.

In a nutshell – it’s about a reincarnated 17yr old who solves crimes with astral projection.

A slightly longer explanation would be –

1946 – OKINAWA

“So, now I can explain more.”

Mim refreshed his tea and he smiled at her.

“There is Prime Reality, us, and there is Resonant Reality, the fractured versions of the ‘faults’ in Prime Reality. There are many names, but ‘multiverse’ is the one I prefer. Between them all, is the Interstitial Layer which coordinates a dynamic balance between all realities and prevents catastrophic intrusions.

“What you just experienced, called by some ‘astral projection’, is the ability to enter the Interstitial Layer and navigate its many vibrations.”


There’s a new player in town; Mackenzie Browne, a 17-year-old computer prodigy who is the core resource in a police criminal intelligence unit which targets organised & international crime. The reality is that the ‘kid’ has manipulated all involved to create the unit to track down those responsible for his murder.

Almost seventeen years ago, there was a double homicide at Rose Bay, a trendy Sydney harbourside suburb. A middle-aged man and woman were shot in broad daylight by a man of Arabic appearance. The dead man was unusual in many ways but in particular he was a practitioner of an ancient Chinese form of astral projection. It was not a skill he acquired willingly, but the discipline had served him well and he kept those skills keen.

In the panic, pain, and madness of death, his soul fled to the astral plane and traumatised, he railed against the inevitable. At the same time six-month-old child, miles away, passed peacefully from a once-in-a-million combination of circumstances as his terrified mother froze on discovering her dead newborn.

The man detected the child’s passing and reached out in desperation, reviving the boy and finding himself in the body of an infant.

But what about the woman who was killed with him. She was the assassin’s real target but neither of them knew it at the time. The reason for her murder was mundane in part but driven by a backstory almost as fascinating as her lover’s.


I’ve added 9000 words to this book and republished this morning. The extra is called Debts Paid and is mostly the Zhinkeans backstory plus quite a bit of Vicky Jones – hope you enjoy.

Extract –

The Zhinkean homeworld, ZhaaaGeel, is an unaffiliated planet near the tip of the second galactic arm. It is classified as a semi-dry planetary biosphere and is the fourth planet orbiting a red dwarf star. The equatorial zone is perpetually in storm season and feeds a series of vast and smaller riverine environments that radiate from it in both hemispheres. Small, turbulent oceans dot the equatorial area. Typically, the lands and lakes between these canyons are desertified with only occasional water in shallow depressions.

Seasons are random and driven by the amount of precipitation generated by the equatorial zone. A full solar rotation is equivalent to four hundred and two Earth days and a planetary day, twenty-two-point five Earth hours. The planet has three small moons, one of which is fragmented from unknown impact. Nights vary from dull to pitch black.

Seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-three (Earth) years ago, a cartel of avian corporations descended on ZhaaaGeel and began to strip mine the mineral sands from these desert areas. The quantities involved were vast and the profits massive.

The inhabitants were not consulted.

NCIS – Idea

This popped into my head for no particular reason and I thought I would throw it out there and see if anyone thought it had merit.

“Palmer, James Palmer.”


Jimmy was burning out in his final year of med school and his professor convinced him to take a year off and recommended a 6-month physical training course run by a friend.

(The friend is a NATO general who runs agent training programs. The professor is a clandestine recruiter).

Jimmy is horrified when he realizes what is going on but can’t back out (threat to his med career) and it turns out, he’s very good at the ‘work’; so much so that the general offers him a job.

He refuses and vows never to use the skills he’s acquired or the attitudes which go with them. He travels for the next 6 months (odd places?), learns a type of denial-meditation to control his new skills and then returns to his studies successfully.

One of the reasons he got the job at NCIS was that Ducky knows the general and that recommendation is very valuable.


Jimmy is in the squad room and gets a visitor, the general, who now uses a walking stick (“the law of averages caught up to me!”). He was visiting friends and, on a whim, wanted to see Jimmy and congratulate him of turning his back on the ‘work’– he didn’t think he could do it. Ducky arrives and they leave together. Jimmy returns to the lab.

McGee tries to search for the general in their databases but nothing comes up. They are joined by Vance who was hoping to see the general. He tells them some history:

The general is ex-Australian special forces, seconded to US, UK and NATO, runs the best counter-terrorism unit ever made, considered a tactical genius, his agents are the best in the world – very few survive his training, most wash out.

The team realize Jimmy was an agent. Knight is both shocked, angry and curious. She confronts Jimmy later and he bares his soul – can’t be that sort of person – the temptation to do harm is too strong. It’s why he got into pathology instead of patient-based medicine, he knows he doesn’t relate to people well and would end up a monster. Knight is deeply touched.

Ducky and the general having coffee. Discuss much including Jimmy and Gibbs who the general has just visited – he trained Gibbs – one of his first students.

The team is at an abandoned navy warehouse where several sailors have been found dead when their escorts are killed and they are taken prisoner by a masked team and shackled. The team wants Navy Yard access codes. Knight attempts to negotiate using her training and the leader shoots her dead. Everyone is shocked but something in Jimmy breaks.

The team are separated and taken individually into a room for interrogation. Jimmy undoes his handcuffs, flings a chair into the guard and kills him easily, taking his weapons and freeing the others. He is in command and a very different Jimmy.  Over an extended period, they silently take down to the rest of the assault team (Jimmy is ruthless) and break into the interrogation room where Torres is being tortured. The leader throws a knife at Parker but Jimmy snatches it out of the air and underhand flicks it back to pierce the leader’s femoral artery. Jimmy walks towards him matter-of-factly explaining how he’s bleeding out then does a reverse straight kick sending him flying across the room. They free Torres who says “took your time”.

Parker and Jimmy find the 2IC terrorist and with a knife, Jimmy tortures him – they are Chechen mercenaries hired by radical Chinese faction who want to invade Taiwan. They wanted access to the Navy Yard (MTAC) to launch a  US first strike on the military islands in the South China Sea (US has ships in the area) to justify invasion. They have a cyber team waiting outside the Navy Yard. Jimmy gets the location and Parker organizes a take-down.

Jimmy has thwarted a major world catastrophe.

He and Parker go to Knight’s body to mourn and Jimmy reflexively checks her vitals – she has a faint pulse. They perform emergency surgery there and then to stabilize her and get an ambulance sent over.

The team is just a little freaked out around Jimmy, who as the ambulance leaves, sits on the ground and sobs.

A few days later, in the hospital Knight is kissing Jimmy from her bed and the nurse is tut-tutting. Jimmy is his old self again. Knight will be laid up for weeks but Jimmy swears he’ll look after her.

Ducky and the general are in Vance’s office. “That went well” says Vance. The general laughs. Ducky says the investment was worth it, wonders if Palmer, James Palmer will ever surface again. Vance grunts and says he’d settle for Gibbs coming back and glances meaningfully at the general.

Cut to a lake and a close up of a man loading a lure onto his line, with a gun tucked into a belt holster visible briefly.

Fade out.


It’s been pouring rain here for several days and the sun has finally come out. Bit of a relief for no real reason, we needed the rain, but it does tend to slow things down. Part 4 of The Silver Path project just went to the editor and should have that back in a week – anticipating a positive response but dreading that I’ve wandered off track. Typical passive/aggressive internal voice!!! overall, I’m really excited about this project and working on getting the whole manuscript up to speed – have even designed a cover (see previous). I’m going to try and master Facebook adds in the next few days and see if I can get my previous works some traction. Starting off with the first book in the Shehkrii (shay cree) series – The Flame. I’m also wondering what I’ll do next. For the first time in a very long time, i don’t have much of a clue, what that will be – funny feeling!


I’ve decided to publish this story as a novel rather than a series of novellas, hence the indulgence of designing a cover. This is a work in progress but I’m quite happy with in at this stage. The pitch remains the same; REINCARNATED SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD WHO SOLVES CRIMES WITH ASTRAL PROJECTION. Final editing is set to commence soon with the impeccable Zoe (Markham Correct) and the draft is going out to Beta Readers this week or so. Very excited; it’s been a blast writing this one.



Books 1 & 2 of the series are now available at the Amazon Kindle Store and in paperback. Promo deals are due in a few days.

In a nutshell –

The MULTIVERSE, reincarnation, astral projection, global conspiracies and a genuine AI. What more could you want? This is the first in a series of five novellas revealing the multiple lives of John McManus Springer, Mac, to almost everybody, and the radical circumstances which conspire to open doors for this extraordinary man which very few in the world, let alone the multiverse, know exist.

His journey starts in post-World War II Okinawa but the real action is in the vaults of his mind as he navigates the Silver Path, the directory of the Interstitial Layer, a membrane of non-existence separating the multitude of realities called the multiverse and giving access to them all; if you have what it takes.

Along the way Mac creates a police investigative unit to solve a double murder, and exact a terrible revenge on a global cabal who have taken the most precious person in his life, from him.

Interesting times!


Binge watched first ten episodes over the last few days (late November). Really enjoyed it with only a minimal purview of the comics and anime (Google, Wikipedia, wiki). It’s a mashup, no arguments there but some of the online critics are getting very intense in their nitpicking (looking at you, James Whitbrook). So much so that i have to wonder if the criticism is because they take themselves way too seriously or because they didn’t get what they consider their ‘due’ in the marketing roll out.

The world building is a little fuzzy, yes, but not enough to be distracting. The characterizations are all over the place but put together this makes a spicy mix. Whining about the corgi (EIN) not getting enough screen time is tedious – bringing Edward and Ein in at the end of E10 undercuts that criticism (ha!).

All in all, I’m looking forward to the next batch



In a rush of enthusiasm across August/September I have finished the first draft of the second Silver Path novella. I’m sitting on it now for a few weeks before I start polishing and its off to the editor (Zoe Markham) in November. The story just took off after a little outlining and didn’t exactly write itself but there was a momentum which i enjoyed enormously. Number three is half way outlined already. I’m on a roll!

The complexities of the mythology have resolved themselves with the realization of an end game and a pivotal moment. Sheesh, were those two things a relief when they finally came. I now know where I’m going and there’s a quiet confidence in that. Anyway, another excerpt below to keep the interest up.


Billy Rohl undid the button of his best suit jacket and sat, enjoying the plump cushioning of the very expensive chair.

“Detective,” said Malcolm Ricci, signalling a waiter. “What can I get you?”

“Ah … Scotch, neat, please.” The order was taken.

Billy placed a thin manila folder on the marble coffee table, nudging it towards Ricci who looked down his nose at it. “And this is?”

“Justice, I hope, Malcolm.”

Ricci was mildly affronted at the familiarity but picked up the folder and quickly read the contents of the single sheet of expensive paper within. His eyebrows rose unconsciously.

The waiter returned with Billy’s drink and a fresh one for Ricci.

He drinks champagne at lunchtime, Billy noted.

Replacing the folder, Ricci said, “What strings are attached to this?”

Billy sipped his whiskey, then answered, “None. We felt an obligation. Our system can’t do anything much about the contractor. How many life sentences can one person serve? We’d rather turn our attention to the person who hired her; and his intermediaries.”

Malcolm sipped his champagne, calculating. “Idris al-Madini,” he said simply.

“Yes, we know. Tangentially, Robert Preston. We can’t touch either of them at the moment, although Preston is feeling the pressure.”


“Criminal Intelligence task-force. There’s quite the buzz in there at the moment. They’re hitting sixes. The pollies are very pleased.”

Malcolm sniffed derisively. “Howard Sales is a prat. I wouldn’t mind having this drink with Peter Nguyen, though.”

“Ha,” said Billy. “You’ll need to have something substantial to trade before that happens.”

Both men sipped their drinks, again.

“On a personal note,” said Billy, “please extend my condolences to Mr Russo. I believe he valued Evie and I respected her despite sitting on opposite sides of the table. Her death was unnecessary; sloppy policy.” He finished his drink, stood and left.

Ricci watched him go. After five minutes he was joined by Patrick Russo. Two minders hovered several metres away.

“Interesting,” said Patrick, picking up the sheet from the folder and holding it to the light. He put it down and photographed the page with his phone. “Burn that before you leave here. It seems benign but I’m not taking chances.”

“Yes, sir. What do you make of this? There must be strings attached.”

Patrick considered the question, having listened in on the conversation via Malcolm’s phone. “This move is too subtle for Nguyen, who we know is involved. And William Rohl is only the messenger; a sharp one but … No, there’s someone else pulling strings here. Someone very sharp. We need to find out who.

“In the meantime, let’s be obvious and take out Urquhart. Make it nasty; I want to send that message also. Let Robert Preston know we expect compensation from him since it was one of his crew who arranged the hit, even if he wasn’t consulted. See if you can set up a meeting. This place would be ideal but anywhere secure will do.”

Ricci nodded. “I’ll start both those tasks this afternoon. Tagging Rohl has not produced results yet. He knows he’s being followed.”

“Keep doing it regardless. He may slip up.”

“Yes, sir.”

Russo stood and Ricci joined him. “Can I offer you a lift back to your office, Mal?”

“Why, yes. That’d be very convenient.”

One of the minders was already on his phone calling the car.


Billy Rohl and his three-man tail were strolling leisurely back towards the cruise ship terminal with Billy connected to his phone by ear bud and in some form of conversation. In reality he was simultaneously watching the front of the hotel from the pen camera he’d planted in the stone wall opposite and the nano-chip tracker in the sheet of paper he’d left with Ricci.

Malcolm and Russo appeared on the camera as a saloon car pulled up at the porte cochere. Ricci took out the paper and using a lighter burned it, dropping the residue onto the roadway.

“Fuck,” said Billy under his breath. “That was quick.” But seeing Russo was enlightening. The man was hands-on here. Very unusual. The car drove off and Billy dialed up Marnie Benson to update her.


Russo received the call just before arriving at his holdings. He directed the driver to a service entrance and walked the short distance to the basement server farm under the complex, one of his minders in tow. Harrison met him there and took him to his office.

“How bad, John?”

“Very.” They both sat. “I’ve spent the last few days investigating and there’s no doubt we’ve been totally compromised. I mean everything, the whole set-up.” Harrison was starting to get shrill and Russo shifted in his chair turning his full attention to the man. The scrutiny worked.

“Sorry,” said Harrison. “It’s just …”

Russo grinned, grimly. “I can only imagine. Chapter and verse, John. But without techno babble elaboration.”

“Yes, sir. OK … after the last attempt we had the system rebuilt. I’m convinced the contractors embedded a drip-feed scavenger function in the software. I can’t go looking specifically ‘cos that will certainly set off alarms. The proof is in the fine detail but essentially, we’re processing a lot more data than we should, which means copies are being made deep in the stacks.

“Then, the kicker is the fibre node outside on Smith Street. The telecom techs have been there three times in two weeks. We monitor their work schedules and these are all unscheduled and the contractors, when you look closely, well, some of them are packing. That node must have a data cache. Those things can be detected if they transmit so they’re there to download it.

“We’ve been set up.”

Russo said nothing. He was looking at Harrison but not seeing him, his mind churning. This explained a lot, most notably how easily the West Australian police had shut down Brandt.

Harrison held his tongue, waiting.

“Are our backup servers secure?”


“Suggestions, John?”

“Ah, you won’t like it, sir.”

“Regardless. This is what I pay you so well for, John.”

“Yeah, well, OK. We can run on the backups for six months maximum once a new connection point is established; two weeks for that. I’ve already scouted a likely point of entry. But we’ll have no duplication. Everything in the backups will become prime data, no copies. I’ll set up a slow leak server but real time copies won’t happen. That’s high risk; if we had a crash …

“Anyway, while all that is happening, we need to rebuild the system, and, sir, I strongly recommend we do it off site. I can’t guarantee integrity if we try to rebuild anywhere near here. That’s going to cost about twenty-five million, minimum. Something closer to thirty is likely.”

Silence hung.

Russo pulled a mobile phone out of his inner jacket pocket and started typing. Harrison noted the size and thickness of the device. Is that one of those compact satellite phones, he wondered.

Harrison’s mobile, sitting on his desk, pinged.

“I’ve sent you,” said Russo, “a very confidential contact. Call him. Don’t be put off by the accent. He runs a parallel system facility which is fed from our static archives. The two of you need to come up with a way to bring that asset into play. I’ll expect a proposal within a week, John.”

“You knew this would happen?” asked Harrison, slightly stunned.

“I knew it was possible and planned accordingly.”

He signaled to the minder. “Casey, call Malcolm and relay what has happened here. I want him to start silent tracking of the contractors who compromised us.”

“Yes, Boss.” The man stepped out and started making the call on his mobile.

Russo stood. “Thank you, John. I recommend you take an hour, get a coffee or something and try to relax. You’re going to be flat out for the next week.”

“Yes, sir.”

Russo left the office and stood off a little from his minder while he spoke to Malcolm Ricci.

So, he mused, we are up against someone exceptional. Murphy’s Law, of course. Whoever this was, plus Evie’s death, plus Robert Preston, plus Idris al-Madini. All at once.

“Casey,” he said to the minder.

“Yes, Boss.”

“Very quietly, contact Jeremy Duporth and brief him. I need intell on our new hunter. Indicate some urgency but don’t push; you know Jeremy …”

The man grinned. “Subtlety is my middle name, Boss.”

Russo raised a skeptical eyebrow at one of his most trusted employees then pulled out his mobile again and started making calls. All his senior lieutenants needed to put their heads together and sort this out. It was going to be a late night. The last call he made was to his wife to let her know he wouldn’t be home till after midnight. Movie night with their grandchildren would have to wait.


Book 1, a novella has come back from the editor (Markham Correct) and I think we might have a project. Zoe’s (Markham) sharp eye has picked up my usual stumbles and pointed out some logical missteps but overall it ‘intrigued’ her.

I’ll take intrigued any day of the week.

My concerns were that I was too ambitious but so far, I’ve managed to balance the paradoxical content – reincarnated 17yr old who solves crimes with astral projection!!! I’m starting to write pieces for the second installment and wondering if I can get the same balance of Book 1. The novella form (20,000 words in these cases) seems to provide a good skeleton on which to flesh out the continuing story. No. 2 will be crucial to maintaining the flow; I’m tempted to cram too much in, I just want to blurt it out but my notes, so far, are keeping me honest.

Here’s a sample;


It had been their fourth outing in less than two weeks. Mina had invited him to a going-away party at her house and it had been very low key and pleasant in a non-eventful way. He’d stayed till almost everyone had gone except the happy travelers whose lift to the airport had promptly broken down. He had offered to help, of course and they hurriedly repacked the Audi and took off for the airport.

Now they were on their way back.

A ping sounded from the dashboard.

What’s that?” asked Mina, with a small frown. “Is something wrong?”

A message typed itself onto the monitor in the center of the console and Mac glanced briefly at it. “No, it’s a diagnostic issue,” he answered, “But we have to take a detour to fix it. Will that be OK?”

“How long?”

“Half hour, max. The mechanic is in Petersham so it’s on our way. Sorry about this.”

She grinned. “Our first adventure. I’m really sick of Mum hovering.”

He laughed. “They are rather obvious, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. Like they don’t trust us or something.”

“More like don’t quite trust me, I think.”

“I do,” she said simply, looking at him directly. He glanced over and saw Her again. He nodded and returned his gaze to the road.

They drove for five minutes and eventually pulled into the narrow alley which led to Eustace O’Hara’s garage.

“This is seedy,” she said.

Mac barked a laugh, “Everyone says that. Can’t see it myself.”

He was grinning. So was Mina.

“These people can be a bit rough, so, forewarned …”

“Got it.”

They drove through the roller door and into the garage. Silvio, the zombie-bikie-bear, was waiting.

“Whoa!” said Mina. Mac laughed again, popped the hood and stepped out. Silvio lifted the hood and started connecting leads.

Mina joined Mac as Dred came out of her father’s office. “Hey, hey Mac-o-boy, this the feckin’ girlfriend?”

Mac was about to speak when Mina stepped up to Dred, she towered over her, and said, “Girlfriend, yes. The feckin’ part is still being decided. And you are?”

Mac wanted to smile so wide his mouth might break but held his breath to see what Dred would do. She looked a little nonplussed, took a melodramatic step back, looked Mina up and down and said, “Spunk in this one, Mac. You betta feckin’ watch out.”

Stepping around Mina and going to the engine compartment she pulled out a tablet from one of the many pockets in her cut down overalls and connected it to the machines Silvio had already plugged in.

“Now,” she continued, “feckin’ po-leece techy nerds are tryin’ to be feckin’ clever. They’re sending out feckin’ spyware with random pings to target scanners. Dumb feckin’ move really but they might get lucky so I need to adjust the feckin’ filters on your rig.”

Mac and Mina joined her at the open engine bay. Mina stared. “Oh my,” she said, “That’s a work of art.”

“Eh?” the other three said in unison.

“Look at it,” she said. “Everything lines up. And its color coded. What a sweet machine.”

Mac swallowed hard. Jaz was like this with her instruments. She appreciated the art in engineering to a ridiculously high degree.

“Well, well, feckin’ well,” said Dred. “I like her.” Silvio grinned as Dred’s mobile rang and she fished it out and looked at the screen. “Feckin’ faggot husband again. Bloody man never shuts up.” She wandered off to the office.

Mac looked at Silvio, eyebrows raised. “Husband? Faggot?”

The man mountain smiled. “Mildred is twenty-nine years old and married for seven years. They have twin boys aged four. Her husband, Nigel, if you can believe it, is somewhat effeminate in his mannerisms but utterly devoted to Dred. He’s also a very successful corporate lawyer and can dish out anything as good as Dred can serve up. They’re great fun at parties.”

Mac was stunned. Mina beamed. Stepping forward she offered her hand and said, “I’m Mina. Very pleased to meet you.”

Silvio grinned, took the offered hand and nodded acknowledgement. Looking at Mac, he said, “Gotcha.”

Mac burst out laughing.

Dred re-joined them. “Bloody lawyers. He’s got a feckin’ overseas conference call and can’t pick up the kids. Uncle, do you mind.”

“Not at all. I’ll get going now. Eustace should be back in thirty.”

Dred grunted and Silvio left.

Dred continued to tinker, mumbling to herself while Mina joined Mac, took his hand and just watched the not-so-young-looking techno-sprite work.

“There, feckin’ done.”

“Cool,” said Mac. “We better get goin’.”

“Oh feck,” said Dred looking behind Mac. He turned to see four youngish men swagger into the garage. “Feckin’ Fantonie’s. Silvio cleared ‘em off coupla months ago.”

Mac went cold, reached out and took three medium sized spanners from a tray and walked towards the group. He started juggling the spanners very fast. One of the men started to speak and the first spanner hit him in the midsection, followed rapidly by the other two which found similar targets. The men went down in groans of agony and Mac kept walking up to the last man.

In a quiet, deadly voice he said, “Get this trash out of here and don’t ever come back. If anything happens to Eustace and his family, I will burn you to the ground.”

The man was frozen.

“Go,” barked Mac in his parade ground voice.

The stunned young man quickly helped the others rise, or half rise as the case may be and they left. Mac turned back to see Dred with her mouth hanging open, speechless for once, and Mina with a look of such ferocious lust on her face he blushed.

Dred glanced at Mina and then Mac and started to giggle. Clearing his throat Mac said, “We’re going now. It’s late.”

They quickly got into the car and reversed into a spare space and turned to leave. Eustace O’Hara came trotting down the lane with a frown on his face and waved as Mac eased the car out of the lane.

“That feckin’ part is under serious reconsideration,” said Mina quietly after a few minutes.

“But we hardly know each other,” answered Mac with mock seriousness.

“Ha!” she said. “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. And what I just saw … I want a piece of. I’ve never been this turned on.”

“It’ll pass.”

“I know, but I won’t forget.”

Mac grinned; delicious repartee; it had been so long since he could indulge like this.

“You’re not a virgin, are you?” asked Mina.

“This body is, but I can’t see that being a problem, given my extensive imagination.”

“Ha! We’ll see, we will see.”

They drove to her home in a silence dripping with expectation, savoring it equally.


Something to wet the whistle or tickle the fancy depending on your metaphor preferences. Its from the new project which at this stage, 10,000 words in, looks like being a series of novellas.

WARNING – Strong-ish language.

“This is a bit seedy.”

“About what you’d expect from a chop shop,” answered the young man beside the older driver. David Browne glanced at his son, a grin flashing across his face as he angled their expensive car into a possibly safe space at the end of the seedy alley. “It’s always interesting with you, Mac.”

The boy grinned back. “I warned you.”

“You did. No regrets.”

“Thanks. That does mean a lot, David.”

“Welcome. Now, your new car is here?”


Mac led the way into the only open roller door and was greeted by what to his father looked a cross between a zombie bikie and a bear.

“Hey, Mac,” said the bear. “It ain’t ready yet. Not quite, anyways.”

“No problem, Silvio. Just brought my dad to have a look.”

The bear glanced at the older man; his face neutral. He grunted and flung a huge arm inward. An invitation. David Browne tried not to be seen taking too big a side-step around the man. He quickly caught up to Mac who had gone straight to a rather underwhelming Audi A6.

A smallish man came out of a daggy office to join them.

“You the dad?” he said by way of introduction. David nodded.

“What the fookin’ hell you doin’, lettin’ a kid have a fookin’ car like this.” This was accompanied by a great many swinging arm gestures.

David laughed, looked the strange man straight in the eye and said, “You ever win an argument with him?”

He seemed nonplussed to be spoken to that way, then burst out laughing.

Meanwhile Mac was pouring over the car. A pair of slim, childlike legs slide out from under it just in front of David. The pixie-like girl attached to them came next and sprang upright. “Fookin’ Germans,” she said. Mac gave her a quizzical glance.

She threw her arms in the air and said, “They fookin’ bury the good stuff deep. Ran a fookin’ diagnostic this mornin’ and the fookin’ valences were out by five fookin’ milliwatts. The fookin’ adjuster is behind the fookin’ exhaust in’it.”

“Me daughter, Mildred,” said the other man to David. “We calls her ‘Dred’ for some odd fookin’ reason.”

Mac and Dred had started an intense conversation so David offered his hand to the man and said, “David Browne.”

The hand was shaken and Dred’s father said, “Eustace, just Eustace. No last names here, bucko.”

“Fair enough. Tell me about the car because he won’t.”

“Ha. Plays it close does your boy, that’s for fookin’ sure. But he’s a man of his word and pays on time. Now, the car … ah, you want the full dope cos I’ll deny all this in court if …”

David laughed again and made a sign of the cross. The Irish accent and crucifixes around the necks of all present had given that away.

“Done then. Rego n’ VIN are off the donor, an old A6 we picked up at the wreckers. Body panels and chassis too. Everything else is custom. Engine’s from an S6 with turbo and supercharger added on. Suspension and brakes from a couple of V12 Jags.”

“Horsepower?” asked David.

“Five hundred and ten fookin’ kilowatts.”

“Dear God!”

“You ain’t fookin’ wrong. Stops right smart though and with the electronics me Mildred has added, it drives like a train on tracks. Bullet proof too with a front battering cage. That’s what the power is for. The thing ways three fookin’ tons.”

David was speechless. It must have showed because Mac stopped his conversation and joined him. “Eustace hasn’t been scaring you, has he, David?”

Dred caught her breath and covered her mouth. “You called ya Da by name, Mac-o-boy.”

“Yes,” he said slowly turning to her. David Browne knew that tone and the look. Dred was about to get a lesson in manners.

She grinned, held up her hands and took a step back which collided with Silvio, who caught her playfully. Perhaps she already has, thought David.

“No, no,” he said. “Eustace has played a straight bat. The numbers are a bit staggering, is all.”

Mac grinned. “It’s effectively a mobile ops centre. Executive protection level hardware and a comms system, courtesy of the amazing Dred, that rivals most police forces.

 “I hope I never attract the attention these precautions warrant but if I do …”

Silence hung for a few seconds before Eustace said. “Well, that’s the tour, David, me boy. Can I offer ya a cup o’ coffee? Brewed it myself.”

David glanced at Mac who nodded. “Why not?” he said and allowed himself to be ushered into the daggy office. Mac and Dred continued their discussions.

Half an hour later David gingerly backed his Volvo out of the alley in Petersham and headed for the city.

“He makes good coffee.”

Mac laughed, “That he does. Always has. His wife is Italian, a Catholic marriage, and she insisted he learn the right way. Silvio is her little brother.”

“You’re making this up!”

“No. All true. The joys of cliché. They’re very talented but completely outside the law. Eustace and his team could make a fortune in the custom trade but they won’t be told in any fashion. Gets them in trouble sometimes but that’s what let me get to know them, so I can’t complain really. Who else would build a car like that?”

“Ha. Your paperwork all done?”

“Yep. Exemptions and documents were all stamped two days ago. Special Provision driver’s license is waiting at the DMR now. I’ll pick it up this afternoon. Take a left here, David. I’ll get you to drop me a block short and walk in.”

David made the turn, brooding a little. This was standard operating procedure for the whole family now, all at Mac’s insistence. It was a bit like being in a spy film really and nothing had ever happened but the implication of threat which it presented sometimes got him down. He wouldn’t change a thing that had happened in the last seventeen years with this extraordinary man who was his son, but sometimes …

He pulled over into a loading zone. As Mac unlocked the door, David said, “Will we see you for dinner?”

“Should do. I’ll text Mel if anything changes.”

David nodded. “Hope it goes well.”

The grin he received back was more than a little chilling. “Oh, it will. It will”