The Hit List

The Hit List - Extract

Chapter One

If Jamie Chadwick had thought that waiting at the crowded bar of the King’s Head, Limewater, for the landlord to finish pulling his pint of Suffolk’s best bitter would be the one place he could be safe from his family, for a few moments at least, he was soon to be proved wrong.

“Father okay then, Jamie?”

“What?” Jamie jumped as Michael pushed the foaming glass under his nose and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

The landlord repeated the question.

“Fine, thanks,” Jamie murmured. “Safely locked up at home where he can’t cause any more trouble.”

This wasn’t quite true of course. His father could always cause trouble, but it was a good phrase to use when he simply didn’t know how to discuss it.

“Good, good. Glad to hear it,” Michael said. “So the doctor put everything to rights, did he?”

Choking on that first glorious gulp of bitter, he wondered if anything in this village was ever secret. Sneeze twice at breakfast and they’d have him in the obituary column of the local paper by supper.

“Sure. He just had a funny five minutes, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.”

Or at least that was what the doctor had said. Michael pursed his lips and nodded as Jamie scrabbled in his pockets for some change.

“So you still had time to sort out the problems you were having with that London hotel, did you?” Michael went on.

Jamie stared at him. “How on earth did you know about that?” His so-called glittering career as a conference organizer at the tail-end of the twentieth century meant doing business with hotels that made even Fawlty Towers look efficient and today had been no exception. After dealing with Dad, it had been anyone’s guess as to whether he’d be able to salvage the disaster the hotel had been about to make. This time he’d survived. His father too. But Jamie hadn’t realized that people in the village had been taking notes.

“The grapevine. As usual.” Michael shrugged as he ran an expert eye over the coins Jamie was handing him.

“Sure, I got there in time. In the end, the whole day went like a dream. Cheers.” He took another gulp of his pint and felt the warm liquid wash away the memories of the long drive home.

“Good, good. Well, better let you go,” Michael smiled. “I’m sure your young lady will be along soon. If that’s what you’re here for?”

A joke of course, but Jamie didn’t much feel like laughing. Before he could think of a witty reply, Michael strolled off to serve some of the less patient locals and he pushed his way towards an empty table in the corner. The landlord had been wrong with his last comment in more ways than one. Tonight he was waiting for an old friend to turn up. David Fenchurch. Jamie had no idea what David was doing now. He hadn’t seen him for four years, not since University days. He’d always been one for the girls though; a different one every night, from what Jamie remembered. Not like himself. As Michael had not so subtly reminded him. Really, he had to get a girlfriend, if only for the sake of appearances. And soon. Though Limewater wasn’t London. Women were few and far between. He was just wondering if David was going to put in an appearance at all or whether the sight of the A12 in all its long, grey glory had put him off when a shrill cry echoed round the horse brasses and old beamed ceiling of the pub, driving all thoughts out of Jamie’s mind and into the smoky air.

“Jamie? Jamie Chadwick!”

At the sound of his name being shouted in a voice just on the wrong side of camp, Jamie swung round. As did everyone else. All conversation then stopped, for the figure standing at the door was dressed in an orange shirt, purple checked trousers, an emerald dog-tooth jacket and a trilby hat. But this couldn’t be David, could it? No way. David had never in his life shown any signs of secret Boy George tendencies. So how on earth did this stranger know his name? And what was he doing here?

Before he could shake off his surprise, the vision of color uttered another cry of joy, bounded round the teenagers leaning transfixed against the bar, seized Jamie in a dramatic embrace and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“David?” he said, as his worst fears were proved true. “David Fenchurch?”

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