QSFer Chris Quinton has a new queer sci fi book out:
“Bring me the contents of the security box from the bank, and make sure you’re not followed.” Miles Carter carries out his grandfather’s instructions, and finds himself caught up in a dangerous tangle of family mysteries, and the unexpected return of Allan Warwick, his childhood friend. Add to that a parallel land and a plot to overthrow its government, both of which seem to involve his grandfather and Allan. Miles’ life will be irrevocably changed, but only if he and Allan can stay together and survive the coup.
The postal service being what it was, the plain padded envelope didn’t arrive until Thursday morning. Miles had hoped to keep the twins out of it, but they had resisted all suggestions that they go home, and were lurking in the kitchen when the postman shoved the envelope through Miles’ letterbox. Nor did he get a chance to hide the thing. Jenny saw the postmark, and loomed over him until he opened it.
Inside were several folded sheets of paper, an electronic card with the logo of Hoares Bank, and two small keys. Miles unfolded the first page and recognised his grandfather’s old-fashioned calligraphy, “‘The safe deposit box is held in the vaults of Hoares Bank on Fleet Street’,” he read aloud. “‘The entry card, pin number and keys are here, along with my letter of authorisation. Bring the contents to me. You’ll need a backpack for them, and clothes for a short stay, and you must use extreme caution at all times. Please trust me in this. Send me an email as soon as you are on your way west.’ He’s signed it, ‘Your loving Gramps’.”
“Oookay,” Jenny said doubtfully. “The mystery deepens. What do we do now?”
“We do nothing,” Miles said. “I go to London.”
“We go,” Rob insisted. “Nowhere does the old man say, ‘Come alone and tell no one’.”
Abruptly the need to know something – anything – killed Miles’ admittedly token opposition.
“All right. But you’re not coming with me to the village. Let’s go and see if we can get some answers from the bank, no matter how daft they sound.”
Jenny produced her iPhone. “I’ll check train times,” she announced.
“Let’s go now,” Rob said, impatient as always. “You can carry on checking in the car.”
They hurried out of the back door to the parking bays for the apartments, and for once no one argued about who rode in the front with Miles. The twins dived into his black Ford Mondeo, and he pulled out into the street.
Five minutes into the ten-minute drive to the train station, Miles noticed a light blue Nissan positioned one car behind him. Coincidence, or…? A shiver ran up the back of his neck.
“What the hell?” he muttered. Added to his grandfather’s insistence on secrecy, Gerry’s continual appearances now took on a suspicious aspect.
“What?” the twins asked in unison.
“Either Gramps’ paranoia is hereditary, or we’re being followed. I’m pretty damn sure that’s Gerry behind us in the blue car. One way to be sure,” Miles added. He drove past the station and made a sharp right at the next junction. The Nissan followed suit.
“Oh, fuck,” Rob whispered. “Is this what Gramps was afraid of? What the hell is going on?”
“Hopefully we’ll learn more in London. Change of plan. I doubt he knows the area as well as we do, so let’s see if I can lose him. Just to make sure he stays lost, I’ll make for Newbury Park and we can catch the tube in.”
It took fifteen minutes for the Nissan to disappear from the line of cars behind them. As soon as he was sure Gerry wasn’t going to reappear, Miles drove to the outskirts of London, and left the Mondeo parked at the tube station. They rode to Temple via Mile End, and a short walk brought them to the bank.
It took the combined power of the letter of introduction, the electronic card, pin number, and keys to the safe deposit box, plus Miles’ driving licence, to grant them entrance to one of the small viewing rooms behind the massive door of the vault. The manager brought in the large box, and set it on the table with a solid thunk that widened Jenny’s eyes. Then he left them alone, shutting the door behind him.
“Bloody hell,” Rob said. “What’s in it? Lead ingots?”
“Feels like it.” Miles slid one of the keys into the lock and turned it.
The first thing he saw as he raised the lid was a long white envelope. On it was written, ‘Upon my death, this is to be opened only by Miles Westerman Carter. If he should be deceased, this is to be incinerated unread, along with my corpse, and the contents of the box given to his heirs without conditions.’
“Bloody hell,” Rob said again. “If it wasn’t for your fan in the blue car, I’d think the old guy read too many mystery novels.”
“Open it!” Jenny insisted. “Quickly, BB. I’m dying here.”
“No,” Miles said. “He isn’t dead. If he wanted me to read it, he’d have said so in his letter.” He examined the envelope. It had been sealed with a thick blob of scarlet wax, and the imprint of an heraldic beast had been pressed into it. Immediately he recalled his grandfather’s ring, an oval of russet carnelian, set in reddish gold.
“The hell with that. Gramps is acting a little bit psycho, and so is this Gerry of yours. In my book that cancels out normal privacy.” Rob snatched the envelope from Miles’ hands, ripped it open and took out the letter. “Do you read it or shall I?”
“Give it to me,” he snapped, and retrieved the folded sheets.
“What does it say?” Rob demanded.
“Give me a chance, brat,” he replied. “Okay, now shut up, both of you.” He cleared his throat and began to read aloud. “‘Dear Miles – ‘”
“If it starts with, ‘if you’re reading this, then I’m dead,’ I think I’ll scream,” Jenny interrupted.
I started creating stories not long after I mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of my parents and my English teachers – even my school essays weren’t safe from my overactive imagination. But I received plenty of encouragement. Dad gave me an already old Everest typewriter when I was ten, and it was probably the best gift I’d ever received until the inventions of the home computer and the World-Wide Web.
My reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, mostly in the male/male genre. I refuse to be pigeon-holed and intend to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of my ability.
In my spare time [hah!] I read, or listen to audio books while quilting or knitting. In the past I’ve worked for my local Constabulary as a behind-the-scenes civilian for over twenty years, I’ve been a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist and a 15th century re-enactor.
I live in a small but ancient city in the West of England in the heart of what once was the kingdom of Wessex and I share my home with an extended family, three dogs, a Frilled Dragon, and sundry tropical fish. Life tends toward the chaotic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s always been an equal amount of fun and hard work, and I hope my readers get as much enjoyment from reading the stories as I do from researching and writing them.