Subsequently, we've been chatting on and off and although MFB no longer take part in official blogtours, we wanted to make sure we tell our readers about Tom's upcoming novel - The City's Son. We are big fans of urban fantasy and especially UF set in the UK and it so happens TCS is exactly that.
Tom let us have an extract of his new novel, introducing us to the two female characters: Beth & Pencil.
‘Beth, come on,’ Pencil whispered, ‘we need to go.’ Beth studied the picture she’d sprayed on the tarmac of the playground. She flipped her aerosol over a couple of times in her hand. ‘Beth . . .’
‘It’s not finished yet, Pen,’ Beth said. In the dim backwash from the lights nearby she could just make out the Pakistani girl’s fingers worrying at her headscarf. ‘Don’t be chicken.’
Pencil paced fretfully back and forth. ‘Chicken? What are we, like ten? Have you been sniffing your own paints? I’m not kidding, B. If someone comes, this will get us expelled.’
Beth started shaking the spray can up. ‘Pen,’ she said, ‘it’s four a.m. School’s locked up. Even the rats have given up and gone home. We covered our faces from the cameras when we jumped the wall, but there’s sod all light there anyway. There’s no one around and we can’t be ID’d so what exactly are you worried about?’ Beth kept her voice calm, but there was a taut knot of excitement in her chest. She swept her torch over the picture at her feet. Her portrait of Dr Julian Salt, Frostfield High’s Head of Maths, was coming out well, better than she’d expected, especially for a rush job in the dark. She’d got his frowning eyebrows down perfectly, and the hollow cheeks and the opaque, threatening glasses. The weeds bursting through the tarmac added to the effect, looking like unkempt nasal hair.
In fairness, Beth had also given him necrotic peeling skin and a twelve-foot-long forked tongue, so she was obviously using some artistic licence, but still . . .
It’s unmistakably you, you shit. ‘Beth, look!’ Pen hissed, making Beth jump. ‘What?’
‘Up there—’ Pen pointed. ‘A light . . .’
Beth glanced up. One of the windows in the estate overlooking the school was glowing a soft, menacing orange. She exhaled irritably. ‘It’s probably just some old biddy going for a midnight wizz.’
‘We can be seen from there,’ Pen insisted.
‘Why would anyone even care?’ Beth muttered. She turned back to the picture. Everyone in year 12 at Frostfield knew she and Salt were enemies, but that was just the usual teacher-versus-student aggro, and it wasn’t why she was here. It was the way Salt treated Pen that demanded this retribution.
She didn’t know why, but he seemed to derive this vicious delight from humiliating her best friend. Salt had put Pen in maybe half the number of detentions he’d sentenced Beth to, but she was always like on the verge of tears when she came out of them. And in Monday’s maths lesson, when Pen had asked to go to the toilet, Salt had point-blank refused. He’d gone on talking about quadratic equations, but he hadn’t taken his eyes from Pen. There’d been this smile on his face as though he was daring her to defy him – as though he knew that she couldn’t. Pen’d kept her hand raised, but after a while her arm had started to shake. When she’d doubled-over with the pain of holding it in, Beth had dragged her bodily her from her chair and bundled her out of the room. As they ran down the corridor, they’d heard the laughter start.
Afterwards, standing behind the science block, Beth had asked, ‘Why didn’t you just leave? He couldn’t have stopped you, why not just walk out?’
Pen’s face was fixed in the clown-smile that meant she was panicking inside. ‘I just . . .’ She’d half swallowed the words, and kept her eyes fixed on her shoes. ‘I just thought every second that went by, if I could hold on just one more second, one more, it would be okay. And I wouldn’t have to . . . you know.’
Cross him. Beth had filled in the end of the sentence.
She’d hugged her friend close. Beth knew there was strength in Pen, she saw it every day, but it was a strength that withstood without ever resisting. Pen could soak up the blows but she never hit back.
It was then that Beth had decided that something needed to be done. And this – this was something.
She trained the beam of her torch onto the painting and the tension in her chest was replaced by a warm glow of satisfaction. A nightmare in neon, she thought. Ugly suits you, Doc.
‘Beth Bradley,’ Pen whispered. She still sounded scared, but this time she also sounded a little reverential. ‘You are a proper grade-A nutcase.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ Beth said, a smile creeping onto her face. ‘But I am really good—’
A high-pitched whine cut through the night: police sirens, fast approaching. Instinctively Beth dropped to a crouch and yanked her hood up over her short, messy hair.
‘Bloody hell,’ Pen whispered, her voice panicky, ‘I told you they’d seen us! They must have called it in – they probably think we’re here to steal something.’
‘Like what?’ Beth muttered back. ‘The canteen’s secret recipe for mouse-turd pie? It’s not like the school’s got anything worth nicking.’
Pen tugged Beth’s sleeve. ‘Whatever – we need to get out of here.’
Beth yanked her sleeve away and dropped to both knees, frantically adding extra shading to the jaw-line. This had to be just right.
‘B, we need to go!’ Pen was hopping from foot to foot in agitation. ‘Then go,’ Beth hissed. ‘I’m not going without you.’ Pen sounded offended. Beth didn’t look up. ‘Pen, if you don’t get running, and I mean right now, I’ll tell
Leon Butler it was you who Tipp-Exed that poem on his desk.’ There was a moment’s shocked silence, then, ‘Bitch,’ Pen breathed. ‘Leon, my lion, I would be all your pride. And not merely in it . . .’ Beth quoted in a
sing-song whisper. She couldn’t help grinning as Pen took off, swearing under her breath. Beth got her feet up under her, ready to run even while she drew. The sirens were
really close now. Waaaoooh— The whine soared once more, then cut off in mid-cycle. She heard car doors open and then slam. There was a rattling on the gates behind her. The school was locked up and the cops were climbing in just like she and Pen had. Beth sprayed colour into a fat cluster of warts under one eye.
The shout sent a jolt of fear down her spine. Gross enough, she thought. She stuffed her stencils and paints back into her rucksack, snapped off the torch and ran. Heavy boots thudded on the tarmac behind her, but she didn’t look back, there was no point in showing them her face. She sprinted with her head down, the wind rushing in her ears, praying that the police behind would be laden down with stab vests and truncheons, praying she’d be faster.
She looked up, and panic clutched at her gut. The cops were chasing her into a dead end. The highest wall in the school reared in front of her. It backed onto the dense tangle of scrub and trees around the train tracks: ten smooth, unclimbable feet of it. She drove her legs harder, trying desperately to build momentum, and jumped.
More extracts can be found at the blogs below during the next few days.