3rd and Final Extract from Dust to Dust

Remember the blurb of my book, which tells you that ‘law and order begin to break down’? Chapter Seven is where the fray begins:

He was ashamed to admit it to himself, but he felt a craving to see chaos and disorder. He wanted to see a fight. He had not been in one since he was about eleven years old. He used to work in the computer room at school. Two boys would switch off his terminal at the socket to disrupt his work. One afternoon one of the pair’s smug faces had wound him up a notch too far. Dan did not have a reputation as a fighter at school. He had the element of surprise, something he used to his full advantage as he punched his bully in the face. He landed a clean shot before being soundly beaten up in return. Unconsciously he rubbed his cheek as he remembered that episode. No, he told himself, he wanted to observe, not take part. He would fight in self-defence only. If anyone were to ask why he was there, he would say he was looking for Laura. He hadn’t heard from her. It was a plausible alibi if the police asked him anything. Besides, it wasn’t illegal to be outside. Decision made, he grabbed his coat, scarf and gloves and took the stairs two at a time. His heart was already beating fast as he put his hand on the door handle. His better judgment put up one last fight. It told him not to be a fool; not to risk being arrested or hurt. He took a deep breath, silenced it and stepped outside.

He walked for a few minutes. The streetlights bathed the roads in an orange glow. The light flickered. A rubbish container was on fire. The lid was open vertically and smoke was rising from it. He followed the smoke upwards with his eyes and noticed a neighbour staring at it from a first-floor window between some blinds. She made eye contact with him and let the blinds fall. His nose twitched as a foul smell of burning cardboard and vegetables reached his nostrils. He stepped over some spilled rubbish, hurried on and turned a corner. A former public toilet stood on a little concrete square. It was a popular spot for graffiti artists, who periodically repainted it with the latest cause or fashion to catch their attention. At that moment the streetlight illuminated an oblique map of Britain encircled with barbed wire, with ‘Olof’ stamped diagonally from Wales to Newcastle. Yells came from his left. Dan turned to find his first participants in the night’s disorder. A group of half a dozen young men squared up to two door staff of a bar. One of the group took a step forward into the bouncer’s personal space. He held his ground. Sensing easier targets, the men moved on out of sight around the corner. He followed them in defiance of his instincts, which were warning him of danger.

He was stunned into silence. He had found the war zone.

This is the last extract I’ll be publishing. The Amazon link is here.

Thank you to everyone who has bought it.

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2nd Extract from Dust to Dust

Here is the second of three extracts from Dust to Dust, this time from Chapter Three. The main focus of Chapter Three is to learn a little more about how Dust came to be and the nature of their main rival, Ordi.

At that moment Hadi joined them. He had come in without any of them noticing, holding a glass of lemonade. “Congratulations, everybody,” said the new arrival, raising his glass. “To Dust, and to all our successes for the future.” Everyone echoed his sentiments and drank. A moment later Hadi realised the rest of the team’s eyes were still on him. His English was prone to falter when he felt at the centre of attention. He scratched at the scar on his arm. It was a ring of circular marks. “It has also been a month or so since Laura joined us,” said Hadi. He gestured to Laura, sitting at his right, and she blushed. “In that time our app looks much better than it did before. I almost wasn’t going to speak at the talk. Rajiya was ill that day. But I had already promised to be there, so I went. I gave my usual speech about Dust. Afterwards this young woman came up to talk about it.” Laura’s cheeks turned redder. “She asked whether there was anything she could do. She could code and did some design work as well, she told me. I said we already had three developers, but that none of us were much good with design. I told her to send me her some examples of what she could do, and we are a better team for it.” He took a sip of his lemonade. “It should not need saying; but I am very proud of you all,” he continued. “My recruitment techniques are unusual, I am sure, but I would not change either one of you.” He paused again. “We all know where we are with Dust. But we must not forget why we are together, here. I started Dust because of the apps that were already on the market. There was Toko with its terrible security.”

“I remember the Topocalypse,” said Jacob casually. “My ex-girlfriend was one of the people whose photos and chat histories were leaked.”

“While you were going out with her?” asked Melissa.

Jacob smiled wryly and shook his head. Without realising it he had come uncomfortably close to a personal experience of Dan’s. Toko used to be the messaging app of choice in Britain. At its peak it had more than nine million users. Dan and his friends used it to use it at university to meet up, keep in touch on holiday and to distract each other in dull lectures. By the time he graduated in 2012 it was a fixture of the life of young people in Britain. That changed one evening when the chat histories of eighty million users worldwide were leaked online without warning. The hackers uploaded the files to a website with a search function to find your friends, enemies and lovers. American law enforcement closed it down swiftly, but not before a dozen imitations had sprung up elsewhere. Dan vividly remembered searching for himself in a panic. He frantically scanned the chat histories that featured the name of Dan Wallace. He was there, among some of his namesakes, but he could find nothing embarrassing or incriminating. The following day, he received a call from his sister. Sarah was distraught. He could barely make out her words as she sobbed that revealing photos and chat messages were up on the copycat websites from a previous relationship. He did not want to pry into his sister’s personal life but from what she was telling him he understood that she was still in touch with a former boyfriend while seeing someone else. By the time he saw his sister some weeks later she had straightened things out with her boyfriend. But that could not undo the hurt she felt at seeing some of her most intimate thoughts and expressions available for anyone to browse at their leisure. His sister was shy, and like him, had passed through school unsure of how to handle what little attention she received from the opposite sex. Sarah and Callum were now married and living in a village in Scotland. Friends described their marriage as idyllic and a fairytale. To him it felt rushed, as though his sister was so grateful that Callum did not leave her that she committed herself to him prematurely. Had her privacy not been violated, he was sure, she would have taken things more slowly.

The Amazon link is here.

1st Extract from Dust to Dust

Thank you to everyone who has bought my book so far.

For those of you who haven’t (yet), here is an extract from Chapter Two. We rejoin Dan at home and meet the rest of his colleagues:

First light caught him awake as it seeped through the blinds. He often woke early. The nights were dark in the Shropshire countryside of his childhood. From his flat on the third floor he could make out the constellations of Orion and the Plough on clear nights, but he had yet to adjust to the dull brown haze that encircled the city after the sun went down. Outside it looked to be the sort of grey skies that came every other day in spring.

“The Prime Minister is in Rochester today as the election campaign begins,” announced the radio presenter.

Dan sat up on the edge of his bed. He was just starting to get his flat the way he wanted it. He liked the exposed brickwork that ran down two sides of his flat. He liked the wooden floorboards with innumerable scratches that felt cool underneath his feet. On the brickwork hung prints of industrial Manchester and Salford. A desk stood in one corner by a window. Above it was a motorbike calendar and a picture of an American desert scene. It showed enormous rocks that towered over cacti that stood like thorny scarecrows in dusty red-brown fields. One day, he had long promised himself, he would ride a motorbike along one of those roads that runs in a straight line to the horizon. His mountain bike lay awkwardly in the corner: he felt uncomfortable leaving it locked up outside.

“With the election weeks away, the other party leaders are on the campaign trail. Tara Wilkinson is visiting a factory in Lancaster, while Oliver Shore is visiting a care home in Leicester.”

Dan wiped the mist off his bathroom mirror after his shower and ran hot water in the sink. His brown eyes stared back at him. Crow’s feet were sinking more deeply into the tight skin around his eyes. They were a reminder that he was getting older. He had recently turned twenty-seven years old. He had probably less than twelve months of mileage from the term ‘mid-twenties’. The small chicken pox scar above his left eyebrow had been with him as long as he could remember. His face was supported by a strong jaw with a beard a shade darker of brown than his hair. He removed the stubble from his cheeks and chin and hurriedly threw on a red T-shirt, jeans, faded trainers and his hoodie that he retrieved from the floor. The streets were quiet outside. The graffitied shutters of the cafés and shops were still pulled down. The early buses had the roads to themselves. After a brisk ten minute walk the handsome building that housed the Dust offices came into view. The former warehouse was built in that self-confident Victorian style that assumed the building was going to stand forever. The frames of the rows of arched windows were painted dark green. They were ringed by darkened yellow bricks, standing out from the red that had once built the entire city. The name of the original occupant was emblazoned in the middle of an oval plaque – J. T. Archer & Son, 1895. The Archers had long since left: the only other company in the building was a trendy architectural firm on the third floor. Dan pressed the code to get in and took the ancient lift with its iron grille to floor above. The stale air in the Dust corridor did no favours to his lungs. His feet echoed on the tiles as he crossed to the door.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Dan, finding the rest of the team already working.

“Sit down Dan, don’t worry about it,” replied Hadi.

It sounded as though his boss was in a good mood. Hadi Ghazzali was not an easy man to read. His accent, distinct as it was, had a way of disguising feeling, and he was not a man prone to swings of emotion.

“We are close to one hundred thousand users,” said his boss. Hadi was a stocky, muscular man. He wore his tight-fitting T-shirt, black jeans and boots like a military uniform. He appeared to live his life according to a similar sort of discipline. That at least was Dan’s impression – his boss rarely disclosed details of his life beyond work. Hadi was older than him, older than the rest of the team in fact, but he had the enthusiasm and drive of a much younger man. His age only showed in the flecks of grey that were beginning to collect above his ears. His eyes remained jet-black, soulful and pensive.

The Amazon link is here.