Trouble and Treasure Chapter One

There was a noise coming from downstairs; from somewhere around the vicinity of the front door I heard a scratching.

It was subtle at first – the light touch of an object brushing against the grain of the wood.

I rolled over, sending a dusty, dog-eared velvet pillow tumbling off the bed and onto the equally dog-eared carpet below.

I closed my eyes, intent on going back to sleep. The noise, however, didn’t stop, and this damn house was so large that even the tiniest sound was magnified like a trumpet as it echoed through these empty dusty halls.

It was probably some unusually persistent woodland creature, I decided, and rolled over again.

A badger maybe, a squirrel? Some lonely puppy dog that’d bolted from one of the near-by country estates only to find life in the rolling woods not nearly as fine as life in the manor?

“Oh, fine then.” I grumbled, pushing the covers off with a great harrumph. If whatever was scratching at my door was so damn intent on ruining the woodwork, I'd give it a piece of my mind.

I thundered down the stairs, tying the cords of my thick dressing gown around my middle.

“I hear you. I hear you,” I mumbled under my breath, “Keep your damn tail on.”

I reached for the handle.

I opened the door.

I didn't see the enterprising woodland creature I expected.

I froze. My stomach sucked in with a tension-filled, electric charge as my eyes widened at the sight before me.

A gun. It was a gun. There was a man with a gun on my doorstep, and the gun was pointed right at me.

The sudden shock spread across my body, sinking hard into my legs and hands.

Every part of me screamed out to run, but the surprise nailed me to the spot.

The man was large and wearing a dark black leather jacket, leather gloves, and a black woolen balaclava.

“Get in,” he rumbled, sounding like a rasp grating over wood. “Scream or try to run, and you're fucking dead.”

I shook, the ties of my bathrobe banging into my knees.

I couldn't think. I couldn't move. All I could feel was nervous tension pressing against my body like a balloon ready to pop.

“Get in,” he repeated, tone so deadly it sounded like the gun was for show. From his sheer size and intense menace, this guy looked like more of a threat than anything old me, Amanda Stanton, in her lumpy old bathrobe could muster.

“D... d... don't kill me,” I whimpered.

The guy replied by using his free hand to shove me back from the door. He pulled the door to behind him with a poignant, careful silence.

My breath filled my awareness as I battled for air. Oh god, oh god, oh god.

He looked around the place, then fixed his gaze on me. “Take me to the goods.”

I stared at him in horror.

Goods?

Did he think I was a drug dealer or some country-living weapons stockist?

“I... I don't know—”

“The fucking antiques, lady – where are they?” He shoved me, pushing me further down the hallway.

He apparently didn't think the antiques, or ‘goods,’ could be in the hallway – perhaps where he came from all 'goods' were kept in basements or attics or in the back of your sedan right next to the bodies....

That thought chilled me through. It seemed my body had turned to the fragile snow that settles above drifts – the kind that can be blown away only to melt in the warmth of a breath.

The antiques, I tried to repeat to myself. The antiques. He's after the antiques.... Which ones? I couldn't stop, turn, and politely enquire whether he was after some ‘30s-era tins or a complete collection of hippie magazines from the ‘60s, could I? This old house was chock full of antiques.

This guy could be after anything, and he wasn't about to play nice and rational to get it.

I sucked in a breath, trying hard to stop myself from hyperventilating. I had to calm down. There was a man in my house with a gun and he was after antiques.

Give him the correct antiques and he goes away, right? In which case, he could have all the freaking antiques, because we were having a special sale for violent armed burglars today. “Take it all,” I pushed the words out, proud I'd managed it in one go.

Slowly, painfully, I was pulling myself together. My legs were wobbling less as he pushed me down the hallway, and the ringing heartbeat in my ears pulsed into a steady white noise.

He shoved me in the back with his gun. “No games.”

Well at least that ruled out the collector's-edition board games I'd unearthed the other day, a trite (but situation-inappropriate) part of my mind concluded.

As the man pushed me towards the darkened library at the end of the hall, another wave of fear broke against me, and my feet tingled with the undeniable urge to run.

My eyes darted to the side as we passed the ornate dresser I'd polished only that morning; it still had the spanner I'd picked up out of the garden shed sitting there. It was well within reach.

I briefly flirted with the idea of grabbing it up and clocking the guy with it – but rationality caught up with me and pointed out that would be a great way of getting shot/and or punched so hard my teeth ended up in China.

I heard something off to my left: a soft thud and a short scrabble. Perhaps it was those woodland creatures I'd dreamed up earlier deciding to try their own paws at breaking and entering.

Join the party.

The scrabbling turned into a tinkling as a window broke in the library before us.

The burglar froze; he obviously didn't think it was a vandalizing bunny rabbit in there.

“Shit,” he said, as quiet as a single drop of water on glass. He grabbed a hand around the top of my chest and thrust me to the side, out of the view of the open library door.

The sudden contact and press of his large bulky arm squeezing into my throat sent such a race of adrenaline barreling through me that I jolted hard.

The abstract concept of the gun at my back had turned into the undeniable reality of an arm closed tightly around my neck.

Desperation kicked through my immobility.

I screamed. I drove my foot into the guy's knee and twisted to the side.

That's when three guys with guns burst from the darkened library. These guys weren't of the leather-jacket, home-burglar variety either. They looked like those SWAT teams I'd seen on TV: machine guns, goggles, helmets, a variety of straps and pockets, and stances that had the undeniable menace of training.

I noticed the men, noticed their guns, noticed that they’d sprung from my library... and I cracked. It tipped me over the edge.

I grabbed the spanner – the one on the dresser, the one still within reach – and I swung it behind me.

It connected with the guy's nose in a haphazard fashion, but there was a definite and welcome cracking sound.

He dropped his gun, his arm slackening around my throat. I ducked down, dropping to my hands and scrabbling to the side like some crazed crab in a scruffy dressing gown.

About a second later, there was a thump as the SWAT guys tasered the burglar with all the speed and efficiency of, well, SWAT guys.

The burglar's body jolted from the sudden violent rush of electricity, and he fell to the floor with a thud that shook the lamp shades above.

He was down. His gun was gone. He was unconscious.

I sat on the ground, back pressed against the wall several meters from the prone man, staring at the scene. The shock and surprise of the situation – and the harrowing, unpredictable, relentless pace with which it had unfolded – had reduced me to a simple pair of eyes backed up by a spluttering, panting breath.

But it was okay now; it was over. The cavalry had come.

I stared up at the three men in my hallway. One leaned down and grabbed the blaggard's gun, another peeling off to check the burglar, and the other... he stood there and stared down at me.

This was the point – TV had taught me – where gallant police officers should be saying “It's alright ma'am; everything is okay.”

Silence.

The guy took several steps towards me, leaned down onto his knees, and rubbed the back of his hand across his chin.

The hair on my arms spiked.

Something wasn't right.

“Where are the artifacts?” the guy asked – voice toneless.

Oh – my – god.

I didn't answer; I stared at the guy in shock.

He looked back. “Take us to the artifacts,” his voice didn't change in pitch; there was no emotion there, only a mechanical ease.

He didn't stand up. He waited.

Again?

I blinked, shook my head, and felt the press of tears welling in my eyes. This was all too much. Getting free from a burglar intent on stealing my goods, only to run into a trained team of mercenaries (because they sure as hell weren't the police) after my more sophisticatedly-named 'artifacts.’

What on earth were these people after?

He motioned me up with a flick of his hand. “Up.”

I didn't want to get up. I wanted to curl into a ball and wake up. This was all so sudden and so unpleasantly, pressingly real.

“Artifacts,” he repeated the single word. He spoke with the right amount of force behind his tone to let me know he didn't need to threaten me. He was a mercenary with two mercenary buddies and a couple of machine guns; I was a puddle of adrenaline fatigue and bathrobe. He would win.

I silently pushed to my feet. “Take everything you want,” I said through a clenched jaw. “I don't know what you're after. Just take everything.”

One of the other mercenaries held up a hand to his ear. His face stretched with a controlled but recognizable tension. He made a fancy gesture to the leader.

“Move,” he said to me. For the first time emotion curled through his voice. It was bitter and sharp like vinegar to a wound.

A mix of fear, tears, bravado and gut-wrenching frustration came upon me all at once, as if every possible emotional reaction to this situation coalesced into a tight lump in my gut.

The emotion swelled, and with it a determination settled over me. It was sharp, it was sudden, and I went with it.

“Go to hell,” I spat, “Get your own damn artifacts.”

Before the lead guy could shoot me for being a bolshie hostage, I realized where I was standing.

Quick as I could I rammed myself backwards into the wall, and right into the light switch.

The hallway lights went out with a click.

I was still holding my spanner. I swung it before me in an arc as I pushed off the wall and ran to the side, heading straight for the darkened room before me.

It was one of the large drawing rooms, and from memory there was a giant mound of dog-eared magazines by the door. I ducked to the side, legs scraping along the edge of the papers, but not enough to trip me up.

I knew the men were right behind me; I could hear their quiet racing steps.

I twisted left and headed for the far end of the room, narrowly edging by the giant oak table scattered with old photos and torn newspaper clippings.

I heard a thud from the door as one of the mercenaries collected the pile of magazines. There was another thud as one of them ran right into the table.

Perhaps they weren't used to navigating cluttered terrain; your average bad-guy-for-hire probably only had to put up with alleyways and abandoned warehouses.

Or perhaps it had only been luck, because seconds later I felt a hand snake out from the darkness and collect around my arm, pulling me backward with a snapped force.

I gave a strangled, puffed scream before the same hand managed to clamp around my mouth.

Terror engulfed me. It started in the back of my head, and like a powerful blizzard, burst forth and froze every inch of me.

This was it, I realized. This was it.

The light flickered on.

The three mercenaries were on the other side of the room; one picking himself up from the toppled mound of papers, another nursing his leg near the edge of the massive table, and the last one – the leader – by the light switch.

If all three were before me... that meant....

The mercenaries raised their guns, and my captor raised his.

“This is our find,” the mercenary leader said, voice toneless.

This was my house, I wanted to shout back. Well, technically my dead great-uncle's house, but whatever.

The guy with his hand over my mouth didn't reply. He kept the heavy-looking gun in his other hand steady and pointed it at the mercenaries.

“Who sent you?” the mercenary leader asked. “Shaw? Romeo? The Americans? The Brits?”

I didn't follow a word. Why would the Americans and British – or this Shaw and Romeo, for that matter – send bad guys to my house? For these mysterious artifacts? Or did this select group (including entire freaking countries, apparently) have it in for me?

The guy who held me didn't respond – just kept his grip and his gun steady.

The mercenary leader shook his head. “Kill them; we can find it ourselves.”

Ah....

My captor shot first.

With movements quicker than I could follow, he shot both pile-o-magazine-tripping mercenary and table-knocking mercenary right in their firing shoulders. He hauled me to the side, shot out the light above us, and narrowly missed a volley from the mercenary leader.

Just like that. It all happened in the blink of an eye, I swear.

I had a second to process it all before I tumbled head-first into a pile of soft magazines.

I heard another shot ring out.

There was a thud.

Then there was another thud as I slipped off the magazines and ended up as a puddle of worn-out fear and dusty bathrobe on the floor.

I waited there, lying face-first on the musty carpet. I was spent.

There was quick footfall beside me. I flinched, not knowing what to expect.

I wasn't wrenched to my feet, choked, and told to “Go and get the collector's items.”

Instead the man offered two short words: “Stay here.”

He moved off into the dark room to check the rival bad guys were down.

Stay here. The words echoed in my mind with an eerie hollowness.

It took me a moment – in which I heard my captor shove the prone bodies of the mercenaries – then I decided 'staying here' wasn’t something I wanted to do. Here was too full of bad guys, guns, and dust to be healthy.

I scrambled to my feet. Though I still felt the fear, the realization I had to get out of this place pumped through my body along with every last drop of adrenaline I had left.

Despite the shock, my eyes were adjusting to the darkness. Plus, over the weeks I'd memorized all the box-filled death traps in this house.

Still on my hands and knees, I crawled under the table. From there I could crawl to the opposite side of the room and through a different door that led back to the hallway. Once there I'd run like crazy and get the hell out of here.

A plan.

Now for action. I scampered with a fiendish frenzy. Though the room was still dark, my eyes were adjusting and there was a silvery light filtering through the moth holes in the curtains. It had a dappling effect on the darkened room, offering the barest illumination to guess where I was headed and nothing more.

I crawled, the pound of my heart beating violently in my throat. Though my nerves were still fraught, I was glad of the action.

I made it under the table as I heard a soft grunt from the other side of the room. Through a streak of light I made out the rough, scuffed surface of a boot. It belonged to my most recent captor; the man whose hands smelt of fine coffee and expensive French cologne. That, or it belonged to yet another new-comer intent on illegally and violently extracting the location of the 'historical products' or 'items of interest' out of me.

I continued to crawl underneath the table. I headed to the far right corner.

When I'd first come into this room, this giant oak table had sat roughly in the middle with a most excellent view of the windows beyond. This also made it a most excellent tripping hazard considering the boxes that lined every wall and the magazines strewn across every centimeter of the floor.

I'd pushed the table to the side, right against the wall. Right on that wall was a second door to the room. At the time I’d figured it hadn't mattered whether I partially blocked off one door; now it could save me. If I’d left enough room to open the door and squeeze through the gap, I'd be out of this room (hopefully) before Mr Coffee-and-Cologne-Hands noticed. I would run like the wind in any direction (probably the nearby road, on the off chance that some passing car wasn't filled with hoons and goons on their way to threaten and rob me).

I made it to the space between the door and the table, and managed to stand up in the gap. I lightly turned the door handle.

There was the softest of squeaks as the aged mechanism rolled in my hand. I agonized over the sound with a throbbing, chest-aching fear. It didn't stop me from squeezing through the gap and out into the cold corridor beyond.

The moment my bare feet hit the once-plush Persian runner, a shot of sharp, bitter fear rushed over me. It pushed me forward.

I reached the front door and wrenched it open.

“Don't,” a deep, resounding voice rumbled from behind.

It lit the final powder leading to my keg of panic, and I bolted. My feet hit the uneven cobblestones outside the door with a frantic slap, slap, slap.

My naked feet reached the rough stones of the turning circle. I didn’t care about the sharp, jagged edges lacerating my tender flesh. I ran. I ran; I was being chased.

I could hear him behind me, hear the measured pant of his breath, hear the measured beat of his footfall.

The panic rose to a level I’d never ever experienced. Opening the door to a leather-clad burglar was one thing; having an evil SWAT team burst out of my library was another; and having a hand scented with coffee and cologne clamp around my mouth in a darkened drawing room was something again. Yet being chased so silently and efficiently from behind was so much more.

I screamed as he caught up to me. That old mammalian part of me that didn't want to die gave one last, gut-wrenching, lung-punching cry before it was all over.

“Jesus Christ, calm down,” came the barely-puffed voice of the man. He was right behind me.

Calm down? Why? It was easier to steal antiques from people who were stoic and silent?

I put on another burst of speed and managed to peel away from the guy.

I promptly fell into a hole.

I fell heavily. Maybe I sprained something, maybe I even broke something.

It didn’t matter.

The scent of damp grass filled my nostrils and the sound of someone leaning right next to me rang through my ears.

“Listen to me,” he said, voice quick but clear, “I'm not here to hurt you. I saved you.”

Like hell he did; he broke into my drawing room and shot out my light.

“If you don't believe me, then here, take this.”

Something metal was pressed into my upturned left palm.

It felt like the butt of a gun. It was heavy and had a weight that offered unbelievable reassurance.

Had the guy handed me a gun?

I let my grip stiffen around it, and I pushed off the ground. There was a dull pain in my right ankle, but I managed to look past it. Instead I looked right at the guy standing a respectable almost non-threatening distance from me.

He had his hands up and his fingers spread in classic I'm-not-armed fashion.

Through the pale moonlight I could see his expression. It wasn’t leering; I couldn't see the glint of his teeth as his lips puckered to reveal a criminal sneer. It looked calm and aware.

I sat on the grass, gun held awkwardly but nevertheless tensely in one hand. I stared at him. I stared at the dark shadows that obscured most of his face and the even darker shadow his tall, broad form cast against the grass.

The guy had handed me his gun. Mr Coffee-and-Cologne-Hands had armed me.

Was it a gesture of trust or some bad-guy game? Would he wait for me to say something brave, then giggle, pull out his own bigger gun, shoot me, and shout “Puuuuuuunked” in a drawn out, nasal tone?

He didn't move his hands. He kept them up, still, and where I could see them.

“Are we going to do this all night?” he asked. “It's just I can't guarantee no one else is coming.”

“What do you mean? There are more? Who were they? Who are you? What's going on here? Why did you give me your gun?”

As I asked my questions, the man brought one finger down for each. Though in an ordinary, non-bad-guy-filled scenario such a move would have seemed innocent, the moving fingers reminded me of a countdown.

“Don't do that. What are you doing?” I asked, tension pulsing through my voice as my hands trembled around the gun.

“Keeping track of your questions,” he answered easily. “Now what do I mean? I mean that you aren't safe here. I can't guarantee there aren't more guys out there. Indeed, it’s a safe bet there are. What was the next question? Who are they? That depends: some of them are petty criminals hired on a whim by people who either can't afford or are too stingy and stupid to hire real mercenaries. The rest range from ex-servicemen with debts to pay to bankrolled killers.”

The term bankrolled killers sent such a shiver down my spine I almost dropped the gun.

It didn't help that a wind was picking up, shaking the branches of the nearby oak trees and pressing through my sodden pant legs making the flesh underneath prickle and quiver.

“What was next?” the guy continued in a quick tone, keen to finish all the questions as soon as he could. “Oh yeah – who am I? We've met before. Sebastian Shaw.”

A tremble of recognition passed through me. I recognized the voice and that subtle mix of coffee and cologne. It was the man from the auction house; that persistent, dogged, hunkasaurus who seemed unusually interested in my spotting globe.

Now he was here, standing on my lawn, handing me guns, and shoving me to the side as he shot so-called bankrolled killers.

“You remember me?” he asked carefully, possibly realizing that a single name to a frazzled woman might not get him far. “We met at the—”

“Auction house,” I supplied in a quiet monotone.

“Yeah,” he said, and forgive me if it sounded almost caring. “Two more questions, right?” he continued. “I'll start with the last one first.” He still had his hands in the air, and he still wasn't moving a muscle in my direction. “I gave you my gun so you could trust me; it's one thing asking a panicked woman to trust you when you're holding the gun, but it's something else if you give the gun to her, right?”

He seemed to want my confirmation, but I was stuck on the term panicked woman. Despite the fact I clearly fit that category it rallied my pride. “Hurry up and get to the bit where you tell me what's going on.”

“I'm afraid we don't have time for a full version,” he said, cautiously looking over his shoulder at the long driveway that circled down to the road below.

There was a low thumping of an engine running somewhere down the hill. It could be a farmer doing some late-night mowing or another car-full of bad guys ready to do some people mowing instead.

As he moved his face towards the noise, I could see his sharp brow crinkle and press over his eyes. It was Shaw, I realized. The build, the stature, the face, the voice. Apparently Shaw was more than a lawyer/antiques dealer. That, or he had a natural talent for putting down bad guys.

I saw the dips and ridges of his tensed neck muscles as he arched his head further towards the sound. He didn't turn his body fully, and he kept his hands where I could see them. “We might want to get out of here,” he said in a low tone.

“I don't trust you yet,” I said, “So don't you move.”

He turned his head back to me, but apart from that, stayed as still as a tree trunk.

“You tell me what’s going on, then I'm going back into the house to call the police. No,” I corrected, “We are going back into the house.” I kept the gun pointed at him.

I realized I wasn't offering much incentive to play along – tell me your story and I'll arrange for the boys in blue to put you behind bars.

But I had a gun, and guns offer real currency in otherwise-shitty deals.

He sighed. I could tell with every second he was paying less and less attention to me and my inexpertly-held gun, and far more attention to the ever-growing putt-putt of the engine echoing through the valley.

“Short version,” his tone was clipped, “That globe you put up for auction isn't an ordinary antique. It has a treasure map on it. It's also part of a set – a set you said you own. Combined, that set is a map to the greatest treasure humankind has ever imagined.”

My jaw could have dropped off at that. “Treasure map?”

“Treasure map,” he repeated easily. “You don't have to believe me. But do believe this: the men in there,” he shrugged towards the house, “Aren't here for tea and biscuits.”

I sniffed, feeling the weight of the gun in my hand as if it were the only solid thing left in the world.

“I'm going to call the police,” I rasped.

“They won't get here in time,” he said, tone dropping a notch or two.

The fine hair along the back of my neck stood on end. The sound of the engine came closer and closer.

Down by the edge of the property I heard the crunch of tires against gravel.

“Find somewhere to hide.” Shaw stared straight at me, relaxing his arms and dropping them to his side. He didn't take one look at my gun as he moved back and turned towards the driveway below us.

“D-don't move,” I tried.

He responded by reaching into his pocket then throwing a set of keys right at me.

The keys bounced off my chest, falling to the soft grass below.

“My car is parked in the laneway.” He pointed across the field in the direction of town. “It's by a grove of oaks, right next to a bridge.”

Though I knew the place, I didn’t make a move for the keys.

“Lock yourself in or drive away – your choice.” He reached behind him and pulled something from the back of his pants.

It was a gun. Another gun, apparently.

I had a gun and he had a gun – the odds were back to being utterly against me; he was trained, and I was a whimpering mess.

“Go, Amanda, get out of here,” he encouraged with a sharp flap of his free hand.

I remained where I was, gun still held before me, eyes wide.

Too fast, everything was happening too fast.

The car came into view at the top of the incline, though it wasn't a car – it was a big black van.

“Run,” Shaw snapped, flattening himself as he raised his gun at the approaching vehicle.

Run?

At night, with bare feet, in a pink dressing gown, while every mercenary and burglar in the district wanted to steal my antiques?

“Or stand right there and advertise our position; that's a great way to get yourself shot.” Shaw half turned to me, though his eyes were still focused on the van, and he waved me down with an emphatic pat of his free hand.

I watched the hand flap in the darkness, the light rays of the moon glinting off some ring on his middle finger.

“G-e-t d-o-w-n,” Shaw spat again. Obviously fed up at me standing there all dithery and overcome, he snapped up and pushed me over with all the finesse and kindness of a play-ground bully.

I yelped, tumbled over, and came to rest face-first in the damp grass.

A scream of protest came to my lips, but the crunch of the van's tires became all the sharper. Judging by the clarity of the sound, it wasn't far away. Fifteen meters maybe, possibly ten.

Lying on the ground, immobile, and face-first – again – gave me time to process what was going on here. Very soon this Shaw character was either going to shoot the occupants of that van, be shot by the occupants of the van, or throw up his hands and join their evil order – turning around to capture and torture me.

I was exquisitely aware, as the crunch of dirt and stone under wheels filled the night air, of how slippery and sweaty my palms had become.

I blinked my eyes once, then screwed them shut against the outside world and all the apparent gun-toting misery it had to offer this night.

There was a single gunshot. Though I’d been expecting it, my stomach gave such a jolt it felt as if it would jump right out of my middle.

As my skin flamed and prickled with the expectation of a full-on gun fight, a massive beam of light cut over the lawn.

No, my first thought wasn't aliens (well, maybe for a nanosecond).

The sound of a chopper's rotors slicing through the night's breeze sounded from above.

“We have you surrounded,” a determined, guttural voice crackled over a loud speaker, “Stay in your vehicle. Any attempt at violence will be met with swift retaliation.”

Over the ear splitting sound of the chopper, I couldn't hear whether the van was doing what it was told. So, with an almighty sniff, I raised myself up and took a peek.

The chopper above was hovering low – so low that the downward stream of the rotors not only flattened my hair but threatened to flatten my body as well.

The black van had indeed stopped. Despite the phenomenal force of the downward draft, I stared up at the chopper above. Not only was it large and sleek, but it had two prominent gun turrets either side of its nose.

Gun turrets.

A helicopter with actual gun turrets.

That point ricocheted around my head with all the force and speed of a bullet. The mercenaries and burglars had been one thing – but this was something else entirely. The great hulk of metal that hovered above my turning circle was something that belonged in a war – not on a country estate.

Somehow this situation had taken a turn towards even greater danger and peril; and yes, I was still in my dressing gown.

“About bloody time,” Shaw managed to shout over the roar of the helicopter.

As the words left his mouth, several black-clad figures leapt from the open doors of the chopper and rappelled down, landing either side of the van.

They had very large guns.

With my hair still flattened against my face and my eyes blinking hard to stay open, I watched, bottom lip quivering.

Then... then I pushed up, feet sinking into the damp soft grass.

The spotlight from the helicopter was centered directly over the van.

I stepped backwards, receding further into the darkness beyond this fraught scene.

The men from the helicopter shouted various threatening orders at the occupants of the van. Though I couldn’t make out the exact words over the sound of the rotors above, I could bet they weren't asking for directions.

I took several steps backwards, feet gently pressing into the firm ground behind.

I turned.

I ran.

I ran because there was a helicopter on my lawn, there were mercenaries in my drawing room, and there was a burglar in my hall.

Keys jingling in my hand, gun immobile in the other, I made it to the house before anyone knew I was gone.


The rest of Trouble and Treasure is available from most ebook retailers.