Tuesday 7 May 2019

BLOG TOUR ~ Breakers by Doug Johnstone

Hi Everyone,

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for Breakers by Doug Johnstone where I have an extract from his latest novel. I was thrilled to be asked by Anne Cater from Random Things Tours who organised this tour in conjunction with Orenda Books to take part along with some other fab book bloggers. You can find out who else is taking part in this fabulous Blog Tour at the end of this extract so without further ado, here it is:

The trick was confidence. You can get away with anything if you act like you know what you’re doing. That’s how the elite did it, the poli- ticians, army officers, Oxbridge guys running banks and companies, just act as if you’re entitled to the world and people go along with it. Tyler had heard about a scam two guys from school ran on a slice of waste ground between tenements off King Stables Road. They stole hi-vis jackets and charged a fiver a go for parking. Ran it every day for weeks over the summer, right in the centre of Edinburgh, and made thousands. Never got caught.
Barry and Kelly were buzzing up ahead. Tyler rolled his neck and tried to stay loose behind them. Barry went straight up to the front door and rang the doorbell. They were already pretty sure no one was home, but just in case. One time they’d done this, got no answer, then gone round the back. Saw a middle-aged couple hard at it, fucking each other’s brains out on the kitchen floor.
Barry didn’t look through any of the front windows, too suspicious. Instead he led the way round the side of the house, down the dark pas- sageway, past recycling boxes and into the back garden. Tried the back door, locked. The windows likewise. A quick look under plant pots and bins for a spare key. Nothing.
They turned their attention to the garden, walked towards the shed at the bottom. Barry twitched as he went, Kelly wiping her nose on her sleeve. Tyler looked around. Neat lawn, cherry-blossom and crab-apple trees along the left-hand wall, sheltering them from the neighbours’ upstairs windows. Perfect. On the other side were some rose beds in front of a six-foot stone wall with shards of broken glass cemented along the top. What use was that if you could just walk round from the front? People didn’t think about security.
 The shed had a small padlock on it but the wood was old. Barry lifted his boot and kicked it, and the metal plate peeled away from the plank beneath. One more kick and it was splintered, the door sagging open to meet them.
Barry put on leather gloves and went into the shed, then signalled for Tyler to close the door behind him. Tyler put on his own gloves and saw the light from Barry’s torch slip through the cracks between the wooden panels. A minute later Barry came out carrying a pair of secateurs with long telescopic handles. Everyone had these for pruning trees, perfect for jimmying a back door.
Barry pushed past Kelly to the back of the house. Wedged the seca- teurs’ blade between door and jamb at the level of the lock. He heaved it forwards and back, bending and tearing the uPVC around the lock, making a gap. He kept going a few times, the door creaking with each exertion.
Tyler heard something and looked around. He put a hand on Barry’s arm. Barry flinched and almost punched him. Tyler tugged at his earlobe and all three of them listened. The sound of a car far away, wind rustling in the cherry blossoms. Then a hiss.
Tyler turned to face the sound. A black cat high on the wall between this garden and next door, staring down at them. It had four white paws like it had stepped in paint, and they glowed in the gloom. Weren’t black cats meant to be lucky? Tyler put his hand out and made a beckoning sound between his tongue and teeth, but Kelly took a step towards it and lunged, making it leap down into the other garden. 
Barry removed the secateurs and handed them to Tyler, then threw his shoulder against the door. It shook but stayed solid. Again, same result. Barry tutted under his breath and tried again. The door bent in the middle but only a little. A decent deadbolt, most likely with five bolts into the frame up and down the door. Probably hooked too. It wouldn’t give. Modern doors like this were becoming more common, but around here you still sometimes got the old plastic ones with a single bolt, or even original wooden doors that you could almost blow open.
 Barry turned to the kitchen window. It was one large pane with two smaller hinged fanlights along the top. He took the secateurs from Tyler and thrust them into the point below the window lock. Pushed the handles and it popped first time. No one ever reinforced fanlights, they were always a weak point. Half the time they weren’t even locked.
Barry dropped the secateurs as Kelly lifted a black wheelie bin over, careful not to drag it and make a sound. Barry helped Tyler onto the bin then held it steady with both hands. Tyler pushed the small window open as far as it would go then gripped the open ledge and pulled himself through the gap headfirst. He was midway, his weight balanced half inside the kitchen, half outside. Kelly reached out and gave the soles of his trainers a shove and he slid forward, hands out. He was skinny but his hips stuck in the window frame. Kelly gave another shove. He was over the kitchen sink, his hands near the draining board, and he wriggled his jeans against the lip of the open window, squeez- ing one hip sideways then the other. He slipped the last few inches, braced his hands against the draining board, swivelled his legs sideways through the gap and flopped onto his hands and knees next to the sink.
He paused for a second assessing his body, listening for noise inside the house. He’d done this dozens of times but his heart still throbbed in his ribcage, the pulse like a message in his ears. He scooted onto his bum then jumped down into the kitchen. He was lithe and flexible but he still wished he had a cat’s body, the ability to slip gracefully through the world. He looked around. Marble worktops, brushed chrome hob and oven, long oak breakfast bar. They’d spent their money on that rather than security.
He went to the back door. Sometimes they left the key in the door, but not this time. He had a quick look round, found a spare set on a shelf next to some hardback cookbooks, faces he recognised from television.
He put the key in the lock. It was stiff because of the damage Barry had done from outside but it turned with a jiggle.
He opened the door.
‘Good work,’ Barry said, coming inside, Kelly trailing after.
He raised his eyebrows at Tyler and tilted his head, meaning upstairs.
'The usual,’ he said.
Tyler ran upstairs. It was good to be away from the other two. He did a quick tour of the rooms, three bedrooms, a bathroom and an office. No one home. Always best to check, you never knew if someone had gone to bed early, taken something, slept through the doorbell.
The d├ęcor was old-fashioned, a retired couple maybe, kids grown up and left home. That was common, not many younger people could afford places like this.
Tyler stood in the hall for a moment, collecting himself. Soaking up the atmosphere, imagining the people, the lives they lived here. What was it like to be them? Worked in a bank or office all their lives, kids at university now, time to enjoy the garden.
In the master bedroom he went into the linen closet, pulled out a couple of pillowcases. There was a dresser with a mirror, a few jewellery boxes and trinkets. He swept it all into a pillowcase. Tried the drawers, more jewellery, mostly costume but some nice silver and gold. You could accumulate a lot of stuff over a lifetime.
He had a quick look through a chest of drawers, in case valuable stuff was hidden underneath pants or socks, but nothing. He checked bedside tables. Scottish crime novels on her side, books about military history on his. A half-empty packet of Viagra in his drawer.
He did the office next. Shelves lined with hardback books, classics mostly. A laptop and an iPad on the solid desk. He scooped them into the pillowcase. Checked through the desk drawers and lifted out power supplies and charging cables, bundled them up. He looked around. A bottle of expensive whisky, two crystal glasses, a water jug. An old record player and some shelves of vinyl, classical and jazz. Nothing portable.
In the bathroom he lifted two bottles from the cupboard, temaze- pam and morphine. Barry would want them. He looked at the toiletries and thought if they needed anything at home. Threw the Colgate and Radox in the pillowcase.
The other two bedrooms were mostly empty. Tyler had been right, grown-up kids had moved away. In the back bedroom he found an old Nintendo DS and games, pocketed them. Spotted the charger and took that too. Sometimes you got PlayStations or Xboxes, but not here. In the other bedroom he found an old Polaroid camera with two packets of unused film. He couldn’t sell it but he took it anyway. Maybe Bean would like it.
He was done and downstairs in a few minutes.
When he walked into the living room Barry had his cock out and was pissing on a sofa, Kelly watching and smiling.
‘Fuck’s sake,’ Tyler said.

This wasn’t the first time, Barry had been pushing things recently. ‘Anything good?’ Barry said, zipping up.

The smell of piss snagged at Tyler’s nostrils. He stared at Barry for
a moment before answering. ‘Laptop and iPad, some necklaces and rings.’
Barry had a DVD player, another laptop and some other stuff in a tote bag. Kelly waved some money she’d found in a drawer and a pair of expensive headphones.
Tyler looked around. More bookshelves, they were big readers. A couple of original paintings on the wall, abstract things, pastel shapes that didn’t make sense. Dark leather sofas, pictures of the kids on the mantelpiece, a phrenology head on display. Classy people living quiet lives. He wondered how they would take this.
‘Come on,’ Barry said.

They went back through to the kitchen.

Barry stopped at a bowl in the middle of the breakfast bar and rum-
maged through it. Loose change, golf balls, a calculator, stained corks from wine bottles.
‘Fuck, no car key.’
Barry looked around the kitchen and Tyler followed his gaze. A set of flashy knives in a block, copper pans hanging up, a huge fridge- freezer. He thought about what they had to eat at home.
Barry took one of the knives from the block and dropped it in the middle of the floor with a clatter that was shocking. A warning to the owners. He went out the back door. Kelly smiled at Tyler and followed. Tyler took a last look round and left the house. 

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