Comfort Zone: A Standalone Suspense Thriller is my latest release and it’s on pre-order right now. You can grab it here on Amazon.
Comfort Zone: A Standalone Suspense Thriller
“What can possibly go wrong? It’s just a parlour game, right?”
As a working class, down to earth Northerner, Phil Mercer has spent many of his fourteen years as a barrister questioning why so-called university friends failed to help him establish a practice at London’s Criminal Bar.
Despite that and colleagues’ professional jealousy, he goes on to achieve success as a fearless defender of society’s less fortunate until his career is threatened by events triggered by something completely out of his control. Figuring his life and career are about to change forever, Mercer strives to find a way to right wrongs by inventing a new parlour game called ‘Comfort Zone.’
At a dinner party surrounded by friends and colleagues he insists they all play the game. He introduces it after dinner as a ‘storytelling game.’
Mercer further explains – “the easy choice is not an option at all. What terrifies you? What scares you shitless? Be brave. Be reckless. You are among friends. What can possibly go wrong? It’s just a parlour game, right?”
Comfort Zone: A Standalone Suspense Thriller
White noise invaded Mercer’s head rendering logical thinking impossible. Looking down at his feet, following them, he roamed around the open market. Fourteen years of practice at London’s Criminal Bar had taught Mercer west London’s Hounslow Heath Car Boot market was a den of iniquity. Most things, legal and illegal could be found there – at a price. Stolen goods, drugs, guns, pirated DVD’s, sex workers, contract killers and the single thing he was searching for – a bomb maker. You just had to know where to look or who to ask without ending up in hospital, or worse.
The market sounds merged into one cacophony of Babel-like tongues rising then falling like a furious sea lashing a rocky shore. Mercer was faintly aware of the immigrants’ yells and calls as they crashed through his mind’s white noise. The market was a magnet for London’s immigrants old and new. Somalis, and east Europeans counting as the new. Jamaicans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, the old. The eastern Europeans were of interest to Mercer. He had an inkling he needed a Russian. Not any Russian but preferably a former Spetsnaz or GRU agent.
A voice startled Mercer. “Mister Mercer, what brings you here?” He snapped out of the fugue on hearing his name spoken in a Cockney dialect.
“Just looking, Dave.” Mercer recognized Dave as one of his old clients he had defended at the Old Bailey some years back. He was now selling smuggled cigarettes at the market.
“I know this place like the back of me hand. So, fart and give me a clue and I might be able to point yer in the right direction.”
Mercer chuckled at the colourful language and decided to seek help. “Russians. Do you know any or where they hang out?”
“No, nothing like that. Just Russians.”
“Gotcha. You need an interpreter.”
“Try over there. The stall selling the golf clubs. Don’t buy the snide though. They do ‘ave some genuine but obviously they’re half-inched.”
Mercer did a quick take on the rhyming slang of “half-inched” meaning pinched as in stolen before smiling. “Thanks, Dave. How’s the wife these days?”
“Fucked off. Good riddance but thanks for asking, Mister Mercer.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I’m not,” Dave laughed, “take care now, Mister Mercer. Those Russians are heavy. Don’t fuck with them. Wouldn’t want you to get killed or nuthin. You’re okay not like those posh boy barristers.”
“Thanks, Dave. I’ll take your advice.”
“Dave, one other thing.”
“What’s that, Mister Mercer?”
“I hope you’re staying away from railway tracks these days.”
“Haha! You remember.”
“How could I forget? You were banged up for a burglary to feed your habit. You told me how desperate you were to get clean as you tried to do away with yourself.
I could not help piss myself when you told me how you laid down on the tracks waiting for the next train to come along. That’s when you delivered the punch line, ‘Trouble was, Mister Mercer,’ you said, ‘the railway porter looked down at me from the platform. He shrugged and said, ‘Mate, you’ve missed the last train.’”
Dave and Mercer laughed at the memory. “You’re alright, you know. As I said, better than those posh boys. They know fuck all about real people.”
Mercer reminded himself it was partly the “posh boy barristers” that brought him to the market. Clearing his head again, he started out for the stall pointed out by Dave, but not before he turned around to speak to him once more as he recalled his erstwhile client was one of the most agile burglars in London. That triggered something, an idea, in Mercer’s mind.
“Dave, are you clean these days?”
“Been clean for years, governor.”
“Good. I may have something for you if you are interested. It’ll pay well.”
“Yes. Give me your mobile number.”
Dave scribbled it down, thrusting the scrap of paper in Mercer’s outstretched palm.
Arriving at the stall, Mercer saw rows of golf clubs in branded bags set out on display on a stepped table. A young woman who seemed to be a sales assistant smiled. Encouraged, he took one club out of a bag, then Mercer felt a hand grasp his shoulder.
“You look? Timewaster or buy?” The voice was deeply accented and sounded Russian, but he was no linguistics expert. Turning to the voice, he was surprised to see a slight, even wiry, man about five feet ten inches tall with shoulder length hair. He had been expecting a larger, heavier, and shaven headed man to accompany the voice.
“I don’t know yet. I’d like to have a proper look.” Mercer felt emasculated by this weak response. Looking around him, he noticed the smiling young woman had gone. Drawing a deep breath, he soon added, “Look. Is there somewhere private we can talk? I have a business offer you may be interested in.”
The Russian did not answer. He turned towards a large, white VW Transporter van at the back of the stall and whistled loudly. A larger, heavier, and shaven headed man hopped out of the van’s passenger door. He walked to Mercer, grunting something in Russian. Sticking a gun into Mercer’s back or what Mercer thought was a gun, he prodded and pushed him inside the back of the van.
Pushing Mercer on to an old torn armchair, the two Russians jumped into the back and locked the door from the inside. He watched the two Russians have a heated debate in their native language. He sat silent until the shaven-headed Russian spoke to him in clear but heavily accented English. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“I’m not Trading Standards looking for counterfeit goods nor am I a cop.”
“I didn’t ask you who you aren’t. I asked who you are.”
“I’m a barrister. I defend people accused of crimes.”
“I know what a barrister is. What brings you here?”
“I need help.”
“What kind of help?”
“I need to know how to make bombs?”
“You can do that by using Google.”
“Yes, but I need to know from an expert about different types of explosions.”
“You want to kill people by bomb?”
“No. I want to destroy buildings.”
“Not kill people?”
“Yes, but not by bomb.”
“Are you crazy?”
The Russians, looking at each other, shrugged, before Mercer’s interrogator said, “You wait here.”
The bald Russian returned after five minutes. “Sergie,” he said to his compatriot, “go check the stall. Make sure that girl doing her job.” Now only Mercer and one Russian remained.
“Dave, the cigarette guy, vouched for you. Lucky for you.”
“I’m not a spy or a cop or anything else. I am who I say I am. I only need expert help. Nothing more.”
“What about materials?”
“Materials?” Mercer echoed, feeling puzzled.
“How you going to blow something up without materials, explosives, detonators?”
Mercer now felt stupid but also relieved. The Russian was taking all this seriously. “Yes, of course. How stupid of me?”
There followed a long silence discomforting Mercer. The bald Russian scratched his chin, deep in thought.
“Five thousand plus materials,” the Russian said eventually.
“No, not okay yet. We meet next week. You tell me more. I can then instruct you and I will know what you need.”
“Materials, you mean?”
“I will get message to you.”
“Leave that to me.”
“One other thing, Philip Mercer, you mess around with us and you will die a horrible death.”
Mercer knew the Russian was talking about death by nerve agent. He shuddered inside.
Comfort Zone: A Standalone Suspense Thriller 👇
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