The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain is today's fearured book on One Thousand Worlds.
A former newspaper journalist and editor of professional text books, London-born Sara Bain is a fantasy writer who now lives in south west Scotland. Dark Dawn, the first book of her epic fantasy The Scrolls of Deyesto, is due to be published at the end of 2013.
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‘HELLO, THIS IS LIBBY BUTLER and it’s the middle of the night so this had better be good.’
‘Miss Butler, this is Sergeant Jonathan Fry. I understand you’re the duty solicitor tonight …’
‘Wait a minute,’ Libby sat up in the bed, her mood suddenly indignant, ‘I was on last week.’
‘Your colleague gave me your number, miss,’ the sergeant’s tone remained matter-of-fact. ‘He said you could speak a few languages.’
‘Bloody Maurice!’ Libby hissed. Tony lay beside her, blinking in incomprehension. ‘Can this not wait until the morning?’
‘Sorry, miss.’ The officer sounded genuinely apologetic. ‘We’ve got a foreign man in custody and he needs a legal brief.’
‘I suppose that’ll be me.’
‘Can you come down to the station right now?’
‘Ask him if he’s beaten a confession out of the poor bastard yet.’ Tony added his thoughts to the conversation as he stretched his eyes. ‘That’s what coppers do, isn’t it?’
She hissed at him to be quiet. ‘Which station did you say you were at?’
‘East Dulwich, miss. Just down the road from you.’
‘Give me half an hour.’ She jabbed the red button and threw the phone on the bed. ‘At least it’s not Camberwell this time.’
‘Yet one more sorry criminal requires the earthly wisdom and experience of Miss Libby Butler!’ Tony yawned and threw his arm across his eyes.
‘Maurice can speak seven languages, including Mandarin and Afrikaans, the bastard. He’s stitched me up. No doubt there’s another crisis in his chaotic love life. He’s not going to get away with this.’
‘I’ll get dressed.’ Tony threw the bed clothes off and made to get up.
‘It’s OK,’ she began, taking a long look at him. She noticed the dishevelled brown hair, the glazed eyes and, moreover, the look of pained resignation on his face as he would give up one more good night’s sleep in order to pamper her foolish insecurities: Libby didn’t like the dark. She pushed him back onto the comfortable pillows. ‘There’s no need, really. I’m only going round the corner.’ She snatched up the blue pinstripe skirt and white blouse from the carpet and heaved them on.
‘You can’t wear that, it’s filthy!’ Tony laughed.
‘It’s just chocolate. I’ll give it a rub down.’ She spat on the worst spot at her chest and scrubbed it with her fingers, turning it into a dirty brown smear. She sighed as she noticed the dark perspiration marks in the cloth. ‘I’ve only got the green one, which doesn’t go with blue.’ She dived into the wardrobe. ‘What does the Met expect when they wake a woman up in the middle of the night to explain the legalities of being a drunken bum on the streets of London?’ She checked herself in the mirror and groaned. ‘If I wear loads of make-up, do you think the lovely boys in blue will notice I’m not wearing a bra?’
‘You’ll have to wear a jacket.’
Libby turned from the mirror only to smile at the sudden display of concern for her struggling dignity. Sometimes she felt she didn’t deserve her partner’s adoration and this moment was one of them. The rest of the time, she knew she didn’t. She swallowed the guilt and buried her thoughts in making herself look presentable with eye-liner, blusher and lipstick, before attacking her tangled brown hair with the brush.
‘Will you see me to the car?’ She didn’t have to ask as Tony was already dressed for the event in his grey tracksuit bottoms with baggy knees.
‘I’m awake and dressed. I may as well drive you.’
‘You’re a darling,’ she squeezed his hand as her lips brushed his cheek in a light declaration of gratitude.
The drive took less than three minutes. The white clock on the station wall registered two thirty-three a.m. when Libby came through the doors and was greeted by an empty counter. She followed the typed instructions sellotaped to the desk, urging visitors to ‘press the bell’, and waited in the foyer. She cast a vague glance over the information posters for Crimestoppers; what to do when your kids are on drugs; and cash for heating the elderly in winter.
Her gaze caught the darkness behind the glass door and she threw her arms about herself, taking comfort that Tony was waiting in the car, in the shadows just outside, but beyond the catchment of the street light. While she waited, and the turning hands of time on the wall clicked in the background, Libby’s thoughts trailed to why a professional woman, with a history of a happy childhood and a reasonably successful career, would have developed such an irrational fear after a simple walk in the park.
Granted, it had been dark at the time but she remembered the surging panic; her heart pounding in her ears; her breath slowly leaving her to choke on her own terror; and couldn’t remember getting home that night at all or how she got the strange hairline cuts on the palms of her hands and fingers.
Thank God for those revellers. She must’ve given them a real fright when she screamed at them, hysterical, that someone was following her. It didn’t help matters that the headless body of a woman had been found by a schoolgirl in the park a few days later.
Libby’s psychiatrist, Nicole, a friend of the family, had spent many months attempting to eke out a plausible rationale but had, so far, come up with little to fill her file with, save for some kind of post-traumatic reaction. Libby, of course, was perfectly capable of giving an accurate self-diagnosis and knew her apparent phobias were just a symptom of her life and the way in which she was failing to cope with its confounding complexities.
She almost jumped when a figure appeared behind the counter. ‘A big Mac and extra fries, please,’ she immediately regretted her words when she saw the destitution of humour in those raised, unplucked eyebrows.
Where to buy The Sleeping Warrior
Where you can connect with Sara Bain