“THE PREY WILL BECOME THE HUNTER
‘Are you scared of him, Rita? Scared he might find you?’
‘No. I’m scared because I want him to find me.’
Ex-soldier Red and the mysterious Rita have been thrown together by a series of deadly events, each relying on the other not simply to survive, but to challenge the hand fate has dealt them.
Having survived a night under siege in a crumbling house in the steamy bayou, Red and Rita go on the run, desperate to evade
their unknown pursuers. Details of Red’s past and Rita’s childhood are gradually revealed but can they really trust each other?
But the hunters have not given up the chase, and Rita unknowingly becomes the bait in a trap set for Red in a terrifying, storm-damaged fairground….
The second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series, Broken Ponies will thrill fans of dark gothic thrillers and readers of John Connolly, Joe Hill and Holly Seddon.”
I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Broken Ponies blog tour. Broken Ponies is the second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series written by Sophie Jonas-Hill and was published on 27th September 2018 by Urbane Publications. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Nemesister, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait to make a start on this latest instalment!
Today though, I have an extract from the book to share with you.
THE SAVANNAH HEIGHTS CASINO did its best. Above the two gaming levels, there were six floors of reasonably priced hotel rooms, which were reasonably clean and reasonably anonymous, a woefully under-used pool deck and a ‘skyline’ bar. This translated to a room that ran the whole length of the building, offering a panoramic sweep of the city, though the view was mostly the back of everything else, as if The Savannah Heights was a short kid come late to the school photograph.
At 3.30 a.m. above the background hum and trill of slots, the click of chips and the dull, subterranean thump of the generators, an angry noise began to rise from table four. I’d seen the guy playing there when I’d come onto the floor after my break and was pretty sure he’d been there long before that, though guys like him were pretty hard to distinguish from one another, or indeed the fixtures and fittings. This one had the same hard, chiseled expression as the faux, carved wooden Tiki heads dotted about the place, until of course he lost, which he just had – big time.
Like Mormons us security operatives are supposed to travel in pairs, but Olaf was still in the bathroom, which meant I alone was the sole representative of Savannah Heights law. With no time to wait for Olaf to wash up, I strode toward table four, nodding to its operative Barbara to let her know I’d seen what was happening.
‘You goddamn’ bitch–’ Tiki man, pot-bellied and crackling with anger, jabbed his finger at her face. ‘I said stick, and you goddamn went an’ hit me. What the hell you go and do a thing like that for? You deaf, well as stupid?’
Somewhere off to his right one of the slots chose that moment to pay out and play the opening chords of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. It didn’t improve anyone’s mood.
‘Sir –’ I began, ‘Sir, is there a problem?’
Tiki man struck the table top, sending cards, chips, beer an’ all skittering to the floor as Barbara, trapped in the table’s central well, arms jammed across her chest, let out a yelp of protest.
‘You heard that then, you stupid bitch!’
The lucky few still awake at this hour turned to get a good look, necks craning out of plaid shirts and sports collars.
‘Sir!’ I tried again. My hand on his shoulder, I was dimly aware of Olaf hurrying through the archipelago of tables while doing up his flies. Then Tiki man swung round to face me. He was wearing a blue shirt crowded with images of pigs dressed in grass skirts and flower garlands – really, I thought, hula pigs? Now, did you buy that, or was it a gift? I mean, seriously, did you actually look at that and think – hey, now that’s the one for me?
‘Sir, you’re gonna have to calm down here …’
One of our boss Jose’s theories was that you need women on staff because men are more reluctant to hit them. As Tiki man threw a punch at me, I made a mental note to question this at our next team meeting.
‘Oh no you didn’t,’ I heard myself say. His blow connected with my left arm; I deflected it but was hit instead by a waft of aftershave and stale sweat. Tiki man didn’t get the hint. Backed into a chair he rounded on me quicker than I’d expected. He didn’t swear either; most start calling you names and threatening legal action, proving they’re more bark than bite. Tiki man said nothing, just went for me, hard and mean.
Time snagged on the bright lights and chatter of voices. The world stuttered to a halt, that god-awful shirt traced blue and pink on the back of my eyes, spreading out like an ink blot. I saw things both as if I were him and as if I watched him; Tiki man, still angry, still in that shirt, but in another place, his knuckles bloodied and broken, standing over someone else, someone smaller, someone weaker – someone Tiki man thought don’t got no right to sass mouth him that way. I was somewhere else for a moment, looking through Tikki Man’s haunted, piggy eyes.
Oh no, I thought, oh no you didn’t!
‘Oh yes he did,’ Margarita said.
Reality snapped back fast enough to flinch me away from Tiki man’s fist. I caught his punch with both hands letting the force of his blow carry him off balance. He was face down on the table before he’d time to catch his breath, arm all twisted up behind his back. That should have been it; I should have been calling him ‘Sir’ and warning him that the authorities had been called, only the hot-black, heartbeat moment twisted inside me and wouldn’t let him go.
There was the dull thud of impact, then the ricochet as its force crunched back through me. I lost Tiki man and the casino and everything as memory swelled up, molasses dark and rich, bringing the taste of river water, blood and the itch of fire. When Olaf ’s arms closed around me, it took everything I had not to slam my fist into his face.
‘Rita!’ he yelled from the edge of the void. ‘Rita, what the fuck?’ I made myself go limp, gasping for air as if I were breaking the surface again. Around me the casino hissed with exclamations, all those yellow white faces tutting and sniggering at the show. Barbara was jabbering that Tiki man ‘…deserved everything he got comin’ to him. Hell, I’d have slapped him myself, if I hadn’t been stuck inside this goddamn doughnut!’
‘Rita?’ Olaf, hands on my shoulders, steered me away as two other security guys darted in behind us, one to pick up Tiki man, now mewling like a stuck kitten, and one to try and calm Barbara.
‘It’s always me what gets shit like this, all the goddamn time. Hell, only the other week some bitch sprayed me with her Christian Dior. I hate that crap too, had to get my wig dry cleaned and who’s gonna pay for that?’
‘Rita?’ I slid my gaze back to Olaf. Margarita jubilant, her smile on my lips. I pulled from his grasp. ‘What the hell was that?’ he demanded, but I was already walking away.
I strode into the locker room and kicked door number seven. The boom it made did nothing to stop the roar echoing around my head. I threw myself down onto the bench and jammed my head into my hands.
‘Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it,’ Margarita said. ‘You were lovin’ it, just the same as me.’
‘Shut up,’ I told her. ‘You’re gonna get us both fired.’
‘Oh hush now,’ she laughed. ‘You think they’d can your ass over a piece of shit like that? I know what he did, I could smell it on him and so could you.’
‘No I couldn’t,’ I said, but I was lying.
‘Oh really?’ she said. ‘You keep on tellin’ yourself that.’
‘Rita?’ It was Jose, who really didn’t seem to have a home to go to. I glanced sideways at him and saw he’d crossed his arms across his chest in the same way Barbara had at Tiki man. Which probably meant he wanted to give me a goddamn slap as well.
‘Aren’t you supposed to provide single sex locker rooms?’ I said.
‘What the fuck?’ he replied, his forehead creased in furious lines.
‘I know,’ I said, sitting back, hands held out in front of me. ‘I crossed the line.’
‘Crossed it?’ Jose’s eyebrows pitched a tent. ‘You gone an’ pissed all over the fuckin’ line, that’s what you done.’
‘He went for me,’ I said. ‘Check the tape.’ I got up and opened my locker, already knowing my shift was over.
‘Tape?’ Jose sniffed. ‘What tape would that be?’ Half way through yanking my rucksack out I stopped to look at him. He shrugged. ‘We don’t got no camera covering that table tonight, and you don’t know any different.’ He pointed at me. ‘Never again, you understand? Whatever shit you got going on here–’ he tapped the side of his head, ‘don’t bring it to work, alright?’
‘He means me,’ Margarita sniggered.
‘You want this job, you don’t want this job, all the same to me,’ he said. I got my bag free and pulled off my uniform jacket to hang in its place. ‘But you don’t go making work for me. That piece of shit you put down’s not gonna make no trouble, but the next time?’
‘There won’t be one,’ I lied.
‘Smart,’ he said, flicking his hand toward my locker. ‘You’re done. Go home, don’t come in tomorrow–’ he raised his finger before I could protest. ‘Don’t come in tomorrow, don’t come in till Thursday. Go sleep, go get fucked, whatever, but don’t bring your shit again. Jesus, what? You get your hair done and it rots your brain or something?’
‘I thought you liked me blonde,’ I said and yanked my sweat top free of my bag. He watched me pull it on, the hand that had been pointing at me now gripping the back of his neck, where the hair was longer and bushier than it had any right to be.
‘Where the hell you learn shit like that anyway?’ he asked. I shouldered my bag.
‘I was home schooled,’ I said.
I can’t wait to get reacquainted with Rita and Red once again. Look out for a review coming to the blog soon.
Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 27th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |
I’ve always written and told stories, for as long as I can remember. My first self published work at the age of seven, fully illustrated in felt pen and crayon. I continued with a series of insightful ‘When I grow up I want to be an author’, essays, and an attempt at a ‘Bonk-buster’ series of supernatural thrillers written from a position of utter ignorance on all topics, until I was distracted by Art college. A never ending, or never finished, fantasy epic kept me going through my twenties, but it was motherhood in my thirties which concentrated my mind enough to actually finish a novel. It’s amazing what a bit of life experience and the sudden curtailing of your free time can do to concentrate the mind.
After that I began giving myself permission to take my writing seriously enough to spend time on it and actually listen to critiques. The writing festival in York proved invaluable, and time and disappointment got me to the point of producing something readable, which I was lucky enough to have read by Urbane publications.
If you make or write anything, the number one question you get asked is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ In answer to that question, it’s an easy process which combines working on your craft every hour you can for as long as possible – hard graft – reading as much as you can of everyone else’s work – stealing – and inspiration, which is just one of those things that just happens. The inspiration for ‘Nemesister’ comes from a dark episode of family history, and a moment from a dream; an image of a man standing in the doorway of what I knew was an abandoned shack, which was gone as soon as it came and yet lingered, the way some dreams do.