Excerpt from Archon’s Queen

They traded intermittent eye contact while she finished the rest of her meal. Whenever she glanced up, he would be wearing a curious smirk with a trace of a smile. When she got up to leave, he waved her over.

He gestured as if tipping a hat. “Curious running into you here, luv.”

“Innit.” Anna looked down, flicking at the pockets of her new pants. “Long time.”

“Fate and circumstance…”

“How are they then?”


“Your dogs.”

Mr. Carroll laughed, patting his leg as he remembered. “They’re resting peacefully now.”

Anna sank into the seat opposite him, captivated by the pattern in the table. “Soz.”

“Pay it no mind, they had a good life. I meant it is fortuitous we have crossed paths. I could use your talents again if you’re available.”

Anna sat on her hands to hide the trembling. “Might be… This isn’t for Mister Cooper is it?”

Carroll chuckled. “No, lass. That ol’ turf accountant’s got his own men now; he doesn’t contract through blokes like me anymore.”

Mr. Carroll was the sort of fellow who put people with needs in touch with people with skills. The last time she had worked for him, she made a touch over ten grand. At the time, she considered it just shy of fair, now it felt like a king’s ransom. He held her ticket out of Coventry, if only she could hold it together. The risk of the CSB lurked like a shadow at the back of the room, breathing cold vapor down her spine. She leaned forward, leaving her hands under her knees, her voice lowering.

“What’s the earner then?”

“A client of mine is in need of a guardian. The usual sort of chap I work with these days is not nimble enough for this one. He wants to get to the top of some dreadfully tall place and tap a local.”

“So just watch his back?” I can do this. “What’s the pay?”

“Fourteen five.”

Kinnell! The yell stayed in her mind. She hoped the shock did not leak through her eyes. “That’ll do.”

He reached forward and propped her chin up. “Rough times, lass? You used to quibble the change.”

“Bit of a transitional period, I’m in. I’m fine.” She forced a smile, ignoring the twitching.

“Still no mini?”

She shook her head.

“Right then. Meet our man at the corner of Neal and Long Acre tomorrow at eleven pm. I’ll meet you here with a stick when the thing’s done.”

“Who’m I lookin for?”

“Calls ‘imself Mr. Orange. Ya can’t miss him.”