‘“I owe you an explanation?” The boy’s eyes were like saucers. “When did my mum turn into Jackie Chan?”’
Extract taken from It’s Only the End of the World
By J . A Henderson
Published by Kelpies Edge
When he let himself into the house, Daffodil McNugget was sitting in the kitchen with his mum, both laughing and sipping steaming mugs of coffee.
“There you are!” His mother looked relieved. “Never known you to be up before one o’ clock during the holidays.” She stretched and yawned. “Me? I’ve just had the best sleep in ages.”
“That’s… eh… good.” Charlie glared at Daffodil. She had dark circles under her eyes but, apart from that, seemed as irritatingly chirpy as the night before.
“Your friend Daffodil here came round to visit, but you were out.” His mum got up and gave her son a hug. “So we’ve been having a nice chat and I’m making a spot of brunch.” She indicated a large pan of bacon and eggs sizzling on the stove. “Daff says she recently moved to Scotland and you’ve been showing her around. That is so nice.”
I am going to kill you! Charlie mouthed over his mother’s shoulder, fighting down his ire. Daffodil merely grinned and blew him a kiss.
“I came to see if you’d like to check out the science exhibition at the museum with me,” she said. “Suddenly I have quite a fascination with technology.”
“I’m busy,” he replied brusquely, clenching both fists behind his back.
“Chuckles!” His mum let go, cheeks scarlet. “Don’t be so rude.” She sat back down and patted Daffodil’s shoulder. “He must have got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning.”
“You call him Chuckles?” Daffodil stifled a smirk.
“Oh, he used to be a happy wee soul,” Marion replied regretfully. “Before he turned into a teenager.”
“That’s OK, Mrs Ray.” The girl slurped her coffee loudly. “I don’t want to bug him.”
“Please call me Marion. Mrs Ray sounds so… old.”
“And you can call me Mac,” the girl replied. “Daffodil seems a bit… formal. Pretentious even.”
“Idiotic, more like,” Charlie mumbled under his breath. Still, the girl was obviously picking up a fine vocabulary from Frankie.
The doorbell rang.
“My goodness, what an eventful morning.” Marion got to her feet again and went to answer the door. “We even had a power cut earlier, though it’s back on now.”
Charlie rounded on Daffodil as soon as his mother was out of earshot.
“What the hell are you playing at? I told you I didn’t want—”
“Power cut, huh?” She silenced him with a wave of her hand. “You see any other houses affected while you were out? ’Cause I sure didn’t.”
“No,” he confessed.
“Gimme your phone.” Daffodil held out her hand. “Quick.”
Puzzled, Charlie handed it over.
His mum came back in, followed by a balding man wearing blue overalls.
“Hi folks,” he said pleasantly. “I’m here to check your circuits. Had a few calls this morning about a disruption to the electrical grid in the area.”
“That was fast.” Marion picked up the kettle and filled it. “No offence, but you really don’t expect prompt service these days. Would you like a coffee?”
“None taken. And I’d love a brew.” He hoisted a leather tool belt higher on his waist. “If you’ll show me where the fuse box is, it won’t take a minute to check.”
“What a coincidence!” Daffodil had the phone pressed against her ear. “I’m just talkin to my dad and he works for the power company too.”
“Really?” The man looked uncomfortable.
Charlie glanced at his companion. The phone was switched off, but the girl’s other hand was resting on her neck, touching the bulge where Frankie’s chip was implanted. He knew exactly who was talking to her.
“Dad’s askin if you checked the signal box on Marchmont Road,” she said. “The one between Tesco and the bettin office?”
“First thing I tried.” The man relaxed. “But it seems to be fine, so now I’m going house to house.”
“Really?” Daffodil tossed the mobile back to Charlie, who caught it without looking. “’Cause I just made that whole spiel up.”
“Eh… Must be crossed wires, love.” The man laughed nervously, turning to Marion. “Crossed wires, get it? Now, if you’ll show me the fuse box, madam.” He reached into a large pouch on the side of his belt.
Marion swung the kettle and it connected with the stranger’s stubbled jaw. The blow lifted the man off the ground and he landed on the Formica counter with a horrific thud. Charlie skipped back as an automatic pistol dropped from the tool belt and clattered across the floor.
The man sat up, shaking his head. Marion slammed her kettle into his face and he crashed back down, sliding along the counter until his head dropped into the sink.
“Charles Ray.” She blew a wisp of hair from her face. “I think you owe me an explanation.”
“I owe you an explanation?” The boy’s eyes were like saucers. “When did my mum turn into Jackie Chan?”
“Not now, Chaz.” Daffodil still had one hand on her neck and it was obvious Frankie was continuing to relay information to her. “The most likely strategy for our abduction is to have one member of a four-man team infiltrate the buildin disguised as a tradesman, so as not to alert the neighbours. Two more will sneak through the gardens and force the back door. The last person will be hidden out front in case we make a run for it.”
“We’ll discuss this situation later, Mac, including how the hell you know all that.”
Marion grabbed a carving knife from the rack beside her as a heavily armed assailant flung himself through the kitchen window in a halo of shattered glass. Before the intruder could raise his rifle, Charlie’s mum buried the blade in his hand. He dropped the weapon with a screech of pain. Marion butted the astonished man in the face and finished him off with another wallop of her kettle.
“I know how to handle myself,” she informed Daffodil.
“You do seem to have everythin covered, Mrs R.” Daffodil slid off her seat and under the table. “I’ll get outta your way.”
The door to the back garden burst open and slammed into Marion. She sprawled across the floor, clutching her head.
Silhouetted in the frame was the largest man Charlie had ever seen. He had an ugly scar running round his throat like a noose. And he held an automatic pistol in each hand.
“Up against the wall,” he barked. “All of you,”
“You hurt my mum.” Charlie’s eyes narrowed.
“Oh dear,” Daffodil chirped from under the table. “Bad move, King Kong.”
“Against the wall, kid.” Victor motioned with the pistols. “Pronto.”
“Nobody messes with my mother.” Charlie walked towards him.
“Don’t be a moron,” the giant growled. “I will shoot you.”
Charlie somersaulted sideways onto the kitchen table, landing on splayed hands. He bent his elbows, arched his back and pushed as Victor fired. Bullets gouged furrows in the wood, but the boy was already in the air. Both of his feet crashed down on the handle of the frying pan. Bacon, eggs and hot fat sailed across the room and hit the giant square in his face. He gave a high-pitched scream and clawed at his eyes. Charlie caught the pan effortlessly in mid-flight, spun with the precision of a discus thrower and hurled it like a Frisbee. The pan crunched into the man’s forehead, knocking him backwards into the garden. As Victor attempted to get up, Charlie followed him outside, picking up the discarded pan as he went.
Daffodil covered her ears.
“I didn’t kill him.” Charlie strode back in. “Wanted to, but didn’t.” He helped his mother to her feet. “You all right, Mum?”
“I’ll survive.” Marion winced, feeling a bruise rising on her temple. “But we need to have a serious talk when this is over, young man.”
“That’s exactly what I was going to say.”
“There’s probably one more goon out front.” Daffodil emerged from cover. “Pity you don’t have any special abilities, Chaz.”
“Not the time.” The boy checked his garden for any more intruders. “This way.”
“I am not sneaking out the back door of my own damned house.” Marion put both hands on her hips. “Besides, we need transportation.”
“We haven’t got a car any more, Mum.”
“I’m taking the green van that’s kept us under surveillance for the last few weeks.” She unfastened her apron. “And woe betide anyone who gets in my way.”
“So you did know we were being watched?”
“We’ve both been hiding things from each other, and it was a mistake.” Marion pushed the pair into the hall. “But all that will have to wait.”
“That woman’s a devil in a dress!” Daffodil punched Charlie on the arm. “Chaz, I really like your mom.”
It’s Only the End of the World by J . A Henderson is published by Kelpies Edge, priced £7.99