For today’s Season of Cheer post, I’ve gone digging in my WiP stack, and I’ve pulled out some urban fantasy. The Adepts series is set in (mostly) present-day England, where groundwater, contaminated by mining, has led a number of people to develop rather interesting talents. One of those special individuals is Damon Sandhurst. He’s twenty-eight. He’s one of the rarest and most sough-after adepts: a lightning foil. And here, he’s out on Brighton Beach, a week before Christmas, doing his job.
Heart attack while swimming in the sea. Damon turned the words over and over in his mind, pictured them as a headline in the day’s papers, and a line of text in a coroner’s report. A tragic accident the papers would undoubtedly call it. A tragic death, taking a much loved man from this earth too soon.
Damon pulled his knees to his chest and huddled tighter into the meagre shelter he’d found between two boulders. A frigid breeze came off the sea. It blew across Brighton beach and found every gap and cranny in Damon’s heavy jacket. His hands were cold, his feet were freezing, and the woollen beanie he’d bought at the station barely kept his ears warm.
It’d be better once he called the lightning. He kept telling himself that even as his teeth chattered so hard his jaw hurt. He was ready to commit murder for a cup of hot, sweet tea and somewhere warm to stretch out after a day following Gordon Freemantle from London to Brighton and a night camped in the bushes outside Freemantle’s house. A shower would do wonders too.
It was a shame that it really would take murder for Damon to get those things. Or a government-sanctioned killing at any rate.
He’d never met Freemantle, not to speak to. He was grateful for that. His fuse for bullshit was too damned short, and judging by the transcriptions of the man’s rants Damon had read over the last three days, Freemantle was just full of it. Claiming freedom of speech was all very fine and good, but what about the freedom, rights, and the very lives of the men your loose mouth got killed?
Damon kept his eyes trained on the dark head, bopping in the water a fair way from the beach. Freemantle was a good swimmer, strong and confident in the water. It would be easy to take him out that way, let anyone think that he’d been caught by a current or had succumbed to the cold. He had certainly attracted enough attention when he’d stood on the beach, stripped off his training clothes and waded into the sea. As would anyone daft enough to go swimming in the English Channel a week before Christmas.
And yet, something stopped Damon from reaching for the lightning and putting a period to Freemantle’s life.
It wasn’t remorse. Nor was it pity. It was the water that held him back.
Moving water fascinated him: rivers and streams, fountains and tiny trickles, or rain sleeting down his bedroom window. The endless grey-green, moving and shifting on even the quietest and calmest of days, was the most fascinating of all. Even tired, cold, and hungry he could appreciate the ripples and waves as they rushed to shore and retreated in a dance that was oddly hypnotic. Adding lightning to water made for a potent combination and Damon loved to taste the sea in the back of his throat, the clean, bitter salt and the fizz of trapped air.
There was something sacred about the ocean, something that should be kept pure.
Yes, the sea took lives every single day. But Damon didn’t need to add to the tally.
He waited until Freemantle had finished his swim. Waited until the man had dried off and stepped back into his sweatshirt and jogging bottoms. When Freemantle knelt to tie his shoes, Damon took a deep breath and called the lightning.
He welcomed the burn that washed his whole body in fiery agony and banished the cold.
He took a second deep breath and shaped the charge.
Levelled it at Freemantle.
And stopped his heart.