In today’s edition of Throwback Thursday, I’m going to look at Job Hunt, where we meet adult Jack Horwood, hacker, vigilante and ex-MI6 operative. Jack is in a reasonably good place when Job Hunt starts. He’s given up a job that was screwing with his sense of wrong and right, he’s taken time for himself to regain his footing, and he’s chosen what he wanted to do next. He has never in his wildest dreams expected to come face to face with his former CO.
Jack has walked away from Gareth once before. He knows what that decision has cost him. In quiet moments, he may have wondered where a different choice would have led. But memories are insidious things. The most poignant ones come unbidden and refuse to leave. And, rocked off his balance after the unexpected meeting, Jack walks away again.
Only this time, Gareth comes after him.
Now, I know Jack. I usually can predict how he’ll react if I throw a plot bunny in his way or put him on the spot. Jack may be unexpected in many ways, but it’s a kind of unexpected that makes sense to me. But that doesn’t hold true for Jack’s partner-in-crime. If there’s one character in the series who continues to surprise me, it’s Gareth. And he started right here in Job Hunt, when he helped Jack get Ricky out of the club, and then simply turned around and went back inside to find Daniel and Nico.
That hadn’t been in the playbook. And with that one unexpected act, Gareth is responsible for adding two new characters, a whole load of complexity, and four extra books to my planned series. And that’s not the only time Gareth has dumped a heap of spanners in my lap… but of that we can talk later.
For today’s Throwback Thursday excerpt, I’ve chosen precisely that club scene where my lovingly constructed series went off the rails, because Gareth is a BAMF and wanted to make sure I knew it. 🙂
From Job Hunt
Jack was clear and sprinting up the street, the boy still slung over his shoulder. Barely anyone took notice of the two while the sounds of approaching sirens rent the air, attracting clubbers and spectators, the way disasters often do. They milled aimlessly in the night, faces and clothes bleached of color in the light of the street lamps, only intent on the scene before them.
The second bouncer loomed, fist moving back to strike as Gareth turned.
Gareth danced to the side, grabbed the flying fist, and yanked.
The man went sailing into the crowd of spectators.
Gareth didn’t wait around to see him land. He was past the bouncer nursing a headache and back inside the club in a heartbeat.
Strobe lights still flashed around the dance floor, guiding his steps through the smoke. The crowd had thinned, and Gareth made it to the bar without incident.
The pimp was gone.
But the pimp wasn’t Gareth’s target.
He found the two boys Jack had pointed out to him earlier still huddled in their corner on the far side of the bar. How they could ignore the wailing alarms eluded Gareth—nobody could be that oblivious! He watched for a few moments, seeing nothing but misery in the way the two clung to each other. Misery, confusion—and a hefty dose of fear.
He stepped close, opened his mouth to speak… and had to move fast to restrain them as both jumped up and tried to run.
“Cut it out!” he snapped as the blond tried to bite his hand. “I’m here to get you out.”
Two pairs of startled, suspicious eyes met his gaze. “You were buying. You talked to Ricky and the new guy.”
Not as oblivious as he’d thought. Was that what Jack had seen? Why he had pointed the two out? Gareth heaved a frustrated sigh, wishing once more that there had been time to prepare this impromptu mission properly. As it was, Jack knew what he was doing while Gareth only wished he did.
“I was pretending to buy,” Gareth disagreed, voice as calm as he could make it. “The new guy’s my friend. He works with the Met. He got Ricky out. I came back for you two.”
A good question. Shame that Gareth was lost for an answer.
He’d come back because he thought the boys needed help.
Because they reminded him too much of Jack in his disguise.
Because they clung to each other with so much despair that something deep inside him burned.
Because Gareth rescued people who needed it.
In the end, none of his reasons mattered in this dark, smoke-filled club. None of his answers mattered.
“Don’t you want to get out?”
The two looked at each other, and that’s when he saw it: crippling fear, confusion, mistrust… and a tiny spark of hope. Jack might hit him if he ever found out, but Gareth flashed his biggest grin and leaned closer.
“I can knock you both out and carry you,” he offered. “It will look good, I promise.”
“Across the square. Jack’s there with Ricky and the police.”
They didn’t like the idea of the police, but after a moment, Gareth got a tiny nod. “You can really carry us both? At the same time?”
Without another word Gareth grabbed both boys and hoisted them to his shoulders, much as Jack had done with Ricky earlier. “Don’t worry about falling. I’ve got you,” he said as he adjusted the slight weights. “Pretend to be unconscious. Just let your hands hang down.”
He felt two bodies relax against his and nodded. “That’s it.”
Three long strides took him to the kitchen door, four more through the empty room. He pushed the back door open with a foot and scrutinized the small delivery area beside the club. It was empty, though a couple of fresh oil stains on the concrete suggested that a car had parked there earlier.
Gareth let the door swing open and closed a couple of times.
Then he eased outside and jogged to the mouth of the alley.
More spectators had accumulated outside the club, intent on watching black smoke billow out the doors and drooling over the firefighters who got ready to enter the building. Gareth and his two charges were soundly ignored. He skirted the back of the largest group of rubberneckers, turned the corner, and ran toward Baxter’s car.
“Inside, quick!” he instructed as he set the boys on their feet and opened the back door.
They balked, eyes wide with fear. “You lied. This isn’t a police car!”
Gareth bodily stopped the boys from running. “Detective—your badge, please.”
He praised creation that Baxter didn’t need an explanation. The detective held his warrant card out to the two boys, who examined it before finally getting into the unmarked car.
“Keep your heads down, and nobody will know where you are,” Gareth said, taking the front seat.
You can get your copy of Job Hunt here: