Walking on Water
Walking on Water followed naturally from Chasing Paper. There was a handful of characters who I had grown to rather like. Two of them had been left in a state of uncertainty at the end of Chasing Paper, so I got to thinking what would they do. Where would they go? How would they survive? They were, after all, born survivors, but working for a living held few attractions. And so was born Walking on Water.
Sandy and her father have lots of survival tricks up their sleeves! So, too, does George Riley whose twin brother is doing his best to become an only child by removing George from the scene. George, too, is a survivor, but this time things have gone too far and he’s struggling to keep at arm’s length from his vindictive brother who has only one thing on his mind.
Though most of the main characters in Walking on Water are from (or have links to) the Isle of Man, the action is based in the flat, wet wastes of The Netherlands where billions of tons of water are held back by earth dykes which, in normal times, are adequate for the job. But if somebody wanted to destroy vast tracts of the country, the answer was already staring them in the face…
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WALKING ON WATER OPENING PAGES
Nick Ferris forced a smile onto his face. What he really wanted to do was to smack his customers’ heads together, but that would have meant touching them and Nick’s customers were largely untouchable – except for the girl in the shadows of the far corner who looked like she didn’t want to be there either. No smile broke the straight lips of her red-painted mouth. Her eyes were as blue as a Caribbean shoreline and she had breasts like plump aubergines in a vegetable market. Nick wouldn’t have minded touching her at all, but he sensed that she was bad news for other reasons. And Brigitte, who knew everything that went on in the town, or at least everything illegal, had confirmed it to him earlier.
As for the rest of the customers, Nick wouldn’t even want to get within spitting distance of them, given the choice. The fair-haired twenty-something perched on a barstool with his legs bent under him like ice tongs, who’d spent the evening spying on him without making eye contact. The heavy-shouldered man with a nose full of veins and a mouth full of sneers, whose Rottweiler dozed on the floor amongst the cigarette ash. It occupied the bar space of at least two grown men, but nobody was asking it to move. And Nick’s least favourite, the tattooed punk whose bottom lip was tormented by a wealth of ironmongery. He was a regular whose evenings involved supping too much beer and offering packets of white powder to other picturesque acquaintances. De Hardin’s was a popular watering hole that assaulted your nose with hops and marijuana and disreputable low-lifes.
“Pardon?” Nick yelled, through the boom and thud of the speakers that shook the fabric of the building. As often happened when the volume was up, he was struggling to understand the shouted drinks orders with their strangled consonants and guttural ‘g’s. Strange words that a foreigner still found confusing. This evening, like so many others in the last six months, Nick had found it necessary to revert to English, the second language in The Netherlands, understood by everyone, even the stray dogs.
The fair-haired spy who lacked the art of surreptitious observation drained his beer, unwound his legs, and stood to leave, taking care not to disturb the Rottweiler. He reached into his hip pocket, pulled out a business card, and spun it across the bar to Nick. “Check out the Anglican church services in Rotterdam,” he said, in near-perfect English, then turned towards the door.
From the darkened periphery of the room, Miss Red Lips’ brow furrowed. She stood and zipped up her leather jacket, stopping to ease an overflowing morsel of plump aubergine into place before finishing the zipping process. One quick side step and she was out from behind the table.
Nick’s attention was drawn by the card, which he struggled to decipher under the dim light. In italic script he could make out http://www.joinmychurch.com. No name, no title. He turned it over, instinctively expecting more. On the back; a handwritten jumble of letters and numbers that meant nothing to him.
He glanced towards the door that led onto the market place, but it swung on its hinges. The young man had gone. With a shrug, Nick tucked the card into the pocket of his jeans and checked his watch. Just after midnight. Another two or three hours before he could clear up and go home to bed.
He looked up to see the heavy-breasted young lady leaving the bar, soft dark wig swaying across her leather-clad shoulders. When you’re an experienced law-avoider, a clandestine cop is easy to spot. She acknowledged Nick with an almost imperceptible nod of the head. She’d caught him watching her, and the red-painted mouth smiled but the blue eyes didn’t. He checked to make sure she’d settled her tab. Police were an untrustworthy breed.
As she disappeared from sight, Nick eased open the door behind him just a few inches and slipped through the gap. It was done quickly, like he had turned himself into smoke and poured himself through the keyhole. Nick Ferris had the physique of an anorexic spider – ideal qualifications for slipping unobserved through narrow openings; usually into houses that didn’t belong to him. He had what his lawyer had once described to the judge as a ‘colourful’ personality, though Nick could turn colours into shadows when he chose.
The door behind the bar led into a narrow passage between De Hardin’s and the adjacent shop that sold cheap jeans to cheap youths. The alleyway had long since absorbed the smells of rotting vegetables and urine. Followed by Faggot, his friend’s dog, Nick walked the few steps to where the murky side access met the hubbub of Grote Markt – the old market place that would throb with nocturnal activity for a few more hours yet before the beer-swilling, table-thumping, song-singing hoards decided to call it a night and stagger home to bed. The sky was dark and clear. Nick stopped, keeping his pale body in the shadows, and peered around the corner of the building. Faggot cocked his leg against a trashcan behind him.
The young man had gone, though the girl’s back was still visible. She walked with rapid steps along Vlamingstraat, her callipygous shadow waxing and waning under the neon streetlights that kept vigil over the locked shops. Nick glued his eyes to her rear until her swaying hips disappeared into the distant gloom, then he watched a few minutes longer before turning and stumbling back through the overflowing trash to the rear entrance of the bar. He had the unpleasant sensation, like a thousand sparrow wings in his gut that it was time to move on. He’d had fifty years practice in moving on.
As he eased open the door, the light of the bar spread into the dim night like a pie wedge, fading as it reached the opposite wall. A movement behind him caught his eye and he turned his head, straining to look into the shadowed dead end of the alleyway. As his vision adjusted, he could make out a tall man with ponytail hair, leaning against one of the dustbins, his face contorted into a smiling grimace. Crouched in front of him was an off-white fur coat that contained Faggot’s owner.
“Evening Brigitte.” Nick called.
The coat grunted, while its client opened his eyes and stared at Nick through rimless glasses.
Nick closed the door behind him, leaving Brigitte and the punter in peace. It was going to be another busy night.
Half-an-hour later, Miss Red Lips stepped out from the shop doorway in Geleenstraat and checked her watch. Anthrax now appeared to be tucked in bed. It was too late to go and disturb the boss. She could bring him up to speed tomorrow. For now, she had two options. She could go back to De Hardin’s and retrieve the card off the English barman, or she could go home, get some sleep, and leave things to develop further. Probably best to let events move on, she thought. After all, if there was no crime there could be no confrontation. And after previous warnings it seemed that only confrontation would stop Anthrax now.
By Giselle Marks on 27 October 2016
Graham Hamer’s “Walking on Water” is a crime thriller which takes some exciting turns. Set mostly in the Netherlands, you are dragged onwards at a stunning pace. The writing crackles with energy as the tangled story unveils some felonious little plans. Well worth reading to the final debacle. A brilliant read
By Amazon Customer on 29 July 2016
I throughly enjoyed reading Walking on Water. The first few chapters were getting to know the characters with a good few laughs, but as the plot thickens and tangles I struggled to put the book down. A really good read, can’t wait to read Under the Rock.
Image used and published according to the licence granted by the artist