Welcome to the last stop on the tour, hopefully you have already read the 1st extract that featured on novelgossip.com on the 25th March, if not hop over there now before reading the 1st Chapter.
PART ONE. HOW IT ALL STARTED
Chapter 1 March 6th 1987. He didn’t know if he was going to make it, but he was going to give it a hell of a try. Brent Sandler rammed the gear stick of his brand-new BMW into first gear, then swiftly into second. He watched excitedly, as the needle of the rev counter tipped into the red, making the engine roar. Brent loved this; it brought a sense of excitement into his life, especially as the power of the beast in the car pushed the back of his head against the headrest. He liked the feeling of speed. After all, this was how he lived his life; always fast, and often tinged with a sense of danger. Now, if you ever had the chance to meet Brent Sandler, and let’s face it, many people had over the thirty-two years he had been on this planet, you might well have formed an opinion of the man. Many of those who had, especially the ladies, might well have been of the opinion he was a good looking, handsome type of character. Something like a more muscular Al Pacino would be a fair description. Many would also say they actually liked the man, even if they wouldn’t hesitate to call him an arrogant egocentric. The thing was, no matter what description was thrown his way, positive or negative, everyone seemed to have a soft spot for the charismatic individual. John Conway, on the other hand, was quite the opposite from Brent. He was not a good-looking man, not bad looking either. Some, might even say he was a typical Mr. Average—average height, average build, with short fair hair. He always dresses smart but never chic, and certainly not a ladies’ man. He had only ever had one real girlfriend, Sammy; the same Sammy he had met on the day he left the army, almost three years prior. However, he had different ideas from Brent on how to live life. He liked his calm and hassle free, not like today though. Still, he wasn’t complaining; he never did, and despite the toing and froing of the swerving car, he tried his best to study an old battered map of Europe, and, God knows how, managed to do a quick calculation. ‘Right, at a guess, we have about fifty miles to Zeebrugge, so if we keep up a steady seventy, we can make it easy. So you can slow down a bit.’ ‘Slow down! You’re joking,’ Brent replied, laughing at his friend. ‘If we slow down now, we’ll never make it.’ ‘No, listen,’ John replied, anxiously tugging on his seat belt. ‘All you have to do is keep it steady, and we’ll get there in bags of time, so please, slow down.’ But, Brent didn’t slow down—quite the opposite. For the next twenty minutes, the needle on his speedometer never went below a hundred, much to the displeasure of his passenger. ‘Christ!’ John pleaded. ‘Remember, if you get stopped again, you’ll fail the breathalyser, and that’s you waving bye-bye to your license. You’re just being stupid now.’ ‘Don’t worry, we’re nearly there,’ Brent answered, but spoke too soon, as he looked in his rear-view mirror to see the blue flashing lights of a police car. ‘No…that’s all I need,’ Brent moaned, as he started to pull the car over to the side of the road.
However, lady luck smiled today, just as he smiled, when the blue flashing light disappeared from his mirror and hurtled forwards, as the police car, for one reason or another, sped past him. ‘Brent! You’re mad. You’re a lucky son of a bitch, but you’re still mad,’ John said, watching the blue light disappearing into the distance. ‘God shines on the righteous,’ Brent replied, again laughing, as he started to put his foot down. But, God wasn’t shining much, when two minutes later, they came across the same police car blocking the road at the site of a traffic accident. ‘Well, that’s just about blown it. There’s not a hope we’ll catch the ferry now,’ Brent grumbled, resigning himself to the fact they would have to wait a good few hours before the next one. ‘Perhaps, perhaps not,’ John replied optimistically, as he noticed the policeman almost at once pull his car to the side of the road, letting some of the traffic trickle through past two crumpled cars. ‘You’ll end up like that one day, if you carry on driving the way you do.’ ‘Who me? Nah,’ Brent replied dismissively, again letting the car rip.
He hammered the accelerator pedal to the floor, and let the powerful engine kick them back into their seats. Once again, the car blasted down the road, leaving the accident and the blue flashing light behind them. Brent didn’t care, he had only one thing on his mind, and that was to reach his local pub in London, before last orders. Ten minutes later, Brent looked at his watch, and punched the air in victory, as he turned off the main carriageway and headed towards the entrance of the Zeebrugge Ferry Terminal. ‘See! Told you we would do it,’ he said excitedly, as he handed the tickets to an extremely attractive attendant, before passing on a few boyish comments, which were quickly returned by a half smile and a bored look to tell him she had heard all this before. However, he still laughed, and made his way towards the ship. ‘You’re still mad,’ John remarked, catching his breath. ‘We’re on the boat, aren’t we, what more do you want?’ his friend joked, looking in the mirror, noticing the young girl closing the barrier for the last time, just in front of some unlucky passengers, who never quite made it. It was March, and the air in the car deck was freezing, as the two men made their way swiftly up to the warmth of the upper decks, not even noticing the sign.
WELCOME ON BOARD THE HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE. The first thing Brent always did, when taking the ferry, was to head to the bar; today was no exception. Brent paid for the two pints of lager, as John quickly nipped to the duty free to buy some cheap fags. After having a little complaint to the barman about the expensive prices, Brent turned to see if he could find any spare tables. He started to move through a large pack of teenagers laughing and joking to themselves. Out of the blue, he heard a bellowing voice he hadn’t heard in a long time. ‘OY, THAT MAN, SANDLER. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE OFF TO?’ Brent stopped in his tracks, turned, and started to smile. ‘Sergeant Harris! How the devil are you?’ ‘I’m very well, and how are you?’ he replied in his thunderous voice, the type once you heard, you would never forget. ‘Good, I’m good,’ Brent answered. ‘I’ve just had a week skiing in France with some of the boys we were stationed with in Menden. We were talking a lot about you.’ ‘All good, I hope.’ ‘Yeah, most of it. So, what have you been doing since you left the army?’ Brent asked. ‘Not a great deal,’ Sergeant Harris replied, now with a much quieter, solemn voice. ‘There doesn’t seem to be much call for old sergeants in the real world, so I got a job as a security guard, like everyone else who leaves the army. And you, what are you up to?’ ‘I was lucky. I landed a job buying and selling diamonds, of all things.’ ‘Selling diamonds!’ Sergeant Harris said, raising his eyebrows. ‘Sounds like a pretty good number to me. Is the money good?’ ‘Good enough, I suppose, I do alright, but not great.’ ‘Good enough!’ the Sergeant replied, not quite believing what he had just heard. ‘I’d bet you’re making a mint. I always thought you would do well, especially as a salesman. “He can charm the birds out of the trees!” That’s what they all said about you.’ ‘Who on earth said that?’ Brent replied with a cheeky grin, before asking his old Sergeant where he had been. ‘Just had a day trip to Ostend, doing a bit of a beer run. There was a special deal in the Sun newspaper a few weeks back, so a few of my mates and myself got together, and made good use of it.’ ‘Good. Listen, I’ll catch up with you later. I need to find a table to put these drinks down,’ Brent said, before moving towards the back of the bar to find a free table. He was just about to sit down, when he noticed John shaking hands with Sergeant Harris. The group of teenagers was just starting to get a little too loud for Brent. All in all, the atmosphere was good humoured. One boy, aged about fifteen, was pathetically sticking his tongue out to see if he could touch the tip of his nose, much to the amusement of his friends. However, not to Brent, who decided to look for a quieter table. Just then, Brent wasn’t sure what happened.
All at once, his balance was shifted by a strange sudden movement, as the boat started to jolt forward, at the same time, sending most of his pint of lager upwards and out of the glass, drenching his shirt and trousers. ‘Damn! That’s the last fucking thing I wanted.’ Instantly, he looked up very aware the group of teenagers he had just walked through were all looking at him, quite shocked at his outburst. Not only that, they were also puzzled, and worried themselves by the sudden jolt. Quickly, a strange feeling of dizziness started to overcome Brent, as he was sure the boat was tipping, but his brain was telling him, No! How can this be? The next feeling was stranger still—the feeling of weightlessness. Now, his brain was telling him the boat was indeed tipping. Yet he still couldn’t comprehend what was happening. ‘Wh…Wh…What’s going on?’ he tried to shout, as he started to fall along the floor towards the windows. This can’t be. What’s happening? Quickly, he threw an arm out to grab a table to stop his fall, but to his horror, the table followed him down towards a large window.
He landed heavily on the glass, sending a pain shooting up his leg. It was all happening so fast; there was no time to think. Reactively, Brent looked upwards to fathom out what was going on, but a big blue flash shot into his eye as a chair leg hit him, and milliseconds after, more chairs, tables, glasses, everything was burying him, pinning him hard against the window. The next thing he saw was the comical teenager crashing into the debris around him, blood gushing from his mouth. ‘CHRIST,’ he shouted, and then, the fear hit him hard. The sound of grating metal, the fearful screams, and now, the sheer weight of everything on top of him trapping him for what seemed to be an eternity, but in reality, was only seconds. Instinctively, he looked to where he had last seen John, but couldn’t spot him. Instead, he did see Sergeant Harris also fall to a window, quickly followed by the cash register from the bar, crushing his chest at the same time as what looked like hundreds of beer glasses and whisky bottles raining on top of him. In quick succession, two women smashed through a plate glass window of what he thought was the duty free, and then hammered into one of the windows on the side of the ferry. Then, it came! The water seemed to come from every door, porthole, and window and then, total blackness, as the lights went out. He could now sense the panic. And then it hit him, the sudden blast of the icy water. The force of the water was tremendous; he had never in his life felt such a body blow, even though the pressure of the water was softened by the body of the comical teenager pushed against his face. Brent just had enough time to take a deep breath, but the freezing water pounding at him made him want to open his mouth to breathe. Again, his brain told him, No! Brent knew he was under the water, trapped in the mess of the wooden tables, chairs, and God knows what else. His first reaction was to get rid of this body he was entangled up with, but could not, because of the sheer disorder piled on top of him. Think, Brent, think. What’s happening? How do you get out? Think. Swim, swim your hardest. It was no good; only one of his arms was free, and both feet were trapped. The alarming realisation set in at once. Brent Sandler. You are just about to die. You are underwater, trapped, and you can’t hold your breath forever. But, I’m not going to give up. Instinct told him, pull, pull with all your might. He managed to free his second arm, as the tables and chairs seemed to float away from him like a miracle from God. But, that is exactly what they are doing, simply floating away. The tables are made from wood and that’s what wood does, float! The body of the young teenager floated with them. Brent, free because of this miracle, now had hope, but his cheeks were at bursting point, as he tried frantically to reach the surface of the water. There’s just too much debris to swim through. The tables and chairs, that were only a few seconds ago trapping him to the bottom, were now stopping him from reaching the surface. Come on, quicker, push your way through. I can’t hold my breath. Brent pushed and pulled at anything above his head. I can’t hold my breath any longer. One more push. It was too late; that final push was too much, and he had no option. His brain told him he had to breathe, and that’s what he did, as he opened his mouth to let in some air. The taste of the salty water hit the back of his throat, making him cough and splutter violently. But, how? I’m underwater; I shouldn’t be able to breathe, should I? He was confused. Then, it hit him; that final push had been enough! Suddenly, an immense amount of freedom, achievement, and confusion came over him, as he realised his head was above the surface of the water. He didn’t know what to think. Again, he spluttered, before he took a breath of air he would never forget. ‘Yes! I’ve done it!’ he shouted punching the air, now realising what he had done. Then, at once, it hit him again. He was far, far from safety. He tried to get his bearings, but he could not think. The noise this time seemed to be just as loud as before, but different. The sounds of the grating metal had stopped. It was now only the noise of the screams of panic. Think, Brent, think! Get out of the water; you can’t last long in this temperature. Brent looked around, but there was only blackness; nothing. He tried to move around, but in every direction, there was something stopping him from doing so. His body was rapidly getting weaker. Hypothermia had already started to set in. His brain was becoming numb, and his teeth were starting to chatter. Think, Brent, think! How long have you been in the water, five minutes, ten? Brent didn’t know, but he knew he was drifting in and out of consciousness, as he was suspended in the water. He was now in a battle to survive, and the cold was winning. But, he had at least one thing in his favour. The debris he was cursing a while ago was now starting to give him some ballast. It was still dark, and all he could see was the faint glow of some emergency lighting somehow still in operation. Brent wasn’t sure how long he had been in the water, twenty minutes, perhaps longer, perhaps less, but he knew he didn’t have long. He tried to kick again with his feet and move his arms, but the debris and the cold prevented him from doing so. The noise and the screaming had died down, or was it he was slowly losing consciousness? What, what’s that? What’s that on my face? A hand, but what hand, whose hand? Brent grabbed at it as best as he could, but was too weak. He was even too weak to shout out at whoever was pulling his hair. ‘Up you come, bonny lad.’ The pain in Brent’s head turned to hell, and it hardly rescinded when whoever was pulling him up had let go. He fell back into the water, but was at once hauled out again by what he could only make out as a giant of a man. Brent couldn’t see him in the dark, but as he fell on him, he knew instantly of his size. He tried to say something, but the numbness in his face made this impossible. The Giant moved Brent to one side, and laid him on his back on what was, before the ship’s ninety-degree roll to the seabed, the back of a long bar sofa. Now, looking up, he could just about see out of a large rectangular window, two meters above him. He was now very aware the pain in his face was a direct result of the initial fall and a certain chair leg. He was also aware he could not see out of his left eye, and the shaking of his body was uncontrollable. But, in spite of it all, Brent’s mind was whirring. I have got hope. Pull yourself together. Think, he told himself once again. Think! Brent looked again out of the rectangular window, and thought he could see lights outside but he wasn’t sure. Just then, he heard some heavy thumping noises, strangely mixed with what he thought might have been muffled voices. He saw the light again, then the shape of a man’s face illuminated only for a split second, then once more the thumping noises, two in quick succession, and immediately the window turned to white, just as he felt the pain in his face sting as the shattered glass fell. Instinct told him, close your eyes. He did so as the small fragments of glass cut into his face. He didn’t care. Again, he heard the sound of voices; this time, the tone was clear. Slowly, he tried to open his eyes, finding it impossible. He tried again and again, only succeeding in making a small slit between his eyelids of his right eye. But, it was enough to see the waving of a flashlight from the now-open window above him. The beam of light rested on his face sending pain into his half open eye. He was relieved when the light went away. He tried to follow the strand of light, but it was moving too quick, darting from one direction, and then to another, then back again. He could hear voices, someone shouting, he did not know what. They were loud at first, but after a time, they were gradually becoming quieter and quieter. Brent knew what was happening; he was losing the battle, and the cold was still winning
Wow, that is quite an opening Chapter!! To carry on reading click here
About The Author
Peter Best was born in North Shields in the North East of England in the beginning of the sixties. Albeit the son of a shipyard worker, Peter was brought up in a mining community until the age of eight when for some reason or another somebody made the decision that the community should be uprooted and moved to a place called Cramlington New Town on the outskirts of Newcastle.
After his time in school he served an apprenticeship working mainly on building sites working as an electrician, which he hated by the way! However, as Peter always looks on the positive side of things, he was pleased he did, as it was on these building sites where he came across many different characters who he was pleased to call his friends. “Real people,” he called them. And so it turned out that many of these so called real people, and others of course, featured quite strongly in his novels.
Of course it was not just the people he met on the sites; Peter has over the years come across many different characters on his travels who have all played their part in working their way into his mind.
In 1996 he married for the second time to a young German girl and soon after moved to the south of England. Soon after that he upped sticks again and moved to Wiesbaden in Germany to help support his wife as she pushed at her career as a doctor.
Peter feel in love with the culture of his new surroundings, especially the culture of one of his neighbouring counties Bavaria. However as they say all good things come to an end and he moved back to England. It was at this time when his writing started to come together. Over the next few years Peter started to string together his thoughts and ideas for The Burden of Truth and its sequel. (The name remains a secret for now.)
He now lives with his wife and daughter in a small seaside town in Essex called Frinton on Sea. Frinton, along with its neighbouring town, Walton on the Naze, both feature in his novel, The Burden of Truth.