You know the best bit of the Marvel movies? It comes at the very end, after the titles and just as you're about to leave. It's the tease to the next movie, isn't it?
I think it was IRON MAN that did it first, with Tony Stark meeting Nick Fury to talk about the Avengers Inititative.
So that got me thinking...
Superhero team ups. That's why superheroes and team-ups were invented, right?
We've got the Avengers, we've got Superman & Batman on the horizon and we've got Doctor Who coming up later this month with THREE (or maybe four?) Doctors in the house! Or TARDIS. I know, wasn't it amazing when he turned around and it was John Hurt?
It all gives you the META-STORY. It tells you that hey, there's other stuff going on beyond the borders of this tale and it all weaves into one another. It's the butterfly effect of fiction.
So, what does this all mean to me? And you, since you've read it so far.
My two series, DEVIL'S KISS and ASH MISTRY, are all part of one glorious whole. In DEVIL'S KISS I hint at Elaine's time in the East, and in THE SAVAGE FORTRESS I hint at other holy warriors fighting against the forces of darkness.
I've got Elaine in both series. Think of her as my Nick Fury. She's aware of the big picture. And one day, she knows that something will happen that will need both the Knights Templar and the Kali-aastra.
So, sooner or later, Billi SanGreal and Ash Mistry were going to meet.
So, below is that teaser scene.
In Billi's timeline it takes place after DEVIL'S KISS but before DARK GODDESS.
In Ash's timeline it takes place after CITY OF DEATH but before WORLD OF DARKNESS.
Ash is in trouble (and if you've finished CITY OF DEATH you'll know exactly what I mean) and the only contact he has is Elaine. So he's heading off to see her in North London.
WHEN ASH MET BILLI
Ash had left her a message. Elaine had left him one.
Ash came out of Finsbury Park station. The pub across the road was overflowing. Saturday evening was balmy, the last traces of the summer lingering, stretching out the evening. The doors were open and the patrons stood on the street, spilling out onto the road. Crowds surged around him, making their way to some open-air gig in the park itself.
Ash checked his mobile screen. The address was a few minutes away. The red pin hung over it. Some sort of shop.
It had been a bad day. The school forum had been buzzing with conflicting reports about what had happened at the disco. Jack was alive. He was dead. It had been a gang from another school. It had been the Russia Mafia.
Ash hadn’t been mentioned once. But his inbox was filled with messages from the boys. And Gemma. He hadn’t dared open them. She’d buzzed him six times on his mobile and left a string of texts. She’d given up by around five.
The map led him round a corner past a kebab shop, and a line of garages. Then he saw the sign.
The three golden orbs hung over the entrance. It was a pawnshop. Business was good as the window, protected by a steel wire grille, was filled with gear. Laptops and games’ consoles seemed to be the best sellers but behind a wide-screen tv was a stuffed owl, it’s eyes glazed and void.
Ash checked his watch. Five to.
Good enough. He hit the buzzer.
Footsteps scuffled across the floor. Through the smoky glass he could make out a woman, approaching. Keys jangled on a chain. There was the faint stink of cigarette smoke.
“Who is it?” The voice was harsh and crusty with old tar.
“Ash Mistry. You Elaine?”
The keys rattled some more. There was a cough and chink of bolts falling back.
Kay stepped back. The door was new and the frame reinforced with steel. This Elaine took her security seriously. He glanced at the blind owl in the window. Was there more to this pawnshop that just feathered junk and a box of iPods?
The door opened a sliver and a puff of smoke blew from the gap. A beady, wary eye peered at him.
“Been wondering when you’d turn up,” said the woman. She drew the door open. “I’m Elaine.”
She pulled her long woollen cardigan tighter around her sparse, wiry body. Long, brittle grey hair hung down to her shoulders and her face was wrinkled with age and stained with a life-time of smoking. She snapped her bony fingers. “Shut the door behind you.”
“Want me to lock it?” Ash asked.
Elaine laughed. Another octave lower it would have been a cackle. “Who’d be stupid enough to mess with me with you to protect me?”
Ash stopped. He peered into the room. There was someone else here.
A tall, stuffed bear stood looming over him. It’s face was twisted into a snarl and he would have been pant-wettingly terrifying if someone hadn’t put a top hat on his head or warped his thick neck with a pink feather boa. A couple of children’s bikes formed a line along the wall, there was a pile of big, chunky leather trunks staked on each other. And someone sitting on them.
She’d been so still he hadn’t noticed her. The room was dingy and she hung out of the glow of the one fluorescent tube that provided the only light in the shop.
She looked a bit only than him. A knife scrapped across the surface of an apple but she wasn’t looking at the fruit. Her eyes, so dark as to be black, gazed down at Ash.
The girl wore black jeans and a black teeshirt. Her skin naturally dusky but darkened by the summer sun. Black hair knotted into a loose pony tail hung over her shoulder. A silver band on her wrist glistened in the low light. Though she hardly moved more than her wrist she looked like trouble.
The knife moved smoothly through the flesh of the apple. She sliced off a segment and popped it in her mouth.
Ash felt a prickle of something, creeping up his back. Elaine pointed at a stool.
“Sit down there so we can chat,” she said.
Sitting down meant him having his back to this girl. That seemed bad. He gestured at her with his thumb.
“And she is..?”
The girl stood up and stepped down from the stack of trunks. The dust around her hardly stirred. “Billi,” she said. She peeled off another chunk of apple.
A bit taller than him she had an easy grace. This Billi reminded him more of Parvati than anyone human should.
“I’ve a friend a lot like you,” he said.
“I seriously doubt it.”
“Anyway, Billi. Nice to meet you. Do shut the door on your way out,” Ash said.
“I asked her to come,” said Elaine. Billi hadn’t moved.
Ash bit his lip. Who was this Elaine? “To protect you from who? Me?”
“Isn’t that why you’re here?” replied Elaine.
“I’m an ordinary guy,” said Ash. “I am.”
Elaine’s eyes sank into her wrinkles as she took another long drag. Her fingers tapped at the stub, dropping ash onto the lino. She idly rubbed it with her boot. “Go on, Billi. I’ll be fine.”
The door bell chimed as Billi left.
Elaine adjusted her stool and sat down. “I hope I’m not making a big mistake.”
“And if you are?”
Elaine smiled. Her teeth were plaque yellow. “I dind’t get into this profession without people owning me favours.”
“What sort of people?”
“Extremely violent ones.” Elaine squashed out her cigarette. Her hand dipped into her pocket and within seconds a second was lit and burning in her lips. “So you’re the Kali-aastra?”
“Not what you expected?”
“No. But I’ll manage my disappointment.”
TO BE CONTINUED...