In the criminal jungle that is his turf, Grim is the apex predator. Now the Coalition Security Force is assigning him to the most lethal hunt he has yet faced. Meet Halkom 'Grim' Dugsdall in Mistrust and Treason the first book in a new Fortune's Fools trilogy, Iconoclast, by E.M. Swift-Hook.
“You are my generation, Dugsdall, well not far off it — and you are spattered with commendations, way more than I ever managed. But you still spend your time shifting around in dive bars digging up the lowlife in person, whilst I get to head up things like this.”
He met her enquiring gaze with his expression carefully blanked.
“I like the work I do.”
That sounded defensive, but then it always did. He had never yet found a way to explain that his present role was the one he felt good doing. Nothing would ever beat the satisfaction he felt when he brought down one of the truly dangerous individuals who threatened the peace and security of people in the Coalition. Whenever opportunities had been opened for him to take advancement, he had never accepted anything that would move him away from where he wanted to be. It meant turning down promotions and all that went with them. He knew most people couldn’t grasp his view and he had given up trying to explain it long since.
“You are very good at it too,” Ty said. “I have to admit I was impressed by what I saw.”
Then her face changed just so slightly and he knew she was about to mention his family. Every time — his family. He tensed inside as if preparing to receive a physical blow.
“Your family — ”
“My parents were both members of the terrorist organisation called The Legacy.” He found it helped if he got in first, made it clear he had nothing to hide and wasn’t worried about it. “My sisters and I were raised by my mother’s step-sister. Her parents became my grandparents and so forth. We didn’t get too much of The Legacy narrative — or at least I didn’t — I was the youngest.”
Ty nodded, she seemed more curious than judgmental. It was hard for him to be certain though.
“Your sisters did?”
That was a delicate way of asking about them — well one of them.
“Not really. Although it’s a family joke that I’m the only really honest one of us sibs. My middle sister works in PR for some politico very like that Var Dray, I flat share with my twin who is in advertising and image consultancy — and my eldest sister became a pirate.”
There was never any point hiding it in this kind of situation.
“So I saw. An uncaught and unconvicted pirate.”
Was there a small edge of accusation there? Or was it simple curiosity?
“She’s a good ten years older than the rest of us. She grew up more with our parents.” That didn’t explain it, but it made it sound as if it did. “She seemed to be doing just fine in life. Got herself good qualifications and started work as a ground technician doing ship maintenance, then she fell for the wrong man.”
“Haven’t we all,” Ty said quietly, her expression hard to read.
“She got out of it, though. But not before having enough on her file to see her facing arrest on a charge with a capital sentence anywhere in Coalition space.”
“A reformed pirate?” Ty suggested.
“Near enough,” Grim agreed. “Near enough that she’s left alone where she is now.”
Ty nodded as if she understood. Which was unlikely as in Central most people he’d met seldom had any siblings, let alone any siblings with interesting histories.
“So how long do you need to be able to put your life fully on hold, Dugsdall? I’m going to need a few days myself.”
That had been unexpected.
He had been expecting to start right away. He doubted his reaction showed but Ty had probably realised this wasn’t the sort of way he was used to working because she went on:
“This is for the long-haul, Dugsdall, we are not going to get any kind of quick result on this and we’re not being asked for one. This could even take years. I really hope not, but it could. You have to realise that once we start there will be no vacations and no time off for family weddings. If you ever need to go sick, it’s me you’ll have to convince not your medic. We will get the best the service has to offer to support us, but in return, we have to give our best. So if you need half a cycle to get your affairs in order, take it now.”
He was very tempted to say he needed no time, he had very little life outside of work to put on hold, after all. But there was something he wanted to do. Something he wouldn’t be happy to share with this woman right now, but which would give him some information he could get nowhere else: he badly wanted to visit his sister. His eldest sister. The pirate — the ex-pirate.
“Half a cycle sounds good to me.”
Ty gave him a thin smile. Maybe it wasn’t what she had really wanted or expected to hear. After all, from his record, he would come over as work-hungry as herself. She was probably regretting the amount of time she had put on the table, but it was too late for her to back away from it now.
“Alright. Fifteen days. But after that, Dugsdall, you belong to the service until this is done.”
“Of course. And it’s Grim.”
Ty looked a little confused.
“It’s certainly pretty serious — but — “
“My name. My friends call me Grim.”
And Ty had smiled a genuine smile, brief and true. Then she had laughed.
Mistrust and Treason is out today with a superb cover by Bristow Designs so be sure to snag your copy!