Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove! It is my absolute honour to share with you an excerpt from Deep Dark Night, the fourth instalment of the Lori Anderson series, and my review is here if you missed that. Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour!
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
A city in darkness. A building in lockdown. A score that can only be settled in blood…
Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty-hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.
An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.
When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.
And that’s just the beginning…
Alright, are you ready for some girl power? Here’s Lori:
‘Monroe, can you hear me?’
His words are distorted, metallic sounding. ‘Lori, what’s…?’
There are three beeps and the call disconnects. The backlit screen of my cell seems overly bright in the eerie gloom of the blacked-out city. Nothing’s twinkling anymore. I press Monroe’s number and wait for the call to connect, but it doesn’t. Nothing happens.
I check the screen. Hot damn. There’s no cell service, no 4G, and no wi-fi, zip – just like the city’s power, they’ve all been switched off. I wonder what the hell this means and how the hell a thing like this happens. Wonder if it’s some kind of terrorist attack.
There’s a loud click behind me, and I whip round. The penthouse is in darkness aside from several cellphone screens illuminating small patches of the poker table. I take a step towards the building. There’s another click, as loud as before, followed by another. Then a whirring sound starts up, like a small motor. I realise the noise is coming from above the balcony windows.
At first I feel relief – if something’s working surely that means the penthouse still has some power. Then I realise the terrace doors are moving, closing. I think back to the blueprints of the building – the whole suite of the penthouse is designed as a panic room. The blackout must have caused it to automatically activate.
The penthouse is going into lockdown. The doors are sliding closer. JT’s inside, I’m out. And if I don’t move my ass I’m going to get stuck out here on the terrace.
Sprinting across the tiled floor, I squeeze between the final door and the wall – just making it inside before the door closes and the lock clicks shut. The motor pauses a moment, then metal shutters lower over the windows.
‘What the hell’s going on?’ Johnny slurs from over by the poker table, his face made ghostly in the light of his cell. ‘What’s happening to the windows?’
‘They’re armoured shutters.’ Carmella’s voice is clear and calm. ‘It’s part of the panic-room protocol. If there’s a power problem in the building, or any other perceived threat to the inhabitants of this suite, the protocol is activated. The blackout will have triggered it.’
‘Can’t we un-trigger it?’ Otis sounds out-of-breath, all sorts of anxious. ‘I hate the dark, and I don’t like enclosed spaces.’
‘The penthouses all have back-up generators,’ says Carmella.
‘We should have power again really soon, you don’t need to worry.’
‘My cell’s got no service,’ says Carl, stabbing at the screen. ‘911 isn’t connecting.’
‘Why are you calling 911?’ says Carmella.
‘Because this is an emergency,’ Carl says, his tone patronising. ‘There are no lights.’
Mikey looks at his cell. Shakes his head. ‘I’ve got nothing.’
‘There’s no service, or 4G or wi-fi,’ I say. ‘I checked already.’
‘That’s not normal, is it?’ Otis is speaking fast, his words coming out in a tumble. ‘I get that wi-fi would be affected, but the 4G, the cell service? How’s—?’
‘It could have taken out the cell towers,’ says JT. His voice is gravel deep and steady. Hearing him makes me feel calmer.
‘I just don’t like it that we’re locked in here. What if there’s a fire? What if we want to—?’
‘It’s okay,’ says Carmella. In the glow of the screens I see her move over to Otis and put her hand on his arm. ‘There’s a landline in the study, I’ll call the concierge and ask them to override the panic-room protocol.’
‘Thanks,’ Otis says, still sounding breathless. ‘Really appreciate it.
She rubs his arm. ‘It’s no problem.’
Thomas goes with Carmella as she leaves the living space to go make the call. The rest of us stay where we are. I switch on the torch app on my cell. Otis looks tense over at one end of the table. By the piano, Mikey, Anton and Carl are discussing the power grid and what could have caused such a huge outage.
Sighing, Johnny sways over to the huge L-shaped couch and sprawls at one end of his, slurping his champagne.
Only Cabressa, who’s still seated at the head of the table, seems unbothered. He turns to look at me. ‘Did you reach someone who can bring the chess piece?’
‘Yes.’ I think fast. Want to buy myself more time to figure out a way I can still get watertight evidence on Cabressa. I meet his cold, hard gaze. ‘But the cell service cut out before I could tell them where to find it.’
Cabressa grips the edge of the table in both hands. The light’s too dim to see if his knuckles are going white, but I can tell for sure that he’s angry from the way he’s clenching his jaw. He glares at me. ‘We’ll just have to hope the blackout, and lack of cell service, doesn’t last for too long, won’t we.’ It was not a question.
I nod. Act meek. Know that I won’t be done with this job until Cabressa is behind bars. There’s a calm kind of menace, a cold evil, about this rather nondescript man that gives me the heebiejeebies. I’ve heard the stories of what he’s done, how he’s ruled the streets of Chicago for over twenty years, and anyone who’s gotten in his way – criminal or honest citizen – has been threatened, exploited or killed. I also know, just from looking into his eyes, that once this deal is done and he has the full set of chess pieces, this mobster intends to kill me. I glance at JT, see the concern on his face, and I know he’s guessed Cabressa’s intentions too.
If Cabressa gets his way, neither me or JT will ever leave this city. We’ll be set into the concrete foundations of one of his mobmoney-financed skyscrapers, or weighted down and cast into Lake Michigan from an isolated spot out near the purification plant.
Our baby girl, Dakota, will become an orphan at just ten years old.
I clench my fists. Give JT a meaningful look.
Because there is no goddamn way I’m going to let that happen.
Wowsers, am I right?! Deep Dark Night is available now, go get it!