“Don’t call anyone else and stay inside the house. Pack a small bag. Just one.”
“You’ll come, then?”
“I’ll be there soon. But remember, Kate: there’s no going back.”
Nick Miller and his team provide a unique and highly illegal service, relocating at-risk individuals across Europe with new identities and new lives. Nick excels at what he does for a reason: he himself spent years living in the shadows under an assumed name.
But when Nick steps in to prevent the attempted murder of witness-in-hiding Kate Sutherland on the Isle of Man, he triggers a chain of events with devastating consequences for everyone he protects. Kateand now Nickare under attack by Connor Lane, a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means tearing Nick’s entire network apart…
Chris Ewan's Long Time Lost is a fast-paced stand-alone thriller that The Independent (UK) calls "masterful...Fellow novelist Ann Cleeves' description of [Chris Ewan] as a 'master storyteller' pretty well hits the nail on the head."
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
CHRIS EWAN is the author of the stand-alone thrillers Dark Tides, Dead Line, and Safe House, which was named by The Telegraph as one of the top ten crime novels to take on vacation, and the Good Thief mystery series. The first in the series, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, was named one of the "best books for grownups" by Publishers Weekly and AARP The Magazine, and one of the best thrillers of the year by the London Times.
Read an Excerpt
Long Time Lost
By Chris Ewan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Chris Ewan
All rights reserved.
The phone call reached Miller two days later, gone two o'clock in the morning. It didn't wake him because he hadn't been sleeping. He was staring at his reflection in the window of his seafront hotel room, smoothing his fingers over a child's drawing of a cowboy on a horse.
He took a deep breath – he'd been waiting four long years for this moment to come – and raised the mobile to his ear. It was a prepaid handset that he'd ditch as soon as the call was finished.
'Tell me,' he said.
'Someone came here. Just like you said.'
'You have to tell me what happened, Kate.'
'Can't you come? I really think you should come.'
Which pretty much told Miller everything he needed to know.
He folded the drawing away, tucking it into a well-worn pouch in his wallet, then grabbed his backpack and scanned his surroundings for anything he could have missed. He'd registered at the hotel under an alias. He hadn't used the bed or the bathroom since the room had been cleaned at his request late that evening. The only trace of his presence he would leave behind were the remains of the room-service meal on the tray over by the door.
'Don't call anyone else and stay inside the house. Pack a small bag. Just one.'
'You'll come, then?'
'I'll be there soon. But remember, Kate: there's no going back.'
* * *
Two Days Ago
Miller waited in the darkness. He was sitting on a tiled floor with his back pressed against a towering wall of rain-beaded glass. Behind him, moonlight shimmered on a restless ocean.
The house was high-end, sleek and minimalist. It was cantilevered out over the top of a cliff above Laxey Beach. There were a lot of hard edges. Plenty of steel and glass. There wasn't much furniture but what there was had been carefully chosen and expensively acquired. Miller had seen an article about the design and construction of the house in the airline magazine he'd flicked through during his flight to the island. It was just one more reason why it was a terrible choice.
Kate came in through the door that connected with the garage. She hit the light over the hob and filled a tumbler with chilled water from the dispenser on the fridge. She was short of breath and dressed in running gear: a lightweight windbreaker, three-quarter-length leggings and yellow sports shoes. Her fine red hair was pulled back into a ponytail and dewed over with drizzle. He knew she liked to run. It was part of her routine.
Which was another mistake.
Not so much for her physical conditioning. There was no disputing that she looked fit and toned. Standing with her head tipped back and the tumbler pressed to her full lips, she was every inch the former athlete. But any kind of routine was bad for her short-term health. Especially running alone, at night, in the rain.
That could be deadly.
Miller flipped on the standing lamp next to him. Hard to tell what caught her attention first – the noise of the switch or the pulse of light. But he had to credit her for not dropping the tumbler. She spun towards him and raised it above her head like a club. Smart and fast. He liked that about her.
'Easy,' he told her. 'I'm not here to hurt you.'
'Who are you?' Her voice was pretty steady, considering. 'What are you doing here?'
Her eyes slid to the phone on the kitchen counter. But the phone was no longer there. Miller had thought of that. He thought of a lot of things. It was what had kept him alive this long.
'Easy,' he said again.
But she didn't relax and she didn't lower the glass. She was wired very tight. He guessed she'd been dreading something like this happening. She'd probably lost a lot of sleep over it during the past few months.
He thought of how the situation must look to her. Of how he must look. A man she'd never seen before, lurking in the dark and startling her. And not a man who was good at appearing friendly or approachable, on account of his being neither of those things. He was grizzled and craggy-faced. His hair was wild and needed a cut. His XL sweater and shabby jeans felt a size too small and probably were. The last time Hanson had seen him, he'd whistled and said he looked like something out of Sin City.
'You need to leave. Right now.'
'Can't do that.'
'Then I'll go.'
She set the tumbler down and backed towards the door.
'And contact your police handler? You could do that. But he lives twenty minutes away. And he's an amateur at this. They all are, over here. And supposing you call him and he comes immediately, or even scrambles a fast response unit. I'll be long gone by then. And you won't have heard what I came here to tell you. Kate.'
'That's right, I know your name. Your real name. But that's not even the impressive part. And neither was finding you. The part you should be impressed by is the warning I'm about to give you. There's a man coming for you, Kate. He's been hired to kill you.'
He shook his head. 'Look at me – I'm not built to sneak up on people. But I am good at providing protection. My name is Nick Miller. I help people who find themselves in your situation. I'm an expert at it.'
'I already have protection.'
'Not from the man who wants you dead. I found you tonight by getting inside the system that's protecting you. He'll do the same thing. He's done it before. But he can't get inside my system because my system is different.'
She was stalling for time but that was fine by Miller. It was vital that she heard what he'd come here to say.
'My scheme is privately run. Very discreet. Highly bespoke. I identify people at extreme risk and offer them an alternative option.'
A little of the tension eased from Kate's shoulders. She thought she had him sussed now. He was a salesman. An extreme cold caller.
'I'm not interested.'
'You should be. They probably told you their way is safe. And it is, for most people. But not for you, Kate. Your enemy is motivated and resourced far beyond what they're capable of protecting you from. Connor Lane will stop at nothing to get to you. That's why I'm here. I'll stop at nothing to protect you.'
She lifted her chin as though Lane's name had stung her.
'I don't know who you are.'
'Yes you do. I told you already. I'm Nick Miller. Pleased to meet you.'
'This is crazy.'
'No, this is rational. Think of it as a business meeting. I know you've been in plenty of those the last couple of years – a bunch of them with Lane. Ask me about the service I can offer you. Anything at all.'
She hesitated. Too many questions, he guessed. She was a lawyer, after all. Or had been, until recently.
'Why should I listen to you? You could be lying to me. You could be working for Lane yourself.'
'If I was working for Lane you'd be dead already. And you should trust me for the same reason you're still standing here. You know your current protection isn't good enough. Look at where they have you living. Did they let you pick this place? They might as well have put up a billboard outside. If you come with me, you'll learn to hide my way. It's not easy, but it's secure. I can teach you.'
She shook her head – a fast involuntary jerk – and he saw how skittish he'd made her. He was going to have to offer something more. It was a prospect he'd anticipated, though not one he welcomed. Keeping secrets and dissembling had become a way of life for Miller. It was a habit he found difficult to break.
'Listen, I don't have a brochure for you to flick through or a company website you can visit. And I can't give you a letter of recommendation from one of my clients because I won't compromise their safety. But I'll level with you, Kate. I'm my own best advertisement. We're exactly the same, you and I. We're ghosts. Maybe you don't get that yet. Maybe you still believe you'll be able to go back to your old life, somehow. A few years from now, right? Ten, maximum? That's what you're probably thinking. But it doesn't work that way. Trust me, I know.'
She was concentrating hard, frowning so deeply that the freckles on her forehead merged and blurred. He guessed that she was running through the possibilities in her mind. Was he telling the truth? Or was he a liar or a fantasist?
Or perhaps she was thinking of nothing at all. Miller knew only too well that fear could instil a strange kind of inertia in a person.
'I want you to leave.'
'And you're sure about that?'
He pushed himself to his feet, stooping a little and curling his shoulders, trying to make himself appear smaller than he really was.
'You're not certain – not by a long way – but I understand your predicament. So I'm going to go, but I'm also going to take a chance. I'll stick around on the island for a couple of days. You won't see me but I'll be close by. Tell your police handler if you like, though I wouldn't advise it. You'll be putting Lane's assassin on notice.'
Miller lifted his sweatshirt at the back and removed a clamshell phone from the rear pocket of his jeans.
'I'm leaving you two things. First up is this prepaid mobile. It's programmed with my number, rerouted enough times to protect my security. It's good for two days. Call me on it when you change your mind.'
He set the phone down on the armrest of a leather couch.
'The second item is upstairs on the bed you've been sleeping in. It's an automatic pistol. Keep it close. When Lane's man comes for you – and I promise you he will – don't hesitate to shoot him. Then call me. Understand?'
She didn't nod. Didn't shake her head. She just watched him.
This was the first time Miller had come face to face with Kate Sutherland, but he knew a great deal about her. Far more than he had any legal right to.
He knew, for instance, that she'd competed for Great Britain in the modern pentathlon at the Beijing Olympics, where she'd placed twelfth. He knew that of the five main pentathlon disciplines, pistol shooting was her core strength. He knew that she'd first learned to shoot at just twelve years of age, when her adoptive father introduced her to grouse hunting on his Cotswolds estate. He knew that a knee injury had ended her athletics career prematurely, at which point she'd trained as a commercial lawyer with a specialism in mergers and acquisitions. He knew that she was left-handed, that her favourite movie was The Wizard of Oz, that she'd been chief bridesmaid at three weddings and counting, that she'd spent close to a year searching for her birth family without success.
Most important of all, he knew that she was willing to sacrifice her life as she knew it to testify in a trial that Connor Lane would do everything in his power to prevent her from appearing at.
He said, 'Lock up after me. If you value your life, you'll call me before I get back to my car.'
Miller crossed to the glass door that opened on to the deck and slid it aside. The breeze gusted in, damp and moist, smelling thickly of salt and kelp.
He turned and looked back at Kate, standing half in and half out of her life, and in that moment, with her face slackened and her eyes haunted and lost, he couldn't quite tell which of them was the more afraid for her.CHAPTER 2
Two Days Later
Miller hiked up the mud-slicked path from the beach until he was within sight of the house, then veered off the track and trampled through bushes and brambles, the air dank and vaporous, wetting his clothes. The sky was jammed with rain clouds, skimming low over a turbulent sea. There was no moonlight to speak of. No trace of any stars.
He emerged at the edge of a sheer cliff, the rock face tumbling away into darkness and the sound of the waves striking the shore far below. The deck was a metre in front of him. Maybe half a metre up. The timber was greasy with damp, set almost flush against waist-high glass panels topped with rounded aluminium rails. And Miller was a big guy: a heavy, clumsy brute of a man. He was no kind of acrobat.
He leapt out and hooked his forearms over the railing, jamming the toes of his boots against the glass. The panel shuddered. The timber flexed. He experienced a fleeting moment of weightlessness, of terror, before his momentum carried him on, pitching him forwards from the waist, his backpack lurching sideways as he rolled over the rail and slammed down on to his hip.
The wall of glass at the back of the house loomed over him like a dark mirror. Scrambling to his feet, he stalked forwards and cupped his hands, peering in.
At blackness. At nothing.
He was just reaching sideways, poised to try the door handle, when someone grabbed for his arm.
Miller reacted very fast, swinging round and sweeping a leg, pushing down.
'Ow. You're hurting me.'
'What are you doing?' She bucked against him. 'Let me go. Get off.'
Miller released his grip and staggered away, his limbs taut with adrenaline rigor, a sour, metallic taste swamping his tongue.
Kate lay on her side on the deck. She was wearing grey jogging pants and a pale vest top. There were spots of blood on the vest.
Miller said, 'I told you to wait in the house.'
'I couldn't. Not with him in there.'
'Where is he?'
'And the gun?'
'I dropped it.'
'OK.' Miller turned and looked back at the house. 'OK,' he said again.
His mind was racing and so was his pulse. He could feel it twitching in his neck.
'Are you sure he's dead?'
'I think so.'
'Why the doubt?'
'I've never killed anyone before.'
'Wait here.' He slid the door open.
'The lights don't work. I think he cut the electricity.'
Miller eased his backpack from his shoulders and removed his torch and his gun. The pistol was a SIG that had been acquired by Hanson, in the way of all contraband that Hanson was able to acquire, without alerting the necessary authorities or troubling with the appropriate paperwork. The SIG was box-fresh, hardly fired.
Miller only hoped he could keep it that way.
* * *
On the same night, at the same time, a young man called Patrick Leigh was looking out over Manchester. He had a spectacular view. The city was all lit up. He could see office blocks and apartment towers and street lamps and the distant streaked glow of motorway traffic.
But he wasn't enjoying what he was seeing – he was absolutely petrified – because he was upside down, suspended by his ankles, several hundred metres in the air.
Two men had dragged Patrick out from behind the dumpsters at the back of a department store where he'd bedded down for the night. The men had punched and kicked him, then bundled him into the back of a windowless van where one of them had gagged him with a foul-smelling rag and pinned him down while his companion climbed into the cab and accelerated away.
If Patrick was scared during the journey, his fear spiked when the van came to a halt and he was thrown out on to the ground in a fenced-off construction site on the edge of the city.
In the small hours of the morning, the site was completely deserted. There were shadowy diggers and dump trucks abandoned at all kinds of angles. There were concrete mixers, pneumatic drills and I-shaped metal girders everywhere he looked.
Without saying a word, the two men bound Patrick's ankles together, wrapping them over and over, first with bandages and then with metal chains. After that, the older of the two men – the fat, balding one in the crumpled suit and tie who'd driven the van – walked to the tower at the base of a giant crane. The man opened a door and stepped inside a caged elevator, punched a button and straightened his tie, and Patrick watched the elevator zip up into the sky towards the distant operator's cab.
Patrick had begun to moan then. He'd started to thrash and grapple with his ankle bindings until the second man walked over and squatted next to him. He was short and muscular with a thick, square head and mangled boxer's ears. His lightless grey eyes were wide-set, creeping towards the sides of his skull, reminding Patrick of a hammerhead shark.
The man wore a shiny blue tracksuit and pristine white training shoes. He raised a finger to his lips and shook his head in a no-nonsense warning, which, coming from this guy, was enough to make Patrick stay almost completely still as the big metal hook was lowered all the way down from the end of the jib, where it was secured to the chains coiled around his ankles before the mechanism was reversed and the hook was winched up and Patrick was dragged into the air until he was suspended the wrong way round with his blood rushing to his head, just beyond reach of the tower and the cab and any remote chance of safety.
Patrick kept willing himself to pass out but he remained stubbornly conscious as the little elevator shuttled downwards then whirred back up again, whereupon the man in the tracksuit hauled back the caged door and climbed nimbly and confidently between some railings until he was clinging to the outside of the tower, reaching for the flapping hood attached to Patrick's sweater.
Patrick moaned from behind his gag, and kept moaning even as the man yanked him towards him and shook him vigorously, even as the older man in the suit leaned out of a window on the operator's cab and told him to shut the hell up.
'Do you know who we are?' the older man shouted.
Excerpted from Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan. Copyright © 2016 Chris Ewan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
PART I: Isle of Man,
PART II: Weston-super-Mare, England,
PART III: Hamburg, Germany,
PART IV: Rome, Italy,
PART V: Arles, France,
PART VI: Prague, Czech Republic,
PART VII: Brienz, Switzerland,
PART VIII: Lake Windermere, England,
PART IX: Epilogue,
Also by Chris Ewan,
About the Author,