Sit back and enjoy The Sleeping Warrior. Set in London and Scotland, it is a crime thriller with a subtle fantasy element.
LONDON solicitor Libby Butler’s life is in a self-inflicted mess. Her affair with her boss is going nowhere as is her position in the prestigious city law firm where she works. A narrow escape from the knife of south London’s elusive serial murderer, The Vampire Killer, has challenged her outward bravado and left her nerves and personal life in tatters. When duty calls Libby to a metropolitan police station in the middle of the night, she meets the enigmatic Gabriel Radley. Dressed like an ancient warrior in studded leather armour, Gabriel has a habit of disappearing from police custody and danger appears to dog him. Gabriel is searching for a ‘stone’ he has lost, its value ‘beyond human imagination’, that will help bring a ‘monster’ to justice. When Libby agrees to help him, she unwittingly plunges her life into a series of disasters and neither she nor any of her friends are safe. A cult who call themselves The Awakened, a gangland thug and his henchman, a female assassin, a detective chief inspector from Scotland Yard, and even the serial killer, all become inadvertently embroiled in the chase for the stone and the pivotal force of Gabriel. As the death toll rises, Libby is forced to face herself, learn the true value of life, and the potent significance of the Sleeping Warrior within.
The hall was deserted, save for an abandoned upright piano in the far corner and the sharp rays of morning criss-crossing the filthy oak boards. Only the dust stirred and it whirled and eddied in the bright shards of daylight, like miniscule angels trapped inside brilliant linear prisons, spilling across the lofty room.
A shadow entered from a door on the right. The dull thuds of cardboard blocks against wood stirred the silence. She lifted one black satin toe and then another, grinding the pointes into the rosin box: her stance haughty and strong, her hands and fingers soft as if pulling through warm water. She breathed in and then out and, with each breath, her arms moved obediently to the silent rhythm. She waited for the moment, her eyes closed in concentration, her lithe body yielding to the discipline of years.
As if an orchestra had struck the first notes of a rowdy overture, the arabesque came swiftly and with the power of an earthquake. Her leg reached out behind her and her heel kissed the back of her head, while her left foot formed a perfect arch, balancing her weight on the tip of one pointe. She unfurled her arms to either side, the softness of her fingers betraying the masculine tautness of her muscles as she flapped them lightly. There was no bend in her chest to suggest unnatural exertion — her legs formed a smooth, straight line behind her — a linear sculpture. It was a perfect, motionless pose: a faultless snap-shot of gravity and balance and a celebration of one of the most beautiful art forms known to man.
Her audience of one could have been an audience of thousands. This would always be her very best performance. She kept her movements purposeful and controlled as she opened to the rhythm of her memories.
The fluttering in her heart as the curtains came up. Her dance began with soft adagio in the shadows of the hall. A series of unfolding movements of smoothness and serenity, each arabesque and attitude was a still-life study in monochrome. Her dark pony-tail trailed submissively behind her every move in faultless synchronicity, like a shimmering shadow on a hot summer’s eve.
The hot glare of the lights and the vibrant colours of the stage. Pas de bourée into a bright shard of sunlight, her feet barely seemed to move, and she paused in bras bas, her feet in first position, her head turned down towards the floor. Like an alabaster carving, swathed in black silk, the light tumbling around her, she stood motionless under the spotlight in calm neutrality.
The orchestra of blasting brass, rumbling drums and weeping strings. A series of complex turns struck like lightning, spinning her diagonally across the hall. Running, now, she thundered into an enormous leap, her legs parting in mid air with near-impossible elevation; into another —sissonne ouverte at 90 degrees straight into a grand jeté en avant. Chaîné up, chaîné down and an almighty bound in open second. Her ghostly blur shattered the shards of daylight as she soared above the boards, flickering from shadow to light, the dust crackling in the turbulent air.
The spell-bound faces shining from the dark amphitheatre. Her audience could barely contain his awe as he gasped and sighed at the powerful performance before him.
Standing with his back against the far wall beneath a dilapidated balcony, he could hear the music as if he sat directly above the orchestra pit and could see the colourful splendour of the stage; he could feel the silk of the swirling costumes and sense the vibrant life-force in this divine prima ballerina. He put his hands together in rapturous applause.
The hailstorm of flowers and the thunderous ovation at the end of the performance. Her expression remained inscrutable as she halted in mid-turn, her arms and legs splayed out in opposite directions to leave her body wide open. She had seen him. A perfect double pirouette en dehors, then another, then another en dedan. Fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, fouetté, over and over again — a hazy silhouette of vigorous perpetual motion. Her dark form was a smudge as she spun on her toe, faster and faster towards him… flicker …flicker …flicker … flick … flick … flick.
‘Beautiful, truly beautiful!’ her appreciative audience shouted his delight and clapped his hands together until his palms stung. He couldn’t hide the star-struck admiration in his expression as she stood before him and narrowed her pale green eyes. She was a good head shorter than him and so slim that she looked almost fragile. ‘How do you do that with your legs? You’d make a great pole dancer.’
The assault came suddenly and he was pinned against the wall by his neck, her knee bent at her right ear, the black pointe pressing the air from his windpipe, crushing the sensitive cartilage into his spine.
Slowly choking to death, he was powerless to defend himself and couldn’t even muster up the energy to grab the foot from his throat. His eyes began to bulge, his face was on fire, but the pain slowly began to recede as unconsciousness beckoned. As quickly as it had attacked, the pointe withdrew and he slumped to the ground gargling.
‘Lars has sent you?’
He could only nod as he held one hand to his throat and the other in the air, his fingers splayed in a gesture of supplication. Her Russian accent didn’t surprise him as his senses slowly returned.
‘Do you have a pen?’
It was an odd question in the circumstances but, having lost the ability to speak, he nodded again and fumbled inside his jacket. Still sprawled on the ground on his hands and knees, he drew out a black ballpoint and thrust it towards her.
‘If Lars has sent you, then that means money.’ The nod of assent was all she needed. She grabbed him by the thinning clumps of hair scattered across the top of his head and scribbled something on the bald patch, digging the point into the skin. ‘Tell him to call me.’ Her kick sent him spinning onto his back.
She took five wide backward steps into the middle of the floor and saluted him with a graceful, elegant curtsy to mark the dramatic finale of her best performance. She spun on her heels and marched across the room, leaving the hall empty save for an upright piano in the far corner; an injured man choking on the ground; and the faintest sniff of rosin in the settling dust.