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Is it symptoms left from his brain haemorrhage, or a guilty conscience that is making Tristan McCall see things no-one else can?
Forced out of the police by scandal and illness, Tris is trying to rebuild his life through the renovation of the home he hopes to share with Xander, his husband. A sprawling Gothic pile, Berwick House is in need of attention, but Tris soon realises the attention is not all one way. Faced with a presence in the house only he can sense, Tris must decide if his damaged brain is playing tricks on him, or if Berwick House really holds a dark and dangerous message from beyond the grave.
The Burning Web is an exciting novel length ghost story to send shivers down your spine.
Tris blinked into the bright afternoon light and shielded his eyes with one hand as the natural shine was joined by dozens of flash bulbs. He’d tried to prepare himself for the glare he knew would be outside, but his head was thumping, had been since he’d been called back into the courtroom to hear the verdict. He was so tired he just wanted to get home and collapse next to Xander on the sofa. Yet, from the way Xander was gripping his hand and pulling him towards the top of the court building steps, Tris knew it wasn’t to be. He meekly followed his husband in front of the melee of reporters.
Each burst of camera light was like pins poking into his retinas, so Tris watched the back of Xander’s left ear. All he could really see was a dark patch of hair and his husband’s chocolate skin rather than any detail, since his eyesight was shifting in and out of focus. He had no more words, no comments for the horde that had been dogging him since this whole crappy business had begun, so he let Xander speak for him.
People were yelling questions from all directions and calling for them to turn this way and that, but Xander held up one hand in what to most would have looked like a very confident gesture for silence. Since the other one was clasped around Tris’ hand like a vice, Tris knew better. It worked though, and the crowd rumbled into mostly silence.
“Tristan and I,” Xander began, since it had been a long time since anyone reporting on the case had called him DC McCall, “would firstly like to thank everyone who has stood by us through the last eighteen months. It has been a difficult time, when Tris has been tried both by the media and by the law, and finally, justice has been done: as has always been maintained by Tris and I, he is innocent of any crime.”
“He still shot an innocent boy!” someone yelled from the back of the crowd and more flashes went off.
Tris kept his attention on Xander, forcing his face to stay straight, despite the knot of sickness that knowledge kept in the bottom of his stomach. Xander had to have felt him tremble though, because he squeezed his fingers reassuringly.
“As Tris has stated on many occasions, he wholeheartedly regrets the awful sequence of events that led to this terrible incident, but Abdi San ran at him holding a gun during a night of terrible violence on the New Cross estate,” Xander added, tone firm, authoritative. “A jury has now agreed with us that under those conditions, Tris had no chance of telling that gun was a replica and he reacted lawfully while defending his own life, those of his fellow officers and members of the public.”
A whole wave of more yelled questions started at that and Tris cringed. He rubbed his face, eyes half closed and chill sweat running down his back under the smart suit that was becoming unbearably tight at the collar. He didn’t want to think about this now, not any more. What had happened had been dissected every which way by two enquiries and, finally, thanks to public pressure, his trial for manslaughter.
Yet, then one question cut over all the others, a shrill, young voice demanding, “McCall, would you still have shot Abdi San if he’d been white?”
Tris couldn’t help it then, he reacted to the shock of that accusation and glanced around, wide-eyed, for its source.
“One thing my husband is not is racist!” Xander barked back defensively, sounding a lot less in control this time.
People were yelling at him again, but Tris needed to find that one accuser, to meet his eye and tell him exactly where he could shove his stereotypes. He winced at the daggers of light exploding in his face as he scanned the crowd, but most of the pain was inside and it had to come out. Everything was pretty much a blur, a mess of pinks and greys and brilliant white, but, suddenly, Tris’ world clarified on a face that still haunted his dreams.
Tris froze as, between the ranks of the unknown reporters, his gaze fell upon a frozen, cold stare. Abdi San, paler than that fateful evening when the Asian teenager had surprised him, no scream on those thin lips now, but the boy needed no voice to challenge Tris right then. Conscience did a much better job than any reporter and all his grief and fear hit Tris at once. Heart hammering, body shaking, the rest of Tris’ world exploded in brilliance a hundred times worse than any flashbulb and he was left with that flat, lifeless, denunciatory scrutiny boring into his soul. Nothing could take away the pain then, sharp and clear as it was, and the worst part of it was Tris knew he deserved it. He had taken a life, a young life that stood before him, phantom accuser, and there was only one price. Tris surrendered to the agony and everything went black.