So this is it. The final run-in for my giveaway in partnership with author Sharn Hutton to promote her debut comedy-thriller It’s Killing Jerry. The fantastic prize includes a copy of the book, personally dedicated to the winner by Sharn, a “little blue dude” bookmark and 100g Lindt chocolate bunny all in a nice Spring-themed gift bag. If you haven’t entered yet, and live in the UK, you can click here to enter and be in with a chance to win! The competition closes at midnight UK time on Friday 31st March 2017. The winner will be announced alongside my review of It’s Killing Jerry on the 3rd of April 2017.
In the meantime, here is the third and final excerpt I have to share with you. I hope you enjoy!
Jerry’s lungs burned, but he battled on. Side by side at Solomon’s Gym in the village, he and Adam occupied the first two of a bank of twelve running machines that lined up parallel to the windows. Adam’s feet struck the whirring treadmill to the rhythm of the music gushing overhead. Jerry fought for enough oxygen to fuel one foot in front of the other.
From this first floor vantage point, he could see shopkeepers pulling down their shutters across the street and locking up for the night. Even though Solomon’s windows didn’t open, he was sure he could pick up the aroma of fried chicken rising from the shop below. His stomach growled.
Adam pounded on, chatting away with hardly a bead of sweat on his brow. To Jerry, he didn’t look like someone who’d been chained to a desk for the last six years. He was all lean muscle and bouncing hair.
“Screw Dinky. He’s a worm,” Adam was saying.
“Dinky, yeah, I’d forgotten you called him that.”
“School nicknames get a lot worse. If he hadn’t made such a fuss about it, it wouldn’t have stuck.” He paused for reflection. “I may have helped it to stick. I don’t remember, it was a long time ago.” Adam grinned.
“Yeah, right,” Jerry puffed out, stabbing at the treadmill controls to slow it to more of a manageable pace and then rolling to a stop. “Easy for you to say, anyway—the worm’s not your boss.” He staggered off the machine and bent to lean heavily on his thighs. Sweat dripped from his forehead to the thin blue carpet. Adam stepped off his own machine and stood by Jerry’s side.
“Be your own master, Jerry. Those bastards at BSL owned me for too long.”
“Yeah, must have been really shit being a top defence lawyer, earning bucketfuls of cash every time you walked into a room.” Jerry slumped against the exercise bike behind him. “I don’t understand why you’re giving it up, you loony.”
Adam cocked a scathing eyebrow and Jerry climbed onto the bike without enthusiasm.
“Four years at uni, Jerry; three more as a subservient dogsbody; another ten climbing the stinking ladder, just to get there—just to get to BSL. All that time and effort.” Adam shook his head, straddled his own bike and stood on the pedals. He pumped his feet to the relentless beat.
Jerry could see: Adam had sold his soul to BSL. His talent for getting off villains had earned him an invincible reputation and pay cheques that convinced him what he was doing was right. Of course he was in demand. Eighteen-hour days hadn’t been unusual and with the money pouring in it was crazy to stop, wasn’t it? Six years went by in a flash. Until McGinty: the nasty piece of work that tipped the balance. Now Adam was out for good.
Leaning on the handlebars, Jerry rested his forehead on his arm, chest heaving only slightly less. “Pathetic.” Adam jabbed without turning around. “Get your legs moving.” Jerry groaned and forced the pedals around without lifting his head. “I’m not sure if this is a good way to rekindle our friendship. You ignore me for years, completely disappearing out of my life. Then pop up all Buzz Lightyear and try to give me a heart attack.” Adam turned and scowled. “Buzz Lightyear?”
“Yeah, you know: saving the universe from evil; all biceps and bounce. It’s exhausting, even before you drag me to the gym.”
Adam snorted and went back to pedalling.
Jerry knew he was not a natural where exercise was concerned, but since passing the landmark of forty, his own mortality was bothering him. Telling Adam he wanted to get fit for the sake of his new wife and even newer baby had seemed like a good idea at the time.
They’d bumped into each other in the locker room after at least five years of not seeing one another. Lost in the excitement of seeing his old school pal, Jerry had admitted he was struggling to train. He was unaware that Adam had just left the job that ‘sucked the life from him’ and now had endless spare time in which to berate him for his flabby gut, jelly arse and bingo wings. A mistake. He should have remembered Adam was like a dog with a bone. Perhaps if he kept pedalling slowly he’d leave him alone for a bit.
“Free weights now, lard arse. Quick, there are two free spots.”
The gym was packed. The six ’til eight slot was always jammed with office workers squeezing in a flurry of activity before an evening slumped on the sofa. Solomon’s was a popular place. Situated on a smart run of local shops in the village, it occupied the first floor above Michael’s Deli, a barber shop and the ubiquitous Finger Lickin’ Chicken. Locals had made a fuss about the chain opening up there, saying that it spoilt local character, but fellow shopkeepers were glad to see it. Mr Solomon appreciated the symbiotic relationship between their businesses: exercise made you hungry and fast food made you fat.
Adam threw his towel down next to the mirror and motioned for Jerry to join him.
Jerry hated the free weights or, more specifically, Jerry hated the posers gathered in front of the mirrors using the free weights. Two free spots meant six others occupied by musclebound narcissists, flexing and grunting, posing for their peers and ogling their neighbours.
Adam held out two 10kg dumbbells for Jerry to take, then swiped a couple of 20’s for himself.
“Nnnngh. Nnngh. Yeah.” The beefcake in a tight cut-off leotard next to Jerry strained at his weights. Jerry swallowed back a little bile and turned his back on the mirror. “Think I’ll sit on the bench.”
“Healthy body, healthy mind, Jerry.”
“Don’t let me stop you. I know you want to get match fit for saving the world and everything.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the world a better place. God knows, I didn’t improve it keeping so much toxic waste out of prison.” Adam switched to work on his left arm.
“What I’m going to do, I don’t know, but for now, I’m all yours.” Adam stretched his arms wide to Jerry and gave him the benefit of his winning smile. Jerry shook his head, took up a weight and started a set.
“Hey, what you need is a little imagination. You don’t have to run around knocking yourself out. Take me, for example. Boring job, spend my days pumping up the hype for people to buy shite they don’t really need and my evenings trying to avoid dirty nappies.”
“You’re not selling it to me, Jerry.”
“I’m not finished. I may lead a humdrum life but, with a bit of imagination, I can turn it into something exciting. Earlier on, for instance, making up a baby bottle to keep the love of my life happy. Boring stuff? But no!” He wagged a finger at Adam’s increasingly incredulous expression, “Not if you put a bit of imagination into it. Plastic bottle? No. Bomb case grade titanium canister. Milk formula? No. Hydro bomb primer.”
“Never mind. The point is that I am no longer Jerry: career-stunted, shit beleaguered new father, I am Remi: sports-car-driving secret agent sex god. You see? It’s all about what you make it.”
“But it’s not real.”
“Doesn’t matter. Perception governs experience, Adam. You’re all dissatisfied and lost. No need! Imagine yourself happy!”
Adam’s face scrunched. “Nah, I need a change. I can’t just pretend that the last six years didn’t happen. There are consequences, Jerry. I have to make amends.”
“Live out your dreams in your imagination—you can achieve anything!”
“Still not real.” Adam shook his head and turned back to the mirror, checking the angle of his arm.
“Look, OK, you’ve got me. You can’t pretend to go to work and earn pretend money because obviously the pretend food at the pretend supermarket isn’t all that filling. But it’s something to keep you going. Remi lives it up in my imagination: goes on adventures; total babe magnet; lives the life.” Jerry’s cheeks were starting to burn.
“And what’s he doing now?” Adam enquired with creeping sarcasm.
“Acapulco. On a mission for MI5.”
“And you think I’m a loony.”
“Look, it’s just a little light relief, OK? Something else to think about through a nappy change or a dull meeting. Remi gets to do all the stuff that I don’t. It’s all the excitement I get these days.” Jerry plonked his weights down onto the rack. “I’m going for a shower.”
Adam’s eyebrows dropped back into their normal position. “OK. Enough for today eh? Let’s go.”
Jerry scooped up his water bottle and strode for the exit. The thought of a post workout pint had given him an extra surge of energy and he pushed open the door grinning at Adam over his shoulder.
“To infinity!” he said, punching the air. Adam rolled his eyes and flicked Jerry with his towel.
“Bugger off, Jerry,” he said.