We’re hosting an excerpt from “The Magistrate”, a science fiction romance novel. The book sounds like an excellent read. We hope you enjoy this excerpt!
It’s after midnight, and in London’s Square Mile, that means a curfew is in effect. Only Magistrates and police have licenses to be out on the streets here after the stroke of twelve, and on her short walk home, Carmen only passes two City Police beat constables and a stray cat.
Though the Square Mile boundary isn’t protected by anything but warning signage, the restrictions are usually well adhered to. The automatic punishment for getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time is a one month stretch in one of His Majesty’s prisons, and you’ve only got to see the inside of any prison once to know that you never want to go back there.
Besides, most who live outside the Square Mile wouldn’t be caught dead in it. To them, the Square Mile—home to the CPS headquarters—is little more than a cage for Magistrates and toffs, and Carmen still can’t quite believe that she’s a part of it. She should feel lucky. Instead, she feels like the first rat to leap from a sinking ship. She’s not an Eastender done good, she’s a deserter and a pretender.
Swiping her Authenticard at the main door of Victoria House, an apartment building on the corner of Tudor Street and Temple Avenue, in zone EC4, Carmen exchanges a smile with the night guard and hits the button for the lift.
On the third floor, her two bedroom flat is small—barely more than eight hundred square feet—but it’s everything she needs. The furniture is brand new, the walls and floors pristine, the countertops granite. If only it actually belonged to her.
No sooner is she through the front door and her flatmate, Eleri—the flat’s true owner—dashes toward her from the living room.
“Finally!” she squeals excitedly, clapping her hands together. “I was almost ready to leave without you.”
“Leave? To go where?”
Eleri snatches up Carmen’s hands and tries to get her to dance in the hallway.
“I’ve got the fidgets and I want to burn off some energy before bed.”
Despite Eleri’s best efforts to entice her into a waltz, Carmen remains reticent.
“Do we have to? I’m so coopered. Not to mention, it’s after midnight. What about the curfew?”
Eleri laughs. “We live so close to the boundary line, I can almost see it from my window. For Pete’s sake, I think we can make a run for it.”
“You want to dance so badly it’s worth risking a stretch at His Majesty’s pleasure?”
“Maybe you could be the one to detain me.” She slinks up to Carmen with a wicked smile and her arms outstretched, her wrists pressed together. “Handcuff me. That way, if the Old Bill sees us, you can say you’re executing a warrant.”
Eleri’s right, though. The City Police—who are responsible only for maintaining order in the Square Mile—wouldn’t dare to question a Magistrate.
“Fine,” she relents, holding up her index finger. “One hour, and that’s your lot.”
Eleri clasps her hands together and bounces up and down on the spot. “I’ll be a good girl, I promise.” She shoves Carmen lightly toward her bedroom. “Now go on, get changed. You look like the grim reaper.”
“I am the grim reaper.”
Carmen feels like death, her black clothes a reflection of her mood. Eleri, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly be any livelier. Her shoulder-length platinum blonde hair is streaked with bright pink—matching the color of her lipstick. She’s wearing a strapless white satin bodice with faux lacing at the front and a hidden zipper at the side.
Her petticoat is three layers of pink and white ruffles, shorter in the front than in the back, and she’s paired it with a pair of thigh high white socks and white, patent leather high-heeled pumps—she looks like a music hall dancer. When she spins in circles to give Carmen the full picture, her skirt flares up, revealing a pair of hotpants and a homemade, lacy garter with a bow sewn onto the front.
They appear to be the same age—scarcely twenty—but Carmen feels so much older. Her mind weighs heavily, as though she’s aged about thirty years in the last eight, and the road to adulthood hasn’t been easy for her. In contrast, Eleri is so happy and carefree. Her exuberance for life makes Carmen feel like an inadequate stick in the mud.
Under pressure to enjoy herself, she rummages through her dresser for something appropriate to wear. As she does so, she senses Eleri lingering in the doorway behind her, watching her, deep in thought, waiting for right moment to spit out the words that are primed on the tip of her tongue.
“Did you off anyone today?”
There they are.
“Why are you asking me that?” Carmen pulls a purple lace corset out of a dresser drawer.
“I want to know.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I won’t break, you know.” She steps into the room and sits on the edge of Carmen’s bed. “I’m really not so fragile. I deal with this sort of thing all the time at the group sessions.”
Carmen strips to the waist, not at all self-conscious about baring herself in front of Eleri. “You’re still involved with that?”
“Three nights a week. Sometimes more.” She shrugs. “The CPS leaves behind a lot of grieving families.”
“You’re not a grief counselor, El—none of you are.” Carmen slips on the corset, lacing it up from the bottom. “Don’t you think you should leave it to the professionals?”
“The people who really need it don’t have the coin for it. Besides, our grief centre in Islington has reduced the suicide rate in that borough by almost fifteen percent. We’re doing good work, and we’ve petitioned the Ministry of Health to open another centre in Hackney.”
Carmen doesn’t want to know the details. As far as she’s concerned, Eleri’s an outspoken political activist and the less she talks about her exploits the better. Continuing as if she’d never spoken, Carmen finishes lacing the corset, pulls a jacket off a hanger in the closet, and presents herself to Eleri with both palms turned upward.
Looking her up and down, Eleri slides off the bed with a smile. “I’ll make do with you.”
Then, “It’s just a job, Carm. It’s not who you are.”
“Easy for you to say. You weren’t plucked off the street and thrown into this life. You made choices to get where you are, but I just rolled with the punches. If I have an identity outside of this world, I don’t know what it is anymore.”
“You could always quit.”
“I have nothing to fall back on.”
Eleri hangs her head, her brow furrowed and her lips turned down. “I don’t want you to feel like you’re a prisoner here.”
Carmen hooks her finger under Eleri’s chin and forces eye contact. “I hate to be the one to break this to you, but we’re all prisoners. Prisoners of the CPS, the sodding government, and our twit of a King. Our laws confine us, restrict us, suppress us, and oppress us. Nobody’s free here.”
Author: Keira Michelle Telford
Genre: Dystopian SF / Lesbian Romance
THE PRISONWORLD TRILOGY — VOLUME ONE
Poverty is rife in twenty-fourth century London, England. Crime rates are at an all-time high, and living conditions for many are bleak. Capital punishment and public hangings have been reinstated, and Magistrates, in their new role, are tasked with patrolling the streets to enforce arrest warrants and ‘terminate’ any civilians who attempt to evade justice — which isn’t always a noble pursuit.
The laws are strict, illiberal, and unsympathetic. If you can’t afford to feed and clothe yourself, you’ll be sent to the workhouse. If you fall behind on your rent, you’ll be sent to debtors’ prison. If you’re gay, you’ll be hanged.
For Carmen Wild, the latter becomes a potentially deadly problem when the discovery of a murdered prostitute brings her back into the life of her first love — the Madam of an East End cathouse — and the illicit passions between them are swiftly reignited.
Keira Michelle Telford is the award winning author of a series of post-apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction books, The SILVER Series, featuring the character Ella ‘Silver’ Cross, and now also The Prisonworld Trilogy – a dystopian lesbian romance. She’s a British ex-pat, now living in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and 10 guinea pigs.
Yes, 10 guinea pigs 🙂
Fun fact: Her pet guinea pigs (all adopted from animal rescue shelters) were the inspiration for the monsters in The SILVER Series, the first one of which, SILVER: Acheron (A River of Pain), was released in November 2011.
Venatic Press: http://www.venaticpress.com/