Thank you so much for hosting a stop on the Leap of Faith blog tour and for giving me the chance to talk a little about my FireWorks boys, Joel Weston and Kieran Ross, and the town I built for them. FireWorks Security, the firm Joel’s father Joseph and uncle Dale have founded, has its base in Lissand, a seaside town in Connecticut. Which – for those of us not living in that part of the world – is entirely fictional.
I was born and grew up inland, but I studied at the coast and ever since I’ve wanted to set a story in a seaside town. Not necessarily the beach variety that heaves in the summer and goes dead in the winter months, but a place where the sea is an ever present backdrop, as unremarkable as trees in a wood but with undeniable influence.
As a student, I would come off a nightshift in the local hospital and pick up still-warm bread rolls and a bottle of milk at the station. Then I’d head out to the Wieck for an hour away from people and noise to recharge before I went home or to class. I’d find somewhere to sit along the harbor side, or simply walk along the quay when it was too cold or windy to sit still. Sometimes I’d watch the boats land their early catch, and if I was lucky the tiny smokehouse had flounders or mackerel ready to eat and I’d get an extra-special breakfast.
Weekends were spent lazing in the dunes – we called it revision – before wandering home along the canal, sunburned, windblown and sandblasted. And all through the year the cries of seagulls hung in the air and northerly winds brought the tang of brine on the breeze.
I’m not a water baby, but I loved having the sea on my doorstep – which is why, when I needed a base for my fictitious security firm, I invented an equally fictitious seaside town.
Lissand is a place with a busy past. Once upon a time it was one of the busiest ports on the East Coast. Then trade moved south to larger harbors and Lissand’s fortunes fell. These days, it’s making a comeback. The harbor is home to a small fishing fleet, and the town’s marina has doubled in size in the last four years. And the rows of dilapidated warehouses that stood unused for decades are being renovated, rebuilt and put to better use.
Lissand is once more a city on the up, and many of its citizens seek relaxation and entertainment near the water. Joel, who grew up in the town, is a case in point. When their whole team had a horrid week and needs a chance to relax and regroup he takes them out for dinner in the harbor and a stroll along the pier. It’s nothing conscious on his part. It’s just that when looking out at the sea a lot of everyday problems appear wholly insignificant. It’s soothing.
Unless you walk into the middle of an active police investigation and a yacht blows up right in your face, of course.
I made up Lissand because I had a detailed shopping list for my fictional town. To make sure the story worked I needed a harbor with a pier and a busy marina for Joel and Kieran to get into trouble. The town needed to be big enough to warrant a large hospital with a trauma centre. It needed a long sandy beach for Marius to go running, a historical town centre, and a warehouse district between the old town and the harbor. And finally it needed an upscale residential area a little way out of town in the hills.
A tall ask I’m sure you agree. I wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t find all the critical “ingredients” in one place. So I indulged in a bit of world building and hope you’ll enjoy Lissand, which is not on any map.
“Back! Everyone stand back or I’ll shoot him right here!”
They were passing the entrance to the marina when a hoarse cry ripped through the air. It made Kieran’s hackles rise, and the heartrending scream that followed almost stopped his breath. Then his training kicked in and he raced toward the sounds, dodging people and lampposts on autopilot.
The marina had almost doubled in size during the four years Kieran had been in Lissand. It now attracted all manner of working and leisure boats, and on this sunny afternoon, was just as busy as the pier. And the screams pulled a crowd.
A woman stood by a slipway, arms out toward a small boy who struggled in the hold of an older man.
“Shane! Let him go, Luke, please! Let him go!”
“Stay back or I’ll kill him!”
Kieran skidded to a stop as soon as he had the gunman in sight, Smith & Wesson already in his hand.
Footsteps thudded behind him. Joel.
“No clear shot. Boy’s in the way.”
The man dragged the boy up a gangway toward a moored yacht. He had the boy’s back pressed to his legs, the gun aimed at the boy’s temple.
“Call the police and look after the mother,” Joel told him. “I’ll get on the boat.”
Kieran didn’t like the arrangement. He hated it when he wasn’t close enough to watch Joel’s back, but now wasn’t the time to argue. As long as the man used the boy as a shield, guns were not an option.
Then again, Joel had never needed a gun to be lethal.
Like a ghost he slipped away, blended into the crowd until he reached the stern of the moored yacht. Kieran had a glimpse of his partner reaching for a mooring line.
Then Joel was gone.
Time blurred as Kieran did his half of the job. He called for backup. Called the authorities and identified himself as a member of FireWorks Security. He even kept the crowd at bay, though he gladly relinquished that job the moment Rigby and Hartnett came sweeping in on the heels of the police.
“Can’t leave you two the fuck alone.”
“You said it.” Only a tiny percentage of Kieran’s attention was on the conversation. The majority was focused on the yacht the man had boarded with the boy. “Looks like a domestic that’s gotten out of hand. Attempted kidnapping by the father.” He indicated the scared, teary woman in jeans and an unseasonably short crop top who was being comforted by one of the uniforms. “The boy’s Shane Bicknall, aged six. That’s his mother. And the guy who threatened to kill him is his father, Luke Bicknall.”
“On the boat.”
Kieran listened out for sounds of a fight, for shouts, maybe gunshots. He wasn’t expecting an explosion. One moment the yacht was there. Then the whole side of the marina was on fire.
Before he knew he’d moved, Kieran was in the water. He didn’t much care about the man toting the gun, but Joel and the little boy were somewhere in this inferno of burning oil and unrecognizable debris that had been a boat only minutes earlier.
Kieran had to find them.