'The Talents' is the name of the novel I am currently writing. It concerns psychic investigators, working for the UK government. I've put the first chapter below. Let me know if you'd like to read more. What you are reading is currently the first draft, so by the time I finish it it will be a bit different. But still, you get the idea! Thanks for looking!

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BOOK ONE. The Gathering Storm.
“Secrecy is the first essential when dealing with affairs of state.”
(Cardinal Richelieu.)


PART ONE: SHAKING HANDS WITH THE FOOL.
“The distance doesn’t matter; it is only the first step that is most difficult.”
(Marie du Deffand)

Chapter One.

Bailey was lost.
Right in the heart of the city, there is a big ugly looking building that looms monstrously over the others. It is oddly shaped, and dispassionately grey. Most of the people who live near it know what the building is, what it’s used for, and by whom, even though these facts are regularly denied by the city’s authorities. Deep below the building, however, deep under ground, is a labyrinth of corridors and tunnels that have been there since the Second World War. Few people know of the existence of these catacombs, and yet fewer know by whom they are used. Graham Bailey knew they were there, having spent most of his adult life working in the ugly building above them. Today was different to his normal days, however. Today, for the first time in his life, he had clearance to the subterranean levels. He was just about to meet the people who worked under the building. He was about to become one of them.
Graham Bailey strode briskly down the darkly shining corridor, a small piece of paper clutched firmly in his left hand. He was a tall man, in his early forties, slightly stooped and balding, but broad of shoulder. He was attired in a nondescript dark brown suit, not too modern, not too old-fashioned. On a busy street in the teeming metropolis somewhere above, he would be invisible. Here however, he was alone and very obviously flustered. All the corridors were windowless, for obvious reasons, and identical, and these factors plus a lack of direction signs made it maddeningly difficult to navigate in there.
“Where the bloody hell is the bloody room?” he muttered angrily to himself as he examined the scrap of paper for the tenth time in half as many minutes. He sighed. He’d been wandering this bureaucratic labyrinth for over half an hour, and now he was well and truly lost, as well as being late for his meeting. Even though he’d worked in this building for over ten years, he had never descended to these levels. Until now, he hadn’t even been aware the building went this deep underground. He sighed again, with more feeling this time. How was he supposed to find his destination? Every corridor, every door looked the same. Most of the doors weren’t even numbered. It was ridiculous. He mentally cursed the young man he’d spoken to on the ‘phone who’d given him the so-called directions he had written on his bit of paper. He mentally cursed his boss for transferring him onto this stupid assignment, and then he cursed the whole world for going out of it’s way just to give him strife.
Then he heard something. It was the sound of music, piano music; barely audible, echoing up the cold empty corridors. Bailey listened carefully; trying to gauge it’s origin. He began to follow the sound, down a narrow corridor he hadn’t yet explored. The music seemed louder. He began to feel a touch of hope, his heart lifting. Whoever was listening to the music might know where to find his meeting room. Yes, he noted. The music was louder here. He continued, following the sound.
After walking for a few minutes, Bailey came to a pair of ancient fire doors. They were scratched and scuffed, with tiny square frosted glass and wire windows set into them. He pushed them open to reveal a small room containing a short passageway, some doors and a desk. The desk was old and battered, a relic of boxy sixties office furniture. It was probably older than the man who stood behind it, a skinny youth with a prominent Adam’s apple, mighty meat feast acne, and a cheerful grin. Bailey walked up to him. The youth grinned at Bailey. A badge pinned to his lapel stated that he was called ‘Uther’.
“Good afternoon, Sir!” proclaimed Uther in a voice that suggested if it had ever broken, it probably hadn’t been repaired. “How may I be of service to you?”
Bailey, in no mood for niceties after his travails, stuck his piece of paper in front of the boy’s spotty face.
“I’m looking for this room,” grunted Bailey in his most ‘no nonsense’ voice. “Know where it is?”
“Indeed I do Sir,” smiled Uther. “You are in luck, for you are but scant feet from its entrance.” And with that, he gestured to a blank and ordinary door on his left. Bailey looked at the door for a second, then back at Uther.
“There’s no number on it,” pointed out Bailey. “How’s anyone supposed to find it?”
“That is what I am here for, Sir,” stated Uther, grinning widely. Bailey grunted cheerlessly. He couldn’t decide whether the boy was taking the piss, or was being genuinely helpful in a deeply weird way. He decided he didn’t really care, strode up to the door indicated, and put his hand on it.
As his skin touched the cool wood of the door, Bailey had a weird feeling, like he’d never had before in his life. A tiny tingle shot through his fingertips, then faded away to nothing. Strange. He felt as if he were on a precipice, on the verge of something big, and if he were to go any further, to step off the edge, as it were, there would be no going back. And although this feeling only lasted the briefest part of a second, Bailey had already made his decision. He had never backed down from a challenge before in his life, and he wasn’t starting now. He pushed the door open, and stepped into the cool space beyond.
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Bailey now found himself in a large octagonal room, with a door on every wall. In the centre of the room was a circular reception desk, old and battered, as everything down here seemed to be. A cherub faced man in his late thirties sat behind the round desk, and smiled at Bailey when he entered. Bailey walked over to the desk, and as he did so the man stood up. He was quite short, and Bailey found himself looking down at him.
“Hello,” said the short man. “Are you Mister Bailey?”
“That’s me,” said Bailey. “I’m here for my new assignment.”
“Hi!” said the man, brightly. He stuck his hand out, and Bailey shook it. “My name is George, George McEwan. Call me George, everyone does. Pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise,” said Bailey, returning his hand to his side. “Please, call me Graham.”
“Well then Graham,” said George. “Let’s get started, shall we? Do you have your transfer information?”
Bailey nodded, reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a thick sheaf of official papers. He handed them to George. George flicked through them briefly, and put them under the desk.
“Guess you want to know what you’ll be doing here, then?” said George, eying Bailey carefully. “I suppose you wanted to go back on active, and this was the only thing them up top offered, right?”
Bailey was shocked. How could George possibly know the circumstances of his departure from his previous position, that is, as a desk jockey? The look of surprise on his face must have been obvious, as George smiled when he saw it.
“Don’t worry mate,” he said. “It’s common down here. This is where they send all the agents that would have been put out to pasture by all the other departments’ years ago. Before you start to worry though, I’ve got to let you know, we only pick the best.”
“That’s reassuring,” said Bailey, wondering what on earth it was they did down here. “What is it you do down here?” he said.
“Oh, there’s a rich variety of enterprises we get up to,” said George. “I can promise you, this is going to be just about the most interesting duty you’ve ever had.”
“Oh yeah,” said Bailey, a hint of cynicism in his tone, “How come?”
“Do you know where you are?” asked George.
“Yes. I’m in ‘The Building’,” said Bailey.
“Yeah, but whereabouts in ‘The Building’ are you exactly?”
“No,” muttered Bailey, feeling somewhat thick.
“Well then,” said George. “It’s time I gave you the initial full induction, which is quite short, don’t worry. Need I remind you that you’ve signed ‘The Act’?”
“No, you needn’t,” said Bailey.
“Right, well,” said George. “Then I’ll begin. The department you are currently in is called the Special Talents Team, or the STT for short. We’ve gone through a variety of names, a plethora, you might say, since our inception in the seventies. Once, I recall we were called the Special Talents Investigations Group, but the echelons above put a stop to that when we started calling ourselves ‘Stigs’. Particularly when we insinuated that we worked in a dump, ha ha. Yes, well. We were the Special Talents Department briefly, but that was dropped when someone pointed out the acronym for that. But I digress. I can see that you’re wondering what on earth the term ‘special talents’ means.”
“To be honest, yes I am,” said Bailey, who was still trying to figure out what the Stig joke meant.
“Well,” said George. “Let me put you out of your misery. Special Talents means, plainly speaking, psychics.”
Bailey let out a short laugh. Surely George was joking. Then he looked at George’s face, and realised from his cold expression that he wasn’t.
“Before you laugh again, I would like to tell you more, if you don’t mind,” said George, sharply. It was obvious his feelings had been hurt. Bailey felt a tiny surge of guilt well up inside him, and apologetically urged George to continue.
“Right,” said George, regaining his composure. “Time for a little history. After the end of the World War Two, a lot of countries began to experiment with psychic phenomena, ESP, remote viewing, telepathy, that sort of thing. As the Cold War really got going, most of the Major nations really got stuck into this, and beginning researching in earnest. Well, in the early seventies, our proud nation realised that basically we were the only one’s not doing anything. So, doing what the Brits always do when they see a bandwagon, we jumped on it, and with gusto. The research went well, thanks in part to a great deal of help from our cousins over the Atlantic, and by the era of disco, this department had been created. We were called the Sensitive Division back then. Flash-forward through the years to now, and here we are, in the present day. I told you it was going to be a little history lesson.”
“All right, lets say for a moment this is all true,” said Bailey, his tone leaving no doubt that he didn’t think it was. “What does this all have to do with me? I mean, I’m not a…” Loon? Flake? Nut job? “A psychic.”
“Indeed not,” said George, his smile making reappearance on his face. “Neither am I, might I add. In fact, it’s our very lack of psychic ability that makes us valuable.”
“How come?” asked Bailey.
“Psychics are sort of like open windows,” said George. “All manner of things can fly in. Good, and bad. That’s why we call them Sensitive. That’s what they are. And that’s why they need someone with them, a partner, who can protect them if things get physical, who can, for example, pick them up and revive them if they faint, which, let me warn you, they are quite wont to do. My first partner was an absolute bugger for that, I can tell you. But anyway, I digress. We may also have to give them medication, if necessary. We are responsible for their safety and their sanity. It’s an important and valuable role, but not an easy one. We all come from similar backgrounds. The Military. Law Enforcement. Int-Ops, like you and me. We protect them. In the office, and in field work, we always work in pairs.”
“The same pairs?” asked Bailey.
“Yes,” said George. “You and your partner have to become a tight unit, friends as well as team-mates. The talents need a partner they feel comfortable with.”
“What kind of things will we do?”
“Now there’s a question!” laughed George. “My goodness, you’re straight to the point, aren’t you? Well, let me see. There are all sorts of missions we undertake, such as thefts, kidnappings, murders, and our old favourite, National Security. Basically, anything the police or MI6 might deal with, plus those things that they never would. It’s hardly ever dull.”
“Well that part certainly sounds fine,” said Bailey, cheering up a little. His interest had been sparked, and he looked forward to seeing what his new job would throw at him.
“It’s fascinating work,” said George.
“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Bailey. “When do I meet my new partner?”
“In a few moments,” said George. “You can hear him right now, though.”
“The music?” said Bailey. The muffled and echoing sound of a man singing accompanied by piano music was now quite loud in the octagonal room.
“Yes,” said George. “He likes to listen to it loud. He says it helps him concentrate. I must warn you, he is quite eccentric, more so than most, actually. But don’t worry, he’s a good chap.”
“What’s his name?” asked Bailey, wondering abstractly what he was letting himself in for.
“Well, he doesn’t really have a proper name as such,” said George, looking vaguely embarrassed. “Despite our begging, he insists that everyone should call him Jester.”
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