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Escape from Reality Copyright Š 2017 Toby Bain All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, without permission from the author.

Dear Reader, Welcome to Escape from Reality. Thanks in advance for taking the time out of your day to read this offering. Escape from Reality is three novellas, each weighing in at a minimum of 27,000 words. Adventures of a Reluctant Bounty Hunter (29,000 words approx.) chronicles the tales of Emmerlich Day and the dangerous task that falls into his ungrateful lap. Black Ghost: Public Enemy No1, two, and three (28,500 words approx.) is a light-hearted and often dramatic chronicle about the birth of a self-serving superhero who is not quite the apple of the public’s eye, but who serves and protects the very people he loathes. The Keeper of Secrets (31,000 words approx.) is a mystery and suspense thriller centring on Tammy-Jo Emhart’s discovery along the banks of the Mississippi River, which unlocks the demons hidden deep in not only her life, but the lives of others. Please note, as an indie writer I have a very small team of proofreaders and editors. They are great, but there may well be the odd mistake. However, there comes a time when you just have to publish. The great thing about eBooks is that nothing is set in stone. Mistakes can be corrected. Therefore, if you come across anything, let me know and I will make appropriate corrections. I especially welcome emails and endeavour to reply to all of them. Get in touch by emailing Visit my website for FREE stories, news and information about upcoming releases. Moreover, if you’re into opinionated fiction writers, read my blog. On the website, you can also sign up with my newsletter for exclusive stories, offers and information every few months. Let’s not forget the various social media platforms too. Twitter: @tobybainwriter Facebook: Instagram: @TobyBain Snapchat: TobyBain Happy reading! T.B.

BLACK GHOST, PUBLIC ENEMY No.1, 2, and 3! ‘Black Ghost: the not-so-super hero.’ I know! Another superhero story! Yawn. Please give this one a chance. It is rather good. It has all the elements you want from such a story: action, comedy, drama and our antihero, Black Ghost, AKA Josh Hamlin. You see, I always wanted to write a story about a superhero, but people these days are all worn out from them. Therefore, I did it anyway, because when the right idea comes along it develops a momentum of its own. Here is the result of that momentum. It’s a little different in many respects. Yet it’s also quite familiar in others. Therefore, if parts of the story remind you of Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Wade Wilson or John Hancock, I make no apology; for these are Josh Hamlin’s heroes. They are my heroes too. I had a blast writing this and I hope you have a blast reading it. If it so much as teases your funny bone or your interest, then my job is done. Happy Reading. T.B.

Chapter One As the big red bus sped down the tarmac, I had no idea something was wrong. Sometimes bus drivers in London think the roads are an audition for a racing driver’s job. Therefore, when I saw the bus it seemed to me like another case of a public worker flouting the speed limit. Then came the crashes. I couldn’t see them but I could hear them, which, as a superhero has its advantages and disadvantages. This was one angry bus, glancing off parked cars, jabbing them into the paths of pedestrians. This type of thing didn’t happen along Old Kent Road, home of south London’s finest junk food. Nevertheless, it did, and they were lucky they had me right in the centre of it. Well, OK, not quite in the centre, though I wasn’t quite a bystander either. I was gliding effortlessly down the pavement, burger in one hand, can of coke in the other. And when I say glide, I mean my legs were pumping at about 150 miles an hour – which is slow for me these days. At 450mph, my top speed isn’t as fast as the Flash, but I could beat that weakling in a thumb-wrestling contest even if I had muscle atrophy and the flu. Anyway, this isn’t about him, it’s about me. My career as a superhero had already been in full swing long before I saw the bus careening down the road at a high rate of speed while scoffing my food. It wasn’t healthy food. Add an orange juice to the burger, fries and Coke and it does tick all the major food groups, kind of. Whilst idly staring through the window of the fast food restaurant, I’d noticed the bus zipping by. When I heard the crashes I flew into action. They say a superhero is like a cop, always on duty. That isn’t true, you’ll realise that later, but in this case I was ready to go. Given the top speed of a red bus is about the same as granny on a moped, it was an easy case of chasing up alongside. Actually, it was harder to avoid pedestrians, many of whom seemed a little deaf to my shouts of ‘get out the fucking way’. I admit to perhaps cuffing a few towards the pavement. For their own safety of course. If you’ve seen the size of people in south London, you’d know being run over by my spindly frame at 150mph wouldn’t be much fun for either us. I tore ahead of the bus, catching the high-pitched screams of the passengers as well as the stench of diesel and burning tyres, as well as their fear. Yes, fear has a smell, but I’ll tell you about that later too. Then I stepped in front of the bus. I’d love to tell you that was it and everyone went home dancing the conga and chanting my name into the sultry south London air. Superhero stuff doesn’t work like that. The superhero bank account never gets any credit. You only get sunshine, roses and relationships between Black Widow and Hulk in Marvel Comics. South London is more DC Comics. Tons of bitter, a pinch of sweet. Where was I? Yeah, that’s right. I’m in front of this runaway bus, looking pretty cool as I jog backwards. Oh, by the way, I’m pretty strong too; though my powers aren’t like those of Ben Grimm aka The Thing. He’s a brick wall of a man who can just stand in the way of objects and halt their progress. I can’t. On a lighter note, I’m not Ben Grimm ugly either.

Anyway, so I’m ahead of the runaway red bus and I use my upper body to slow the bus down. I probably looked a little like a baby trying to shoulder charge a Mini. People were watching, some expecting this crazy freak to die and others hoping for it. Can you imagine the number of views on YouTube for that grand exit? Annoyingly, I could hear all the crowd’s whimpers, gasps and groans. Did I mention that super-hearing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Eventually, I felt the momentum of the bus slowing against my body. Once it ground to a stop I have to say I felt pretty pleased with myself. So I chomped a little more burger and slurped a little Coke. The dishevelled passengers staggered from the bus in somewhat of a daze. I’d already laid the driver on the pavement in lieu of the ambulance. He’d had a heart attack and lost control of the bus. As I stood over him, eating, a menacing little group surrounded me. I had to suppress a laugh. Hair unkempt, clothes ragged and loose fitting. They looked like they’d been tossed in a washing machine or on some hellish rollercoaster ride. I held up a hand to acknowledge their thanks. Which never came. Instead they asked after the driver. ‘Ambulance is coming,’ I said, finishing my burger. Despite my top speed being faster than a racing car, I don’t eat at the same speed. In fact, I eat super slow. An elderly lady stepped forward. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but for someone who purports to be a superhero you don’t always conduct yourself correctly. For instance, the bus was out of control for several minutes before you arrived. We could’ve been killed.’ A supportive cry of ‘yeah’ came up from some coward in the back. It’s amazing how much courage one idiot can give another. Granny had plenty more where that came from. I won’t go into what was said, but if you’ve ever witnessed a stand-up row you’d know how unseemly it looks to see two grownups facing off against each other like wild animals. One of them wore a black spandex suit. The other was a ‘sweet’ old lady. Only one was the villain. All I can say in my defence is that I’m human too and even superheroes have feelings. We can’t all be humourless and cold-hearted can we Batman? I should’ve kept my mouth shut. Granny’s wrath was the prelude to an onslaught of complaints from the crowd about various ailments caused by my intervention. One person had whiplash, another a sore leg and one might be late for work because I hadn’t intervened sooner. And I heard every one of them. As I said, super-hearing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At this point I’d only been a superhero about a month. So forgive me for not reading Superhero Etiquette: Made Simple. I’ll admit it right now. I hadn’t grown into the role with much grace. Understandable, considering how I became a superhero in the first place. How long did it take you become great at your job? Longer than a month, I bet. So please hold off on the hate and don’t judge me for what I did next. The old lady had been superseded by a younger man in a suit who introduced himself as a lawyer and blamed me for his back pain. ‘Why not blame me for your shitty love life too,’ I said. ‘I’m going to sue for damages,’ said the lawyer. ‘Sue?’ I screamed. ‘You’re going to sue? You can’t sue a superhero.’

‘Exactly,’ he replied, handing me his card and walking away. Someone explained to a confused little boy what had just happened between the lawyer and me. Did it pretty good, too, had me nodding in approval. The police arrived late, something I’m getting used to. As they left their vehicle to check on the bus driver, I ran them through the scene. One of them looked up from the stricken driver and said, ‘Thanks Mr…?’ ‘I’m a new-born superhero,’ I said. ‘Name’s a work in progress.’ The officers stared at me in bewilderment. ‘I do quite a bit of work around here,’ I added. ‘You guys might have seen me around, unless you’re new on the job. In which case, I’m the man who will probably put you out of one.’ I thought about waiting for the ambulance because I had something to tell the medics. That’s when I saw the Japanese man for the first time. He gave a small bow, which I reciprocated. Then he was brushed aside by a little kid, the same little kid who had witnessed the face-off between me and granny and the lawyer. He was so small he came up just above my hip. The sort of cute kid who had probably dreamed that one day he would see a real life superhero. He was by my side, grinning as if I’d told the funniest joke ever. ‘That was funny back there with that old lady,’ he said. His name was Elson. I wagged a finger and pulled my serious face. ‘Elson, what you witnessed back there was an absurd lack of control and should not be tried at home.’ With the kid laughing, I couldn’t contain myself and broke into a smile. ‘Some people are stupid,’ said Elson. ‘But you’re cool.’ Elson had to hurry along or else be late for school, so I scooped the little fellow up – he felt lighter than my empty container of fries – and put him on my back. ‘How about a ride?’ ‘Mum says I shouldn’t go off with strangers.’ I laughed at his wit. ‘What do parents know,’ I said. He seemed to agree because he slapped my backside, my cue to giddy up out of there. I set him down a minute or so later across the road from the school gates. ‘Buses are overrated,’ I said. ‘Right, Elson?’ He was unsteady, staggering into a lamppost. I held him for a few seconds to keep his balance. He didn’t cry or moan, just touched the blood dripping from his nose as it blotted the concrete. ‘You’ll be fine, Elson. Just a little dizziness.’ I cleaned up the mess with a tissue. Some days I can’t do anything right. ‘The teachers are going to want to know how you got the nosebleed,’ I said. ‘What do you tell them?’ ‘The truth?’ he said speculatively. ‘No, no Elson. That’ll get me into trouble. Blame your dad, mum, teachers. Anyone but me.’ ‘I’ll blame dad,’ he said decisively. Then he added, ‘You’ve been in enough trouble today.’ ‘Good idea,’ I enthused. I love kids. Once they pick a hero they are loyal and sincere to the end. Everyone knows when the shit starts to fly it’s the adults who scatter and pull up the drawbridges. Love between a kid and a superhero endures for life, or at least until they’re screaming snarling adults who want to sue you for saving their ungrateful behinds.

‘High five kid,’ I said, not realising he wasn’t quite tall enough to slap my face let alone my outstretched hand. ‘I want you to hit me on the website. Tell me how cool I am. No-one else does.’ On that sad note, I did the most important chore of the day: checked my nannyte meter. The level of nannytes in my system were down to 20%. Nannytes are the reason I have my power. I had just enough power left to run as fast as I could back to the fast food place. I’d forgotten the orange juice. By now you know all about my fetish for hitting the major food groups. As I arrived, I saw the ambulance pull away. I had decided against telling the ambulance staff about the bus driver’s pulse – that it didn’t exist. His death wasn’t my fault. However, I’d had enough of being blamed for everything from climate change to the price of stocks. I didn’t risk it. Just in case I was sued. END OF CHAPTER ONE If you want to read the rest of this story, visit Amazon and buy Escape from Reality, a trilogy of anti-hero novellas.

Black Ghost: Public Enemy No.1, Two and Three!  
Black Ghost: Public Enemy No.1, Two and Three!  

‘Black Ghost: Public Enemy No.1, 2, and 3’ (28,000 words) is a lighthearted action story about the birth of a superhero who isn’t quite the...