I’ve been chatting with a few readers about writing Alias from a first person point of view, and happened to mention a recent writing exercise from the Bold Strokes author retreat where we played around with switching the POVs in a particular scene. The workshop gave me my one and only chance to write from Pryce’s POV and I said I’d share it on here for people to have a toot at.
It was written on quite a tight deadline, and I’d probably have included more detail had this been in the actual book, but I think it makes for an interesting read regardless.
There are MASSIVE spoilers from the end of the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, so proceed under the cut with caution…
Excerpt from Alias
Re-jigged version – third person from Bronwen Pryce’s perspective.
It wasn’t much, just a whisper of sound, something different to the thud of boots circling her, and the threats, and the wet smack of his fist on her face. Bron tried to raise her head, but it felt too heavy, her chin bobbing against her chest every time she took a breath behind the tape. She knew Alis was there, knew it before she heard the gasp of distress and the soft “Oh God”, and she clenched her swollen fingers as tears filled her eyes. She had been strapped to this chair for three days. Three days of pain and terror and humiliation. She had held out for as long as she could, but Dee had broken her in the end, and now Alis was here, and they were both going to die.
“Sorry, Al. It couldn’t be helped,” Jez said, as if he and Alis were still good mates and this was just one of those things. Bron couldn’t see him clearly, but he was in his usual place on the sofa. Keeping out of the way, trying to keep his hands clean.
“You fucking arsehole!” Alis yelled. There was a scuffle of feet. She had probably tried to go for his throat, but the movement ceased almost at once, though she continued to hurl insults at him. “You’re supposed to be a police officer, Jez. What the fuck happened to you, you pathetic piece of shit?”
“Like I said, it couldn’t be helped,” Jez said, and Bron managed to lift her head in time to see Alis spit at him.
“Fuck you, mate,” Alis said, and then noticed that Bron had stirred. “Hey,” she said softly.
The tape across Bron’s mouth stopped her from answering. Shame made her close her eyes again, sending tears streaking down her cheeks, the salt stinging the open wounds there.
“This isn’t your fault,” Alis told her, and Bron choked a sob behind the tape. “How long have you been here?” Alis asked. She sounded horrified, as if she’d just worked the logistics through. When Bron managed to look at her, she was staring at the line of cigarette burns that snaked up Bron’s right arm.
“Too fucking long,” Dee snarled.
“Easy, Dee,” Jez said. He got off the sofa and walked closer to Alis. He was trying to smile, assuming the role of good cop. “We need the flash drive, Al. Where is it?”
She glared at him. “Let her go and I’ll tell you.”
“No!” She slapped at the hand he held out to her. “Let her go! Let her go, and you can have your fucking drive.”
The bang was so loud and sudden that Bron lurched in the chair, unable to identify its source until Jez lowered his gun. The bullet had missed her by a couple of feet, hitting the wall and sending chips of stone flying. Panic made her chest heave, and her nostrils flared as she fought to suck in enough air.
“For fuck’s sake, Jez,” Dee said. “You couldn’t hit a barn door.” He laughed, and stepped away from Alis, and that was all the warning Bron got. She barely heard him fire, but the bullet slammed into her left shoulder, the impact throwing her back. She took the chair with her, crashing sideways onto the floor. The pain stole what little breath she had managed to catch. She couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything but lie there as her blood pumped onto the carpet.
“Get it done,” Dee said, his voice a tinny echo. “I’m going for a piss.”
Jez obviously hadn’t reacted quickly enough to the instruction, because Alis knelt by Bron’s side and peeled the tape from her lips. Bron groaned as Alis clamped a hand on the ragged hole the bullet had torn in her back. The pressure sent needles of fire down her arm and into her chest. She felt as if she was suffocating.
“Shh, stay still,” Alis said. “Stay still.”
“Alis,” Jez said. He was standing above her, not pulling her away but not doing anything useful either. “He won’t be gone for long.”
“I know,” she said. “Fucking help me, then.”
“I can’t. I need the drive. Where is it?” He crouched and put the gun against Bron’s forehead. The muzzle was still warm from his earlier shot, but it wouldn’t leave a mark like the cigarette stubs that Dee had used. “I won’t miss from here.”
Despite her terror, Bron focused on Alis rather than the metal pressing into her skin. “Alis, don’t,” she whispered, but Alis shook her head, her face pale and stricken.
“It’s in my cast,” she told Jez without hesitation. “You’ll have to cut it off.”
He nodded and lifted his gun clear. “Kitchen,” he said. “Come on.”
He yanked at her arm, urging her to her feet, and Bron saw her stumble as he dragged her away. The footsteps and then the voices faded, leaving Bron alone in the room. Resting her forehead against the carpet, she steeled herself for what she was about to do. She wasn’t going to let Alis fight the men on her own, and she knew that Alis would fight, given the slightest opportunity. On a count of three, Bron pulled her wrists, straining and twisting them to try to loosen the tape that bound her to the chair. As it had on so many other occasions, the tape held, and the pain that tore through her shoulder turned her vision grey at the edges. Cold sweat beaded on her forehead, and she started to shiver.
“Shit,” she whispered. “Shit.”
The room faded in and out, the pattern on the carpet blurring and sharpening at random intervals. She could smell blood and cordite, and the aftershave Dee would wear after he’d used her shower. A sharp series of bangs from the kitchen made her jump, and moments later the living room door creaked open. She tensed, preparing to offer whatever resistance she could if it was Dee coming for her, but instead it was Alis, who skidded to a halt beside her, dropping towels and a pair of scissors onto the carpet.
“Where? What…happened?” Bron panted for air between the words, looking beyond Alis to the door.
“I bashed him.” Alis displayed her ruined cast, with the drives poking from a hole near her thumb. Aside from a fresh bruise on her jaw, she looked to have come through the scrap unscathed, and Bron couldn’t help but smile. “Where’s Dee?” Alis asked.
“Don’t know…never came back,” Bron whispered. “Leave me. Better on your own.”
“Not a chance. Don’t talk bollocks.” Alis cut the tape at Bron’s ankles and started on the band that was wound beneath her breasts. “Besides, we’ve got a gun now.”
“Ever fired one?” Bron gasped as her torso slipped. Alis gripped hold of her as best she could with one functional arm, kicking the chair away to guide Bron to the floor.
“No, but how hard can it be?” Alis shrugged but then winced in sympathy as she freed Bron’s wrists. “Sorry, almost done.”
“Can’t—can’t feel much,” Bron said, and then cried out as Alis brought her arms forward and turned her onto her uninjured side. “God,” she whispered. “Oh God, don’t!”
Ignoring her pleas, Alis knotted a towel in the middle and pushed the knot hard against the exit wound. The resultant agony ripped a scream from Bron. She tried to roll away, but Alis’s knees gripped her like a vice, keeping her still as Alis plugged the hole in her back and tied the second towel around the first.
“All done. I’m done,” Alis told her, but Bron knew they weren’t done, that they were going to have to get up and get out, because it had already been too long and Dee was going to find them and kill them both. She didn’t make a sound as Alis lifted her into a sitting position; she had spent three days screaming, and enough was enough. She sagged against Alis for a couple of seconds, and Alis stroked the hair away from her forehead.
“On three,” Alis said. “Ready?”