Author's Note:

'Don't Stand Still' has been published by Massachusetts Books. It is available for FREE download today (18 May 2018) on all digital bookstores except Amazon. Why so? Because they no longer support the sale of free e-book unless an author is exclusive to them. However, once it is priced for sale, you would be able to purchase it from there. But if you prefer to read it on installment, I am uploading it here one chapter at a time.

This touching story is my usual fare of action-packed drama sprinkled with humour. I would like to think that my stories are a reflection of life. It is a mixed shade of light and dark; and, sadness and humour. That's how life is, isn't it? In our darkest moments, there are light ones to help carry us through our suffering. And, in our happy times, there is often pathos; perhaps to remind us not to be too comfortable.

The date of its publication isn't random. 'Don't Stand Still' is a celebration of a life cut far too short.

This is dedicated to my son Timothy Isaiah Gabriel Tan-Miller on his death anniversary, the 19th of May. I love you, son. I hope you like this story.

1: Ruby

SULLY WHITE PRACTICALLY CRAWLED to his eclectic style two-bedroom maisonette in East Finchley.

It had been one long, crazy January. Everyone at Trident and Area Crime Command of the London Metropolitan Police, regardless of the role they played, had been on standby and on high rotation, no thanks to the proliferation of guns and increase in gang-related incidents. Being at the forefront of the war against gangs, members of Trident were the vanguard.

He entered his apartment with a singular thought: uninterrupted sleep. Two days off was just the sort of break he needed to rejuvenate. This was a rest that was long overdue.

He removed his scuffed shoes, left them by the door and tossed his socks in the laundry basket. Most people wouldn't have a laundry basket on full display in their living room, but he couldn't be arsed with aesthetics. It was his home to do as he pleased.

The rolled-up socks went in.

'Two points for Sully White.'

Notwithstanding the fact he used to be a soldier, he still wasn't the sort of bloke who worried about neatness and cleanliness. Once he left the Parachute Regiment, orderliness went out the window, proving that some habits do die. The laundry basket was, in fact, a new addition to his furnishing; he used to just drop his clothing on the floor as he undressed.

He removed his wallet, keys, and police paraphernalia and dropped them in the bowl by the mantel. Next, he took off his trousers, rolled them up in a bundle and aimed at the basket. Scored again! He raised his arms in triumph.

He did the same with the rest of his clothing. He removed his shirt next, followed by his underwear. They all went in easily for a total of eight points.

He walked around buck naked. The rugby locker room, then the military, honed his sense of ease towards the naked body. He had long ago forgotten to be self-conscious about his state of undress.

His body wasn't muscular in a bulky way, but it was toned and taut. It was mostly down to hitting the genetic lottery. The fact was, he could exercise more and eat less carbs, but he was built with fast metabolism, which was unfair, to say the least. But for now, running for thirty minutes three times a week and doing weight training two times a week sufficed. Just enough workout so he could give chase if he had to.

He could have been the perfect specimen to display in front of medical students, as all his muscle groups were clearly defined. Not that he'd be interested in being brought in for show-and-tell. He could also have been an ideal live model for art students; again, not that he'd be tempted to expose himself in all his glory despite having an easy relationship with his body. He was proud of it, but he didn't flaunt it unnecessarily.

He went to the bathroom to turn the shower on. He didn't hang around waiting for the water to run hot. As the water rained down, he went to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and gulped down milk straight from the bottle. Lifting the litre of milk caused his bicep to contract; it was a pity there was no one to see it.

On the way back to the shower, he grabbed a clean towel from the linen cupboard.

He closed the bathroom door, stepped inside the cubicle, and enjoyed a steamy shower. He scrubbed to erase the dirt of humanity that had stuck to him. He could still be scrubbing away had he not run out of hot water. He stepped out of the shower, rubbed himself dry, then hung the used towel on a hook to dry.

He drew the curtains closed as he crossed the living room to his bedroom. He checked his pager and his cell phone, noticed that the battery was low, and plugged the device into the charger. That done, he went to bed and drew the quilt up to his chin. He went out like a light.

SUDDENLY, White became alert to a noise.

He opened his eyes.

The sensation raised the hackles on the back of his neck.

He rolled out of bed and pulled a concealed Glock 26, his personal weapon of choice, from under the base. He stayed hidden at the side of the bed, preparing to confront the intruder.

He was now wide awake, his senses on full alert. He was sure it wasn't a dream. Dreams don't drop the ambient temperature in a room.

He heard footsteps that were initially soft and tentative, then heavier as though the intruder were no longer in control. The bedroom door, which he always left slightly ajar, was suddenly flung wider. This was followed by the thud of a body collapsing on his bedroom floor. Then, he heard a soft moan.

White came out from behind the bed and aimed the handgun at the intruder's head. He used his foot to turn the body face up. He paused and for a second stared at the body lying in his bedroom, leaking blood on the carpet. He crouched down to have a better look.

'Jesus,' he said, taken by complete surprise.

He pressed down on her stomach to stem the bleeding.

'Ruby. I'm calling for help.'

She held on tightly to him with her remaining ounce of strength. In a voice that was hoarse and strained, she whispered, 'Don't, no time. Autopsy. Autopsy.'

Clutching his hand, she said, 'I love you,' before passing out.

'Fuck, Ruby, don't do this to me.'

But Ruby had stopped moving.

'Ruby! Stay with me, stay with me.'

He felt for a pulse, it was there but very faint. He grabbed his cell phone and punched 999 with one hand. With the other, he continued to apply pressure on the wound, desperately trying to stem the blood loss. He gave the dispatcher his Trident credentials. It was the fastest way to get emergency services to his door.

'Ambulance, I need an ambulance.'

The computer system flagged his name, phone number, and his address. It took emergency services less than three minutes to get to his door.

'Over here,' he shouted, 'in the bedroom.'

Two paramedics burst through the door. Both stopped in their tracks as they were greeted by the sight of a naked man kneeling over a body covered in blood. The Glock was lying on the floor. They paused, unsure what to do next. It annoyed White.

'What the —? Do something!' he yelled.

The paramedics came to their senses. They took over from White, who picked up his gun. The paramedics instinctively raised their hands in panic.

'I'm with the Met, and I didn't shoot her. Now can you please attend to her?' he said angrily.

While the paramedics got busy stabilising Ruby, he went to shower to scrub her blood off him. Blood isn't easy to wash off, so he stood under the running water until it dawned on him what Ruby might have meant by 'autopsy.'

Fuck me, he thought.

He grabbed the used towel from the hook, wrapped it around his waist then got dressed in a hurry. He pocketed his cell phone and tucked his weapon in the small of his back. He dashed after the paramedics who were loading Ruby in the ambulance just as he was coming out of the main entrance.

Without warning, a shot rang out and took down the first of two paramedics. He dived for cover and screamed for the other man to duck.

Suddenly, the shooter jumped into the ambulance's driver's seat and took off with Ruby's body.

He rushed to aid the downed paramedic and called again for help.

Every fibre in his body was telling him he had better be ready for Hell on Earth!