You can purchase 'Tears' in both paperback and eBook.
The book is also available from Amazon on all of their sites worldwide.
Here's the opening chapter of the current edition - just so you can get to know Jake a wee bit.
The tears of Jake Collins (Unedited)
I suppose that we’ve all cried at some stage or another. I’ve certainly done my share of crying. I’m pretty sure that I must have bawled when I was born, and I know for sure that I cried when I use to get the shit kicked out of me at primary school.
I damn-well cried when my Dad died, oh yes.
I remember thinking: ‘Why’d he have to go and do that?’ as I saw him, slumped cold and still in his chair – being eight years of age doesn’t give a boy much clue about life and death. Still, without me knowing at the time, I’d have plenty of opportunity to find out about death later on, and in great detail. The funny thing is as far as life and how to live it goes, I still have no idea, even now. It’s a mystery to me. I just do what I do and tomorrow can go to hell.
Anyway, because we had to move house, my Mum sent me to a new school – I cried that day, let me tell you. I cried my arse off all the way to the bus stop and for most of the way to where I had to get off. That’s what you got for living in Newcastle back then – dreaded bus journeys to a school that you really didn’t want to attend.
I hated it so much that every night, whilst I lay hidden beneath the sheets, I still cried. But, I cried quietly, being labelled a ‘cry-baby’ whilst living on a tough council estate could get you into a whole heap of trouble in those days. After a while I stopped the crying. I’d discovered that school was actually fun, hard but fun. There didn’t seem to be much need for crying anymore, except for when the older boys took it upon themselves to take some of their bravado out on us younger kids – then you got the shit kicked out of you again. And so you did some more crying, most-likely into your pillow late at night as the pain from a pair of repeatedly-deadened legs came around to keep you company.
When I was fifteen my Mum simply upped and went to join my Dad, just like that – and so I got to do some more crying. By now I was pretty good at keeping my crying on the inside, no open tears for me anymore. I just let the pain sink into my chest and kept my eyes locked onto some imaginary thing that lay straight ahead. It was to become a standard procedure with me and I have often been called heartless since then, but that’s another story.
When I hit sixteen I started to become a real ‘pain-in-the-arse.’ That’s what my aunt kept telling me, and she was probably right. I’d been living with her since my mother had passed-on. Hitting puberty had turned me into a bit of a tearaway.
One brush with the law too many and, before my feet could touch the floor, my aunt had enlisted me into the British Army. In a matter of weeks I was whisked away to a Junior Soldiers’ training-camp. I was to stay for a year, and it wasn’t easy. Let me tell you, they weren’t joking back in those days. Boy-soldier or not, they gave it to us hard. I did some crying during those days– definitely I did. Both mentally and physically, I wept. But the stare had taken over fully by now and no-one ever saw a tear roll down my cheeks.
By the time I was seventeen-and-half any thoughts of messing with the law were long gone. I had become a soldier, I was proud, I was loyal, and I was pretty good at it, the soldiering thing. Thirty three years later, having spent twenty four of those in the Army – eighteen in the Special Forces – and I can’t remember the last time I cried.
Oh, there have been a few times when perhaps I should have wailed my damned head off, but I didn’t. I just stared straight ahead and let the emotions sink back down to where they belong. These days that would be right at the very bottom of my stomach, and that’s just fine because the alcohol will flush them out later.
It came with the territory – the drink.
Being involved with the people I knew, made absolutely sure that you were also involved with drink. Most of the guys I know have some form of drink-problem, or will have done at some stage – usually the problem involves not being able to get enough of the stuff down your neck at even the slightest hint of a good piss-up. It has always been that way. Work hard, party harder. No quarter asked or given – if you couldn’t get out of bed and perform the day after a mass drinking session, then you were screwed. And, as the saying goes: ‘If you want to hoot with the owls then you’d best be able to screech with the eagles…’ You either learned how to do it, or you were finished.
I know of many a good man who lost their career due to drink, lost their career and a whole lot more besides – like their wives, their money, their possessions, and all of their dignity.
Some of them even lost their lives.
Ah, the drink… it has a way up creeping up on you. Then one day you suddenly realise that it’s hooked you. It’s then that you will either fight it, or flow with it. I have chosen to flow rather than to fight. That is to say: I keep an eye on what I’m drinking, not too much of the hard stuff, just stick to beer, if you can, Jake. I also make an effort to keep on top of my physical condition. I tried fighting the drink, but it was a waste of time – too many good parties and too many great times are to be missed when you’re a teetotal. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.
These days I’m not a soldier anymore – I work in the private security industry, earning the type of money that the Queen could never have paid me. Ironically, it is almost like being in an army, but it’s a lot more fun, a lot better paid, and it suits me just fine. I am, in many ways, almost totally independent. I work when I want to work, and if the job turns out to be a nightmare then I’ll politely resign and walk away. I’ve been doing it for a while now and the work has taken me around the world, mostly from one dangerous dump of a place to the next.
Having said that, there is the odd occasion when my previous employers, the military boys, will give me a ring. Usually they ask me where I am, and if it turns out that I’m somewhere useful, for them, they might ask me to do them a little favour whilst I’m there – you know, just pop down to so-and-so street and have a little nosy?
I don’t mind, it keeps me from being bored.
Sometimes they even ask me to do something a little bit more interesting than just taking a nosy, a simple task like sitting in a darkened room and firing a laser target-marker at some building or vehicle they happen to want wasting.
It’s easy, I just spend a few days checking out the area, once I’m happy and the target is clearly identified, I do the job and then it’s just a case of: Ka-boom! Bye-bye bad guy.
I leave the equipment with whoever the local contact is, clear the area and go back to my little security job, probably looking after some fat guy in a five-star hotel nearby. Yeah, it’s a blast and helps pay the bills. What, you didn’t think that I’d do anything for those guys without charging them, did you? There ain’t any free lunches out here in the real world, they pay me and they pay me well. It’s just business.
At this precise moment I’m at home in my London apartment, sprawled out on a leather settee with the news burbling out from the TV. I’m alone and the hangover is killing me. I only rent the apartment on a month-to-month basis in London, and that’s mainly because of work. The place is near the head-offices of the people I work for and makes getting the task of acquiring the visas that I need to travel to ‘el-shithole’, an easy one.
Most of the time, when I’m off, I stay in another rented property, it’s in Italy and is a large, airy, villa that sits on the outskirts of a town called Pesaro, which rests down the coast from Rimini. It’s a beautiful place, the weather is great and the people are cool. Pesaro is laid back and it’s sunny, where else would a man want to live?
My name is Jake Collins – I’m six foot two in height and ropey in build. I’m clean-shaven with short-cropped hair, which seems to be going greyer by the day. I carry a few scars on my body, including two bullet holes – one in the cheek of my left buttock, and the other through my left breast, just below the collarbone. I might be fifty, but I’m probably nothing like your average guy of that age. My past has ensured that I’m lean and I’m fit. I train hard and I can handle myself, having spent years of my life doing all-sorts of martial arts and other physical activities has kept me as tough as an old boot. Yes, it is harder to motivate myself these days, but I still keep at it, any time I can find a gym I’ll make a point of getting in there and giving both my body and my mind a good seeing-to.
In truth, I don’t really know what I look like, mainly because I hardly ever look in the mirror, and when I do I’m not really looking at myself, I’m just shaving. I guess that I look like what life has made me look like: rugged, leathery-skinned, and a bit battered around the edges. A few of my so-called friends say that I’m an ugly bastard, but that’s only because they’re jealous. You see, for some unknown reason, I don’t seem to have too many problems in finding a woman. I’m not being a big-head here, definitely not – mostly since I, too, happen to think that I’m an ugly bastard, especially on the inside.
But, a fair few women have found themselves involved with JC and his fucked-up life. None of them ever hang around for too long, though. As soon as they figure out I that like a drink and that work comes first, then one-by-one the ladies in my life have all headed for the door, or the hills, and some quicker than others. Who could blame ‘em? Finding a lady isn’t a problem, keeping one is.
These days I don’t bother trying to form a long-term relationship, as it never works out. Either I turn out to be totally unreliable, or the lady in question does. No, the only real relationship I have these days is with my car. I have a Porsche 911. It’s the turbo one, it’s black, goes like a missile, and is totally reliable. There ain’t no way is that bitch ever going to let me down. I worked my arse off for three years solid to pay for her. I love that car.
I don’t believe in many things, life is tough and death is easily acquired. The only things I set my store by are the ones that I’ve learned the hard way. People lie, money changes everything, and we’re all going to be dead for a long time – forever.
I don’t cry anymore, either. There are no tears left in me.
I’ve killed too many people and seen many more killed. I’ve lost some of my best friends in some of the worst places – left them there with their blood soaking into some shitty desert in the middle of nowhere. I’ve attended their funerals and listened to the words of love that have been spoken afterwards. None of it makes sense to me anymore. When you’re dead, you’re dead forever and no words or thoughts will ever change that. That kind of stuff has a way of getting to you, if you let it. That kind of thing will suck the life out of you, if you dwell upon it.
I don’t let it, and I don’t dwell upon it. Not because I’m all big and tough – no, I don’t because I couldn’t. It would kill me, and if anything around here is going to kill me, it’ll be me.
Sometimes I have a dream, it’s the same one every time, and it isn’t a good one. There’s not a lot I can do about it, so it just gets swept under the carpet along with all the other dust of my life.
Do I have faults? Yeah, I’m riddled with ‘em – I smoke too much, I swear too much and I ‘probably’ drink too much. I’ve got a really brutal sense of humour, I’m more cynical than is good for me, and I don’t believe in regrets. You’re exactly where you are because of the opportunities that arose and the choices you made. Live with it.
Yeah, I’m a fuck-up, and I drink too much – when I’m not working that is. Well, what else should a man do? Moping around my flat all day would also probably kill me. No, instead I hit the gym or go for a run, it keeps me and shape and helps soothe my itchy-feet. Then I’ll read my email and sort out anything that needs doing around the place, by then it won’t even be lunchtime. It won’t be long before I get to thinking about the pub and wondering who’ll be in for a pint, so I head on down to my local and then, before I know, it’s teatime and I’m shitfaced – hell, who needs to go home from a pub at teatime, especially if they’re single?
Perhaps I’ll stay for a few more beers and something to eat. Maybe I’ll try my luck with that good-looking woman, the tall one who’s standing at the bar all on her own. She’s looked at me a couple of times already; last time she did it I saw her checking my ring-finger.
Ring? That will be the day… I hit the big ‘Five-Zero’ this year, so I guess it’s getting a wee bit late for any plans of marriage for me.
And so it goes on.
Until my mobile phone rings, it does.
Then I get sober in a hurry, grab my kit and head straight for the nearest airport. At a moment’s notice I’m straight back into the machine, going somewhere crazy to do something even crazier.
That’s me – I’m Jake Collins.
Oh, and I don’t do tears.
Welcome to my world...
Love at First Sight
Have you ever fallen in love at first sight? Well, let me tell you – it’s a weird experience, weird because you know you’ve fallen in love. I don’t know how you know, but you just do. Leastways, I did. I knew.
Right now I’m busy thinking about the blonde-haired woman who I’ve just laid eyes upon. Laid eyes upon and fallen in love with. That’s what I imagined – the falling in love bit. I looked at her and she looked straight back, our eyes meeting, locking for that little bit longer than was normal. Something passed between us, I felt it.
Dubai International airport is a busy place, and by busy I mean crammed. Only in the very early hours of the morning is there a slight lull in the amount of passengers scurrying through the enormous, ultra-modern, Emirates terminal. It was currently 04:57hrs local time and the big trans-Atlantic flights were disgorging their hordes. In about fifteen minutes the place would be rammed – even trying to find a toilet that was free would become a mission.
I watched her, the women of my dreams, she was tall, five-feet-eight inches without her heels, I guessed. She was slim-hipped, long-legged and in a hurry. With a faint smile, she rose to her feet, grabbed a well-worn, brown leather bag, and with a flick of that shoulder-length blonde hair, strode past me to head for the exit of the Business Class lounge. I let my eyes follow her, idly sitting there with my coffee cup in hand. Just as she turned the corner, the women glanced back over her right shoulder. Her eyes locked onto mine one last time and then, with that somewhat sardonic grin still ghosting across her lips, she disappeared into the throng of commuters.
I sat there wondering what she was doing here – airports have always been a source of amusement to me; so many people travelling to so many places. I often watch them and wonder where it is they are all heading for. I guess some of them may have wondered the same thing about me, but I know that not many of them would have enjoyed accompanying me on the trips I usually take. With a dry grin all of my very own, I let my thoughts turn to the crazy life I lead, and of how I had ended-up here doing this for a living.
I suppose that to some people I have the best job in the entire world: I don’t have an office, I don’t have a secretary, and I don’t have anything that would be considered normal when it comes to having a job. No, I have a phone and it rings, just like any other phone would ring, but the people on the other end are not usually calling to ask how I am. These people are most likely calling to tell me to get my arse on a plane and fly somewhere to meet someone important, the client, and then to accompany them on some damned trip into some third-world shithole. Oh, and whilst I’m there I have to make absolutely sure that said client doesn’t get their fucking head shot off or, even worse, get themselves kidnapped.
I’ve been doing this type of work for almost ten years now, and no matter how many times I’ve tried, no matter how many ‘normal’ jobs I’ve taken, I always end-up right back here – in some airport or another – waiting for a flight to take me into the unknown. Only, it isn’t so unknown these days, it’s familiar, it’s the same old shit, it’s just work. I couldn’t hold a normal job down if I tried, and I have.
Mundane routines have a way of grinding me down, I get bored, I start looking at my life, and what a mess I’ve made of it, and then before I know it I’m back in the machine – back in the airport and heading for some Godforsaken place to meet someone who needs looking after.
I took a sip of the lukewarm coffee and let my gaze drift down through the glass walls to where the blonde should have made it to by now – there was no sign of her. The sea of heads, which were now surging up and down the escalators, would most probably have hidden her from my eyes anyway. But I still looked, just in case.
After all, I was in love…
With a sigh, I rose to my feet and went for a fresh brew – I still had an hour or two to wait for my flight to London where I was to pick up some body armour, a few satellite phones and some medical kit, before heading straight on, via France, to Djerba in Tunisia. After that it was all set to be a guessing game – the client was in Libya, Tripoli, to be precise, and I had to get there and meet them. That was the guessing bit. Crossing into Libya these days was a bit hazardous, to say the least. Still, we had a ‘fixer’ in Tunisia. These guys were local, well-connected and could pretty-much organise anything that people like me needed – for a price.
Sitting back down at my table, I lit a smoke and fired-up my laptop. The email from my employers explained it all: the client was a well-known, American TV correspondent. Apparently, the rest of the crew, cameramen, sound-techs and producers, were already in Libya. The present correspondent had been taken violently ill and was currently en-route the USA in an air-ambulance. My client, someone called Andy, was himself now flying across the world in order to get into Libya. Ideally he would be in Tunisia when I arrived, that way we could get across the border together, but if things changed then we would meet in Tripoli.
I didn’t care when we met because, frankly, I was being paid now.
I should have Googled the guy. I normally do as it’s useful to know a bit about the person who you’re going to be looking after, before you meet them. But I didn’t bother as I was too tired after a long stint in Afghanistan. I had only left Kabul this morning and the thought of dealing with yet another, high-flying journalist was draining.
I’d learned that you just have to make things up as you go along with these guys. It’s a totally people-driven exercise, some of them are really great people who understand why they have security guys like me along for the ride – it’s all about corporate responsibility and the due diligence of their employers.
The smart ones know this and just go with the flow, using my experience and knowledge to enhance their trip. Most times we have a good laugh, and after a few days they accept me for who I am, and what I’m there for. I’ve had brilliant experiences with these types of people; they’re very good at their jobs and, as a whole, are very well-educated and very well-travelled, too. I’ve had such a good time on some jobs that it seemed weird to be getting paid. However, there are the others – the walking egos, the know-it-all danger-seekers, and the ‘big story’ wannabes. They’re the ones who get themselves killed, and you alongside.
They lie and cheat and try to get away from you, as though you’re the enemy. It’s crazy. They are paying for my services, so why act like an arsehole? If you want to go down there, to where there are gunmen loosing off clip-after-clip of wildly inaccurate, machinegun fire, then I’ll most likely advise you against that. But, if you insist, then we’ll go. It’s your life and I’ve been shot at plenty of times before. But, to sneak off and do it without telling me, without any back-up, is just plain crazy.
I’d just had one of the latter types in Kabul. The whole trip had been a nightmare and to get away from such a self-centred individual was a blessing. I just hoped that this Andy guy was going to be nicer – Libya had been on fire since February and right now some really big shit was starting to happen in Tripoli. And, as usual, that was precisely where I was heading.
I powered the laptop down and looked up at the departures information board. Guessing I could do with a stretch of the legs, I slowly packed away my stuff, sliding the computer into the padded pouch on the inside of my black daysack. I put on my old jacket, the baggy, beige material was comforting – it was my oldest and wisest travel companion.
The thought made me smile. ‘Just me and my old jacket, well… here we go again, my friend. Let’s go and see what happens this time, shall we?’ I slung the pack over my shoulder and headed for the escalator.
New adventures awaited and even though I still had a slightly sick feeling in my guts, the idea of pastures-new excited me. Seeing the ‘Now boarding…’ signal flashing up next to my flight, I opened my legs and started the long walk down to where my departure gate lay.
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the feeling in my stomach – sometimes your gut can warn you of things, and I above all people should know that. But I didn’t.
Sometimes things happen in precisely the way in which they’re meant to happen, and when those wheels are in motion there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. You’re just a passenger on a wild ride, so it’s best to hold on tight and simply go with the flow.
It’s like being part of a machine.