Monday, 19 December 2011

Brit Grit Too

Paul David Brazil's anthology of 32 British and gritish writers is now available to buy.

It's quite a line up, some cracking writers and stories plus my own unoriginally titled story.

The full line up is:

1. Two Fingers Of Noir by Alan Griffiths
2. Looking For Jamie by Iain Rowan
3. Stones In Me Pocket by Nigel Bird
4. The Catch And The Fall by Luke Block
5. A Long Time Coming by Paul Grzegorzek
6. Loose Ends by Gary Dobb
7. Graduation Day by Malcolm Holt
8. Cry Baby by Victoria Watson
9. The Savage World Of Men by Richard Godwin
10. Hard Boiled Poem (a mystery) by Alan Savage
11. A Dirty Job by Sue Harding
12. Squaring The Circle by Nick Quantrill
13. The Best Days Of My Life by Steven Porter
14. Hanging Stan by Jason Michel
15. The Wrong Place To Die by Nick Triplow
16. Coffin Boy by Nick Mott
17. Meat Is Murder by Colin Graham
18. Adult Education by Graham Smith
19. A Public Service by Col Bury
20. Hero by Pete Sortwell
21. Snapshots by Paul D Brazill
22. Smoked by Luca Veste
23. Geraldine by Andy Rivers
24. A Minimum Of Reason by Nick Boldock
25. Dope On A Rope by Darren Sant
26. A Speck Of Dust by David Barber
27. Hard Times by Ian Ayris
28. Never Ending by Fiona Johnson
29. Faces by Frank Duffy
30. The Plebitarian by Danny Hogan
31. King Edward by Gerard Brennan
32. Brit Grit by Charlie Wade

Available to buy on Amazon

Monday, 12 December 2011

Another old man rant...

The youth of today, eh?

That’s one good thing about getting old: you can start saying old people things. However, the statement does have some value.

Every generation post 50’s has left behind some redeeming change. Whether its music, fashion, obesity, whatever. I always refer to them as music eras as they seem to be the driving force. Sixties gave us mods and hippies. Seventies rock then punk. Eighties new wave and indie. The nineties, rave.

I was a bit too young for new wave and slightly too old for rave, but god did I have a bash at it. I’ve stood in fields at four in the morning freezing cold and sweating at the same time. I’ve been in clubs where the atmosphere turned from defensive to electric after the drunks left at three in the morning. I’ve watched the sunrise on Brighton beach after dancing all night in steel toe-capped CAT boots. I’ve got the prematurely bad knees to prove it.

But youngsters today, eh? What about them?


The noughties were a forgettable decade. The only thing they generated were manufactured pop music, hoodys and trousers that are worn at half mast. The oneties look to be going the same way too.

Youngsters of today, this rant is for you. Think hard about this. When your grandkids eventually ask you, “There was punk, new wave and rave. What did you have?” What you going to say to them?

"We listened to rehashed, manufactured music, I wore my trousers halfway down my arse while your nan had a spray tan in November?" No. You need something more. Some defining theme or music style. Something to celebrate the fact you’re still young and can change the world before you get old and cynical and start thinking you can write books. The inability to spell and punctuate isn’t what you want to be remembered for, is it?

I know everything from festivals to alcohol has become commercialised and dumbed down, but that doesn’t stop you thinking for yourself and rebelling. Not that I want too much rebelling. I’m middle aged now and I’ve got twenty quid on me nectar card. Rebel in moderation, young people, avoiding damage to loyalty card users wherever possible. Most of all, find something that makes you stand out from the last and the next generation.

So, sort it out. Pull your trousers up, they look fucking ridiculous, get out there and do something people’ll remember. Before it’s too late.

And breathe out...

Time for a picture, I think

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Interviewed by Julie Morrigan

Julie Morrigan, author of Convictions and Heartbreaker, has kindly had me over at her gaff for an interview.

I spill the beans about where the loot is stashed and who the body is in the boot. Or not. You'll have to click here and read to find out how much information she dragged from me...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Off The Record now released

Luca has finished compiling the charity anthology and it is now up for sale.

38 new writers have been involved in this and I'm proud to have been a part. Thanks to Luca for all his hard work and the many hours he put into formatting.

Off The Record is available on Amazon, Smashwords and will soon be available in print. All profits go to children's charities, both here and in the US.

At £2.29 or $2.99 for 38 stories, it really is a bargain.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Off The Record

37 Writers, 37 Records, 37 Stories.

Luca Veste, who is now permanently cross-eyed from formatting, has put together a collection of short stories. All profits go to Children's charities.

Off The Record will be available in the next week as an ebook.

More details here at Guilty Conscience Publishing

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Normal service resumed soon...

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. It's all got a bit busy. Normal service will be resumed soon with a few pie receipes, old-man rants about modern life and the odd story or two.

For now though, here's a picture. The forthcoming release from Trestle Press in my Bites of Grime series.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Route A66 Diner at Shotgun Honey

I've got a story up today at the fabulous Shotgun Honey.

Route A66 Diner

Please take a gander and leave a comment. Thanks.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Few things

Got a few stories up in the last week.

Neighbourhood Watch at Pulp Metal Magazine


Community Policing at Elementary V Watson

As you may have guessed, Nanowrimo has hit a brick wall. I'm in a daze over it. Specifically Seven Daze. I've decided that, instead of writing another book that will clutter up the hard drive, I'll instead concentrate on Seven Daze. This means re-reading and even trying to get a few other people to read it. So, hopefully I'll be in a state to submit it late December.

I'm going to go back to Off The Rails in the middle of January next year. I'll do my own Nano on my own. That'll learn them, as we say in Derbyshire.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Starship Brakwine's Log

No nanowrimo today. I've done a story for Flash Fiction Friday instead. Haven't written space / scifi before, but I quite enjoyed it.

Starship Brakwine’s Log

Day 1065

Coffee machine ran out of ‘milk no sugar’ today. According to HESS, a pallet of concentrate is in the Sector 7G storage pod. That’s another job for a rainy day. Still orbiting the planet Starburst 67H. The distress signal I received seems to be coming from a crater. Test results still inconclusive on signs of life.

Day 1066

The Lovebot’s playing up again. She's now decided she's into women. HESS was laughing too much to be of any use. Sent a remote explorer down to Starburst 67H. Distress signal is increasing in power. Looking good for intelligent life.

Day 1067

Cleared another ten dead bodies out of the living quarters today. Shit it’s depressing. I knew them all. They were close friends until the virus hit. I’m still wondering why I’m immune. HESS says even viruses have standards and that’s why it won’t touch me. Tomorrow I’m going to reprogram his sarcasm filter.

Day 1068

Lovebot’s now straight again but doesn’t believe in sex before marriage. I proposed to her and she’s currently planning the wedding. HESS assures me he’ll be the vicar if I forget about reprogramming him. Remote explorer has found traces of Oxygen and Hydrogen on Starburst 67H. HESS says it’s capable of supporting intelligent life. He tried to make some wise crack about it not supporting me until I reminded him who controls the on off switch.

Day 1069

Engagement’s off. Caught her in the kitchen in a clinch with the toaster. She’s off sulking in one of the storage bays. HESS says to give her a day or two and she’ll come round. Remote ship has found an underground base on Starburst 67H. I’m trying to keep my hopes down after what happened on the planet Firewind, but this might be the one. So far, no traces of the virus in the planet’s atmosphere.

Day 1070

Lovebot took off in an escape POD last night. She left a message saying she wanted to travel the universe and discover herself. HESS said good riddance. Am starting to wonder if he’s had a hand in her malfunctions. Scanners have found traces of life in the seas of Starburst 67H. I’m getting the Surface Explorer ready, but it’s a ten man job and there’s only one of me. Should be ready the day after tomorrow.

Day 1071

Finally deciphered the message Starburst 67H is transmitting. It says there’s over 500 of them in an underground base. They warn the virus is still present on parts of the planet but their plan to kill it using modified atom blasts is succeeding. HESS warned it may be a trick, but I think he’s just nervous of losing me.

Day 1072

Surface Explorer’s ready. I’m leaving in ten minutes. HESS has told me of neutron gun installations all over the island and too much chlorine in the atmosphere but I’m sure he’s making it up. The Lovebot’s sent a message saying she’s made a mistake and is coming back. I told her not to bother, the wedding’s off.

Leaving now. I’ve left the ship in a low orbit and ordered HESS not to assume control unless I order him to. Once I'm there and settled, I'll get him to land - the food and supplies on board will be useful. I keep telling him I'll be back before he knows it but all he talks about is the bad feeling he's got about the planet. I'm gone.

No further messages.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Day 8

500 words.

Not much else to say.

Off the rails, day 8

The boss had said nothing when Rich announced himself. He just pressed the buzzer and hung up. As the gates slipped back, Rich saw the dogs sat on the road in front. Though beasts, they were well trained. They would just follow the car until it halted then sit each side of the car, staring at its passengers.

Rich had made the mistake last time of opening his door before the boss had come outside. Never again, you only made that mistake once. There’d been another dog that time. These two’s mother. Big overprotective brute she was. Literally protected the boss with her life.

The boss walked out and past his own black Range Rover. A better model, the sportier one, he’d apparently bought it for the mystery Suki that so far very few had seen. She was obviously in if the car was in. Rich wondered if he’d get to see her and her million dollar body. He doubted it. The boss like to keep her out of the way.

Nodding through his window, Rich heard the boss say something to the dogs which made them peel off from their positions and walk to an old tree. He wondered who did the Boss’s garden. That’d take a brave soul. It was immaculate: flowers Rich didn’t know the names of laid in beds while the paths and lawn were carefully and neatly trimmed. Work was in progress on some sort of mini-maze. Ferns and bushes planted in neat rows leading out from a central pagoda.

Opening his door, Rich noticed the dogs turn their heads and take a look at him before turning back to each other. He caught the Boss’s eyes, deep set and squinting above his nose and scarred cheeks.

“You’re early,” was all he said as he pointed towards an outbuilding.

“Sorry. I ...”

The boss put up his hand. Apologies weren’t needed. In fact any superfluous words weren’t. Rich’s heart beat a bit faster; meeting him was never easy. The visions of him strangling you for saying the wrong word or smiling the wrong way were ingrained in his mind.

“Need to talk about something,” was all he said as he led the way.

Halfway across, the front door slammed. Rich looked round, instantly wondering who was there. She was beautiful. Smaller than he’d imagined, Rich could see, even across the yard, why the Boss wanted her. Her eastern face combined with western dress and boob job looked out of place. He wondered how beautiful she’d been before the surgery, deciding that stunning would still have sufficed.

“Inside now,” said the Boss. His squint had increased. Rich reckoned he’d told her to wait until Rich was out of the way before coming out. He’d heard the rumours of their arguments and her threats to leave him, but everyone though it was a love-hate relationship. He loved her, she hated him.

Rich dragged his eyes off her too thin, exposed midriff and legs and entered the building.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Days five, six and seven of Off the Rails

Only 1,223 words. Again a poor showing. Just over 5,000 so far with nearly a quarter of the month gone.

Oh well.

Ron Henderson jumped out of bed as the alarm went off. He’d never liked sleeping in: it bred laziness. Suki would spend all day in the pit if he let her. Walking to the shower, he could hear her snoring. Nose job had cost a fortune but snoring was one side effect the surgeon hadn’t mentioned.

He clenched his fists as he got in the shower. Cold water. Clears the body and mind. His face grimacing, he scrubbed himself hard. Not that he was dirty. It was the feeling of dirt. The feeling of yesterday’s grime and skin. It needed washing off. A new day was here, why would he want to wear yesterdays waste?

Shower finished, he walked to the spare room and picked out a clean shirt and trousers. Ironed to a crisp, just how he liked it. That was Mrs Briggins, the cleaner. He wouldn’t let Suki near his silk shirts. Not that she had the time. Always busy. Always busy doing nothing.

Downstairs, he put the kettle on and pushed two slices of bread in the toaster. Wholemeal bread? What the fuck was that about. That was Suki too, forever buying that healthy muck. He’d eat it quickly before the lad arrived. Brown bread would take some explaining.

He headed outside, the dogs needed feeding. They bounded over at his approach, tails wagging. Opening the lean-to shed., he scooped out a pile of dog food and threw half in each bowl. They had their own kennels, luxury things, but he noticed they slept under the willow tree in the summer. They were still young. He imagined it was like a couple of teenagers, camping out. He reckoned they got up to all sorts of scrapes at night. Like a couple of kids, that’s what they were.

Watching them snaffle the food, he looked at Ronnie. Her coat was off colour again, not shining like it should be, nowhere near as glossy as Reggie’s. Maybe the vet needed calling again? She’d always been the poorly one. Anything flying round, she’d catch it. Sometimes he let her sleep inside in winter, but Reggie missed her too much and howled all night.

Back inside he buttered the toast. Fucking half fat margarine. No butter anywhere in the fridge that was full of tofu and skimmed milk and some kind of salad leaf he didn’t know how to pronounce. Fucking Suki again. She’d have him eating bird food before the summer was out.

At the breakfast bar he ate the toast, drank his black coffee and listened to the radio. Markets down again. He reckoned those city folks needed a shot up the arse. They needed something. His shares had taken a hit recently and that twat of a broker was all snivelling and too apologetic whenever he rang. He needed to grow a backbone. Before it was too late.

The noise upstairs told him she was awake. He checked his watch. Seven thirty. Early start. She walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. Towelling white dressing gown, cost over two hundred looked a waste on her. The bags under her eyes led an advance party into the room, squinting at the morning sun. Ron noticed her hair, sticking out at awkward angles like a Mohican.

“I fucky gotta stop drinking,” she said, her words croaked through a dehydrated mouth.

Ron shook his head and poured her a coffee. “You look a state.”

“Don’t fucky start on me, Ron. I’ve had it up to here with you. You slept in spare room again. You no like me anymore?”

He tried to hide his shudder as he handed her the mug. “Drink it. Then get in the shower.”

“While ago you’d have joined me. Remember those days. You remember them?”

Ron remembered those days but they seemed so long ago. Like another life. Suki with her sixty thousand dollar body had been all he wanted a few years ago. He remembered when he’d only have to look at her and he’d feel things he’d never felt before. His eyes would fully open, his stomach would rattle like he’d eaten three vindaloos and his legs would got to jelly. All that money he’d spent to keep her looking young. Now thirty five she still looked twenty when she put her make up on. Drink didn’t suit her. It doubled her age. It ruined the expensive illusion. He couldn’t remember exactly when she’d started, maybe five years ago, but he didn’t understand it. She had everything money could buy. She had the face and body of a supermodel. Yet she drunk. And drunk and drunk and drunk.

He nodded his head. Her eyes bored into him, waiting for an explanation of why those days were over. “Maybe we should go on holiday?” He broke her stare and looked at the clock. Seven thirty five. He wanted her out before the boy arrived. Didn’t do to mix business with pleasure.

“Holiday? Where? Both of us, together?”

“Wherever you want to go.”

“I’ll need new clothes.”

He caught her eyes again. The thought of a holiday had sobered her up almost instantly. His stomach churned slightly as he remembered their last holiday. A cottage for a fortnight in the Lake District. They only ventured out once, and that was for cigarettes.

“I’ll have a shower then go shopping. This better not be a joke, Ron. Are we really going away?”

She let the dressing gown half slip revealing where half the sixty thousand dollars had been spent. He felt nothing as he nodded. Four, maybe even two years ago he’d have run across the room. Now though, nothing. She turned and walked away, the dressing gown falling lower with each step. “I’ll have that shower now.” She turned her head and winked.

Ron washed down the last piece of toast with his coffee, counted to fifty then went outside to his dogs.


The Muesli wasn’t going down well. Rich knew why and it had nothing to do with food. The boss had only seem him alone once. Just once in ten years. He’d risen through the ranks, most of it lucky breaks during the turf wars after the millennium. He shook his head as he remembered those years. So many lives lost so easily. The last time he’d seen the boss was for his promotion. Now his man on the street, Rich visited the customers as the boss liked to call them.

The Range Rover struggled as he slipped round the corner. He knew he was driving too slow, the automatic gearbox obviously thought a vicar had borrowed the car for the day. Whatever was going to happen, being late wouldn’t improve the issue. He wondered again what is was. It had to be something to do with Jimmy. He’d asked the boss pleasantly enough if Jimmy could be spared as he was an old friend. The boss hadn’t seemed too bothered on the phone. As long as he learns a lesson and fucks off, that’d been his reply.

Rich wondered if the cold light of day had made him rethink that decision.

Pulling off the main road, he stopped. He could hear the dogs barking in the distance and imagined them bounding towards the electrically controlled gate. Window down, he pressed the buzzer and waited.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Off the Rails - Day four

Day four 730 words. Yeah I'm now about 2,000 behind. After the weekend I'll be about 4,000 behind. I'll keep plodding on though. It's weird the way this is working, the plot's building in my head all the time. I now know roughly what's going to happen and what the subplots are. Again, no apologies made for typos, bad grammar, or for run on sentences. The whole idea of NaNoWriMo is to write as much as possible. Editing comes later.

Day Four

The clock read two am as Rich pulled into the driveway. Bill had been quiet on the drive back. Not that he was ever that talkative, but Rich thought he was definitely quieter than normal. Rich wondered if the usual nature of Jimmy’s near death was to blame. Mouth open, Bill had no doubt been pondering just what it meant. Whether it was a one off, or a new phase to the world of beatings.

Locking the Range Rover, he unlocked the front door. Of course the house wasn’t his. It went came with the job. Three bedroomed houses on the outskirts of Canterbury aren’t cheap. Rich knew a chauffeur could only dream of such a place. Inherited money, that was the story. That’s what Wendy and his neighbours had been told.

Wendy was asleep on the sofa. Legs curled under herself with her head lying on her right shoulder. Freshly showered, blown dried hair and he imagined, some flimsy nightie underneath her thick dressing gown. He stood still, listening to the soft sound of her breathing.

She deserved better than him. He knew it. He thought she knew it too. His mum, and Huey Lewis, would have said love’s a strange thing. Now stuck with that annoying song in his head, Rich turned off the TV – some nighttime quiz program, and put his hand on Wendy’s shoulder.

“Come on, you’ll get a stiff back sleeping down here.”

Her eyes opened. Dewy, pale and confused. She moved her neck at winced at the pain.

“Whassa time.” Her mouth seemed half a minute slower than her brain.

“Two. Come on, up to bed.”

Placing one arm under her legs, he lifted her, supporting her back with his other hand. The first time he’d carried her she’d protested. “You’ll break your back. Or my neck,” she’d said. Now, she just let him. By the time he reached the top of the stairs she was asleep again.

Tucking her under the duvet, he made for the en-suite and brushed his teeth. The boss was still bugging him. What did he want tomorrow? Why didn’t he want Bill there. Of all the options spinning round his head, the obvious, Bill’s done something that needs punishing was right at the top.

He shook his head while looking in the mirror. What could Bill have done wrong? He did have the brains to be on the make. No, it wasn’t Bill.

He spat out toothpaste and rinsed his mouth. Rich knew if it wasn’t Bill, the next obvious candidate was himself. The boss had always treated him right and he’d never let him down in return. Rumours could kill a man in this game, but everyone knew he was loyal.
Returning to the bedroom, he turned off the light and got in bed. With Wendy breathing gently beside him, he stared at the ceiling. This was going to be a long night. The longest for years.

Muesli for breakfast was Wendy’s doing. He wondered if that was what the Boss wanted to see him about. If word got out he was eating rabbit food he’d be a laughing stock. Worse thing of all was, he actually liked it.

“Sorry I was so late.”

She stopped wiping the draining board down and turned around. Hair immaculate and her lips just forming a smile. “It’s okay.” Her lips completed the journey into a smile. “It goes with your job, doesn’t it.”

He nodded and shovelled another spoonful of raisiny bits into his mouth. “Maybe I’ll get a few days off soon. Perhaps we could go away somewhere?”

She nodded and wiped a coffee drip off the sideboard. “Yeah. That’d be good. Anywhere in mind?”

“Weekend in the country somewhere. Hotel or cottage. Just a few days.”

“Long weekend?” she suggested.

“Yeah. I’ll ask the boss today.” He stirred the muesli round the bowl. He’d suddenly gone off breakfast. If things went badly they could go on a very long break, not just a weekend. Either that, or his break would be spent in hospital.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” Rich nodded. “Bit tired, didn’t sleep well.”

Wendy put down her cloth, walked over and bent down towards his face. Kissing him, she said, “I hope he appreciates all these hours you do.”

Rich just nodded as he put his hands round her shoulders. He too really hoped he was appreciated.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Off the Rails - Day three

Day three. Only 346 words I'm afraid. That puts me officially well behind. Still enough time to catch up though. I need a couple of really good days.

Day 3

Bill had finished loading Jimmy back into the boot and got in the car. He looked at Rich, his mouth open wide enough to fit a tennis ball in.

“Boss says you’ve got a lie in tomorrow.”

Bill nodded, his mouth still open as his head rocked up and down. Rich decided not to mention he was visiting him alone. Whatever the boss wanted, he didn’t want Bill the Beast involved.

As Rich headed for the lay-by, he wondered again what the hell the boss would want. And would it be good or bad news.

Ron Henderson yawned as he turned off the power packs. Another late night on the tracks. Passing the boards running the length of the converted stables, he looked at the earlier scene of destruction. Temper. That has always been his problem. He knew it too. Anger management issues, that’s what some jumped up university bod would call it.

He leant down over the tracks, his scarred face and receding hairline dipping as it inspected the damage. It could be fixed. It would be fixed. The retaining wall would need rebuilding from scratch, as would the thirties style cottage. He’d hand built the cottage two years ago. Took him more hours than he cared to remember.

Shaking his head, he made for the door. Turning the heating and light off before locking it. Walking across the yard to the house, the two Rottweilers joined his side.

“Good boys, who’s a good boy then.”

He saw the doting look in their eyes. They’d die for him. Their mother had. Two years ago now. Grubby Collins’s men fancied their chances of paying him a home visit. Didn’t count on the dogs or the shotguns.

He sighed as he left the dogs outside and went into the converted barn. Of all the people he’d shot, why was the dog that’d got in the way the thing he remembered the most? Remorse was a funny old thing. Setting the alarm, he walked upstairs. Suki was asleep, already snoring. Maybe he’d sleep in the spare bedroom tonight?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Off The Rails - Day two

Day two. Not as prolific as day one. To be honest, I have no idea where the story is going or how long it'll end up.

Forgot to say but day one produced 1,454 words, a tad under the 1,667 needed each day. I probably won't be writing much at weekends either so really I should be doing over 2,000 a day.

Today I managed 1,269

Day two

“We ready then?” asked Rich.

Bill nodded.“You wanna take the legs?”

It wasn’t really a question. Rich always took the legs. Bill was just made for carrying the heavy parts. Rich had known him just sling someone over his shoulder and carry him as easily as a sack of potatoes.

Rich grabbed the polythene and raised it. Leather gloves and polythene weren’t the best combination. Too slippery. He needed his gloves like a doctor needed a stethoscope. Part of the job. As Bill wrapped his huge hands under Jimmy’s chest the groans from within the bag increased.

Pulling him up towards the cellar trap door, Rich winced as Jimmy was pushed the final few feet up. He’d had a pain in his side for a week or two now. First he thought it just indigestion, but he knew it was something more. Hernia maybe? Or a cracked rib. Either way, he knew the job didn’t help.

With Bill holding the torso up, Rich left the legs poking out of the cellar door and went outside. The Crown had a gated side alley, just wide enough for a van to fit in. With the smoking ban, part of it had been converted to an outside seating area, but The Boss wanted an area kept out of public view. Handy for night time deliveries and collections, whether it be dodgy lager, drugs or bodies.

Standing next to the blacked out windowed Range Rover, Rich grabbed the legs and pulled. With Bill the oaf pushing, Jimmy came sliding out. A street light above the road lit up the polythene round Jimmy’s face. Christ it was a mess. Rich shook his head. He couldn’t remember a job getting so personal before. This really was the hardest to switch off from.

Bubbles of blood left Jimmy’s mouth as he mumbled please over and over again.

“Give it a rest, Jim.” Rich turned and pulled some nicotine gum from his pocket. He’d gone three weeks without a fag now. Tonight was the real tester. So far, apart from the gum, he was winning.

Bill appeared from the side door, panting and breathing in air. Rich noticed the smell. At first he wasn’t sure if Jimmy hadn’t soiled himself. It wouldn’t have been the first time. But no. Rich knew it was Bill. B.O. Bill, that was one of nicknames. Always had been.

Getting Jimmy in the boot was easy but Rich’s side protested again. Maybe he’d see the doctor tomorrow? Going back in the pub to lock up, he grabbed a few paraceutamols and knocked them down with a bottle of gassy French lager. One for the road. There was so little alcohol in the bottles he knew he could drink ten and still be under the limit. He needed something stronger, but wasn’t going to have it.

Bill opened and closed the gate as Rich drove out of the alley. One in the morning, weekday. Still the odd person walking home from a pub or club but otherwise the streets night on deserted. With Bill back in the car, Rich put his foot down with only the soft growl of the V6 engine and Bill’s heavy breathing to break the silence.

The night-watchman opened the compound gates on their arrival. Rich nodded at him. Ken Clark his name, he was on the payroll too. Night watchmen were both a dying breed and also the body disposers friend. This particular development, block of flats, was taking forever to finish. Rich supposed it was the credit crunch. So little money around these days, who’d want to be a luxury, new build flat now?

The gate locked behind them, Rich drove to the centre of the site. Six massive holes in the ground, part filled with concrete and steel frame. The foundations of a building, no better place to dispose of a body. The weight of the concrete pulverises the body into dust while the harsh concrete eats it away, leaving little trace. As Rich opened his door and then the boot, Bill got in a JCB and started it up.

Rich could see Jimmy’s eyes clearer now. Blinking at first, they soon widened when he realised where he was. Rich held his gaze and shook his head. Above the noise of Jimmy’s moans and protests, Rich said, “You see what you’ve done. Me and Bill have got to live with this, you know. Just so you could cream a bit more off. You’re selfish. Don’t think about anyone but yourself.”

He grabbed a wheelbarrow and pulled Jimmy into it. Arms and legs still moved, protesting as hard as they could. Behind Rich, Bill was filling the JCB bucket with concrete. Rich turned the wheelbarrow round so Jimmy could see what was happening. The moans grew louder as Bill got back in the JCB and drove it forwards, stopping with the bucket just over the hole.

“Sorry Jimmy,” said Rich as he emptied the barrow into the hole. Jimmy fell six foot to the floor with a crunch. His legs and arms moved as he tried hard to fight his way out of the polythene. Bill lowered the bucket, the concrete dripping into the hole and onto Jimmy like cold porridge.

More moans as he realised this was the end. Rich pulled another stick of nicotine gum from his pocket and chomped hard on it. Maybe he’d buy some cigs on the way home? He’d earned them today. God knew he’d earned them.

The bucket empty, Jimmy was covered head down in concrete. His face just visible through the polythene was till pleading. Rich reckoned this was enough. He’d learned his lesson.

“Get him out Bill.”

Rich sat in the passenger seat, listening to a night time play on Radio 4 while Bill dragged Jimmy out, ripped open the polythene and cleaned his face up. Wendy had got him into radio 4. He’d listened to cricket a few times and accidentally caught a few programs but they always seemed too highbrow for him. She’d shown him a whole new side to culture. It could be enjoyed by everyone, not just pompous snobs. He’d even read a few books recently. She was changing him, he knew that. Or, she was helping him to change himself.

Bill opened the door, the heavily bruised, bleeding and broken-boned Jimmy at his feet.

Rich looked at Jimmy. Shook his head. “Normally, the boss don’t give second chances. It’s kind of against his policy. But, as we go back years, he only thought it fair you get a second chance.”

Jimmy nodded. Something fell from his mouth, maybe a tooth.

“We’ll drop you off in a lay-by on the dual carriageway then ring the filth. You don’t say anything, you got that?” He nodded again. “When they’ve fixed you up, you leave town. I’ve heard Spain’s good this time of year.” Rich paused, swallowed his chewing gum. “If we see you around here again.” He shook his head. The sentence didn’t need finishing.

Bill wrapped him up again in plastic sheet, to protect the boot, as Rich rang the boss again.


Rich could hear miniature trains in the background, whirring round the track. “All done, just giving him a lift home.”


“Thanks.” Rich heard his own voice break as he said it. Showing emotion wasn’t good. Not to the boss.

“Forget it. I have. Come round and see me tomorrow morning. On your own. Give the beast a lie in.”

The beast was the boss’s nickname for Bill. Rich wondered what his own nickname was.


Rich put the phone down.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Off The Rails - A Blovel

I'm having a stab at Nano. If you don't know, it's writing 50,000 words of a novel in the month of november.

I'll also be blovelling it. (i.e. Blogging it as I write) Thanks to Ron Earl Philips for that idea. It may come to nothing. It probably will to be honest, things are busy enough as it is without adding another 50,000 words to the mix.

But here's day one. Please excuse any typos or formatting problems.

Off the rails.

Ron Henderson leant over the chipboard. His sleeves were pinned tight to his broad arms: a wayward sleeve can cause havoc in four millimetre scale. The tree in his hand tiny. Barely two inches tall yet as detailed as a full size oak. Squeezing the trunk into the chipboard, he released his finger gently, raising his arm up before leaning back out of the way.
His mobile rang.
Turning, he grabbed the phone and looked at the display. Rich. It had to be him, no one else would ring this time of night. His muscles already clenching, he answered it. “What?”
“Rich here.”
“I know. What?”
“Erm, that problem we had? It’s worse than we thought.”
Ron sat on the swivel chair and placed his finger on the power pack, gently moving the dial to the first setting. He winced as a small electric spark came from a wheel as it started to turn.
“How worse?”
He watched the train move out of the station, past the carefully built and painted signal box then turned the speed up a notch as it crossed the branchline junction and headed into the green-felted countryside.
“His hand’s been more than in the till,” said Rich.
His hand clenched as he turned the dial again. Three then four. The train now careering through the tunnel, then out again. Round the circular track, past the second station through more countryside then back into the first station.
“Take him out,” he said.
His hand moved the dial from four to seven. The train now hurtling round, it passed bemused plastic sheep and railway workers destined to forever hold an sledgehammer mid-throw.
“Out where, Boss?”
Seven to ten. The train now too fast. Wobbling on the bend as it struggled to keep grip. Over the wooden lollipop stick bridge with a shudder. Rounding a corner towards the goods yard. First the tender wheels came off the track, then the first class carriage. The momentum carried it forward, towards the village.
“Take him out. Snuff him out.”
The train flew off the board, taking out a retaining wall, a MkI Ford Cortina and an allotment worker with it.

Rich put the phone back in his pocket.
There was a time when he liked his job. It used to be fairly harmless. Ducking and diving, wheeling and dealing. A bit of a game. That’s all it used to be, just a game.
He stared at the man in front of him. Jimmy Cargill. Licensed to serve intoxicating liquor. Not licensed to serve weak French lager that’d never been near customs. Jimmy was only in his twenties, he’d been in the same school year as Rich’s little brother. Rich shook his head, this wasn’t going to be easy.
“What the boss say?” said Bill.
Bill stood beside him with his mouth open, wiping blood off his knuckles on a beer mat. Rich had known Bill since school. Mates of old. Brains and brawn, the classic partnership. Bill was obviously the brawn; if he had a brain he’d nearly be dangerous.
Nearly dangerous, just nearly.
“It ain’t good, Jimmy.”
Jimmy looked up at him, his big nose now squashed flat over his face. Arcs of blood on his white shirt with a few drips nestling on the floor.
“Please?” He squinted his eyes, tried to make them say please.
Rich had seen it all before. What the boss wanted, the boss got. It still wasn’t going to be easy. He looked round, caught Bill’s eyes then nodded. Bill dropped the beer mat and picked up the pick axe handle.
Round two.
Rich turned and walked to the back of the cellar as the blows rained down. He’d never been one for the violent side. Sure it went with the job, but does a hat maker admire every hat he sees?
The damp brick walls were sporting green algae at the back of the cellar. The whole pub had e-coli written all over it. Maybe an easier way of finishing Jimmy would be to force feed him his own cheese rolls? He typed a message into his phone.
‘Working late tonight, be another few hours.’ then pressed send.
‘Okay x’ came the reply.
Wendy was a good one. In the past he’d liked them bad. That kind of went with the job too. Trouble always followed bad and before long, he’d had enough of trouble and bad. Wendy was good. She didn’t know the half of it. She didn’t know any of it. He thought she suspected, after all, he was very well paid for just a chauffeur. Chauffeur’s didn’t occasionally come home with scars, muddy trousers and bloody hands either. Yeah, she knew something wasn’t right. But she’d never asked.
She was a good one.
Jimmy’s screams were getting louder than Bill’s heavy breathing as the hits rained down. Bill had always breathed through his mouth. It seemed using more than one orifice was too much for his brain. He was a good lad though. You’d trust him with your life. With your life.
“Okay Bill.” Rich walked back from the barrels and crates of Le Lager towards the mass of pulp and blood that was once Jimmy. Jesus this job never got easier. Nose broken, eyes bulging, one about to pop from its socket. His elbow the wrong way too and a lump halfway between it and his shoulder. Even his fractures had fractures. Bill put down the stick of wood and gobbled in breaths, his face nearly as red as the blood on the stone floor.
Jimmy moved, he was still alive. Thank god for that. The boss doesn’t like them dead too easily. He likes them to really know the reason why. Not that it’s a lesson. No one else knows, do they? What kind of lesson has no pupils?
“We’re going for a drive, Jimmy,” said Rich. No emotion in his voice. His whole body was on autopilot now. Done this a dozen times before. Probably do it another dozen.
He pulled out his phone, rang a different number.
“Yeah?”Snake. Snake the cleaner to his friends.
“Ferret inn cellar, Snake. Bit of a spillage, needs a good mopping up.”
“On my way.”
Rich pocketed the phone and spread the plastic sheeting on the floor. Ten foot by eight. The cellar was barely big enough to stretch it out.
“Please,” mumbled Jimmy.
That didn’t make it any easier. Rich looked at his face again. Jaw lopsided, head split open and dripping red into his eye. He remembered the time Jimmy had come round for his tea. Would have been twelve, maybe thirteen. Him and Rich’s brother, Ted had nipped into his room, raided his stash of porn mags. He heard them upstairs, sniggering away like a couple of hyenas while he was watching Crackerjack. He went up, caught them red handed and red faced. He had to smile at the time though. He’d have done the same himself.
And now, here he was. Half dead with Bill rolling him up in polythene.
Rich always thought the half dead were curious. They moved so slowly, limbs moving under a sea of blood but everything was slowed down. Just like a zombie film. He thought back to his brother, Ted. Living in Australia now. He’d had the real brains of the family. God knows where he got it from. He thought his dad had always wondered the same thing too. Never had any time for him. Rich and his brother lost contact when he was half way through university. Different crowd of people, different tastes. He’d got out though. Left not just the estate but also the country.
Jimmy mumbled one last please as Bill gaffa taped the polythene together. His bloodshot eyes inside moving around. Rich thought this was the probably the hardest so far. Him and Jimmy had got fairly close this past year while he was running the pub. Of course everyone expected a bit of slicing off the top, but Jimmy’s slice was approaching the ridiculous. He was a crap thief too. If he’d been clever, he could have got away with it for years. Made himself a fortune then buggered off to Spain. But no, just like that magazine twenty years ago, he’d wanted too much too soon.
One last check of the polythene and Bill nodded, his breathing now like he’d run a marathon. Rich knew it wasn’t his fault. Bad sinuses. A small piece of dislodged bone that continually blocked his nose.

Doing it for the kids.

There's two anthologies coming up soon, profits from both of these will go to children's charities.

First up is The Lost Children This collection started as a Flash fiction challenge where Thomas Pluck and Fiona Thompson donated 5 dollars or pounds for every contribution. Now the stories, all 30 of them, have been collected and realeased as an e-book. All profits go to children's charities. Buy your copy from Amazon here.

Second collection, also for charity is the forthcoming Off The Record. It's a collection of short stories inspired by classic songs. Luca Veste has done a fantastic job of organising and compiling this. Great cover too from Steven Miscandlon. I've got a story in there, based on The Smiths classic - Sheila Take A Bow. I think it should be out in a few weeks, I'll let you know when it is.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Done a short story for flash fiction friday. This weeks theme is newspapers and journalists.

Flash Fiction Friday


“Basingstoke Bugle.” Rob leant over the desk and reached for his coffee.

“I’ve got a story. My shed’s been broken into.”

Rob sighed. Same shit, different day. He went into journalism for excitement. The slim chance he’d unearth something people would be interested in. Thefts from sheds was not what he’d expected.

“Full edition this week. I’ll pop you through to the sub-editor, she’ll take the details.”

He put the woman on hold, rang Carly. “Hi.”

“Shed break in. Your turn, I did the missing cat yesterday.”

She sighed. “Go on.”

Rob looked at his screen. This week’s front page. ‘Mayor’s new hat gives jobs boost.’ Frick sake. How did it come to this? The mayor’s new hat the top story. Carly had come up with the jobs boost angle. He’d be lost without her. She was on her way to better things.

Carly walked over, adding a sheet of paper to his pile.

“Any good?” he asked.

She shook her head. “We could do a feature, all of them together. Run it in a really quiet week.”

“Probably next week the way things are going.”

He stayed late that evening. The job didn’t need it, the paper was ready a day early, but he needed thinking time. The whisky in the bottom drawer helped. Shame it was blended. A good malt was better, but too expensive. Far too expensive for everyday use.

He leaned back. There had to be a story out there. Something worth writing about. Something that would turn heads, get him noticed. He sighed and drained the glass. Fire burned his throat, spreading to his chest and arms. As it surged through his veins, he turned his PC off and made for the door.

He woke early. Headache, dry mouth. Hangovers were the nearest he got to proper Journalism.

The office was buzzing. He wondered if he’d walked into the wrong one.

“What’s going on, Carly?”

“Body found in the park this morning. Murder.”

She had her coat on. Notebook in hand and the office junior trailing her with a camera.”

“I’ll get on it,” said Rob.

“Too late.” She took her coat off, sat down. “Already done.” The junior handed over the camera. She plugged a USB cable in.

“What? Why didn’t you ring me.”

“Sorry.” She smiled. “My mobile battery’s dead.”

He slammed the office door and sat down. Beaten. By her. Shit. That was it, the end. They’d run the story tonight, but she’d approach the nationals. Inside info, reporter on the ground. Her name would get used. This would be her break.


He opened his PC. Rearranged everything a page on and dropped the missing cat story. The front page now bare, waiting for Carly’s story.

The edition was a success. The police had little to go on, every reader likes a good murder and the nationals were all over Carly. Rob tried hard to imagine a worse day but couldn’t. The others had put up a poster behind her desk, blown up from a national. ‘Additional reporting by Carly Braindean.’ She was negotiating with them and not shy of saying how it was going.

Rob grabbed more painkillers and downed them with coffee. He rang the police, CID incident room, and got through to DS Walters.

“Hi Jill, Rob from the bugle. Any news?”

“Investigations are ongoing.”

He knew police speak when he heard it. That meant they hadn’t a clue.

“Anything we can do? Appeal for witnesses? Anything?”

“Not really. We’re giving the local TV news a press conference tonight. Your next paper’s six days away, isn’t it? We’ll have caught him by then.”

“Him?” asked Rob.

“Or her. Ring me in a few days. If we haven’t caught him. Or her.”

Rob put his phone down and turned off his PC. Eleven in the morning. The pubs would be opening. What better place for a journalist?

The landlord at the Ferret and Firkin was sympathetic, as long as Rob kept drinking. The other regulars thought it a rum old do as well.

“Can’t walk the streets in safety anymore,” an old timer said. “Dunno what the world’s coming to.”

Despite his drunken haze, Rob knew one thing. This was last chance saloon. He needed a different angle on this by next week. If not, his best sub would be gone, on the way to the big smoke and he’d spend his days writing about cats and sheds.

The police thought it a mugging gone wrong. It was plausible but not very original. The victim had been hit over the head, blunt trauma wound. Possibly a stone, maybe a hammer. Back at the office, Carly had been digging into the victim’s life, raking for any muck. That was what the tabloids wanted. That’s what journalism was.

As Rob ordered another pint, an idea popped into his head. No, it wouldn’t work. It couldn’t. Could it?

He’d sobered by midnight but tablets weren’t curing the hangover. He went for a stroll in the park. Deserted. The police presence had left the place empty. Usually they’d be dog walkers, even at this hour, but the murder had scared away everyone.

The murder scene taped off, he approached the PC left in charge. He knew him from school. You have to have contacts in this game.

“Alright Rick.”

“Hello Rob. How’s the world of news? You’re working late.”

“I’m always working, mate.”

“Know what you mean,” said the PC. “I get the crap jobs. You have to bide your time, promotion’ll come soon.”

“Sounds familiar,” said Rob. “Very familiar. You need anything? I could nip to the garage?”

He pointed to his rucksack. “Fine for snacks. Need the loo though. Could you do us a favour?”

“Course, what?”

“Just stand here for a few minutes. Don’t let anyone inside the tape.”

“Yeah you go mate, you go.”

Rob looked at the crime scene. Blood still on the ground, drying into the soil. Good job it hadn’t rained. He saw the stone on the floor and put his gloves on. Scratching the stone against the blood he placed it in his pocket and got back in front of the tape.

“Cheers mate,” said the officer.

“No problem,” he said, heading back to the office.

Carly was always shedding hair around the office. It’d become the office joke. It also made the second part easy. Using his scissors, he attached a small part of it to the stone then put it in a bag. His gloves still on, he was sure it was clear of his own DNA.

The final act, placing the bagged stone in her drawer sealed it. He’d go home in an hour or two, get up early and be the first in tomorrow. He’d look in Carly’s drawer for the sugar tin and find the stone. The police would buy it, he was sure. She was virtually the first on the scene. She’d gained financially from the murder. Everyone knew she was ambitious.

Rob smiled. Of course, the nationals would love him too. They hated being made fools of by people in the sticks. They’d be all over him. He was on his way to London. At last.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A week in pulp

Last week seemed to have so much news, it was easy to lose track of it.

Hopefully I haven't missed anything. Let me know if I have.

Firstly, Trestle Press released Luca Veste's Liverpool 5. A collection of short stories, with Liverpool themes. Liverpool 5 Oxford United 6 would have been my preferred title, but hey we can all dream (and we've not done much but dream for a long time.) Anyway, Liverpool 5 was quickly outselling Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and some bloke called Stephen King on Amazon. Get yourself a copy here.

Julie Morrigan outdid everyone by releasing two books in just over a week. Heartbreaker is her latest novel about the gritty face of rock and roll we all dream of but never see. This book is also responsible for me attempting to sing like Robert Plant whenever I see the title written down.

Also by Julie is another short story collection, The Writing on the Wall. On the back of Julie's first short story collection (and by first ever e-book purchase) Gone Bad, The Writing on the Wall is a collection of six stories plus a bonus by Steven Miscandlon.

Paul Brazil proved again he's here, he's there, he's eveywhere by being not only on the radio but also gave details on his blog of an anthology series to be coming soon by Trestle Press.

Ian Ayris got the first copy of his forthcoming book and showed us the cover Abide With Me

R Thomas Brown gave us Mayhem - A collection of crime stories written in his own unique style.

One thing's for sure, I'm going to have to buy me a kindle.

Not only that, but some fantastic stories up on blogs and ezines

The Gift by AJ Hayes at Yellow Mama

Anonymous-9 at the Flash Fiction Offensive

And Matthew C. Funk at Shotgun Honey

Quite a week.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Flash Fiction Friday

I've had a go at this week's Flash Fiction Friday story.

The rules:

Less than a thousand words and this line as a start:

Taut and alert, she lay in bed with a cell phone in one hand and a candlestick in the other.

Here's my attempt...


Taut and alert, she lay in bed with a cell phone in one hand and a candlestick in the other. “You sure this is how you play Cluedo?” she said to the phone.

“Uh huh,” the phone replied. A man’s voice, deep and crisp but not even.

She wondered why she’d agreed to this. Murder in the hotel, an all inclusive murder themed holiday. “Come on,” Jen had said. “Be good to meet new people. It’ll be fun.” What she hadn’t said was they’d all be misfits and weirdo’s.

“You have six moves,” the voice said. Dry, rasping, like he was eating sandpaper on toast.

“Okay.” She pulled back the covers and stood up. “Do I leave the candlestick?”

She walked out of the bedroom. Mats on the floor indicated each move. Choice of left or right. She chose right and ended up outside a bedroom door on the sixth move. “Okay,” she said, “Miss Scarlet is done.”

The phone was put on hold. A unclear song chimed through. Pan pipes, ruining yet another classic. The door opened. One of the guys stood there, phone crammed against his ear. She’d seen him earlier, creepy eyes and a beer belly. If he wasn’t single then she was a nun.

“Sorry,” he said, his eyes darting around. “You scared me.”

She shrugged her shoulders and shivered. It’d got cold, a lot colder the past minute. He walked away, counting aloud as he went. Luckily, he had enough steps left to enter the far room. The so-called Billiard room, that was actually full of arcade machines. That’d keep him busy for a while.

She waited. The pan pipes killing another song before the voice came back.

“Miss Scarlet?”

“Uh huh.”

“Seven moves.”

She opened the door, sure the weirdo had just come out, but she had to try everywhere. Had to end this god forsaken game soon and hit the bar. Actually, she wouldn’t hit the bar. Her and Jen were the only girls amongst too many weirdos.

Looking in the room, the bedroom had been changed into a dining room. Bed removed, table and chairs inserted. She saw something. Her eyes froze, mouth hung open. Atop the table, Jen. Lying down, eyes closed. Blood on her head.

“SHIT, Jen.”

Jen’s right eye opened. “Hi, how’s it going?”

Her heart pounded, she breathed in and out. “Shit. Thought you were...”

“It’s only a game, remember,” the rusty-metalled voice said.

“Jeez, I need a drink right now.”

“You’ve found the body,” the raspy voice continued. “You still have five moves left.”

“Jen, I’ve had enough, babe. Wanna go home?”

“No way. Have you seen Colonel Mustard? He’s a real cutie. “

“You’re kidding me. They’re all live at home dweebs. I’m bored Jen.” She tried her whinging voice, but it didn’t work.

“Just another hour or so, please.” Jen’s whinging voice was better, it always had been.

“Okay. So what, you’re dead, who did it?”

The dry voice, “No cheating girls. You’ve still got five moves left, please leave the room.”

“Later.” She stepped into the hallway. The next room down used up her moves. Again a bedroom, it was now a poor attempt at a conservatory. A couple of pot plants, comfy sofa and a screen made to look like a window with a garden outside.

On the couch, lead piping. She picked it up, blood on one end. Well, not blood, red paint or ketchup or whatever. “Lead Pipe with blood on, do I win yet?”

“Not quite,” the voice was heavy, almost panting. “Just need the killer.”

“Colonel Mustard?”

“No. Turn’s over.” Pan pipes again.

“Oh come on.”

She sat on the sofa. Another three minute wait was coming. She shook her head. Never again. What they hell had they been thinking doing this?

A noise outside, creaky floorboard. She heard another noise but it didn’t register at first. Like metal squeaking. Then, the door shuddered. It’d been locked. She jumped off the sofa and pulled at the handle. Locked from the outside.


A scream. From next door. High pitched, female. Deafening even through the wall. The scream became a gurgle.

Then it stopped.


No answer. Footsteps in the distance as someone ran away.

“Jen, you okay?”

Still no answer. She pulled the screen from the window. Outside, darkness, but the cars had gone. Everyone had gone.

“JEN?” She was screaming now. Picking up the lead pipe, she tried hitting the door. Solid oak, it wasn’t going anywhere. Back at the window, it was jammed shut. Two storeys up, even if she smashed the glass, she couldn’t jump.

After ringing the police, all she could do was hit the door, over and over again until they arrived.

Jen was dead. Bludgeoned with the candlestick. The hotel had been deserted for two months since the owner’s had shut it down. The police didn’t buy the story of the murder theme night. All they knew were the facts. The murder weapon was the candlestick and Miss Scarlet’s fingerprints were all over that and the Dining room.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

First series of Taggart

The very first series of Taggart is currently showing on yesterday. No, that's not a typo, Yesterday is a satellite and (I think) freeview channel. I promise not to attempt any jokes about the channel's name.

So I watched Yesterday four days ago and Taggart is on at 8pm. Apparently something called the X Factor's on the same time, so it's definately a good alternative.

Taggart for me has always been at the grittier end of Crime shows. The seedier side of life that gets forgotten by other programs is there. Although I watch them, you can keep New Tricks, Silent Witness and the like. It's all crime by numbers. I can imagine a panel of writers, all called Jocasta and Raif, following a template or just plugging a few basics in a computer and it chucking out the whole plot.

Taggart, up until the most recent series, I always found different. The latest series seems to have joined the computer generated age. First, insert a crime. Add a couple of false leads, then an arguement between Ross and Burke, another false lead, then, in the last two minutes, it all becomes clear. Crime show by numbers.

Early Taggarts are different. Proper stories that aren't rushed. There's enough time to get to know the characters inside out. The plots emerge a different way. Of course there's a certain amount of suspense and witholding information. But it doesn't have the structured feel modern stuff does.

The other thing is, the man himself is there. Whether continuing the series after he died or not was a good idea, I don't know. I can see both sides to that arguement. I'm glad they did.

The other thing worth watching for is the cars. Rovers, Minis, Granadas all the classics. The dress styles and multitude of moustacheod Sergeants are something Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes never seemed to make realistic. The indoor sets are obvious and wobbly too, but that doesn't really detract.

If you haven't caught any, they're well worth taking a look at. Saturday at 8 on Yesterday. Alternatively, you could record it and watch Yesterday the following day.

Sorry. Couldn't resist it.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Off The Record

Luca Veste has gathered 29 of the finest short story writers (plus me) to make a collection of stories called Off The Record All stories are based around classic song titles, though as far as I know, Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep hasn't been picked by anyone.

Writers include Ray Banks, Helen Fitzgerald, Nick Quantrill, Simon Logan, Paul D. Brazill, Thomas Pluck, Nigel Bird, Steve Weddle, AJ Hayes, Court Merrigan, Chad Rohrbacher, Patti Abbot, Darren Sant, Ian Ayris, Julie Morrigan, Col Bury, R Thomas Brown, David Barber and many more.

For the first six weeks of sale, all profits will go to charities. Obviously when it's released, I'll post a link to it.

Also, I had a little story up at The Flash Fiction Offensive the other day called Live Bait Please feel free to take a look.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Seven Daze - Chapter 4

Part four. I'll stick part five up next monday.

The stinking rubbish strewn hole that was probably a tramp’s bed, was the best viewing point.

As his quarry came into view, walking round the corner and into the lane, Jim’s heart pumped up the rate again, resembling some techno record. His stomach gurgled, having wound itself into an elaborate sailors knot.
Taking a deep breath, he saw the face of the thirty-something man walking towards his hiding place. This was happening too fast.

The plan was clear. Wait until he was two yards away, jump from cover, one shot to the chest. Bang. Falls down. Another to the face. Bang. Grab his wallet and phone and walk. Finished. Finito.

That was clear.

What wasn’t clear was why Geoffrey had stopped walking. It was less clear why the colour was draining from his face and he was clutching a shaking hand at his chest.

As he crashed to the ground, Jim broke cover. Pocketing the gun, he walked to the breathless slumped figure on the floor.

“What’s going on?”

Kneeling down, the pathetic excuse for a man in front was struggling for breath. His lips turning blue, he seemed to be saying help.

Jim felt a combination of confusion, euphoria and more confusion. What was he supposed to do? Pistol Pete hadn’t crossed this bridge with him. They’d discussed a million things that could go wrong, but never the person you’re supposed to kill having what looked like a heart attack. Should he just whip out the gun and finish him off?

He got as far as reaching for his pocket. Another short cut user, a smart-suited woman, screamed as she saw Geoffrey on the floor and Jim kneeling beside. From her view, she’d have been unaware if Jim was robbing or trying to help. Jim had to think fast. What would Pistol Pete say?

His heart now resembling a Drum n bass record played at 78, Jim’s eyes met the woman’s. “Help,” he croaked. “I think it’s a heart attack.”
Though her screams had stopped, panic had frozen her to the spot. Resembling a frozen turkey in a nice suit, she opened and closed her mouth but no words came.

This was another setback. He kind of hoped she’d take charge, manage the situation. He appeared to have picked the wrong bunny, this one had got caught in the headlights. Options whirred round his head, but two stood out. Kill her then Geoffrey. Messy. Second option: save the life of the man he’d been paid to kill.

“Quick,” he shouted, “get an ambulance or something.”

Jim laid Geoffrey’s head back on the floor in an attempt to make him comfortable. He then did what Pistol Pete told him never to do: he looked him in the eye.

The hunk of meat, the walking money cheque Jim had persuaded himself Geoffrey was, had become human. A flesh covered and living, well dying, human being. How the fuck could he ever have thought of killing someone? He was Jim the lad. A crap thief. He wasn’t a killer.

Before Jim’s eyes, the woman was defrosting from her ice-cage. Fingers and thumbs, she pulled a phone from her pocket. A latest model touch screen, Jim caught himself eyeing it in between saying, “You’re going to be alright,” to Geoffrey.

“What’s the number for an ambulance?” Her cheeks red and her shoulders seemed to move up and down involuntarily. Shock had hit her badly.

“Ummm,” said Jim.

Though on the tip of his tongue, the number for the emergency services was hiding somewhere behind his teeth. Thinking hard and deep, his mind flicked through a mental phone book. Scanning down the A’s, he forced himself to concentrate. Eventually, the page was found and the number stood out.

“Nine nine nine,” he said.

Shaking her head and no doubt feeling foolish, she pressed her phone screen three times.

Looking back at the man he should have killed, Jim noticed his eyes were becoming milky. They reminded him of the dull white marbles he’d played with as a kid. His lips now more blue than red, he didn’t appear to be breathing. Devoid of anything helpful to do, Jim undid Geoffrey’s shirt collar. He’d seen it on Casualty once and thought it could only help.

The woman was talking into the phone. Jim couldn’t hear her words, just a wave of soft voice replying to unknown questions. He looked at her again, taking her in this time. Late twenties or early thirties and power-suited, Jim thought she was good looking. More than good looking. Fresh looking, yet red faced from discovering Geoffrey, her hair stylishly clung to her head with a little patch waggling down in front of her eyes. She was way, far-far away from his league but he could dream. Though he did wonder exactly was he doing dreaming while a man lay dying in front of him.

Prison always hit Jim hard. Lack of freedom can be combated through friendship and alcohol and drugs can be bought sometimes easier than on the outside. The thing you can’t buy, however, was the thing that after three years nearly drove him insane. Female companionship. Sure sex was a large part of that, the part he thought of most, but there was companionship too. He’d often kid himself that was what he missed the most.

Straight after his release, he’d been whipped off to the Glens to learn his new craft. There’d been no time for carnal pleasures. Of course he’d thought about women, dreamt about them, wanted them. But the deal was clear. The job came first. As desperate as he was for action, any action, he couldn’t have any. It was supposedly meant to focus him. To give him the reward he wanted above all others. This afternoon, after his hit had been successful, the plan was to hit the delights of Soho in a big way.

All his and Pistol Pete’s plans were crashing and burning. What was worse, much worse, was a man was dying in front of him and all he could think about was this mystery woman on the phone.

Monday, 5 September 2011

100 words

On Chuck Wendig's site there's a flash fiction challenge. Revenge in 100 words. Here's mine - Best Served Cold.

Best Served Cold

Rain pounded the car’s roof. Twenty-second July, sixty degrees and rain. British summer.

Ricky left the car and approached the ice-cream van. The man inside yawned. “First customer today, what’ll it be?”

“It’ll be your last.” Ricky pointed the gun through the hatch. His face contorted, eyes narrowed as he stared at it.

“Carrie’s dad?”

Ricky nodded. Holiday memories from last year. Carrie’s sixteenth birthday. All grown up. Her first boyfriend.

Back home, the pregnancy. Boyfriend wouldn’t return her calls. She was determined to keep it. Then, the complications. Dying in childbirth.

“I’m sorry,” he stuttered.

Ricky pulled the trigger.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Boiler House

I got a little story up at Shotgun Honey today called The Boiler House. Thanks to the kind folks there for putting it up.

You can read it here.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Seven Daze Chapter 1

Seven Daze is now nearly finished. Just the last couple of read throughs and plot checks left. One thing I have noticed is, as it's set in parts of London, some of the area info could be more realistic (real places, pub and restaurant prices actual instead of guessed etc) I might have to work on that.

Here's what is nearly the final version of the first chapter.

Seven Daze

The eyes didn’t belong to a killer.

Jim stared at them again. They were shifty and nervous. They were hiding something, but they weren’t killer’s eyes. Scratching his head, he looked away from the mirror.
Beside the bed, the clock stood sentinel on a cheap bedside table. Five fifty five. Just five minutes to go, but time seemed to have slowed down.

He walked to the clock and pressed a button on top, displaying the seconds. Thirty six, thirty seven, thirty eight. He knew digital clocks didn’t freeze or go slow. When they break the display blanks. Yet he had to check again. Just to be sure.
Jim knew he shouldn’t feel like this. He should be looking forward to the first day of his new job. It definitely shouldn’t have made him physically sick. After all, it’s supposed to be the chance to meet new people. The start of a new adventure.

Maybe that was the problem with contract killing. The only new people you met, you killed.

The display changed. Six fifty six.

Last night even the smallest detail had been prepared and double checked. There was so little to do now but wait. Since waking two hours ago, he’d watched the clock and daydreamed.

His stomach was in turmoil. Previously unknown muscles were twisting and spinning. He had to leave now. Despite timing every action and move many times, a little seed of doubt wondered if he’d messed up. It wasn’t just that. It was the hotel walls too. They seemed to be creeping in, pinning him down, just like the cell had for the past three years.

Avoiding his eyes as he walked past the mirror, Jim entered the bathroom. Carefully putting on gloves, he pulled the top off the toilet cistern. Ripping the polythene bag taped underneath, he shook it lightly. A few clinging drops of condensation fell to the carpet. Replacing the cistern lid, he returned to the bed and unzipped the polythene bag, his gloved fingers fumbling with the seal.

He’ d been overcautious with the gloves, as he had everything else. Originally he’d bought a pair then realised he may have left prints on their outside. Wearing them, he bought another, clean pair and kept them safe from all contamination and DNA until now.

Opening the bag, the cold steel pistol sparkled through its second waterproof wrapping. Picking at the heavily cellotaped polythene, he cursed as his gloved hands failed to rip it.

As his fingers and thumbs refused to work together, the walls closed in again. With it came the heat on his back and neck. His whole body was sweating, temperature rising. The tiny hotel room was just like the cell. Too much like it. It was a constant reminder. That was where this had started. That cell.

He’d been inside many times. The last stretch was never the last. Before prison, he’d done his apprenticeship in borstal and before that a secure children’s home. The holy trinity they called it, doing time in all three. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All ages of man.

His home life had never been easy, not that that was an excuse. That was the domain of social workers and politicians, finding a reason. Truth was, he was bad. He knew it. A rotten apple. When others at school dreamt of careers and success, Jim and his mates wanted success, but they wanted it the easy way. Taking others success.

One little glimpse of ambition surfaced when he was twelve. Jim became fascinated by architecture and building plans. All those straight lines stretching out, building something from nothing. The careers advisor at school told him about architecture and quantity surveying. But the estate and flats didn’t breed architects, it bred villains and anarchists. The only quantities Jim ever surveyed were other peoples DVD’s, mobiles and video games. Once in the rut, he couldn’t have broken out if he’d wanted. His teens and twenties became a life of prison, breaking and entering, selling stolen goods and more prison.

A lucky break was needed to end the circle.

Picking at the tape he found a seam and peeled. The clock now two minutes to seven, he realised this was the only job he hadn’t practised. Typical. The most important part, the weapon, had been overlooked. He should have done this last night. Or half an hour ago. All that wasted time.

Cursing, he picked more polythene off. The worst of the tape gone, it peeled like a banana. The gun exposed, he checked the barrel and silencer: just as he’d wrapped them last week. Though the ammo clip was also wrapped, he made short work unravelling it. Snapping the clip home gave a satisfying click. Holding it in his nearly shaking hands, he looked in the mirror. For a moment he barely recognised the suited gun wielder staring back.

The suit, an off the shelf number but still the best part of four hundred pounds, made him unrecogniseable. It was only when he looked at his face, his eyes, that he saw himself. Those pale shifty eyes, looking uncomfortable. He still didn’t look like a killer. He looked at them again. It might be the last time he could bring himself to do it.

As lucky breaks go, Jim wasn’t sure if his was lucky or not. His cell mate for the past two years, Fingers Harry had changed his life. That wasn’t in doubt. Was it for the better though?

Despite his size and short-fused temper, Fingers Harry had become a friend. A close friend. Jim assumed Harry was missing his son who was destined to grow up fatherless during Harry’s twenty five stretch. Harry had a way of glamorising his life that Jim could listen to for hours. The tales of his blags and scrapes kept their spirits up during those lonely nights.

It was that cell and Fingers Harry that’d changed his life. Gave him his break.

One minute to seven. Jim slipped the safety catch on the gun and placed it on the bed. Picking up his new shoes, he squeezed them onto his feet, wincing as chunky toes hit the sides. Finding shoes wide enough had always been a problem. Even expensive ones gave no more room. This pair seemed okay in the shop, but now felt two sizes smaller. He put it down to pressure causing his feet to swell and reached for his coat.

Slipping it on, he again felt sticky and hot. A thick bulky coat on a summer’s day only made it worse, especially with a suit jacket and tie on underneath. However he needed the bulk. He needed to hide something inside the bulk. Picking the gun off the bed, he checked the safety was still on before slipping it into his inside pocket. Fastening the coat, he walked to the mirror and looked hard at his body.

Did it show? Was there a small outline, a bulge just above his stomach?
He closed his eyes, telling himself he’d been through this before. The gun couldn’t be seen through the coat. His brain was playing tricks, making him think he’d missed something.

He told himself again, no one will notice the gun.

Throughout the stretch, Fingers Harry hadn’t been happy. One of Harry’s relatives, Porky Rob, had gone down because of a witness. This plucky member of the public had refused to be scared, intimidated or bought off. This, according to Harry, was a very poor showing. After all what would happen if everyone started witnessing crimes and all the criminals were locked up? Anarchy that’s what it would be. Of course, Harry thought he was doing society a service. “Think of all them coppers, briefs and security guards who’d be unemployed if they locked us all up,” he’d say, “what I’m doing, is helping society to help itself.”

During the lonely nights, it was clear Harry wanted just one thing: the witnesses head. “Bring me the head of Gregory Pectin,” he’d say. A contract went out and when some lag took the job, Jim was gobsmacked by the amount of money involved. Ten grand. Ten big ones for a few minutes work. Sure, it involved killing, but from what Jim had heard, it was no great loss. The witness would have drunk himself to death soon anyway. Rumours abounded he hadn’t actually witnessed anything; the rozzers had paid him to lie.

Contract killing just seemed so easy.

The clock flicked over to seven. Jim checked his pocket for the keys and money he’d placed there last night. Still there. He pulled out the keys to check it was still the hotel key and had not morphed into some other key overnight. Still the hotel key. Still there.

One last look in the mirror, but not at his eyes, and he was ready.

“Gun, keys, money, phone.”

Shit. Phone.

He looked at the cabinet crammed between the bed and wall. Sat atop it, next to a few brochures for museums he’d never visit was the cheap pay as you go mobile he’d bought two days ago. Lying on the bed, he reached over and grabbed it. Aware he was lying on top of the gun, he slowly eased off and raised himself by his arms.

Reaching into the pocket, he pulled the gun out. The safety was still on.

Sighing, he stood up, re-pocketed the gun and grabbed the mobile. Placing the phone in his trouser pocket, he walked to the door and stopped.

“Gun, keys, money, phone,” he said again.

Two deep breaths later, he opened the door.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Little bit of flash

I started writing this little bit of flash for The unicorn flash thing on Chuck Wendig's site last month. With one thing and another, it never got finished.

However, having been on holiday for the past two weeks, the story kind of filled out a bit while I was relaxing. It's just a bit of fun really. Just a bit of fun.

What's the point?

That’s the problem with being a unicorn. You have to be very careful about itches. One of my mates, Pointy, he stabbed himself in the knee one day. He was only trying to look left at a crossing. Took half his leg off. Poor sod.

That’s what people don’t understand. They think it’s all rainbows and waterfalls and that. Bugger me if it ain’t. The reality is, if you lie down wrong you castrate yourself. God knows how we’re supposed to breed. Got disaster written all over it. No wonder we’re endangered.

I knew this girly once, many moons ago. Getting on fine we were, until that day. Well, you know, things was getting a bit fruity between us. I mean that in itself’s dangerous, if you know what I mean. I turned around at the wrong time and accidentally skewered her. Bit of a passion killer that. She was alright, mind. But from then on, whenever I called, she was always washing her mane or down the gym.

The hunter’s are a problem too. Got to keep on your toes. Keeping your head down’s difficult when you got a big pole sticking out of it. Another of my mates, Spike, hunter’s got him. Drugged him with some sort of sleeping dart then sawed his point off. When he woke up he kept falling over. His balance was all gone, see. He’d got used to the weight in front and kept over compensating. Poor lad. He’s changing his name by deed poll you know, can’t blame him, can you.

Na, you can keep this unicorn lark. Next time, I’m coming back as a donkey. Much easier life. Much easier.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Inspector Cliche - Chapter 4

It's time for more Britwell. If you've missed the first three chapters, they're posted on here a month or so ago.

Chapter 4

DS Walters crept the car along the kerb two streets from the police-taped crime scene. Like a good farmer, the working girls and boys had been quick to rotate their crops to a nearby street. Only a few lined the street, wares on display. These were the most desperate, the lowest of the low, the most addicted of addicts.

Britwell knew them all, for the right reasons.

“If we’re talking turf wars,” said Walters, “who the hell would muscle in? This is Basingstoke, not the Bronx.”

Britwell shook his head. Not much made sense anymore. Say what you like about Safford, you knew what he was up to. Proper old school criminal, sure he might hurt people, but gunning them down? Not his style. Not like these youngsters. “Dunno. East Europeans?”

“Hardly enough of them around for a turf war, is there?”

Britwell shook his head. “Don’t make sense. Mind, you I’ve seen a couple of polish shops pop up the past few years. Wonder who’s protecting them?” What he didn’t tell Walters was the first time he saw a sign, Polish Shop, he wondered how on earth a shop could survive selling just polish. Just furniture polish and brasso seemed too specialised to him. He shook his head.

“As you say, sir, not really enough of them to take over. Maybe it’s some kids trying to muscle in? Out of towners? Londoners spreading out? The Kent lot?”

Britwell grunted. It could have meant yes. “Here’s Junie, pull up next to her.”

Walters pulled up beside the most deathlike forty year-old that was still breathing. Skirt no larger than the proverbial belt, her huge hoop earrings pulled her ears towards her knees. Eyes like vending machine coin slots, a drooping, unlit cigarette hung from her mouth. Her face was dotted with moles and scars with parts of it hidden under a dollop of pound shop makeup. Track marks up her arm looked like an google streetmap of Paddington station’s approach.

“Hello love.” She poked her head in through the open passenger window. Seeing both of them, she added, “I don’t do nuffin kinky. You want Cheryl up ... Oh, Inspector Britwell, come for your freebie have you?” She grinned showing a row of yellowed half teeth, the cigarette somehow defied gravity to stay attached to her top lip.

Britwell turned to Walters, the disgust already embedded in her face. “She’s a card ain’t she?” Turning back, he said, “How’s tricks Junie?”

“Bit quiet, you know the score.” She pulled out a disposable lighter and lit the cigarette.

“ Who was it earlier then? Who pulled the trigger?”

She stepped back from the car and looked up and down the road. “I didn’t see nuffin.”

“Come on Junie. I ain’t looking for a statement, just want to know. Strictly off record.”

“I weren’t there.” She took another step backwards.

A car behind them, crawling along the kerb, overtook and stopped at the pleasure purveyor up ahead. Britwell saw Walters pull out her notebook and write down the registration.

“We know who's car it was, but someone else was driving. Did you recognise them or not? That’s all I wanna know. There’s fifty quid in it?”

Her eyes half lit up. Given the lack of punters and her lack of sex appeal, fifty quid was a good night’s wage. She was more than thinking about it.

Eventually she shook her head. “Didn’t see nothing.”

“Is someone trying to muscle in?”

She took another step back and walked towards the other night workers.

Walters crept the car along in time with her walking.

“It’s someone new isn’t it?” said Britwell.

“Didn’t see nuffin.”

“Come on, Junie, it’ll be worth your while.”

She stopped, turned and poked her head through the window. “Two hundred.”

Britwell pulled out his wallet and counted out five twenties. “Hundred tops.”

She nodded, snatched the money and prodded it down her bra. Britwell saw more than he wanted to and decided never to eat mashed potato again.

“Don’t know who they were, but it weren’t the normal lot.”

“Description?” said Walters.

Junie twisted her head to exhale a cloud of smoke. “Six foot, brick shit house, scars on his face, short brown hair. Been around a few days. A couple of girls didn’t come out tonight, rumours say they’re now working for him.”

Britwell pulled out another forty quid and handed it to her. “Buy yourself a train ticket somewhere, eh? Start afresh.”

She nodded, but it wasn’t convincing. Not convincing at all.

As Walters sped off, she said, “What she said about a freebie.” She paused. “You...”

“No, not at all. What do you take me for?”

She nodded, but like Junie’s nod, it wasn’t convincing.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Two score years and none

Life began, apparently, two weeks ago. Maybe the last thirty nine plus one years was incubation or gestation, I don't know. Either way, all my worries that I'd somehow wake up wearing slippers, smoking a pipe and listening to the Glen Miller Band were unfounded. Life is exactly the same as before.

You see, growing old is just that. A gradual decline of faculties, joints and organs. Nothing specific was ever going to change or happen on the 14,610th day after I was born (give or take the odd miscalculated leap year). So why was I, and I know others, so worried?

Turning thirty didn't seem that bad ten years ago. Thirty nine and one more, though, I suppose people associate this one more with middle age. I haven't had the corresponding crisis yet, or maybe I have but I think I haven't. However I do find myself saying 'It's not like when I was [insert age] anymore.'

However, if anyone had told me twenty years ago how I would be spending the two weekends after my 39+1th birthady, I would have thought them mad.

I got a greenhouse for my birthday. If that doesn't say middle aged then what does. However, over the past two weeks erecting it (fnarr fnarr, see I haven't grown up at all) I have come to the following conclusions.

1 If a greenhouse says it's 6 foot x 4 foot, don't be surprised if it's 5'10" x 3'9"

2 If a greenhouse base says it's 6' x 4' don't be surprised if it's 6'3" x 4'2"

3 A greenhouse that is smaller than it's base does not fit on the base. The base needs to be made smaller with lots of wood. Basically, you have to build your own base making the purchase of the original base a waste of time and money.

4 Instructions, however well meant, are useless if converted from Chinese to German then to English.

5 The picture on the box of an eighty year old woman, single handedly erecting said greenhouse, must be some Chinese idea of a joke.

6 My back now officially feels middle aged.

Problems, and a lot of swearing, aside, it's now up and doing a grand job of keeping the tomatoes warm. I got a load of reduced chili and pepper plants from the garden centre too.

Anyway, that's this years moan out of the way. Normal service and a new chapter of Inspector Cliche will resume in a few days. The last batch of submissions for Too big to fail/ Keep Calma and eat cabbage/ The bailout (or whatever it ends up being called) are being sent this week. If I get no bites by the end of september, I will start self publishing. Spies, Lies and Pies will be first.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Dirk Fowler, PI

Mightier than Magnum, more cliched than Marlowe and mankier than Miss Marple, I give you Dirk Fowler PI.

I've rewritten the first chunk from memory, but I'm going to have to adlib the rest. Here's the first bit.

Dirk Fowler, PI

Yeah she was still talking, but I’d long stopped listening. You see plenty of them in this game. At least one a month. Bled their ex dryer than a prune in the desert yet they want more.

“He’s seeing this new woman. He must have some money he didn’t tell the court about.”

Bitterer than a coffee and vinegar sandwich. That’s love for you. Felt sorry for the ex, whoever he was. Trying to start a new life, but she won’t let him. Can’t live with him, can’t live without him. Can’t live without hurting him.

“Look this ain’t really my area. If you think he hasn’t been truthful, go back to the court. There’s really not much I can do. Anyways, I charge two hundred and fifty a day plus expenses. What little money I’d find would get eaten up in days.”

She stood up. That line always works. “I’ll think on it.” She let herself out.

Sighing, I reached for the middle drawer of the filing cabinet. Bottle of cheap scotch, a nearly clean glass and a mound of paperwork the taxman keeps harassing me to send him. That’d have to wait. Again. The clock had struck one and Scotch was calling my name. That sweet amber fluid was reminding who the boss was. Just the one glass though. One o’clock treat. Another little treat at four, but that was it. No more. Course when I get home, it’s a different story.

I sat back in my chair, feet on the desk. It’d been a quiet month. One rich-kid runaway, one philandering hubby and a seventy year old, convinced her neighbour was poisoning her cabbages. Stayed up all night in a shed for that. Turned out half the cats in the county were using her veg patch as a toilet. Only charged her a hundred for the night, too. It’s just not enough. Earned barely enough to pay the office rent this last month. I needed a big case, that’d sort everything out. And more scotch. I needed that, too.

It was then that I saw her.

Through the half frosted glass that read Dirk Fowler PI, all I saw was a mass of blonde hair and pretty face. Like some angel, floating down from heaven, she was hovering outside the door. Must have the wrong door. She must have.

She knocked.

I finished the scotch and slammed the glass in my drawer. “Come in.”

The door opened. The frosted glass hadn’t let me down. Mounds of blonde hair flowed wild from her head. Dressed in a skirt and shirt, her body pointed out in all the right places. She was a babe, a dame, a woman. I could feel my mouth smile. I didn’t want it to, but it did.

“How can I help?” I stood up, held out my hand hoping she’d walk forwards and shake it.

She stepped forward. Red lips and blushed cheeks, but not through make up. Nature’s own rouge: anxiety. “Are you Mr. Fowler?” Her hand half pointed towards mine, unsure whether to shake it or not.

“Sure am. Dirk, call me Dirk.” I could hardly use my real name now, could I? A PI called Wayne? Nah. I’d get laughed out of town.

“I saw your advert.”

She was still stood, half leaning over with her right hand slightly raised. I couldn’t stop staring at her eyes. Blue and green. Deep. Mesmerising. Seemed to go back miles into her head. Miles. Just like a train tunnel. You can see the outsides, but as you move in, you just can’t see where they end. If you look hard enough, you think you can see a small patch of light. The end of the tunnel. But it’s not. The more you look, you more you realise it’s your eyes wanting to see it. They don’t trust what they’re seeing, they...

“Mr Dirk, are you okay?” She took a step back, crossed her hands over her chest. Broke eye contact.

Shit. Keep it together, Wayne. Keep it together. Stop staring. Say something.

“How can I help, Miss?” I put my hand down and looked at my desk before looking back at her face. Concentrate on her nose. That’s what I had to do.

“I need your help, he’s,” she paused, her voice breaking. “He’s missing.”

“Take a seat, mam.”

She sat down, real prim and proper. Leaning forward with her hands on her lap, she hadn’t learnt to sit like that in Exeter. Some finishing school up London way. What was she doing here? All the way out here? All the way out here with a nose that pretty and eyes that go on and on and...

I blinked. Twice. “Shall we start at the beginning?” I pulled my notebook out of the pile of papers in the in tray and opened it. Fresh page. New job’s always a fresh page.

“As I said. He’s missing, I...”