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...”

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Lost Story

So I've managed to lose a story. I've got a word document with loads of half written shorts, flashes, book attempts, even just first lines in and I thought it was there. But it's not. I can't find it.

The story in question was written about a year ago. The start of a novella. A classic, and probably cliched, PI story. I can remember parts of it. I started writing it in third person but it didn't work so I rewrote it in first. This may be how it got lost. I might have deleted too much after the rewrite.

What's that you say, back ups? Yeah, that'd be a good idea wouldn't it? Keeping regular copies of everything in case a disaster happens. Yeah, what a good idea.

I really fancied writing a bit of it today. Instead I'm racking my brain, trying to think of the plot and start.

I think it started thusly:

Yeah she's still talking but I've long stopped listening.

I can't remember much more, but it's bugging me now so I'm going to have to re-write it.

Anyway, submissions keep going out and rejections keep coming back. Had a really nice one the other day. She said, after rejecting it, 'let me know when it's published as I would buy it.'

That cheered me up.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Inspector Cliche - Chapter 3

There's one problem with posting this chapter by chapter as I write it. Plot holes. The plot twists slightly in chap three which means a slight amendment is needed to chap 1. It's not even a huge change that's needed, if you've been following it, you might not even spot it. Anyway, here's part 3.

Chapter Three

Barry Safford was in his bath towel when they arrived. The sauna still pumped steam and heat into the large, indoor swimming pool making Britwell already feel hot under the collar. The pool itself was a shrine to Essex. Poorly grouted tiles lined the floor while Statues of Greek gods and Goddesses stood round the pool edge. Occasional pot plants and trellis filled in the gaps while the mirrored ceiling proved that class just couldn't be bought. Unlike the tacky pool, Britwell though it a modern wonder of the world how Barry Safford, from his meagre background, had become so successful and rich.

“Whatever this is about, officer, I think you’ll find you’ve got the wrong person, again.” He sucked hard on his cigar and placed his hands on his hips.

Britwell shook his head. “I think you’ll find, Mr Safford, that things may not go your way tonight.”

Britwell looked round. Of course nothing traced the six foot lump of flab and muscle to crime. Searches by the Fraud Office, Vice and Firearms always came up with nothing. He just seemed to be lucky. Whatever new venture he started, it made a mint. He had the Midas touch. He was as bent as a fishing hook, but there was no proof.

“Think I better ring my lawyer, constable, he says my claim for harassment should get me a new house in Tuscany.”

Britwell ignored the constable jibe. He was always trying to wind him up. The odd smart Alec phrase here, little dig there. Britwell knew he couldn’t lose his cool with him. Again. What little evidence they may get could be destroyed on a technicality by a well-aimed kick at his towelled knackers.

“I’ll explain down the station.” Britwell tried to look smug, but the bags under his eyes gave a more sinister effect. Safford’s face dropped slightly. Britwell knew he was checking back through his deals, wondering just what piece of evidence he may have left in the house or forgotten to cover. He almost looked worried. Britwell smiled.

The hastily drawn together search team of insomniacs and overtime freaks continued their search of the mansion. They’d come up with nothing, but that wasn’t the point. Annoying Safford and his walking silicon-implant of a wife was the point. Britwell could hear her sharp cockney accent, telling the officers upstairs to “Fack off and catch some real villains or immigrants. Someone what’s actually guilty.”

Britwell lowered his voice and looked Safford in the eye. “We got a witness. He can place you with the gun in your hand, pulling the trigger.”

Safford looked confused, which wasn’t unusual. More confused than normal though. “I’ve been here all night.” He seemed to be thinking through the evening, squinting his eyes to give more focus. He finally shook his head. “How much you paying them to lie, constable? Seems the police get more corrupt every day.”

DS Walters walked over, nodding her head at him. “Don’t go far,” said Britwell, walking to meet her by the unnecessarily well-endowed statue of Eros. “What?”
“Cars not outside. Fish wife upstairs says it’s been at the garage for a week. Problem with the radio. Can’t pick up BBC Essex.”

“That’s a problem.”

She laughed then seemed to realise it wasn’t either a joke or a question. “Just sent a squad car to the garage.”

“Any bets on ‘The garage’s been broken into and the car stolen?’ Shit. All we’ve got’s a singing, cross-dressing newsagent.” He shook his head. “He only saw the back of him then fled. Shit. CPS won’t touch this with his.” He pointed at the statue.

“Maybe we could find other witnesses? Someone else might corroborate?”

Britwell looked at her. Her bright, keen DS eyes hadn’t yet been burned out with failure and frustration. Still looking on the bright side. Still hope. He shrugged his shoulders. He’d give her two more years before her first breakdown.

“All we need is someone else to place him in his car tonight?” She waited for him to answer.

Britwell was lost in thought, the unthinkable running through his head. What if Safford hadn’t done it? Forget the embarrassment of the cock up and the effect on his harassment claim. Something bigger lurked in the background. What kind of a nutter would steal Safford’s car and kill someone, knowing people would see it? This could get very messy.

He looked back at Walters. “What do you reckon?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “We could go to the red light district, see who we can pick up?”

Britwell nodded. “Best offer I’ve had in ages. Come on, I’ll get uniform to bring in the mockney cockneys.”

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Zombie Noir Chick-Lit

Or Noir Zombie Chick-lit?

A month or so ago I wrote a little short story for a competition. We were given the first line and had to write the rest, max 250 words.

Well, I've made the five finalists.

Not my normal genre, and the story that came out was a little bit absurd, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed writing this. It's somtimes more of a challenge to write something unusual.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Da Vinci again

On a recent trip to a car boot sale, three things became clear.

1 Every other household has a copy of the Da Vinci Code.

2 Said households are prepared to sell it for 50p or less.

3 Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to get sunburnt in two hours in Nottinghamshire.

It made me remember just how many copies he sold. I think I once read 40 million worldwide. Though slated by many, Stephen Fry called it, "Arse gravy of the worst kind," I actually sort of enjoyed reading it. Not a classic definately, and the flashbacks to his lectures were more than cringeworthy. But I've read worse thrillers. I've read better ones too, but I've read worse ones. I suppose one measure of success, as a writer, is seeing a copy of your book for 50p at a car boot sale.

I bought a bike rack for the car too. Only a tenner. Bargain. Mrs Pie says It'll live in the shed along with all the other crap, but it won't. It's different this time. It will get used. Next sunday, or maybe the week after...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Inspector Cliche - chapter 2

Chapter two of the book I shouldn't yet be writing because I've got far too much editing, two already unfinished books and two or three short stories on the go. For now, it's called Inspector Cliche, but I'll give it a proper title in due course.

If you missed chapter one, it's here.

Chapter two

Britwell never looked forward to time in Chief Superintendent Wighton’s office. His over-indulgence in deodorant and the high heating setting always left him gagging. The seats weren’t comfortable either, shoddy plastic things that belonged on the beach or in a cheap garden set.

“Why didn’t you tell me we had a...” CS Wighton paused, as if lost in search for the correct word. “A person of non-specific gender in the cells. There’s very clear procedures you know. You haven’t interviewed him, or her, yet have you? Please say you haven’t interviewed him.” He shook his head.

“I thought, sir, that treating him, or her, any different to anyone else would be seen as discrimination of some sort to him,” said DS Walters. “Or her,” she added.

Britwell loved it when Walters got going. He’d taught her well. Too well, probably. It was like her mind had a natural response mechanism. Always the correct answer came out. Just a little bit of flippancy, but always with respect.

“Yes, yes.” Her comments had thrown him. “But, there are procedures for ensuring the non-discrimination is, urm, isn’t indiscriminate.”

Britwell nodded. “Long story short, sir, he’ll sing if we give him a new identity and a posh frock.”

The outrage grew so quick on his face time itself could have stopped while it was painted on. “How dare you, Inspector.”

“Sorry, sir. Really. I am. Just, you know.”

“This isn’t a laughing matter. You’ve probably opened us up to claims for discrimination and err, well everything. Walters, were you in on this?”

She tried to speak but Britwell spoke over her. “I led the interview sir, she was taking notes. Sorry, about the joke. I mean, It’s been a long night and you know, trying to keep morale up.”

He sat back in his comfy chair. His face still tomato-like, he sighed. “So he’s prepared to help?”
“As I said, sir, new identity, fresh start, he’ll help.”

Wighton nodded. “Any other witnesses?”

“Just the usual suspects, sir,” said Walters. “Some ladies of the night who suffer from temporary blindness when anything interesting happens and a few rent boys who’re too scared to even say their names.”

Wighton looked towards his pot plant in the corner of the room. Britwell had noticed before he always looked at it when thinking. Shame the thing was dead. It just looked like a few sticks in a vase. Whenever he thought of the plant, a joke half-formed in his head, but it just never seemed funny enough to use.

“Not sure we’ll get a conviction with just one person’s evidence. Defence will tear him to shreds. DNA?” He looked at Jill Wighton. That proved, in Britwell’s mind, that he had taught her too well.

“SOCO’s still at the scene, sir. We need to bring him in soon if we’re going to, before he disposes of all traces on himself.”

Britwell nodded. Barry Safford was as astute and cute as they came. He’d have already burnt his clothes, had a bath and sauna and most likely even torched his own car. He knew what he was doing. Britwell lost count of the times he’d tried to put him away. Teflon Baz he called him.

“Has er, he said it was him?”

Britwell shook his head. “Didn’t need saying, sir. He knew exactly who we were talking about. I reckon he could be good for more info too. It’s not the first time he’s been down there at night. Could give us enough ammo to really clean up West Street.”

Wighton shook his head. “I think there’s been enough guns and ammo tonight, don’t you?”
“Bad choice of phrase, sir.”

He nodded. “I’ll ring the Chief Super, you get a warrant for Mr Safford before he disposes of absolutely everything.”

Outside the office, Britwell wanted to shout, to scream. Years ago, he’d have put his arm round the shoulders of the DS that’d helped him. But, things were different now. An arm round the shoulder wasn’t acceptable. He’d forgotten once too. He still no idea how she’d got her leg up that high and round so quickly. Apparently it was called a roundhouse kick. His jaw throbbed whenever he thought about it.

“Well done, Walters.” He offered a hand for her to shake. “Let’s get ourselves a friendly magistrate.”