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.