Category Archives: Serials


The silence was complete. Time had frozen inside the car while outside the world rolled onwards. The flicker of the beacon on the police car bathed the surrounding trees with its cobalt orbit, night sounds of creatures unrelated to  happenings on the road rustled and screeched.

The officer bent a little from the waist to peer into the rear window of the car, he watched the driver, immobile, facing forward. There was no indication the man was aware of the presence of the police. A moment of nervousness swept through the constable, unlooked for and unlikely but his gut clenched and his heart jumped. There was something wrong. More than the usual on a dark night with a drunk or angry driver, this was something else. He was committed now though, there was no retreat. He risked a glance back towards the vehicle where his mate peered narrow eyed through the windscreen. Many years of experience had taught him to take care, that to expect the unexpected was usually the wisest course and he slowed, and bent again. He shone a torch beam  through the rear window, the driver still didn’t turn.

For his part Peter was lost, he had by now completely forfeited reality, the knife in his hand was the only tangible thing. The rest of it, the wind rolling through the treetops, the flicker of sapphire light and the occasional whoosh of a passing car touched him not at all. His decision had been made and now there was no more need to think.  That he would act was predetermined, when he would act was dependent on the progress of the man walking alongside the car.

The crackle of the personal radio broke the bubble of silence around the car but didn’t penetrate the interior, “Bob, I don’t like this, there’s something odd here, call for backup.” The officer had paused again; still unsure of the situation and unwilling to go further, but in truth, unable to decide why. He raised his voice, “Police sir, will you open the car and step out, keep your hands where I can see them.” There was no reaction to his shout. He bent again. The driver remained motionless facing forward, the engine still burbled gently into the quiet.

“Sir, can you hear me? Open the door slowly and step out, keep your hands visible.” Still no movement. The policeman gulped, the dryness of his mouth surprised him as did the sheen of moisture on the palms of his hands. Again he glanced back at his own car and his mate. Should he go back? Make a retreat? Of course he wouldn’t, that wasn’t even an option, but he was unnerved by his own reaction to the situation. He straightened his spine, steeling himself, this must end now, he must take charge, sort it. “Sir, come out now, I won’t ask you again.  You’re not helping yourself, just making things worse.”

Peter couldn’t hear the words. He knew that the man was nearly at the driver’s door. In his peripheral vision he could make out the gleam of the torch and the hint of movement closing in, ever nearer bringing the conclusion to him. Not long now, the seconds ticked by each one immeasurable, floating, drifting unreality. For a brief moment he thought of his mother, of the nights of fear in his little room, of the day that Gran had rescued him and of the time that he had lied and sent Mum away to her death.

He catalogued the girls that he had helped, six of them, all resting peacefully due to his work. Each one had been snatched from a life of misery and degradation and had become an angel just because of him. He smiled quietly and moved his hand to ensure he had the correct grip on the knife. He didn’t think that they would understand about the girls, he didn’t believe that he would be able to explain how he had done it all in kindness. Yes he had been paid, but the money had been for Gran to keep her warm, to take care of her the way that she had taken care of him.  He had only ever spent enough on himself to stay alive, and to do his work. Would they understand, he couldn’t risk that they would not.

The officer stood alongside the driver’s door now, he wouldn’t touch the car. He shone the beam of yellow light in through the shatterproof glass. “Sir, come on out, open the door slowly and step out.”

Peter turned his head; squinting in the glare of torchlight. He was blinded, his night vision destroyed, it didn’t matter. Turning his head again to the front he raised his hand and with a great sweep he sliced the knife left to right across his neck. A fierce spurt of blood drenched the windscreen and the car roof, the steering wheel dripped with it, crimson tears falling onto his lap. For a moment he felt nothing but he knew it wasn’t over, not yet. He had paused, knew that it would be too hard to cut all the way across in one sweep. His studies had taught him much and he twisted his hand flicking the angle of the knife so that he could pull it downwards now and take out the artery on the other side of his neck. It must be quick, before he lost his strength and so he made it quick. Now the world had flared into action, he could hear the policeman hammering on the car door, could hear him yelling and briefly he was afraid. But then she was there, holding out her hand the way that she had all those years ago. “Come on Peter, come with Gran, I’m going to look after you.” He knew then that it was all going to be all right, he knew that Gran would understand, he took her hand

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Chapter 10

He leaned to turn the key in the ignition, as he did so the phone in his pocket vibrated, a crawling creature in there, rustling against his leg.  In his state of heightened awareness the sudden flutter caused his heart to leap and sweat to pop onto the skin of his forehead.  He gasped softly, taken aback for a moment.  Realisation of the humdrum gentled him.  He stretched his leg as straight as it would go in the confined space and wriggled bony fingers down into the tight denim. 

The phone continued to tremble against his thigh.  Only the nursing home had this number, it was the only phone that he kept.  The ones that he used for his work were cheap “pay as you go” pieces, used once and then discarded.  This one though was always topped up and the battery charged.  It was the emergency number and so he knew, even before he had prised it from his pocket, that it would not be bright news.

“Hello Peter?”


“It’s Matron, from Oaklands.” He felt the chill already. His breathing was shallow and his mouth was dry, his tongue suddenly too large. The sound from his throat was harsh, rasping.

“Matron, what’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry to call you so late Peter but I’m afraid your Gran is very poorly.  She was fine until bedtime but when the nurse checked her later she was having trouble breathing.  We were going to send her to the hospital.”

“Which hospital? I’ll go there now, where is she going?  I’ll meet her there.”  The tears streamed across his cheeks; the lump in his throat choked him.

“No, she’s here Peter.  We called doctor and he doesn’t think that she should go to the hospital.  He doesn’t believe it would be for the best.  Do you understand?    Peter, you should come as soon as you can I think.”

“Uh.”  He couldn’t form words, the world collapsed around him. He was in a place he had never been before.  Life was out of control.  He couldn’t speak, couldn’t summon a voice that was lodged somewhere in his throat.

“Peter, are you all right, can you come?  Do you have someone who can fetch you? Maybe it would be best if you didn’t come alone.  Can you hear me, Peter?  Are you all right dear?”

He drew in a great gasping breath.  He must function, must move now.  “Yes, yes I’m all right, I’ll come now.  I can come, tell her I’m coming.  Matron, don’t let anything happen to her, please.”

“Oh, my dear.  I am so sorry you must prepare yourself; I think that she is really very poorly.  If you must drive yourself Peter take care.  When you arrive you will have to ring the night bell the security man will let you in. You can’t come round the usual way do you see?”

“Yes, yes the night bell.  I understand, tell her I’m coming.”

“Of course I will.  We’ll see you soon.” 

The mobile landed with a quiet plop on the seat beside him.  A moment of silence enveloped him, his hands shook and he stared at them in disbelief.  Two strange creatures quivering on the steering wheel, he was gasping now, almost sobbing.  Battling through the confusion and despair here came the truth.   Gran, she needed him, he must go to her, now.

He reversed at speed down the narrow alley pebbles flew from under the wheels striking the old stone walls and ricocheting to ping on the body work of the car.  With a screaming turn he regained the highway and shot towards the town centre.   Hurtling onwards towards the motorway he flew passed the football ground, with its narrow entrance where the local constabulary chose to spend the dark hours.  They parked in the gloom in the hope of just this event, some idiot drunk driver or some race nut using the cover of darkness to indulge a passion for speed.  As he flashed by they glanced once at each other, a small smile flicked between them.  They had one, a chase on their hands, just the kind of thing that they needed on these long boring shifts.  They drew out into the road contacted control for permission and oversight, and set off in pursuit. 

They held back with the lights and siren. They would save that for when they were out of the town limits.  They saw no need to disturb the honourable citizens because of this lunatic. When they hit the dual carriageway then they’d give him full bore, blues and twos as it was popularly known.  Isolated in the grey metal cocoon Peter could barely see, his vision was smeared with tears, whitened knuckles gleamed like locked around the steering wheel, his foot was to the floor.  Oblivious of the excessive speed and the erratic nature of his progress there was but one thought.  He had to get there, had to see her, needed to be there with his gran.  If he was there he could make sure that nothing happened to her, nothing must happen to her.  Nothing else penetrated, there was Gran and only Gran and he must get to her now.

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Chapter 9

Undoubtedly no-one realised just how many resting places are available, certainly Peter hadn’t.  Of course, he hadn’t given it much thought until he had embarked on his work, why would he?  There were many broken altar tombs, they were all old and the majority neglected and crumbling. There were vast mausoleums, built to resemble temples and fortresses which were now nothing more than decaying edifices.  He had used those on two occasions already, the rusting hinges and rotten wood of the doors were no problem. 

He remembered the cold, cold as a grave, a quiet snort of laughter escaped as he sat in the dark car, recovering from the emotion of the job in the way that he had found worked best.  Cataloguing them in his memory, listing the souls that he had saved and remembering each one. 

He may be able to use one of those locations again really soon now.  After all they had been amongst his favourites.  The eeriness suited the moment, was perfectly matched to the reasons for him being there.  The first girl to have such a resting place had been small and slight, another piece of smuggled cargo the like of which had become so common in the last years.  She had been very young and had come to him willingly, trustingly.  He had tried not to frighten her, had kept the knife hidden as he had embraced her.  He was sure even now that she had never seen it.  The cutting had been swift and clean, as a result of his effort, his care. 

The training had taken hours and hours of his time, he had bought suckling pigs from the markets and direct from farms, unprepared and fresh.  He had spent much of Gran’s savings on the meat that he had needed to perfect the art.  It was complicated, it needed a surprising amount of strength but it must be smooth also and quick, it had to be quick.  He had felt no guilt depleting Gran’s account; he knew that it had been saved for him anyway.  First for his mother and then when she had gone it was for him. He was taking it early but Gran would understand, she would understand that he had no choice.  She had taught him always, if you are going to do something, you should do it in the very best way that you can and that is what he was determined to do.  He had replaced it anyway, by now many times over.  Carefully drip feeding the account from the envelopes in his bedroom. 

He knew now that he was an expert in his chosen trade, probably as skilled as a surgeon, definitely accomplished as a butcher.  He had studied anatomy, and physiology he was knowledgeable about blood spatter, pouring over the books deep into his lonely nights.  But it was more than that, more important than the technicalities was that he loved them, his blessed prey and the love made the difference. 

See how he loved them, before he had taken the girl to the mausoleum that first time, he had prepared it with care.  Night after night he had crept in, had swept the gritty floor and carefully, respectfully moved the old bones, the disintegrating coffins, had placed them with their grave partners on the stone ledges and then he had laid flowers, wild flowers from the hedgerows and roses from Gran’s tiny garden, a whole carpet of flowers waiting to receive the precious consignment.  No-one would have imagined the amount of planning he had needed to do, the timing had needed to be perfect and it had been so. 

Candles had lighted the damp space and the musk of the wilting blooms had swept around them as he had gently lowered her body to the floral bed.  The beauty of it all had moved him to tears and it had been so very wonderful that he had wanted to do it again the next time.  It was spoilt though; there had been no second time.  The decaying body although still wrapped carefully had tainted the air.  His disappointment had been intense but since then he had done research, had gone back and dealth with the problem.  Soon now he would be able to revisit that site, the quick lime would have done its job.  Yes maybe the next one could be there. 

Before he could accept another assignment though he needed to work.  This car must be sold.  That was already organised.  There was no great mystery to it, he would wash and valet it and he already had an appointment with a second hand dealer.  He would part exchange it for another one, slightly newer of course, otherwise it would seem suspicious, but the same make and model.  The boot was important, it must be big enough to take his packages and be designed with a small lip so that he could lift them in quickly and easily.  Hiding in plain sight, simply part exchange, the paper work couldn’t be traced back to him of course but otherwise there was no need to complicate the issue. 

A great gust of a sigh acknowledged that he must move, it was a long drive home, he had to be there ready to visit Gran later today and before that he would take his reward.  In the quiet of his room, in the security of his own space he would re-live this night, this performance and he would allow himself to revel in the glory of what he had done.

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Chapter 8

He sat for a long time in the darkness of the little pathway.  It was still and quiet. Now and again a car on the main road would assault the silence or a night bird would cry into the gloom.  He thought of the girl resting now.  There was no doubt that what he had done was right, she would no longer have to sell herself.  There was no more need for the sordid things that she had done, the dirty scrabbling in alleyways with perverts and scumbags. 

Why the client had wanted her cleaned up didn’t really matter.  He didn’t think about that side of the thing very often.  The clients contacted him through his small network and told him the location, provided a photograph, it was all he needed to know.  That they were all prostitutes was important, vital, they were the ones who needed his help.  There were drug addicts, thieves, drunks and adulterers but they weren’t his concern, it was the ones like his mother that he had to help.  He wasn’t a common murderer after all, he was a redeemer, atoning for his crime and saving the women. 

When Gran had taken him away he had been very young, but later, when he was a teenager, when he was old enough to understand, she had come to him. 

Tears fell on his hands where they lay on his lap.  He could still hear her pleading with him to help.

“You talk to her Peter, she listens to you.  She’ll help me if you ask her to; just tell her I’ve got nowhere to go. I’ve got no money Peter.” He was selfish though, he wanted Gran to himself, he understood that now, he knew his feelings had been wrong, he’d let the memory of neglect from his childhood harden his heart. 

“No, I can’t ask her, she said I shouldn’t talk to you.” It was a lie, a dreadful lie, Gran had been searching trying to find her, and of course she would have helped.  Her heart was as big as the planet she would have taken her daughter back and made a space in their lives for her.  It had been him, all him.  He didn’t want her there, his life was clean and safe, his home was warm and precious. He didn’t want her sullying it. 

He’d watched her walk away, shoulders slumped.  If he closed his eyes now in the darkness of the car he could conjure up the picture of her, skinny legs in tight pants, her hair, dyed too often, hanging like knotted strands over her bony back.  She had trailed away up the street; he’d known she was crying.  He could have stopped her then, brought her in, saved her life but he didn’t he just watched her go and held the knowledge of her situation locked away.  Three weeks later she was dead, drugged, debauched, and ruined lying in the squat. 

When the police had come they asked for someone to identify the body.  Gran hadn’t wanted him to go but he had insisted, cried and pleaded, and in the end he had gone.  He expected to feel some sort of justification for what he’d done.  He thought that the sight of her would expunge the residual guilt. 

They had her in the hospital, not at the morgue; she was lying in a chapel.  There were flowers, and soft music.  It was inter-denominational and he remembered wondering if the deities minded sharing space.  It had been a strange thought conjured from fear while they waited in the anti room.  His mother though, he wasn’t prepared for his mother.  They had dressed her in a white gown with long sleeves, they had combed her hair and someone had tied it back with a white ribbon.  A sheet covered most of her wasted body but her hands were on top, crossed at her waist.  She had been a Catholic and someone had wound a rosary between the clasped fingers. She looked Angelic, absolutely at peace and more beautiful than she had ever been in life.  Her long lashes brushed pale cheeks and her lips, though cold and stiff as he kissed them, were almost smiling. 

The knowledge of what it all meant was some time becoming clear but when it did he had felt so much more whole than ever in his life.  He understood without any doubt that, though he had let his mother down, turned her away in sadness, he could help other girls in the same situation, he could find them the same peace. 

The first time had gone badly he hadn’t planned it right.  He had found a girl at random and she hadn’t realised that he was helping her, had fought with him and made it violent.  It had been very difficult.  He had planned the mechanics of it, the knife, such a cleansing weapon.  The location, far away from the lights of the town centre, in the back of the park, and he had planned the disposal.  That part of his scheme had worked out well. He was confident that the parts of her would never be found, the car was destroyed so very completely, the great jaws of the crusher turning it into a small square of scrap metal with her deep inside wrapped in plastic in the boot.  He had been dissatisfied though it wasn’t how he wanted them to end up, they needed a burial, a place to sleep, and that was when he had thought about the graveyards.

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Chapter 7

It was so logical, so very obvious that he wondered how it could be that other people hadn’t seen the sense.  Then again maybe they had, perhaps it is that graveyards all over the country are home to the disappeared, the lost and the disposed of.  The place that he was heading was old, very old indeed.  The stones are ancient, many of them so worn by time and weather that the names are unreadable.  He liked them, these old fields of the dead.  They spoke to his soul, the end of life when it was all cleaned up, when all the badness was finished and everyone was equal and at peace. 

When his mum had died in that horrible way everyone assumed that she would be cremated, they shook their heads at him when he insisted that they open up the old family grave and lower her down on top of her own father and her grandparents.  It wasn’t anything special, that cemetery. It was in a built up part of the city.  There were a few trees and well mown lawns but no real atmosphere.  It felt like a parking lot.  He preferred the old ones, yew trees and dark corners, the graves of young wives and plague victims, the fallen soldiers, the sailors. He had photographs, lots of them.  Photographs of the old stones and the towering crosses, the weeping angels and the draped flags. 

Of course, he would have been interested anyway but now, with this work that he did, it had proved to be so very useful.  Many of the old tombs, the ones of the wealthy, the altar tombs were damaged now. They were mostly made from sandstone and the years had punished them.  But it was ideal, if there was a body to be disposed of then a graveyard was the most obvious place to hide it.  It was more than that though.  He cared about these women, life had led them astray, he had saved them from their wickedness and so now he liked to leave them sleeping peacefully.  After all, the old families were long gone, finished, and it was philanthropic to share their resting places with these fallen angels. 

It took several hours driving but the night was kind to him. Rain was coming and he hoped that it had already arrived at the killing zone, was already expunging any residual evidence near the warehouse.  For the moment though the dry roads and more importantly the dry churchyard suited him better.

He turned into the little village. As he had known it would be it was sleeping now on this ordinary night.  The lights were out in most of the little houses and the only movement was the odd feral cat or bits of leaf litter blowing along the gutters. He drove quietly around, passing the church twice; there was no sign of anyone.  No homeless old men slumped against walls, cradling bottles of cider to ease their dreams, no gangs of youths with splifs or even stronger stuff despoiled the street corners.  This wasn’t that sort of place; this was a quiet, refined place.  She was lucky to be coming here, would never have been able to stay here in life.  He smiled at his kindness; at least in death, she had some dignity, some “class”.

The car slid into a little back lane between two stone walls.  He pulled on his hat and a new pair of gloves.  The overalls were in the back but he didn’t need them now. It was a wild and overgrown place and anyway they would never search here, he shook his head, no, not here.  It was the last place anyone would think of, not least because it was miles and miles from where she was last seen. 

He hefted the stiff plastic roll, lifting it fairly easily and he rested it on his shoulder, part embrace part baggage removal.  He walked as quickly as possible the few steps to the side gate.  Now he had to toss her to the ground, he couldn’t negotiate the small space encumbered as he was.  She landed with a dull thud but the wrapping held, there was no leakage now, no errant limbs, he was satisfied with the packing job.  The grave was far into the cemetery, down in the oldest part, beside the church walls, hidden by the overgrown trees and the cenotaph and the great mausoleums. 

The sides of his chosen site were crumbling but he had wedged old stones in some weeks ago, he didn’t want anyone getting an idea that this should be repaired and he knew, according to sod’s law that’s just the sort of thing that happens.  No, it was as he had left it on his last visit.  He opened up the space and placed the broken pieces neatly beside the grave.  He lined up the mummy, feet facing towards the furthest end.  He opened his backpack, inside there was a tiny bunch of flowers, cheap things, from the supermarket, white daisy things in cellophane wrap.  He placed them on her breast, kissing them first, now there were tears flowing freely down his face.  He was so happy for her, so pleased that he had been able to rescue her from the life that fate had chosen.  It was a shame that the wrapping distorted their features but it couldn’t be helped.  The cling film helped to minimise the smell and so the pretty face had to remain compressed and synthetic looking, twisted to one side and discoloured by the thickness of the plastic.  He sighed but some things just had to be accepted.

Now he performed the final act, sliding the stiff parcel easily on the grass he inserted her into the space and pushed her in as far as he could reach.  He had to jiggle her gently from side to side to slide her inwards but it wasn’t difficult.  He had taken the precaution of shovelling some loose gravel in earlier in the month.  No-one had bothered him, if he had been seen, and he doubted he had, then it would be assumed that he was a workman, maintaining the old place.  Now the loose stones eased her passage, rattling softly as she moved along.  He was lying full length on the damp grass, head to head with her and he whispered goodbye.  He would have liked to use her own language but he didn’t actually know where she was from. It was done, he drew himself to his knees and then stood, pausing for a moment, head bowed for a final salute before he rebuilt the tumbled sides of the tomb.  Making his way back to the car he shook the soil and bits of stone from his gloves, dusted the front of his trousers and congratulated himself on a good night’s work

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Chapter 3

His eyes were closed, his breathing was deep and regular, but he didn’t sleep.  In the dim room, with dingy curtains drawn over the windows, Peter listened to the passage of time.  He heard the kids, coming home from school.  First there were the car doors, the mumble of engines and creak of hand brakes. It was followed quickly by the yelling and bawling, the little kids, the ones who hadn’t learned that you don’t really get what you want by yelling.  You think you do but in the end it’s all fake, yes another packet of sweets, maybe ten minutes more television but at the end of the day there’s payback.

“Be good now Peter, go and play in your room.  If you’re good you can watch Woody Woodpecker tomorrow.  There’s a man coming and I need you to be good Peter, don’t come into the living room, stay in your room. 

I’m going to the pub with Uncle Martin, be good and stay in bed and I’ll take you to Mac Donalds tomorrow. 

Just leave me alone Peter I’ve got a headache, I need to take these pills and have a lie down, be quiet.” 

A while after what he thought of as The Whiners, there came The Swaggerers, the older kids, full of themselves, boys and girls alike.  Swinging bags, screaming at each other, yelling into mobile phones, slamming the house doors.  Then last of all The Beavers, more cars sweeping into drives and the front doors again.  At most of the houses around that was it, all in their boxes for the night.  Some of the younger couples may go out later, but not often during the week.  No, once The Beavers were home the little road slumbered.  Deadsville, empty and dull, they had no idea, would be amazed and shocked and yes thrilled and titillated, if they knew.  Of course, they never would, never could but the imagined reactions of these empty, plastic people were amusing to contemplate.

The front door of his own dwelling slammed, then the entrance to the flat downstairs, he heard the woman’s key in the lock and then the chatter to her cat, “Hello Smudgy, it’s Mummy, have you been a good Smudgy.  Do you want your tea then, just let me in tiddles.”  Then the slam and the snap as she locked herself inside. 

There wasn’t any sound proofing to speak of and he could hear her kettle whistle, the scrape of pans on the stove top, he could even hear the toilet flush.  It jangled his nerves.  His knuckles were white against the dark wood of the chair arm.  His breathing was shallow now, eyes flickering under the closed lids. Other people were torture to him, other beings were an assault on his senses.  He often wished her dead Mrs Jackson, Smudgy’s mummy.  It wouldn’t help though, if she wasn’t there then someone else would be.  

He could move out, of course. He could take some of the envelopes and move away from here.  He could have a place of his own, totally his.  If it was only a question of him alone or of money he could do that, but it wasn’t was it?  There was Gran, the care was expensive, hugely expensive.  He owed it to her, as long as it took he owed her.  He didn’t begrudge a penny, quite the reverse, she was arguably the main reasons for it all, that and the other thing, the deep driving need, but also it was for Gran.   She had rescued him, from the Uncles and the pills and the long, long nights locked in the little bedroom listening to the scary noises.  She had come in from out of nowhere, without a word she had packed his things, his clothes, his cars and his teddy.  She had grabbed his hand, led him quietly past his mum and out of the door. 

He owed her everything and he wouldn’t let her down, never. 

Apart from that he needed to be unseen, he had to be anonymous, an ‘also ran’, one of the no marks. This place was perfect for that, a nothing man in a nothing flat in nowhere.  That was the only way that he could work.  It simply had to be this way for now.  Later, when Gran had gone; the thought brought tears into his throat, a great choking lump, it couldn’t be long now but he still couldn’t bear it.  Later, after that, maybe then he would move away, start up somewhere else, a different way of doing business but for now, this was how it would be. As he sat in the old chair the room darkened the streetlight turned on, glowing through the thin cotton and bathing the room with a strange underwater expression.  He pushed himself up from the chair, stowed the smoking paraphernalia, and stepped through to the bedroom.  There was work to do, he had to be ready, a couple of hours he needed.  It was a local job, he was glad of that.  The last one was down on the coast; he’d had to drive all night to be back before daylight.  Tonight though it would be easy, a couple of hours, maybe three, and then back to the flat.  Another smoke and then blessed sleep, dreamland, out of it, out of it all, the whole rotten, stinking lot of it.


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Chapter 2

The great old clock in the hall ticked away the seconds and, now and again, a slightly raised voice or clatter of crockery disturbed the quiet.  Generally though peace and serenity prevailed, this was an exclusive establishment, well run and expensive.

Peter sat for long minutes stroking the papery skin. The bird like bones in his palm filled him with sadness. She had been so strong and vigorous, scary even when he was small and she had caught him out in some misdemeanour.  Tears flooded his eyes and he sniffed, raising the back of his hand to his cheek he swept the dribble aside.  He shifted once or twice on the little stool his bony behind complaining at the hard surface, apart from that he made no other move.

Now and again gran’s eyes opened briefly and her gaze swung towards him.  Once, the thin lips lifted in an almost smile, creasing the already deep wrinkles and causing the eyes to water with effort. 

After two hours of silent vigil, he uncurled to his full height.  He bent and kissed her just once on the sunken cheek.  “Tomorrow Gran, tomorrow as usual.”  With these few words he turned and retraced the route of earlier, through the French doors and back to the park. 

He glanced left and right before turning to head for the main gates and the high street.  Eddie would be waiting for him by now, and Steve.  They could wait but not for too long.  They were stupid, both of them, and would soon begin to look suspicious and obvious, even in the busy bustle of a weekday lunch time.   He had taken the calls yesterday, one payment, one new instruction, business was brisk. 

As he moved through the green space he was invisible, the few runners who passed him registered him not at all and the mums and grannies in the play- ground were too busy with their demanding charges to notice him.  He knew that if he were to stop in that particular area they would start to glance at him, nervous and suspicious.  A man on his own with no dog, no child and no jogging gear was regarded as a threat to their precious brats.  Stupid, stupid, if he had any ideas in that direction, and the thought nauseated him, he would simply get a mutt or a bike and merge with the other park users.  That he could do that if he wished was indisputable, that he wanted to was unthinkable.  This wasn’t what he was about, kids and mums and parks, his interest lay elsewhere.

It took about twenty minutes’ brisk walk to reach the main street and the hot smell of McDonald’s.  Eddie was outside, scuffing his feet on the greasy flag stones and watching the school girls passing on their way to the Subway further up the road. 

There was no conversation, Peter barely slowed his forward motion.  As he passed, Eddie reached out and slipped a brown package into his hand, it was the size of an A5 envelope and slightly bulky.  Peter didn’t bother to try and hide it, there was no need.  He knew that most people turned away from him, he was unsavoury and slightly threatening and nobody wanted to make eye contact. 

As the skinny figure drew away, Eddie let his knees relax slightly and leaned for a moment against the wall behind him, deflated, duty performed.  He let go a gust of stale breath and then, sliding the couple of notes from his palm and into his pocket, he turned and followed the little group of girls towards the delights of low fat sandwiches and pickles.  He enjoyed the bounce of their behinds in the tight black trousers and the swing of long blond hair as they giggled and pushed against each other.  He cleared the other thing from his mind.  He was a messenger that was all, what resulted from the messages wasn’t his concern.

Peter was long gone.  Heading to the railway station he spotted Steve pretending to read the timetable.  Idiot, he always did the same thing.  In time the staff would begin to wonder why this slightly dishevelled young man read the timetable so often but never boarded any of the trains.  On the one hand, Peter felt that if he was such an idiot then he should be left to suffer the consequences, but he knew he couldn’t trust either of his contacts to keep his name out of things.  No, it was time to act. 

“Next time, by the church, main gate.”  He didn’t even glance at Steve and hardly slowed his step as he grabbed the brown package.  Steve nodded as he slipped the tiny bundle of money into his jeans pocket.

“Yeah.”  He turned and made off in the opposite direction, subconsciously putting as much space as he could, as quickly as possible , between himself and Peter.  He would comply though, there was no question about that.  It wasn’t loyalty or honour among thieves, it was fear, simple uncomplicated and intense.

In his turn Peter made for the flat. He stopped at a Tesco Express to pick up some bits and pieces and was back home by mid-afternoon.  There was a large box at the back of the wardrobe, he dragged it forwards and slipped one of the two brown packages on top of several others already there.  He didn’t bother to check the contents, he knew what was inside.  He was confident that all was as it should be.  No-one would cross him, they wouldn’t dare.  They never had.  The other slimmer envelope he pushed under his mattress.  That was for perusal later, the next job.

He drew the curtains across the grimy windows, took out his bong and had the first smoke of the day.  Back in his own space, safe in the heavy air of his flat he relaxed.  He would need to go out later but much, much later, when the brightness of the day had turned to night.  His time was when the giggling schoolgirls, the demanding toddlers, their harassed and anxious mothers and the joggers had all settled in front of their soap operas and nature programmes.  Then was when he would come alive, then and only then would he feel the pulse of his blood fizzing in his veins and the pound of his heart.  Then was the reason for his existence, his purpose. 

He slipped a piece of paper from between the pages of a paper back discarded on the coffee table.  Shame, she was a nice looking girl.  The thought flipped through his mind eliciting the same reaction as if he had seen a sparrow grabbed by a cat, it was fact, it was life, it was what made his world turn. 

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Rerun – Rag’s Riches

Chapter 17

The wardrobe door was flung back against the hinges.  The sudden flood of light, accompanied by the crash and splinter of old wood ignited the cat. With a gargantuan thrust of his back legs he launched himself, just out, no aiming or thought just out and away.  Unfortunately, just at that moment the swarthy gentleman was taking a step forwards the better to search the depths of the cupboard.  The cat was leaping upwards, the man was leaning downwards, the two met midway.  Rags extended his claws as a result of shock and fear; they hooked into skin, one lodging in the tender flesh just inside a nostril.  Not unsurprisingly this caused the human to screech in a most inhuman fashion.  This terrified the cat even more and he scrabbled and scrambled upwards, clawing and reaching, rending the soft skin of chin and cheek and forehead.

The bloke staggered backwards, by this time Jenny had grabbed her camera and without anything approaching logical thought she pointed it and clicked the shutter button.  The scratched and bleeding ne’er do well now got an eye full of camera flash, he squealed anew and covered his eyes with both hands, effectively blinded.

Jenny grabbed the umbrella and charged forth brandishing it spear-like before her.  The crook had tipped on his axis and was now on his way forward again.  Due to the difference in height between the two, the pointed end of the gamp connected brutally with the squashy, tender parts that were inadequately protected by the soft, baggy track suit bottoms that were his preferred attire.

He collapsed in an S-shaped, shrieking pile on the bedroom carpet; his hands were clutching the area around the top of his legs which he truly believed were aflame.  Jenny leapt over him “Sorry, sorry – I’m so sorry”.

Rags had had just about as much as he could take.  He headed like a small ginger rocket for the stairs, the outside and safety.  For reasons that were never fully understood the second intruder leapt after the cat, whether he was fleeing from the ear curdling screams of his erstwhile companion or whether he believed the cat to be possessed of unnamed treasure it was difficult to know, but he was off in full pursuit before Jenny had reached the bedroom door.

Unfortunately, or not, depending on your point of view, his feet disavowed his ambition and tied themselves into a knot on the top step.  He tumbled in a flurry of flailing limbs and rolling, bouncing body parts from top to bottom of the narrow staircase arriving unconscious and uncaring against the front door.

Jenny fled as fast as her wobbling legs would carry her for the ground floor.  She jumped over the hunched and immobile body in the hall, grabbed the cordless phone from the little table and ran to the kitchen where she shot outside.  She secured the back door and tore the key from the lock.  She ran round to the front of the house where she paused, breathless and slightly hysterical, she dialled 999.

She reported the current circumstances, suggested that it would be very helpful if the local constabulary could send someone other than an apprentice and that perhaps an ambulance would be of some use.  The screeching of the various sirens and horns brought out such of the neighbours who were at home, all of whom stared in some bemusement at the batty old cat woman who seemed to be patrolling the front of her house armed with an old umbrella, her hair awry, her clothes askew and her face wearing a rather manic expressions which precluded conversation.

When the dust had finally settled and the nice police lady had provided a steaming cup of tea, Jenny took the time to shed a couple of tears of shock and nerves.  Only a couple, just for appearances sake really, because in truth she had found it all terribly thrilling.  Not to be repeated, no never that, but still quite out of the ordinary run of things.

The man from the bottom of the stairs was carted away on a stretcher to be given treatment for his concussion and a rather nasty broken wrist.  The other chap was escorted to a police car, hobbling in a most peculiar and careful fashion, blood smearing his shocked and ruined countenance.

“Hello, hello madam.  Are you alright?  Are you sure you don’t need a doctor?”  The young policeman was being terribly kind and friendly.  Probably felt that he had some sort of stake in the whole thing and Jenny was more than willing to let him bask in a bit of reflected glory.

“Has anyone been to the garage constable?”

“Yes indeed.  You are quite the hero.  The boxes are very clever devices indeed.  On the top they are fitted out to carry bottles of rather nasty Bulgarian wine.”

“Oh, is that all?  Wine – well!”

“Ah, but quite a number of them have false bottoms and that’s where it gets most interesting.  The bottoms appear to be used to carry bags of very valuable drugs.  Oh yes you are quite the hero and no mistake.”

“Drugs, well my word, drugs here in our little road.”

“Unfortunately they are everywhere and hidden away back here probably seemed a good idea. Well, if it hadn’t been for you and that old cat I don’t doubt they could have carried on for pretty well as long as they wanted.  Where is he the old fella?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  He was dreadfully upset and frightened.  I don’t know where he’s gone and I’m so worried about his leg.  He could have torn the stitches.  Poor old Rags what a rotten time he’s had.”

“Well, I’ll tell the lads to keep an eye out for him anyway.”

“Yes, that would be nice.  Thank you.”

“So, what are you going to do with your reward?”


“Oh yes quite a handsome reward coming your way madam.  Quite a nice little sum.”

“Well. Goodness.  Really?  My heavens, who’d have thought it?”…

The next morning Jenny filled the cat bowls.  Everyone was going to have a special treat. She didn’t have the reward yet but had been assured that it would be substantial.

“Here we are my lovies, tuna treat and chicken livers in sauce, the little gold tins were scraped into various dishes and she did believe there were more visitors than ever.  Word must have got around the local cat population.

A stately ginger figure strode haughtily past the feline hoi polloi.  With a very superior glance in their direction Rags made his way through the garden and entered the kitchen via the back door.  He sniffed at the small empty porcelain bowl sitting next to his blanket.  His ears rotated just once, checking for untoward noises.  All was calm, he turned his great gold eyes upwards and stared unblinking at the daft old biddy.

“Oh Rags, how lovely.  You are quite famous you know and really rather rich.  Would you like something to eat?  I have a special tin of Pampered Pussikins, tuna in prawn jelly.  Do you think you could eat that?  Apparently he could.

Afterwards reclining on the settee, licking at a front paw he took stock of his situation.  It had been an interesting few days, he was getting on a bit and this daft old bat wasn’t bad – for a non feline.  Maybe he’d stay.  Just until something better came up anyway.  Jenny poured a cup of tea and plonked down beside him.  “Well Rags, that was different wasn’t it?”  He listened but none of what she said seemed to relate to food so he tucked his front paws under his chest and drifted off to sleep.  Jenny smiled and sipped her drink, life could be so very lovely couldn’t it, and so surprising.

The end


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Rerun – Rag’s Riches

Chapter 16

Taking tiny little gulps of air she kept as still and quiet as possible. The two men were conferring, the low rumbling of their voices drifted up the stairs from the hall. Her fingers were tightly crossed in the hope that they would think she hadn’t arrived home yet.  Maybe they would hope that they were here before her, lying in wait.  Closing her eyes, Jenny visualised the kitchen, had anything had been left lying about?  She mentally ticked off the stuff that had been on the table.  The umbrella was here beside her, leaning against the back of the wardrobe, the camera hung on its strap, tapping against her side when she moved.  It was a matter of habit and tidiness that coats were always hung straight on the hook, so no problem there. Her damp mac may be dripping on the kitchen floor but surely they wouldn’t have noticed that, they were men after all.

Then the shrill, screaming jangled her overstretched nerves and took her breath completely, the kettle, she had put the kettle on.  It hadn’t even registered that the act had been completed, operating on automatic, fill the pot, plonk it back on the little stand and flick the switch.  Dozens of times a day, hundreds and hundreds of times a year, hands working without conscious thought and now the squealing, steam-driven whistle had betrayed her.  They knew that she was in the house because of the blasted cup of tea that was always her habit on returning to the home.

The automatic cut out killed the screaming noise.  “Lady, lady you here, we know you is here.  We need speak you.  Lady, come on out.”  Oh no, this lady wasn’t coming out.  If they wanted this lady out they would have to drag her screaming and kicking.  “Lady, we no hurt you. Just talking.”  Yes well, she wasn’t born yesterday now was she?

Rags had heard the voices and stiffened, his ears were rotating this way and that, little furry radar antenna seeking out the source of the disturbance.  He eased his muscles, stretching his limbs, full alert, taut and ready.  She didn’t dare move in case he took fright and leapt from her arms.  A dizzy spell swept through her, breathe you fool, she hadn’t realised that she had been holding her breath.  She took a gulp of the heavy air, in spite of the staleness it flooded her body with oxygen, oddly it made the dizziness worse.  She felt herself tip backwards in amongst the old coats.  The hangers rang quietly together.  Jenny and the cat froze at the tiny sound.  Had they heard it? Was it loud enough to carry through the old heavy wooden door and down the stairs?

Now came the heavy tread of their feet, mounting the stairs, running upwards, muttering to each other in a language she couldn’t understand.  She had lived in this house such a very long time and recognised the creaks of each stair and then the click of her own bedroom door.  There followed sounds which she imagined were the men tearing at her clothes in the built-in wardrobe.  Now that really made her cross.  There in the middle of the terrifying, awful afternoon she was cross thinking about the mess that she was going to have to clean up.

They looked into the bathroom, she heard the door smash back against the wall.  Next was the airing cupboard and then she heard them tread into the back room.  It could only be moments now until she was discovered.  She readied herself; Rags picked up on the tension and squirmed in her arms.  Footsteps crossed the floor the old boards creaking with the weight of them.  “Lady, you in here.  I know you in here.  Come out now, we not hurt you , only talking.”  The fastener creaked as they turned it and the tiny crack of light widened as the door was pulled open.

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Rerun – Rag’s Riches

Chapter 15

Spinning around Jenny grabbed the camera, the table clutter and the cat.  Rags was not impressed.  He writhed and pushed against the grip of the old arms and the oddments of junk that were digging into various soft parts of his body.  He was also disturbed by the strange noises that the weird old woman was making “oh, oh, oh, oh my, oh.”

Juggling with the encumbrances Jenny ran for the front door, she was really rather frightened and judged the best form of attack was basically to run away as fast as she possibly could.

Through the lounge and down the tiny hall she fled.  The umbrella caught against the door frame, it would have made sense to just drop the blasted thing, but that didn’t happen.  She hutched it up under her arm and took a tighter grip on everything, including the cat who was now dangling, face forwards down the front of her body.  His back legs swung back and forth around her knees, his front legs were caught by the paw pits under her right arm.  His head writhed and pushed against the front of Jenny’s sweater as he desperately tried to gain purchase somewhere to extricate himself from this mad situation.

There was a patterned glass pane in the top half of the front door and to her absolute horror, Jenny saw the grey and threatening outline of a male figure. The other man from the garage.  “Oh, oh, oh my.”  She spun on her heels and scampered up the narrow staircase.  Flying into the back bedroom she dragged open the wardrobe door and pushed herself in between the old coats and winter jackets stored there.

It was a massive wardrobe, far too big for the room but it had been in the family for generations and thank heavens for it now.  Her fingers closed around the edge of the door and heaved it to behind her.  When she had been a little girl she had once tied a rope to the handle and tried to swing on the resulting loop. Of course the handle had been pulled off and what a dressing down she’d received from Daddy.  He’d repaired it with a big metal plate inside and now she sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his clumsy handiwork that had left great nuts standing proud.  She grabbed hold of one of these protruding metal rings and dragged the door closed.  She heard the little catch click into place.

She was panting now in fear as much as breathlessness.  The old cat was squirming strongly and trying his best to climb up the front of her jumper, his full battery of claws extended and hooked in the open weave of the woollen garment which clicked and unravelled happily in the darkness.  He was growling way down in his throat.  “Shush, shush, oh please hush now Ragsy.  Shhhh, she stroked his ears but he simply flicked his head refusing the caress.  He didn’t like this one bit, he wanted out and he wanted out immediately.  Unhooking the claws, dragging great loops of yarn loose from her top, she lowered him gingerly to the floor.  It was dark and cluttered in the wardrobe and for a moment she was overcome by a nasty dizzy spell.  Leaning back into the heavy wool of the old coats, she could smell the fabric, the remnants of perfume and a slight hint of mothballs.  The agglomeration of homely aromas calmed her somewhat.  She breathed deeply, Rags was scratting now at the bottom of the door in his desperation to be anywhere but here.

She propped the umbrella against the back of the wardrobe, hung the strap of the camera over her shoulder and carefully lifted the old tom and cradled him to her.  He straightened his front legs and pushed back from the stupid human.  Until now he had avoided employing his teeth but he was a whisker away from the final assault.  He spit and hissed and Jenny knew that she was actually in real danger of becoming badly scratched and bitten if she didn’t calm him quickly.  She hugged him to her with both arms and with the ends of her fingers she tickled and stroked at his face, she swayed gently as far as the confined space would allow.  His heart was pounding against his chest wall, she could feel it quite clearly and was overwhelmed with guilt, poor Rags she had frightened him dreadfully.  What a stupid old woman she had become.  Tears jumped to her eyes and trickled down the wrinkled cheeks.  They plopped on the top of the furry head causing him to flick his ears, he lifted his face to hers.  After a moment of breathless quiet he licked just once with his sandpaper tongue at the salt water dripping from her face.  The mad world stilled and cat and human were held in a moment of magic, of understanding and of mutual affection.

She had heard the thumping of the back door as it was swung violently open.  There was crashing and banging downstairs and she squeezed her eyelids tightly closed to avoid more tears as she imagined the damage to her things.  The cat now seemed to have entered some sort of suspended animation state.  He hung heavily in her arms.  She didn’t know whether his eyes were open or not but the manic thunder of his heartbeats had slowed noticeably.  She continued to stroke the ears and forehead as she waited in silent terror for what was to come.

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