Damn!

 

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later; my books The Company of Thieves and Online Cupid were doing well in the Genre Busting category on Amazon until the March of Porn! Online Cupid is still there, The Company of Thieves is gone.

So begins the quest for a new category and visibility.

In the interest of visibility, here’s a free download of Day 1 of Online Cupid,

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Untitled Opening

This is the opening paragraph of the book I’m working on at the moment. I wrote the first draft longhand and have just started putting this on computer, that will be the second draft. Then I’ll do as many as it takes to get it right – which might mean throwing out this paragraph.

* * *

Frank Moran opened the door to his father’s house and stepped out into a glorious morning. Only the raven struck a note of evil. At least that’s how Frank saw it; a moment of darkness, climbing, diving and wheeling in the blue. Beyond the fields, Frank could see the new houses that his father had written to him about – when was that? Jesus, it must have been twenty-five years ago. Beyond the houses, he knew, what was left of the town hung on as best it could. After having been bypassed, the town lost more business when a supermarket complex opened about ten miles away, taking business away from the surrounding towns. For a moment, Frank wondered if there was anything he could do to help the town – his home town – the town that had made him – recover. But he brushed the idea aside, it was just cheap sentiment.

Michelangelo

 

Here’s another short, also unedited.

There’s a tremendous sculpture in a Dublin park, and it began when Mick (it’s a name) needed to dispose of a plastic bottle; I don’t know why he didn’t hang on to it until he found a bin. As he walked along the path beside what we’ll call The People’s Park, swinging the bottle and watching the attractions of the distant carnival, he wondered what the lights would look like through the green plastic. He removed the label and held the bottle to his eyes, giving a green tint to the world. The coloured lights of the carnival now seemed to pulsate and shine brighter. When Mick removed the bottle from his eyes, the world seemed a less interesting place. He became bored again and threw the bottle up in the air; when it came down, the bottle bounced against the railings and slapped Mick in the side of the head. He jumped away, turning and shouting at the bottle for attacking him. He stamped on the bottle with such force it burst in a loud bang. Mick’s heart jumped, his body weakened by the shock of the unexpected noise, he ran away, like a criminal leaving the scene. He will not return to this story, but he left behind the green plastic bottle, and that’s what we’re interested in.

Early next morning, the street sweeper passed with his cart. He swept up the leaves and litter and had started to pick it up with the shovel when he noticed the bottle. He lifted it from the shovel and after dumping the rest of the little into his cart, he held the bottle up to examine it; turning it around in his hand, he found beauty in the distortions where it had been squashed. He put the bottle into a black bin liner that was slung between the handles of his cart, and then continued with his work, and occasionally wondering about the lives of the people who passed by.

He recalled a woman who, one night outside a pub, announced, ‘I work at Tesco head office,’ after she had asked him what he did, and he had answered, ‘Amongst other things, I sweep the streets.’ As soon as the recollection came, he realised that the woman had just passed him by without recognising him, well, maybe she did recognise him. Maybe she remembered that when she had made her announcement, he had asked what she did at Tesco head office, and then listed off all the jobs he could think of, from CEO to toilet cleaner. When she asked what he did, he replied, ‘I make sculptures out of rubbish.

‘Oh wow, that’s so cool. I love ‘found objects’. And what compels you to do that?’

He shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know. I just started doing it. I found interesting looking rubbish at work.’

‘What do you mean, ‘at work’? I thought you said you were a sculptor?’

‘No. I said that amongst other things I make sculptures out of rubbish.’

‘So where did you study?’

‘For making sculptures? I just stuck things together and work on them till they look nice, that’s all.’

‘Oh.’

That ‘Oh’ had been expected. It was usually followed by a polite, and sometimes a not so polite exit. It was sometimes followed by assurances that ‘so you’re not an artist.’ But he couldn’t remember it ever having been followed by her next question.

‘So what do you do for a living?’

Never having encountered this question, he didn’t know how to answer it, not that he was ashamed or embarrassed by his job – and then he realised that he was a little embarrassed, and he didn’t know why, it was honest work, and probably more necessary to the world than whatever it was she did at Tesco head office.

‘I sweep the streets,’ he said, and waited for the inevitable attack. But it didn’t come, instead she said, ‘Oh well done.’ And he had no idea what she meant. He felt it should have been sarcasm, but she seemed sincere, and he wondered if maybe she thought he had deliberately chosen to sweep the streets in order to pursue his art, instead of taking it because it was all he could get; indeed, he had been sweeping the streets for a year before he realised what an important job it actually was.

Thinking of her now, he realised that she had just walked past. He turned to look at her and saw her head turn away. He watched her for a moment before getting on with his job, laughing and thinking again of their meeting. She had promised to promote his art amongst her friends and colleagues at Tesco; nothing ever came of that, but he hadn’t expected anything.

That evening he took the day’s collected rubbish to his shed and sorted the various bits and pieces. Aside from the bottle he had some batteries, the stem from a wine glass, a champagne cork, a dog lead, and a cuddly toy. Not a big haul, but the cuddly toy had burn marks on it and he thought he could make some kind of statement about… something. He wanted his work to make a statement. At the opposite end of the shed, under canvas, was the sculpture he was currently working on. He went over to it a removed the canvas to reveal a mess of rubbish superglued together. He stepped back from it to take it in, and for whatever reason he decided the piece didn’t work; this happened so often he didn’t worry about it anymore. He removed on piece, then another, and another; searching for the art within the rubbish – if Michelangelo could find something of value inside a block of marble, then he could find something of value inside a pile of rubbish. He just had to trust the process.

Two hours later he was still carefully removing pieces and standing back to consider what was left. Finally something told him to stop; the little voice he always obeyed, even though, thanks to that little voice, he had never completed a single sculpture. He stood back now looking at this thing that made no sense to him. He wanted to add something, maybe if he put the plastic bottle on top, like a Christmas tree, of the cuddly toy. He’d pick up one of his pieces and approach the sculpture with the glue, but every time that little voice stopped him before he added a new piece, and he stood back again, feeling defeated.

He thought again about all the people down through the years who had told him to stop wasting his time. He used to think they were just saying that because they had given up on their dreams and didn’t want to see him succeed. But now he wondered if they were right. Maybe he wasn’t a sculptor who worked as a bin man to pay the rent; maybe he was a bin man with delusions of being an artist. After all, he had been turned down for the Outsider Art exhibition a few years earlier because he wasn’t a mental patient or ex-con, this was the organisers stated reason for saying he didn’t qualify as an outsider artist. He didn’t qualify as an insider artist because he hadn’t been to art school.

He sat back, depressed, looking at the pile of rubbish before him. He thought of all the days as a child he had spent putting things together while his classmates were out on the street playing football. He had some regrets now about not joining in; maybe he could have been a footballer, nothing fancy, but it might have been nice to play for his county.

He went to the house and returned with a sixpack of lager. He pushed open the door of the shed and stepped inside, then he stood there looking at the rubbish, trying to see it with different eyes. He turned the light off and stood looking at it in the moonlight to see if that would change it; this was because he had once been at an exhibition where one of the rooms was dark and he looked at the paintings like that for 10 mins before one of gallery staff came in and asked him why he had turned the lights off.

Looking at his own artwork in the dark, a line from a poem he tried to write ran through his head – the sun is shining silver from the surface of the moon. Now adrift on alcohol, he began to wonder exactly what he was trying to achieve. He knew he wanted to create a masterpiece but hadn’t given it any thought beyond that. By the time he had finished the sixpack he realised he had spent his creative life trying to please other people; what would get him into an exhibition? What would sell? What would make people say nice things about him? At no point had he ever simply followed his own sense of beauty. Of course he had realised this before, had argued with himself about it, but always when he sobered up he came to his senses. He went to his desk and wrote on his sketchpad ‘What if you don’t come to your senses?’

The following night, he came home from work, put his sixpack in the fridge, sorted out the rubbish he had collected that day and picked up his sketchpad. It was ripped where a page had been torn out and there was a drawing of a collection of shapes that no sense to him, but that he liked. He went to the sculpture and removed the canvas. It really was a terrible piece of work; six months down the drain. And then he noticed the burst, half-flattened bottle. There was a message inside. He picked up the bottle, took the message out and read it. He had a new idea, probably no one would like it, but so what?

The Kller’s Hand

This is chapter 1 of The Killer’s Hand, an unfinished novel of mine. I don’t recall why I didn’t finish it. I do remember that I didn’t plan anything in this book, I just started writing and tried to figure the story out as I went – something I never do.

Looking at it now, it feels like there might be something there, definitely something to finish when I get the play Godot is written.

* * *

Here it is…

For the second time that night, Donal Kennedy had to get up to use the toilet. He stood above the bowl, one hand leaning against the wall when he heard the phone buzz, amplified by its journey across the bedside locker. He looked over his shoulder and saw the woman turn in her sleep. The phone fell off the edge of the locker and landed softly on his crusty socks. He finished with the toilet, wiped his hands on a towel hanging from the sink and went back to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed and, yawning, picked up the phone. One missed call. There was no need to check. Only one person would be calling him at this hour. It was ten past five and the beginnings of a beautiful day filled the window; and the beginning of a terrible day filled his mind. He called Casey and cut in before his Sergeant had a chance to say anything, ‘Just tell me where.’

‘Stephen’s green, sir, by the statue of Wolff Tone.’

‘Right. Give me half an hour.’

He switched the phone off and put it down on the locker, then lay back on the bed. The woman woke just then. She propped herself up on an elbow and looked down into his soft grey eyes.

‘Work?’

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘You can stay if you like.’

‘No, no, Inspector Kennedy. You get dressed. I’ll make you some coffee.’ She sat up, full of purpose, and looked around for her knickers, but spotted one of Kennedy’s t-shirts and put that on. As Kennedy watched her wiggle out of the bedroom he was almost sorry she was married to someone else.

*

A screen had been erected around the statue and the area cordoned off when Kennedy arrived. Inside the barrier, an elderly man in a dinner suit stood talking to a uniformed Guard. Kennedy sat in his car and rolled a cigarette, trying to remember where he’d seen him before, and then it dawned on him that it was Superintendent Thompson. Bit early for him! Kennedy thought.  He smoked his cigarette and watched the Superintendent issue instruction to the young Guards, and then walk around behind the screen. Kennedy took another drag on the cigarette and leaned it into the ashtray. He picked up the travel mug, unscrewed the lid and drank a mouthful of tepid coffee. He sat a while longer, scanning the few gawkers, and then turned his eyes on the wider area for anyone who might be discreetly watching the operation. He picked his cigarette from the ashtray and relit it. Between drags he looked at the buildings in his line of vision, searching for anything that might come in useful later on.

Right, time to move. He opened the car door and a cycle courier swerved to avoid being hit.

‘Sorry, sorry.’ Kennedy raised a placating hand.

The courier cycled on, leaving a stream of curses in his wake. Where was he going at six in the morning? Kennedy closed the car door, locked it and crossed the road. He nodded ‘Good Morning’, to the Guards on duty and passed behind the screen.

Sergeant Casey and the Superintendent were in conference with a third man, a small man with receding hair line, but whose belly was advancing to make up the difference.

‘Good Morning, sir.’ Casey went over to his boss.

‘Morning, Casey. So what have we got?’

‘A hand, sir?’

Kennedy took a mental step back. ‘A hand?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘You’ve checked the hospitals?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘Of course you have.’

For a moment the Inspector seemed lost, then he asked, ‘Why is Thompson in the Monkey suit?’

Casey looked over at the Superintendent, still talking to the little man. ‘There was a do in the Shelbourne last night, some charity thing. He must have stayed over.’

‘Right.’ Kennedy nodded. ‘And who’s that with him?’

‘That’s a Dr. Martin, sir-‘

‘New Pathologist?’

‘Witness.’

Kennedy brightened. ‘Well that’s something, isn’t it? What do you make of him?’

‘Not much. He says he was out for a walk-’

‘Out for a walk? Does he look like someone who does a lot of walking, Casey?’

Casey shook his head. ‘No sir.’

‘No, he doesn’t. Right, let’s have a look and let these people get out of here.’

As the crossed over to the statue Kennedy asked, ‘Where does he live?’

‘Terenure.’

‘Terenure? That’s fucking miles away … Right.’

The pathologist was hunkered down on one side of the statue. Kennedy walked around to the other side. A severed hand lay between them, palm upwards, like it was waiting to receive an award.

‘Kylie.’

She looked up and met his eyes. ‘Were you on the piss last night?’

‘No. What do we know?’

‘Well,’ She turned her attention back to the severed hand. ‘Without a proper examination, what I can tell you is that it was cut using either a meat cleaver, or a small hatchette.’

‘A small Hachette?’

‘And not a very sharp one either. It looks like it took a few blows-’

‘Jesus.’

‘Yes, and you see these.’ She took a pen and followed a line of cuts and bruises along the wrist.

‘Handcuffs?’

‘More like wire. You see where it cuts into the skin here? She pointed to a deep cut below the thumb. ‘And here?’ She pointed to a similar cut at the other side of the wrist. ‘There’s been weight put on it. I would expect to find similar marks on the left hand.’

Kennedy shook his head.

‘And now,’ Kylie said. She turned the hand over. Small circular burn marks covered the skin; some had been there for years, some for only a few days. ‘What we have here,’ she said, ‘is someone who has been tortured. Given the marks on the wrists and the fact that these burn marks are only on this side, I’d say this belongs to someone whose hands were tied above their head, like this.’ She held her arms up, wrists together, above her head. ‘And someone stubbed cigarettes out on them. The other interesting this is that the fingernails,’ she lifted the hand to show him, ‘are spotless.’

‘Someone cleaned them?’

‘Someone cleaned this entire hand and then placed it here.’

‘Right.  Ok, thanks Kylie. How soon can you let me have a set of prints?’

‘Fingerprints? I don’t think there’ll be any.’

‘No, I mean the ones that came with it?’

‘You can send someone down.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Can I-’

‘Yeah, yeah, it’s all yours.’

Kennedy stood up with a sinking feeling. He could already hear the jokes on Liveline – Severed hand found in Dublin – Gardi are looking for a one-armed bandit. Christ!

He turned to his Super who wore his usual pained look.

‘Good morning, sir.’ He went over and spoke to the other man. ‘You would be Dr. Martin?’

‘That’s right.’ Dr. Martin reached out to shake hands.

Kennedy ignored the gesture. ‘Our only witness.’

‘Well, no. There was a girl.’

Kennedy turned to Casey, ‘Yes sir. Jogging. I’ve got a statement.’

‘Ok.’ He looked back at the doctor. ‘And you walked here from Terenure?’

‘No, I was staying with some friends-’

‘I see. I was thinking, it’d be a long walk on a cold night dressed like that.’

The Doctor suddenly focused, he stood a little straighter. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing.’ Kennedy shook his head. He stood for a few seconds wondering at the doctor’s discomfort, and then said, ‘Well, you’ve given a statement so, would you like someone to drop you home?’

‘No, no. My car’s around the corner.’

‘Well, don’t leave the country.’ Kennedy smiled and his whole face changed into a mask of benevolence.

‘No, I won’t go anywhere. Good morning Superintendent.’ He turned and walked away. When he had cleared the screen, Kennedy gave the nod to Casey, who winked at his boss and followed the doctor.

‘Good party, sir?’

‘Not bad. Your old friend was there, writing another big cheque.’

Kennedy tried to think of anyone he knew who could write a big cheque. ‘What old friend?’

‘Vinny Hanratty.’

Kennedy looked away, disgusted. ‘He’s no firend of mine.’

‘Well, he sends his best. Reminded us all again that you saved his life.’

‘Bastard.’

‘What’s up?’Kennedy turned to Casey beside him. ‘Nothing, Casey, nothing. What did you find out?’

‘Aston-Martin. I’ve got the reg.’

‘Right. And look,’ he pointed to a CCTV camera at the corner of Baggot Street. ‘Check that out.’

‘Right, sir.’ Casey turned to go.

‘Oh and Casey?’

‘Sir?’

‘Call whoever runs this place.’ He waved vaguely towards the park. ‘Get someone down here with keys, but they’re not to let anyone in.’

Casey turned to leave a second time.

‘Casey?’

‘Sir?’ He turned back.

‘Get a team down here. I want them ready to do a search as soon as I’ve had some breakfast.’

‘Right sir.’ He stood waiting to see if the Inspector would think of anything else.

‘Did you want something else?’ Kennedy asked.

‘No, sir. I just thought you might.’

Kennedy shook his head. ‘No no, that’s it for now.’

‘Right sir.’ Casey nodded and left, half expecting his boss to call him back.

Kennedy turned back to the Superintendent. ‘I don’t want some tourist finding a big toe or anything like that.’

‘If there are more parts to be found.’ Thompson added.

‘Yeah … Right, I’m going to get some breakfast.’

The two men started walking towards the Shelbourne. ‘I’ll be in the office by eight, let me know how things are going.’ Thompson said.

‘Shit.’

‘Kennedy?’

‘Sorry sir, I’ve just, I’ll talk to you later.’

Kennedy walked back towards the scene and collared a Guard who was just about to go off duty.

‘When you get back to the station, get someone to check online, all the video sites, see if anyone’s posted videos of severed hands in the last few hours.’

‘Yes sir.’

Breakfast hadn’t started yet in the shop across from the park, so Kennedy bought some bread, ham and cheese. He went back, sat into his car and made up some sandwiches. As he ate he thought about the hand lying on the ground. He had the horrible feeling that this was the beginning of something much worse. If the hand had been dropped then surely whoever dropped it would have heard a slap when it hit the ground, and picked it up. Yet there it was, fresh and clean on the dirty ground. Maybe the CCTV would give him what he needed. He was compiling a mental list of questions to put up on the board later, when a rap on the window jumped him back to the present. It was Casey. A team had been assembled to search the park.

They began with the area behind the statue, where a pack of bronze dogs were frozen forever in what Kennedy always thought of as a savage attack. The team slowly worked their way around the edges of the park, drawing curious looks from pedestrians passing by outside, and commuters waiting for the LUAS. The longer they searched without finding anything, the more Kennedy felt depressed by the idea that he was right. By nine o’clock they had finished, the bags had been collected from the bins and removed to various Garda Stations around the city for a thorough search. But Kennedy knew now that nothing would be found. He sat on a bench, took out his tobacco and papers and rolled a cigarette.

‘What do you think is going on here?’ He asked Casey.

‘Don’t know, sir.’

‘Neither do I.’ He sat for a while smoking and thinking, and then asked, ‘Have you got a room set up?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘Right.’ He dropped the cigarette and stood up. ‘Let’s get on with it.’

 

Kennedy always hated the incident room, because it always mean trouble for some innocent party; some father, mother, sister, brother, lover, going about their day because they didn’t know that sometime soon a Guard was going to turn up, delivering the sort of pain no-one should ever have to deal with.

He slammed the doors open, and charging through the room, announced, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. We have three principal questions that I want answered as quickly as possible: Who? Who? and Why?’ He stopped when he reached the white board at the far end, and turned to the assembled Guards. ‘Who does this hand belong to? Who cut it off, and why?’

‘It’s probably just some fucking rag-head; they cut hands off, don’t they?’ The comment brought agreement from some of the surrounding Guards.

Kennedy cut them off. ‘ALRIGHT.’ He watched the room turn to him and silence followed. ‘Those of you who have worked with me before know that I am sweetness and light.’ A kind of violence settled over the room. ‘For those who haven’t, that’s the last time anyone makes any of those comments. I don’t care about your private feelings, but leave them outside if you want to have a job in the morning. Is that understood?’

He held their eyes a moment, leaving each man and woman certain that he, Kennedy, could destroy their career.

‘Now, as you may know, the search of the park turned up nothing, so we’re going to go with the working hypothesis that the hand wasn’t dropped there, it was placed there. If that’s true then it was placed there for a reason.

‘Our only verified witness is a Dr. Martin. He says there was a woman jogger on the scene before him. If he’s telling the truth, then who is she? Why did she leave? Is someone on that?

‘Here!’ A red haired giant at the back of the room up his hand up.

‘Paki, what have you found out?’

‘I’ve spoken to some of the taxi drivers-’

‘Why haven’t you spoken to all of them?’

‘Because they weren’t all there, sir.’

‘Ok, and what did they have to say for themselves?’

‘There is a woman they see jogging every morning around that time-’

‘Did you get a description?’

Paki flipped through his notebook and read, ‘Not much of one, sir, blonde hair, nice arse, no tits.’

‘That’s the best they can do, is it?’

Another voice else called out, ‘I thought those fuckers knew everything?’

Someone answered, ‘So do they.’

Against a background of laughter and chatter on the wisdom of taxi drivers, Kennedy turned to Casey, ‘Sketch artist turned up yet?’

‘Due in now.’

Kennedy turned back to the room.

‘Paki, go find the sketch artist and get down to Dr. Martin’s. Casey will give you the address.’

Casey walked down the room and Kennedy continued with his briefing.

‘Where was I? If this hand was left there as a message, Jack, look into criminal gangs, find out if there’s any internal feuds we need to know about. Any friction between gangs. Do we need to get ready for a war?’

Jack stood up and took his jacket from the back of the chair. ‘Eh, boss?’

‘Yeah?’

‘Do you want me to talk to Billy Farrell or will you take him?’

‘No. I’ll pay him a visit later on.’

‘Right.’

Jack left the room.

Twilight of the Vampire

 

I found this while I was doing some housekeeping on the computer. It’s three years old. Enjoy.

* * *

‘Looka me goolies!’

Bella Weller sparkled like a teenage Vampire, she was sixteen, going on seventeen and had never seen anyone’s goolies before. The goolies in question belonged to Henry Hastings XXIII, he was six thousand and sixteen, going on six thousand and seventeen, but he moisturised and kept out of the sun. Exposing himself to young girls in the park was one of the few pleasures he took in death.

Now it was Henry’s turn to sparkle. Bella was the first person who had not run away screaming since a young English girl in Switzerland. She was running wild with wilder men who were high on their own genius. She was writing a novel and having trouble with her dangling modifiers. Henry, being illiterate as well as profoundly stupid, asked if she would like to see his dangling modifier. He whipped it out before she had time to explain. She watched, waiting for something to happen. When nothing did she said, ‘Ah, I see you’re a Vampire.’

‘How can you tell?’

‘Oh my dear boy, you’re as limp as leftover lettuce.’

Henry’s eyes filled with blood. He pounced, magnificent, upon her neck. But before he could do any damage, he was set on fire by Lord Byron and spent two hundred years in recovery.  After that, Henry bought a trench coat and lurked. This is how he started the Great Fire of London, the Chicago Fire, and the Permissive Society.

Henry and Bella lay by the river. He pointed to the sky and drew pictures in the stars. He told her their names and their histories. He told her of his remorse for having blinded Homer. He told her of his sadness at being so misunderstood. He praised her manly beauty and promised her eternity. Again, Bella sparkled, (she had very few responses, it was basically sparkle and pout) she sat up and turned, putting her hand on his chest.

‘Jesus!’ she cried, pulling her hand away, ‘you’re really fucking cold.’

‘I can’t help it,’ he said. ‘My Father didn’t love me, and my Mother died before I was born.’

‘No. I mean you’re fucking freezing.’

He looked away. He was hurt. He thought about crying, but that didn’t always do the trick. He felt Bella’s arm slide around his neck, her body cover his.

‘I’ll keep you warm,’ she said. ‘I’ll keep you warm with my passion, and with my young teenage body.’

She began to move her young teenage body, rocking her hips back and forth. She could feel the love shining from his eyes.  He touched her hand and she screamed. She looked down and saw her finger frozen. She tried to close her fist. The finger broke away. She jumped up, terrified, screaming, ‘Who’s going to marry me now?’

Henry panicked. He knew from experience that being dry humped in the twilight by a marriage minded maiden could only end badly. He sat up, lit a cigarette and watched her stride to the river and back again. She was waving the stump of her finger at passers-by, shouting at them, ‘Would you marry someone like this?’ She went up to Henry ‘What the fuck are you doing? Those things will kill you.’ He shrugged his shoulders.

‘You have to marry me,’ she shouted. ‘No one else is going to marry a freak like me. You’re the one who made me less than perfect. You’re going to have to marry me. Don’t fucking look at me like that. First thing in the morning, you get your arse up to my father’s house, and you ask permission, I’m not getting married without his permission, you ask his permission, and don’t take no for an answer. You’re the one who made me less than perfect. You’re the one who has to marry me. Give me that.’ She took the cigarette from his mouth and stood smoking, shaking her head. She looked at him, ‘Some fucking Valentine’s Day. Prick!’ She spat.

‘I never thought you were perfect,’ he said. He saw the horror rise in her. ‘I never thought you were perfect,’ he said, ‘until now.’

She looked at him, disgusted. She mumbled something that made him afraid. ‘What did you say?’ he asked.

‘I said, prick! You’re no fucking Lord Byron!’ She flicked the cigarette at him. He scrambled up the riverbank to the road and was hit by a car. His body took flight and fell at her feet. She heard his bones break on the rocks. She kneeled at his side, suddenly filled with love. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you. I’ll give you everything you need.’ Gently she turned him over. ‘I love you.’

‘No,’ he said.

He sank his teeth into her neck, drained her blood and left her corpse where it fell.

Aaron Dreamed of Flying

 

(This is a first draft.)

Aaron dreamed of flying. He felt the slow-motion drift of his body rising and he felt the wind about him; he saw his body through the roof of the car below and the birdshit on the roof. Mostly he saw the sorrow of traffic: cars trucks busses, even the motorbikes, apparent rebels riding each one, were not immune – the long wait with engine running the sudden lurch forward and then driving for ten or twenty feet, in the hope that they would still have fuel by the time the road cleared enough to do more than crawl.

Aaron’s head dropped and hit the horn. He sat up, looking around, a spasm of thought, his eyes half dark with anger at having been pulled from the sky. A moment and he reached into the glove compartment for a peppermint to hide his breath. He popped the sweet into his mouth and opened the sunroof, then rolled down the window. He stifled a yawn as he realised there was a beautiful woman in the next car over. He looked away, preparing to turn back to try to get her attention. Then he felt the cold trail of sweat roll down the side of his face; embarrassed now, he felt the sweat under his arms. He reached over to the passenger’s side window, but only to try and check how badly his shirt was stained. With this operation complete, and having satisfied himself that his armpits looked ok, he began to turn back to the woman.

He stopped and pretended to study something on the dashboard. It had suddenly come to him that she would not be there; that the traffic would have moved on and she would have been replaced with an old woman, a spoilt child or a flamboyant homosexual who would blow a kiss to Aaron when he smiled, and how could he then explain that the smile was for a beautiful young woman.

Aaron wiped the sweat from his face and turned. She was still there, but her head was bowed and he assumed she was reading a book. He thought about tapping on her window and just saying hello, but first he wanted to get a look at whoever was on the other side of her. Maybe she had a jealous husband, or a jealous lover, or both, maybe the husband was driving the car and the lover was in the back.

He had to stop thinking like this. He looked at her again; she was a perfectly ordinary woman. The thought depressed him. He didn’t want a perfectly ordinary woman; he wanted an Amazon, a petite Amazon, really. The woman across from him was neither petite nor an Amazon. But … She was reading a book in a traffic jam, and he had to give her credit for that. He considered all the books she might be reading, he hoped for something cool but it was probably chick-lit. He found himself grinning at her and then he noticed the hint of a smile, the slight curl at the edge of her lips. He made up his mind to knock on her window, just as he lifted his hand her car began to move.

‘No,’ he shouted. In the same moment he hit the back window or the car and pulled his hand away, knocking his elbow against the central pillar of his car. His arm jerked away and he punched the bit that surrounds the window.

He pulled his arm back into the car as the traffic moved around him and the cars behind started blowing their horns. He was still nursing his hand a few minutes later when he realised they were blowing their horns at him. He pressed down on the accelerator and when nothing happened he took a minute to remember he had turned the engine off. He turned the key in the ignition, but nothing happened. He tried again and still nothing happened, When his third attempt failed he half turned to face the cars behind him, smiling an apology and cursing himself under his breath.

He tried again, getting desperate now that he could hear the helicopter. Traffic on the bridge was packed so tightly that if a car broke down, it completely stopped the flow of traffic in that lane. The only solution he had ever seen was the helicopter. At first it was just a sound, so faint you wouldn’t be sure you heard anything at all. Then the sound of chopping the air, and the helicopter appeared. It flew in low over the other cars, its magnet swinging its slow descent, almost touching the roofs of the other cars as it passed, and then Aaron was sitting in darkness and noise as the helicopter stopped above him. He tried to hide, crouching down, and trying to climb under the dashboard. Then the roof caved in a little when the magnet made contact. And as the car began to rise, gently swaying its way into the sky, a feeling of wellbeing came over Aaron; this was his dream come true. He sat up and looked around, smiling as he realised he was finally getting off the bridge. He could not remember a time before the bridge, he could not remember driving onto the bridge, but now he was leaving, rising into the sky and being carried along to… He became afraid. What if there was nothing else? What if there was only the bridge? All traffic moved in the same direction. What if there was a beginning but no end? That was ridiculous, he thought. He rolled down his window and looked out; there was nothing below him now but the clouds, and nothing above him but the sound of the helicopter he could no longer see. His car disappeared as it was absorbed by the clouds and Aaron was left floating naked and free. He thought about moving to his left, and found himself floating in that direction, he thought about another direction, and his movement changed. He was flying and wondered if it was a dream.

Soul.

Reap

 

This is a quote from my book The Company of Thieves.