Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hors d'Oeuvres

Harold rubbed his eyes. "Do we have to have guests for dinner?" he said. "I didn't get much sleep last night and I'm bushed."

"After I've made all this food?" Jasfoup indicated the table in the Great Hall. Thirty running feet of oak, every inch of it laded with platters covered in clingfilm. Harold peeled open a plate of hors d'oeuvres. "These deep fried cheese sticks are lovely," he said. "Crunchy."

Jasfoup flapped his pinny at him. "This is for the guests," he said. "The ambassador and his retinue."

"The ambassador?" Harold popped the rest of the snack in his mouth. "It's Azazel. He's a demon lord."

"Tch! Technicalities." Jasfoup re-covered the plate. "And that wasn't a cheese stick. It was a deep-fried scorpion sting. Now go and put on evening suit."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Criminal Acts

Jasfoup eyed the remnants of the man with some distaste. "I'm not touching that," he said. "It's all... icky."

"That's fine for you to say." The ghost folded his arms and stared down at his mortal remains which, at the moment, amounted to bones, flesh like the inside of a drain and a gallon of decomposition fluids. They zipped me into a suitcase and left me in the boot of a car. I've had to watch myself swim in that foetid gloop after the air ran out. I wouldn't have minded but you should see the number of parking tickets on the windscreen."

"That's the NCP for you," said the demon. "It's criminal, their daily rate. Look, I'm sorry I didn't collect you at the time. It clashed with something."

"For three months?" The ghost shook his head. "Look, all I'm asking is to take the letter from my jacket pocket and take it to my girlfriend. Post it, even. I don't care."

"Okay. Fine. Just go, already. You're late for your appointment with Eternity." The demon watched the spirit sink into the concrete before walking away. He took a final look as he phoned the police. So he lied? So what. At least the letter would be delivered by someone who carried latex gloves.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Leaving Heaven

Harold stared at the spot. "That's an amazingly thin line," he said. "What's it doing here?"

"Not a lot," said Jasfoup. "Just hanging in space."

"How very odd." Harold walked all the way around it. "It's as if someone used a very fine pen to draw upon the air molecules." He looked down. "It's not even connected to anything. It's just hanging in mid air." He went to touch it but Jasfoup, with reflexes honed from avoiding the whips of his elders in his days as a minor demon, grabbed his wrist.

"Ow!" Harold pulled away. "Why did you do that?"

"Because it's not just a line," said the demon. "It's a fracture. It's be like passing your hand through cheesewire. You know how earthquakes are caused by two tectonic plates push against each other?"

"I do. One continent tries to hump another and all the houses fall like dominoes on a wobbly table."

"Exactly. Well this is a fracture line between planes. Ours has pulled away from another."

"Fascinating. Which plane is the earth pulling away from?"

"Ah! I need something really thin." He summoned an imp. "Devious? Fetch me two palate knives."

Armed with the two thin blades, Jasfoup inserted them into the fracture and prised open the line far enough to see into. A line of bright light fell vertically across his face and he shrieked, letting go of the knives.

A line of skin smoked. "Heaven," he gasped. "The mortal plane is pulling away from Heaven."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

BST

The insistent beeping of the alarm on her mobile phone woke her before she was ready, and Gillian lay in bed for a few extra minutes, savouring the warm earth before venturing into the cold air of the crypt. Finally, the ache in her bladder and the gnawing hunger in her belly forced her to push the heave stone lid to one side and climb out into the darkness of the mausoleum, though movement detectors switched on the hundred LED fairy lights Harold had installed as a surprise on her last rebirthday.

'Why,' she wondered as she used the recently installed convenience, 'did vampires even need to pee? You never saw Edward relieving himself in Twilight.

She did her exercise routine before heading out of the door, momentarily surprised by the beautiful sunset before she burst into flame, not even noticing Haold's note pinned to the outside of the mausoleum:

Don't forget to put your clocks forward – daylight savings time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WIP excerpt

Inspector White guessed the cause of death would be recorded as 'exsanguination' thanks to the youth of the assistant coroner. Eric Chambers, who headed the Laverstone Pathology Unit was away sunning himself on the French Riviera until Tuesday next. Lucky sod. At least he'd left the half competent Rupert Simms in charges and not the wet and terminally annoying Liz Browning.

"Ah, Mr. White." Simms glanced up as he approached. "This is an interesting case. This poor chap was exsanguinated."

White squatted next to the body. "In my day we'd have called it 'bled out'."

"Which would indicate a free-flowing wound." Simms pulled the meat thermometer from the dead man's liver. "Ninety-two. That makes death four to six hours ago. Between one and three in the morning." He stood up. "No, this poor bugger had his blood meticulously removed, every drop." He looked up. "Hence my use of a word normally associated with the sensationalist press."

"Are those puncture wounds in his carotid?"

"Indeed they are." Simms pulled back the sheet. "Not from a vampire, either, before you make the obvious jokes. Look at the bruising on his chest."

"Pre-mortem?"

Simms sucked air through his teeth. "Yes and no. It was caused by someone administering CPR."

"They tried to save his life?"

"I don't think so. I think there was a jar held to his neck here." Simms pointed the a series of thin horizontal lines. "A screw top jar, in all likelihood, and then CRP performed to pump the remaining blood out after the heart had stopped."

"An accomplice?" Inspector White stood up. "I thought this case was a single killer and now we have two?"

Simms nodded. "It looks that way. The good news is we have a partial hand print on the victim's shirt."

"We do? Excellent." White checked the corpse's pockets. "Any idea on the victim's identity?"

"Not yet, though I can tell you he's missing a thumb."

"How odd." White frowned. "We found a single thumbprint in the Portman murder last week."

Simms nodded. "I think you've got a serial killer on your hands."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Give me a B...


Julie dropped an information pack on Harold's desk. Despite his policy of 'You can come to me anytime' there was an unwritten addendum stating 'except when I'm playing 'Armageddon 2'*'. "Is there a provision for health insurance on the employee contracts?"

Harold pressed pause and picked up the paperwork. "At a guess I'd say it was called income tax, National Insurance contributions and the NHS," he said, "but I suspect you're going to tell me otherwise."

"Did you know that a woman doing my job in America would be entitled to private health insurance as a matter of course?"

"A woman doing your job in America would never be able to put the books back on the shelves," said Harold, "but I appreciate that an American woman doing a similar job might be in receipt of health insurance, yes."

"Well we all want private health insurance."

"I see," Harold clasped his hands together and made a steeple of his fingers. "Okay. Firstly, you're the only official employee, the rest are migrant demonic familiars. Secondly, you're the one who wrote your contract of employment and thirdly, you can have private health insurance by all means. Go and have a word with Jasfoup. He'll sort out the requisite paperwork."




both oxymoron and pleonasm but when did accuracy ever inhibit a computer game publisher from making a fast deer?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And I Don't have to Wear Speedos

Jasfoup surveyed the damage. It was, technically, a minor explosion but it had taken off the boy's right hand and leg, and both his testacles. He leaned down and pressed a finger to the boy's neck. Alive but in shock and Jasfoup could already hear footsteps coming up the stairs. The lad would survive.

"Am...am I dead?"

"Nope." Jasfoup used a stylus to tick off a box on his smartphone. "You were really lucky. I don't even want to know why you had an M80 flash grenade up your bum."

"It wasn't..." The lad squeezed his eyes shut in pain. "If I'm not dead, why are you here? I thought the devil only came for the dead?"

Jasfoup tutted. "First, I'm a demon, not a devil and second, I have a part time job as a lifeguard."

"Lifeguard?"

"Yes. I visit stupid people and tell them to get out of the gene pool." He put his phone back in his pocket. "But I see you've done that for me."




True Story: 2009 Darwin Award: Muffled Explosion

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Thin White Lord

Felicia looked at the clock when her stomach rumbled, wondering if it was lunchtime yet but 10:15 was a little early. She glanced into the gallery as she reached for the coffee, spotting a tall, thin gentleman in a white suit. Improbable at the best of times but could it be..?

He turned as if he'd felt her watching and she let out her held breath. No, he was too thin even for him and he didn't have odd eyes. She opened the door. "Can I help you sir?"

He strode forward, offering his hand. His smile reminded her of old cadavers, their skin stretched taught across bone and his handshake was impossibly strong, despite their thinness. "My dear lady," he said, his voice carrying the twin accents of English and Arabic, the traditional 'gentleman abroad'. "I do hope so. I was told you had an original Giacometti... So beautiful..."

"I do, actually, though it's quite expensive." Felicia showed him into gallery three, there the stick thin sculpture of a dog stood on a plinth.

"So beautiful," the man said again. "I had one just like it, for a short time."

"As thin as that?" Felicia frowned. "But..."

"My card." He handed her a piece of plastic with the image of a feather etched into it. "You can call me Raheb. I believe you know my sister Jedith."

"But Jedith's one of the Four..." Felicia gulped. "Oh."

"Quite."

"May I offer you a coffee?"

"Please. Black, no sugar." Rahab patted his hollowed chest. "No calories for me."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Casual Friday

"We should do this every week." Felicia grinned as she slid into the drivers seat and slipped the key into the ignition. "Friday night cinema was a great idea."

"Yes," said Julie, "but let's skip the 3D films in future. I've only got the one good eye and it rather spoils the effect."

"Sorry. I didn't think when I booked it. The White Queen reminded me of someone though..."

"Gillian, when she thinks no-one is watching and stops acting normal?"

"Maybe." Felicia creased her nose. "It'll come to me." She pulled out of the cinema and into the Holland Park Drive-through. "Burger or chicken?"

"Chicken please." They ate going along, the powerful V8 engine eating the miles between Cambridge and Laverstone.

"Shit." Felicia pulled into a lay-by. "The film was an hour longer than I thought. The moon's coming up and I'm about to change. You'll have to drive."

"I'm only a learner still." Julie slid to the driver's seat while Felicia went around, her bones already twisting as she got back in. She would down the window before she lost use of her hands. Julie watched anxiously as the change progressed, checked the mirrors and pulled off.

She glanced across at Felicia a few minutes after they got going again. "I can handle the stress of driving on a provisional licence," she said, "though goodness knows what a police officer would say if we got pulled over. What I can't understand is why a werewolf has to hang her head out of the window and let her jowls flap in the breeze."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dreams can come True

Millicent Slater gazed at the posters of her heroes for one last, lingering moment before the clicked off the bedside lamp. She sank into the sheets and sighed, looking across at Whiskers the gerbil silhouetted against the streetlit curtains. "Double history tomorrow. I wish a vampire would visit me in the night," she said, "and whisk me away from this crappy life."

It was almost a pity her dream came true. Half true, at least. She was indeed visited by a vampire, but he didn't whisk her away. It was more of a 'spread your intestines around the room and drink your blood' kind of affair. For Millicent, anyway.

At least she didn't have to hand in her history essay.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jasfoup's Dribbles





This is a short book of one hundred 100-word drabbles (flash fiction)
with sections about each of the main characters

Demon Kin

Gillian screamed as another contraction rippled through her. There was, Harold decided, no more terrifying sound than a vampire's screams of pain. If God had had any hand in his birth, Harold would have thanked Him for not making him a woman.

He flung open the bedroom door. "More bags of blood!" he said, "and keep tem coming."

Inside again he looked into Azazel's face. The arch demon was calm to the point of meditation; a sharp contrast to Gillian who was quite literally sweating blood. "Will she be all right?" he asked.

Azazel opened golden eyes, a vanity he was recently enamoured of. "I expect so," he said. "If not, I'll have at least learned a little more about supernatural genetics."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nocturnally Yours

"Why do they shut their doors so fiercely?" asked Felicia on a rare family holiday to the Hebrides. "Anyone would think them afraid."

"They're afraid of the nocturnal creatures." Gillian was still stiff from being in the car all the previous night followed by a coffin all day. Bones popped as she stretched.

"What? Foxes and moths?"

"No, silly." Frederick lit his pipe. "Us. They're afraid of vampires, werewolves, hosts and demons."

"But we're still here in the daytime," said Harold. "Gillian's the only nocturnal one among us. The rest of us are booked in at the hotel suite for the whole week."

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Customer is Always...


Harold frowned at himself in the mirror and then stopped, because it made his eyebrows look like hungry, book-eating caterpillars. He tried pulling up his top lip to expose his teeth, twisting his mouth to one side and catching his top lip under his bottom row of teeth. It was only then he realised the stylist had finished his conversation and was stood behind him, staring at Harold's gurning in the mirror.

"You've got lovely hair," said Gerald, electing to pretend there was nothing unusual about Harold's activity. The customer was always right, they said, especially when they were rich. "How would you like it styled?"

"Elegantly," said Harold. "Like a pirate."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Numbers Game


"You'll never win anything," said Jasfoup as Harold paid for six cards. "It's a numbers game. You've got more chance of being run over by a giant armadillo than of winning more than your original stake."

"It doesn't matter," said Harold. "It's fun. Anyway, my dog was run over once."

"By a giant armadillo?"

"No. By a VW Beetle.

"Well then."

"Why wouldn't I win anything? Someone has to win and I've as much chance as the next man."

"The next man yes." Jasfoup eyed the hall. "But this is bingo and I can see your mother on table three."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Religious Persecution

Meinwen narrowed her eyes at the pint of Guinness she'd just been served. "Any why, pray tell, is the Guinness green?" she asked.

The barman stood back, grinning so hard it looked like his jaw would drop off. "It's St. Patrick's day," he said. "All the beer's green to celebrate."

Meinwen pushed the glass back across the counter. "Then I'll have bottled beer instead," she said. "I'll not celebrate a man who was sainted for killing pagans."

"Pagans?" The bartender wore a bemused look. "Nah. He got rid of the snakes."

"Aye. Snakes being the worshippers of non-Christian gods." Meinwen stood. "Forget the drink."

Blunt Force Trauma

Eric Chambers pointed out the indentations on the deceased's skull. "Something about twelve inches long," he said. "Tapered with vertical ridges at the thick end."

DI White frowned. "A bit short for a murder weapon, isn't it? Usually it's a crowbar or a golf club."

"I could make an impression of it, if you like."

White's reply was interrupted by one of pathology interns, the one with the glasses White could never remember the name of. "There's something odd in the pelvis on the x-ray, sir." He held up a film, causing Eric's eyebrows to rise.

"Looks like our murder weapon." He turned the body over and used a pair of reverse forceps to open up the anus. "Pass the torch would you?"

White passed it over, trying not to look. He could cope with traffic accidents, missing heads, eviscerated torsos... but a man's anus was out of his comfort zone. Not that he was homophobic, or anything. Far from it. It just wasn't for him.

"Ah! I see it." Eric used what looked like an extendable clamp to fish the object out. "It's a vibrator," he said. "Here you go, Cameron."

White took a step backwards. "Would you mind washing it first?"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Terminal Laughter

Anna winced at the sound of laughter issuing from the open window as she pushed open the gate. Whatever the cause of the merriment – and she could distinguish three distinct voices – it would be washed away like sea foam when she delivered her news. She hesitated at the door. Use the bell or give the traditional copper's flat-hand knock? Given the nature of her visit, she opted for the former, holding the button down until the hall light came on. She had a moment to compose her features before the door was opened by a cherry-faced woman wearing a pair of comedy breasts.

Anna pulled out her warrant card. "Mrs. Alicia Ruttle? I'm Detective-sergeant Wilde. I'm sorry to inform you that your husband's been involved in an accident."

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Death of Abasi

Mummified Monkey Hybrid, c2500 BC

Not a monkey hybrid at all but an imp, tortured to death.

That's not what it said on the little plaque but Jasfoup knew. He remembered the fellow from his early days in Egypt, when he was still an apprentice demon and was being shown the ropes by Belphegor. Part of your apprenticeship in those days was to serve time in the Seven Kingdoms – Egypt, Greece, Rome, Peru, Byzantium, China and Dulwich.

You had to learn to be a demon the hard way in the old days. None of these teach yourself books and videos like the modern demons had. When Jasfoup learned his trade it was from the best. Ashtaroth had taught him the basics of Egyptology and the concept of bargaining and then whisked him off to 2500 BC quick as you liked.

Abasi had been an imp serving Menkaura in those days. His crime had been to warn the pharaoh of an assassin, so that the young king neatly circumvented to prophesy of the oracle at Buto that had predicted he would only rule six years. As vengeance the Egyptian gods took his daughter and hid her from him inside the wooden carving of a bull.

She died, of course, much to the distress of both Menkaura and Abasi. The pharaoh had the imp interred inside another coffin with a ring of wards to prevent him opening the gate. The imp lasted another five years untilhis master was successfully assassinated by the soldiers of the One God. Abasi died with the screams of Menkaura ringing in his ears.

Then in1837 Richard Vyse excavated him from his master's pyramid ay Gisa and put him on display in the British Museum.

There's justice for you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dragon Flight

"I'm sorry." Azazel turned away and pretended to study the cover of 'The Psychology of Relationships'. "I can't afford the emotional investment needed to keep you. I have to let you go."

"Let me go where?" Lucifer frowned. "I'm not an employee, you know. I am – was – your lover, up until a couple of months ago when you had your pity party and stormed out."

"Let you go. Allow you your freedom. Oh, I know you're beautiful, and intelligent, and marvellous in bed, and what you can do with a rubber hose is nothing short of miraculous but you need to fly."

Lucifer frowned. "I've gone. I went ages ago. I wouldn't be here at all if you hadn't left your cock expander at my house."

"Oh!" Azazel put the back of his hand to his brow. "Blame me if you must. I shall be the scapegoat of our relationship!"

Lucifer shook his head. "You're the god of scapegoats, old bean," he said. "And to be fair, it was you who stormed out over an argument over Heidelberg vs Wittgenstein and which one was the better darts player. I do blame you. You didn't phone me for six weeks."

"Then go!" Azazel wiped away an imaginary tear. "Just... buy me lunch first?"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Town House

Anna adored the three-storey town house she bought with the proceeds from selling her mother's house. She'd fallen in love with the building as a child when it was the doctor's surgery – before they built the swanky new annex to St. Pity's hospital – so when it was listed for sale she snapped it up without a viewing, just one question of the estate agent: "Does it still have the original staircase and bannister?"

The roof had cost her several thousands she hadn't anticipated, necessitating a mortgage she'd hoped to avoid, but she borrowed thirty thousand against the value and cleared off her debts with plenty left over to refurbish the building to its former Edwardian glory.

It still had the original stained-glass windows and the woodwork was mostly authentic but for a couple of the doors. What she remembered most from her infrequent childhood visits, though, was the three storey, single span oak bannister without a single newel post from bottom to top. Whoever had built the house must have had a child's mind for it was possible – with a good deal of practice and utilising the thighs as a deft braking manoeuvre on the hairpin twists at each floor – to slide from the top of the house to the bottom in under ten seconds.

Anna loved it, and the one hundred and twelve steps from the front door to the top floor kept her fit.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hacker

Backdoor Harry opened up a remote log-in screen and entered a 32 chararacter sting of hex code from memory. "There you go," he said. "Laverstone Police Internal Intranet. You're logged in as Constable Nobbs."

Meinwen frowned. "Nobby Nobbs?"

"If you like. I've never logged a first name so you can be whatever you like. Why?"

"I have this sudden urge to smoke nub ends."

"Terrible." Harry shook his head. "Of course, I can't talk. I like butts."

"Hmm." Meinwen navigated to the open cases. "How do I print something out?"

"Use the button marked 'print'."

"I could have guessed that." Meinwen smiled. "I meant, will it be printed here or at the police station?"

"Oh! Here. It'd be too tricky to go there to collect them." The printer whirred but he reached it first. "A list of subjects in the bloodletting case? You could do serious time for stealing this."

"Well I asked nicely first," said Meinwen, plucking the paper from his hands. "They just said no. Besides, it was Nobby Nobbs who took it, not me."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Poor, Poor, Me

Inspector White watched as the Mayor counted out the proceeds of the charity fund raising dance at the manor. Harold had dumped the ticket money on the kitchen table under his watchful eye and left to sort out the baby who had been woken by the 'Slippery Eels' and their celebrated ceilidh. Both 'Breast Cancer Awareness' and 'The Laverstone Police Benevolent Fund' were due to get a substantial donation from the takings. Many people had been more than willing to pay the ticket price to get a look inside Laverstone Manor.

William Chapman licked the tip of his finger and counted a stack of tenners into three piles. "Poor, poor, me," he muttered over and over again.

White leaned across. "Don't forget the three hundred for the band," he said, frowning when William took £150 from each of the two charity piles. "What's the third pile for?"

"That's my evening appearance fee," said the Mayor. "Official duties don't come cheap, you know."

"I see, sir." White nodded. "Mind you aren't mugged on the way back to your car."

The mayor laughed. "Who'd mug me with all these policemen around?"

"No idea sir. Would you excuse me while I ask my colleagues?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Squashing Legends

Meinwen logged onto her account, whereupon several icons of the women in the town began flashing. "There's been a body found in Hobbs' Wood," said one. "Are you looking into it?" Another gave more details: "It was a woman. Cut to ribbons, apparently." A third speculated that is was the work of the Hobbs' Horror.

"What fiddlefaddle!" said Meinwen, who knew more details than any, having been the one to discover the body in the early hours of the morning. She was almost surprised the sun had come up, since there had been far too many police combing the area for her to greet the sun properly. She'd dressed just in time, the flashing lights of the first police car already in the parking lot before she pulled her woolly hat on and poured dandelion tea from a flask. Birdwatching was such a useful cover, and she knew enough about the subject to bore anyone to tears.

"Nonsense," she typed. "The poor woman was the victim of a dangerous beast all right, but it was most certainly of the human variety. There's nothing supernatural about being dumped off a cliff."

"Are you sure? I heard it was aliens dressed in white space suits."

"That was the coroner and his men. Entirely human, I assure you."

"How do you know all this? Do you have a contact in the police?"

"Some secrets," typed Meinwen, "are not to be disclosed."

Another icon flashed. Cacoethes; Jennifer from The Firs. "Are you the killer?"

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Blackballed

The Secret Society of the Following Tuesday has an exclusive, and very private membership. A knock and the ever-changing code word whispered through the door of the disused Unicorn Inn (the premises had been gutted in the eighties and has never officially been leased since) lets the participant into a dimly-lit lobby, where he dons his mask and costume lest his identity be discovered by other members.

Harold scowled at the letter, delivered by hand on Thursday afternoon though he didn't see by whom. "I've been rejected again," he said.

"By whom?" Julie was cooking a pasta dish for dinner. At the table, Lucy was trying to eat her toy rabbit.

"The Secret Society of the Following Tuesday." Harold waved the letter at her. "Someone there doesn't like me."

"Who?"

"I don't know. It's a secret society."

***

In his potting shed Cameron White, Detective-Inspector of the Serious Crime squad, sipped his tea and leafed through a seed catalogue, smiling softly.

Monday, March 08, 2010

One for the Vault

Sergeant Peters arrived at the house while Deputy-Constable James was being quietly entrance, though DC James would probably find his picture on the front of the late edition of the Laverstone Times. He nodded to PC Brandsford on the door and went inside, nodding to Eric Chambers, the pathologist, was stood in the kitchen with a cup of tea. "Who is it?"

"Harold Wilkins, a widower of 54. Lawst seen at the Queen's Arms at 9:30 PM and found by Mrs. Wilkins at 7:30 this morning."

"She didn't see him come in from the pub?"

"No. Mrs Wilkins is his daughter-in-law. She lives two doors up." Chambers raised his cup. "She makes a nice cup of tea."

Peters looked around. "Where is she now?"

"She went home. WPC Acton is looking after her. She was a bit shook up,"

"I see. Where's the body?"

"In the scullery. You go through tat door." Chambers indicated a board door nect to the fridge. "I've done as much as I can until you lot have finished and I can move the body."

"Right. Peters filled in his notebook. "Cause of death?"

"Continual blunt force trauma to the head."

"Any idea what the weapon was?"

"I know exactly what the weapon was, but best you see for your self. It's one for the books, this."

"Oh?" Peters gave him a quizzical look and went through to the scullery where he could see the reason for both Chambers' amusement and James' distress. Quite apart from the blood, which had run down the front of the tumble drier and pooled across the floor, the murder of Mr. Wilkins was the most unusual he'd ever come across. He'd been gaffa-taped to the front of the tumble drier with his head inside, his index finger shaved to the bone to fit into the door mechanism. From the slump of the body it was clear that the head had been removed.

"It's inside," said Chambers, standing in the doorway, "along with a pair of red stiletto shoes. He was battered by shoes and tumble-dried to death."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Lure of Cake

Harold had never been one to be dictated to by the whims of popular opinion. When Harry Potter was published he read the first copy that turned up in a house clearance and liked it before the second was even published. When Twilight was published he read the first fifty pages and burned the rest, declaring that he would never knowingly inflict such pap on his customers and when the government declared a clampdown on education for the masses – insisting that all novels be marketed at the maximum tax band to encourage readers back to the television – he declared to all that would listen: "Let them read Cake" and displaying his new book 'Cake' for sale at only a penny plus tax.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Morning Medication

Beryl set out her morning pills. The red one for her heart, the two tiny white ones for her brain, the big yellow one for her asthma, two small pink ones for the pain in her hip and a medium-sized blue one for... wait! That was a Smartie.

"What happens if you don't take them?" said Bethany, her grand-daughter.

"I'll die," said Beryl. "Fall over with my legs in the air and that'll be the end of me."

"When?" asked the girl.

Beryl's face clouded. She didn't want to know the answer but it had been asked and now... "June the 24th," she said. "A half-past six in the morning."

"Will I die then, too?" she said. "I don't take any tablets. Only the pink medicine when I had chicken pox."

"No dear, you won't die then." Beryl leaned down and hugged her, just because, and relieved that she could shimmy past a direct answer.

"My birthday is in July," said Bethany. "Please will you buy my present early, just in case?"

Friday, March 05, 2010

Just Cause


Ada opened the door, the baby on her hip, and smiled at the smartly dressed mother and daughter tag team. She'd guessed who they were before opening the door. She'd seen them next door but one while she was re-hanging the curtains in her bedroom. They often brought a child with them. It deflected hostility. People that thought it acceptable to shout at women often baulked at shouting at children.

"Have you heard the Good News?" they began.

"I have," she said, putting them on the defensive. "Lucifer filed a harassment suit against God. He's claiming 'defamation of character'."

The mother frowned, tried to process the information, failed and returned to the script. "The Good News is that God wants to save us all."

"What? Even the gays? and the Muslims? and the Rastafarians? Splendid?"

"Er... If they repent their ways, yes."

"Repent? Stop being gay, you mean, or black or foreign?"

"Well..." The woman looked more doubtful and tried another tack. "Did you know the End of Days is coming?"

Ada nodded. "I did, yes. Sarah Palin's asking to be re-elected. There'll be a world-wide run on white paint, you watch."

The woman gave up. "Can I leave you a pamphlet?"

Thursday, March 04, 2010

vignette from 'A Devil for Furs'

"This could be significant." Sergeant Peters held up a piece of paper folded into quarters. "It looks like a confession."

"Where was it?" White used a folded latex glove to take it from him. Peters' prints were already on it – no need to add more.

"Underneath the bureau drawer, sir. There's a little compartment if you take the drawer out." He reached inside. "There's a key too. Looks to belong to a jewellery box."

"See if you can find what it fits." White sat at the kitchen table where the window offered the best light and teased open the letter.

"August 10th 1951.
My dearest Jane,

I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me? I lost my temper and it was unfortunate that you and Laurence were there to witness it. Doctor Weber has suggested a sanatorium for a week or two – ice cold drenches should cure me of this demon inside, he says.

I will return on the 30th, and hope you will find it in your heart to have me back.

Your loving husband, Frederick."

Inspector White stared out at the garden but his mind was miles away, remembering his own father's sudden bursts of temper after he de-mobbed. Could this be the pattern here? Was the Laurence mentioned in the letter the seventy year old Laurence Carter, currently cooling in the morgue? Anything was possible.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Nautical Terms

"Come on, Harold," said Jasfoup, thrusting a could at the bewildered shopkeeper. "Julie can hold the fort. We have to go and rescue Ada. She's three sheets into the wind!"

"Mum's drunk?" Harold struggled to get into his coat, finish his cup of tea and open the door at the same time. Something had to give – he lost his grip on the mug. "That was my Harry Potter mug."

"Nobody reads Harry Potter any more Harold. Who cares about wizards when there are twinkly vampires available?"

"Sparkly, I think you'll find. I tried to give Gillian some body glitter. You should see the look she gave me!" He climbed into the van and started it up. "Mum drunk!" He clipped in his seatbelt while the wind buffeted the van. "I've never seen mum drunk!"

"I didn't say she was drunk. I said she was three sheets into the wind. She's on the boating lake."


Art by Barbara Lavallee

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An Egyptian Curse

There was already a small crowd being held aback by uniform branch by the time Sergeant Wilde reached the body. With Inspector White on holiday in Jersey with his wife (Beryl had a sister who lived there) she was in charge, much to the annoyance of Sergeant Peters. The coroner was just finishing his on site examination. "Mr. Chambers," she said. "What have we got?"

"Caucasian male, mid forties. Robert Robertson, according to his passport and just back from Egypt. A collector and smuggler of antiquities by all accounts."

Anna squatted next to the corpse. Robert Robinson had a sickly yellow pallor not entirely covered by the bright red of his sunburn. He had a small unhealed tattoo on his right wrist: half circle – flax - feathers – viper. "What does this mean?"

Chambers shook his head. "I've no idea," he said. "I can read French but ancient hieroglyphs are a dead language to me." He turned the corpse over. "This might give you a clue, though." He stuck his gloved finger in the dead man's mouth and hooked out a small terracotta tablet, dusted in green with a hieroglyph on one side and an Arabic symbol on the other. "What do you make of that?"

"It looks like something out of the British Museum."

"It does indeed I think you'll find the green tinge is a chromium based glaze. Quite poisonous, I believe.

Anna nodded. "What will you put down as the cause of death?"

Chambers grinned. "Rosetta stoned."

Monday, March 01, 2010

Thumping in 3... 2...1....

"Ah! Sergeant!" Inspector White ushered Anna Wilde into the squad room. "I've just had the delivery of your uniform."

"Uniform, sir? Are you transferring me, then?"

"Nothing like that." White glared at Perkins and Jim-Jam, who were both smirking behind their monitors. DC Harvey, fortunately, was out on police business. "We've arranged an undercover operation to get those purse snatchers operating in the park."

"Fair enough, sir. What am I to be disguised as? A jogger? A dog walker?"

"A vendor, actually." He nodded to Sergeant Perkins, who unveiled the new uniform with a flourish. "You'll be on the ice-cream stall. What do you think?"

"Pink foam?" said Anna, glaring at the bulky costume. "How am I supposed to run in that?"

"You don't," said White. "You just keep a look-out and leave the actual catching of criminals to the big boys."