Friday, October 28, 2005

Under the Thumb

Even when they took his thumb off with the bolt cutters he didn’t even flinch. Some of the men were inwardly proud of his resolve, others horrified by it. Outwardly, they all retained their aggressive stance and implacable face. Only when they began on his left hand did his eyes dart back and forth, his poker face not as professional under pressure as he may have wanted. It was too late. Only Billy had noticed the slight change.

He ordered them to stop. His right hand was mutilated beyond repair, but he had his left. Billy placed a piece of paper in front of him, the rustling as it came to rest on his knee the only sound in the room; it was almost as if everyone were holding their breath until he had written something.

Instead of a pen, Billy picked up one of his digits and passed it to him to write with. He gave Billy a look of contempt, yet also compliance, but Billy ignored it. He continued to hold the digit until he was forced to take it. Billy’s nod ensured his mob quickly took up their jobs from the point where they had abandoned them earlier.

Again, the darting of the eyes. Billy smiled, held out the finger again.

He snatched it, bringing a stinging slap to the face. No one had yet spoken, but a murmur trickled around the room. Billy spun around, glaring. No one met his eye.

Then, the ping of the light bulb as the filament blew. Fuck; the curse coming from many mouths. Stumbling, more cursing. Then, a flick of his wrist and Billy had his lighter open and lit, casting a sphere of gold within a metre of his body.

He checked to make sure he was still seated. He was. Good boy.

One of the men left the room, having located a torch. He was off to see about finding the power, try to pinpoint the problem and get the lights back on. Billy wanted it done yesterday; asap; pronto. He always wanted it like that.

Billy looked down at the broken man in front of him. His blue shirt had turned red and purple as his blood had begun to soak in and dry. His trousers were sodden. Billy had seen many men break down in this chair, to find that their bowels and bladders loosened once the pain got too much. That smell. It brought back memories. Not this time, though. This time he couldn’t smell the fear. Not bad for a detective. They were usually the ones that squealed the most when they brought out the bolt cutters.

The lights came back on suddenly. A lacklustre cheer went up, silenced by a further glare from Billy. He motioned for his prisoner to carry on. The man seemed to smile up at his interrogator as he bent forward over the paper. Billy was unable to see what was being written on the paper.

A commotion was happening outside the room. Billy signalled for one of his henchmen to attend to it. They could do without any disturbance now that they were so close to finding out the piece of information they needed. The kind detective was going to give it to them.

The door to the room burst open and Billy instinctively pulled out his gun and pointed in the direction of the sound. Only his henchmen stood before him, there seemed to be no threat. Billy shrugged.

"There’s a fucking bomb in the cellar, boss. It goes off in less than a minute!" There was panic in his voice. Without waiting for his signal, people were trying to leave the building as soon as possible, trampling each other, kicking and punching.

Billy bent forward and snatched the paper from the hand of the policeman. This time he was greeted by a grin. Billy looked at the childish scrawl on the paper. One word written in blood.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Leap of Faith

The wind whipped through the gully almost knocking Peter off his feet and sending him cascading the hundreds of feet to the bottom of the gorge to his left. They had been walking for over two hours now and the weather was getting progressively worse the higher they climbed.

“Shouldn’t we be getting somewhere now?” remarked Jason, his face practically hidden behind the tight hood of his parka. His small body was cocooned by the coat; it was slightly too big and his hands barely made it out from the ends of the sleeves.

“I don’t know,” was all that he got in reply. Peter was concentrating on simply staying on his feet as the huge gusts of wind threatened to throw him to a premature death. Bent over low, he moved forward, slowly; anyone viewing them from the surrounding mountain passes would have been excused for assuming that he had a stomach pain, such was the way he bent double, his arms folded across his belly. Jason was performing a similar procedure, although he was protected by Peter’s larger frame.

“Do you think he’s dead?”
“What?” Peter said.
“Mr Jameson. Do you think he’s…?” There was a quivering to Jason’s voice, as if he were on the verge of tears. The rain that had scattered across the hills some hours back still clung to the contours of his face, so it was difficult to tell.

“I don’t want to talk about it, not right now. My primary concern is getting to base camp, crawling into a tent and having something hot to eat. Then, I want to sleep. After that we can talk about Mr Jameson.” Peter stalked off again, hoping that Jason was following in his footsteps.

They turned a sharp corner and were suddenly out of the wind and rain, sheltered by the immense rock faces that encircled them. Peter stopped to take a breather and Jason moved close to him, shivering in the cold and damp. Suddenly feeling paternal towards his younger friend, Peter put his arm around his shaking shoulders and hugged him closer.

“Look, Jason, things will be okay. I promise. I’m sure Mr Jameson is okay. If not, I guess that the fall might well have killed him, but we need to worry about us right now. Once we’re safe and can find help, we’ll raise the alarm. It can’t be far. Look, the path starts to drop now; we must surely be approaching the farm. Keep an eye out for lights.”

Jason said nothing. His whimpering kept Peter informed that he was alive, if not all that well. Seven hours they had been on the mountain now. If night fell – and that could only be an hour or two away – then they’d be stuffed. Then, they would become the next Mr Jameson: dead.

The sun began its descent and the air grew colder. Peter pushed on, not knowing for sure if they would get down from this mountain alive. If only he hadn’t been so stupid, they would never have found themselves in this predicament. It was all his fault; if Mr Jameson was alive, he would have to tell the authorities what had happened. Peter wasn’t sure what Jason had witnessed. Would he have to take decisive action? He decided that he had better cover his tracks. It would be for the best.

Picking up the pace, Peter hurried along the path. Jason looked up and could see the gap between them opening up. He called out, but Peter appeared not to have heard him. Suddenly, Peter disappeared into the mist.

Panic rose in Jason’s throat. He didn’t want to be alone. He hated being by himself, it always scared him. Swallowing hard, he moved forward to try and catch up with Peter, but when he made his way through the thickening mist, he was nowhere to be seen.

“Peter?” Jason tentatively called out to his friend. No answer came. “PETER!” he shouted, his voice breaking as the panic gripped him tight. Stumbling forward, he thought he saw a shape to his left. He could see little in any direction and could hear only the howling of the wind.

“Over here, Jason.” A voice called out from over to the left. Without thinking, Jason ran towards the source of the voice. He found himself tumbling down the side of the gorge, his feet no longer on firm ground.

“Help me, please. Someone! Anyone!
Help mmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”

Peter stepped out from behind a rock, his face twisted into a smile. He might be on his own now, but at least Jason wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about how Mr Jameson had come to fall. Only Peter would know.

It was funny, but Peter’s father had always said that ‘Jameson was a push over’. Well, Peter had proved his father right, had he not? One simple push. It had been even simpler to get rid of the whining Jason. How easy it was. Now, all he had to do was walk down this path, find the farm and raise the alarm. They would treat him like a hero; he would make the papers. Young boy finds his way off mountain after death of teacher. That would make a good headline. Peter hoped they would use the word perilous. He had always liked it.

The mist was getting thicker as the path twisted its way downward. It was hard going, but Peter kept his head and took it one step at a time. The sky had darkened now and stars were beginning to twinkle as the rain clouds cleared away. Soon, even these bright sparks of light were hard to distinguish through the soup of mist that enclosed him.

Suddenly, Peter stopped in his tracks. The mist swirled in every changing shapes, offering small glimpses of the mountainous environment.

“Who’s there? Hello? Is there anybody there?” Peter cocked his head to one side, wiping away the hair that had matted onto his forehead with one hand. There was nothing. It’s just a trick of the mist and fog, Peter thought, trying to convince himself he was alone and nothing or no one was following him.

As he was about to move off again, he heard a shout. Was it Jason? Perhaps the fall hadn’t been high enough and he was lying somewhere, his clothes sodden with rain and blood; perhaps he had broken his leg, or an arm. Peter couldn’t think straight. This hadn’t been in his plan.

Choosing to ignore the plight of his friend, whom he had surreptitiously led to his death, Peter strode on. He shivered, not from the cold but from a sense of foreboding. He was not usually one to be so apprehensive, but fear had somehow wriggled its way inside him and was eating at his conscience like cancer.

Blindly, Peter pressed on. It was getting more and more difficult to see where the path was leading him, but as it seemed to be dropping down Peter assumed that it was taking him away from trouble and towards the warmth of the farmhouse from which they’d set off on this ill-fated expedition.

Again, Peter stopped. He had definitely heard his name. He swung his head to one side, straining to hear through the wind. Turning his head back to the path, the mist cleared for a split second and there, stood in front of him, was Jason and Mr Jameson. They were waving. He stood, rooted to the spot. This could not be true. There was no way that either of them could have got in front of him, let alone survived the fall from such a great height.

Blinking, Peter looked again. They were gone. Without warning, Peter found himself lifted off his feet by a particularly strong gust and was deposited six feet away from where he had stood. Peter picked himself up from the floor, dusted off his hands and looked at his knees. A gash had opened up in his waterproof trousers and he could see his own blood flowing down his shin where the rough shale had cut his skin. He was limping now.

He heard his name being called again; he swore he could see the two figures of Jason and Mr Jameson ahead of him even though he knew it couldn’t really be true. He ran at them, but they always stayed the same distance away. Tears were running down his cheeks now, hot and salty.

“Please, please,” he begged, but they still summoned him towards them, mocking him with their eerie voices. Peter felt really cold all of a sudden. Rounding another corner, the ground dropped away sharply and Peter noticed a small opening in the rock face to his left. Crawling in, he pulled his hood up tight and placed his hands over his face. He was begging for forgiveness.

The first light of the day shone through the clouds and settled on the path, near to where Peter had crawled into the rocks. Voices were coming up the path, calling out. All that came back were echoes.

The first of the bodies had been found only a few hours before by the search and rescue team. Jason hadn’t survived the fall and his broken body, like a discarded marionette, lay at the base of the gorge. The dogs hadn’t taken long to discover him. The team had split up, taking different paths to the tor.

The radio crackled.

“We’ve got another one here. Looks like the leader of the group, a Mr Jameson. Had a nasty fall and he hasn’t made it. Anything with you, Jack? Over.”

“Nothing yet, we’re still searching,” Jack replied. Just then, one of his team shouted to get his attention. “Hang on Steve, I think we’ve found him.”

They had. Peter was curled into a ball, forced into the small aperture of the rock face. His face showed a look of terror. Jack ran over. It didn’t take a doctor to tell him that this little boy was going home in a box. There was note clasped tightly in the coiled fingers of the boy and Jack tore it from his deathly grasp.

“I killed them both. I pushed them. And then they wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Jack read the childish scrawl. He crumpled the note in his pocket before anyone else had noticed he had removed it. No one need know. Jack was sure that this poor child had written it in desperation. After all, he didn’t even have a pen. The note had been composed in blood.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Just to let you all know

I have added a new link, as signified by the [new] superscript. It's the first link.

If you can't see it then click here for older stories.

Why have I done this? Well, some newer visitors may not realise that way back when I started this blog I was only going to add stories and links to my commercial work. That changed.

I then thought about starting a new blog for stories only, but I never found the time.

Today I thought again. I created a page on my own server that will happily take you to other stories from the beginnings of this blog. I'm proud of them and I wouldn't want them to be missed. Hence, the new page. It will continue to be updated. Maybe!

So, please check it out. I'd really like to hear what you've got to say about them.

Read, think, comment...

purplesimon out...

Share and share alike

John was just falling asleep when a noise brought him back into full consciousness. He cursed under his breath. Glancing at the clock he saw it was just coming up to midnight. He had to be at work by 6am. There was little that pissed John off more than being tired when he had to give a company presentation.

That's what CEOs did, didn't they? Wasn't it his duty to win new business, to keep the money rolling in for the shareholders? He was one of them, holding several million shares and they had been rising lately, too. John wasn't about to be a majority shareholder for much longer. He knew others that had done the same and he wanted his share of the booty; he didn't care who got in his way, either. Which is why he didn't want to get up and investigate; this piece of business would ensure he was a billionaire instead of a mere millionaire. In the world he was looking to worm his way into, those kinds of details made all the difference when it came to acceptance. He'd always wondered what was on the menu at a White House dinner. He'd bet his whole fortune that it wasn't KFC.

Flicking on the bedside light, John reached for his spectacles. He was almost blind without them on. The room swam into focus and, as if to annoy him more, the noise began again. It certainly sounded like someone was rifling through the drawers of his desk. But, why hadn't the alarm gone off? John didn't have time to think about that as a powerful torchlight momentarily blinded him.

Two bullets later and John was joining a new club: the dead.


It was getting light when Frank locked up his garage and swept up the driveway with the broom he always kept by the front porch. Those damn leaves, why did God decide to let some lose them when winter approached, it was most distressing. Frank hated anything done by halves. It was this kind of thinking that had enabled him to build a modest concern into a national business. He was a rich man, but he'd worked hard for his fortune.

He stood below the tree in his front yard, leaning on the broom handle to support himself and looked out at a car sitting opposite his house. Where had he seen it before? Think, Frank. Think hard. He shook his head, the information couldn't be found in his brain's filing system. With a chuckle, Frank thought about whether he was losing it but not really believing that he was.

When the neighbours came out, sometime around 8am, Frank was hanging around his front drive. Literally. A rope held him close to six feet from the ground. Frank wasn't a small man and it would have taken some pulling to get him up that high, so one of the crowd was heard to remark.


Logan walked up to the ATM, fingering his cash card nervously. He slipped a glance left and right, as if he expected to be mugged at any moment. When it was his turn, he pushed the card into the slot, punched in his PIN and pressed the Account Balance button. In the back of his mind he knew that there would be a zero balance. Nothing prepared for it to be a cool £3 million.

People stared when Logan let out a whistle and a "fucking hell man". He punched in for a couple of hundred, took the notes and folded them into his pocket. He snatched his card away and walked off at a brisk pace, amazed at his luck.

It took him two more windfalls to believe it was really his account he was accessing.

The letter was waiting for Logan when he got home. He picked it off the mat and tore it open. If it was another threatening letter he knew now that he could happily tell them to kiss his hairy arse, he had the cash now. He been delighted to be able to tell other creditors the same recently. They took it rather well. Considering his choice of language.

Once the envelope was ripped away and fluttering to the floor like a dead moth, he opened up the letter. He had to re-read it again to make sure what it said was right.

Dear Mr Hart,
We hope that you have enjoyed your recent financial upswing and would like it continue.

It was us that provided you with this opportunity. As you know, nothing in life is free.

We do require some form of payment on your behalf. However, let us make it clear that the money you have is not welcome. What we require is something else entirely.

Someone will be in touch.

The Organisation

Fuck, said Logan. It was only now he wished he hadn't taken the money.


Logan tugged on the rope as Frank Mallon kicked and thrashed below his vantage point on the branch. There was just enough foliage to hide his crouching figure and he had been blessed that Frank was fastidious when it came to clearing leaves from his driveway. Blessed too that Frank had stopped to look at Logan's car parked across the house.

He tied the rope off and clambered down from the tree and backed away from the house, careful not to leave any footprints on the flower beds. He was back in his car and driving away just as the sun came up. He had fulfilled his promise to The Organisation. Now he would be free to live with his money, never again worrying about his financial status. He was a rich man and he would only get richer.


It was a different Logan Hart that could be found in his office. The preceding twenty years had been kind to him, but lines still flowed through his face and he now wore a denture plate. He was also one of the richest men in the world. He'd made that initial bounty grow and grow. Now, he made money for others, the shareholders in his business.

The Organisation seemed such a long way back. He wondered if they were still going, whether they were proud of what he had become. A cough made him swing around in his chair. In front of him stood a scruffy youth pointing a gun at his temple.

What the fuck?

Hello Logan. The Organisation wants you to know how proud they are of you.

Two quick pulls on the trigger and Logan had his answer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The regime

From the outside the building didn’t look much. The iron had long ago rusted and was as brittle as ice; the brick façade was pitted – not just from the bullet holes that shattered the town centre during the ill-conceived military coup back in 1997, but also from the many stones that had missed the windows (the original targets) and crashed against the brickwork. Since the fire last week, part of the roof had collapsed.

Sara wondered what it was like inside, whether there were still remnants of the occupation: papers, clothing, torture devices. Daniel claimed to have climbed in through the fourth floor window, but at a distance of – it was here that Sara had to approximate – at least thirty-five feet from the ground she very much doubted he was telling the truth.

Her grandfather would have been proud that she’d used the old measurement system to gauge the height of the window and had not taken up with the metric nonsense that had come with the new regime. As much as possible, Sara and her family had resisted.

Until they had come for Joey.

A shiver ran down Sara’s spine whenever she thought of that night, the screams from her mother, the pleading; the shouts of her father, whom they had taken aside and calmly executed with a single bullet to the head. They had dragged Joey, kicking and screaming (the words they used in the newspapers the following day) and she had simply stared. One of the soldiers told her mother to remove her from the scene lest he want some child-flesh to feast upon. He had leered at.

Sara had stuck out her tongue when the soldier wasn’t looking. Well, she thought he wasn’t. She hadn’t counted on him checking himself out in the mirror that hung by the front door, angled so that father could check himself each morning without looking sideways. The soldier had clicked his tongue and turned around slowly.

Somehow the rest of the ordeal was buried deep inside Sara. She shivered again.

Now, the regime had taken over the city, the country, quite possibly the world for all Sara knew. Newspapers were one of the many banned forms of communication.

All Sara knew now was that, if Daniel had climbed up and made his way through the building, she had to follow his route, to find out what she needed to in order to move on. Long ago she had held ideas of overthrowing the regime, of finding a way to destroy it. Now, all she wanted was some peace.

Even that came at a price.

Of course, having her father and Joey back would be best, but deep down Sara knew they were as good as dead. What the regime had done with political prisoner, Sara had little idea, but her imagination played on in her dreams and often she found herself bathed in a cold sweat when she awoke with a start in the middle of the night. Making them dead was easier to accept than them being alive and continually tortured.

Moving around the back of the building, the bullet marks were worse, red dust lay on the grass and the surrounding scrubland was littered with lumps of masonry. Picking her way, as if the floor were mined, Sara crept close to the wall until she found what Daniel had described to her.

She found the next hand and footholds quickly and within seconds she was at the window ledge. Perhaps Daniel had been telling the truth that day in class and he had made it in. She had wanted to ask him more, but his family had moved away during the school holidays. Or so she assumed.

Carefully avoiding the sprinkling of glass on the ledge, Sara lowered herself into the cavernous space that had once housed the King. She found herself standing on a staircase. It led up only a further four feet, at which point it ended in a broken step where at some point a bomb, presumably, had opened up a gash in the stone. The steps down were intact and Sara walked down into the darkness, not sure of what she might find, but hoping that it would be better than that offered by the sunlight that was diminishing the further into the depths she went.

Catch me if you can

The phosphorescence of the marches was visible from the window. Robyn peered out into the darkness and watched the flickering lights dance across the waterlogged ground opposite her hotel. She was hot and had stripped down to her bra and panties to try and cool down. Hotel management reported a problem with the heating system; somehow, the winter settings were being used even though it was the height of summer. Robyn wiped the sweat from her face and dabbed at her torso with a damp towel.

The lights in the marsh were hypnotic, flitting back and forth as if they could hear some tune to which the human ear was deaf. Robyn had never seen anything so pretty in all her life; she had to admit that being in the police force had enabled her to see some exciting, and often grisly, things, but nothing was this - she struggled to find the words to describe it, finally settling on beautiful and serene. She'd never been good at English. Give her a Colt .45 and then she'd be able to display a high level of skill.

Hoping that her assignment might take more than the scheduled two days, Robyn hummed a tune to herself as she watched. She began to go through the facts of the case in her head, trying to find the connection between the apparently disparate murders that had occurred in town over recent weeks. The only connection so far was that all the murders had been vicious.

The initial victim was a young girl, aged 18. Slashed to pieces with a sharp blade. The photos showed her skin hanging off her body like ribbons. The second had been strangled with her own intestines, suffering one of the nastiest - and according to the pathologist's report one of the longest - deaths. Then there was the local heart throb, Steven Neilson. He had been run over by a unidentified vehicle. But, it hadn't stopped there. The killer had got out of the vehicle and beat Steven with an iron bar. The local sheriff was sure it was more than one person, but the FBI weren't as easy to fool. Something linked these killings, it was just a matter of time before it was worked out and a local miscreant was hauled in for questioning. It was Robyn's job to find them before they killed again.

Just what was the connection?

Robyn shook her head. It was late and she wanted to watch the dancing marsh lights. The case could wait until the morning when things might become clearer. These lights, however, couldn't be ignored. They were so, so hypnotic, so entrancing, so...


The following morning, Robyn was lying in bed, the sheets pulled up to her neck. The curtains were still open where she'd been looking out over the marsh. An eerie mist hung, the opaque slabs of water moving slowly across the wetland.

There was a knock at the door, tentative at first and then more insistent. A voice called out, but Robyn didn't stir. A key was placed in the lock and the handle moved. The door opened slowly and a head appeared around the door. Still Robyn didn't shift.

The reason became obvious when the chambermaid pulled back the covers. Robyn's head wasn't attached to her shoulders.

The note they found alongside the body stated, simply: catch me if you can.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Not for your eyes

I heard the thump of something coming through the letterbox and landing on the mat, the one that said welcome. Rarely is that sentiment true. I don’t like visitors. I like letters even less.

I don’t subscribe to anything, no marketing lists, no catalogues, nothing. I don’t write to anyone; not ever. So, the sound of a weighty envelope hitting the floor was slightly disconcerting. Who had my name, my details and wanted to write to me?

I dragged myself out from the comfort of my bed, reaching for a towel to help me keep my modesty. I’d had complaints that Mrs Barnsley over in number 56 had seen things she hadn’t seen for years. I didn’t reply. I simply stuck a sign in my bedroom window that read: Stop looking into my house you fucking bitch.

The complaints stopped. I took the sign down a few weeks later at the request of the local governor. I’ve never seen him, but I heard his voice shouting through my letterbox, threatening me with jail and other unspeakable acts. To think that my neighbours voted for him, too.

I don’t go out. I had nothing to do with it.

I sat at the top of the stairs and looked at the package lying on the doormat. It looked fairly large; the edge was ripped where the postman had forced it through the slit in the front door. He knew better than to knock. Anything that didn’t fit through he simply threw in the bin or left it propped outside my door until one of the local lads stole it. Two kids had lost hands and the stealing had stopped. Word got around that someone had it in for me. No one admitted it, but I knew someone was out to get me.

That’s why I chose a self-imposed prison sentence.

It’s also the reason I didn’t pick up the package. What could be in it? Who might have sent it? Would it go off if I picked it up? I was frozen on the spot, not sure what to do next. I didn’t feel safe in my home anymore. Like I’d been burgled or assaulted, or narrowly escaped death. I was scared.

I stood up but my knees buckled and I had to sit down again before I fainted and fell headlong down the flight of stairs. I read my name on the package again and again. It was written in thick black marker, my name spelled out in childish printing. There was no address. Hand delivered.

I must have sat there for hours, the cold slowly reaching into my bones. I didn't move once. I needed to get up, make some tea, to warm up.

Just then, the letterbox flap rose and another package slapped on top of the previous delivery. This one simply said: Open immediately. It was the same size, the same dimensions and it had the same childish scrawl.


I shouted out. The shadow at the door moved. The flap was released. The metal clanged as it shut. I sat there for another hour.

I'd made it down to the front door. In a fit of anger I ran to the bottom of the stars, seizing the packages. I waited for the flash, the pain and the smell of burning flesh. I waited to be killed. Nothing happened.

I took the two parcels to the kitchen, laying them on the table carefully and flicking the switch on the kettle. While the water boiled I retrieved a knife from the drawer and poked at the first of the two packages. Again, nothing happened. The click of the kettle made me jump and I pierced one of the packages with the end of the knife. It immediately deflated.

I saw a thin, meandering cascade of smoke rise from the small hole and I bent forward to look closer. It had no smell I could discern. The package was now completely flat. I tore at the second package, my fervent fingers ripping at the seams of the cardboard. This time there was a flash, but no loud bang. My eyes were hurting and tears streamed down my face. I scratched at my eyes, at my face.

I couldn't stop. I wanted to slash open my face, to get away from what I'd seen in that instant the package had spilled open.

I knew I was on a hospital ward. I couldn't see anything. I could only hear the sound of those around me screaming out. They also couldn't see. They had also seen what I had.

I can't even bring myself to say it, to describe it. No one else should have to go through this experience. So, please don't ask any more questions. Please. Just let me sleep.