Category Archives: Stories

Fiction pieces that I’ve decided to share.

Edinburgh Part Two: The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle

The much delayed part two to the Edinburgh story. My memory of the day is a little hazy so I’m afraid the story is rather vague now, but the pictures are worth viewing. Enjoy!

Another Photography On The Citadel

So after our surprisingly interesting and enjoyable tour around Holyrood Palace, we then walked along the Royal Mile, the road/streets connecting Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle. Is it exactly a mile long? No idea. The architecture of the buildings is great though, and on our journey we stopped for lunch at The World’s End pub, which thankfully had improved since my dad’s visit there forty years ago when he had a choice of two drink options and no food menu in a dark and gloomy pub. Despite initial signs looking bad because of kitchen issues, It was actually one of the best meal experiences Vanna and I have had together. The food was excellent (I had a delicious haggis pie with whiskey sauce; Vanna had steak and ale pie which was equally tasty), we tried a fantastic local cider (plus Crabbies Ginger Ale which I really wish was imported here) and…

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Fall/Autumn Pictures!

Even More Photography On The Citadel

Howdy all,

To celebrate the fact that Fall lasted longer than a whimper this year, (last year we had a nice September and then the cold set in), Vanna and I went for a walk a couple of days ago to document the changing colours of the leaves.  We didn’t get many pictures, but it certainly was gorgeous. Still is, in fact; driving to Crosby today was worth it for the views alone. Anyway, here’s the slideshow.

 

In other news, I have a job! Well, almost. They still need to complete background checks (a slow process so far, my fault for being a foreigner) so I’m not going to say anything more until I have a confirmed start date. It’s very promising though. A great opportunity, and it doesn’t involve filing(!), so yeah, I’m happy.

I also applied for my second Bioware writer position earlier this month*. Although there…

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The Survivor

A short piece of prose (sounds better than short story, no?) I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I thought I’d share with you all. I’m not sure whether the questions in italics work, but they sounded right at the time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading it.

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The Survivor

What would you do if everything you knew was gone?

Devastation is rife. A city that at one time was hospitable and welcoming, is now a desolate wasteground. Most of the terrain has been reduced to rubble, covering the land in thick layers of choking dust. The sections of pavement and road not obstructed by mounds of crumbling masonry are still deadly; heavily fractured, a careless step forward could take you down a deep fissure where there is no escape. Down in the abyss, there is only impenetrable darkness, and the wait for death.

What would you do if everything you had was destroyed?

Buildings, once solid structures, lie in ruins. Some still stand defiantly, but they too are fighting a losing battle. Long derelict, most are missing walls, and those that have somehow remained intact despite the abuse, are heavily lacerated by deep fractures that crisscross their surface. Windows exist only as glass fragments scattered across uneven ground. Shops and offices are empty husks, with anything of real value stolen long ago. What remains is damaged beyond repair.  If the owners were ever to return, they would not recognize the homes they once proudly cherished. But there is no fear of any traumatic reunions. These are relationships that will never ever be recommenced.

What would you do if everything you loved had been taken from you?

Though the humans have disappeared, that doesn’t mean this forgotten city is uninhabited. There are many creatures that have made a home in the debris. In this new land, it is all about survival, and with that a new food chain emerges. Primitive needs; food, shelter, water, are the only things that matter. Culture, society…they are dead.

Rats scavenge through the rubble, pestilent bloated beasts that move in large, violent packs, working together to annihilate anything that dares to interrupt their onslaught. But, in times of desperation – and every minute in this world is desperate – they often turn on each other. Today, an overweight grey rat will be the victim. In its haste to explore a small alcove, the rat dislodged a large chunk of stone, which crushed its hind leg and pinned it to the ground.  The rat releases an agonized high-pitched squeal that reverberates throughout the rubble. The other rats, now alerted to the distress of their companion, swarm in on the helpless rat. Without hesitation, they devour it. In a matter of seconds, the injured rat is reduced to bone. Even the blood that spilled over the rock is consumed. Nothing is wasted.

Feral, rabid dogs roam these wastes too. Amongst the crumbling buildings, they hunt, their eyes no longer showing any resemblance of the household pets they may have once been. There is no love in those brown eyes, no happiness. Now, these are violent beasts exist only to kill, viewing everything and anything as their next meal.

Three of these dogs chase a small ginger cat through the devastation. They snarl, their bloody jaws already salivating with anticipation. The cat moves limberly between the masonry, but she cannot lose its pursuers. Her tail is frayed and burnt, a result of a fire she was fortunate to escape. But here she faces a completely different type of threat, and the meows of fear signal that her fight is almost done. Yet the cat continues to flee, a primal instinct she cannot control pushing her onwards. And despite the odds, she makes it into a small crevice, her blackened tail just making it inside before the first dog can pounce.

The dogs surround the small hole, their increased slobber displacing the dust underneath their paws. They are so close, they can feel it. But their powerful jaws are too large, too broad, to reach inside. The cat is safe; they cannot get her. However, the dogs do not leave the opening, and the cat eventually dies inside.

Elsewhere, there is further evidence of the death and decay that is rife in this world. A deer, a strange visitor to the city, came here in the hope of finding salvation.  But all it discovered was more pain and suffering, far worse than it could have imagined.

The deer lies in a pool of its own blood and effluence.  Exsanguination has not yet put the spindly legged creature out of it misery, so the brown doe can only watch as the white fleshy maggots feast upon her paralyzed body. She would whine, but even that is beyond her; her tongue was the first port of call for the fly larvae. The deer had tried to fight them off, but she was overwhelmed. Now she just waits for the bitter-sweet mercy of death.

Eventually, it arrives. A .22 bullet is propelled right through her eyeball into her brain. The globule explodes in a shower of blood and liquid, splattering the wall behind her.  It is a violent, brutal ending, but at least it is finally over for the deer.  The maggots continue their meal, too eager, too hungry to care about the deer’s sudden fate. It will be a while before their meal goes cold.

The man who fired the bullet shoulders his gun and climbs down from a ledge twenty feet from the deer. The survivor approaches the dead creature, a look of pity in his eyes. He initially thinks at least it will suffer no longer but soon, another thought flits through his mind, a far more troubling idea he will struggle to shake for a long time; when I succumb to this, who will end my misery? Or am I already there, just waiting for the bullet?

He doesn’t give a voice to these questions. Of course, there is no point; there is no one to say it to, for he is all alone in this world.

Instead, the survivor moves past the deer corpse, and continues his journey through the destroyed street.  Most of the other scavengers are wise enough to evade him, but those desperate enough to attack are swiftly dissuaded by the Survivor’s rifle; the two wolf pelts he carries around his waist show what he is capable of.

But at that moment, the Survivor is unconcerned by any potential threats in the ruins around him. The sunlight is beginning to fade, and he needs to find shelter before it is too late. In less than two hours, the man will have something much worse than dogs to contend with.

Already the sky is darkening, and the Survivor watches the clouds with apprehension. With increased speed, he pushes his way up a large rubble pile. Several times he loses his footing, sending chips of masonry cascading down, but he doesn’t ease up. Only when he is at the top does the Survivor allow himself to catch his breath.  Immediately, he wishes he hadn’t.

The survivor stands perfectly still, like a forgotten idol, and surveys the sprawling city in front of him. A solitary tear rolls down his cheek. Through chapped lips, he utters one word, a word that no longer has any meaning, lost with the civilization that once thrived here. But he says it to remember, to grieve, and to remind himself why he still fights on when all those he loved have conceded defeat. Then he moves on, because that is all he can do.

My Dad The (Fictional) Football Manager

My father is a Manchester United fan (that’s a football/”soccer” team American readers) and for his 50th birthday I wrote a little story with him as the lead. I read it again and couldn’t help but chuckle, so I thought I would share it on the blog. It was either this or complain about the things that have annoyed me today (that horrible plastic they wrap electricals in, the savage carpet gripper strips I’ve had to pull up this week and the new wordpress format which I find very inconvenient) but I didn’t think you deserved that after yesterday’s moaning.

So after making a few changes (the players mentioned in the original, for example, are no longer with the club- ha, you’re old dad).  I uploaded this instead.

Also, for those of you who aren’t interested in football and/or are American, I’ve added footnotes to help ease the confusion you might find yourselves in (it’s still going to happen but I’ve tried my best) because I’m nice like that. Feel free to reward me with cash.

Have a great Friday everyone!

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I entered the changing rooms, the smell of victory strong in my nostrils. If victory smelt of burly footballers, hot and sweaty from a ninety minute contest of determination, passion and skill, otherwise known as a football match. It would also smell of victory if they had actually won. But they lost. 3-0 to Chelsea (Ed: I had to add in my team obviously) at Old Trafford*.

I watched as the players reached for their pre-warmed towels and sat on the heated benches, dejected at the way in which they had been defeated. The manner could only be described as ‘badly’, and frankly that is putting it nicely. Five bookings and one sending off. And that was just the first half.

People wondered what would happen when Ferguson* finally decided that golfing would be his preferred hobby and retired from management. At the age of…well he was old put it that way…he finally left last week after much discussion over his retirement, mainly between him and his golfing partner about how he could improve his handicap.  This was Manchester United’s first match without him.

They looked a mess. They looked lost. They looked…just plain awful. Of course, what they need is a charismatic, brilliant, intelligent tactician  who could step up to the mantle, replace Ferguson, command the respect and love of the team and take them to glory in all tournaments.

But because Jose Mourinho* wasn’t leaving Real Madrid, they had to settle for me. Anthony Best, new Manchester United manager.

When I was approached by the chairman, I was thoroughly surprised. Especially as I was driving on the motorway* at the time. After a good discussion over a drink (I know, 10am and I’m drinking apple juice), he explained he had heard about my great triumphs and declared that I was the right man for the job. Turns out they needed a new finance officer* and I was the man they had chosen! I was obviously ecstatic. Some of the greatest finance officers in history had been at Man Utd, such as Tim Woodburn, Julian Wright and who could forget David Yates*?

But as we chatted I discussed my hobbies. And of course Championship Manager* and FIFA 12* came up, with me explaining my many trophies in Germany (Won the Bundesliga with three different teams) and how I managed to get Andy Carroll to score ten goals in FIFA. This intrigued him very much so; ‘’Even Andy Carroll couldn’t score ten goals as Andy Carroll in FIFA’ he said. Harsh, but sadly true. He only managed five (and one was deflected).

After I’d mentioned this, I could tell he was interested in me becoming the new manager. You know how I knew this? He said ‘’I’m interested in you becoming the new manager of Manchester United’’.

Cut forward four days and here I was, standing in the changing rooms of the home team, waiting to address the players for the first time.

I tried to look impassive at them, not revealing how I felt (bit hungry as it happens, I skipped lunch). This was important; you have to look at them in the eye and show you are the MAN.

‘’Are you alright gaffa? You look a bit constipated’’ Giggsy asked, approaching me. Success! He called me gaffa!

‘’I’m fine, but you certainly didn’t look it out there. You couldn’t pass two yards and the few shots you had were so off target De Gea had to save them.’’ I was in my element now. I strolled around the changing room, looking at everyone, especially Ferdinand. I wanted to make it clear by my expression he was the worst on the pitch, but the drool coming from his mouth suggested he’d fallen asleep standing up again. He did the same thing on the pitch, but sadly it was only after he woke up that we conceded.

Feeling their attention on me, I tried to rack my brain for some more phrases off Championship Manager. Your mother wouldn’t put it in the scrapbook...no that was for a draw…never mind. We’d have done better playing the kids! Yeah, that’ll do.

“You were so bad we would have done better if we’d played the kids!”

“We did play the kids, we were playing Chelsea Youth!” Gigg’s protested.

“I meant our kids but no excuses! You didn’t keep it tight at the back. You didn’t keep it tight in midfield. You didn’t keep it tight up front and you didn’t keep it tight when they had the ball”

I look around the room, seeing looks of disappointment round the room. My key phrase; ‘keep it tight’ had worked its magic. Time to hammer the point home with one powerful statement, and then quickly leave, allowing them to consider my words.

“You were rubbish!”

I quickly turned on my heel, storming out of the changing rooms, my coat billowing out behind me. I think I made a good first impression there. Oh, what is that? I glanced down for a second, seeing something white on the sole of my shoe. A piece of toilet roll. It must have stuck to my shoe when I walked around the changing rooms.

“Oh f…”

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*Old Trafford is Manchester Utd’s stadium.

*Sir Alex Ferguson, Man Utd’s current manager and one of the most successful managers in the world.

*Jose Mourinho, a very talented coach who led Chelsea to their first (and second) Premier League trophy.

*My dad is a finance officer.

*Those names are fictional finance officers…it was a joke but if you’re reading this I’ve essentially ruined it so, uh, never mind.

*Championship Manager is a computer game where you manage a team.

*FIFA 12 is another computer game but this time you play as the football team instead of watching from the sidelines.

Memories

Heavy rain splattered against the window. Soon after, the impregnable sounds of thunder were heard before a sharp bright flash lit up the dark room.  A man sat opposite the window, staring vacantly at the raindrops as they ran rivulets down the glass. In his hands he clutched onto a wallet, open to the picture he had put in there lovingly around five years ago. He glanced down at it, watching a tear fall and splash on the picture. He rubbed it gently with his thumb as more tears landed. Putting the wallet back in his pocket, the man leant back and closed his eyes. In the space of several hours his life had been ground to a halt. Everything seemed to be moving slowly as if it wasn’t real. But at the same time he felt helpless, unable to do anything and unable to stop the events that were happening right in front of his eyes. If only he could go back and change everything, for the burden of his regrets was heavy on his shoulders.  The guilt was tearing up his soul. If only he could go back…

The phone rang loudly, breaking the stillness of the room. The man slowly reached for his phone, glancing briefly at the caller id before he answered.

“John” he stated emotionlessly. His brother.

“Oh Jesus, I’m so sorry. Mum just told me the news. I’m coming over now.  Do you need me to bring anything?”

“No. You don’t need to bother yourself”

“Michael, I’m your brother. I’ll do anything you want. Just don’t shut me out” John sounded strained and Michael acknowledged it wasn’t just him who was suffering.

“Fine” Michael hung up and returned the phone. He got to his feet, stretching his cramped muscles. He surveyed his surroundings, his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He was in his living room but it didn’t feel like the haven it used to be. A place that he relaxed in, watched television in, laughed and shared memories was now cold and dead. Michael felt suffocated, as if the walls were closing in on him. And in some ways they were as the nostalgia and pain was making it difficult to breathe. Michael headed into the kitchen. Here was slightly better and Michael inhaled and exhaled several times to compose himself. He sat down again, this time at the dinner table. He closed his eyes, forcing his mind to shut down and not reminisce any more. There were only so many trips down memory lane he could cope with. But already his mind was there, dragging up the past.

Dust motes hung in the air as the sunlight burst into the room. The kitchen, with its bright yellow wallpaper, already encouraged a positive atmosphere but the good weather outside made it even better. The boy sitting at the table didn’t seem to agree, his head in his hands as he stared forlornly at the table. Michael entered the room and sat down next to the boy. He smiled in amusement. The boy ignored his presence and continued to scowl at himself. Michael reached over and ruffled the boy’s thick blonde locks. His response was to frown even more.

“What’s wrong with you, young’un?” Michael said cheerily, taking a quick sip of the boy’s glass of fruit juice.

“Can’t you guess?” a voice said from the other side of the kitchen. Michael glanced across at his wife as she walked towards him, holding two plates in her hands. She grinned at Michael and he returned the gesture with a wink.

“Hmm. Certainly is a toughie. I suppose he won’t want breakfast so I best have his share” Michael said loudly, waiting for his son’s reaction. It didn’t take long.

“No no, I want breakfast!” he said, taking his elbows off the table so his mother could put a place in front of him. She complied, before offering the other plate to Michael. He accepted, taking one large bite of toast before drawing his attention back to his son.

“I don’t suppose your sudden mood after a month and a half of bouncing off the walls has anything to do with school starting again today does it Sam?” Michael enquired, taking another bite. At ten years old, Sam was reaching the point in his education where things would get a little bit harder. This year he would be starting his SAT’s and clearly the prospect was troubling him. Michael didn’t have any doubt that Sam wouldn’t have any problem passing. He was a bright boy who worked hard. The main reason he was in a mood was the fact he would have to start working again after spending the summer holidays playing.

“No surely not. Our Sam always wants to learn. He would never moan about school” Julie exaggerated, sitting opposite Michael. She took a sip of coffee, watching Sam over the rim of her mug. He chewed on his toast, staring at his mother sullenly.

“I don’t want to go, it’s boring” Sam finally said. He looked pleadingly at his father and Michael shook his head slowly, knowing what was coming next.

“You aren’t missing the first day back. You’ll get assigned to your new classes so you need to be there. Now go put your shoes on and then your mother will take you to Nathan’s” Michael ordered, getting to his feet.

“You off now?” Julie asked as Michael walked towards her. He studied her face lovingly, becoming drawn into her beautiful brown eyes. The irises were full of life, excitement. Then, unable to contain himself any longer, Michael leaned in and connected his lips with hers. He kissed his wife passionately, pulling her in closer, enjoying the feel of her body against his. If only this moment could last forever, he thought, reluctant to end the embrace.

Michael opened his eyes and broke out of his daydream, the disappointment etched upon his face at the realization that it was all a dream. His vision blurred and his shoulders shuddered as the tears began to fall.

“No my love” he whispered in the darkness between the sobs, “I’m still here”.

The Politician

Another short story written by yours truly. And no, it isn’t based on David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

 

Smile. Pause for effect. Continue. Sweeping gesture. Glance down, appear modest. Look up, survey audience. Smile again.

Richard Patterson eyed up the assembly, recognising certain discernible faces mixed in with those he should know but their names escaped him. They had important political and media influence; wielding power that could make or break his career.  But at this moment they were followers to his cause, ready to listen and ready to act. The pressure was intense and Patterson could feel a film of perspiration building up on his forehead.

Focus on your delivery, remember the gestures.

His routine annoyed him, the set of motions that had been recommended to him by his advisor just struck him as deceiving and fake but his team had insisted. The positive nodding and murmuring coming from the various representatives in the auditorium forced Patterson to reluctantly agree it had worked. And with several cameras training their beady eye on him, he knew he had to be perfect for the unseen viewers; the prime minister, the home secretary and other dignitaries that were curious about what this so-called visionary had to say.

Gesture. Frown. Scan room. Make light joke. Pause. Conclude. Signal finish.

Patterson smiled again, this time unscripted, as the audience applauded him off the stage. He gave one quick wave before darting behind the curtains, still aware of the clapping that continued on. He reached his dressing room and sat down heavily on the sofa. Although he had only been talking for an hour or so, it had felt so much longer.

A gentle knock came on the door before the person opened it and entered. Patterson didn’t look up, knowing it was his P.R.

“Well done Sir, that went better than we could have even imagined” Stroud said. Patterson nodded, reaching for the glass of whisky that had been prepared for him. He took a long sip, watching Stroud over his glass.

Daniel Stroud stood awkwardly, clasping his hands in front of him as he waited for a response. His lean gangly figure looked out-of-place in the small room, as if he had made a wrong turn and was supposed to be somewhere else. His uncomfortable appearance was deceptive however and behind that face of anxiety was a young man fully capable of manipulating even the most senior political figure. Patterson may have not agreed with his methods but he certainly respected Stroud for his results.

“You will have to give a briefing to the press but I’ve managed to delay that until later this afternoon. After that it’s just a case of waiting to see how they respond to what you have said. Obviously the whole room were behind you but it’ll take a few days before we get anything from the PM or the public’ Stroud continued, shifting his weight between his feet. Patterson gestured towards a chair. The young man perched on the end, illustrating how his nervousness was a permanent characteristic.

Patterson glanced towards the mirror, his mood sinking at his appearance. When he began his campaign, he had been a young man with ambitions. He wanted to change Britain, and with his ideas, he believed he could. But the stress and strain of pushing through the bureaucratic tape which halted his every move had taken its toll. The mirror showed a face completely different to the one that had emerged in politics just over ten years ago.

The wrinkles around his eyes and forehead belied his age of 35, giving the impression of someone in their late forties at best. Even his thick black hair was beginning to grey around the temple. The make-up that had been applied before his speech may have worked to hide his exhaustion from his audience but he could see behind the mask. The twinkle in his bright blue eyes was even starting to diminish. However, Patterson mused humourlessly, that was down to more than just stress.

“Is something the matter Sir?” Stroud asked, disrupting Patterson’s thoughts. He realised they had sat in silence for several minutes.

“No, everything is fine” he lied, fixing one of his television smiles upon Stroud. The other man returned the gesture, albeit hesitantly.

“You are going to help a lot of people. Those who are against you will eventually realise this is a great opportunity to improve things for everybody” Stroud said.  Patterson raised an eyebrow. He contemplated the statement for several seconds whilst taking another sip from his glass. He studied the beautifully formed crystal, feeling a strong temptation to just fling it at the wall.

“Is that so?” He finally said, resisting his desire and placing it on the table.

“Of course. You persuade Parliament to pass this Act and we can fix our society at last”

“Don’t be so naive Stroud. Nothing is just black and white. Although the voices cry out that the country is going to the dogs, they will soon go quiet once a reasonable solution is offered. It will be accused of being repressive and controlling. I believe in it and I believe that it is the best step. But I fear for the repercussions that it will create” Patterson responded.

“What do you think will happen?” Stroud asked, leaning forward slightly in his seat.

“Violence.  Probably riots. We would be foolish to think that there wouldn’t be any problems. How would you take this decision if you were in their position? This scheme will take them away from their homes and their lifestyle and throw them in at the deep end. In the long run they will benefit. Society will benefit. But if Parliament were to make an immediate decision they would react badly”.

Patterson paused, temporarily distracted. He looked absent-mindedly at his hands before continuing.

“It is frustrating that I cannot explain to them clearly why it is a positive step for everybody. All they see are ideas that are going to cause more problems for them. First the economic downturn has hit them, making life incredibly difficult. Then I come along with this radical idea that will essentially steal whatever meager possessions they have left . It’s understandable that they feel this way. It is imperative that we slowly introduce them to this scheme so that they can adapt. Otherwise it’ll be a total disaster. ”

Patterson finished, slumping back in his seat. The build up of stress felt like it had been relieved somewhat and now he could see Stroud trying to get to grips with the doubts that had troubled him for months.

“So what are you going to do?” the younger man enquired, his gaze fixated on Patterson. Patterson shrugged.

“Keep going. Go in-depth on my ideas and hope they react well to it. Maybe they will surprise me. Make that press briefing and answer all questions. It’s what they will remember me for, so I have to try my best to make it work”. Stroud frowned, watching as his senior stared blankly at the floor. Stroud massaged his neck with one hand, trying to process the last few minutes.

He had met the politician at a dinner party in London years ago. They shook hands and conversed. Stroud had been impressed with Patterson’s ideas and his resolute determination to reach the top. Patterson had been equally taken of Stroud’s own skills and they had decided to work together to achieve their mutual goal of reaching the top.

They had kept their relationship professional and at times Stroud felt the older man disliked him. But despite this Stroud considered himself to be more than an advisor to Patterson; he also believed he was someone the man could trust.

Consequently Patterson’s sudden negative admission and apparent resignation of his plans worried Stroud immensely. What had made him complete such a turnaround when before his convictions appeared to be so deep? And now that he looked at him, there was something in the older man’s eyes that wasn’t so visible before. A dark look that the facade he displayed to the public couldn’t quite hide.

What could Stroud say to convince him that he shouldn’t give up?

Several seconds passed.

“You always knew there may have been problems that such a proposition would incur and you would have given up on it if you truly believed that it wasn’t worth attempting. But you’ve stuck with it regardless because you know it’s the best option that we have. People will come round, and once they do, you will be hailed for improving our society. You’ll be recognised as one the best politicians of our era”

Stroud studying Patterson, hoping he sounded sincere. He waited for the politician’s response, hoping the words had its desired effect. The older man remained motionless, his eyes locked onto Stroud. He looked sunken, his broad shoulders still bowed in defeat. He took a last gulp of the whisky before getting slowly to his feet.

“Get the car ready. I want to go home and get freshened up before this press briefing” Patterson ordered, grabbing his suit jacket and putting it on.

“Yes sir” Stroud nodded. He moved to the phone to contact the driver. Patterson had picked up a newspaper and was skimming the pages but his anxiety was clear from the way he tapped his foot and rustled the paper. The confident nature from his earlier presentation was long gone. Stroud knew there was something else to it, but he wasn’t able to work it out.

In the car, Patterson kept his eyes firmly gazed out the window, his thoughts lost to the fields and hedges that they passed on their way to Patterson’s home. Stroud had tried several times to encourage conversation out of the man but to no avail as he just ignored him or gave monosyllabic answers.

Finally the older man coughed loudly and halted the driver just before he turned onto the drive that wound its way towards Patterson’s home. From the car only the roof of the restored farmhouse was visible through the thick trees. The politician pulled himself out the car, offering a quick glance to Stroud who watched him apprehensively from his seat.

“I’ll see you later. Come pick me up in a couple of hours” he said emotionlessly, closing the door before Stroud could respond.

Patterson strode down the gravel, his eyes fixed dead ahead. He was half aware of the silence that emanated throughout the grounds of his home, with only the crunch of his shoes against the small stones breaking the imposing atmosphere. The hairs rose on his neck as he walked, an electric feeling firing itself through his spine as if warning him that something was wrong.

Patterson rounded the corner, the house finally in sight. He squinted, seeing something red on the door. His heart sank, his body feeling limp and heavy. Gulping loudly the politician kept walking, forcing his legs onwards even though every fibre in his body wanted him to turn and run.

The body of a fox was left lying on the step without a head. Blood seeped from its wound across the gravel, trickling away in several rivulets, spreading its way across the drive. Whoever had killed the fox had then pinned the head to the doorknob. Underneath the head a message had been smeared, a clear warning for him to see. The words were dark red, the thick scrawl imprinting their hatred in Patterson’s memory.

He backed away from the scene, bile creeping its way up his throat. He hunched over, thoughts swarming his mind. Patterson didn’t know who had done it, but he guessed it was the same person who had sent the threatening letters in the post. The same person who had forced his hand and made him move his wife and children while he carried on alone.  The same person who had taken the strength and energy from a man who only wanted to help the people who fought so bitterly against him.

You wonder what has made me lose my conviction to the cause Stroud. If only you knew the truth.

The Family Man

A short piece of fiction from yours truly. Enjoy.

The weather sure is nice today. I should really take the kids out later so they can enjoy it while it lasts. I’ll have to ring Kim when she finishes work, see if she is up for the beach. It has been so long since we had a nice trip out; it’ll be good for us. Hell I could do with it, been getting stressed out due to all the work I’ve had to do recently. I reckon Sally and Matthew will be ready for it as well, what with their exams having kept them busy for the past few weeks. Fortunately they have the right attitude, unlike those little brats across the street.  While the obnoxious children have stayed out until midnight, being loud and creating havoc, our two have been completely focused on their revision.  As a result Sally and Matthew are heading into their summer holidays with a feeling of confidence at getting the results they want. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

The exams were only the SATs which in the grand scheme don’t really have too much influence, but best to start as you mean to finish. Matthew is the Science bod, Sally prefers her English. ‘A literary professor and a doctor in the making’ Kim beams to me after seeing their teachers at the last parents evening. I would have attended myself but there were other things that required my attention. I just told Kim I had to work overtime, no need to bother her with the real details. Oh speak of the devil, there is my phone ringing.

Best put this down….don’t want to get anything on me.

‘Hello dear’

‘Paul, where are you?  I frowned, she sounded slightly anxious.

‘Just at work, why?’

‘Karen rang me just before. She hasn’t seen John or Marcus since yesterday morning. They didn’t come home last night and they still haven’t turned up yet. She has been ringing parents in case any of them know where they are. I told her that I haven’t seen them. I then tried calling Zoey about our two…’ Kim trailed off.

‘And?’ I prompted

‘She didn’t answer. What should I do?’

Hmm, what is the best way to deal with this? I knew our two were fine. When I dropped them off earlier, Zara had told me her phone was playing up and she planned to take them off the park anyway. She would have them back by the time I went to pick them up. John and Marcus, well, they were wild cards. For all Karen’s nervous attitude now, she often left them alone. And her husband David was a heavy drinker. Work, pub, home, work, pub, home. Same thing every day. No wonder they are little pains in the neck with that kind of influence. Some of the blame lies on the parents but both of them should know better to smoke cigarettes and drink behind the garages. I don’t know why Karen is ringing Kim considering one of those little arseholes smacked Matthew last week. They hardly hung out before that with her two being three years older, but I’d warned them to stay away. They were trouble and I didn’t want them causing problems with my kids.

‘Don’t worry about it Kim. Sally and Matty are with the babysitter. Frankly I don’t care about those other two and you shouldn’t get yourself worked up about it’ Nicely done Paul.

A sigh came from the phone.

‘I guess you are right. I just panicked as soon as she said they were missing. You know what it it has been like after that other boy disappeared. People are on edge’

‘Zara will look after them. Besides, Carl was a trouble maker too. He probably just ran off and will turn up in a few days. Same with these two. They could all be together, thinking they are clever for making their parents worry themselves sick’

‘Yeah. That could be right. Thanks Paul’

I smiled, glad to have helped. Can’t have Kim worrying, especially over nothing she needs to think about. Our two aren’t stupid and besides –

‘I’m about to have lunch, want me to come and bring you some food? I’m worried you aren’t eating enough at work’ Kim said, interrupting my thoughts. A flush of panic spread through me. I nearly dropped the phone.

‘No no, uh I’ve got something. I’ll pick up the children and meet you at home. Then we can head to the beach for a little bit’

‘You sure?’ she sounded suspicious.

‘Yes’ I soothed ‘I’ll just catch you then’

‘Alright, see you later. Love you’

‘Love you too sweetie’ I replied, putting the phone back in my pocket.

Now where was I? Oh yes. Just shift that over here, then get my hammer…where is it? Come on, where are you? Aha found you. Hiding under the table. Easy does it. I might have a toolbox that even the most equipped of builders would be envious of, but I always like to use the same hammer on tasks like these. I’m not sure why. Tradition I suppose.

It had been terrible business when Carl had disappeared last week. His parents went to pick him up from school to find he had already gone. Well his mother went to pick him up. His father was unaccounted for at the time and was immediately pulled up by the police on suspicious grounds. He was very reluctant to give his whereabouts at the time despite the fact his kid was missing and he was the prime culprit. Idiot. Turns out between not giving two monkeys about Carl skiving school most days and beating his wife something fierce he was visiting prostitutes. His alibi had stuck but the police had detained him on other grounds while they searched for Carl. Unfortunately they hadn’t stuck him with any charges. Back to the wife-beating for good ol’ Jim McManus then.

As for Carl, well that was last week and they still hadn’t found him. They had tried his friend’s houses and his hangouts; in the small woods near to the school there was a big den that the school children had built. I had told my two to stay away, there was suspicious goings on and I’d rather they didn’t find out what exactly that was. I remember walking by once…nasty stuff I tell you.

The police had been around ours during their search as part of their routine inquiries. They asked everybody in the neighborhood. Given that he lives on the other side of town I reckon they were getting a bit desperate. Much like John and Marcus, Carl wasn’t in our kids year so the only thing they knew about him was that it was best to stay away from him. Ah yes, even Sally. Carl was indiscriminate when it came to his bullying. Girls, boys…if dog’s wore underwear they’d probably get a wedgie off him too.

Kim didn’t know who he was but I’d seen him before so I recognised him when the police showed me his picture. He has one of those faces you can’t forget. Piggy eyes, stubby nose, snarling mouth. You just knew he’d be in prison before he was twenty. His ginger hair was cropped close to his head, with the fringe spiked up by a thick coating of gel. And despite the fact his parent’s spending all their money on cigarettes and food, little Carl was actually on the heavy side. Which surprised me. You’d have thought a kid like that would be malnourished. That’s McDonalds for you, isn’t it? Cheap fatty food that can bought with the fiver you stole from your Grandmother’s purse. What would we do without you?

I told the police when they came around where I’d seen Carl before. Walking past the football field opposite the school two months ago, I found him and his mates (including Marcus and John) blocking my path. I managed to get away but not before hearing many insults being spat at me with such venom I was half expecting the spit that flew from their mouths to sizzle a hole in the ground . The policeman had nodded gravely when I brought up the story, and mentioned how it wasn’t the worst the boy had done. Any disappearance is tragic obviously, but it seems that not many would miss Carl. That was what I was thinking at the time anyway.

So now Kim is putting two and two together and worried that there is some sort of link. With one going missing there is a panic, but now that there could be two more people are going to be on edge. Granted they are all trouble makers but there will be the concern that everyone is at risk. A serial killer is on the prowl or something ridiculous like that. The police can reassure the population that it is nothing more than some naughty kids running off but will that stop them from demanding action? Of course not. Just to ease Kim’s concerns I will have to drive the children to school in the morning until it all dies down. What a pain.

Hmm, I think I’ve finished now. Another good masterpiece if I say so myself. Better clean these tools thoroughly, otherwise it’ll be somewhat tricky to put up a shelf at home without Kim noticing the stains. I could get rid of them but I don’t see the point. Just bleach them clean and there will be no problem. Besides, that hammer is pretty darn useful.

The police have already been around mine, they have no reason to come back again. Why would they? It’s not like I’ve done anything wrong. I told them all I knew. What else is there to say?

Still it is a bit of a shame. I go to all this effort but who is there to appreciate it? Granted I don’t expect my first work to be found and it’s unlikely my latest efforts will not be found either. If I really wanted it to be noticed I’d leave them somewhere obvious. But there is a danger to that and I don’t want to upset Kim any more than she is now. I can tell things are bothering her otherwise she wouldn’t have called me.

Oh well. Best leave these here for now and move them later. Such a shame, they could have done something with their lives. But they never learn. Like Carl before them, they never learn.

We as a society need to form a deterrent and well I suppose I’m willing to do that. Can’t have them starting out as little pains and growing up to be criminals, ruining the lives of those who know them. Society has enough problems without a new generation. May as well try to do my part.

Ah was that the doorbell? Should I answer it? Probably shouldn’t. They’d be gone before I could get up there. First I’d have to lock the basement, as Michael nearly ventured in here a couple of nights ago. Hell that had been close. Thankfully I was able to pull him to the kitchen with the temptation of ice cream. Then before I could get to the door I’d have to change my shirt. Are my jeans clean? I’d have to take them off too.

Nobody knows I’m here anyway. My car is in the garage so they’ll just assume the house is empty.

I’ve been thinking it would be good to lie low for a while. Wait for the police to class the boy’s disappearances as unsuspicious before I even try something new. Besides, Kim is planning on taking time off soon so we will be busy with the kids ourselves, taking them places. It is always enjoyable showing them sights they have never been to before. I hardly want that to get caught up with my second job.

The doorbell again. I’m afraid I can’t answer at the moment as I’m rather busy. I best not tell you what though. Hahahah I make myself chuckle at times.

They’ve rung it again? Now my curiosity is getting the best of me. Who is that persistent? I rush up the stairs, grabbing a jumper on my route towards the door. The baggy sweater covered the marks on my jeans and my shirt. Perfect.

‘Hello?’ I ask, opened the door. Something flew at me and I tried to duck, but it hit me straight in the chest. Foul smelling water exploded from the burst balloon and soaked through my clothes. I winced, feeling the icy coldness. What the hell is going on?

‘Got you, you paedo!’ a voice cried out.

Then there was laughter. Running footsteps. I burst out the house and across the garden, water dripping through my hair. A child runs to the end of the street and around the corner at breakneck speed, determined to get out of sight before I recognised them.

I head back to the house, using my handkerchief to wipe myself down as I slipped back inside. But even the overwhelmingly pungent odour of the water (I don’t even want to know what is in it) cannot, however, prevent the growing smirk on my face. The child might have darted around that corner pretty quickly but it wasn’t fast enough to stop me from recognising them. You see, only one child in the area wears bright yellow trainers. I gave off a triumphant chuckle. Oh yes, the boy might have thought he’d gotten away with his funny and clever prank, but he was wrong.  Soon Jonathan Murphy will realise that there are consequences to his actions.

Hmm. I guess my toolbox will be required at least one more time. I should wash first though. Don’t want Kim to ask any questions do I?