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Dirty Sixth Street – Short Story Review

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Felipe1Felipe Adan Lerma is a prolific author, having written numerous books in IASDpicnumber of genres ranging from short thrillers, as reviewed here, to poetry, photography, travel, and many more. He is also a prolific book reviewer, contributing to a number of online Indie author review and writing groups as well as offering help and advice whenever and wherever he can. On a personal note he has also proved to be an invaluable and valued member of my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group and website of the same name, having blogged a number of posts in support of the IASD anthology You’re Not Alone in support of the cancer charity, Macmillan Nurses. 

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Click IASD thumbnail for website:           Click thumbnail for Felipe’s blog post.  

Dirty Sixth Street, Austin by Felipe Adan Lerma is the second of the author’s stories I have read and reviewed, the first being his novella One Night in the Hill Country

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       Click on thumbnail for link to Blog Review:  

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Amazon Blurb:

Part of a series of short stories, Texas Shorts.

“Dirty Sixth Street, Austin”

This short story is a first of several shorts.

My first story that takes six of my cast of characters in my fiction, the young cousins traveling and hanging around with each other, down into one of Austin’s most well known party streets.

Another first, is their involvement in a minor, but nevertheless, scary crime.

And a mystery, also of a sorts.

Besides the six children, Antone, Cherise, Simone, Tabitha, Buzz, and Zilker, two new characters, from Vermont, are introduced. Sam (Samantha) and her brother Matt. They’re adults. 🙂

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Dirty Sixth Street, Austin

By Felipe Adan Lerma

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped
timberwolfamazonNice little thriller … Moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace. By Rudders on January 10, 2016

FelipedirtysixthstreetAnother short thriller from Felipe Adan Lerma but again one that packs a lot more into it than the relatively short word count would suggest. In his writing, the author strips away every superfluous word of needless padding, once again putting me in mind of Hemmingway. What’s left is a short hard-hitting thriller that moves along at a cracking and entertaining pace.

For a short story there are more than the usual two or the three characters, in this case there being six young cousins as well as police officer and child advocate Sam (Samantha) and her geeky brother Matt. At a little under eight thousand words the author manages well to bring to life the settings and busy atmosphere in which the story unfolds. The central character, Sam, is visiting Austin, Texas, to attend a law enforcement conference and job interview. Right from the start there are hints at Sam’s background, and some of the traumatic events she’s witnessed in the past. To relax and get away from things, she goes for walk in the evening along the busy Sixth Street. During that walk she encounters a group of six children of varying ages, the youngest being a boy of about eight who happens to be crying at the time. It turns out there have been a recent spate of robberies, one of which involves the children; being a police officer, and one particularly interested on the effects of crime on children, she sets about her own investigations, getting to know the children better along the way.

Another aspect of the author’s writing that impresses is the authentic characterisation and dialogue of the children and their interation with the adult police officer, Sam; quite often when writing children’s dialaogue, it can be difficult to get it just right or believable but the author succeeds in this area better than most, especially given the varying ages of the children in the story, a testament possibly to the author’s own extensive family background and interaction with his own children and grand children. The writing is actually quite enchanting, and though a thriller that doesn’t shy away from reality and the criminal undertones of the story, it does not rely on excessive violence, making it a suitable story for reading across most age groups and tastes.

An engaging and quick read, and one that will particularly appeal to fans of the crime, thriller, and short story genres. I won’t say more other than that as well as enjoying the story you may feel the urge to eat a spicy taco too… Why? You’ll have to read ther story to discover that ….

 

Author Profile:

Born and raised in Texas, and now a young senior living in Vermont, his wife Sheila’s home state, Adan brings a gentle infusion of yoga and fitness to bear on life long interests in writing, painting, dance, photography, and the arts in general.

Determined to learn about the ideas of Western Culture that have informed our civilization, Adan put himself through college with the help of his GI Bill benefits. More recently, he has added certifications in fitness and yoga.

His self stated mission on his website, reads, “a Beginner’s View : Integrating Yoga Fitness and the Arts.”.

NEW: Over 50 titles available FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

Fiction, photography, poetry. Family, mystery, and (new) thriller fiction. Set in Austin Texas, Paris, and Vermont.

Images and poetry from all three locations.

 

Further links to the authors numerous novels and poetry collections can be found at:

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www.felipeadanlerma.com 

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https://twitter.com/FelipeAdanLerma

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Felipe Adan Lerma’s Amazon Author page

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And lastly, a few words from Felipe Adan Lerma himself …

As the oldest of six, a father of three, and a grandfather of five, and married over thirty years, I believe, in writing stories and poems, I’ve found a perfect outlet for my years of living.

I have been writing and creating pictures since high school in the sixties, and began writing more seriously in the late 70s and early 80s.

One of my more recent surprises has been to read a definition of Romance that seems to generally fit the majority of both my poetry and fiction: a central story involving the relationship of two people, and a generally optimistic and satisfying ending.

With that revelation, I now view Romance fiction in a whole new light. 😉

But if I had to give one word about most of my fiction and poetry, and even my images, it’s relationships.

The interactions of people, especially couples and among family, seem to have the strongest hold on me. That would also help explain why even in my poetry about teachers and nurses and others, it is the relationship aspect that usually is my focus.

The Processing my Fiction series on my site has more detailed specific articles that might be of interest.
http://felipeadanlerma.com/category/areas/arts-area/fiction/processing-my-fiction/

 I hope you can take advantage of the half dozen or so titles I offer free for downloads, and will also consider and enjoy my other work. Thanks so much!

Sincerely,
Felipe Adan Lerma

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Beyond the Law & Beyond The Law: Retribution – Double Book Review & Author Profile

TomBBeyond The Law: Retribution is the latest book by author and fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own TomB1 TomB2blog features high in my list of ‘follows.’ Beyond the Law: Retribution is the sequel to Tom’s most successful book to date, Beyond the Law.

 

Longtime folllowers of my blog might well remember my posting of a review of Beyond The Law back in early 2014; since this latest book is a sequel to that and for the benefit of those who may be unaware of it I am repeating that review to compliment my review of its sequel. 

As well as reading these excellent novels, please take a look at his blog where you will find some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too along with an absolute treasure trove of writing tips and highly informative and essential self-publishing advice:

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www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

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Beyond the Law: Retribution – Amazon Blurb:

In 2004, Martin Cameron is sprung from custody on the streets of Glasgow. The ruthless gangster vanishes, but not before leaving instructions for trusted henchmen. A period of mayhem ensues which includes the murder of two outlaw bikers.
Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, calls a meeting of his small vigilante team, but will they make allies of the Mental Riders Motor Cycle Club?
Will the police recall July 1996 and once again leave battle to commence?
There are turbulent times ahead for many hearts and minds – and Scotland’s underworld.

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Beyond The Law: Retribution (sequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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A vicious trail of violence, retribution, and dead bodies… loved it!, 24 Nov. 2015

TomB2This is a retribution themed novel once again dealing with those criminals whose cunning and resources enable them to operate beyond the constraints of the judiciary and elude the regular forces of law and order. Such is the violence and ruthlessness of such men it takes an equally resourceful and ruthless approach in dealing with such criminals, cue the reappearance of ex SAS operative Phil McKenzie aka the Hawk, and his unique band of cohorts collectively now known as BTL (Beyond the Law) enterprises. Hawk and his associates are every bit as ruthless as the criminals they face, with the added advantages of the very best military training in weapons, field-craft, and covert operations. Operating as they do outside normal police investigation and procedure they can’t be openly supported by the regular police, but they can still draw on the covert support of the British intelligence services and their unofficial police contacts, as well as here, some more ‘unconventional’ allies.

Our introduction to Phil McKenzie and the formation of BTL enterprises was dealt with in the prequel to this book. Although there is sufficient explanation and references to the past to allow it to read perfectly well as a stand-alone book I would still recommend reading the prequel first to enjoy it to its full; as well as being re-acquainted with ex SAS operative Hawk, the attractive ex intelligence operative Annabel, the equally stunning motor bike riding Rachael, former pick-pocket Jake, and one or two others, several new colourful characters are added to the mix: Max, the leader of biker gang the Mental Riders, and Intelligence operative and linguistics expert, Ian, to name but two. There are also some pretty brutal and sadistic new villains as well in the shape psychopathic twin brothers.

The story kicks off with the audacious escape from prison custody of Martin Cameron, who within minutes of his escape embarks on his vicious return to crime and violence; determined to re-establish and expand his control of all of Scotland’s major criminal activities, there follows a  bloody trail of violence and dead bodies along the way; he also plans his painful and sadistic revenge on the man responsible for his imprisonment, Phil McKenzie. What he isn’t aware of though is just how eager someone else is for equally sadistic vengeance against himor indeed just how better organised and equipped Phil McKenzie and his organisation are now. In the interim, Martin Cameron’s plans to organise a massive drug shipment into Scotland once again bring him to the attention of one of the Hawk’s former cohorts despite being on the other side of the world at the time.

This is what Tom Benson does best, drawing on his own military experience and memories of growing up on the hard streets of Glasgow, coupled with a true story teller’s imagination. Once again, the author’s attention to plot detail and consistency rivals that of say a Frederick Forsythe novel, and is handled with the same careful planning as the covert operations of the story. The precise levels of detail related to weaponry, covert surveillance, and urban and rural field-craft are excellent, enough to place the reader right there with the characters but not so much to distract from the main story or bog the reader down. The characters are well-developed by way of the gritty and realistic dialogue and the things they do. I also enjoyed seeing how some of the characters had evolved since first encountering them in the prequel, and I must say, the writing here is even sharper and more streamlined than before. I was also impressed at how Phil McKenzie took more of a ‘behind the scenes’ role here, allowing some of the other characters to really come into their own rather than relying just on him to carry the story.  As always, Tom Benson rounds up the conclusion and loose ends most effectively, and leaves the reader with a tantalising hint of another sequel. The way the story is structured and has evolved from the prequel could lend this two book series (so far) to a whole series of books along the lines of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ series…

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel) – Amazon Blurb:

In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team, on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed Chameleon, kills the Kentobi president, but Phil is framed for the murder. He negotiates liberty at a high price; an end to his military career.

Following a brief secondment to the Metropolitan Police and discharge from the Army, Phil returns to his hometown as Hawk, a vigilante. The term, ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small, unique team. Using stealth, intelligence, and bloody violence, Phil hunts down the city’s Godfather.

 

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Beyond The Law (prequel)

By Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in eBook format)

5Starscropped

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An awesome book that will keep you hooked right to the end!, 22 Feb. 2014

TomB1A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.

Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.

This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended…

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Author profile:

In 1969 at the age of 17, Tom left his native Glasgow to join the British Army.

Tom’s military career spanned from 1969 to 1992.

He followed this with a career in Retail Management, in which he was employed from 1992 to 2012.

Tom has been writing since 2007. He has published six novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of five anthologies of genre-based poetry. He is presently working on two novels, and further anthologies of short stories. Tom is also a self-taught artist.

Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry collections. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers. He also contributes to numerous online writing groups, and is one of the founder members and Admins of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb (IASD) group and website of the same name:

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 www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.wordpress.com

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The Tom Benson collection: click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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TB1a TB2a TB3a TB4a TB5a

Tom Benson’s Poetry collection:

Coming Around - 170714 TomB4 Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

Erotica & short stories:

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904 Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

Thriller/Romances:

Beyond The Law - the cover 2904 A Taste of Honey TB6a

Crime/Retribution themed thrillers:

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In addition to his own writing, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of colloborative anthologies, three of which are listed below:

paRuddock

 

Not What You Thought? and other surprises – The first of the IASD anthologies. Three guest stories by Tom Benson featured in P.A. Ruddock’s humerous collection of short stories and flash fiction in aid on the ‘Forget-Me-Not’ charity at www.exmodltd.org in aid of homeless ex servicemen and those affected by PTSD. 

 

 

Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)

 

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – The brainchild of author, book reviewer and blooger, Ian D Moore – an IASD anthology bringing together a multitude of international Indie Authors in aid of the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. cancer care and support charity Macmillan Nurses.

 

 

Holes123

 

Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – The third and latest IASD short story anthology, inspired by the author, reviewer and talented book cover designer Eric Lhati, again bringing together an international collection of Indie authors to showcase and promote just a fraction of the amazing talents on offer from the world of Indie publishing.

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Further links to Tom Benson’s novels and other writing can be found at:

http://www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com

http://www.tombensonauthor.com

http://www.tom-benson.co.uk

https://twitter.com/TomBensonWriter

Tom Benson’s Amazon Author page:

                                                  TomB1 TomB2

 

Max’s Mayhem – Book Review

This is a story I was prompted to read after having
read and enjoyed one of Amber Hawkins’ short stories featured on her blog, http://ambersalley.wordpress.com/.

 

Max’s Mayhem, by Amber Hawkins (Available on amazon Kindle)

max' mayhem4This is a novel that most definitely falls in the Crime and Detective genre. Although set in the present day, this is very much a good old fashioned detective story and reads very much like a Ray Chandler or Sam Spade novel; if it weren’t for the occasional references to modern technology, the reader could almost imagine themselves in a period 1930’s murder investigation. It’s the classic story of an old school detective teamed up with a tenacious young female reporter, determined to get to the bottom of the of the seemingly motiveless murder of a high class call girl: Throw in a Senate Governor, a jealous wife, and a mysterious killer lurking in the background, and you have all the ingredients of a an engaging and fast-paced ‘who and why they did it story.’ There are a number of sub-plots and unexpected turns that slowly and cleverly fall into place to form the overall story. The ending was not what I was expecting, and is suggestive that this might well be just the first in a longer series of such stories.

If I had but one tiny criticism it would be that I do think there is just the slightest over reliance on semi-colons in the first half of the story, but again, I say that based on my own reading and writing preferences, and I suspect other readers may well disagree with me on this.

Despite not being a dedicated fan of ‘classic’ detective novels, I did find this story to be well written, enjoyable and entertaining. One of the things I don’t usually enjoy with some detective novels is when the author tries to impress with almost Sherlock Holmes levels of analysis and clues that would take a super computer to figure out. In ‘Max’s Mayhem’, Amber Hawkins manages to get the balance more or less just right to intrigue and hold the reader’s interest without drowning them in procedural detail, relying instead on the detective’s and the reporter’s respective instincts and experience to move the story forward.

At sixty two pages, this is more a novella than a full length novel, but packed within those pages is a story that fans of the murder, crime, and detective genres will really enjoy.

Beyond The Law – Book Review

This is one hell of a good book by fellow blogger, Tom Benson, whose own blog, http://www.tombensoncreative.wordpress.com, features high in my list of ‘follows.’

Tom is a prolific writer of short stories, flash fiction, novels, and a number of poetry books. In addition to being a great writer and author, he also takes the time to offer advice and support to fellow writers and bloggers.

As well as reading this excellent novel, take a look at his blog, as there are some equally excellent short and flash fiction stories to enjoy too…

TBenson

Beyond The Law, by Tom Benson

(Available from Amazon in Kindle e-book format)      

A ‘can’t put down’ book that definitely hits the ground running. In an explosive opening chapter reminiscent of Andy McNab, we’re introduced to the central character, Phil McKenzie, and some of the background to his special skills and training. What follows is an equally explosive story of unofficial state-sanctioned vigilantism as he and his cohorts set about tackling the tough and violent criminal under-belly of a crime ridden Glasgow. But this is no simple story of good guys hunting down the bad; set against the murky backdrop of the military and British intelligence, Phil McKenzie and a select team of operatives are up against a criminal alliance that spans not only that of organised crime but also high ranking politicians and police officers. The book takes a number of different and dangerous turns, culminating in one hell of a conclusion.

Some of the characters have definite echoes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. The dialogue throughout is both fluid and natural, as is the writing and realistic portrayal of a world and characters that thankfully, most never get to see outside the pages of a book. The author’s attention to detail and plot-line are approached with the same deadly precision as that of a covert military operation.  

This is a book that effortlessly combines the genres of military adventure with that of crime and justice, and one that would sit well in the company of Lee Child, Andy McNab, and Tom Clancy. Should Tom Benson ever decide to write a sequel, it will certainly leapfrog to the front of my ‘to read’ list. Highly recommended…

For further information on Tom Benson and his past and current writing projects see also:

 www.tombensonauthor.com

The Great Bank Robbery…

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There’s an old saying, ‘We all make mistakes,’ and of course, we all do: big ones, little ones, silly ones, and often, stupid ones. And once and a while, someone makes one that is as ‘big and stupid ‘as they come…

The plans were all laid. Big Ron had a gotten together quite a crew for this one: There was little Mickey ‘Wheels’ Tanner, the best getaway driver short of Sterling moss. Jack Dawkins, the explosives expert, electrics and alarms man, Peter Hills. And last but not least, that well known hard-man, Hatchet Harry, had been brought in to add a bit of muscle; any problems with wannabe heroes, and Hatchet Harry was more than willing to shove a sawn-off shotgun down their throat – and pull the trigger too if they thought he was bluffing.

Rumour had it that this was a rather exclusive bank, very discreet, catering to the stars, politicians, the super-rich, and even senior members of the Royal family. Located in the heart of London’s exclusive Mayfair, it was an old Victorian building, with little to indicate what is was other that a shiny brass plate, saying simply, The Bank.

Big Ron had high hopes for this one. With that sort of clientele there had to be serious money to be had, not to mention jewellery, bonds, and god knows what sort of secrets the rich and powerful preferred kept secret…

“So, we’re all clear then, we go through the adjacent wall. Pete here has already traced the in-wall alarm wires so there’s no probs there.” Big Ron said.

“And I’ll be waiting right outside with the motor running.” Peter Hills assured them.

“Yer’ bloody well better be!” Added Hatchet Harry.

“I still don’t get why there ain’t more security though, I mean like, if there’s really as much as yer’ reckon there is?” Hatchet Harry said. He might have been the hired muscle but he was far from the stupid oaf many thought him to be…

“It’s as I explained,” Big Ron began, “‘it’s because of who the customers are. They don’t want people, you know, the public and the Press and stuff knowing their business. And a load of armed guards and security cams and stuff would attract too much attention.”

Hatchet Harry nodded, still not fully convinced, but sufficiently tempted by Big Ron’s promises of untold money to put aside his doubts.

“Right then, let’s do it.

It had been a well-planned job, right down to the last detail. Big Ron had leased the adjacent basement office for the past six months, at no inconsiderable expense. Every penny he had, had been invested in this one last caper. And things were progressing nicely…

“That’s it, we’re in,” declared Jack, the explosives man, “an’ you’re sure we haven’t tripped any of them alarm wires, Pete?”

“No chance.” Pete Replied.

“Stop yakking and let’s get in and out, pronto!” Said Big Ron, following the two of them through the hole in the wall, closely followed by Hatchet Harry.

“Who the hell…” A voice boomed at them, “Where… How did you get in here..?” Hatchet Harry was the first to respond…

“Down on the floor. Now!”

The night security guard did as he was told; when Hatchet Harry told you to do something, you did it.

“Right, Pete, start on opening those deposit boxes,” Big Ron bellowed.

“Wh… What is it you want here?” The security guard stuttered, turning his head to look up at them all.

“Are you serious? We want what’s in all those cash filled deposit boxes.” Hatchet Harry replied.

Despite the obvious danger he was in, the security guard couldn’t help but let out a muffled laugh: “That’s what this is about, money?” And again he laughed.

“First one’s open,” Peter Hills declared.

“And?” Asked one of the others.

“Erm, I’m not sure… Just some test tubes and, erm, petri dishes I think they’re called.”

The others looked around at each other in disbelief, and then to the security guard:

“There’s no money in any those boxes.” He said

“No money!” Growled Hatchet Harry, not at the security guard, but at Big Ron.

“What do you mean, no money?” He said again, turning back to the security guard who was still lying prone on the ground…

“This isn’t that sort of bank, it’s a blood and tissue bank, you know, genetic material, stem-cells, stuff like that, to help the rich and famous to stay young and healthy when they start to get old and sick. They’re the only ones who can afford all this.”

Hatchet Harry turned again at Big Ron, shot-gun in hand…

“It’s not my fault, how was I to know that?” Big Ron pleaded.

It didn’t matter; Hatchet Harry raised the gun a little higher and fired a shot straight in Big Ron’s head…

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“Pretty bad mess we got here.” The detective in charge was saying.

“Yeah. Who’d have thought Big Ron would end up making a deposit in the very bank he was trying to rob?” His colleague added, looking across at the mass of brain tissue and scull fragments splattered across the front of the tissue deposit boxes of the vault…

Sweet Old Lady…

Preface:

When we think of murder and those who commit it, it’s common to think of a man, someone brutal and evil looking, calculating and without remorse, or sometimes someone consumed by jealousy or thoughts of revenge or greed perhaps. On those rare occasions when the murderer is a woman, again we conjure up an image of someone hard and evil looking, like those now infamous pictures of the likes of the British child murderer, Myra Hindley, or the American serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. The truth is, there is no look or image for a murder, they look just like you and me, and everyone else…

 

Sweet Old Lady…

Elspith Eliza Harrington and her husband had moved to the quaint little village not long after the advent of the internet. With so many different sources of entertainment available, work for an aging actress of the stage had become harder and harder to come by, and Elspith was not one to take second-rate roles in the smaller theatres…

Life in the village was pleasant. Elspith and Mr Harrington had settled in well, especially that nice Mr Harrington, who had been born and raised not more than a few miles away. The villagers were so proud that a local lad had made a name for himself; he had enthralled the locals with tales of the theatre, and best of all had brought fresh life to the local ‘amateur dramatics’ group.

She was by far the more famous of the two, but Elspith was a Londoner, it might take longer for her to gain their acceptance, or so Elspith thought and hoped.To the villagers they were just a normal couple. In private, things were very different…

Elspith had been an actress in her younger years; it’s what had attracted Mr Harrington to her in the first place. He was the casting director at the Strand Theatre, and she became his latest, and as time would show, greatest discovery. She wasn’t his only discovery though; he auditioned many chorus girls, always willing to provide a helping hand to the careers of the many young girls dreaming of theatrical stardom, and his wandering hands and roving eye were always more than willing. For Elspith though, time had made her his prisoner, his cash cow, and his possession. Many of her friends and admirers had urged her to leave the old bastard. One particular admirer, Charlie, a charming but brutal East London gangster, had even offered to have Mr Harrington entombed in the foundations of his new house. Years later she regretted not taking him up on his offer, especially when Mr Harrington’s extra-marital affairs gradually became common knowledge throughout the business; Eliza didn’t like that; he would have to go when the opportunity arose. That took much longer than Elspith would have liked, thirty years longer in fact….

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“I wish you’d let me drive the car as well, it would make life so much easier for me.” Elspith said.

“I’ve said no. Everywhere in the village is within walking distance for you.” Mr Harrington replied.

“I know that, but I just mean so that I can go a bit further, see some of the countryside, it seems a shame to be surrounded by so much beauty and not be able to see more of it.”

“You haven’t driven in years; it would cost too much to add you on the insurance.”

“And whose fault is that if you never let me drive in the first place? As for the insurance, it is my money we’re living off after all.”

Mr Harrington didn’t reply. He just looked at her. Elspith could sense his resentment, and immediately regretted saying anything. It wasn’t that she was sad at having maybe hurt his feelings, he didn’t have any, but she knew he would be even more unbearable now for the next few days, deliberately making her life even more of a misery in a multitude of different ways.

Elspith missed her old life. Her days of stardom were long behind her, but it would have been nice to lend her experience to the local amateur dramatics group like her husband, but Mr Harrington would have none of it. She knew the locals would have liked her to participate more, and resented her for not doing so, thinking she believed herself to be ‘far too grand’ for them, a belief she knew her husband encouraged on the quiet.

As time passed the locals treated her with more and more indifference, while affording Mr Harrington the adulation he never had in the theatre; it was his revenge, she thought, for remaining in the shadow of her public success for all their years in the theatre together.

Over the years the villager’s indifference gradually turned to thinly disguised scorn. If Elspith and Mr Harrington were visiting one of the village shops, he would be greeted with a friendly smile and social chit chat, she with little more than begrudging nods. He was invited to numerous social gatherings, often related to his involvement with the ‘am-dram’ group; she remained at home, left to her own devices. It was during those times Elspith thought about and plotted an end to her situation, waiting for just the right opportunity to put her plans into action…

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It was that time of year again, the summer charity fete. Mr Harrington was rehearsing another of his awful period dramas. Against her husband’s wishes, Elspith had volunteered to run one of the food stalls. Such generosity with her time and effort had not been warmly accepted, but anything that reduced the workload of the village fete committee was never refused, no matter how unpopular the source of the offer.They had a committee for just about anything – jam making, the church roof, even what colour the bus-stop benches should be. Elspith had learned to despise the small and narrow-minded extent of village life.

Mr Harrington did nothing to support her, choosing instead to belittle her efforts at every opportunity…

“I don’t see why you’re doing this. It’s just a village charity fete, not one of your grand star studded fund-raising events, can’t you just do as I ask for once and not try and hog the limelight?”

“I’ve always done as you asked, or more like what you’ve told me to do. I’m bored not having anything to do – you won’t let me play a part in any of the amateur dramatics, you won’t let me drive, I’m practically your servant and prisoner. Why are you so against me taking an active role in village life?”

“Because you’re not one of us, you’re just a chorus girl who got lucky, and that was thanks to me. Why can’t you be grateful for the life you have and not try to be the centre of attention? This is a village, not the starring role in a west-end production.”

Elspith already knew that’s how he thought of her. Despite it being her money that had bought them their lovely house and provided the income for their comfortable life, he regarded her success as his own and therefore the money too. And why shouldn’t he, he often thought, he had given Elspith her first big break in the business – her hard work and talent were incidental…

With Mr Harrington out of the way at rehearsals, Elspith was busy with her baking: fancy tea cakes, sausage rolls, savories, chocolate cookies, all manner of delicacies to tempt the appetite. She was a bit behind, having had to wait for various ingredients that were hard to come by – her old friend Charlie had been most helpful in that department. He’d long since retired from his ‘other activities’ so was glad to be of help, ‘just like old times’ he’d remarked when she made the unusual request.

All those days spent alone while Mr Harrington had been at rehearsals, out with friends, and socialising had given her all the time she needed. She now knew more about the countryside and all it had to offer than most of the locals; she was amazed at how many of the local plants, fruits, berries, and the such like were actually quite dangerous. She also knew as much about the villagers: Mrs Collins for example, the chairwoman of the local ‘am-dram’ group, had a severe allergy to nuts, while that equally obnoxious sister of hers had an intolerance for penicillin. Daisy Morgan, the church organist, was diabetic, while Jack Miles, the postman, had a heart condition for which he took a blood thinner to help his circulation.

The selection of culinary delights Elspith had produced was impressive. Even Mr Harrington had to begrudgingly concede she had done well before leaving for his early morning walk. How smug he would have been had he known the truth, that Elspith had secretly gotten her old friend Charlie to deliver in food from Royal food suppliers, Fortnum and Mason.

Elspith allowed herself a rare moment of reflection of how good life might have been in the village. The doorbell interrupted her thoughts…

“Oh, hello Charlie, I’m so pleased you could make it.”

“Eliza my darling, anything for you babes.” Elspith laughed out loud; only Charlie ever called her by her middle name or ‘babes.’ She knew she was far too old now for such endearments as the latter but she appreciated the flattery.

“I know, but thank you anyway.” She replied, smiling, and gave him a theatrical kiss on both cheeks.

“So Eliza, are you sure about all this?”

“After thirty years, never more so.”

“That’s my girl. I’ll be off then before he gets back, but I’ll be hovering around in the background to keep an eye on things.”

*************************

The fete was going well. The locals and a fair number of visitors had turned out in force. Elspith stood in dutiful attendance at her food stall, one of several but by far the most popular – it was difficult for the others to compete with the professional products of the Royal food suppliers:

“Really, Elspith, these look delicious,” said Mrs Collins, looking over the pastries in the middle of Elspith’s display.

“Thank you Mrs Collins, one does one’s best…”

“Oh please, call me Margaret; you’ve obviously worked so hard.” Elspith forced a weak smile in acknowledgement.

If only Mrs Collins had known just how true that was, about how much work had really gone into her efforts; not just the baking and cooking, but the planning and the preparation, thirty years’ worth, and it wasn’t simply to earn Elspith the accolade of calling Mrs Collins by her first name.

“I’ll take one, please, no need to wrap it.”

“My pleasure… And please, I’ve got a couple more already wrapped for you later, my little thank you for all your theatrical efforts with my husband.” It was Mrs Collins’ turn to force a smile, not quite sure of Elspith’s meaning…

“Yes, you’ll enjoy these, they’re a particular favourite of mine too,” Elspith assured her next customer, Daisy Morgan, “and I think I may have made too many of the sugar free butter candies so if you stop by towards the day’s end I’m sure they’ll be plenty left if you want some to take home?”

“That really is most kind of you. I have to be so careful with my diet.”

“Yes I know, but I had so many friends in the theatre, particularly the dancers, who had to maintain their figures for their work that I learned of all sorts of ingenious delicacies they came up with. I can give you the recipe for them if you would like?”

“I’d like that very much. We must be sure of seeing more of each other from now on.”

“Yes. And I’d like that very much, bye for now.”

“These honey filled scones taste great Mrs Harrington, I’ll take four.” It was no wonder Jack Miles had a heart problem and struggled to get the post delivered on time. Elspith knew he wouldn’t share a single one of them with his wife.

“Four it is Mr Miles. And here’s an extra two, free of charge for when you get home.”

“Hmmm,” said Jack, “I’ll enjoy them later. I can’t remember the last time I tasted honey this thick and succulent. How did you make it like this?” Elspith looked at him with her sweetest smile. It was best all round that she didn’t answer that question, at least not truthfully…

“So, how’s it going Eliza? Selling lots?” Asked Charlie.

“I should say, but I think that’s more to do with the quality of the Fortnum and Mason suppliers than my selling skills. This lot are getting the very best the world’s chefs have to offer for less than the price the local bakers would charge.”

“Hmm,” Charlie muttered, and then adding, “well just you be careful you don’t get them mixed up. You said yourself some of the villagers were alright to you.”

“No need to worry. I’m not one of the Borgias, you know. I’ve been most careful.”

“And you’ve sold to everyone you wanted to then?”

“Yes, to every one of them, it couldn’t have gone better if I had planned every last detail.”

“But you did,” Charlie laughed.

“Ha! So I did!” Snapped back Elspith with a huge mischievous grin…

It had been a busy but enjoyable day. Elspith’s catering efforts had gone down a treat. For the first time in years, the villagers had been really nice to Elspith. But it was all too little and too late…

Later that night, Margaret Collins went into anaphylactic shock, the result of something she ate, though exactly what couldn’t be identified.

Two days later both Daisy Morgan and Elizabeth Collins died in strange circumstances: Daisy from an extreme diabetic attack brought on by elevated blood-sugar levels and Elizabeth from some sort of penicillin induced heart attack.

A food source was suspected in both cases, but like with Margaret Collins, what particular food or where from was a mystery.

The mystery deepened further when the following day, Jack Miles died from a sudden and massive heart attack. Traces off an anti-clotting agent were later found in the autopsy, the very last thing you would expect to find in someone taking a blood thinning agent for clogged arteries.

And who could have foretold of Mr Harrington’s suicide? No one had suspected anything going on between him and Margaret Collins. He must have loved Margaret very much to be so distraught to kill himself when he heard of her death…

Poor Elspith, people thought. The village had finally warmed to her…

 *************************

“Not guilty!” The verdict of the month long trial was greeted by cheers and knowing nods of approval from the public gallery. The friends and admirers of the defendant had left little room for the usual assortment of morbidly curious onlookers.

Elspith Eliza Harrington allowed herself a wry smile as she listened to the Judge telling her she was free to go. She made a pretence of trying to adjust her hearing aid, forcing the judge to repeat himself. There was nothing wrong with her hearing but it amused her to do so…

The verdict had never really been in doubt; the evidence was flimsy and circumstantial at best. And even if it had been stronger, without absolute proof or a full confession, who would have believed that the frail looking sweet old lady standing in the dock could really have been responsible for multiple deaths in a quiet country village?

A court usher assisted Elspith descend the three short steps from the dock, not that she needed any help; truth be known, she was fit as a fiddle and with a razor sharp mind to match, but the frail, slightly confused persona had served her well so why abandon it just yet?

Only two people in the court weren’t fully taken in by Elspith’s performance: Judge Billingsgate, who had frequently indicated his disbelief by way of repeated interruptions of the defence; prolonged fiddling with his silver rimmed glasses as he pulled them midway down his nose to peer over betrayed his scepticism as surely as standing up and calling her a liar. And then there was Inspector Musgrove, the officer in charge of the investigations that had brought them all to this point…

It was sheer bad luck for Elspith that Inspector Henry Musgrove had been at the village fete that day otherwise the whole affair might never have come to court. What clinched his suspicions was seeing Charlie at the fete too. You see, Henry Musgrove hadn’t always been a country copper. Twenty years previously he’d led the task-force assigned to gathering the proof to convict Charlie Hawton – unsuccessfully.

There was nothing to connect Charlie with the unexplained deaths but it was obvious he knew, and was fond of Elspith Eliza Harrington.

In his mind, wherever Charlie was there was a crime waiting to be solved- if he couldn’t prove Charlie was responsible it would have to be the dotty old woman instead. He simply hadn’t counted on the ‘dotty old woman’s’ theatrical skills – the jury never stood a chance…

Charlie gave the inspector a cheeky wink from the gallery before proceeding to greet his ‘now’ fiancée, his beloved Eliza.

Accepting Charlie’s marriage proposal was a small price to pay for the opportunity of one last great performance…

Lottery Loser…

Preface:

 Murder, the deliberate taking of another human life, is quite possibly the most heinous of crimes a human being can commit. There can never be a real justification for it, can there? But are there cases where it might be understood, identified, and even sympathized with? You decide…

 

Lottery Loser…

How quickly life can change. Peter Miller had a beautiful wife and two adorable kids. What he didn’t have was a job, money to pay the bills, and hope for the future. Like everyone else on the run-down estate where they lived, he dreamed of how things might be: fancy holidays, a new car, and a better life for his family. All that stood in his way were six little numbers, the right numbers on the right ticket. It was the same dream fifteen million other lottery ticket buyers had. Dreams just didn’t come true for families like the Millers…

“For god’s sake Pete,” screamed Jill, his wife,”there’s barely enough electric left on the meter to get us through the week, we’re out of milk, behind with the rent, and you’re still wasting money on bloody lottery tickets!”

Peter turned away, knowing she was right, too ashamed to meet her angry tear-filled eyes. Neither of them had the energy to pursue the arguement further.

Peter Miller continued to dream. He needed his dreams to cope with going through the motions of applying for jobs he wouldn’t get. Each new morning brought the usual letters of rejection from those who had bothered to reply. The bin was full of such letters. The bills and final demands couldn’t be disposed of so easily; they were put in a draw.

Saturday night came round. Peter Miller would have liked to drop the kids off at their gran’s and take his wife out for a night out. But where to? With no money, no car, not even bus fare? Another night in front of the TV then. Peter Miller slumped into an armchair, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable disappointment of the lottery results. Jill no longer had enough fight in her to be remotely interested; the cost of their lottery ticket would have bought them two pints of milk.

Peter switched TV channels to hear the results. They never saw the other channel appear. Without warning, the the TV and the lights went dark and quiet.

“Well, that’s just soddin’ great!” Jill said.”

“I’ll go and operate the emergency supply,” he replied, lifting himself up. Like most of the other residents on the estate, their electric supply was a ‘pay as you go’ meter. You paid in advance for the electric you used. And when it was used up, the lights went out. The only safeguard was the emergency supply button; five pounds of emergency credit to allow the customer to restore their electric supply until the customer could get to a local shop to buy more credit for the key that updated the meter balance. Two minutes later the lights came back on, and the TV sprang back to life. They had missed the lottery results. It seemed unimportant. What was important was that it was another week away before they got the next unemployment cheque – the measly five pounds emergency credit wouldn’t stretch another week…

The days passed. Life continued for the Millers. With a little economy they might just make the electric last til the end of the week; more blankets instead of central heating, strict rationing of the house lights, and the kids would have to forego using their X boxes for the rest of the week – they would cope, somehow. The Millers were used to coping, to making do..

The Wednesday edition of the Hackney Gazette dropped through the letterbox, the local freebie paper. It made a change from the bills and job rejection letter. It was filled with local news and an ever decreasing number of job adverts. The news was mostly bad, and the jobs beyond his qualifications and skills. It did feature the lottery results as well though…

“This can’t be fucking right? – Jill!” It was Peter’s turn to scream her name. Jill assumed it was another bill, and continued her washing up.

“Jill! He screamed again, “Jill, for fucks sake, leave that and get in here will you.” This time she took notice. It wasn’t like him to swear like that, not at her.

“What is it, what’s wrong?” there was worry and concern in here voice.

“Wrong? Nothing, at least I don’t think so – here, take a look…” He replied, thrusting the local paper into her hands, “look at the numbers, they’re our numbers, the ones we do every week.. We’ve fucking won!!!” She took the paper., not really taking in what he was saying. The winning lottery numbers certainly looked familiar, but it had been so long since she had been the one to buy the tickets that she couldn’t be sure, still not believing it…

“I’m telling you Jill, those are our numbers!” He didn’t bother to wait for her reaction before racing upstairs to retrieve the lottery ticket. Jill raced after him, paper still in hand. They stared at the numbers screaming out at them from the now crumpled page of the Gazette and compared them to those on the ticket. They were the same! They turned to look at one another, their eyes met. This time the tears were joyful. No words needed saying at that moment – the empty fridge, the electric running out, their damp cold flat – none of it mattered now, they were going to be rich…

The morning’s weather was as cold and wet as it could be, but for the Millers it was the brightest they’d ever known. They’d been too excited the previous night to actually ring the lottery company to claim their winnings. With shaking hands Peter Miller dialed the contact number to verify their ticket.

“Hello, is that the claims line?” He asked, his voice shaking in sync with his hands.

“Yes, this is the Camelot claims line, can I help you?”

“Yes, I think we may have won this week’s jackpot, we’ve checked the numbers and everything.”

“That’s good. If you could just read the numbers on the ticket for me then please?”

“Sure: seven, eleven, twenty four, thirty two, thirty nine, sixteen, and bonus ball is eight”

“Yes, those are the correct numbers. Now, could you just read the ticket verification code in the bottom left-hand corner.”

“Two, one, four, nine, six.”

“Thank you, if you could just hold on a moment please… Just having a bit of trouble getting the verification, nothing to worry about, the system’s a bit slow at the moment.”

“That’s okay, I can hold…”

“Errm, can I take your details please? The system’s down at the moment so we’ll need to get back to you later today, or if that’s not possible could I you call back later?”

Peter Miller gave the claims assistant his name and number and agreed that they would speak again later to confirm his claim just as soon as the ‘system’ was up and running again…

“They said we’ve got the correct numbers, but their verification machine is down at the moment so we need to call back later for final confirmation, or something like that. Other than that, everything’s okay.”

“Oh that’s so great, I’m so sorry for snapping at you, oh god, I’m so happy!”

“Me too, love. Now let’s start planning…”

Over the next couple of hours, the two of them made all the sorts of plans you would expect of a money-strapped young couple who had just won the lottery: what sort of house and car they would buy, where they would move to, a world cruise, who they were going to help, everything they could dream of. Life was going to be so great for them from now on.

Three hours later…

“Hello, is that Peter Miller?”

“Yes, that’s right”

“This is John Salford, from Camelot. You spoke to one of my colleagues earlier in respect of a claim. I’m afraid there’s a problem…”

“A problem? I don’t understand, I mean, the numbers are right, I’ve checked and re-checked them a dozen times..”

“Yes they are, but the ticket verification code you provided, it’s invalid. According to our records it’s registered to a ticket issuing machine that was stolen from a retail outlet three years ago… Sorry, are you still there Mr Miller?”

Peter Miller was having trouble following what was being said, he just wasn’t taking it in. He’d bought a ticket from his local newsagents, how could it not be valid? The man in the shop had even paid him for previous little wins, the odd tenner or so, it just wasn’t making sense to him…

“I’m afraid I’m going to need details of exactly when and where you bought your ticket so we can pass this matter onto the police and our fraudulent claims department Mr Miller.”

“What? You think I’m making a false claim, I bought the fucking ticket in a shop for God-sake, this is all bollox..”

“Yes, I understand. No one’s accusing you of making a false claim, but we believe a wider fraud may have been committed in which you are a victim Mr Miller.”

*************************

Arnold Simms, proprietor of the Dalston Road HappyShopper newsagents and tobacconist, was charged with multiple counts of defrauding the Camelot Lottery company. Over a three year period he had pocketed over thirty thousand pounds from the sale of invalid lottery tickets by way of a stolen lottery ticket machine. To perpetuate the fraud, he had paid out numerous small wins to maintain the illusion of selling valid tickets, working on the assumption that the odds of a customer having a really big win were too long to worry about. He intended to plead not guilty on the grounds on that he had bought the said stolen machine in good faith. Due to his previous good character he was granted bail and allowed to continue trading. He was never brought to trial…

 *************************

Peter Miller was originally charged with the murder of Arnold Simms, having walked into the HappyShopper newsagents in broad daylight and shot him twice through the chest. When the police arrived, Peter Miller was sitting on the floor of the shop with the gun lying beside him, muttering and crying. At his trial the jury refused to convict him of murder, opting instead for the alternative of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was released after serving three years of a five year sentence…

 *************************

Was it murder? Should he have been released so soon? Put yourself in Peter Miller’s position. How would you have reacted to having all your hopes and dreams come true, only for them to be destroyed in a single moment? What might you have done?

Cold Callers…

Preface:

 It’s funny, the little things that provide the inspiration for a story. In the following story, the seed of the idea started with a TV commercial featuring a woman in the kitchen receiving a phone call from a loft insulation salesman. She puts him on hold while she goes off to make a cup of coffee. It got me thinking of all the different ways to deal with cold callers…

 

 Cold Callers…

 

Time – 08:00: Here I am, Sunday morning, sitting at my keyboard, working on my blog. It’s another short story, not so much a whodunit as a whytheydunit.

The TV’s off, I’ve put my mobile on silent, logged off from Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media, and locked the wife and kids in the cellar – well, not really, I made that last bit up, but you take my point.

I’m lost in my own little world, the only external contact being my fingers tapping away at the keyboard. The words are flowing, bringing the page alive before my very eyes, I couldn’t be happier… The last time I had a flow like this was a burst water pipe.

Disaster… The landline is ringing. I think for a moment to ignore it. Only my family and close friends know my home number; it might be important. Reluctantly I emerge from my other world…

“Yeah, who’s this?” I ask, making little effort to hide my annoyance at the interruption. If it’s anyone I know I can make my apologies later. If not, I don’t care…

“Is that Mr Brown?” The twat didn’t even have the courtesy to answer my question.

Who is it that’s asking?” I ask, again…

 “Oh I’m sorry, did I not say?”

“No.”

“Ah, okay, I’m sorry…” He’s lying; he’s not a bit sorry, obviously a salesman of some sort.

“So you said. Now, who are you?”

“Yes of course, my name’s Colin, Colin Smithers.” Smarmy git, he’s trying to control the exchange, like a chess player trying to dominate the middle of the board. Well, I’m not playing…

“What do you want?” I already know what he wants, a sales commission. He won’t be getting one, not from me…

“I’m calling on behalf of Snuggly loft insulation, and…”

“I live in an igloo! I’m not interested.” I say, slamming the phone down. I take a deep breath, just like my therapist advised.

Time – 08:35: I’m back at my keyboard. I can’t help wondering, if I can’t even get some peace and quiet in my own home to write, how the hell did JK Rowling manage it in a cafe? I put the thought from my mind as I resume the sentence I was writing. Now what was it, oh yes I remember, the outline of a murder plot, my fingers returning to the keyboard once more..

Dingggg Dongggg… It’s the front doorbell going…

“What the fuck now?” I mutter under my breath, once again having to tear myself away from my beloved keyboard…

“Yes?” I ask, throwing the door wide open. Standing before me are a man and a woman, of African origin I would say, wearing bright coloured clothing and with equally bright beaming white teethed smiles that would grace the covers of Dentistry Monthly

“We’re from the Holy Hackney Church of the Apostles…”

“And I’m from the Battersea Boy’s Home for waifs and strays, what of it?”

The beaming smiles momentarily wither beneath their puzzled frowns. But only for a moment; they’re trained you know, to deal with stroppy unbelievers. The greater the challenge the greater the reward in heaven, they think. I’m about to throw doubt on their hypothesis…

“Would you be interested in any of our leaflets on the life eternal…?”

I’m glad it’s the man who’s asking. I’m not sexist or ‘owt, but I do find it so much easier being rude and abrupt to another man. It’s a failing, I know; I’m sure if I was a woman I’d feel comfortable with either.

“Not in the slightest!” I reply, about to close the door on this interruption.

“You’re not a believer then my friend?” Asks the female half of the double act.

I feel my blood pressure rising, I take another deep breath, just as I’ve been told. My therapist is going to have to devise a more effective coping mechanism for me; this one is beginning to fail…

“Oh but I am,” I reply, treating them both to a broad smirk, “a fully paid up member of the Sun Worshiping Pagan Tree Hugging Society,  have you heard of us? No? …Thought not…”

It was amusing to see those ‘far too happy to be true’ smiles fall from their faces as they turned to walk away in sync with my closing the door on them. Another unwelcome interruption satisfyingly dispatched…

Time – 09:15: I’m back at my keyboard. A full stop concludes the sentence I was writing, and indeed the paragraph. It’s also the conclusion of my muse for the moment. My ‘flow’ has been become a trickle, and no, that’s not a reference to a prostate problem so please forgive the unfortunate analogy.

The brief satisfaction of my dismissal of the God botherers has worn off. I’m still annoyed at them, blaming them for my loss of focus. I sit staring at the screen, the words on the page a blur, my fingers seemingly paralysed. Another hour passes and still the words don’t come. I fill the following hour with all manner of meaningless tasks: tea making, email checks, Facebook updates, anything to fill the void until the words return. Nothing seems to work, I’m becoming jittery, like an ex-smoker in those first few days of giving up. The deep breathing exercises have lost all effect. I resolve to make another appointment with my therapist. I really should take one of my pills, but I don’t want to blur my imagination even more…I take one anyway.

My morose mood is punctured by the sound of the landline ringing, my second call of the day…

“Hello, is this Mr Brown?” A voice asks. With my mind and fingers still not communicating, this time it’s a welcome intrusion.

“Yes it is. Who’s calling please?”

“My name’s John Hargreaves. I’m calling on behalf of Winter Warm Windows about an exclusive offer we have for your area, Mr Brown.”

“Sorry, what was that name again…Har…Grove… was it? Could you spell that please?”

“Spell it..?” I can hear the frustration in his voice.

“Yes, that’s right, just so I know who I’m talking to…” It’s only fair; he already knows who I am…

“Errm… Yes, right then… H – A – R – G – R – E – A -V – E – S.”

“Thank you for that. And the name of your company? Was that Winter Warm or Warm Winter?”

“The first one, Winter Warm, but as I was saying…” The resignation in his voice is becoming more evident, I wonder if he has high blood pressure too?

“And is that all one word or two, or hyphenated maybe?”

“Oh, erm, two words, without a hyphen… But, what I wanted to…”

“Thank you for that John…I can call you John can I?” I’m enjoying this. Before he can answer I continue:

“Tell me John, what’s it like working for Winter Warm? Are they a good firm to work for, it’s just that I’m thinking of a career change  and  I quite like the idea of sitting round all day just talking to people…”

“It’s… a bit like that, but…” Again I cut him short…

“And the pay, would you say they pay well? It’s not one of those ‘commission only’ set ups is it? I would insist a on a decent basic salary as well, wouldn’t you agree…?”

Time to give him a moment to splutter some blurb about what it is he wants me to buy…

“Yes, the pay’s okay, and yes, there’s a basic salary, but what I was calling about was our special offer to customers in your area…”

“A special offer you say, how exciting.” I hope he recognizes the distain in my voice.

“Are you offering to double glaze my entire house for free then?” If he says yes I might even start taking this conversation seriously…

“Not free exactly, but we are offering a fifty per cent discount to the first twenty customers who sign up for six new windows.”

“That sounds good,” I lie, “and the payment, can I pay in instalments, would there be a deposit to pay first?”

“Yes, definitely, you can pay in instalments, with just a ten per cent deposit to pay first.”

“And the deposit, can I pay that in instalments too?”

“Well, not really, we do require the ten percent to paid before any commencement of work I’m afraid.”

“Oh,” I say, trying to sound disappointed.

“I’ll have to give it some thought then. Obviously before making any commitment I’ll need to take a few particulars about your company to verify its legitimacy, you don’t mind do you?”

“No, not at all,” he says, actually believing I’m genuinely interested now.

“First, could you give me the full postal code addresses of both your local and Head office premises, as well as that of any parent company, and of course their respective customer service and administration telephone numbers. I’ll also need your VAT and Company House registration numbers. I trust none of that will be a problem?”

“All the information you’ve asked for would be in the documentation we provide.”

He’s trying to maintain his composure and civility; sales calls are mostly recorded these days. I suspect this is being recorded too, for training and monitoring purposes, otherwise he would almost certainly have either put the phone down by now or bluntly asked if this was a piss take.

“I appreciate that, but I would still require it beforehand, for my checks you see. And another thing I forgot to ask, is it a new company, and who the directors are? You hear so many horror stories of rogue companies carrying out bad work, closing down, and then opening up again under a slightly different name… Your company isn’t one of those is it?”

There’s an uneasy pause before he answers:

“No, we’re not one of those companies,” he reassures me…

“I’m sure you’re not, but you do see I had to ask don’t you? It’s just that while we’ve been talking I’ve been googling your company. According to their entries your company was only formed six months ago, and it has… My gosh… Eighty seven consumer complaints against it and an honorary mention on both the Cowboy Builders and Consumer Watchdog TV programs…”

I wait in gleeful anticipation for his reply…. Oh dear, we seem to have been cut off, I conclude as the line goes dead. I’m so grateful for his call though, our little exchange has quite rejuvenated my creativity….

Time – 11:55: The words are flowing again, my mood lifted, and my blood pressure back down in the safe zone. Life is good again as I put together the final pieces of my literary jigsaw. The final dilemma was the method to be used for the actual murder committed by my principal character. I had been torn between a brutal bludgeoning or knife attack, and poisoning. The decision is clear to me now as the final scene comes alive on the page…

Dingggg Dongggg… The sound of the doorbell shatters the tranquillity, again…

 Deep breaths, in out, in out, fists clenching, blood pressure ready to explode again. I close my eyes in the hope that whoever it is will  go away…

Dingggg Dongggg… Why now? Sunday is supposed to be a day of peace and quiet…

They’re still there. I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I’ve not the time to take a pill or ring my therapist. Defeated, I rise from my desk to answer yet another intrusive call…

“Yes!” It’s not a question this time. The man standing before me grins like a Cheshire cat. He’s younger than me, mid-thirties I estimate. His suit is slightly ill-fitting. He’s gone for the executive look, but on a limited budget, it’s more dodgy second-hand car salesman.

“Hello, I’m Colin, Colin Smithers; we spoke on the phone earlier this morning. I think I may have caught you at an inconvenient moment at the time.”

My jaw drops in disbelief. The arrogance of this prick. Was I not blunt enough with him on the phone?

“What is it you want?” I’m bloody pissed; this really is taking cold calling to a whole new level. I’ve had enough. Well, I think my response will also have to be taken to a whole new level too…

“I think we may have gotten off to a bad start on the telephone earlier, and as I was in the area on another appointment I thought I might call on you personally to let you know about our limited time exclusive offer we are able to offer on account of a budget underspend last month.”

“Yes, perhaps I was a bit hasty this morning. Please come in…”

Time – 13:45: I’m back at my keyboard. I’ve just about finished my story. The murder scene came out better than I could ever have imagined, a gory brutal decapitation for dramatic effect…

 ********************

It just after 2:20pm when the armed response unit arrived at the house. Mr Brown was sitting at his desk, typing, covered in blood, muttering away to himself, something about ignoring anymore interruptions. He hadn’t even noticed when they came crashing through the door, armed to the teeth, screaming at him to drop to the floor. He just looked over his shoulder and calmly turned off his PC, and told them he was done now done and would be happy to oblige. It was the strangest call-out they’d ever had; the odd reports of a possible murder, the site of that severed head hanging from the external door knocker when they arrived and the make shift sign saying ‘NO COLD CALLERS’.

 *******************

One year later… Time – 08:00: It’s great here. I’ve got access to lots of PCs, and even one in my room. I no longer have to work, not if I don’t want to, so I’ve got all the time in the world for my writing. The doctors tell me I’ll be here for the next twenty years at least, even longer with a bit of luck, though I’ll have to play up a bit if I want an indefinite stay.

Now what was I writing, ah yes, a storyline for the murder of an annoying room-mate…

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