See You Later

FREE short story set in Bangkok by Colin Devonshire

See You Later

“Are you coming tonight?” Jake asked. He guessed the answer but didn’t want to hear it confirmed.

Johnny turned with a smirk and that ‘you’ve gotta be joking’ look.

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” Knowing it wouldn’t be fun for his best mate.

A garish purple and green taxi pulled up. The window lowered. “Where you go?” The driver asked in his best English.

Jake looked at Johnny. “Well?”

“You go on. Maybe I’ll join you later,” Johnny answered, pushing his mate into the cab. They had been putting in the hours, selling non-existent shares in non-existent companies. It was Friday night, bonus night. Jake at least, felt they deserved to celebrate with a few beers. Better still Champagne, but where he planned on visiting, don’t stock any. Their wine came in tacky boxes.

The taxi pulled away. Jake’s ‘Fuck you then’, middle finger salute earned a brief smile from Johnny. He walked on through the busy crowd of office workers mixing with a smattering of tourists hunting street-side bargains of fake designer shirts and shoes. Johnny earned enough to buy the genuine gear from Bangkok’s upmarket stores. He didn’t.

Turning left, between two high-end boutiques, he was soon away from five-star tourist traps, bank head offices, and glitzy hotels, he was where rats lived side by side with three-legged dogs and cats with broken tails, and his friend, Busaba. She was dying.

“Hello, Khun Maah, how is your daughter?” Johnny’s spoken Thai was enough for day-to-day conversation.

Khun Maah’s tears said enough.

Johnny moved to the back room, he caught his breath, Busaba chest rose and fell. She was gasping for air, eyes shut, the nasal tubes and clear plastic face mask barely moved as the rasping oxygen intake agony for the once beautiful girl.

Unashamedly, tears ran down his cheeks. He looked around at her mother, his words would not come. 

“Khun Johnny, thank you for all you’ve done for her. All the medicine, and the oxygen machine, everything. It’s not working.”

“Let me take her to the hospital?”

“It’s too late. The doctor came earlier. There is nothing they can do. Better she dies here.”

Johnny thought back to one month ago. Jake fired her with the words, “You are no good to this company, here one day, sick the next. Better you find a new position. Goodbye.”

Busaba, too proud to cry in the office, merely touched Johnny’s hand as she walked past.

She had dated Johnny for a month before telling him of her mother’s tough life, how she bowed and scraped to get her through school and finally completing her accountancy degree. How she had sold the family Buddha image to buy clothes suitable for office work. How she owed her mum the world, only to fall sick. Her sister, older by a year, didn’t finish school, she worked to help her mum and little sister. She wasn’t proud of her job. She worked in a bar, offering drinks and extras. When Busaba started a job and soon after found a boyfriend, she treated herself to a rare gift. A glow in the dark fluorescent tattoo.

“I want to end Busaba’s misery,” Khun Maah said.

“What do you mean?”

Johnny knew.

Khun Maah looked at the electric switch. Johnny followed her glance to the emergency generator, thinking what a lifesaver it had been in the regular power cuts. 

“I’m a Buddhist. I cannot take life,” she said.

“You mean…”

Johnny knelt and grabbed Busaba’s right hand, Khun Maah held her left, tears flowed. Briefly, Busaba smiled and opened her eyes. She mouthed goodbye in Thai, then English before closing her eyes.

The generator chugged to a stop.

Johnny kissed her forehead, his wai to her, then he turned to her mother, repeating the gesture, the most painful actions he had ever experienced. Khun Maah got busy on her battered phone, she spoke to a monk about funeral arrangements. Johnny grabbed a container of powerful painkillers and slipped it into his pocket. Ducking, he went past the three-legged canine back to the flashy high street and signalled a taxi.

He steeled himself before tapping a number on his phone.

“At last. Are you coming?” asked Jake. “What the hell have you been up to?”

“Oh, nothing much, I’m on my way.”

“That girl with the fluorescent tattoos is here. Waiting for you!”

“Good, I want to speak to her,” said Johnny.

“Only talk, haha,” smirked Jake.

A few minutes later Johnny straightened his shirt, checked his cheeks were dry, and marched into the seedy club, offering huge fake smiles all around.

“Ah-ha, here he is. Get us two more beers. Make sure they are cold this time.”

Jake eased the scantily clad lass from his lap. 

“Now, let us enjoy that bonus,” Jake shouted. The pounding hip-hop music failed to drown his excitement.

Beer bottles clinked. “Heres to another big bonus,” said Jake.

“I’m looking for a little extra tonight, where is the flashing tattoo lady?”

“She’s waiting for you. I told her you were coming. Here she comes with our beers.”

Tilak, ja,” she joked with Johnny.

Johnny smiled and winked. 

“I need to talk to you. Wait until I signal you,” he said in Thai, knowing Jake never learned the language.

She skipped back to the bar, tattoo glistening with the strobe.

“Fancy a short?” Johnny asked.

“Why not, brandy and coke?”

Jake turned and gave the order to his conquest. Johnny undid the container in his pocket and counted out six of the pills. Jake’s ‘friend’ returned with a small bottle of Sang Som, two bottles of coke and an ice bucket. She mixed the drinks, then kissed Jake, long and hard. Johnny used the ice claws to smash his pills to powder. The powder sprinkled in Jakes’s glass. Then the girl broke from Jake’s embrace, pecked his nose, and started stirring the drinks, handing them to her customers.

“Cheers,” said Johnny, as he downed his glass in one. Jake copied. The girl was already mixing the next glass.

Before the brandy bottle and pill container were empty, Jake was empty of life. His girl tutted, “Drunk foreigners,” and stalked off. Johnny signalled Miss Tattoo across.

“He is dead. Don’t panic. He deserved it. Your sister died tonight. It was his fault,” pointing at his ex-friend. “You and your bouncer friend get rid of his body. As a payment for that service, you keep his diamond studded Rolex, his gold chains, rings and his credit cards. I know the ATM numbers, they are his birth year. So, for ridding the club of, what looks like a drunk, you can profit nicely. If your mother needs anything, she has my number.”

Miss Tattoo was fighting tears. She sloped to her bouncer pal, when they returned to the table, Jake held a piece of paper in his teeth, bank code numbers.

There was no sign of Johnny. He never returned.

The END

Twisted Fate

A FREE short story by Colin Devonshire

Twisted Fate

“I’m going now. To Thailand I mean, I’m going to find him,” said Arthur.

“You are as mad as our son,” said Mildred.

“Our son is missing for God’s sake.”

“Not according to the Embassy in Bangkok when you pestered them.”

“We have not heard from him for one year. No Christmas cards, no birthday wishes. And you say he’s not missing?”

“This morning you got an email, from him, so what’s the panic?” said Mildred.

“That email was sent one year ago. It was the same one we opened exactly one year ago. Don’t you think that’s strange?”

“Okay, but before you buy a plane ticket, check with, what’s ‘is name, at the computer shop.”

“Yeah, yeah, his mate, Steve. I will. Are you coming?” asked Arthur.

Mildred popped into the butchers next to ‘Caversham Comps’, Arthur looked at the boxes of the latest Apples and packs of electronics he didn’t know how to open the packaging let alone know what to do with the stuff in them.

“Ah, Steve, just the man,” he said, leaning on the counter.

“Hi, Mr Stone, how are you? Is Mickey coming home?”

“We hope so. I need to tap your brain.”

“Sure, what can I do for you? Do you want an iPad?”

“A what? No, no, just some advice about emails, Mickey send me one this morning.”

“Great, what’s his news?”

“Uh, nothing. It was the same one he sent a year ago. Strange, eh?”

“It happens if you set a date to resend. Is it your birthday?”

“No, the message was nothing like that, just saying he was okay and asking about us. That’s all, why send it again?”

“Strange? I still see some of the old mates. No one has heard from him for ages. Wait a minute, I’ll check and see when he last contacted me. It was some time ago,” said Steve, tapping at his phone. “One year ago today, he told me it was hot, that was all. Hey, what’s this? A new mail, and it’s from Mickey, the same as last year. And, oddly, at the same time, eleven minutes past one.” Steve was scratching his head.

“How about his other mates?” asked Arthur.

“I’ll ask Alison.”

“Who?”

Mildred wandered in with bags full of pork chops.

“Do you know an Alison?” asked her husband.

“No, and I don’t want to. She is a weird girl. I’ve heard all about her and her crazy aunt,” answered Mildred.

“That was the girl, wild about him. Not a girlfriend, even if she wanted to be, but he was nice to her, even if the rest of us weren’t so kind. Maybe he kept in touch to keep her happy?” said Steve.

“Can you contact her?” asked Arthur.

“Her family brought stuff here, so I should have details.” He clicked at a keyboard. “Here we are.”

Steve waited a few seconds, then looked at his mobile.

“That’s funny, a photo of Mickey comes up, but no answer. I’ve also got her mum’s number, I’ll ask her.”

Steve showed them the picture, then called the new number.

“Hello, Mrs Albescu, sorry to trouble you…”

“Don’t you dare call this number.”

“Please, I need to speak to your daughter, Alison. Please.”

“Her name is Albie, she only changed it because of you lot teasing her.”

“I didn’t know. Sorry, can I speak to her?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s not here. She’s gone to Asia,” said Mrs Albescu.

“Has she gone to Thailand?”

“Some island called Samui. Don’t call again.”

Steve looked at his phone his chin dropped, ping, ping, ping. Emails streamed in.

“What in hell’s name? Excuse me, let me see what these are.”

Arthur and Mildred waited patiently.

“Look at this. Six-hundred and sixty-six emails, all saying the same, ‘White Romanian, Orange Brit’, what the hell does that mean?”

Arthur and Mildred shook their heads.

The shop’s door almost came away from the frame. Black and grey hair flying in all directions, scarlet lips snarled, teeth snapped.

“What is the meaning of this? Where’s your boss, I’ll have your job,” she screamed.

“Hello, Mrs Albescu, what can I do for you?” stammered Steve.

“You may think this is funny?”

“What?”

“Wasting my time, sending stupid mails.”

“I didn’t. I just received a load of nonsense too, what does yours say?” asked Steve.

She blurted a sentence in Romanian.

“Can I see?”

“No. In English it is a curse,” she said slightly calmer.

“Mine says, ‘White Romanian, Orange Brit’, does that make sense in Romanian?”

“The first part of my name, Albe, means white. Does that help? Is it from my daughter?” she said, tidying her wayward locks.

“There is no way of telling who it is from. But the mails come from a contact centre in Samui.”

“White Romanian must be Albie,” said Mrs Albescu. “But orange Brit?”

“Has she met an Englishman called Mr Orange?” asked Mildred. “What’s orange in Romanian?”

“Nah, I think the orange refers to Thai monks?” said Arthur. “I’ve seen their pictures. The monks always wear orange. Do we know a Thai monk?”

“Of course we don’t know a monk. You never even go to church, where are you likely to get a religious fanatic.” As if a thunderbolt struck home. “Unless our boy is now a monk! That’s why we haven’t heard from him?” said Mildred.

“Can you go home and get our mobile? Maybe we’ve got messages too?” said Arthur.

“I need to put all this in the fridge anyway,” said Mildred as she trudged off.

“You seem anxious about your daughter, anything we should know. Odd both of them are in Samui, don’t you think?” asked Steve.

“Yes, you are right. She is not an easy child. I shouldn’t tell you our family secrets. But I’ve plenty to be worried about, my witch of a sister for example, Albie believed every word she breathed, she was even learning gypsy tricks,” said Mrs Albescu.

“Come on tell us more, anything that could affect Mickey?” asked Steve.

“He was all she talked about. Mickey did this, Mickey said that. She… no I’d better say nothing.”

“How do you work this thing,” Mildred said as she bumbled in, passing the phone to her husband.

“Shall I,” offered Steve. “Yep, you got the same as us. Hundreds of messages. Wait a minute, you’ve got a new one. Christ, is that Mickey?”

“What has he done,” said Arthur.

“Let me see,” said Mildred, snatching the phone. Her son, head shaven, no eyebrows glared from the screen. “Look at his robes.”

Ping, ping, ping called phones all around the shop, even boxed and uncharged mobiles were vibrating, all begging to be answered.

Mrs Albescu, Arthur and Steve answered theirs while the rest in the shop kept bleeping.

This time a video was displayed. Again it was Mickey, but this time he had a rope around his neck. He was tied to a tree. The thick nylon cord strung over a high branch. Struggling to keep his balance on an overhanging rock, above the crashing waves. Mickey wriggled against tightly tied wrists. Then Albie’s face appeared. Sweat streamed down her panting cheeks.

“We were to be married. Look what he’s done. Look at him. How can I marry a bald religious nut? He won’t even leave the temple. He is wed to his new faith.”

She kicked him off the cliff. Watching him dangle, she turned back to the camera.

“Maybe next life?” 

She collapsed to her knees, laughing and cackling aloud as the connection was lost.

The END

Dad’s Gone

Short story by Colin Devonshire

Dad’s Gone

“Oh, mum, can’t I watch TikToc a little longer?” asked Patsy.

“You’ve got school tomorrow. After this long break, aren’t you excited to see your friends? I want you asleep before I leave for work.”

“You’re leaving me alone tonight?”

“Darling, you know I must go back to work. You are a teenager now, not a baby,” said Hathai Chantawan, Patsy’s mother. Chantawan was not her legal name. Fifteen years ago she had married a foreigner, taking his name, Peters. It was thought better in her job to use her maiden name.

“But mum?”

“Don’t but me. I’m needed at the station, I must go. I’m sorry your dad is not here. He would always care for you when I worked nights. Well, we must get on with our lives. So, sleep. And I mean now.”

“Do I have to go to school? What time will you be home?”

“Patsy, why do you bombard me with questions you know the answers to?”

“But I don’t want to go back to school.”

“You have to return sometime. The quicker the better, and I’ll be home in time to get you off to school. Now, sleep.”

Hathai half closed the curtains, turning, as she bent to kiss her daughter goodnight, a movement outside caught her eye, returning to the window she peered long and hard into the darkness, she shook her head and returned to her motherly task of pecking Patsy’s forehead. Patsy hugged her mum like a baby koala with its mother.

“That’s enough. I going to my room to shower and change. I want you asleep when I look in.”

Hathai was pulling off her sweatshirt before deciding on her outfit. As a detective in the Royal Thai Police Force, she wore plain clothes. Tonight she expected to be catching up on a backlog of unsolved cases. Jeans and a t-shirt would suffice.

“You are supposed to be sleeping,” said Hathai. “Get back into bed this minute.”

“But mum, I saw someone.”

“You shouldn’t have been looking.”

“I had my eyes shut… But, sensed something. I had to look,” said Patsy.

“What did you see?”

“It is dark out there, so nothing clearly, but somebody, I think a man, who ducked behind the coconut trees.”

“And what did you notice about this person? What was he wearing, for example?”

Hathai’s detective skills piqued.

“As I said, it is pitch black. I could make out the shapes of vegetation. Then a grey shape moved. It looked like he was wearing a hat.”

“A hat like your father wore?”

“I didn’t want to say that, but yes. And no, I wasn’t dreaming of dad.”

“I’m going out to look, you stay here.”

Hathai strode out of the room and stamped down the stairs, grabbing a torch as she went out the back door, flicking on the bright beam as she hit the grass.

“Anyone out here?” she asked loudly.

The coconut palm rustled in the wind.

“I have a gun. Come out at once,” she lied. Her gun, forgotten in the kitchen.

She was answered by insects and leaves, all sounding louder, as if they were partying at her expense. Patsy and Hathai’s unfenced back garden reached the neighbouring farmer’s land, packed with heavily laden fruit trees. The only fears Hathai had experienced outside work, were snakes. Snakes did not wear hats. Especially like her husband’s.

The shadow she too had seen, appeared to be wearing a straw trilby. Like the ones available in tourist resorts.

Her husband did not need to dress for work. He wrote articles for the travel trade.

“Get a grip woman,” she said to herself. “There is nothing here.”

“Thank God, no one has touched my weapon.”

She was talking to herself again as she unlocked the drawer. She checked the safety, dabbed a spot of oil on the trusted friend, then holstered the weapon with a good luck tap. She called up the stairs, “Okay, babe, nothing there. I’m off now. See you in the morning.”

She didn’t wait for a list of questions. Driving the short distance to her office she started another conversation with herself.

“Am I being too hard on Patsy? Maybe she needs to toughen up? We’ll see.”

She tried to concentrate on the pile of case files, sitting there, taunting her. Trilby hats doffed to her memory.

“Returning to work is like Patsy going back to school. Tough at whatever age.” She tutted as she pulled the details from another file.

Patsy was back at the window. She prayed to see her father whistling to himself in his favourite garden seat. ‘Just cogitating,’ he would say, smiling at her. But a school prankster playing a joke was far more likely. The boys ribbed her, not just because her father was English, but also because her mum was a police officer.

“When will they grow up?” she said, staring into the blackness.

She grabbed a tissue, dabbed her sad eyes.

“Come on, girl. You’ve got to face the other kids tomorrow,” she whispered. A smokey shadow flicked past the vegetation.

“What was that?” she asked, leaning to the glass, grabbing the window sill with white knuckles.

Neighbours, teachers, pupils and fellow officers all had their theory about what happened to Patsy’s dad. A happy home, loving relationships, no shortage of money and a cheerful daughter. What went wrong? Where did he go, and why did he leave them?

He was there one day, gone the next. Hathai’s police training and all her colleagues failed to discover where he went. The British Embassy had been informed. Prodded and questioned. They had been polite, but with nothing to add, except that he had not used his passport.

“I going to chase them up again,” Hathai said to another officer. “They are hiding something, I can feel it.”

Patsy called from her bedroom doorway, “Mum, are you home?” knowing she wasn’t back, Patsy crept down the stairs. The back door was locked, the key, hanging from the door handle. Finding her flip-flops, she unlocked the door and edged her way out. The insects and the wind, breaking the silence.

Then she saw it again. A smokey shadow hid between palms. Low branches rustled, twitching against the breeze.

“Who is that?” she called.

“It’s me, darling.”

“Dad?”

Kicking off her shoes, “I’m home, are you up?” asked Hathai from the hallway.

“Hi, mum, how was work?”

“It was fine, thanks. Busy, but had to be done. How about your sleep?”

“Fantastic, thanks.”

“Really? Are you ready to go back to school?”

“Oh, yeah, can’t wait.”

There was a gentle pad, pad, pad down the stairs.

“My goodness, you are dressed already? Hair fixed, very smart, good girl.”

“Yes, mum, I’ve eaten, there’s some for you, just warm it up when you’re ready.”

If Hathai’s eyes got any bigger and rounder, they’d be Frisbees.

Patsy talked non stop on the short way to school.

“I can’t wait to see my friends. They will tell me what I missed, what they’ve been doing…”

A peck on the cheek and she ran to join the gang of girls waving wildly at her.

“That was easy,” muttered Hathai to herself. “Now to quiz the Embassy again.”

The drive was sluggish to central Bangkok. Jams and confused drivers clogging the lanes. She parked and sweatily flashed her badge, made her way into the secure building.

She was led through to a private office.

“Please take a seat. Mr Jenkins will be with you presently. Can I offer you a drink?”

She glanced at Windsor Castle in a travel brochure. “Hmm been there,” she said as a fit and an immaculately dressed man entered.

“Handsome, but with an embarrassed smile?” she said. “You’ve got bad news for me,” said Hathai.

“Yes, I’m afraid I have. I’m sorry. Your husband’s body has been found in Yangon. There is no mistake. His partner, when working for us, escaped and got back here yesterday. He is here if you want to talk…”

The END

Mirror, Mirror…

A short story by Colin Devonshire

Mirror, Mirror…

“Jen, your breakfast is ready. Do you want it down here, or shall I bring it up?”

“Thanks, mum, can I eat it here?”

Mrs Perks tightened her cheeks, forced her eyes to brighten. A thin smile battled its way across her mouth as she entered the girl’s bedroom.

“Here we are, darling. Oh, you are not in bed?” The bed was patted firmly as the tray was slid across the bedside table.

“Come on, Jen, away from the mirror. Put the brush down, you’ll wear it out.”

The girl was gently led back to bed, settled with a pillow propped against her back. A sturdy wooden tray placed across her legs.

“Smells good, mum, Khao tom?”  

“Yes, dear, just as you like it. Not too spicy, a squeeze of lemon and still piping hot. Be careful you don’t burn yourself. Enjoy, I’ll see you later. Your dad and I have to go out, don’t worry, we won’t be too long.”

Mrs Titima Perks was born in Bangkok. Her father owned a gem factory, Titima worked for him when she finished her university degree. Her language skills proved invaluable to the company. She then married one of her customers, Mr Bertie Perks, a jeweller from London. He sold his shop and moved to Bangkok. They now ran the business when Titima’s father retired.

Life was good. Their daughter was everything they could hope for. She looked like her mum, which pleased Bertie. Unfortunately, her cute, but, ‘Thai’ flat nose did not please Jen. She wanted a bridge, a ‘falang’ nose. She loved her father’s nose, strong and prominent. 

The family arguments started two years ago.

“I want a nose job,” Jen announced one morning.

“No, you are too young,” said her mum, stamping her foot almost cracking tiles.

“Your nose is beautiful,” said her father. “It is like your mum’s.”

“Exactly, that’s why I want to change it.” If eyes could burn. “Come on dad, the operation can be my birthday present.”

“You are not having an operation purely for looks at your age. And that is final,” said Titima.

“Soon I’ll be sixteen, then I can do whatever I want.” Jen ran to her room. Tears followed her up the stairs. It didn’t stop there, even though she didn’t mention it again. Daily fuming, pulling and poking at her hated nose. She saved and planned.

The office door opened for them. “Mr and Mrs Perks, lovely to see you again. Please take a seat.” The white-clad man showed them to seats around the coffee table. “Did you think any more about my suggestion?”

“Yes, Doctor, we’ve done nothing but consider your ideas. Can we meet the person you mentioned?”

“I thought you’d say that.” He leant across and pressed a button on his phone. “Ask Khun Samalie to come in, please.”

At the door stood a striking lady, dressed in a fitted business suit and silk blouse. Her lively hair was far from fitted, it escaped any clip and bounced across her shoulders.

“Please call me Sammy,” she said, offering the traditional Thai greeting, the wai, with a respectful bend of the knees, hands to the nose. She slid to the free seat at the table.

Jen finished her breakfast, wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her nightie, and found her way back to her favourite seat at the dressing-table mirror. Before sitting, she leaned forward and touched the glass, checking the angle. It was set perfectly. Smiling, she made her way to her parent’s bedroom. The curtains were closed. She felt her way to her mum’s make-up drawer. She opened a lipstick and sniffed deeply. She ran the soft, waxy material on the back of her hand.

“That’s the one,” she said.

 Her mirror welcomed her back as any old friend would.

“The operation not be an easy one. The doctor here, and his team, will doubtless succeed. Of that, I do not worry. My concern is the mental effect on your daughter. I must meet with her several times to judge the likely effects. I hope you agree?” said Sammy.

Mr Perks clutched his wife’s hand, almost pleading. He muttered, “Darling?”

“We must do whatever you suggest. When can we start?” Mrs Perks asked.

“How about now?” said Sammy. “Please tell me what happened?”

Mr Perks nudged his wife.

“I refused to allow her to have plastic surgery. She was so desperate to change her looks. So, she went ahead alone.”

“If we’d agreed, we would have made sure the operation was completed professionally,” said Mr Perks.

“You were against it as I was,” said Mrs Perks.

“Yes, but…”

“Please, never mind who was at fault. What happened?” asked Ms Sammy.

“Jen had saved up her pocket money, and found a surgeon she could afford on the web.”

“Yes, she told us she was going to stay with a friend.”

“But, she didn’t stay with a friend. She went to a clinic in Petchaburi, where the quack had his business.”

“Our little girl went all alone to have the op.” Mr Perks touched the corner of his eyes.

“The untrained ‘doctor’ opened our girl’s face and stuffed in silicon.” Mr and Mrs Perks were both crying. Sammy tried to calm them. Urging them to continue.

“The doctor left the room to answer a call. Jen couldn’t wait to see the result of the operation. She started unwrapping the bandages. The sun was at its hottest. It brightly lit the room. Jen needed her glasses to find a mirror. She scrabbled around, finding them in her bag. She held them by one arm in her mouth as she fiddled with her bandages. She looked around and grabbed a small mirror from the table. Then she lay back, tired from the exertion after the op, and admired her swollen face. Her glasses caught the sun’s beam and acted as a magnifying glass for the glare, and we guessed some spirits used in cleaning caught the bandages alight. She didn’t feel a thing because of the painkillers. By the time she saw flames she was in shock and failed to remove the wrappings in time. There was no one to help her.” Sniffing, she shook her head. “It’s all my fault.” Mrs Perks crashed her open palms against her temples.

“No, dear, let’s not go through that again,” said Mr Perks.

“Please come home with us and meet our little girl?” asked Mrs Perks.

“Or should we bring her here? Would that be better for you? But I warn you she may be against that idea,” said Mr Perks.

“Really? Why?” asked Sammy.

“It is difficult to get her away from her mirror.”

“But she has no eyes!” said Sammy.

The END

Dinner for Two?

Short story by Colin Devonshire

Dinner for Two?

“Morning dear, you are up early. Your coffee is cold, let me make you a fresh one.”

She flitted across the kitchen and clicked on the kettle. One mug, two spoons of instant coffee, grabbing a carton of milk from the fridge, slopping a dash plus a splash into his favourite mug, the way he likes it. The kettle popped. A quick stir, and served in front of him the earlier cold mug hit the bubbly water in the sink.

“Toast?” she asked. “Peanut butter or Marmite, or would you like both? I’ll do that, you enjoyed it last time.”

She placed a knife and a small plate loaded with dripping bread in front of her husband.

“That’s yesterday’s paper, I’ll get you today’s.” She folded the old one and skipped to the mailbox.

Grabbing her raincoat from its hook, picked up her handbag from the top shelf of the shoe rack, then she quickly snatched a glance in the mirror. “My God, I’m looking old. Where’s my umbrella? Just in case,” she muttered.

“See you after work,” she called. “Don’t forget, I’ll be a bit late, shopping for our special meal.”

Mrs Jenkinson gently closed the door. No need to slam it these days. She had oiled the hinges, smiling to herself, another small achievement in her life. She could do so much more these days.

“Good morning, Pearl. Your garden is looking lovely, daffodils, tulips and snowdrops, beautiful,” she called to her neighbour.

“How is your husband, we have seen little of him lately?”

“Oh, he’s fine, busy with his paper. You know, he always read the sports pages first. These days he starts at page one. I guess his team is having a bad season? Or politics got interesting?” 

“We don’t waste money on daily papers, we catch up on weekends.”

“Good idea. Maybe we should do that too? But as my husband no longer works, he needs something to occupy himself.” She laughed. “Better dash or I’ll be late.”

Gill Jenkinson upped her pace, checking her watch. She was never late. Today, she had some research to complete on top of her day-to-day duties. “Oh, the boss has a big meeting today.”

“Good morning, Gill,” bellowed her boss from the doorway.

“Yes, it’s a lovely start to the day. What time is your meeting?”

“You know very well it is ten o’clock on the dot.”

“I wondered if you had changed it? Will you need me to take notes?”

“Certainly, it’s important that we don’t miss out on this deal,” said Mr Burke. “I’ll need everything signed, sealed and then we’ll deliver.” He wandered to his office, nose in the air.

Mr Burke ran the family business. He hoped it would grow into something far bigger, get listed on the Stock Market, even. He was a chemist, taking over his father’s ice business as soon as he left university. Burke’s Ice, supplied the local fishing industry for generations. Now, more than ice was to be offered to the fish. Mr Burke had a new product, a liquid chemical to inject into dead fish to keep them looking fresh days longer than ice. The lorries supplying the trawlers were kept busy with Burke’s Ice. Soon they would also deliver vials of clear, tasteless liquid. Mr Burke’s future business used his knowledge of chemicals. Preserving the region’s fish. He hoped today’s meeting would complete a deal, ensuring his companies future.

Gill busied herself with the documents Mr Burke had supplied. One set each. She knew all there was to know about ice. Now she had an added interest in her boss’s chemicals.

She read all she could find on Wikipedia on BHT.

“BHT, butylated hydroxytoluene, is that how you say it? I wish these things had simpler names,” she said to herself. The creases on her forehead got deeper as she uncovered information on formaldehyde and other embalming fluids. “All very interesting, not that I’ll have to speak at the meeting. But, I should know what we have in our laboratory,” she said to herself.

“This way gentlemen, please,” said Gill as she led the men to the board room.

“Can I offer tea or coffee?”

The guests took their seats. Nodding their drink requests.

“I’ll inform Mr Burke you are here.”

Tapping on the MD’s door, “Your guests are all here.”

“Let them wait a few minutes, I don’t want them to think I’m desperate,” said Mr Burke brushing his hair back.

She nodded and returned to the boardroom with trays of steaming teacups. 

“He won’t be a moment. He has an important matter to deal with on the phone.”

Sugar and milk were passed around accompanied by aimless chit-chat.

“How long have you worked with Mr Burke?” asked one suited man.

“I worked with Mr Burke Senior ten years before this Mr Burke took over. Lovely men, both of them,” Gill answered. “Ah, here he is.”

Pleasantries bounced from one to another. Hands were firmly shaken around the table.

Then the blah, blah, blah started and carried on for an hour. Lunch was offered and politely refused. Papers were signed.

Gill showed the guests to the main door, then returned to collect the china wear. Mr Burke had his feet on the table, hands behind his head.

“I thought that went pretty well. Didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir, congratulations, I know how hard you have worked for success.”

“No need to mention this to the staff, but I’d like to offer you a raise. You have worked tirelessly for what, twenty-one, twenty-two years for the company?”

“Thank you, no need really, I’m happy with what I earn,” answered Gill. She ducked her head and continued with the cups.

“You are the only employee who would refuse a little extra in their wage packet.”

“Can I ask for something?”

“Of course, anything?”

“I am preparing a special dinner for my husband tonight. It sounds funny, but I’d like a bath full of ice. I got a great deal on some fresh salmon. I’m afraid I overdid it and ordered too much. We can eat some tonight and the rest tomorrow. The fish won’t fit in my fridge, I am sorry if that’s a problem?”

Burke’s belly rumbled with laughter. “Of course, ask the driver to pop a few kilos around.”

Gill was typing up her report on the meeting, as Mr Burke popped his head around the door.

“I’m off to the golf club. I feel a bottle of champagne is in order. See you tomorrow.”

Gill, alone in the offices made her call to arrange her ice delivery, checked the laboratory for late-working staff, that along with the factory, empty. Alone, she rifled through drawers and cupboards until she found what she needed. Vials and long needles, plus a five-litre canister of clear liquid. She sniggered at the unpronounceable name on the label. She couldn’t say the name, but knew what it did.

It was raining so hard it bounced from the pavement. 

“No need for shopping. I’ve got what I need,” she said to herself. “Salmon can wait.”

Her goodies were bundled into Tesco bags.

“People will think I’m mad, slow down, you are not Gene Kelly.”

She walked the rest of the way home at a controlled pace. Sacks of ice were piled outside the front door. She treated herself to a ‘Christmas morning’ smile. 

The rain had saved her a grilling from the nosey neighbour.

“Why didn’t your husband move that load indoors?” she mimicked.

Up and down the stairs, she trudged. The bathtub was half-filled with ice.

She puffed as she entered the dining room.

“Hi, hon, I’m home.”

She sniffed the air around him and poked his slightly bloated cheek.

“Tonight, we’re having fish. I know you hate fish, but, I’m having what I like. And we are having white wine with bubbles, it’s sweet too. You would have chosen a powerful red. Tough luck.” She laughed aloud.

The five litres of liquid, long needles used for intramuscular jabs were placed gently on the window sill next to the bath.

“Now the real work begins,” she said.

Sliding that morning’s newspaper, to one side, a headline caught her eye, shaking her head, “I’ll read that later. I’ll have more time to myself.”

She placed her arms under his armpits and heaved. A loud crack, the shoulders dislocated. She dragged him to the floor with a thump.

“Shit, I guess I’ve left it too late. Why do I always listen to you?”

The END

Vella is Coming

Kindle’s Vella is read by the chapter or episode. Isn’t all reading like that? Yes, but now you only pay in bits. Chapter by chapter. There are many publishing companies that operate the ‘by the chapter’ plan. Authors release their stories little by little. It works, check out Web Novels or Wattpad. It is a mystery to me, why Kindle took so long to join the club? Kindle now has Vella operating in the US, in July they will launch it to the rest of the world.

Why am I telling readers this news? Vella accepts stories that are listed on sites that pay the author for their work – but not on read it for free sites, like http://www.dark-novels.com. I am planning on publishing an anthology of short stories. Will Amazon refuse it because the tales have been read here? Do I remove all the short stories? What should I do?

Let’s get on with the next story!

Blue Pyjamas

“Come on young man, time for bed.”

Mum called me from my newly decorated bedroom. The sun was disappearing behind our garden’s lonely apple tree. I padded barefoot from the bathroom, proud of myself. Two days running now, I have brushed my teeth all by myself.

“There’s a good boy, let me see.”

I opened my mouth wide. The minty smell of Colgate escaped, causing us both to grin.

“Good job. Do you want a story?”

I handed her my Rupert The Bear Annual, battered and old. It was my dads. I not only loved those stories, but more much more. I could remember dad reading to me. I sniffed the odd scent of aged paper and clambered under the new light-blue duvet. Everything was new, except Rupert and his friends.

“Do you like your room?” She asked, flicking open a page.

I chose the wallpaper. It was cyan. At least that was what the man in the shop said. It was light blue to me. I had another shade of blue paint on the woodwork. Everything was blue, my dad loved blue. The desk was now covered in my artistic creation. A large sheet of paper with dark trees and bright green leaves in the background, a winding footpath with a scattering of red, yellow and orange flowers on both sides. Rupert was missing because my scissors weren’t sharp enough to cut him out of the thick cardboard. Mum had lent me her dressmaking scissors. They lay next to the bear. I will get on with that tomorrow. Then glue him beneath the tree, and it will be finished.

“Now, where were we? Here we are, Rupert goes to the woods.” She thought I wouldn’t notice her mouthing, ‘again.’

Looking around before I settled, my other books were on the shelf, teddy bears sat under them. My toy chest lid needed shutting before I could sleep. My mum caught my eye.

“Okay dear, I’ll close it before I go downstairs.”

Rupert’s adventure ended as my eyes closed. Mum kissed me gently on the forehead and crept out. She forgot to close the toy chest. My eyes were shut, but I knew.

Did I doze then fell deeply asleep, for how long? I did not know. I woke with a start, as if Rupert had jumped on my chest. I turned and faced the wardrobe. The toy chest was still open. Naturally, I didn’t expect it to close itself, but my mum should have done it before she went to her bed.

Never one to fear the dark, and enjoying the gloomy glow of night. We don’t have flickering candles, just my nightlight. I grinned to myself. Should I close the lid? Later, before I sleep again.

It seemed darker than usual. I peered across to my dressing table. Yes, the dim light was still on.

A brighter light showed under my door as every night, mum always left it on in case I needed the toilet. What was that? Is mum still up, maybe she needs a pee? I chuckled at the thought. Straining my ears. Were the stairs creaking? Pulling the bedding tight to my throat, I hid under for a second before peeking at the light under the door. It darkens briefly, then lights again, as if someone walked past a light. Was it mum, not a peep from the bathroom? The hallway was carpeted; the floorboards were quiet. How come I could hear a creak? There it is again. Is someone there?

Where was my Rupert book? I needed its comfort. I dashed to the desk, knocking the scissors aside as I grabbed the volume, and hugged it tightly. Two giant strides and I would be safe. Taking one step, as a thought struck me, gently lobbing Rupert to my bed, I turned and reached ahead. Stretching my fingers, I flicked the toy chest lid down. At last, I breathed as I jumped into bed.

No more odd sounds from outside, no more strange light flickering under my door. A big cuddle from Rupert’s cover and then I could sleep.

After what seemed like ages since I was last awake, brilliant light flooded my room from a gap between the curtains. I looked at my clock, that’s odd, mum normally wakes me by now. I’d only just learned to tell the time, so couldn’t be one-hundred per cent sure. Kneeling on my bed, leaning against the headboard, I looked out of the window as I opened the curtains fully. Beautiful, the sun was fighting its way through the tree branches opposite. No neighbours or delivery people ruined my view of my front garden, my stretch of road and my fields across the way. At least I could believe I was the king of all I surveyed. Grabbing my book, I offered Rupert the chance to be my prince. What a wonderful start to any day? The bear nodded.

Time to daydream, before mum comes in? No need to rush.

I cuddled the battered volume and dozed.

Time had passed. How long? I wondered. I could see the sun’s bright glow. It was only at the top of the branches. Where was mum? The toy chest was still closed. Good to see it hadn’t opened during my sleep. I turned off my nightlight and replaced Rupert on the desk.

My blunt scissors were there, where were mums? I will need them. Did she creep in to borrow them earlier? A drip smudged my artwork. Oh no. Then another, the trees and flowers welded together. I have dark red paint on my arm. What? How? I looked at my paint set; the lid was closed. My hands were browny red too, wet and sticky.

“Mum,” I called as I rushed to the door. My feet were sticking to the carpet, small footprints, a slightly darker shade mottled the carpet. Looking down confused, I compared the size and shape with my own feet. They were the same. Grabbing the door handle and shouting louder, “Mum, Mum,” I bellowed as I pulled the door back.

Sprinting, then stopping instantly, I tumbled over my mum. She was laying across the doorway, propped up on one elbow, head against the door frame, dressed in her nightie, soaked in blood, oozing from her stomach. She was clasping her scissors. I pushed myself up and away from the wound. I didn’t want to hurt her.

“Call the ambulance, go quickly,” she whispered. “My phone is by the bed.”

“Mum, what happened?”

“Oh, darling, can’t you remember?”

Dad forgot to close my toy box. It all came back to me. That was a sunny morning too. I’d better wait for some clouds before I make that emergency call. Smiling, I grabbed Rupert and turned the pages.

The END

The Links

A short story by Colin Devonshire

The Links

“Guys, something is not right,” Mac said. He was hopping from leg to leg, scratching his hair.

“What is up with you?” Drew asked.

“I don’t feel right. It’s as if someone is poking my brain. There is something I should know, but don’t. I know that sounds crazy.”

“What’s the matter? We are tucked away, hidden behind the fifth green. Our parents believe we are camping, which we are. They don’t know we will have guests. What they don’t know and all that stuff. Everything is fine. Especially if the girls turn up,” Drew said, smirking a dirty grin.

“I’m not worried about our parents, and I’m confident the girls will make it. It’s not that. Something feels wrong.”

The boys finished setting up their tent. They had timed their visit to perfection. Both boys worked as part-time caddies. They knew no golfers could play hole five at this time and get back in the clubhouse before dark. They could never finish their nine, let alone all eighteen holes, before it was pitch black. So, the first golfers to tee off would be at seven the next morning and therefore would not get to their green until around eight. Giving them plenty of time to ‘enjoy’ themselves with the girls. Drew’s father was the head groundsman at the course. He started work at eight. The team of green-keepers took it in turns, to place the flags in their holes at first light. Hopefully, that sleepy man would not notice them.

Giggling could be heard coming up the pathway.

“It gets dark up here in the woods,” said Amanda, prodding her friend.

“Yeah, it is not even six,” said best friend Judy.

“Where are you boys?” called Amanda.

The boys nudged each other, trying not to allow their laughter to be heard. Snorting like piglets.

“Don’t tell me they pranked us?” said Judy. “Got us up here in the dark?”

“Nah, the way Drew grabbed me, he’ll be here.”

Laughter burst out from behind an aged oak tree.

“Yeah, we’re here,” the boys cackled.

“Come in ladies,” said Mac. He eased a gap in the branches. The girls ducked through.

“Wow, how romantic,” said Judy.

“Yeah, you have made a good job of our five-star accommodation for the night,” said Amanda. Drew led the girls into their tent. Mac stood by the flap.

“Come on then,” said Drew.

“Yeah, just a minute. I thought I heard something. Wait a sec, I’ll have a look,” said Mac.

“Hilarious, are you trying to scare us already? It’s only just dark,” said Amanda.

There was a rustling outside.

“Come on, a joke’s a joke,” called Drew.

Silence from inside and outside the canvas. Drew, and the girls studied each other’s faces. Drew started smirking. They all laughed.

“Where is he,” said Drew as he stood and went outside, closely followed by the girls, no longer laughing.

Ahead, next to the steep back of a green-side bunker stood their friend. Motionless, arms out wide, head looking up into the tree. Drew jogged up, shook him.

“Hey, what is it?”

The girls rushed forward. 

“Be careful, don’t touch him,” said Judy. “My mum is a nurse, and she told me people sleepwalking should not be shocked awake.”

“What should we do?”

“I think we just leave him and wait.”

The friends looked at each other as Mac slowly lowered his arms.

“Are we moving the party outside?” he asked, looking around.

“What happened to you? It looked like you had seen a ghost or, you were sleepwalking in a kind of daydream?” asked Drew.

“Let’s go in.” Mac pushed his friends in.

“You will not believe this, but I saw a murder.”

“How do you mean saw? There was nothing to see.”

“Call it what you will, but I just witnessed a killing.”

“Yeah, haha, you are winding us up,” said Amanda.

“You say, you saw, how do you mean? There was nothing to see, and it is pitch black.”

“I saw it in my mind. Call it what you will, a premonition, a vision, I don’t know. But someone was killed.”

“Who?” They all wanted to know. “One of us?” Amanda asked.

“No, but I’d rather not say.”

“If you won’t tell us who, at least tell us what happened,” asked Drew.

Mac was silently weeping, his friends gawped at the stooped, bouncing shoulders of Mac, gently lifting and falling between sucked breaths. 

“Cheer up Mac, it was just a daydream.”

“It was too real. And it happened there.” Mac pointed over his shoulder. “The edge of the fairway in front of the green, right next to that bunker.”

“What happened? Tell us.”

“Two men were arguing and pointing to the grass. One man was driving the tractor pulling the chain mower, he was waving and shouting above the engine noise.”

“And?”

“The tractor driver ploughed over the other man, chopping him to bits. Your dad was the victim, Drew. I’m sorry.”

Fear gripped Drew. He pulled out his mobile. “Dad, dad, are you working tomorrow?” Panic quietened. “Oh, it’s your day off. No, no, nothing, just asking.”

Sighs of relief were whistled by the group.

“Dad is supposed to have a day off unless there is more trouble with the unsettled bloke.”

“Jesus, you had us all worried,” said Judy.

“Especially me, you idiot,” said Drew.

They all relaxed as the first cans of beer were shared. The torch was dimmed to a romantic glow. Crisp packets ripped open, roughly made sandwiches passed around. Ring pulls hissed and beers guzzled. First, nervous chatter echoed, the chit-chat became less self-conscious, becoming jocular, then blue humoured laughter flooded the tent, before long young bodies edged towards each other, fingers touch, hands held. The clinking of beers cans halted. Sleeping bags were zipped together, boy and girl cuddled in the warm, cosy bedding. Nervous, young fingers fiddled with unaccustomed underwear. 

“Sorry, sorry, Judy I can’t concentrate. I keep seeing Drew’s dad being mowed down, over and over. I’m sorry, it’s in my mind, again and again.”

Mac gathered his things. Dressed in the dark, he started to carefully tread a path home. 

“Wait for me, you can walk me home too,” said Judy, jogging and tripping behind him.

He kissed her long and deep on her mother’s doorstep, whispering his apologies again. She left him with a playful slap on his cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.”

He trudged home, not happy with his decision, but he knew it was the right thing. He crept up the stairs to his bed.

“Mac, Mac wake up.”

“What is it, mum?”

“Thank God, you’re home. What time did you get back from camping?”

“I don’t know, why?” asked Mac.

“There has been a terrible accident at the golf course.”

“What happened?”

Mac pulled his duvet up and clenched it around his throat, clasping hard until his fingers turned white.

“You may know there is a dispute at the golf club. It has turned nasty. One green-keeper drove into your friend’s dad. The tractor careered over the edge of the bunker and crashed into a tent. Four people were rushed to hospital. Who the hell would pitch a tent there?”

The END

Peachcroft Woods

A short story by Colin Devonshire

Peachcroft Woods

“Go on, get it. What a baby!” said Perks.

“Go on then you get it,” said Gums.

“I’m not getting it, you kicked it, you fetch it!” ordered Smithy.

I looked at my friends. No one budged. Myself included. 

We all lived on a council-run estate, some of our families bought their home, some chose to rent. It was a great little place to grow up in. But, a change was coming for us. Next term we would be moving to senior schools. But for now, we were enjoying our last summer holiday, all our mates at the same school. 

You entered our estate from the main road. There were twenty houses on each side of the road. Ahead were two rows of twenty more homes back to back, with adjoining back gardens at ninety degrees to the road. The road carried past in an oblong ring road. We often played hide and seek or soldiers in the woods behind, but best was football on the ‘green’, a patch of clumpy grass in front of the back terrace of houses. All the houses on Peachcroft Woods were occupied, except for one. Number thirty-three.

The houses had two or three bedrooms, most had a garage in a separate block tucked away, at the end of a drive, some had beautifully manicured lawns and flower beds, some were small jungles, and the scruffiest looked like a scrap dealers yard, the owner was lovely; she gave us home made cookies. Most neighbours got on well, the rest kept to themselves.

I mentioned the one unoccupied place. It had been that way since before we boys arrived. Our parents will not speak about it, or what happened years ago. It was all a mystery to us young footballers; we didn’t care. Unless our ball went in that garden. The bravest amongst us would duck the overgrown privet hedge and run bent double, to the ball, grab it and sprint out as if a tiger was in chase.

Today was worse. Our ball, my ball, went over the hedge, followed by the tingle of falling glass, shot fear into each of us. We feared our ball had gone right through the window into the building. We crept to the gate and peeked at the gloomy front garden.

“There it is, on the path,” Perks said, pointing, smiling.

“Great, but who is getting it?” asked Smithy.

“It’s your ball, get it,” said Gums laughing at me.

It was my ball, my new birthday present ball, just a few weeks old. The players left me, all running back to their jumpers, which meant, there were no goalposts. No goalposts, no game. I looked around and saw three bicycles being peddled as if in a Tour De France sprint.

Glumly, I stooped as low as I could bend, but still allowing forward movement. I crept, ducking the privet branches. Stinging nettles poked through, teasing at uncovered knees. I had to leap over the painful weeds. I was forced into the centre of the path. Leaves rustled, a noise from above. I froze. A startled pigeon burst its cover and flew low over my head. Wings battering air, lifting it high and away. Left and right I looked. I trod on shards of broken glass, hearing a crack. A triangle of glass was now many smaller shapes. Nearly there, my prize could almost be reached. I bent further and clutched my giant round golden egg. I sighed a breath of relief. The ball was undamaged. I slid my hand across its vinyl coating, checking for tears. The sun glimpsed between clouds, sending a flash of dazzling light to the broken window. I caught a reflection of a boy. I peered closer.

Turning, I looked behind me, heart in my mouth. There was nobody. I looked at the glass triangles hanging in the frame. There he was again. The boy looked at me. Was that Gums?

It was, I called his name. What was he doing? I edged forward to see better. He turned. Suddenly, he was flying backwards. The flickering reflection jarred, Gums catapulted into the air. He lay in a pool of murky grey liquid. The reflection changed, now just a dusty smear.

I grabbed my ball tight as if trying to burst it and ran. Snatching my sweater as I sprinted, hopping to my bike hooking one leg over the saddle, then peddling like a mad man the hundred yards home.

“You are early tonight. No one to play with?” my mum called from her knitting. 

I ran upstairs and flopped panting to my bed. Questions buzzed around my brain. I shook off the doubts as imagination took hold. Pure fear, nothing more. I shivered.

“Tea is on the table. I’ve got your favourite,” mum called.

I brightened at the scent.

“Fish ’n chips, great, thanks, mum,” I said, smiling. Reflections were forgotten as vinegar caught my nose.

“There’s the phone now, they always ring as I sit down,” said mum as she went to the hall muttering.

Then, the silence was scary. I put down my knife and fork to listen. Mum is normally jolly, jabbering and forgetting her meal. Not today. Still quiet, I inched my way to the doorway. Mum’s chest was up and down like a jack in the box. She was biting her fingers at the knuckles, tears running silently down her cheeks.

I ran to her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, tugging her arm.

She burst into a long, low wail, like a wolf searching for her pups. A sound I’d never heard. And hoped never to hear again. She pulled me close, holding me tight with her left hand, the other she held the phone as if glued to her palm. She forced it to arm’s length, as far from her mouth and ears as possible. She didn’t want to hear more, but forced herself. She didn’t want them to hear her crying.

“What is it?” I asked, crying.

“I’ll be over in a minute, stay there, and do nothing silly.” The words breathed with urgency as she replaced the receiver. Grabbing a tissue from her sleeve, she dabbed my eyes, then hers.

Leading me gently back to the dining room, sat me down and knelt before me. She struggled to speak, her red eyes averted as if scared of what she may see. The grip of her hands on my knees left red marks. She panted and rushed to the kitchen. I remained rooted. The tap turned. I heard water splashing into a glass, her gulping, then returning to my front.

“Gums was about to go to the little shop opposite.” She started crying again.

“All he wanted was an ice cream.” She blubbered.

She then wailed. Words would not come out. She stood brushed her skirt down, calming herself.

“Your friend Gums was killed tonight. He was hit by a car when he was crossing the road,” she sobbed.

“Was he knocked into the air?” I asked.

“Why ask such a question?”

“Because I saw him.”

“Don’t be daft you were in your room,” she said.

“Mum, I saw it happen, before the accident.”

“Don’t tell me you were in number thirty-three?”

My mum collapsed.

The END

The River of Jewels

A short thriller by Colin Devonshire

The River of Jewels

Gordon jumped off the train, alone as ever. The ticket collector looked him up and down, taking the sweat damped piece of paper. He nodded forward as his passenger strode towards the exit of the throbbing station.

From the end of November to the beginning of December, Kanchanaburi celebrates River Kwai Bridge Week, at the same time the Red Cross is hosting a fair. Perfect for Gordon’s needs.

He checked into The River Flow guest house.

“I booked six months ago. Mr G. Bank,” he said at the desk.

The pretty young lady flicked through several ledgers worn pages.

“Ah, here we are. May I see your passport, please?”

The small burgundy book slid across the plastic topped workstation. Their eyes met briefly. Gordon broke contact. The girl handed back the passport.

“One week, yes? Have a pleasant stay. Do you want some literature…” she said.

Gordon had turned and was looking for room nine on the second floor.

He slumped to the bed, throwing his backpack to the corner in one movement. Head in hands, he wept as he fingered the key he wore around his neck. He then forced a smile, remembering how it set off the metal detector at the airport. The key was unusual, wider than the norm, allowing for three decorative prongs serving no useful purpose. He liked it. Shaking himself from morose feelings, he fetched his notepad from his bag.

‘Dear Diary,’ he laughed. There were only a few paragraphs in it. ‘Today, my dad died. I held his hand as he spoke his last words to me.’

Gordon stood, stretched and went downstairs in search of a Coke. The receptionist looked up and smiled at him. Gordon nodded, jumping two stairs at a time. Keen to get back to his notes.

‘My dad told me about my granddad’s war experience. He was a prisoner in a Japanese camp at the River Kwai. One day he was forced to join a group of Aussie soldiers and assist the guards to move heavy crates into a cave. Names were read out. The men stood. Granddad was tired and slow. There was another G. Bank, an Aussie. He stood sharply, scared of a beating. He followed the guards. The men were never seen again. Granddad was lucky. He attempted to escape. He failed and was tortured, but he kept hold of a key he had lifted from an officer. The key was stolen on the day he was moving grates. That key I wear around my neck.’

Gordon sighed and flicked the next page open.

‘Today, I bought an air ticket to Bangkok.’

He remembered the trouble he had with the online booking system. “Supposed to be easy for people my age,” he chuckled to himself.

The next four dates were blank. Then, ‘Taxi to the airport, arrived on time. The plane was thirty minutes late taking off.’

He wondered why he bothered writing rubbish like that. Bored on the plane? Who would be interested?

‘Today I will travel to the river, by bus from Bangkok. The hunt begins here.’

“Not the classic diary of Anne Frank, or even, Samuel Pepys,” he chuckled to himself. “But it’s a start.”

He had noticed some leaflets in reception earlier, deciding he should look through those. “You never know.” He said to himself.

At home, he had read page after page about the lost Japanese treasure. Hours of research gave him little hope of finding the gold. But he had to try. His father poo-poohed the idea and had done nothing about the story G. Bank senior loved telling and retelling. The last G. Bank in the family line would do everything in his power to find out the truth.

Sitting in reception, he helped himself to the advertising material offering river trips on boats, walking treks through the jungle and a voyage on the famous railway.

“That’s the one I want to experience,” he said to the girl.

“Sorry, sir. You have missed today’s trip. But they run every day. How about tomorrow?”

“Please book me in.” He answered. “What can I do now?”

“You can go to the museum?” said the helpful girl, smiling.

She drew a map, explaining it was only five minutes’ walk away.

Gordon kissed his key and set off.

He entered the museum, looking up, down and all around, he felt his grandfather’s presence, as if he was leading him deeper and deeper, as if a donkey tugged by the nose, Gordon put up no resistance, he walked to the back.

A man spoke to him in Thai, stopping him at a locked door. His jacket had the museum logo stitched on his pocket. The man looked as if he was here when it first opened. Gordon reached past the man and tried to turn the handle. The man placed his hand on Gordon’s forearm. He applied no pressure but looked deep into Gordon’s eyes.

He stood back as if holding an electric eel. “Khun!” he mumbled in Thai. Time stopped.

“Hello, hello, anyone in here?” a young lady asked, repeating her enquiry in Thai.

She saw the men and walked to the back.

“Hi, Mr Gordon, I just finished my shift and have to walk this way home. I thought I’d see if you had found the place. Lovely isn’t it? My name is Petal if you hadn’t noticed my name tag at work.”

Gordon hadn’t paid the girl any attention before. Now he saw her, saw her beauty. She was gorgeous, out of the stuffy uniform and now dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her hair bouncing around her shoulders not tied into a stuffy bun.

The man still gawped, not at her, but Gordon.

“Is anything wrong uncle,” she asked. Speaking Thai, she addressed him politely.

“It can’t be him? I helped him in the camps,” said the old man.

Petal and Gordon looked at each other, then at the man.

“No, you must be mistaken. The light is playing tricks with your eyes,” she said.

The man shook his head and started acting. He pretended he was opening a door, twisting and turning a handle. Gordon and Petal were confused by his actions.

Then he acted, this time unlocking a door.

Gordon pulled the chain from his neck. A key hung and dangled. The man staggered back nodding and mumbling in Thai.

“Uncle, sit, please sit.” Pedal led him to a chair.

The man mopped his brow, stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket. He stood and grabbed Gordon’s wrist and led him to the back. He unlocked the door and pushed it back. Signalling to follow him in.

If Gordon was expecting a room full of antique treasure, he would be disappointed. Boxes upon boxes coated in dust and spider webs. The man walked further back before abruptly turning right, stopping, and pointing down.

There was another dust-covered box similar to all the others, but this one was longer and slimmer.

The man tugged it clear, swept off the dust and began unwrapping its greaseproof paper. Gordon and Petal silently watched as a solid steel container became free.

The man shoved it to Gordon, who turned it this way and that. He passed it to Petal. She too saw nothing but a hunk of polished steel, scratched and dented with several pitted holes from years of service, whatever it was. She gave it back.

The man twisted his wrist, acting as if turning a key.

Gordon pulled the chain over his head and gave the key to the man.

It was a key, like any old key. The man knew better. He held the key at each end and forced the middle. A tiny hinge bent. Pinpoints were sticking out, one larger than the rest. He handed the key back to Gordon, pointing to the steel.

Gordon scratched the key backwards and forwards across the metal. Searching for a hole. Click. The key stopped, its seemingly insignificant points locked into small holes on the box surface. The top and bottom separated, revealing a standard keyhole. Gordon needed no telling what he must do. He bent the key to its original shape. It entered the hole, sliding to a stop. Click.

Petal gasped. The man needed support from the shelving. Gordon stared, open-mouthed.

Before them lay a beautifully cut ruby. Blood red, begging for light to be seen in its glory.

“Christ,” stammered Gordon. “It is the size of a paperback novel. It must be worth a fortune!”

The old man was mumbling in Thai.

“He said forget the ruby.” She looked at the man, who nodded. “That is the key to a real and unbelievable fortune of gold and gems hidden in caves!”

The END

Oh, I Have a Choice!

A FREE short story by Colin Devonshire

Oh, To Have A Choice!


“You’ve got it all. Why look so miserable?” asked Micky.

“I’ve got a lot on my mind.” 

“You’re worried one girl will find out about the other,” laughed Micky.

“Yeah, I guess it could be worse,” said Jones.

The two men had been friends since junior school. Both unmarried and set for life financially. Micky earns a packet on the stock market. His Cockney accent is no handicap, no one hears him buy or sell. Jones, has a relaxed life, he has told no one where his money comes from, nobody asks, even Micky.

“Oi, son, send us another bottle of champers,” shouted Jones.

“You love this bar don’t you?”

“Yeah, I love the way the snooty uni guys cringe when they hear us talk.”

The friends laughed loudly as they crashed their hands together as they briefly jumped from their barstools.

The bar was full of men in tailor-made suits and silk ties. Their female partners wore Paul Smith frocks or tiny mini-skirts. Micky had slung his jacket and tie into the back of his Aston Martin before he entered the building. He had rolled up his sleeves as he came through the door, and looked anything but business-like. More like a prizefighter. Jones wore jeans and a plain black t-shirt. The all too perfect women glanced his way every few minutes. The bar staff gave them full attention.

“So, come on mate, what’s the problem?” asked Micky.

“I’ve reached a stage in my life. I must decide. Chumpoo or Jilly?”

“What a dilemma, a beautiful Thai restaurant owner or a gorgeous English lass whose family own half of Buckinghamshire?”

“It’s difficult.” 

He almost said, “Tough at the top,” but refrained.

“You mean, not letting them know they do not have 100 per cent of your passion?”

“Yeah, eventually I’ll be caught out.”

“You’ve done pretty well. What is it? Three years enjoying Thai food and luxury holidays to Bangkok and all the delights that offer. And, on the other hand, what? Three and a half years of free tickets to Ascot and Lords? Tough decision I agree.” He snorted.

The men were enjoying their talk and the humour that went with it. As the champagne flowed, the talk became more serious.

Jones pulled his friend closer, slung an arm around his shoulder and whispered.

“I have shares in the London restaurant, plus a chunk of a hotel in Thailand. Chumpoo has signed documents giving me the rights of ownership to some of her businesses. Jilly’s father wants her to settle down with a hard-working fellow like myself.” He smirked, and Micky couldn’t keep a straight face.

Jones carried on, “I am beneficiary on her life insurance policies plus a percentage of her endowment, which becomes due any day now. Hence my imminent problem, I must decide. I can’t go on like this.”

“Why the hell not? You’ve done all right up to now,” said Micky.

“My dilemma is not which one to dump. It is how to get rid of both without losing out financially!”

He had said too much. He shook his head and turned, realising he had quite enough talking and booze. He waved a hasty goodbye and flagged a black taxi as he tripped on the step.

At home, he guzzled a pot of coffee and began thinking.

The next morning he called Jilly, “Hi, babe. Fancy a trip to the Big Smoke? Come for lunch at my flat? I’m cooking.”

His next call was answered in Thai, “Sawasdee, ka.”

“It’s me. I still haven’t mastered your language,” he laughed.

“Oh, Jonsey, I’m sorry, I thought it was a customer,” she giggled the only way she could, shielding her mouth with her delicate slim fingers, even though no one could see her.

“How are you fixed this afternoon?”

“I’m always free to see you, Tilak.”

Jones knew enough Thai to understand the word for darling.

He went shopping. There were things he needed to progress his plan. Cocaine was first on his list. The girls didn’t use it, but they would today. Also, the dealer handed across a bottle of chloroform. The ageing hippy promised the liquid would knock out a bull. Jones sniggered to himself, as he imagined all three of them suddenly becoming braver thanks to the powder. Then he saw in his mind the girls both passed out thanks to the liquid. He paid cash to his regular dealer and left happy. Then he made his next purchase, two razor blades for cutting the drug. If his plan worked, they would also be weapons. He stopped at the chemist for strong pain killers. Last, food shopping, he wanted his guests to feel at home. He embarrassed himself by laughing out loud in the grocers. Looking around at the other customers gawking at him, head down, he quickly studied his handmade shoes.

Back at his flat he prepared tasty snacks and put the white wine on ice. The pain medicine was added to the trendy green bottle. As always, he would drink red. The girls preferred crisp white. He opened the floor to ceiling glass doors onto his balcony. It was warm and bright. He pulled up a third chair and puffed cushions. A mother hen would be proud.

A doorbell rang. 

“Chumpoo, darling, come in.”

He led her through and presented her with a glass of wine.

“What’s the occasion?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing, I wanted to see your gorgeous smile.”

“Normally you have only two chairs here. Today there are three. Are you expecting someone else?” 

“Is that the bell?” he asked, leaning back indoors.

“Jilly, lovely to see you, come through, I’ll get your wine.” He ducked into the kitchen and left Jilly at the balcony door.

“Someone is here?” she queried.

“Cheers,” Jones said, as he clinked glasses with her’s.

“Who is that?” asked Jilly.

She walked forward. “Hello, I’m Jilly, Jones’ fiancé, pleased to meet you.”

“Hello, I’m Chumpoo, his fiancé too.” 

She stood too quickly and disturbed the table decoration.

The girls glared at each other. Their host smirked. As the ladies moved within scratching distance.

“I thought it time for you girls to meet each other.”

He had made a mess of his timing, Chumpoo had only sipped her drink, Jilly had slammed her glass untouched on the table. There was no way he could offer the girls a line of coke, he would love one. This was not the time. Or, maybe it was. He hoped they would start fighting? He could then administer the chloroform by pretending to break them up.

The girls started pushing each other.

“He is mine!”

“No, we are going on honeymoon soon.”

They stopped, turned, and both lunged for him. Knocking him to the ground, like a helpless kitten.

Chumpoo pulled a hidden blade from her blouse sleeve and poked the point into his Adam’s apple.

“You must think we are idiots?” she breathed.

Jilly got up from her knees, smiled at her comrade, and searched. First, his pockets, then the kitchen.

“Look what I’ve found,” she smiled. Sniffing the brown bottle top. 

“You are more stupid than we imagined. Chloroform only works in movies, unless you expect your victim to lay still for ages.” She huffed.

“Neither of us uses drugs. How on earth did you expect us to snort cocaine?” asked Chumpoo.

“I eh,” started Jones. It hurt too much to talk as the point dug deeper.

“Shall we kill him?” asked Jilly innocently.

“Please pass the cocaine,” asked Chumpoo. “I’ll hold him, you make him breathe the coke in.” Her hand clamped across his mouth. As Jilly tipped the powder up his nose, he tried snorting, which made the girls laugh. He could only just breathe in as the powder worked its way into his pipes.

“Now drink,” said Jilly, as the white wine bottle was forced into his mouth. With every mouthful, Chumpoo’s blade dug deeper. Finally, the wine was gone, some spilt, most downed. Jones’ eyes clouded.

“Let’s move him to his bedroom,” said Chumpoo.

They lifted him by his underarms and dragged him inside.

“What now?” asked Jilly.

“Do we want to kill him?” asked Chumpoo.

“What do you suggest?”

“He had powder all over him, he looks and is, totally wasted. Why don’t we stage him?”

“How do you mean?”

“Would any girl date a failed suicide?”

“I wouldn’t.”

“Exactly, if we posted pictures all over social media, nor would anyone else.”

“Especially if we use his phone to do it.” Clapped Jilly.

The girls placed a razor blade in each of his hands nicked the skin of each wrist. As a final touch, Jilly tipped some talc down his front.

“It’s not cocaine, but who would know?” she laughed.

“Shall we call the police, or leave him?” asked Chumpoo.

“Leave him. Oh, wait, one last thing.”

She undid his trousers, pulled them to his ankles, and used the blade once more before replacing it in his right hand.

The girls walked off as best of friends, in search of an untampered bottle of crisp sparkling wine.


The END

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