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.”


“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?”


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 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!”


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.


Silly Sarah

They say ‘do not judge a book by its cover’, do not judge this short story by its featured image!

Silly Sarah

“I suppose you want me to take your dare now?” asked Pete.

“Oh, yes, I think it is fair to ask, don’t you? I completed your quest?” answered Si.

“I only dared you to break the principal’s window. Which you did, but you used Snotty Gibson’s ball to do it. Brilliant!”

“Yeah,” laughed Si. “He’s in big trouble, too. The head has called his father and asked for a meeting tonight. Both of them will have his guts.”

When Pete controlled his laughing fit he said, “What is Snotty going to do to you when he finds out it was you?”

“He won’t because I’ve put the word out that it was you who nicked his ball!”

Si roared with laughter.

“What? You better not have?”

“Now you have to complete my dare. Then I will put the record straight. I’ll tell Snotty who stole his bloody ball.”

“You’ll admit it was your fault? You are mad,” said Pete.

“Eh, no, but I’ll let everyone know it was that idiot, Jennings.”

“Not very fair on Jennings, he has nothing to do with anything. Come on then, what do you dare me?” asked Pete.

“Easy, take Silly Sarah on a date.”

“But, but,” stammered Pete. “Do you mean Sarah Gibson?”

“Yes, that’s the girl, she’s plain for my taste. But okay for you.”

“But, but that’s Snotty’s sister!”

“That is the dare,” answered Si. His grin could not get bigger without splitting his face.

Silly Sarah, was not silly, she was cold; she had no friends, not because she was ugly, she just never smiled.

“The school dance is next week. A perfect chance to complete your dare. Look, she is sitting over there, all alone,” said Si. He pointed at a girl with her nose in a book.

“Okay, don’t go on. I can see her,” said Pete with a grimace. 

“Oh, and you’ll have to cheer up when you ask her, or you’ll fail,” said Si, with a girlish giggle.

Pete forced a smile, a superglue grin fixed in place. He sauntered across the playground.

“Look natural,” he ordered himself. He tried to get a closer look at her features. “Not ugly, not knock down dead gorgeous, but okay. Not blonde, but mousey, and no spots. Her figure, trim and short. But what about her glasses?”

Sarah was reading. She did not like being disturbed. Pete inched his way around her as Sarah slammed her book shut. The speed of movement as she turned and glared at him forced him to step back.

“Yes?” she said.

“Can I sit?” he asked without moving. Her glare softened a touch as she looked at the gap next to her.

“Sorry to disturb your novel,” said Pete.

“It is an autobiography.”

“Someone interesting?”

“No one you’ll know,” she answered.

“Oh, I suppose not.” He stammered. “We have the school…”

“Yes, I’d love to go, with you. Thanks for asking.”

She removed her reading glasses, and for the first time, he realised her eyes were gorgeous, breathtakingly violet. He stood and stared for longer than comfortable. “Your eyes…” 

With a small shake of his head, hastily he turned, smiling.

Pete sauntered back, head in the air to his sneering friend.

“She said no?” Si asked.

“Actually, no, we have a date.”

“Great, turn up, make sure she does too, and we are quits on the dares.”

“You know,” Pete said thoughtfully, “Sarah is not so silly, and she’s a lot prettier than I realised.”

“Sounds like romance is blooming!” said Si, fighting back the laughter.

Pete spent the day of the dance shopping. He treated himself to a silky sky-blue shirt to match his navy-blue canvas trousers. He even dabbed on his father’s aftershave lotion.

Sarah looked stunning. She wore expensive tinted glasses; her scented hair trimmed to perfection, and her dress… cream satin decorated with colourful butterflies.

Sarah was beaming as Pete led her to the dance floor. School friends had never seen Sarah smile and not dressed like this. They were stunned. None of them guessed she could dance. Frozen, they stood open-mouthed as she slid, hopped and bopped across the floor.

“That can’t be Silly Sarah?” whispered the kids in the hall.

Pop music belted out, teachers tried not to be caught covering their ears as they handed out soft drinks to their excited students. Not suited to the pound of the beat the deputy head needed to escape.

“Just popping outside for a smoke,” he signalled to the gym teacher. She couldn’t hear him, but guessed his plan and waved her acknowledgement before grinning broadly.

He ducked his way to the car park and found a sturdy tree to lean against. “Take ten,” he said to himself.

Inside, Sarah noticed the teachers watching for anyone dancing inappropriately. “Come on, let’s go for a stroll.” She winked at her partner.

Pete’s smile filled his face. He wished Si could see him now. “Where is he?” He took her hand and led her to the fire escape, which filed into the school garden.

Sarah put her arm around Pete’s waist and pulled him towards her. He thought he had landed in Heaven. He bent and kissed her full lips. Both teenagers panted hungrily.

The deputy-head stubbed out his smoke, groaned at the thought of returning to the racket.

“I’ll stroll around the garden to clear my lungs,” he thought grinning, “another ten minutes of peace.”

Sarah and Pete appeared glued together. Keeping their balance was now becoming a task for Pete, as he needed his strength to keep them from falling. Especially now, as she was signalled behind his back to a pair lurking in the shadows. They crept silently nearer the embracing couple.

Sarah pushed herself away from a shocked Pete.

“I can’t breathe,” she said. “Give me a minute to catch my wind,” she panted.

A disappointed Pete stretched his neck as he leant back. A black cloth bag was swiftly slung over his head. His arms were secured behind his back.

“What’s going on?” he mumbled.

“Right you two pull his arms behind him and hook him to that branch through the tape,” said Sarah.

The two dragged him backwards and tried hoisting his arms up and over the out-jutting wood.

“Not that one, idiots, it’s too low. I need his feet off the ground,” screamed Sarah.

Her two accomplices gawped at each other. “That will hurt him,” said one.

“Yes, that’s the idea,” she said.

“Look sis,” said Snotty Gibson, “we only agreed to trick him.”

“Yeah,” agreed Si.

“You two clear off. I’ll take it from here.”

She shooed the boys away like disobedient geese. They slipped back to the dance, ducking through the fire exit, unspotted by the staff.

 Sarah lifted the black bag.

“Why?” Pete asked.

“It’s like this. I saw the original film, I saw the remake and naturally I read the book,” she said.

“What film, what book? What are you talking about?”

“Do you think it is fair?”

“Is what fair?”

“The way people, like you, tease people like me?” She walked around him, looking him up and down before speaking.

“I want you all to know, you, my brother, your friend, and the whole school. I am not Carrie!”

Pete shook his head. “What?”

She retrieved a bucket of pig’s blood from behind a tree, threw it towards him. Half of the blood doused Pete, the other half splashed onto the face and upper body of the deputy head.

“Carrie, sorry, I mean Sarah,” screamed the teacher. “You will be expelled for that.”

His coughing and spluttering failed to quell Sarah’s raucous laughter.


Beltane Belt

A short story by Colin Devonshire – read more on @colindevonshire

Beltane Belt

“Okay gang, it’s three AM, time to go!” Janice shouted as she turned off the overloud hip-hop racket.

“Great party, thanks,” waved the cheeky guest, Janice couldn’t place her.

“Glad you enjoyed it.”

“Who is that girl?” asked Podge Roberts.

“I’m not sure, I think her mum is a new member?”

“I guess we’ll soon find out. A good long sleep, and then our all-nighter for Beltane. Great idea we all enjoyed it, and our parents thought it was a clever plan too. A double win,” Podge said.

Podge had fallen for Janice the first moment they met at last year’s Yule Solstice function. He could never let her know of his feelings. He never would. Also, he could not speak of his Pagan faith to his father.

“Do you know my mum and dad are fighting?”

“I heard my parents talking, it’s not our business.”

“It is, actually. My mum believes in your mum and dad. My dad, on the other hand…” he let the words drift to silence.

“Hey, it’s up to them.” She raised her hands and carried on, “No need for you to help me tidy up. Get off to bed, your mum and dad will start fretting.”

“It’s okay, they won’t mind. Well, she won’t.”

“Look over here, mum’s best wine glasses,” pointed Janice. 

She fumed at their friend’s cheek as she flicked at the cut crystal. It rang.

“Everyone had been given plastic beakers, I suppose plastic is not good enough for them or the wine they bought,” she brightened.

“Let me wash the glasses?”

Podge was not his real name, most people had forgotten his Christian name if they ever knew it. Podge was podgy, if you are kind. He was grossly overweight if not. His cute cheeks wobbled when he laughed. He only allowed Janice to see him laugh.

“Go on, get off.” Janice shoved him to the door as she bundled a bin liner to the waste bins outside.

“Tidy at last,” she said as she flopped onto the sofa.

“Wakey, wakey, rise and shine,” said Janice’s mum as she pulled back the curtains then the duvet.

She bent and kissed her daughter’s cheek as the morning sun cheered the room.

“Did you sleep well?”

The teenager nodded, “But I had another of those lifelike dreams. Not scary, but it feels as if I’m actually there.”

“The consultant warned that may happen, now he has upped the dose.”

“The people in the dreams are so real. It’s as if I go to school with them, I understand their problems, their childish loves, their pets and even if they’ve done their homework.”

“Let me change your bag, and clean you up, then you can do some schoolwork,” said her mum.

Her mother’s skills matched any nurse in the care of her daughter. 

“Mum, are Wiccas witches?”

“The term is Wiccans, and no we are not witches in a storybook way. We believe in nature. Think of it like that.”

“Why do you and dad follow the faith?”

“Is this part of your schoolwork?”

“No, I have been reading on the net.”

Janice’s mum lowered the bed, turning handles and then holding her daughter upright, she slid her across to her wheelchair.


“You know I can’t feel anything. Why do you ask every day?”

“I hope one day you will feel again.”

“You haven’t answered my question?”

“Why do we follow the Wiccan faith?”

“Yes, why?”

“Let’s say more traditional religions let us down.”

“Why mum?”

“My prayers and your fathers were not answered.”

“So the Pagan faith helped you?”

“Let’s say we are hoping for more. Now breakfast, then school work.”

Janice was wheeled to the dining room. The tv was switched to the BBC news channel and Janice was presented with a protein drink. She tipped her head forward and sucked on a straw, savouring its milky freshness. She used her mouth with the straw to change the tv’s channel while her mum was in the kitchen.

 “School time,” her mum called cheerily as she marched to her daughter’s chair. Off went the tv and Janice was rolled to the family computer. Her straw was swapped for a stiffer plastic implement.

“English language, to start?”

“Yeah, I’ve got to finish reading ‘Monsters of Men’, there are a thousand questions to answer too.”

“I’m not sure that’s suitable?” said her mum.

“It’s not up to you, it’s the course I’m given.”

“Maybe, but the book is all about war, is it not?”

“Mum, it is set in the future. The story concerns a war to end all wars.”

“We don’t believe in war.”

“Mum, there are wars all over the world, whether or not you like it.”

“Not in my perfect world. Do the maths lesson first, while I read about that story.”

“Okay,” said a puzzled Janice.

The maths bored her, an hour later she started slumping sideways, head on her shoulder she mumbled as the plastic tool slipped from her mouth and silently bounced on the carpet. She slept unseen by her mum.

“Oh, hi Podge,” she waved. “Did you get in trouble for being late?”

“Nah, my mum barely noticed me. She was preparing for dad’s choir practice.”

“How does she balance both religions?”

“I guess she takes the best of both?”

“And your dad?”

“He finds it difficult. He has no time outside of running the choir. He refuses to talk to her about it. I think that’s why he drinks so much these days?”

“Hey, Janice wake up. Is that arithmetic so tough?” said her mum.

“Oh, hi mum, I must have dropped off.”

Her mother knelt, picked up the computer tool and placed it on the desk.

With her hands on Janice’s thighs she said, “Enough work, I think we need to talk.”

“Sure mum, what is it?”

“You’ve told me about your dreams, I’ve heard you mumbling names and a few details. Your dad and I have never told you why you’re in that chair?”

“You told me there was an accident when I was little.”

“Yes, there was. But there is more. You were born fit and healthy. A perfect child for the perfect couple. At least that’s what people believed. Your dad and I were regular churchgoers. I had already given up my career to be a full-time mum, little did we know I’d have to. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every moment of caring for you. However, your dad changed.”

“Why mum?”

“He needed to blame someone I guess. He blamed God.”

“But why?”

“He was so depressed and feeling defeated, we gave up on the church.”

“But, it was just an accident?”

“Yes, but not that simple. You were in your pushchair, off we went to do some shopping, we were crossing the main road at the zebra crossing, the little green man said, ‘walk’. We started across. Just two steps onto the road.” She wiped her eyes.

“Go on.”

“A car didn’t stop, he crashed into us, should I say into you, he went straight over you, taking the chair from my hands.”

“So, an accident. Don’t tell me dad blamed you?”

“Oh no, dear. He blamed the driver. Another reason for us to turn our backs on the church.”

“Why? I don’t understand?”

“The driver was drunk. He was the choirmaster, Mr Roberts.”

“Podge’s dad?”

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you. How do you know Podge Roberts?”

“From my dreams.”

Days passed weeks turned to months, Janice’s dreams turned darker. Her father became aggressive towards the choirmaster, their arguments violent.

“You are nothing but a drunk,” he shouted.

“And you are the husband of a witch. Haha, The Triple Goddess with her Horned God!” Mr Roberts screamed back.

“Janice, wake up,” her mum shook her, “Are you okay? You are soaked in sweat.”

She pushed open the windows. Fresh air and sunshine cheered the groggy girl.

“You gave me a turn, I think we’ll forget school today. Let me put away the laundry then I’ll fetch breakfast,” said her mum.

The freshly pressed clothes placed gently on Janice’s bed as her mum opened the wardrobe doors.

A glass breaking scream shattered the morning peace. Janice’s mum fell back against the wall, rigid with fear. The hanger bar snapped as an overweight boy fell forwards a belt tight around his throat.

The dull thump forced Janice to turn her neck in time to see the body of Podge tip forward and spill from the cabinet. Then he bounced head first on the carpet. His shy smile faced Janice.


The Gifts

A short story by Colin Devonshire

The Gifts

“Answer the door will you?” said Rod.

“Yeah, yeah, who are you expecting?” answered Johanne.

Johanne feeling somewhat underdressed in battered boxer shorts opened his mate’s front door with only his head showing.

“There’s no one here. Wait a minute, what’s that?”

He peered up and down the street, quiet, not a soul in sight. He stepped onto the porch and reached under the scruffy bush.

“Hey, what is this?” he reached just under the broken branches and pulled out a package. Proudly, marching to the kitchen, placed it in front of his host.

“Is it your birthday?” he asked. “We celebrated something last night.”

“You know it isn’t,” said Rod, laughing. “Who left it?”

“I couldn’t see anyone, but it’s got your name on it. It says, ‘Dr Rod’, premature, don’t you think!” laughed Johanne.

The package was gently unwrapped, Johanne stood back, Rod carefully peeled the colourful paper. He used his skills as a trainee doctor as if he was making a bomb safe. A card dropped unnoticed to the floor.

“What is that?” he said, pointing at a varnished cube of hardwood.

He shook it, then handed it to his friend.

“It’s a puzzle,” exclaimed Johanne, “you have to dislodge sections of the wood, eventually it falls to bits. Then you have to reassemble it.”

They both poked and prised nothing budged. Rod grabbed it and squeezed opposite corners.

“There look,” he fiddled some more. His thumbnail edged a long thin narrow wedge of wood. It freed itself. Then it moved no more.

“Right, now you’ve shifted that piece, another bit will move into its place, and so on.”

Sure enough, sliding one piece freed another. Finally, they could see the cuts, straight and diagonally across each section. Bit by bit they dropped to the table.

“Have we got time for childish games? We’ve got to get to the hospital. The professor will have our guts if we’re late for his lecture.” 

“Wait a bit, I want to open this,” said Rod. He rushed and fiddled. At last, he pulled the cube to pieces.

“My God, what is that?” he asked as something dropped from the centre.

“Some kind of sick joke?”

“That looks like a painted toenail?”

“Yes, with a bit of toe still fixed to it!”

“Jesus. Come on, we had better get going.”

The gift was left on the coffee table, including the little extra.

“At the back there, the hope to be a doctor, you have been staring at the ceiling, can I assume, you know the answer?” the professor asked.

Johanne nudged his friend.

“Uh? Oh, sorry sir, I’ve things on my mind.”

“You carry on daydreaming while the others learn something useful,” said the lecturer.

“I can’t get that bloody toe out my mind,” Rod whispered.

Ten minutes later the professor swept out of the theatre with a jaunty, “Farewell.”

“I’m going home, are you coming?” asked Rod.

“You have another gift. Are you sure it’s not your birthday?” asked Johannes as they reached the front door.

“Not another toenail hidden in a cube?” 

The package was the same size and similar weight. They rushed inside to open it.

“Not a wooden cube, this time I have a glass globe. What the hell is this?” asked Rod.

“It’s a birthstone wishing ball. At least that is what it says on the box.”

A golden glass ball stared back at them, its glinting flecks of light blue gave an attractive appearance. The clear patches were big enough to see through. Johannes grinned at his friend in gold and blue.

In the packing was a sturdy round base to balance the ball, and a note. The ball rattled as Rod placed it on the ring. There was something inside.

“Is this another game?” asked Rod.

“What does the note say?”

“We didn’t get a note with the first present? That’s odd?” said Rod as he looked around.

Under the table was a square card, its colour matched the carpet. “There,” pointed Johannes.

 Rod looked at both pieces of paper, turning them front and back, neat handwriting on the first card said, “Tippy toe!” And the second in the same hand it said, “Hop along”.

Rod snatched the ball and shook. Inside, a small bone rattled.

“What the…” breathed Rod.

The men looked at each other, “You’ll have to break it you want to find what’s inside,” said Johanne.

They took turns to find a way in; it wasn’t a puzzle they agreed. Rod smashed the ball.

“What do you reckon?” he asked.

“It’s a bone.”

“Brilliant, you’ll make a surgeon one day,” grinned Rod.

“I should have said, it’s a whole bone, not a broken bit.”

“Yes, yes, but what bone?”

“It’s a patella,” suggested Johannes.

“A child’s knee cap?”

“Too small to be an adult’s.”

“Yes, I agree. Let’s see the toe again.”

“What do you think?”

“I think I’ll run some tests at the hospital tomorrow, let’s see if they belonged to the same person? Want to help?”

“Sure thing, see you bright and early before we study?”

Rod could not think, he started watching the news, murders and a massive riot in America came and went with no interest. His beloved team was playing the early game. It was on, but not watched. He barely noticed as the first goal hit the net.

“Is that you Johanne?” he called as the front doorbell rang.

It was not. The club crashed into Rod’s skull. He went face-first to the concrete slab entranceway. His head bumped as he was dragged up the low step and into the living room then strapped to his office swivel chair. The computer was as cold as his assailant.

Rod’s eyes focused on the dated wallpaper. He was facing the corner like a naughty schoolboy. He heard a swish behind him. Not the dreaded head-teacher’s cane. It sounded heavier. He sensed movement to his rear; it was painful to turn his head, his neck ached. But swivel he did. She was beautiful, slight, and Asian. Glaring with the Devil’s own eyes. Lasers burned deep. She then smiled. The heat was gone, leaving icicles stabbing deep. He tried to talk, to plead. The bandage allowed no sound. She laughed at his mumble. 

“You see this,” she started speaking as she banged it into her open palm. “This is my sister’s hip bone.”

Her English was flawless, her accent cast him back ten years.

“Do you remember me?”

Rod would never forget Lalita. She was his first love. His family moved to Bangkok when his father was offered the chance to oversee the building of a new hospital. It was the move that set Rod’s dream of becoming a GP. 

“You told us, your dad was a doctor,” she said. Loosening his gag.

“No, I said he worked in a hospital.”

“That was a lie.”

“He was building one,” Rod said.

“We trusted you.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Do you remember my little sister?”

“Sure. She always wanted to play with us,” said Rod.

“Do you remember the skateboards we played on?”

“Yeah, they were new in Thailand. You were pretty good on yours.”

“Yeah, but my sister wasn’t, remember?”

“That’s right, it’s coming back to me. How is she?”

“You said, that as your dad was an English doctor, you knew how to stitch wounds.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember.”

“And then you and your ‘doctor’ father returned here.”

“Yes, that was a sad day.”

“It was sad for us too. My little sister’s foot started changing colour. Grey at first, then a light purple. The skin on her toes bubbled. We were too scared to show my mum.”

“You should have seen a doctor.”

“We thought we did.”

“How could I have been a doctor at that age?”

“Your dad was a doctor, or at least we thought so. You said, ‘it was only a couple of stitches under her toes. Anyone could do it. But don’t tell you mum’, you made us swear.”


“Her blood couldn’t get to the wound, the colour got darker, and it stank.”

“She had gangrened you mean?” asked Rod.

“The first operation they took her foot.”

“Oh, God.”

“Then they cut above the knee. They acted too slow, she died.”

“I’m so sorry, I was young and thought I was helping.”

Lalita tightened the gag.

“You have my sister’s hip,” she tapped him, first right then left cheek. She dropped the bone in his lap. “You have my sister’s patella and her little toe. Now I’m going to remove yours. Burn them as any good Buddhist would, and mix the ashes with my sister’s.”

The needle stabbed into his neck as she pulled out her saw.


Silent Shadows

Short story by Colin Devonshire

Silent Shadows

“Come on, don’t be a scaredy-cat,” said Bobby.

“You think it’s a good idea to break the law?” said Gemma.

“It’s not breaking the law, I’ve got the keys,” he answered.

“Yeah, right, and that makes it okay?”

“I want to buy this house.”

“You are fourteen.”

“I know, my Dad is selling this place, and I want to have it.”

“Your Dad is a sales agent, that doesn’t give you a divine right to own. Not now, nor in the future,” she said.

“Come in and you’ll understand.”

Bobby unlocked the front door and pushed it back.

“Look at that,” he said.

“It is nice,” said Gemma, as they twisted their way to the lounge. “Wow.”

“Look at the view,” he said, pointing across the uncut lawn to the distant woods.

Bobby loosed his backpack, “Sit down.”

“On what?”

“On the floor, what else?”

“I expected some furniture, if your Dad has any hope of selling it, he should make it looked lived in,” suggested Gemma.

“So, you’re an expert?” he said, proudly showing his wine bottle.

“We’re too young to drink.”

“Technically, yes, come on enjoy it.”

“You had better open it first,” said Gemma as Bobby went to the kitchen.

“Oh, there is no cutlery, no corkscrew even.”

“Are you surprised? Why would there be a corkscrew when there’s no furniture?” sighed Gemma, grabbing the bottle.

“How did you do that!” yelled Bobby.

“Do what?”

“I felt the shadow.”

“Hilarious, are you trying to scare me? You scare me because you are so stupid,” she said, unwrapping the foil on the neck of the bottle. “It’s a twist open, you need nothing but strong fingers,” she laughed.

“There, there,” he stammered, looking around. “No glasses,” Bobby said recovering his composure.

“What’s the matter with you?” 

“Nothing, cheers,” as he unscrewed the top holding the bottle for her checking dark corners.

“Cheap plonk,” she said.

“What do you know about it, I thought you didn’t drink?”

“I do share a glass with my Dad sometimes. We drink decent wine.”

“This is what my Dad gives customers.”

“I can believe that. Anyway, what shook you up?” she asked.

“It was weird. As a cloud passed over the sun, I felt something on my arm, then my face. I thought, somehow, maybe you did it?”

“You think I have power over clouds?”

“Drink up, then we can look around,” he said, taking a deep swig.

He stood and took her hand, led her to the stairs.

“Don’t tell me you hoped for a bed?” she asked.

“Nothing here,” he breathed, looking from door to door. “Nothing in the whole place.”

“As I said, it would be easier to sell with full furniture.”

A golden reflection flicked the handrail then followed them.

They moved from the master bedroom to a second large room. They looked inside the fitted wardrobes, nothing.

“My God look at this,” shouted Gemma.

The third room was carpeted and packed with modern-looking chairs, stocked cupboards housed jeans and t-shirts, heaving bookshelves with teen love stories, a wide-open bathroom and on the far side, next to the window was a steel desk. On the black plastic top sat a MacBook Pro, open and glowing.

They edged their way into the room, opened mouthed. The sun blocked by clouds darkened the room. They rushed across to the laptop. As the room darkened, the desk glowed gold. Google was open at ‘teen pregnancy’. Gemma read the page titles and gasped.

“What does this mean?” she looked at Bobby, then moved past him looking back. “We didn’t shut this door, did we?”

She ran the few paces and tried the handle; it was locked.

“Okay, who is playing tricks? Did you set me up?” she glared at Bobby, who was now standing next to her fiddling with the stainless steel grip. He answered with a grunt as he tried forcing the lock.

They both felt a shadow push between them. The shadow breathed gold. A new colour on the cream carpet caught Bobby’s eye.

“Look, look, Gemma, blood on the floor,” he said.

Brownish red footprints disappeared as they moved towards the bathroom.

The pair stood rigid for minutes, then Gemma broke away from Bobby’s grip on her arm.

The bathroom door was now shut, it would not open. They tapped, then hammered on the wood. Nothing, Bobby ran to the bedroom door, still locked.

“Let’s wait and see what happens,” said Bobby hopefully.

“And how long are you prepared to wait, and for what?” said Gemma.

Bobby tried the easy chair, moving a novel to the bedside cabinet, as Gemma leafed through a volume of medical miracles next to biology textbooks on the shelf.

“Look at this,” she said, tapping a headline, “Dangers of youth pregnancy!”

Then the bathroom door opened slowly and silently. Footprints padded silently to the desk.

A girl’s face appeared on the screen, pretty blue eyes peeked from under a blonde fringe.

“Hi,” she said from the screen.

Gemma and Bobby were leaning on the desk.

Gemma was the first to speak, “Who are you?”

“Just a young girl like you,” said the Mac.

“What happened? Are you a ghost?” asked Bobby.

“Do you believe in ghosts? You surprise me,” chuckled the computer.

“I don’t, someone is pranking us. I want to know who? And how they do it,” said Gemma.

“Do you enjoy playing tricks on people?” said the Mac.

“It can be fun,” suggested Bobby.

“Oh, really? Like telling a morbidly depressed man his daughter is pregnant?” said the Mac.

A golden shadow flicked at Booby’s hair. Teasing, poking, prodding and gently stabbing at his face.

“Leave him alone, let us go,” said Gemma.

Bobby was silent, standing rigid.

“Ah, now you remember me?” said the Mac.

Like a melting snowman, Bobby slid to the floor in a heap.

“What is going on?” asked Gemma.

“I don’t think your friend is up to telling you. So I shall. You are in my new house. My father was a talented, but tender scriptwriter. He had landed a tremendous job, hence the new place. We were happy for the first time since my Mum died.”

Gemma, transfixed, breathed, “Go on.”

“My new school was not welcoming to a shy girl.”

It went quiet except for Bobby weeping.

“He teased me, I did not want him as a friend. He told his mates that he had made me pregnant. The word spread, it got back to my Dad. My father was, how should I say, unable to cope with such news.”

Gemma glared at her ‘friend’ on the floor.

“My Dad killed me, trying to dig the non-existent baby from my womb. And then killed himself.”

Across town, a doorbell was ringing.

“Okay, okay, enough with the bell.”

“Where is my daughter?”

“Hey, calm down. Who are you and who is your daughter?”

“Gemma, my daughter, said she was coming here to see your son. She hasn’t returned home. Is she here?”

“When I got in from work, the house was empty. Now my wife and Bobby’s brother are here.”

“Where are Gemma and Bobby?”

“How should I know?”

“I like to monitor my little girl.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Never mind. Where can they be?”

“Why all the fuss? It’s not late.”

“It is when we have a dinner engagement.”

“Okay, let’s see. They can’t be far. It can only be walking distance?”

“Unless your son has an illegal motorbike?”

Bobby’s Dad stalked to the garage to check, “His bike is here!”

“So they walked, got a taxi or went with others?”

“Have you phoned her?”

“Of course. She didn’t pick up.”

“Let me try Bobby.” He grabbed his mobile and tapped in an important number. “Ringing, but no answer.”

The men went back into the house.

“Did Bobby tell you of his plans,” his father shouted up the stairs. Negative answers were returned. They moved to an office-like room.

Bobby’s Dad sat and offered a chair to Gemma’s Dad.

A phone sang out, “No, she is not here, have you heard anything, any ideas?” said Gemma’s father.

Both men were shaking their heads, Bobby’s Dad looked up and noticed a keyring missing from its hook in a line of ten others.

“Come with me, I think I know where they are.”

Car headlights flashed as they raced the short distance to the modern, ‘For Sale’ house. No room lights on show, but an odd golden glow from upstairs.

After hammering on the door, they looked through the windows.

“Look, come shine your torch in here.”

A wine bottle stood alone in the middle of the lounge. Bobby’s Dad raced to the back door, retrieving a key from under a rock, and went in.

The men ran from room to room shouting. They entered the last room, pushing back the door. It was empty like the rest, no carpet, no furniture, no Mac and no teenagers.


You can read more of Colin’s short stories at @dark-novels

Kith and Kin

by Colin Devonshire

She took a deep breath and said to her boss, “I quit!”

“But you just begged me for a raise,” said Travel Tim.

“Yes, and I thanked you. Now I want to see the world,” Tina was panting. Her managing director thought she was about to have a fit, another fit.

“Sit down and relax, please don’t get worked up.”

Tina took a gulp of tea, swept her hair away from her overlarge glasses and started a three-minute monologue. She then smiled at him.

“I am sorry to let you go, but as you’ve explained at length, great length, that you are fed up with booking other folk’s holidays, you want to take one yourself. Correct?”


“How about we extend your leave?”

“No, thank you,” she stammered. “I want to feel free.”

“Fine, and I understand that, what about your epilepsy?”

“I have pills for that.”

“What about last week?” he asked.

“I forgot to take them, that’s all.”

“You forgot them and…?”

“Okay, I was dealing with a difficult customer.”


“Don’t go on, I was having my period and yes, I had a hangover, okay?”

Tim puffed, “Where are you planning to go?”

“I’ve worked here, three years and have not set foot on a plane,” she started with another long speech, Tim cut it short.

“So, France? Spain? Maybe Italy?”

“No, Thailand!” she beamed.

She worked her month’s notice and set off to Heathrow. Tim and her Mum went to see her off.

The flight was twelve hours, the time difference confusing. Her mobile phone calculator was needed to judge her medicine timing.

“Oh, bollocks to it,” she said as she swallowed the pills.

The elderly Thai lady next to her looked puzzled, “Are you okay, my dear,” she asked.

“Oh, sorry, yes fine thanks, I’ve never felt better,” smiled Tina.

From then until they reached Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport they didn’t stop talking, when they bumped onto the tarmac they were best of friends.

“Forget hotels, they are so expensive, come and stay with me,” Khunying Far offered.

The Thai Air staff were polite and efficient to Tina, but they fell over themselves when aiding her neighbour. Not just because she was in her seventies.

For all the chitchat on the Jumbo, the kindly Thai had failed to mention that Khunying is a Thai title much like ‘Lady’ in the UK.

The immigration queue was longer than Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. Tina gasped. 

“Come with me,” Khunying Far signalled.

Ten minutes later, with a Mercedes saloon waited outside, a polite ‘wai’ greeted them as the rear doors opened. 

“This is Khun Daa, my driver. He is yours to use when needed. Can I suggest we skip a Bangkok tour? I’m tired, we’ll go straight to my home in Hua Hin?” asked Khunying Far.

“Yes, of course. How far is Hua Hin?” she knew from the travel brochures it could take three hours.

Both ladies dozed in the luxurious German leather. Sleeping most of the way south. As excited as she was, Tina’s head dropped before leaving the city. 

“Nearly home,” nudged Khunying Far, as they skirted the seaside town of Cha-Am.

“Oh, it’s gorgeous, everyone is smiling,” said Tina.

“The weather helps, unlike London,” her companion said, smiling. “You must be hungry?”

“Are we stopping?”

“No, dear, what would you like?”

“Oh, I don’t know, something Thai?” answered Tina.

Khunying Far chatted at her mobile.

Khun Daa took the bags to the bedrooms. A middle-aged woman came out to help him.

“This is Pi Yah, she can help you find anything you need, towels etcetera,” said Khunying Far.

“Can I wash and brush up before we eat?” asked Tina.

“Of course, take your time. Don’t forget your medication.”

Much refreshed, Tina studied her room. The house appeared old and made of teakwood, polished planks on the floors, painted in creams and light browns elsewhere.

“Gorgeous, like a dream house,” breathed Tina as she moved to the open windows. “Oh my, look at the view!”

Below her window was a sandy lawn with rocks dividing small rose gardens leading to a low wall. Beyond were a handful of fishing boats gently bobbing on the waves.

“This is heavenly,” thought Tina as she planned her first email to her Mum.

There was a tap at the door.

Pi Yah pointed downstairs, “Can you speak English?” asked Tina.

A lost look was her answer. Tina followed her to the dining room.

Aromas met her as the door opened.

“Come in, Yah is a superb cook, I think you’ll agree?”

“It looks and smells wonderful. What is it?” asked Tina.

“My favourite, green chicken curry. I hope you like it. Yah always cooks this dish if I’ve been away.”

Pi Yah backed away through an open door on the far side of the room. Tina sat down and copied her hostess, using a spoon and fork to attack the feast.

The women heard a car on the gravel. Then cutlery dropped behind them.

“Khaw mah, chan ja pai noow!” said Pi Yah.

“Pai, pai,” signalled Khunying Far, flapping her arms. The driver took his wife the maid home.

The front door opened and slammed against the wall. An immaculately dressed man burst in firing words like splinters from a rotary saw.

“This is my son,” said Khunying Far.

He spotted Tina, halted his torrent of Thai, staring at her, then turning into the gallant charmer he could be when needed.

“Oh, hello, who are you?” he said in accentless English.

“Hello, I’m Tina,” she stammered.

The man stared at his mother. 

“Meet Khun James. As you’ve seen, he scares away my staff, and I’m sure he’ll try to scare you too.”

“Not me mother, I would never scare a friend of yours, especially one so beautiful.”

Tina blushed and wished she could hide behind her glasses.

“What do you want, James?”

“Can I eat? I’m sure your cook would have added a little something if she knew I was coming,” he laughed, reaching for a plate. “I want what I’m due, that’s all. And I’m not talking about food.”

Tina thought she should leave, slid her chair back, “I’ll go to my room if you’re having a family discussion.”

“Stay, where you are, I want you to see James at his worst.”

Tina hid behind her spoon shrivelling.

“Mother dearest, you know this is my house. I’ve offered to allow you to live here. But I want what is mine.”

“Dearest son, I could not live in the same house as you, here or elsewhere. That is the end of the discussion.”

“I am not prepared to wait for you to die and bequeath it to me.”

A smirk turned into a giggle then a full belly laugh.

“What is so funny?” asked James.

“I have willed this house to a dog’s charity. All the ownerless beach dogs can live out their lives in peace,” she roared with laughter.

“But you can’t,” stammered James.

“Can and have,” stated his mother.

“Show me the will.”

“You can see it when I die,” she snorted.

James grabbed the serving spoon, pulling his mother’s short hair backwards, thrust the cutlery in his mother’s stretched jaw.

Tina, frozen to the chair stared at the nightmare scene. Looking around for a weapon, finding nothing, she took the curry bowl from the centre of the table in both hands and crashed it against his head. Curry splattered everywhere, but the china was not strong enough to stop him in his mad quest. It burst into shards. He turned and grabbed Tina’s throat and squeezed. Khunying Far, choking and coughing fought to clear the spoon from her mouth. She ran to the kitchen behind her and pulled open the first drawer. Grabbing a cleaver, she turned and plunged it into her son’s unprotected back. He arched and screamed in agony, stretching backwards as he dislodged the steel. Kneeling, he stared with unfocused eyes, “Why mother?” he croaked. “Everyone thinks you are perfect, but I know better. I remember what happened to Dad.”

He collapsed forward and bled to death.

Tina coughing and panting started shaking from head to toe. Khunying Far had seen somewhere that people suffering a fit could swallow their tongues. She knelt next to Tina pushed on her side, then grabbing the cleaver and using the rounded corner of the spine she gently forced her teeth open pressing the tongue down. Slowly the tension lifted, the woman relaxed and began thinking.

She removed the blade, tipped Tina onto her back, then using the cleaver’s handle poked the tongue down Tina’s throat. Now there were no witnesses.

She considered burying the bodies in the garden next to her husband. 

“No, too much like hard work, I’m not as young as I once was,” she thought with a smile.

She hunted for her phone, “Police please,” she said with a quivering voice.

Before two minutes had passed, she heard wheels on her gravel.

“Thank God you’ve come,” she said, showing the officers through. They showed the Khunying the respect she deserved, then got on with their task.

“I was dressing for dinner upstairs, we had a lovely meal planned, my wonderful son was going to introduce me to his new girlfriend. Then I heard shouting and screaming. I rushed down to this…” she collapsed in tears.


Read more of Colin’s work at @colindevonshire

So Many Books, So Little Time!

A short humorous story, here, and @colindevonshire

So Many Books, So Little Time!

“Get out of my library,” screamed the librarian from the doorway. She would never raise her voice inside. The two young lovers had tested her ability to keep her blood pressure from bursting veins. Their crime? They were fiddling with each other under a desk.

“Whatever next, this is a place of learning – from books!” she yelled after the giggling teenagers.

The young couple ignorant of other footpath users forced a lady and her two children onto a grassy verge.

“To think I was like them a few years ago, now look at me,” talking to herself was becoming a habit.

“Come on you two,” she urged. “You know I’ve an important meeting,” breathed their Mum. 

She needed a job and needed it urgently. Her ex-husband ceased paying the agreed maintenance, she couldn’t track him down, now her pitiful savings had dwindled to nothing.

Twin brothers skipped merrily behind. Flicking at leaves, kicking dandelions, and giggling at the groping lovers going past.

“Please, boys. This way, up here,” she led them into the library. “Christ, now it’s spitting with rain. Have you got an umbrella in your bags?”

“No, Mum,” they answered. The boys had plenty of vital belongings, torches, crayons, glue and Lego pieces.

She marched them up the sloping path. It appeared the drooping daffodils were reading the posters splattering the glass doors and plastering the windows. ‘Book Sale’ boasted one.

“If you are coming in here, clean your shoes!” said a woman looking left and right, ensuring no pranksters were lurking. 

“How loud and gravelly can a lady whisper?” wondered the twins poking each other.

“Not you two,” the grey-haired women said, glaring at their mother.

“Oh, sorry,” she stammered. “I wondered, would you be so good as to monitor them for me? Just for a short while. I have to go for a job interview. I won’t be long.”

The woman pointed to a sign. ‘No unattended children!’

“Oh, no,” the mother cursed under her breath.

A gangly, ginger-haired man popped his head from the thriller section. “I’ll watch them for you, as long as you’ve got a light, I’m gasping for a fag.”

The librarian looked ready to disintegrate as she fired her finger to one of the many ‘No Smoking’ signs.

Ginger grinned, “Only joking.”

The boys liked this man, their mother did too. She scurried to her appointment.

“Let me show you the children’s section,” said the stout librarian boasting ‘Miss Prim’ on a badge lodged above her ample bosom. The smirking boys followed her marching army fashion. Leaving Ginger smirking at Lee Child’s photograph on the back of his latest novel. He flicked the pages before grabbing Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ from the shelf.

“Sit here boys, I’ll fetch some suitable reading for you,” said Miss Prim.

“Hey, it is good in here,” whispered Tom.

“Yeah, love the nautical theme,” answered Jerry, studying the decor.

Their father had been more of a cartoon fan than a literary expert. The only things he gave the boys before walking out on the family were their names and smirks from everyone they met.

They had redecorated the upstairs of the library to make reading more welcoming for younger folk. The idea was to change the theme regularly, but the budget ran out. The first layout was popular, so they kept the anchors, the ropes and the cardboard canons, with stunted paper pirates reading children books and leaning lopsidedly against the walls.

Miss Prim thrust books at the boys.

Tintin beamed from the cover of ‘The Crab with the Golden Claws’ drunken Captain Haddock earned a hidden thumbs up from Ginger, now perched on the stairs. Tom and Jerry giggled silently. 

Bernard Cornwell’s books didn’t grab the imagination in quite the same way, the only pictures were on the covers. The twins started fighting over Captain Haddock and his Belgian mate.

“Stop that!” spluttered Miss Prim as she snatched the book, leaving the boys with a copy of Jack London’s, ‘The Sea Wolf’ and the battered hardback, ‘Classic Sea Stories’. It did not impress Tom and Jerry.

“Read those,” said Miss Prim as she turned to the stairs, Ginger quickly trotted back to his thriller.

The boys, being twins, didn’t always need to speak, they knew each other’s plans; they sensed mischief like the stink of a month old kipper. They searched through their bags, finding their tubes of ‘superglue’ they then grabbed one heavy dictionary and a giant colourful atlas from the shelf. Preparing themselves, they headed to Miss Prim’s desk.

“Excuse me, Miss Prim, I want to check the word ‘erudition’ but can’t open the book,” said Jerry.

“What do you mean, can’t open the book?” she asked.

“And I wanted to know where ‘erudition’ is in the world,” asked Tom.

Miss Prim guffawed, “Erudition is not a place.”

“Oh, I thought if they called you erudite you must come from Erude?” they sniggered as they handed over the weighty volumes. 

“Anyway, we can’t open the pages.”

“Let me see,” she barked, snatching the tomes.

Jerry slid behind Miss Prim as she stood to take the books. 

The glue worked instantly, Miss Prim’s fingers stuck to the covers, the weight caused her to overbalance, now sitting firmly on her chair’s small puddle of clear liquid. Glued to the seat. Not wanting to break her own ‘keep it quiet’ rule, she gulped.

Ginger realising something was happening at the front desk wandered across. He smiled at the boys. Soon all three were giggling. Miss Prim’s eyes were molten, as if firing hot needles at the boys. 

Heads together, the boys planned the next stage of their scheme. Ginger calmly lit a cigarette and blew smoke at the woman.

“I ban you from here,” she croaked.

The twins bounded and bounced up and down the stairs, armfuls of rope and posters landed on Miss Prim’s desk.

Soon, her ankles tightly fastened to chair legs, they looped the rope around her neck. Next, her cheek securely glued to her blotter. They cut words from the carefully written posters, they too glued to her eyelids and cheeks, Jerry jumped up on the desk and lobbed the rope over the rafter. He pulled the rope tight to appear taut.

The messages stuck to her face, handpicked, to carefully fit the situation.

‘I can read with my eyes shut’ it said above her closed eye.

‘If my book is open, your mouth should be closed.’ They firmly glued her own mouth shut.

And hanging from the rope, ‘The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.’

The boys were laughing and back-slapping as their mother burst through the doors.

“I’ve got it. I got the job!” she shrieked.

“What job, Mum?” asked Jerry.

“I’m the new librarian, Miss Prim is retiring and…”


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