FREE short story – set in Thailand
“Your seat, sir,” the air hostess cleaned some imaginary dust from its cushion.
The passenger looked around before answering, “Thanks, I’d like to sleep, so no interruptions.”
His crumpled Daily Mail hit the floor. The headline glared up at him, ‘Guitarist – Dead’.
“I know you,” wailed a girl sliding into a seat nearby.
Mr Giles Goodly tutted and glared at the hostess. The Thai Airways lady offered an embarrassed smile.
“You’re the drummer! I know you. Why have you cut your hair?” she continued.
The once bouncy black curls now styled as a grey crewcut.
“Excuse me, young lady. Please leave him in peace,” said the hostess. “We are about to take off, sit and fasten your seat belt.”
“Your hair didn’t fool me, I recognise your tattoos,” the young girl said sitting down.
Giles Goodly, better known as Beat-Em Up, or Beat for short, the drummer for chart-topping, ‘Forsaken’, an ageing band of hell-raisers, he was wearing a blazer and Levi jeans, his long-sleeved denim shirt covered his arms, his jacket now stowed above.
“You should have worn gloves,” laughed Amy, his neighbour for the long flight to Thailand.
“Next time, I’ll take your advice,” he grinned.
“You look good without the curly bonnet,” she noted. “Pity about Pots, I loved his voice, and how odd and sad about the guitarist, what was his name?” she asked, judging Beat’s facial reaction.
“Please let me rest,” he said, reminding him of his friend did not improve his mood.
“Sure, sure, I bet you are still upset? Half a band dead!”
He closed his eyes and hoped to drift to sleep without thinking about the group’s leader, with whom he’d had a love-hate relationship with. Once more he started visualising the Ferrari, spinning and smashing into an M4 barrier.
“What happened to Jethro?” he wondered. That was news to him.
Beat’s relationship with the fastest fingers in London had been far friendlier than with their leader. He slept fitfully the rest of the way to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Amy rushed to join him at the exit, “Where are you heading?”
“A day in the city, then down to Phuket for a party. Are you alone? You are young. I hope someone is meeting you?” he asked.
“I’m fifteen, quite old enough, thank you,” she answered, almost stamping a young foot.
“Okay, be careful. Bye, have a wonderful trip,” Beat jumped into a taxi.
“I will,” she mouthed. “It will get better.”
“Follow that one,” Amy ordered her taxi driver. She felt like James Bond as she entered the hotel. Keeping back, she tracked Beat into the reception. She scribbled a hasty note on hotel headed paper, ‘Your bass player is dead too!’
Folding the paper in four, “Please deliver this to that man’s room,” she asked the receptionist, pointing to Beat as he entered the lift.
As soon as the porter left, Beat read his note then checked Google on his phone, “Oh no. ‘Bassist found dead in his bedroom. There was no trace of foul play. Police suspect he died following an overdose. Time of death approximately forty-eight hours ago,’ Oh God, oh God,” he said fighting back tears.
He went to the room’s mini-bar and downed all the spirit collections.
“Should I go back to London?” he asked himself, before ringing his manager.
“There’s nothing you can do. Stay there, we’ve got a new release to sell. Imagine the sympathy sales we’ll get? Do it for the band,” said the manager.
“Take me to the airport,” Amy said as she signalled the next taxi cruising to head the rank.
Checking all the following day’s flight times, she bought a ticket for the next plane to leave for Phuket.
It took only two phone calls to hotel receptionists to discover which place was hosting the ‘Drummer Hammer Night’, an international gathering of the world’s renowned drummers.
Pleased that she needed only one further call to find if he was staying in the same hotel.
“Has Mr Goodly told you of his dietary requirements. As his personal assistant, I need to check that he keeps to his regime,” said Amy. Her spy skills did not reveal his room number, however.
“Are you press?” asked the receptionist. She disconnected the call.
She then checked in to the hotel herself.
Excited, she whispered to herself, “Not long now.”
After a much-needed shower, she planned the next day’s activities, before sliding back the quilt to enjoy a refreshing night’s sleep.
“Good morning, madam, you’re the first in for breakfast,” grinned a server.
Amy sat patiently waiting for Beat to arrive. She flicked through the pages of a pop magazine, whistling to herself.
“Khun Giles, welcome, welcome to our little hostelry,” gushed the manager. “I hope you find everything to your liking. We will do everything to make your stay happy,” continued the limp man.
Amy watched them enter the nearest elevator in a bank of four. The lit number said floor seven. She jumped into the next door lift, pressing button seven, she arrived as the grinning porter exited room number seven-one-zero pocketing his hefty tip.
Downstairs, the drummers started arriving at the party just before eight o’clock; they were all seated around large circular tables with all chairs facing an enormous stage. They had positioned ten drum kits awaiting attention. Lights beamed and flickered as a spritely drummer leapt from one kit to the next as an athletic, warm-up act.
All seats occupied but one. The backing music quietened, guests turned to face the entrance doors, lights dimmed, a drum roll started, applause began, gradually increasing in volume as they saw their hero Beat, arms above his head, hands waving, he grinned at the attention given by his adoring fellow drummers.
Young drummers took to the stage, banging out star favourite solos. Starting with, Buddy Rich, on to Ginger Baker, Phil Collins, and Ringo Starr, before ending on a twenty-minute tribute session to the late great Keith Moon, “Stars of the future, playing great oldies,” said their host as the applause rang out loudly.
“And now in a change to our published programme, a young lady, all the way from London, Miss Amy. Another big hand please,” the compere bowed out, as leather-clad Amy walked across the stage, throwing drum sticks spinning high in the air, beaming. Without looking up, she caught the sticks, one in each outstretched hand. Taking a hasty bow, she took her time adjusting her seat. She glanced around, then hammered out ‘Moby Dick’ in an exact copy of John Bonham’s 1970 Led Zeppelin performance. Silence. The stunned audience, speechless, the management unsure how to follow that. Time stalled. And then, cheers, claps and whistles rattled the ceiling for ten full minutes. With a tear in her eye, Amy ducked the congratulatory back slaps to dash out of the back door.
“That was the girl I met on the plane! Who the hell is she?” asked Beat.
Nothing but shrugs answered him.
Beat left without a word. The manager tried to get his show restarted; the guests were no longer interested; they had seen an unbeatable performance.
“What could cap that?” he said in the mic, signalling to servers to deliver food and beverages. “Quickly, move, get the dishes out.”
“Where did the girl in leather go?” Beat asked at reception.
They pointed to the beach. Beat ran, looking both ways as he raced through the coffee shop out on to the moonlit sand.
“Stop, please stop,” he yelled at the black shadow nearing a rocky outcrop. She disappeared out of view. Beat searched, squeezing between rocks.
“There you are,” he said.
“Yes, I’m here. I’ve waited for years for you to talk to me.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Should I know you?”
“I am not one of the thousands of girls screaming your name. I cry in anger at the sight of you.”
“Why, I don’t understand?”
“You and your band killed my dad,” she answered, tears dropped in the sand.
Beat studied her face, struggling to see any resemblance to any man he had ever known.
“Who was your father?” he asked.
“He died because of your thoughtless behaviour? You never gave him a chance.”
“I’ve no idea what or who you are talking about?” he said.
Half sitting, half standing, leaning against a rock she bent forward and gripped her ankles, head on knees, she wept quietly.
“Oh, Dad, I miss you.”
Beat, unsure if he should hug her, and try to comfort the little lost girl. Nervously, he edged closer.
Striking, fast as a cobra, she had pulled stilettos from the cuffs of her trousers, flashing in the moonlight, the blades sliced behind his knees, slashing his hamstrings, left and right, he collapsed to his knees. Her hand clamped his mouth, halting the screams.
“Mr Drummer Man, how hard do you think it is to tamper with a sports car’s brakes? Flash git. Easy. How stealthy you have to be when adding poison to alcohol? And how difficult is it to doctor heroin for an addict? Easy, believe me. Especially when we have an alcoholic, a drug taker who likes solitude by hiding away for days on end. And now, Dear Beat, it’s your turn, the last member of Forsaken,” she smirked. “All superstar musicians who didn’t give my Dad a second thought.”
Beat’s jaw dropped as a distant memory glimmered.
“My Dad taught me to bang on drums, but he could do so much more. He was a genius with guitars, and my God was his voice sweet? Freddie Mercury learned from him. All he wanted was a chance. You laughed at him. He would have made ‘Forsaken’ the best band ever. All you had to do was listen, and you laughed at him. He died holding my hand. You will die looking at my feet!”
Amy left Beat pinned to the wet sand by the blades that slashed his throat.
She skipped along the beach, whistling the latest number one hit.
You may like Ian Rankin’s A Song For The Dark Times.
He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?
As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…
Or Catriona King’s The Dark
When a woman dies unexpectedly at a Belfast theatre and only hours later another collapses at her office across town, the lack of obvious cause for either death confounds the region’s pathologists.
At the same time the Murder Squad offices are hacked; an inconvenience until a third woman dies and a strange connection emerges between the three women and a member of Craig’s team.
Methods of killing and gambling that the squad have never encountered before and a final victim that strikes close to home, lead to a showdown at gunpoint in the countryside and someone very unexpected saving the day.