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

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.

The END

Beltane Belt

A short story by Colin Devonshire – read more on Medium.com @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.

“Comfortable?”

“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 END

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.”

“But…”

“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.

The END

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.

The END

You can read more of Colin’s short stories at Medium.com @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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“And?”

“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.

The END

Read more of Colin’s work at Medium.com @colindevonshire

So Many Books, So Little Time!

A short humorous story, here, Anchor.fm and Medium.com @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…”

The END

A Darker Forest

FREE short story by Colin Devonshire

A Darker Forest

A darker forest paints with blood in the sun sliding down its trees

“Here we are, kids. I used to play hide and seek with your auntie when I was your age. Lovely old tree, isn’t it?”

His memory, like Movietone, pictured his black and white sister grabbing the biggest and best conkers from the ancient horse chestnut, branches bowed with the weight of prickly inedible fruit.

The family Alsatian, Bruno, tail wagging, ran around in circles, begging for a ball to be lobbed into the trees. Bounded to and from child to trunk.

“When are we going home?” asked Sadie.

“Yeah come on Dad, there is no connection out here,” said her twin brother, Rog.

“We’ve only just got here. There is more to life than games or TikTok on your mobiles,” said Johnny, their father. “We played conkers or hide and seek.”

Clarice, Johnny’s girl friend busied herself spreading a rug on a flattish area of grass, laying out well wrapped sandwiches, biscuits and a flask of tea.

“Come on gang, sit down and enjoy your picnic,” she said.

“I wish Mum was here,” said Sadie. Her brother nodded. 

Their step mum to be hoped she would get accepted by the children soon, “She would have loved to be here with you too,” she said, glancing at Johnnie.

“There are your Mum’s initials in the middle of the big heart I carved, mine next to it. We dug them out with small pen knives them when we first fell in love,” said their Dad. 

Johnny, again lost in memories was staring high into the branches, “If only?” he thought.

It was two years to the day she died. Twelve years since they fell in love. Twelve years of hate between their families. “When will it end?” he wondered.

Clarice passed laden paper plates to the children, Rog nodded as he accepted his, Sadie knocked hers in the air.

“I don’t want your sandwiches, I don’t want to be here. It feels funny,” said the girl.

“Sadie!” shouted her Dad.

Clarice leaned over to hug the girl, “Don’t worry. I understand.”

Rog ducked his head to hide his tears.

“We don’t like it here,” stammered the boy, as he stood and stepped hid behind the enormous truck.

Johnny glared at his daughter as he started clearing away the uneaten picnic.

“Look what I’ve found,” shouted Rog, holding aloft his treasure. “It’s a gold ring.”

“Let me see,” called a brighter Sadie. “It’s Dad’s,” she squealed.

Johnny walked around hand out. He studied the simple design before looking at the engraving inside.

“It’s its,” he stammered. “Mine is in the drawer at home.”

“See, Mum’s and your initials either side of a heart. Just like on the tree,” stated Sadie.

“Mine is at home!” insisted Johnny.

“It must be your wife’s,” said Clarice. “Try it on, then you’ll know.”

Johnny snatched it back.

“It won’t fit. It must be someone else with the same initials?” he said.

“That’s pretty unlikely, don’t you think. The letters, the heart right next to the tree you love?” said Clarice.

Johnny shook his head slowly. He sank to the grass. Clarice hugged him, not understanding his grey mood.

Another memory tormented him. “I trust my brother far more than you,” she had screamed at him. Her stare like molten lava burnt him to this day.

“What’s the matter, maybe she lost it well before she died?” said Clarice.

“No, she didn’t,” he answered.

Sadie and Rog ran around throwing the ball for Bruno. His barking and jumping cheered all except a sullen Johnny.

“Come on, stupid dog, here is the ball,” Rog shouted, showing the once hidden ball pulled from behind his back.

“He doesn’t want to play with us,” said Sadie.

Bruno had other things to do. A scent he could not ignore twitched his nose. Busy scratching at the base of the tree. He bounced, jumping excitedly, front legs digging, rear legs splayed, he dug up sod after sod of loose grass.

“Get away from there,” shouted Johnny. “Here, have this,” he handed a ham sandwich to the dog. “Don’t you want it?” he asked, wagging the treat at the dog’s wet nose.

The children and Clarice watched open-mouthed, as Johnnie stamped after the dog.

“Dad, Dad, calm down he is only playing,” said Rog.

Johnny grabbed a hefty stick and slashed it at his pet, who yelped away.

“What is up with you?” screamed Clarice.

A red faced father was on hands and knees, patting down clumps of turf, shaking his head and mumbling. Bruno in a wolf-like stance crept behind his owner, low to the ground. Wary, careful, he edged closer.

The children watched in horror as Bruno bared teeth, growling with intent. He leapt and bit deep into Johnny’s throat.

Clarice pulled the children behind her before slowly walking forward, “Okay Bruno, leave your owner. Come on, good boy,” she soothed.

Bruno released his grip, turned away from the wounded man and continued with his digging.

The children rushed to their blood-soaked father. Clarice tried calling emergency numbers. No signal.

She used the rug as a pillow and checked his carotid artery. It was leaking. Blood seeped between her fingers.

“Kids run as fast as you can to the edge of the woods, try to contact anyone you find or if you can, phone an ambulance. Go quickly,” she said.

The children ran off clutching their mobiles.

In a panic, Clarice’s first-aid knowledge remained deep behind stacks of other information. She clamped her hand over the jagged wound, blood kept leaking through her fingers.

“Don’t die on me, please!” 

“It was an accident!” Johnny croaked. Tears were watering blood as they reached his throat.

“Don’t speak, the ambulances are coming. Hang on,” she cried.

Minutes passed, Bruno didn’t slow his digging.

“Thank God, here they come,” Clarice breathed. She spotted flashing lights in the distance. A pair of stretcher carriers battled branches.

A chunky lady dropped a case next to Johnny, immediately started working on him. The ambulance driver put his arm around Clarice, leading her a few steps away.

Clarice turned back as Johnny spat out a brief sentence, “I didn’t mean to, it was her family.”

Johnny’s head twisted to one side. The lady shook her head slowly. Clarice wailed. The children ran up, collapsing at their father’s side.

Bruno kept digging, deeper and deeper.

Police arrived, taping off the area. An officer attempted to lead Clarice and the children away.

“Where is the dog that caused all this?” he asked.

Clarice pointed to the tree trunk.

Bruno sat behind it, proudly wagging his tail, showing off his treasure. He had bits of a skeletal arm in his mouth. Rotted muscle hung loose. A hand with a ringless finger.

The END

Oh, September!

FREE short story by Colin Devonshire.

Oh September!

“Babe, only a month to go. Thirty short days, and then you’ll be Mrs Pippa Peters!” said Mike Peters as he stroked her bare muscled back.

“Are you trying to sing?” asked Pippa.

“I can’t sing, but if I could, I’d sing for you.”

“You are sweet, are you murdering my favourite Johnny Winter song? ‘Gonna give you thirty days to get back home. Gonna talk to the gypsy woman gonna tell her so, She gonna put out a worldwide voodoo, That’ll be the very thing that’ll suit you, Gonna see that you be back home in thirty days’. Is that the one you mean? Am I a gipsy with the power to entrance you?” she laughed.

“You’ve got me wound around your little finger, is that what you mean, even if I can’t sing?”

“Even if you are full of cliches, and can’t sing! I can’t wait to be your wife.”

The duvet pulled over their naked bodies once more.

“Mrs P to be, and no, that is not the first line of a new song. I’ve work to do, and so do you.”

“I’m ticking off the days, soon we’ll be together every night. Don’t hate my Dad, I know he’s old-fashioned,” said Pippa as she stuffed her overnight bag.

“He is my boss, I can’t afford to upset him, and he accepted me as a son-in-law,” they laughed together.

“I’m sure he knows I spend the weekends with you. But he has to keep up appearances.”

“What would they say in the House of Lords?” said Mike.

“They would have something to chatter about if they spied my hen night!” she giggled.

“Why are you having it so long before the wedding?” he asked.

“Because I want to look wonderful on the big day. No ugly bags under my eyes. Don’t forget the press will be there, and they would love it if Lord ‘The Most Hated’ lawyer’s daughter looked like a dragon,” she answered.

“I try to forget the following you father’s cases attract. Thank God I don’t have to deal with gangsters, murderers and heaven forbid, pop stars.”

On Thursday night the ‘hens’ gathered at their favourite Soho pub.

“Hello girls, you all look simply spectacular,” the barman minced.

High fives all around, deciding on whose skirt was shortest.

“A couple more here then we move to Xplode, okay girls?” called Pippa. 

Samantha, the maid of honour grinned and winked a secret to the bubbly gang of professional girls. Taxis dropped them outside London’s famous club.

“Rainbow slammers for ten,” Samantha ordered. The bar only offered five colours, two of each shade were downed, the girls weren’t fussy about what colour they got.

The vodka slammers knocked back as soon as they hit the bar.

“Ah, ha, now the show starts,” screamed Samantha. They shoved a leather office recliner to the centre of the dance floor, muscly dancers circled the chair, soon their discarded clothes draped the chair arms.

The hens carried and shoved their friend to the hot seat. The lead dancer dressed only in clingfilm started his performance. He discarded sheets of thin film as more vodka tipped down Pippa’s throat. Screams and wails of delight followed the dancers’ nimble moves.

Pippa turned away from the show’s star and fought hard not to throw up. She gagged. The experienced showman grabbed her upper arm and pulled her to a door at the back.

“Do not spew on my props,” he said, leading Pippa to the toilets.

The hens carried on dancing, laughing and slamming.

“Where is Pippa?” asked one, “She’s been out of sight a while.”

“Last chance for a bit on the side?” laughed the girls.

Samantha knew her friend better. She disappeared through the door at the back.

“Pippa?” she called at the door to the ‘ladies’. Opening door after door, knocking on the locked ones, “Pippa, are you okay?” No sign of her. She went to the men’s toilet.

“Sorry guys, don’t wish to disturb your pee, is my girlfriend in here?” she asked. 

“No, we’d love a few young ladies in here, darling. You can stay and join us for a snort?” grinned the well-dressed banker. As he kicked aside sheets of clingfilm. “Who left this rubbish in here?” he asked.

Samantha suddenly sober, ran to a bouncer.

“Mike, did Pippa come to your place?” asked Samantha.

“Christ, what time is it?” he said, disturbing the sleep from his eyes.

“I’ve called her dad’s place, the butler said she hasn’t come home,” said Samantha.

“She’s not here,” said Mike, “Where the hell is she, it was your job to look after her?”

Samantha told Mike what happened. 

“Fancy a coffee?” she asked.

“I’ll meet you at the Starbucks near the club.”

As Mike sat opposite Samantha, his phone bleeped.

“We don’t want to disturb his Lordship’s slumber, you can pass a message.”

Mike drove the short distance to Mayfair.

“Come in Sir, I’m afraid Pippa is not here,” said the butler.

“It’s his Lordship I need to see, can you wake him?”

“It is very early.”

“I well know the time, this concerns his daughter, oh never mind.” Mike pushed past the man and bounded up the stairs.

“Sir, sorry to wake you. They have kidnapped Pippa.”

Lord Greyson-Tonkin instantly awake pressed a button by his bed, “Toast, honey and two teas, thank you.”

He swept his November cloud coloured hair behind his ears, “Tell me, full story,” he ordered.

Mike finished his report and handed the unruffled lord a burner phone.

“You’ll have a full minute only to listen to the kidnapper, the number will be untraceable.”

“Yes, I am aware of how they work, thank you.”

He snatched the mobile and tapped in the number.

“Tell me who you are, and what you want.”

“Dear lord, listen only. We have your daughter. If you care at all for her, you will lose the rape case. We want Mr Jordan Jacobs put away for good. Simple enough? We will return your charming girl unharmed. Just in time for her wedding.”

The phone was dead.

“They want me to throw a case. Impossible!”

“What case, sir?”

“The idiot, Jacobs, better known as Laughing Lobo. The police charged him with the rape and battery of a young girl, sadly she took it badly.”

“Took it badly? She is now a vegetable, all the papers are full of it. Everyone thinks he is guilty.”

“Yes, but I’m his lawyer. They will find him not guilty.”

“I don’t care what happens to him, I want Pippa back safely.”

“I have never lost a case. I am not willing to start now. You have a job to go to, I suggest you get to the office. Good day.” 

Mike trudged slowly to his car. His fists hammered the roof as tears fell. 

“What now?” he called silently as he drove home.

Shaved, showered and suited, he sat at his office desk and stared at the ceiling.

“Coffee, sir?” his secretary asked. 

An unknown man stared through the office window. He had seen this person from time to time outside the Lord’s office. He came in unannounced. 

“I trust you are not considering something stupid? The Lord has it under control. Leave it.”

“Who are you? And what has it to do with you? I’ll call security,” said Mike.

The man laughed, “I am security.”

Mike checked Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, he built a file on the defendant, information that would not get revealed in the case. The daily papers covered the case at length, the Lord’s underlings, pictured smiling broadly. The press opinion had changed during the week, from stone bang guilty, to not so sure. The rape victim had become a ‘possible’ rape victim. She of course could not speak for herself. 

“Who is that girl?” Mike asked Google.

“She has a sister named Samantha? Different surnames, how come?” he muttered.

Mike grabbed his phone, “Samantha, have you heard anything from Pippa?”

“No. Have you?” she answered calmly.

“Are you in court today?” asked Mike.

“Why would I be?”

Mike’s Google search continued, now he was looking for a Samantha.

His phone signalled an incoming video.

“Oh, my God, Pippa!”

The message read, ‘Pippa’s jail, life gets worse as the case rolls on. Now show her esteemed father’. The film showed a skinny girl in torn underwear, bruises and a blood-covered face and body. They had chained her inside a cage. Dog’s bowls with slops and water next to her filthy legs.

Mike ran to the vast office on the top floor. 

“Where is he?”

“In court, where do you think?”

“I must speak to him, now!”

The middle-aged secretary dialled a number, “You’re lucky they are breaking for a short recess,” she handed the receiver.

“My Lord, they are torturing Pippa. We must get her out.”

“Calm down, boy. I thought I made myself clear? I do not give in to threats, particularly from kidnappers. I have a case to win.”

Mike stared at the phone before returning it to the secretary. He walked back to his room feeling like a child spanked.

He scratched his head as he went through everything he’d read. Then he watched the frightening clip over and over.

“What is that?” as he zoomed in. “Is that an Akita puppy?” He could see the white and gold hair in the background as Mike fiddled with the enlarger.

“You crafty cow,” breathed Mike as he slipped on his jacket.

Neighbours could hear police sirens as Mike pulled up outside Samantha’s mews cottage.

“Open up, or we’ll break the door down,” bellowed the bullet-proofed officer. His colleagues pulled Mike away from the entrance steps as they prepared to smash the door in and blocked any escape.

The slowly opening door revealed a pair of scruffily dressed girls.

“Mike, what have you done?” said Samantha as both women turned and went indoors, leaving the door gaping.

The police piled in, Mike sheepishly followed.

Pippa’s carpet slipper hit him on the head. A police officer’s pistol followed Pippa’s movement as she broke down in tears. Samantha, hands-on-hips glared at the police then heatedly stared at Mike. If her eyes could burn, Mike would be ablaze. The officers checked each room. The only danger they found was a yapping blonde and gold puppy.

Two officers remained to take statements, the rest filed back to the station. Mike elated at seeing his fiancé safe, turned to shock then puzzlement as what the girls were doing dawned on him.

Samantha and Pippa were honest with the police officer, then pleading with him to lock up the rapist.

“Sorry, ma’am, that is not my case,” answered the senior man. “They will charge you with some serious crimes, no doubt your father will get you both off with a warning,” sneered the police officer as he went to the door.

Mike desperate to hear what happened and why?

“Thanks to you, Mike, a hideous low-life, so-called entertainer Laughing Lobo, will get away with a rape that has left Samantha’s step-sister permanently mentally scarred. How do you feel?”

Mike shook his head slowly. “Your father has no intention of throwing the case. Whatever happened to you. How do you feel about that?”

Wedding preparations continued, not exactly as either imagined and much cooler than expected. The wedding would go ahead without the lord, he was no longer invited. Mike’s search for a new position would wait until after the honeymoon.

On the Friday before the big day, Pippa needed to go through last-minute plans with Samantha. She tried calling.

A message blinked on her mobile, “My wedding present to you both is my adorable puppy.”

“Mike, get in the car, now. We must go to Samantha’s!”

They raced across London, Samantha did not answer the door.

“She’s gone to court!” screamed Pippa as a thought hit like a cannonball.

Mr Laughing Lobo, star to the young, only managed a sneer. He was laying in a spreading pool of blood; the press were snapping shots, the court police were holding Samantha, whose smile grew each second the entertainer remained motionless as his life faded.

The END

Mr Mrs, Mr Mr!

Mr Mrs, Mr Mr!

“Good morning my dear, would you like a cup of tea?”

“I could kill for a cuppa, thank you.”

A croaky voice answered through bandages. The flowery quilt covered most of the escapee from a pyramid. I sniggered at the thought. 

I busied myself in our new kitchen, hunting for my favourite mug and its matching pink sister. Two bags of Lipton tea tossed accurately into the cups, proudly grinning at the unseen skill, then added the boiling water. All I needed was the milk jug.

“Where is it? It is in the fridge,” I answered myself.

Not only was the kitchen new, but I was also new to it. It would take a while to get used to its layout. Not that I was a regular user of the old one. 

“Must have a look at the cooker later,” I said, reminding myself gently.

Plodding upstairs to the bedroom, then leaning on the doorknob and pushing the door wide, “It’s a lovely day, sit up and enjoy a brave new start.”

The pain was clear, elbows used to lever a bruised back against the crushed velvet headboard. I positioned the bed tray, tested it, and placed the pink mug centrally.

“Are you hungry yet?”

“No, tea is fine thanks.”

“I’ll see you later, I’ve some shopping to do this morning.”

“Don’t forget to get what I asked for?”

“Top of my list.”

Marching to the high street, across the road I spotted my old mates, preferring not to start a conversation, ducking my head pretending to study a hairdresser’s shop window.

“Don’t know why you’re looking in there!” one of them shouted.

A coarse laugh accompanied the back-slapping mirth from the opposite footpath. Pretending not to hear the two old friends who stood hands on hips.

“Oh, hi, guys.” I relented.

Dreading their next comments, I scurried into the newsagents as a bus rumbled between us.

The newsagent loved to talk; He enjoyed a good gossip, offering more tittle-tattle than The Sun’s front page. He was the last person I needed in my life right now. But any port in a storm, as they say. Maybe he doesn’t know yet?

“Morning. Oh, it’s you?” Accompanied his lecherous grin.

“I popped in to get my usual rag.”

“I guess you’ll be cancelling the lady mags?” He was trying not to laugh.

Slamming coins onto a pile of papers, snatched The Telegraph and accidentally bowled into an elderly neighbour collecting her lottery tickets.

“Sorry,” I stammered.

Both she and the shopkeeper were chuckling as I returned to the high street.

“Oh God, this is harder than I feared.”

Next, bills to pay.

“Your wife usually deals with this,” she giggled.

Last on the list, and grateful that no snide comments followed me from the ‘men’s products’ shelf in Boots chemists to the cashier’s desk. A young Indian girl politely bagged my purchases and offered me my change.

“Next time take the car, save the walking to places where I will go unnoticed,” I said to myself.

“Home. Do you want any breakfast yet?” I shouted up the stairs. No answer, so I raced to the bedroom.

Gentle snoring, all was well. Peaking from between the bandages were a pair of black eyes reminding me of an animal, not a panda, a racoon, slimmer and more angular. Luckily the tea tray was still standing on its legs, the half-empty cup still centralised in place. 

“Ha,” I said to myself, “That would have been ‘half-full’ a few days ago.”

Lifting the tray, there was a grunt and sluggish movement.

“Are you awake?”

“Yes, I’m starving.”

I bounded down the stairs to toast some bread.

“Honey or jam?” I called.

“Marmite.”

“You don’t like Marmite.”

“I do now.”

“Things will change, some small and some large, be prepared,” the doctor’s lecture echoed between my ears.

Both of us eating Marmite in the house wasn’t too bad.

Repositioning the bed tray, with its brown sticky toast, a glass of water and a handful of painkillers, plus other medication, still wrapped in silver foil.

An hour later we were on our way to the hospital. We didn’t have to queue up straight to the consultant’s office.

“Please sit outside sir,” they directed me to a seat outside the surgery. I could hear no sound through the door. Images of bandages unwound, stitches being clipped open. Who knows what else?

The door opened, “You can come in now.”

What was I scared about? No one had operated on me.

“And how are you?”

“Fine, thanks.”

“Really? How about your mental health?”

“My mental health? Why ask that?”

“Let’s say people in your situation, rare as it is, need some guidance.”

“Not me, I’m fine.”

A pair of nurses finished re-wrapping, we were ready to return home.

Back in the car and trying to make light conversation, the chit-chat fell on closed ears. Racoon eyes studied the folk outside without comment.

Deciding to try again, “How about I pull up outside the travel agents, I’ll dash in and grab some brochures we can pick out a holiday. Then, as soon as you get your stitches out, off we go, sun, sea and…?”

“And, where are you thinking of?”

“Anywhere you like. You always fancied Venice, how about that?”

“Haha! Hilarious.”

“What?”

“I need a new passport. Idiot.”

My brow creased, but I said no more until we arrived at home. 

There were people outside our front gate.

“Sir, sir, can we have a word?”

“Who the hell are you lot?”

“We are reporters, local and national.”

“Bugger off. We’ve got nothing to say.”

Opening our gates, cameras clicked and flashed. I turned and closed the wrought iron as quickly as I could, shepherding my white-clad passenger to the front door.

Arms spread wide, the patient turned and faced the press, soaking up the fame, “Come back in two weeks, bandages off, stitches out, a new me.”

Shocked, I stammered, “Get inside, and up to our bed, you must not tire yourself.”

“Do not order me. I am not tired. I will rest when I feel like it. Now, I want to watch a replay of last night’s game.”

“But, you don’t like football.”

“I do now.”

The warnings were clear, things would not be the same. 

“And I could do with a coffee if you’re near the kitchen.”

That’s what I used to say?

“My wife is now a man. I still love… him.”

The END

If you liked this short story, you can find Colin’s full-length novels at amazon.com/author/colindevonshire or iBooks.

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