And Your Name Is?
“It looks like suicide.”
“She can’t be older than ten. Why on earth?” Detective Lou Reynolds said to a uniformed officer.
“Sir, I know her, she lives in the village. I play cricket with her dad.”
“Any problems in the family?”
“No, they are all great. Mum, dad and younger brother, all live above the pub.”
“Here is the Doc. I hope he can finish his work quickly. I want to get her down from that damn tree.”
A month earlier, Lou Reynolds had lost his young son to cancer. He felt the pain like lightning cracking into his heart. Two people he loved he lost that day. Young Jimmy and Jill. His wife lost her mind and remained under the care of psychiatrists and nurses.
He started hunting around the young girl’s feet to see if any clues were scattered.
“How did she get high enough to put her head through the rope?”
“She must have climbed the tree, then jumped?” said the policeman.
“Yes, let’s have a look higher in the branches.”
The doctor opened his bag and began working.
“Thank God nobody from the village saw her,” said the uniform.
“Who notified the station?”
The young officer called the station’s receptionist.
“Sir, she tells me she took the call herself, she thought it was a prank.”
“Why did she think that?”
“Because of the voice used by the caller.”
“It sounded odd.”
“For Christ’s sake, what does that mean? Get her on the line, I want to talk to her.”
“Sir, she is calling me.” He held the handset away from his ear. “Oh God, there is another one.”
Back at the station, the deaths of Edith Verage and Inger Lovel were recorded as suicides. Detective Reynolds didn’t believe it. How did such young victims clamber so high, and who was the caller?
That was five years ago.
“Sir, we have a murder. A ten-year-old has been found dead outside her school. The victim was strangled. A teenager, named Edith Verage, was spotted dumping the body on the footpath.”
“Edith Verage? Can’t be.”
“Yes, sir, she was a pupil at the school, too.”
“Come with me, we are going to the school.”
The school had sent all the pupils home, teachers were milling about in tears.
“Please, tell us about Edith,” asked the detective.
“She has been a student here since she passed the eleven-plus exam and has been no trouble. Until today.” The head burst into tears.
“Do you know anything about her home life?”
“Not much, her parents run the pub. One or other turns up to parent’s evenings’ etcetera.”
“Thank you. We’ll be back with further questions,” said Detective Reynolds.
“Why in such a rush, sir? Did you finish your questions?”
“No, we are going to the pub.”
“Yes, gentlemen, what can I offer you?” asked the barmaid.
“I’m not allowed to drink in uniform. We are here to speak with Mr or Mrs Verage.”
“That’s me, how can I help you?”
“Do you have a daughter called Edith?”
“We would like to speak to her, please.”
“She’s at school.”
The police officer’s radio burst into life.
“Sir, another child has been murdered,” he whispered.
“We will be posting a constable here. He will take Edith to the station as soon as she gets home. You or your husband can go with her.”
Reynolds took a second to glance at the pub’s photos.
They rushed to the scene.
Police were busy shielding off the little child’s body, it lay broken on the railway line under the bridge. On the bridge, a female officer was consoling an elderly lady. She was panting out her words as Detective Reynolds arrived.
“That is Pene, she is from the sweet shop. Do you know her?”
“No, madam, sorry, I didn’t. What happened?”
“She always walks her dog up here, often we cross paths.” The lady cried again, “Where is her dog?”
“We will find the dog. Please carry on.”
“Inger did it.” The lady’s eyes clouded, before carrying on. “She smiled at me, smiled at Pene, stroked her dog then grabbed her and threw her over.” Another torrent of tears, the tissue fell apart. The uniformed officer hunted her own pockets.
“You know the perpetrator?”
“Yes, Inger, her dad is a groundsman at the golf course.”
“What does Inger look like, I mean, big, small, what colour hair?”
“Oh, she is tiny, with reddish, not ginger, what do they call it?”
“Strawberry blonde?” asked the police lady.
“Not Edith then?” asked the detective.
“Oh, no, I know Edith too, from the pub?” asked the lady.
Edith and Inger were still at large when Detective Reynolds returned to the station.
“Sir, you had a call from the… er, hospital. Your wife wants to talk with you.”
“You mean a doctor?”
“No, it was your wife.”
“It couldn’t be, she hasn’t spoken a word of sense since… well, you know.”
“It was her sir, she was determined to speak with you.”
“How can I drop everything and go now. Please call her Doctor for me.”
“Your wife has made a miraculous recovery. She needs to see you now. Something about a person called Edith. Do you know an Edith?”
“I’m on my way.”
“Doctor, should I go straight in. Or is there something you need to tell me?”
“What happened to Jill is unusual. I have never seen it. But your wife is talking normally. She seems somewhat muddled, but that is to be expected. She has even dressed in her clothes from the wardrobe. She expects to go home. Come through.” The doctor led a well-trodden path for the detective. Unsure what to expect, he was stunned.
“Hello, darling, you took your time.”
“Hello, Jill, how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, waiting for you to take me home. How is Jimmy? Who is with him?”
Lou looked at the doctor.
“Take your time to explain,” warned the doctor.
“Jill, baby, Jimmy is no longer with us. I’m sorry,” said her husband.
“No, no, he is playing with his friends, Inger and Edith.”
The doctor suddenly lit up. “Those were the girls who committed suicide about the same time as Jill came to us?”
“Yes, and two girls with the same names murdered children today!”
“Don’t you two know anything?” asked Jill.
“What do you mean?”
“You thought our son died of cancer?”
“Yes, darling, I know he did.”
“Did you see his body?”
“No, he was already in the coffin.”
“Because you were too busy working?”
“You know I was. There was nothing anyone could do.”
“Wrong. The coffin was empty.” She snorted, “I did something. His friends, Edith Verage and Inger Lovel are special, look at their initials, E.V.I.L. That was a clue you missed.” She laughed, her voice changed to an odd cackle. “He is alive and waiting for me with his little friends.”
The sharpened steel flashed from under the mattress. It stroked Lou’s throat like a python tamer’s caress. Her husband froze, the blade then cut deep. In a smooth movement, she thrust the blade into the doctor’s heart, she left the spike pointing at the ceiling.
Brushing her hands on her dress, she waved bye-bye to the men and joined her son and his little friends by the front door.
Slim or No Chance
“We are running out of time,” said Stu. He upped the pace of his jog. His snub nose pistol was working its way loose in his waistband.
“Relax, we’ve got ages,” answered Alex, “Watch you don’t drop the shooter.”
Stu grabbed for his weapon as it cartwheeled towards the runway. The blast stunted Stu; it killed Alex. Stu collapsed next to his friend. He tried and failed to shake life back into him. The hole in the front of his face was not for talking or eating. The hole at the back of his head was bigger and splintered the skull. Stu wanted to cry. Hard men don’t cry, he ran.
Two men jumped down the plane’s stairs.
“Who the hell is that?” said the man wearing a blazer and cap.
“Never mind ‘im. What happened? He didn’t off himself or the gun would be here. Who did it, and where is he.” His icy grey eyes scanned the shrub line bordering the runway. Tall grass flexed.
“Clean that up,” he said pointing to the body as he sprinted towards a patch of trampled grass.
The pilot scratched his head, his passengers would not be willing to help him. Likewise, they wouldn’t want a body on the flight. There was nobody at the small airfield. He went to the hanger and fetched a trolley.
“Butch, what the hell is going on?”
“That is what I’m trying to find out, Mr Jacobi.” He clicked off the mobile as he stooped under branches.
Broken twigs cracked as he moved on. Stu watched every move.
“Come out,” Butch said. He didn’t need to shout Stu was nearby. He ducked missing tree overhangs and stubby clumps of greenery. Butch bowled ahead, not noticing the facial scratches. The gun cracked, he noticed that. Stu stumbled forwards, he moved leaves aside to check on his accuracy, Butch had crumpled.
The pilot hastened, pulling Alex onto the hanger’s trolley. He moved ahead; the plane stood between him and the tree line. “Now what?”
There was no sign of the men who entered the shrubs. The pilot rushed up the steps.
“What is going on?” he asked those sitting inside.
“Butch must be dead. We had better go. Be quick.”
“What about the body?”
“Christ, I don’t know. Dump it in the hanger. And get a move on.”
The pilot rolled the body off the trolly under the tail end of the plane. He chucked his blazer and hat after it. He pushed the empty trolley through the hanger doors and waited.
Stu rounded the plane from the rear. He clipped a hooked wire to Alex’s clothing and attached it to the plane’s landing gear. Now wearing the pilot’s jacket and cap he hastened into the cockpit.
“About bloody time.” Shouted from the rear.
Stu needed to familiarise himself with the controls. It had been a while.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go.”
The engine fired, and the craft rolled forwards. Its speed increased and took off. The discussion became heated between father and daughter behind Stu.
“Sonya, I told you to leave that useless son of a b…”
Stu left his seat, stood and turned to face his passengers.
“I take it you are talking about me?”
“Oh, Stu,” she said.
“What the f…” Her father couldn’t finish his sentence as a bullet buried itself between his eyes.
Sonya was more worried about the blood splashing her new Chanel frock.
“Stu, thank God. You have saved me from him, and his domineering rules and monster mates. Now we can be together.”
“Yeah, right. I wanted to spend my life with you. Until I found out about Alex.”
She looked surprised for a moment. “Stu, darling, we can be together forever.”
Stu turned and checked the controls, as he stretched below the co-pilot’s seat and pulled out a parachute. He noticed the coastline was below. He shrugged on the backpack.
“What are you doing?”
“You said, you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me?”
“Yes, yes, I do, I will.”
Stu chuckled, “Well, that won’t be long.” He checked his watch and pulled out the pistol again. “The ex-pilot is phoning the police, saying someone has stolen his plane. A young man with his girlfriend. By the way, your lover, Alex, is strapped under us. When the plane hits the water he will come loose.”
“Why? What are you talking about?”
“I loved you. But, I also enjoyed learning the tricks of your father’s trade. Yes, even juggling a shooter. A pity you didn’t see the simple circus trick I learned to shoot Alex. I was proud of that.” He smiled.
Sonya fought with her seat belt. Stu raised the pistol once more. Fake tears dripped from Sonya’s chin.
“I’ll do anything for you,” she said, “Now dad is dead we can enjoy his money, travel the world.”
“That reminds me, I need you to sign this.”
“What is it?”
“It’s your will, dated last week. You have willed everything to me after you get the same from dear daddy.”
A bullet entered her thigh.
She screamed in agony clutching the leaking flesh.
“The next one hurts more.” He pressed the barrel to the other leg.
She scratched her name on the last will and testimony.
Stu unclipped her seat belt, knowing the pain in her leg wouldn’t allow her to put up a fight. But she would try to get to the controls.
“Oh, this is for you.” He handed her the snub. She snatched it, aimed and fired.
Click, click. Empty.
He opened the pilot’s door and jumped. The plane flew on, over the channel’s choppy waves until it would run out of fuel.
The pilot’s sister cruised her little fishing boat to pick up Stu. Her brother was answering police questions. “Yes officer, they took off without me. I’ve no idea what they were thinking of? My boss, his daughter and her boyfriend.”
The trio enjoyed a celebratory meal. The wills would take some time to be accepted. “No rush,” they all agreed. The second bottle of red was ordered. The waitress smiled as the restaurant door opened. A well-dressed young lady limped towards their table. “Shall I fetch a chair?”
All smiles faded as she pulled a snub-nosed pistol. “Remember this? It has bullets this time.”
The waitress ran for cover. Three diners slumped forward and had a closer look at their cheese and biscuits.
“Thank you, darling. How wonderful, a break together, I never thought we’d do it,” Mags said.
“Anything for the prettiest wife in the world,” Robin smiled.
“Don’t get carried away with your praise, especially when you don’t mean it,” she chuckled.
“We’ve had a nightmare for a few years. A break will be good for us all. How do you feel?” he asked.
“So far, so good. It was tough getting out of the house that first day. But now, six months on, I not only escaped my self-built prison, but I also made steady progress, I left the village. Now, here I am, with my family, on holiday.”
“I’m proud of you, and so are the children. Where are they?” asked Robin.
“They are too young to understand, but thanks for saying it. They ran to the beach without unpacking their stuff,” said a joyful mother.
“Are they okay on their own?”
“Look out of the window, there they are, running across the sand. Not a care in the world.”
“Should we leave them to it? We could catch up with another thing that’s been missing from our lives.” He grinned as he wrapped his arms around his wife. The cheeky young woman he had met all those years ago at university was back. She tugged him to the bedroom.
“Just a sec,” she mouthed as he unclipped her bra.
“Okay, where were we,” she said, returning from sneaking a look outside.
“You don’t have to check them every minute, you know,” said Robin, lifting the quilt and patting the bed.
The children had worn themselves out leaping the waves, now it was time to search for the enemy, crabs.
“Lizzie, look, a monster,” said Jay.
“Not as big as mine,” said Lizzie as she freed a gluey blob from a discarded Coke bottle.
“That is not a crab, you are cheating. What is it? Is it alive?”
“I don’t know. Ouch! It bit me,” said Lizzie, shaking blobs of blood from her thumb.
“Over there, there’s another one,” said Jay, pointing at a sandy puddle. He moved towards it, then yelped.
“Look out behind you,” said Lizzie too slowly. “There’s another one of those things.”
“Jeez, that hurt. Come on, we’d better go home,” said big brother Jay.
The children sprinted up the beach. Clambered over some rocks and burst through the back gate and into the kitchen.
“Mum, Dad, something has hurt us,” screamed Lizzie at the bottom of the stairs, “The arch-rivals got us.”
Robin’s concentration split in two, and Mags’ bliss shattered.
“Oh God, what’s happened? Get dressed quickly,” as Robin nudged his wife, they fell out of bed.
Grabbing a robe, Mags bounded down the stairs, her husband two steps behind.
“What happened?” she asked.
“It bit my thumb,” Lizzie held it out.
Jay balanced on one leg and raised the other, “It got me on the ankle, look.”
Robin looked at the wounds.
“Nasty, how did you do that?”
“Same as Lizzie’s thumb. Something in the sand bit us,” said Jay, Lizzie nodded furiously in agreement.
“What do you think, Mum?” asked Robin.
“It looks like a leech bite?” Mags said.
“Err, that sounds horrible,” said Lizzie.
“I thought you only get leeches in freshwater?” asked Jay.
“Normally, yes, but there are some in warmer oceans.”
“And the Channel is warmer? You are joking?” mentioned Robin.
“That’s what I don’t understand. Maybe it was something else,” said Mags.
“How come you know so much about it, Mum,” asked Jay.
“As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time indoors, most of it reading,” answered Mags.
“I wish I was clever like you,” said Lizzie.
“We are glad you go to school, then you will be clever, too. Now, run upstairs, unpack your things and change for dinner,” ordered Robin.
The children plodded back downstairs, “I can’t smell cooking, what are we eating? Don’t say it is salad?” asked Jay.
“No. We are going out, is that okay with you both?” said Robin.
“What about Mum, can she come?” asked Lizzie.
“Mummy is better now. Come on, let’s find a restaurant,” said Robin.
The children pulled their parents toward fast-food outlets. Robin and Lizzie had more original ideas for their meal.
“Here we are. ‘Olde English Pub and Restaurant’ that’s the place we spotted in the guidebook. It is highly recommended.”
“Yes, looks lovely, a meal in the pub’s garden. What do you fancy?” asked Robin.
“Wow, we’ve never been in a pub before,” said Lizzie.
“Do they have burgers?… Ouch, what was that?” Jay furiously scratched his ankle under the table. “Mum, I’m bleeding again!”
“Do you need a plaster?” the girl said as she handed out menus.
Mags grabbed paper tissues from the table, mopping the blood.
“Robin, look at this,” Mags pointed at the wound, “Something is wriggling under the blood.”
The barmaid gagged as she backed away, menus floated to the grass.
“We had better get to a hospital,” said Robin, trying to stop his son from looking.
Jay, supported by his parents, limped to the A&E counter, his trainer now full of blood.
“Come through please,” a nurse showed the way.
“Okay, young man,” smiled the doctor, “please lay on the table, let me remove your shoe and sock. What did he do?” he asked, turning to Robin.
“Both he and his sister got nipped by something in the sea earlier. We cleaned it and popped on a BandAid, then it started itching and blood oozed out. His sister is outside with his Mum, do you want to look at her thumb too?”
“Let me look at this first, then I’ll check on her.”
The nurse pulled off the plaster and gasped. Open-eyed, she stared at the doctor.
He started gently pulling at a blood-soaked worm. A worm with a mouth opening and closing. Sucking in air, the doctor tugged harder; the worm wrapped itself around the pincers.
“Hold this” ordered the doctor, the nurse stepped closer and held the metal. The doctor scrabbled for another tool.
“You had better wait outside,” he said to Robin.
The worried father, in two minds, finally went and talked to Mags.
Mags and Lizzie weren’t in view, Robin guessed they must be in the ladies, he waited.
“Aargh, get it off me.”
Robin dashed to his daughter’s voice.
Mags’ hands clamped hard onto a wash-hand basin, her feet rooted to the spot. She knotted her eyes shut. She couldn’t bear to look at her daughter’s hand. Lizzie’s arm outstretched, juddering her wrist, flicking blood up the mirror.
“Mum, get it off me!”
“Nurse, nurse, come quick,” shouted Robin from the doorway.
“You take my daughter, I’ll look after my wife,” ordered Robin.
“Mags, it’s okay, relax, breathe deep and long. Come on, release your grip, let go of the basin, let’s sit down,” he said.
“It’s starting again, I can’t move,” she quaked, “I must go home,” she wailed.
“You’re okay, we can’t leave the children.”
He prised her hands away from the ceramic and gently led the shaking woman to the waiting room.
“Will you be all right? I must check on Jay and Lizzie.”
He didn’t wait for an answer; he dashed out to find the doctor.
“It’s all my fault,” she mumbled to his fast disappearing shoulders.
“Here we are Maxie, are you ready for your run?”
The elderly chemist unclipped a battered and scored leather lead. The over-weight black Labrador waddled onto the beach. He attempted running, remembering those days as a pup. Now, barely quicker than his walking pace he made his way to the sea’s edge. Aged paws splashing ahead of his loving owner.
“Good boy, you enjoy your dip,” she called after him.
The chemist kept to the dry fluffy sand, her eyes never leaving her beloved dog. Suddenly, Maxie’s front legs buckled. His nose dipped into the seawater and wrinkled sand. As his front legs collapsed completely.
“Oh, no, Maxie, what is wrong?” called his owner, she ran crying to her pet.
Crouching down in the sand, she lifted her pet’s head from the water, noticing small lumps under the fur. The slight bumps were moving towards his chest.
“What the?… Aargh.”
She felt mosquito bites from inside her rubber ankle boots. Trying to free her foot from the footwear, she toppled sideways to the wet. Within seconds, circles of blood appeared on her legs. No longer mosquito bites, the pain jabbed and pricked like a nest of bee stings.
Young lovers cuddled up along the seafront as they enjoyed a stroll to the pub.
“What is happening over there?” the girl pointed.
“It looks like the old lady and her dog that passed us. Come on, they need help,” the boyfriend answered as they both sprinted down the beach.
Within moments, they became covered in small biting creatures.
“Help,” he pressed the panic button on his phone before disappearing under a cloud of dark grey.
In the bay, a dinghy floated on the tide as it moored.
“How did you enjoy your first sailing lesson?” asked a proud father.
“Oh, wow, great, that was fun. When can we go again?” asked his daughter.
“Sounds like the weather will be fine again tomorrow. How about in the morning?”
“Brill Dad, thanks. What’s that?” she pointed to a black cloud moving towards their boat under the gentle waves.
“It looks like an overweight blubber filled walrus.” He smiled before leaning over the edge to look closer, his daughter next to him.
Behind them, slug-like creatures were sliding up and over the opposite bows.
Further out in the bay, a Finnmaster 8 bobbed. Its owners were on the seabed. Hoping they could find the shoulder bag their friend had flung overboard earlier. They passed hand signals. The index finger rolled to meet the thumb. ‘Okay’, followed by pointing up, meant enough searching for today.
“Nightmare,” said Bobby as he spat out saltwater.
“Poor Sal, devastated at losing her favourite bag, and all her stuff in it,” nodded Petra.
“What the hell was she thinking? She hurled it at him.”
“You heard the row she was having with her ‘new’ friend.”
“Not friends now,” laughed Bobby.
“No, especially when she swung her bag at him, then tried to push him overboard,” giggled Petra.
“So, she has lost her mobile, her iPad and her purse. Was it worth it?”
“It was good of you to drop them off and come back and start the search. While they can sort out their problem. And it leaves us alone,” she grinned.
“The least we could do, hopefully, she has the barbecue on for when we get back? Maybe she’ll cook him well-done,” he laughed.
Bobby aided Petra to the back of the small cruiser. She threw her flippers on and heaved herself up, then collapsed back into the sea.
A cloud of murky red water surrounded her foot.
Petra froze rigid, fear overtook pain, shock overtook agony. Her foot was no longer there.
She screamed as she fought to scramble aboard. She looked back at her boyfriend, sinking helplessly.
“Oh, my God, Bobby,” she mouthed as she watched him slowly disintegrate into popped bubbles.
Bobby’s handsome features exploded into spumes of red jelly. Creatures were writhing inside his wetsuit. Wrapping themselves along the anchor rope and crawling up and on towards her.
Petra slid towards the radio.
Mags sat motionless in the waiting room, staring ahead. She fixed her eyes on an unused hook on the wall.
“I wonder if it held a sign saying, ‘beware of mad women’, or something similar? Oh, Robin, this is all my fault.”
“Darling, please don’t torture yourself, you are doing so well. This is certainly not because of you,” said Robin.
“It’s all my fault, if it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t be here,” mumbled Mags.
“Don’t think like that. Are you okay for a minute there? I should check on the children again.”
Her head bowed as she hugged herself, Robin stood slowly, touched her shoulder and walked out.
“How are they, doctor?”
“We’ve removed all the… Uh, creatures. But had trouble stopping the bleeding. We’ve stitched them up, they appear fine now, but we must keep them in tonight. I want to find out what those things are,” said the doctor.
“Sir, we have an SOS call.”
“Put it on speaker,” said the lifeboat skipper.
“It’s mumbled now, strange, it was clear just now?”
The speaker crackled as if spitting threats.
“Trace that link,” shouted the skipper.
“We’ve lost it. I don’t understand it?”
“What do you mean? Nothing?”
“Yes, Sir, silence.”
“Get a chopper up there.”
“We’ve got a fishing boat in our sights, we’re going low for a closer look. It appears fine,” said the helicopter captain.
“It looks like it’s losing fuel. Look at the colour of the water,” said number two.
“There’s nobody on deck. What is that? Look, the nets are moving.”
“That is not netting, what the hell?”
“And all around the boat, sir, that is not oil.”
“I can’t go any closer, the oil, or whatever it is, is moving up and onto the deck. Where are the crew?”
“Christ, I hope that’s fish blood?”
“Did you hear that?” asked Mags as she watched the hospital’s overhead tv.
“Yes, the BBC told everyone not to go into the sea. What the hell?” Robin shook his head.
He held out his arm to support his wife as he led her to the children’s private rooms.
“Come on, Mags, do it for the children,” he said.
“I should have stayed locked in the house. We all should have.”
While they were wishing Jay and Lizzie goodnight, a submarine slid into deeper water from nearby Portsmouth.
“We are approaching the site now, sir, port-side. You can see where the rocks tumbled deeper by the tanker that went down last week.”
“The tanker finally got towed away, but leaving a hell of a mess?”
“Yes, sir, you can see the sludge that remains. They cleared most of it with high-powered jets of detergent. Wait a moment, what is that?”
“All engines stop, I want a closer look.”
“Are those props from a sub? And that looks like a chunk of the rudder.”
It puzzled the officers for a moment, then they spotted a smashed lump of steel.
“Bits of a submarine hull?”
“Is that the tower, over there?”
“Yes, sir. A wartime wreck, maybe?”
They radioed orders back and forth.
“Lieutenant, get us back, I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” ordered the captain.
Senior officers had charts spread across an immense desk.
“Christ, look, the Admiral is already here,” said the Lieutenant.
“Gentlemen come in, what did you find?”
“Sir,” said the Captain, “It appears to be a wartime sub. The rockfall must have disturbed its resting place,” he smiled.
“This is no laughing matter!” growled the Admiral.
“No, Sir, sorry Sir,” said the Captain.
“Were there any identification marks on the hull?” asked the Admiral looking at the Lieutenant.
“No, Sir, there wasn’t much we could see. I guessed it was a wartime sub, judging by the rudder, Sir.”
“No markings at all? How about the crew’s skeletons?” asked the senior man.
“Not that we could see,” the Captain scratched his chin, “any bones would have drifted away, surely?”
“What all of them?”
“Some rags were floating in the wreck, could they be uniforms?”
“Get a diver there, we need to discover more.”
The Admiral started searching wartime charts.
“We’ve lost the diver… Aargh!” screamed the dive master as he too became cloaked in black.
The Admiral was reading hand-written notes stashed in a file within a file. Brittle and dusty. ‘Top Secret’ stamped on it.
“Why was this never encrypted on computer files?” he asked himself.
“Christ, what is all this?” he breathed to himself.
“HMS Azur Lane? I’ve never heard of her? What the hell? Captained by Helex Robbo? Helex who? I’ve never heard of him. ‘Sailed for a top-secret mission to destroy the Kaiserliche Marine’, dated 1919.” The Admiral checked and reread more files, scratching and rubbing his jaw he was none the wiser.
“What is this?” he opened a dusty envelope. “HMS Holland recommissioned, that cannot be?” He questioned the document. “It sank in 1913!”
Searching the dusty paperwork, “Renamed as Azur Lane, they sent it to German ports in the Baltic.”
He read on, sweat ran down his rigid jawline, “Armed with torpedoes packed with deadly germs!”
Search as he may, he failed to find a report on the details of the mission.
The Admiral collapsed back in his chair. He poured himself a glass of rum and downed it in one. He decided what he must do. He screwed the paperwork into balls, grabbed a wastepaper bin filled it, and then torched it on his desk. Embers turned to ash.
The 9 mm pistol was still smoking as his secretary rushed to the door.
Sweet Little Billie-Jo
“Where is my angel?”
“Here I am daddy.”
“Now, what are these police officers doing to you?”
“Nothing, they are asking me questions.”
“Where is your mum?”
“She is in there,” Billie-Jo points across the corridor.
“She won’t be long, sir,” a policewoman said.
“There was a nasty accident. Your daughter, uh, witnessed it. We need to ask her a few questions.”
“Are you okay, princess?” Jack asked his smiling daughter.
His darling daughter was thinking back, she was replaying the scene in her mind.
“How can I dance with a boy in a wheelchair?” she asked her dad.
“Don’t say things like that, I know you are in shock.”
“But, dad, I promised the winner of the race could accompany me to the school fete. I don’t want to date a loser.”
Her father hugged her and stroked her blonde hair.
Both boys had fallen in love with their eleven-year-old classmate. All they had to do was to be first at the ice cream shop at the bottom of the hill. The difficulty was the steepness of the road and the fact that the racers had to get over three crossroads. Yes, there were traffic lights, but this was a race.
The loser pulled out of the race as the first light turned red. Head bowed, he sloped off home.
The leading boy did not know he was the sole racer. He pedalled on, beating the first light by seconds. The second light was green. Billy-Jo crossed her legs with excitement. The third light was red, the brakes were hot as the cable snapped. Charlie-boy broke the passenger window of a pickup. He also broke his neck. Billy-Jo jumped and cheered, to the dismay of a pedestrian as she too witnessed the collision.
The lady’s report was the reason for the visit to the police station.
Billie-Jo smoothed out the wrinkles in her skirt and grinned at her father.
A door opened, “We can go, no action to be taken,” stated Billy-Jo’s mum, “Come on, let’s go home.”
“No action? What do you mean?”
“She caused it,” cried her mum.
“Can’t we visit Charlie?” asked Billie-Jo, trying but failing to keep her solemn face.
“Maybe we should?” asked her dad.
“Yes, great idea,” sarcastically answered her mum. “Remember the parents of the boy who ate the bee? They too blamed her, and they weren’t too happy when we took him some sweets.” Pointing at the little princess, “Do you remember what she told their son, ‘Bees taste like honey’? So, no, I don’t want to go through that again.”
Her dad hugged his only daughter close, “Come on darling, cheer up, let’s find you an ice cream.”
Mother studied the skies as she remembered the lead-up to the accident.
“Are you ready, angel? I can drop you at school.”
Father and daughter rolled up at the gates.
“Who is that? Does it look like he is waiting for you? My sweet little girl has an admirer.”
“Just a boy, dad,” she said.
She skipped through the school gates.
“Can I take you to the school dance?” Andy asked as he hopped from left to right.
“Pete has already asked me,” answered a beaming Billie-Jo.
She flicked her hair away from her steamy blue eyes, straightened her school skirt, and grinned at him.
“Oh, sorry,” he moved away.
“How about we have a test? The winner takes me.”
The lad brightened, and then he remembered, that his opposition was his mate.
“I’ll ask Pete, and see what he thinks,” Andy was thinking about losing a friend or gaining a girlfriend.
The following morning, the three of them met outside class.
“What sort of test?” the first boy asked.
“Not French, I hope?” said Andy.
“Don’t worry, it won’t be like a school exam. Much more fun, you can be sure of that. Are you boys up for excitement? One of you will have the night of your life at the dance,” acting shy she left them nodding silently with a wink each.
Andy and Pete were the best of friends. It was surprising they had not mentioned their intention of partnering Billie-Jo before they had gotten up the nerve to ask her.
“How come you said nothing about taking Billy-Jo to the dance?”
“It scared me. What if she said no?”
The boy’s embarrassment was all the more fun for the sweet innocent little girl. Who was enjoying thinking up the next danger. She stood, brushing her hair, and eyeing Pete and Andy.
Each boy watched the other as they tried not to be seen ogling their dream girl. The boy’s temper was barely simmering, trying not to show their feelings for her to each other. There was no hiding their adolescent feelings.
Billy-Jo’s brain worked and reworked her idea. She came up stumped, struggling to think of an exciting quest. She didn’t want another bike race. She wanted to enjoy the race by watching first hand and close-up. The idea sadly fell into her lap. She was about to enjoy breakfast sitting at the patio table.
The ear-piercing scream made her mum drop the toast and ran outside.
Billie-Jo was shaking, quaking in fear. Speechless in fury, she tore her eyes from her mum.
“Who could have done this? Miss Jingles wouldn’t hurt a fly!” she stammered through tears.
“Oh, darling, let me take her.”
The cat had tried to get home; it died as it attempted to jump from the fence.
“It looks like a dog attacked her. I’ll fetch a shoebox and we can bury her in the garden. I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved Miss Jingles.” Her mother said as she gently lifted the bundle of blood-soaked fur from her daughter’s lap.
Billy-Jo’s tears stopped. She now had a plan.
Silence on the school run. Billy-Jo shrugged off her mother’s attempt at a kiss goodbye and slammed the car door as she stomped into class. She didn’t speak to classmates, ignored the teacher’s questions, and only smiled when the break bell rang.
“Right, you two. Do you still want to take me to the school dance? Yes, or no? If you are serious, I’ll tell you what you must do to win my hand.”
The two boys looked at her, then at each other, and nodded.
“They murdered Miss Jingles this morning.”
She lost the boys as they stared at each other.
“Miss Jingles, my cat,” she huffed.
“Oh,” they nodded none the wiser.
“The killer must die.”
“Who was the murderer?” asked one boy.
Ignoring the question, she looked at each, like a teacher waiting for a pupil to own up.
“In my hand are two pieces of paper. Both with a dog’s name, the boy who kills that dog in the most painful or ‘elaborate’ way, takes me to the dance. Clear? Easy enough? Who wants to kill the first dog?”
“You mean now?”
“No, idiot, I mean after school. Whoever takes the first name, kicks the game off, we’ll start as soon as it gets dark. Then the second contestant does his bit an hour later. I will watch and decide who wins.”
She held out a hand. The boys looked at the folds of paper, but neither moved. She glared at each nervous lad and stabbed her hand forward.
With three pairs of eyes focused on the paper, male hands nervously took their pick.
“Ah, ha, ‘Snatch’, that’s the Doberman next door. Better you go second. And Andy, you picked ‘Cutey’, she is not cute. You go first. Meet me at the street corner up from my house at eight pm. Pete, you come to mine at nine. The rules are simple, there are no rules. Okay?” Billy-Jo breezed off with a smile brightening the corridor. Nodding to girls she had ignored the entire term. The boys were not smiling.
Billy-Jo saw Andy creep past her house. She rushed out to join him.
“What are you using to kill the bitch?”
“I read somewhere that if you give a dog Viagra, it will have a heart attack and die. I stole some of my dads,” he laughed.
“I’ve got my Scouts knife to make sure,” he said hopefully.
“Still boring,” she killed his hopes.
The house was in darkness.
“Great, they must be out. Come on, climb over the fence,” she pointed.
The dog started barking.
“Yes, bigger than my cat, get on with it.”
Andy tested the wooden strapping and hauled himself up and balanced across the top of the wood.
“Here you are Cutey, a lovely hamburger for you,” he lobbed the patty down.
“Go on then, finish her!” screamed Billy-Jo as she shoved Andy.
Cutey swallowed her snack and then went after the main course. The boy screamed as teeth ripped his flesh.
Billy-Jo skipped her way home.
At exactly the allotted time, Pete rang the doorbell.
“How did Andy do?” he asked.
“You’ve got something to beat. Do you want to wait for him? Or start now?”
“No, let’s get on with it.”
Billy-Jo tried to hide her enjoyment.
They went to the bottom of Billy-Jo’s garden.
“How are you going to kill it?” she whispered.
“Look what I’ve got,” he pulled a hoop of wire from under his jumper.
“And?” she sniggered.
“When he attacks me, I slip this over his head and tighten it until he can’t breathe.”
“Right. Good luck then,” she pulled back part of the hedge.
Pete crawled on his hands and knees through the hole.
Suddenly, his legs started trembling, then kicking. Billy-Jo pushed his feet harder until he was through. She made a gap in the leaves, but no good.
“Shit, I can’t see a damn thing.”
But she could hear the crunching of soft boyish bone. The neighbour’s back door opened to the owner’s scream. Billy-Jo quietly nipped indoors.
Minutes later sirens disturbed her tv programme, flashing lights shimmied across her ceiling. She smiled. She would dance with someone else.