Murder, Passion, Revenge and Reward!

The little boy whispered something in her ear as he shot a fearful look towards me.

“What did he say?” I demanded, distraught beyond imagining.

“He said you have the keys, if all you have on your mind is murder, passion, revenge and reward!

Then I woke up.

Rock, Paper, Stab-Stab-Stab!

I don’t like blood. Especially when it gets in my eyes. Allergies, you see. So when I stabbed Herbert in the solar plexus (and the chest and the neck) I was particularly piqued at the amount of blood that squirted out of him into my left eye. The fact that it got all over my nice clean top was a considerable annoyance too, but not, in the scale of things, too upsetting when you consider that I got to the bathroom pretty quickly and rinsed the top out with cold water.

We’d been playing rock, paper, scissors on a gloriously sunny day in April. I remember that bells were pealing off to the left in a particularly churchy way and when they stopped and a bell let out a single clang, one would presume for one o’clock, it seemed as if it was rather too satisfied with itself. And then, after a pause that was a little too short for my liking, the bells started up again. But don’t start thinking that this was what did it for Herbert. I mean, it was provocative, but one does have a modicum of self-control.

My eyes were already running from the surfeit of tree pollen in the air. Wearing sunglasses had helped a little, but not nearly enough and I was continually tipping my head back to stop mucus from streaming out of my nostrils. So when Herbert inconsiderately filled my eye with his blood, I’m afraid I went a tad crazy and pushed him off the balcony. Before you ask: I’m not at all sure if he was already dead before he tipped over the edge.

On reflection, a scissor tip in the solar plexus would have hurt Herbert but not killed him because I distinctly remember him saying ‘oof’ when he got his next stab in the chest. That couldn’t have killed him either because, being a girl, I’m one hundred per cent sure that I don’t have the strength to stab a pair of scissors deeply enough to hit anything important. Like a heart. So it must have been the blow to his neck that did ‘im in, as the vernacular form would have it. He must have caught his jugular on the tip of the scissors. That would explain the blood, you see; and the eleven level fall into the hotel pool. In my defence, that rail was rather short. Not at all adequate to keep anyone on a balcony. Not if they were given a piqued-push towards it.

It has to be said that he started it and that we were, ultimately, only playing. Surely you must realise this. He had a rock from the plant pot, I had paper from my notebook and I must have picked the scissors up from the kitchen drawer at some time. We were playing to decide who would fetch me a bottle of water from the little shop around the corner. I was parched!

When he won the first round, he hit me with the rock, which rather hurt. I mean, yes, you could call it a pebble, but look, here’s the bruise. He thrashed me pretty darned hard! I triumphed in the next round and so that’s how he got the paper cut on his hand. I remember that he seemed really upset by that. What a wuss, right? Then I got the third round too. Boy, was he surprised when I pulled those scissors out of my pocket! Not as surprised as he was when I stabbed him, though!

Do I regret what happened? Yes, of course I do. I mean, I won fair and square! But due to Herbert stumbling into the pool, I never did get my bottle of water. So, what’s not to regret!

Not based on Rock Paper Killers by Alexia Mason, but I saw a copy in the window of Waterstones before I wrote this. So, thanks, Alexia.

You’re Not the Murderer

Steps you will take:

  • Work out a crime (don’t make it in any way mysterious)
  • Begin to cover up the crime
  • Outline what the culprit does to hide his or her tracks
  • Leave three definite and accurate clues.

On the basis of what you have learned throughout the course draft your detective story. Remember: plot, characters, location and the art of the detective.

“The crime was murder. Nothing too mysterious. Nothing that you haven’t seen on the bestseller lists a thousand times over the decades. Nothing the newspapers haven’t reported hundreds of times in a slow year. And nothing you haven’t thought of doing yourself in your darker moments.

Let’s think about this for a beat? Who would you murder if you could get away with it? Come come; play the game; there’s always someone who bugs you so much that you’ve fantasised sewing their mouth shut with a pretty, blood-red ribbon and thrusting a snapped fishing rod through their heart with a viciousness that would shock even the most hardened detective. Would that be your MO? Your modus operandi of choice? Or would it be something sneakier? Arsenic in the sugar? Pillow over the face? But I digress.

This was a simple, commonplace murder and I didn’t do it. But, let’s be honest: I’m not so sure about you.”

I sighed and sat back from the keyboard glaring at the words I’d just dragged from the depths of my mind and plastered on the screen in front of me. It sat mockingly on the desk of the upstairs study I used as my writing den. That is, when the wife didn’t want to use the room for another endless Zoom meetin with her cronies.

I took and deep breath and then coughed as a stray crumb shot straight into my windpipe. It shot out and landed on the screen with a wet plop and began to drift past the lines I’d just spent and hour creating. Yeah, that’s what I thought of that!

This writing lark isn’t as straightforward as it’s made out to be. It’s not some cookie-cutter thing where you just follow a list. It’s subtler and yet coarser than that. It’s only the most delicate, nuanced plot that’ll grab your readers by their delicate parts hard enough to drag their attention through to the last page. I mean, take …

“God in hell, what was that!”

I stood up, only dimly aware of the chair scooting across the carpet behind me and smashing into the wall. A hellish sound like banshees being torn apart beneath my feet and protesting their pain with every tortured breath. What was the wife doing down there?

“Ethyl? What is it?”

The sound abruptly stopped to be replaced by a phlegmy gurgling sound. As if someone were trying to breath through a hole in their throat. A bloody hole.

As I rushed towards the stairs I imagined (not fantasised – don’t get me wrong) the wife lying there on the kitchen floor with blood pouring out of her wounds. When you’re a writer, you get that a lot. Your imagination takes over. You fear the worst, even as you hope for the best.

Turns out she wasn’t dead. It was the latest gadget in her arsenal. No, arsenal – don’t be rude now. Some blender, grinder thing. Some kind of disappointment to the writer in me, but to the loving husband I really am (honest) – it was lovely see her stick her finger in the mix and then pop it in her mouth.

And then she dropped like a sack of meat and I could tell, just by the expression on her face and the twisted way her limbs arranged themselves on the lino, not to mention the blue tinge rippling across her face, that she was a gonner.

I’d seen enough zombie movies to know what would happen next and I scanned the room for something sharp enough to push through her head into her brain. Nothing. Okay, it’d have to be decapitation then. My eyes fell on the spade. I’d just been digging out a bumper crop of spuds from the garden and so there it was, propped up next to the door on a sheet of newspaper. Keeping a close eye on the wife, or the thing that she’d become, I strode over to the door and snatched up the weapon.

Advancing on her with the spade held over my head ready for the severing stroke I was aware of my mind working out the best angle to come at her neck from. The downward slice would be best because it would deliver the most force, but it’d be messy. A slightly sideways stroke would be cleaner, but not so sure to do the job. What if I missed and hit her shoulder instead? Gah, enough of this. Downward stroke it is. I tensed my muscled and started to release the spade downwards, but then stopped myself. Wouldn’t it be best to make sure? I mean, what if she wasn’t quite dead? What if she didn’t turn? I stood there in an agony of indecision.

Then, as luck would have it, the Director resolved my dilemma for me. He stood up and yelled “cut!”

Dry Violence

I must say that I was rather impressed by how much blood pooled into the carpet beneath his body. I would give him a name, but you know as well as I do that names are for thinking, doing beings and he’s none of those. Some people like to name other things, but we both know they’re wrong-headed to do that. Stuffed animals, towers, streets, stones. None of them deserves to be called anything other than what they are: corpses.

He protested a lot at the thought of being dead. I was quite surprised considering how much he told me about his longing for death on the forum. Our first meeting was spent comparing scars. The slashes on our arms. The chunks out of our knees. The way his face was annihilated by the acid. Mine too.

It seemed strange to me that there would be a support group that was so specifically targeted. You wouldn’t think that acid-attack victims would be that common in the DC area. Not that many Indians. Not that many crazies. Happens all the time in the motherland; but here? In the land of the free? Still, I’m glad there was. Gave me an opportunity. I like opportunities.

One of the best nights of my life, apart from this one, of course, was the one I spent on the roof of our apartment block. You remember the one. We sang to the stars after three glasses of wine and howled at the moon after our second bottle. Then we had one heck of a shag. Yeah, I know you remember. I was surprised and you were delighted that you could even get it up. Good times.

We should go now. There’s only an hour before dawn and I don’t want the sun to see me looking like this. Too much of cliche you might say. Blood-stained woman sitting in arm-chair watching death march across the world, claiming one more victim. Not a cliche? You obviously don’t know me as well as you think you do.

Where to? Home. Obviously. There’s nothing to stop us. The zombies don’t come out in the night. Only the day. Only ten minutes walk and we’ll be there. Two flights of stairs; step around the corpses in the lobby. There are three wrecks on this street and two on the next. Heck, we even have time to dip into the convenience store on 18th. Pick up a can of something nice for breakfast.

Damn, but this chair is comfy. Time for a snooze before we go? I believe so. Snuggle me. Be sure to wake me in five. Okay, ten. But no more.

Where are you? Turn off the light. Light? No!

Imago (release)

– Let’s play the Describe game, bruv.
– I’m not sure that’s a good idea. That’s the game the shrink uses to separate us.
– It don’t got to be like that. Let we just have some fun. Y’all remember fun?
– Hmm, alright. You go first.
– Nah, you kick us off, dog.
– If you insist.
– Okay, where you at?
– Bottom of what appears to be a dark well, tied to a bed. Straightjacket. A smell; as if someone voided their bowels. Cold inside my bones and heart, making me shake so bad. Need to empty my bladder. No-one’s coming to help but I hear something; heavy knuckles pounding on the walls. Scraping and banging in time with the rape of the wind. Trying to get in. Carrion birds swoop over the top of the shaft. They keep watching me. Got to keep moving or they will come and they will eat and I will be ripped apart. Not safe. Eying me. Leave me alone! Getting dark. That noise …
– Yo, cuz, enough of that shit. Same thing is always happening to your black ass. Listen up, I just found something real dred on …
– Wait; your turn. Describe.
– Sorry, my bad. By a computer in York Library. Clatter of plates and cups from the cafe section. People talking more than they should do. Less stink since they stopped them homeless druggies coming in. Hour and more left on this computer session and I found something you should know on the computer.
– About … you know; that?
– Yes; no; kinda. Searched frickin york minster “heart window”; don’t ask. Top hit. Michael. Listen up:

“York Minster – big frickin’ building in the middle of town – can’t miss it. Circle around until you find the heart window. Clue – it’s not round. Stand before it and look to your right. You’ll see a church with a brown plaque that says (something like) St Michael le Belfrey. Anyway, there’s a Michael somewhere in the name. Walk toward, then past it, keeping it on your left and you’ll see a doorway. With some steps. With a man; sitting. There’s a smell, but that’s not him. He has hair that’s lanky long. Same. His name is Michael too. Say hi.”

– Then there’s a whole bunch a links about the same thing. Some guy writing about …
– Old Shakey!
– Exactly! But not. Dude don’t know his real name’s Gabe. Gabriel. But it’s him, right?
– Read more.
– So you admit I got the eyes? I is up front!
– I only admit that listening to you reading the internet is more interesting than being strapped to this bed.
– Right, right.
– Wait. What if the police are tracking the internet here?
– They ain’t tracking shit. Don’t work like that. Anyways, this is just a blog. Some guy studying to be a writer: robert c day; no spaces.
– Read.
– ‘kay, let me pick out the juice. Ah … this one. Story. I done skip the first part. It just saying how he get to be how he is. Here we go:

“My friend at the time set me up. She got me a little piece of paper that she swore was the real deal. Acid. LSD. Trip-medicine.

I was living in a flat at the time. Grotty. You can picture it easily: wallpaper peeling off the walls from the damp. Black maps in the bathroom. Greasy smells in the kitchen. A bed that never seemed warm or dry. Home sweet home.

The sofa stinked of curry and fags (all my fault, m’lud) and so I sat on the rug that I got from the market to cover the stain on the carpet that almost covered the concrete floor and never stopped the cold from rising up into my bones. Plenty of practice for the streets.

It was an alright trip. The pattern on the carpet grew around my legs like mad vegetation and the light from the lamp was like God’s own presence. The walls didn’t crowd in on me any more than normal and I had the feeling that the top of my head had opened like one of those metal tea-pots you get in M&S and that I’d poured myself out into the universe. All in all, pretty much what I expected.

It was nice. So I did it again. And again. And then all the money was gone. And then the lamp and the smelly sofa were gone. And then I ate the wallpaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it gave me terrible indigestion, which would have been funny if I had any drugs left or money to buy them with or stuff to sell to get money or a place to live.

The girl that sold me the drugs had a really bad trip a bit soon after. She couldn’t even tell me why, but I can still remember the way she screamed as if she was having her skin ripped off by blunt razor-blades. Perhaps that’s what she felt because she kept batting her hands against herself as if knocking off beetles.

When she threw herself through the upstairs window I had the damndest feeling she was going to fly to a somewhere better. And I guess she did. The Saint Someone-or-other Hospital. Cleaned her up, got her sorted. Never saw her again. Just heard that she’d finally used her degree to get a job as a social worker. She never socialled with us though. Never saw her on the streets. Never saw … ah, whatever.

I’ve been in this spot for more than twenty years. Since I was half what’s doubled. Years of life sitting and looking like I’m shivering my ass off. And yes, I feel it. And no, the shaking doesn’t stop when I get warm. Which is rare.

The drugs did something to me. The top of my head fixed itself back on with iron bolts like those on Frankenstein’s monster and the walls closed in even tighter. Even after I sold it, the carpet pattern jungle grew so wild that it reached right up into my brain and poked all the neurons and synapses to death. All the lights were put out in chez-Michael.

I could feel them go out in big, spattering ruins on those nights when I lay in the latest hostel they got me in. I couldn’t sleep because if I did, someone would wake me again. Couldn’t stand the way I shrieked like a little girl they told me. I asked them why little girls would be shrieking, but that just made them madder and they generally threw me out soon after. Still, not a complete bust. I stole money from them. You learn some skills on the street. Not proud of that. It is what it is.

Twenty years is a short time for penance. I’ve known some saints who’ve put in more of a shift. They come to talk to me. The saints, that is. Some of them are nice and some look like the devil himself. Sometimes I can’t tell them from the punters. The ones that flip a coin at me and go off feeling all warm and loving are the easy ones. The hardest is when someone stops to have a chat and ask me how I am.”

– The rest of it is blah. Funny; to say this dude was making shit up, he got some stuff right. The drugs and all a that. Say, what if he really talked to Shakey!
– Then he would have the correct name. Plus, the Shakey we know … knew did not talk like that. Is there more about the girl?
– Yeah, loads, man. About her praying for him in a nunnery. About her as a kid. This about her leaving somewhere. He was fifteen I guess:

Ruth Leaving only mother only empty house behind the fifteen me window pane cold against hand and cheek collapsed heart blurred vision of the van the table chair wardrobe stream and the better past of slow summer with tennis play bikini heat dens of nothing but old and must with young heat inside and touching but not landing take love from my eyes know it feel it and she did but too late for ever to take down never in fight against tears now you’re strong boy you don’t need her need her feel her on my skin in my heated heart but the doors slam and her face pale sad sorrow mine going engine rough running don’t run don’t go gone”

– A stream of …
– Consciousness.
– …
– What! I done a course!
– Right. Is there something that gives an outline?
– Checking. Yeah. Here we go, this bit gives a ‘story in order’ thang:

“Michael knew Joan when they were children and he was more than a little in love with her. Her family moved away and they lost touch until Michael went to the University of Sussex to pursue his Masters in Theology. He found that Joan was enrolled on the same course and that her family were living in that area. They became a couple, she introduced him to LSD and they got high together. M was not really into it, he was into her. Unfortunately, he became addicted and, because she cleaned up with the aid of the Poor Clares (an order of nuns), they again lost contact. Michael cleaned up too and remained obsessed by her. M dropped out of University and embraced the life of a homeless and solitary traveller and that’s the last J knew of him because she joined the closed community of nuns. She retained, though, feelings of guilt about M and blamed herself for his state. What she did not know is that he was clean and his mental state was due to an organic condition unrelated to the drugs. He settled down eventually on the steps of St Michael le Belfrey in York and continued with his twin obsessions of Joan and transcendence through suffering. Oh, this is all so very unlikely, but not all of it will come out in the story. Most of it will be inferred by the reader (if they choose). A writer (Harry) happened along and saw M as a beggar and decided to help him by interviewing him and then giving him the result as a booklet that could be sold to the public instead of begging. This somehow released M from his mental prison and allowed him to open up in a stream-of-consciousness (SoC) kind of a way. H edited the resulting text, but when he tried to deliver it to M he was gone with only a butterfly in his place.”

– Shit needs formatting, but it’s all there. Then there’s a part that says ‘plot (events rearranged for dramatic effect)’ but it don’t make as much sense. Dude lost the plot!
– I like that part about the butterfly. When we cut Shakey’s …
– Shush, shush. Don’t be saying that shit out-loud!
– Outloud? No. Did you forget? These are just our thoughts. Describe game: tapping my skull with a single finger.
– Doing what now? How’d you get your hand outta that straightjacket, blud?
– Ah … ah … didn’t. Describing for effect.
– Wait. You’re lying! I know you know you done see your hand tap your head and that means …
– You seem to be losing touch with reality here, my man.
– Reality! Hell, no. I ain’t the one been tied to a bed busting for a pee for the past ten years and more. I been telling you for the longest time …
– Enough. If I am, as you have been insisting, in some kind of a matrix and all I have to do is take some pill or another to get out of it, then how do you know that you are not in a similar position?
– ‘Cause I’m in the library reading the internet like what normal people does do!
– And talking to who?
– I ain’t talking to no-one. I just got me a healthy imagination is all!
– And you imagined that knife in your hand? And the blood on your face as it gushed out of …
– Shutup.
– And his dying breath? Rancid like a dead goat?
– Shut the f …
– And the sirens hunting you as you ran …
– Damn it, you told me to!
– No, I …
– You told me he was suffering and to help him!
– I …
– You was right. That man was in pain. He was just sat there day after week after year; suffering himself. It was a mercy we did him.
– Mercy? No. Not that. I said to help him. I wanted you to give him your coat. Not … that.
– Well, you shoulda said.
– Too late now. We just need to keep an eye on the situation. What else does it say on that blog? Is there something more recent?
– Dunno. Let me see. Home. Refresh. Scroll down. Hmm, look like he post a new post today. Oh, fuck!
– What
– Fuck, fuck, fuck.
– What!
– Nothing.
– Read it.
– It’s nothing I tell you. Some kinda mistake is all!
– Okay, okay, you win. It long, but it start out like this:

“Let’s play the Describe game, bruv.”


blurred on phone

I was walking down the street the other day, minding my own business as much as any writer does; which is to say poking my nose into every sound, shape and smell that happened across my path, when I walked past three young girls. The oldest, she might have been about ten, was holding a mobile phone.

She peered at the screen and read this:

“Hi, I’m Michael and I’m seven. And my sister just murdered me.”

The girl then laughed, and by the time anything else was said I was out of earshot.

Around the corner and far away I realised that these words were still bounding around inside my skull. So I typed them into my phone thinking ‘that’d make a good opening for a story!’

I notice that I seem to be writing a lot about death (and about death a lot) recently. This worries me somewhat. I don’t go through life thinking about death. I don’t dream about it. I think it’s fair to say that death is not a big part of my life. And yet, still, I keep killing my characters.

If there are any psychologists, psychotherapists or psychiatrists reading this, then feel easy about giving me a free thirty-second consultation.

Other than that – have yourself a fine day.

And don’t worry – I’ll do my best not to incorporate you into my fictional world.

Amelia (conclusion)

shadowy face

(continued from Amelia)

When Amelia had been fourteen, Mr Davies had somehow persuaded the-powers-that-be that it would be a good idea to take class 4b to an abattoir.

He’d been a raging vegetarian and had no qualms exposing the children to the blood-splattered, gore-daubed rooms where pigs were routinely bound – squealing madly, eyes wild with terror, only to be silenced forever by the quick stroke of a sharp knife.

Amelia had not been able to sleep for days afterwards and had not eaten sausages or bacon since.

The silence as she opened her eyes in that sunny living room where her babies had been gurgling happily a few seconds before had the same smell – so thick with the tang of metal that she could almost taste it.

Eyes darting madly from wall to ceiling to floor she saw the same patterns as when she had been fourteen. Raising her hands before her, she saw the same colours. Her arms. Her legs. Her clothes. All smeared and splattered with blood.

And the knife in her hand was darkly crusted with gore.

She flung it from her as if it were on fire and tried to stand, to haul herself bodily from the chair; but her foot caught on something and she slipped back. Horror struck she tried again, kicking the object aside so that she could get purchase.

When she saw the mangled little forms lying so silently at her feet, she began to scream, clutching at her hair desperately. And then everything went from red to black.

Amelia jerked as she woke, mind still immersed in blood and fear. The sun was in her eyes and she could see nothing at first. But then she heard them.

Her children. Her babies were crying. Screaming for her attention – maybe hungry, maybe needing to be changed, maybe even frightened by the wild look in their mother’s eyes.

Amelia pulled herself from the chair in a single motion and fell to her knees before them. Thanking God or soothing their hearts – it didn’t matter which. Her heart was full of joy.

Later that afternoon, Amelia lifted her babies from the cot one by one and gave them the freedom of the floor. She relaxed back into the armchair. Muhammad would be home in a few minutes and after a day like that, she was looking forward to his touch.

She closed her eyes briefly as the warm smell of cooked food mingled with the sound of children burbling contentedly at her feet. Her eyes remained closed – just for a moment. A single heartbeat.

When Muhammad arrived home thirteen minutes later, Amelia was still in the armchair. She turned towards him as he entered the room. She smiled as she saw his nostrils twitch at the heavy scent in the air, his eyes widen at the red splashes on the walls and floor, his mouth open wide in anguish at the tiny forms lying so still at his wife’s feet.

Amelia pulled herself to her feet as he took a step towards her, putting down the knife as she did so.

“Don’t worry, my love – I’ll be awake in a moment. It’ll be alright – you’ll see.”

Hypothetically Speaking


If’n I was sitting in my living room and you were creeping downstairs in your favourite perfume, pinched from the dressing table where you used to sit, before you … went away, before you beat me bloody, before they dragged you off – kicking and cursing, before … all of those things.

If’n I heard your footsteps on the stairs, coming closer and closer to the bottom where you’d just need to turn slightly to the left, and then to the right in order to see me sat here in my shirt and pants – the same ones you brought me for Christmas the year before it all went wrong.

If’n I imagined that you were wearing that dress – the one you always used to wear when you wanted something from me, when you were in a persuading mood rather in a taking and mocking mood, and that you were carrying the same bat you used to break my body once before.

If”n I was to hear you and, more than that, see you coming around that corner and into the room where I were sat, waiting patiently for my chance to move you and remove you from my life forever, like you were ketchup on my favourite shirt or blood underneath my nails.

If’n there was my kid, the one that was our kid, but is now, in my mind, my kid alone, to think about and the think I was to think about him was him growing up without fear that you could turn up at any time without announcing yourself, without taking any notice of the restraining order.

If’n I’d just heard that you’d escaped from the secure mental facility and had killed a guard as you went and had left another one with so little blood in her body that even though they kept pumping it in as fast as they could it was coming out even faster from the slashes you left in her.

If’n I were to raise my hand, the one with the hard lump of metal in it, the one with the finger on the trigger and, point this thing in your direction with barely a shiver in my arm or a quiver in my voice as I told you to leave this place and never come back unless you wanted to be cold, cold, cold.

If”n I were hear and see and know and do all of these things, would it change one little part of your plan or would you still do the same thing that you’d always done, which is to bluff and bluster your way closer and closer, seeing the tears coming out from my eyes as you crept onward.

If”n I’d had enough of this.

If’n I could do it right.

If”n I were strong …