Friday, 31 May 2013

Seven Daze - The first chapter

As Seven Daze is out next monday, here's a taster of the first chapter...

Jim looked again. They didn’t look like killer’s eyes. Brown surrounded by bloodshot white. Pale eyelids that flickered. Shifty, nervous as hell. Yeah, they were hiding something; something dark. But they weren’t killer’s eyes.
He turned from the mirror. The bedside clock still read six fifty-five a.m. It hadn’t changed since his last look. He briefly wondered if it was broke, but digital clocks didn’t freeze or go slow. When they break, the display just blanks.
Moving, he sat on the hotel bed. Bouncy. Springs long gone from illicit overuse and age. He knew he shouldn’t be feeling like this. It was the first day of his new job for fucks sake. He should be happy. It definitely shouldn’t have made him throw up. After all, it was the chance to meet new people. The start of a new adventure.
He wondered if that was the problem with contract killing. The only new people you met, you killed. The display changed. Six fifty-six. Waiting was the problem. No one had mentioned that. It was all glamour, high risk and money. He’d spent last night checking and double checking everything. In hindsight that had been a mistake. There was nothing left to do but wait. Just clock-watching, daydreaming and waiting.
His stomach gurgled. That wasn’t helping either. God knows what muscle it was, but it had perfected twisting and spinning. He looked back at the clock. No change. Should he leave now? Despite all the planning, maybe something had been missed.
There was the other reason too. It kept filling his head. The room was too small. Walls everywhere; you couldn’t walk without being next to one. It reminded him of the cell. Occasionally the walls would creep in and pin him to the bed. First his hands, then his face would feel hot. He’d need to stand. Opening a window didn’t help. He had to get out.
Standing, he shook his head. He had to get a grip. Walking the four steps to the bathroom, he took the top off the toilet cistern. Fishing out the floating polythene zip-bag, he dried it with a towel. His gloved hands fumbled with the seal before it opened. He breathed out while looking at its contents. A pistol wrapped in another waterproof layer. This was it; no turning back.
His hands hacked at the sellotaped seam. The gloves were useless; fingers and thumbs worked against each other trying to rip it. The seam wasn’t giving. All that planning and he couldn’t unwrap the gun. The walls moved in again. The heat came back with a vengeance to his neck. His armpits felt wet. So much for the earlier shower. The hotel room was just like the cell. Even the windows had bars. It was too much. That was where this had started. That cell.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Delays, black fly and meccano cliff lifts.

In case you were wondering, the release of Seven Days has been delayed until next monday, the 3rd of June. It's still available to pre-order direct from Caffeine Nights and also Amazon UK. The e-book version will also be available on monday.

Did a bit of digging at the allotment, and discovered my broad beans have black fly. It's not really clear from the photo, but I gave them a good squirt with blackfly spray but I'm not sure if I've saved them in time.

 My first potato foliage has popped through the soil, which is nice, and also the gooseberry bush is starting to fruit.

Also, we went to a combined local Country Fair / Steam Traction / Antiques fair day which, as you'd expect, had something for almost everyone. The highlight for me was a steam engine powered Meccano cliff lift. Wish I'd taken a photo, but there's a similar one on this site.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Video and Brit Grit

Seven Daze now has a video, you can watch it here

Also, The Brit Grit column at Out of the Gutter has a little piece on Seven Daze this week

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Cure, Compost bins and Chilies

So what's happening down the allotment? Well, this for one thing.

Made out of used pallets, it's me compost bin. Throw all greenery in and garden waste in, cover up and a year later, hey presto, free compost. I managed to seriously hurt my back moving the pallets around and digging the bottom part in, so not a great deal more got done down the 'lotment this weekend. Hopefully it'll be better for the bank holiday when I've got another ten square yards to dig over before it's too late to plant anything.

Had the first of this year's chili's too on saturday. Sorry for lack of picture, but it was from a garden centre plant bought in march who's name tag got lost, but I think it was called Big Joe or something. Had it on Nachos with cheese, very nice too, but not very hot.

In other news, today is World Goth Day so what better way to celebrate it than this song.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Who's following who.

Another short story, this one slightly longer. This one's again a bit of fun, but is more crimey than the last. This also features my favourite, ageing-dinsoaur of a detective, DI Britwell, who actually has a cameo role in Seven Daze.

Who’s Following Who?

            Curling up her nose, DS Jill Walters scribbled a few words in her notebook. A quick glance at DI Britwell showed his eyebrows were raised and his nose also curled upwards. Jill later tried to recreate his facial expression but couldn’t.
            “And, you’re sure you’re being followed?” she asked.
            The interviewee, Gary Pratchell, ran chubby fingers through his greasy hair and nodded. “I think so. I mean, I don’t actually think it was following me. That wouldn’t be possible, would it?”
            Jill shook her head and smiled, encouraging him to continue.
            Gary squeezed his hands tightly together. A body language analyst would have a field day. “I think, whoever was following me was laying them down. Like a trail?”
            “And, you can’t think of anyone who’d, er, stalk you with pies?” She winced. Did she really just say that?
            Gary shook his head before twiddling his right ear between finger and thumb.
            “So.” DI Britwell read from his scruffy notes. “Over the past week, you’ve noticed pies appearing in odd situations. The last two days, while walking home, you thought you were being followed. Whenever you turned round, there was a pie lying on the pavement, but there was no one near. You’re not sure if it’s the same pie or similar ones, and, there’s no one you can think of who’d do this to you.”
            Gary nodded his head, looking more than a bit embarrassed.

            After Gary was led from the interview room, Britwell turned to Jill. “Well, Walters?”
            “He’s a fruitcake,” she replied.
            He leant his head on his shoulder, toying with the idea. “Assuming he’s not?”
            “Someone’s playing a trick.”
            “Mmmm,” he muttered. “I suppose it could be one of those miniature remote control cars? You know, stick a pie on top.”
            “Maybe, but I think the motive is probably more the point. Not actually how the pies appeared.”
            Britwell nodded.  “Can you see the desk sergeant, see if anyone’s reported a similar, err, crime?”
            “Yessir,” she replied.

            After two minutes of laughter, the desk sergeant regained his poise. Wiping tears from his eyes, he said, “It’s not a wind up then?”
            “No, unfortunately not. Sir says we should check, or rather you should check.”
            Chortling under his breath, the desk sergeant ran a search on his computer for the keywords, pie, pastry and stalker.
Unsurprisingly, the search returned no matches.
“No,” said the Sergeant. “You’re on your own with this.”


            The early morning phone call was part of the job. Like separating fighting drunks, dodging bullets and kissing your social life goodbye. Jill was glad it wasn’t a really early call, just five in the morning. However, after a late night catching up on paperwork, it felt earlier.
            “Sounds fishy to me, sir,” she said in between yawns. “Okay, I’ll be there soon as.”
Mumbling obscenities, she jumped in the shower. Five minutes later she pulled on some clothes and left her flat. Stopping at a drive-thru, she bought a coffee and rubbery egg-muffin breakfast which, to her disgust, she actually enjoyed.

            Though not a scene of devastation, the half-eaten steak pie on his pillow had clearly upset Gary. Jill couldn’t blame him for being upset either. If his story was true, she had serious doubts, but if it was true then someone had broken in, eaten half a pie and left the remainder on his pillow while he slept.
Shivering slightly, but not with the cold, she checked the back door and windows:  both locked. The dusty window latches hadn’t been touched in a long time. That left the front door, which both she and the bleary-eyed DI Britwell had just walked through, destroying any evidence.
Shrugging her shoulders at Britwell, she looked round. Typical bachelor pad: stale smell, no decorations or pictures and old, unwashed plates cultivating new life forms.
“Have you got a girlfriend, Gary?” she asked.
“Not at the moment,” he said. “My last girlfriend fini… well, it finished a month ago.” He broke eye contact after his first, aborted try at the sentence.
“Did she have a key?” She noticed Britwell’s eyes light up. She’d asked the right, if obvious question. He’d been like this a lot recently. As if he was testing her all the time. Either that or he was just being lazy. She settled on the latter.
“No,” Gary said. “I’ve only ever had the one key.”
“Is this your flat or is it rented?” she asked.
“Mine,” he said, “but I think I’ll sell now. Something like this in your own home. You know.”
“Shame. Not a bad area this?” said Britwell.
“It’s the school up the road,” said Gary. “Everyone wants to live here now.”
Jill smiled. Turning to Britwell, she mumbled, “Soco?”
“On their way,” he replied.

DNA tests on the pastry proved two things. Firstly, the saliva on the pie had no matches on the database. Second, and most worryingly, the saliva wasn’t Gary’s. Of course, Jill conceived an elaborate plan involving Gary using someone else’s half-eaten pie, but why? He was a normal, if messy, man. Why go to the trouble? What was there to gain?
“I suppose the ex-girlfriend’s next?” said Britwell.
It was a curious half-statement, half-question combination. Though unsure whether he was setting her up or he already knew the answer, she nodded. “If you want.”

Janice Pemberton seemed a pleasant, if slightly dippy girl. Trying not to be jealous of her figure and blonde hair, Jill asked her questions quickly while trying to spot dark roots on her scalp. It drew a blank on both fronts. She was unaware of the pies and, probably worse, she was naturally blonde.
Going through the motions, Jill asked Janice if she was seeing anyone else. Janice wasn’t. She hadn’t seen anyone since Gary. Jill suspected he’d put her off men for a long time. Janice was concerned by what had happened to Gary. She wondered if a small flame was still being carried.
When Janice consented, without hesitation, to the DNA swab, Jill noticed Britwell’s smile. Whatever his theory was, it’d just been proved right.
“Well, we seem to be no nearer,” said Britwell from the driver’s seat, the car parked five doors from Janice’s.
“Mmmm,” mumbled Jill. What had he seen? The flat? No. She tried to think back. He’d only really said one sentence the whole time they were at Gary’s and that was to do with it being a good area. This didn’t make sense.
“Hello,” he said. “Over there. That’s Gary. What’s he doing walking towards his ex’s house with what looks like an overnight bag.”
“Well,” said Jill, “I guess after we visited her, she rang him.” She paused, trying to work it through. “I also guess that, as they’re both still single and the split was amicable, she’s offered him the couch for the night.”
“So it’s him,” said Britwell. “We got our man. Very clever. He invented the whole thing to get her back. He nearly fooled me you know.”
She knew him well enough to know when he was taking the piss. She shook her head. “What was it you saw, sir? What have I missed?”
Britwell shrugged his shoulders, his smile the biggest of the month. Suddenly it hit her. Just a small acorn of an idea, but it grew so quickly. No, it couldn’t be that simple could it?
“Actually, sir, I think if we drive to his flat, we’ll find the answer.”
His smile turned into a nod as he started the engine.

“So, why are we here?” said Britwell.
Despite him still playing around she was enjoying it. He could have just told her at the flat, but no, he was up to something else. If she didn’t know him better, she’d think he was trying to help her.
“What do you notice about this street, sir?”
Looking around, he responded, “Can’t see much of it, what with all the builders skips.”
“Exactly. And what’s special about Gary’s flat?”
He shrugged his shoulders
“His flat is on the bottom floor. The two above his have sold signs. This road appears to be full of flats being converted back to houses.” Seeing his face full of false confusion, she continued, “The price of the flats combined into one house is more than just the flats themselves?”
He nodded. “Estate agents,” he said. “Of course. You have to ask yourself, who else would mess around with remote-control pies?”
“The key,” said Walters. “That’s when you got it. Gary only had one. Some estate agent has been keeping keys, scaring off buyers and no doubt buying the flats back at a low price. I wonder what else he’s been up to.”
“Look, there’s someone walking to his flat,” said Britwell. “If you wait, I reckon you’ll catch him in the act.”
And, they did.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Friday Flash Fun

I may have previously mentioned that my book, Seven Daze, is being released in just over a week. So, instead of talking about allotments, horse poo and medieval kangaroo burgers I will instead post some short stories over the next week or so. Most of these have never seen the light of day for one reason or another. Some weren't crimey enough or were too crimey or were (not wanting to sound arty farty) a bit experiemental.

Anyway, here's the first. A bit of friday fun, nothing more nothing less.

What’s the point?

That’s the problem with being a unicorn. You have to be very careful about itches. One of my mates, Pointy, he stabbed himself in the knee one day. He was only trying to look left at a crossing. Took off half his leg. Poor sod.

That’s what people don’t understand. They think it’s all rainbows and waterfalls and that. Bugger me if it ain’t. The reality is, if you lie down wrong you castrate yourself. God knows how we’re supposed to breed. Got disaster written all over it. No wonder we’re endangered.

I knew this girly once, many moons ago. Getting on fine we were, until that day. Well, you know, things were getting a bit fruity between us. I mean that in itself’s dangerous, if you know what I mean. I turned round at the wrong time and accidentally skewered her. Bit of a passion killer that. She was alright, mind. But from then on, whenever I called, she was always washing her mane or down the gym.

Hunter’s are a problem too. Got to keep on your toes. Keeping your head down’s difficult when you got a great big fricking pole sticking out of it. Another of my mates, Spike, the hunter’s got him. Drugged him with some sort of sleeping dart then sawed his point off. When he woke up he kept falling over. His balance was all gone, see. He’d got used to the weight in front and kept over-compensating. Poor lad. He’s changing his name by deed poll you know, can’t blame him, can you?

Na, you can keep this unicorn lark. Next time, I’m coming back as a donkey. Much easier life. Much easier.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Allotment part two

Four weeks, a bad back and several wind swept days later, the allotment is starting to take shape. A few before and after pictures are in order.


Okay so it's hardly the sort of makeover magic that makes TV programmes, but to be fair it's coming on. There's three rows of potatoes and one of parsnips in there.


The photo's from a slightly different spot, but I've got 100 onions in and a row of broad beans plus dug enough room for me runner beans when it warms up a bit. The onions are sprouting and the beans are just starting to pop through, which is nice. I've also cleared up the strawberry bed  abit though the picture doesn't do it justice.

One interesting event, if you can call it either an event or interesting, was meeting a quad-bike riding man with a trailer full of horse poo. Now if three months ago someone had offered me a pile of hoss manure, I'd have told him where to stick it. Now though, I went all gooey eyed, thanked him profusely and am now the owner of the pile of straw and horse droppings below.

Apparently it takes a year to rot down to a useable state. It does whiff a bit, but the wind tends to blow the worst of the smell onto my neighbours patch so job's a good un.

As the previous bloke left behind two established rhubarb plants, we've had a few lots of rhubarb and custard, which, as any Brit in their earlier 40's will know, was the name of the best cartoon ever.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Unusual bank holiday sights

I'm sure you'll agree, the crazy institution that is a British bank holiday can chuck up all manner of shocking or downright daft sights. From hanky tied make-shift sun hats on the beach to beer-bellied, half-naked, forty-something men drinking themselves into a bank holiday monday coma, you can see both the best and worst of culture that our fine country has to offer.

There's also the weird and wonderful too. From the long forgotten reasons for a maypole dance, to civil war re-enactors at half-fallen down castles to craft fairs where homemade jam, chutney and ridiculously priced un-pasteurised cheese from some organic farm or other try to win the money burning holes in your pocket.

This bank holiday, though, I saw it all. A Medieval Craft Fair no less. From the now badly un-pc Punch and Judy stall (very medieval) to the Kangaroo Burger fast food stall (those 13th century medievals couldn't get enough of their kangaroo meat, could they?) we walked through the delights of the fair, including charity stalls with their homemade jam, a local Undertakers advertising their services, the local rugby club trying to recruit new members and finally, a plant seller offering for sale a whole range of medieval tomato plants, squashes, kale and chili plants (yep, those medievals couldn't get enough of their out of season, grown under glass, imported fruit and veg could they)

The thing that topped it off for me was the Morris Dancers. To anyone who is unsure of Morris Dancers, it's basically one of the options for men when you reach middle age. Don't fancy an allotment or playing bowls or civil war re-enactment or model railways or spending time in your shed? Try Morris Dancing. These days, though, it's not just old men with sticks, bells on their feet and pigs bladders. No, for some reason the fairer sex and even children are taking to it. Whereby we come, in a roundabout route, to the most unusual thing I've ever seen on a bank holiday. A teenage goth Morris Dancer. Yes, a teenage goth Morris Dancer. To be fair she did smile a few times while doing the dances so maybe she'd forgotten the world was against her and life wasn't fair and all that for a while. It did appear that the rest of the family were in the Morris Dancing squad or troupe or whatever it's called, but it was still an unsual sight.

Has anyone seen a more unusual bank holiday sight than that? Answers on a postcard to...