Wednesday, 21 November 2012

SILHOUETTES - Twelveth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Twelveth instalment - Chapters twenty-six, and twenty-seven (a). For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming soon.

TWENTY-SIX

Brian was the only one at home when he stumbled through the door, hoping to astound them all together with his good news. The key rack they all used as a sign of who was in or out was bereft of all keys except Brian's. He was manipulating the controls of a home-made musical synthesizer, built from a multitude of parts from various electrical junk he continually bought from car-boot sales or liberated on skip raids all around the area. The box of bits was plugged into a small guitar amp, and was emitting high pitched wails that brought to Ben's mind a tortured cat being strangled by the slow and even tightening of a plastic grip cord around its neck. It wasn't the volume so much as the shrieking shrills that disconcerted him. With the noise, and the effect of the alcohol, he felt he was going to be sick, he hung up his keys and headed straight for his room where he had a basin handy next to his bed just for that possibility.

Brian hadn't noticed his arrival or departure through the living room, so intent was he on his next orchestral opus.

The door shut behind him, the feeling of retching receded. Now he could think, he did a quick inspection of his room. It wasn't in too bad a shape, for a change there were no plates lying around cultivating mould from leftover pizza. He had done the laundry a couple of days ago, so the smell of unwashed clothes and underwear wasn't as rancid as it could be. He kicked some stuff lying around the floor under the bed and opened the window to let some fresh air circulate the room. It was gone ten in the evening now and he wondered where Debbie could be. She hadn't bothered to reply to his text earlier in the day, and hadn't phoned. He desperately wanted to please her with some good news, he had a job now, he was capable of responsibility, he could change. This is what he was thinking, but he knew it was bullshit really. If he could admit it to himself, why should he even bother trying to prove otherwise to others?

He made up a cigarette and sat at the window to smoke. Smoking was another fuckup rule of the residence now - the house had been designated a no-smoking zone, he couldn't remember if this was a new stipulation in the tenant's agreement, or was just something created by the more health conscious house-mates. Enforcement in communal areas could be policed, in here he was safe, but had started smoking next to the window just in case of upsetting the less tolerant occupants; his second-hand smoke could sneak out under the door and surreptitiously inflict a horrible cancer on an unsuspecting house-mate. His jacket was on a shaky enough nail, as it was, without causing any more grief.

The job would be fine for a while, no doubt it was minimum wage, and would likely be boring as hell, but it would keep him off the booze for a bit and allow him to pay off some debts and even save some money. He could take Debbie out somewhere nice for a change instead of cheap tacky student haunts, even take her away on holiday for a bit, either up north, or a city break in Europe over a summer weekend. You never know with these things, the job could be a catalyst to greater things. He could take to it like a duck to water, rise through the ranks, manager, area manager, regional manager, more money and prestige with each step up the ladder. Company car, travelling business class to strategy meetings. He flicked the remnant of the cigarette out the window. Some weirdo wearing a hoodie was looking over. He gave him the finger, which was returned, then watched him avert his eyes and walk quickly on.


TWENTY-SEVEN (a)

The shock of being confronted with himself on television, to say the least, unsettled him. The police must have trawled all the CCTV cameras in the area of the incident for the footage, and there he was, for all to see, grainy facade, shifty looking, bald headed, scurrying along the street in a hurry. He looked like a pervert caught escaping some seedy act. He exuded guilt of something sadistic and dark.

Yet all that was mentioned along with the few seconds of footage was that the 'police were looking for an important witness to come forward to help them with their inquiries.' Code for, this is the guilty bastard.

No need to panic, but the panic had set in then, for neither his employers nor Tennyson could help him out of this mess. He had crawled into a corner then and sobbed, the first time he had cried in years, for he had no one to turn to anymore. Someone would see that bulletin and recognize him. He was known to his neighbours, his doctor, the local library staff would know him. What to do?

Uncle Shamus might know what to do. He brightened up a bit. Uncle Shamus could tell him what to do.

Uncle Shamus was a selfish loner who lived in a small ground floor flat in the Govanhill area of Glasgow. He had lived alone since his wife had died in an accident, she was a drunk driver who met another drunk driver, head on, when both careened home from their respective watering holes one evening. As both parties had cancelled out each others improprieties and lives, the police covered over the more sordid details of the accident, and it was marked up as death by misadventure of both fatalities, to ease the burden on the two families of the deceased. It also eased the way for insurance to be paid, so both families walked the easier path and better came to terms with their grief knowing a financial bung would help them along. This was before the days when drink driving was as anathema to society as it was today.

So Uncle Shamus had the mortgage paid off, had a sizable lump sum in the bank (Betty was well insured), but had lost the love of his life, though this he easily learnt to live with, she couldn't cook crap, and he was forever having to give her a slap to get her to behave. Betty's parents tried to interfere with the insurance money when they heard the amount, because of the way they knew their daughter was being abused by her husband. But this was in vain. No one likes people who rock the boat, especially the police and officials, after everything is stamped and sealed, and the insurance company paid out regardless of any reservations by any third parties.

So Uncle Shamus gave up his employment as a council street-sweeper and lapsed into a life of sedate luxury for a while. Days consisted of afternoons in the pub and the betting shop next door, regular use of prostitutes, the younger the better, and if they were druggies he could usually give them a slap or two for an extra couple of quid. At one point he thought he was in heaven, he had rented a room to two young prostitutes, one a skinny twenty-one year old junkie, and the other a sixteen year old runaway. He had regular freebies plus some rent money while they stayed under his roof, but things got out of hand one night when he broke the younger one's jaw and arm when a bit too drunk. He'd to pay the junkie's dealer debts off to stop the police getting involved and only got sex from her after that. Around a month later, when the younger one's wounds had healed he came back from the pub to discover they had both split, taken all their belongings and about £900 cash he had hidden in what he thought was a safe place in the house.

The insurance money was quickly running out, and he thought he may have to think about looking for a job again, when social services got in touch.

His brother, whom he hadn't had any contact with for years, had died in a house fire in Dumfries, along with his wife. Their child, a twelve year old called Simon was now an orphan. Social Services wanted to dump the boy on him. It wasn't until Shamus was told of the financial help that would be available to him for such an undertaking, that he decided to give the Social Services worker his full attention.

Shortly after that meeting, Simon was brought along to another to see if they would bond. The social worker was apprehensive, but Shamus had no police record and the house was fairly well kept and orderly, and although he wasn't employed, he had just recently signed-on looking for work, after a long bout of depression due to the loss of his wife, he explained. So, Simon left his temporary care home in Dumfries and moved to Glasgow to live with Uncle Shamus.

At first everything seemed fine, Uncle Shamus was pleasant, decorated a room for the lad, enrolled him in the local school, fed the boy regular meals, and clothed him, though mostly from the charity shops in the area.

Simon tried his best to get on with his uncle, tried not to complain even when he thought he was justified. Went to school, did his homework, and even helped with the housework and food shopping.

At times he missed his parents, but he wasn't too sad, his regime with his uncle was far more relaxed. They were strict disciplinarians whereas Uncle Shamus was more laid back, and tended to not pry too deeply into what he did or was up to, as long as it didn't interfere with his uncle's day to day activities. The social worker had called once a week at first, and then once a month, thereafter it became three monthly visits, and then they stopped bothering to come by at all, presumably his uncle was a good carer.

Only once that first year did he get the urge to start a fire when his uncle was asleep. He had been caught shop-lifting a pornographic magazine from the corner shop. It was done for a dare, a school boy prank, but he was caught red-handed. The shopkeeper though, instead of calling in the police, marched him down the street, by the scruff of the neck, to his uncle, and at the front door in full view of neighbours, berated his uncle about his thieving and how next time he would without hesitation call the police. He had expected Uncle Shamus to defend him which made the sharp slap he got all the more surprising. Shamus paid the shopkeeper a few quid, grabbed the magazine, which had been waved around so all could see, grabbed him by the ear and threw him over the door. When the door was slammed shut behind him, that's when Uncle Shamus really laid into him.

The beating was bad, but it didn't leave any lasting physical damage, though psychologically, a bond had been irreparably broken. Later that night, while his uncle slept, he stripped off and inspected his bruised body, blue and purple blotches and red welts covered most of his trunk, the welts from a leather belt his uncle had taken more than a delicate amount of exertion in wielding. Pains and aches kept him awake most of that night, and he distracted himself from the suffering by flicking open and closed the Zippo lighter that used to belong to his father, thinking about the ignition of fire, and how it could be such an easy way to deal with problems.

He was held off school for the next week, and not allowed out the door at all. He knew his uncle couldn't risk questions being asked about any bruising on his person. So until they healed to an extent that they were negligible he was a prisoner. One day though he was fed up watching day time TV and went to his room to read for a while, and discovered left on top of his bed was the pornographic magazine that had caused all the trouble in the first place. It had been leafed through a bit he noticed, so his uncle had had a good read, but at least there were no pages stuck together.

Whether the porno mag was an attempt at an apology by his uncle, or some weird game he was playing, Simon was always on guard around him from that point on. The beating was over and healing had taken place, but he was in effect, in a stranger's house, and had to rely on this stranger, so he would have to live by the rules of the stranger till he could make his own way. Tennyson told him as much one night when he had trouble sleeping.

'There hath he lain for ages, and will lie,' he said. Simon took this to mean all was well, he just had to be patient and everything would work out fine. No need to panic. Tennyson had begun a discourse, but he had fallen asleep at that point and couldn't remember much else.

So, he contented himself to stay with his uncle and do his best to be accommodating and as less a burden as possible. One day it would be time to move on, but that was not now.

As he scurried along the street, baseball cap on and the hoodie covering that, he noticed someone staring out from a flat window across the road, he gave them the finger in passing then cursed himself for attracting more attention. There was no doubt in his mind if anyone recognized him they would be straight on the phone to the police. He had to stay calm, no need to panic, get to his Uncle Shamus and hear what he had to say. Shamus would know what to do.

Govanhill was a fair old walk, but he didn't want to risk a bus or a taxi, most of them had CCTV fitted also now, and it only took one person to notice him and they would be able to track him down to within a few streets of where he was going, so he walked, hood up, face down, acknowledging no one on the way.

It had just gone eleven when he arrived. There was a light on in the front room so Shamus was at home. He suddenly had strong reservations about coming here tonight, something in his past began to niggle somewhere in his mind. He dismissed the nag and proceeded up the path to the door.

That first beating had been at the age of twelve, the second wasn't until he was thirteen. After that they became more frequent than annual. At one point they became a monthly occurrence. They stopped forever on the evening of the day that he came home from the Glasgow Barras market, with a professional league baseball bat. He had just turned fifteen and knew well the routine that lead up to the beatings. When his uncle woke him coming in to his room that night, and started the drunken tirade about all he'd sacrificed, and the little thanks he got, he let him rant on till he saw him begin to loosen his belt. When the belt came off, the beating started. When his uncles hands were occupied with the belt, Simon, fully awake now, swung the bed quilt aside, leapt up fully clothed, the bat already in hand, and swung it hard to connect with the left leg of his uncle. A bone cracked like a rifle shot, and his uncle fell screeching, a hand trying to break his fall, the other up to defend against the next swing of the bat. Another bone cracked, in the arm this time, another shriek of pain. Simon swung the bat a few more times, till he was sure his uncle was a broken and useless heap of deadweight, lying and moaning motionless. He didn't once crash the bat to his head, he didn't want to kill him, just even the score, and ensure his uncle knew the rules had now changed. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Next instalment coming soon...

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rat Race Nights


Rat Race Nights Cover Image

Rat Race Nights out on ebook

Discover the thoughts of trees, and the aspirations of a bridge and other inanimate objects. From the stars above to the insect in the field, from Mayan Gods to mermaids, from space aliens to Jack the Lad's. Contained within Rat Race Nights are 25 short stories, and prose pieces, both old and new, plus a taster of my novel Silhouettes due for publication early 2013. Ranging from end of civilisation horror, to fantasy and science fiction, urban realism, and humour. This thought provoking collection is my second book of short stories. Available now on all ebook formats @ $1.99 see store page for details, or click here

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Apple Now Sell My eBooks

For a while my ebooks have been available both on Amazon and Smashwords. For those interested, with a specific ebook reader, or a particular store preference, I am pleased to say they are now available in a wider market.

My ebooks can now be purchased direct from the Apple iBookstore here:





Click on the images above to go to the respective store, or have a look at the store page on my website, link at top of sidebar.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

SILHOUETTES - Eleventh instalment

SILHOUETTES - Eleventh instalment - Chapters twenty-four, and twenty-five. For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.

TWENTY-FOUR

Jo had been studying Dave closely, and there it was again. He had a slight twitch on the outer side of his left eye. Nothing prominent, probably no one would notice it without close scrutiny. She was giving him this close inspection because she fancied him like mad, it was an instant and magnetic attraction. She had to have him. She couldn't wait to have him.

He turned his gaze back on her. They had been deciding on the pros and cons of she and Debbie going to the police with the information they had about the mugging this afternoon and giving up a description of the attacker. They would discuss it, the topic of conversation would somehow move on to something else, they would agree on another round of drinks, then they would start up the subject again. All the while, time was passing, afternoon was now early evening, the drink was taking effect, and the consensus now was moving to the opinion that it may be better to talk to the authorities tomorrow morning with a clear head.

Debbie had a blinding headache which she kept to herself. Jo was fussing enough over her without giving her a prompt for more attention. Besides, she was going flat out for Dave boy there. She suspected Dave would be sharing the breakfast table with her and Jo in the morning, well, with Jo at least. Debbie had decided she was taking tomorrow off and having a long lie in, and hopefully be back to full health when she did finally decide to rouse herself.

Dave and Jo were beginning to talk between themselves more and more, Debbie was beginning to feel a bit gooseberryish. She contented herself watching the independence debate programme showing on the pub TV set. The barman had raised the volume to allow some interested customers to hear the issues discussed. There were murmurs of different opinions from various groups at the bar and from several tables. Debbie was just beginning to realise how important the debate for the independence of Scotland was becoming. The referendum was a newspaper topic now almost daily. Every mass circulation newspaper had opinions about the issue, the television news media always had it high up on the agenda, and she suspected there was more than just blatant bias towards the view of the Westminster London unionist views. Much of what was said about the plus side of independence was disparaged and put down in a way that not only demeaned the unionist argument, it was also insulting to the majority of the people of Scotland. She, for one, even though she hadn't worked her way through all the good and bad points of each proposal by either side, had already decided that life in an independent Scotland couldn't be any worse than it was at the moment attached to the UK, so she would be voting for independence. Jo was of the same mind, though far more outspoken about it, and had in fact set up several blogs and helped in various websites to promote the cause of independence. A dedicated Cybernat was the way she described herself whenever asked about her political views.

The discussions around the topics started during the TV debate continued well after in the pub. The news came on the TV next and there was a uniform rally of boos when the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was giving a brief sound bite about Scotland. His party, the Conservatives had but one MP elected in Scotland. In effect, Scotland was being governed by a UK government that no one in Scotland had voted for. This was not true democracy, thought Debbie. It was beginning to dawn on her exactly why the Scottish National Party had such strong support in Scotland. In the whole of Westminster in London, the Scottish people had no one with any real clout that could speak up for them, promote their views, and defend their corner in the UK. Democracy had broken here.

She had become engrossed with the TV, not something she usually did in a bar, and noticed Dave had placed yet another drink on the table in front of her. This was becoming a serious drinking session, but her headache was becoming tiresome and she felt she'd have to go home soon. She was just about to mention she would leave the two of them and phone a taxi for herself when the local news began, and she froze as she saw the grainy facade of the mugger from this afternoon, displayed on the television screen.

'Look,' she cried, and pointed.

Both Jo and Dave followed her pointing finger. The newsreader was commenting on the police looking for this man to assist with their inquiries into an incident that took place in the centre of Glasgow this afternoon. Nothing was said about the mugging, or the reason for the inquiry.

'That's the bastard,' said Jo, loud enough that a few people at surrounding tables gawked over.

'This must be serious, Jo,' said Debbie. 'That old man must have died.'

'Yes,' said Jo, 'they wouldn't show a mugshot like that for just a routine mugging. It must be serious.'

'We don't know that yet, they never mentioned why,' said Dave, trying to be diplomatic. 'Perhaps he's a serial mugger, or something.'

'It doesn't matter,' said Debbie, 'we've no choice now but to go to the police.'

TWENTY-FIVE

Two Stealths and a man falling to earth
The man had an air of authority about him. The black suit was just a prop to add to the effect, whereas others would look ridiculous, this man would carry authority if he were standing there naked. Dave thought he was military intelligence, but he carried an aura of someone way up the ladder in the organisation.

'Good afternoon, Dave,' he said, 'if I may call you Dave?'

'Fine,' said Dave.

'You've had a bit of an adventure today,' he stated, 'we'll get down to the nitty-gritty in a minute...'

'It was all a test?' Dave asked. He knew it was. It had never occurred to him at the time of the event, but on reflection, he had heard of similar set-ups used to gauge how Agents would react under stress, in life-threatening situations. He had been drugged, not shot, so it was an exercise. He was here in a secure hospital, or at least a medical room in some military establishment. No one had questioned him about the events of earlier in the day (though it could have been yesterday, he had no notion of the actual time he had spent here).

'My name is Jon Evans,' said the man in the black suit. 'I work for the CIA, and you responded to one our requests for new people interested in travel.'

'The special project?' asked Dave.

'Yes, the special project.'

'The request didn't mention the CIA,' said Dave.

'They never do, or would anyone apply?' smiled Jon Evans. 'Besides, would you want your compatriots to know you had left your present position to join the CIA, if in fact you decide to do so?'

'Who were the guys in the car this afternoon, and are they alright?' asked Dave.

'That would be yesterday afternoon. A couple of local FBI we borrowed for the exercise, no serious injuries, though a bit of bruising and soreness each will have to put up with for a short while. You also broke the nose of one.'

Dave smiled. 'They're lucky I never shot them.'

'That would have been impossible, Dave. We switched your gun's magazine for one containing blanks.'

'Ah, just in case...'

'Well, we do try not to get anyone killed in these little tests. Fatalities cause paperwork.'

'So, what happens now?'

'What happens now is that you sign some papers and I'll officially welcome you on board. If you still want the job?'

He spoke to Jon Evans a few times after that visit, and more regularly once he graduated as an overseas CIA operative just over a year later. That year was a blur to Dave, most of each day he did not know what he would be doing till a five minute briefing at the start decided the task or training to be undertaken. In a year he had learned to pick locks, hack computers, commit credit card fraud, evade and bypass both home and commercial security systems, change his identity entirely (he had changed it four times in exercises, had valid documentation for each, including driving licence and passport, and several valid and usable credit cards). He was trained in fast driving, discreet following and violent evasion techniques, taught how to set up surveillance on a subject or organisation by planting covert hearing and camera devices, installing Trojans in computer systems. He was also made familiar with and taught to use a variety of common in use military hardware from Kalashnikovs to Uzis, from shoulder launched missiles to urban grenade launchers.

One morning he was dragged from his bunk in t-shirt and underpants, not allowed to dress, escorted aboard a new type of helicopter, at least it was a new type to him. It was the second time though, he realised, that those rumoured black helicopters mentioned in various conspiracy websites and publications actually existed. But it was a true surprise to the system to see one up close, never mind be taken a ride in one, undrugged. They were almost completely silent in operation, could go into a special mode called Stealth 3D. He wasn't sure how it worked, but the result was the craft, as well as being silent in operation, was completely invisible to the naked eye.

He was given a briefing as they flew across the countryside. The briefing was to get from the drop-off point, to another point in mainland USA in under three days with $10,000 dollars. He was, of course, not allowed to rob or kill any individual for the money, industrial and commercial targets seemed to be fine.

The chopper was flying low over a small lake when the crew slid the door on the side open. One of the crew placed something discreetly in his hand, and placed a finger to his lips to mean quiet. Before he knew what was happening, he was grabbed firmly by the arms by two of the crew and unceremoniously thrown through the gaping hole on the side of the craft. He fell backwards to earth, the surprise of weightlessness just coming to awareness, watching the chopper door close and it begin to turn for home. The panic was just about to hit, but he smacked the water first, sinking down, suddenly wet, breathless, couldn't breathe, cold, dark, he sank. That was when the panic hit in earnest.

Although a strong enough swimmer at the local pool, where the water was calm, warm, clean, and forward motion through the water was little more than gentle exercise, here the cold hit him as suddenly and as sharp as a knife blade, he was sinking down, but he was also being pulled along, an undercurrent had him, and try as he might, resistance was naught but a slowing manoeuvre, not an effective practical attempt at reaching the surface and air to breathe. He rolled over in the drink, his eyes hurt, his arms were rapidly tiring, and he was beginning to think it better to stop and just let go when he saw the light above, and it looked so bright from the depths it could not be that far away. He thrust upwards with his legs, his arms too tired to assist now, he still had the item the crew member had given him clasped in his hand, he kept kicking back his legs, he was still being forced along by the current, a sideways motion now, rather than downwards. He kept momentum, thrashing his legs in a concentrated swimming motion. The light was becoming brighter, he was getting nearer, he would be able to breathe again in just another few kicks. He kicked and kicked, and finally broke the surface, and gulped down the fresh morning air with joy and thanks.

The surface wasn't smooth though despite it being a calm day. The water was choppy, there was a slight squall with the southerly breeze coming from the nearest land point. He would have to swim against the wind, but first, he had to get his breath back, restore his body to fully functional, before he even attempted a swim that was probably around half a mile. There was no sign of the helicopter, it was either gone from sight, or in stealth mode now, silently and invisibly watching from above. He cursed the day he joined the CIA.

Next instalment coming soon... 

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2012 All rights reserved