Tuesday, 29 January 2013

SILHOUETTES - Eighteenth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Eighteenth instalment - Chapter thirty-four and thirty-five. For more information on this novel, click Here.

THIRTY-FOUR

Although he should be thinking positive about the job, as he approached his new place of work on Grimeforth Street, nerves began to eat at him. Too many days on the booze, he recognized the signs and held out a hand to see if he could keep it passably steady. The building looked massive, but he had been told it was just a caretaker position, a watchman, he would not be interacting with anyone, the building was closed for business at the moment. That suited Ben, should ease him into the job gently, no one to bother with except himself.

A large man in a wrinkled suit was pacing up and down the glass front of the building before a double entry door. He carried a briefcase and was smoking. Ben wondered if he should have worn a suit or something less casual, but as he began up the small flight of stairs to the door the large man turned.

'You the new guy, Ben Frisk?' he asked.

Ben nodded.

'Ok, c'mon,' the man opened and held a door for him to pass through. 'The wee office on the right,' he pointed.

They both entered the office, a desk, two chairs, a kettle on a windowsill, and a microwave on a low table next to a filing cabinet. A combined phone and fax machine was on the desk along with a couple of hardback notebooks, one titled 'Daily Action Log', and the other titled 'Daily Occurrence Log', there was also some gizmo plugged into a charger at the back of the desk. On one of the chairs was a large wrapped bundle. Through the clear plastic cellophane, Ben noted this was a uniform.

'I'm Tony, Tony Smithe with an e. I'm your Area Manager and contact for everything.'

Ben nodded.

'Anything you need, any problems you run into, give me a bell, number one on the phone goes straight through to HQ.'

Ben nodded again.

'Bit of paperwork here,' Tony delved into his briefcase and pulled some forms out. 'Job Application form, terms and conditions of employment, wages info, form for the bank transfer of pay, etc. Sign the first and second forms at the bottom of the page just now, you can fill in the others during the course of the day and fax them over this afternoon, we'll send back a copy for your own records.'

Ben picked a pen from a desk tidy and signed where required.

'Any questions just now?' said Tony.

'Er, what do I do?' asked Ben.

'Well, nothing much,' Tony laughed half-heartedly. 'Uniform there, it should fit, last guy was the same size as you, more or less. You've got to wear it when on duty, legal requirement and job requirement.'

'What's that?' Ben pointed to the gizmo on the charger.

'Ah, on every floor at the end of the corridor from the stairwell is a magnetic strip. You use this.' Tony pulled a rectangular plastic rod from the charger. 'Run it along the strip, it will give out a bleep to show it registered. When you go around the building take that with you, run it down every strip, and it proves you've been active and checked out the building. Do this every couple of hours and that keeps everyone happy.'

'Is that it?' Ben asked.

'Are you a reader, Ben? This is the kind of job for someone who likes reading.'

'I'll bring some books tomorrow.'

'Good lad, now I've got to go, Tracy at the office will fax over a work rota and such sometime today. Pay's monthly, so end of this month you'll get half a month's wage, depends on hours worked of course.'

'What's the rate?'

'Minimum, I'm afraid, £5.70 an hour, but I have a bit of leeway, if you last and are punctual and reliable, I can maybe negotiate a bit more after a period of time.'

With that Tony had his briefcase closed up and was heading out the door. When he got to the main entrance he turned.

'Keep this door locked at all times. Your relief will be here at eighteen-hundred hours, and he'll be here till you come back on duty at oh-eight-hundred tomorrow.'

Once Tony had gone and he had locked the door behind him, Ben went back to the office. He opened both books and scribbled examples of previous entries under today's date and signed his name. He had the shakes now he noted. He felt bad, nauseous in fact, but he couldn't risk nicking out for a drink, not on his first day. He tried the phone for an outside line, but it had been programmed only to dial the numbers on the speed dialler. HQ, and the police. He put the kettle on thankful he had some teabags with him and a pot noodle for lunch.

He had a rake about in the desk drawers and discovered a supply of pornographic magazines and a small portable radio, perhaps belonging to his relief. He tuned it into Radio Scotland and placed it on the desk, feeling a bit brighter as The Proclaimers sang about a Letter from America.

THIRTY-FIVE

At Abingdon he drove around the centre till he found a large shopping mall. A multi-storey car park would've been better, but the town didn't appear to be large enough to require such. He parked as near to the store fronts as possible, the busier the less chance of the pick-up being detected, though he knew once they entered the details for the satnav into the system, it would be tracked to within a few hundred meters. He couldn't waste time disarming it, so the best thing to do was swap vehicles often. He parked next to a large van. In the passenger footwall of the truck, he emptied out a scruffy looking hold-all of the junk it contained, various farming related paperwork. He kept some plastic ties that were in the bag. He placed in the kitchen knife from the farmhouse, and his Swiss army knife. From a toolkit, under the seat, in the pick-up, he removed a few items, one a large flat screwdriver, the other a small, but adequate file. He put these in the hold-all along with the bag of clothes he had changed out of at the farm. He would dump these in the first handy trash bin. He wiped his prints from the inside of the truck and left, leaving the keys in the ignition. With a bit of luck, some other sucker would steal it and lead the authorities off on a tangent.


He found a quiet seat outside a storefront on the mall where he could watch vehicles arriving. He passed the time discreetly whittling the edges of the screwdriver down with the file. Within twenty minutes he spied what he was looking for, a middle-aged woman with an elderly relative with a walking stick, perhaps her mother, got slowly out of a small Chrysler. They should be occupied for a while contriving their way around the stores inside the mall, plenty time for another two or three hours of distance using their vehicle. When he was sure they were out of sight and in no danger of returning for a forgotten item, he approached the car. It was aged enough not to have a decent alarm. A quick look around, then he forced the screwdriver into the driver's door lock, levered it left and right with enough force to wreck the lock, not even a pretence of care about damage, bits of the lock shattered, sheared, and fell to the ground. Within seconds he heard the click of the mechanism, and he was inside the car, he repeated the process with the ignition and steering lock, in under a minute he was driving out of the mall, strangely, there was a Pink Floyd disc in the CD player, he listened to Us and Them as he turned on to the highway out of town. He followed directions for Interstate 81, took the slipway heading south-west. Knoxville was his destination, he would be there early evening and he could plan his next move.

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved

Monday, 21 January 2013

LET'S GET OUT OF THE UK


Keep Calm and Vote Yes

Let's get out of the UK and leave them to it.

A BIG happy birthday to Cybernats.com, which celebrates its first year birthday this week, and I would be willing to bet that since its inception, the viewing figures have gone up and up, unlike some of the opposition unionist blogs(1) that have fell by the wayside and died a slow lingering death, and the circulation figures of most of the pro-union printed editions, which are falling to well below sustainable figures – I expect Dave's fine blog will have less 'rags' to comment about in the near future!

It would be sound though if someone with a bit of knowledge in the ‘rag trade’ decided to launch a decent pro-independence Scottish newspaper, this is probably about the right time out from the referendum to attract and stimulate a decent readership and make such a newspaper a sustainable proposition for years to come. It could become the mainstay Scottish newspaper well into the future of a new independent Scotland, and may hurry the demise of some of the more unsavory editions staining the newsagent counter at the moment. Any millionaires out there looking for investment ideas?

As far as the main pro-union rags output goes, over the year, it’s been more of the same repetitive doom and gloom, interspersed with the odd bombing threat or worse, from this or that Lord(!). Fear, uncertainty, doubt, mingled with predictions of third world status, defenceless and ripe for invasion, and without so much as a candle to light the dark winter night in the family cave. Yes, the scaremongering knows no bounds. I suspect it will continue this way, after all, like unionist politicians, they have nothing remotely positive to say, nothing to offer, the UK is broke, the economy is dire, austerity gets worse, and as the only growing industry seems to be in the foodbank field, people are beginning to realise if this is as good as it gets, then the ‘better together’ message, while UK MPs lust after a 32% wage increase, appears more and more like some sadistic joke.

Let's get out of the UK and leave them to it.

Keep Calm and Break Free
Please have a look at the links below:
Sign the Declaration
and for more interesting reading have a look at the Roll of Scottish Links of Interest on the sidebar.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

SILHOUETTES - Seventeenth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Seventeenth instalment - Chapter thirty-three. For more information on this novel, click Here.

THIRTY-THREE

DS Hartless had been unceremoniously kicked awake by his angry wife at three a.m. that morning. His phone ringing and she wanted it silent, and if it took a few bruised ribs on her spouse to get the damn thing quiet, then so be it.

He had been dreaming about being in a foursome with Lady Gaga and her two sisters, but the digs he felt weren't the rough tumble of three girl, four in a bed, foreplay, but the angry kicks of Martha. No skimpy studded leather underwear and 36 double-D's leaning over him brandishing handcuffs then, but a rudely awakened woman in ankle to neck Paisley pattern bed coat and plastic rollers in her hair, and spittle spraying from her mouth as she howled at him to answer the damn phone.

Thirty minutes later he was at the scene of the crime that had got him out of bed at three in the morning. He had gotten a full three hours of sleep. Berated by his wife, and then scowled at by DI Oswalk, for not having a spare set of sterile scene of crime overalls in his car, though neither did she or she wouldn't have asked him, so she should be giving herself a kick up the arse.

Govanhill was a dump, and Pricey Street was a typical example of deprivation and social breakdown. Half oxymoron, half slum, a proportion of the houses had boarded up windows, these overrun by squatters and junkies and prostitutes, the rest, full of the forgotten underclass that civilised society would rather not have to deal with, at least not in an open or inclusive manner, when clean hands may have to be shaken with the needy and diseased clammy palms of the proles.

Oswalk managed to pinch a pair of white overalls from someone and they entered the house. They could see the body in the hall from the doorway, the blood splatter on the walls, a pathetic look of shocked surprise on the grey face of the victim. The pathologist pulled the head of the corpse forward and pointed at a mess of blood and brain and bone.

'Blunt force trauma, bludgeoned to death,' he said. 'Body's still warm, I'd say little more than an hour ago.'

'You can take notes,' Oswalk turned to Hartless. 'So, what?' she asked the pathologist, 'iron bar, bat, heavy object, what?'

'Hard to say, nothing around the victim, will know more...'

'Yeah, when you get back to the morgue.'

Stepping over the corpse, they checked out the living room first, untidy, some drink tumblers on a table, Hartless bagged them for prints.

He noticed a photograph on the wall next to the window, something about it clawed at his mind.

'Sick fucker,' called Oswalk, 'kiddie porn.'

She was holding up a brown envelope and a collection of photographs of children she had extracted from a hole in the floor. She bagged them and switched on a laptop on a corner computer desk. When it booted and asked for a password, she turned it off again, hacking wasn't her strong point.

'Make sure this is bagged and checked out as a priority,' she said.

Which meant, thought Hartless, he would have to bag and tag it and lug it back to the station.

In the bedroom they saw where the restraints had been tied at each corner of the bed, some badly built wooden flat pack affair from Ikea, thought Hartless, some steel D-rings had been screwed into each pine leg to secure the bindings.

'What about the child?' asked Oswalk. She picked up a small green anorak lying in the corner. It covered a pair of a children's sandals.

'Hospital says leg broke in two places, suffering shock, and was in a great deal of pain, but they've sedated her, we won't get near her till tomorrow, and we don't even have a name yet.'

'No sexual assault?' said Oswalk.

'She was lucky,' said Hartless, 'that was the obvious intention. Some Guardian Angel interrupted the bastard just in time, and smote the bastard down, with some heavy blunt object, as yet unfound.'

He discovered a small backpack kicked under a chest of drawers and pulled it free. He unzipped the bag with a gloved hand and tipped the contents out on the top of the chest. A few school jotters, a pencil case, a couple of pens, a bar of chocolate, and a small cuddly teddy-bear. Her name was written badly in block capitals on the front of each jotter. Her name was Samantha McQueen. Age 10 was scrawled under her name, and under that was written St. Mathew's Primary School, Govanhill.

Oswalk was immediately on the phone, got an out of hours number for the school, then called for an address, was told by the Head Teacher, who was at home, tired, and had no access there, that they wouldn't give that information out over the phone anyway, it needed a form signed. Oswalk was fuming. She ordered the Head Teacher to immediately get round to the school or be arrested for perverting the course of justice. She didn't know if this was a possibility, but it usually scared the plethora of jobsworths she routinely encountered into complying.

'Get your arse round there,' she ordered Hartless. 'Some parent's wondering where the fuck her daughter is and this bastard's quoting the Data Protection Act. Get the address, then get on to social services, see if they've heard of her. Then get back here, we'll go see the parents together.'

Hartless began peeling off his gloves.

'Oh, and then get on to the Local Education Authority, I don't care what time it is, and tell them how uncooperative their St Mathew's School Head Teacher is.'

It was now just four in the morning, it was still pitch dark, half the street lights were out, a spittle of rain hit him, he would not get home to his bed again. He was stuck now and would probably be on duty till late this afternoon.

As he got into his car he noticed that even though it was the middle of the night, and now was pissing down, people still had got dressed and come out in the streets to gawp at the proceedings. Murders in this area were a common occurrence, he thought, they can't be out for that, they must have heard about the kid.

The city was beginning to have the mark of the apocalypse on it. The disappearance of a young female student, probably buried in a shallow grave by now, the abduction of a child, and the murder of the paedophile abductor.

At the school, he met the Head Teacher unlocking the gate to the car park. She glared at him.

'Mary Hark,' she said, 'head teacher. Are you the police?'

'Sorry for the inconvenience,' he said, 'yes, DS Hartless.'

'Is she dead?' she asked.

The schooling Hartless had been given at primary wasn't great, but the teachers were ok. This women looked as if she'd be happier if she was in charge of a lunatic asylum rather than be humbled here the head of a mere local school.

'No,' he replied, 'in hospital though.'

'Not dead?'

Hartless nearly apologised to her for the fact that the child that had brought her to the school at this hour of morning was in fact still alive.

'She's in a bad way,' he stated. 'I can't really say more than that, enquiries continuing and all that...'

Five minutes later he was back in the car and on the phone. A couple of clicks on the school computer had revealed a home address, two streets away from the scene of crime, the fact she was from a single parent family, mother's name, Julie McQueen, 26 years old, a string of previous convictions for shop-lifting, aggravated assault, possession of drugs, and prostitution. He relayed the information to Oswalk and arranged to meet her outside the Ash Street address of Julie McQueen. He didn't bother to phone the Local Education Authority and report the Head Teacher for being uncooperative.

Oswalk's car was already on the street as he approached the house, he parked behind her, the abundance of parking space just reinforced the poverty of the area. She got out the car and came to his, pointed to a house across the road, a three storey tenement, and going by the numbers, Julie McQueen should be in the middle right. A light was on in the front facing room, someone was at home.

'Remember, she's the parent of a child victim,' he cautioned Oswalk.

'Fuck,' she cried, 'what do you think I'm going to do, rake the ashtray for spliff ends and do her for possession?'

Hartless tapped the door quietly. No answer.

'Give it a fucking thump,' she ordered.

He gave it a good impatient police at the door battering. Opened the letter box flap and peered through. No sound or sign of movement from within, though he could see the door to the front room ajar and the light from within slightly illuminated the hall. The floor was covered in linoleum, a child's bicycle was propped against the wall, and there was a coat rack with several different coloured coats and jackets hanging from it. No sign of life.

'What do you think?' he asked Oswalk.

'Kick it in,' she said, and got on the radio to inform base of their intent.

There was no need to kick it in, Hartless tried the handle and the door was unlocked. Which was just as well, he thought when he closed it behind them both. Two Yales, a deadlock, and sliding bolts at the top middle and bottom of the door would've made it impossible to kick in.

'Hello. Police!' he called when they entered. No answer.

They approached the lighted room ominously, something was wrong in this house.

The mother lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling in death. Vomit trailed from her mouth and down the front of her clothing. A syringe and a cornucopia of other assorted drug paraphernalia were parked neatly in a shoebox on top of a coffee table. The TV was on but the volume was muted. David Attenborough was silently narrating the mating habits of the penguins of the Antarctic. Shivers of cold ran down the spine of Hartless, not from the chilly picture of the snow covered continent displayed on the screen, but from the deathly pale corpse, the second in as many hours, and the fact a ten year old child was now motherless.

Oswalk was already on the radio organising a doctor, a scene of crime unit, and for the pathologist to get his arse in gear from Pricey Street and get round here ASAP.

He felt for a pulse on the neck as a matter of formality, she had been dead for hours; the coldness of the body strayed up his arm and chilled his heart. It looked more like an accidental overdose rather than a suicide, but he looked about for a note.

'Well?' asked Oswalk.

'Looks like an OD, but with the child in the equation?'

'Perhaps set up to look like suicide to aid the abduction of the kid.'

'Or maybe the kid knew the paedo, an uncle, or client she trusted, and went round there to inform of her mother's condition?'

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved

Sunday, 6 January 2013

SILHOUETTES - Sixteenth instalment


SILHOUETTES - Sixteenth instalment - Chapter thirty-two. For more information on this novel, click Here.

THIRTY-TWO

The girl's leg was a mess, he had untied her and tried to tend to the broken limb, but the pain was too much and she had passed out. She was breathing steady though, so he thought it best to leave her. He had to think what to do. Shamus was dead, no getting away from that fact. The girl needed attention, no doubt about that also. But he was wanted by the police so he couldn't afford to get involved in this. He meticulously went over the house, rubbing away at any surface he thought he may have touched. He washed the bat and dried it till free of blood and brain matter. No need to panic, as long as he took his time and thought everything through. Probably no one who saw him arrive would recognize who he was as he was capped and hooded. He would leave shortly the same way. When a safe distance he would phone an ambulance for the girl, the ambulance people could call the police. Nothing was too bad yet, no need for panic.

A quick search and he found a pile of bank notes in a roll under a loose floorboard, a handy couple of hundred pounds, he estimated. He pocketed this. He also found an envelope full of photos of pornographic images of children, he put the envelope back where it was and left the floorboard uncovered to save the police too much trouble finding the stash. He had a notion they wouldn't bother with an intensive investigation knowing the victim was a paedophile. After another quick look around the house, he opened the front door a peep, glanced out, and seeing no one in the street or glancing out of a window, he quickly darted to the road leaving the front door ajar. Once there he turned, head down, and strode fast and purposely to the end of the street, kept the same pace till he was around half a mile from the house of Shamus, the House of Shame.

He crossed over when he spied a public phone box, dialled the emergency number, asked for an ambulance, and gave the address, he gave his name as a concerned citizen and put the phone down. The number would be traced of course, but he wiped the phone free of prints, and started down the street again at a pace. No CCTV he noted as he sped along. Soon he was down by the river, near where the attack of the dog belonging to the old man occurred. He hoped the old bastard was as dead as Shamus. He pulled the bat from his jacket where he had it hidden, and launched it into the river. He knew it would float, but where to, didn't matter, for any trace of him would be gone, and if not, the water would wash it clean away.

There was no need to panic, he kept saying to himself, life goes on, a mantra, he knew, but it worked all the same, if he didn't panic he could cope, if he could cope he could work, and he had some catching up to do with his work. The alien had escaped detection and was on the loose. He would go home, rest for a few hours, then get back on track. He could pick up the trail when his target left for work in the morning and take it from there. Everything else could be worked out in the background, there was nothing too disturbing really, the mugging would be forgotten about, other more serious crimes would come to light, the death of his uncle for one, and the spotlight would no longer be on a grimy poor resolution image of himself. It would all work out alright. He would get guidance. Shamus was a bad idea, he hated having to think what to do, and look at the result when he did so.

It was after one a.m. now, the streets were empty, and he suddenly felt brittle, vulnerable. Occasionally a car passed by, usually a night cab or a delivery van or a late night commuter. He kept his head down and sauntered along, too much had happened already in the last twelve hours for him to have to contend with anything else. At last he turned into his own street. He stopped. Along the street, two-hundred metres or so, just adjacent to his front door, was a police car. The interior light was illuminated and there were two police officers in the front seat. He shrunk back into a patch of shadow between streetlights, a hedged garden fence behind him, and watched for a few minutes. They seemed to be waiting for him. But how could that be? His heart began racing, and palpitating, he could feel it struggle within him, he began to hyper-ventilate, a panic attack was imminent, his pills were at home, he hunkered down at the side of the street, as far in shadow as he could get and struggled to breathe, trying to force himself not to panic, no need to panic, everything was alright, no need to panic. Then a weight was lifted. The interior light went out, the engine started, and the police car drove off down the street. Why were they there? Were they even there for any reason to do with him? They were gone, that's all that mattered. He got to his feet, glanced up and down the street, no one, no vehicles, not even a cat loomed about. He got to his own gate, entered his own front door, and locked it behind him. His relief was palpable. Until he saw the note.

He lifted the piece of card and folded it and placed it in his pocket. Nothing to do with him until he had sorted out everything else. He carefully checked the flat to ensure he had had no internal visitors, checked on the room containing Suzi, and when he was sure nothing was other than when he had left the last time, he found his tablets, swallowed a couple of the Chlorpromazine then made himself a strong cup of coffee. He would be awake for the night he now knew, there was too much to think through and get done before the morning. He couldn't risk not thinking everything through for that way led to panic, and he could not risk that, especially when there was no need. He had no guidance, he would have to cope.

Three cups of coffee later, the pills had worked and the caffeine had him fully awake and aware, he decided he could face the note in his pocket. It was a small A5 card, emblazoned with Strathclyde Police and their logo across the top, a few sentences with some tick boxes next to them, and a few dotted lines for writing underneath. The ticked box was next to the sentence, 'Could you please contact the Officer below as a matter of urgency as you may be of assistance.' No more than that.

The officer below was a Detective Sergeant Adrian Hartless, CID, and his phone number was illegibly scrawled under his name.

No need to panic, thought Simon, he may be able to talk his way out of this yet. Obviously someone had seen the news report, spotted it was him in the CCTV footage, and contacted the police. A fucking nosy neighbour perhaps. It didn't matter, but he wouldn't get peace until he got in touch with this Detective Sergeant, and as he didn't want them back at his door he would have to be the one to get in touch with them, and as soon as possible.

He had all this to think about, plus he had sex on the brain as well. Ever since he had thought Shamus had Julie in the room, her body came to his vision every second minute it seemed. She was a poor sod, not quite junkie, but had definite drug and alcohol related problems, one kid at home, one in care, and she had to rely on sick bastards like Shamus to get by. Whether it because she was his first, or because she opened up to him about her life, probably because he was so young, he didn't know. He never had real friends, not at school, and not in the neighbourhood, other kids seemed to be wary of him though he gave them no cause, and the few attempts he had made at making friends had usually backfired to his detriment and despair. So, just as Julie opened up to him, he would sometimes open up to her, though nothing too weird, nothing to frighten her. He supposed they had become friends even though she was only there for his indulgence in a sexual act at his uncle's expense. Still, he wondered sometimes, if he ever met her in the street, would they perhaps chat and go for a coffee and socialise outwith the constraints of a financial transaction?

He went through to the room where Suzi was laid out, but the smell had returned and was actually making him gag. He looked at Suzi. Her eyes were closed, but he could sense she was watching him all the same. She smelled disgusting now, and he couldn't compel himself to get the cleaning and embalming stuff out again and fix her up. Everything was going wrong.

'There hath he lain for ages, and will lie,'
he understood was Tennyson telling him to stay where he was until he was sixteen. Once he had attained that age, he could then go out into the world and make his mark. And this is exactly what he had done. Tennyson had been kind of lackadaisical though on his visits of late. Just when you needed him most was when he was least likely to appear. That was precisely why he had gone to Shamus to seek advice, and now look what happened. He had to think for himself, but he could not afford to think for himself. It was a conundrum that had followed him throughout life.

He went through to the living room and turned on the news channel. The local news was updated every hour, so he could at least appraise himself of exactly how deep in the shit he was. It was perhaps too early for news on Shamus and the kid, but he should get an update on the Suzi Tonner disappearance and maybe even the status of the old man, though by now that may be classified as old news, providing of course the old bastard hadn't snuffed it.

It was five in the morning when he woke up. He was on the floor against the wall. Tennyson was pacing about the room, occasionally looking over at him, but saying nothing. At moments he shook a pointed finger at him as if he was going to utter a warning, or berate him about something, but then resumed the pacing. The TV was still on and a newscaster was speaking about something he couldn't quite make out, oil prices in the middle-east, a video of Arabs rioting in some city square. Tennyson had turned down the volume. He alternated pawing at his beard, and pointing a finger, while he paced. Simon could sense his disappointment, he watched silently, afraid to open his mouth. Every other problem he had at that moment was put to the background, he had upset Tennyson, somehow.

The volume of the TV increased a little, the announcer was speaking in a halting tone, a rhythmic and almost melodic baritone began.

'The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
 About his shadowy sides; above him swell.'


At this stage in time Tennyson was again pointing at him, and waggling his finger in time to the metre of the verse. There was wrath in his stance, he physically shook with a rage, his eyes were bright and piercing, but they were also cold.

'Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
 Then once by man and angels to be seen.'


The television went dead at this point. So did the lamp in the corner illuminating the room. Silence, sudden and stark, and dark, but for some filtered light coming through the curtains from the dawning light. Nothing, except the wagging finger, and then, as though a spectre that was slowly fading, it dispersed into nothing, along with the arm and then the body, and the full ghostly figure of Tennyson, until the whole aspect of the man was gone, faded into nothing. Simon understood now though, as he stared wide-eyed into empty space. He was the Kraken, and he had been lazy. And he had also forgotten to top up the electricity meter.

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Android on the TV

Smarten Up Your Television

Smart televisions seem to be the rage and probably one of the fastest moving products in most consumer electronic stores at the moment. What though if you have a perfectly decent working HD TV, whose intelligence is slightly dimmed down due to the lack of the 'smart' factor?

One of the gifts I received at Christmas, as well as answering the question above, really impressed me by its capabilities, considering it is only slightly larger than a USB pen drive, though is a fully operational Android computer.

Plug it into a spare HDMI slot on the back of the TV, connect a USB dongle for a wireless mouse, and connect up the power supply included, and instantly your TV smartens itself up! The device came with all the necessary cables, all I required was the wireless mouse. Within a few minutes I had it accessing my wireless broadband and I was surfing the net through the television screen, accessing my email, and scouring the Google Play store and downloading a choice selection of the abundance of free apps available.

Considering the price of £35, this tiny device has an A10 1.5GHz CPU (which I believe may be the processor CPU and graphics CPU combined speed), 1GB of ram, and 4GB of built-in storage, it has 2 USB ports, one full size, one mini, a mini HDMI slot for connection to a TV, and a memory slot for expansion which takes micro SD cards up to 32GB. It is also wireless enabled to connect to your wireless broadband. The device came with a range of apps pre-installed including a music player and movie player and web browser, and the app to the Google Play store.

Compared to a modern PC or laptop, net surfing is not as rapid though is definitely bearable, probably comparable to an early pc running windows XP, and once the browser is up and loaded in memory, no more than a few seconds longer loading a page than my own PC. Watching movies is a breeze, as is listening to music, or Youtube videos, and watching TV programmes through the various apps available, including the BBC media player and the STV media player, is fine once you get through the various clicks on their respective websites to find the actual programme you want to view.

All in all, I am overwhelmingly impressed by this device, and me being a linux user, and tinkerer, more so when I discovered I can load other operating systems on an SD card and have the machine boot into whatever version of linux I would deem to try. Various versions of linux have already been prepared for the device and are available to download. I am looking forward to trying the device as a full blown desktop computer as soon as I have the tinkering time available. Yes, I know with the processing power and memory available I am not looking at a dream machine capable of anything a modern laptop or PC can do, but the power available seems plenty to run basic office applications, surf the net, and check email - how many office PCs do much else? And of course, I've always been a fan of Android on the phone, so I am delighted to be able to use the system on a full size TV. No touch screen, but that has been no drawback I'm glad to say.

If interested, mine was purchased on ebay, though I've seen it on sale at Amazon also, and it may be available elsewhere, just do a search for 'Android mini PC'.