Writing The Antagonist

What makes a villain?

Contrary to popular belief, villains do not fit into the 20-50 male age group. Villains come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, both genders. Prior to writing this I had just watched a documentary on the ‘C.I’ Channel. A woman was brutally murdered in her home. Her injuries were so  severe that her neck was almost broken. Four men were put in the frame for the woman’s murder, but the men all had strong alibis.

It was but a chance meeting with an ex-con that led them to a seventeen year old girl. She and a girlfriend had gone to the woman’s house to demand money for drugs. When the woman refused, one of the girl’s desecrated the body to such an extent, the police believed only a man could have committed the crime. Apparently, the girl had written in her diary how she wanted to kill someone before she died

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were ten years old when they killed little James Bulger.

Mary Bell was eleven when she killed two little boys.

So what drives people to kill? To become villains? The child who enjoys killing and dissecting a frog to see what it’s made of. The child who kills another child, usually a younger one. Is it because they wish to know how it feels, how people will react?

Criminal profilers will suggest that the reason why Jack the Ripper slashed and sliced up prostitutes so viciously was that maybe his mother might have been a prostitute. That as a small boy, he loathed all the men who came to their house.

While not to make light of such terrible murders, these influences are sure to be drawn on when telling stories.

Writing the antagonist is as exciting as writing the protagonist. My villains have been varied and, I hasten to add, never return.   Once killed off, they stay dead. They’re not Freddie Krueger!

William Sefton in ‘All of them Vampires’ is a Victorian gentleman and  once a student of the occult. Sefton wants nothing better than for world domination by the vampires, so he summons The Old One, the original vampire to achieve that end.

In ‘Staying Out’, Rick Morelli, armed robber and a hardcase villain, is obsessed by the girl who went to prison in his stead. Now she is out, Morelli is aware the only way to win her back is to frame her for murder. Then she has no choice but to go with him.

In ‘Stalking Aidan’ the villains are stealthier, and prefer to use the psychology of mind-games in order for Aidan McRaney, the object of their obsession, to develop a paranoia he fails to control.

I think for me the most evil has to be Daniel Corrigan in ‘Progeny of a Killer’. Corrigan is a man whose obsession is with the past and his  IRA father’s death at the hands of the British soldiers at a Crossmaglen checkpoint. These factors practically ensure his own destruction. The fact Corrigan’s obsession with the execution of the rebels in Dublin in 1916 serves to consume him to the point of madness. His insanity spills out into terrible atrocities he commits on the Mainland, among them paedophilia.

Whereas Paul Harrington in the book I’m working on now,  ‘Dangerous to Know’, is a suave businessman with a beautiful wife. Harrington is wealthy, but he too has an obsession, a  desire to kill that  stems from the fact his 18 year old daughter was raped and  subsequently drowned herself in their pool. When Aidan refuses to kill for him, Harrington’s own obsession  at being thwarted in his request, is such that he wreaks a terrible revenge on someone close to the young man’s  heart.




Dangerous To Know (Work In Progress)

I’ve decided to put up the first chapter of the new book I’m working on – ‘Dangerous To Know’, which continues the story of Aidan McRaney. As it’s a work in progress, it’s all subject to change, but I was excited about sharing it.



Tonight, it is my intention to both enjoy myself and be the most attentive husband I can be to the beautiful woman I married. If only the couple seated opposite would desist in throwing small, but surreptitious glances in our direction. I find nothing more disconcerting than being stared at. Whenever I return my attention to my wife, I’m ultimately conscious of their scrutiny.

A recalcitrant thatch of leonine blond hair sweeps from a particularly high forehead.  The inordinately polished features are sun-bronzed, classical, and as if he has recently returned from holiday. The perfect curve of full lips accentuate a handsome face. The man is as  elegantly cut as the grey linen suit he sports, with matching tie and white shirt. Unlike myself, he’s wearing no off the peg job.

His companion, whom I judge to be somewhere into her late thirties, is the perfect accompaniment. Her features are small, almost delicate. Yet the mouth hints of a defined twist, that might border on the cruel. The assumption is further embellished by the deepest set of flinty grey eyes.

She wears a sapphire blue dress. The dress is fitted, and does precious little to conceal the protuberant bulge of flesh in evidence beneath her arms. Her hair, like the man’s, is blonde. Boyishly cut short, her hair is baby-fine. Darker roots tinge the blonde. Numerous  bracelets slither to elegant wrists, when she lowers her arms to the table, in order to pay attention to the man.

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you, Aidan? You checking out that woman?”

My wife is a discordant buzz in the distant reaches of my subconscious. I regard her  incredulously.  “God no! But they have been checking us out practically since we arrived.” Caitlan snaps her eyes and clucks her tongue, descending a braceleted wrist over mine. “You’re just being paranoid. You haven’t been the same since you returned from that last job. Always looking over your shoulder. I find it unnerving at times.”

“I’m sorry. After what happened, do you  blame me? Anyway, you know it’s over.”

“I hope so, because we need to move on. We have this now. It has to be over.”

I cast a cursory glance at the couple. Their meal has arrived. They appear to be more interested in that event. Caitlan is right. I should relinquish the paranoia. Especially tonight. We have been married two years. Our special occasion. Where else could I have taken the most beautiful woman in London? At least in my considered opinion. Sargents just happens to be one of the most select restaurants in the West End. The prices are extortionate, but no expense has been spared.

Wearing a green satin dress, caught into the slender proportions of her tiny waist, who would remotely suspect that she has recently given birth? Our daughter is barely eighteen months old. Now the familiar emerald eyes snap wide again. She embraces my own with such love, but with an admix of the concern I can’t help but interpret in their depths.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to unnerve you. There won’t be anymore of those jobs, I promise.” I sip from the glass of Sancerre at my elbow. I make a face. I would have preferred a Scotch. I promised my wife that I wouldn’t drink so much. She hates the whisky and admonishes me about breathing alcohol fumes over our daughter. “I’m trying to get this landscape business up and running.”

We wait for our meal to arrive. It seems to take forever. I realise that I’ve managed to polish off most of the wine. I’m about to pour the final dregs into my glass when Caitlan says,  “The thing is we never seem to talk anymore.”

I stare at her amazed. “What are we doing now then?”

“I mean…” Her hesitation is almost painful. Her white throat undulates beneath the string of emeralds. “Your sister…” she attempts to explain.

“What about my sister?” I drain the last drop of Sancerre, whereas Caitlan still nurses her first.

“She’s always there, at our flat. Always inviting us over, and you never refuse. I know she means well.”

“Sure she means well. An unpaid babysitter. What more do you want? She’s someone we can trust. I thought you and Bridget got on okay.”

“We do. But the way she idolises you and worries about you, it’s as if you were her son rather than her brother.”

“That’s ridiculous.” I endeavour to suppress a rise of laughter. “Listen to yourself. I suppose it  stems from when I was a kid. After Mum died, Brid sort of took over the motherly role with us.”

“Well you’re not a kid anymore. You’re thirty one years old. So there’s no reason for her to interfere is there?”

“Brid doesn’t interfere. Come on, this is our anniversary. Do we have to discuss this shit right now, babe?”

I reach for her hand. A thin stemmed vase separates us. The vase contains the six red roses that I had ordered to be placed at our table. After all it is St Valentines. The candlelight bathes her features, suffusing them with colour. Her long dark hair is coiled into a plait atop her head, which had been perfectly coiffured by my sister.

Bridget often tells us that it’s a pleasure to do things for her brother and his lovely wife, as Caitlan has changed my life for the better. Now Caitlan boasts some unwarranted bee in her bonnet concerning my sister’s alleged shortcomings.

“Why is it, whenever we need to have a serious discussion, you always call it shit?”

“Because, right now, we don’t need to have a discussion about anything. We’ll talk when we get home.” I’m compelled to let my words trail because Sapphire Dress, a forkful of steak en route to her mouth, has those rather expressive sculpted eyebrows arched with interest. It’s as if her intention is to savour the argument she believes is about to ensue.

“Your sister will be there.”

“She’s babysitting Catie. If she’s not there I’ll be just a wee bit concerned, don’t you think?”

I hadn’t intended sarcasm, but tonight, when I wish for everything to be perfect, Caitlan appears to be in an argumentative mood. She’s invariably delicate, quietly spoken. A persona complimentary to the beautiful dress she wears. “So come on, sweetheart. If you have something to say, please say it. Let’s get this, whatever this is, over with.  Our meal should be here soon. You and Brid have a row?”

“No, we haven’t had a row. It’s-it’s just…”

“Just what?” I bring her hand up to my lips.”I need to know so that we can get it sorted. I don’t want you to be unhappy. If it’s something to do with my sister, then I’ll have a word. I know she likes to mother us all. Maybe it’s the age difference between you. All I’ve seen is Brid going out of  her way to help with Catie, so we can have a night out, and I notice that you rely on her too.”

“Not as much as you do.”

“Okay. Sure I’ll admit it, I do rely on her. She’s that kind of woman, everyone cries on her shoulder. What’s all this about?”

If only Sapphire Dress would cease her indefatigable staring. I’ll have to say something. Risk a scene. I’m beginning to find that flirty stare distinctly unnerving. While the throbbing pain searing through my left shoulder serves to remind me of a  past I’d prefer to forget.

“We have each other. I want it to be just us.”

“You know I want that too. I want you all the time, but I still don’t see…”

“I know you and Brid are close, but does she have to hug you all the time?”

I fail to suppress a grin at what she intimates. “She’s been like that ever since I came out of prison. As if she’s scared of letting me out of her sight. You make it sound as if we’re having some wild incestuous affair. That would be just plain weird.”

“No, of course not.” Colour flames her face again. It’s conducive to making me wish that I could make love to her right here and now. If only she’d  refrain  from behaving quite as shrewish. Regardless of her disapproving glances, I’ve practically polished off the remainder of the Sancerre, and the meal hasn’t yet arrived.

The smoothly shaven blond guy across from us toasts Sapphire Dress with entwined hands and a glass of Riesling. Maybe it’s their anniversary too, or they are simply displaying a friendly affinity. So perfectly innocent, as Caitlan suggest, and I’m being my old paranoid self. There’s no law against staring is there? It’s just that I don’t like people staring at me when I feel as if they have an ulterior motive.

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Caitlan exclaims so sharply, it now seems that everyone in the restaurant is staring at us, no doubt anticipating an argument. One I’m determined to suppress. I have no desire to continue this ridiculous discussion.

“Jesus, Caitlan, keep your voice down,” I hiss with embarrassment. “Go on, get this over with. Whatever it is has obviously upset you. No, Bridget and me are not having an affair.”

“When you’re at work she comes to see if I’m okay.”

“What’s wrong with that? It’s the kind of caring person that she is.”

“I know, but she’s always looking about the flat. I can’t help it if I’m untidy. Catie takes up most of my time. She has kids. She knows what it’s like. She also expects me to go to Mass with her every week, when I just want to spend some time with my husband.”

“So that’s what it’s all about. You going to Mass. Don ‘t look at me. I get enough disapproving looks from Father Anselm. Like I said, we’ll discuss this when we get home. If you don’t want Brid to come around, or take you to Mass, then I’ll tell her. Or better still you can.”

“When we’re all together,you seem to talk to Bridget more than you talk to me.”

“Caitlan.” I smooth a hand over my beard with exasperation. “Don ‘t tell me you’re jealous of my sister. I know you don’t like me looking at other women. Maybe we should live on a female-free desert island somewhere.”

Not only do I relish the taste of a double Scotch right now, I could also use a cigarette. I have planned this night, with my sister’s help, to be so perfect. Even the once blooming red roses are beginning to wilt in the heat of the crowded restaurant.

Waiters, bedecked in red shirts and black trousers, move through the various tables, trays of steaming hot food borne aloft.

Flicking a glance to my watch, I can’t help but complain to my wife over the late arrival of our meal.

“I just want to be alone with you so much,” Caitlan says.

I want to remind her that I’m alone with her now. Well sort of.

The waiter, a pimply faced individual, deposits our food before us. “Your order, Sir,” he declares. “Sorry about keeping you waiting,” he adds by way of apology.

When Caitlan interjects, “We’re going to have another baby, Aidan.”




Progeny Of A Killer: Chapter Two, Part 1

I thought I’d put up bit more of a taster for my current work in progress, my new novel Progeny Of A Killer. If you want, you can go to Chapter One Parts 1 and 2.

It’s probably best to add a little warning that there’s some violent content and strong language.

Cartwright’s Confession

“Who… who are you?” Cartright asks, now displaying an initial sense of fear. Particularily as Mitchell has yanked his arms so far behind him, the limbs are in danger of being snapped.

“Guns? I thought you were just going to beat me up. That’s what usually happens. I thought you were them kid’s dads or something.”

“Shut the fuck up! You talk too much.” The gloved fist I slam into Cartright’s  mouth takes him by surprise. He jerks his head back as blood drizzles from a lacerated lip. “The only talking we want you to do is to answer some questions.” I return the Browning to my holster. I warn him that just because I’ve put my gun away it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to kill him.

“Is Rosie okay?” Perspiration beads his forehead, dripping from his hair into his eyes. He blinks it back swiftly.

“We ask the fuckin’ questions.” Mitchell binds rope around Cartright’s hands, tightly interlacing the hemp to the back of the chair. While he does, Cartright emits an agonising ‘ouch’ of pain.

“Now, you fuckin’ perverted bastard, you’re going to tell us who that little girl is on the tape. The poor kid. You fuckin’ set fire to her. She tried to scream, but you gagged her, you bastard.” The blow Mitchell delivers resounds like a thundercrack as it connects against Cartright’s jaw, causing the tears to spring into his eyes. His pleas for mercy go unheeded when another blow almost sends him reeling from his chair. Mitchell is a powerfully built guy. “I asked who was she?”

Our faces remain concealed. Cartright attempts to penetrate the masks, while his eyes are narrowed as if with recognition.

“You heard him, bastard!” My anger is a formidable living, breathing force.

“Why should I tell you? You’re going to kill me anyway ain’t you?”  The words issue almost like a challenge, an open defiance. It’s as if he’s sure of himself, even when Mitchell, pulling the weapon from his jacket,unceremoniously whips him across the jaw. He wraps a muscular arm about Cartright’s windpipe, practically shutting off his breath.

“That depends on you, you bastard. You want to live? Then talk. That little girl. You still haven’t told us who she was. What did you do to her afterward? And her family, how do you think they feel? I bet it didn’t occur to you to think what they might be going through.”

Cartright’s nose is bleeding profusely. Blood continues to ooze from a split lip, seeping between a couple of shattered teeth. He spits out the blood, narrowly missing our boots. He regards Mitchell and I with an open defiance once more.

“She’s fuckin’ dead ain’t she? We fuckin ‘ buried her. Go on, fuckin’ shoot me if that’s what you’ve come for. He wanted us to do it. We didn’t want to burn the kid. It was his idea…” He ceases his talk immediately, as if he’s said too much.

“Who wanted you to do it? Who is behind all this? Because I don’t think  for a minute, that you’d have the brains. Not that what you did needs brains.” I listen to the impassioned anger present in my voice. It would be so effortless to simply plug the bastard where he sits, bound and helpless to the chair.

Cartright hesitates. I bring my face up close to his. Martin Cartright’s bloodied lips remain firmly closed.

“I… I don’t  know his name. He ordered us to abduct the kids, film ’em.”

“So was it his idea, whoever he is, to set fire to that  wee girl after you’d finished with her? She was hooded. Still alive…” I allow my words to trail. All this sickens me to the stomach. I never imagined how evil people can be even while I was in prison.

“You okay?” Mitchell enquires, concern in his voice.

I barely glance his way. My attention is centred on my attempt to discover more information from this monster. His bloodied lips negotiate a grotesque twisted line. He hisses, “if you kill me you’ll know nothing.”

“You only have to move your head, Cartright, and my pal will snap your neck. You said ‘us’. Is Louis Platt the other guy in the film?”

Aware of his hesitation, I repeat my question angrily.

“What film?”

“The fuckin’ home movie. Is that how you want to die, Cartright?” I mock contemptuously.

“What?” Perspiration breaks out along his brow again. There’s an unmistakeable stench of urine pervading the room.

“You filthy bastard! Come on, we ain’t got all night.” Mitchell hisses impatiently. “Now tell us about Louis, where he lives, and about the bastard whose pulling your strings. We know it used to be Lamond, but he’s brown bread. So who is it?” Mitchell wraps a gloved hand around a handful of Cartright’s hair and yanks it hard.

“Okay, okay, I… I’ll tell you. And if I do you’ll let me go?”

Let him go? To inform the guy whose pulling his strings? Our orders are to obtain answers from Martin Cartright. It’s the way Sir George Treveleyan works and this underground agency of his. Discover as much information we can from the mark, then terminate his life. Like I said it’s shit.I t’s no wonder that I drink, as I find no other outlet from this heinous occupation.

“So, Mr Cartright, who are you working for?” I adopt a more conciliatory tone, conscious of Mitchell’s eyes narrowed my way in the slits of his mask, warily. “Your pal Louis, you think he’s going to care? Or the guy you’re working for? They aren’t going to shed any tears at your demise are they? You want to take this rap alone? We kill you, and your pal Louis and the boss man whose behind all this are probably laughing. They’ll think you gave your life away to keep them in the clear. Ray Lamond’s dead. We know you worked for him. So whose taken over?”

“He’ll kill me if I talk.”

“And we’ll fuckin’ kill you if you don’t.”

“He’s like you. I mean he talks the way you do,” Cartright stammers. I observe there ‘s more urine leaking through his tracksuit pants.

“Filthy bastard, you fuckin’ stink. You’ve fuckin’ peed yourself again, ” hisses Mitchell.

I bring my face up close to Cartright’s. “So your pal Louis. His surname, is it Platt?”

“Yeah, his name’s Platt. Louis Platt.”

“Where does he live?” I insist.

“In Camden. He lives in Camden.”

“And the boss man. Tell us about him.”

Cartright is practically crying now, as evidenced by the drizzle of wetness that stains his cheeks. Tears intermingle with perspiration. As he’s bound to the chair, he’s compelled to allow both of them to fall unchecked. “I… I don’t know his name, but he’s a paddy. That’s all I know. A voice on the end of the phone and a package in the mail when he wants a job.”

“A paddy? You mean he’s Irish, this boss?” I cup a forefinger beneath his chin. “He talks like me?”

“Yeah, but harder,” his words are allowed to trail because Mitchell has wrapped both hands about Cartright’s head, as if it’s his intention to twist it right off. A singular twist in the correct place is capable of splintering the bones in the neck, enough to render him paralysed for the rest of his life, or to kill him.

Look out for the second part of chapter two this Thursday!

Progeny Of A Killer: Chapter One, Part 1


 London, 2012.

The basement was more spacious and accomodating than I had imagined. It was reached by yet another staircase. This one remains uncarpeted. My boots echo noisely on the bare boards. Flicking on the shadeless bulb, I observe it’s one of those low energy affairs. The light glows brighter, enough to illumine my surroundings. I kill my torchlight and slip it into my jacket. Pausing to light a cigarette, I scan the room in disbelief at the extensive amount of DVDs and VHS tapes occupying a couple of the large teak bookshelves. The only light in the twelve foot square room emanates from the bulb. A 42 inch TV, complete with DVD and video player, sits on a glass shelf.

To all intents and purposes, the basement appears innocent enough. A veritable haven for any movie buff. Except these aren’t the kind of movies you can enjoy with a beer and popcorn.

There’s a couple of hard backed wooden chairs face the T.V. I deposit my weight on one of them. I allow my gaze to traverse the room for anything that might be worthy of note. Nothing does it seems, apart from that huge television now standing idly by, collecting dust on the glass top.

I rest a hand on the chair arm, thankful that I’m wearing gloves, because something that looks suspiciously like blood is caked into the arm.

The stench pervades my nostrils and I swiftly leap from the chair. I taste the sliver on the leather. It’s definetly blood. I quickly rub the glove on a handkerchief.

Inspecting the shelves I read the titles. You certainly won’t find ‘Gone with the Wind’ or ‘Casablanca’ here. Nevertheless the titles catch my eye. Titles. Dates. Martin Cartright worked for the gangster, Raymond Lamond. He’s still working for someone, because Lamond’s been dead since February. The dates on some of the DVD’s are more recent. April. May. Up to August. Even two weeks ago.

My curiosity is aroused, and I remove the tape from the shelf. The smoke anchored an omnipresent fixture. A decidedly uneasy sensation now permeates my insides as I slip the DVD into the player. Sometimes, as now , I wonder what the hell I am doing here in a guy’s basement, awaiting his return. Upstairs, Dennis Mitchell guards his woman, whom he’s forced to the floor, before tying her up and gagging her. It was the reason why I volunteered to check out the basement.  I couldn’t bear to look into that woman’s terrified features any longer.

Two masked men had burst into her Brixton home, pulling guns and forcing her upstairs. This is shit. I know it, but I can’t help myself. It has to be my alter ego who flicks the remote of that DVD player. I wish to God that I hadn’t. Our brief is to check out some of the stuff Cartright houses in his basement.

The static is momentary, swift to clear. And there it is. My heart pounds. A trembling hand traces my bearded jaw thoughtfully. The scene unfolds. A child. A little girl wearing a grubby dress. There’s a suspicious saturation down the front, as if maybe she’s peed herself. The film is black and white. It’s only saving grace. She’s wearing socks that were once white, but are now grubby. No shoes. Her feet and hands are securely bound to a chair.  Who the girl is, or how old she is, I have no idea. She has a white hood, similar to the old fashioned flour sacks, pulled over her head, and tightened with a drawstring at the neck. I feel every tremble that she makes.

The two men with her are masked, balaclava hoods exposing only their eyes and mouths. One of the men is quite rotund, in possession of a stomach that is badly running to fat. In marked contrast, the other is positively skinny. Both are wearing camouflage. Because I cannot see their faces, they remind me idiotically of Laurel and Hardy. One thin. The other fat. ‘That’s another fine mess you’ve got me into.’

A laugh of sheer nervousness escapes me at the comparison, plus a physical sickness because I know that the fat one is Cartright. He’s the one touching the child up, while she sits there helplessly bound to the chair. She emits small, animal-like whimpers behind the hood, which makes me believe that she is gagged as well. I freeze when I think of my five year old neice, Samantha. My wee baby girl barely six weeks old. I can’t avoid the element of hysteria that rises. Only for it to subside, when breathing out I’m conscious of the semi-automatic .9mm Browning that nestles behind my jacket, as if the gun were an old friend. Oh yeah, Cartright. It won’t be much longer now, you bastard.

Cartright’s  laughter is ugly and forced as his big gloved hand slides  up inside her, beneath her dress. I catch a glimpse of the young girl’s almost hairless pubes. It’s plainly obvious that she isn’t wearing any knickers.

The skinny man. Treveleyan suggested his name is Louis Platt. It’s Platt who rips at her dress. The material tears apart in his hands, as if the dress were rotten. The hand rises upward toward her almost non-existant breasts. I would put the child’s age at around seven or eight. Aware that I should switch it off, I pull the tape from the machine, and crush the ungodly filth beneath my boot. But Treveleyan wishes for nothing to be destroyed. “Evidence, my boy, evidence.”

So I stare as if hypnotised, when Cartright pours what appears to be an almost colourless liquid from a small red can over the child’s head. I observe her entire body quiver inside her bonds. My stomach knots. My heart races so predominantly I can practically hear the rush of blood as it crashes through my skull.

Cartright and his companion evoke ugly, perverted belly-laughs. Their laughter is so sadistic and evil that I can barely believe that it emanates from a human being and not a demonic entity, summoned from the very bowels of Hell itself. Neither can I help but expel an involuntary gasp and feel the need to vomit simultaneously. Unable to watch any longer, I switch the abomination off And bury my head in my hands.

I have no idea how long I remain there, killing and lighting one cigarette from the glowing butt of the first. There’s a sound of hurried footsteps on the stairs. Dennis Mitchell exclaims, “What the fuck, McRaney? I wondered what was taking you so long. Did you find anything?”

“Oh sure I found something.” I attempt to clear my throat. Kill yet another cigarette. My stomach remains a bundle of knots. I swipe a palm across my eyes. There’s no way I can possibly allow this guy to remotely detect that I have shed a tear. He’ll think I’m not up to it. Maybe I’m not. But what else have I got left? Three eviction notices on my flat. My concern that my wife and baby will be homeless. It seems that no one wants to know an ex-con, especially someone whose been inside for manslaughter. “If you want to know what I’ve found. Then take a look in that machine, man. See what that bastards been doing.”

Mitchell’s eyes are of a strangely flecked hazel when they bore into mine. “I know what kind of shit he’s into.”

“Take a look,” I urge, and pass the remote. “You take care of her then? The woman. How much do you think she’s implicated in this?”

“I dunno. She lives with the bastard. don’t she? The stuff’s in the basement. What do you think?”

“Well, did you ask her? Were you able to get anything out of her?”

“I’m going to have to call the boss.” His tone of voice borders on the sombre.

“What about? To send in the cleaners?”

“That won’t be necessary. We’ll take the bastards with us.”

“The woman isn’t the target,” I point out. “We didn’t know she was going to be here. We were led to believe he lived alone. That wasn’t our brief, Mitchell.”

“That’s why I have to call the boss. See what he wants us to do.”

“Let’s concentrate on Cartright.” I flick a glance at my watch. “How much longer? Maybe the wee bastard’s got wise to us.”

Mitchell purses his lips.”We don’t need to fuck up. I wanna get this over with as quickly as possible. Look, McRaney, why don’t you see if you can get some answers from Cartright’s bird?”

“Don’t fuckin’ tell me what to do, Mitchell.”

I’m angry enough at what I have witnessed without  him assuming an unwarranted authority. Nevertheless he is correct in his assumption. We need to get this over with. Had expected our target to be present. Disposed of. Then to contact Treveleyan to send someone in  to seize the condemning evidence. That Cartright has been abusing young girls, most of them under 16. The girls are invariably masked, as are the abusers. The atrocities sold on forbidden Internet sites.

Apparently the late, lamented Lamond brothers were reputed to have had their depraved

fingers in a lot of pies, that even I had been unable to guess at. I’d not remotely suspected paedophilia. But Raymond and Francis Lamond are now dead. Alternatively,as attested to by the recent entries on those incriminating DVDs, someone else is ultimately working the ‘kiddie fiddling’ racket. Martin Cartright, a known paedophile, is merely acting on their behalf.

Unable to forget what I’ve seen on that tape, I leave Mitchell to check out the DVD. I move into the room upstairs where the woman lies on the floor. Her hands are bound behind her, her feet secured. Duct tape seals her mouth. Rolling a balaclava over my face before she clocks me, I observe her move her head in my direction when I enter.

She offered her name as Rosie when Mitchell asked. I judge her to be somewhere into her mid forties. She’s not bad looking I suppose, despite the addition of the peroxide blonde. Slenderly built, she wears pink pyjama bottoms with a tee shirt top. Rosie mutters incoherently behind the gag. I peel the  tape from her mouth. She regards me without speaking from wide, terrified eyes. She obviously believes we are there to kill her. I cannot speak for my companion, but killing her is certainly not my intention. All I require is some answers. Hunkering down to her level, I warn, “don’t scream, Rosie. I don’t want to hurt you, understand?” I talk to her gently.  “Understand?”

“I… I understand.” She starts to cry silently, allowing the tears to slide unchecked down her face. I wipe them away.

“That’s good. Because I need to talk to you before Martin returns. It is Martin isn’t it?”

Her nod is perfunctory. I guess it’s difficult for her to keep her head erect when she’s practically eating the carpet. She lies half-in, half-out under the bed, flat on her stomach.

“Are you going to kill him?”

“Depends on what he tells us sweetheart. You live here? I mean is this your house or Martin’s?”

“It’s his, M….Martin’s.”

“I need some answers. How much do you know about the stuff in the basement?” I maintain a carefully controlled voice, in spite of the perverse desire to grasp  her by that peroxide hair so belligerently  that it will make her eyes water.

“I don’t know nothin’. It ain’t nothin’ to do with me.”

“You’re lying, Rosie. How can you not know when you’re living with it in the house ? I’ve just watched one of those DVDs. It was called The Burning. What do you suppose that means?”

Short Story: The End Of The Road

This is just a rough draft, but thought it would be fun to share.

The End Of the Road

 Who would have thought it? The office mouse marrying the boss’s son, let alone dating him. His father, Samuel Pryor, was head of Pryor Holdings. Since the latter had suffered a heart attack recently, it was left to oldest son Mathew to run the London office.

photo Fresh out of secretarial college, Cathy Townsend had been lucky to acquire the admin job at Pryor Holdings. At first, Cathy believed that Mathew had asked her out solely for a bet. She had invariably seen the other girls in the office, laughing and joking with him. After all, at 26 he was a good looking man with his dark wavy hair, and such profound brown eyes. Cathy had often caught herself glancing away shyly, colour rushing to her face whenever he spoke to her.

Not only did the first date turn into a second, it developed into a relationship, then came the engagement. Now here she was, Mrs Catherine Pryor. They had recently returned from a three week romantic honeymoon in Italy. She had never realised how true happiness could be. Now she had found it in the arms of this man. She knew that the girls at the office all expected such a whirlwind romance to fail, and that a man like Matt would soon tire of her.  After all he could have had his pick of any girl.

Throughout the holiday he’d been both a constant and attentive husband. On their return he couldn’t wait to show her the new house in Kent. The place was out in the countryside, and all bought and paid for by Sam and Mathew. The young couple wouldn’t have to concern themselves with trifling mortgages. They could concentrate on making Sam, and his wife Andrea, grandparents. Sam was over 65, and wondered if he would ever have any grandchildren.  Cathy only wished that her mother could have been at her wedding, to witness her marriage to a man who was both attractive and wealthy. A man who never tired of telling her how much he loved her.

Matt and his brother David had spent the past few days fixing things up at the house, so that it should be perfect for the new Mrs Pryor. It was refreshing to escape into the countryside after the bustle of London. Cathy observed the hedgerows speed by beneath the wheels of her husband’s sporty red Porsche. He would often press a hand to her knee, smile and enquire solicituously if she were happy. That he would do anything to please her. He loved her so much. She had never entertained such peace with the world. She believed she never would again since her mother’s death. Her thoughts returned to the latter often, particularily since her marriage.

When the phone shrilled sharply on the dash, Cathy couldn’t help but jump, startled out of her reverie, annoyed that the instrument dared to disturb the peace. Snatching up the mobile, Matt demanded, “Stevie, what’s wrong, mate? You know I’m taking my wife to view the house today. I didn’t want to be disturbed. It had better be important.” The smile he directed her was apologetic.

Cathy had often wondered why he didn’t use the hands-free. But Sam had the idiotic notion that you never knew who might be listening in to the conversation if it were on loudspeaker.

“What?” Matt exploded, jerking himself up bolt upright in the driving seat. ” I thought that deal was in the bag. Come on, Stevie. Look, I’ll be back soon, but not today. You can handle it surely…”

As he talked he was prompted to swerve, narrowly missing an oncoming car. Her heart crashing, Cathy was compelled to grab the steering wheel with the warning for him to be careful.

“Don’t be a nag, darling.”

There was a distinct reprimand in his voice, one that caused her to lapse back into her seat in a subdued fashion. One of the reasons her Dad cited for leaving her mother was because he reckoned that her nagging had driven him into the arms of another woman.

So she said nothing, except to allow Matt to continue talking to his colleague over the phone. He was still talking when the huge stag came crashing out of the undergrowth. Cathy failed to avoid screaming in alarm when the creature stood before them, appearing as surprised as the Porsche’s occupants. Its antlers proud and erect, the animal seemed to emulate a kind of regal bearing as if they were the intruders, in the Porsche’s headlamps. It was already growing dusk.

The stag continued startled, but refused to move from its position in the middle of the road. The phone dropping from his grasp, his “Oh shit, fuck, what the Hell?” indicated that he had precious little control of the car, so that he couldn’t avoid hitting the creature, grazing its side, before the stag limped off into the bushes.

The Porsche, out of control, veered off into the side of the road, crashing into the undergrowth. Cathy was scared, and screaming, her hands covering her face as she felt the car bump ground, judder and threaten to overturn. Her husband managed to maintain the vehicle upright. All Cathy could feel was the excruciating pain as it throbbed through her head when it made contact with the framework of the door.

Momentarily, everything went black, except for the sensation of blood that seemed to fill her head, travelling down the side of her face. There was a kind of buzzing inside her skull, and she had lost consciousness for awhile. She was woken by Matt crying and yelling at her to hang in there. “Cathy! Cathy! Do you hear me?”

She came to then to find her husband bending over her, his face bruised, his hair falling into his eyes. “Oh Cathy, thank God you’re okay. You are okay aren’t you?”  He cradled her in his arms. “They should have put a warning sign up. I didn’t expect a damned stag to come charging out of the bushes.” She wanted to say, “but you shouldn’t have been talking on the phone.” She refrained in case he accused her of bring a nag again.

“The Porsche is a write-off of course,” he complained, scratching his head woefully as he regarded the damage to his pride and joy. “The old man is going to throw a fit.  But as long as you are okay, sweetheart, that’s all that matters. Look, you still got your phone, I’ll call an ambulance, get you checked out. Your head’s bleeding.” He touched a palm to the wound.

“It’s okay, really.” The last thing she wanted to do was to spend the night in hospital. She  had been looking forward to being alone with her husband in their new home. When she touched a hand to her head it came away sticky with blood, although the blood was already beginning to congeal. “If you’ll just help me out, I’ll be fine. It’s just a scratch that’s all.”

“But we should…” he started to protest. “And I’ll have to get someone to shift the car tomorrow.”

Matt managed to help Cathy from the car, explaining that the house wasn’t too far away. He continued to remain anxious however, about calling an ambulance. That he was worried about her.

“I told you I’m fine. ” She hugged him close. “Besides I want to see the house.”

“Okay,” He heaved a sigh of resignation, “but first thing tomorrow, Miss, I ‘m getting you checked out.”

“I’m not Miss anymore, remember. I’m Mrs Pryor now.” She imagined that she sounded a little slurred as if she had been drinking, while Matt cast her an uneasy glance.

“If you’re sure, Mrs Pryor.” He kissed her lips.

“Quite sure,” she told him, allowing him to take her into his arms.

Her initial reaction at sight of their new home wasn’t, much to Cathy’s chagrin, what she had really expected. The place was lovely, there was no denying that, with its white-facaded, old-style paned windows and fresh red brick. Even a small white picket fence encircled the Autumnal garden. She could  easily imagine how beautiful and filled with nighttime scents in the Summer. Obviously the crash had taken its toll. While Matt was rubbing his knee, that was already beginning to bleed through his jeans, Cathy attempted to muster an enthusiasm she was far from feeling, as he went onto explain the finishing touches he and David had accomplished. After ushering her into the house, he set to clean up her face, inspect her injuries.

“So how are you feeling?” he asked with the utmost concern as he taped a small bandage to her right temple. “Just in case. Although the bleeding seems to have stopped. Remember when I fell over on my stag night? Hit my head and had to have all those stitches. You threw a fit.”

“Of course I do,” she told him quietly.

He asked her if she might have a headache, that he’d fetch her some paracetemol.

“No, I don’t have a headache. In fact I feel fine,” she assured him.

“Well you look very pale, sweetheart. Perhaps I should get you to hospital after all. It’s not just the cut on your head, you might have internal injuries or something.”

“I told you I was fine,” she retorted a fraction impatiently, although she had no idea why.

Attentive as always, Matt  helped her into bed. After she’d undressed, Cathy entered the bathroom. She imagined that she heard the phone downstairs, but wasn’t sure whether Matt had bothered to answer it.

He had caught her shivering on occasions. It was the shock coming out, he’d said, for which he had prescribed a hot, sweet tea. Whenever he referred to her getting checked out at the hospital, Cathy thwarted him at every turn. She had the strangest feeling that if she spent even a night away from the man she loved, she might never see him again. A ridiculous notion of course, but one she failed to shake.

Inspecting her face in the bathroom mirror she was aware, with something akin to shock, how pale she was. Her eyes appeared to be practically sunk into the depths of her face. How the darkness enshrouding them had rendered her stark white features a skull-like appearance. Cathy discovered herself emitting a startled gasp. She was obviously still in shock. She couldn’t help but shiver at the recollection of the big bold stag standing there in the middle of the road. The way it had stared at them with such open defiance.

At first she was barely aware of the shadow that ostensibly flitted across her peripheral vision. In fact she thought she had imagined it, until the scream rose in her throat when she saw the woman. She was reflected in the mirror behind her. Cathy observed how the woman’s eyes were encircled by the deepest, darkest shadows so that they practically disappeared into the white skull’s face. The woman’s lips, a barely discernible line, formed into a kind of grotesque smile.

Cathy realised that she must have screamed, because Matt quickly burst into the bathroom, to find out what was wrong. Cathy asked him if he thought the house might be haunted. She explained about the woman she had seen in the mirror, although she had obviously vanished the minute Matt appeared.

“Haunted?” He attempted to suppress a rising tide of laughter. “You mean as in ghosts?” Cathy described the woman she had seen. “Of course not, sweetheart. Besides, ghosts aren’t real. They don’t exist. Anyway, Dave and me stayed here for a few nights while we got the place ready, and we didn’t see anything. I can assure you that the place isn’t haunted. It’s just the shock coming out that’s all. We’ve both been shaken up pretty badly. But things could have been worse.”

“Do people suffering shock hallucinate?”

“Maybe they do. You need to get some sleep.”

“You mind if we don’t?”

Kissing the top of her head, he held her close. “Guess I’m still too shaken up myself to even consider having sex. Besides I need to do something about my knee. it’s getting pretty painful. I’ll get that checked out too.”

“Did I hear the phone ring awhile back?”

“No, sweetheart, I didn’t hear anything.”

“Hearing things as well as seeing things.” She made a face. “I really must be in shock.”

During the night she had begun to feel so inordinately cold, that Matt reckoned she was making him feel cold in bed too, so he fetched more blankets and hot water bottles for her. He declared that first thing in the morning they were going to the nearest hospital. Cathy felt far too tired to argue.

Getting up in the night, and going to the bathroom, Cathy felt a scream rise up in her throat once more when she saw the woman again. Except now, she realised who the woman was. Although Cathy froze rooted to the spot, the woman’s thin lips broke into the semblance of a smile. Huge tears slithered down Cathy’s cheeks. This time she refrained from mentioning her to her husband.

The following morning, without further protest, Cathy allowed her husband to take her to the nearest hospital. Matt supported her with his arm around her. A nurse explained that he would have to wait. “But my wife is ill. She’s in shock. You see we had an accident.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll still have to wait,” the nurse retorted. “Mr…?”

“Pryor. Mathew Pryor of Pryor Holdings.” Although it was plainly obvious that the mention of Pryor Holdings made little impression on the stern-faced nurse.

“Matt!” At the mention of his name, Matthew Pryor turned simultaneously, to see the woman who had spoken. Andrea Pryor hurled herself into his arms, hugged her son as if he were a small boy again. His father was there too. His brother David, looking white and scared.

Matt realised that Cathy was no longer beside him. Where had she gone? He glanced around the room in bewilderment. “Wh… where’s Cathy? What are you doing here? Mum? Dad?”

His brother David had tears in his eyes, which he made a vain attempt to sweep away with a shaking hand. Sam approached his oldest son and shook his head, before wrapping an arm about his shoulder.

“What is it, Dad? Why are you all looking so upset? Me and Cathy had an accident. She’s getting checked out. We’re both fine. Just a little shock that’s all.”

“We tried to get in touch with you,” Andrea said. “Where were you?”

“I was at the house with Cathy.”

“You couldn’t have been, son. This accident…”

“Yes. A stag ran out in front of us. The Porsche is a write-off I’m afraid.”

“That doesn’t matter now, son,” Sam told him, brushing aside a falling tear. “I’m so sorry about Cathy.”

“What do you mean you’re sorry? I don’t understand.”

“Cathy was found dead in the wreckage of your car. You had crashed into a tree. Seems Cathy suffered a head wound that caused bleeding on the brain. We tried calling you. But there was no answer. No one could find you. Perhaps you went to get help” his  father suggested.