Meanwhile, at the Bus-Stop

“Oh, Barry, why have you chucked the lid on the floor?”  The old woman sighed.  Barry, ten years old if he was a day, shrugged.

“Dropped it,” his nose wrinkled, making his spectacles wiggle.

“I bet you did.”

He held out the plastic cup from which he had been spooning chocolate sundae.  “I don’t want no more.”

“Oh, Barry.  You’ve ate less than half – you’ve ate a quarter of it.”

“I’ve ate half!” Barry asserted.  “I need a drink now.”

He began to root through their shopping bags, almost causing them to drop from the bus stop seats.

“Wait until we’re on the bus,” the old woman suggested.

“Ugh!” said the boy.  “That’s ages.  Have this.  It’s sickly.”

The old woman accepted the sundae and began to spoon dollops of it into her mouth.

“Is it nice?”

“Hmm,” said the woman.  “Bit sickly.”

“That bus is taking his time,” Barry observed, squinting along the road.

“You mind I don’t push you in front of it,” the old woman muttered.

Barry rounded on her.  “I heard that, you septic old trout.  You know you can’t lay a finger on me.  It’s against the rules.”

“Blow the rules,” the woman spat, her spittle mixed with flecks of cream.  “This ain’t working out for me, Barry.  I didn’t realise you’d be such a – such a little imp.”

“Should have read the small print than, shouldn’t you?  Are you going to find me that drink or what?”

The old woman pulled a bottle from a carrier bag.  Barry snatched it from her and twisted off the cap.  While he guzzled, the old woman smirked.

You hear about kids drinking weed killer all the time.  Tragic accident.  She couldn’t be blamed.  And he’d done it to himself.  There was no breach of contract.

Barry clutched at his throat and rolled around on the ground, holding his stomach in agony.  The old woman took the contract from her handbag and tore it in two.

When she’d paid for her late husband to come back, she hadn’t realised he’d be reincarnated as a baby.  A decade of running around after him, attending to his every need, his every whim, had reminded her how awful married life with him had been.  Better off alone, she reckoned.  Get some peace at last.

Gasping and gurgling, his eyes bulging even larger behind his glasses, Barry coughed up blood and bile and expired.  The tarmac beneath him cracked open and swallowed him with a belch of brimstone and a flash of flame.

The old woman gathered the shopping bags and got her pass ready.  Bus’ll be here soon, she supposed.

bus stop


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Meanwhile, in the trendy restaurant…

The waiter, dressed in cycling shorts, helmet and a bright yellow jersey as if he had just won the Tour de France, approached the table with a wary smile.  The couple looked apprehensive and were glancing around with increasing uncertainty at their surroundings.  The restaurant was festooned with bicycle parts: wheels on every wall, oily chains spanning the ceiling.  Handlebars adorned the backs of chairs, the seats of which were uncomfortably shaped like bicycle saddles.

“Do you need a few more minutes?”

The man cleared his throat; the woman looked askance.  The man jabbed his finger at the menu, which was shaped like a bicycle wheel.

“Soup of the day.  What is it?”

“It’s Tuesday.”

“Not the day, the soup.”

“Heh.  Just my little joke.  It’s spicy parsnip.”

The woman nodded enthusiastically.  “Sounds lovely, David.”

“She’ll have the soup.  I’ll have the uh…” the man’s eyes flicked up and down the list.  “The spring rolls.”

“Very good, sir, madam.  And for second gear?”

“What do you mean, ‘gear’?”

“It’s a gimmick, sir.  Here at Spokes, we have something of a bicycle theme going on; it may have escaped your notice.”

“For mains,” the man said emphatically, “I’ll have fish and chips and Sarah will have the moules mariniere.”

The woman nodded rapidly.

“Right you are,” the waiter jotted a note.  “I’ll just fetch you your drinks.”

He flitted to the bar and came back with a tray.  The man scowled.

“What’s this?”

“Your pint of lager and the lady’s sauvignon blanc.  Is that not right, sir?”

“No, that’s right, but –”

“David!” the woman snapped.  “Don’t make a scene.”

“But look at them!  I can’t – we can’t be expected to drink out of oil cans.  It’s not sanitary.”

The waiter pursed his lips.  “I can give sir every reassurance these cans have been thoroughly, not to mention industrially, cleaned.”

“It’s fine,” the woman smiled thinly.

“Like hell it is,” the man slapped the table.  “What’s wrong with proper glasses?”

“Like I said, here at Spokes we have a theme.”

“I don’t give a monkey’s fart about your bloody theme.  Fetch me a proper glass or you’ll find yourself in need of a puncture repair kit.”

The man grinned as the waiter scurried away.

“There was no need for that,” the woman wailed.  She tried to sip wine from the nozzle of her oil can.

The waiter returned.  “I can offer sir a trophy.  First place, no less.  I can decant sir’s beer into it in two shakes.”

“Fuckinell,” said the man.  “Oh, go on then.”

While the waiter tipped the lager into a gilded trophy with ornate handles, the woman paled.

“Excuse me.  Do all the meals come like that?”

“Like what, madam?”

“On wheels!”

The couple watched in horror as a second waiter carried bicycle wheels flat like platters, dripping sauce from one and gravy from another as he passed.

“Here at Sp -” the waiter tried to recite.

“You have a fucking gimmick!” the man roared.

“But – I ordered the soup!” the woman gasped.  “How will that work?”

“It’ll be fine!” said the waiter.  “Keep the wheel spinning fast enough and the wossname – the centrifugal force – will keep the soup in place.”

The woman whimpered.

“This is ridiculous,” the man got to his feet.  “Come on, love; we’re going.”

The woman winced apologetically and stood.

“We’ll try that new place over the road,” the man said loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear.  “What’s it called, love?”

Snake-in-a-Basket,” said the waiter, holding the door open.  “Good luck to you.”


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Little Black Book

Jason got carefully out of bed, wincing at the creak of the mattress.  He grabbed his trousers from the floor and tiptoed to the bathroom.  Why am I being so quiet, he asked himself, feeling foolish?  It’s my house!

He went downstairs to put the kettle on.  No point making his guest a cup – he was dead to the world.  Jason waited for the water to boil, reliving moments from the night before.

Danny had shown up out of the blue.  Jason had already gone to bed.  “Cold out. Can I stay here?” was Danny’s greeting as he took off his coat.  Jason was more than a little stunned.

“How long has it been?” Danny flopped on the sofa.

“If you mean since we saw each other – too long.  Not since – you know – the accident.”

Danny shrugged.  “Got any beer?”

“I can do wine,” Jason offered.  “If I’d known you were coming…”

“Wine is fine,” Danny decided.  Jason went to the kitchen.

When he came back with a nice pinot noir and a couple of glasses, Danny wasn’t there.  His shoes were on the floor.  And so were his jeans.

Jason smirked.  He took the bottle and the glasses up to the bedroom.

“Remember this?” Danny lifted the duvet.

“How could I forget?” laughed Jason.

Afterwards, there had been sleep – but not much.

The kettle boiled.  Jason made instant coffee for one.  He had so much to do that morning; he hadn’t planned on an overnight visitor.

He filled the washing machine and washed plates from the day before, mindful not to make too much noise.

Upstairs: silence.  Jason crept up to the landing and peered around the bedroom door.  There was the man-sized lump under the duvet.  Jason snuck toward it.

Perhaps I should get back in… perhaps we could have a rematch…

Gingerly, he peeled back the duvet.  It collapsed.  Jason pulled it away completely – the bed was empty.

Damn!  Damn, damn, damn!

He reached for the little black book on his bedside table.  He would need a stronger incantation if his boyfriend was to come back for good.  After all, Jason wasn’t going to let a silly thing like a fatal car crash come between him and the love of his life.

black book

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Freddie waited anxiously for the post.  He’d taken the day off work, called in sick, because he didn’t want to miss the delivery.  He sat by the front door, afraid to go to the bathroom in case he missed it.  Twice he opened the front door and checked the doorbell was working.  Was it loud enough?  Would he hear it if he went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea?

The phone rang startling him.  It was his mate Robert, calling from work.

“Sup, dawg?” Robert drawled.  Freddie laughed.  Robert was the most strait-laced person he knew, always wore a tie no matter the context.  To hear him appropriating American slang was never less than hilarious.  “You sick, mate?”

Freddie essayed a cough.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” said Robert.  “Honestly, what are you thinking?  HR will be onto you, you know.”

“It’s important.  Look, I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?”

“OK.  You ‘feel better’, OK?”


But Robert had already disconnected.  Freddie could picture him at his desk, fretting over being complicit in the lie.  Well, I didn’t ask him to call me, did I?

Freddie was so lost in thought he almost missed the doorbell and the subsequent knocking at the door.

“Parcel for you,” said the postman.  “Sign here.”

Freddie wiggled his finger over the touchpad.  The resulting scrawl looked nothing like his signature but the postman went away happy.  Freddie shut the door and even locked it.  Stupid, he scolded himself.  There’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of.

He tore open the box and delved his hand into the polystyrene packaging chips.  He pulled out a padded envelope.  He tore that open.  Inside was a small packet, like a sachet of seeds.

“X-B-Gone” it said.  Freddie frowned, disappointed.  Somehow, he had expected more.

He opened the packet and poured a small tablet onto his palm.  “Take one a day” said the instructions, “or whenever you feel the situation requires.”

He swallowed the pill dry.  Nothing happened.  Perhaps it takes a while to kick in…

An hour later, he was outside Debbie’s house.  He hadn’t been there for years.  Not since the break-up.  He’d finished it.  Debbie was a lovely girl, but she was too needy, too over-bearing.  It had taken months for her to let him go.  It had bordered on stalking.

Steeling himself, he rang the bell.

“Freddie?” gasped the woman who answered.

“Hello, Mrs Grant.  Is Debbie in?”

Mrs Grant looked concerned.  “I suppose…”  She backed away.  Freddie shifted his weight from foot to foot.  He heard Mrs Grant call, “Debbie!  There’s – someone – to see you.”

And there she was, still looking great.  She stood on the doorstep, frowning and looking in all directions.  “Hello?” she called out, glancing up and down the street.  Then she shrugged and closed the door.  Freddie heard her say, “You’re losing it, Mum.  There’s no one there.”

Freddie laughed.  It worked!  He was now invisible to his ex!

The next day, he went for after-work drinks with Robert.

“Glad to see you’re feeling better,” Robert said stiffly, “Listen, mate.  I’ve got something to tell you.  I’ve invited someone along, I hope you don’t mind.”

Freddie shrugged.  He didn’t mind.  He was finally free of Debbie and her weird behaviour and that was all that mattered.

“Here she is now,” Robert got to his feet and waved across the bar.  “This is Shelley.  I think you may have already met.”

Freddie gasped.  Shelley!  Of all the girls he’d known, she had been closest to being The One.  Shelley was perfection on legs.  Everything had been great between them.  Beautiful, intelligent Shelley.  How lovely to see her again!  Perhaps she’ll see she’s wasting her time with Robert and will give me another chance…

A chair pulled itself away from the table.  Robert rubbed his eyes.

There was nobody there.



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Teacher’s Pet

“Mum!” Sophie slammed the front door behind her.  “I’m home!  We’re home!”

In the kitchen, Sophie’s mother wiped her hands on a tea towel and went to intercept her eight-year-old daughter in the hall.  But instead of her ex-husband, she found only Sophie, her arms struggling to hold a bulky object covered with a blanket.

“Where’s your dad?  Scarpered again, I suppose.”

Sophie was too excited to answer the question.  “Isn’t it wonderful, Mummy?  It’s my turn.  The whole half term!  I got lucky.  Most people only get him for a weekend.”

Sophie’s mother grunted.  Lucky was perhaps not the word she would have chosen.

“Remember what we agreed, love.  You are responsible for it.  You will do all the feeding, all the cleaning out.”

“Yes, yes,” Sophie rolled her eyes.  She pushed past her mother and lifted the object onto the kitchen table.

“Sophie!” Mum wailed behind her.  “It can’t stop there.  I’m making tea.”

“Oh, it’s just for a moment.  He’ll stay in my room, silly.”

Mum was about to upbraid the little girl for her attitude but she held her tongue.  It was good to see her so excited, so determined.  Perhaps bringing the class pet home would encourage her to be more responsible, more grown-up. It was Miss Taylor’s policy.  Everyone in her class took a turn in looking after the school pet, no matter how disruptive or obnoxious their behaviour.  Perhaps those kids needed it the most and, truth be told, Sophie was no angel.  She could be a proper little madam.

“Well, let’s have a look at it, then,” Mum reached for a corner of the blanket.

Sophie slapped her hand away.  “No, Mummy!  That’s what you must never do.  You’ll scare him.  He doesn’t like artificial light.”

“I think,” Mum spoke in measured tones, “you’d better take your little friend upstairs right this minute, young lady.  Before I lose my temper.”

Sophie rolled her eyes again.  She’s not eight, she’s a teenager already, Mum thought, watching her daughter manhandle the covered cage up the stairs, cooing to it.

Mum carried on peeling potatoes.  A thud from upstairs made her look at the ceiling.  A scream.  Sophie called for her mother.  A growling, a horrible, guttural growling.

Mum bounded up the stairs, armed with the peeler.  She pushed her daughter’s door aside.


The cage lay open on the floor.  Sophie was sprawled on the rug, reaching a hand to her mother.

Mum was just in time to see a greasy, grey tentacle slip into her daughter’s ear.

Sophie blinked and sat up straight.

“It’s all right now, Mummy,” she intoned, staring blankly.  “Miss Taylor says I won’t be any more trouble from now on.”


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“Do come in.”  Victor stepped aside to admit his visitor.  “Excuse the um,” he gestured at his grubby lab coat.  “Haven’t been able to put a wash on for a while.”

The visitor nodded, causing the feathers hanging around the brim of his hat to wave as though in greeting.  He stepped over the threshold and wiped his feet on the mat.

“I don’t usually – um,” Victor closed the door.  “I mean, I’m a scientist.  I believe in the rational, the measurable, the observable.  But I’m desperate, sir – What do I call you?  Is ‘sir’ OK?  Or do you have some title?  I mean, I’ve never employed a shaman before but –” Victor’s shoulders slumped in defeat.  “I’m desperate.”

The shaman looked around.  A thump rattled the ceiling.  The light fixture wobbled.

“Oh, that,” said Victor, with a dismissive gesture.  “That’s nothing.  If you’d come through to the kitchen…”

He ushered the shaman along the hall.  The kitchen was tiny and dominated by huge coils of copper that let off lazy sparks.  Slabs of batteries were stacked on the draining board.  The low buzz of electricity filled the air.  Victor’s hair stood on end and the shaman’s feathers stood to attention. From above, another thump and a growl.

“Ignore that,” Victor tried to smile.  “That’s not why you’re here.”

The shaman peered at papers, heaped on the kitchen table.  Weather forecasts, charts and projections.  The outlook was fair.  It was a mild winter.

“That’s it – what do you reckon?” Victor chewed his thumbnail.  “I suppose some kind of explanation is in order.”  He waved at the equipment.  “You can appreciate the need to find other sources of fuel.  Renewable, I mean.  So, I’ve been harnessing electricity from lightning.  Hence all the doodads and thingumabobs that have taken over the kitchen.  Otherwise I’d offer you a cup of tea – Do you drink tea?  I don’t have any peyote – or am I being racist there?  Sorry.  The thing is: I stored enough lightning power to get the washing machine up and running.  I was between loads when the cat got in – he likes the warm, you see.  He curls up in the drum.  I always have to check – don’t want a drowned cat!  Who does?  Anyway, while I was pegging out one batch, Thomas got in.  It began to rain so I had to get everything in again, sharpish, and then there was a bolt of lightning, straight to the conductor and I heard the washing machine start up and there was a yowl and a roar.  I dropped all the clothes and dashed inside.  Instead of Thomas, there was this – thing in the kitchen, with slavering jaws and claws as long as my forearm.  Well, I managed to lure it upstairs and lock it in the bedroom – I shinned down the drainpipe, barely got away with my life.”

Victor turned to show the back of his lab coat, slashed to tatters and stained with his own blood.

“Oh, please, sir!” he seized the shaman’s hand.  “Call up a storm.  I’ve rigged the whole house.  Call down as much lightning as you can.  I don’t know how many bolts it will take but I want my Thomas back again.”

The shaman wrested free of the mad scientist’s grasp.  His eyes darted around the room.  On the floor, heaped among the washing, he spotted a dog collar, a mitre, a star of David and a prayer mat.  Clearly, he was not the first non-scientist the madman had tried.

Upstairs, the thing that used to be Thomas growled hungrily.

Steeling himself, the shaman lifted his hands to the skies and began to chant.  As though his life depended on it.


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“And there’s nothing else missing?”

Derek Bradley scowled at the policeman.  “I don’t care if anything else is missing.  They can take the whole bloody house if they want.  But the one thing – the only thing they took was the one thing I cannot do without.”

The policeman tapped his biro on his notepad, adding to Bradley’s irritation.

“And you’re sure it just hasn’t been misplaced.  It’s not going to turn up somewhere.”

“Of course it bloody isn’t!” Bradley snapped.  “How many exams did you have to fail to get your bloody job?”

The policeman gave a patient smile.  Men like Derek Bradley didn’t need reminding to keep a civil tongue in his head.  That would have the same effect as poking him with a sharpened stick.

“The description you gave,” he glanced at his notes, “About the size of a fist, you said, grey like pencil lead and porous like a pumice stone…”

“Yes,” sighed Bradley.  “How many more times/.  Surely by now you should be out there making an arrest.”

“The item has value then?”

“Beyond measure!” Bradley cried.  “Oh, I don’t mean money.  Rare as it is, it’s not the money.”

“Sentimental value then.”

“Well, no… well, yes.  Yes and no.  Without it – the moonrock – my marriage will fall apart.”

“Your wife will be cross?”

Bradley emitted a bitter laugh.  “Oh, you don’t know the half of it, mate.  Cross?  She’ll bite my bloody head off.”

“I see…”  Although it was clear from the policeman’s tone that he didn’t.  “And your wife has access to the alarm code?”

“Of course she does!”

“Anyone else?”

“No!  No, I’m very strict about that kind of thing.  Just me and Anoushka.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Mrs Bradley.”

“And she won’t have moved it – the moonrock.  Taken it to show someone, perhaps?”

“No, no!  She wouldn’t – she couldn’t!  You see, my wife is unable to touch the moonrock.  It’s just not possible.”

The policeman rubbed his eyes.  “Mr Bradley.  There is no sign of forced entry.  The alarm has not been tampered with and all that’s missing is some lump of rock.”

But Bradley wasn’t listening.  He was chewing his thumbnail and pacing the carpet, casting anxious glances at the clock.

“It’ll be dark soon.  If Anoushka comes back and the moonrock’s not here…”

He opened the door and tried to usher the policeman through it.  “You had better go now while there’s still time.”

“Do you want the theft reported or not?”

“Just go!  Please!”

But the policeman remained in his seat and folded his arms.  “I think, Mr Bradley, you had better tell me exactly what is going on.”

While Derek Bradley jabbered on, ever conscious of the impending twilight, several miles away on a coastal clifftop, Mrs Anoushka Bradley tossed a grey object the size of her husband’s fist into the sea.

At once she felt better.  She pulled off the lead-lined gauntlets she’d ordered off the internet and chucked them off the cliff too.

As she drove home, she wondered how Derek was getting on with the policeman.  He’s bound to have told him all about me by now, she reckoned.  My Transylvanian background.  My dependence on the moonrock to keep my human form…

Well, there’d be no more of that.  No more of Derek controlling my every move.

She put her foot down.  If she timed it right, she could be home as night fell and there’d be two men to sink her fangs in and not just her measly husband.

As the sky darkened, Anoushka threw back her head and howled, and for the first time since her wedding day, her fur began to sprout.




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Fish Face

“What is the meaning of this?” Sly bashed at the roof of the carriage with the silver top of his cane.  “We appear to have deviated from our customary route home.  Chesterton!  Chesterton, damn your eyes!  I order you to turn around at once!”

The driver showed no signs of altering their course or of even hearing his master.  The carriage continued to pelt down the backstreets of Wapping, the horses’ hooves thundering on cobblestones.  Sly heard the protests of pedestrians as the wheels splashed them with filth from the puddles.
“Chesterton!  What in hell’s name has possessed you?”  Sly thrust his head through the window and tried to beat the man with his cane.  “Chesterton!”
The blows had no effect.  Hunched at the dashboard, in his shapeless overcoat and flattened top hat, his face bound in a muffler, the driver cracked the reins, whipping the horses into a frenzied gallop.  The streets were alarmingly narrow; Sly had to withdraw his head a few times lest it be struck off by overhanging tavern signs and the like.  On they plunged, bumps in the road lifting the wheels.  Sly had to hold onto his hat with one hand and his seat with the other.
At last, they came to a sudden, jarring halt.  Sly was unseated by the jolt.  Cursing, he righted himself.  The carriage door opened.  Chesterton waited to assist the master.  Sly waved away the offered hand and stepped out into mud.  “I trust you have come to your senses at last,” he grumbled.  “I shall have your hide for this, I -”

His words dried up as he took in his surroundings.  They were at the river’s edge.  The great Thames, brown and greasy, crawled sluggishly ahead.  Far across, on the opposite bank, lights of taverns and brothels twinkled dimly, signs of city life beyond his reach.  On this side, there was no one, no one at all.  No one save the brute Chesterton and the horses.
Sly clutched his cane, preparing to defend himself should the brute have any untoward ideas in his lumpish head.  He glared at the man.  Where was his deference, damn it?
“Why have you brought me here, God rot you?” Sly’s voice betrayed his fear.
Above the muffler and beneath the brim of the hat, the driver’s eyes flashed, eerily green.  An arm extended and a hand in a roughly-made glove pointed at the water.
Sly understood.  He backed away, shaking his head.
“No, no!  Please!  I need more time!  You must grant me more time!  There is so much I have yet to accomplish, so much I want to do.”
The hulking figure was impassive, deaf to all pleas.
He took off his hat and dropped it into the mud.  He unwound the muffler, slowly revealing a face that was gaunt and wan, like that of a fish from the deepest recesses of the ocean,the mouth a gaping circle of needle-sharp teeth.
Sly screamed and, dropping to his knees, sobbed.
“I beg you, please!  I’ll do anything – anything at all!”
It was too late.  He could feel it happening.  He could feel himself shrinking within his fine clothes until they were smothering him.  Tiny now, Sly flopped and flapped, gasping, panicking.  Dying.
Chesterton picked up the clothes and put them on, then with the silver-topped cane he batted the little green-eyed fish into the river.
He turned to the horses and gave them a pat.  They would soon get used to seeing him with the master’s face.  The first thing he would have to do when he got back to the house on Grosvenor Square would be to hire a new driver.

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Table 13

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

Millie looked up from her Kindle and into the steely grey eyes of a tall man in a black suit.  “Yes – I mean, no,” she waved him away.  She dropped her gaze to her Maeve Binchy but she was aware that both man and empty chair remained where they were.

“Most kind,” said the man, pulling out the chair and sitting on it, “To let me join you.”

Millie frowned.  The café was bustling, the air full with the buzz of conversation, the rattle of spoon against china, and the aroma of freshly roast coffee.  Joining her at table 13 was the man’s only option.

The man must have seen the frown; he half stood.  “I’m sorry; were you expecting someone?”

Millie met his gaze again and heard herself say, “No, no.  I never am.”

The man smiled and sat down.  “Read a lot, do you?” he nodded at her device.

“When I get the chance,” she replied tartly, her lips a thin line.

The man laughed.  “You come here often.”

It was a statement rather than the clichéd opening gambit of an unimaginative chatter-upper.

Yet again, Millie found herself gazing into those eyes, like twin gun barrels.  Silver, they were, rather than grey.

“You always order the same.  A skinny flat and an apricot tart.  Something of a contradiction!”

He smirked to see Millie’s frown plough its furrow between her eyes.

“And there’s never been anyone special, has there?  No one at all, in all these years.”

Millie stared at the man – this intruder with his impertinence and his questions and his – She looked beyond his eyes to take in the rest of his features.  Fine cheekbones, he had, and a strong, angular jaw.  His hair was black to the point of blue, swept back from his smooth forehead like a sea of wheat, waving in a field, awaiting the reaper’s scythe.

He was handsome, she’d give him that.  In a peculiar, almost eerie way.

“Oh, there was once…” she said wistfully, her voice trailing into reverie, as thoughts of Charlie floated to the surface of her mind for the first time in twenty years.  Charlie, with his broad grin and the splash of freckles across his nose and cheeks as though he were perpetually decorating.  Charlie, with his shock of golden hair and his eyes like turquoise stones.  Charlie, who could make her laugh, and who had made her cry when he stood her up for their date at the Odeon.  It had been weeks before she learned he had been killed, knocked off his bicycle on the ring road on his way to meet her.

“You miss him,” the man said, and Millie wasn’t sure how many of her thoughts she had spoken out loud.

Those eyes – no, they weren’t grey or silver, they were turquoise – seemed to look right into her and read her like a book – like a Kindle!  Millie laughed, and the man reached across the table and took her hand.

And she gasped to see the freckles appear on his face, and his thick, golden hair fall from his brow.

“You’ll come with me, then,” the man whispered, and Millie found herself nodding and getting to her feet, and walking out of the café, leaving behind her bag, her coat, and even her precious Kindle.

Hours later, the waitress approached table 13 and put down a saucer with a curl of paper.  “Closing now.  Your bill, love.”

The woman did not respond.  In her hand, her Kindle flashed, its battery low, before winking out completely.

“Love?” said the waitress, reaching for the woman’s shoulder.  The woman fell forward, face down onto her uneaten apricot tart.  The waitress screamed.

“No need for that,” said the manager, coming over.  “See?  She died with a smile on her face.”


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Bobby ran to his mother’s room, sobbing.  Janet wrapped her arms around him until the storm subsided.

“He was there again!  That man!” Bobby sniffed.  “Standing there, watching me while I was in bed.”

Janet smoothed the boy’s hair.  “I’m sure it’s just a dream, darling.  Nothing but a dream.”

“But I wasn’t sleeping.  I sat up and I watched him, watching me.  He looks so sad, so sad.  I wish I could help him and then perhaps he’d go away.”

“Now, darling; you must stop this nonsense.  From now on, you shall sleep in here and I shall take your room.  Let him show his face to me, this man of yours!  I’ll give him a piece of my mind.”

“He’s not scary, not really.  Just sad.”

“Hah!” said Janet bitterly.

“Who is he, Mummy?  Why does he keep coming back?”

“Never you mind,” Janet tucked Bobby into her bed.  She pulled on her dressing gown and kissed him on the forehead.  “I’ll go to your room; you’ll be all right.  He won’t dare to come in here!”

In Bobby’s room, the man sat on the bed and sobbed, burying his face in his hands.  Sometimes he could sense his son’s presence.  The room was exactly how it had been before –

Sometimes, there was a definite chill in the air – like now.  As if some malevolent entity had come in.

“If that’s you, Janet,” he spoke to the empty room, “I’ll never forgive you!”

There was no answer.  The man went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea to dispel the chill in his bones.

I ought to leave, he thought for the thousandth time.  But how can I?

It was in this house my wife killed our boy and then herself.  And I will never leave him alone with her again.


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