Tag Archives: Great fiction

The One That Got Away A Novel by Bryan Murphy Part One

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The telephone buzzed.

Teased out of his dream, Amos stretched out an arm and lifted the receiver. He placed the plastic implement on the table, then turned his body to the warmth of his wife, who was stirring under the sheets.

An hour later, the alarm clock crowed. Without thinking, Amos thumbed the snooze button. When the clock crowed again, he sat up in bed, turned it off and slipped the phone’s receiver back into its cradle. At once, it buzzed. This time Amos picked up the receiver and waited. His free hand caressed the indentation his wife’s head had left in her pillow.

A once-familiar voice slipped into his ear.

“Laxenby?”

“Amos, Inspector. Or should I call you Jack now?”

“Please do. It’s been a while.”

“I’m sure I’ll recognise your voice just as easily in another three years’ time.”

“Amos, I regret having to say this, but we need you. Amos? Did you read those files I sent?”

“I read them but I didn’t enjoy them. I prefer fiction these days.”

“Amos, a case like this … frankly, it’s beyond us. It may be beyond you, too, but you’re our best chance of stopping a repeat of what happened. You can name your own terms for this one, Amos.”

“Jack, don’t ring me again. I’m going on a fishing trip. You won’t find me.”

Amos left the phone off the hook and embraced the new day.

Part Two

With the help of the old man who looked after it for him, Amos pushed the boat into the calm water. He heaved himself over the gunwale, stowed his fishing tackle more carefully, set the oars, and rowed out into the lagoon.

When his muscles told him that they had woken up, he stopped to cream his exposed skin ready for the rising sun. As he rinsed his hands, his mobile phone vibrated against his thigh. He pulled it out of his shorts pocket and accepted the call.

“Amos Laxenby, my name is Vincent Thannington. I work for Her Majesty’s Government. You remember the files Jack sent you, I’m sure. Well, there have been further developments in the case. Most unwelcome developments.”

“And you need my help.”

“We are counting on you.”

“Sorry. No can do. I’m fishing.”

“Mr Laxenby, you don’t seem to appreciate the urgency of the matter.”

“Why are you talking to me, not to someone from Jack’s crowd?”

“We believe there may be an international angle to the case. You have more contacts, longer experience and deeper knowledge.”

“Sorry. As I said, I’ve retired.”

“Mr Laxenby, your country needs you.”

“Mr Government, my family needs me more. And I need peace and quiet.”

Amos closed the phone and bowled it like a googly into the lagoon. He heard its light splash and watched its ripple weaken. The sky was still unlit. He turned his attention to starting the boat’s small outboard motor.

###

Epilogue

I walked into his house. There was no need to knock. I’d sent his wife out shopping earlier. The house was clean but it felt lived in. I rummaged through his music collection for a CD I could bear to listen to.

When Amos walked in, Django’s guitar work was nodding my head. I smiled at Amos’s expression but my fingers gripped the glass of his bourbon more firmly.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Bryan Murphy.”

“Let me guess. New York City Chief of Police?”

I shook my head.

“An IRA enforcer?”

I forced a laugh.

“No, Amos. I’m your author.”

“Oh, I see. Getting heavy, now, are we?”

“Not at all. Just tell me, please, why you’re not cooperating.”

“Like I told those chaps, I’ve retired.”

“That’s what you told them. But me? Why aren’t you cooperating with me?”

“Look, I’ve become an ageing family man who likes nothing better than pottering about on boats. That’s just how I like things.”

“Amos, really? I can give you a posher house, a bigger boat, a younger wife. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve always looked after you, haven’t I?”

“Bloody hell, you’ve put me through some rough times.”

“But I’ve got you out of every scrape, haven’t I?”

“In your own twisted way, I suppose you have.”

Amos limped to the sideboard and poured himself a tumbler of Bushmills. No ice.

“I don’t have to do that, Amos. I can always have you flayed alive, roasted, or forced to watch while your grandchildren – ”

“But you wouldn’t, would you?”

“I probably would not. However, I certainly could. Your life is in my hands.”

“In your head, not your hands. And since I’m no longer cooperating, it’s going to stay there. Suits me.”

We stared at each other, neither of us blinking.

 

The author

Bryan Murphy did his share of fishing in Portugal and Angola. Nowadays, he is more of an indoor guy. He welcomes visitors to his website at www.bryanmurphy.eu and you can find more of his fiction at viewAuthor.at/BryMu His second novel will be out this year. It is full length.

Stuff It by Stuart Carruthers

a

 

The light streamed through the large window and cast dark shadows around the otherwise white room. Sara opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was, it looked like a hotel room, the white linen was soft to the touch and the duvet that covered her was full and voluptuous. It was expensive. But there was something wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something subtly out of place. She got out of bed and walked over to the window and looked down, where she could see cars and people scurrying around like mice.

Behind her she heard the door open. She wanted to turn around, but either through fear or bloody-mindedness, she kept looking out through the glass.

“Sara, I’m Doctor Smith.”

“A doctor,” she said to the window, “am I sick?

“Please sit down, Miss Jones.”

“Miss Jones? Why the change of address?”

“Miss Jones, I really must insist that you come and sit down.” The tone was firm and one of a person who was used to getting his own way. Sara complied.

“So Doctor, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing that a short stay here won’t cure. But before we get into that let’s talk about you.

“You’re Sara Jones and you live at this address?” He showed her his clipboard. She nodded in confirmation. “Excellent, excellent. You have a good income Miss Jones, one that many would envy, especially for a single person. Lots of disposable income.”

“I’ve worked hard and had a degree of luck,” she answered defensively.

“Of course, of course. Nobody resents you, please don’t take offense. I’m just checking a few facts.”

The questions went on for a while and the doctor eventually left, without telling her why she was there or how she got there. When she tried the door, she was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Having dressed in her own clothes that were neatly folded in the white chest of drawers, she walked along the corridor until she found a lift. It arrived after she pressed the down button, but nothing happened.

A voice came from a speaker. “Miss Jones you can only go to the roof, where you will find the canteen and the garden. The other buttons won’t work for you at this time.”

She pressed “R”.

When the elevator stopped, the doors opened on a Japanese garden covered by glass panels to keep the elements out. Around her she heard the sound of flowing water and the splashing of orange and white koi leaping in excitement at being fed.

Sara sat on one the benches that bordered the area. She was alone and she disappeared into her thoughts, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Miss  Jones.”

Startled, Sara’s almost jumped, but she controlled the impulse. Her job relied on not showing emotions, and she was well rewarded for this ability.

“Doctor Smith. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, but I may have some answers. This is a recovery home; you’re here to help us determine how we can help you recover from an illness. You will be released when we deem you are well enough to return to society. Your salary is still being paid and you’ll actually be able to work from here for the duration of your stay. There are full office facilities on the floor below and your laptop has been put in your secure locker. Here’s the key. Just return it when you return to your room. There are a few rules whilst you’re here, but you’ll be advised of those if you come across them.”

“What am I recovering from exactly?”

“Your spending habits.”

“But, but I buy very little!”

“And that is the problem. You don’t have enough stuff. Your credit cards are hardly used; your store cards have only the essentials registered. We’ve inventoried your home and quite frankly it’s very disappointing. You have one TV, one computer—a laptop—and a cell phone that quite frankly should be in a museum. You don’t even have a car; your bike is 15 years old. Your bank accounts show that you’re not living beyond your means or even close to it. You do, to your credit, have a bit of an alcohol problem and you eat out quite a lot, and a personal trainer helps you keep trim. Sorry, we can’t have him here, but there is a gym and pool two floors down.

“The thing is you’re supposed to want more.  A person in your position should have two televisions, a good selection of never used kitchen gadgets hiding in cupboards, many electronic gadgets that have long ceased to be useful, and of course lots of clothes that you hardly ever wear. Are you aware that interest rates are kept deliberately low to encourage you not to save and to spend more on credit?”

“Are you saying that not being a shopaholic is a crime?”

“Not technically, but it is an anomaly and as such is reason enough to have you detained here.”

“So, what do I have to do to get out of here? Promise that I’ll buy more junk? Max out my credit cards on Amazon? What do you want?”

“Well that would help, but it would only be a short term fix and you’d soon slip back into your old habits. What you’re here for is a long-term resolution, not just for you but so we can learn how to help all those who suffer in the same way. Thanks to MRI scanners, we know how to target most people’s sweet spots and we can target advertising in such a way as to get 62 percent of the population to buy anything we sell them. But there are a few of you on whom these methods just don’t work. We need to know why. You’ll be allowed to leave once we’ve found the reason.”

 ***

The days and weeks dragged by as Sara worked, exercised, and was tested, prodded, and interviewed over and over. Eventually she was let go. One day she stepped into the lift to go to the office. She pushed the button, but instead of going up the elevator automatically went down to the basement. There she was met by a driver and shown to a black car with tinted windows. In the back was an open bottle of champagne with a note around the neck.

“Thank you for your patience Miss Jones.”

Sara poured herself a glass of wine, relaxed back into the embracing seats and watched the television. It was a new sitcom sitcom. Sara chuckled at some of the jokes. She didn’t notice any advertising. But she had this feeling, a strange urge to buy a new bicycle and, yes, she really did need to upgrade her cell phone.

***

Stuart Carruthers writes speculative fiction and childrens stories and can be found on Amazon. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and two young kids.

Betrayal by Delinda McCann

 sewer rat

“I still remember the day after the emperor set fire to my portion of the city as if it were yesterday” – Philippe Rouseff on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday.

 

I took my wife to Mass more to please her than from any desire of my own.  I watched as the priest lifted the loaf and intoned the words, “On the night in which he was betrayed…” Bile rose up in my throat at the words.  I knew betrayal.

The Emperor, one of my closest associates—a cousin even, had struck at the heart of my railroad operation in an effort to destroy my family business.  I pressed my lips together to stifle the urge to cry out in anger as the priest held up the cup.  When Christ was betrayed, only one man died.  I wondered how many thousands burned when I was betrayed.

As the faithful shuffled forward to take their bread and sip from the cup, I shifted in my seat and pondered why that bastard crime boss, Wu, a better man than my cousin, had sent his wife to my offices to warn one of the bookkeepers about the impending purge.  As the bookkeeper raced from the building, she screamed, “Fire! The army is coming! Fire! Flee!”  Who else had been warned that the emperor’s army marched against the city?  Who had time to flee?

I had no desire to spend a Sunday afternoon working, but at three in the afternoon, I met with two railroad supervisors to survey the damage to almost a square kilometer of the city.  We drove up to the deserted M’TK station.  Blowing ash shifted and settled after the passage of my car.  My stomach churned as I wondered how many of my employees’ ashes mixed and blew among the debris of burned buildings?

The brick and slate train station still huddled beside the tracks.  Soot now stained the red bricks the same black as the rest of the borough.  We stood and looked over the desolation—nothing moved, nothing lived.  I wanted to hope that some of my people survived, but hope refused to kindle here among the ruins.  The workers were only indigenous northerners, laborers, but they stocked my warehouses and loaded my trains.

The Central Region supervisor looked up. “What the hell?”

I followed his eyes and soon made out a string of boxcars, pulled by a gerry-rig, slowly rolling toward the station.  Filled with the horror that lay around me, I stared transfixed at the approaching apparition.  If I were a superstitious man, I’d have turned and fled in fear of death and ghosts.  I refused to take my eyes off of this small sign of life.

When the rig with it’s string of boxcars towering above it rolled to a stop at the station the operator, dressed in railroad coveralls, lifted a woman down from the first boxcar.  A young boy about ten jumped to the ground.  This family appeared to be like any other of the northern poor—dirty and ragged.

The man introduced himself as the assistant stationmaster.  He unlocked the station for us and assured us that he had locked the station’s ticket money in the safe.  He seemed respectful enough.  He kept his eyes lowered as custom dictated for a man of his station.

I heard the eagerness in my voice,  “Have you seen signs that some of my people survived?

“I haven’t seen anybody within a kilometer of the station.  Wu warned me so I had time to move the equipment.  I suppose others had time.”

I shook off my melancholy for a moment.  “Listen, you saved my equipment and the money in the station.  I must give you a reward.  What do you want?”

The man answered immediately.  “The stationmaster ran away when he heard about the army.  I stayed long enough to save your equipment.  Give me the stationmaster’s job and let me live here with my family.”  For the first time, the man looked me in the eye. The sharp intelligence I saw in the eyes of a northerner surprised me.  The man’s humility returned when he asked for help to assist his cousin from the train.

Curious about the new stationmaster, I helped lift his wheelchair-bound cousin from the boxcar.  I almost recoiled from the reek that still clung to the air inside the car.  I recognized the stench that is created when many unwashed bodies are packed close together.  I picked up a small piece of waste paper flecked with fish scales.  The evidence before my eyes and nose told me that many people, probably northerners with their love of fish, had very recently been packed into this car.  In my mind, I saw people filling the boxcars to flee from the fire.  I suspected that my new stationmaster had his own reasons for his secrecy, but the knowledge that my workers had survived settled into my heart.

I turned to the humble man beside me and forgot a lifetime of lessons about the indigenous people from the north.  I suddenly saw not a worthless, northern laborer but a man created in the image of God.  I saw the man who had saved my people, a man of honor and compassion.  I wondered if he thought of me as just an oppressive Southerner.

I reached out to shake the stationmaster’s hand, fearful for the first time in my life of being rejected…

 

Submitted by Delinda McCann

This story is told from a different perspective in the book M’TK Sewer Rat: End of an Empire. This is the first record of Mr. Rouseff’s side of the story of the day he met his longtime friend Jacob Jaconovich, then the assistant stationmaster.

 Delinda Mcann

Author Bio

Delinda McCann is a social psychologist who has worked in the field of developmental disabilities for over twenty years.  She has served on committees for the state of Washington and been an educational advisor to other governments. She has published four books Lies That Bind, M’TK Sewer Rat: End of an Empire, M”TK Sewer Rat: Birth of a Nation, and Something About Maudy.

 

Links

http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html