BEGINNINGS - PUBLISHED SHORT STORIES
I CELEBRATE MYSELF
The stench was overwhelming, a mixture of mildewed fast-food, feces, rotten fruit, used sanitary towels, crumpled tabloid sheets of the New York Daily News and God knows what. I gagged and fought back the bile that threatened to lead a revolt of my stomach as I crawled over trash in the shadows. If my husband could see me now, he’d have a fit.
NOT TO COUNT THE COST
Up to that time I thought we could cope with anything. Until the snow struck. It wasn't the predicted heavy snowfall but a freak intense blizzard: ice spicules pummelled the canvas-covered trucks, sent up a deafening rataplan from the vehicle bonnets; the temperature plummeted to minus ten degrees.
THE END IS NIGH
All the churches in the world were full. And the synagogues. And the mosques. As an atheist I wasn’t surprised that all this prayer wasn’t working. Unfortunately, nothing else was, either. Science had no explanation. For five years now there hadn’t been a single baby born. Not one. Plants and flowers no longer bloomed. They didn’t die, they just never blossomed into flower, their leaves a dull grey.
NOURISH A BLIND LIFE
Not long now. My tenacious hold on this mortal coil is weakening but I have no regrets as I look down and for the first time in sixty years see myself, lying there, still trapped within that faithful, old husk. There is no bitterness in me; the poor body served me well enough, impaired as it is: it kept me going until I met her and fifteen years beyond.
She came out of the godforsaken planet's seasonal mists, struggling under her immense weight. She wasn't welcome.
THE HOUSE OF AUNTY BERENICE
Purple was etched beneath her wide eyes. The slightly built girl in the shadowy doorway wore an eggshell-blue dress and apparently nothing else. Some people answer and look as if they're truly at home, in body and spirit; somehow, she didn't seem to belong, not here in this dilapidated house, not in shadow.
A mountainous landscape populated by dragons strode out of the swathes of sauna steam and approached me. Hiroki Kuroda was tattooed over his entire torso and down to his wrists and calves; at a glance he gave the impression that he was wearing long johns, instead of which he was a walking exhibition of yakuza body art. As a member of the yakuza, a Japanese criminal organization similar to the Mafia, he endured hundreds of hours of pain simply to show that he could. Hiroki waved with his left hand; the little finger was missing at the first knuckle.
He had large eyes, big ears and, surprisingly, his middle finger was very long on each hand. ‘He looks cute,’ I said, lowering the photograph of the little aye-aye. His hair was black and he had a long bushy tail. His eyes seemed to be expressing surprise at finding himself in a cage rather than the diminishing rain forests of Madagascar. Perhaps the daylight conditions affected him too, which wasn’t strange really, as his kind is nocturnal. ‘But,’ I added, shaking my head in mock-concern, ‘my fiancée wants something a bit more exotic. Know what I mean?’
BEGINNINGS – PUBLISHED NOVELS
THE BREAD OF TEARS
God knows, I didn’t mean to kill him. As a rule – how we religious delight in our rules! – nuns don’t kill or maim. I was just approaching the dogleg in the alley when he came rushing round the corner out of the darkness. As he thudded into me, methylated spirit fumes fanned my face in heavy gut-wrenching waves.
The agent who called himself Mr. Swann entered the Queen’s Hotel bar at 2PM, just as he had promised. In my business I’d met a few spies and all of them were nondescript. After all, to be a good spy, you need to blend in, be unmemorable. Swann just didn’t fit that category, so I wondered if I was wasting my time on this mysterious appointment…
Chapter 1: August, 1968
Six Soviet officers stood on the balcony overlooking St. Wenceslas Square and the definition through the sniper-scope was so good that Tana Standish could detect the black-heads round their noses and the blood-shot eyes that testified to late-night celebrating with alcohol. She had ten 7.5mm rounds, more than enough to kill all of them.
We were in our usual booth, where we couldn’t be overheard. ‘We can’t keep on meeting like this,’ I said.
Chapter 1: Friday, September 8
Dressed in his sinister black SAVAK uniform, Captain Hassan Mokhtarian looked every inch the evil man he was. A man who deserved to die. Tana Standish could see him quite clearly through the telescopic sight, even making allowances for the poor light as dusk descended over Tehran and the city’s surrounding mountains, turning the overshadowing snow-capped cone of Mount Damavand a delicate shade of mauve. At least today the city smog didn’t obscure the peak of the volcano which still belched out sulphurous fumes from time to time and killed the odd stray sheep.
THE $300 MAN
‘$300 – that’ll do nicely!’ said Bert Granger as he finished thumbing through the billfold Corbin Molina had been encouraged to hand over. As added persuasion, Bert held a revolver in his other hand.
DEATH AT BETHESDA FALLS
James Thorp eased his sorrel horse to a halt on the outskirts of the small town of Bethesda Falls, which nestled at the base of the mountain’s foothills. He was dressed entirely in black. Black because he was in mourning. Mourning the men he had killed.
THE MAGNIFICENT MENDOZAS
Rope restraints prevented Josefa Mendoza from moving her svelte body out of harm’s way. Wrists and ankles tethered, she felt her insides churn in fearful anticipation. Her cinnamon skin was beaded in sweat. Abruptly, an enormous knife blade thudded into the wood to the left of her ear and tiny grains of sawdust powdered her bare shoulder. The sound was deafening as it hit.