The Blood That Makes The Flowers Grow

Source

Glenn Simmonds

A gnat navigates through the aromatic-fugged flight-paths drenched in fragrant odour of burgers and onions at a boot fair in the Southeast. The outskirts of Maidstone. The onions were probably grown in the county which we call Kent, The Garden of England. This is where our story begins, in the wonderful orchards and fields of Kent, with the multi-layered organic onion standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the minced-up hunk of Aberdeen Angus. Juicy patties. Cochineal-esque ketchup. Melted cheese that burns the roof of the mouth. Broken plastic lids on polystyrene cups holding rubbish scalded lakes of tasteless beverages made from instant coffee, ruined in an instant by modern life and the modern need to get things done and dusted quickly.

Glenn Simmonds, 44, spreads his tatty empire across a warped pasting-table in the confines of a crusty field on the Sutton Road as the Jeremy Kyle holding-pen descends upon the site of the Sunday-afternoon retail spectacular.

He picks up a hand-held mirror from his mildewed pasting-table and gazes lovingly at the flat surface which reflects his own face.

A man with a wooden hand inspects the little treasures on Glenn's pasting-table.

'How much for the wristwatch, mate?'

Glenn is immediately irritated. He knows the wristwatch is worth more than the wooden-handed man would want to pay, but he doesn't have the guts to ask for a decent price.

'Forty-five pounds' he replies

'I'll think about it' says the man with the reddish-brown hardwood hand.


Glenn texts his friend, Lindsay

*tap tap tap*

'There is a guy at my stall with a wooden hand'


'Beefburgers are never as good as you think they are going to be' he thinks.

Glenn, that is, not the gnat or anything. The gnat has died. Sorry, I thought I I'd mentioned that.

Glenn should remember that this is Arthur's Friendly Boot Fair, on the Sutton Road. It is not Langhams Brasserie offering guests a relaxed dining experience accompanied with delicious food and...etc.

'I'll give you £25'

'Yeah, but it's a rare watch'


'Actually, I'll give you the £45'

'Really?'

'Yeah, bless ya, it is a nice piece and I'm buying it as a special gift for my brother who is 60 this year. He loves these vintage timepieces, and he had one of these Harrods Silver Cushions once before'

Glenn, being a bit shallow and also remarkably gluttonous has, by now, regressed in effectiveness of thought and, in footballing terms, he has taken his eye off the ball. His focus has changed. His prime concern, now, is the burger.

He realises that his burger is probably not 100% beef.

All sorts rush through his brain.

'Wouldn't the Food Standards Agency have something to say about this?'

'Would the FSA not insist on at least 82% beef?'

'What about a chicken burger or rabbit burger?'

The man pays for the wristwatch. Two twenties and a five, in case it matters to you

Gnats don't live long anyway

Maybe about five days

'Funny how time flies' says the man with the mahogany hand, as he taps his newly-acquired wristwatch with his two wooden fingers. 'Click Click. Wink Wink'

Having said all that, they do tend to lay about 300 eggs in any one sitting. They might not live long, but there's a lot of them about.

I do know the scientific name for the common gnat, but I doubt there are scientists reading this

Lindsay Strange

Lindsay loves to lay among the fleshy spore-bearing mushrooms in the bee-stained meadows and copses at the top of Detling Hill. Today is no exclusion. She reclines on the grass with one half-cocked leg and one ox-blood DM digging into the terra-not-so-firma, killing a rusty millipede. It isn't an intentional insecticide, with resin-soled footwear. Millipede death , by misadventure, that's what it is. Lindsay's chromatically-follicled head rests like a brightly-hued egg that has fallen from the nest of an American Robin, and she averts the gaze of her grey-granite eyes to the sky. She studies the chem-trails and grooves out on the taste of the edible mushroom she has just popped into her mouth. Nineteen other mushrooms sit impatiently in a wicker basket like edible phantoms on a ghost-ship wailing 'Eat me, eat me' This is Lindsay In Wonderland. Well, in Detling.

She knows the difference between toxic mushrooms and edible mushrooms. Hallucinogenic Lindsay, as she is known in Maidstone, is as treasured as the prized truffle amongst her peers and suitors. Her knowledge of subterranean fungi is, in fact, the talk of the town. Her fungal captivation has the whole county in conversational appreciation. Often. She studies the chem-trails as her mind drifts and swirls with finial recreation. The trails of fluffy jet-expulsion streak across the sky like lines of cocaine set down on a pale blue table-cloth.

'Are they beautiful against a bright blue sky?' she asks

'Or are they the alarm-bells to wake us up to the dangers of global warming?'

Her mind races, in a race that nobody can really win

Jet engines that spew out hot humid air. Mushrooms that send strong messages into the brain and throw the thought-process into disarray. Ice-crystals that form in clouds behind the jet engine. Cocaine sold by precocious kids in playgrounds of the rich and famous. Mushrooms that argue with the rules of nature by growing up through tarmac. Governments that take advantage of the chem-trail situation and surreptitiously release other dangerous substances into the atmosphere. Teenagers that eat lumps of dope and crap themselves on dance-floors. Mushrooms that flex their proliferating muscles even more and grow through concrete. Lindsay is confused. Who feeds these mushrooms? Who allows these chem-trails to become the deadly portmanteau of the modern age? Who bestows the mushroom with such immense power? Is it the same personified idiot-law of physics that allows the bumble-bee to fly? Lindsay is very confused. Who lets the jet-planes vomit out their vaporised death-threats? The chem-trails, the mushrooms, the crystal villains of here and now, the ruined atmosphere, the grey-granite eyes that cry and cry and cry and cry and cry.

The bees, the suspicion, the loneliness of the psilocybin mushroom-eater.

For a strong man it can be all too much

For a delicate Scotch Pixie like Lindsay, residing in the garden of England amongst the intricately colourful flowers, it is a step too far.

Laws of nature, secrets of biology, too much for a Scotch Pixie with psychedelic plumage

The man who found the body will need counselling for the rest of his life. The first police-officer on the scene will need therapy for about three months. No sympathy there. He took the job. If you don't like the water, don't join the Navy.
The dog that the man was walking, the man who found the body that is, will be okay. It will just move on. It is a Curly-Coated Retriever, FFS, not a Bichon Frise



Freddie Forrest

Source

As the postman hands the package to Freddie, in his footwear-cluttered hallway, the tattoo of a bloodshot split-smoked kipper is clearly visible on the postie's flesh betwixt thumb and pointing-finger, same part of the hand where a prisoner or a sailor might have a tattoo of a swallow to show they were in prison or in the navy. Freddie wonders if the tattoo will have any great significance further down the line, in this mystery psychological thriller in which he has found himself so deeply immersed. Perhaps the seemingly random color of the tattoo will suddenly explode into some kind of striking implication at some measurably low point in the story? Maybe not? The tattoo might just be a device to lead the amateur home sleuth astray? Geddit?****

Anyway, by this point, Freddie is back at his laptop, ready for his 'Rabid Commenting on Online News Reports' session for the day. It is part of his timetable at the 'College of Why Does It Always Happen To Me?' He is already enthusing his way through the first class of 'Swearing At The Jeremy Kyle Show' and soon it will be 'Double Bigotry' lesson, before lunch. He watches Jeremy Kyle, screaming at the benefit-scroungers as he drenches his xenophobic esophagus with Liquid Headfuck. Narrow-minded sectarian racist remarks are hurled like plastic bullets at his color TV. More cider, but at least this is Biddenden Cider, made in the beautiful orchards and vineyards of South East England. Traditional. So what that he is drinking it out of a German Stein whilst tapping out opinionated anti-Semiticisms on a Japanese keyboard. 'Made In England, me' yells our red, white and blue-colored traditionalist as he barks at the Swedish telly and gobbles on a bacon sandwich, meat being of Danish origin. Traditionalist. What could be more natural in a traditional apple-growing area than to produce apple cider? What could be more patriotic than drinking basin-loads of the stuff whilst keeping your eye on the televisionalistic interlopers who want to steal all your money and build castles and mansions back in their own lands? 'I'm keeping it real, I'm backing Britain, me' says Freddie. He's keeping it real, he's backing Britain, him. Available in sweet, medium or dry these ciders will quench your thirst in the heat of summer or the chill of winter. Traditionalism brings color into your life, and you get to chose the color.

The swallow also represents love, care and affection towards family and friends, showing the loyalty of the person always returning to them. The bird also represents freedom and hope.

As Jeremy tells another adolescent young buck to 'put something on the end of it' Freddie drains the stein and staggers out to the kitchen for more Liquid Headfuck. The package from the postman remains unopened because his curiosity has dwindled from parcel handover time to the sit down at laptop time following walk through hallway and diner time. He, that's Freddie, is a bit 'pissed off' today, but he can't work out why. Well, it is part of the college curriculum anyway, to be 'pissed off' constantly. That's why he attends the 'College of Why Does It Always Happen To Me?' in the first place. That's why he rips open his curtains every day and it's like he's opening the college gates and taking his seat in the class of 'I fucking knew it' He needs this mandate to moan about life. His stein is half-empty. It is always half-empty, no matter how many faltering steps he takes to the fridge to refill it.

Source

By 6pm he is euphemistically beaten to a pulp, smashed in the face with a club hammer in the name of cider-intake. Sometimes called a Lump Hammer, it has a double faced head, and is useful for light demolition work, driving steel chisels and masonry nails. In this case he is hammered euphemistically, with fermented apples and raging bigotry. Emotional damage can be so much worse than physical damage. As debris is likely to fly, the wearing of safety glasses and working gloves is recommended. In both cases. Emotional and euphemistic or physical and real.

The prisoner thing with swalllow tattoos is probably to show you have 'done your bird'

As he chews his bottom lip in twisted chauvinistic one-sidedness he curses the Teutonic ex who had found the audacity to dump him 17 years ago. He hates the fact that he has even succumbed to buying this very stein that he is drinking from, as some kind of twisted impulsive nod to her German charm. He wishes he hadn't gone on e-bay in the first place and he would never have seen the stein, let alone bought it. £17.99, plus p&p. The ideal drink for summer barbecues and cold winter parties in a cold evil clay stein that might speak for a nation of efficient engineers but does f*ck all for our Freddie who's backing Britain until the Black Hereford Cattle come home. Britain's got Milking Shorthorn and British Fresian. Britain's got Hereford Bulls. Britain's got British Beef. Britain's got the SAS. Britain's Got Freddie. Here he comes, desperately poking his key into the Lambretta on the drive, cos he wants to go out in a blaze of glory like Jimmy in Quadrophenia. 'Fuck you Germans' he yells, as he fails to start the Italian scooter. 'We didn't start the BSE war. I am British and I eat British Beef. Argentinian Beef can take a walk too. Beef is BRITISH. I spit on your gravy'

Enraged at not being able to start the Lambretta he throws the key down and watches the scooter crash to the tarmacadam. He has the package from the postman in his hand. As yet unopened. The key is not a key. It is a nail-file. The daft git has mistaken a nail-file for a scooter ignition key. He staggers onto the Tonbridge Road and heads for Barming Bridge. 'I can still end it all there' he yells. 'Like Jimmy in Quadrophenia, but not on a scooter. More like the bit where he jumps off a balcony in the nightclub'


Daft sod

Phil Daniels

Phil Daniels, 55, sits in a pub in Islington, unaware of what is going on in Barming. Phil has never even heard of Barming. He slumps on a bar stool in The Old Red Lion, famous for the matchbox-sized fringe theatre that sits above it, answering questions about Quadrophenia, Breaking Glass and Scum. Signing autographs. 'Don't they know that I played a waiter in Bugsy Malone?

Anyway, back to the story

Source

Freddie Forrest

He staggers up the Tonbridge Road (Freddie, not Phil D) and pings into Fant Lane. He knows these parts like the back of the prehensile multi-fingered extremity located at the end of his arm. 'I got your number, written on the back of my hand' he warbles, as he zig-zaggs down Fant Lane. 'Well, The Jags were kinda mod' he tells himself. 'I'm a fucking mod, me'

'I got your number'

He doesn't make it to Barming Bridge. He falls to the mud by the riverbank, defecating like a baby, chin slobbering with intolerant racist jibes. By the time he's realised that it isn't the women that have f*cked him over and crushed his heart, and by the time he realises that it isn't the Bulgarians or the Latvians who have f*cked him over and taken his life, it is too late. His own bigoted brain-cells have started to eat themselves. Cannibalism in the pituitary gland. Great name for a punk song. 'Cannibalism in the pituitary gland, is coming some time and understand'

Freddie isn't a punk though. He isn't even a mod, in the broad sense of the word. He certainly isn't a moderate person. He slides into the river, slithering slowly on the mud and filth that have become his manifesto for a better life in England. He goes under and he sucks in a mouthful of the substance and species that make up the pulp fluidic composition of the River Medway. He splutters and gasps as a whole range of historical characters flash before him. 'People come and people go' says Oswald Mosley 'but they should not be allowed to settle here' Freddie nods in agreement as he swallows some more of the River Medway. 'Why does it always happen to me? Those other-nationals are killing me. Look, they are killing me' He doesn't really want to die. The romanticism of his suffering at the hands of the evil interlopers is just a sham. He finds a safety-handle to grasp. A lifeline. He grabs the bar and he reads the words as he wipes mud from his confused eyes.


A little wacky yellow banner with the name in blue, apart from the 'L'which is offset and red.

LIDL

The Germans

He goes under, cursing the Germans

The police find the lifeless body, still clutching the stein.

There is an inscription in the clay on the underside of the stein.

Auf dem Weg in eine bessere Zukunft

On the way to a better tomorrow

Lidl's motto

As the divers do their recovery bit, Officer Derek World picks up the package from the river bank. The package that the tattooed postman had given to Freddie. Inside the bag he finds six cardboard cut-outs of the letter 'U' with an accompanying note that reads 'Please correct those 'color' spellings from earlier. We are in England, not America'


**** red herring

Keith Edwards

Keith Edwards, driver for the Royal Mail. HGV driver, no less. Has worked for the Royal Mail for 26 long years. Longer than the Great Train Robbery guys got in 1963, 25 years before he picked his cap and boots up from the RM Quartermaster Stores. The irony, he gets a longer sentence than the guys who robbed the Royal Mail. Never mind. 26 years at the Post Office and here he is directing one of his favourite movies, the great 'Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?' starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. How is this even possible? Even Keith himself can't quite fathom how he is controlling the cinematic movements of Baby Jane Hudson as she performs to adoring crowds in theatres and as she inspires the creation of the expensive “Baby Jane” doll, sold in the lobby after her shows. 'Oh wait' says Keith 'This should be theaters, not theatres, cos it is set in America' He can't work out how he is directing a film from 1962, but he doesn't care because he just feels so lucky to have been given the chance. 'Can you use the wheelchair with a bit more emphasis?' he barks, at Joan Crawford. Keith, driver for Royal Mail, bossing the legendary Joan Crawford about. He knows that Joan's character, Blanche, is paralysed from the waist down.Oops. Paralyzed. It's America. He is amazed to find that he has the same sensations. 'Is this method-directing?' He actually gets that loss of muscle function crap and he goes into complete appreciation for her neuromuscular problems. Without getting too Tony Blair on this, he feels her pain.

'I'll bring them through to you' says Tabee the barmaid as Jo and Sue order their lagers at the bar in The Pig. The Pig, I should explain, is Ye Olde Thirsty Pig in Knightrider Street, still known, though, by most Maidstonians, as The Minstrel Wine Bar. It was built almost 500 years ago at a time when Henry the Eighth was running around divorcing and re-marrying and generally being a thirsty, ravenous pig himself. Perhaps he visited the hostelry himself back in the 1540's? We can never really know.

Strange to think that Francis Drake, our great sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, pirate and politician was born in 1540 when the Pig was built and he's been gone for years whilst the Pig is still here.

Tabee runs a neat bar and she is extremely proud of her devotion to duty

Drake's family fled to Kent, from Devonshire, in 1549. Religious persecution, and all that

Tabee, still very much alive and in the flourish of her youth, serves up the Kronenbourg to her two eager recipients

Drake died of dysentery while anchored off the coast of Panama. He was buried at sea in full body armour

Life is all about the here and now

Tabee wins, for now




Harley Dodge

'You really think I should inform the cops?'

'Yes, Sue. Especially after Lindsay going out like that, and after the Freddie Forrest incident'

'You reckon they are linked, then?'

'Well, it does seem strange that Lindsay AND Freddie are or were both members of our group and they have both died in pretty grim circumstances, and now Harley is missing'


Sue didn't really want to believe that Jo could be onto something, but she had to admit that it was looking odd. Okay, their Maidstone & Memories group has almost 2000 members and you will always get coincidences in a group of such numbers, but Harley is missing, after all, and it's not his style to vanish like this, even just for a night.

'I don't really want to believe that you are onto something' said Sue

'But you have to admit it's looking odd'

'But our group has nearly 2000 members and you will always get coincidences in a group of such numbers'

'Almost. It's ALMOST 2000 members'

'What? oh yeah. So I go to the cops and they'll probably laugh at me for reporting a missing youth after just one night'

'Have you checked his FaceBook page?'

'Yes, of course, and the last thing on his page was a comment on his wall from Keith Edwards. Hmmm, he's in the group too'

'What was the comment?'

'Something like ARE YOU STILL ON FOR TOMORROW?'

'Oh for God, Country and Coca-Cola! Have you not tried calling Keith?

'Nope, don't have his number'

'Fuck sake Smorbs, I'll get it off Scotch Ken. We have to call Keith'


Tabee carried two more Kronies through to the front room

'I hope you're okay, Sue?' she said, as she placed the two glasses on the shiny wooden table, about 15, maybe 16 inches from the outer edge.

'Have this round on me, and I wish you all the best'


Drake's most illustrious ship was a galleon known as The Golden Hind, though it was originally called The Pelican. It truly was the superstar sailing vessel of Elizabethan times

Jo came back from the bar with Keith's phone number





Author's Note

The glasses were actually only 11 inches from the edge of the table. I rang Jo and got her to measure the gap. I'm surprised at that




Keith Edwards

'I've written a letter to Daddy, saying "I love you'

'Oh, come on Bet. You can sing it better than that. I want more of a mournful wail. Pretend your puppy just died, or something'


Bette Davis just shrugged, as Victor Buono shook his head on the sidelines in disbelief that a futuristic English postman could be directing such a classy film in the swank of Los Angeles

'They'll probably just dub Debbie Burton's vocal on afterwards, anyway' he remarked


A familiar tune with woodwind instruments nudges our postman out of his enforced reverie. The theme tune to Mary, Mungo and Midge. Keith's head spins wildly. He feels immense pain in his torso. The Mary, Mungo and Midge theme tune emanates from his smartphone, which is tantalizingly (and predictably) just out of reach of his bloodied digits. Keith listens as Johnny Pearson's musical arrangement wafts over, rather like an aural version of the gravy aroma in the Bisto advert. Hearing the tune takes him back to a time when there were seemingly no troubles in the world. It was all so simple back then, before Thatcher ruined it. Coming home from school and sitting in front of the black & white tv with a glass of milk and a Custard Cream. The haunting theme tune and the comforting avuncular voice of Richard Baker narrating the tale of the three M's who lived in a tower block. A life so simple, ruined.

'He's not picking up' says Sue

'Drat' says Jo

'Help me, help me' says Keith

He is pretty sure that his back is broken, split in two like a broken tree-trunk fractured by an overloaded lorry, probably a short wheelbase superhauler carrying a cargo of reconditioned vending machines.

Pain, weakness, loss of sensation. It feels like he has been kicked by a pony.

Or, perhaps, a small horse.

The bump on his head is the size of a small rodent, no smaller than a baby mouse, no larger than a pubescent shrew. This is where the blood is coming from. It's not streaming, but it is still coming out like lava from a volcano, but in slow-motion. The blood has started to clot but the blood still seeps out like the lava pushing through the crater on the volcano.

Mary, Mungo and Midge are long gone, leaving our troubled subject to gaze up at the huge cavernous shell that is the interior of the building. He can see three decorative grilles on each side of the proscenium arch, and a narrow frieze across its top, depicting charioteers in full-on racing action mode.

'It would obviously be a bit daft to NOT have them in action' he muses

'Why would you want a frieze of charioteers where they might just be sitting around, perhaps just smoking a fag between races? It just wouldn't be the same'


He feels the knife-like pain in the mid to lower part of his spine, and also he feels it on the sides and in the front of his spine. Pretty much all over then. Poor Keith.

Parts of the balcony are creaking more than ever now.

'Imaginably, they could have had a group of charioteers engaged in a bit of good old-fashioned fisticuffs outside one of the Ziggurats'


It is dark and extremely dusty but he can see the balcony jutting above his headspace and it is cracking more than ever and bits of it are peeling away.

'Or perhaps they could have been shagging by The Hanging Gardens of Babylon'


The plasma still oozes from the volcanic crater

Mary, Mungo and Midge are back

His fingers are flexed in desperate attempt to reach the phone

His back shifts a little and the knife goes in deeper as the angry pony delivers a bone-shattering kick to the lumbar region. This ain't no Babycham Pony

He reaches the phone as the pony kicks harder

'Hi'

'Mister Edwards?'

'Yes'

'Ah, it's Tesco delivery driver, been trying to deliver your order. Sent two texts and we are at your door now'

'I can't be there right now. I'm in a psychological thriller'

Crack

A large part of the balcony breaks away and all Keith can think about is Mary, Mungo and Midge and the joke about the guy falling from the 'top balcony' He chuckles a bit.

'That's a good 'un, that joke'

Unbelievably, Mary, Mungo and Midge are back again, but this time he's too weak to pick up the phone

'He's still not picking up' said Sue

'Goodbye Mary, Mungo and Midge. Hello top balcony. Goodbye charioteers'


Keith makes his 'exit stage left' in a cinema that played a huge role in his journey through childhood and into adulthood. He is sent to the cemetery by the very balcony that he sat on to watch Danny woo Sandy in 1978.


His online delivery, mostly cider, cat food and bubble bath, remains on the Tesco truck

His remains remain on the cinema floor amongst broken celluloid memories as he gasps his last breath

Every little Helps

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? was a surprise box office hit, grossing $9 million at the worldwide box office and $4,050,000 in theatrical rentals in North America, as a former child star torments her crippled sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion.

The Granada Cinema

Source

André Vocáse

'Why don't you tell someone? At least tell your parents. Surely they have a right to know'

'Not really. I like to deal with things in my own way, and, anyway, I don't want this thing to define me, definitely not'

'Well, it's up to you, Andy, but I still reckon you should spill. Problem shared, and all that'

They sit at the new patio table in Andy's back yard. Ken and Andy. Cider. New table. Well, not terribly new but newly assembled after sitting in hallway for 18 months, in it's package.

'New table?'

'Well, not terribly new. I bought it ages ago but assembled it this morning when I knew you were coming round to help me with the garden'

'Thanks'

'So I opened the box, it's the package that I left in the hallway'

'Please sit down'

'A sunlit Strongbow in the glass by the shed'


They meet up only occasionally these days, Ken and Andy. The odd gig, the rare wedding, that kind of thing. Today's excuse is a gardening task, Ken helping his old pal to clear some terribly overgrown and jungly brambles. Wild, tangled and prickly, Ken is not getting any tamer in his middle age. The veritable Thistle of Scotchland. Kenny the Bruce. Balvenie DoubleWood coarsing through his jock-northern veins (probably) as he studies the wild overgrown brambles of doom, flexing his sinewy Scotch muscles for the task ahead.

'When you say you like to deal with things in your own way, what do you mean?' he asks

'Ah,well, I have my own, well, my little, oh, schemes'

'Yeah?'

'Yeah, remember what Celine and I used to do after I'd bust my tibs and fibs?'

'I think so, the alternative pain-relief?'

'Yes'

'Well, I still do that. It heals all physical pain, without the need for drugs, and it heals most emotional pain'

'Most?

'Yeah, some things can't be healed'


Half of the contents of Andy's shed are out on the grass, well, out on the tangled mess of resolute vegetation that he calls his garden. The plan to clear the brambles and to tidy the shed is failing. They are waylaid by nostalgia as they quaff cider and rake through boxes that have been left untouched for years upon years. Old birthday cards. Tobacco tins filled with rusty nails and never-to-be-used washers. Press-cuttings. Forgotten forget-me-nots and souvenirs kept as reminders of a person, place, or event but ones which have failed because the person, place or event is no longer in the keeper's mind.

Ken and Andy look at the brambles

A stick insect looks at them as they look at the brambles. Then it sees the hedge cutter lying in the greenery. The stick insect knows that if they use the hedge cutter it could mean a painful death. It's hopes are pinned on (a) that they get so drunk that they abandon the garden project or (b) they notice and decide to keep the stick insect as a pet. People do keep stick insects as pets.

'The Black Screen, I called it, my way of dodging pain'

'How does it work?'

'Well, I'll explain. Just give me a few moments, without butting in, and I'll tell you how it actually came about'

'Sure'


More drinks are poured, obviously, and the hedge cutter is idle as the narration commences

'I always liked to daydream as a kid, and as an adult, why not? I guess that daydreaming is usually an unconscious thing...'

'Subconscious'

'Whatevs, and then I decided that instead of waiting to fall into a reverie I would manipulate the situation. I just put my hand over my eyes and drifted off and I was soon in other places. You have to kinda force yourself, up to a point, and then the door springs open and you're away. Celine was always a bit esoteric. I suppose you have to be, being an osteopath, which was considered an unorthodox practice in France, at the time. So she got me to give a running commentary of my journey as I was behind my Black Screen. I might have been hovering above Victorian England, in orbit around the chimney pots and swooping down to look at people close-up. The journeys had no respect for time,place or era, and the more detail I gave to Celine the more she could see I was engrossed. Transfixed. That's when she began experimenting, pinching my skin, jabbing me with pencils and then sticking pins into my flesh. I didn't feel a thing. I have learned how to do that, and I use the method to this day'


They carry on, picking mementoes out of warped cardboard boxes.

'Ha ha' says Andy, as he passes a press-clipping to his Highlander friend

'This was the first time I realised that authority and general officialdom is corrupt'


Kenneth reads the 1971 report from The Boston Echo:


Robert (Bob) Dreyfuss of Boston Woods passed away on Sunday, July 11th 1971.

He was born in Sibsey, Lincs, on May 20, 1946, to the late Patricia and Robert Dreyfuss.

On Sunday 11th July he attended St Botolph's Church for the Sunday Service, with his wife, Victoria. Bob began to snore and Victoria was becoming embarrassed so, to wake him up, she hit him on the back of the neck with her prayer-book. Unfortunately, this didn't wake him up. Instead it killed him. Tragically, Bob, whilst sleeping and snoring, had been dreaming that he was a nobleman during the time of the French Revolution and he had been grabbed by the public and placed on the guillotine. The swish of the guillotine-blade coming down coincided with the moment his loving wife rapped him on the back of the neck with the prayer-book. He died instantly. heart-attack.


Bob was a beloved member of the community and could frequently be found leading programs for children at the local library. An advocate for children’s literacy, he helped found the Boston Early Literacy Foundation in 1969..


A viewing will be held at Shuman’s Funeral home at 7 p.m. on Friday. The funeral will take place at 2 PM. on Saturday, with the burial immediately following.

'Ha, that fucking sucks' says Ken, with a smile breaking out across his stern Northern face.

'Beaurocratic inexactitude at it's best' he continues. 'I love quaint old tales like that. I remember reading a story when I was a kid. It was an account of how an elderly couple employed a “nice” German prisoner of war to tend their garden during the Second World War. Such a charming chap. Then, when the bright yellow crocuses came up in their spring lawn, they spelled out “Heil

Hitler!”

'Ha ha, nice one Ken. Say it with flowers, indeed'


They drain their glasses

'Shall we forget the gardening for now?' suggests Ken

'Only I said we'd hit the pub by this time, meeting Smorbs and Jo a bit later'

A stick insect breathes a sigh of relief

'No, you go on ahead, I'll have half-hour on the hedge cutter and catch you up there soon'

'Bollocks' says the stick insect. Well, it would, if it could talk.

'I'm a phasmatodea, get me out of here' it would probably yell, if it could talk.

Mandibles, excellent for eating. Not so good for stringing an understandable sentence together

'What's that on the hedge cutter?' asks Ken

'Oh, I have fastened a cable-tie around the safety button so that I can use it one-handed, like a sword'

'Bit dangerous, you could have a nasty accident with that'

'YOLO'

'Tell me a-fucking-bout it' says the stick insect

Source

'I doubt we'll be around for much longer' says one bottle of Pinot Grigio to another, in the wine cabinet at The Cherry Tree Public House, in Tonbridge Road

'What do you mean?' the other asks

'We might be crisp, light, dry and vibrant with enough fruitiness to charm the tonsils off the average fawning milf, but it seems we are going out of fashion, judging by the way those two over there our guzzling are contents'

'It's ARE drinking OUR contents. Jeez-fuck. DID YOU NOT GO TO SCHOOL?

'Oh yeah, got ya. Ha ha. I noticed that too. They're fucking hurling it down, especially the blonde one. Is there a tomorrow, I wonder?'

'I'm gonna try to secrete myself behind the Dubonnet. Oh shit. here they come again. The other one looks emotional, like more than one dude has been kicking her kennel'

'Keep your voices down' says the Cabernet Sauvignon

'You'll get us all the fucking sack'

Kenny marches in as the girls, I mean, the ladies, sit back down with their drinks.

'Alright Sue, Jo? Wanna drink?'

'Yes, please' they trill in unison

'Make it a double' adds the blonde

'I think I'm really losing my mind this time' says the Scotch man as he hands the drinks over

'Three years I've been out of that bloody nuthouse, and now I think I've truly cracked'

'Why d'ya say that?' asks Sue, she's the blonde one

'Well, apart from all the weird events and deaths lately, and even considering the fact that I am massively overdrawn and one of my best mates is fighting cancer' he replies, leaning forward, 'I'm bloody sure that a bottle of Pinot Grigio just called me a c*nt'


The three of them vomit laughter before returning to the subject of the weird deaths. They are in full tri-concurrence as to the strangeness and fantasticality of the recent deaths of Lindsay, Freddie and Keith. Is it connected to the group they are all members of on FaceBook? Is it just coincidence that the three victims of bizarre misadventure are members of the group? Should they go to the cops? Would they be laughed at, especially since Sue had phoned the cop-shop about Harley's disappearance, only for him to turn up like a dog with a tail between his legs the next day?

'Who's battling cancer, then?' asks Jo, during a particularly tenantless time in the conversation

'Sorry, sworn to secrecy'


Four wine bottles lay dead in a plastic mausoleum at the side of the bar, near the peanuts and the pickled eggs. Chucked in an open grave with the Budweisers and the Baileys and the Cockburns Special Reserve. Life is short, life is sweet, but they WILL be resurrected.

Back down the road, at Strangeways*, he wields the hedge cutter like he's using a metal detector. With the safety-switch disabled he swings it around like it is a sword, probably a retro-Jacobite Claymore, but who really knows what he thinks he is in control of?

Alone in his garden, but he's not really alone, because, ever the fan of the art form of juxtaposed sequences of panels of images, comic books, he knows that he has The Numskulls in his head and in his body. He has his team of cartoon people helping him to clear the garden of these brambles, but, more crucially, helping him to clear his body of the internal creeping foliage of death. The Numskulls are in full combat gear with guns, machetes and flame-throwers. As he hacks down another fierce bramble, another piece of unwanted diseased tissue is hoiked away by another Numskullianesque Lance Corporal inside. He sees the speech balloons coming from his army of soldiers 'Take that' and 'Get lost' and other such scaring-off terms for the uninvited guests that creep through his inner walls. He knows it is all to fight for now as the floppy men on sticks dressed in old suit jackets and straw-filled trousers scare away the jackdaws and crows of malignancy. He can see and hear the Israelitic Numskulls blowing on their ram's horns and shouting, shouting, shouting at the tops of their voices to bring the walls of inherited pollution tumbling down.

Andy is suddenly exhausted. It has been hard work

A stick insect watches in amazement and relief as he hurls the hedge cutter to the floor

That's Andy who hurls the hedge cutter to the floor

Not the stick insect

That would be stupidly unbelievable

He collapses, exhausted, on the bench seat in the half-cleared out shed in the garden

The bench seat that he got from The Royal Albion, his favourite pub, when it closed down in 2003

The shed that he got from Nottcutts Garden Centre in 2001

The garden, well, that came with the house. 1987

*Yes, he is a Smiths fan, and named his house accordingly



Source

'One more wine for the road for those two please, John, and a pint for me'

'That's about six they've had for the road now, Ken'

'It's a very long road, John, believe me'

'Not to mention the ones they had before that, for the pavement, the cul-de-sac and the local park, presumably?'

They laugh. It's only a mess-around. The girls are fine.

When Ken sits back down he tells Jo and Sue that 'cul-de-sac' means, literally, 'bottom of the bag' He knows shit like that.

The Black Screen

Source

The Numskulls are resting. They have done quite enough for today. They've done quite enough in their life too, actually, passing from The Beezer to The Dandy and onto The Beano

The stick insect is resting. It hasn't got a lot of time left on this planet, as it goes. Stick insects probably live to about 12 months, maybe 14 at a push. This one is already 12 months old. It's an elderly stick insect.

Andy closes his eyes and goes into Black Screen mode.

He's in an amazing place. He's walking hand-in-hand with a girl in a leather jacket but he has no idea who the girl is. They are incredibly out of place, modern-day half-punks from the 21st century in some kind of bazaar in ancient Persia. The open marketplace is teeming with shoppers and sellers alike. Bankers and craftsmen mingle with story-tellers and rug-makers. He looks around and studies the vast array of textiles, silk, rugs, carpets, musical instruments, pots and clothing and sees the local women buying copper utensils and material from the men with sun-scorched wizened faces. He wonders if he is dreaming or if he is engaged in some kind of time-travel mixed up with remote viewing. He wonders how he can see every detail, every crease and wrinkle in the faces. It's like he must have met them before, in another life. The facial features are too distinct to be just part of his imagination, surely? The stables of the horse market are not just visually correct, but he can smell the horses too. He sees the surroundings littered with what he thinks are mini versions of St Paul's Cathedral. It's like the Persians are aesthetically spoilt, in his mind. A life so simple, it would seem, but a life packed with richness and abundance in the ways that really matter. Trees are bent in two, overburdened by the gravitational pull of ripening fruit. 'You don't get that in Hounslow' he muses.

They, this is Andy and the unknown girl, find themselves at the entrance to a very crowded tent-like market stall and they are ushered in by a few of the local women. They stand in front of the stall-holder

'I know you' says Andy

'I'm sure you do' replies the Persian

'So, what am I here for?'

'You want to beat cancer? I have brought you here to help you beat cancer'

'Really? And what do I have to do to beat cancer?'

'I have the elixir to ensure that you beat this disease' said the shrivel-faced clay-baked merchant.

'Then pass it to me'

'No. In life you have to help yourself. You will never succeed if you wait for others to pass things to you. You must reach out and take it yourself and you must drink it all and then you have beaten cancer. This I guarantee'


He lets go of the girls hand and reaches out for the elixir. The girl takes the stopper out for him. His lips close around the dusty, dirty, dried neck of the bottle and he swallows and he swallows and he swallows. He can feel the liquid chasing through his insides like an invisible dragon scorching everything in it's path. He can feel the dramatic burning. He knows it is painful but he understands that the pain is a requirement for the elixir to work, for it to burn the cancer away. He tightens his grip on the girl's hand as the heat is intensifying in his interior. It's almost unbearable, but he knows it is for the best as he has found this magical potion that will ensure that he doesn't die of that horrible disease. He squeezes the girl's hand, tighter tighter tighter. His throat and his organs are getting hotter hotter hotter.

Tighter tighter tighter

Hotter hotter hotter

The stick insect watches as Andy increases his grip on the handle of the garden fork. He seems to be keen to grip tighter and tighter. You get satisfaction out of Spear and Jackson

The stick insect watches as the rapidly emptied Paraquat bottle falls to the floor.

The stick insect shakes it's head as the man beats the disease

If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well



Jo Walker

'It's like waiting for significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns'

'Pardon, can you repeat that please Jo?'

'You didn't hear or understand that, Sue? I thought my volume and diction was superbly adequate'

'Yes, it's okay. I think the writer is just trying to establish which two characters are engaged in conversation without having to use the usual "said Jo" type stuff'

'That makes sense'

'Saves time' I guess'

'Now I'm lost' said Jo

'Yeah' said Jo, again. 'It's like waiting for a bus that ain't gonna turn up, or, if it does, it's gonna be very very late'

'Waiting for the evolutionary process to give rise to a new diversity at every level of biological organisation'

'Like watching paint dry'

'Charting the formation of fossils'

'Waitin' for an alibi'

'Thin Lizzy, 1978'

'You got it, Sue'

'Thanks Jo'

They are both rather miffed, to be fair, because they have traipsed down to the police station of their own accord to offer some valuable advice and they have been left waiting for 45 minutes in a side room with no snacks, or alcohol

'Bloody Hell, Sue, we've been here for three quarters of an hour. I could have boiled 9 eggs'

'That's 5 minutes for each egg, slightly excessive. Or do you like them hard and fractured?'

'Is that a euphemism? Seriously though. Did you know that nobody can last more than 45 minutes alone in a room without going mental?'

'Good job we're not alone then'

'Yeah, I'm talking about a room that blocks out all external sound'

'Sound-proofed then?'

'Yep, it becomes a crazy zone and it drives you mad. It's like an hallucinatory Hell'

'I could do it'

'Bet you couldn't. Deprived of all sound for 45 minutes, you become the sound. Every organ in your body becomes part of the paranoid orchestra of the soul. Lungs, stomach, heart, they will all play their part'

'Why don't deaf, dumb and blind people go mad then?'

The door marked 'Side Room' swings open to reveal a man in a suit. Sue remembers some old John Lennon quote about a suit on a man having the same effect as lingerie on a woman. Something like that.

Jo is wondering if the Thin Lizzy song wasn't actually '79. She is sure it came from the Black Rose album from 1979

'Hi Ken' she texts 'Was "Waitin' for an Alibi" from '78 or '79?'

'I'm Derek World, detective' says the man in the Debenhams menswear designer, regular fit suit. £99. Bargain indeed

'My desk sergeant tells me you have some information on the deaths of some local people?'

'Yes' says Jo
'But I prefer to call it advice rather than information'

'Oh, and in what capacity are you confident enough in your abilities to feel you can give advice to the police?'

''I'm doing criminal psychology on the OU'

'Uh, aha, and what's your advice Miss ????'

'Walker, but I thought I gave my name to the desk sergeant anyway'

'You did, but it's another writer-device to remind the readers that Sue hasn't said much for ages'

'Oh right. Say something Sue'

'Okay, I think it was probably 1979 cos it was the first single off Black Rose, but, to be fair, it was probably recorded in 1978'

'Mr World. I am doing criminal psychology but that's not actually the reason for my advice here. I knew Lindsay, I knew Freddie Forrest, I knew Keith and I certainly knew Andre. They are all dead. They were all in the same FaceBook group, Maidstone & Memories. It seems odd that they all belong, or belonged, to the same group'

'Not just odd, but pertinent'

'Thanks Sue'

'Okay' said the detective, fanning out his hands in that dismissive manner that people use sometimes. 'I've been a Detective Inspector for a few years now and I know about Maidstone. This is just the new breed. Dig it. It's the age of technology and it stands to reason that if there's a group on FaceBook that is about Maidstone it will attract a whole swathe of people, from Maidstone. A few people have died. Thousands of people are in FaceBook groups'

'But we knew them all' said Jo

Yes, we did' said Sue

'Yeah, 1979' texted Ken 'It was their greatest, most successful album. Black Rose - A Rock Legend. Only got to number 2 though'

'Look girls, I got enough stick when I was a plain old police constable, think about my surname. I'm not about to invite the same sort of ridicule by going with your daft little theory on a few deaths that aren't exactly unexplained anyway. An imaginative narcotics death, a drowning, a tragic accident in a cinema and a weed-killer-related suicide. It's hardly Midsomer Murders, is it? Now, if you don't mind, I have work to do'

'But don't you find it odd that we are all in this group?' <Jo

'No, I don't. If a few people had died in the 80's, would you be here saying how they all frequent The Warehouse Nightclub? Get a grip, girls'

'Is that a euphemism?' says Sue

'Okay, sorry to backchat' says Jo, as they are ushered off the premises. 'But I still think there's a lot more to this than meets the eye'

As they leave, Jo notices a spider trying to climb up the wall in the hallway. It almost gets to the top and then it fallsl. It begins the climb again.

'I'll be back' the girls yell in unison

'WE'LL be back' says the desk sergeant

Sadly, one of the girls won't ever be back





Sue Morbi

Jo stirs at 8.30am and surveys the front room. Empty wine bottles. Predictable. Events from last night are coming back to her. They had been watching some 1987 TV movie based on a book by Franz Kafka but the television kept going on the blink. Sue was going to make some phone calls and get her money back today. That was what she said last night anyway but Jo reckons she'll forget all about it, she was that mashed. Ash-Trays are filled with menthol fag-butts. A DVD cover, clearly a pirate, is on the floor.

'Oh, it was a DVD film' she says, reading the film credits

'TV film of Steven Berkoff's stage adaption of Kafka's famous story in which a young man awakes one morning in the form of a giant dung beetle'

She flings the crudely made case to the coffee table and turns on the TV to watch the early morning news. After about 10 or 11 minutes, maybe 12, she hears the car pull up outside and she gets her things together and departs. She doesn't notice the slight smell of sizzling plastic as she pulls the front door shut and heads to the taxi

'You have good night?'

'Yes thanks Nikos. We demolished quite a lot of red and I've left Sue upstairs, sleeping it off'

'Traffic bad today, but I get you home soon'

Nikos is right. The roads are pretty snarled up around town and along Royal Engineers' Road running out towards the motorway. It's a regular concern. There has long been a problem with motorists failing to notice or not stopping when the traffic lights turn red. Drivers are often more focused upon the roundabout ahead when travelling towards Maidstone, and drivers leaving the roundabout to head north towards Bluebell Hill are often caught out by the crossing.

'There's been accident. Someone jumped lights'

Sue is dreaming that she has turned into a bug, probably a freeze-tolerant Japanese cockroach, going by the shiny blackish-brown casing and the fact that the wing-span is about half the length of the body. In her dream she is the sole provider for her family, after her parents and her siblings have lost the use of their legs, so turning into a cockroach is a bit inconvenient. Her family are turning against her.

'We disown you' screams her mother 'But the door is always open, should you turn back into a regular woman and get your job back in the cake-shop'

In her dream she feels a viscous secretion along the rear dorsal surface of her body. In reality it is her hair, greasy and damp from 4 relentless days of solid drinking with Jo. She doesn't notice the sweet tang of smouldering plastic cable coming up from the living-room. Why should she? She's a cockroach.

A woman in a uniform, probably made with the latest fabrics and garment technology to provide maximum comfort and safety, is ringing her doorbell. Ding dong. Ding dong. She doesn't hear the sound of the tiny metal piston bashing between the two tone bars. Why should she? She's a cockroach.

Jo is slumped back in the Nissan Bluebird, wondering if she's going to make the pub later on, like she's promised her friends, Barry and Lia. Oh, and Sue. Their recent shenanigans have been epic and she thinks it might be time for an enforced rest. They approach the Running Horse roundabout, which reminds her of watching Champion the Wonder Horse during school holidays as a kid.

'If you hear a clap of thunder
But there is no sign of rain
Then you know it must be Champion
Gallopin across the plain

Champion the wonder horse

Champion the wonder horse'

Jo is always singing

The postwoman at Sue's door, dressed in the fine uniform designed to keep her safe, smart and looking professional to represent herself and the Royal Mail in the best possible way, is fed up with waiting. She doesn't want to take the packet back to the depot though, cos she is meeting her friend in the Dog and Gun and she's already running late. She lifts a huge flat rock in the garden and watches as a woodlouse scurries out like a lover disturbed, and she puts the packet under the rock, and scribbles a note, PACKET UNDER ROCK IN GARDEN. She posts the note and continues her round.

From small low blue flames, mighty conflagrations grow, and slightly larger orange flames are already licking at Sue's curtains


Author's Note

That's not a euphemism

Jo is still thinking about children's television shows. Champion the Wonder Horse, Casey Jones, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Flipper

The flames are tumbling up the stairs like a reverse-Slinky and the front window pops out as the man from next door bashes on the door with a hammer

Andy Pandy, the Woodentops, Pogles Wood

Sue leaps off the bed and is relieved to find that she is no longer a Periplaneta Japonica. She feels the heat against the bedroom door and hears the flames laughing at her as the conflagration takes hold.

'Oh my God'


Mister Benn, Hector's House, the Wombles

Sue is mourning the loss of her DVD collection which she knows will have perished downstairs.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope May 25, 1977
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back May 21, 1980
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi May 25, 1983
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones May 16, 2002
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith May 19, 2005

'Quick, turn the fucking taxi round' yells Jo, as she remembers who Sue bought the television set from

'I have to get back to Sue's place'

'I take you there' says Nikos

When the bedroom door blows and the flames pour in like water she knows there's no escape. Kurt Russell ain't gonna save her now. There's no sign of William Baldwin round here, buddy. Robert De Niro is most definitely notable only for his absence. This is not a great time for Abu Morbi, crashing out like Courtney Love and waking up like Karen Standley, silhouetted in flames and cursing at her unexpected ending, all her past dinners flashing before her eyes.

Jo watches helplessly from behind the makeshift barrier around the house as the firemen shower the building with foam and water. She looks up as a plume of smoke surges from the shattered bedroom window and forms the unmistakably recognisable shape of a Mateus Rose bottle.

The upvc window frames buckle and fall to the ground. Debris rains down and covers the flat rock that covers the packet left by the postwoman in the nice uniform. The household gadget in the packet, ordered from Amazon, will never see the light of day. Not only has she lost her life, she has lost £7.99 paid for the FireAngel ToastProof Optical Smoke Alarm (but she did get free postage)

'Detective Inspector World' Jo shouts into the phone, trying to make herself heard above the sirens and the water-hoses 'It's Glenn Simmonds, you got to arrest Glenn Simmonds'

Dan Avenell

Daniel Avenell opens his eyes and rubs those eyes and wonders where on God's Earth he is. He knows...instinctively...that he is not 'in his right place' and that he is probably not 'in his right dimension' He curses the writer for misuse of the ellipsis and he rubs his eyes again. He finds himself in a gloomy room, smelling of hopsacks, butterscotch and the early part of the 20th Century. '1908-1912 is my guess now' he says, as he breathes in the digestible air that hangs heavy in the darkened room. 'I can smell trouble in Macedonia with the distinct odour of Russia falling out with Austria/Hungary. I can hear the squeals of a mass suffragette rally in one of the Great Parks of London, perhaps Regents Park, and there's a definite whiff of a Liberal Government'

Dan is reclined in a chair. His arms are resting on the arm-rests like he is strapped into a mental chair, but with no straps. He is only restrained by his own trance-like appreciation of the timeline that he finds himself in. Through blurry eyes he makes out a rectangle of light about 6ft ahead of him. It's like he can see an irregular-shaped square window, but this isn't bastard PlaySchool. Struggling to focus, his heart is racing and his mind is racing too. Like the little red cars on the orange Hot Wheels tracks of the 70's his little red blood corpuscles race and pump in vain. In vein, too. Propelled by centrifugal force, and boosted on arrival at the heart, they keep their constant cycle, keeping him alive in a land where, perhaps, he shouldn't be.

He remembers, it is Hyde Park

The smell of a thousand dead mice wafts through his nasal passages as he lurches forward, perchance to vomit wisely. The square light becomes clearer and he sees it is a window. He prises himself from the armchair and heads to the light. He flings open the window and looks out to a beautiful scene of fields and flowers and a few horses munching at the fresh grass. Somewhere in the distance he can hear the even-tempered tone of a hand-held wood-saw, steel blade cutting through oak. Probably. Smoothly forward, roughly back. A dog, probably a border collie, barks excitedly. Dan sees a man tumble out of the door of the building he is in. He is immediately aware of the noise from below. He puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a coin, and a blue pill. He has already taken the green one. At this point he is compelled to venture down to the rooms below so that he can find out who is behind the chit-chat and chinking glass, the carolling kids and the incredible macabre lure of the sunken hideaway. His descent ends at a warped pine door. Behind the door he can hear coughing, spluttering and laughter. He can hear the piano and he can hear the squawking tones of a trampess singing:


Hello! Hello! Who's your lady friend?

Who's the little girlie by your side?

I've seen you with a girl or two.

O! O! O! I'm surprised at you.

Hello! Hello! Stop your little games.

Don't you think your ways you ought to mend?

It isn't the girl I saw you with at Brighton.

Who? Who? Who's your lady friend?


He takes a deep gulp of rancid sweet honeyed air, and he opens the door



Palace Avenue

Rumours are flying. Telephones are ringing. Coffee-machines are gurgling. The Twitterati are tweeting.

Senior policeman, and some plebby ones too, are locked in serious talks.

D.I. World takes the stage. Well, it's not so much a stage. He just stands up by the flip-chart board with a marker-pen and begins to address his audience:

''Rumours are spreading like wildfire across the town, and we need to stop them or it'll be like 1666 all over again. We've seen the recent deaths of Lindsay Strange, Freddie Forrest, Keith Edwards, Andre Vocase and the latest one, from last night, Sue Morbi. We are aware that they were all in the same FaceBook group, Maidstone and Memories. More damning than this, though, is the fact that all five of them recently purchased a random item from Glenn Simmonds, another M&M group member, from his latest e-bay auction batch. Lindsay bought a pair of DM boots, the ones she was wearing when they found her hanging from the tree, strangled by the very laces of those very moulded rubber boots. Freddie bid and won on the German Stein, the same drinking-vessel that his fingers were wrapped around when they dragged him from the river. The same Stein he had used to drink copious amounts of alcohol from in the hours that led up to his death. Keith purchased the mobile phone. The phone that was just out of his reach when the balcony caved his head in. The one he had been using to snap photos of the deserted cinema on, in the lead up to his death. Andre had been the proud buyer of the hedge-cutter. Yes, the very hedge-cutter that he had been using to clear his garden on the afternoon of his tragic toxic demise. And finally, Sue Morbi? Well, she purchased the television set. The same television set that shorted out and caused the fire which raged like an Hellish Inferno, and which killed her last night. You may be wondering how we would know the cause of the fire so quickly. Well, it's my duty to inform you all that we were directed to this line of enquiry by another M&M group member called Jo Taylor, or Walker, something like that. In her frantic phone call to me last night she revealed how she had recalled that Andre and Lindsay had both mentioned the e-bay purchases from Glenn, and her instinct told her that Sue had bought the TV from the same source. We checked Glenn's e-bay history and found that he had indeed sold the other items to Keith and Freddie. Because of Jo Walter's insistence we made the TV our first line of enquiry, but we would've done that anyway. We're not stupid. Oh, and it was the Kent Fire Brigade who actually checked it, but whatevs

The only other two items on the same e-bay sale are a motor-scooter which went unsold and a rather scarce 1905 King Edward VII Silver Florin, which was sold to a Mr D Avenell. We are in a race to track Mr D Avenell down now, because we believe his life is in mortal danger.

Although we can't give a logical explanation as to how the sale of these items could have had such a devastating impact on the buyers, we have to look into this, especially as it is our sole line of enquiry.

How far Jo Walton...or Taylor...or something...is immersed in all this, we don't really know. All may not be as it seems and there is nothing so far to suggest that she is a distributor of red herrings, but I have put a shadow team on her anyway. It seems that she maybe knows too much. She might well be just another meddling melodramatic ginge with nothing better to do than to cause drama wherever she goes, but we can take no chances. My shadow team are reporting her every movement back to me. We are monitoring her shenanigans. To be honest. I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her

Three priorities today then:

1) Find MR D Avenell before he dies

2) Yank Glenn Simmonds in for questioning

3) Monitor Jo Walker

Let's crack this case"

Two Houseflies

Source

''What does that actually mean, I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her?' asks one of the houseflies on the wall behind the flipchart. 'Perhaps that one person can't really throw another person very far and that means the trust issue is invalid cos they will always be able to keep their eyes on the untrusted thrown person. What do you think?'

'Oh,I have always heard it as "I trust him as far as I can throw a piano." That is, I don't trust him at all (since I can't throw a piano)'

'Of course you can't, you're a fucking fly'

'Well, why don't you just Google it?'

'Cos I'm a fucking fly'

'Well, in that case, ask that spider over there. He's got his own website'

'Another thing. What actually happened in 1666?'

'Dunno. Let's go and ask Dan Avenell'

'I think he's back in 1910'

'Then we need to make tracks'

'We transport ourselves back to 1910? Whoever heard of a fly being transported, you dumbo?'

The houseflies (let's call them Jeff and Goldie) land on the wall in the bar just as Dan crashes through the pine door, his Cuban heels slipping on the wet step, sending him sprawling base over apex into the sawdust arena. The barroom is busy and all thirty-nine eyes are upon him. That's sixteen people, the parrot that squawks in a cage in the corner and the one-eyed dog under the card-table. Oh, and the two flies.

Edmund Payne, a famous Victorian/Edwardian comedian is playing chess. Other men are playing darts.

All eyes are upon him

'I should explain' he splutters

'I'm not an enemy. I am just from another time. You must know the HG Wells novel, The Time Machine? It was published about a decade ago. I'm the same as the guy in that book, a time traveller, except I have gone back instead of forwards'

The dog hisses at his feet

'Dan, what happened in 1666?' asks one of the flies. The question goes unanswered because Dan doesn't hear it. Nobody hears it. Houseflies have small vocal cords. Their chatter can only be heard by other houseflies, though they always hum in the key of F, if that helps.

The bar is suspended in silence and all our time-travelling chapter-protagonist can hear is the beating of his own heart. Quickening. Thickening.

The silence is broken abruptly by a man in a tight-fitting calf-length frock coat

'I think you should leave the premises lad. Depart now. Vacate my premises or I shall strike you dead now. All the while my name is Thomas Avard I'll not let this kind of nonsense go on in MY hostelry'

Dan walks in measured paces towards the door. He just wants to leave anyway. He opens the door and he hears the shouting

'Beware the sunshine, lad'

'Keep off the meadows'

He doesn't hear the houseflies as they zoom after him like little cyclorrhaphan rock groupies yelling 'Dan, what happened in 1666?'

'Dan, Dan, DAN'





He reclines in the grass and views the building from afar. He takes the blue pill from his pocket. What are these pills doing to him? These pills are supposed to ease his troubled mind but they seem to be getting him into more strife than ever. He takes the Edward VII coin from his pocket and puts two and two together. This is the era of Edward VII and this coin, and the green pill, has taken him there. The blue pill slides down his throat as he views the outside bulk of the pub. He knows he has seen it before. The familiar three flakey white pointy gables with the one window on the right-hand pointy gable. The white weatherboarded side-wall. The dog-leg stone step staircase leading from the front door to the open ground. A timber-framed building of 2 storeys and attics on a stone base with a plastered front. Beautiful.

'DAN, DAN'



Hunting for Glenn

'He's not here, Guv. He's away filming for a TV show'
'Where abouts?'
'In bloody Manchester. We're on our way back to the station, got all the details'


Phone down, foot down, cross town, stop!


Within half an hour two cop cars are screaming into the Media City UK site. It's incredible how quickly things can be done when police reputations are at risk. Oops, a typo. It's incredible how quickly things can be done when lives are at risk.


Two Manc coppers race through sterile aluminium corridors and arrive at Studio Six.


'Filming has started' explains the floor manager. 'I could stop it if it's really important, but this section won't take too long'
'No, it's okay. Don't really wanna raise suspicion. Carry on with this and we'll nab him at the end'


The ominous tones of Approaching Menace thud out across Studio Six


'Hello, and welcome to another round of Mastermind, with me, John Humphrys. Four contenders, two rounds of questions, one aim - to become the nation's Mastermind. May I have our first contender, please?'


Glenn paces the short walk from Contenders Row and deposits himself, timorously, into the famous black chair.


'Your name is?'
'Glenn Simmonds'
'Your occupation ?'
'Plumber'
'And your specialised subject ?'
'Plumbing'
'Plumbing, two minutes.'
'In Japan, the technology capital of the world, most urinals are fitted with VAFM. What is a VAFM?'
'Voice-Activated Flushing Mechanism?'
'Yes. Which organisation was founded in Albany, New York, in 1894?'
'Ah, is it the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union?'
'Yes'


Our protagonist plumber wipes a bead of sweat from his brow with the cuff of his checked shirt, £3.99 from Peacocks, and tells himself it's the studio lights. Out of the corner of his eye he sees two coppers waiting next to the dummy wall behind camera 2


'What is the spec size for the waste-overflow on a Rhombus Stainless-Steel Bowl and Drainer?' asks John, as Glenn's mind is elsewhere wondering what the cops are there for, and trying to work out why their resolute gazes are unquestionably upon him
'80 millimeter'
'Incorrect. 90 millimeter'
Glenn curses the cops. He knows he would have got that one if he hadn't been so distracted
'Bollocks' he whispers
'Excuse me?' says an irritated questionmaster
'What degree of pressure is required to ensure smooth drainage in a household drainage system?'
'High Pressure'
'Incorrect. No pressure required. It's a matter of gravity'


Glenn chews his lip. He glances over at the policemen. They are still pogging him.


'In the context of plumbing, what does DWV stand for?'
'Damp Waste Ventilation'
'No. It's actually DRAIN Waste Ventilation'
'Oh come on' yells our M&M contender 'Play fair. I could have got that if those cops hadn't...No...fuck it...fuck the lot of you'


He rips off his earpiece and launches himself from the famous black chair in some desperate getaway attempt, flouncing like the skirt of a Lady Di dress in a gale force wind.
He dashes madly towards Contenders Row, past Maria from Letchworth (specialised subject: routes to anywhere in mainland Britain by road from Letchworth), Sam from Royal Tunbridge Wells (the life and incredible music of Mumford and Sons) and Fred from Gloucester (do-it-yourself, building and storage solutions of the 80's)


'Stop right there' yells one of the coppers


'No, I'm flouncing'


'Well STOP flouncing'


'I've started, so I'll fucking finish'


Dan adjusts his eyes to the greyness of the sky as he finds himself in a place and time devoid of all real character. It is bleak

He is aware of four pairs of eyes looking down upon him, and as his vision clears he sees a cruel whip of a smile beneath the pair of eyes nearest to his face. Blue eyes. Cruel eyes.

'Where am I?'

'You are in the concrete brutalism of a dystopian futuristic landscape, my son'

'It looks more like Thamesmead'

'Well, yes, that's where this is all being filmed. Who are you, and what are you doing here? We are very busy, you know'

'I'm Dan. I've been taking these pills. They are for my paranoid psychosis and to help combat my loss of contact with reality. I think they are having an obverse effect'

'In what way?'

'Well, I took a green pill earlier and it took me to a pub called The Bockingford Arms and the land around the pub was verdant and beautiful and green. It also took me back to 1910'

'And now?'

'Well, I took this orange pill and now I'm here with you and your friends, whoever you are'

'Ah, sorry, I'm Alex. My friends are Georgie, Dim and Pete'

'So, I'm in this novel called The Blood That Makes the Flowers Grow, and I took this orange pill....'

'You liar' screams Alex 'I've read that fucking novel and you took a blue pill. It was a fucking BLUE pill. Why do you think you can come to me and lie through your futuristic avant-garde teeth? Don't mess with me. I've just kicked a fucking TRAMP to death'

'No, seriously, it was orange. I think you may have read an older version before it got edited. Look'

Dan pulls the iphone from his jacket pocket. In doing so he watches as the Edward VIII rolls out and bounces in dead echo on the cement-frozen walkway. He reaches for the coin and, just as he gets his fingertips upon it, he feels the full stamp of Alex's boot. The coin plinks into the water.

'Look at this' Dan pleads, as he scrolls through the story on his iphone


"He takes the orange pill from his pocket. What are these pills doing to him?...The orange pill slides down his throat as he views the outside bulk of the pub"

'So you see. The story was edited later on when the writer realised that the colour of the pill would be more apt if it was orange'

The three delinquent gorillas pull their new friend to his feet and hold him upright as their thuggy leader watches intently

A short pause later and the leader speaks

'So, Mister Pill-Taker. Tell me, in your most eloquent way, how much you would really want to stay alive today'

'Why should I need to beg to stay alive? I'm forty-three now. I have a fight about once every five years and I reckon I have a couple of good fights left in me. I won't back down'

'You're not a great salesman'

'I'm an illustrator'

'Right now you have no tools to be an illustrator. You just have your voice so you can only be a salesman. You need to sell me the concept of us keeping you alive.

Life in a government totalitarian regime and dangerous lessons in behavioural psychology swirl and sweep around Dan's head like a subversive airborne miasma in a southern pedestrian underpass. At last, at last, he sees the dark, where most people see the light. His whole moral code is in reverse as he feels only for himself now, all forms of altruism sucked out of his psyche like marrow out of a bone. Something like that, anyway. Perhaps he's just scared? Maybe he just doesn't give a damn any more. He thinks about this film, one of his favourites, that he can possibly make null and void now, if he kills Alex. He thinks about the record shop where Alex picks up the two young women, which is filmed in the basement of the former Chelsea Drugstore. It's a bloody McDonalds now. Right now, though, a McDonalds meal would be welcome

Alex snaps Dan back into the frame

'You have failed, like the sales assistant in the cake shop who has failed to sell a cake to a hungry person'

'Really. Would you like to enlighten me, and educate me further? I'll even let you think I give a shit'

'A girl goes into a cake shop and asks the assistant "I'm looking for a cake. Can I see some? There are some nice-looking ones in the window" The assistant knows which cake has had the best feedback from customers, and which ones have the richest ingredients. He tells the girl the cake she needs. She asks what it's like and the assistant says it tastes amazing. He talks about the currants and the consistency. He takes her to the cake and shows her, but, somehow, she's just not getting his enthusiasm. She's just not getting excited. She spots another cake, a nice colourful one, on another shelf. "What about that one?" she asks. The assistant tells her that the taste isn't anywhere near as good as the one he showed her. He says that the decoration detracts from the substance and the quality of the sugar used is inferior. The girl is confused. She says she will think about it and she leaves the cake shop. The sales assistant hasn't sold her what she wanted. He hasn't sold her anything. He should have realised that she was looking for visuals, not taste'

'What the fuck has that got to do with me?'

'I don't know, but you're the one trespassing'

Dan plunges his hand into the water in an attempt to retrieve the silver florin. He is immediately aware of Alex's boot lashed across his back.

Drunk Womble

Source

A womble, probably Tomsk but possibly Tobermory, drinks lager through a straw in the beer garden of a Maidstone pub.

Meanwhile, the plumber and the detective sit face to face with the pine-topped table between them. Pine is cheap these days. Walnut, oak, mahogany, rosewood etc would have been much nicer as a surface to be interrogated across, but you can't have it all. The rare woods are used only for very good furniture these days, and they're often used in combination with the less expensive woods like pine, ash and poplar. This doesn't have much bearing nor influence on the story in hand, but, then again, neither does the drunk womble. Either.

Two men, nose to nose in gladitorial verbalism. Similar professions. Flushing troublesome dregs through diseased local systems. Applying pressure to problematic nuts. Scoffing Belgian Chocolate Choux Buns in parked cars. Furiously mopping up compromising spillages borne out of their own mal-exactitude Quite closely linked on the table of metals too. Lead, atomic number 82, Pb from the Latin plumbum. Copper, atomic number 29, Cu from the Latin cuprum. Copper v Lead, and one metal has to give.

'So, we have concluded that you sold the items through your ebay account and the purchasers have all met with bizarre deaths, very possibly linked to the items they bought. We have also ascertained that the items you sold belonged to your departed fiancée Emily Killerby'

'Yeah, I won't hang for that though, will I? Can't a guy have a clear-out?'

'We don't hang people these days anyway'

'I know that. I didn't mean it literally. It's a figure of speech. I was only selling her stuff to help with the grieving process. Oh, and shouldn't it be fiancé, not fiancée?'

'It's fiancé for the male and fiancée for the female, but they are both pronounced the same, so why are you even questioning it, you dull prick?'

Things are not going too well. Even the womble has taken to stealing beer

Source

'Well, it's just so very strange that the items have been the catalysts of death in all cases. What are we to believe? That Emily Killerby is on a frenzy of mischief from the grave?'

'Frenzy of Mischief? Great name for a band'

'Yeah, it is actually' (detective swells with pride) 'Some dark, fast metal band' (he makes note in his Good Names For A Band journal)

'You can't pin anything on me though. Man sells dead fiancée's gear on ebay and gets charged with murder. Not the most comprehensible of headlines'

The plumber shrugs

The detective shakes his head

The womble collapses

'We are looking into it and if we can charge you we will charge you, believe me. In the meantime, just to clarify, we have accounted for all of the items in that particular ebay auction. At least we can be pretty sure that there will be no more crazy-mental unexplained deaths, yeah?'

'Well, yeah, what are you actually clarifying here? Is this a question or a statement?'

'It's a question really. There was one unsold item in that specific auction. The Lambretta GP 150, Indian Blue. You just need to confirm that it didn't sell'

'Oh yeah' (plumber is flustered) 'Oh, ha, yeah, didn't sell'

'You still have the scooter then?'

'Huh, uhu, yes, still have it. Didn't sell, still at home'

'Good, then you are free to go, Mr Simmonds'

Glenn hoists and swivels his ugly burnt orange jogging pants around his sizeable arse as he heads for the door, eager to get out of the station and return to normality where he can thrust plungers into sinks and drains and swindle lots of lovely money out of trusting pensioners. Just as his grubby little fingers are around the doorknob he is rooted to the spot in horror at the detective's perfectly timed final question


toTwo cops stand in a bedroom in Primrose Hill. One is gazing at the beauty outside in the street whilst the other is recoiling in horror at the death scene inside the room. A beautiful small olive-grey coal tit alights gracefully on the blossomed branch of a cherry tree overhanging the garden fence. It sings a sweet song from it's 11.5cm frame, words and music by Mother Nature. Copyright-Free. In the bedroom, an arm lies limp and bloodied across the edge of the piranha tank. The fingers are stripped to the bone. The cumbersome standard lamp lies heavy on Dan Avenell's back as he lies frozen into his last moments of life. The coal tit pings off a branch and flutters off into the blue sky. Free. Unrestricted. Free, well, as a bird really. Dan lies awkwardly on reasonably-priced laminate flooring. Riviera Oak, single-plank, 15 year wear warranty. Nice.

Bird...hello bright new skies

Dan...goodbye cruel world

Bird...soaring at speed into the vast blueyonder

Dan...decaying slowly on the scratch-resistant MDF-backed planking

Bird flies

Dan dies

Bird alive

Dan expired

Bird hears Up, Up and Away by The 5th Dimension

Dan hears Welcome To The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance

Bird white

Dan black

Bird dove

Dan bat

Bird, a young couple in love lying on a blanket in the park

Dan, a riderless cavalry horse with the stirrups turned backward



Perfectly-timed question

'Oh, and I'm sure you'll be at home when we collect the Lambretta, yeah?'

He spins round in confusion and disarray, his tiny little mind thrown into more turmoil

'Oh, err, but why on Earth would you want the scooter? It didn't sell. Haven't I told you enough?'

'We need to check it out. Forensics. Some folk may say the items are cursed but others might believe they have been tampered with. The scooter is our Golden Ticket now'

'Haven't you seen me suffer enough?'

'Excellent line for a cheesy pop song about unreciprocated love'

'Airhead already used it in a song called Funny How. October 1991. Keep The Apple on the b-side'

'Did it chart?'

'Did it fuck?'

'Anyway, back to the scooter. If the items were cursed then there's not a lot we can do to charge you, but if this scooter is tampered with in any way, that's a whole different ball-race'

'Ball-game. It's a whole different ball-game. A ball-race conjures up images of a vet chasing a tomcat with a pair of claw-pliers'

'Forget all that. I've sent the boys round to pick the scooter up'

Plumber collapses to his knees

'Okay, okay, I did sell the scooter'

'So why didn't you tell us earlier? Why did you insist on saying it was unsold?'

'Cos I took payment outside of the auction, to save paying the fees, and I didn't want to get into trouble with ebay'

'You're in a lot more trouble now, you dopey plumber. This is a little bit more serious than evading ebay fees'

'I know, I'm sorry'

'So, who did you sell the scooter to, you cretinous oaf?'

'Harley Dodge'


Chasing Harley

Mid evening and the cops have found where H is staying since the house fire that incinerated his mother. He is living at Megan's house. Actually, it's a flat, not a house. Could even be a maisonette. He's living at Megan's maisonette. Great name for a band, Megan's Maisonette. Some dirgy little faux folk band like All About Eve. Quaint little place above the Dead Family Pets, funeral parlour for domesticated pets. Late 60's build, two rooms, overlooking the rent.

One copper knocks on a badly painted colonial hardwood front door. Megan opens the door in her nightie. Please, no Basil Brush-esque jokes about people not having doors in nighties. That would be silly. Puerile.

'We're looking for Harley Dodge' says the first cop, who is actually exactly the same height and build as the cop standing next to him

'He's not here. He's been out all day. What's he done anyway?'

'We have reason to believe that his life is in danger' says the other cop, as tall, as bulky, as the first cop

'How is his life in danger?' asks Megan, noticeably peeved at the presence of cop

'Look' says Identical Cop 1 'Trust what we are saying. We just need to know where he is and we need to know if he has taken his Lambretta'

'Oh, well, yes, he took the scooter. He's gone to The Nag's in Rochester to see a band called The Bolans. So yeah, he's on his scooter'

Indistinguishable Cop 1 is all over his radio like a tramp on chips whilst Duplicate Cop 2 fends off the Q's from Megan

'Don't you think it's rather odd that you are both egg-zactly the same height and egg-zactly the same build and that your features are egg-zactly the same? It's like you're the product of some Cop Zerox Machine. It's all rather Men in Black. Are you sure you're not from The Ministry?

It's a ploy to annoy the writer, so he can't use little descriptive tricks to suggest to the reader which one of us is talking'

'Yeah, but it won't work cos he'll probably just capitalise on the fact that you are exactly the same and call you something like Cop 1 and Cop 2, or, perhaps something even more sagacious like Carbon Copy 1 and Carbon Copy 2'

'Whatever'

The PC peas in a pod zoom off, bidding their teen-inquisitor a fond farewell and vowing to save the skin of H

Megan closes the door in her nightie

'I didn't know you had a door in your nightie' says her mother

'Boom Boom' says Inquisitorial Meg


The Nag's Head, Rochester

BOOM BOOM

The bass drum reverberates and bounces off the hallowed walls of the bustling back bar of The Nag's in Rochester High Street. Carbon Cop 1 opens the door in his tunic. It's a packed bar for the debut gig from the leather-clad muppet-lads known as The Bolans. Gobbed up on stage like Mini-Pop Ramones, but with spiky hair, they skip merrily into their opening song

You came to my concert, you stood at the front. You used to be lovely, but now you're a c**t. You used to be trendy, and rich as a bank. Now you're a loser, you ain't worth a w**k

A rubber-nosed girl called Tanqueray lights up a cigarette in the smoking yard and wisps of JPS Black float over to the stage where they mingle with the splintered C's and Am's and F's and G's. Smoking, banned in pubs, but it still gets in. Loud music, restricted in pubs, but it still gets out.(proud of that line, actually)

Carbon Copy 2 opens the door in his tunic and the spiky splintered mis-timed musical notes tumble out onto the pavement like milk-bottles falling out of an Edwardian Wardrobe. Narnia in reverse. But with milk-bottles.

I'm getting my own back, getting my own back, getting my own back, on you! I'm getting my own back, getting my own back, getting my own back, on you'

The crowd are relatively pleased with the first song and Tanqueray comes in from the smoking yard to get a better look at the band

We met in the juniors, when we were quite young. We made up a pop group, with songs that we sung. You were the singer, you stood at the front. Now you're a loser, and you are a c**t

CC1 grabs microphone at end of first song

'I'm looking for Harley Dodge'

'I'm Harley' a hand clutching a pint glass goes up at the back

The Bolans carry on with their snotty little set of rebellious love songs whilst Harley is enlightened with the salient detail of the matter in hand. It's a fascinating tale. Plumber sells departed partner's possessions which are possibly possessed and which cause various deaths around the county town. He's not that bothered though. Harley doesn't believe in crap like that. It's like some daft bint reading a story about some pretty little girl from the Swiss Alps to her ADHD toddler with Satanic tendencies. It just ain't working.

One of The Bolans, the little one on bass guitar, is slashing his bare chest with a broken Benylin Cough Extract bottle. This ain't rock n roll, this is Benylinocide.

'We just need to take the scooter. Where is it?'

'Well, ah, it's not here'

'Where is it then?'

'My mate, Barry, borrowed it. He's gone to pick his girlfriend up from the Isle of Grain. I didn't want to say before cos he's not insured and I didn't want to get him into trouble'

'His troubles are way more damning than him not having insurance. He could be splattered across the highway by now'




Barry and Becky

'Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes. Galloping hard on the plain. Chasing the redskins back to their holes. Fighting them at their own game'

Barry works in a power station on the Isle of Grain. He has a tirdent life.

Work. Girlfriend. Music.

Security guard. Becky. Iron Maiden

Grain Power Station. Becky Candlestickmaker. Bruce Dickinson.

Barry Quantrel. At work it's the slap slap of a playing card on the fablon-covered table and the rattle of a Thermos flask as the birds cough overhead. That's what gets our Barry through the long Hoo Peninsularian days. In leisure times it's the nauseating bashfulness of Becky C, 4 foot nothing, with a face only her mother could love. Her mother, and Barry, of course. Everpresent, there's the constant of Iron Maiden.

'Run to the hills. Run for your life'

He loves the power station. He loves Becky. He loves quasi-heavy metal

'Thanks Harley' he yells, as he spurts down the Queen's Highway (looking like a streak of lightning)


A shocked Harley sits, head in hands, in The Nag's Head, Rochester

Becky preens herself in front of a Peter Andre mirror (yes, seriously) on the dressing-table in her bedroom at her father's panelled den in Pannell Road, Grain.

Bruce Dickinson sits at an antique oak desk in Chiswick, West London, and fires off an 'I HATE PUNK ROCK' email to The Guardian. The world yawns.

'Bring your daughter, bring your daughter to the slaughter' warbles our lad on the Lambretta as he hurtles along the Ratcliffe Highway

'Bring your daughter to the slaughter'

Barry chuckles.

A shocked Harley sits, head in hands, in the Nag's Head, Rochester. Oh wait, we've had that bit. It doesn't matter though. He still sits head in hands in the Nags. It's a protracted bewilderment





Back in Maidstone a mobile phone receives microwave signals from a nearby phone mast.

Derek World: 'We've just about cracked this case now, and I'd like to thank you for your input. My officers are just in the process of saving some muppets on a motor-scooter and we're done'

Jo Walker: ''Oh right, well, thanks'

DW: 'As a small thank you, I'd like to buy a pub lunch for you. How about tomorrow?'

JW: 'Okay, as long as there's no ulterior motive. I'm not in the mood to be seduced'

DW: 'No, it's fine. Just a drink and a snack. Andy can't write love scenes. I did ask. He is emotionally and intimately retarded'


A relaxed Harley is laughing like a drain in The Nag's Head, Rochester. Nice acid

Barry is up to the crunchy bit just before the second guitar solo on Hallowed Be Thy Name

Becky is on the chorus of Mysterious Girl

They see the flashing blue lights crack the sky clumsily like a drunk on roller-skates and Barry's grip on the twist-throttle gets tighter. He turns the throttle and he yells at Becky. Twist and Shout. He sees the huge lorry out of the corner of his eye. Iveco Stralis 440, nice.

'What would embarrass you most' he asks 'Watching your boyfriend get hand-cuffed and carted away for not having a licence, or being on the front page of the Chatham Standard under the headline LOVING COUPLE DECAPITATED IN LAMBRETTA-IVECO CRASH DISASTER?'

There's no reply, because she doesn't hear his words. The journalists would probably think of a snappier headline anyway. DEAD SCOOTER KIDS! Something like that. Oh well

A stimulated Harley giggles nervously as he watches a Guernsey cow walk up the steps to the side of the stage at the Nag's Head, Rochester. Don't milk it, mate


The scooter goes into a slide. Two lovers pray, eyes closed tight. Understandable. Prayer is done with closed eyes. Barry has to open his eyes because he has the overpowering urge to see his death scene. He's just like that. A baby came into the world, blinking, through his mother's v*gina all those years ago, and here's the same baby, all grown up, blinking at what are possibly his final exit scenes. From fibromuscular elastic tubular tract, to coffin. From birth to death. They slip effortlessly under the spine of the articulated lorry. Barry prays. Becky cries and urine flows, before she ends up thrown against the back side of the roadside ditch, like some popster Bambi smashed against cold rocks.

'You were lucky there' says the paramedic, as he helps to subtract the hapless lovers from the half-eaten hedgerow.

'If that lorry had been a bit lower you'd both be ruined'

A Happy Ending

Jo pulls a chair from under the table at The Brenchley. It's quite a new pub in town. Cavernous ceilings. Huge TV screen. Philosophical and modernistic smoking area out the back, characterized by a self-conscious break with traditional smoking area regalia. Inside, the punters sit around long, fixed tables, like posties around a facing-table in the sorting-office. If you've not worked in a sorting-office you'll see no relevance in that observation. Move on. They might not even have facing-tables these days, I left in 1994. It's nice that the posties get a mention. Blessed are the posties.

'Nice to see you again Jo. Thanks for meeting up'

'That's okay. I'm just pleased that all this madness has come to an end'

'Me too, it is probably the most bizarre case I've ever worked on, I can say that with hand on heart'

'I wish we could have saved some of the other people. We lost some great people there. And Keith' she says

'I wish we could have saved Harley' replied the 'tec

'OMG, Harley died! How?'

'In the Nags, tripped out on LSD, he kept insisting he was milking a cow'

'But how would that kill him?'

'When you're stood at the urinals next to the biggest Hell's Angel in town, and you hallucinate that you are milking a cow, it's only going to end one way'

'OMG, and the irony. Bikers...Harley'

'It took the pathologist 3 hours to remove the bike chain'

A message from DI Derek World

This has been a traumatic case. We have lost some great Maidstone people. Shame. Myself....I have to dash. I have just checked the time on my lovely little vintage watch that my brother bought me for my 60th birthday. It's a Harrods Silver Cushion. I have to dash...taking my daughter up in a hot-air balloon with her pals for her 18th birthday xxxsx

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