Monthly Archives: March 2016

Retirement Party (flash fiction)

A second story from Flash Fiction night.  The theme was “farewell at last” this time.

Virtually all the office has turned out to see me off.  It’s touching to see so many people around me, enjoying the cake and wine as they celebrate my retirement.  Too bad that James couldn’t come, but he booked his trip to South Africa long before I announced my retirement.

Peter soon begins a speech.  “Ada has been with us for 20 years now,” he announced.  “I always said she could be CEO, but something always held her back.”

“It’s coz she’d never let you shag her!” Lydia shrieks drunkenly at the back.

The roar of laughter is testament to how freely the liquor is flowing.

“We’re all sad to see Ada leave,” Peter continues, “But now she has time to herself, to enjoy spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren, to go on holiday as often as budget allows and of course, to keep looking after her dear old Mum, who from what I’ve heard may outlast us all.”

A chorus of “Awwww” follows.

“And now, something to remind Ada of how long she’s been with us,” Stefan pipes up.

“What, a telex?” Brad bawls out.  More laughter.

Is it a telex?” I venture.

“Nope, it’s much more traditional,” Stefan beams.

Stefan brings forth a gaily decorated photo album, filled with shots of all the good times we’ve had at the office.  So many lovely memories through the years.

Suddenly, Lydia runs up, carrying a phone receiver with her.  She looks pale even through her foundation cream.

“Ada, it’s your Mum’s retirement home,” she utters.

I take the receiver, mutter a few stunned words, then hit the red End Call button.

“It’s my mother,” I say weakly.  “She fell asleep in her armchair… and never woke up.”

I guess tonight won’t be another of those lovely memories.

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The Candle Burns On (flash fiction)

I wrote this on an evening when my writers’ group was trying out flash fiction writing. Various themes were posted on the wall and members chose their own theme to write about. This one is based on the theme “The Final Conflict” and follows on from the fourth and final volume of T.H. White’s Arthurian saga; The Once and Future King.

The knight’s horse had thrown a shoe, so he was forced to stop at the nearest village and seek out the smithy. However, he found his luck grow worse still when he found out where the unfortunate blacksmith was.

The infirmary?” he spluttered.

“Alas so,” the smith’s wife trembled. “I’m told it’s influenza and it may yet prove fatal. We could send a messenger on to Banbury to find a smith there, but it may be three days at least before you can proceed.”

“Three days?” wailed the knight. “I carry what may well be the last direct words of King Arthur! I must bear them to Camelot at once!”

At this, the woman’s eyes lit up.

“Then perhaps a fresh horse is not the answer,” she smiled. “There may be someone in this village who can salvage your mission, if not make it all the more successful.”

She led the knight to a nearby workshop, where a bright-eyed young man stood by a large stamping device of some kind.

“Greetings, Sir Knight,” he beamed. “I am Jonas Goodville. Flynn the blacksmith was lately supplying me with the parts for this machine I have developed.”

“What is it?” asked the knight.

“A printing press,” Jonas smiled, “Inspired by the ingenious minds of the Orient. In one day it can duplicate a manuscript as many times as a score of scribes working for a week!”

“God is good!” cried the knight. “Soon the legend of my king shall spread to all corners of the world!”

So they set to work. Soon afterwards, news of the King’s death at Mordred’s hand reached the village. The knight added a postscript accordingly.

Sadly, the genius of Jonas’s machine would be forgotten for centuries after his death. But thanks to him, although King Arthur died in that time, the candle that was his legend burned on through the ages.

 

The Taking of the Treasure (to solve yourself)

Another competition entry, this time on the theme “possession”.  This time, it’s up to you to work out the solution!

Ordinarily, Chas Stapleton wouldn’t have had any desire to visit Kensington. He was a Hackney lad at heart; a rough diamond who found the toffs who lived round here rather ridiculous, even scary. Still, they were filthy rich.

“Don’t think so,” Chas scoffed, noticing lengthy entry queue outside the Natural History Museum.

Museums reminded Chas of his school days, where he had always been restless and unruly, never knowing quite where he belonged. Chas’s early professional life had been equally unsettled, until he signed up for the Army. He surprised even himself by ending up in the military police, but although he gained focus and purpose, even army life lost its allure. Ultimately, he longed to be his own man.

“This is it,” Chas muttered, as he turned off Cromwell Road into a street full of lofty, opulent Georgian houses.

On leaving the military, Chas set up Stapleton Security with the help of his boot camp buddy Ross. They hired out bodyguards, bouncers and security guards to anyone who might need them, but business hadn’t been good recently. Chas had left the business in Ross’s hands and sought other, more lucrative work.

Soon a bright young lad named Telemachus Belmont offered Chas a job. Belmont man was everything Chas’s wasn’t; born into wealth, a high flier in a top legal firm and now senior partner in a Pall Mall-based helicopter chartering company.

“Bugger,” Chas uttered, as he beheld his new client’s house. It must have been worth millions. The milk-white stonework blazed in the sun. A powder blue BMW convertible was parked outside. Chas felt like he was at the Gates of Heaven as he knocked on the heavy front door.

“Well hello there, dear fellow!” sang the man who answered it. “Charles Stapleton, is it?”

“Call me Chas,” rumbled Chas, thrusting a beefy hand forward. “Telly-Mackers Belmont, right?”

“Tel-em-ar-cuss, old boy,” grinned Mac, beckoning Chas inside, “Or Mac if you prefer. Son of Odysseus, don’t you know, from mythology.”

Chas eyed Mac shrewdly. He was as unlike him in appearance as in background. Mac was short, slight, well-groomed and ebullient, while Chas was a rugged, softly spoken one-man rugby team. He hoped they’d get along with each other.

“Let me show you why you’re here,” Mac beamed.

Chas followed him into a broad hallway with a shining tiled floor, then up a white wooden staircase, onto a landing and down a corridor. At the very end was a door even heavier than the front door, protected by a keypad lock. Mac entered a combination, then heaved the door open.

Chas’s eyes widened as he followed Mac inside. The room resembled the hallway of a palace, with a white vaulted ceiling and lemon yellow walls with plaster cameos embossed upon each panel. Numerous statues and display stands containing items of jewellery sat upon the marble floor. A vast bay window stretched across one end of the room.

“This is my treasure room,” Mac said proudly, “Original art treasures and valuables that I have acquired through contacts right across the world. Legally, of course.”

He giggled, but Chas didn’t join in.

“It’s these little lovelies that you’re here to protect,” Mac went on, “But this one most of all.”

Mac led Chas to a display case beside the window, in which sat the most dazzling necklace imaginable. The chain contained alternate links of gold and platinum, and from these hung five diamond rosettes, a different coloured gem at the centre of each. No wonder a complex-looking electronic lock was fitted to the door of the display case.

“This necklace was made for Lady Josefina De Leon of Aragon in the fifteenth century,” Mac said reverently, “I bought it for twenty-five million pounds at Sotheby’s, but some say it’s worth three times that, not that I’d ever sell it to find out. Many’s the illustrious guest or bosomy beauty I’ve charmed with a glimpse of this, my dear fellow.”

Chas’s expression remained stony. Not only did Mac speak like a cartoon aristocrat, but Chas didn’t approve of his air of lofty conceit. Despite his affable nature, Chas wouldn’t have been surprised if there were some serious flaws in Mac’s character. Many of the statues in the treasure room were of barely dressed women; perhaps Mac was as possessive with women as he was with jewellery.

“The treasure room has a spiffing security network,” Mac grinned. “Combination lock on the main door, bulletproof glass on the window and display cases, motion sensors activate when the room is vacant and the necklace case itself has a lock sensitive only to my voice and thumbprint.

“As for you, Chas, I’ve converted the summer house in the garden into a control room, where you’ll be stationed during the nights you’re working. I’d have had you in the house itself but it may deter my guests, especially the afore-mentioned females. Don’t worry, though. You’ll be able to monitor the security systems from there and there’s a powerful night scope through which you’ll have a direct view of the treasure room. Now, let’s go down to the living room and discuss your contract.”

Two weeks later, it was nearly midnight and Chas was pacing the floor of the summer house irritably. This job was a waste of his talents. It was nothing but sitting around, staring either at rows of buttons or down a lens. Even the money was losing its appeal.

Oh, to be back with the Redcaps, Chas thought. If nothing happens after another fortnight, I’ll seek work elsewhere.

He wouldn’t have long to wait.

Chas was wrenched back to Earth when he caught something moving in the shadows of the treasure room. Moving? Impossible! Why hadn’t the motion sensors triggered the alarm?

He checked the control panel next to him. All normal. He looked into the night scope. What? There were two people in the treasure room! And they were bending over near where the…

“Oh shit!” Chas roared.

He sprinted out of the summer house. His long, powerful strides carried him to the house and into the hall in just sixteen seconds, but already two figures were pounding towards the front door.

“Help! Chas! They took the necklace!” Mac screamed from somewhere above.

Chas gave chase, but it was too late. By the time he got outside, the intruders had already jumped onto two powerful motorcycles and were speeding off in different directions. Chas quickly committed the registration numbers to memory before the bikes disappeared and then ran back inside.

Chas raced upstairs, opened the treasure room door (Mac had given him the combination) and found, sure enough, the secure display case open and Josefina De Leon’s necklace gone. Mac came out of his bedroom to join him moments later.

“Oh bother,” moaned Mac. “All that top notch security and they bally got around it! Still, at least those two didn’t damage anything.”

“What went wrong?” Chas growled. “The panel in the summer house said all systems normal.”

“Those thieves must have been as fit as you,” Mac remarked. “They reached the stairs before I even got out of the room.”

“I’ll go down into the garden to phone the police,” said Chas, “The signal’s better there. And Ross too. He’ll want to know the details.”

A few minutes later, the police arrived. Mac greeted them at the front door.

“Ah, officers,” he said warmly. “Have you caught those thieving bounders yet?”

“They’ll be found soon enough,” said one of the officers, “But in the meantime, Telemachus Belmont, you’re under arrest on suspicion of insurance fraud.”

“What?” shrieked Mac. “This is outrageous! I’ve just been robbed and you’re treating me as the bally suspect!”

“It’s not outrageous at all.”

It was Chas who spoke, striding through the hallway towards Mac.

“I’ll bet you loved that necklace so much you couldn’t bear to part with it, so you stole it yourself to claim the insurance. You hired me hoping I’d strengthen your alibi, or maybe you assumed I’d ignore the crime, since I’m from the East End so you assumed I’d got no moral fibre.”

“Chas, old chum,” Mac protested, “You can think that!”

“Can’t I?” Chas retorted. “You not only rigged your own security network to fail, but gave yourself away through what you said. That’s why I made the 999 call away from you; to tip the police off.”

Why did Chas suspect Mac of staging the theft of the necklace?  The solution is in code, to stop you getting too curious too soon.

SOLUTION

3-8-1-19 9-14-9-20-9-1-12-12-25 7-15-20 19-21-19-16-9-3-9-15-21-19 23-8-5-14

20-8-5 2-21-18-7-12-1-18-19 2-25-16-1-19-19-5-4 20-8-5 19-5-3-18-9-20-25

23-9-20-8 21-14-14-1-20-21-18-1-12 5-1-19-5, 9-14-3-12-21-4-9-14-7 1 12-15-3-11

20-8-1-10 23-1-19 3-15-4-5-4 20-15 13-1-3’19 20-8-21-13-2-16-18-9-14-20 1-14-4

22-15-9-3-5 1-12-15-14-5.  20-8-5-14 8-5 14-15-20-9-3-5-4 14-5-9-20-8-5-18 20-8-5

20-18-5-1-19-21-19-5 18-15-15-13 4-15-15-18 14-15-18 20-8-5 4-9-19-16-12-1-25

3-1-19-5 8-1-4 2-5-5-14 6-15-18-3-5-4.  2-21-20 9-6 13-1-3 8-1-4-14’20 19-5-5-14

20-8-5 20-8-9-5-22-5-19 7-15 16-1-19-20 15-14 20-8-5 12-1-14-4-9-14-9, 8-5

3-15-21-14-4 14-5-9-20-8-5-18 8-1-22-5 11-14-15-23-14 20-8-1-20 20-8-5-18-5

23-5-18-5 20-23-15 15-6 20-8-5-13, 15-18 20-8-1-20 20-8-5-25 8-1-4 19-20-15-12-5-14

8-9-19 14-5-3-11-12-1-3-5.  9-14 18-5-22-5-1-12-9-14-7 20-8-9-19

9-14-6-15-18-13-1-20-9-15-14, 8-5 7-1-22-5 8-9-13-19-5-12-6 1-23-1-25!