In late 2016 I decided to take the step of sharing the dark recesses of my mind via the medium of Kindle. Up to the time of writing this, I am yet to trouble any best seller lists but I’m really enjoying setting myself these targets and actually hitting them.
To date, there have been two Novellas: Fourtold and DJ Beacon.
‘Fourtold’ is the story of four ruthless and unloveable rogues who have reluctantly banded together for a daring robbery. I decided to do it from a first person perspective, using each character as the narrator for each of the chapters. It has a word count of roughly 25k words, ideal really for a short train journey!
Here is the link to it:
And here is the first chapter
FOURTOLD chapter 1
I never thought I was missing anything from my life. Well that’s not entirely true. I realised that other people had things that I didn’t. And on occasion I would wonder what their days amounted to instead of mine. But that’s curiosity, not desire. They are two different things. As you will soon find out I am very clear on little details like that.
My day had begun by purchasing a pair of rubber gloves. I was keen to make a point that I was useful to the operation going on downstairs.
Downstairs, there were chainsaws and hammers, screaming and pounding in rancid unison. I could hear complaints of rubbery skin and bloated flesh. The smell though entirely obvious, was ignored by everyone. Perhaps they liked to pretend it wasn’t there.
I felt like an apprentice, watching my sponsor bang away at Gary’s teeth. I’ve given him a name now, big mistake.
People are perceptive. But not so much that they’ll be able to figure out that I didn’t want to be here. Not because of the horror of the situation. No not that. Truth is, I was in the wrong place.
Things had got swapped around at the last minute and I know exactly why. I am 35 and live the life of a simpleton. They see me as a man easy to push around. I am yet to prove them wrong.
So I was called at 4 this morning, on the fifth hour of a sleep I thought would last until 7. That’s another thing, the hours.
They originally wanted me to head down south. The sea air and all that. Bucket and spade type work, metal detectors and a location illuminated by the headlights of somebody’s car.
Then things changed, as they always do. I’m not trusted.
Do you feel like I’m leaving out certain details? Well you are right. I am. You see because if I don’t explain things my way you’ll take their side. That always happens to me.
They gave me the dirty job because she wanted to drive down south with her lover. Their names aren’t important. I don’t wish for you to lose sight of why you’re reading this .
All that matters is they’re there and I’m here.
It’s like a punishment. Myself and Farmer stand now in front of a large table. There are six different pieces of human body on the table. The head is separate too.
We haven’t always agreed on things but we both know what’s going on now. The fact that we know might save one of us but not both. The seeds of doubt have been planted in both our heads and there is sure to be a harvest sooner or later.
Farmer was making a comeback. Barely a week out of prison. He must have picked up some hacksaw skills while he was there. He moves the blade through the bones with great efficiency. It is hard not to admire him.
But the smell, I don’t know how he stands it. They are the bones of a forty year old man. Forty years of foul smelling internal organs. Forty years of this world, diseased, withered, deep reds and purples and vein after vein. I threaten to wretch every time I look over Farmer’s shoulder but he is without remorse. On he goes until the job is done. I’d hate to see what he does to people he dislikes.
Gary was a cop. There is no point keeping that secret. It will be in the newspapers soon enough. Where I’ll be by that stage is anyone’s guess. I’m quite certain the cop will not be buried on his own.
The other two left an hour ago. All this action, Gary being shot dead and cut up, quick decisions were made in my absence. Loverboy called me while I was in the middle of my dreamless deep sleep and started barking orders at me. I was unprepared for that. His aggression, his nerve.
I drove over here this morning cursing myself for not answering him back. Spent most of the drive reimagining the phone call in my own image, dreaming that I had all the great lines, putting him in his box.
I got there with my pair of rubber gloves. Farmer was just about finished. He was first in command while the lovers were absent. So he started barking his orders. Black sacks this, cotton bedsheets that. Nothing will ever prepare you for slipping and sliding around in the blood of a fellow human being. Gary was like a stuffed pig. That’s what you mightn’t realise and what any qualified butcher will tell you. Blood must be drained from the carcass. This makes any cutting much easier. Otherwise you’ll have a big mess all over the room.
I couldn’t say this to Farmer. He knew just as well as I did. He was told to do it like this. Loverboy was making all his judgements now behind the barrel of his pistol. He had been humbled by Gary.
Gary had become a friend and double-crossed Loverboy. In turn he had followed him home expecting him to go home to his wife. But there was no wife. Instead he had walked into the Police Station, using the rear entrance.
When this comes to pass as it surely will, the media will no doubt refer to us as some elite group of thieves, whose crimes became more homicidal as the stakes were raised. This was the first kill that I could ever be associated with. The lovers I’m not so sure. Farmer was old hat.
Gary and Farmer had been here yesterday with me. We weren’t up to much. Just hanging around, waiting for the lovers to turn up. I enjoyed his company. Farmer had some great stories. I didn’t mind him embellishing nor his questionable attitude to those of a foreign distinction. Respect your elders as best you can I reckon.
I was tired and made my excuses just before eleven last night. I had been wrestling with the idea of getting out and driving past my flat, far away. But I was trapped. I owed money out to so many people. This wing and a prayer was my last chance. The high card.
Loverboy hadn’t told me about Gary until I got back there. He explained who he was and why he had to kill him. I was too stunned to protest.
As I’ve said the original plan was I’d drive down south with the girl. Now it’s difficult for me to explain this woman without you falling for her. Hers is a life I’ll never know. I’m sure she has a contempt of it. Her beauty. If all this was some way to show she had a brain to go with it she has succeeded.
A diamond is one of the hardest things in the world to find. And even if the object insists on showing itself to you, there is no certainty you will be able to access it, let alone keep it. Perhaps a good woman is the same, but I don’t think she counts as that.
When she rolled up on the beach three weeks ago she couldn’t have imagined the events which were to follow. This is heavy winter now, February not far off, with the ocean more angry than just cold. She must have had to swim nearly a mile to get back on dry land. The elderly magnate she had abandoned on a yacht not built for purpose.
But oh how she must’ve hated herself. The jewellery. That little piece of magic for which this confession has been scribed, had escaped her.
She was definite, had no doubt that the diamond had made it back with her to the beach. She told us that as she battled the waves back towards land and she had relented every few moments to check inside her brassiere. Every time the reassurance of an uncomfortable rock remained.
Even when she stood up on the beach for the first time and struggled to keep her feet out of sheer exhaustion, she was positive it was still there. Only when she had managed to stumble along for a few more feet did she realise it was gone.
And so it had been agreed, a treasure hunt would commence.
Three weeks. Three weeks since she left that boat. The fat cat businessman was surely at the bottom of the sea now. For him I shed no tears. His was a weakness that befalls so many males, they who live life by scent.
She had shown few signs of reluctance before meeting him and from what I could see fewer indications of remorse after the event.
I had driven her to meet the unfortunate millionaire that fateful morning. Two days before the new year. I was never sold on her to be honest but the scheme seemed sound enough. Her mark was a friend of her uncle. At least that’s what she told him. When you’re nearing retirement age and a young pretty girl is friendly to you for no reason, you have a limited amount of time before the blood leaves your brain and finds its way to other long forgotten organs.
They had been playing casino games at a charity function. He insisted she blew on his dice. She relented eventually. Already fearful of drawing attention to herself, she smiled and bid the man farewell.
To passers by this would have appeared innocuous and typical of the man’s friendly but overbearing personality. But the lovers had been plotting this guy’s demise for months.
She admitted it was hard to resist the temptation not to tell this old man everything at first. When you’re in deep in the foxhole like this, the long piece of string that helps you find your way back can snap at any point.
It is a job for the nerveless, even keelers.
She made sure she saw him again the next day. The local cafe by the pier. He was with a few friends. They were eating too much pig fat to be considered healthy. She immediately noticed the swell in his stomach that she pretended not to see in the casino. For her to see this job through to its conclusion, she had to put her disgust to the back of her mind.
She was hitting her stride very well that morning. She spent just about long enough at the coffee counter. Wasted just those few vital moments at the cash register trying to find her credit card. All this observed by the mark who had gone to relieve himself in the toilet.
He came back out, shaking his damp soapy hands dry and saw an opportunity for harmless chivalry.
To hear her tell it she was a picture of brooding sexuality when he offered to buy her latte. That she had snared him with her winning smile. I guess I could go along with it.
I looked on from a nearby barge, painting the same spot over and over again in a ugly lavender, the kind of which you might see in unloved guestrooms. The boat rocked gently underneath me as I watched her glide out of the coffee shop. The old man’s hand was hovering around her, trying to find the most meaningless part of her he could find. He located her forearm, failing miserably.
Her eyes directed the old man towards me. Cue my part, the friendly wave. Like some hapless tourist on a jaunt from some kinder town. He ignored me perfectly.
She returned to the barge and immediately began arguing with me as part of the performance. Then as I continued with the cheap lavender paint she went below, where Loverboy was hiding. Soon the mumbling began.
I had picked up the general plot without much explanation. The lovers had explained very little to me. Why I was chosen was pretty clear. I was cheap and expendable.
There wasn’t much chatter on the barge that day. The lovers were inseparable as I carried on my weather-proofing charade on the top deck. Eventually she came back up, dressed to the nines, ready for the next part of her mission.
Loverboy didn’t like talking to me. I didn’t take it personally. He didn’t like anyone. Just a strange man, there’s plenty of them around.
I spent the next hours playing solitaire with a deck of pornographic playing cards, feeling tired. Auld lang syne eventually came from the nearby port and we were getting close.
Nobody would take their boat out in this weather. You would have to be drunk. And she had made certain of that.
I’m not sure exactly what went on in that boat. Or how she survived. But I am here to fill in those gaps between the story. The details that they trusted me with.
We picked her up at about two o’clock that morning. She claimed that she was close to hypothermia. When Loverboy had stopped cuddling her like some lovesick teenager I managed to establish that she had misplaced the rock. I didn’t believe her. She stripped naked and started screaming a lot. To tell you the truth I was quite aroused. Anyway once that happened I had to believe her. Loverboy threw his big jacket around her and we jumped into the car.
We were pretty certain nobody was watching. Of course now we know that isn’t true.
We got back to the base and she explained what had gone wrong. It seemed very unbelievable. She was lying. Loverboy seemed so convinced and supportive, that’s what gave me my first clue. They were playing me for a fool.
So that was three weeks ago. Now I’m helping a man called Farmer put the remains of a policeman’s body in the back of a hatchback. You might wonder why I’m still here. Why I haven’t cut my losses. Maybe you think there was no diamond at all and that I’m far too naive for believing all this.
Do you not think I haven’t already thought of that? I have my insurance fully paid up. I am not worried. the lovers have to come back here.
I hid their passports.
Now all I need to do is stay alive. Farmer is thinking the same as me but I don’t know how much he knows. He was only brought in a day or two ago to help get rid of Gary. I’m sure Loverboy has told Farmer that I am to be killed. Do I bargain with Farmer now and try to turn him or say nothing and pretend we are on the same team? Surely they will kill him too and leave the pair of us with the dead cop’s blood on our hands.
The lovers will be back soon. It is another hour to sunrise. We have put the two small suitcases with Gary’s remains into the back of the car. I dare now to rest my eyes on the couch. It is dangerously comfortable. I feel myself sinking into its grasp. I fight it, sit up straight. Squinting in the darkness, trying to decipher shapes near the window.
Farmer sits in the kitchen. I can hear him reading a newspaper, the same paper as yesterday.
Maybe our names will be in tomorrow’s edition.
Next up is DJ Beacon, which I completed in 2017. ‘Beacon’ is a story based in a struggling radio station and tells the story of Peter, a DJ/phone show presenter who is stubbornly trying to stay relevant in both his work and his life. With a word count of approx 41k, you might need a few extra train journeys, but it’s no huge commitment to your life.
The link to that is here:
And here is the first chapter
-My head is like a furnace, do you ever get that?
-Do I what?
I heard her well enough but it’s the sudden realization that she’s brought up her head in conversation that throws me. Maggie has a large head.
-When your head’s on fire you know!
It’s funny. All week I was wondering how she keeps that big ball of a head on her shoulders and now it seemed gravity had begun to question it to.
Maggie. That’s the owner of the head. My boss. Actually a nice woman. It took me a long time to decide that. Experience has taught me never to make snap judgements. If it takes ten years, so be it.
So yes a decent human being but she has just about drunk herself to oblivion. That might explain the head size. Her body has not kept up because she barely eats enough to avoid any disorders. But yeah bloated face, saggy neck, eyes like a goldfish. It’s important you don’t think I’m insulting her because she would say these things herself if she was asked.
“I’m made for radio and radio is made for me”
That’s one of her favoured ones. Usually comes out a few times a year. It’s a phrase that should offer you a clue as to our place of employment.
I also must say at this point that I’m no prize myself. In fact apart from the fact that middle age is causing one side of my face to cave in quicker than the other, I am becoming a cantankerous old prick. And here I am losing one of the few people can still bear to be around me. But anyway.
I had decided to do the decent thing and take her home in a taxi. No, you don’t know where this story is going so shut the fuck up.
The place where we work have an unspoken agreement that if she’s getting a bit ropey in the pub or at a party or whatever we take it in turns to bring her home. It’s my turn tonight.
I don’t mind. Maggie is not a miserable drunk. In fact in my not very expert opinion I don’t even think she’s an alcoholic. She drinks maybe four to five times a week. Very rarely before 5pm. Only from Thursday onwards is there any danger of over indulgence. The next morning she’s sometimes a little bit late but she’s fairly on the ball.
Unfortunately Maggie has been pushed out of the job. This is her last Christmas party. We have it in January as per tradition but it still feels very cruel on her.
Don’t mistake me. I have had some serious battles in my time with her. She’s been against me so often I’ve dreamt of killing her at least ten times. But then people say the same about their spouses so maybe it means nothing.
She is sitting slouched beside me, babbling.
-Did I..no no, did you?
-What Maggie? No, I didn’t tell them to take your vodka away.
-I’m not talking about that! Ye fool! I’m asking if you heard?
-Oh you didn’t!
She’s finding this all hilarious, as she tries not to let her head roll off the brittle cliff that is her shoulders.
-Peter. Your world. Your world is very comfortable am I right?
-Yeah, yes I suppose.
I can just about make out the driver’s face on his Taxi licence. He’s had a shave since but he still ain’t smiling. I can tell that just from this awkward angle. Can’t see the eyes however. Not that I would be much good at reading them.
-Peter! Peter, listen. Your world is going to go upside down and arseways out! Your routine is gone!
-Maggie, you do know it’s David’s wife having the baby. I don’t even have a girlfriend.
-I know that, not talking about that.
This game of pulling teeth would be hard enough without the swaying and slurring. But I still really want to hear what she’s going to say.
-So you keep saying! What do you mean!
-What I mean is…
She smiles at me with a face like a child who knows they can make you smile no matter what. In this moment I realize how much I love this person without really knowing them. No, not like that, platonic I mean. I am praying she won’t say something to make me hate her a little. We only have a few days left together and it would be a bad way to leave it.
-You, my friend are going to be asked to take over from me.
-Yep, that’s right. They want you have my job.
-No, no. That’s not gonna happen.
-I’m telling you now. Telling you now that’s what I’ve heard.
-Heard? Off who? I say, incredulously. It is in all honesty the first of I’ve heard of it.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve thought about it in the past. But this is a new development. A total surprise.
-I heard your name mentioned a few times now before Christmas. And I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure. But that’s the way it’s going to be. And I just want to say, good luck. And I love ya, I love ya my friend. And I’m happy for ya too!
And with that she has said her piece. She turns away and looks out the window of the cab. And there isn’t a drink in the world that can change the sudden sobriety of this moment.
We barely say anything for the remainder. I try to change the subject but she isn’t listening. I haven’t seen Maggie cry in a long time but I can tell she’s close here and I feel awful because I know she’d hate to show that weakness to anyone working under her.
The roads become narrower and soon I recognise the entrance to her suburb. The driver has taken the back way, maybe to save time, maybe because that’s the way he knows. It’s a relief when we finally get to her door.
Maggie is quick to her purse.
-Here mate, take that.
-It’s too much love. Far too much-
-Take it, take it. Don’t insult me now. Buy the wife somethin’ nice, or the girlfriend, you have a girlfriend?
-No, I have a wife yeah. That’s very nice, thanks very much-
-Thank you very much kind sir. A most noble profession. One of the oldest in the world.
Maggie has not looked at me in about ten minutes. I honestly think she might never talk to me again. After ten years it’s hard to take.
Finally though, she finds that something inside her. That bit of class, that so many others lack.
-Tell me one thing Peter. Tell me one thing. Did I make you better?
-Yes. Of course you did!
With that she steps out and looks up at her front door.
-Do you need any help Mags?
-Get away te fuck, I’m not that kind of girl.
We both laugh at that. I think even the driver smirked.
Maggie struggles to find her feet and inevitably the handbag hits the floor.
I go to the door to get out but she sees me.
-I’m grand Peter, don’t be fussing over me. Don’t be fussing.
After a few moments she rights herself. Soon she is walking to her door as confidently as she can. I can hear her just about over the cab’s diesel engine.
-Oh how we stumble, she says, and once more “Oh how we stumble.”
I hope that you give at least one of them a shot and see what you think. One of the great things about the Kindle is that once you’ve made the initial outlay to buy the device, you are guaranteed to save money on buying books. Mine are both under three Euro at the moment so you can’t go wrong really!
Note that I haven’t completely abandoned the possibility of publishing a run of more traditional paperbacks. If and when that happens, I’ll be sure to let everyone know!