Tag Archives: Short story

Dark Connections – 3

Dark Connections – Episode 3

A Call From Buenos Aires & An Inspector Calls.

“Shocking murder at Station!” trumpeted The Daily News morning edition.The Telegraph & Argus regaled its readers with, “Horrific Homicide at Station” ,whilst the more sedate Post & Courier went with “East Coast strikes set to spread”, and only mentioned the murder on page 5.

Smith gave all the papers a cursory examination and tossed them to one side as he leant back on his bar stool.

“Rough business that’s for sure”,opined Steffano,ever attentive to his customer’s needs and interests,in this case,John Smith’s breakfast.Refilling his cup with some more hot java,the bar owner went about wiping down the already gleaming spotless bar surface.

“Vultures gotta eat too,you know”.

“How come the flatfoots are interested in where you was?”

“Flatfoots gotta eat too,you know!” Steffano laughed at that and with an imperceptible turn of the head indicated sotto voce that one of that aforementioned ilk had just entered his establishment.

“Morning Inspector” half growled Smith chewing on a rasher of bacon.

“And the top of the morning to you too Smith,never figured you for being prescient,how did you know it was me”.

“Old magic trick I learnt called looking into the bar room mirror there”.They got to talking and clearing up some mutual misconceptions,at least that’s the gloss that Smith for his part put on the matter.
“Did I hear your Miss Roberts right,calling you Skip? you were Navy?”

“Oh that,no,no,Army and you?”

“Second Lieutenant,I was at Anzio,you?”

“That Skip? Oh I was a Captain,Normandy straight on into Germany ended up Kiel way. My Company got rescuing a few folks from abandoned cattle wagons, anyhow I got them over to Sweden after commandeering a Nazi E-Boat in the harbour there and so the guys tagged me Skipper”.

Ruyter interrupted the histography,

” Back to this other John Smith,Brannigan’s checking with the phone company about that call you made at the Station Manager’s office”.

Smith nodded nonchalantly and carried on with his breakfast and Ruyter kind of took his own leave,”I’ll be in touch,oh say, you a regular here?”

“Yeah,Steffano was in my Company when we were doing the business in Germany”.
   Smith recounted most of this back at the office on the fifth floor to the venerable Miss Roberts who was trying to get a word in edge wise.

“And he seemed curious about me patronising Steffano’s,what do you reckon Toots about that?”

“Well Skip,now that you’ve allowed me to get a word in,I’ve got several..”

“Go ahead,name ’em,I’m listening”.

“Well,the Inspector was out for confirmation, you told him about your War service in which case he’ll get to my late husband the Colonel, which’ll square the circle for him about you.”

Smith thumb-stroked his chin in momentary contemplation.
“And you’ve got a call waiting since you got back which I’m still holding”

“What call,who?why didn’t you tell me sooner instead of letting me gab away” 

“It’s Cousin Phil on a secure line”.Smith affected puzzlement,”Which of my erm, Cousin Phils is it?”Smith took the call in his own inner office.
It was Buenos Aires.”Phil” was the erm,Cultural Attache at the Embassy.

He had learned that some rather important Swiss gentlemen had arrived the other day and were making discrete enquiries with prominent Argentine entrepreneurs about certain business opportunities in the States.

“So how come you didn’t make the meeting?”

“You know how they work,cut-outs,double blinds they want to negotiate at arms length with no repercussions.If the stock market got wind of this.Potentially huge South American investors with Swiss financial backing.”

“So what’s next?”

“I’m supposed to wait for them to get in touch”.

“Odd that,from a purely operational perspective,postponing a meeting like that”.

“Say Phil before we say buenos tardes and adios and all that ,presumably those Swiss gentlemen would be of the German speaking variety.” Phil confirmed.
“You know clients of those Banks all got mountains of gold teeth they yanked out at Belsen and elsewhere that need melting down converting to hard currency and that hard currency needs to be invested”.

“Your right Cousin John, that’d be what economists call the virtuous circle”.
   Even as John Smith ended the call with his Cousin Phil,across town another phone call was ending.Sergeant Brannigan had just informed Inspector Ruyter that the Phone Company’s records show the number John Smith was given to call the day before from the Station Manager’s office turns out to be the number of Steffano’s Bar&Grill next the station…

A Quiet Night

                  A QUIET NIGHT

They certainly had a sense of humour.Christening their product with an acronym which also meant ” Die ” in German.

And here he was,stood next to the STERB ( Self-Termination Booth )the only one still in working order in his neighbourhood,at 4 in the morning.

Good thing was he’d remembered to renew his annual registration only the other day.You don’t access a STERB without all  the bureaucratic necessities taken care of.

And despite all the official media denials,there was an uptick recently in the informal practice,which of course was not only frowned upon by society but also crucially denied revenue to VIVAT,the makers and operators of STERB.

For avowed libertarians they sure didn’t mind regulation by the quasi-state when it suited their pockets.

Anyhow, 4 in the morning on the Sunshine Estate and the STERB resplendent in all its diffident,opaque utilitarian glory inviting him to partake of the ultimate eucharist.

Earth,pardon me we’re supposed to spell it Erth to promote the sacred tenet of Inclusion, anyhow this cosmic dirtball we’re all stood on is way past its Happy Hour.

Not that a solid century- and- a half of Degenderisation hadn’t put the brakes on in a way that Malthus wouldn’t have approved of.But 19 Billion? Really?and the off – world colonies were taking fewer every day.

But even just the idea of genomic reconfiguration & physio-reconstruction was simply too big a leap for too many even for those with low socio-economic ratings such as him.

Seriously who’ d want an extended “life”- presence on an alien world as a diamond miner- 5 feet tall weighing 350 pounds in order to adapt and cope to an alien gravity?But hell,apart from that, the job prospects were always good.

The DNA interface clicked and the booth opened its maw.

Soft lighting,ambient music- JS Bach he guessed- welcomed him as he sat on the facsimile classic barbers chair. In that regard,VIVAT the makers and operators of STERB didn’t spare any of the proverbial expense.
The handy data lonzenge swiped over the screen array; a flow of easy-to-comprehend numeric indices glared back at him.
A synth-voice cooing in all 9 official languages, asked whether he wanted to proceed.

He was momentarily distracted from his induced reverie by a violent banging coming from the outside of the booth.
A muffled, distant voice exclaiming ,”Hey you in there,you gonna be much longer,some of us ain’t got all day you know!”

That wasn’t supposed to be part of the advertised “Termination Experience” , but what can you expect with this being the only STERB in working order on the whole damn estate?
He could of course change his mind even now and go back to his apartment on subterranean level Minus372 and prep for Communal productive activity later this morning.But it wouldn’t count diddly squat toward his ratings and that really was the thing.The thing that mattered.

The dormant booth AI voiced a prompt ,could he please choose an option and initiate the connecting nano-probes?
And then there it was.The giant red numerals commencing at Six – Zero.

It was that attention to detail and responsiveness to user demand and preference that led VIVAT marketing to go with the now iconic 60 seconds visual countdown thereby enhancing the Termination Experience.

He didn’t mind one way or the other.

Was that nongender specific citzen outside the booth still exclaiming about having to wait so long to use the booth still there?

He didn’t mind.

Beats being reshaped as a five foot human gorilla to go exist on an alien world even with a guaranteed additional longevity and enhanced ratings.

He..he didn’t..mind..

And as he exuded his last gasp of air he heard the AI synth-voice pronounce the sacramental blessing: 

VIVAT thanks you for choosing STERB for your Termination Experience.

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin

The stream of red figures scrolled along the bottom of the screen, their instantaneous updates reassuring his last minute nerves.He’d certainly come a long way, a very long way in such a short span of time.And here he was barely a minute away from his greatest success, a career defining achievement even by the impossibly high standards set by the mysterious body known collquially as ” The Quorum”.This was going to be spectacular.

Anchored some 500 yards-the telemetry said 504.33- from the beach front of the secluded luxury holiday villa, this hired yacht was just one of five visible dots to the villa resident were he to casually cast his gaze out toward the Adriatic.
” Porax-3000 :Helping You Solve Tomorrow’s Problems Today”.had caught his febrile imagination the moment he’d seen it on the darkweb.Where do professional hitmen,international assassins go when they require tools to ply their trade?Well,like everyone else they go shopping online,they go Click & Collect.

Since Libertarian governments in most parts of the globe had finally enacted their legislative piece-de-resistance and de-criminalised murder,the activity,in its higher end form was regulated and made as routine a market oriented business transaction as sending christmas baubles from atheist China to Catholic Europe.
The stream of red figures had begun slowing down from their earlier frantic scrolling, final preparation time was nearly up.
The Porax-3000, a singularly handtooled instrument of vengeance and retribution; or as any user would have it, The Mother of all rifles.He finessed a couple of minor adjustments to the tripod legs on which it rested.Blew away some imaginary Adriatic sand.The main screen was now showing two red bands,top and bottom.Final Target Acquisition.
He’d tendered this job at 30 millions,submitted all the requisite bona fides,breakdown of costs etc.He figured he stood to clear north of 20.The Porax-3000 Killing machine coming in at 1.75 mill;the week long hire of the luxury yacht etc to establish a non-threatening background presence that was another 2.Anyway who’s counting?
The Quorum put out this job to tender;the prelim prospectus id’ed this media mogul philanthropist about to switch his financing to a Movement on the cusp of a predicted electoral earthquake that would shift the balance of power across the continent.Except since the tendering process ended,bids evaluated and contract awarded none of it would now eventuate.
What had sold him on this Kiling machine was the added filip of “Complimentary Micro-Drone” included in the price.Wow!And now 504.33 yards away onshore on the veranda to be precise and some 100 feet somewhere up in the atmosphere the micro-drone in geo-stationary orbit was feeding back micron exact telemetry to the gun mounted on the tripod.The bullet incorporated nano-GPS and was linked to the micro-drone system.A sudden gust of wind,squall of rain whatever would be circumvented by the nano GPS.The darkweb sales pitch boasted that a blind man could score a perfect hit with this.But he appreciated that the apparatus had a manual operation override feature which he felt was not merely aesthetic,but also recognised and validated the user- the hitman ,The Jackal as he thought of himself,as a consummate,dispassionate artist of annihilation,turning the page of history.
  Out pottered the squat obese figure of the philanthropist for his regular 45 minute post lunch deckchair nap on the veranda.The Assassin hunkered down and put his eye to the scope,like the advert said,a blind man could do this ,it was all in the feel and touch of his finger on the trigger that would initiate the release of the projectile which could never miss..And there it was,504.33 yards away,a head exploded silently in a plume of blood and brains and all captured on the screen at his side by the micro-drone.As he sat back in his deckchair,uncorked the bottle of antique champagne,supposedly from Napoleon’s own cellar and began toasting his own success, it never occurred him that if his recently deceased target had no inkling of a micro-drone relaying targetting telemetry from over his head,then how could he?

And as the 2 distant figures got back into their anonymous looking hire car,having dismantled a tripod and its rifle and re-boxed a returned micro-done.One of the figures thought he’d heard his partner say, “Welcome to The Big Leagues,Sonny”. But he could’ve been mistaken,after all they were both professionals…

Visible (by Jade Thomas)


And he said it never happened…

However, she still felt a sharp pinch in the pit of her stomach, her pupils widened. The back of her neck began to sweat.Thoughts consumed her entire body and for once, her memories of another women enlarged.

How could she forget? How could she forgive?The love of her life could not cause her any pain. She knew he was dedicated to his work as much as he was to her. He amended his past and gave her anything her heart desired.

So why did he glance more than once that summer’s day and patted the neighbour’s pretty shoulder when she came home claiming she had been fired?

How could she have been so visionless? How could she have been gullible?

Are these thoughts all a coincidence or now has she become more visible?

He made a beautiful vow, her husband caressed her into his arms, the same places she always felt protected. “She is jealous”! He justified.

She stared with her blue eyes at the sparkle in her wedding ring, she felt disconnected.Her hopes and dreams shattered into a million pieces while she felt their first kiss on her lips. Once again the magical power of feeling in love.

She could still hear his voice through the pounding of her heartbeat. His declaration of undying love would always be with her but now would never be enough.

Suddenly, her mind was screaming aloud and nothing in the entire world mattered anymore. Unforgiving images came flooding into her perfect life.

She could not handle the pressure of her soul darkening; she clenched the sharpest kitchen blade that hung down symmetrically to their family portrait.

She was no longer a person with a conscience or even a human being; she was no longer a beloved wife.


He watches the lives of others through the end of a telephoto lens.

It’s 5:42 a.m. on an ordinary suburban housing estate and he’s been squatting for the past 6 hours in an unmarked delivery van when he catches a fleeting glimpse of a window-framed face. The same face that’s appeared at the same time at the same window on each day that he’s been here.

Parked in the driveway of the house opposite, he’s taken on the role (at least in his own imagination), of ethnographer studying and recording for academic posterity the esoteric habits and rituals of an hithertofore unknown indigenous society.He records in the neatest handwriting the ephemera of the lives of others.Their daily routines timetabled in line-ruled pocket notebooks of which he keeps more than sufficient under his seat.

Outside his ethereal realm as disembodied observer, in the lives of others a telephone rings.

Its receiver is lifted. It’s followed by a rush of silence.He adjusts his earphones and enters a menacing voicelessness.The spools of his tape-recorder engage.”Click , click ” as though a conductor is tapping his baton bringing an orchestra to order.

There is to his mind a haunting absence of noise. When telephones ring and their receivers are lifted, conversations follow. Except when they don’t and he catches another fleeting glimpse of the window-framed face that he saw just a few minutes ago.

Inexplicably, the receiver is replaced,” Click ” .The tape-recorder stops.

It’s 5:52 am and across the city in a sound studio on the fourth floor of an otherwise unremarkable office building the voices he’d captured less than 24 hours ago are on playback. Their rhythms and cadences mimic the lives of others.They hear him listening to them, listening to him listening.

Observed. Recorded. Collated. Analysed.


Les Autres

The unexplained disappearance of the reclusive author had never been properly investigated,at least not to the satisfaction of his fans,his readers and most of all his adopted son,the wannabe reporter on the local rag.
For years this state of dissatisfaction festered amongst the interested parties,who if nothing else managed to commemorate the renowned scribbler’s vanishment with an annual pilgrimage of sorts.
Then one year with the weather being particularly inclement,even for the usually desolate Scottish lochs,only the reporter had made it to the venue,the deserted house.Whereupon finding himself alone resolved in an instant to make a foray into the abandoned domicile to perhaps, in his own mind, satisfy an unquenchable curiosity.
Nothing actually came of that quixotic foray,nothing that is apart from a chance discovery,in the drawer of an antique dresser of a manuscript.
A suicide note perhaps? may be not.A last will and testament? no one however questioned its authenticity when it was scanned and reproduced in the local weekly under the adopted son’s byline.The absent author alluded to his own ineluctable disappearance in the form of a poem.Simply perhaps to add to whatever mystery was bound to ensue from his vanishment.

When winter’s cadence sounds,
burn their pictures
the photographs of the dead
burn them,
so that they shan’t
trouble you again
when winter’s cadence sounds;

the gardens are shrouded
in snow
upon which no earthly foot
will fall,
and the door chimes dormant
hang suspended by a thread
of your own disbelief;

an imperceptible menace
waiting for a breath,
a snap of cold winter’s
air to cut the thread
and send it crashing,

crashing onto the floor,
where you shan’t hear it
except in your imagination’s
ear firmly fixed on the
sound of winter’s cadence.