Monday, 31 December 2012

245: Ring Out Your Dead

It’s hard to kill anyone, not like it looks on TV.  So killing three people, all at the same time, without anyone noticing, in a small Hampshire village?  Close to impossible, I’d say.  But that’s what I need to do and I have to do it tonight.  That’s my deadline.

I don’t want to say too much about why because that would do nobody any good.  I need to get rid of them for, let’s say, business reasons.  They want something, I want something else as does the group of people I work for.  It so often does come down to money in the end, doesn’t it?  And if I get rid of them so my people can get there way, I’ll make good money. Make a killing, you could say. 

And my people getting their way means they are happy with me and I get more work.  Hopefully not all finishing people off, but I can handle that sometimes.  I prefer menacing really.  It’s much less hassle to set up and you don’t need any special gear.  I’ve had to find a good high-powered rifle for this job, untraceable of course, and one that I’m comfortable shooting with.  Luckily I know this guy in London, who knows a guy.

It has to be tonight because once the New Year business starts they plan to award a contract that will very much disadvantage my people.  And we know they will all be at the party tonight, along with just about everyone else in the village and their special guests and business acquaintances. 

Having so many people about will be perfect cover for me.  I’m invited like everyone else, so it’s legit that I’m here.  But the other few hundred people could end up suspects too couldn’t they, especially when I have half a dozen people ready to swear they saw in New Year with me at their sides.

So here’s my plan.  At midnight there will be fireworks let off as soon as the twelve chimes ring out.  Everyone heads outside a few minutes before midnight when the church bells start to peal.  Then the clock chimes midnight, strikes twelve times and immediately afterwards ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ starts playing, accompanied by ten minutes of fireworks and considerable quaffing of celebratory champagne.

As the peals begin I will go outside with the crowds, but slip away towards the church.  There is a small window at second floor level that will give me enough height to see everyone as they celebrate outside, that will appear in shadow when looking back at the church.  I’ve already stashed my rifle with a night scope behind some old storage units there and I reckon I’ll have about eight minutes to get to the window, sort out my gun and be ready for midnight. 

I’ll have twelve chimes to cover my shots, which should leave me nine spare chimes.  But if there is a problem, I’ll have the fireworks for a few minutes after.  And in the crowds I’ll be able to slip back into the throng celebrating 2013 without even being missed.

There’ll be more than the clock ringing out tonight and I’m damn good at my job.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

244: The Creeper

Nobody ever realizes they’re hooked until it’s too late.  I suppose that’s always the way with an addiction, isn’t it.  Nearly always perhaps.  I wouldn’t have said it was an addiction but apparently I meet all the criteria.  I even got an invite to join a help-group, one of those step things where you surrender yourself to a higher power or something.  Bit over the top that, isn’t it?

It started out with a few games when I was waiting for some printing, a big long document on old whirring printer.  I was quite good, right from the off.  You could change the background and toggle the sound on and off.  Nice little touches those were, although I didn’t have the music on much.  Just it was nice to know I could if I wanted to.

I liked the ones where you could post your high scores online.  I was usually in the top 20, sometimes in the top 10.  And when I realized that was the whole world not just the UK, well how impressive was that?  Only 8 people in the whole world were better at this game than me.  Number 8.  In the world.  Practically Olympian standard I was.

The PCs at work didn’t connect to the Net, but there were a few games on there so I used my lunchtimes to practice.  My desk faced out into the office and as we were on the third floor, there was no risk anyone would see in through the window.  Then when I got home I’d do my proper playing with tournaments and leader boards and forums.  I got quite well known in certain circles.

My friends said I should get out more and that I’d never get a proper girlfriend if I played solitaire all the time.  Maybe I didn’t want a girlfriend, did they think of that?  Unless she was a player too, I suppose.  But solitary is kind of the opposite of a relationship, so I gave that one a miss.  About Easter they stopped inviting me to go out with them.  And I had online buddies anyway.

My boss caught me playing one afternoon when I should have been working on a sales spreadsheet for garden furniture.  I was so engrossed in the game I didn’t see him coming.  I mean I was about to beat my high score and in a record time, that was the only reason I carried on past lunchtime.  I suppose I shouldn’t have called him such a rude name when he told me to stop and broke my concentration.

He said I was on a warning and I mustn’t play games on work PCs at any time, not even in my lunchtime.  I tried to argue that wasn’t for him to say but he reckoned the machines were for business use not for staff entertainment.  And he rang my Mum and told her too.  So she started keeping an eye on me at home too.  She’d pop into my room with cups of tea every 15 minutes and make up all kinds of excuses to come and see me.  If I didn’t hide the game quick enough, she’d have a right go at me.

She went online and found this site for people addicted to the Internet.  I said that was ironic and she said not to be so smartarse all the time.  She printed off all this stuff about what it means to be addicted and how to tackle it and left copies all over the house.

She’s cut off the broadband account until I get it under control.  But it’s not a problem.  I can control it, I can.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

243: The Glitch

If it hadn’t happened Callum would never have discovered his wife was a robot.  Katie was perfect in every way that was important to him and they were a wonderful match.  Everybody said they were made for each other and in her case, they were more right than they could have imagined.

Grammar, that’s what did it.  When the grammar code started to fail in her programming and she began using grocers’ apostrophes and misusing its and it’s, he thought she was doing it to tease him.  He pointed out her mistakes and she said she was disinterested.  He showed her examples and she said it had no affect on her.

Callum reminded Katie of the conversations they’d shared, laughing together at online images showing bad punctuation and discussing what things really meant when the apostrophe went the wrong side of an ‘s’.  She said so what if their wrong, that’s they’re problem.

He said she used to care about that kind of thing and what happened to change that.  She said she thought maybe a footballer scoring against his old club might really be ironic.  She slapped him in the face and accompanied it with the declaration “White faded to grey and Strunk is stupid bastard.”

When he grabbed her arm to stop her hitting him again, he felt a slip of very realistic rubberized skin on metallic sub-structure.  He heard a little whirr and a clicking as her eyes turned to meet his gaze and he wondered how he ever could have failed to notice such an obvious thing about a woman he’d spent three years with.  Maybe he could still love her, if she got an upgrade or a patch to fix her glitch.

But when she said she was no different than when they first met and what did it matter if she thought ‘10 items or less’ was correct, he reached deep into the back of her head, removed the battery pack and threw it would of the window onto the street below.

Friday, 28 December 2012

242: Hidden Depths

I’m sick of people saying I’m shallow because I’m not.  I have hidden depths, things nobody knows about.  Maybe I should start telling them about the real me.

I’m not vain and the reason I spend so long on my appearance is because when I look good, I feel good.  I feel good about myself.  And when I feel good about myself, I can make others feel good about themselves too.  Imagine the boost to a girl’s confidence if she gets to go out with me.  The guys get known as having that good looking dude as one of their mates.  Even work colleagues get a kick out of knowing I’m on their team.  So if I didn’t do it, everyone else would suffer too.

I’m not big-headed and the reason I share my opinion so widely is to help others.  Seriously, none of it is for me.  Isn’t it some kind of unethical if I don’t help people when I know the answer to something?  Or if I can see they are doing things the wrong way and I know a better way?  I couldn’t keep that kind of stuff to myself, not in good conscience.  I like helping people.  Mr Altruism, that’s me.

And I’m not tight-fisted.  The reason I let other people buy me things and get meals and drinks is because they want to.  It’s like a reward I suppose for all the good feelings I give them.  The lads get seen out with me, they get a better reputation and maybe more girls, so they want to buy me a beer as a thank you.  They know what I drink and so often the beer is sat there for me when I get back from the toilet or taking a call or whatever.  And women, they buy me gifts a lot.  Can I help that?  I don’t want to throw it back in their faces and appear ungrateful.  That would make them feel bad about themselves and that’s not what I’m all about.

See, there’s so much more to me isn’t there.  I’m thoughtful, caring, giving and a good person.  I never say they’re lucky to have me even though that is pretty much fact.  I suppose there will always be some jealousy about with someone like me and it’s something I am a big enough man to take.

But I do want them to get me, to understand the real me.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

241: The Animal Within

Colin lied three times and all three were on national television.

Firstly he didn’t think Colin was the sort of name that any attractive young lady would wish for her man-friend, so he told them his name was Eduardo.  He thought it made him sound exotic, mysterious, enticing.  But his friends all knew he was really just Colin Perkins, named after his mother’s uncle.

Secondly he thought working in admin at the Inland Revenue might not win him the heart of a modern miss, so he told them he was a city investment banker with a large portfolio and clients so famous he couldn’t mention their names.  But his friends knew he chased unpaid tax from individuals named G through to L in the Blackpool area.

Thirdly, well his third lie was more an exaggeration, but it was the worst.  The others maybe the guys could understand and even forgive with a little bit of gentle ribbing.  They knew how it was when you wanted to get a woman.

But when Nadine from Birmingham told Cilla her question to number 3 was “What kind of animal is there inside you?” he should never have said “I’m a thoroughbred Arabian steed, mane flowing in the warm breeze and I’ll gallop away with your heart” when all the guys knew inside Colin was much more like My Little Pony.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

240: They Seek Him Here

Gary was six and the rest of us were only five.  He was a big boy, the sort you heard “did it and ran away.”  He was taller, older and louder than us.  He scared us when he was in a bad mood, but he was a good guy to have on your side because all of the other kids were scared of him too.  At least he liked us, even if it was only sometimes.

After school we would all head to the park if the weather was nice.  Our parents didn’t have the same worries as today’s do about whether we would be safe.  The park was safe because then they knew where you were.  You were playing in the park.

Our favourite game was hide and seek in the bushes.  They haven’t changed much in twenty years and still look much the same as they did back then.  We thought they were so tall and dark and scary but now I can see they were not much over six feet high.  That’s tall though when you are only five years old and no taller than your mother’s waistband.

They were laurel bushes and had an odd smell, like a sticky sap smell.  I remember seeing something like golden syrup oozing from a branch once.  I wanted to touch it but I Gary got to it first.  He stuck him finger in it just as I got close, and flattened the globule against the bark.  He laughed at me when I started to cry.

He was never the seeker when we hid.  Usually it was me or one of the smaller boys, anyone he could scare into agreeing.  I wondered years later whether it was because he couldn’t count as well as I could and didn’t want us to laugh at him.  That day it was one of the boys, Carl possibly, or maybe Robin.

We all ran off into the laurel bushes, like always.  I was one of the last to be found because I could see feet searching at the edge of the path and moved along keeping just ahead of them.  That was fine until I got to the wall and there was nowhere else to go.  I was too little to hitch over the wall onto the steps, so I got caught.  Then it was Debbie, who was trying to make it back to base but didn’t run fast enough.  That just left Gary.

Gary was often last to get caught out and sometimes we had to go in and find him.  That day we called to him, then shouted at him, and searched for him and threatened him.  Eventually we thought he’d gone home without us so followed him and when we found out he wasn’t there we ran back to search again.

After an hour of looking we found his mother and told her we’d lost him.  Even then we still thought he must be somewhere watching us and laughing.  That maybe even she was in on the joke and knew where he was.  But she didn’t, not even after she went through every bit of that laurel herself calling out and yelling what she’d do if he didn’t come out right then.

There was never any trace of him, not in the park or the town or the river or anywhere.  Whenever I pass the park I still half expect to see him coming out of the bushes, although by now his head would probably poke through the tops of the bushes.