“So, let me get this straight. You didn’t see anything. Two blokes with guns blazing, patrons scattering in all directions, enough blood on the floor to drown a small horse and no bodies.”
“Boris no see nothing.”
“Presumably, the bloke or blokes who were bleeding all over the place just walked out into the carpark and drove themselves home?”
“Maybe Uber pick them up. Boris doesn’t know.”
“Have you ever seen these two gunmen before?”
“Plenty times. They in here a lot.”
“But you don’t know their names?”
“Noone tells Boris anything. Boris serves drinks, goes home watches boring TV and sleeps.”
Detective Sergeant Dorsey Eweles did not believe Boris, but he wasn’t going to let it spoil his day. One or both of the disputing parties would turn up at the local Emergency Department or in a vacant block. Either way, the forensics team would come up with something and then the fun part would begin.
Taking statements at the Rising Sun Hotel was not part of the fun.
Every local police officer knew this hotel and what went on here. Amazingly, considering the nefarious deeds that were performed here, there were fewer turnouts for drunk and disorderly than most hotels. Generally speaking, this establishment kept a low profile. Small time misdeeds disrupted the smooth flowing of ‘business as usual’. A shooting was particularly rare. None of the oldtimers could remember being called to the Rising Sun for any type of firearms incident.
“Did you have your eyes closed or did you have a lampshade on your head while all this was going on?”
“Boris dived under bar and stayed there until shooting stopped.”
“How did you know when to come out?”
“No more bangs.”
Detective Sergeant Dorsey Eweles was correct in thinking that Boris was not telling the truth.
Boris Vladim Godunov could trace his ancestry back to the Czar who ruled Russia in the late 1500s. Boris had seen a lot in his forty-odd years of life and two drunk Australians shooting it out over an affair of the heart was a minor occurrence. Boris had dodged many bullets and seen men die. He wasn’t afraid of death, but living made him nervous.
Boris came to Australia as a young man, jumping ship in Melbourne on an Autumn afternoon. He walked into the Seaman’s Mission with the clothes on his back and about two dozen English words he had learned from an older shipmate.
“Melbourne is a long way from Russia. No one will look for you here. You can make a new life for yourself,” said Dimitri in his native tongue. “Go to the Seaman’s Mission and the Universe might be kind to you.”
Dimitri gave Boris directions, and his words were to be accurate because Boris met a group of seamen who told him how to find work and secure a place to sleep.
Boris knew that he had found a home. He worked on his English at nights and looked for work during the day. His search took him to Richmond and the Rising Sun Hotel. It was the first, and the last job he would hold. Boris stopped going to English classes at night not long after he got the job. He knew the English words for beer, whiskey and he knew what ‘bullshit’ meant. The rest he would pick up as he went along. His job did not require a lot of conversation, and he liked that. He was strong enough to evict a drunk and intelligent enough to participate in other activities that came his way — cash in hand, of course — courtesy of the regular patrons who valued a reliable, silent accomplice. Backdoor Barry was a regular source of income for Boris. Backdoor Barry used the Rising Sun as his office and Boris made sure that he was well looked after. Boris made an excellent roast beef sandwich with extra mustard (mild English was Barry’s prefered condiment).
“Boris sorry he no help much.”
“Don’t worry about it Boris, it will all work itself out. Just one thing though. You don’t strike me as the kind of bloke who would duck for cover unless the guns were pointed at you. You strike me as a fearless kind of fucker who would stand there and watch the mayhem unfold without blinking an eye.”
Boris Vladim Godunov didn’t answer, but Detective Sergeant Dorsey Eweles thought he saw him wink at him. Then again, it might have been conjunctivitis.
Finally, after three years of work, we have a publishing date for SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES TOO — October 24th 2018.
The poster is not the final book cover, but the photo (by my son Matt) will feature prominently. Matt did the photo for the first book in this anthology series, Slightly Spooky Stories in 2015.
The eBook, paperback and audiobook will all be released on the same day.
There are 25 stories and the book is slightly longer than the first book.
Three years in the making. The follow up to the non-award winning SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES is a collection of stories that leave you wondering. A tennis match with a difference, an older man who just wants a bit of quiet time, a business that specialises in retrieving memories, a party game that goes wrong, a visit to the doctor reveals an unusual diagnosis, a young girl and her hero dog, small birds show their appreciation, money attracting money, dodging a bullet, the power of dancing in the dark, the magic of old books, the significance of a red dress, a deadly writers competition and a cop with a long-term plan. Twenty-five stories that will give you goosebumps or have you wondering.
It takes a long time to gather together enough Slightly Spooky Stories to fill a book — more than two years in this case.
I have no control over their appearance — they just appear when they feel like it. Sometimes they come in clumps and other times they pop up infrequently.
I put them into a folder and forget about them. Something made me check the word count and I realised that this second collection was a lot bigger than the first.
SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES has been a moderate success as an eBook, which was disappointing, but it found a new life as soon as I turned it into an audiobook. It consistently fights for the number one spot among my audiobooks (ten now at the time of writing).
I am about two-thirds of the way through recording SSS2 and the ebook is only days away from going up.
I think you are going to enjoy this collection of stories and I know that I have enjoyed recording them.
As often happens when I return to stories I have written a long time ago, I’m amazed that I wrote them. The words sound like mine, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find out what happens! I know that sounds strange, but it happens all the time.
Amazingly, after all this time, I still get a buzz out of writing.
So, what do you do when it snows? You kiss someone, of course.
It helps if you know the person, and it smooths the process if they like the idea of being kissed, but either way, it is an opportunity that must not be missed.
I grew up in a part of the world where it snows every forty years or so.
My mum told me about the imperative as mothers do and I’m sure she was smiling as she noticed the look of wonder in my young eyes.
“But what if it’s a boy?” I said.
“He won’t mind,” was my mother’s reply.
“But I might,” I said.
“You’ll just have to summon up the courage,” was my mother’s insistent reply.
Of course, as I grew older I realised that this urban imperative was grouped in with ‘If the knife hits the bottom of the birthday cake you have to kiss the nearest person’, and ‘if you make that face, and the wind changes you will stay like that forever’, but the story about the snow had not come to the front of my conscious mind until I was walking to the train station with William. We didn’t have to walk together, it was just that we were leaving at the same time — an unusual occurrence.
I liked him, he was funny and shy and respectful, which set him apart from most of the testosterone males in our office, but I’d never thought of him in that way — the way of pressing lips together with the possibility of the warm sensation of a gentle tongue.
The street was empty as people sought shelter in cafes and doorways.
“It’s snowing,” I said a little too loudly as I threw back my head and let some of the frozen wonderfulness collect on my eyelashes.
“It’s been doing that since lunchtime,” said William. He seemed bemused by my declaration.
“I suddenly remembered, I have to kiss you. I may have left it a bit late, but it’s snowing, and I have little choice in the matter,” I said.
He looked at me and scrunched up his eyebrows the way he does when someone says something outlandish. I ignored the judgement of his eyebrows and pushed him up against the stone wall. He weighed a lot more than I thought he would so I had to use all my strength to propel him, and at the last moment he stopped his instinctive resistance and bumped, rather heavily into the wall. He let out a tiny sound, and I covered his mouth with mine.
We held our lips together for what seemed like a long time, and I could feel the warmth of his body which contrasted with the coolness of the snow that continued to fall on our united bodies.
Eventually, I pulled away as I realized he couldn’t because of his position against the wall. Part of me wanted to see who ended the kiss first.
I looked up into his eyes, and they were smiling at me. I smiled back.
He took my hand, and we walked to the station where his train arrived before mine did.
“Brief Encounter,” I said, and he smiled as he got into the carriage.
He watched me standing on the platform, snow gathering in my hair, as his train pulled away.
My mum had a point, ‘when it snows, you kiss someone, of course.’
I emptied the contents of my hand onto the time-worn table.
We inhabited this pub during happier times, and I guess we never broke the habit.
“What is that?” asked Harry, my former workmate. Harry and I once were warriors in the halls of finance. We slashed and burned our way to enormous profits — profits we saw very little of. That sounds like sour grapes, and I guess it is. We were paid very well and on at least one occasion, our Christmas bonus equalled the deposit on an expensive flat overlooking the river — I loved that view.
We thought we were invincible.
“That, my dear Harry is a pile of thank you,” I said with an air of mystery — I do a good mystery.
“Come again, young Charles?” Everyone at the firm called me young Charles. It made it easier, and even when older Charles left the company, I continued to be young Charles.
“It’s a moderately long story, do you want another pint before I begin?”
“Nah, I’ll make this one last.”
“You know that big old RAF greatcoat I used to wear?”
“The one that is hanging on the coat stand over there?”
“That’s the one.”
“I think I will get that drink. I get the feeling that this is going to be epic — you want one?”
“No, save your money. I’m pleasantly toasted, and it should last until lunchtime.”
In the old days, we didn’t have to worry about such things — money was always there, and just like everything else in life, we expected it to stay that way.
I watched Harry make his way to the bar. The girl behind the counter was new, and Harry fancied his chances — their conversation continued for some minutes. As Harry turned to come back to our table, I watched the young lady flash her eyes and run her fingers through her hair.
“I think I’m in there,” said Harry as he sat down. From what I saw, I’d say he probably was.
“It must be your Scotish charm.”
“They all want to know what is under the kilt.”
“You’re not wearing a kilt, Harry.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t, but one day I’m sure you will enlighten me.”
We had both travelled a long way to come to London and make our fortune, and now we could not imagine going home with our tails between our legs. My hometown is Melbourne — on the other side of the world.
“So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.”
“Extremely comfy, thank you.”
“You know the park across from my flat?”
“Your old flat or the new one?”
“There is only a railway line across from my current abode.” I glared at him for reminding me of how far I had come down.
“On my days off —“
“Which you have a large number of nowadays,” interrupted Harry.
“Yes, thank you for reminding me. On my days off I would take my stale bread to the park and feed the birds. I wasn’t particular, anything with feathers got a fair share.”
“That was very egalitarian of you,” said Harry.
“Thank you — one must maintain standards. So, this went on for many weeks when I discovered the substance you see before you, in the pocket of my greatcoat.”
Harry ran a cautious finger through the pile of what looked like very fine gravel lying on the well-worn table.
“I didn’t pay it any attention at first. I assumed that it had fallen out of a tree, or I had brushed up against something as I walked through the park.”
“A reasonable assumption.”
“Agreed — then the amount of gravel got progressively larger until it reached the proportion you see before you.”
“So, what is it? I know you are dying to tell me.”
“I took a sample to a girl I was penetrating at that time, and between bouts of passion, I asked her if she knew what it was. This girl loves a mystery, so she leapt out of bed, stark naked, and put a couple of grains under her microscope.”
“You have to love a naked woman who has a microscope.”
“My thoughts exactly. It turns out that she was not only good at all forms of coitus, but she was an excellent botanist as well.”
“Coitus beats Botanist though.”
“I agree, but on this occasion, she was both — result!”
“Well, it turns out that they are the tops of tiny acorn like seeds — just the tops, and they are very sought after by the little birds that live in that park.”
“Little birds, is that their botanical name?”
“She did tell me, but in my defence, she was naked, and I imagined all the things I could do to her before I had to go to work. Smoothest thighs you have ever seen and spectacular breasts.”
“Fair enough. Any man could forget a Latin name under such circumstances — you’re forgiven.”
“Anyway, these little birds spend hours looking for the caps off the seeds. They use them to make a sort of paste. They mix it with mud and sticks and make a very sturdy nest — a bit like adding gravel to cement. These tiny nut caps are their most treasured possession — they will fight other birds who try to move in on their supply.”
“And, they give them to you?”
“Yes. I’m just as amazed as you are.”
“How do they manage to get them into your pocket without you noticing?”
“Good question. I guess it’s because I’m in a kind of meditative state — sitting by the lake, watching the birds. It was then, and still is, a kind of escape. But after the encounter with the naked Botanist, I watched them out of the corner of my eye. My coat pocket bends open just a bit as I sit and they come up from behind me and drop them in, one at a time.”
“Wow. It must take a while to deposit enough to make a pile like this.”
“I’m touched that they want to thank me. I guess they appreciate the food. Pickings must be very slim in the winter, especially if you have extra mouths to feed. Often, I would be the only one in the park, particularly on wet rainy days. That old greatcoat comes in handy. I turn up the collar and tuck in a scarf, and I’m warm as toast.”
“What about your head?”
“Large woollen fisherman’s hat.”
“I feel bad taking their most treasured possession, so I sneak back and sprinkle them under a nearby tree and hope that they don’t notice.”
“Boy, are you going to feel dumb if they turn out to be a cure for cancer.”
“I’ll risk it.”
We both went quiet for a while, the way that good friends can. We sat and drank our beer and thought back to those heady days when the world was ours for the taking.
Harry is the only friend I have left from those days. I remember the morning we turned up to work only to find the front doors chained and padlocked. I wondered how they were able to do that; then I remembered that our firm owned the whole building. The security guards were no help — I just wanted to get my stuff out of my desk — never happened — probably ended up in a skip.
As I remember, Harry and I walked to this pub and made a few calls before our work phones went silent. A couple of the directors had been fiddling the books. They knew that we were surviving on reputation and bugger all else. They packed a serious amount of cash into the company jet and headed for a warmer country. We should have seen it coming, but we were young, and thought we knew our worth — we were invincible.
The naked botanist stopped fucking me as soon as I could no longer squire her to important parties. The flat went after a few months — I wandered along in denial, thinking that the world needed my skill set, but whenever they read the name of the firm I had most recently been employed by, the answer was always the same — no room at the inn.
The blokes who came to throw me out of my flat were very good about it.
“Just take whatever you can carry mate, we’ll look the other way.”
Jolly decent of them really. It was the middle of the day, and they broke for lunch after changing the locks on my former flat.
“Can we buy you lunch young fella? Don’t take it too hard. We see a lot of this, especially nowadays. You can curl up and die, or you can come back stronger — it’s your choice.”
They were right, and I worked for them part-time for a while, but that life was not for me.
I’ve got a tiny flat with a view of a railway line, a warm coat and a good friend. My bank account will see me right for a few more months.
After that, who knows.
More than two years in the making. The sequel to KEEPER OF SECRETS is due for publication on July 18th, 2018. The continuing adventures of Daisy and her granddaughter Susan. Daisy’s diaries inspire Susan to lead a secret life of adventure. Money, danger and a sense of freedom drive Susan. Daisy became a spy because her country needed her — Susan steals secrets because she wants to. These women, living in different centuries, are connected by the mysterious Keeper of Secrets.
Find out why Backdoor Barry prefers the dingy pub in Richmond as his office. Discover how Boris the barman fits into tight spaces. Learn the secret that Susan’s neighbour wants to be kept hidden. Will the time traveller return from who knows where? Will Susan’s typing skills keep her out of trouble? Does Daisy succeed in paying back her debt to the deadly Canadians? Is Precious enough for Terry or will he fall for the widowed librarian?
JULY 18th, 2018