A Story For Sunday: This Old House

Ten Sycamore Hill was, in Peter James’ mind, the font of all of his misfortunes. While women, work, cars and kids came and went, the only constant in Peter’s turbulent life – apart from the copious amounts of alcohol that he consumed, of course – was that weather-beaten Victorian detached house overlooking Hart Village; its increasingly battered facade and interior seeming to degenerate with each one of his trials and tribulations.

With every one of Peter’s disappointments, a window frame would crumble; with every disaster – romantic or otherwise – a door handle would come loose or slates would be ripped from the roof by an unsympathetic wind; when his health failed, so did the heating. And, as Peter’s bank account was slowly depleted, the wallpaper and paint seamed to peel itself free from the walls before his eyes.

Each night, as a drunken Peter staggered back from another interminable drinking session at the Raby Arms, he would look up at his home perched on the hill, looming over the village like a great black crow and, soaked in alcoholic self-pity, he would curse: ‘Fuck. Fuckin’…fucker…fuck.’ Or words to that effect.

And then, one October, as Halloween loomed, Peter had an idea so bright that it was positively incandescent.

*

The Raby Arms, an anonymous country pub amongst a cluster of anonymous country pubs, was always smoggy – despite the smoking ban – and, indeed, the interior, including the mirrors, the windows and the faces of most of the regulars, all seemed to have a nicotine sheen. As on most nights, the pub was half-empty.

‘You know, it’s actually possible to kill someone with a bottle of Pepsi and a packet of Mintoes?’ said JT, peeling an unlit pin-sized roll up from his bottom lip.

Peter nodded.

‘Oh, aye?’ said Peter, as he hung his camel coat on the moose head coat rack and sat opposite JT with a sigh. ‘Not a lot of people know that.’

‘Aye,’ said JT. ‘Well, it’s true. According to Big Jim. Reckons that he saw it on that YOU TUBE.’

JT, a gaunt, jaundiced-looking man with a spidery black quiff, was sat at his usual corner table, near a buzzing slot machine, drumming his fingers on his pint glass to The Shadow’s ‘Apache’, which played from to a crackly speaker.

Peter sipped his pint of Stella, gazed at the fading bat-wing tattoos on his hands and faded in on the memory of a drunken night at a Newcastle tattoo parlor that then segued into the time he first met his wife, Deborah, at Astros nightclub. Twenty five years ago now. There’d been a lot of booze under the bridge since then, he thought.

He looked at JT. A former hardman, just like him, and had a flashback to the night when it all started to go wrong. When they’d thrown a rowdy punter down the stairs at Astros with a little too much enthusiasm. The policemen on the scene had also shown a little too much enthusiasm for the arrest and the ensued injuries had, luckily for Peter and JT, resulted in a suspended sentence. But the stains remained.

There was a loud bang and Big Jim burst through the doors. Peter and JT both laughed as Jim stumbled into the toilets, his fly open, muttering to himself.

‘Here he is, the David Niven of Hart Village,’ smirked JT.

‘So you reckon it’s a non-starter then?’ said Peter, massaging his left arm.

JT took a swig of Stella.

‘Oh, aye. Great idea. Get Big Jim to burn down your house and then collect on the insurance. A foolproof plan, that. About as foolproof as that canoeist that did a Lord Lucan and ended up getting spotted in Rio or somewhere.’

JT had a point, thought Peter. Big Jim wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box. He remembered the time in the pub quiz when Big Jim had answered a question about the largest Loch in Scotland with ‘Chub’. However, Jim was cheap and Peter really wanted rid of that house. The bills were mounting up and the Invalidity Benefit that he’s started getting after his first heart attack barely covered his drinking sessions.

Peter sighed again and slouched in his chair as he wiped his sweating brow with his ubiquitous tie.

‘Just think,’ he said. ‘Bonfire Night’s coming up. It’s like Full Matal Jacket out there some nights. This time of year, kids are always pushing bangers and fireworks through people letterboxes. It’s happened to me loads of times. Now, if I happen to leave some booze splashed around the place and work on my motorbike in the front room and it catches fire, well…’

They both looked up as Big Jim plonked down next to them.

‘Peter, I’m your man,’ said Big Jim.

‘I’ll take that with a mountain of Saxa,’ said JT.

*

The night stumbled on and JT and Big Jim left Peter propped up at the bar, tearing the label from a bottle of Newcastle Brown. He was watching Lewis, trying to ignore the numb feeling in his arm. It had been creeping up on him with greater regularity these days. Doctors were out of the question. Overpaid quacks, he thought. Well, he had thought that since Dr. Khan had misdiagnosed his dad’s cancer as ‘constipation’ a few years before. Feeling weak, he went to sit down when he heard the bang.

‘Bollox!’ he shouted. ‘He hasn’t… he…’

Hot, sweating and wheezing, Peter rushed out of the pub and up the cobbled path towards his burning home.

‘Tosser!’ he shouted at Big Jim, who was tripping, tumbling and stumbling down the path in a panic.

Peter was burning up with anger and the pain in his arm was getting worse. He suddenly heard a sound behind him, turned and saw a bedraggled bunch of vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

‘Trick or treat!’ they shouted.

‘Oh, bollox,’ whispered Peter and then he gasped and crumpled to the ground like a demolished building.

The weight of a mammoth was on Peter’s chest before the last stages of the coronary kicked in. The costumed kids deftly lifted his wallet and watch and, as they frisked him, Peter looked up at his burning house and saw its black silhouette against the waxing moon, his vision starting to fade.

Ten Sycamore Hill’s windows and front door seemed to light up a glowing red, like the eyes and mouth of a grinning Jack O’Lantern, the flames darting about like a lunatic’s tongue. And then he thought he heard a maniacal laugh.

I’m Interviewed By Chris Rhatigan

cover-brazill-last-years-man-5

Chris Rhatigan interviews me over at the All Due Respect blog:

‘Paul D. Brazill is one of the most entertaining and original voices in the independent crime fiction community. I recently spoke with him about Last Year’s Man, his latest book through All Due Respect about ageing hit man Tommy Bennett.

— When I first learned about the online crime fiction scene about ten years ago, you were one of the first writers I started following. How have things changed since then?

Those were great, fun times, weren’t they?

There seemed to be oodles of cool ezines out and about: Powder Burn Flash, Pulp Pusher, A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers, Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Spinetingler, Death By Killing and more. What treasure troves! There seemed to be lots of strange voices telling stories with nodules and spikes. I’m sure I would never have started writing without them.’

Read the rest HERE.

#FRIDAY FLASH: THUMP!

THUMP.

 

There.

 

THUMP.

 

There it is again.

 

THUMP.

 

I told you. No, shh. Listen . . .

 

THUMP.

 

Did you hear? Listen. No ….

 

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

 

There! You must have heard that!

 

THUMP.

 

See, I told you but you didn’t believe me, did you? She’s down there.

 

Of course I’m sure it’s her.

 

What do you mean?

 

Eh?

 

It stands to reason doesn’t it? When was the last time you saw her, eh?

 

THUMP.

 

See, what I reckon is … Shhh! Toby’s coming back. Neck that and let’s get a couple more pints in while he’s here.

 

How’s the match, Toby? Aye… Aye. Well there’s still time ,eh? Game of two halves and all that.

 

Yeah a couple more pints of Nelson please Toby … Ta.

 

Many in the other room? Oh, aye, him. Well he’s attached to the place like it’s an umbilical cord, eh? Tight as a gnats twat, though, eh?

 

Ta much.

 

Good CD this. Love a bit of Simple Minds, me. Could you turn it up a bit before you go back, Toby. Ta.

 

Aye, pain in the arse having to go outside for a cig but what can we do eh? The law’s the law.

 

Oh, ey Toby. Keith here was asking after your Lisa. Said he hasn’t seen her for a bit. I said a bit of what? Ha, ha …

 

Ey, ey, ey!

 

Ey, only joking mate. Sorry! No offence. Just making conversation, like.

 

Aye.

 

She still in Jockland then?

 

Aye, well as long as she’s alight then. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Aye.

 

Aye.

 

Aye, we’ll give you a shout if anyone comes in.

 

Right.

 

Shh. . . Wait . . .

 

Right.

 

THUMP.

 

See. Told you. It’s her, Keith.

 

It is.

 

Think about it. She was always hanging around here in them jeans so tight you could read her lips. You could see Toby’s face when anyone tried chatting her up.

 

Aye, only natural. But you know, the little green – eyed idol and that …

 

What? But she hasn’t been in for …

 

… Yeah, I know. I know he said she’s off with her aunt in Scotland but it’s not what I heard.  I heard she was banging that Gypsy bloke that was sniffing around her and .. .

 

Yeah, I know. Only sixteen, but old enough to bleed old enough to breed, eh?

 

THUMP. THUMP.

 

Now you must have heard that?

 

See, that Gypsy bloke, you remember him, all gold, tattoos and hairy arms? Aye. Pentagon medallion dangling round his neck.

 

That’s the lad….

 

Shhh … Ahh, Don’t You Forget About Me… this is the stuff… Simple Minds biggest hit, you know? Broke them in the US of A …

 

Yeah, well Toby was ever so protective, eh? That lad must have been forty if he was a day…

 

May to December relationships, eh? Call it what you want Keith, I doubt Toby was too impressed. They reckon he covered Lisa’s neck with some nasty love bites … Yeah, she was smitten and that. Walking around like she was hypnotised. Spaced out, like…

 

Nah, doubt she touches the wacky backy, all fitness and health and safety, her.

 

Anyway,  I reckon that he’s got her down there like that Fritz bloke in Austria. Remember him? Had his young un locked up in the basement for donkeys years?

 

Probably banging her himself. Can’t say I blame him, mind you …ey, ey, no need for you to get all touchy as well … only a bit of a …

 

What? Go where? The filth? Grass him up?

 

Not on your nelly, Keith. I’m many things but I am not a grass. Anyway, I think they’re still looking for me for that B&E at the gas works. Nah, you see, I’ve  got a  …

 

Hold on … Wait for the next song to start. . .

 

THUMP.

 

See?

 

THUMP.

 

See?

 

Ahh, Promised You A Miracle. Love this one. Classic.

 

Naw, my plan is to get down there after he closes up the pub and see if she’s there, just to be certain, like …. yeah, I’m sure she is … and then phone the press…

 

The papers!

 

You know, The Mirror, The Sun, News Of The Screws and that … and get them down here when we set her free. I reckon we could make a fortune selling the story. Telly. Book deal. Films. The lot, Keith. The lot.

 

What? The lock? Do you know who you’re talking, to Keith?

 

Piece of piss. Easy peasey, Japenesey. We get in through those double cellar doors at the back of the pub. The ones that the brewery use to deliver the booze.

 

Yes!

 

He’s only got a daft padlock on there, I can pick that in no time, you know that.

 

Yeah, we’ll do it tomorrow might after he closes up.

 

* * *

 

You tosser. I can’t …

 

Of course we need a friggin torch. I left me night vision goggles at home … nah, that was a joke, Keith. Honestly some people …

 

Well, at least we’ve got that full moon dangling  there. Should give us a bit of light …

 

A what? A gibbons moon? If you like, Keith, if you like…

 

Right, now slowly, slowly  .. shh, don’t wannna frighten .. . Jeesus, you reek. How many slices of that garlic bread did you tuck into?

 

Nah, can’t stand the stuff. Don’t like foriegn food, do I?

 

Right here we go. Steady on the ladders. Soon as we see her we phone Col at The Gazette.

 

THUMP.

 

What was that?

 

THUMP.

 

Ehh? Sounded like a bird flapping around?

 

THUMP.

 

… yeah … maybe a scream … sure of … Yeah, I can see it.

 

THUMP.

 

Hold on, it’s landed in the corner… who the …?

 

Nahh, it’s her. It’s Lisa… well of course it’s her.

Alright, Lisa love, only  me and Keith … eh up!

 

Lisa, love, don’t you think you should get some clobber on? Eh, Lisa? Bit nippy down here for …

 

Ey, you’re eyes don’t half look red … What the fu… Lisa, no offence, normally I’d love a snog but …

 

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

 

Ey, Keith, where the fuck are you scarpering to? Get your neck back here …

 

Aw jeez, Lisa! No … please!

 

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

 

Aaaaaaah!

 

THUMP.

 

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

 

THUMP.

(THUMP! first appeared at Thrillers, Killers N Chillers)

A Story For Sunday: What’s In The Cellar ? by Jeanette Cheezum

THUMP - New Story Up At THRILLERS KILLERS N CHILLERSA few years ago, over at the late, lamented THRILLERS, KILLERS N CHILLERS, Jeanette Cheezum gave us this chiller:

‘1940: Deep in the woods of Georgia.

If it rained or snowed no one would come down to check on Lucy. She wore diapers, sometimes only one a day until she turned four. The weight of the soiled fabric made it easier for her to slip out of them. She stomped her feet in the urine puddles because it felt good to her feet. Sometimes she could play in the wash tub that sat under one of the windows. The man had dropped a hose down the wall and put water in there for her to sit in, once or twice a month. There wasn’t much else to do down in the cellar. Except hold onto her rag doll and lay on her old mattress on the floor.’

Read the rest HERE and check out the rest of the site.