Thursday, 26 August 2010

Proof positive 4

Madge’s clientele were convinced of her psychic powers. Any persistent sceptics had been subtly shrugged off, leaving a small and devoted congregation who met at Madge’s every Thursday evening, for tea, chocolate fingers and intermittent access to the Afterlife.

Madge herself was gracious as her fragile health and considerable status amongst habitués of the Spirit World would permit. She carried herself with the natural reserve of the adept.

So it was with some surprise when the séance members assembled in Madge’s tiny parlour, hung with arcane artefacts and dominated by a giant aspidistra, found themselves confronted by a loud red-faced man in an even louder suit.

“Reggie Babcock,” he pronounced to whoever failed to evade his sweaty handshake.

“He’s my landlord,” Madge reported listlessly to a concerned acolyte. “And in matters of the material world, one’s hands are tied.

“Come on, Madge,” Reggie twinkled, producing a hip flask and drawing deeply from it, “Let’s have those spooks out on parade!”

The members sat around the parlour table, their hands outstretched, fingers touching. Madge dimmed the lights and took her place at the table’s head. For a while there was silence, punctuated by amused sniggers from Reggie Babcock.

“Is there anybody there?” Madge intoned in the darkness.

There came a sharp rap on the table.

“Good grief,” Reggie snorted derisively, “Can’t you do better than that?”

There was a sudden gust of wind, a crackle of energy, and a convulsive tremor at Reggie’s end of the table. Members squealed or gasped at the upheaval. One raced to turn on the lights.

While Madge sat serenely entranced at the head of the table, Reggie was slumped back in his chair, his head thrown back, sightless eyes bulging. An enormous Bratwurst filled his gaping mouth and protruded some two feet into the room.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Proof positive 3

The professor stared at the filmy clouds gathered at the summit of his mosquito netting. The sun was beating its way through the closed tent flaps, so that beneath the clouds warm ochre light prevailed. The blood pounded in his temples, his tongue moved noisily in his parched mouth. He was conscious of every blink of his eyelids. Outside he could hear the clatter of rocks and picks, and occasional staccato interchanges in Arabic, as the huge archaeological site progressed without him.

The fever had come upon him after his first visit to the central chamber, freshly unearthed beneath what he believed to be Amahets’ tomb. Malarial probably, or some dysenteric relative, or yet one more parasitic invader produced in this arid, flyblown land. The workmen muttered about a curse, of course. The revenge of some long dead High Priest outraged at the violation of his sacred resting place. He’d had to put an end to that. A press embargo. The media would be sure to fan superstitious flames to assuage the credulous appetites of the supposedly developed world.

He became aware of someone hovering at his bedside and peered through the netting. “Is that you Pupkiss?”

“Yes, Professor,” his assistant sounded oddly subdued. “We’ve found hieroglyphs in the central chamber.”

“What do they say?”

“Oh some fantastic nonsense,” Pupkiss tried a dismissive laugh.

“Tell me,” insisted the Professor.

“Behold me, Amahet.” Pupkiss recited woodenly. “Who violates my tomb, his testicles shall turn green and he shall die before the month is out.”

The professor used all his strength to throw back his top sheet and he attempted an insouciant tone, “Well, what can you see, Pupkiss?”

But there came only silence.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Proof positive 2

Version A
Version B

Detective Sergeant Stephens chewed morosely on his cheese and pickle sandwich and stared out of the window. The rain was falling steadily into the station courtyard, creating busy rivulets on the grimy panes. Stephens scratched a thick ear ruminatively and then squinted over his chaotic desktop at Detective Constable Hewitt who was sitting at her desk across from him, picking her way through some takeaway sashimi.

“What you got there?” he grunted, “Some kind of home autopsy kit?”

Louise Hewitt ignored him. She picked up a slice of raw tuna with her chopsticks and brought it to her mouth with a practiced hand. Then she paused, “We get the coroner’s report yet?” she asked. “On the Francis case?”

Stephens bit deep into his sandwich and talked through it, “Stabbed with a screwdriver fifteen times to the head, thirty seven times to the abdomen, superficial defence wounds to hands and forearms, and then disembowelled clumsily with a barbecue fork. Far as they can tell the whole process took around twenty minutes to half an hour.”

Hewitt dipped a thick slice of salmon into her little plastic bowl of soy and wasabi, and popped it in her mouth. She pushed a number of large photographic prints about the surface of her pristine desk. “Made a hell of a mess of the lounge” she observed. “They seem to have smeared him up over the walls.”

Stephens rummaged in a large paper bag set in front of him, for his scotch egg. He’d saved that till last. He bit into it with relish, and then remembered, “They’d forced him to eat the family hamster. It was found wedged down his throat.”

“Oooh, don’t,” said Detective Constable Hewitt with a grimace of disgust.

There was still a vestige of compassion left in the C.I.D. room.