Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The one that got away 4

He stepped through the open gate and was free. It was exhilarating and yet terrifying. He set off down the road, walking faster and faster, trying to speed away from his apprehension at the immensity of it all. Then, with a carefree shake of the head, he gave himself into it. And ran and ran, feeling his muscles stretch, his lungs open, feeling alive.

The sun shone and a light wind caused the leaves to dance in the tall trees, as he made his way into town. He’d not been allowed here before, locked away, regimented in the numbing protection of a sacrosanct routine.

When he reached the High Street, people began to stop and stare at him. He dropped his pace, and pressed on, affording them the occasional sideways glance. He didn’t want to cause offence here, any trouble and his freedom might be rescinded.

People stepped off the pavement in front of him, some smiling, some frowning. Some foolish children ran off yelling or laughing, it was difficult to know which. Everybody seemed to have something to say, so he stopped on a street corner and had a good look round.

The crowd stared back. One or two moved forward in seemed to be a threatening manner, so he moved back into a side alley, to give them time to return to a better mood.

He could hear fast footfalls behind him and gave up propriety and ran like hell, ducking into the nearest break in the wall. It was an open door and he dashed into a room with a pleasantly soapy smell. A fat woman stared at him, mouthing silently, before leaping onto a chair. She punched at something in her hand and then shouted into it.

“Police!” she screamed, “There’s a pig in the laundrette!”

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The one that got away 3

Squadron Leader Fanshawe crossed into Switzerland on the 15th March 1943. He wore a battered suit made from artfully modified remnants of uniform, prison camp blankets and bedding. His hat had been filched during a visit from the Red Cross and his suitcase carefully constructed from camouflaged cardboard.

He was weak from hunger, wheezing from the damp and cold of so many nights out in the open and limping from a leap from a train bound for Basel, during a document check.

He kept to the deepest shadows of the fir trees as he made his way down the mountain slopes. A meeting with an unfriendly Swiss border guard could have him bundled back across the frontier to, at the very least, further incarceration.

Then he saw the bright and cheerful light at the window of the little chalet nestling amongst the conifers. That single twinkling light embodied all the carefree spirit of his pre-war years, an indomitable refusal to submit to the bleakness and terror of war.

Fanshawe knocked tentatively on the door, rehearsing his cover story (he was a lost Swedish businessman travelling in typewriter parts), and it was opened by a rosy cheeked, roly-poly farmer’s wife.

“Come in, schatzi,” she beamed at him. “You are just in time for dinner.”

Inside was as warm as toast. She led him into a tiny parlour, took his hat, helped him off with his sodden overcoat, and settled him in a chair by a cosy fire with a glass of apple brandy.

A few minutes later her husband, a large man with deep-set eyes, came in and hit him a resounding blow on the top of the head with a blacksmith’s hammer.

Fanshawe had discovered the infamous cannibal family of the Eastern Alps, fifteen years before the Swiss Police did.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The One That Got Away 2

Desiree Martin peered through the heavy musty drapes at the waves washing perpetually on the Malibu shore. Her makeup matched the faded gilt splendour of the surroundings; her robe was faded too, the pink velour echoing her trembling lips and her strained, tired eyes. She peered out at the waves, wondering if the morning were late enough for a Tom Collins, if only she could remember how.

Desiree was one of those actresses made for black and white. The fact that she had survived twenty years of Technicolor was a tribute to her hunger, her persistence and the Hollywood tittle tattle that she could suck a golf ball through a thirty metre length of hose-pipe.

Desiree had sucked a lot of golf balls for industry stalwarts now long dead, and the occasional pool man or car valet to keep in training. She had started off in dubious exposure movies involving jazz and “reefers” and then progressed to slasher movies and various arcane “B” genres. She’s on some internet sites still. Goateed, pallid film buffs will tell you that nobody played a depraved nun as archly as Desiree.

She didn’t have the face for television, nor the contacts nor the memory. Nor the right ex-husbands nor the track record nor the favours she could call in. So she ended up at the beach house, which her only legitimate friend had insisted she bought in her own name.

Desiree stared at the sea spray, waiting for a particular man to walk through it, muscled, tanned and nonchalant with mischievous eyes and an open grin. It hadn’t quite happened between them before, or had it? They’d met so long ago. He’d said he’d be back.

“C’mon, mister,” she whispered. “There’s a B feature queen here waiting to give you the works.”

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The one that got away 1

Arthur always swore there was a giant carp in the River Nidd. He swore he’d seen it frequently, looming just below the surface in secret locations. He swore he’d hooked it twice, but that it had snapped his line with a disdainful tug and cruised sturdily away. He swore that one day he’d land it and then all the walking sheep droppings who cast aspersions at him in the public bar of the Pately Arms would be forced to eat their words.

The public bar thought Arthur was, as ever, talking through the shiny seat of his moleskins. So when, one day, he produced a new reel for his battered old rod, with specialist line vaunting the tensile strength normally required on Marlin boats, they didn’t bother to conceal their reservations. They hooted with mirth. They slapped the bar and the dusty furnishings in their hilarity. They called him all kinds of names in arcane dialects from the primeval Dales.

Arthur did not stand still in the face of such concerted abuse; he finished his pint of tepid local ale and strode off to his appointment with destiny and his giant carp.

An hour or so later the public bar heard an uncanny and suddenly truncated wail. Those not paralysed by beer ran out of the pub and headed down the narrow lane to the river, only to fall silent at what they found on the riverbank.

Arthur’s tackle box and battered old fishing stool had been kicked over; his keep-net was bent and empty; his thermos leaked weak tea upon the mud. Two deep grooves ran down from the upturned stool into the Nidd’s silent waters, gouged out by the heels of Arthur’s ancient rubber boots.

“It’ll be Arthur playing silly buggers,” pronounced someone, and they returned to the bar.