The Snake

Dee slumped into her chair on the back porch. She was dog-tired. It had been a long week. The last rays of the setting sun felt very pleasant on her skin. She felt drowsy and soon, she was asleep.

A noise woke her, and she sat up with a start. She looked up into the eyes of a man who had poked his head over the side fence. He had a shaved head, a button nose, and brown eyes behind round-rimmed glasses. He waved a hand and said “Hi. Erm, sorry to bother you…”

She was busting and had to go. She struggled to her feet, cut him off and called, “Sorry, gotta go,” and bolted for the back door. She just made it.

She realised she’d been rather rude, but the need was urgent. She wondered idly what he wanted, but she had only been living there a few months and had no interest in getting friendly with the neighbours, especially a male one with no hair. She had sworn off men since her recent breakup with Simon.

She was hungry and rummaged through her freezer for a frozen meal. She enjoyed cooking as a rule, but couldn’t be bothered tonight. She pulled out a lasagna, stuck it in the microwave and poured herself a glass of red wine. It was while she was sitting at the kitchen table digging into the rather tasteless meal that she heard a noise at the front door. She rose, walked to the door and saw a folded sheet of paper on the floor. She picked it up, debated whether to open the door, and then decided to finish her meal. She read the words on the paper, eyes widening as she took in the message.

It read ‘What I was trying to tell you before was that I saw a large carpet python going under your back porch earlier today. Just thought you’d like to know.’ It was signed ‘Greg from next door.’

She shrieked involuntarily and dropped the note. She hated snakes!

What was she going to do? Meal forgotten, she shuddered when she realised she’d been sleeping on the porch above the snake for ages. By now it was dark. She walked back to the front door, snapped on the front porch light, and then turned it off again. What if light attracted it and it made its way under the house to the front porch? Trying to calm down, she thought, ‘I’ll google it’. The fact that the snake was pretty harmless from what she read, didn’t comfort her one little bit. Maybe bald Greg could help, although she had been exceedingly rude to him, but he had taken the trouble to leave her the note.

She decided she would rather face him than spend all night worrying about where the snake might pop up. She turned on the porch light again, opened the door, and peering fearfully from right to left, fairly ran down the driveway and up next door’s pathway to Greg’s front door. She stood there, heart racing and rang the bell. It opened abruptly, and a small, tousled-haired little girl, about five years old, looked up at her.

“Hello,” she said breathlessly.

“May I speak to Greg please?”

Two bright blue eyes regarded her thoughtfully, and then the little girl turned and bellowed, “Greg! It’s for you!”

Dee couldn’t believe such a loud voice could come out of such a small person. The other thought she had was, ‘She calls her father by his first name.’

Footsteps came down the hallway and Greg hove into view. He was about her height, a bit tubby, wearing a ragged shirt, baggy shorts and flip-flops.

He peered at her owlishly over glasses perched on his nose.

“I’m so sorry about earlier, but I really needed to go…”

She trailed off. He smiled at her, a rather attractive smile that empathised dimples on either side of his mouth.

“That’s ok,” he said.

“I understand.”

He looked down at the little girl.

“Did you have to yell so loud? I was only down the hall.”

She smiled sweetly at him.

“But you’re always telling me you’re getting old and deaf and you never hear me when I call you.”

He looked at Dee and shrugged helplessly.

“Come in. The place is a bit of a mess…”

“Oh no,” she protested.

“I only came to ask your advice about the snake.”

He said amusedly, “So you want to go out there again do you?”


She shuddered involuntarily.

“Come on, I’m Amy,” the little girl said, taking her by the hand. Dee allowed herself to be dragged down the hallway into a large family room, containing a shelf laden with books, two couches, a rectangular table and chairs and a huge flat screen television on one wall.

Greg gestured, “Grab a chair. Would you like a drink?”

She shook her head and said diffidently, “I should introduce myself. I’m Dee.”

She paused, and he said, “Yeah, well, you know I’m Greg and this is Amy.”

Amy regarded her silently for a moment, then said, “You’re very pretty. Would you like to marry Greg?”

The adults stared speechlessly at her, then each other.

Greg found his voice.

“Pumpkin, we don’t know each other. We’ve only just met, and you’ve just embarrassed Dee…”

Amy turned to her.

“Your not embarrassed are you Dee?” she asked.

She struggled to respond.

“Oh no, but your Dad’s right. We’ve only just met.”

“Greg’s not my Dad, silly. He’s my uncle and he’s the best uncle in the whole world. He looks after me when Mum’s at work. My Dad’s in the navy.”

The adults looked at each other. Greg looked into her grey-blue eyes. She had full red lips, a heart-shaped face and a beautiful hourglass figure. He didn’t stand a chance, he thought sadly. Girls like her didn’t go for guys who looked like him.

He smiled painfully.

“You wanted to know about the snake. I’ve got a friend who’s a snake catcher. I’ll call him if you want and he’ll come out. He’ll find it and you won’t need to worry anymore. If you like, I’ll escort you home. It’s unlikely to come into the house so you’ll be pretty safe.”

She was strangely reluctant to leave. Somehow, she already felt safe in this house, with this precocious little girl who wanted her to marry ‘the best uncle in the world.’

She had had worse offers, she reflected, and looking at Greg, said, “If it’s ok with you, I’d like to stay, and I wouldn’t mind a drink.”

Greg blinked at her, then looked into those grey-blue eyes and he knew he was gone. He had no idea where this was going to go, but he knew he would always regret it if he didn’t travel down that road to find out.

“What would you like?”


Chain of Events

“Wow! You look gorgeous!” Shayne exclaimed.

“Oh-oh. What do you want?”

“Nothing!” her brother said. “Can’t I even compliment my own sister? The guys are gonna get hard-ons when they see you.”

“That is disgusting! You had to ruin it, didn’t you.”

“Sorry,” he said without meaning it.

“But if you don’t want compliments, why do you dress like that?”

“A. I like this dress. B. It’s the latest fashion, C. I should be able to wear whatever I like.”

“Oh well, the guys are gonna be falling all over themselves. When you get to the nightclub, pick one that’s got money, an expensive car, preferably a Porsche and doesn’t mind an annoying younger brother.”

Tina looked at him, then said, “The only one of those that is of any consequence to me is the last one.”

“You mean the annoying younger brother? I don’t mind the others. If they don’t like me, I’ll wear them down with my charm, and arse licking, but it’s nice of you to care.”

“God, you’re hopeless. I’m going. See you later.”

“Enjoy yourself,” he said.

Tina walked out and got into her little yellow VW bug. She was meeting her girlfriends at a restaurant for dinner before going on to the nightclub. As it turned out, she was late. A few streets away, she watched in horror as a young man was pulled out of a stationary car at the traffic lights. A tall bearded man punched him in the face. As he staggered back, the man jumped into the car and took off through the red lights, narrowly missing a car coming through. She pulled to the side of the road, got out and hurried over to him.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said rubbing his chin, then, with a wry grin, “I’ve had worse knocks on the rugby field.”

A few other people came over.

“You right mate?” a big bluff truckie in a tank top queried.

He nodded.

“Thanks everyone. I’m ok. Just got to report it to the cops.”

“I’ll take you down to the police station,” Tina offered.

“Would you? Thanks, but you look as if you’re going somewhere.”

“That can wait. Let’s go.”


He wasn’t going to pass up a chance to spend time with the most beautiful girl he’d seen in a long time. Onlookers drifted away, one older man giving him a sly thumbs up. They got into her car, and she waited for the lights to change, then headed for the police station,

“I’m Cameron,” he said.

“Tina,” she replied.

“You’re sure you’re alright?”


“What about your car?”

He shrugged.

“It’s a bit of a heap. He won’t get far in it. It sort of belongs to a friend. I just borrowed it because mine’s being serviced.”

“Won’t he be upset?”

He laughed.

“Oh no. He owns a used car yard. I just borrowed the oldest car he had. Anyway, you can just drop me off at the police station. I can find my own way home. You’ve obviously got somewhere else to go.”

She hesitated. He had an attractive smile and seemed quite unfazed by what had just happened. She felt reluctant to just leave him, but her friends were waiting. She pulled into the police station carpark, and then said impulsively, “I’ll ring my brother Shayne. He’s at home doing nothing. I’ll get him to pick you up and take you home.”

“Oh no. One of my mates will be ok to do it.”

“I’ll give you his number anyway, just in case,” she said.

“Ok, thanks,” he said with that attractive smile.

She rattled it off, and he put it in his phone. He got out of the car with a last lingering look, then shut the door. He watched her drive away. He walked up the steps and into the outer office. The young officer behind the desk eyed him and remarked, “People don’t normally come in here wearing a goofy smile.”

“I just got a lift from a gorgeous looking girl.”

“How come?”

Cameron detailed what had happened to him. When he described the man who had punched him, the officer nodded.

“We know him. We’ll pick him up eventually, but I think the car’s not going to be worth much if we get it back. He has a habit of wrecking cars he nicks. We’ll add assault and the theft of another motor vehicle to all the other charges when we get him.”

After he had done all the paperwork, Cameron walked outside. He rang Adrian from whose car yard he’d borrowed the car and left a message. Adrian wouldn’t care. Insurance would take care of it. Then he debated which of his friends he’d ring to collect him from the police station. He could also get an Uber or a taxi. He paused. Had Tina given him her brother’s number for a reason? Only one way to find out, he thought. He rang the number.

“Yep,” was the laconic greeting.

“Hi. I’m Cameron. Your sister gave me a lift to the police station, and said you might be able to give me a lift home.”

“Oh yes. You’re the guy who got hijacked.”

So she had told him about the incident.

“Yes, I am.”

“Ok mate. I’ll see you in about ten minutes. It wasn’t a Porsche or some expensive car that got hijacked was it?”

Cameron laughed.

“Not really, why?”

“Just asking. See you soon.”

Shayne was gone. Cameron wondered what the reference to the Porsche was all about. He went to sit on a bench near the police station carpark. He watched as a car pulled up. A young woman got out. She staggered slightly and the car drove away. He got up and hurried over to her.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

She looked blankly at him.

“Sorry?” she said.

“Are you alright,” he repeated.

“I think so,” she said.

“Come and sit down,” he suggested and led her to the bench.

He looked at her. She was quite pretty. In fact, she reminded him of Tina, although she looked a bit younger.

“So, this is a police station. Do you need the police for any reason?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Who dropped you off?”

“Two girls. They saw me at the side of the road and gave me a lift.”

“But they must have brought you here for a reason.”

“Yes, it’s because I couldn’t remember where I was going, and they were late for an appointment, so they said they’d drop me off here.”

“So, do you remember where you want to go?”

“Not really.”

“Do you know your name?”

“Yes. It’s Natalie. Natalie Dawkins.”

“I’m Cameron. Have you got a phone or driver’s licence?”


She fumbled in her bag, produced a phone and handed it to him. He noticed a small bruise on her forehead.

“Natalie, do you think you might have fallen over and hit your head?” he asked gently.

She touched her head, and said, “Oh, there is a bruise there. Maybe I did. I don’t remember.”

He opened the phone folder. Her driver’s licence was in one of the pockets.

He drew it out and showed it to her.

“Do you remember your address?”


“It’s not far from here. Maybe I should get you a taxi to take to you home.”

As he spoke, a dark coloured Ford pulled into the carpark. A young man got out and strode over to him.

“Hi, I’m Shayne. If you’re Cameron, I’m your ride.”

Cameron shook his hand.

“This is Natalie. I think she might need a ride too.”

She looked at him timidly, and said, “I don’t want to impose.”

“Impose away,” he said cheerfully.

“In fact,” he added, “ You can definitely impose on me anytime you like. So, hop in. I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

Cameron gave her back her phone. They walked with Shayne back to his car. After they got in, he said, “Alright, where are we going?”

Cameron explained what he surmised had happened to Natalie. Shayne

immediately got out of the car and got in the back with her. He turned on the interior light, and said, “I’m a trainee paramedic, let’s have a quick look.”

Natalie submitted without complaint.

“Yes, you’ve definitely got quite a bump. I’d say you’ve fallen and hit your head. That’ll explain the slight amnesia. Your memory will come back soon,” he said reassuringly. ‘I hope,’ he said silently to himself.

He took her arms and gently turned them over,

“There’s a scrape on your right arm too. Hang on a minute.”

He got out, opened the boot and came back with a first aid kit.

Soon after his ministration, he said, “There you go, the best you’ll ever get from a trainee paramedic.”

Natalie smiled her thanks.

Cameron had been impressed by the younger man’s quiet efficiency.

Shayne got back into the driver’s seat.

“So, where to first?”

“I think maybe take Natalie home first?” Cameron suggested.

“Right. Address?”

Cameron relayed it as he recalled it from her driver’s licence.

“It’s not far from here,” Shayne said as he drove off.

“So,” he said to Cameron, “What do you think of my sister?”

“She’s lovely,” Cameron said cautiously.

“Yep. She’s gone out with some girlfriends. Told her to pick up a guy with a Porsche.”

Cameron smiled wryly.

“That rules me out then.”

“I think I’ve got a Porsche,” Natalie said unexpectedly.

Shayne almost drove off the road.

“You have? How come?”

“If I’m remembering this right, It’s an old one. It belonged to my grandad. He gave it to me on my twenty-first birthday last year.”

“Wow, it’ll be a classic then.”

“I guess so. He said it was. I’ll show it to you when we get to my place.”

“Great. Can’t wait.”

To Cameron, he said, “You’re off the hook. You can date my sister now.”

“Thanks for your permission,” Cameron said sarcastically.

“But I suspect that’ll be up to her.”

Shayne grinned.

“Yes, she might come home with a guy who’s got a Ferrari, so’s you’ll have no chance.”

“Oh, I’ve got one of those,” Cameron said nonchalantly.

Once again, Shayne almost went off the road.

“Holy cow! You’ve got a Ferrari?”

“Yes, not a new one.”

“Don’t care. I’ll get Tina to give whoever she comes home with, the flick.”

“Is that likely?”

“It’s never happened before,” he admitted, “But tonight might be the night.”

“So you don’t want to see my Porsche now?” Natalie asked teasingly.

“Of course I do. But now I’m conflicted. What to do?”

At that moment, his phone rang. He pulled to the side of the road and stopped.

“Don’t have Bluetooth,” he said.

“Hi Sis. What?”

He listened, then said, “Where are you?”

He listened some more, then said, “I’m on my way.”

He turned off the phone.

“That was Tina. A truck backed into her car. The engine’s in the back, so it’s not going anywhere.”

“Is she alright?” Cameron said anxiously.

“Yeah, she wasn’t in it when it happened. You don’t mind if I go and get her? She’s still at the restaurant. Her girlfriends have gone,” he asked Natalie.

“Oh no. I’d like to meet her. I feel like I know her quite well from your conversation.”

“This is turning out to be quite some night,” Cameron remarked.

“Why?” Natalie asked.

“You tell her,” Shayne said.

So Cameron started to relay the events of the evening, starting with his hijacking.

“You got hijacked?” Natalie interrupted.

“Yes,” and continued his tale.

When he finished, she was silent for a moment, then said, “You know, I think I remember what happened to me. It just came back to me. I booked an Uber. I went outside to wait. This car came along. I thought it was my ride because the man stopped. Stupidly, I didn’t check the app. I got in. I was going to a girlfriend’s place. I gave him the address. He said he knew where it was, and drove off. But I started to feel uneasy, and he wasn’t going in the right direction. So I asked him for his ID. He said he didn’t need to show me, so I asked him to stop. He wouldn’t, so I threatened to spray him. I told him I had a pepper sprayer in my bag. I pulled out a perfume sprayer. He stopped, I got out and he took off before I was completely out of the car. I fell and hit my head. I think I must have been groggy. I got up and I was walking along when two girls came along and gave me a lift to the police station.”

“Wow. You’re lucky. That could have been very nasty. I’m glad you recovered your memory,” Shayne said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Natalie said musingly, “I might not have met you guys if that hadn’t happened to me.”

Shayne glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She gave him a cheeky grin. There was obviously more to this girl than first met the eye. He was looking forward to getting to know her better. Of course, the Porsche was the major attraction, he told himself. He gave Cameron a sidelong glance. Tina was definitely interested in him, else why give him his number. And the man had a Ferrari! Everything was working out quite nicely, despite the traumatic way it all started. He couldn’t wait to see what would happen next in the evening’s chain of events.


Cacophony 21

“I hate you!” Taylah burst out, glaring at her father.

“Do you?” Dan responded mildly.

“Yes! All my friends are going. I’m the only one not allowed!”

“I somehow doubt that,” he said drily.

She stared at him mutinously.

“I feel like running away!”

“Okay, but I should tell you, your friend Kylie kept doing that, her mum couldn’t cope, and she’s now a ward of the state.”

She was silent, then, “Why won’t you let me go? Mum would have let me.”

“I’m not your Mum, you’re with me this month, and last time they had a concert, a riot broke out, several people got hurt,” he pointed out.

“Dad, they’ve had lots of concerts. That was the only one where there was trouble.”

“Mm, still, you’re very precious to me, I don’t want to take the chance…”

“Dad, you can’t protect me from something random. I could get hit by a bus going to school.”

“I suppose. Tell you what. How about I go with you?”

“What? You’re joking!”

“So, you’d rather miss out on seeing Cacophony whatever it is because you’re ashamed to be seen with your Dad?”

“Yes. No!”

He was amused.

“So which is it?”

She was silent, then, “Can you really get tickets, do you think?”

“I can try.”


“Which okay is that? You want me to try and get tickets for the two of us?”

Reluctantly, “Yes.”

“Alright then. I’ll see what I can do.”

Taylah got up, and left without another word. He watched her go with a wry smile. He would buy some very good earplugs. He thought it a good compromise. His mate Brad had contacts in the music scene. Maybe he could get him some tickets.

“Are you kidding me?” Brad asked incredulously when he rang him later in the day.

“You wanna go to a Cacophony 21 concert?”

“Well, not by choice, but yes.”

“Mate, even I think it’s just electronic noise, and I’m much tolerant than you when it comes to what passes for music in the twenty-first century.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want Taylah to go by herself, or worse, with her friends. This is a compromise. I’m going to get the best noise-cancelling earplugs money can buy.”

“Alright. I’ll see what I can do.”

Two days later, Brad rang him back.

“I’ve just emailed you two tickets. You owe me big time.”

“Thanks, Brad. I do.”

“Maybe you’d better wait till after the concert before you thank me!”

He was gone. Taylah was still at school. He would surprise her when she came home. He worked from home as a graphic artist and had finished a project for a client.

She arrived just after four and wandered into the kitchen where she dumped her bag on the floor. He was just making a coffee and sat down at the bench.

“Hello. Guess what,” he said.


“Got those tickets you wanted.”

“Oh,” she said unenthusiastically.

“You changed your mind about going? Or is it because I’m going too?”

“I told Laura, she told her mother, and now she’s decided it’s a good idea, so she’s going instead of Adam. So Laura’s pissed at me.”

“Who’s Laura and who’s Adam?”

“Don’t you remember anything? I told you once before. Laura’s my best friend. Adam’s sort of her boyfriend.”


“Yes. Oh. So, no, I really don’t know if I want to go anymore.”

Dan had had enough.

“Fine. I’ll sell the tickets. I may even make a profit from them.”

“You can’t!”

“Why not?”

“It’s illegal! It’s called scalping.”

“Why do you care? You don’t want to go.”

“Well, maybe I do.”

“I wish you’d make up your mind.”

“Alright. We can go.”

“Well, I don’t want you to inconvenience yourself,” her father said sarcastically.

“Just one thing,” she said. “Can we go in separately?”

Dan took a deep breath, then decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. So he said, “Sure.”

“Thanks, Dad!” she said, picked up her bag, and went off to her room.

The concert was on the following Saturday night. That morning, Taylah got a call from Laura, who had gotten over her totally unjustified peeve, and now wanted a favour. Laura walked into Dan’s home office, where he was busy working on a project for a new client.

“Dad?” she asked hesitantly, “Is it ok if you pick Laura and her mum up on the way? She’s a bit worried about parking at the venue.”

“Sure,” he said absently.

“Great! Hear that Laura? We’ll pick you up. I’ll ring you later with the time. See you then. Bye.”

She put her phone in her pocket and said, “Thanks, Dad.”

He nodded, concentrating on the job in front of him. It was later that afternoon. He had done as much work as he could for his client. Earlier in the week, he’d bought some top quality noise-cancelling earplugs. Taylah reminded him they had to leave earlier to detour to pick up the others.

As an afterthought, he asked why Laura’s father couldn’t have taken them. She relayed Laura’s explicit response to any queries about her father.

“If he was around, which he isn’t, I wouldn’t ask him for anything even if he was the last man on earth.”

It sounded rather definite to him. He didn’t ask any more questions.

He ordered a pizza for an early dinner, then they set off. Taylah had sent Laura a message indicating what time they would pick them up. They lived only a few kilometres away. It was a modern home in a newly developed suburb.

Taylah went inside and came out with a short blonde girl. But it was her mother who caused Dan to draw a sharp breath of appreciation. She too was blonde, but tall, very attractive in tight jeans, mauve top and black jacket. The two girls immediately got into the back. Dan hopped out and went around and opened the passenger door.

“Hi,” he said, extending his hand.

“I’m Dan.”

She smiled, and said,” Hello. I’m Catherine. It’s very kind of you to give us a lift.”

“No problem,” he said, as she sat down. He closed the door, walked back around the car and got in. As they drove off, he caught a whiff of her perfume. It wasn’t anything Marion had ever worn that he could remember.

“Looking forward to the concert?” he asked with a smile.

“Of course. Aren’t you?”

He nodded and patted his pocket.

“I’ve got the best noise-cancelling earplugs money can buy.”

She laughed delightedly, and exclaimed, “Me too!”

“What a waste,” Taylah said in a disgusted tone.

“You should have given the tickets to people who would have appreciated and enjoyed the music.”

Dan and Catherine exchanged amused looks, then he said, “Tell you what. Why don’t we swap one ticket each? You two can sit together. Catherine and I will sit separately from you where we won’t embarrass you.”

“Yes!” the two girls whooped together.

So they did. The tickets Brad had secured were up the front, Catherine’s near the back. The girls, beside themselves, naturally took the front, and, were given strict instructions to contact their parents in the event of anything happening, and to meet at the end of the concert. They rushed off without a backward glance.

“So much for your idea about keeping an eye on them,” Catherine remarked.

“Yes,” Dan agreed, “But I think they should be ok. Lots of security around.”

As they made their way to their seats, she said with a mischievous smile, “I don’t suppose you had other, maybe ulterior motives for swapping seats, did you?”

He looked at her with mock surprise.

“How could you even think that? I was looking forward to spending quality time with my daughter, earplugs notwithstanding.”

“And so why aren’t you?”

“Umm, I think I may have got a bit distracted.”

As they were shown to their seats and sat down, she looked at him thoughtfully, and said, “I’ve been called lots of things. I’m not sure distraction has been one of them.”

He looked into her eyes, and said, “I can think of lots of things to call you too, but I might leave them for a more appropriate time.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” she replied.

The noise around them rose to a crescendo as some members of the band appeared on stage. Surreptitiously, both pulled out their earplugs and inserted them, earning wondering looks from the young people around them. But they were soon forgotten as the band began to play. The music, if that was what it was and the screaming that accompanied it, was hideously and horrendously loud. But for two people, not too much of it registered. Occasionally, their hands touched, their fingers interlaced, and they were cocooned in a world of their own.

In the years that followed, they were often to recall, with amusement, their first meeting at a concert where a band called Cacophony 21 performed, a band nobody remembered and they didn’t hear.



“I’m bored!” Sasha declared.

Jim, intent on the monitor in front of him didn’t respond.

She slid off her desk where she had been resting her behind, and said, “I’m going to take Eam for a drive.”

Jim looked up in alarm.

“You can’t!” he protested.

“Kevin will have a fit!”

“He’s gone to a conference for three days. He won’t know. Or are you going to tell him?”

Jim squirmed.

“He’ll blame me if anything goes wrong.”

“Nothing’s going to go wrong,” she assured him.

“And if anything does, I’ll take full responsibility.”

“Fat lot of good that’ll do me. He put me in charge. I’ll still get the blame, so, no, you can’t take him.”

“Oh Jimbo, please?” she wheedled.

“No,” he said stubbornly.

She walked closer to his desk and stood facing him. She slowly unzipped the top of her tunic, exposing the tops of her breasts. His eyes bulged, as, to his mortification, did his pants.

“No,” he said. “That’s all you do, just flash your breasts at me. I need more than that.”

“Ok,” she said briskly.

“When I get back, you can take me out to dinner.”

“You’re just saying that,” he muttered.

“You won’t follow through.”

“I promise, on my mother’s grave,” she told him.


“Yes,” she said firmly.

“Alright, but if he finds out and I lose my job over this…”

“You won’t. Thanks, Jim!”

She almost danced out of the room.

When she was gone, he sat staring blindly at the monitor, then something hit him like a ton of bricks. Sasha’s mother wasn’t dead. He’d talked to the woman on the phone for Pete’s sake! How could he have been so stupid? Blinded by lust. His erection was gone as if it had never been. Kevin would find out and he’d lose his job for sure.

Sasha hurried down the corridor. She opened the door of the nearest room. A man was sitting on a chair. He was speed reading a book, or so it appeared as he seemed to rapidly flip through the pages.

“Hi Eam,” Sasha said.

“Why are you reading a book? What’s wrong with the iPad?”

“Nothing. I like books. I enjoy flipping through the pages. It’s not the same with the iPad,” he said in a deep sonorous voice.

“Ok, feel like going for a drive?”

He looked at her and asked, “Have you cleared it with Kevin?”

“No, with Jim.”

“Kevin would not approve,” he told her.

“He’s away for a few days. He’ll never know,” she said airily.

“Why are we doing this?” he asked.

“I’m bored,” she said frankly.

He said nothing more, just got up, put the book on a table and followed her out of the room. They walked to a lift and took it down to an underground carpark.

“You drive,” she said, handing him the keys to a black SUV. He walked to the vehicle, got in the driver’s seat, started it up, and, after she had seated herself, drove towards the gate that led to the outside. Sasha pressed a button on a key fob and it slid open. It closed behind them as Eam drove through. A short driveway led to a t junction.

“Which way?” he asked.

“Right,” she said promptly.

“There’s a redneck town about seventy miles away.”

He obeyed and recited, “Redneck. A derogatory term generally applied to poorly educated politically reactionary white persons from the southern states.”

“Very good,” she applauded.

“Let’s go and stir them up!”

“Why?” he asked.

“I told you. I’m bored,” she replied.

He said nothing further. Sasha pulled out her phone, inserted ear pods and was soon lost in Vivaldi’s ‘Winter,’ her favourite of his ‘Four seasons’ suite.

The SUV ate up the miles. The road was generally deserted, they encountered very few vehicles. An hour or so later, just on dusk, they were on the outskirts of a small town. A billboard on the approach read, ‘Welcome to Betsyville. Obey all rules while you are in our town.’

“Friendly,’ Sasha commented.

“Wonder who Betsy is or was. Let’s see if you can find a diner.”

They drove down the Main Street. Sasha pointed.

“There. Danny’s Diner. That’ll do.”

Eam pulled up in front alongside several other vehicles. They exited the car and walked inside. There were quite a few people sitting inside, some in booths, others on stools at a bar that ran almost the length of the diner. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at them. Sasha marched to a vacant booth and sat down. Eam sat down next to her.

There was silence in the diner. Nobody said a word. A waitress behind the bar disappeared out the back. She soon re-emerged followed by a burly red-faced man wearing a stained apron. Another waitress at the other end of the diner dropped some cutlery on the floor. The sound seemed startling in the silence. The burly man walked over to them. He stared at Sasha, jerked a thumb at Eam and said, “We don’t serve his kind in here.”

“And what kind would that be?” she asked.

“Niggers,” he said bluntly.

Sasha looked at him and said reprovingly, “That’s politically incorrect as well as derogatory, insulting and racist.”

“Don’t give a shit. I’m Danny. This is my diner. I serve who I like and say what I like. I ain’t servin’ him, or you. So you can both get out.”

Eam looked up at him and asked Sasha, “Is he a redneck?”

“It certainly sounds like it,” she replied.

“What should I do?”

“You calling me a redneck?” the man raised his voice.

“You called him a nigger,” Sasha reminded him.

“Get out, both of you. Now!”

There were murmurings of agreement from the other diners.

“You all think we should leave?” Sasha asked, looking around.

“Yeah, bitch. Take your nigger and get out,” a rough-looking bearded man in a flannel shirt sitting at the bar told her.

“He called me a bitch,” Sasha said to Eam.

“Is that a derogatory term?” he asked.

“Well, it’s not as bad as nigger, but it’s not pleasant,” she replied.

“So what should I do?” he asked again.

“I think we should give them one last chance to apologise,” she said.

“Are you shitting me?” Danny erupted.

“Out! Now!”

He reached out and grabbed Eam by the shoulder. He sat immobile, then looked at Sasha.

“I don’t think he’s going to apologise,” she said

“Perhaps it’s time for some exercise. But maim only, alright?”

Eam nodded. He got up, brushed off Danny’s hand, then effortlessly picked him up and threw him across the diner. He took down all the occupants of the stools who were sitting at the bar. All men, they went down like ninepins. The flannel shirt man was first on his feet and he charged at Eam, who spun him around and threw him through one of the front windows. He landed on the bonnet of a parked car, before rolling off and crashing to the ground. The other diners scattered, some ran outside and vehicles took off in all directions. One by one, the men who Eam had skittled, got up. None seemed inclined to confront him. They edged to the door and left with the other patrons.

Sasha beckoned one of the waitresses who had been standing in petrified silence, and said, “I’d like a coffee, please. Just black.”

The girl nodded, pointed at Eam who had sat down again, and asked, “And the gentleman?”

“See Eam. You’re a gentleman,” Sasha said approvingly.

“He doesn’t want anything.”

The girl hurried behind the counter, stepping over an unconscious Danny on the way. She soon came back with a cup of coffee, and trembling, put it down in front of Sasha. She looked at Eam.

“He’s very strong,” she ventured.

“Yes, he is,” Sasha smiled, and sipped her coffee.

The girl retreated behind the counter with the other waitress. The diner was empty. Everyone had left. Sasha wondered if anyone would call the police, but the nearest police post was several hours away, so she wasn’t too concerned. She finished her coffee, left some money under the cup, and got up.

“Let’s go,” she said to Eam.

Obediently, he too rose, and they left the diner. Danny was still unconscious, but Sasha didn’t think there was too much wrong with him. Eam would have been very precise. He had only been ordered to maim. As for the wreckage, as far as she was concerned, Danny deserved it.

‘Thanks for the coffee, it was very nice,” she called to the waitress, who nodded in bemusement.

They got into the car.

“We can go back now,” she said to Eam.

He nodded, started the car and they headed back out of Betsyville.

She put on her earbuds and was soon listening to another Vivaldi concerto. He was her favourite composer by far. The little trip had certainly relieved her boredom. And exposing Eam to the broader community, even if only to a small redneck town was a fruitful experience. They had all assumed him to be an African American. They would have been totally freaked out if they knew he wasn’t real. Eam stood for Experimental Android Model. He was Kevin’s brainchild. An eccentric billionaire, and a tech nerd, he had been experimenting with robots for years. While she and Jim had played no part in his creation, as the brightest graduates at Caltech, Kevin had hired them to more or less babysit Him. He had devised a number of training exercises for them to use to monitor how adaptable he was. Excited at first, Sasha was now bored and restless.

She had no idea why Kevin had made him African American. She really didn’t care. It certainly made going into places like Betsyville interesting. Now, she had to deal with Jim when she got back. Maybe she would let him take her out to dinner. He was a bit of a nerd, actually a lot of a nerd. But she could work on him. Maybe even get him into bed. You just never knew. It might not work. But it was something to do to relieve the boredom.


Benny and the cockroach.

Benny got the box of cornflakes out of the cupboard and poured the last of its contents into his cereal bowl. He stared stupefied as a large cockroach dropped out as well. He shrieked involuntarily in a most unmanly high pitched voice. He hated cockroaches! Thoughts ran riot through his head. The box was now empty. He had been eating cockroach-infested cornflakes for God knows how long! What had that done to his insides? Totally irrational, he thought vaguely, but it didn’t change anything. He almost gagged as he looked at it sitting placidly in the bowl. What was he going to do now? Kill it of course, but how? He didn’t have a sprayer powerful enough, just a generic brand flying insect one. He needed to make sure it didn’t escape. He scrabbled in the crockery cupboard, found a saucer and placed it carefully on top of the cereal bowl. He checked all around the bowl. It was secure. There was no way the damned thing could get out.

Now, however, what was he going to have for breakfast? He was a creature of habit. He liked his cornflakes. He needed to go get some more. Well, Cockie the cockroach wasn’t going anywhere. He had plenty of time to go out and get some. And maybe a cockroach sprayer. That would fix him. And he’d gotten over the whole ‘what’s it done to my insides’ thing. His stomach acid would have taken care of that, he told himself.

A short while later, after a shower, he was backing his car out of the garage and heading for the nearby supermarket. He was quite chuffed to find his favourite brand of cornflakes was on special, so he bought three packets. Then he went hunting for a cockroach sprayer. They were a damn sight more expensive than ordinary sprayers. Not worth it, he decided. I’ll just work out how to kill this one. Maybe flush it down the toilet, or something, cornflakes and all. He bought some milk as well and headed home.

As he pulled into his garage and got out of his car, he saw a large glass jar he’d put on a shelf. It had contained coffee. He’d bought it when it had been cheap a year ago and kept the jar in case it came in handy. A thought struck him. Cockroaches were the hardiest creatures in the world, he’d read somewhere. He’d put It and the cornflakes in the jar, put holes in the top, because presumably it needed to breathe, and see how long it lived. He picked up the jar, took it inside and placed it on the kitchen bench, next to the cereal bowl.

He slowly removed the saucer. The cockroach was still there. He picked up the bowl and carefully emptied its contents into the jar. He watched as the cockroach fell in, scrabbled around for a minute, then burrowed into the cornflakes. He punctured holes in the lid with a fork, screwed it back on. He found a black marker and scrawled the date on the label on the front, then placed the jar on top of the fridge. He put the cereal bowl in the sink and ran hot water into it. Then he got another one out of the cupboard, opened one of his newly bought boxes of cornflakes, and was soon enjoying his usual breakfast. A ritual that would continue, only now, in the company of Cockie the cockroach.


Barney and the Bear

Barney’s old four-wheel-drive Jeep bumped along the uneven track that led down to the shore of the lake. It was his favourite fishing spot. He’d been coming here for longer than he could remember. The road off the highway had led through densely wooded forests, that he had seen grow thicker over the years. A fire that swept through more than ten years ago had just regenerated it to almost twice the number of trees that had been there before. He stopped in his usual spot, pulled out his gear and set himself up. He unfolded a camp chair that he’d picked up at a garage sale. It was an expensive, top of the range one, and he was inordinately pleased he’d got it for a song. It was a deceased estate sale. He didn’t care. He was quite happy to sit in a dead guy’s chair. He baited the hook on his fishing rod, cast it, set it in its holder, and sat down. In the old days, he used to read a book. Now he had an iPad. He settled his hat on his head and recommenced reading a story he’d started the previous night.

Several hours went by. He hadn’t had a single nibble. but he was engrossed and it didn’t matter much. So, he almost fell off the chair when a deep gravelly voice asked, ”Caught anything yet?”

He straightened up and looked around. He gave an involuntary yelp, then fell over backward. Standing behind him, was a big brown bear. It was looking at him with a quizzical look on its face. He scrambled up, but there was nowhere to run except into the lake. That wouldn’t help. Bears can swim, but amidst the terror and fear, he was aware of two things that should have been impossible. One, bears were not native to the country, and two, worse than that, it spoke to him. English at that. Bears can’t speak, or shouldn’t be able to. This bear obviously didn’t know that. As he stood there petrified, the bear spoke again.

“So, have you caught anything yet?”

“No,” he stuttered.

“Pity,” it said.

“You can talk,” Barney stammered.


“How come?”

“I dunno. Can’t all bears?”

“No,” Barney replied, and continued, “And you shouldn’t be here. Bears aren’t native to this country. Have you escaped from a zoo or circus or something?”

“Don’t know what either of those things are,” the bear said.

“You don’t?”


“So where’d you come from?”

“Back there.”

The bear gestured at the forest behind him,

By now, Barney had overcome his fear. The bear didn’t appear to want to harm him. Not yet anyway.

“So where’d you come from before that?”

Comically, the bear scratched its head with one huge paw. Then it settled down on its haunches.

“Not sure.”

Barney picked up his chair, turned it around to face the bear and sat down. He adjusted his fishing rod but didn’t check it. The bait was probably long gone by now.

“So what do you remember?” he asked.

In the back of his mind, it registered how absurd the whole thing was. He was having a conversation with a bear!

“I remember a bright light, floating in the air, seeing beings who didn’t look like you around me, poking things into me.”

Barney was fascinated. Had the bear been picked up by aliens?

“They stuck something in my head,” the bear continued.

“I don’t remember much more, till I woke up here in this forest. You’re the first human I’ve encountered.”

“Wow,” Barney exclaimed.

“You were abducted by aliens. They gave you the ability to communicate. But I think they put you back in the wrong country.”

“I don’t know what any of that means,” the bear said, “ But whoever they were, they’re coming back for me.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s in my head.”

“And when are they doing that?”

“Don’t know,” the bear answered.

“I’d stay in the middle of the forest out of sight if I were you,” Barney advised.


“Some humans have a tendency to regard anything they don’t understand as a threat,” Barney told him.

“They’ll try and capture you, or shoot you.”

“I see,” the bear said thoughtfully.

“Thanks for the warning.”

The line on Barney’s fishing rod suddenly tightened. He turned around, jumped up and grabbed it out of its holder. Gradually, with effort, he reeled it in.

“It’s a big one,” he said.

As he pulled the flapping fish closer, there was a splashing sound. The bear had entered the water. He grabbed the fish with both paws.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“Do you mind?”

Bemused, Barney shook his head. The bear pulled the fish off the hook and swallowed it in one bite. Barney hadn’t even seen what kind of fish it was.

“Thanks,” the bear said.

“I’d better get off. I sense they’re coming soon.”

He lumbered off. Barney watched him go. He slowly re-baited the hook and swore when it pierced his finger. His mind was definitely not on what he was doing. Understandably so perhaps. He cast the line, set the rod in its holder and sat down again. Had the last few minutes actually happened? It seemed unreal. Perhaps he’d been dreaming. He picked up his iPad but found he couldn’t concentrate. He sat there restlessly for a while, then decided to pack up. He’d more or less convinced himself he’d been dreaming. There could be no other explanation. He stowed all his gear in the back of the Jeep, shut the tailgate and walked round to the driver’s side door.

He stopped dead. In the sand nearby, were huge paw tracks. He looked around, then hastily got in the car and took off. The bear had said he was hungry. Just because he could talk, didn’t mean he wouldn’t be above taking a bite out of him, if he came back. He drove as quickly as he dared up the track. Once he reached the road, he floored it. The old Jeep still had a bit of go in her. He almost freaked when he caught a glimpse of brown on his right, but it was just leaves from the diseased branch of a dead tree.

When he left the forest behind, he slowed, then pulled to the side of the road, got out and looked back. There was nothing to see. The sun was now quite low in the sky, and there had been no other traffic. He wondered where the bear was. He stood there for a while, just running over the conversation he had with it. It was crazy. A bear was abducted by aliens and then given the ability to speak. And English at that. Maybe they got him in Canada. He could just as easily have been able to speak French then. He wouldn’t have understood him if he had, And to cap it off, they dumped him back in the wrong country. The thought amused him somewhat. The aliens weren’t as smart as they thought. The whole thing was just nuts, he decided.

He turned and got into the car. As he drove off, he caught a flash of light in his driver’s side mirror. He screeched to a halt and jumped out. In the distance, just above the tree line, he saw a pulsating blue light. He watched in fascination as it hovered, then disappeared. Scant seconds later, it reappeared, hovered again, shot straight up then winked out of sight.

Belatedly, he realised he could have captured the whole thing on his phone. Too late now. He slowly got back in his car and sat for a while before driving off. Nobody would believe him if he told them what had happened. A brown bear abducted by aliens, given the ability to speak English, dumped in the wrong country, then taken back again. They’d tell him he’d been hallucinating, dreaming, on drugs, or drank too much.

But he knew the truth. What was the point of it all, he wondered. He guessed he’d never find out. He hoped they put the bear back where they found him.

His fishing spot would forever hold a different kind of memory for him now, he thought, as he drove into the gathering dusk. The place where he had a conversation with a talking bear.



Midnight. All was quiet. The street was dark except for an occasional street lamp, as were most of the houses. There was no one about, except for the solitary figure of a man, walking his dog.

The car came around the corner a little too fast. Dale, head bent against the slight drizzle, with Trixie on her lead, watched in trepidation as, almost in slow motion, it spun a full 360 degrees on the wet road. The rear wheel hit the kerb with a thump. There was a crack as something snapped. The car rocked, then settled at a slight lean, the wheel at an angle.

“Stay,” Dale ordered Trixie, dropped her lead and ran to the car. The driver’s window was open. He bent down. The girl in the driver’s seat who looked at him, seemed remarkably calm as she turned off the engine.


‘Shit indeed,’ he thought.

“Shit, shit, shit!”

More shits.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

She looked at him.

“Do I look alright?”

The voice was calm and measured.

“Actually, you do. But you might not be on the inside.”

“Is that your dog?” she said, pointing at Trixie, patiently sitting on the pavement in the slight drizzle.

“Yes,” he said.

“Come on girl,” he called.

Lead trailing, she bounded over.

“Isn’t she gorgeous!” she exclaimed.

‘And so are you,’ he thought silently.

Small, almost elfin, she could be Audrey Hepburn, he thought, but with boobs, he couldn’t help noticing.

She opened the door, undid her seatbelt and got out.

‘Definitely Audrey Hepburn’, he decided.

“You wouldn’t be Audrey Hepburn, reincarnated would you?” he asked.

“Of course I am,” came the swift response.

She bent over and patted Trixie, who nuzzled her, on the head.

“Alright, let’s go,” she said, picking up her lead.

Dale looked at her in bewilderment.

“Go where?”

“Back to your place of course. I’m getting rather wet standing out here.”

“Oh, ok,” he agreed, pulled off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders, covering the rather skimpy black dress she was wearing.

“Thank you, kind Sir. Grab my bag, will you? It’s on the passenger seat.”

Bemused, he did as he was told.

“What about the car keys?”

“Leave them. The car’s not going anywhere,” she said.

“And it’s not mine anyway,” she added.

Startled, he exclaimed, “It isn’t?”

“No, boyfriend’s. Ex-boyfriend now, I suppose,” she reflected.

He handed her her bag and pointed up the street.

“That way.”

“So,” she said, “I’m Olivia,” as they set off, Trixie walking placidly alongside her.

“Not Audrey then.”

“She’s my alter ego. And you are?”


“As in Dale Evans, Roy Rogers’ wife?”

He looked at her in amusement.

“No, as in Dale Carnegie, ‘How to win friends and influence people.’

Mum read it. Liked the name.”

“And did it help her?”

“Maybe. She persuaded dad to let her have me. He didn’t want kids.”

“How do you know that?”

“He told me, shortly before he took off.”

“Oh, how awful.”

She touched his arm.

“Not really. He wasn’t around much anyway. We didn’t miss him,” he said almost indifferently.

“I’m the youngest. I’ve got two sisters and a brother,” she said.

“Dad always wanted a boy. Was he pissed when Hayden turned out to be gay. Is it much further? My feet hurt,” she said unexpectedly.

“Not far now,” he said.

“How do you walk in those things anyway?”

She ignored him and asked instead,” Why are you and Trixie walking in the rain?”

“It wasn’t raining when we left, and she wanted to go.”

“She told you that did she?”

“Yes,” he said firmly.

“What are you, Doctor Doolittle?”

He laughed then said, “Here we are,” opened a gate, and led her up a short path to the front porch of a modest-looking timber house. The porch light was on, and he picked up an old towel lying on a chair and wrapped it around Trixie.

“Stay,” he told her

He unlocked the door and led Olivia inside.

“Need the bathroom?” he asked her.

She nodded and handed him his jacket.

“There are towels in there if you need them,” he said, pointing at a door.

She went off. He hung his jacket on a hook on the hall stand and went back to Trixie and dried her off. He led her through the house, and out onto the back verandah where she promptly curled up in her basket. He retreated to his bedroom and went into the en-suite, stripped off his damp clothes, dropped them in a laundry basket, donned track pants, top and slippers and went into the kitchen. He turned on the kettle.

Olivia padded into the kitchen, holding her shoes, and bag, wearing a bathrobe that had been hanging behind the bathroom door. She placed her stuff on the floor.

“Crossdresser are you?” she asked.

The bathrobe was pink.

He smiled slightly.

“Ex-girlfriend. Want some coffee or tea?”

“Don’t suppose you’ve got any green tea?”

“Of course,” he said, opened a cupboard and took down a small box.

She said,“Wow,” and perched on a barstool.

“A man after my own heart.”

“Ex-girlfriend left them behind,” he explained.

“Have you had many of those?”

“A few over the years,” he said as he turned on the kettle.

“Fussy are we?”

“You’re very inquisitive,” he said mildly.

“What can I tell you,” she shrugged.

“I’m a woman. We’re inquisitive creatures.”

“Yes, that has been my experience,” he admitted.

“So, back to my question.”

He looked at her thoughtfully, then said abruptly,

“Won’t your boyfriend, sorry, ex-boyfriend, be looking for you or his car? It’s an Audi.”

“Is it?” she said indifferently.

“Anyway, not for a while. When I left him, he was drunk, passed out.”

“But when he wakes up?”

“I don’t really care. He’s a bit of a prick.”

“Had many of those?”

She looked at him in amusement.

“Dale, is that a loaded question?”

He coloured, suddenly realising what he had said.

She laughed at the look on his face. The kettle boiled saving him from further embarrassment.

He busied himself making the tea, green for her and an ordinary one for himself.

“Let’s go into the lounge,” he suggested.

Olivia curled up in an armchair, tucking her feet up under her. He handed her her tea, and sat down in another chair.

“Nice place,” Olivia commented.

“I like it,” he said.

“Been here long?”

“Thirty-six years.”

At her raised eyebrows, he explained, ”This was my Mum’s house. I bought it from her. She’s in an over fifties village.”

“What’s with all the books?” she said, gesturing at a large shelf against one wall, laden with books.

“Haven’t you heard of the digital age?”

He smiled self deprecatingly.


“What does that mean?”

“I’m a lecturer at uni. Arts and literature.”

“Ah,” she said.

“The bookish professor. And have you had it off with many of your students? You’re good looking enough, except for the slippers, of course.”

“Why thank you,” he laughed.

“And no, more than my job’s worth.”

“You must have been tempted.”

“Of course, I’m only human.”

“So you’re not gay.”

“No, I’m not. Now, what about you? What happened between you and the boyfriend, sorry ex-boyfriend. Why’d you run out on him?”

She was silent for a moment, then sighed and said almost sadly, “I really have a knack for picking pricks.”

She continued, “We’ve been going out for about six months. He’s some financial whiz kid in the finance sector. We went out to celebrate, some big windfall. He and his mates probably screwed over another poor investor. Anyway, we got a taxi back to his place. I don’t drink but he really was quite drunk I suppose, which was why he said what he said.”

She stopped.

“Which was? he prompted.

She sighed again, then continued, “He said his boss, who’s a loathsome piece of shit, told him he was into threesomes. He was quite taken with me and wondered if I’d be interested. Even drunk, I can’t believe Steve would even tell me that, let alone propose it.”

Horrified, Dale said, “He asked you if you’d be interested?”

She nodded, tears pooling in her eyes.

“As if I was some piece of meat to be shared between them.”

“I’m so sorry, Olivia. Sometimes I’m rather ashamed of males as a species.”

She put down her cup, got up, came over and curled up on his lap.

“Just hold me please,” she whispered, tears running down her face.

He complied, putting his arms protectively around her. She cried silently as he held her, occasionally stroking her hair. After a while, she was silent. He still held her, wondering what to do, then realised that she had fallen asleep. He struggled up and carried her into the spare bedroom. He laid her down and pulled a blanket over her. She looked small and vulnerable.

He left her, leaving the door ajar and the hall light on, in case she woke in the night.

He walked out onto the back verandah. The rain clouds had cleared away and he caught a glimpse of stars up in the night sky. He knelt down and ruffled the hair on Trixie’s head. She opened one eye as if to say, ‘why are you bothering me?’ and went back to her doggy dreamland. It was almost two am, but he was wide awake, understandable under the circumstances, he thought. What an interesting night. Audrey Hepburn, his favourite actress of all time, was asleep under his roof. Of course, he was no George Peppard, and this wasn’t Tiffany’s but he might still, with any luck, have breakfast with Audrey, and if fates so ordained, maybe more.


Asian Angel

The door opened and Dax strode into the office, twirling his trademark gold-topped cane, immaculately clad in an expensive Armani suit with a mauve open-necked shirt. With his sleeked back black hair, he exuded power and arrogance, befitting the son of the most feared crime lord in the city. He sat down and looked over at his two subordinates seated in chairs on the other side of the desk. Fleck, slim, with short bleached blonde hair. His favourite weapons, knives he kept sheathed on his belt. A cold-blooded psychopathic killer.

He was picking at a nail with one of his knives.

“Must you?” Dax said reprovingly.

Fleck put the knife away

In the other chair, sat Ox. Befitting his name, a big muscular man, huge hands resting on equally huge thighs. He rarely spoke. He was Dax’s designated bodyguard.

“Well?” Dax said.

Fleck hauled a briefcase up from next to his chair and placed it on the desk.

“Any problems?” Dax asked.

Fleck shook his head, then said, “We didn’t get anything from Mrs Tan. She wasn’t there. The kid said she’d rushed off to the hospital. Sick or dying mother.”

Dax raised his eyebrows.

“You told us not to do anything. Just let you know when we don’t get payment,” Fleck reminded him.

“So I did. Glad you listened. Alright, we can’t say we’re not sympathetic. We’ll go around there tomorrow night. Now, let’s go to the club.”

Dax owned a nightclub in the city. One of the most popular, where he could get his pick of beautiful women, some willing, some not. He liked the unwilling ones best. It was so much more satisfying when he bent them to his will.

He picked up the briefcase and strode out of the room, his men trailing in his wake.

At exactly 8 pm the next night, a sleek black Mercedes drew up in front of the little Asian grocer. Fleck jumped out and opened the back door. Dax emerged and strode into the shop with his cane. Fleck followed, Ox stood watch at the door. The young man behind the counter looked up from the tablet he was perusing. Remarkably, he showed no surprise.

Dax glanced around the shop. There was only one customer. A young Asian woman wearing a black coat, looking at something she had picked up off one of the shelves. He ignored her and said to the young man, “And how is Mrs Tan’s mother?”

“Dying,” came the reply.

“That’s too bad. However, we do have an agreement with her. Did she leave a package for us?”

The young man shook his head.

“Who are you?” asked Dax.

“I’m her nephew, Yen,” the young man told him.

“I see,” Dax responded.

“That’s unfortunate. You see, Yen, our agreement stipulates that any violation means that your aunt is no longer under our protection. Which also means that all sorts of bad things can happen.”

He looked at Fleck who picked up a large jar of pickles from the counter.

“Excuse me,” a voice intruded.

Dax swung around.

The Asian woman was standing behind them, holding a bag of rice in her hands.

“I’d like to pay for this, please.”

“We’re in the middle of a discussion. I’m sure the young man is quite happy for you to have it,” Dax said, with a pointed look at Yen.

“I prefer to pay,” the woman said firmly.

“I don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to me.”

“I’ll pay for it,” Dax volunteered.

“Consider it a gift.”

“I don’t take gifts from people I don’t know,” came the reply.

Dax looked at her. Not particularly attractive, he thought. Why am I bothering? The women at the club were a lot more beautiful.

He lost patience, and said, “Just get out of here.”

“Yeah, bitch. Piss off,” Fleck said, put down the jar and pulled out a knife.

The next moment, he gave a muffled shriek, as with one swift movement, she had twisted the knife out of his hand and plunged it into his chest. As he dropped to the floor, Dax reacted and twisted the knob of his cane, freeing a sword. The woman had pulled the knife out of the dying Fleck’s chest and now flicked it into Dax’s throat. He gave a gasping cough, dropped the sword and clutched at his throat.

Belatedly, Ox reacted. He gave a roar and charged. The woman pulled a gun out of her coat pocket. It gave a silenced cough through the suppressor attached to it. A hole appeared between Ox’s close-set two eyes, and he dropped to the floor on top of his dying boss. Yen had watched the scene unfold with fascinated wide-eyed wonder, then said quietly, “Thank you, Angel.”

She nodded.

“I’m going now. You go as well, out the back door. My men will be in in a minute to clean up. This never happened.”

She stepped over the bodies, pausing briefly to pull the keys to the Mercedes out of Ox’s pocket, and went out of the front door, flipping the sign to ‘closed.’

Soon the Mercedes glided away from the kerb and disappeared down the street. Her destination, the home of the crime boss, where the late Dax had resided. Her task this night was not yet complete.

A short while later, after a brief detour, she stopped at the gate to an imposing mansion in an exclusive suburb. The sensor in the Mercedes activated the gate and it slid aside. She drove up the winding driveway. Anyone seeing the car would assume it was Dax. She set the cruise control, opened the door and rolled out the car as it headed for the six-car garage. She sprinted for the side of the house and was soon clambering up a downpipe. As she reached a window, she pulled out her phone. The car crashed into the garage door, and she pressed a button on her phone. With a tremendous roar, the car exploded, taking with it, a Lamborghini and a Rolls Royce and collapsing part of the garage. At the same time, she broke the window, sure the sound would not be heard over the noise of the explosion. She heard shouts as men came running from everywhere.

She clambered inside and swiftly walked towards the main bedroom. The door opened and a bullfrog of a man emerged, pulling on a dressing gown. She flattened herself against a wall. She knew him well, his image ingrained in her memory. He didn’t notice her and stood at the head of the stairs looking down. She walked up behind him and with tremendous thrust, pushed him down the stairs. She watched as he tumbled over and over. His head hit one of the treads with a sickening thud. She looked on with satisfaction as he lay with his head at an unnatural angle. She retreated back to the window, carefully climbed down the pipe, and headed for a large tree. She scaled it and lowered herself over the wall. A black BMW came slowly down the road. It stopped and she got inside and sat back with a sigh of satisfaction. Many months in the planning, a good night’s work for an avenging Asian angel.


“Are we there yet?”

Charlie opened her eyes, yawned, then asked plaintively, “Are we there yet?

Deacon snorted then said, “How old are you again?”

“But we’ve been driving for ages!”

“Yes, and you’ve been asleep for most of it,” he retorted.

“You prefer to drive anyway,” Charlie said.

“Because you’re a lead foot and I want to get to the grandkids alive.”

“Okay, Okay! So how long now anyway.”

“Still a long way. We might stop at the next motel or something”

“Haven’t seen any sign of anything for miles,” Charlie remarked,

“You saw that through your closed eyelids, did you?”

“Oh shut up. Wake me when we get to a motel,” Charlie said and settled back again.

Deacon shook his head and peered ahead at the long ribbon of black unwinding in his headlights. He hadn’t seen another car for quite some time.

An hour or so later, lights appeared in the distance. It was a service station set back from the road. As he neared it, he saw the vacancy sign of a motel behind it. He was puzzled. He didn’t remember seeing it last time. Nevertheless, he turned off onto the side road and headed for it. A sign said ‘Wayside Motel.’ He stopped outside reception, then got out. There was a sign on the door. It read, ‘If closed, go to the service station.’

He got back in the car. Charlie stirred, and without opening her eyes, asked, “Are we there yet?”

“Yes dear. Of course we are. I turned the car into a plane,” he said sarcastically.

Her eyes opened.

“Very funny. Where are we anyway?”

“Motel,” he answered, reached for his wallet that he had placed in the centre console, then got out again and walked to the service station. The man behind the counter was old, with an unruly mop of grey hair. He was wearing a wrinkled red flannel shirt that looked as if he’d slept in it. He looked expressionlessly at Deacon with red-rimmed, deep-set black eyes. His face was an unhealthy white pallor. He wondered if the man was ill.

“May we have a room for the night at the motel please?” he asked politely.

The man turned, took a key from a board behind him, and handed it to him.

“Fifty dollars,” he said, his voice a throaty rasp.

Deacon was surprised at the price, but handed him the money.

“Don’t need a receipt,” he said.

The man, nodded, kept looking at him, or almost through him, he thought.

It made him feel very uncomfortable.

“Thanks,” he said, and walked out the door. Through the window, he saw the man was still staring into space.

‘That was weird,’ he thought.

He decided not to share his feelings with Charlie. The key was for room number six. Back at the car, he got in, started it, drove into the carpark and stopped in front of room number six. There were no other cars, they had the motel to themselves.

“Want your suitcase? Stupid question. Of course you do. Here’s the key. It’s six. Go and open the door.”

“Aye aye, skipper!” she responded and got out.

He pressed the button for the boot, retrieved her suitcase, and his bag, shut it and walked into the room. Charlie had turned on the lights. The room was neat and tidy, with a queen-sized bed in the middle with a floral patterned cover over it.

“Smells musty in here,” Charlie wrinkled her nose, as Deacon deposited their bags on the bed.

‘We won’t be here long,” he said.

“ And I’m buggered, so I don’t care.”

Charlie wandered off.

“There’s a kettle and tea things over here,” she said.

“Want a cuppa?”

“Yes please.”

Deacon pulled out sleep shorts, a tee shirt and his toilet bag and went into the bathroom. He was having a pee when Charlie came in and filled the kettle. She pulled a face.

“Noisey,” she said.

“Piss off,” he told her.

“Oh, you’re so funny,” she said, left and shut the door.

A little later, he sat on the bed, sipping his tea. There’d been milk in the small fridge.

“Strange. I don’t remember this motel or the service station last time I came through here,” he said.

“When was that?”

“Dunno. Long time ago.”

“Well, you’re old. Your memory’s pretty shot,” she told him.

“Thanks, I love you too.”

He finished his tea and put his cup on the bedside table.

“Can’t be bothered brushing my teeth,” he told her.

“I’ll do it in the morning,” and climbed into bed.

“Eew,” she said.

“Disgusting creature. No good night kiss for you.”

He pulled the blanket up over his shoulders and turned on his side.

“Good night,” he said in a muffled voice.

He was asleep in minutes. Charlie looked at him fondly. She wasn’t the slightest bit sleepy, unsurprisingly, but she had her kindle. She was halfway through her latest downloaded novel. She’d finish it tonight. A few hours later, she too was asleep. Up above, the vacancy sign had gone out.

Deacon woke with a start. He’d been dreaming. There was a fire. The heat was intense, there was a roar of flames, smoke was billowing in the air. He and Charlie were watching it from a distance. There was no danger to either of them, and he couldn’t tell what the building was that was burning. He turned over. Charlie was sleeping peacefully, her back to him. He put an arm around her and drifted off back to sleep.

It was six the next morning. After showers and an early morning cuppa, they were on their way. Deacon left the key in the room. Soon, the motel and service station had disappeared from view. Two hours later, they were in a large town. They pulled into a service station, Deacon filled the car, then they went into the cafe for breakfast.

“I’m starving,” Charlie announced as they sat down. She picked up a menu and perused it.

‘Full breakfast for me,” she said to Deacon.

A smiling waitress came over.

“Ready to order, folks? “ she asked.

“I am,” Charlie responded.

“Old slow coach here is still deciding.”

“No rush,” the waitress said.

“Have you folks come far?”

“Well, we’ve been driving on the north road for a couple of hours, so not that far,” Charlie said.

‘We stayed in that motel just off the road.”

“Oh? And what motel was that?”

Charlie turned to Deacon.

“What was the name of that motel last night?”

“I think it was the Wayside Motel. It was attached to the service station,” he responded.

The waitress, whose tag said her name was Debbie, said in puzzlement, “I don’t know of any service station and motel in that area.”

Charlie put down her menu.

“We definitely stayed there last night.”

Debbie turned and called, “Len, come here a minute.”

A grey haired man came out from behind the counter and approached their table.

“Len’s lived in this area all his life. He’d know about the service station and the motel,” she explained.

Once more, Charlie told him about their previous night’s stay. His eyes widened, then he whispered, “Oh my God.”

In alarm, Debbie said, “What is it, Len?”

Deacon and Charlie looked at each other. Len pulled up a chair and sat down, while Debbie looked on with concern.

“I don’t know how to explain this, folks, but, there was a service station and motel there, just off the road. But twenty-five years ago, to the day yesterday, it caught fire and both burnt to the ground. The owner, Joe Latimer, an eccentric old fellow, died in the blaze.”

Deacon and Charlie stared at him in horror.

“But we stayed there last night!” Charlie cried.

Debbie had her hand on her chest, eyes wide,

“I’m sorry, but it’s the truth,” Len said.

Deacon said shakily, “I saw him. Old guy, grey hair, red flannel shirt, dark eyes, I gave him fifty dollars, I thought it was cheap.”

Len nodded.

“Yep. That’s him, and that’s what he charged then.”

Deacon said slowly, “I woke up in the middle of the night. I had a dream about a fire. Charlie and I were watching it. I couldn’t see what the building was that was on fire,”

The four stared at one another in silence, then Debbie said, “I guess I’d better get you good people some breakfast.”

“I don’t think I could eat now,” Charlie said.

“I can,” Deacon said.

“I’ll have the full breakfast please.”

“How can you eat after this, this weird thing that just happened to us?” Charlie asked.

“Easy. I’m hungry,” Deacon answered.

“And two teas please,” he said to Debbie.

She left.

“Thanks, Len, I think. This will be something to tell our grandkids when we get there, won’t it? Grandpa and grandma stayed in a ghost motel last night.

I don’t think they’ll believe us, do you?”

“I can’t even believe it!” Charlie burst out.

Len got up and said, “Probably not. Maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone. They’ll think you’re nuts. Anyway, gotta go help Debbie.”

He went off, giving them a lingering look as he went.

Charlie looked at Deacon.

“I’m not sure I know how to feel about this,” she said.

“Yes,” Deacon said thoughtfully.

“I can understand that.”

He grinned suddenly.

“Why are you smirking? What’s so funny?”she said crossly.

“The Wayside Motel,” he said.

“What on earth is funny about that?”

Charlie was getting irate.

“I know what to say now every time I get asked that silly question.”

“What silly question?”

He laughed and said teasingly, “Are we there yet?”


Alien Equaliser

Mal shifted in his seat. His bum hurt. Happens when you sit for a long time, worse when it was a twenty-year clunker made before the era of airbags even. But he was on a stakeout. He couldn’t move until there was some sign of activity in the house he was surveilling, hopefully discreetly, just down the street. Suddenly, he sat up and watched as the garage door slid up. A black Lexus reversed down the driveway. It paused as it entered the street and the garage door came down again. It drove down the street and slowed as it drew level with him. The driver’s side window slid down. A hand came out, middle finger extended, and a voice yelled, “Hey Arsehole!” and the car accelerated into the distance.

Mal slumped in his seat and swore to himself. Bastard. What a waste of time. He’d obviously been made. He wondered what gave him away, but it could have been anything. It was depressing. To quote Detective Roger Murtaugh in the ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies, he was getting too old for this shit. The guy he had been watching was quite low on the drug dealing food chain anyway, not too low judging by the car, but the tip-off he had received indicated he might have led to someone more important.

Mal’s client would not be happy. Concerned his youngest daughter had fallen in with a crowd heavily into drugs, he’d hired Mal to do some snooping. Thus far, his investigation had led to this lowlife called Manny. So he’d been watching him.

Well, that idea was shot to hell. May as well go home. He turned the key, and with a sinking feeling, all he heard was a click. The battery had died. Shit.

Now he would have to ring roadside assistance to get him going. To top it all off, the oppressive clouds that had hung around most of the day decided that now was the time to release the deluge that had been promised so many hours before and rain bucketed down. He fished for his phone, and could not believe what he saw. Nothing, the screen was blank, the phone too was dead. He felt like screaming out loud in frustration. But he was a fifty-year adult, a male to boot. Men didn’t do that sort of stuff. But he did it anyway. The noise of the downpour muffled the sound of the ear-splitting shriek he let out. Nobody heard him, at least, nobody human.

Hidden above the dense rain cloud, by sheer chance, hovering just above Mal’s car, was an alien spacecraft, spherical in shape, containing an amorphous entity. Mal’s shriek was picked up by the craft’s external sensors. Driven by curiosity to determine what the noise was and where it emanated from, the entity left its craft and transported its amorphous form down through the cloud. It hovered above Mal’s car, then entered it. Mal, unable to believe the noise that had just come out of his own mouth, almost crapped himself when the entity materialised in the seat beside him.

“What the hell? Who and what the hell are you?” he stuttered.

There was no answer.

“Are you a ghost or something?”

There was still no response.

Mal’s heart was pounding in his chest.

A tendril reached out towards him. Terrified, he grabbed at the door handle and tugged at it. The door wouldn’t open. The tendril swirled closer, he shrank against the door, then mercifully, passed out.

Mal came to. He felt distinctly weird. But his mind was as clear as a bell. His body had been invaded, no, enhanced by an entity from another world. He felt an awareness that he now had powers that he’d never had before. Maybe like superman or some of the other superheroes like the Avengers he’d read about, and seen in the movies.

This alien appeared intent on helping him, unlike movie aliens who always seemed to be hellbent on destroying the human race, a sentiment with which he sometimes agreed. He looked forward to finding out what those powers were. Did they have any limits?. He wondered if someone shot him, for example, would he die? Now that would be handy to know!

And did the alien have a spaceship? Must have. If so, where was it? Secreted on earth or parked undetected in space somewhere. And were there more of them? He had lots of questions swirling around in his head. Hopefully, as time went by, he’d get some answers. All in all, though, he felt remarkably sanguine about everything that had just happened to him.

He reached for the ignition key and turned it. The car purred into life. The battery had been recharged. Was that the alien’s doing? He had a sense that it probably had been.

He turned on the car headlights. The downpour had passed. He eased away from the curb. As he headed down the street, a car passed going the other way.

“That’s that jerk, Manny,” Mal said aloud.

Now was as good a time as any to put whatever powers he had to the test.

He did a careful U-turn on the wet road and followed the other vehicle. It turned into the driveway of the house from which it had earlier emerged. The garage door went up, and the car drove in. Mal followed, pulling up right behind him. Before Manny could get out of the car, Mal was at his door. He yanked him out by his collar, and with a strength, he hadn’t had before, sent him sprawling to the floor of the garage. Increased physical ability, good to know.

Manny looked up at him with a mixture of fear and outrage.

“What the hell are you doing? I’ll have you charged with assault, you, you…”

He stopped.

Mal looked down at him, then pulled him up, held him in the air, then said mildly, “Ok, Manny, how about we go inside and have a chat.”

Manny looked down at him, then said meekly, “Ok.”

He led the way into the house through an interior door from the garage. He’d left the lights on earlier, and ushered Mal into a well-equipped kitchen. He sat down at the table. Mal seated himself across from him.

“So, you’re gonna tell me everything about your drug dealing, but first, how did you clock me? Never mind,” he said. Actually, Manny didn’t need to say anything. Mal could pretty much sense the thoughts running around in his head. Was that one of his new powers? Had to be. He was chuffed. Even Superman couldn’t read minds!

Manny looked at him in confusion and opened his mouth.

Mal held up his hand to silence him, closed his eyes and concentrated. A jumble of Manny’s thoughts crowded into his head. After a moment, he opened his eyes.

“You really are a scumbag, aren’t you. You’ve ruined so many lives. Even got your own nephew hooked so badly he killed himself. He O’D. Don’t know how many others.”

Manny goggled at him, open mouthed.

“How, how,” he stuttered.

Mal got to his feet.

“You’re done. I know you feel really bad about your nephew, but it hasn’t stopped you.

I know all about you now, who you deal with, where you get the stuff, how much dough you got stashed away, even which banks you got all your accounts in. The cops will get all that info. You’d save everyone a heap of trouble if you just topped yourself before they get you,” he told him brutally.

He turned on his heel, walked out of the kitchen, through the garage and got into his car. He found he was shaking with rage. Manny was just a low-level dealer but look at the carnage he’d left in his wake, the lives he’d ruined. He started the car and backed down the driveway. He decided to go home. It was quite late. He had a lot of thinking to do.

What to tell his client for example.

But now, he had enhanced physical strength and apparently could read minds, for starters. The stuff he got out of Manny’s head gave him plenty to work with. He wouldn’t tell the cops anything. He’d go after them himself. He looked forward to finding what else he was capable of and how he could best utilise whatever he had to right wrongs, and exact justice. What was that Denzel Washington movie? The Equaliser.

That’s what he’d do. Become an Alien Equaliser!