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.”

“Ok.”

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?”

“Yep.”

“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, 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, 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?”

“Yes.”

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?”

“No.”

“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 I D. 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 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.

©️Cesmo

Boredom

“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.

“Really?”

“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.

©️Cesmo

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.

©️Cesmo

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.

©️Cesmo

AK 47

Heston curled his finger around the trigger of the AK 47. He loved the feel of it and the sense of power it gave him. He looked at his target through the sights. He really couldn’t miss at this range. It could fire ten rounds per second. More than enough to do the job. Overkill really. After all, his target was only one man. No wonder it was illegal to buy unless you knew where to get it. Which he did. Cost a bit. But he knew someone. Got a good deal. It came with a box of ammo. He had loaded it. He really hadn’t known how until he googled it. Amazing what you could find on the internet.

Now, he had finally tracked down his quarry, Hilton Dearden. His little hideaway, this cabin, more a shack really, miles off the beaten track had been in the family for generations. When he dropped off the face of the earth, it had taken a while to locate him. He had gone to ground, just after Heston had got out of prison, obviously fearing for his safety. Rightly so. But finally, a google search had revealed the fact that his family had it and also its location. This had to be it. And some discreet surveillance had verified that he was here.

So now, he was ready. He was well within firing range. A line of trees hid him from view. Dearden had disappeared around the side of the cabin. But he was a patient man, he would wait till he came out again.

He thought, with quiet fury, of the circumstances that led up to this point. Unremarkably perhaps, it was a double-cross. He had approached Dearden with a proposal. He had researched a high-end jewellery store run by a wealthy widow. He knew exactly what he wanted. Rings and bracelets worth over five hundred thousand dollars. He needed a wheel-man, Dearden had a good rep. He was one of the best. It took some persuasion. He had declared he was going straight, but the lure of a hundred k as his share changed his mind. Of course, Heston had no intention of giving him anything.

So on the day, Dearden pulled up just down the street, and waited, engine running. Heston went in. They were about to close. No customers were inside. He showed the woman his gun and pointed to what he wanted. She pulled out the tray. At the same time, cops burst in behind him, guns drawn. He knew he’d been shopped. He swore he’d get Dearden. The fact that he was going to screw him over, had nothing to do with anything.

He got seven years. The gun he’d used was real. He had previous convictions. He was out after four and a half with good behaviour. It was while he was inside that he’d become fascinated with the AK 47. He’d come across a book about it in the prison library.

Now, he looked once more down the sights. He drew a breath. Dearden had company. It was the widow who owned the jewellery store! No wonder he shopped him. How had the two of them got together? Before or after? He didn’t care. He’d get them both. There was plenty of ammo to go around. He steadied himself against a wall. His finger caressed the trigger, then he pulled it. It blew up in his face and he fell to the ground.

As he lay there dying, his last thoughts were, ‘no wonder I got such a good deal. The damn thing was defective.’ Ironically, his fascination with the AK 47 had killed him.

©️Cesmo

Adrian’s Good Deed

Adrian walked along, head down, moodily kicking at the odd stone as he went along.

“Bloody Matthews,” he muttered to himself. He was doing his best. So what if he forgot the odd comma or full stop. You got the gist of it. Thank goodness it was Friday. No school for the weekend and Monday was a public holiday. Yay! He had plenty of homework If he got that done early, he’d have three days free. He looked up as he passed a weathered old house. It belonged to old Mr Hastings. He would sit on the front porch on a battered old chair, watching the world go by. Adrian waved at him from time to time, but the old man generally ignored him, just staring into space. His mother had gently pointed out that he may not even have seen him, lost in thought, or just had bad eyesight.

He wasn’t there. Which was unusual. He hadn’t been there yesterday either. He wondered idly if the old man was alright. He knew he lived alone. He had home help and meals on wheels several days a week. He stopped and stood uncertainly at the rickety timber gate. Should he go in and check? They had never actually exchanged any words. Still. It wouldn’t do any harm, he decided.

He pushed open the gate, walked up the path, mounted the well-worn steps and slowly approached the front door. He stood for a moment, then knocked on the door. There was no answer. He stood uncertainly, then knocked again. There was no one home yet on either side. The neighbours were couples all of whom worked during the day. He walked to a window and tried to peer through, but the curtains were drawn. He went back to the door and tried the handle, but it was locked.

He stood there indecisively, then shrugged his bag off his shoulders, dropped it on the floor, and descended the steps. He walked around the side of the house, along the fence, to the backyard. It was mainly weed-infested grass, with a border of shrubs, and the odd tree. The grass badly needed a mow.

Fleetingly, he thought, ‘I could offer to come and mow over the weekend,’ then mounted the back steps of a back patio with a few odd bits of furniture on it. He walked to a back door and tried the handle. The door was unlocked. He pushed it open and ventured inside.

“Mr Hastings?” he called.

No answer. He was in a small room, and to his right, through an open door, he saw a laundry. Ahead was a kitchen. There were some dishes in the sink, but it was what was on the table that disturbed him. There was a plate of congealed food, a knife and fork lying on it, a chair pushed back. Alarmed, he called out again, “Mr Hastings?”

No answer. He walked past the table and into a hallway. He gasped. Mr Hastings was lying unmoving on the floor. He was on his side, a mat tangled in his feet. Without hesitation, heart thumping in his chest, Adrian ran to his side. To his relief, the old man was breathing audibly. but his eyes were closed. He seemed to be unconscious.

‘How long had he been lying there?’ he wondered.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and punched in 000, the first time he ever had to do that.

‘They’re on their way,’ he was assured after explaining what he had found.

He ended the call, put away the phone and looked down at the old man. He must have tripped on the mat and knocked himself out. What should he do? He went off, looked into a bedroom, pulled a pillow and blanket off a neatly made bed, then returned. He gently inserted the pillow under his head and draped the blanket over him. Then he walked to the front door and opened it. He stood outside, pulled his phone out again, and called his mother. It went to her message bank. He left her a brief message explaining what had happened. She was a nurse at a nearby hospital. She would have it turned off while she was on duty. As he ended the call, an ambulance pulled into the driveway.

Some minutes later, he watched as they wheeled Mr Hastings out to the ambulance.

“He seems ok, but he may have a fractured hip,” a female paramedic told him.

“Good thing you found him. He probably wouldn’t have been able to move.”

She patted him on the shoulder. Soon the ambulance pulled out of the driveway and set off. It had aroused very little interest in the few people passing by. They just looked and kept going.

Adrian went back inside. He picked the plate up from the table, emptied it into the rubbish bin, then washed it and other dishes and cutlery he found in the sink. He dried everything with a dish towel and stacked it neatly on the draining board. He looked around. Everything was neat and tidy. He locked the back door, then pulled the plastic bag half-filled with garbage out of the bin. He would drop it in the big bin outside next to the house. He saw a set of keys hanging up on a key rack.

‘Should he take it?’ he wondered. How would Hastings get back again? He took it just in case and walked out of the front door. He would call the hospital later to check on the old man, He picked up his backpack, dropped the garbage bag in the bin, and set off for home.

Ten minutes later, he was drinking deeply from a carton of vegetable juice. His mother would not be impressed, but she wasn’t there to see him. He put it back in the fridge then went into his bedroom, dropping his bag on the floor. He lay back on his bed, pulled his phone from his pocket and pushed a button.

“Hi Aidie,” a voice trilled.

He felt warm inside. His favourite person in the whole world, well, apart from his mother.

“Hi Simone,” he answered.

They’d only been seeing each other for two months. It was exciting. She was the first person he’d ever dated.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me today.”

“What?”

So Adrian proceeded to tell her all about his good deed.

©️Cesmo

According to Alice…

“God, there’s just miles and miles of nothing!” Stacey complained.

Aaron looked at her with amusement.

“A. It’s kilometres, B, this trip was your idea. ‘Let’s go somewhere different,’ you said.

I did tell you it would be like this. Hundreds of k’s between little towns that have nothing much in them. ‘Let’s be adventurous,’ you said. That sense of adventure didn’t last long, did it.”

She squirmed.

“But there’s not even any phone coverage,” she said.

“Told you that too,” he reminded her.

“I said there’d be places with no coverage.”

“But hundreds of miles, sorry, kilometres?” she cried.

He shrugged.

“So, you wanna turn back? We haven’t booked anything. You said not to. It’ll be part of the adventure, you said.”

“Stop doing that!” she said crossly, “Reminding me what I said. You could have tried harder to talk me out of it!”

He laughed, “So now it’s my fault, is it? Luckily, I’ve got a great sense of responsibility. Anything you do and don’t like, I’m responsible. So, shall I turn around?”

“Oh, shut up! And stop being so reasonable. Keep going till the next town. I’ll decide then.”

“Yes ma’am,” he responded.

“It’s only a few more k’s. It’s called Shelby.”

“What’s there?”

“Dunno. It’s a bit off the highway. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess. Don’t even know if there’s anywhere to stay.”

“There wasn’t at that last place or anything to eat either. Good thing I packed sandwiches wasn’t it.”

“Yep, chicken and avocado. My favourite.”

“Oh shit! You hate avocado! I forgot. You never said anything!”

He grinned cheerfully.

“Yep, I’m just a angel.”

“Oh God,” she wailed, “This trip has gone to Hell. Why did you let me talk you into doing this?”

He laughed.

“Because I wanted to go as well. Don’t worry about it. The avocado didn’t kill me.”

“There’s the sign to Shelby,” she pointed.

“Okay, let’s see if there’s anything there,” he said as they reached the turnoff, and saw the

small town unfolding in front of them.

“It looks a good size,” Stacey commented.

“Hope they’ve got a motel.”

They drove down a wide Main Street, with a few houses on the approaches, then a number of shops, a hotel and a service station. Stacey pointed to a sign.

“That says motel down that side street,” she said.

Aaron turned and soon, they saw a motel sign. He stopped in front of reception. Stacey jumped out and strode inside. He watched her go. She was tall and lithe, as tall as he was. He was amused that she wouldn’t wear high heels when they went out, telling her he didn’t care if she towered over him. She hadn’t as yet. He noted the carpark was quite full. It was late afternoon. Maybe something of note was on in the town. The ‘no vacancy’ had not been lit up, so perhaps there was still an available room. Stacey came out, brandishing a key. She set off and he slowly followed her. She opened the door to number 15, and he parked in front of it. He hauled their cases out of the back of the car and carried them inside. Stacey had already turned on the kettle.

“I want a cup of tea,” she announced, as he put their cases on the floor. He looked around. The room appeared quite neat and spacious, the double bed covered with a colourful duvet.

Stacey plumped herself down on the bed.

“Something a bit weird happened in reception,” she said to Aaron.

He sat down on the only chair in the room.

“Oh? Like what?” he asked.

“There was no one in reception when I went in, then a little girl, about twelve, came out. I said I wanted a room. She gave me this strange look for quite a long time, said, “Are you sure?” then this lady came bustling out, ordered her back inside, and we did the business. Only cost $80.00.”

“So?”

“Why would that little girl ask me, ‘Are you sure?’ And that strange look.”

“What was strange about the look?”

“I dunno. Just made me feel, I shouldn’t get the room. Now why would that be?”

Aaron shrugged.

“Who knows. Maybe she’s just a weird little girl. Anyway, what about that cup of tea.”

“Don’t feel like one now. How about we wander down the street and maybe get a drink at the hotel”

“Sure, why not. Just gotta go to the loo first.”

A little while later, they left the motel and walked down the street. They turned from the side street into the Main Street and headed for the hotel. As they passed a narrow lane, a hand reached out and clutched at Stacey’s sleeve. Startled, she realised it was the little girl.

She beckoned them to follow her down the lane. After exchanging puzzled looks, they followed her. She walked to a large dumpster, looked around anxiously, then ushered them behind it, and crouched down. She said urgently, “Bend down! Don’t want anyone to see us!”

They obeyed, then Stacey said, “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

“Why did you come? What are you doing here?” the girl asked.

Confused, Stacey said, “We’re on a road trip. We just needed somewhere to stay for the night.”

“Well, you picked the wrong place,” the girl said.

“Why?” Aaron asked.

“Tonight’s the night they pay homage to Thanatos, and they need the blood of a human to do it, so they need a human sacrifice.”

“Okay, “ Aaron said quietly.

“Let’s back this up. First of all, who are you, who are ‘they’ and what makes you think we’re the ones marked for sacrifice?”

The little girl said earnestly, “My name’s Alice, my Mum’s one of them, and they’re Satanists who worship Thanatos, the god of death, and one night a year, they pay homage, and tonight’s the night.”

“Okay, so why us?” Aaron asked, glancing at Stacey who had listened in sceptical albeit petrified silence.

“You’re the only strangers in town. They always pick strangers,” Alice said.

“I thought Satanists worship the devil,” Stacey spoke for the first time, her voice tinged with fear.

“Not them. They’ve always worshipped Thanatos,” Alice said.

“Why are you warning us?” Stacey asked.

Alice struggled to speak, then, tears filling her eyes, she said, “I was here last year with Mum. There was a lady and her little boy, they checked in. I saw people take them out of their room because I had woken up to go to the toilet, in the middle of the night and I heard the noise and looked out the window. I was half asleep and went back to bed. The next morning, they were gone. Their room was cleaned out, and when I asked Mum, she said they’d left early in the morning.”

“That’s possible, isn’t it?” Aaron asked.

“I found their cases in the storeroom,” Alice said.

“Did they have a car?” Stacey asked.

“Yes. It was gone,” Alice said.

“Alright Alice,” Aaron said gently.

“Thank you for telling us. I’m not some helpless young woman with a child. I was in the army. I know how to look after myself, both of us actually. So you go back to your Mum before she misses you. And thanks again for warning us.”

“Alright,” Alice said, getting up, peering around the dumpster before scurrying off.

“Well?” Stacey asked.

“What do you think? Overactive, vivid imagination or have we stumbled into a Satanists lair?”

Aaron straightened up and pulled Stacey to her feet.

“She didn’t explain how she knew about the human sacrifice, or where this sacrifice is supposed to take place. Let’s go and have a drink. If there’s anything going on, maybe we can pick it up by listening to some of the locals.”

Hand in hand, they walked out of the lane, down the street and entered the bar of the hotel. A few moments later, they were seated at a table, Aaron with a beer, Stacey with a rum and coke.

“I think I need something strong,” she declared.

Aaron nodded in agreement and looked around. There were plenty of people around considering it was midweek, and he idly wondered why. It was a small town. A gathering of Satanists, perhaps? They all looked pretty normal to him, but then, he didn’t know what Satanists were supposed to look like.

“Want something to eat?” he asked.

“Yes please! I just realised I’m starving,” Stacey responded.

Aaron got up and headed for the bar. He came back after a few moments bearing a menu. He sat down and said, “I asked the girl behind the counter about all the people. She said there’s a white witch convention in town.”

“They’re the good ones aren’t they?” Stacey queried.

“Supposedly,” Aaron replied.

They perused the menu, decided what they wanted and Aaron went back to the bar to order. He came back bearing a buzzer, and another beer sat down and pulled out his phone.

“Let’s see what white witches get up to,” he said.

Stacey sipped her drink and waited expectantly.

“Well, it’s all about goodness and ethics, according to Wikipedia,” he reported.

“So white witches are the good ones,” Stacey said, “But aren’t they all women?”

“Alice said ‘people,’ she didn’t say what sex they were, but she may have dreamt the whole thing. I’d say she’s just got an overactive imagination,” Aaron commented.

“What about their bags she said were in the storeroom?” Stacey asked.

“Could have been anybody’s. How did she know it was theirs?” he responded

The buzzer went. They ate their meals in silence. Afterwards, they strolled back to the motel. Their car was the only one in the carpark.

“They must all have gone to their convention,” Stacey remarked.

Aaron nodded. They entered their room.

“I still feel uneasy,” Stacey said.

“Understandable,” Aaron responded.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“I’ll wedge the chair under the door handle,” Aaron suggested.

“That way, no one can get in, just on the off chance.”

“Sounds good to me.”

The rest of the night passed without incident, although neither slept very well. They were up early the next morning. The carpark was full.

“Wonder how their convention went,” Stacey commented as they drove out of the carpark.

“And whether they found someone else to sacrifice,” said Aaron with a wry smile.

“I hope we never find out,” Stacey said with a shudder.

“Let’s hope it was just Alice’s over active imagination.”

As the car disappeared down the street, they were unaware that Alice had come outside. She stood clutching a teddy bear and watched them go, an expression of relief on her face.

©️Cesmo

Accidental Hero.

Danny lay on his bed. He sighed heavily as he stared at the ceiling. He had just returned from another day of unsuccessful interviews. Well, not the whole day. After all, he’d only had one. The first one they’d said they’d let him know, but he could tell, they wouldn’t bother. At least, he’d got an interview, they hadn’t just ignored his application, like so many of his others had been. And the second one was way across town. By the time he got there by public transport, he’d been 20 minutes late, so they refused to see him. He’d sat despondently on a park bench outside for quite a while before wearily making his way home. He’d gone straight to his room and laid on his bed. He drifted off.

“Danny!”

He awoke with a start. His mother was standing over him. She was angry, he could just tell. He struggled to sit up.

“What?”

“You forgot to bring in the washing. It’s rained, and everything’s wet!”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“And you promised to wash the dishes, and clean the kitchen, it’s disgusting! And your room’s a mess. I keep asking you to tidy it, but that’s obviously too much for you, And I suppose you forgot to pick up bread and milk as you walked past that milk bar too, didn’t you. God, you’re useless!”

She turned on her heel and stormed out of the room. He stared after her resentfully.

“I’ve had a bad day too, Mum,” he felt like shouting but refrained. He knew he was at fault. He had promised to do all these things, but still. That was no reason for her to yell at him like that. He got up. He’d go for a walk just to calm himself down. He donned his hoodie and headed for the front door. His mother’s bedroom door was closed, but he was too angry to tell her he was going anyway. He opened the door and was tempted to slam it, then thought better of it. It had a stained glass pane in it. It wasn’t the best, but she had made it when she was attending a class once. She would be enraged if he broke it. So he closed the door gently and set off. It was drizzling slightly, and almost dark. It didn’t deter him and he set off, head bent.

He walked in the direction of the Main Street. There was a pub further along. Maybe he’d shout himself a beer, but he realised rather ruefully, that he only had about twenty-five dollars in cash and probably not much more than that in his account. Still, at this moment, he didn’t care. As he turned into the Main Street, someone cannoned into him. He staggered slightly, but the other person, a man, went down heavily. He must have twisted his knee. He gave a yell. He dropped a bag he was carrying, rolled over, looked at Danny, then back past him up the street, scrambled up and hobbled off, leaving the bag behind. Danny picked it up. It was a woman’s handbag.

Realisation dawned. He must have stolen it. He looked up the street. In the distance, he could see a woman. She was leaning against a car. As he watched, she opened the passenger door, and sat down, leaving the door open. He headed for her. The car was a Lexus, he noted. The drizzle had eased. He approached the car, and asked hesitantly, “Are you ok?”

The woman looked at him. She seemed unfocused.

“Sorry?”

“Are you ok,” he asked again.

“No, I’m not, young man,” she answered.

“I’ve just been mugged, I think. That’s what you call it, isn’t it? Some man grabbed my bag as I was walking back from that atm up the road. There were no parking spaces any closer, that’s why I had to walk so far. He just came up behind me and grabbed my bag and ran. I got such a fright!”

She was almost gabbling, but he thought, ‘Poor thing, she must be in shock.’

She was an older lady, very well dressed, and he could smell her perfume, probably very expensive, he thought. She was sitting in a Lexus after all.

“Is this your bag?” he asked, holding it up.

“Oh my goodness, yes!” she cried.

“Did you see what happened and catch him? My purse is in it and my phone, so I couldn’t ring the police or anything. Thank you, thank you.”

She took the bag, rummaged in it and said excitedly, “Everything’s still here. You’re a hero!”

About to tell her what actually happened, he thought, ‘I’m a hero!

How often is anyone going to call me that. Never! I’m taking it!’

So he shrugged self deprecatingly, “Well, I tackled him, but he got away.”

It was sort of true.

“Thank you again young man, I am most grateful.”

She opened her purse and thrust two fifty dollar notes at him.

“I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to reward you for your bravery and honesty.”

He stared at the money, then said reluctantly, “Oh, I couldn’t take it.”

In his head, he heard, ‘You idiot! Of course you can. You need it. Take it.’

“I insist,” the woman said.

So he took the money, thrust it into his pocket, and said, “Thank you, although it isn’t necessary.”

“Money is always necessary,” she said. “It’s how the world works. Now, is there any other way I can help you?”

Without thinking, he said, “Well, if you can find me a job, that would be good. I’m in between at the moment.”

She looked at him, then said, “I just might at that.”

He stared back at her, then stammered, “Sorry, that just came out, but did you say you might be able to?”

She rummaged in her bag again, then handed him a card.

“My son runs an online business. He’s looking for delivery people. He was only complaining to me today, that his last one just left him in the lurch. So would that be suitable? He supplies the van and a phone, so he told me.”

“That would be great,” Danny said, putting the card in his pocket.

“Good, go and see him in the morning. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”

She added with a laugh, “I suppose it helps if I know my hero’s name?”

Danny squirmed, “It’s Danny Taylor.”

She put out her hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Danny Taylor. I’m Helen Thompson.”

They shook hands, then she said, “Just help me out of the car please, Danny. I can get in but getting out is a bit of an issue.”

He helped her out, shut the door, then escorted her around to the other side and opened the door for her. She got in. He closed the door. She put the key in the ignition and lowered the window.

“Thank you again, Danny. I’m sure I’ll see you again sometime.”

He nodded, walked around the car to the pavement and watched her slowly drive away. He walked in the direction of the pub, his mind in a whirl. He could well afford that drink now. A bit of money and the prospect of a job. He could hardly believe it.

A few moments later, he was downing a welcome beer. He thought about his mother. She was justified in having a go at him, he supposed. Normally even-tempered, she must have had a hard day at work to lash out at him. But he did need to pull his weight a bit more.

He confined himself to one beer, then wandered through the poker machine area. He could afford to put the last twenty dollars through. After all, he had a hundred dollars he didn’t have before he left home. He was down to his last three dollars when it happened. Flashing lights, bells, and envious looks from other patrons, and a dazed Danny was walking home with $2400 in his pocket. He remembered to buy milk and bread at the milk bar as he was passing. It was just closing.

He walked into the house. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table, several papers in front of her. They looked like bills. He put the bread and milk on the bench and sat down next to her.

“Sorry Mum,” he said.

“It’s ok,” she said quietly.

Her face was tired and drawn.

“Bills?” He pointed at the papers.

She said tiredly, “Nothing for you to worry about,”

He pulled his winnings out of his pocket, laid it on the table, and with a broad smile, said, “Will this help?”

Wide eyed, she looked at him, and said, “Did you rob a bank?”

So he told her all about his evening, his winnings, his new job prospect and his $100 reward. All because he had just been an accidental hero.

©️Cesmo

Absent in Mind

Caleb threw back the blankets and searched for his slippers with his feet. They weren’t there. He normally left them next to the bed because that’s what he wore, the last thing at night before he retired. Obviously not last night. He needed to pee, so he didn’t have time to look for them. After he finished, he looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. Not particularly impressed with what he saw, which was not unusual, he ran a hand through his increasingly sparse greying hair which was sticking up everywhere. His equally grey eyebrows were becoming alarmingly tufty. And was that hair sticking out of his nose? Hadn’t he only just trimmed them a few weeks ago? He was only sixty. What was going on? Premature ageing? Or was this just what was supposed to happen.

But the forgetting stuff, like his slippers, that was the most concerning. Over the last week alone, he recalled misplacing a number of items. That was all he remembered. Not what he’d misplaced or where just that he had. He sighed. At least he didn’t have someone constantly nagging him for his forgetfulness. Maggie had long since departed, but her reasons for leaving were simply that she was tired of living with such a boring do nothing dullard.

He wandered barefoot into the kitchen and put the kettle on for his usual morning cuppa. Normally, the matching canisters containing teabags, coffee and sugar were lined up next to the kettle, but the one with teabags was missing. Now, where could he have put it? He looked around but couldn’t see it anywhere. He opened the pantry, cast his eyes over the shelves, but there was no sign of the missing canister. He sighed in frustration. Was this just another sign of his increasing memory loss? The kettle boiled. He’d have to settle for coffee, but he liked to heat the milk in the microwave first.

He opened the fridge. The teabag canister was sitting on the middle shelf. He simply stared at it. He had no recollection of putting it there. Shaking his head, he retrieved it.

A short while later, with a mug of tea in hand, he was sitting on a chair in the lounge. He turned on the television, his Saturday routine, to watch the news. He never turned it on during the week, preferring to get ready for work without its distraction. But it was never good news. This morning was no exception, so after a few moments, he abruptly turned it off.

That was a first. He generally sat there, apathetically watching. He sipped his tea and mulled over in his mind what he was going to do that morning.

First look for his slippers. They had to be somewhere. He cast his mind back. When was the last time he’d worn them? Frustratingly, he couldn’t remember. He finished his tea, He had planned to go somewhere this morning. He’d read something in the community newspaper early in the week. Now, what was it? Oh yes, it was an art exhibition by locals in the nearby community hall. His friend Angie had several paintings on show. He had told her he was going to drop in and have a look. He grimaced slightly. In his opinion, Angie was no artist. She called herself an abstract painter. Trying to make sense of her paintings drove him to distraction. She had told him they weren’t supposed to make sense, she was expressing her inner soul, whatever that meant. It looked like a very tormented one to him. But what did he know? He didn’t have an artistic bone in his body.

He got to his feet. He’d hunt for his slippers. They had to be somewhere. But 30 minutes later, no luck. So he had his morning shower. When he finished, he looked for his nose hair clippers to deal with the hair he could see sticking out of his nose. Once again, something else he’d mislaid. He couldn’t find them anywhere. He gave a groan of despair.

He really was losing his mind.

He dressed and went to the kitchen to have his usual Saturday breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and coffee. He only had it on Saturday. The rest of the week was cereal and tea. He opened the fridge. To his dismay, he had no eggs. He’d forgotten to buy any. He remembered using the last ones last weekend. So he at least remembered that, he just hadn’t gotten any more. Annoyed with himself, he decided to treat himself, which he did from time to time. He’d go out for breakfast, then go to the art exhibition. And on the way home, buy some eggs. Maybe it would be a good idea to check whatever else he needed although his usual shopping night was Friday, on his way home from work. He probably didn’t need anything, but he’d forgotten the eggs, hadn’t he.

A short while later, keys in hand, he opened the back door on his way to the garage.

He stumbled and almost fell over his slippers. They were sitting on the mat. He recovered his balance, then snorted in remembrance. He had worn them last night when he’d gone out and deposited some rubbish in the bin. It had rained, he’d gotten some mud on them so he’d left them there rather than track mud inside.

He opened the side door of the garage and got into his car. As he pressed the button on his key fob to open the garage door, he reflected that at least he’d remembered where his car keys were, he had his wallet, and he just recalled where he’d left his nose hair clippers. So perhaps not so absentminded after all. He backed down the driveway and watched the garage door close. He turned into the street and set off for the nearby coffee shop which served a very nice breakfast. A sudden realisation hit him. He sighed, then pulled over. He needed to turn around. He was going the wrong way. His previous thoughts about his absent-mindedness might have been a bit premature. Damn.

Oh well, once he had his breakfast, he might forget where he was going afterwards and miss seeing Angie’s atrocious works of art. Maybe there were some positives to being absent in mind.

©️Cesmo

A day in the life of Shelby Marriott.

Shelby Marriott strode up the street. The wind was quite cold. He was glad to be wearing his Burberry coat. It kept the cold out. His driver had dropped him several blocks from his hotel. He needed the walk and the fresh air. Eight hours cooped up in an office with back to back meetings needed some release. Especially as some had involved heated disagreements that had taken all his negotiating skills to navigate. It was getting dark, the sunset early this time of the year. He walked past a figure huddled on the steps of a closed office building. It was a man. He was dressed in shabby clothes, had no jacket, and was shivering. He stopped, turned back, pulled out his wallet, and put two fifty dollar notes in his coat pocket. He stripped off the coat and draped it around the man who looked up at him in surprise. Shelby patted him on the shoulder and said, “There’s some money in the pocket. Get yourself something to eat,” and walked on.

The Palace hotel was only a block further on. He hurried up the steps. A bus had just pulled in. Three lines of people stood at the the reception desk. The three staff members were flat out checking everyone in. Shelby walked past everyone in one of the queues and caught the receptionist’s eye. She gave him an impish grin, and turned from the woman she was serving, found a key card in a rack and handed it to him. He smiled at her and headed off.

“Hey! What the hell? I was here first!” the woman erupted. “Sorry, Ma’am, the gentleman just wanted his keycard.” “Not the point! You should have finished serving me first.” The girl looked at her quizzically, and asked, “So what do you want me to do?” “Finish booking me in, then I want to see the manager!” The woman had a distinct American accent, and was rather loud. “Are you freaking kidding me? We’ve been standing here as long as you. You’ve held us up longer than that feller did!” The man standing behind was becoming quite irate. “I don’t care!” the woman said stubbornly. “He got served ahead of me and he shouldn’t have.” “Ma’am, I think you should know, that gentleman was the owner of this hotel. If he was made aware of your behaviour, he might ask you to leave. That’s his right,” the girl said. The woman was silent. The receptionist handed her her keycard and she marched off.

The man behind her stepped up and said, “ She’s been a pain in the butt since our trip started. Can you really get her kicked out? We’d all appreciate it.” The girl smiled and shook her head, leaned forward and whispered, “He’s not really the owner, just a frequent guest.” The man burst out laughing. “The best thing I heard all trip!”

Upstairs, Shelby had a shower, then decided to go down and have something to eat. The restaurant wasn’t full. He found a corner table and ordered a glass of white wine while he perused the menu. He’d been there often and ordered the Chef’s special, which was always good. After a very satisfying meal, he went back to his room. Some emails needed to be answered, then he would have an early night. It was a little later that the phone rang. The girl at reception informed him that the police had arrived, and wished to speak to him. “Oh. They’ve finally caught up with me have they?” he remarked. Flustered, she said, “What should I tell them?” “Send them up,” he responded cheerfully. “I’m ready to turn myself in.” “Alright,” she said uncertainly.

Five minutes later, there was a discreet knock on the door. He opened it. Two people stood outside, a man and a woman. The woman introduced herself as detective sergeant Ashley Manners, the man as detective John Kopetnik. Both showed him their warrant cards. He invited them inside. Ashley Manners looked around the room appreciatively. It was a spacious suite with expensive furnishings and comfortable chairs and a sofa. They sat down. “So,” Shelby began, “ How can I help you?” The woman looked at him. He was tall, trim, with short black hair, not particularly good looking, she thought, but she felt he had something. He also had a dimple in his chin.

“We arrested a man earlier tonight. He was causing a disturbance in a restaurant just down the street. Apparently, the staff were familiar with him, they knew he was homeless, often found him scrounging food out of the dumpster. He insisted he could pay, they didn’t believe him, they tried to eject him, and he hit one of the male staff. They were about to call us, but we happened to be in the restaurant having dinner. We took him into custody, and when we searched him, he did have a hundred dollars on him, but the coat he was wearing was a very expensive Burberry, and it had a card with your name in an inside pocket.”

“I see,” Shelby said thoughtfully.

“He said you gave it to him, and he saw you go into this hotel. We just needed to verify his story.”

“Of course. Well, it’s true. I gave him the coat and the money.”

“That coat is worth over two grand!” Kopetnik exclaimed. Shelby smiled slightly.

“It’s just a coat, and he was cold.” “So you’re verifying his story?” Manners asked.

“I am,” he asserted.

She got up. “Thank you for your assistance. The restaurant may still wish to press charges.”

“Oh, will they now?”

“Yes, the owner was quite adamant. People like that scare patrons away, he said.”

“I imagine news of a restaurant prosecuting a homeless man wouldn’t do too much for their reputation either,” Shelby remarked.

“I suppose not. I might point that out to him. Thank you for your time, sir.”

“Oh, call me Shelby, please. Will you let me know whether they’re going to proceed with the charge? I might need to have a word.”

She looked at him for a moment and wondered what motivated a man to give away a two thousand dollar coat and defend a homeless man. It would have been interesting to find out.

“I will. Goodbye.” They left. As they descended in the lift, Kopetnik exclaimed, “Wow, what sort of guy does that?”

“A very interesting one,” Manners said thoughtfully.

Shelby lay back on his bed and thought about his two recent guests. Sargeant Manners was quite an attractive woman. Not pretty in the accepted sense of the word, but nicely put together, with short auburn coloured hair and curves in all the right places. She intrigued him. He hoped she would contact him about the homeless man. Of course, she could be happily partnered with no interest in him whatsoever. Hopefully, he’d find out.

There was another knock on the door. Then, it opened. The receptionist who had given him his keycard came in hesitantly.

“Are you alone?”she asked.

“Sadly, yes,” he answered. She closed the door, then walked to the bed.

He sat up and folded her into his arms.

“It’s so nice to see you, uncle Shel,” she said.

“Me too. Pumpkin” He released her. “Still enjoying the job?”

“Love it!” she exclaimed. “Thanks so much for putting in a good word for me.”

“I put in several actually. Threatened to take my custom elsewhere if they didn’t take you on.” She giggled. “I told that lady I was serving that you were the owner when she objected to me giving you your keycard.”

“Well, I’ve been here so often, I should probably have taken shares in the place. Anyway, how’s your mother?”

She pulled a face. “Same old, same old. She complains about everything! No wonder Dad left her. I’m so glad you’re not like her.”

He ruffled her hair affectionately. “Yes, I’m afraid she takes after your grandma.” “Are you going to see Grandma while you’re here, uncle Shel?”

“Probably. Apparently, she’s driving everybody in the nursing home nuts.”

“I can imagine. What about Mum?”

“Honestly? I don’t know if I want to see her. Last time, I got a long lecture about the things I’ve done wrong over my life.”

“I don’t blame you. Best thing I ever did was to move out and share with Bethany. But I know she’s a bit lonely.”

“I’ll think about it, but no promises. So, are you off duty yet?” “No, just popped out for a moment to see my favourite uncle. I’d better get going.” She reached out and hugged him again, then got up and walked to the door.

“Bye Emily.”

She blew him a kiss, then left the room. He lay back with a smile. What a lovely girl she’d turned into from the pigtailed little tot he used to take for walks, to the park, and the zoo, and so many other places. How fast they grow up, he thought to himself. But as for her mother, that was another story altogether. He really didn’t want to see her if he could help it, but he probably would. Most of his friends thought he was far too much of a softie, considering he was a highly regarded senior executive for a very prestigious corporation. Wouldn’t they be appalled if they knew what he’d done with his Burberry coat. But it had been a gift from a grateful client. He would never have bought one himself. Speaking of which, he wondered what had happened to the homeless man. Just as the thought occurred, his phone rang. He didn’t recognise the number.

“Hello, Shelby Marriott.”

“Mr Marriott, this is sergeant Manners.”

“Hello, sergeant, nice to hear from you. I thought I told you to call me Shelby, or Shel for short.”

There was silence for a moment, then, “Alright Shelby, I just wanted to tell you I spoke to the restaurant owner and he’s decided not to proceed with charges against Mr Watts.”

“Good to hear. Very sensible. The homeless man’s name’s not Charlie, is it?”

“As a matter of fact, it’s Charles. Why?” She sounded mystified.

Shelby laughed. “Oh sergeant, or can I call you Ashley? Haven’t you heard of Charlie Watts?”

“No, not really.” “Oh dear, there’s something sadly lacking in your musical education, Ashley. Charlie Watts has been the drummer for the Rolling Stones since 1963.”

“Oh. I’m an Eagles and Fleetwood Mac fan myself.” “Not bad. You’ve got some good musical tastes. Now, was there anything else?”

“No. I just wanted to let you know what happened.”

“Thank you.”

“Why on earth did you give him that expensive coat?” she blurted.

He laughed. “Oh Ashley, it’s just a coat, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to have dinner with me, unless there’s a Mr Manners who might object.”

She didn’t answer for a moment, then she said cautiously, “No, there’s no Mr Manners, or anyone else for that matter.”

“Great!” he said enthusiastically. “Do you want to have dinner here? I can highly recommend the food.”

“Alright,” she agreed. “I’m supposed to finish at five tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow’s fine. About 6.30?or so?”

“Yes.” “Good. Look forward to seeing you.”

“Ok. Goodbye Shelby.”

“Goodbye Ashley.”

She was gone. He lay back on the bed again. He had an idiotic smile on his face. He reviewed his day in his head, It had been very interesting. Successfully resolved meetings, helping a homeless man, he’d given away his coat, met his adorable niece, and finally, secured a date with an attractive woman. All in all, a very rewarding day.

©Cesmo