Monday, 29 February 2016

Is Good for the Gander

For audio click here 

Tony Hazard sat in the corner of the deserted Fox and Toad nursing his half of mild. His right hand clutched his walking stick; his grey beard and moustache were beginning to yellow at the edges. He wore the look of a man who’d seen it all and still felt the pain. He slowly raised the glass to his lips and took a sip, before carefully placing it back on the table. It was warm in the pub, warmer than at home; he’d make the drink last as long as possible.
Tony closed his eyes and thought about nothing and everything; the village was changing, soon it would be gone beyond all recognition. But he’d be dead by then so he needn’t worry, but he still did. He heard the sound of the old door creak and felt a blast of fresh air on his skin. He opened his eyes to see who the newcomer was and recognised Mrs Ashby; not someone he’d ever seen in the Fox before.
“Mr Hazard,” she said in a whisper so loud it was nearly a shout. “We need to talk.”
“Mine’s a half of mild,” Tony said.
Tony pointed at his nearly empty glass.
“Oh right, um yes okay.” The frumpy old bat went off to the bar and tried to raise the bored student from his stupor. She came back with Tony’s beer and a glass of sherry for herself. Tony didn’t even know they did a sherry in here.
“We’ve got to turn ourselves in,” Mrs Ashby said scratching her arm over her sleeve.
Tony ignored her for a moment, waiting to see if she had anything else to add.
“It’s all over the newspapers, it was on Radio Five Live. They are going to exhume the body.” She was visibly shaking as she spoke. “I have been so worried, I haven’t been able to sleep.” Her left hand had disappeared up her right sleeve, scratching away.
Tony took a mouthful of beer.
“Mr Hazard what are we going to do? If they try to dig up the body, they will find there is no body.”
Tony noticed that Mrs Ashby’s moustache was yellowing around the edges.
“Oh why didn’t we tell the truth?” Mrs Ashby said. “You didn’t mean to kill him. It was an accident. Self-defence, he was attacking you. I saw it. If you hadn’t taken a swipe with your stick, then the bloody thing might have killed you.”
Tony looked around the pub. The young barman was nowhere to be seen. He hated seeing this place so empty. There was a time when it would have been crowded even at three p.m. on a Monday afternoon.
“I’m calling the police,” Mrs Ashby said. “I’ll tell them I killed it. Say we made up the story about the drive-by shooting.” She was still having a good scratch.
Tony smiled, the drive by shooting, had been his idea, but he never for one moment thought people would believe him. A gangland style murder in a little sleepy country village, it was nonsense. But people were so gullible these days. The fake burial had been his idea too. It was easier than actually digging a hole for the bloody thing.
“I’m calling the police,” she said again.
Tony put a hand on her arm and stared at her.
“No, you’re not,” he said. It was the first time he’d spoken since he’d told her what he was drinking.
“What are we going to do?” Mrs Ashby said, tears in her eyes. Tony felt like he was looking at a ghost.
“Gertie’s already dead. There’s nothing we can do.
Mrs Ashby gasped, the words reminding her of what they’d done. 
“He died of natural causes.
“You hit him with your stick.” A tear rolled down her face. 
“It's natural to hit something with a stick if it is attacking you. We can’t bring him back to life. This is a load of media nonsense. Don’t you think the police have better things to do than exhume a dead goose? It’s just a goose, it’s not like we killed a person.  Now just go home, get some rest and don’t worry. If, and I don’t believe for one second they will, but if they do try to exhume the body, then we say the killers must have come back and stolen the evidence. Okay?”
Mrs Ashby nodded and straightened her sleeve.
“It’ll be fine, you mark my words,” Tony said.
Mrs Ashby stood up to go, her sherry untouched on the table.
“What did you do with the body?” she asked.
Tony Hazard tapped his nose. He waited until Mrs Ashby had closed the door behind her before mumbling “it was bloody delicious.” He helped himself to her drink, drinking the sherry in one gulp. 

This story is a theory about what maybe the background to this story, but it is meant to be a work of fiction and not in anyway casting aspersions on the good people of Sandon.

Update 5/3/2016 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Cheese Theives

For audio click here 
Headline on the Wales online site Police want to trace men after £35 worth of cheese stolen. 
Seemed like the perfect excuse to write a story. 

Aziz cursed his son again. Ever since Moin had thrown that old walking stick away the bad old days had returned. The stream of customers that had frequented the shop over the last couple of years had slowed to a dribble and it seemed like every other person who came through that door was wearing a balaclava and sporting a baseball bat. Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration but you’d think having no customers would deter the thieves; it wasn’t as if the tills were overflowing with cash. The last armed robber had scarpered with twelve pounds fifty-seven pence. Aziz hardly thought it worth calling the police.
The door tinkled and Aziz looked up and pressed the panic button in one movement. Two men, one large, one skinny, hoods up, scarves around their faces came through the door. Slim had a kitchen carving knife. Fatboy was carrying a cricket bat; that made a change, Aziz approved, he hated that baseball was becoming so ubiquitous. Aziz pressed the no sale button on his till and stood aside as it opened.
“Where’s your cheese?” Fatboy said.
“What?” Aziz replied.
“You deaf? Cheese! Where do you keep your cheese?” He held the bat up ready to strike.
“Tell us where the cheese is or I’ll cut your throat!” the smaller man screamed.
Aziz was baffled; no one had ever threatened him for cheese before.
 “In the cold counter at the back,” he said. The two men ignored the till and headed in the direction Aziz had pointed.
“What the fuck is this?” Fatboy screamed, “Roquefort? Edam, We don’t want foreign muck. Where the fuck is the cheddar.”
“Um, I might have some out the back.” Aziz said.
Slim came back to the counter and grabbed Aziz by the arm. Let’s go and have a look shall we?” he said.
Aziz heard Fatboy whistling behind him as Slim led him away.
“Delivered today,” Aziz pointed to stack of cheese.
“Fantastic!” Slim started fill his bag. Aziz wondered what the world was coming to.
“You’re putting too much in that,” Aziz said, he could see the bag bursting at the seams.
“Shut the fuck up,” Slim was struggling to zip up the bag and didn’t need advice from Aziz.
“Bingo,” he said. Fatbot smiled and fist pumped.
There were sirens in the air.

“Let’s go,” said Fatboy. The two men left the shop just as the police car came around the corner. They’d planned to walk away from the shop nonchalantly but now they just legged it. The bag Fatboy was carrying gave way scattering cheese all over the pavement. Slim stopped but seeing the police in hot pursuit decided against picking up the cheese. Aziz wwent out side and started to gather the cheese together and watched the police return empty handed. The cheese bandits had got away.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Bus Stop

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Twenty-five years ago I sat in this very bus stop on this very road waiting for the number 74 bus. Like today the bus was late, the rain was bucketing down and the wind was whipping the rain along the road like a sandstorm. Twenty-five years - the makes and models of the cars have changed, one or two of the houses have had a lick of paint and the seagulls have got fatter, but not much else has is different.
Madeline the Rag Doll
I was sitting with Siany, lovely Siany, with her black hair and green eyes and slightly rag doll posture. Not in a bad way, she was like Madeline the rag doll from Bagpus and she’d been my girlfriend for eighteen months by then and I still couldn’t believe how lucky I was. How had this average Joe ended up with a girl like that?
“Where’s that bloody bus?” I said.
“You know it’s always late.” she kissed me on the cheek and smiled.
“I’m gonna count ten cars going past, if the bus ain’t here by ten, I’ll ask you to marry me.”
“Bloody hell I hope it hurries up then,” she said.
“One,” A red Corsa splashed by us. “Two,” a black Sierra went by in the opposite direction.
“Hey that don’t count.” Siany said, they can only go in the direction of the bus.
“Don’t you wanna marry me?” I said.
“Is that your proposal? How bloody romantic.” she stood up and went to the edge of the shelter looking for the bus then jumping back as cars two, three and four sent a spray of rain in our direction.
“Nine.” I said as a silver mini went by. “And I’m only going to ask, you can say no.”
An Allegro Vanden Plas
A peach coloured Austin Allegro Vanden Plas chugged by us. “Look at the state of that,” I said. “That shouldn’t even be allowed on the road. It’s a fucking wreck. How on earth did that get through its MOT?”
“Mr Joe Edwards,” Siany said. I looked at her; I secretly liked it when she used my full name. “I think you are changing the subject.”
“What?” I said.
“Well that was car number ten. Don’t you have something to ask me?”
“The bus,” I said and jumped up. We both flashed our passes at the driver and went to sit down.
“Um Joe,” Siany said. “At least give me the chance to turn you down.”
“Okay,” I said “Will you marry me.”
“Do it properly,” she said, gesturing that I should go on one knee.
“What here?” I looked around, Mrs Parker from next door was down at the front and Lou and Greg were three seats in front. I could propose, even in jest in front of them.
“Yes here.” she said.
I slipped off the seat.
“Will you marry me?” I said again.
“Do you mean it?” she asked. God for someone who was gonna say no she was putting on a show.
“Of course,” I said not even convincing myself.
“In that case,” I could feel wetness seep into my jeans where my knee touched the floor. I wish she’d just say no so I could get back up on the seat.
“In that case,” I could feel Mrs Parker watching me.
“Yes.” she said.
“If you meant it that is,” she suddenly looked unsure.
I thought for a moment. I didn’t mean it, it was just a silly game, but she’d said yes and now what? There was a happiness in her eyes, I couldn’t say I didn’t mean it now could I?
“Of course I meant it,” I said sounding even less convincing than last time. “Can I get up now?”
She pulled me up onto the seat and hugged me. She cried tears of joy, I cried tears of panic.

Twenty –five years ago today. Funny how I still remember like it was yesterday. Sometimes I still feel that panic. I still wonder why I didn’t tell her what I was really thinking. But let’s face it, after nearly twenty-five years of a mostly happy marriage it’s too late to back out now. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Cat Witches

For audio click here 
This is another  updated version of an old Welsh folk tale. I've put a 2016 spin on it. 
For the original go to the end of the story, after the adverts for my novels.  
“This is odd,” Huw said to no one in particular.
“What is?” Janet was usually the one colleague that who took the bait.
“Look at this,” Huw turned his computer screen around so Janet could see it, but carried on talking anyway. “Apparently, according to Wales Online like, the Travelodge at the Cardiff West services has had a spate of unexplained robberies.”
“Oh,” Janet took another bite out of her Gregg’s steak bake.
“All business travellers, all male, all travelling alone. It says here that the robberies take place at night, while the guest is in the room, the door is locked and there’s no sign of forced entry. They reckon it is a ghost.” But Janet had stopped listening; she was much more interested in the hair poking out of her pasty than she was in Huw’s mystery.
“Is that one of mine?” She said. “Does that look like one of mine? She held the hair up to the light. “It’s the wrong colour,” she said throwing the pasty down on the desk. “That’s disgusting that is.” But Huw didn’t take a blind bit of notice. Huw was booking a room in the Travelodge; Huw didn’t believe in ghosts so he was going to get to the bottom of this.
Huw had to admit the room was better than he thought it was going to be; clean, spacious, tea and coffee making facilities, a bed like falling into a cloud. It was just like Lenny Henry promised, only he advertised Premier Inn. Huw took a shower and then went out for dinner. He strolled across the car park to the Burger King; he knew how to live.
The fast food restaurant was deserted except for the two girls that worked there. They were buxom lasses who took a healthy interest in Huw.
“What’s a handsome guy like you doing all alone?” The one with a pretty smile said.
“Business trip,” Huw said. He liked them; they were fun so he made up stories of his long lonely journeys around the UK selling cement. It seemed to do the trick.
“Would you like some company later? We’re on morning shift so they put us up in the hotel.” The one with the pretty eyes said.
Huw almost choked on his Whopper. Fuck trying to catch a thief, he was getting a chance to have a threesome, tick off on item on his bucket list. He wasn’t going to turn that down.
“What’s your room number?” Eyes asked.
“Eleven,” Huw croaked.
“See you at Twelve,” Smiles said and blew him a kiss.
 Huw had to be able to perform. He nipped into Costa and got himself a triple espresso latte with syrup and sugar. That should give him the energy he needed to satisfy the two lovely ladies.
The girls were as good as their word. Just after midnight there was a gentle knock on the door and the two women came in. 
It was like all Huw’s Christmases had come at once. The women used him and abused him. He certainly got his money’s worth out of the hotel room; not a surface went unsullied.
Three sweaty bodies lay on the bed exhausted. Both girls were purring contentedly like kittens that had tired themselves out. He closed his eyes and wondered if he’d ever be able to wipe the smile off his face. He felt Eyes move, she stood up and went to the bathroom. After the toilet flushed, Smile stood up too. He heard them whispering and guessed they had to go. Then heard the sound of the change jangling in his jeans pocket. He opened one eye and saw that Eyes had his wallet in her hand. It all made sense now, of course these businessmen would have to report the theft of their company credit card, but couldn’t tell the world they’d been shagging the Burger King girls could they?. As for the girls well usually their victims would have been sound asleep after the seeing to they’d given him. But Huw was wide-awake; the coffee had made sure of that. 
Without thinking he reached for the mug that was on the bedside table and threw it at Eyes. It hit her square in between the eyes. She dropped the wallet and the two of them hurried from the room.
The next morning Huw went to Burger King for his breakfast. Smile was there serving a tired looking driver.
“Great night last night,” Huw said. “Where’s Eyes? I’d like to thank her too.”
Eyes appeared from behind the ice cream machine, a bruise the size of Treorchy across her forehead. 
Huw smiled and went on his merry way. That afternoon he put an entry on Trip Advisor. Beware the Burger King girls, they are not the little kittens they appear to be.

The Cat Witches 
Many robberies used to take place at an inn near Bettws-y-Coed. Travellers who put up there for the night were continually relieved of their money, and they could not tell how. They were certain that no one had entered their rooms, because they were found locked in the morning just as they were the night before. Huw Llwyd was consulted, and he promised to unravel the mystery.
He presented himself at the inn one night, and asked for a night's lodging, saying that he was an officer on his way to Ireland. The inn was kept by two sisters: they were both very comely, and made themselves very agreeable to Huw Llwyd at supper. Not to be outdone, he did his best to entertain them with tales of travel in foreign parts which he had never visited. On retiring for the night he said that it was a habit with him to have lights burning in his room all night, and he was supplied with a sufficient quantity of candles to last until the morning. Huw Llwyd made his arrangements for a night of vigil. He placed his clothes on the floor within easy reach of his bed, and his sword, unsheathed, on the bed close to his hand. He secured the door, got into bed, and feigned to sleep. Before long two cats came stealthily down the chimney. They frisked here and there in the room, but the sleeper lay motionless; they chased each other around the bed, and gambolled and romped, but still the sleeper showed no signs of awaking. At last they approached his clothes and played with them, turning them over and over. Ere long the sleeper (who had been very wide awake the whole time) saw one of the cats putting her paw into the pocket which contained his purse. He struck at the thievish paw like lightning, with his sword. With a hideous howl both cats disappeared up the chimney, and nothing further was seen of them the whole night.
Next morning only one of the sisters appeared at the breakfast table. Huw Llwyd asked where the other was. Receiving the reply that she was ill and could not come down, he expressed his regret, and proceeded to break his fast. The meal over, "I am now going to resume my journey," he said," but I must say good-bye to your sister, for I greatly enjoyed her company last night." Many excuses were attempted, but he would not be refused, and at last he was admitted to her presence. After sympathising with her and asking whether he could be of any service, he held out his hand to bid good-bye. The sick lady held out her left hand. No," said Huw Llwyd laughingly, "I am not going to take your left hand: I have never taken a left hand in my life, and I am not going to begin with yours, white and shapely as it is." Very unwillingly and with evident pain, she put out her right hand. It was swathed in bandages. The mystery was now revealed. The two sisters were witches, and in the form of cats robbed travellers who lodged under their roof: "I have drawn blood from you," said Huw Llwyd, addressing the wounded sister, "and henceforth you will be unable to do any mischief. I will make you equally harmless," he said to the other sister. Seizing her hand, he cut it slightly with a knife, so that the blood came. For the rest of their lives the two sisters were like other women, and no more robberies took place at their inn.