Midnight reads


Adult content.  

Short stories can be violent, contain hard language and upsetting images.

Golden age

   I was on my own in an irregularly fluorescent light-flashing subway feeling damp and cold air, seeing clouds of my breath disappearing. I wrapped my arms around me and called several times shooting a nervous glance around me, ‘El’!’

   Suddenly, tons of water crashed down the concrete stairs and I could see Eleanora helplessly washing down away onto a rusted railway. Abruptly from a black tunnel appeared a train horning loudly crashing into the dark water. 

   She was gone.

   Somebody shook me softly by my shoulder and I opened my eyes seeing a dark and gloomy January morning outside, realising that it was only a nightmare.

   It was Sandra, our nurse who came into my room with breakfast and medication filling it up with the smell of toast and black tea.

   I glance at the round clock on the wall. It strikes at 9 am, but Sandra as if reading my mind turns on the tiny radio that stands on the chair next to the window gifted to me by Eleanora.  

   ‘You are listening to Christian Radio FM. News,’ a clipped woman’s voice speaks. ‘The body of 85 years old Eleanora Buckie has been found this morning in River Nidd near the care home ‘Golden Age’ where she spent the last 20 years…’

   I freeze dumbfounded and shocked about the dream I saw just now.

   ‘Did you hear?’ My voice is fervent.

   ‘Yes,’ Sandra replies.

   ‘How?!’ I say through my breath.

   ‘Cleaner Judith said that Eleanora was drunk and found trapped in broken tree branches in the river.’

   My breath hitches hearing Sandra conjuring an image of the way Eleanora passed away.

   ‘I have to go,’ Sandra says and leaves.

   I recall memories of Eleanora.

   She used to be an actress in Harrogate Theatre and there was a rumour she was sacked for drinking problems even before she could retire regardless, she was an amazing actress. So, when she joined us, she still kept on pretending an actress and playing different characters on self-rehearsed performances on Saturday nights.

   Though regularly Eleanora used to sneak out of the care home to go to Knaresborough town centre for a drink with her ex-work colleagues, the staff always forgave her knowing how much residents love her.

   I eased myself onto my feet and walked to the fireplace where on the mantel place stood my photo album, ignoring the breakfast. I wanted to meet her again and as I opened the page where was an image of her sitting with me smiling under the alley of willows, our last conversation struck my mind having lunch with her.  

   ‘I’m afraid.’ Her eyes were with fear. ‘I might be killed for things I know.’

   ‘Is it your this weekend’s play?’ I bit into a cheap cheese sandwich. ‘El’, you have never played a victim.’

   ‘It’s real, Albert.’

    ‘Tell me.’

   ‘Since we are having Mr Marshal as our new director residents don’t move to better care homes as he promised, but they are killed. Though we have been told they moved.’

    ‘Who told you that? He doesn’t mince the words.’

   Eleanora shakes her head in disagreement. ‘He kills them and sale their organs.’

   She pushes her lunch away asking, ‘Do you remember signing documents that after death you agree to give away your organs?’

  ‘So, what?’ I raise my eyebrows. ‘I won’t need them anyway.’

   She sighs passing me several papers. ‘Can you keep them, please? I suspect Mr Marshal caught me copying the original documents that he accidentally left on his desk before I entered his office to speak about issues I am causing.’

   ‘It sounds pretty creepy fiction story about ‘Golden Age,’ I take crumpled pieces of paper from El’. ‘In fact, it would fit perfectly into this God-forgotten place.’

   But she did not appear joking.

   ‘Your name is there, too, you have no relatives.’ Eleanora said.

   Remembering this conversation, the notes worried me, now. I wanted to lock up the door, but remembered here nobody can lock up their doors. So, before checking nobody comes, I opened folded papers that I kept hidden in my photo album.

   They were photocopies with several names and detailed health check records, but my heart nearly fell into my mouth finding information on the top about me as well:

   ‘Albert Taylor… Relatives – none… Health state – good… Organs…’.

   I could see listed kidneys, liver, spleen and other organs ticked in the box ‘Healthy’, and then there were written additional notes, ‘Panic attacks.’

   I did not have any panic attacks! This additional note shocked me.

   In the middle of the list I read, ‘Eleanora Buckie…Relatives – none, Health state – worsening.’

   I recalled Eleanora’s words - You are there too; you have no relatives.

   Evil forbidding crossed my mind. So, Mr Marshal selects his victims.

   Abruptly, I heard voices behind the door. I took they were from the police searching El’s room for possible conclusions of death.

   ‘What a tragic death,’ I could hear Mr Marshal expressing his grief, ‘Eleanora was the most loved resident in here.’

   I cracked my door open and glanced outside. Though by that time the dimly lighted hallway was empty.           Police were not there leaving Eleanora’s room sealed off with blue and white tape.

   ‘I have to make an escape plan,’ I murmured under my nose, ‘But how? They can catch me.’

   The pills left on the table made me feel sick imagining that they might be sedative medication for Mr Marshal easier deal with me. I opened the rubbish bin and tipped all of them in.

   Somebody knocked on my door again and I quickly put back Eleanora’s notes into my photo album approaching the door.

   It was Sandra. ‘Mr Taylor? We have arranged movement from this care home to a new one,’ she happily announced.

   ‘Where to?’

   ‘Mr Marshal will tell it to you personally,’ her eyes were gleaming unnaturally.

   ‘And when I am moving?’

   ‘Tonight, Mr Taylor,’ she outstretched her hand as if welcoming to follow her. ‘Mr Marshal got a call this morning that one place is free.’

   ‘Why me, not somebody else?’

   ‘Alphabetically you’re next,’ Sandra replied to me.

   I retreated to the mantel place. The photo album fell on the floor and the document that Eleanora trusted me to keep slipping out.

   ‘Mr Taylor? I’ll help you to pick up the album,’ Sandra offered to help me nearing me crouching down.

   I tried to be the first who picks up the documents.

   Though, Sandra was the first who got her hands on papers.

   ‘What’s this?’ She asked unfolding several pieces of paper.

   I ran my tongue over my dry lips feeling my heart leaping into my mouth.

   I froze staring at Sandra.

   The door opened and Mr Marshal entered.

   I could hear somewhere away somebody listening loudly to the radio and they spoke about Eleanora again.

   ‘Police found the dead body of Eleanora Buckie trapped in branches of a broken tree into River Nidd. So far there are no eyewitnesses who saw how this tragic incident happened. Police ask anyone who has any information regarding Eleanora’s Buckie death, please call…’

   The phone number followed.  

   Mr Marshal walked to Sandra and took documents from her hands. ‘Well, well, well…,’ he said thoughtfully scanning them with his dark eyes, ‘When detective Jessica Fletcher is gone, detective Hercule Poirot takes her place.’

   ‘What was your plan, Mr Taylor?’ he gently hooked his hand around Sandra’s waist and she kissed him on the lips surprising me they are lovers. He regarded me intently and that kindness that I saw in his eyes when I saw him the first time was gone.

   I didn’t answer stepping backwards to the window and grabbing for an aluminium fork from the dining plate.

   Mr Marshal laughed at me, ‘Do you think it will help you, Mr Poirot?’

   ‘I’m not giving up?’ I waved it, but Mr Marshal quickly approached me and before he could pull the fork out of my hand, I stabbed his hand deep.

   ‘Bastard!’ he shouted in pain grabbing his bleeding hand.

   I threw the fork away turning around and for my stress relief, I saw a police officer stepping out of his vehicle. I grabbed a chair letting the radio clatter on the floor and tried to smash the glass. Though, I didn’t succeed and the chair bounced back falling next to me.

   Sandra approached me and grabbed me tight, but I still fought screaming, ‘Help!’

   Mr Marshal laughed again, ‘Albert! What’s the point to call for help if nobody will help you? We warned residents you’re having sometimes rare panic attacks.’

   ‘I know who killed Eleanora!’ I shouted seeing blood dripping from his hand on the floor. ‘It’s Judith!’

   ‘Very smart,’ he approached me picking up the chair with one hand and pushing me to sit down on it.

   Judith came in. She took out of the pocket of her dirty doctor’s coat a syringe preparing for injection. ‘As all we know, Eleanora likes to drink alcohol.’

   I glowered at her desperately resisting Sandra and Mr Marshal attempting to sit me down.

   ‘Yesterday Eleanora appeared drunk again and worried. She confessed to me about everything happening in here asking me to cover her up while she goes to the local Police station because she does not trust ringing from here as somebody could listen to her conversation not knowing I am a part of this business.’

   ‘You dirty betrayer!’ I hissed.

   ‘I offered Eleanora to drink some more whiskey before she goes,’ Judith continued, ‘She was very pleased for my kindness as you know, ‘’Golden Age’’ runs ‘‘No Alcohol Policy’’.’

   Judith rechecked the syringe.

   ‘Soon after Eleanora left, Mr Marshal and I followed her, letting her enter the dark forest that is the nearest way to the town,’ Judith spoke calmly as if with joy, ‘and when she was on her own walking the dimly lighted foot-path by street lamps, I confronted her.’

   Suddenly, I imagined all that Judith told me.

   Judith caught Eleanora by her hand. ‘You won’t go anywhere! This is business.’

   ‘I can’t believe, you too, have been involved,’ Eleanora spluttered in shock. ‘Discussing!’

   Judith pushed Eleanora, but she managed to stay on her feet.

   Abruptly, Mr Marshal appeared catching Eleanora in his hands. ‘Mrs Fletcher? Don’t you need to return to the care home? It’s not a good idea to wander around in such darkness. Moreover, you are drunk, love.’

   Eleanora tried to free herself but without success.

   ‘Help!’ Eleanora called, but Mr Marshal put a whiskey bottle to her mouth pouring whiskey in.

   ‘You like this flavour, don’t you?’ Mr Marshal whispered to her closely. She resisted, but it was helpless.

   Everything started to sway around Eleanora and she lost her balance falling into the damp grass and paddling next between the footpath and the river. Mr Marshal lifted her and dragged her through broken tree branches to the river plunging her in with Judith’s help from a little slope. She seemed too intoxicated to fight against.

   Judith and Mr Marshal looked at Eleanora, how she fought with wild water gulping it that unexpectedly entered her mouth, trying to survive losing gradually her strength till she was drowned under icy water. Freezing water covered her body dragging it forward for a moment till it stuck among the wet limbs of a broken sycamore. Judith wiped off the whiskey bottle and threw it in the grass next to the broken tree.

   ‘Now,’ Mr Marshal addressed to me, ‘Mr Taylor- ‘

   Suddenly, the door banged open and the police officer entered the room pointing a shotgun at Judith just before she tried to inject me with a deadly substance.

   ‘I saw somebody trying to break the window,’ he explained, ‘and I rushed upstairs immediately.’

   ‘Mr Taylor is having a panic attack,’ Sandra explained calmly to the police officer still holding me tight.

   I Shot a desperate look at the police officer.

   He put down his pistol.

   Mr Marshal walked around me smiling letting Judith inject me with medication.

Meet a murderer 

The pub buzzes as lively as 15 years ago. I sit at the bar countertop seeing one free space. I have a great feeling to be back again after such a long time, My eyes skim across the bar top finding a newspaper lying next to me with a bold headline on its front page “Harehills – the top neighbourhood for violence in Leeds.” Underneath there is an image of the street where my mum lives restricted by the police. I look at the date - 5th November 2021.

A lady bartender approached me. ‘Sir, what would you like to drink?’

I glimpsed at her shiny badge attached to her black T-shirt.

‘Black coffee, Destiny, please.’

‘Here you are, sir.’ She fills up a cap and places it in front of me. ‘One pound and sixty pence, please.’

I fish for money in my shabby valet and give exact money to her.

Sipping coffee on my own I immerse myself in thoughts. It will be a surprise for my mum to see me today, even knowing, she hates me for the things I have done. But I have changed. That boy who left her 15 years ago has grown up. I hope it is not true my friends told me – she has hooked on drugs. They told me that there is a taxi driver, who supplies locals with everything they want.

I glance at my palm reading the tattooed in blue ink phrase – Lord Loves Us. Amen. On the other palm is written – Lord Forgive His Children. I muse, I’ll tell her, I’ve joined a church.

‘Is this chair reserved for somebody?’ a man appearing around ten years my senior pointed at the bench next to me.

‘No, I suppose!’ 

He immediately sits shouting at Destany throwing a 20-pound banknote on the countertop, ‘One Bishops Finger, please!’

‘Busy today, isn’t it?’ He glanced at me putting his forearms on the worktop.

‘Nothing has changed for the last 15 years apart from the staff.’

‘By the way, I’m Jack.’ He grabbed a glass of beer from Destiny. ‘And what’s your name?’


’15 years?’ he takes a sip from the glass. ‘That sounds like ages. What made you come back?’

‘By the way, what do you do, Jack?’ I try to change the conversation.

‘I’m a pathologist.’ He half smiles drumming his fingers and glances at me. ‘I deal with consequences left by murderers. Mostly.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s fine, Antony. None of my patients has hurt me apart from my sister. Her arrival broke my heart.’ He pauses and then says, ‘She was killed with a shrapnel of a glass in a broad daylight.’

I lowered my head. ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’

Seeing my face he is changing a subject, ‘Do you have siblings, Antony?’

‘I had an older brother, but a couple of years ago he overdosed on cocaine.’

He looks at me and I glance into his eyes which makes a chill run down my spine as if he would recognise me for something.

I blurt, ‘Have we met before?’

‘Destany!’ he raises his voice, ‘Two pints of Bishops, please.’

‘Oh, no!’ I shake my head, ‘That’s kind but I have to go.’

‘One pint won’t hurt you.’ Jack smiles winking at me, ‘You’re not in rush. Are you?’

‘Um…,’ I sigh, ‘I haven’t seen my mum for a long time.’

‘My mum died when I lost my sister.’ His lips go in hard-line, ‘it was too much for her to tolerate Jenny’s sudden departure.’

‘Two pints of Bishops, gentlemen.’ Destiny puts glasses in front of us.

‘God bless your goodwill,’ I take a glass and drink.

‘Antony? What’s written on your palms?’ He takes a little swig.

I open them to show.

‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes. I do.’ I close my palms. ‘And do you believe, Jack?’

He does not reply.

I see two teenage girls running in behind the bar shouting happily. ‘Aunt Destiny, let’s go home!’

Destiny kisses both girls on their hair. ‘Girls! My shift is over.’ She shrugs on her dark blue woollen coat wrapping around her neck a scarf. She leaves with the girls. Her high heel shoes clicked loudly on the wooden floor.

A nagging thought that I should go runs through my mind and I stand. ‘I have to go, Jack.’

‘Let me call for you a taxi.’ Jack looks at me. ‘The weather is terrible outside.’

I shouldn’t accept Jack’s offer, but I cannot resist his kindness. ‘Thanks, Jack. I need Harehills Lane.’

I leave and as I exit the pub, chilling air wraps its arms around me and drizzling rain is wetting my clothes. It is polluted with fog and the smell of brimstone. I hear regular bangs and fireworks painting up brightly the black sky. I see a black cab standing and I step in.

‘Hey! Do you like to party?’ the taxi driver addresses me, ‘I can get anything for you, even guns if you need them. It might be handy one day if you live here.’ He chuckles as if it was a joke.

‘I’m fine,’ I murmur under my breath and we do not talk for a moment.

The taxi stops at the traffic light and I glance outside. Dodgy people are hanging on the street corner, beggars are knocking on car doors at traffic lights when they go red and police cars with flashing lights are passing us. I shiver in horror.

‘I used to have two sisters and one brother,’ the taxi driver says through the speakers.

I raise my head.

He glances in the rear mirror and I see the same dark brown eyes with a sharp look that Jack had. My blood runs cold.

‘Jack?’ I ask with my voice full of confusion and fear not understanding if is it my mind that plays tricks with my brain.

‘My name is Blade,’ he replies confidently.

‘I don’t understand, didn’t we just drink beer together?’

‘You must mix up something, Antony.’ The rear mirror reflects his smile, but I do not like it. It looks unpleasant.

‘Please stop and let me go.’ Fear grows in me.

Nothing changes. The taxi still drives.

‘I wouldn’t walk home on my own,’ Blade tells me calmly, ‘This neighbourhood is notorious now. Don’t you read newspapers?’ 

We drive for a while until we stop at the front door where my mum lives.

I crawl out of the cab thinking, feeling relieved, finally, I am out. ‘How much?’

‘It’s paid.’ Blade waves his hand and I leave musing. It must be Jack.

The windows are dark in my mum’s home. I knock on the main door.

No answer.

I can hear only fireworks blasting everywhere. I decide to walk around terraced houses and look whether there is no light in her bedroom window or in her kitchen.

The back road is so dark and foggy making it hard to see where I am going. It is piled up with rubbish sucks and turned over wheely bins.

I slowly zigzag through the mess and stop at my mum’s back garden entrance. In fifteen years she has not managed to put up a new gate. My brother rang me before he died and said that she has got a boyfriend who works for a security guard somewhere.

Abruptly I see the shape of human standing in a distance. It does not move. The breath comes out of a stranger’s mouth. A vague light cascade over its black shape. There is something in its hand.

Suddenly it approaches me and I hear heels knocking on the tarmac confidently. It has a knee-long dark coat and a scarf wrapped around its neck.

‘Hello!’ I address the stranger.

‘Hello, Antony Valley,’ a woman’s voice says calmly.

‘Do we know each other?’ I shade my eyes. Though I cannot see any better. The voice seems familiar.

‘I used to have a sister for thirty-two years….’ The woman points at me something. 

Abruptly I realise – it is Destiny and she points at me a pistol.

‘Now I have only twin brothers left.’

‘Don’t shoot me, please.’ I raise my hands up covering my face. ‘I served long 15 years.’

‘You stabbed Jannie with a shrapnel of a glass in a broad daylight for ten pounds sake to feed your addiction to cocaine.’ Destiny’s voice is trembling. She loads up the gun continuing, ‘You stuck it straight into her neck just above her collarbone.’ She burst into cries wiping tears from her eyes.

‘Please, don’t…’ I step back shrinking in my shabby coat. ‘I regret. I’ve changed.’

‘Draggy never change, Antony.’ She comes closer to me still pointing at me with her gun. Her hands are shaking. ‘YOU left two little girls without their mum.’

‘God forgive me!’ I gasped under my breath.

She triggered her gun. BANG…BANG! Two defining sounds blasted into my ears. I collapsed on the wet tarmac in stinky rubbish. My heart hammered in my chest, blood thudding in my ears. I felt no pain.

Two men appeared behind Destiny.

‘Jannie was our youngest sister,’ one of them said holding his hands in his coat pockets, ‘you took her away from us.’ I could not recognize who was talking – Jack or Blade.

Tears trickled out of my eyes. I did not know whether I should be happy I am still alive or rather be dead. I realised that the gun has not loaded with a live munition.

Another man took something out of his internal coat’s pocket and threw it at me. It clattered on the asphalt next to me like a coin. ‘This is a bullet we saved for 15 years while waiting for you to blast in your head when we meet you again. Later we would empty your valet and drop it next to you to make it appear as if you were killed by drug addicts.’

‘I would be pleased to receive your body,’ another man continued, ’I’d exchange the bullet while doing an autopsy and police would search for a killer who murdered you to get high again.’

‘but…,’ another man said. ‘We changed our minds. Your death wouldn’t bring Jannie back.’

They turn around and retreat from me disappearing in the mist like spectres.

I heave up not being able to believe they left me alive. I brush off my clothes and enter my mum’s back garden. The kitchen door is unlocked. Inside is dark and cold. I turn on the light and see an old woman lying motionless on the floor with an empty needle next to her.

That must be my mum.

I brake to my knees and hug her.

A tall, stocky man enters the hallway and stares at me. He approaches me grabbing a glass bottle from the countertop. ‘You must be Blade who feeds Anabelle with drugs while I’m at work.’

‘No!’ I gasp, ‘I’m her son, Antony Valley.’ I stand up.

‘I don’t believe you.’ He crashes the bottle in half against a wall.

I run.

He follows me.

I trip and fall over rubbish in the back alley.

He catches me and rolls me on my back, ‘If you would be her son, you would ring her before you come. LOOK AT ME BLADE!’

‘No! You’ve misunderstood!’ I cry covering my face with my arms. ‘I wanted to surprise my mum.’

‘Once for all time, I’ll free Anabelle from you.’

I see Sphinx smile on his dark face.

I resist, but he is stronger than me. He pushes with force away one of my arms exposing my neck and stabs in it the broken glass bottle. I scream in terror.

Warm blood trickles out of my mouth and my neck. I lay on the wet ground feeling damp going through my clothes. The firework goes on continuously. People laugh and talk somewhere.

The man finds my valet in my jacket’s pocket empties it from the last coins and drops it next to me leaving me alone.


I walk down the street illuminated by streetlights to my car from Luke’s house. I am furious with Luke because we ended up in an argument again. He accused me of being schizophrenic, but I am not.

He never admits he is addicted to antidepressants. What is worse, he mixes them with alcohol and experiences blackouts.

As I unlock my car, I sense somebody staring at me and I turn around to have a look.

‘Hi!’ I greet the stranger who approaches me in a black Jaguar. She has pitch-black glittering eyes, making me feel uncomfortable.

‘Hello, Anastasia!’ the woman dressed up like a maid wearing a black dress, white head cover and a white apron replies through the open car window.

‘How do you know my name?’ I sssssrise my eyebrows.

‘I work for Luke. I’m a housekeeper and everybody who works for him knows your name.’

And before I want to ask more questions, she drives away.

I sit in my Mercedes musing, Luke has never mentioned somebody working for him.  I glance in my wind mirror before taking off and notice somebody looking at me from the shadows of trees. An unpleasant chill creeps over my body making me shiver. The dark shape vanishes deeper among the trees. I turn on the engine and rush away feeling terrified the stranger might reappear again.

My way home takes along with a gravel road where are several signs ’20 mph Drive with care.’

I noticed headlights appearing behind me and sharply approaching me. I speed up, but anyway, a car catches me overtaking me. I glance to see who is driving the car. There is the woman who claimed to work for Luke.

She looks at me through the open passenger window addressing me, ‘Anna! Let’s have some fun tonight.’ She suddenly swings her car in my lane almost hitting me as she overtakes me.

She heads fast away throwing little gravel everywhere. One of them crashes into my windshield leaving a crack of a little cobweb. I sharply press on breaks and stop turning on hazard lights.

I lift my head and realise I have reached the village “Neverout”. It is a freshly built area. My car headlights illuminate its advertising board “Get your home first on the bank of Neverout river.” I remember day time this village appears so lovely, but now it terrifies me. Dark shadows of unfinished houses loom in front of me.

Somebody knocks on my car door window making me jump.

My heart almost leaps in my mouth seeing a man with a cigarette in his mouth. “Anastasia! You’re, okay?” His voice hallow, calm and relaxed.’ Drive with care.’

‘How do you know my name?’ I ask without thinking.

‘I work for Luke and everyone who works for him knows your name.’ He retreats.

I rush out of my car in the darkness to ask him more questions. Though the weird thing is, I do not understand where he is gone.

 I put in the gear and start to move slowly. It’s so pitch dark. The sky far away mixes with the forest and the only thing that distinguishes them is the stars.

Something appears laying on the road. It seems to me like an animal moving its legs helplessly. It is a deer appearing with its front legs broken. It looks at me with its black eyes as if expecting help.

I do not know what to do.

I stop and crawl out of Mercedes and as I approach the deer, I sense somebody peering at me again. Not far away I see again the shape of human hiding among unfished houses.

‘Hey!’ I address the stranger, ‘what do you want?’


I can hear only my voice echoing in darkness and the river somewhere in distance gurgling calmly.

I feel frightened and the fact, I am wearing a mini-dress makes me feel insecure. I dressed like this because of Luke.

I turn around and see another car approaching from far away. My heart is racing, confused about what should I do. The animal makes silent growling painful noise. I can’t help it. I jump in my car and speed away.

I enter a black forest. The car that used to be far away is close to me and follows me. I speed up.

I turn right not knowing where I am going now, but the vehicle behind me does the same. I speed up going a long sharp turn of the road seemingly deeper and deeper into the forest.

A sign of the village ‘’Neverout’’ appears with the same advertisement that I saw before.

The car keeps on following me. The sign “Drive with care” appears again. I ignore it speeding up into the blackness.  For some reason, I want to get back to Luke. I grab my phone from the passenger seat and realise I do have not a signal. 

Suddenly, I reach a crossroads. I feel lost in this place and turn left in the hope the stranger will leave me. I do not know where I am going. I simply drive. All buildings on the roadsides appear the same, windowless with black holes in them. Abruptly I realise, I am at the same place where I was before. Though, I think so. I glance at my phone. There is still no signal.

I glance at the rear mirror. The stranger has gone. My heart calms down. I feel relieved, but I do not want to stop. I am scared of this place.

Somebody again approaches me. Something big occupying almost a whole road. Its engine roars. It horns as it is close to me. There is no chance for both of us to pass each other and at the nearest junction I turn right cursing myself under my breath, ‘I will never get out of this place.’

It’s a massive truck with a wagon slowly going its way and I believe I see a man who approached me before sitting in the illuminated truck’s cabin.

He raises this thumb.

Where am I?

As though I understand, I am at Neverout village. I have driven through this place millions of times to see Luke.

I acknowledge I shouldn’t go back to him, but I can’t stop thinking of moments he loves me every time I meet him. He has that charm, I cannot resist. When I arrive he always stands on his doorstep with blue Levi’s jeans, bare feet, wearing a long-sleeved shirt unbuttoned at his collar. Holding a stem glass of red vine in one hand. On other hand, he is holding a cigarette. I hug him letting my shoulder bag slip from my shoulder and softly thud on the floor. We kiss each other passionately letting the heavy wooden door slam behind us restricting the outside world to see what is going to happen next.

I drive my car trying to find the way out immersed in my memories of Luke admitting that I am addicted to him and he is worse than drugs.

I grow nervous getting paranoid of the fact I got stuck in this village hearing my blood whooshing in my ears, my heart violently bouncing against my ribcage.

‘Where are we!’ my inner voice yelps.

‘We aren’t lost,’ I whisper and breathe deep, but my heart does not believe franticly running in my chest as if screaming at me, ‘We have to get out!’

All roads appear the same as houses. Everywhere I peer is only blackness blending with unfinished ghostly-looking houses. I never expected Neverout village to be such huge and everywhere I turn I think I have been already there tonight.

Suddenly, out of the blue sky, a deer appears.

Is it the same deer?

It tries to get on its feet and I believe I am at the same place where I was at the beginning and it is the same deer I saw. I see the horror in its pitch-black eyes as I head towards it. It brays in a sharp voice, its teeth filched. It is too late to push breaks. I hit something and one of my headlights is gone. Something dark splashes on my windshield.

Must be blood.

I am in a panic. I killed it!

‘Fuck!’ I curse myself and beat my steering wheel with my hands several times.

‘You must stop!’ I order myself loudly in a stern voice. My face was full of anger.

‘No! I can’t!’ I reply loudly pushing the accelerator pedal deeper into the floor. My voice was full of terror. ‘What will I do with a dead animal? Its front legs are broken anyway. It’s even better deer is dead.’

I look in my rear mirror. I think I see something - a dark human shape running after me faster and faster.

I speed up suspecting it might catch me.

The stranger is gone. I cannot see anyone in the rear mirror.

I want to smoke. I open the glove box while driving and fumble with one hand through it, knowing that Luke always forgets cigarettes in my car.

Signs ‘Drive with care’ passe me.

Finally, I find cigarettes and lit up one. A grey cloud covers my windshield blurring my vision. My lungs inhale deeply like Luke used to do and forget for a moment about everything that happened before. I see through the haze the signs ‘Give way’, ‘River Neverout’ and ‘Road works’ appearing on a roadside. 

I feel relieved. Finally, I am heading home. Everything in me calms down. I breeze slower and my heart stops racing. The nightmare is over.

I will be soon out of Neverout.

Abruptly a man appears on the roadside. The same man whom I saw before knocking on my car window. His eyes are royal black. I stare at him hypnotised reading from his lips, ‘Anastasia, drive with care.’

BANG! I crash suddenly somewhere. I see a white car trying to cross my way. The hit is so hard my Mercedes pushes it over the edge of the road down a sharp slope. It is heavily rolling and clattering several times, plunging into the water.

I jump out of my car and rush down the steep rock tripping and falling over an uneven surface, catching my legs behind seemingly tree roots. I see the car half sunk into Neverout loudly horning, its engine hissing as if in anger.

As I approach it and recognize the car, I am almost fainting. It is a white Tesla that belongs to Luke.

‘Please…,’ I beg myself, ‘It’s not Luke who’s in it.’ Tears stream out of my eyes as I smell a familiar perfume. It used to wear Luke. I toe off my shoes and enter cold water feeling the soft ground under my feet and algae brushing my legs.

The car is almost half full of water. Water still is crashing in it.

I clutch my hands on the edge of the driver’s door where the window is not present and see in darkness Luke’s face.

The same woman dressed as a maid sits next to him staring with pitch-black eyes at me.

I am speechless.

‘Anna!’ she addresses me, ‘You killed my boyfriend.’

‘What!? He’s mine!’

‘Anastasia! He has always been mine.’

I collapse on my knees in water soaked in tears.

‘Anna!’ I hear the woman’s voice behind me. I see the same maid standing in the front of my car illuminated by one of the headlights. ‘You can have him now!’ She retreats into darkness, ‘I don’t need him anymore.’

On the other side of the river I hear a familiar man’s voice coming from the darkness, ‘Anastasia! I warned you to be careful, didn’t I?’

I step away from the car that gradually sinks deeper in Neverout dark water.

It disappears soon in front of my eyes.

Abruptly maelstrom drugs me under the black water. I see Luke pulling me deeper.

I resist, but everything is in vain.

Rat cage

I watch the breaking news on a little TV screen while sitting in a taxi. It shows from a bird’s view a posh two-storey flint-clad cottage. Ambulances vehicles and police cars are surrounding it.

   ‘Here police have arrived to check the property because the fire alarm went off early morning,’ a man’s voice reports, ‘as far as we know, there has happened a double murder last night. Judge Barclay Osterley and his daughter Elizabeth Valley have been found dead.’

I close my eyes remembering how it happened.

   Monday, 30th January, Sunday, Edenborough.

   It is a freezing morning, the sun is just rising above buildings.

   I enter St Andrew Square Garden and see a man sitting next to the Melville monument.

   When he notices me, he goes leaving a newspaper on the bench.

I take it.

   Its first page is covered with a massive image of Edgar Welcome, and on the top of it is written – ‘Edgar welcome to jail in a week’.

   Inside I find an image of the target’s face – Hon Barclays Osterley. His face is circled with a red coloured pen and underneath is written – 7th February.

   I leave the park walking out on a street.

   Suddenly I received a call.

   I run my eyes around and see a man standing in a red telephone booth over the street.

   ‘Yes?’ I address a caller staring at him.

   ‘You’ll receive an email.’

   The caller hangs up.

   I return to my penthouse apartments, open my laptop and enter my email address.

   There is an email in my spam explaining things I need to know about my target and offering a price for the murder.

   Now I need to work out – when and how?

   I get into my car and drive to the multistorey house where the target lives. I want to get familiar with my task.

   The building is guarded by police.

   I did not have a chance to access Barclay’s flat and put in microphones to hear what his plans are.

   As I learned from the email I received, Barclay’s mobile phone conversations are not possible to tap, but he has a landline. So I used Random Frequency Tracking System to locate the target’s cable on his telephone.

   That allows me to listen to his conversations.

    2nd February 2022, Wednesday.

    I found out from a conversation between target and his daughter, he goes to his country home this Friday which is located next to Loch Ness.

   Barclays explains to his daughter that he will go without a police escort as he is tired of being monitored for 24 hours. Also, he is not keen to leave CCTV on. He wants privacy at least for a moment.

   I contact my hacker friend to log into Land Register and find out which property belongs to my target.

   After around an hour, I receive the answer.

   I hire a hotel room around three miles away from targets house.

   The same day, I leave Edenborough and head to Loch Ness.

   3rd February 2022, Thursday.

   I observe the posh flint-clad house and learn that it is located almost on the rock of Loch Ness and surrounded by CCTV cameras.

   The next thing I want is to access the house. So, I contacted a guy who is a specialist in security cameras and pay him enough money to come immediately from Glasgow to switch off security cameras for a while.

   Later he told me that CCTV cameras work on Wi-Fi, so he can control them from home if I need.

   I use my skills to unlock the house door and get in.

   In one of the rooms, a target has a glass cabinet where he stores several riffles and munition.

   I walked into the master bedroom and had a look at his king-size bed.

   I imagined how I will complete the task. Barclay murdered his wife and committed suicide leaving a letter behind himself. 

   4th February 2022, Friday.

   I arrived at target’s house early morning and waited in my car. Though, I was surprised by another guest – a woman. She arrived first and entered the house staying there.

   My target with his wife arrived at 9 pm without police security. They stay up until late at night.

   My plan was ruined.

   5th February 2022, Saturday.

   The woman is still there. Target goes for a walk across the rock of the lake with his wife and the woman.         They enjoy time watching TV for rest of the day.

   6th February 2022, Sunday.

   Target, his wife and a woman went out with a dark blue Range Rover for a meal at a nearby pub.

   I followed them and looked out for a chance to complete the plan.

   They were all the time in crowds of people making me impossible to kill Barclay.

   Time started to run so fast that it made me extremely anxious.

   Finally, the woman left around 6 pm.

   I rang the internet guy and asked to check whether the cameras are on. He approved they have switched off already.

   I take a piece of paper with a pen; put on a facial mask and latex gloves. I dressed up my shoes in plastic bags.

   I check my tranquillizer gun and the gun that had a tube to silence the shooting noise.

   I exit my car and quietly open the unlocked door of the house.

   Mrs Osterley screamed seeing me.

   I lock the door immediately from the inside with keys that are in the lock.

   Instantly target turned up with shock in his eyes.

   I took Mrs Osterley by her upper arm and dragged her into the kitchen ordering target to sit down.

   He sat down staring with hostility in his aged eyes.

   I passed a piece of paper and a pen to target ordering, ‘RIGHT DOWN WHAT I SAY, BARCLAY!’

   He shook his head.

   ‘IT’S AN ORDER!’ I loaded up the gun.

   ‘Do, what he says,’ Mrs Osterley wept.

   Target glanced with his gloomy eyes at his wife and took a pen with the paper.

   Suddenly, I see the headlights of a car entering the front yard and shortly after there is a knock on the main door.

   ‘Quiet!” I hissed and dragged Mrs Osterley with me to shut the curtains at the window in case a stranger decides to walk around the house and have a look inside.

   I returned with Mrs Osterley back to the table.

   Target almost stood up.

   I pointed at him my pistol.

   He sat down pinching his lips.

   I glanced at the door hearing footsteps retreating, but after a few minutes, I hear a back door opening and a woman’s voice calling: ‘Dad?’

   I shot a sharp look at the kitchen entrance.

   ‘Mum?’ The woman’s voice is couscous.

   I hear the woman slowly strolling through a corridor towards the kitchen.

   Damn! I curse in my mind.

   On the doorstep appears the woman with chestnut brown hair.

   She freezes.

   I fire my gun – sck… sck. Two bullet shells drop on the tailed floor.

   Mrs Osterley screams in terror and cries hysterically, ‘Aw… Rosalyn! Aw…’  

   Target gets on his feet and grabs for a kitchen knife behind him that stands in a knife stand.

   'Bastard!’  he shouts at me trying to stab me.

   Sck! I point at the target a bullet shell drops on the floor.

   Target staggers back. The knife he held in his hand clatters on the floor. He grabs his bleeding chest and slides on the floor propping himself against cupboards.

   I release Mrs Osterley from my hand, stand up, briskly approach the target and point at him my gun taking off my mask.

   I desire to let him know what his death looks like.

   He looks at me with his smoky grey eyes, his face tense.

   I muse pointing at him my gun. He is a good and kind man. He doesn’t deserve to die like this, but I get paid for killing.

   I’m so sorry.

   The last thing that target does is, he grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut as if preparing for the worst.


   Target’s body suddenly relaxes and blood is seeping out of his mouth.

   I turn back my head searching for Mrs Osterley, but she is gone.

   The front door is open.

   I rush outside in the brightly illuminated front yard in darkness.

   A freezing wind enwraps me.

   The far way in the darkness I see a vague shape running towards Loch Ness.

   I start chasing a stranger being sure it is Mrs Osterley.

   As I reach the stranger I see I was right.

   She notices me turning back her head and then she suddenly disappears in front of my eyes.

   I hear a woman’s scream.

   Where she is gone?

   I run.

   Suddenly I realize there is no way forward.

   In front of me is black water that is sloshing up against the rock.

   I stop and stare in the front realising that I have reached a cliff of Loch Ness.

   I approach closer to the cliff and glance over it.

   I see nothing, just only blackness.

   I wait for another five minutes but apart from the howling wind and splashing water against the rock, I cannot hear anything else.

   I turn around and rush back to my car that I left nearby target’s house and return to Edenborough. 

   I take my clothes off and take a shower musing. Tomorrow at some point a whole country will learn that one of the most senior judges, who was meant to read the sentence for Edgar Welcome has been murdered.

   I have a look at a newspaper that hangs on my coffee table. There is written everything about Edgar. He has been called one of the coldest criminals in the UK for running sex trafficking, selling drugs and murdering people for several years.

   The only thing that worries me now. Is Mrs Osterley dead or still alive?

   I am sure she jumped over the cliff and could not survive such a horrible fall. 

   7th February 2022, Monday – presence.

   I wake up and switch on my wide TV.

   Indeed every news channel I turn on is talking about Judge Barclay Osterley and his daughter’s death last night.

   I change into a GUCCI-Adidas tracksuit, put on Focal Utopia headphones and go for a run to Saughton Park.

   The air is chilling like in the morning when I received the order to murder Barclay Osterley.

   On the way to the park, I pass a TV shop. All the TV screens in the panorama display window show news of the murder I executed yesterday.

   I stop and watch.

   Suddenly I see Loch Ness showing from the sky and an ambulance team attaching a body to a rope as it is impossible to take it safely to the coast.

   The body has been lifted by a helicopter.

   I cannot hear through the window, so I open my phone on a TV app, find the same TV channel and watch.

   A camera zooms in on the scene trying to identify the gender of the body.

   Still unclear as the fog is surrounding the scene.

   A woman’s voice reports, ‘… we will follow closely to find out whether the body that has been on the rock of  Loch Ness is related to the murder of Hon Barclay Osterley and his daughter.

   I immediately turn around and return to my apartment preparing for the worst. I book flight tickets to Shanghai using a fake passport, take the most necessary stuff and order a taxi.

   It arrives, but it does not take me to the airport.

   The driver who looks like an Asian guy turns around looking at me with his brown eyes.

   ‘Things went hairy?’ he asks in a broken English accent.

   I stare at him realising, I have been watched.

   ‘Somebody will need to clean up after you.’ the driver locks up the taxi doors and shuts the widow between the driver’s cabin and the passenger’s cabin.

   I am locked in a rat cage with no way out.


 I step out of my car and take off my shades.

   A big sign greets me:

   For sale. Move In Estate agency.

    In front of me appears a beautiful two-storey Tudor mansion with a circled front yard of the gravel driveway. The driveway encloses a round mown planted full of red roses.

    And somewhere I can hear the wind playing gently with wind chimes.

   On my right side in the distance, I see cattle shed and a pig pen full of grunting pigs. But on the left-hand side, there is a sandbox where a little girl sits playing with a moppet doll singing under her breath.

   I approach her and crouch down accosting, ‘Hello, little beauty.’

   She does not reply.

   ‘Have you seen anything unusual here?’ I try again.

   ‘My mummy says I’ll have a sister one day.’ She brushes the doll’s blond, kinky hair not looking at me.

   ‘I’m sure your mum is right.’ I brush my hand over my chin.

    'By the way mister.’ She suddenly turns her head towards me.

   She terrifies me staring at me with her yellow drizzling eyes. It reminds me of wasp tummies.

   ‘I’m not allowed to speak to strangers,’ she says confidently.

   ‘Tell me why all windows are shut with curtains?’ I observe the grandiose building in front of me.

   ‘My mummy says, that too much sunlight, is no good for the skin. It can cause cancer.’

   ‘Well, she is right in a way.’

   The girl presses the face of her doll into the sand scolding it, ‘Lora! You didn’t listen to me.’ Then she lifted it and I saw that one eye of it was gone.

   ‘Lora! Do you want the other eye to be eaten by spiders too?’

   I ignored what the girl said.

   ‘Where is your mum, love?’

   Suddenly, she looks at the sky, stands up as if remembering something and runs away home.

   ‘Where’re you going?’

   ‘It must be noon, mister,’ she replies in a rush.

   I glance at my watch. Indeed, it is midday.

   ‘Can we go together?’ I ask her.

   ‘I’m not allowed to bring home strangers.’

    ‘I’m not a stranger, I’m a policeman.’ I follow her.

   ‘You must come on your own,’ She stops turning around and exposing me eyeless doll. ‘If my mummy’s orders are not taken seriously that it will cost an unpleasant lesion.’

   ‘For example?’ I frown my eyebrows.

   ‘My mummy wanted a red ant to leave our home not to scare me. It refused her order. She took it and put it on a window sill with a black spider undeath a glass jar and the black spider ate it.’

   I shiver.

   ‘In fact,’ she says before running away, ‘did you know that black spider can take any shape?’

   The girl shuts the door behind her.

   Knock! Knock! I gently apply my knuckles on a wide black wooden door recalling the facts I know about the disappeared Mr Mighty. His medical records showed he had suffered from several heart problems before he died and he had lived on medication. But all we have is just an abandoned wheelchair in the nearby forest.      Also, the previous inspector suddenly dropped the case.

   A woman, I take in her twenties, opens the door dressed in a finery dress, brown-eyed, raven-haired.

   She is so beautiful; I almost forget what I want to say.

   ‘Hello!’ she assorts me.

   The front of her teeth is chipped and her voice feels unpleasant.



   ‘Hello, Mrs Mighty,’ I take off my English-felt hat. ‘I’m Inspector Digger.’

   She observes me.

   ‘I’m appointed to continue searching for your disappeared husband.’

    ‘I understood that case is closed.’

   ‘No, Mrs Mighty. I took the case over from Mr Reed.’

   ‘Oh.’ Her face does not show any reaction.

   ‘Is it okay to come in?’

   ‘We are having lunch. You’re very welcome to join us.’

   ‘Thanks, no,’ I kindly reject.

   I enter the house and sense a weird smell. Burnt bones? I Observe the spacious hallway that is overcrowded by sealed-off cardboard boxes. Leaving space for the huge staircase that takes to the first, the kitchen and the reception groom. Wherever I look there are only candles giving the light. The walls are empty. Though against the cardboard boxes are propped ugly drawings with diablos faces.

   ‘Mr, Digger, take a seat in the living room, please.’ She indicates with her tattooed hand.

   I enter the reception room and find a fireplace full of burning wood logs.

   There is an antique tasselled settee where I sit down.

   While I wait for Mrs Mighty, I realise that the crackling wood logs and wind chimes I hear turn me dizzy.

   I rub my eyes with my hand and shake my head.

   ‘Mr Digger?’ Mrs Mighty addresses me.

   I peer at her as she sits opposite the side of the room, her cleavage exposed.

   ‘Tell me please….’ And I could not hear myself talking apart wind chimes and crackling fire.

   I see her answer but do not understand a word. Black smoke is erupting out of her mouth turning her into a hazy shape.

   I try hard to keep my mind clear writing down everything she says, but the next thing I remember, I am walking to my car.

   On my way, I find a piece of paper lying in the sandbox. I bend down to pick it up.

   There is a drawing of a black spider in a square and a stick man.

   I put it in my notebook, and sit in my car musing. What the hell happened to me?

   I open my notebook to see what I have written, but it contains nothing else just scratches in black ink.

   I throw it on the passenger seat disappointed and take off to the police quarters.

   All afternoon, I sit in my office staring at the drawing I found on the ground trying to understand its meaning. But I cannot figure it out. Also, I cannot get my head around, how Mr Mighty could disappear into a forest.

   Police brushed a whole forest for a week seeking for him, but found nothing.

   I look outside and see a moon shining brightly over buildings. It is eleven o’clock night, a late April night. I hear loud music on the streets.

   Tonight is Carnival Parade in Rio de Janeiro.

   I pull on my jacket, put on my hat and leave deciding to contact the inspector who dealt with this case before. Maybe he can give me more details.

   I squeeze through hundreds of women and see only one face all of them – Mrs Mighty.

   Loud music and women are singing causing me a headache and suddenly I hear wind chimes.

   I look at women. All of them are passing me and talking to me, ‘You don’t know what you are going for, cowboy!’

   I step back, but women surround me. They push me and pull me all over the place repeating the same sentence.

   I warn pulling out my police badge and showing them, ‘I will need to arrest you if you will attack me!’

   Women release me laughing at me in masculine voices and I return home absolutely exhausted.

   I sit in my sofa chair in the living room and I fall asleep.

   In a dream, I see Mrs Mighty again.

   She lays down next to me naked running her index finger over my lips.

   ‘Mr Digger.’ Her voice is soft. ‘if you’ll intend to find out the truth, I’ll end up with you.’

   ‘Excuse me?’

   ‘You won’t excuse yourself.’

   ‘I don’t understand.’ I pushed her away from me. ‘I do my job and you won’t stop me.’

   ‘I’m a witch, inspector Digger!’ She stands up, suddenly absolutely dressed up. Her beautiful face turns craggy with a prune mouth.

   She shoots her oxblood tongue out of her mouth. It looks like a snake’s tongue wrapping around my neck.

   I lose my breath.

   My eyes spring open feeling the desire to get something stronger. I shoot a look out of the window.

    It is dark and raining.

   I get out of my bed and walk to the kitchen for some vodka, open the freezer and almost faint seeing Mr           Mighty’s head in a drawer.

   It is snow-white and frozen.

   ‘Gosh!’ I slam the door.

   Thunder blasts outside and it seems to me like a low voice telling me something.

   I return to the living room, open the escritoire and chug whisky from its neck staring at the wild weather outside.

   Lightening again cracks the black sky forming the face of Mrs Mighty for a split second. I step back and shut the curtains.

   I plunge into a chair with the escritoire in my hand and do not notice how I fall asleep again.

   The next morning, I am awoken by my ex-wife – Lisa. Our relationship starts to improve after a year of living separated and we sense as if we have fallen in love again.

   I walk into the kitchen and see a whole chicken on the table and my escritoire next to it.

   ‘Graham.’ She kisses me. ‘That job will kill you.’

   I sit down and run my hand through my hair.

   ‘I took out from your freezer a chicken.’ Lisa prepares vegetables. ’I thought, you would like to eat tonight filled up chicken.’

   ‘Lisa! have to return to see Mrs Mighty regarding her husband’s disappearance.’ I have changed my mind.

   I return to the farm, take off my shades and walk to the cattle shed.

   Mrs Mighty feeds pigs not noticing my presence.

   I enter the shed put on latex glows and observe the room.

   Everything is tidy.

    As I walk deeper over the scab’s footpath, I notice something hanging on the floor as if an extremely fat and short bloodworm. I crouch down and pick it up, gently rub it off and realise holding something terrifying.

   It is a piece of a human’s finger.

   My breath hitches and I step back.

   Black spider, I recall a conversation with the little girl. They can take any shape.

   I slide the finger into a plastic bag understanding the meaning of the drawing I found on the ground.

   Mrs Mighty appears in the doorway holding two metal buckets. I see grunting pigs running out to the pig pen. Thousands of spiders crawled out of the buckets up her body making her appear black.

   She hisses in a terrible voice staring at me

   I jump in my car, turn on the sirens and head away to police headquarters.

   The latest discovery has left me puzzled. Is it right that Mrs Mighty murdered her husband and made him disappear in the pig barn? Did he hurt her daughter? Or. Did she desire to get Mr Mighty’s wealth?

   There is just only one way to find out the truth. Ask for police to search Mrs Mighty’s property for more evidence.

   I remember what I read about Mrs Mighty. She is a twenty-five years old Romany nationality girl coming from a poor Romanian family.

   Mr Mighty, who is forty years older than Mrs Mighty married her, fathered a daughter and gave her the life she could only dream of. But. In return she murdered him.    

   ‘The limb must stay with me, inspector,’ Suddenly, I hear a woman’s voice behind me.

   ‘Will you make me disappear in the cattle shed too?’ I shoot the look in the rear mirror. Mrs Mighty is dressed up as a police officer holding metal hand-cuffs in her hands.

    ‘No, inspector Digger.’ She takes from her head her police hat off and applies it to my head. ‘I will make you disappear in the prison, Mr Digger.

   Abruptly, I sense something on my shoulders. I have a glance.


   But when I turn my eyes to the road, I see I have entered a pavement where children walk.

   I drive too fast and cannot stop.

   My eyes see a flock of screaming children. People are in panic, but in my car, I am on my own.


   I open my eyes being awoken by vivid memories I had a deadly fight and I killed somebody.

   Along with me on the floor lays my flat TV, a crashed bottle, a few broken whiskey glasses and a floor lamp.

   A damaged tetra pack of tomato juice, and a few alcohol bottles finished and unfinished still stand on the coffee table. The awards of The Best TV Show of the Year, The Best Program Host of the Year and other awards are not on the ledge as they used to be but hanging scattered across my living room.

   I prop myself on my elbows and suddenly I feel an unbearable headache. It is so terrible that I barely hold myself up.

   What time is it? I muse and glance at the clock on the wall. It is smashed and shows half past eight. I look out the window. It’d dark.

   The rain still has not gone and the raindrops are tapping restlessly on the window panes.

   I smell vodka somewhere near and I imagine a spirited drink running down my throat warming it pleasantly up. I let my eyes search for it skimming the coffee table.

   There is an opened bottle of Smirnoff standing on the edge of the coffee table. I outstretch my hand. Almost grab it. It sways. Falls. I see how it is softly thudding on the dirty carpet away from me and the crystal-clear liquid discharges steadily out of it.

   Only now I detect red patches on the bottle. My mind immediately desperately starts to recall what happened before it went unconscious.

   No conclusions penetrate my memory as usual. It experienced another blackout, I notify as a matter of fact.

   I manage to get myself on my feet. Abruptly, I want to throw up and instantly I head to the toilet. It is staggering rather than confident rushing scrambling walls nearly falling and holding myself at the living room’s door jamb.

   I throw up a couple of times. Using my forearm, I wipe my mouth feeling relieved.

   Suddenly, I notice a woman laying prone on the floor in the hallway. She is motionless. Her face and her hair are soaked in blood. The sight terrifies me and my heart is almost splintering in horror. Frankly, I cannot remember anyone asking to come to my home with me.

   Who is she?

   I close my eyes and breath several times returning slowly back in my reception room and leaning with my back against the wall. What should I do? I repeat the same jiggering question over and over in my mind.

   I enter the corridor again and approach the woman. I roll her on her back and as I do so I am overtaken with dread. It’s my daughter.

   ‘Nelly!’ I sob in tears. ‘My baby, shining light!’

   I collapse on the floor next to her and gather her cold body in my arms. I cry as if I have not cried before staring at her passive face.

   Tears won’t help, I remember words I used to say to my daughter when she was a child running around drained in tears, they just relieve the pain. You must act.  

   I dash my tears away with the back of my hand thinking about the way I should sort this problem hearing a clock ticking on the hallway wall.

   I raise my eyes and see it showing midnight. Outside is a thunderstorm. Through the main door window, I see lightning flashing and hear thunder crashing in the sky.

   I tried to work out how to get rid of my daughter before I have witnesses and a hard-hearted plan born in my mind.

   Not far away from here, there is a forest which recently has been inhabited by an enormous number of wolves. Locals soon after nick-named it ‘The Phoenix Forest’ because of a few brave hearts who have tried to prove that it is all only a made-up story by entering it. Though some of them have been found dead ripped in parts in the forest.

   I rushed up to the attic for cello tape and plastic bags.

   Somebody knocked on my door. I froze. I waited. Nothing happened. A seemingly unwelcome guest left.

   After returning downstairs I quickly wrapped Nelly’s body into black plastic sacks and carried it over my shoulder to my truck in the garage. I rolled her into the boot and slammed close it.

   Opened the shutter door of the garage, jumped into my Ford Ranger and left.

   On the radio, they warned that a storm is coming.

   The wind was becoming wilder and wilder bending trees on the roadside. Sometimes it was hard to see where I’m going. I knew it was not far, around fifteen miles away.

   Initially, I saw blue and red lights flashing at a long distance. I slowed down and dropped a chewing gum in my mouth suspecting – out there is Police. Thoughts that I should turn around encouraged me to do so. I looked for an alternative route, but there weren’t any.

  My heart started to race and I thought for some reason that they know what was in my truck. That stranger who knocked on my door maybe seen through the windows what happened and reported police. What if, it was a paparazzi who followed me? I’m famous not only in the UK but in America too. My Animal Farm TV show has reached in a year unbelievable fame. 

   As I neared I noticed several police cars, dogs and police vans.

   A police officer signalled for me to pull over. I was in sweats. My heart racing mad. My mouth going dry.

   Police dogs were barking and running around my vehicle immediately after I stopped. They were loud and aggressive sniffing as I saw them glancing in my wind mirrors.

   ‘Sir!’ a Police officer gently knocked on my door window. ‘Open the window, please!’

   I pressed a button and the window slid open. The rain and wind gust straight away entered the salon.

   ‘Driving licence!’ He ordered.

   I opened the glow box and passed it to him. He left taking something on the radio.

   Another police officer walked around.

   He skimmed slowly his eyes through the open window across the salon not saying a word.

   Dogs restlessly barked behind my truck as if demanding to open the boot. They seemed paranoid.

   ‘We have to see what’s in your boot, sir!’ The police officer ordered. ‘Please, open it!’

   I hesitated indicating the weather, but reading from his face I understood he meant his words regardless weather and I stepped out in the rain.

   I opened it.

   The police officer shone his torch stopping at the plastic bag. The dogs were pulling forward as if ready to jump in it and rip the bag open to expose my daughter’s body.

   ‘Mr. Darkshine?’ Another Police officer returned with documents and handed me back.

   ‘Are you that guy who is running the TV Program ‘The Animal Farm’?’ His voice sounded with amusement.

   ‘Yes, sir.’ I shrunk deeper in my raincoat.

   ‘Wow!’ The officer who demanded me to open track’s boot suddenly changed too. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you in person. It’s my favourite TV show.’

   ‘Thank you,’ I gratitude, ‘It’s my pleasure to hear that.’

   ‘We are searching for a prisoner who escaped tonight just a few hours ago,’ he explained.

   The dogs still aggressively barked staring at me as if knowing what I did and wishing me to unmask.

   ‘Could you let me go, please?’ I tried to use the situation in my favour.

   ‘Yes, Mr Darkshine.’ The demanding officer slammed my truck’s boot shut and stepped out of my way. ‘We’re sorry for suspecting you.’

   I quickly stepped back in my Ranger feeling as if I have gone through a mincing machine and took off in blackness. The police flashing lights faded away.

   I slowed down carefully searching for a dead tree with swings hunged in a rusted chain next to a gravel road. I was told by my friends it is the sign for ‘The Phonex Forest’.

   There it was almost impossible to notice in such a kind of weather and I turned left. I passed it and a hanging doll upside down in the swings made my heart freeze for a fleeting moment. It appeared as if laughing at me.

   It took a while to reach the forest.

   There it was with a partly ripped off sign, which I assume was meant written ‘Don’t enter. Wolves.’

   I entered.

   Here was so dark and it was almost impossible to see where I am going as I went deeper and deeper, I think I could see the shapes of wolves appearing among trees and hedges illuminated by Ranger’s headlights.

   Suddenly the road was over and I had nowhere to go. I left the engine on to make the nose and scare wolves away if there were any. Somewhere near I could see again shapes passing trees.

   Something rattled against Ranger making nearly faint. I was sure that must be a wolf running around. But it wasn’t. That was a branch of a tree.

   I grabbed a torch and a knife from behind the seat and stepped out of my truck.

   As I opened the door, through heavy rain and thunders I could hear rustling grass and low growling.

   I took a breath and stepped out in the rain loudly saying inarticulate words to scare creatures away, opening the boot, dragging Nelly’s body out pulling it aside and unwrapping it from plastic bags.

   A smell of copper hit my nose. I stroked her blood-clotted hair. ‘I’m Sorry, Nelly! I have to go.’ My voice filled with tears.

   I threw all the plastic bags back into the boot slammed it close and before I could return to the truck I noticed several wolves surrounding me.

   I swayed my torch shouting, growling and acting aggressively and I could see their eyes were no human. I slowly retreated. They stood in a short distance staring at me.

   Instantly, I could hear one wolf swiftly approaching me from behind aggressively barking and I turned around to face it flashing a torch beam straight into its muzzle.

   It didn’t want me. Its target was the corpse. It jumped on it starting to rip it into parts as other wolves joined it in unexpected pride.

   I swiftly returned to the truck and reversed Ranger as quickly as I could.

   Though, I stopped for a second looking at the wolves. They were too busy sharing their late dinner.

   I made a circle on my way home to avoid the same police officers feeling relieved everything went as planned. Now, I needed to tidy up my house to get rid of the evidence.

   Somebody was standing in the front yard under the porch of the entrance when I returned.

I left my vehicle and shading my eyes from the rain I addressed a stranger, ‘Who are you?’

   ‘My name is Dunkel Omega.’ The stranger calmly replied. Hearing his name my heart wrenched painfully. He was a rapist and a murderer. He raped my daughter four years ago. Other female victims after raping he murdered.

   I wanted to kill him for the things he had done to my daughter. ‘You should be in prison!’ I shouted.

   ‘I escaped it, but can you escape, Mr Darkshine?’

   I froze.

  ‘I raped your daughter, but left her alive.’

   ‘What do you mean?’ I could hear my voice trembling.

   ‘You’ve blood on your hands. You have to wash them off.'

   ‘I don’t know what are you talking about.’

   ‘You want me to tell you what happened yesterday at half past eight?’

   My body chilled dreading hearing his words.

    ‘What do you want?’

   ‘You help me to get out of this country and I forget what happened yesterday.’ He walked down the stoop in the rain towards me.

   He clapped on my shoulder with his wet hand. ‘It sounds like a fair deal. Doesn’t it?’

   I didn’t think so. My mind generated another murder, acknowledging I’m in a trap.

   He must disappear tonight before the sun rises.


I moved into this flat a week ago and noticed that there is always somebody in the window swaying in a rocking chair over the road two floors down. I have that habit of peering out of my window.  

   In late afternoons bright light is casting over a black shadow from behind the stranger, but on a day its shape is vague blending with the dark background. There is not much happening.

   Who is that stranger?

   I lit up a cigarette and stare at the stranger musing, it must feel lonely. However, I notice my statement that it is a loner, is wrong.  There are at least two persons attending to the stranger. It seems one of them is giving him meals on regular bases at 9 am, 1 pm and 6 pm, but around 8 pm it is taken away from the window. It appears as a slim woman from the way she looks and the way she acts. It must be a carer.

   Though, another person attends it not as frequently. From the shape of the visitor, I take it is another woman. She is stocky with curly hair that lay over her shoulders. She is always kissing it on its forehead.          Then she is sitting next to the stranger while talking sometimes for hours, sometimes for ten minutes.

   I notice that there are days when their conversation is very vibrant. The stocky woman stands with her arms akimbo. Probably, they disagree about something.

   Later, when the carer comes around with a meal, it takes her forearm and seemingly speaks. She sits down and nods. Then she stands up, takes dirty tableware from the stranger and leaves. It stays alone again.

   As days go nothing changes. They are still the same people who attend it.

   But for some reason, I become obsessed with this loner and start taking images of him on my phone.

   I remember I wanted to buy a flat over the road and learned that they are huge as it is a pre-war house. So, I had a question, why the stranger has picked such a huge flat if it lives on its own?

   Eventually, I started to do dairy by recording events regarding the stranger.

   The stocky woman appeared with a new habit. She opened regularly the huge window and pointed at it with her index finger.

   I opened my window naively hoping I will hear their conversation, but a part of hunkering cars and people mumbling voices I could not hear anything.

   The stranger did not appear happy and seemingly argued with her, but when the carer came around she shut the window. The stranger took her hand rising their head.

   It seemed that tensions between the stocky woman and the stranger become more obvious. She do not kiss the stranger on its forehead, but straight away got to the business walking back and forth.

   I tried to recognize the stocky woman on the street when she left the stranger watching every single person leaving the building.

   There she was walking out of the building and climbing into her red posh car that had a number plate with the word WHITE.

   I took an image of her. But to be honest, I did not know why did that at all.

   I peered at them sipping whiskey and musing. There must be something underneath.

   One day the stocky woman and the stranger got into a massive argument. It raised its hand towards her pointing at her with one of it. She grabbed its arm. It looked like it was screaming in pain. Suddenly, she slapped it and it plonked back in its rocking chair.

   I take a few images.

   She leaves.

   The next thing I saw was, the woman storming out of the building slamming behind her wooden door and climbing into her car loudly closing the car door.   

   Around an hour the carer appears in the window and embraces the stranger in her arms stroking its head as it talks to her and it seems it finds its peace only with the carer. I take another picture.

   The next morning, I am awoken early by an unusual noise on the street.

   In my sleep, I hear loud voices not being able to distinguish whether they are real or just in my dream. I open my eyes and listen. Indeed, voices are real. I get into my slippers and rush to the window, crack open the drapes and see a person with a smashed head lying on a footpath lying in a pool of blood.

  Discussing. I think. The view of a mushed head makes me almost throw up.

Instinctively, I glance at the window where the stranger used to be. My breath hitches seeing the window wide open.

   Police cars are arriving and police officers are restricting the scene, but out of the blue papas appear actively taking images.

   I turn on the TV in the hope to hear news about the accident outside and desperately run through several TV channels.

   Finally, there is one.

   It shows a woman crying and I realise it is the same woman who attended to the stranger and had argued about something.

  I turn on the TV louder and return to the window to watch what is happening.

  One of the police officers leads the carer to a police van and puts her in handcuffs.

   A journalist on TV says, ‘Leonora Long is under arrest on suspicion of the murder of Archibald White. She was caring for him for 10 years since he became blind.’

   Paramedics cover the body with a trapline.

   The journalist tells briefly about Archibald White, ‘Mr White back in the 1970s became a world-famous actor by winning several Oscars with a low-budget film “I Never Fall.” Later he founded an actor agency offering new talents to become famous, which eventually became a multimillion worth company.’

   When I see a woman who used to visit a stranger, my blood is bubbling like soda in my veins. I want to confront her and tell, her that I know who murdered Mr White.

   After everything is over and the street is cleared, I find White agency’s phone number and call.

   A kind woman’s voice answers, ‘Hi there! How can I help you?’

  ‘Hi! My name is Christopher. I would like to talk with Mrs White because I know who murdered Mr White.’

  ‘Christopher, wait a minute, please.’

   An advertisement takes place praising the agency for its unbelievable talent to make new wannabes of worldwide famous actors calling several popular actor names.

   ‘Hello, Christopher.’ A cold and devoid woman’s voice addresses me snapping ongoing advertising. ‘What do you want?’

   ‘The truth.’ I splutter out, ‘You pushed Mr White out of the window.’

    I hear a forced laugh.

   ‘I saw you slapping Mr White in his face.’

   ‘Nonsense.’ she affronts.

   ‘I have taken images of you and Mr White together.’

   ‘Let’s meet tonight at the well know nightclub “Twisted” at 9 pm.’ The woman offers me a deal, ‘I’ll be dressed in a white polo-neck, black jeans and white high heal shoes.’

   I accept Mrs White’s offer regardless of my instinct to suspect this meeting. I desire to know her motivation.

   Armed with the evidence of images and records of events that I have put down in a notebook, I turn up at       ‘Twisted’. Loud music and buzzing voices of people enter my ears. I wander around the club ordering whiskey with ice cubes and wait.

   An hour is gone. Mrs White has not turned up. It makes me feel gutted. ‘Cow!’ I scold her, I was furious about myself letting her full me.

  Before leaving the club I run to the toilet. A man stands next to me with thick-lensed avatar-type glasses and a rich ginger moustache.

   ‘Listen, Christopher Drain.’ He says close to my ear chewing a straw, ‘Don’t interrupt.’

   ‘Excuse me?!’

   ‘You can fall too.’ He zips up his trousers and leaves patting me on my shoulder.

   I grab him by his forearm, but he swiftly detached exiting the toilet.

   I follow him, but there is a man on my way banging into me, ‘Sir! Would you like to buy this perfume?’

   I push him aside heading out of the toilet. The man with avatar glasses is gone. I desperately roam through crowds of people searching for him.

   He has vanished.

   Suddenly I feel a spike with a needle in my back. I sway around.

   People are pushing through passing me.

   ‘Who was it?’ I ask a woman that passes me.

   ‘What?’ She frowns her eyebrows. Her voice was upset.

   ‘Who spiked me with a needle?’ I shout at the crowd. No response. None feel bothered about me.

    I turn up to security guards and say loud, ‘I was spiked with a needle. Could you watch in cameras, who was it?’

   They laugh at me their hands crossed on their chest, ‘Hey, pal! This is the safest club in Manchester.’

   ‘Where is your manager?!’ My anger grows bigger as they do not take me seriously. One of the security guys talks on the radio.

   A woman in a white polo-neck appears in the distance. I immediately try to approach her. ‘Mrs White? I have to talk to you!’

   Instead of being able to talk to her, she gives security guys an order to escort me out of the club.

   I resist. ‘I’ll tell everything to the police! You will pay for things you have done to Mr White!’

   They hold me tight by my arms leading me out. People are watching in horror stepping out of our way.

   My notebook slips on the floor and one of the security guys picks it up.

   ‘It’s mine!’ I shout trying to reach it, but they throw me out clapping their hands as if I would be dirty stuff. 

   Abruptly, I lose consciousness and the next thing I remember is a hospital. I hear regular beeping noises, people’s voices and something rolling past me as if on wheels.

   I open my eyes, but I cannot see a thing.

   Everything is blurred.

   ‘AH!’ I scream in fear.

   Somebody approaches me and puts its hand on my shoulder. ‘Mr Drain, everything is okay.’ It’s a woman’s voice.

   ‘I can’t see!’ I cry. ‘WHY!’

   ‘Your neighbour found you in the communal hallway at the entrance.’ She says calmly. ‘We suppose you fell downstairs, hit your head and lost your eyesight.’

   ‘It’s not possible!’

   ‘It’s weird how brains work,’ the woman sighs.

    After a pause she continues, ‘Police want to talk to you.’

   ‘Thank you.’ I feel so happy.

   ‘My name is Eric Baldwin. I’m inspector,’ a man introduces himself. He pushes something towards me.            Probably it is a chair.

   ‘Thanks for coming. I have to tell you things…’

   ‘We have questions to ask you before we charge you.’ Eric snaps at me.

   ‘I don’t understand.’

   ‘You have been sexually insulting another man in a toilet at “Twisted”.’ His voice was calm. ‘Also, you have left another man injured with a head injury. And that’s not it. On your phone, we have found images of Mr White and his carer Leonora Long.’

   ‘How come?’ I raise my voice.

   ‘Apparently, you offered sex to Peter McFly in the toilet and tried to touch him. He has a witness. A man who sold perfume at that time. You pushed him on the floor and he suffered bruises. His name is Ali Burns.’

   I purse my lips not being able to say a word.

   ‘We would like to think that you have been involved in the murder of Mr White and we have questions.’

   ‘I’m not!’ I scream, ‘Leonora Long didn’t kill Mr White! It must be Mrs White!’

   ‘Miss Long already admitted murder.’ Inspector’s voice firm.

   ‘What?’ my words catch in my throat.

   ‘Now we need to understand your part in this murder.’

   I feel suddenly my life has spiralled straight into hell. I needed time to digest three charges.