Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Music On The Lake

At the end of 2014 I became a lifetime member to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society and to celebrate I wanted to write something particularly Lovecraftian. I had always thought that the area around the home of a certain friend particularly lent itself to the New England countryside of Lovecraft's works with need only a little more emphasis or embellishment about it's isolation, so the seeds were sown for this story. I've created Britannic University as the Northern Ireland equivalent of Lovecraft's Miskatonic (I'm sure you can work out which university it is based on), and Holywood Sanatorium as our equivalent to the much more famous Arkham Sanitarium. Lovecraft was keen for other authors to use elements of his work in order to expand the scope of his universe and so I have borrowed what I think are the right elements for this story to become part of the Cthulhu Mythos and yet be wholly original and a standalone in itself.

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I've entered this story into a competition on Freeditorial so they have the digital publishing rights for the next two years (unless I win, in which case it will be the next 10). You can read it if you click the link below, and I'd appreciate if you did download the story as it will give me a boost.

Many thanks,


Freeditorial- The Music On The Lake

You can also buy the print edition on Amazon

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Planetside: AXIS

So for a while I had been looking to rewrite my original Planetside stories, basically take everything I added to that world and make it my own. I wanted to explore the workings of the Republic and what life was like on Earth and the Colonies, particularly the world of Axis that would eventually be the catalyst of the civil war. I wanted to explore a Republic were the military authority is not absolute, drugs and human trafficking are a major problem, organised crime is rampant, and underneath it all is the growing conspiracy for a military coup d'etat. I'm also using the new universe to re-explore the position of the Executors and their civil authority counterparts the Legislators (who I never got introducing into the original Planetside series). Also, some of you who are reading this may spot the reference to the Staceh backstory that laid the context for the original TBB stories.
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Chapter 1

Political assassinations are not the done thing in polite society, certainly not if the politician is particularly inept and therefore perfect for the job. That kind of thing clears the way for all kinds of tyrants and idealists, neither of whom are good for maintaining the status quo in a system were little gets done and everyone gets rich.
Still, everyone has enemies, and politicians tend to accumulate them quicker than most and political enemies tend to have a bite.
Not everyone it can be said is afforded the opportunity to expire in such a beautiful setting as the Hotel Duc de Saint Sebastian overlooking the bay in Dubrovnik, a little bit of the French Riviera in Croatia. Anyone dying in such luxury probably died happy.
Or in this case with two bullet wounds to the chest and slumped across the corpse of a thirteen year old prostitute.
Legislator Sandford had been assigned the case, the first reason being that politicians were civilians and a murdered Congressman from Scotland definitely fell under Legislative authority. The second and more pressing reason was the child. Sex trafficking was a growing concern within the Republic and the Senate was threatening to shift authority away from the civil oversight to the Executive branch, military investigators, and the Legislature were damned if they were going to let the Executors take over.
Sandford had a good investigative track record so they pulled him off a relatively straight forward fraud case in Stockholm and put him on the first flight down to the Adriatic.
In better circumstances he liked this part of the world, and with his dark hair and swarthy skin he was much better suited to this climate than the cold north, and his family had roots in Montenegro just down the road.
His mere presence intimidated the local police authorities and he very much liked that, the black uniform of a Parliamentary officer carried a lot of weight and on the occasion when there wasn’t enough time to earn respect he was happy to settle for fear. The officers hung back as he surveyed the room, once all pristine whites and gold leaf now stained with reds turning rust brown. Bloody footprints crisscrossed the room to wardrobes and drawers tossed asunder, evidently the killer had been seeking something.
“Have your men inventoried the room?”
The lead detective, a man with the look of a former soldier who had seen conflict spoke with a clear voice with only the slightest hint of a Balkan accent.
“Standard fare for a traveller, passport and toiletries, plus his Congressional ID, Congress lapel pin, datapad, wallet with some money and some cash cards, personal keys, and a paperback novel.”
“What was the book?”
“Some Scottish murder mystery,” the detective, Kasun replied, “fitting really.”
“Except Scottish murder mysteries usually involve bodies in fields of heather,” the other officer, Horvat said, his accent much more pronounced, “and the killer being English.”
“Or Glaswegian,” Sandford crouched to look across the scene to the corpse, “the body collapsed on the child, suffocating him?”
“That’s what we believe,” Kasun said, “we were told not to touch the bodies until you got here. Our forensics team is standing by.”
“You’re sure none of your men have been in here?”
Sandford stood to full height and moved across the room, stepping carefully around the bloody footprints and indicating the detectives follow him.
“Certain,” Kasun frowned, “the cleaner found the body this afternoon, when we realised it was a member of Congress we contacted Parliament, the room was sealed until your arrival.”
Reaching down Sandford grabbed the wrist of the dead boy and turned the hand up for the detectives to see the black smudges on the tips of his fingers.
“Then I’d like to find whoever it was fingerprinted this boy.”
“Executor Villeford would have us turn the Republic into a police state!”
There were roars of disapproval from those gathered in congress on the side of the accuser, the assembled representatives of the Legislative branch.
“The Republic already is a police state, Legislator, we just choose not to call it that,” Executor Villeford stood in opposition, the Parliamentary assembly in the House of Commons becoming heated, “what I propose is not a crackdown or an infringement on basic civil liberties but simply a redistribution of resources.
“No one can deny that the Colonial Marshal Service is anything other than an abject failure, militia authority is not enough to maintain security on the colonies, that much is fact. Only last year an uprising had to be put down by military force on Larzoss.”
“Yes, Executor,” Legislator Carnegie said over the clapping from the Executive branch, “and what appellation has been bestowed upon the lieutenant in command of that force? The Butcher, was it not?”
That statement brought a stream of boos and shouts against the Executive authority, Carnegie continued, “The military are not prepared to handle the dynamics of a civilian working system, soldiers only think in terms of them and us, they think only in conflict. Being leaders of people, of the public, it is not what they are trained for.”
“Larzoss was an unfortunate result of a loss of control by your civilian Marshal Service and a failure by the Legislative branch to provide clear and proper intelligence for our troops,” Villeford’s accusation was almost drowned out by the roar of disapproval from the opposition, “however… however, we still regained control of the colony, and in our lessons from that we propose the establishment of a Colonial Guard, a company of men, real soldiers attached to every colony to protect the people and the interests of the Republic.”
There were cheers from the Executive branch from all except Villeford who stood with a knowing smile of victory, and from Executor Monaghan who sat at the back of the Commons watching with quiet reserve. He made a couple of notes on a pad in his hand and attached it to a message to the central Executive database labelled for the attentions of Executors Cooke and Gainsborough.
“And what of the Colonial Administration,” Legislator Carnegie was back on his feet, “will that too fall under the care of the military, drill a bit of boot camp efficiency into them?”
“No, no,” Villeford said with a grin, “I believe the Legislative branch is more than capable of keeping the plumbing functional without our help.”
This brought boos from the Legislators and laughter from the Executors, Carnegie seethed in silence whilst Monaghan stood and slipped quietly out of the room.
Kasun sipped a strong espresso as he leafed through the case file of the formerly Congressman Macmillan, the forensics team had spent the better part of two days going over every inch of the room under the instruction of the Legislator. They found a couple of different hairs, which would be enough to get DNA traces on suspects whom more likely than not would turn out to be former residents of the room.
On the body they found traces of black powder gunpowder which would suggest that the killer had used an old muzzle loading weapon, most likely an old revolver, .357 calibre according to the size of the ball bearings removed from his chest. Kasun sighed, those weapons were beyond antiquated and long gone were the days when you needed any kind of permit to own one, in the borderless European heartland of the Republic it could have come from anywhere.
He called a waiter over and ordered a fresh coffee. The café was quite busy, but then it sat along the Placa-Stradum in the heart of the old city looking toward the museum on Pred Dvorom. There were plenty of tourists.
Sitting across from him was a handsome man in a sandy shirt and brown waistcoat, he had the look of a writer or artist with brown hair hanging past high cheekbones and a pair of spectacles with fine square frames. Kasun had recently separated from his boyfriend and allowed his mind to briefly wander to a romantic dalliance with a stranger he met in the café. Deep blue eyes, definitely not a local, maybe French or Scandinavian, he was thin and delicate in his movements but Kasun could see the definition of the muscles beneath his shirt.
Keep your mind on the job he told himself, and then it occurred to him that he had been sitting here for almost half an hour. Legislator Sandford was supposed to meet him here twenty minutes ago, where the hell was he? Somehow he didn’t believe the brutally efficient man in black to have problems with punctuality.
He was going to get up to use the phone when the waiter arrived back with his coffee, as he paid he saw the handsome man get up and leave. Kasun sighed and dropped a few coins tip onto the waiter’s tray, at the same time noticing a man and woman entering from the other side of the veranda and wearing a little too much clothing for the Croatian summer.
She was from the north, maybe Poland or Latvia from the look of her, and he was without doubt Russian, and ex-military at that. Square head, square shoulders, frost blue eyes that could be weapons in themselves, and he was built like a tank.
Russian Mafia.
Kasun flicked the file to a shot of the suffocated child then looked up at the new arrivals, the woman was looking over at him. That answered the question of who was running the prostitute, the mob were turning human trafficking into a sick joke in the Republic. They probably didn’t take kindly to losing an asset.
She turned her eyes back to her companion who at that time was slowly perusing the menu, she flicked her coat off over the back of her seat revealing a skin tight belly top and too much jewellery. They could have been there to intimidate him or otherwise interfere with the investigation, or Kasun conceded it could be pure coincidence.
He went back to the case file but kept one wary eye on the new arrivals.
“Sorry I’m late,” Horvat arrived at Kasun’s shoulder, nearly making the detective jump, “I was held up at the Sebastian. Would you believe that their entire camera system failed on the day of the murder?”
“No, I wouldn’t,” Kasun closed the folder, “was it sabotaged or turned off?”
Horvat sat as the waiter arrived with a menu, the detective pointed at the espresso and indicated he should bring two then returned to his partner.
“We’ve got the killers coming in from the emergency stairwell, two men in balaclavas, ski masks-“
“Hold on, I thought you said the camera failed?”
“That’s where it gets interesting,” Horvat removed his notepad and flicked several pages in, a camera still of two hooded men in black leather jackets appeared on the paper, “we have these two guys arriving around 11am, they come from the south side stairwell and proceed directly to Macmillan’s room, half an hour later they leave. Then there is no more activity in the corridor until the cleaner arrives two hours later.”
The image on the paper changed to show the cleaning cart stop outside the room and the Filipino maid knock on the door. The image changed again, now running a sequence of stills of the maid opening the door, then entering the room, the door almost closed, then her running out the door and up the corridor to the emergency telephone.
“The crime was reported, and in the twenty minutes it took our men to arrive on scene the cameras recorded this.”
The image on the notepad changed to static.
“We have twenty minutes of this,” Horvat said, “it stopped literally seconds before we got to the room.”
“That’s analog static,” Kasun said, “something interfered with the signal before it was recorded.”
“Right, because if the equipment had been interfered with it would have recorded blackness, or not at all. Somebody didn’t want to be seen.”
“Our mystery fingerprinter,” Kasun couldn’t take his eyes off the static, “he must have been on the scene at the time it was reported, and knew our response time. A second contractor?”
“Macmillan must have been a popular guy.”
“Have you shown this to the Legislator yet?”
“No, he hasn’t been near us all day.”
Kasun nearly knocked the tray of coffee from the hands of the waiter who had arrived back at their table just five seconds too soon, the Russian couple looked over.
“We’ve had no contact with him since last night,” Horvat paid for the coffee, “and Parliament aren’t answerable to us so we figured he was off following up his own leads. I thought that I’d be able to fill him in with you now.”
“He never showed up,” a chill ran up Kasun’s spine despite the heat of the afternoon sun, the last conversation that he had with Sandford was the Legislator organising this meeting, “any word on the mail?”
“No, I sent him a note this morning about the ball bearings but it hasn’t been opened yet.”
“Right, head to the precinct and see what you can find out,” Kasun rose from the table and gathered his files, “I’m going to his hotel.”
Horvat downed his espresso, “Will do.”
He was about to walk off as Kasun paused mid turn, “What was the note on the ball bearings?”
“Just metallurgy, the steel was Irish, came from a plant in Killarney.”
The detective nodded and strode off into the crowd on the Placa-Stradum, Horvat dithered a moment checking his notes, he paid no heed to the Russian couple as they left.
Executor Monaghan strode along the marble corridors of Buckingham Palace on his way for a meeting with the President, a position that was more symbolic than functional but in many cases appearances were enough to keep the population satisfied.
The current President was different from the usual sacrificial lamb however, he had served in an aerotech unit offworld and had a healthy distrust for the triumvirate system that governed the Republic. Mostly he feared that the Judicators had failed in their duty to reign in the Parliamentary houses and that Congress was now subject to the whim of the Executive and Legislative houses. This was entirely true and had been the case for a long time, however it had only been of late that Parliament had become more obvious about this control.
Monaghan didn’t care much whether the public knew how things really worked or not, even if it were not the case there would always be conspiracy nuts who would say it was. He did however care for the institution, the idea of democracy rather than democracy itself had served the Republic well, the people liked having a public office as the highest level of state, even if it was a powerless figurehead. It was the very idea that any man or woman could be the leader of the vast entity that was the Republic that kept the populace in line, the illusion bound them together better than fear of the armed forces ever would.
When the President approached him with his suspicions about the erosion of power it had been a subtle testing of the water, but he knew as well that things had been changing for the worse in Parliament. For Monaghan it stemmed from the fact that he simply did not trust Villeford.
He quietly recruited a few other trusted Executors to keep watch on the Parliamentary actions, to watch on the foundations of the Republic, to avert any movement that could lead to what was maybe at this point an inevitable civil war.
Things went momentarily black as Kasun’s head slammed against the coarse brickwork, he tasted blood in his mouth from a burst lip, a sharp blow to the kidney collapsed him to the ground.
Tears came to his eyes as he spat a mouthful of blood onto the alley floor, as he tried to rise a hand grabbed the back of his neck and another around his belt and he was thrown again into the wall.
The big Russian loomed over him whilst the woman waiting until she was sure they had the detective’s full attention.
Kasun was no small man himself but the Russian rained blows that left him with little to do but try to shield himself with his now tenderised arms.
There was a thunderous bang and a spray of hot liquid covered Kasun’s face, he scrambled back in shock as suddenly the Russian collapsed, a gaping hole in his head.
The woman was backing away from a man silhouetted by daylight at the end of the alleyway, he had a long barrelled revolver aimed squarely at her chest and she was repeating something in Latvian, probably something along the lines of ‘don’t shoot’.
“I’m not that kind of policeman,” the man said in English but in a voice devoid of accent, then he shot her once through the heart and she fell onto her back, her eyes watching him as the life drained slowly from her body. The last thing that she ever saw was the puff of fire from the barrel of the gun aimed at her head, her execution.
“Drop the gun,” Kasun struggled to draw and level his own gun on the man, blood ran into one eye and the other was half blinded by involuntary tears from the beating.
“Terrible business having to deal with the Russian mob,” the man said as he holstered his pistol, “we’re trying to bring stability to the stars and we can’t even wipe out organised crime back home.”
The man hunkered next to the woman and went through the pockets of her coat then through her purse.
“I appreciate your assistance, but I said drop your gun, not holster it.”
The man looked back at Kasun who balked with sudden recognition, it was the handsome man from the café.
“Lower your weapon, detective,” he said, rising and walking over to the injured officer, he extended his hand, “Executor Constantine Gainsborough.”

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Dungannon Noir

Just something I've been messing around with, working on a minimalist writing style trying to say only what needs to be said. Can't see this ever having much of an audience though...

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Echo leaned on the bonnet of the red Lexus surrounded by a wall of broken cars, his breathing was tight, on his shirt was the growing stain of blood.
On the ground next to the car lay a body with no head, or little head, the rest of it had been scattered over the ten or so feet behind by the shotgun now lying across the bonnet behind Echo.
They had taken him here to kill him. This was where the money was, stashed in the back of a car waiting to go into the big crusher on the other side of the breakers yard.
They’d used him, and in doing so had tricked him into breaking his most inviolable rule: do not get involved with paramilitaries.
It was IRA money.
He was fucked.
They had been sloppy in what they were doing. Over-confident, thinking two shotguns made them immortal. The guy with no head, his first barrel had fired a hasty shot when Echo made his move and struck his companion dead centre of the chest, Echo had the gun turned on him and took his head off with the second barrel.
It was a lovely gun, Echo held it now, admiring the lines of the swan neck stock. It was something that you didn’t see often on over-under shotguns. It was elegant. It was a shame that it would have to go in the back of the car with the two bodies.
He knew the yard, outside the Moy on the way to Armagh. There weren’t too many neighbours, he could only hope that no one had heard the shots.
This area was in Armagh jurisdiction, they had tighter police coverage than Tyrone, if the police had been called they’d be here in five, maybe ten minutes tops.
He needed to get going.
He stashed the headless corpse in the boot of a broken Volvo and threw in the swan necked Browning.
The companion groaned as he was hoisted into the back of the car, blood gurgled from his mouth. Echo dumped him on the body of his friend, and then retrieving the other shotgun, a heavier Krieghoff affair, he emptied both barrels in quick succession into the body and dumped the gun.
He didn’t feel guilt, he didn’t feel anything. He pressed the green button and the heavy press began to crush down on the Volvo. By the time the police got here there wouldn’t be any evidence worth collecting.
He tossed the duffle bag of stolen money into the back of the Lexus, he couldn’t just give it back to the IRA, that was a death sentence for himself. His only option was to sort out the motherfucker who got him into this in the first place.
He gunned the Lexus through the gate, turning right for the Moy with the tail of the car swishing out behind him the engine roared.
In the rear view mirror he saw in the distance the flashing blue lights of the PSNI. He was out of sight by the time they got to the yard.
It was only a few miles to Dungannon.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Puritan (Second Draft)

Since I've now began to make a concerted effort to actually finish this story (and because I keep writing Lucifer Hill into other stories) I've revisited the first chapter to tie it in better with what happens in the later chapters I have written, and to generally darken it down. I also removed a few bits that never sounded right during read-back and have left this story now containing all the core elements that are required to drive the plot I have in mind, now it just needs to be padded out with 'scenery' depending on how much of a word count I'm looking.

UPDATE: This is now only a section of chapter 1, and even then has been modified, and has been released as my first full novel: Murder Incorporated.

Available to buy on Amazon.com and Kindle
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Chapter 1            Life and Death at the Gate

New York’s finest had stormed the building with guns drawn, like a wave they moved as one cautiously to surround the last survivor of the bloody trail that started three days ago.
Three days.
It felt like so much longer, months maybe, years. A thousand days and a thousand spent shell casings.
“Easy now, drop your weapon.”
I let the desert eagle slip from my grip to hang rocking by the trigger guard from one finger, smoke from the last round still whispering from the barrel like a death sigh.
The gun fell to the ground with a heavy clunk, an exclamation point to the events that led me on the dark and winding path to this place, to the pyre before me and the body smouldering within.
I look back and I think about destiny, fate, call it what you will. Did I ever have a choice? Does anyone? Was I drawn inexorably to this place by an irresistible and predetermined flow, that I was always going to end up at this point, on this cold marble floor?
Of course I know really that destiny is an abstraction, something that you can think about after you have made your choice. Destiny is the ability to recognise alternatives, missed opportunities, and mistakes.
It is retrospect, and it has always been my curse.
“Identify yourself!”
Had you done anything differently it would not be yourself looking back but another you, a subtly different doppelganger, and he too would wonder of the path not taken.
“Lucifer Hill,” I said, “detective.”
I wonder what this other me would make of the path that has taken me to this place…
* * *
It started with a corpse, a prologue.
A couple of kids found it in Wards Meadow, washed up along the Hell Gate below the baseball diamond at Field 63 and like all good children everywhere they poked a stick at the grey and bloated mass until it had burst.
“Jesus Christ that stinks!”
My partner, Burke had a way with words as subtle as a head on collision, it wasn’t that he did not regularly screen the thoughts that passed through his head before they reached his lips, but more a fact that he didn’t care.
The body lay on the rocky embankment with the brackish water of the East River lapping at its feet, stringy weeds picked up from its journey downstream clung to the mud covered green overcoat and shaggy grey hair, it, he was missing a shoe.
Further up the embankment a small group of kids stood trying to peer around the group of concerned families and general busybodies hoping to catch even a fleeting glimpse at the gruesome sight. It was then that I noticed a young black kid had slipped through police line and was hanging around behind a tree closer and in full view of the scene. I nodded to a uniformed officer and ordered him to get the kid back behind the tape, there are some things no adult should see, let alone a child.
“Whaddaya think, three days? Four?”
I waved a hand to chase away a few opportunistic flies that even this late in the year were hovering around like harriers.
“Must be at least four,” I squatted next to the prone form, fighting the compulsion to gag at the necrotic stench, “looks like he was strangled.”
The telltale bruising was plain to see in a ring around his neck. Given the spread I assumed that it was a violent and sloppy job, a very sudden assault in the heat of the moment, an emotional impulse gone out of control.
I didn’t know then that I stood on the precipice of something far darker.
“Looks like our boy was a member of your club.”
Burke had prised open the Doe’s sodden overcoat to reveal the black clothing underneath and I found myself staring at a dog collar that had long since lost its priestly sheen to the stain of the East River.
I pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from my pocket and took a long drag, the smoke killed the smell of putrefaction and the feeling of warmth hitting my lungs relaxed me somewhat, if only for a brief respite.
“I’ll call it in.”
* * *
“Father Charles Patrick Norris,” I read from the case file in my hands, the final brief acknowledgements of a life’s accomplishments. They almost never get more than the few scant pages I held in a manila folder now: name, the necessary in and out dates, a few personal stats, a couple of lines about their history, and like an afterthought tacked on at the end- cause of death.
That was one page, the other was the coroner’s report.
“Chuck Norris, huh,” Burke sat back in his chair tossing a foam football into the air, “no shit.”
“Sixty two years old, from Boston,” I scrolled down through the dozen or so short phrases that summed up a forty year dedication to the church, “reading between the lines it looks like he was shifted from his last parish in a bit of a hurry.”
“Part of the church’s divine witness protection program?”
He continued to toss the ball in the air but he wasn’t really paying attention to it, Burke had a tendency to bite his lower lip when in thought, “You think that he tried to give his communion cookie to the wrong altar boy?”
“Wafers,” I said idly, continuing to read.
“In communion, they’re wafers not cookies.”
“So, not the body of Christ?”
I didn’t rise to that, the echoes of my life before the police still left the occasional ripple around me and sometimes I wondered how different I may have been, destiny and all that, but I never thought about it for long. Being in the police is where I am meant to be.
I flicked across to the coroner’s report, the few succinct passages in it more dehumanising even than the NYPD case report.
“Subject male, approximately sixty two years of age, found Hell Gate, East River. Ecchymossis around the neck and subconjunctival haemorrhages would appear to indicate strangulation as the cause of death. High levels of ketones in the blood stream indicate that subject was in a state of near starvation prior to death.”
Burke sat up so quickly that he nearly knocked his desk lamp across the room as he swung his feet to the floor, “It was premeditated?”
This was now murder in the first degree, the oldest of crimes, almost as old as sin itself.
“Well, shit,” I said, with some feeling now that this case was going to be a bad one, to plot and execute a murder is one thing, but to imprison and starve a person first took a different kind of mentality.
“So, our Suspect X starves the guy, and then strangles him?” Burke was up and pacing around his desk, “Doesn’t seem very… eloquent. Why go to the bother of starving the guy? Shits and giggles?”
“Torture,” I said it and the word hung in the air like a black shadow.
Someone went to a lot of effort to do Father Norris properly, to make it look like it was everything that it wasn’t, a random and violent act. But in truth they had taken their time, they had savoured it. A different kind of mentality, sadistic… depraved.
The whole thing stank to high Heaven.
This was only the beginning.
* * *
It was raining heavily when I left the station for the evening, it was always raining in New York these days, or certainly it always felt that way.
Great tear-like raindrops hammered upon the ground at my feet in a constant roar that only the really good city downpours could manage, the slap of a billion tiny beads on cold, hard concrete.
The umbrella above my head provided little comfort or reprieve, the wind was able to make sure that enough of the cold and bitter spray reached my face.
Drenched, I pulled up the sodden collar of my mac and started toward the subway, the preferred form of travel in the Big Apple, through for myself it was more a form of necessity than desire. A few years ago I had tried my hand at whole the marriage thing, the wife got the car in the divorce.
I trudged down the stairwell to the station to be met with the collective scent of hundreds of damp and miserable human beings crammed together for their evening commute, the air hot and clammy from the bodies packed tightly together.
On a pillar next to the tracks the words ‘Bright and Morning Star’ were spray painted over a poster for the Catholic Church depicting the Crucifixion, a subtle assault on an organisation that had taken a battering since the dawn of the Information Age. When I thought about the past of the late Father Norris and the subsequent game of chequers between dioceses I couldn’t help but think that the church had become a victim of itself.
“I am the root and seed of David,” I muttered to myself, hearing the rumble of the oncoming train, “and the bright and morning star.”
The paint referred to chapter 22 verse 16 of the Book of Revelation, the last page of the Bible when Jesus reveals himself to be the Morning Star of Christian dogma, Lucifer. I snorted.
The train ground to a halt before me and I found myself staring at the words in bold red paint ‘THE END IS NIGH’.
There was a deep sense of foreboding that I could feel the universe was trying to instil in me, disappointingly it seemed that Christian anarchists were to be the chosen messenger, because there was no portent greater than spray paint and fundamentalism.
The train as always was crowded, the sodden multitudes of New York jostling for whatever bit of comfort could be found on the hard plastic of the subway chairs with their illusory cloth covers.
As usual the one chair that was free contained a slightly yellowish puddle, a signature of some lowlife with too much time on his hands or some transient taking shelter from the torrent above.
I gripped the overhead ‘Jesus bar’ and hung my head, the damp on my face feeling tacky as it mixed with the damp air of the carriage, an uncomfortable blend of rainwater, body heat, and sweat.
Audibly sighing I took solace in the fact that my journey home would not take long, that I would only have to tolerate this interminable heat and shuffling of bodies for a few minutes.
Up ahead I could see a bum making his way through the crowd, the commuters parting like a tide rather than let the dirty and dishevelled soul rub up against them.
He was muttering incomprehensibly and shaking his head as if locked in a permanent twitch, the thin strands of his dirty grey hair swishing about over the midnight black sunglasses he wore despite the weak light.
As the train swayed he knocked against me and I caught a whiff of what I’m certain was Sterno, I mumbled an apology and went back to my thoughts of going home and cold Chinese takeout.
I felt a sudden damp hotness on my cheek and stepped back in shock when I saw the bum was only inches from my face, staring directly at me.
“You. Cop,” his words rasped and slurred, “I know you.”
“I’m sure you do,” I turned my shoulder to him.
“Fallen one. Turned his back and was damned.”
I started walking away from the rambling old fool, edging through the crowd that seemed to have gotten tighter in the last few moments, clustering together like a human wall. Crushing in on me.
Trapping me.
It was all in my head, I closed my eyes, it was all in my head, it was the heat and the stickiness bringing on the old terror, it was just a bout of claustrophobia. It would pass.
“Lucifer Hill!”
The bum called loud over the rattle of the subway, “Priest! Beware for the judgement of the Lord comes on swift wings and will consume the non-believers in glorious fire. Repent your path and rejoin your flock!”
Upon hearing my name I had turned and saw the man point directly to me, the other commuters ignoring the affair in the hope that he would go away and leave them in peace.
Glancing down at my coat I reached inside and drew my pistol from its holster with the intention of arresting the man, the train lurched on the tracks and the lights momentarily flickered.

When I looked again he was gone.

Friday, 4 November 2011


That's a working title, might keep it, might not. This story is set on my world Hyldrassil and is just a little side story that helps establish a bit of background and workings to the world beyond the main story from the 'Mana' project. The story presumes that the events of the Mana stories have not taken place yet, and is set in the Duchy of Tithonus as the war approaches between it and it's northerly neighbour the Empire of Strenia, and follows the journey of a young woman who has been robbed of her mind and left for dead.

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A frigid wind blasted the frozen high places of the world lifting waves of powdered snow across the crags of the mountain and howling in the lonely emptiness.
Beneath a gray outcropping of rock shaped and blasted dry by the chill wind a drift of snow had formed in that sheltered place, flakes and powder dropping out of the wind to pile gently against the cold stone.
There was a certain contoured smoothness to that snowdrift, the shape of something that did not belong in this barren and unforgiving place.
Moving slowly there came a soft groan, the snow was falling on pure white clothing not light but entirely too fine for such a place, a robe of white woven with silver embroidering had fallen to cover the head of the person underneath.
Groaning again, the robe was pushed back to reveal the delicately featured face of a young woman with eyes of such a pale blue as to resemble the hue of frost and hair blindingly white. She shivered in the cold and rose unsteadily to her feet, not noticing a silver necklace with a fine talisman fall from within her outfit into the snow.
Wrapping the robe about her body she felt a pain in her head and pressed her hand against her temple.
Something wasn't right here, apart from the fact that she was half way up a mountain wearing the clothes of a spring morning, something was missing, out of sync or just hidden beyond plain sight.
She backed further into the shelter of the outcropping and tried to remember how she had got here, and why she had chosen to come so woefully under-dressed. Then she tried to remember where she had been before coming to the mountain.
Then she tried to remember who she was.
"Oh Hells!"
Looking around the lonely mountain across a gray sky filled with the whipped up eddies of snow, she felt despair set in with the realization that she had no memory of ever existing.


She struggled against the wind, the cloak pulled tight about her for whatever shelter it was worth and the hood pulled over to shield her head as she trudged through the snow. She had no idea the time of day, only that it was day time somewhere beyond the vast gray sheet of the sky above.
She had struck north, there were fewer peaks this way and it was the downhill path, chances are she'd find some semblance of civilization on this course before freezing to death. Or so she hoped as her feet sunk into the deep snow, her boots were only of a light leather and already her toes were growing numb.
The dark void in her mind gnawed at her, more terribly because there was not so much as a fragment of memory upon which she could rebuild her life or even the last few hours prior to her current predicament.
Her name? Surely that at least should still be in there, how can a person forget something that has been with them their entire life?
Stumbling in the snow she went down on one knee, her skin sinking into the numbing coldness. Picking herself up again she staggered forth feeling the very air try to say the life from her.
Deep inside she cursed the mountain, cursed all mountains, not out of hatred or spite but because right now she had no one else and nothing else to blame. The frigid wind was blowing harder and harder, the sky getting darker, she was losing the feeling in her hands and feet, and she was getting weaker.
She knew she was dying.
The cold snow came to meet her as she collapsed once again, this time on both knees. Shivering, she barely had the energy to stand, she fought against the cold with every ounce of her reserves and stumbled forward in the face of the bitter onslaught until at last falling all the way down.
Lying with her face in the cold snow she thought what was the use in fighting any more, let the ferryman come and take her from this wretched place.
In this cold she doubted that she would even feel it when the embrace of death came, she would slip from this world anonymous even to herself.
She watched each breath steam from her mouth against the chill wind, each getting shallower, weaker, getting closer to that final sigh.
And beyond that breath she saw across the desolate and lonely mountain, frozen gray stones and drifts of snow so keen to sap her life.
In the haze of her breath she saw something else, a structure made of dark wood and built against one of those sheltered outcroppings. It looked like a kingly hall, and it was close, so tantalizingly close.
Summoning all of her will, all of her strength she pushed herself up against the final embrace of the cold, crawling first on all fours she made her way toward that building.
Burning with inner fire, determined that she should live she forced herself to stand and walk, to make one final push for that sanctuary.
Her muscles burning and her sapped body straining against the flame of her will she pressed on, the hall getting closer and closer.
The wind howled at her as if the very mountain had cast its lot with death, the cold wind cut at her and snowflakes melted on her skin as she burned with the exertion.
She was almost running by the time she reached the worn stone steps and with one last effort she slammed hard into the door. It was solid and it held fast.
With the last of her strength she banged against the heavy wood, trying to call out but felt her voice strangled. She kept hitting the door, but all around her was becoming dark.
Light was leaving her.
Sobbing at the cruelty of fate she slid down the dark stained door, trying to hit it one last time she found at last her strength had failed.
Her thoughts grew slow and she knew that her time was at hand.
And the darkness took her.


There was heat, and it was black, so very black.
She had no feeling, no sense of time, no sense of self. She was a mind adrift in an infinite void, and from where the heat came she did not know for there was no sign of light or life.
There was just the darkness, yawning and eternal it had her now in it's sweet embrace, not terrifying as she first thought it might be. No, if anything it was welcoming, it enveloped her and held her wrapped up and safe, there would no longer be any pain, any fear. These thoughts all washed away in the black, the darkness would care for her, would sustain her forever.


Brother Konsidine tended to the lamp oil of the chamber, working delicately as to not spill any over the manuscript he was illuminating for fear of ruining what would have been ten years of his life.
Not yet in his thirties Konsidine had came to the monastery a troubled youth, wracked with dreams and visions of great and terrible horrors, dread things untold of in the lands.
Writing provided catharsis, took the teeth from the demons in his mind, freed him to examine the beasts that revealed themselves every night when the lights went out. He found too in the archives that he was not the first to see such terrors, that these beings of such bottomless malignancy appeared in the writings of poets and madmen through the span of recorded history.
It was the work of the Order to catalog and track these ramblings, to find the coherency in the gibberish, to give definition to that which wishes to remain unseen. For the monks know that not every force in the world can be seen with the eyes, heard with the ears, or even touch by the hand, they knew that there was much mankind did not understand and might never do. And they knew too that from the human perspective most forces would have a predisposition to the malign, for how could ageless forces care about such brief lives as man?
Konsidine laid the jar of oil back in its box and sighed as he stared at the bare wall of his chamber, watching the light play on the walls from the dancing flames of his two small lamps. His eyes were on the light but his mind was on the woman in the chamber at the end of the hall who had arrived barely clothed and half dead at their door two days past.
His thoughts were not carnal in nature or the erotic musings of one who led a sequestered life hidden from the opposite sex, abstinence was not a requirement of the Order and those within the monastery had as complete lives as any from the nearby town of Tol Barad.
No, he was thinking about how she came to be so far up the mountain in such ill suited clothing, as nearby Tol Barad was it was still the better part of a day's hike straight up to get here. She bore no identifying emblems or talismans, her clothing resembled nothing seen in the mountain or the surrounding region.
And so much white? To say it was unnatural would be wholly superstitious but it did make a statement about her, either as a priestess or as some other figurehead. Perhaps some virgin cult?
He jotted thoughts idly on the edge of the manuscript, words like white, delicate, like a Sylph, frost eyes...
Pondering this for a few moments longer his eyes fell to the words he had written and at last a connection was made, he stifled a curse because he had been doodling over the manuscript he had so carefully worked on.
A knock came on his chamber door as he tried to scratch the ink from the parchment, one of the elder monks, brother Gregor excused himself and with few words handed Konsidine a tome bound in ancient and cracked leather. It bore a single faded emblem of an ankh within a sun, the book being an artifact held in trust at the monastery until such time as it would be required elsewhere, a book with the rather ominous title of 'The Truth'.
Konsidine had need of the book for some of the more cryptic visions that had came to him lately, some of which if interpreted literally were both gruesome and terrible.
"Father Michael requests that you tend to our patient this evening," Gregor said, "then if you wish you may join us for a late evening sherry in the library."
"Thank you, brother, I'll tend to the young lady and I shall join you when I can."
As Gregor excused himself Konsidine looked to the ancient volume in his hands, he had waited this long, one more evening would do no harm.
He placed the tome next to the manuscript, took one look at the notes he had inadvertently jotted and decided that it would be far simpler to cover them with a decorative border, and then he left his chamber.


The warmth she had first felt was now a burning sensation all over her body, her skin felt as though it was on fire. She flailed and tossed in the burning dark, trying in vain to pat out invisible flames on phantom limbs.
Fear came upon her, was she bound now for some underworld of fire and darkness, hot tears streamed on her cheeks causing her face to burn.
She screamed and her eyes were wide open, she was suddenly heavy as her body felt real once more as she kicked and fought against a heavy cloth on top of her.
A man appeared above her, trying to hold her shoulders and saying something that was not registering with her, though his actions did suggest a certain calmness.
Relaxing from her struggle she began to take in her surroundings, a darkened room lit by a couple of oil lamps, bare walls and spartan furnishings ave a wooden desk on which lay a basin and a few books.
"There," the man said, a monk she realized, "be calm, you are safe here."
Her skin still felt as though it were on fire. Of course, the cold, she vaguely remembered a struggle through snow and bitter winds and the hope of salvation beyond a heavy wooden door.
"Can you tell me your name?"
She fixed him a blank stare, the memory coming back to her that she had no memory.
"You are perfectly safe I assure you," he persisted, "I am brother Konsidine, you are in our monastery."
"I can't tell you my name because I don't know who I am," she croaked, her throat dry, "I don't know what I'm doing here or how I got here."
"I suppose that spares me a few questions."
"Can I have a drink please?"
"Of course," he said with a fluster before reaching for a ladle in the basin and drawing a cup of water from which she drank noisily.
"Go easy, you haven't had fluids for a couple of days."
She lay back on the bed, the void in her mind still gnawing at her but at least now she had some warmth in her body it didn't feel quite so tragic. Exhaling deeply she stared at the plain white plaster of the roof, watching the shadows of the lamplight, allowing a moment of pause for perhaps the vaguest fragment of memory to reveal itself.
But the moment was in vain for no thought or sense of self was forthcoming. She pondered what that meant for surely to have lost her memory such basic functions as speech or the ability to walk should have been lost to her, certainly she should not be able to think so clearly as she was now. It was though the memories had been selectively wiped from her mind, that somehow everything that made her who she was had been removed leaving only a lost and alone young woman.
"Do you have any idea how you even came to be on the mountain?"
"I don't even know where this mountain is," she said, "everything is gone, or hidden from me."
"Well, we're on the far north of the Duchy of Tithonus, on the range separating Tithonus from the Empire of Strenia, near Tol Barad."
"Those names mean nothing to me, you may as well be listing places from a storybook."
"I'll bring a map on my next visit," he suggested, "perhaps something there may jog your memory."
They spoke for perhaps an hour, Konsidine talking of places in the world and local history, the girl for her part persistently having no knowledge or recollection about such persons and places. She hid her frustration well, deep as it ran, to be so completely stripped bare of such things as her personality and even the most basic things about herself.
In the end Konsidine left her to rest with the promise that he would return shortly with some food and a map.
She felt safe here in this place, that whatever darkness that had sought her out in the world could not reach her here. She could put no name or image to that though just a strong feeling that her present condition was no simple accident.
Here at least she could recuperate, try to get herself together and plan what she would do next, to find first herself and then whoever it was who took her mind. She would find no solace or peace here, but for the time being at least she could find rest.
There was an indefinable aura of protectiveness here, like something greater watching over them all, even from the monk, Konsidine. She had watched him leave and he nearly seemed to glow, there was something like a silver sheen or half light as though some energy surrounding him was barely contained within his body that reached out with a life of its own to thwart the darkness in the room.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Crossing the Midnight Line

Originally entitled 'Dark World' and might go back to that title at some point because it is possibly more apt and definitely less pretentious. This story revolves around Claire Twining, a forensic photographer in New York, and a mysterious blond man called Soren. Claire has been involved in the case of a violent serial killer operating in the Manhattan area, whilst the cryptic Soren claims to be searching for a 'dead man' hiding somewhere in the city. Watch for the brief cameo of Det. Lucifer Hill, because if I'm going to do a noir story in New York I have to let one of my favorite characters make an appearance. Also, this is a first draft so don't get too wound up about inconsistencies or repetition.
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Sterile taupe walls, stainless steel tables and a green polyester curtain, such a depressing way to leave the world, listening to a heart monitor beep as if counting down the final moments of his tragically shortened life.
Beep. Another moment of lying in bed.
Beep. Another moment of the nurse holding his hand.
Beep. Another moment of a tear running down his cheek.
Beep. Another moment of a song he'll never sing.
Beep. Another moment of a woman he'll never love.
Beep. Another moment of his heart aching.
Beep. Another moment of his life counting down.
Beep. Another moment of fear about the unknown.
Beep. Another moment of the void drawing breath.
Beep. Another moment of the cancer eating away at his body.
Another moment, each more fleeting than the last, and somewhere in his mind the thought barely registered that the monitor didn't beep.
He lay on the bed fighting the terror, he tried to squeeze the hand of the nurse as she held him, he just wanted something to hold onto in the world, an anchor to keep him here and away from the terror beyond the veil, he wanted a rock to hold fast against the inevitable. He could feel his soul separate from his body and tears in his eyes, he could feel the weight of the world literally falling away as the edges of reality fell to shadow and misty darkness.
A new light was born before him, a splendid and glorious light as the world behind became weaker and more insignificant until at last the black curtain of his eyelids came down for the final time and the walls of the universe crumbled to ash.
The heart monitor hummed a long, sorrowful note as the final release of breath sighed from the lungs of Aaron Young, thirty years old, his hand now limp in the hold of the hospice nurse who had stayed by his side this day.
She laid his hand gently across his chest, rubbing the tips of her fingers against his as she did so, the sensation as though allowing him to play one final chord of the music of life. She would like to have heard the young musician play his guitar in person, she had his album and he was a man of such heartbreaking talent, his words filled with such honesty, the deep sincerity of someone who knew he was already dead, the pancreatic cancer in his body just catching up with the fact.
Had life been fair and just there might have been no bounds to his fame, instead he was destined to pour his heart and soul into one beautiful, tragic album.
She rubbed the hair back from his forehead, then reached out to silence the sonorous buzz of the heart monitor.
Before she could do anything Aaron opened his eyes and sat up ramrod straight, he looked around the room, confused, he stared at the nurse who stood in shock. He felt his chest then stared at his hands gaunt from the disease that had wasted him away, he looked at the machine beside him making that relentless, unceasing buzz and the leads running from it to his chest.
Grasping the leads he yanked hard and they pulled free, the buzz changed to a repetitive beep and a message flashed 'lead out'.
Swinging his then legs over the edge of the bed he stumbled to his feet as though getting used to gravity again, he staggered to the curtain, looked back once at the nurse still standing in stunned silence, and then he walked away.

Chapter 1

The moon was high in the sky over an old and abandoned farmhouse, it's old timbers partially collapsed and windows long ago smashed by children from neighboring farmsteads, what remained now only a decayed sentinel of a once happy home. Weeds had long ago reclaimed the pathways and the building itself home now only to a few feral animals and a couple of spiders.
Across what had once been a yard stood an equally dilapidated barn with cracked rust-red paint looking crisp in the silver ethereal glow of the moon, all was still this night save a lone cricket singing it's nocturne and a light breeze causing the slightest whimper of a creak from the broken door of the house.
In a field of grass swaying gently under that crystal sky was a pole that had once held an ancient scarecrow, the lone guardian of the empty field with clothes long frayed and straw stuffing bursting through seams in sackcloth baked dry with the sun and age.
On a small hillock in the distance a figure silhouetted in the moonlight strode toward town.


There was a blinding flash as the first snap was taken, the inside of the hollow ribcage illuminated as the body lay splayed open on the edge of a bathtub. The victim, a young black man, had been sliced from the neck to the groin and with the skin rolled back the internal organs had been removed. Heart, lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys, none were to e found anywhere at the crime scene.
Claire raised the DSLR camera and snapped another shot, this one of a bloody hand print on the yellowed tiles of the bathroom wall, most likely from the victim trying to push himself away from the tub. From the blood splatters on the floor he had probably been tabbed five or six times already.
The smell was horrible, disturbing for it's familiarity, like freshly cut meat in a butcher's shop awaiting the frying pan. The killer was a suspected cannibal, where these the thoughts that passed through his deviated mind, that all flesh is the same, that humans were just some form of self-domesticating livestock?
She took a deep breath and tried to remain detached as she adjusted the zoom of the lens and captured a shot of what looked to be part of a scalpel blade that had broken off in the third rib near the sternum. The metal gleamed sickening and alien against the red flesh between the pale ribs, she fought against retching as she snapped it again from another angle.
"You got something, Dr Twining?"
It was the homicide detective, Hill, standing at the entrance to the bathroom as she worked and surrounded by his usual haze of cigarette smoke. He was a good man, good cop, knew when to stay out of the way, though desperately unlucky, this was his second serial killer case, and this one just as gruesome as the last.
"Scalpel blade, third rib. Scratches going both directions. Looks like the point of entry."
"Anything else?"
"Yeah, I need some air because I'm going to be sick."
She stepped back from the corpse and turned to the blond detective, he nodded silently as she walked by then he stepped into the room.
Claire stooped at her case to load away her equipment, trying not to look back at the scene in the room behind her. Down the hall she could hear Hill's partner Burke question the landlord of the apartment, asking the usual questions about the victim's character, known associates, known enemies et cetera, et cetera.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath she slipped off her latex gloves, threw them in the case and then clicked it shut. Brushing back her raven hair she stood and gave one glance back at the body lying prostrate and hollow across the bathtub then walked to the front door, the soles of her shoes clicking on the laminate flooring.
A uniformed patrolman stood just outside the apartment door talking to the captain of the precinct, Claire gave him the curtest nod then continued on her way down the dim corridor that smelled of ash and stale liquor. The stairs creaked and protested despite her slight frame, the building was old, decrepit, should have been torn down ten years ago but would probably see another thirty.
A cockroach watched impassively as she trod by, the creature observing with indifference the comings and goings of the large faceless ones preoccupied with affairs that made no sense to it. When it was by itself once more, the large one having descended into the deep, it scuttled off along the sticky carpet past some rat droppings and into a dark crack in the woodwork.
A drunk sat in the front porch of the apartment building, seeking shelter from the rain and a place to sip from the bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag that he gripped as though a lifeline. He stank of piss and huddled in his dirty brown coat against the cold gray plaster of the wall, rain blew in around his feet and drops sat on the drained skin of his face.
Claire barely paid him any heed, the city desensitized you to such sights, over time you saw so much neglect and suffering that it simply ceased to register. This was part of life in the big city- some people had none.
Others though had it taken from them. She felt the weight of her case in her hand, it brought some measure of comfort, the weight was reassuring, strong in it's way.
It was late evening and the rainy sky was turning to darkness under a neon glare, the fall of yet another day as changeless as those that came before. Today again Claire was shown the darkness in the heart of humanity, with each day the world was able to reveal that despite her best intentions it was still a dismal place.
She steps through impatient and listless traffic, heading not for home but to a seedy bar, one with sticky floors, a jukebox turned up just slightly too loud, and piss-poor watered-down whiskey.
This is what it takes she tells herself, this is what it takes to do her job, to get over death in the city you have to remind yourself that life here is shit anyway.
Some dickhead will probably try to hit on her, offers of drink or food, some fake and insipid lines that he probably read in some men's magazine that he thinks come across as charming. She'll casually reveal her gun in it's holster, take another shot of whiskey then maybe go throw in a bathroom stall before heading home and ordering Chinese takeout.
She would try to forget today, to forget the body and the mindlessness of it all. She would try to forget and she would fail. Then maybe she would drink from the bottle of Jack Daniels in her cupboards and pass out on the couch to some 90s sitcom.
Pausing under a sign offering live XXX sex she figured passing out on the couch would be nice.


On a gray and overcast afternoon the small country town was busy with the comings and goings of daily life, over the hills to the west the black clouds of a storm brewing loomed heavy and oppressive. To the east the sky was dark with heavy rain already hitting far away New York City, but this was the calm little center like refugees trapped between opposing armies.
A man in ragged clothes strode with an almost carefree aloofness down the main street, not noticing or not caring about the looks of disdain from passers-by. No one wanted to say anything to an obvious down and out but they would have preferred he not walk the streets and shatter their illusion of the perfect community.
Soren, his name, smiled to himself as if reading their minds by the looks on their faces, a storm was coming, the economy was in no great shape, a war loomed in a faraway land, and what preoccupied these people most was a vagrant upsetting the decorum of the town.
Sometimes people were truly fascinating, how they manage to compartmentalize the world around them so that the bigger picture as it's called is no longer so threatening, its just something that happens to other people.
He decided maybe he should do something about his attire, people have little tolerance for that which makes them uncomfortable and it served his purpose to move unnoticed.
Beside him was a sports store but he quickly dismissed that idea, the thought of wearing a tracksuit anywhere outside of a gymnasium was about as classy as wearing a hakenkreuz to a synagogue.
He felt the shadows start to lengthen, the evening was drawing in and soon he'd have to be under way to the city, he had too much to do to waste time seeking something fashionable and inconspicuous.
A shop that looked the sort to sell menswear exclusively to grandparents was next door to the sporting goods store, a gray and blue faded sign declaring it a 'gentleman tailors' and the suits on the mannequins declaring it to be the pinnacle of 1950s fashion. It would do the job he needed.
Inside the store was musty and dimly lit, a silver haired man stood by a mahogany counter and cast a snide look at the straw haired transient who had just entered his store.
"Can I help you... sir?"
This was a man who could only have been more condescending if he had a stiff upper lip and a strong desire to get this business with the natives over and done with in time for afternoon tea.
"I need a suit," Soren said, glancing idly over the stock, "preferably something from the last decade."
"And what is sir's price range? I'm afraid I don't carry much in the line of... remaindered goods."
"It all looks remaindered to me," he replied, at the same time holding up a billfold of more hundred dollar bills than the clerk had ever seen in one place before.
Half an hour later a different man stepped onto the street, in a pinstripe suit, white shirt and purple tie he pushed back a lock of blond hair and stepped into the dark of an alley next to the tailors, and promptly vanished into the shadows.