meT6pAI cannon



“Are we still on for tonight?” Johnny asked, pressing his mobile to his ear to block out the background noise of the pub. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m in there now. It’s only afternoon an’ they’re doing a roaring trade, as per.”

“I suppose,” Adam said doubtfully. “Not sure if it’s a good idea…not now I’ve got a problem….”

“What problem? We’ve been planning this for months…”

“My cousin Albie. Remember Albie? He’s a bit, y’know, slow up top…”

“Simple minded? Why is he suddenly a problem?”

“He rocked up here in the middle of the night. He’s had a row with his folk and he’s upset. Y’know mine are away on holiday and I can’t leave him on his own. We’ll have to cancel…”

“No way! Bring him with you,” Johnny said heartily. “A night out will do him good, give him something else to think about…”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea…”

“Stop your moaning! Being a threesome will make us two going easy on the booze stand out less…”

“Okay,” Adam said resignedly. “See you there at nine-ish.”


There were few people about, which wasn’t surprising, Adam thought, considering the weather. The rain hadn’t stopped all day and the road was slick and black. The lights from the windows of The Cannon reflected on the pavement, giving the illusion of an ocean liner at sea. The nearest streetlight was out, leaving the street in shadow. The only other building casting light on the street was just beyond the edge of the darkness, on the opposite side of the road. The local Police Station.

Johnny hadn’t told him how near it was to The Cannon, just said that it gave the landlords a sense of security. Who would cause bother, with the coppers so close?

“Is this it?” Albie asked, as Adam parked the car at the kerbside. “Doesn’t look very…”

“It isn’t a club, Albie. It’s a pub.No girls and dancing, just genu-ine real ale, not the cissy overpriced stuff you get in the clubs. If you don’t like it, we won’t stay long. Right?”

“I suppose,” Albie said, clambering out of the car, pulling his coat collar up. “You coming?”

“Right behind you. Johnny’s already here,” he said, reaching over Albie’s shoulder to push the door open. A warm fug of damp clothes and beer wafted out. The place was buzzing.  It certainly did a good trade. Johnny had done his homework well. “Somewhere.”

Johnny, at a table in a corner, half-stood to attract their attention. “Hey, good to see you both,” he said. “Sit yourselves down and I’ll get them in.”

Adam studied the two men behind the bar. They were obviously brothers. Both were overweight and dumpy, had wide smiles and hardly any hair. A very unfit looking pair. Not much danger of resistance. Johnny seemed on good terms with them both, laughing and joking. He exchanged chitchat with patrons as he returned to his table. He’d certainly wormed his way into this place, Adam thought. No one would suspect Johnny when their world went pear-shaped.

“There y’go!” Johnny said, dumping the glasses on the table.”Long time no see, Albie. How’ve you been?”

Albie waffled on about being misunderstood by his family and Johnny nodded in all the right places. Adam, foot tapping in time to the canned music, went over the plans he and Johnny had made.

Last Orders would be called at ten o’clock. He would quietly slip in to the gents, reverse his reversible jacket to the black side, lock himself in a stall and wait for Johnny’s signal. Folks would linger a while, of course, but the landlords would dim the lights as a hint it was time to go.  When it got down to the last two or three, Johnny would call a loud goodnight. That was his signal. The shock of him bursting from the gents brandishing a replica gun would be enough to freeze any one left in the place. It would only take seconds to transfer the cash from the till into his bag, dash outside, jump into the car and away.

Johnny would be found on the floor, moaning, telling everyone that his car had been stolen by a big hulking bloke in black. Easy peasy.

“Albie’s offered to drive the car, Adam,” Johnny said, digging him in his ribs, jolting him out of his reverie. “We can have another pint and not worry about drinking and driving.”

“Last Orders, folks!” one of the landlord’s bellowed.

Folks crowded round the bar, including Johnny. The two brothers worked flat out filling glasses.

Game on, Adam thought.

He slid the car keys across the table to Albie. “It takes a bit of starting in wet weather, maybe you should give it a go now, Albie. Just going to the Gents. Won’t be a tick.”

Albie nodded and watched Adam slip unobtrusively away. When Johnny came back with the drinks he didn’t seem surprised that Adam had gone.

“Haven’t you lot got homes to go to?” one of the landlords asked while the other dimmed the lights. The customers laughed and grumbled good-naturedly. They began leaving in ones and twos.

“Time we were going,” Albie said. “Adam said the car might be hard to start…”

“Good idea,” Johnny said, taking his arm. “Goodnight!” he called loudly.

Outside, he pushed Albie towards the car and bent to tie his shoelace.

Albie eyed the group of men coming down the shadowed street.


“Get the God-damned car started!”

Albie hesitated, then darted back inside and into the gents. “Adam, there’s…”

Adam, in a black ski mask, standing directly behind the door, psyching himself up for the raid, staggered back as the door smashed into him.

“Albie! What the hell d’you think you’re doing? Go and start the damn’ car!”

“Adam, listen…”

“Out of the way!” Heart thudding, Adam wrenched the door open and strode into the bar, his replica gun at the ready.

He froze. Mouth open.

As did the men coming in, heading for the drinks a colleague had bought when Last Orders was called.

“I tried to tell you, Adam,” Albie said from behind him. “I think they’re police…”

The noise of the car starting outside was loud in the silence.

It activated the group of men. One yanked the door open, and dashed outside in time to see red rear lights fast disappearing.

“There goes your getaway car,” said another.

“Freeze!” yelled a man at the front of the group.“Put the gun down, nice and gently, no funny moves…”

“It’s…not real,” he muttered, wondering if he could fool them into thinking it was all a big joke.

“You’re under arrest!” the man said, the tone of his voice killing Adam’s hopes. “What’s the name of the driver, the one who got away?”

“That’s me,” Albie said. “I’ve had less to drink. I’m the driver and someone’s nicked our car….”

Adam looked at his cousin with respect. He was supposed to be the simple one…but he’d tried to warn him of the police and covered for cowardly runaway Johnny.

Copyright 2015 Betty Woodcock.

Photo by courtesy of costiq


The_Pram_CS Cover_for_KindleSHIFTING SHADOWSTHE ESSAY GRANDMAFront_Cover[1]Child of Misfortune front coverthe cottage option 3Man in the mirror v.1FEAR v2


teslacoils flowers


If I’d put a pound in my piggy bank every time I was asked where I got my ideas from, I’d be a rich woman! Maybe not a millionaire yet, but close!

When I go out, I like to travel by bus. I can relax and take in my surroundings; what is happening about me, the display of bright daffodils, the elderly man on the corner, scraps of overheard conversations…all are grist to the mill of my active imagination.

Stir, mix and match, fit the odd bits together like a jigsaw puzzle and abracadabra! A story is born!

At the moment, my writing is concentrated on the darker side of life…

My bus to town passes a house which is linked in my mind to a suicide. The lady who once lived there drowned herself in the small dam at a local beauty spot. It was a favourite walk for a teenage-me and my dog.

Further on, in a residential street, is a bungalow were a man killed his wife, helped by their son. Along the main road, the site of a mill can be seen on the left. A small boy was raped and strangled in its basement. Further along the main road, on the left, is a section of boarded up old property awaiting demolition. The shop on the corner used to be sell antiques and the owner was killed by a burglar. Which brings to mind the death of the manager of a small co-op further out of town. He was working late doing the accounts and he also was murdered during a break-in. I lived quite near when I was first married.

Even my own village has a history of crime and murder. Around sixty years ago a couple of shopkeepers faked a robberies from their shops.

Put briefly, when they finally realised that the police were on to them, they set off one evening across the fields with the loot. My childhood home overlooked this panoramic view and we watched the dark outlines of running men in the distance and the flashing torches of the following police. The headlights of a car bumping across the grass. One of the men panicked and shot a policeman. Quite a drama!
Both the men and the police were well-known people in the village.

With the brighter sunny weather on the way my mind will turn to more cheerful things…

Happy reading!


Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015

Photo by courtesy of teslacoils



portobello 2

Everyone said admiringly, that Paddy had the luck of the Irish. All because he had wins on the horses. He never mentioned the lame donkeys that had lost him a fortune, just the horses that had won. He had to account for his cash somehow. To top it all, he wasn’t Irish, but he fuelled the illusion with a few ‘begorrahs’ and ‘so it was,’when he drank with his mates on a Friday night.

He was a Londoner, and had worked as a porter at Paddington Station, until he began trading in Portabello Market.

Everyone knew of Portabello Market. It was world famous, a tourist trap and visited by every man and his dog.

It was an ideal place to sell odds and sods, Paddy had thought, and was happy to help his friends out by selling their surplus stuff when they were hard up. Everybody had unexpected bills, now and again. He wasn’t doing it for nothing. They insisted he kept a bob or two for himself. It was only fair. Word got round, and soon he no longer had to scour car-boot sales and charity shops hoping for bargains to stock his stall and sell on at a profit.

Paddy was doing very well, thank you very much…until disaster struck.

He’d never forget the day of his downfall. The sun was shining, business was brisk, and all was well with his world. Until the police pounced and arrested him as a fence. A dealer in stolen goods.

He’d never stolen anything in his life! He was so enraged; he could hardly spit his words out.

His customers had melted away into the staring crowd, some of them taking things they hadn’t paid for. Paddy had yelled after them , called them thieves, but the police took no notice. They loaded all the goods from Paddy’s stall into a van while Paddy watched and swore and seethed.

Practically all the stuff on his stall was identified as stolen property. Paddy, or Trevor, as he was called in those days, protested his innocence. He didn’t know the stuff was from robberies. He was helping out his hard-up friends who were strapped for cash. He was doing them a service, for God’s sake, for the sake of their starving kids. Honest to God, he didn’t know the friends of his friends were thieves and robbers.

He was very lucky to get off with a night in the cells and a caution.

The police returned the stuff not on the stolen property list and Trevor slunk home to lick his wounds.

How could he continue his business with only twenty-five quids worth of stock? Not that anybody would buy from him, not with his tarnished reputation. He decided to make a fresh start, packed his bags and moved up north, Manchester way and changed his name to Paddy.

When his cash began to run out, he confided to his new circle of friends that he wanted to set up a market stall. If any of them were short of cash, needed a bob or two, he’d be happy to buy their surplus goods. On the QT, of course. This was just for them, his friends. They of course, told their friends…It wasn’t long before he was in business again.

Just what business, he didn’t like to admit, even to himself—except that it made money. However, judging from the volume of goods coming his way, he thought he could possibly be a fence again.

Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015

Photograph by Carly.


<> THE COTTAGE is an ebook only

Going up to midnight…

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It was going up to midnight, when Sally finished her shift on the wards. She rounded the corner as her bus drew away from the stop. Sugar! If she hadn’t stayed back to help the probationer, she would have caught it. She would have to wait an hour for the next one. How about a taxi? Rummaging in the heavy shoulder bag swinging against her hip, she found her mobile. Drat! The battery was flat. She sighed. She would have to walk. It wasn’t so far, if she took the short cut which bypassed the town centre.

She set off at a brisk pace along the deserted streets. Clouds drifted across the moon like ghosts and cast shadows on the road. One reached past her and seemed denser than the others—

She glanced over her shoulder. No one there—

She forced her aching legs to take longer strides and soon reached the short cut. The street lamp which would have shed light halfway was out. Smashed by vandals.

The mouth of the alley yawned, waiting to lead her into darkness…

She hesitated…

What was wrong with her? Her eyes would adjust and she knew it led between derelict warehouses with boarded up windows. She’d used it so many times, but never after dark…

She jumped when a sudden breeze stirred litter along the bottom of the walls, and sent a tin can noisily rolling. A newspaper flapped along the ground and settled at her feet.

She listened, head cocked, but could hear no movement.

She took an uncertain step forward into the darkness, then another—At best, she’d meet a prowling cat or two, at worst, a wino sleeping it off in a doorway. Much better than running the gauntlet of beered-up men loitering outside the clubs in the town centre, she told herself, as her slow feet felt for obstacles in her path.

What was that noise?

A groan?

Her pulse thudding in her ears made it was hard to tell.

Another groping step brought her foot in contact with something solid.

Another groan.

She peered down through the gloom. A man. He must be hurt—her nurse’s instincts kicked in and she dropped to a crouch. Touched his shoulder.

He leapt up. Knocked her backwards.

She gave a startled squeal. Her head hit the wall as she went down. He kicked her in the ribs, wrenched the bag from her shoulder and ran.

As she sprawled on the ground, his footsteps reverberated through her body.

So much for being a Good Samaritan, she thought, sitting up. Thank God my house keys are in my pocket.


Photo by courtesy of leocub


THE COTTAGE is an ebook only, and selling well… thank you.

What to do in the TV ads…

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It’s amazing what you can do in the ads break, I thought, eyes glued to the story unfolding on the TV screen. It was beginning to move from boring to interesting. This chap, Glen, was watching a gripping drama with his wife. When the ads came on, he had calmly slipped from the room. The cat’s head jerked up, alert and watchful. In sharp contrast to his wife who didn’t even notice, dozy cow. She was engrossed in a wash powder ad.

As if!

Glen had gone next door, quietly entered via the unlocked kitchen door. Ominous background music swelled as he selected a knife from the block on the counter, and crept up behind Eliza’s chair. Sensing him, she turned. He had smiled at his lover. The camera panned in as she smiled back, and wham, he plunged her own carving knife in her chest. He’d muttered ‘sorry’, and stealthily retraced his steps. He was back in his chair just in time to see the last ad touting an exotic holiday, and make a casual remark about going there…

He wasn’t even out of breath, I thought irritably. I waited for the wife to ask where he’d been, but no, she simpered at him and whined about wanting to go to that beautiful place… The scriptwriters must be bonkers!

I scowled at the screen as the film abruptly changed to ads. Oddly enough, a similar beautiful beach at some holiday resort or other. I wouldn’t mind going there.

I smoothly rose from my chair, emulating the fictitious Jason…

“Where are you going?” my wife asked.

“Next door to murder my neighbour,” I said. “Have you ever seen such rubbish!”

She laughed. “Why would you want to do that? It’s a dead cert you’re not having an affair with cranky old Frank, and worrying that he’ll tell me!”

“Isn’t there anything better on?”

“We’ll have to watch the end, to find out what happened.”

“His stupid wife will give him an alibi and he’ll get away with it, you’ll see.”

“His fingerprints will be all over the knife…”

“He put surgical gloves on before he touched the back door. Didn’t you notice? All that ominous music was a tip-off that something bad was going to happen.

“It was too dark. I don’t like films that are dark and I can’t tell who is who…”

“For God’s sake! There was only him!”

“Or tell what’s happening… you didn’t let me finish. And I don’t like you towering over me!”

“I was going to make a cuppa. Now I won’t have time.”

“Of course you will. If Jason can nip around doing a murder in the ad break, I’m sure you’ll manage!”

“Would you give me an alibi?” I called from the kitchen.

“An alibi for what?”

“Imagine I was Jason,” I said coming back with coffee and the biscuit tin. “I’ve just nipped out and murdered someone… would you give me an alibi and say I was with you all the time, even though I wasn’t?”

“But she thought he was, didn’t she? She never noticed him go.”

“The cat looked up straight away, just as you did when I stood up, so why didn’t she notice he did?”

“Don’t ask me! Maybe she was pretending she didn’t know about his affair. Y’know, ignore it, and it isn’t happening.”

“I can’t imagine you doing that,” I said. “You’d probably be the one knifing her! Or me!”

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Of course not. It’s just that her behaviour is so stupid, not real….”

“Maybe she’s deaf and didn’t hear him,” she said.

“You don’t need to see to know someone’s moved! You were looking at the telly, how did you know I’d moved?”

“I suppose I sensed you had.”


“It’s no use falling out with me! That story is make-believe, remember?”

“And entirely rubbish,” I said. “It’s dragged on and on about their boring life, and now, when it’s near the end, it’s thrown the murder in. The detectives won’t stand a chance of sorting it out in the time left…”

“Don’t be silly! It will skip a few weeks and show him being arrested and sentenced…”

“Walking free, more like, I can’t imagine the cat giving evidence! Besides the detecting bit is always the best… us knowing what happened and watching Homicide running around chasing red herrings. Although, it is better if we don’t know who did it and try to solve it before the cops.”

“Is it an adaptation from a book?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” I said, reaching for the daily paper. “Remind me not to buy it!”

“I was going to say that adaptations often don’t slavishly follow the book.”

“You mean they’ve cut out the good bits and left the drivel?” I said derisively.

“If they’d left everything in maybe the film would be too long. They work to budgets, remember The scenery’s nice, though, isn’t it?”

“I’ve a good mind to sue for false pretences,” I said, tossing the newspaper back on the floor. “It says here it’s a thrilling murder mystery. The only mystery is why the film was made in the first place!”

“Quit whining! You got your murder…”

“It’s like a goal in the closing stages of a match,” I said.

“Almost too late. How can the murderer be caught and brought to justice in ten minutes or so?”

“I do wish you’d stop going on! Don’t watch if you don’t like it…”

“Just think, if this was a book and all the crap had been edited out, you’d be left with about twenty pages… Hey, hang on!” I gaped at the TV screen. “It’s over! The credits are rolling. Did you notice what happened to Jason?”

Photo by courtesy of nemali

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Crime bites back…


johnnyberg handcuffs


Mike shuffled into the kitchen and lifted the kettle, assessing the weight. Enough in there for a cuppa, he thought, flicking the switch. He felt dead rough this morning. He should never have played Brag with Tone and Ali until the early hours. He’d hoped to recoup his losses, but nada. Now he was more broke than usual… But, God willing, when the post came, he’d be quids in again.

He sorted through the dirty crockery piled haphazardly on the drainer. Selecting the least soiled mug, he gave it quick rise under the tap. Teabag. Hot water. Sorted. Next, milk…

Not much stuff in the fridge. He wouldn’t be having bacon and egg for breakfast. His stomach roiled queasily at the thought. The milk carton in the door rack was almost empty. He sniffed at it suspiciously. Smelled a bit off, to him. He could do without adding food poisoning to his hangover.

The letter box clicked, and mail fell heavily on the mat. And again. Music to his ears!

He trotted into the hall, disregarding the liquid sloshing from his mug. The twenty or so letters waiting on the mat made him swell with pride. His expertise had brought this about… his facility with words. Was facility the right word to use, he wondered, trying to scoop the post up with one hand. He blocked them against his foot and managed to get a  good grip. Nevertheless, they were beginning to slip by the time he’d made it into the lounge. He used his foot to hurriedly push a couple of pizza boxes off the coffee table to make room for his haul. Mostly white envelopes. Looked good.

He delayed opening them, ramped up his anticipation, by sipping his tea. He retched. The damn’ stuff was too strong, he shouldn’t have left the tea bag in so long. He needed milk. But it had gone sour. He’d nip to the corner shop. He searched his pockets for small change. Not enough, God dammit!

Time to open his post. He used a Stanley knife to rip the first envelope open and unfolded the letter inside. Then he upended the envelope to check he hadn’t overlooked an enclosure.  The next letter disgorged a tenner, the next a fiver. Peanuts, really. But better than nothing, he supposed. He rapidly opened them all, fumbling in his haste to know the extent of his haul. Eighty-five pounds in cash, thirty in postal orders, and a cheque for fifty quid to put towards the Xbox his poor terminally-ill daughter craved.

He made a mental note to use the terminally-ill line again. The evening papers always coughed up a list of recently bereaved people. Newly losing a loved one made them more gullible… more likely to respond to his tales of woe, his pleas for help.

Bugger his cuppa, he thought. He’d drop the old trout a ‘Thank you’ note on behalf of his fictitious daughter. She might send another donation as a reward for good manners! He got his writing pad from the kitchen drawer. Sold by the thousand in Pound Shops. Untraceable. Ditto, the envelopes, should someone complain about being conned. No computer generated letters for him. They could be traced. There were some clever-devil sneaky police about nowadays.

Maybe he should draft his letter to the new batch of punters, while the idea was fresh in his mind. He’d invent a son, this time, instead of a daughter. An ill mother needing urgent treatment had melted hardly anyone’s heart. No sympathy for the less fortunate, that was the trouble with folk nowadays.

Dear whoever,

My name is Bob Brown, and I’m writing to you on behalf of my son…” Mike tapped his pen on the pad. What should he call him? Richard. That was a good reassuring kind of name. “My eight-year old son, Richard, lame from birth,” he amended. “He has a congenital defect which confines him to a wheel chair. As if poor Dicky hasn’t suffered enough, he has recently been diagnosed with untreatable cancer. Can you imagine the distress this has caused me? His dear mother passed away with the same disease only last year…” Good touch that. Mike took a cautious sip of his bitter, dark brown tea. He’d almost shed a tear himself! All he needed now was a reason to be asking for money…for monetary help. “Dear Dicky talks every day of visiting Disneyland in Florida. It is my dearest wish to make his dream of meeting Mickey Mouse and Goofy come true. Perhaps you would like to help him attain his dream by sending a pound or two? The poor boy has so little time left in this world, 

Yours , with deep-felt appreciation, Bob.”

There he thought, tossing the pen down. That little masterpiece should wring water from a stone. Maybe he should take up novel writing! He seemed to have a thing for words. He must look up ‘congenital’ to make sure it meant what he thought it did.

He could afford milk now. Have a decent cuppa. Fiver in hand, he was on his way to the door when the bell rang. Two grim-faced women stood on the doorstep. He stared them out.

He knew what they wanted. His damned ex-wife was aiming to get more cash deducted from his pay. That’s why he’d jacked his job in. On the grounds of ill-heath. Only he knew how his back felt. Not them.

“Yes?” he said politely. “Can I help you?”

“Social Services,” said the smaller of the two. “Are we speaking to Bob Brown?”

That threw him. Not his ex, then. “No. Never heard of him. I’m Mike Saunders,”

“He gave this address as the residence of himself and his terminally-ill daughter,” said the taller woman. “Mind if we come in and have a chat?”

He did. But had no choice but to move back as they stepped forward.

“Excuse the mess,” he said. “Everything’s got on top of me since the wife left. Stuff needs a tidy.”

He tried to start with his literary efforts spread on the coffee table. The taller woman blocked him. She picked the letter-in-progress up and read it through.

“Poor Bob. Both his children due to meet the Grim Reaper, anytime soon. Are they upstairs, or exist only in your imagination? I’m police constable Evans, by the way.”

Mike’s expertise with words had left him. His mouth was half-open as he tried to think what to say.

“Mrs Myrtle Smythe-Jones was very concerned with your daughter’s Illness, and of how you would cope when she had…gone.”

Mike recognised the name. Mrs Smythe-Jones had sent the fifty quid cheque. Why couldn’t the old trout have minded her own business!

He mutely held his hands out for the handcuffs.


Photo by courtesy of johnnyberg




Available in paper back or Kindle

Coming next THE COTTAGE



Crime doesn’t pay…

mzcha car

Best invention since sliced bread, Ed thought, shrugging into the long black garment which covered him from head to foot. No one could tell he was a man. He peered through the eye slot to examine himself in the mirror. Spooky, or what?

He remembered when he’d first seen a posse of folk dressed like this at the local market. Only their eyes showed. Menacing didn’t come close! He’d got the screaming abdabs and made himself scarce as quickly as he could without appearing to run.

He’d later found out that the cover-all garments were called burqas and worn by Muslim women, something to do with religion and modesty. Later still, the thought hit him that it was the ideal thing to wear when he raided the Booze-R-Us store. Better than the black-woollen face mask he usually wore. That put folk on guard, told them what was going to happen. Who would suspect a Muslim woman gliding into the store, up to the counter—until it was too late to bash the panic button.

He looked more closely at his image. His eyes were a giveaway. Not feminine.  Maybe a touch of eyeliner or mascara?  He gave an irritated grunt. What did it matter? No one was going to notice. They’d be too busy being scared when he waved the sawn-off shotgun and demanded money from the till.

He must get drawing the gun off pat. It was hard to bring it out without tangling with the damn gown.  He solved that problem by enlarging the arm slots with the kitchen scissors.

Next, he concentrated on changing his usual aggressive stride to a graceful glide.

He practiced all afternoon, and even managed a sexy sway.


On Friday night, Ted parked his small car a few door down from of Booze-R-Us. A nicely polished modest car, nothing to attract attention. It was ten minutes to midnight. He hoped the maximum number of customers had stocked up on booze for the weekend. The staff would be too tired to put up much resistance.

He waited until the shop was clear of customers, then he climbed from the car, adjusted his gown and glided along the pavement. Pushed the door open. The bell pinged.  Good, Len thought, only one assistant. He looked surprised to see an Asian lady approaching the counter.  Just as he’d planned.

“Can I help you, madam?”

Wordlessly, Len put a bottle of wine on the counter, added a tenner.

The assistant deftly wrapped the bottle in tissue, opened the till…

“Hand over the cash!” Len said, wrestling the sawn-off shotgun from under the gown. “Quick!”

The assistant’s eyes widened in shock. He didn’t move.

“You deaf or what?” Len yelled, dumping a shopping bag on the counter. “Fill it! Quick!”

The assistant was still turned to stone. Len leaned over to help himself. He had the till empty in a trice, and added bottles from the shelves on his way out.

Easy-peasy. Success, he thought, brought up short when a loud “woo-woo-woo” blasted out and red lights flashed over the shop door.

The damned assistant had hit the panic button!

Len ran for his car. He forgot about the gown and his feet tangled in the hem. He crashed to the floor, his head bounced off the pavement.

When the police arrived, he was spark out in a mix of broken bottles and wine soaked bank notes.


Picture by courtesy mzacha







The Watcher… 3

boyDarren Sykes was fifteen and big for his age. He hated his round boyish face. He slouched down the lane clicking his fingers in time to the pop-tune playing his head.  Potty Mrs Potts was spying from her window, as per usual. Hadn’t the old bird got nothing better to do? He let himself into the two-up-two-down terrace house and scooped the post from the mat. He checked his brand new watch against the clock on the mantel. Spot on. He’d made a good choice.

It would be a good hour yet before his mother was home from her shift at the Supermarket, he had loads of time to check through his haul. It was amazing what could be picked up as the open market closed, he thought, emptying his pockets on the kitchen table…The traders were too busy packing up after a long day to notice the liberation of watches and CDs.

Sell this lot on, and he would soon be able to afford the old motorbike the friend of a friend was doing up. With wheels, he could widen the scope of his entrepreneurial skills. He liked that word…some old bird from the job centre had used it when she gave a careers talk to his class at school..

He got a coke from the fridge and sifted through the post. There was never anything for him, except on his birthday. He carefully read the one about the corner shop’s Booze Bonanza. If the assistant didn’t know him… could he pass for eighteen? Would he make a profit selling booze on? Not likely to, he decided. He took a swig from his coke, swishing the cold liquid round his mouth. He opened the cream coloured flyer and almost choked with fright, spluttering froth all over the table.







 Someone had seen him nicking at the market! Must have.

The fuzz would be hammering on the door any minute. Why had he listened to his friend’s cousin who had done time at a Young Offenders Centre? If making a living from liberating other peoples’ goods was so easy, how come he had been caught?

He was dabbing at the splashes on the table with the tea towel when he heard his mother’s key in the lock. The silly cow was early. Panic stricken, he tipped his schoolbooks on top of the CD’s and watches and made a show of working. Unnoticed, the flyer drifted to the floor.

“Hard at it?” his mother asked. “Make me a cuppa, love, I’ve been on the till all afternoon. Hefting the never ending shopping over the sensor fair makes my shoulders ache.”

“I’m doing my homework,” he said virtuously. “I’ll put the kettle on in a minute.”

“You’re a good boy.” She kicked her shoes off, swung her legs up on the sagging settee and lit a cigarette, drawing smoke deep into her lungs and slowly exhaling. She watched the spiral of grey-blue smoke drift to the ceiling to join the discoloured patch above the settee.  What must the smoke be doing to her lungs? she wondered, taking another deep drag, which made the bank notes tucked down her bra, crackle.

She’d had a good day…fifty pence here, a fiver there… but only from these who could afford. She never adjusted the change of pensioners. They were too likely to count every penny against the till receipt—whereas mothers with kids, they were too harassed by their offspring to give the change she put in their palm more than a casual glance. She kept a running total in her head, translated it to a bank note and transferred it from till to bra, carefully screening her movements from the spy cameras.

“Here,” Darren said, thrusting a mug at her. “Want me to go get a pizza from that new shop? They’ve got special offers.”

“There’s one in the freezer,” she said, and spotted the cream-coloured flyer nestled against the settee leg. “What’s this?” she asked, reaching.

“Nothing!” He was too late to stop her straightening it out. “Junk mail….”







 The colour drained from her face…she hadn’t been careful enough. She’d been seen!


Photo by courtesy of greyman


Something wasn’t right…

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Adam knew something wasn’t right, the moment he woke in the early hours…. The time when you’re tempted to ignore the beginning of another day and drift along in La-la land. He couldn’t quite put his finger on the wrongness…except that the bedroom was cold. He curled his arm back under the duvet. He hoped the central heating was wasn’t on the blink. He couldn’t afford another big bill before Christmas…not after he’d spent all that cash on the kids…iPods, smart phones, Xbox… You name it, they wanted it…the list was endless. He wasn’t a computer friendly guy, in fact he was unsure what half the stuff did… When he’d shared this thought with his estranged wife, her answer had been short and to the point. ‘You’re a man. You should know.’

He’d bet his bottom dollar that Clive, her new boyfriend, knew exactly how many pixels made….hang on, weren’t pixcels something to do with digital cameras? See, something had stuck in the dim recesses of his brain. He also knew that the kids were playing their parents off against each other—a kind of guarantee they’d get what they wanted for Christmas…

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth….” he sang under his breath. Christ, that took him back! When had that it been in the charts?  His Mam used to sing it to him.

He swung his legs out of bed and shivered when gooselumps rose on his skin. Definitely the heating. What purchase could he take back to the shop and claim a refund? Which item would cause least grief? Kids expected so much these day, especially ones with divided parents.

His own parents hadn’t split up. They’d battled it out daily, screaming and yelling at each other, throwing whatever ammunition came to hand. He’d cowered in his bedroom, listening to the crash of crockery hitting the wall, vowing he’d never become a drinker, like his dad… never try to keep a marriage together because of a child…

His expectations of Father Christmas had never been high, maybe a couple of matchbox cars, an annual and a colouring book and, if he was lucky, he got coloured pencils, too.  His Dad said Christmas was a con set up by businessmen out to get rich. In his day, he said, his sock had held half a dozen lead soldiers, a box of dominoes and, hip-hurrah, when a broken down nag had managed to be first over the finishing line, he also got an orange wrapped in silver paper and a handful of nuts. This anecdote had confused Adam, For years he had imagined Father Christmas to be a regular punter at the betting shop..

Adam had moved in with his grandparents when he was sixteen, and soon found that their marriage was far from a bed of roses. His Granddad was a gambler… following the gee-gees, he called it. His Grandma was a martyr. Divorce was a disgrace. Unheard off. She quoted the for better, for worse, bit of the wedding service daily, together with appropriate quotes from the Bible.

A fresh wave of gooselumps prickled across his skin, ousting thoughts of the past. Time to check the damned heating.

He retrieved yesterday’s socks and jeans from the floor.  He missed his wife. They’d had a tiff. She’d called him a do-nothing bore. He’d yelled back that she should be damned glad he didn’t take after the two role models in his life—and that was it— She’d gone, taken the three kids…and left Mutt, the dog..

It wasn’t long before smug Clive came on the scene.  Adam hated his replacement, Clive, the Stirrer. He was convinced that he egged the kids on to demand the high tech stuff…including an all dancing, all singing laptop…the price had made him blanch.  He was still doing sums, hovering between yes, maybe-perhaps and no, never-ever…held back by the suspicion that Clive wanted if for himself.  The kids had giggled about Clive’s laptop being even more outdated than his own.

Pulling a sweatshirt on, he padded downstairs expecting lanky Mutt’s uncoordinated dash from the kitchen. The kitchen door was shut. That explained it, but he was sure he’d left it ajar…  he pushed it open and was met by a blast of cold air…the backdoor was swinging in the wind.

“Mutt,” he bellowed, afraid the dog had wandered onto the main road. “MUTT!”

He became aware of three things at once— Mutt answered from the lounge by throwing himself at the door, glass from the smashed window in the backdoor stabbed through his socks, and the pile of presents he’d wrapped last night were no longer on the table.

Shocked, he gaped at the empty space next to a few Christmas tree baubles—Burgled! He’d been burgled—All the kids’ expensive presents gone—his money wasted—his thoughts were in a tangle—he was glad he hadn’t given in and bought the laptop, but on the other hand if he had—he would’ve been even gladder that Clive wouldn’t have got his greedy hands on it!


Photo by courtesy of MeiTeng


A morning on the beach …

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There was a man walking.

No sign of Yetta.

The tide darted raggedly up the beach. The man sidestepped the frothy frill of water, agile, like a dancer. Don continued down the narrow cliff path.

Last night, clinging to him in the strobe-pierced darkness of the club, she had begged him to meet her on the beach. Early. Her laughing face had looked haggard in the changing colour of the lights sweeping across the crowd, making him unsure of her age. He wasn’t even sure of her hair colour…it could have been blonde…or pink…or purple…

But he’d know her voice. Recognise the little hitch, the giveaway that English wasn’t her native language. He had wondered if she was an illegal…

“Why do girls meet the boys on the beaches,” she had asked, in a husky whisper.

He’d shrugged, nuzzling her ear.

He was well past the age of ‘boy’. Maybe it was the lighting…or her eyesight was off.

He perched on a rock. The walking man had rounded the headland and the beach was deserted in either direction. He idly watched the sea making inroads into the sand, bringing in more seaweed.

How many times had he sat on this very rock waiting for a girl, he wondered. Or helped his friends make a bonfire of driftwood as the sun sank into the sea. Happy days…

Pebbles rattled behind him and he started to turn—Yetta.

Something smashed into the back of his head, sending him face down in the sand. For a few moments he lay dazed, then began to rise, spitting sand. A heavy foot between his shoulder blades slammed him down again.

Not Yetta. Hurry up, girl—but what use would she be against a thug? If only he could get up, fight, he stood a sporting chance—he prayed the walking man would return—

“What do you want?” he mumbled into the sand. “I haven’t any money. I don’t carry cash on the beach—”

The foot moved to the back of his neck in answer, and ground down on his spine.

“Just go,” Don said. “And we’ll say no more about it…”

At least two men burst into guttural laughter. He was outnumbered.

He was surprised when a soft hand gently stroked the gritty sand from his face and a husky voice whispered in his ear. “Marry me.”

A proposal? He wondered if the blow on his head had mashed his brain.“Yetta?”

The laughter rang out again. “Don’t you get it, loser? Yetta?  Yet another one?”

“No,” Don said.

“We need to stay in this country,” a harsh voice hissed in his ear. “This way, we all stay as family. One big happy family. Yes?”


“I think yes!” A boot crashed into his ribs.  Once. Twice. “Say yes, yes!”


Blows rained down. He heard bones crack. Felt blood trickling down his face. He stopped caring. Just wished it to be over…

They took his watch, rifled through his pockets, then dragged his bleeding body to the water’s edge, and left him for dead.

The cold, incoming tide washed against Don’s face and part-revived him, made his wounds sting. He squinted through swollen eyes at the three men as they turned to walk away. And Yetta. He must be able to describe them… The water pushed him forward a few inches, then dragged him back. His fingers scrabbles at the sand.

In the other direction, the walking man returned round the headland, idly poking at the debris the tide had brought in. Further along, something lifted and fell in the waves. Could be clothes, he thought. Some unlucky bather had lost their gear…

Then he saw the arm reaching out—and ran—


Photo by courtesy of sloopjohnb