Short Stories (46)

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My missing colleague was a radio surveillance operator and he did 13-hour shifts of intense listening through his headset. Off-duty he would say very little apart from commenting that the constant whistling of the wind “drove him mad” … (full story available in printed form)


In April 1983 I arrived at Bootle railway station in Cumbria. I was there to work at a secret weapons-testing military-base which was two miles from the train station, but not on the map, or marked by any signs. I was also to work at Eskmeals observation station …(full story available in printed form)


The Lorry Driver was heading south, over the Dava Moor road, towards the Cairngorms. His final destination was Madrid. He decided to travel through the night to get a head start. It was well after midnight and he had been speaking with his wife on the phone just a few minutes earlier ... (full story available in printed form)


A new section of road was laid on the A41 to divert traffic away from a small town that was not that far away from Aylesbury. But, shortly after the building-work commenced, reports of strange happenings began to surface in the local community. The road became notorious for paranormal activity, but also for the many lives it would claim. This is a story about a haunted road …(full story available in printed form)


Glen Affric is one of the three Great Glens that join up the West Coast with Loch Ness. If you feel hardy enough you can walk the 45 miles from Beauly right across the mountains to Kintail, then down to Cluny, then further south which takes you into Glen Affric. But maybe you don’t want to try this in winter no matter how tough you are. And give yourself three whole days to do the walk even in the summer … (full story available in printed form)


The year was 1984. Me and my mate Chas packed our Big motorbikes with camping gear and headed off from Dunfermline. I rode a Honda Goldwing, Chas strode a Honda CB900. These powerful bikes don’t hang around on the road. There were very few speed cameras in those days and so it didn’t take us that long to complete the 200 mile journey north from Dunfermline to Dingwall. Is was mid-August, and bright and warm, and so the run "up north" was enjoyable. We only had the clothes we were wearing, camping gear, and a toothbrush (each) …(full story available in printed form)


Perhaps we should all give it a try. Because, if you do this, you will feel stuff, with no distractions. And I have led by example. I cycled all around Scotland - that is pedal power - and camped out in the wilds each night in a wee tent. I did this for four weeks, with no contact whatsoever with anyone. I had no phone with me, or radio, or any other form of communication – for a whole month. I was completely cut-off. And that is when you experience things deep in your soul … (full story available in printed form)

8. ICE

One day last year, during an extended cold snap, I set out on a mission to get some pictures of swans at the Secret Loch, a remote stretch of water that only I knew about. I suppose I risked it just a wee bit too much on this occasion … (full story available in printed form)


I found myself standing in this eerie graveyard at 6.15 in the morning. It was deathly silent as only a graveyard can be. Dawn was just about to break and the atmosphere was cool and misty. As I walked around I felt silky cobwebs brushing over my face and I could smell the damp earth under my feet … (full story available in printed form)


The distinguished couple that I met at Loch Garten were well-spoken and obviously highly-educated professionals. After all, they arrived in a Mercedes-Benz. In fact, he was a Diplomat and she was a Scientist …(full story available in printed form)


You are in Paris and surrounded by interesting architecture and beautiful people, and you have your camera with you. Your battery is fully charged and your memory card is empty. You are about to take some photos. Because that is what you came here for …(full story available in printed form)


The beautifully vulnerable and gorgeous cat lives on the street, surviving on scraps and the kindness of an old man, a street-musician, who plays his flute wonderfully for just a few coins …(full story available in printed form)


I worked as a scientist down in The Bunker. It was located several thousand feet under the City. To get there you walked through the doors of a traditional, innocuous-looking, castle on the edge of Dunfermline (military camouflage) …(full story available in printed form)


Working overnight in an unused wing of an Old Hospital could be creepy. As an electrician this was something I experienced a few times. Big hospitals can often have dark pasts, and they store historic memories in their bricks …(full story available in printed form)


I knew that the train station waiting-room had been out of use for many decades. I pushed the door anyway and, to my surprise, it opened easily, and so I entered the dusty and musty environment. My intention was to stay overnight at the station between the last train at 11.45pm, that late evening, and the next train at 5.45am the following early morning. I was armed with an old-fashioned 120 roll-film camera which only had 10 frames to play with. I managed to get 8 pictures to ‘come out’. Not too bad … (full story available in printed form)


I was on a trip to the North-East, and I was cycling around on my pedal-bike looking for remote Standing Stones (marked on my ancient map). I would often come across rough tracks (ideal for a mountain-bike) that would lead me deep into the thick, dark woods, taking me well away from anyone … (full story available in printed form)


It is November 1966.

“A splendid old house, isn’t it?” the estate-agent declared persuasively. “Just the thing for a large family with good taste. Not one of those modern boxes with no room to swing a … eh, do have any pets Sir?”

Deep in his heart Danny Adams agreed that the house was magnificent, but he also knew not to let his feelings show; not if a good deal was to be made. And so Danny tried to look mean and shrewd. But his was not a poker-face and it registered his emotions like he was an actor in those old black and white silent movies. He yearned for this big house, with its cornices, attics, endless nooks and crannies, and above all, the thirty-by-forty-foot living-room that ‘featured’ a nineteen-foot ceiling and a fireplace big enough for a bonfire.

And there were also ten acres of sweeping land too, offering wonderful privacy. What a great place for the kids! With five of them, all active, outgoing, creative, and impulsive -- just like their Dad. Finding a suitable house was no simple matter. Yes, but this one, almost hidden by the towering, leafy-oaks was a prize indeed -- a lucky strike.

“It’s not bad,” Danny said cautiously, totally unaware that his soft, brown eyes shone like beacons. “But, after all, Mr Ross, the place has been locked up for over thirty years, and what with all the stories and stuff, that would scare most buyers off. Everybody isn’t as free from superstition as I am, you know.”

“There’s nothing to all that talk,” the Estate-agent assured him. “The owner just didn’t care to rent or sell. He inherited the property at a fairly young age, but never actually lived there, most probably because it was just too big for one person living alone. That seems reasonable enough. One man in a thirty-room house! Of course,” he added quickly, seeing that a question was trembling on Danny’s lips. “It does need some work doing, but that’s why the ad said it "needs some attention." We thought a handy-man would see it as a real bargain, whereas if we had to call in our regular contractors…”

Danny was, indeed, a remarkably good DIY man, having a knack for cabinet work, masonry, electrical wiring, and even plumbing. He looked forward, with pleasant anticipation, to the job of renovating the house. The family could stay in the old one, several hundred miles away, while he worked away in peace, making the house ready for them. And there was no need to even consult Angela; she knew his taste was impeccable.

The Estate-agent and Danny agree on terms. There followed a period of intense activity and the old house was put into order.

Then there is the interesting puzzle of the mirror. The enormous mirror is set into the wall above the fireplace. The huge fireplace is intricately carved and decorated.

The family move in and are enthusiastic about the house. The five children enjoy exploring its many fascinating storerooms, attics, cupboards, and crawl-spaces. They kids range in age from five to thirteen. They walk, run, jump, and climb until they know every inch of the house.

Although the mirror was very old, it gave a clear, undistorted reflection. And with his family grouped around a blazing fire, Danny talked, with verve and imagination, about the reflected world to be seen -- in part -- over the mantel-piece. The oldest boy, Jerry, who was more science-minded at thirteen, showed less interest until his father, with shrewd premeditation, raised the question: why are left and right interchanged in the reflection, but not up and down?

This puzzle kept Jerry occupied for the rest of his father’s story. But Judy, who was eight, had a complaint. “The looking-glass room is just like ours,” she pouted.

“Not really,” Danny said. “See the picture on the wall? In our room, the man’s on the left; in there, he’s on the right. Besides,“ he added quickly, aware that the distinction didn’t impress her much, “we don’t know what’s in the rest of the reflected house, through the archway and in all the other rooms. They may be altogether different from this side of the mirror. And the ones who live in them may stay out of this room which we can see. The story will be continued tomorrow,“ Danny says, “at nine-thirty. Now it’s bedtime, except for Jerry; he gets his extra half-hour.”

“Not tomorrow, dear,” Angela reminds him. “We’re going to the partner’s meeting, remember, and we won’t be back until midnight.”

Neither Danny nor his wife had any misgivings when they left the following evening. Although the house was isolated to a degree, the heavy doors locked, as did the windows. Jerry was a strong and responsible kid and he would be left in charge.

The next evening, when the parents were away, the five kids became fascinated by the big mirror. They all pulled together and held up a bedroom dresser-mirror, which they had taken of its hinges, in front of the big fire-mirror in order to see into reflected areas in the mirror-world out of normal view.

When Danny and Angela came back into the house at eleven-forty and saw the living-room, she began to scream …

Angela never stopped screaming. Two days later she died. And Danny was indicted for murder. But he believed it was a mercy-killing.


The remote farmhouse, five miles from Dulnain Bridge, received an order of delivered groceries four years ago. Since then, there has been no reported activity of any kind. However, on November the 17th, three separate 999 calls were traced to this exact location. But no-one actually spoke during those recorded calls. The Authorities turned up at the address, forced the door, and entered the property. What they discovered was not easy for them to take in … (full story available in printed form)


To create a peaceful ambience, she put on soft music and lit some fragrant candles. Gathering a blanket, Lucy sat down on the settee, and laid her head down on a cushion. Her thoughts drifted around that day’s unusual occurrences, searching for an understanding or explanation …(full story available in printed form)


In the Old Days, working as a Government Scientist, I travelled around the country, often staying in temporary accommodation. This was well before mobile phones were in general use …(full story available in printed form)


The House was built to last for hundreds of years but it stood for only seventy. It managed, however, to mark its place in history. Its name became synonymous with ghostly apparitions, poltergeist activity and terrifying phenomena that defied rational explanation.

The Rectory was constructed in 1852 opposite the Church. It was built as a replacement for a previous rectory which burnt down in 1841. The property had twenty-three rooms and was surrounded by five acres of land. Constructed using red brick, it’s neo-gothic architecture sat in stark contrast to the lush green trees and hedgerows that complimented the grounds.

A network of tunnels and vaults lie beneath these grounds but no-one knows who built them or the nature of their purpose. It is said that the Rectory was built on the same plot of land as a Cistercian monastery which existed in the Dark Ages, more than 500 years ago.

The disembodied cries of a young lady have been reported many times over the years and the ghostly apparition of a nun has been witnessed countless times over the centuries. The nun would walk across the grounds and then fade out of view.

One would expect, perhaps, to see the ghost of a monk because of the history of the monastery, but this apparently anomaly can be explained by a tragic story of forbidden love.

Legend has it that, in the 14th Century, an illicit affair took place between a monk from the monastery and a nun from a local Benedictine convent. The two of them planned to elope and settle down elsewhere in the country, at which point they would wed. But shortly after they had ran away, however, they were hunted down and were spared no mercy in the retribution they suffered. The monk was hanged and the nun was bricked up inside the monastery walls, while still alive, and left to rot.

Tales of paranormal activity were commonplace before the first residents moved into the rectory. Records show that the first resident was Reverend Henry Elgar Lawson Ellis. Ellis moved into the rectory with his wife and would go on to raise fifteen children there.

But such a large family required bigger, and more suitable, living quarters and so this led to the addition of a new wing in 1870. Many sources state that Ellis and his family experienced strange occurrences from the outset.

The Reverend became fascinated by the bizarre phenomena and requested that a summer house be built overlooking a small stretch of the grounds where the nun was seen most often. The family dubbed this area “Nun’s Walk” and Ellis would spend many evenings, after dinner, sitting outside the summer house, cigar in hand, trying to catch a glimpse of her.

The ghostly encounters began to occur more frequently. Staff, and even guests at the rectory, would often be found in shock, and fearing for their lives, after seeing faceless figures peering at them from the windows of the main house. Suffice to say, servants rarely stayed for long.

Henry Ellis passed away in 1892, leaving the property to his son Richard.

On the 28th July 1898 four of Richard’s daughters were exploring the grounds when they caught sight of the nun about 50 yards from the main house. Curiosity got the better of them and they decided to try and talk to her, but to their complete shock, the figure simply vanished into thin air as they approached it.

The parish organist, Ernest Tucker, is on the record as saying that “apparitions had been seen on many occasions." This was further supported by various people living within the vicinity of the rectory, who also claimed to have seen ghostly figures walking across the grounds.

Richard’s daughters would often see the nun making appearances in the daytime and evening. They also said they had seen a phantom coach on quite a few occasions.

Richard Ellis would remain at the rectory until his death in 1930. The lease then passed to Derek Tensing and his wife who moved in shortly afterwards. Already well aware of the rectory’s eerie past, the new residents were understandably apprehensive and it wasn’t long before this feeling was fully justified. One morning whilst cleaning out a cupboard Tensing’s wife discovered the skull of a young woman inside a brown paper bag.


It was July 1975 and I was alone at home watching the third set of the Wimbledon men’s final between Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe, on a black and white coin-meter television. As a kid, I was keen on tennis … (full story available in printed form)



The year is 1972. The place is London. John feels like he is disappearing.

He walks, head down, out of the Housing Department building, and descends the big stone grey steps, into a busy street of bustling traffic. Cars, trucks, and red buses are jam-packed together. They thunder past him.

John is around 5ft 8 in height. He’s wearing a light-blue shirt, with a dark blue, plain tie, a dark jacket, and a lighter-grey over-coat, which is unbuttoned and blowing about in the wind. He looks at his best. But downtrodden. He’s 46 and still has all his own hair, albeit it’s a bit flat and dullish-looking, and it has quite a bit of grey running through the mousy brown.

John shows a stern expression, perhaps he even looks a bit indignant, as he walks along the pavement. Motorbikes, Commer vans, and black taxis, whiz by him. He doesn’t notice them. They don’t notice him. He walks along the crowded street, trying to avoid bumping into other people. He mutters away to himself. Now and then he waves his hands about to emphasise the points he’s making to his inner-self.


Somewhere else in London, there is the sound of a police siren. A Rover P6 swerves to a halt outside a council house. The flash white car is unmarked, but it does have extra spotlights on the front grill, and blue-flashers attached to its roof.

At the end of this grubby, and mostly deserted, street there’s a big factory, bellowing out thick smoke from its huge chimneys.

A tall man, with thick-black, straight-hair, briskly exits from the passenger side of the vehicle. He slams the door shut, leaving his driver still sitting behind the wheel. The tall man is wearing a light-grey plain coat, a white shirt, and dark tie, and he has purpose on his mind. In the distance, a couple of young teenagers clock the car and the man in the grey coat.


Meanwhile, while this is going on, John is sitting, on a bench-seat, inside a London Underground carriage. The coach rattles away, swaying his body from side to side. John is a bit tense. Every now and then he leans forward, and then sits back again. He seems to be experiencing some sort of inner turmoil.


The tall CID detective is now standing in John’s living-room, talking to John’s wife. He towers over her. A frumpy little lady, in a dark-blue, plain dress, has just picked up an old black and white, square, glossy photograph from her dresser. She walks over to the grey-coated detective with the picture. The CID man stands there, with his notebook and pencil, and a serious look on his face.

“That’s funny,” she says, in a shrill, and slightly confused voice. “I was sure he was in this one.” The photo shows a plain-looking lady, standing in front of an unsightly wire-mesh fence, which lies beneath two council-house iron window-frames. She wears a dark head-scarf and a dark coat. Her handbag dangles from her hands at the bottom of the picture. But the lady is not centrally-framed, she stands to the right-hand side of the photo. To the left, there is a gap, and just the non-descript background.

“Perhaps he took the picture,” the detective says, showing a bit of impatience.

“Ted, my brother Ted, took it. John never owned a camera,” she goes on, in her shrill voice. “Perhaps you know Ted? He runs a very successful business up Dawes Road.” She flicks her head to indicate the direction of where she is talking about.

“What would your husband be doing with a gun?” the detective asks. He speaks to the lady, slowly and deliberately, as if he is making allowances for her not being that bright.

“I’ve no idea,” she replies, with doubt on her face. “He wouldn’t know which way to point it.”

The detective persists, “Why should he threaten someone at the Ministry of Housing?” he says, rolling his eyes a bit.

“He wouldn’t; not John. But, our Ted, he was a crack-shot in the Army,” she answers.

“Can you describe your husband?” he says, now looking bored.

“John?” She gazes into the mid-distance, as if trying to picture him.

“Well, I mean … he’s not exactly Rock Hudson.” She trails off as she can’t think of anything else to say.

“Has he got any distinguishing features?” He’s losing patience.

She struggles. “No … nothing. You’d hardly notice him really. Nobody ever does."


John is sitting on the bench-seat, in the dimly-lit underground train-carriage, his body swaying with the motion of the train. He sees his own perturbed face reflecting back at him from the window on the opposite side of the aisle. Then his own face begins to change into that of his wife. She has an expression of disapproval on her.

In a nagging tone his wife’s reflection says to John, “People don’t notice nobodies, you know, you’ve got to impress yourself on them,” she says, sternly.

John suddenly snaps out of the dream he was in, and becomes aware of the train, and the others in the carriage. He slowly glances around. In front of him, to his right, sits a smart-looking man of about thirty-five who has slicked-back black hair. The man in wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and a tie with small checks on it. The man’s head is nodding with the motion of the train.

To his front-right there is a woman of about twenty-five who has long, straight, brown hair. She’s wearing a thick white polo-neck jumper and she has a medium-blue wool coat on. There is a “No Smoking” sign just above her head. Right next to her is a bearded man in his mid-fifties who’s got a dark casual jacket on. John is wondering if these people are more significant than he is; more striking or important than him perhaps. “Are they making a bigger impression?” he asks himself.

He quickly takes a look at a younger man, standing, near the carriage door, to his right. This man seems to have self-confidence, he’s got curly hair, which is longish, but neat, and he’s wearing a thick polo-neck jumper under his dark coat. As John slowly turns his head away from the younger man he sees his own dour face reflected in the carriage window again, sitting there, with his dull over-coat on.

John decides to stand up in the train-carriage to avoid looking at his own, furrow-browed, reflection. Now, fully stretched, his hands are above his head as he hangs onto a strap at either side, and stands upright in the aisle, trying to keep his balance. He glances, again, at the young woman with long, light-brown, hair and the man with the beard.

He’s still uncomfortable, and so he walks forward out of the carriage and stands in-between carriages, next to the automatic door that swings open at a station. He looks down at a prim-looking women, with black hair, nearby, who has glasses on. She’s in her forties and is sitting in a twin-seat reading a newspaper. John bends right over in front of the lady. She doesn’t even look up. John looks uneasy. He was very close to her but she just kept on reading as if he wasn’t there. John goes to the other side of the aisle and peers over another lady’s shoulder and tries to read her newspaper. There is no reaction from her … (full story available in printed form)



Katy Turner was a 30-year-old Canadian Police Officer with an exemplary record. She was a good-looking young woman with longish blonde hair and striking blue eyes. On the morning of the 22nd of September 2018 she was reported missing by her dispatch unit, based in Colchester, Nova Scotia. They requested a missing-person’s investigation - to be carried out immediately - after she failed to show up for work for the first time in her 7-year-long career.

She had not once been late, and was known as the “go-to colleague” for filling in last-minute shifts and late assignments. Jim, her patrol-partner, described her absence, and lack of communication, as “very out of character” and immediately went to check her apartment with a spare key she had given him. He testified that he found her alarm-clock ringing and nothing out of place.

Katy Turner’s credit card was traced to an Uber-driver at 3.40am the night before. The driver was located by the police and he testified that he picked up a male and female from the Ale Bar and dropped them off at the end of a street just 6 minutes away. He also stated that he could sense tension between them during the short journey.

The Ale Bar’s security cameras were then checked and the police discovered Katy talking, kissing, and dancing with a man, who at the time, was unknown and unnamed. The closest point of surveillance to the Uber-destination was the rear parking-lot of a leisure-centre situated about 50 yards from the street where they were dropped off from the cab.

Investigators checked the CCTV recordings from the night before and saw a bare-footed character dragging a large wheeled-bin shortly before 5am. Then, 7 minutes later, the same figure is seen dragging the bin, with some difficulty, because of the weight, in the opposite direction. The same man is then traced and seen dragging the bin to a location underneath the Mackenzie Bridge. When he emerges from the other side, the security-camera footage shows him dragging the wheeled bin more quickly as it appears that it has been emptied. This area was immediately searched and Katy’s lifeless body was discovered at 3.30pm.

Katy’s lifeless body was discovered at 3.30pm on the day she never turned up for work. She had two black eyes, a broken nose, and her cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation, most likely due to strangulation. As forensics got to work on Katy’s body at the crime scene, the police strengthened their operation and declared the figure of the man in the CCTV footage as their priority.

Just over 48 hours later they had found out the man’s identity. A member of staff at the Ale Bar testified that it was Christopher (“Chris”) Gardener who had worked at the Ale House, as a doorman, in 2014, four years earlier. The following Tuesday-night, Chris was spotted, on the same surveillance camera that covered Mackenzie Bridge, driving his girlfriend’s car. He was seen driving up to the location where Katy’s body had been dumped, presumably after noticing the body was gone. He was located, and arrested, at his apartment, on the early hours of Wednesday morning. He was immediately subjected to interrogation.


The grey-walled interrogation-room is small in area, and it has a low ceiling. The lighting is stark fluorescent white-light. The only furniture, apart from three chairs, is a plain and functional table that has many 10x8 inch or A4-size photographs spread over its entire area. Chris sits adjacent to the table, with his back to the grey wall, on a stool which has wheels, allowing it to move on the floor, and a back-support; a standard office-chair.

Two detectives sit facing Chris, on similar stool-chairs. They effectively make a barrier which prevents him from walking to the exit door. Two cameras, bracketed on the wall, are recording events, and there is also a continuous audio-recording being made. The interrogators are employing the “Mutt and Jeff” technique, or Good Cop/Bad Cop.

Facing Chris, on his right-side, is a stocky-built man in a grey suit who has a full, and thick, set of grey wavy hair which neatly just brushes the collar of his crisp white shirt. To Chris’s left, there sits a pleasant-looking woman, with her fine-light-brown hair, tied in a pigtail at the back. She has a light-blue thin top on, and black slacks and flat sandals. She is adopting a casual and approachable posture. The woman detective (the Good Cop) is leaning forward towards Chris and is stroking his left arm to comfort him. The man-detective (the Bad Cop) has positioned himself, also, in close proximity to Chris and he, too, is leaning forward, while holding a steady gaze on Chris.

Chris himself sits facing them both. He has his arms folded tightly across his chest. He is pressing back on his back-rest, but his head is pointing downwards. He is not making any eye-contact. Between his spread-open legs, on the chair, is a plastic bottle of water. Chris looks about thirty. He has close-cropped black hair and is wearing a short-sleeved black T-shirt which shows his upper-body and arms to be strong and muscular. He looks like a gym-guy. He has black sports-leggings on.

The female Good Cop is slightly-built compared to Chris, and she sits very near to him, side-on, with her legs-crossed over, and in a relaxed, non-threatening, posture. The suited-man Bad Cop, with the wavy grey hair, has a similar “chunky” build to Chris, and he sits back a couple of feet, leaning forward, and is face-on to Chris who’s shoulders are hunched inwards as he leans forward and looks down towards his knees.

When confronted with the surveillance images, Chris instantly broke down but alluded to nothing and asserted that his memory was blank on the night of the incident.


“Are you still saying that you can’t Chris?” the male detective gently asks. Chris says nothing and just sniffs, as if he has a cold, or he has been crying. Chris’s head shakes in a tremor but he says nothing. “There’s either I won’t, or I will, or I don’t want to. Which is it? You don’t want to?” The detective gently presses Chris who says nothing in response and just keeps on sniffling. “I’ve just talked to some people upstairs. I know what you had in your car.” The detective is referring to a tarp, gloves, rope and gasoline.

When Chris was arrested they had found a big tarpaulin, some thick rope, a pair of black gloves, and a large can of gasoline, in the car he was driving at the time. The police assumed that the tarp would have been used to wrap up the victim’s body to transport to a secluded location, to be dowsed in gasoline, and then set alight, as a method of eliminating evidence.

Chris remains silent in his chair, but raises his head up to meet the eyes of the male detective. He carries on sniffling. His head is visibly shaking.

The male detective carries on. “Chris, the people that we interviewed, that were with you this weekend, said that you did not show any remorse. They said that you were your regular old self. No issues. Your Dad came in, but he wouldn’t give us a statement. He found out through the police. The police called him.”

The detective leaves a pause. Chris shakes his head from side to side and starts to sob. The female detective reaches out and gently pats Chris on the shoulder in a comforting manner. Chris makes high-pitched sobbing sounds and continues to shake his head from side to side. “Chris, you’ve been sitting here saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.’ Life is about choices right now…” The male detective raises the tone in his voice and begins to point at Chris. “…just like the choice you made to go out on Thursday night. She paid for the cab.” The detective jabs at a photo on the table from the cab camera. The detective stabs at the photo on the table again for emphasis. “She paid for the cab Chris.”

Chris turns his head to the side to look at the picture, on the table, of Katy and himself in the back of the cab. The detective remains silent. Chris lingers on the photo on the table. “Do you remember that?” the male detective sternly asks, pointing at the taxi-cab photo. Chris shakes his head in a “no” gesture while still keeping his arms tightly folded over his chest. “You don’t remember, or you don’t want to remember?”

“I don’t remember,” Chris replies, in a squeaky and pathetic-sounding high-pitched tone.

“What do you remember?” The male detective taps at the photo again, impatiently. “After she paid for the cab, what do you remember?” The male detective uses the power of silence to increase the pressure. Chris sighs and sobs.

The female detective strokes Chris’s arm and, in a soft voice, gentle whispers reassuringly, “It’s ok.”

“Chris, do you see what’s going on here?” the male detective asks, and then leaves more silence. The detective now tries an alternative question as a tactic. “When you put her down, were you really hoping someone would find her?” This is a subtle technique used to get an indirect confession out of a suspect. Answering “yes” would appeal to Chris's higher morals and the detective is hoping this will swerve his thought-processes from the fact that it would also distinguish him as the culprit in the victim’s death. Again, more forcibly, the male detective asks, “Chris, when you put her down there, were you hoping someone would find her?” Chris sobs and sniffles and shakes his head in a “no” gesture. The technique fails.


The male investigator now switches to the “ego-down” approach which is, essentially, the opposite of the “ego-up” approach he had just attempted. The detective now attacks Chris’s sense of personal-worth in the hope that, by doing so, the subject will voluntarily provide information in an attempt to vindicate himself and redeem some of his pride.

“How can somebody … I mean … if I ran over a dog …” The male detective raises his hands and makes chopping motions for emphasis. “… if I ran over a dog I’d feel bad. How can somebody do something like this and all weekend you act normal, have sex with your girlfriend, go to your father’s birthday party, and everybody says you were acting as always. Then, you’re driving around … you were gonna go and do something with her body …” The detective leaves a pause.

“I don’t know what I was gonna do,” Chris says.

“Ok, the stuff you had in your car, what was that for?”

“Well … I had my bags … I was not sure if I was going to leave or not”.

By “leave“ Chris means skip Town, run away. In his bag was a passport, enough clothes for a week, and all of his savings in cash, which amounted to just under $3000.

"The stuff you had in your car, what was that for?" asks the detective.

"Well … I had my bags … I was not sure if I was going to leave or not."

“And what else?” The detective prompts Chris.

“Ah … eh … the tarp and gas … they were for … eh … one or two things …” Chris then clams up and starts sniffling.

“Which were what?” The detective prompts him. “That’s what I’m saying Chris, what did you have these for?” The detective adopts an upward-palms, open arms, gesture and puts a pleading tone in his voice as if to say, “Come on, you can tell me Chris.” Chris just sniffs away with a blank look on his face. His forearm is shaking with the tension.

“You know what you had them for. You were going back down there … to get her?”

“I thought about it,” Chris says, while nodding his head.

“Yes, you were,” the detective confirms.

We have a breakthrough. This is Chris’s first incriminating statement, although it is not a full confession. However, this is an example of good, low-key, detective work. But it is not nearly enough, yet, for a guaranteed conviction that would stand up in court. The words “I thought about it” could be transmuted, in a number of ways, by a defence team. Yet the suspect has essentially identified himself as the man who was dragging the bin and therefore insinuating to the crime of interfering with a dead body. The highly-skilled detectives will use this breakthrough as a foundation to frame their next set of questions in order to increase the pressure for a full confession.


“What were you gonna do with the gasoline Chris?” The detective sweeps his hand in an arc to emphasis his question. Chris moves his head from left to right in a “no” gesture.

“I don’t know.”

“Chris, stop playing this game, ok? Seriously. You knew what you were gonna do" The female detective sits very still and maintains a steady gaze on Chris as the male detective continues. “If there hadn’t been anyone around there you would have went down there and did that …”

“I don’t think I could have.” Chris sounds feeble. “I drove by there before.”

“Yes I know you drove by there before,” the male detective says to Chris, while nodding his head in the affirmative. “I appreciate your honesty, ok?” (using the “Ego-Up” approach, giving Chris a reward for being truthful). Again, “I appreciate your honesty.” Then the detective leaves a pause.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Chris says in a pathetic voice, while shaking his head from side to side.

“Chris, you had your girlfriend’s car, too, right? Why … why would you do that? Because you didn’t want …”

“No, no, I didn’t have a lot of gas left and I thought I would have to go further away … to try to get away …” Chris says in a weak voice.

“Ok, that’s reasonable.” The detective waves his hand in acceptance of the lame reasoning.

“I didn’t want to lie to you.” Chris’s voice is whinny and he grips himself tightly with his arms.

“Ok, you don’t have to lie to me,” the male copper says gently and kindly. The female cop reaches out and pats Chris on the shoulder to reassure him they care about him and he is with friends in this room. “Tell me this, was she … tell me this … was she still alive when you put her in that bin?”

Chris’s arm is trembling. His right leg is rapidly moving up and down on the seat. His foot is tapping away on the floor. “No,” he says.

Chris has now confessed to the “felony” of interfering with a dead body. It is no longer insinuated, it is now confirmed.


“She didn’t suffer in there? She didn’t suffer when you threw her over that bank, she was dead? How do you know she was dead?” The male detective presses Chris, in a serious tone.

“I think she was,” Chris replies. His right-leg and arms are trembling markedly. Chris should really have legal counsel at this point. He has just admitted that he did not know if the victim was already dead before the attempted disposal over her body. There was a chance she could still have been alive, but instead of taking her to a hospital, he left her underneath a bridge in the middle of the night. Disclosing lack of morality in such a manner will be brought up by the Prosecution at a trial.

“How did you know that?” the male detective asks. “Are you telling me she was not alive when you stuffed her in there?” Chris sniffs. “How did you know she was not alive?” The detective taps the table for emphasis.

“She wasn’t moving,” Chris whines.

“You’re a paramedic,” the detective states. Chris was, in fact, a salesman for a fire-suppressions company and a part-time personal trainer. He briefly served as a volunteer fire-fighter and underwent emergency medical technician training which is what the detective is referring to. “How do you know she was not alive?”

“She wasn’t breathing,” Chris says.

“She wasn’t breathing? Like, how did you know that? Did you get down to feel for a pulse? Did you get close to her face, you know, because you are a paramedic, some people might have faint breaths?”

“I don’t know,” Chris shakes his head and sniffs.

The victim not moving, or appearing to be breathing, is now Chris’s acumen for recognising her death. He has just admitted to not checking for a pulse, or using his CPR training, to try and save her life. The female detective now grips Chris’s left hand in her own, tightly, to bond and comfort him in his time of intense stress.


“When you put her in there, she wasn’t alive, 100 per cent, you’re telling me 100 per cent she wasn’t alive?”

“I think …” Chris shakes his head from side to side and grips the female detective’s hand tightly.

“Was she making any noises?” Chris replies with a shake of the head.

“Did she suffer? Did she suffer Chris?”

Chris sighs. “I don’t think …”

The male detective continues. “I can understand how some of those other things happened … but …”

This is a cunning and calculated tactic by the male investigator. He is now focusing his disapproval on one element. That is, the victim still being alive inside the bin, overly emphasises the wickedness of this single misdeed while he downplays, and partly justifies, all the other infractions that haven’t been confessed to yet.

“Please tell me she was not alive Chris. I need to know. Everybody needs to know…” The detective taps the table. “…you’re telling me she was …” The detective leaves a pause hanging in the air. “…and you said she wasn’t breathing?”

“No.” Chris shakes his head.

“She wasn’t making any noises?”

“No,” Chris says.

“Did you check her pulse, or anything like that?”


“You didn’t? Because if you had told me that she was still alive when you did a thing like that I don’t know if I could still be in the same room as you Bud. Okay? So did she suffer? How do you know she didn’t suffer?”

“I don’t know,” Chris sighs.

“I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re telling me that she’s dead, that you’re certain that she’s dead, when you put her in the bin, then how do you know she didn’t suffer? How did it end? Was it over quick?”

This is the first indirect question relating to the suspect, Chris, being present at the time of the victim’s murder. The detective is very good at stating the essential wording of the question at the end of his sentences in a very quick and casual manner which disguises the condemnatory nature of the inquisition.

“I think so,” Chris says with a sigh.

“Chris, how did you know it was over quick?” The detective pursues further admission. “You’re a paramedic, you’re a fire-fighter, you know anatomy, you know how people’s bodies work?”

Chris sighs and sniffs, then composes himself. There is now a slightly stronger tone in his voice. “She wasn’t moving, and she wasn’t breathing,” Chris says with certainty. This is not the answer the detective was hoping for … (full story available in printed form)



Long train-journeys in the mid 70s seemed to take forever. This was especially the case for a young and attractive woman. She was going to be spending the weekend with some friends. Joan was heading to a pretty little village and she was assured that she would like it. Her friends were supposed to be meeting her at the station that late winter evening.

The papers said that “They hadn’t caught him yet”. All the more reason for her to be extra careful.

Three girls had been assaulted on this train-line in as many months. And, in each case, it was a lot more than just assault. One girl nearly died too. They said that there was nothing to worry about because they’d catch him sooner or later. However it was Joan who was doing the travelling on this line that winter evening.

The Papers said they were “looking for a man with short blond hair.” Joan had shoulder-length, straight, dark-brown hair. She had an air of class about her and was well-groomed. The train stopped at a station. The next stop was were Joan was to get off. So not long to go.

Joan picked up a discarded newspaper that had been left on a nearby bench-seat in her small compartment. She was engrossed in it when someone entered the cabin and sat down opposite her. Joan glanced up from her paper to see a man of about thirty staring directly at her. He had short-cropped blond hair.

The attractive-looking man in the checked-jacket, sitting opposite Joan, had a pleasant smile on his face. His pale blue eyes were piercing, almost hypnotic. He was well-dressed and had a confident and relaxed presence. He stopped staring at Joan and politely looked away.

Joan hid behind her paper, glancing over it now and then, revealing her wide eyes. The blond man rattled his fingers on the seat as if he was getting a bit agitated or impatient. It was just the two of them in the small cabin, sitting opposite each other on the bench seats.


Joan glances up at the alarm-chain above her. The notice says:

Pull the chain
Penalty for improper use £25

Joan glances over to the blond man. He smiles. Joan then realises she is crossed-legged and her skirt has risen up at bit. She sits herself upright, pulls her skirt down, and tucks her open beige jacket over her red blouse. The blond man looks at her legs approvingly. Joan is now feeling very self-conscious and she shifts around on her seat.

The man pulls out a lighter as if he is some sort of a magician. It just appears in his hand. He stretches out his arm in front of himself as if for dramatic effect. He rapidly flicks the flint of the disposable lighter creating lots of sparks. Joan’s eyes widen a bit as she locks onto the lighter. She looks to the man to see that he now has a big wooden pipe in his mouth. But he still has those gleaming eyes fixed upon her.

Joan turns her head slowly and looks at the triangular red notice on the window. “No Smoking” it states. Her concerned eyes are reflected in the window. The train speeds along though the darkness of the night, gently rocking their carriage. The lighter may have just been for dramatic effect because the blond man now produces a big box of Schiff Hamburg matches. The matchbox has a tall clipper ship on the label. He strikes a match on the side of the box. It immediately bursts into flames. He lights his pipe; smoke temporarily engulfs his face. He tosses the match to the floor and holds his gaze on Joan.

With his pipe in his mouth, and both hands now free, the good-looking blond man sits upright, then slowly and deliberately, he leans forward. He stretches his hand out towards her. Joan shrinks back into her seat.

The blond man picks up the newspaper that was next to Joan. She sighs in relief. His outstretched arm was not a threat, he was merely reaching for the reading material.

He sits back and holds the Times over his face, occasionally peering over it to meet her eyes. The train carriage jerks and sways. Joan is thoughtful. She slowly reaches for her leather handbag while keeping an eye on the man behind the newspaper. She delicately puts the strap over her right shoulder and begins to make motions to get up and leave the small compartment.

She stands up, and then looks up at the luggage-rack, above her head, where her big case is lying. She stretches her hand upward and touches the case handle. With a start, she feels his hand over hers. He stands behind her and he grabs the handle. She slowly sits back down. He hands her the case. She accepts it with a frown and dashes out of the compartment. He looks on with a serious expression on his face as he caresses his pipe. He is no longer smiling.

Joan gets off the train at the next station. She walks over the platform, carrying her case, and into the station ticket-office. She looks around. There is no-one there to meet her.


She stands in front of the ticket-bureau window and looks inside. There is a lamp on but no-one in the office. A big wooden wall-clock above her shows the time to be 10.45pm. Looking through the ticket-office window again, she flinches at the site of a wooden pipe sitting next to the ticket machine. It is silent all around, and the clock above her head ticks away.

She feels a hand from behind, touching her shoulder. She jumps and lets out a subdued cry of fright. And then she spins around.

“Miss Stevens?”

“Yes,” she answers warily.

The grey-haired Station Master peers over his glasses at her. His face is friendly and helpful. He is in uniform, with crisp white shirt and dark tie, and he wears his official cap of authority. His moustache is greying and his hair at the side is long and straggly, giving him a slightly dishevelled appearance. His voice is polite and clear as he looks over his gold-rimmed reading glasses at her.

“Your friends called me,” he says.

“What?” she nervously flicks her hair back.

“Mrs and Mrs Hunt were on their way back to town and their car broke down. So they’ll be delayed and so they want you to go on and let yourself in.”

Joan looks a bit anxious.

“They key’s under the mat” he informs her. “This way miss” he gently puts a hand on her back and guides her out of the station building and into the dimly-lit forecourt. “Turn right, out of the station, and it is the first house that you see” the man says helpfully. “About quarter a mile” he says, then pauses. “Everything alright Miss?” he leans towards her and shows genuine concern as they both stand face-to-face in the dark forecourt.

“Yes, thank you,” she says with composure. Joan briskly walks off.

A few seconds later a tall blond man, wearing a smart checked-jacket, over a light-coloured polo-necked jumper, walks through the station building and past the ticket office. He stands in the forecourt and looks around keenly. His eyes searching.

“Just a minute,” a voice of authority says. “Can I have your ticket please?” the Station Master asks. The blond man spins around to look at the source of the voice behind him.


Meanwhile Joan is now out of the station and quickly walking uphill. She keeps glancing back towards the station lights. The road is dark and she briskly walks on the tarmac but not actually on the pavement itself.

The blond man is now emerging from the station and walking her way. Joan quickens her step while glancing back often. She crosses a road of traffic, dodging the speeding headlights. Her case is becoming heavy and cumbersome. Her face shows anxiety as she is well aware that she is isolated and vulnerable in this dark, late, evening light. She is not even familiar with the surroundings.

She steps onto the pavement as a car approaches. The car headlights momentarily blind her. As the car sweeps by she looks back at it to check the registration-number on the rear plate. The car has now travelled another 50 yards, or so, and its headlights illuminate the shadowy figure of a tall man behind her, walking along the pavement.

There is an intense beauty in the vulnerability that shows in the eyes of Joan as her polished heels click-clack on the pavement in the stark white shadowy moonlight. And there is a strength in those eyes too. A resilience.


Joan reaches the Big House. She finds the Yale key under the doormat. She glances back at the path to check if there is anyone following her. She quickly puts the key into the lock on the door. In her haste, she pushes the door open, walks inside, and slams it shut. But she leaves the key, still in the lock, on the outside of the door. Her attention is now fully focused on surveying the dark and empty house she has just stepped into.

Joan walks further into the dark house. Standing by a window she looks out into the moonlit night. She sees that the big white gate across the track to the house is not closed properly. There is a gap where the fences should meet. The curtains are wide open on the window she looks through but, so far, she has not put any lights on inside the house. She walks to the hall and flicks the light switch.

Her eyes see into the house. She turns slightly to her left. Bracketed on the wall, just two feet away, are two solid axes, crossed over in an “X” shape. It suddenly occurs to Joan that she has left the Yale key in the lock on the outside of the door. She frowns. Then her eyes widen with the realisation. She spins quickly and heads towards the front door. She opens the door and looks out.

Standing outside, just a few feet away, is the blonde man from the train compartment. He has a gentle smile and nods his head in greeting. He stretches his hand out and his palm is almost touching her face.

Standing outside the house, just a few feet away, is the blond-haired man from the train compartment. He has a gentle smile and nods his head in a greeting. He stretches out his hand. Joan, bares her teeth, and lets out a high-pitched scream of terror, as the shadow of the blond man’s hand covers her face.


The next morning is cold, but bright and sunny. A cream-coloured Rover car, registration PFA 324H, speeds along a stretch of dual-carriageway. Inside the car a middle-class couple in their mid to late thirties are chatting. The dark-haired man is driving. The good-looking woman in the passenger-seat, with the neat fringe, subtle pale-blue eye-shadow and streaked-blonde hair, has a big fur coat on.

“She’ll be furious. Absolutely furious,” Susan Hunt declares, slightly theatrically, in her cultured voice. She glances over to her husband to gauge his response.

Keeping a tight grip on the steering-wheel and sounding slightly irritated, Jeff Hunt replies to his wife, “Remember darling, it wasn’t our fault,” with his voice sounding a bit strained. “It wasn’t anybody’s fault.” On both occasions he emphasises the word “fault”. Jeff has fine short black hair and looks like he needs a shave. His wide sideburns are neatly trimmed. He looks like a professional man who can handle responsibility. His even-featured, handsome face, looks pasty in the harsh winter light coming through the car window.

“It’s your car,” she mildly accuses him. “Men are supposed to look after their cars, to make sure they don’t break down.” She looks at him mischievously to see if he is rising to the bait. Jeff handles this by saying nothing. He concentrates on his driving.

Jeff keeps tight-lipped for just a short while. Susan breaks the silence. “Poor Joan,” she sighs. “We were supposed to meet her last night, but now look at it.” She quickly glances at her watch. “It’s … it’s tomorrow.” Susan looks at Jeff as if to challenge him a bit. Jeff puts on a calming tone.

“She probably made herself some supper and went quietly to bed,” he says, reassuringly.

“But I had to sit by the roadside and freeze all night.” Susan puts on a slightly perturbed look.

“Just who are you worried about, Joan, or yourself?” Jeff says with a smirk.

“Both of us, of course,” Susan has concession in her eyes as Jeff takes a bit of command.

This is all play-acting.

“Both of us had an absolutely beastly night,” Susan says with a warm grin. Jeff is grinning too. “All because of your wretched car,” she teases. They both now have wide smiles.

“But you love me,” Jeff says with confidence. Susan pushes her big fur collar up over her neck and face, and peers over the top revealing just her alluring eyes.

“Maybe,” she says.


Jeff and Susan arrive at the entry to the driveway of their big country house in their cream “H” registration Rover. Susan gets out of the passenger side-door, takes a few steps forward, and opens up the white wooden gates to allow the car access. Jeff drives the car through and parks it next to the house, stiffly yanking the hand-brake on before exiting from the driver's side.

They both walk along the paving-stones of the path still mildly grinning at each other. Susan’s thigh-level leather boots make an impressive clumping sound on the stone path. She squats down and lifts up the door-mat to check. There is no key.

She stretches her arm out towards Jeff and makes a beckoning motion with her hand as if to say “the door-key please.” Jeff picks up a couple of full milk-bottles from the ground, swiftly transfers both of them to his left hand, and uses his free right-hand to place a set of keys into Susan’s palm. Susan puts the keys into the Yale lock, turns them, and opens the front door.

“Jeff!” she shouts in a high-pitched voice.

They both stare into their house. In the hallway they see tables upturned, cabinets tipped over, and books scattered all over the floor. As they look around they see picture-frames smashed on the floor and stools lying horizontally. There are bloody, hand-marks and finger-prints, on the walls, and large streaks of deep-red blood in places. One of the short axes is missing from the display.

They stand there in shock, frozen. Jeff holds a milk-bottle in each hand in front of him. Susan’s dark-brown leather hand-bag dangles loosely off her left hand.

“Joan!” They both shout, in unison, at the top of their voices. A bloody hand begins to emerge from behind the plasterboard of the wall-corner about 20 feet away from them. The disembodied hand moves slowly, and is about three feet off the ground, as it creeps around the corner of the wall.

They hear the sound of sobbing. Joan gradually appears from around the corner of the hallway. She is on her knees and she grips the wall, to steady herself, as she rises slowly into a standing position. This takes all her strength of will. Joan is battered and bruised and her clothes are torn. She staggers and falls into the arms of Susan, who has rushed forward to catch her. Jeff grabs the telephone that is sitting on a small table nearby.

The police are on their way. Their blue lights are flashing and their sirens are loudly wailing.


“Surely just one minute,” the plain-clothed Inspector demands, with his face contorted. He stands at around 5ft 10. The knot of his tie is loose and bulges out of his dark-blue suit as it attempts to grip the collar of his check-patterned shirt. His craggy face, furrowed brow, and big moustache, mark him out as a tough guy with experience. His receding, but still lively, dark-red hair and huge sideburns give him an imposing appearance.

“The answer must be no,” states the tall and distinguished doctor in the white coat. The surgeon clears the height of the copper by at least two inches. His voice is steady and firm.

The Inspector and the Doctor both look over to see the limp body of Joan being placed down on a hospital bed by two orderlies.

“Half a minute then?” the Inspector pleads, and attempts to use a softer approach to persuade.


“Look, you’re doing your job Doctor, I’m just trying to do mine.” The Inspector points at his own chest for emphasis. “She saw the man, she must have. Maybe she can give us an accurate description?” he tries to convince.

“Not now please.”

“Look Doctor …” The Inspector gestures for them both to go out into the corridor. When outside the room, the Inspector raises his voice to a shriller pitch. “If we don’t catch him, he’ll do it again.” The cop stares directly at the tall man in the white coat and challenges him to concede. The Doctor comes back robustly.

“Potential victims are your concern. Mine is that girl.”

The Inspector pauses for a second, realises there is no compromise and then says, “I’ll be back tomorrow then,” before quickly walking away. The Doctor calls out and the Inspector stops in the corridor and looks back.

“Don’t you realise it is her mind that is affected? The state she is on now she may never make any sense”.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” the copper mutters under his breath and then walks away.


Joan is lying on the hospital bed, unconscious. She’s just been given an injection to sedate her. The tall doctor in the white coat comes into the private room to check on her. He leans over the bed. Her eyes are open, but she doesn’t see the doctor, she sees the blond man looking at her.

“Take the man away,” she whimpers. She sobs and cries. “Take the bad man away.” The doctor moves away from the bed and whispers some instructions to a nurse. Joan grips her pillow and carries on wailing and sobbing.

Meanwhile, Susan is down on her knees in the hallway, cleaning up the mess at the house. She scoops up broken glass and has a vacuum-cleaner sitting next to her. Some pieces of furniture are still tipped over. The big cream phone, sitting on the small table, begins to ring. Susan glances up with concern and looks over at the ringing phone. She is dressed in a thin black polyester top and long black trousers. Jeff, still wearing his checked shirt, which now has the collar wide open, walks over and picks up the phone handset.

“Yes, I see. Thank you for ringing,” he says into the phone, using subdued tones. Susan looks on in anticipation, with worry on her face. She has both hands placed on her thighs, and from her kneeling position on the hardwood floor, she looks up at Jeff who has placed the phone back on the hook. “It’s the hospital. No change,” he quietly informs her.

In the hospital, Joan is lying quietly now. She has a pretty floral gown on. Joan is awake but her eyes are in the distance. The Inspector is standing at the bottom of her bed. He has a friendly expression. “Miss Stevens” he says quietly and gently. His face looks softer and more approachable than the day before. His tie-knot is now tighter, and neater, over his fine-checked shirt. He looks quite smart in his blue suit.

“Miss Stevens,” he repeats softly, inflecting his voice to a slightly higher, questioning, tone. Joan stares but is unresponsive. He moves in close and leans over the bed and is about two feet away from Joan‘s face. “Look …” He shakes his head a little with impatience. “I just want to find the man…” He puts on a grin for her. She stares at him, wide-eyed. Joan almost looks like an innocent baby as she lies there.

The Inspector continues “The bad man…” He nods his head to her, gently trying to get her cooperation. The man you’ve been talking about …” Joan stares at him with her innocent and glassy wide eyes. "You are going to help me find …” His voice trails away and his head goes down a bit. He tries again.

“Miss Stevens, you don’t have to be frightened of me … I’m a police officer …” He takes out his I.D. from his jacket pocket and places it firmly in front of her eyes, just six inches, or so, away. “See”. The unfolded card has an emblem on it and it says COUNTY POLICE. It gives names and numbers, and it is signed. Joan looks a bit more relaxed. She slowly moves her head up to look at the man who is holding the I.D. card. Joan sees the blond man; the bad man. She lets out a hysterical scream of anguish. The copper shrinks back and looks bewildered. The doctor enters the room and instructs the Inspector to leave immediately. Joan carries on screaming intensely.

* * *


Later on that day ...

The Inspector is peering closely at the remaining axe which is still hanging on the wall-bracket. There is an empty slot next to it, where the twin was. His craggy face is screwed up in concentration and he strokes his moustache with his thumb. He steps away from the wall.

“You haven’t found it yet,” Jeff states with a sigh, and a flat tone of disappointment in his voice. He stands a few feet away from the Inspector, by the window. Jeff’s wearing a light-blue plain shirt which is open at the neck, and darker blue soft trousers that flair a bit at the bottom. Both his hands are in his pockets and his shoulders are hunched up. He’s clean-shaven but his thick, straight, black hair is looking a bit too floppy. He could do with a good haircut.

“Nah. The axe … nor him,” the Inspector replies. “Funny though …” the Inspector continues, while shaking his head. “I thought we would have found it.” He walks forward to stand in front of Jeff. “Judging from the injuries, he didn’t use the axe on her. I thought perhaps she took it to defend herself.”

“Well if she did, it didn’t do much good,” Susan buts in impatiently. She had been within earshot listening to them both. She is standing upright, about twenty feet away from them, leaning on a wall, with her arms tightly crossed over her chest. She’s wearing a light-coloured floral dress.

The Inspector paces around slowly and continues with his analysis. “Probably put his prints on it during the struggle … eh … what he did … he ran out though here …” He points down the hall “He remembered the axe … and, eh, came back for it.”

“How do you know that?” Jeff asks with incredulity. He is now standing behind Susan and has his arms loosely around her.

“I don’t know, I’m just guessing,” says the Inspector, but he doesn’t sound very convincing though. He looks at the floor. “But there’s mud on this carpet …” His voice trails off. “I wonder why he didn’t kill her?” The Inspector hangs the question in the air. Jeff and Susan both fix their gazes on him.

“I wonder why he didn’t kill her?” the Inspector conjectures.

“Well he might as well have.” Susan looks stressed. “They’ve taken her to Corby Hall.”

“I know,” the Inspector confirms, with a slight grin.

Susan is perturbed. “She’s not mad is she?”

“Not mad, maybe disturbed, but that’s understandable after what’s happened to her. As a woman you should understand that,” the Inspector says with a wide grin. Susan is now close to tears.

“When I think of Joan in that place …” Susan’s eyes are glassy. Jeff grips her by the shoulders.

“Now darling it isn’t … a place like that.” Jeff puts on a comforting tone.

“Corby Hall’s the best in the country.” The Inspector has a uplifting tone, and a grin on his face. “And expensive.” The Inspector nods to Jeff, who is clutching Susan’s shoulders.

“The Americans are showing their customary generosity. The Embassy is paying all the bills,” Jeff states.

Joan had just arrived in the country to take up a position as a stenographer. Her train journey was the first time she had travelled on a British train. Because she was so well brought-up and educated Joan only had the mildest accent which she could take away, at will, if the context required this.

She’ll soon be well enough to talk to me,” says the Inspector, confidently, “…and then … I’ll nail him.”

* * *


Later …

It is a cold and overcast day at Corby Hall. Joan wanders around aimlessly on the immaculately-mowed lawn next to the water-fountain. She is wearing a long grey coat over an ankle-length white, floral-pattered, gown and her footwear is loose-fitting scandals. Her arms are wrapped across her body, tightly, in an effort to keep out the chill. A nurse, in uniform, walks towards her to check her welfare.

Jeff, Susan, and a psychiatrist, are standing on a balcony of the grand house. All three are observing Joan, who is below them, at a distance, talking to the attendant nurse. Jeff and Susan gaze down, looking concerned. The psychiatrist stands back a bit and has a look of professional detachment.

Jeff is wearing a light grey suit and blue shirt and dark tie. His hair, while still full of body, looks neater and trimmed. Susan is wearing a patterned tweed jacket over a bright yellow polo-neck jumper, and she has matching flared yellow trousers. The psychiatrist wears a fine-quality dark-blue jacket, a crisp white shirt, and a conservatively-striped tie and buttoned-up waistcoat. He stands upright, with his hands behind his back, and his fine grey receding hair, and slightly tanned skin, give him an air of authority. He looks to be a man in his early fifties.

“I understand she has no family,” the psychiatrist states with perfect diction. He has the slightest of accents.

“None to speak of, a couple of distant aunts…” mutters Jeff in a low voice.

“It is important she doesn’t feel lonely … isolated in any way,” the psychiatrist states, drawing out the word “lonely” in a commanding way, almost as if he is a high-level government-official advising a Minister of State. His manner irritates Jeff a bit.

“Yes of course,” Jeff says snappily. “We come every weekend …” His voice trails off.

“Can I go and talk to her? Susan asks.

“Yes, but only bright things please,” the psychiatrist instructs, in his superior tone, as he paces away with his hands behind his back. They all walk inside. The psychiatrist heads over and sits behind his polished wooden desk. Susan and Jeff begin to walk out the office door.

“Not you Mr Hunt.” The psychiatrist’s voice booms out and echoes of the walls. Jeff pauses, turns around bemused looking, and meets the eyes of the psychiatrist. “For the time-being it is best she only has female contact” the psychiatrist then looks down and carries on writing busily, without looking up. Jeff is a bit taken aback and so is Susan. Jeff glances at Susan as if to say, you carry on and I’ll deal with this. Susan walks away out of the office. Jeff walks back in and closes the door. He paces around for a while but says nothing. The psychiatrist doesn’t look up. Jeff is uncomfortable. He rubs his hands together and sighs a bit.

Jeff moves over to stand by the desk. “Doctor Warder,” he says in a quiet voice. Jeff is now wringing his hands. Warder carries on writing for a bit, then he looks up at Jeff. He says nothing. Jeff walks towards the window and gazes out into the bright-white daylight. He briefly points out of the window and then he gently asks, “How long is this going to take?”

“Progress will be slow, but over the next few months I hope that she may …”

Jeff spins around from his window-gazing and cuts in. “A few months?” he says with a surprised tone while looking directly at Warder.

“I’d say six at least.” Warder spins around on his chair to look at Jeff.

“But then she will be completely well again?” Jeff asks, with concern on his face.

“Well, the experience she has been through, there must be scars of course.” Warder has spun back around in his chair and he looks away from Jeff, in a detached way, thinking abstractly. “But she will be a perfectly normal and healthy young woman again,” Warder states confidently, with his voice resonating.

* * *


Meanwhile ...

The Inspector is sitting behind his untidy desk, scribbling away intently with his black ballpoint pen, on a sheet of cream paper which is part of the contents of a manila-coloured cardboard file. His desk is functional, and probably too small, as there are many sheets of paper covering the whole surface. His two black telephones sit under a desk-lamp at his right-hand corner. He’s wearing a sleeveless, thin-grey, ribbed-patterned, v-necked jumper over a fine-checked blue shirt. His dark tie is fairly tight to the collar. On the blue wall directly behind him there are some notices and a big map. There is a purposeful knock on the door.

“Yes,” he acknowledges, absent-mindedly, while still annotating his document.

“Detective Constable Wallace, Sir,” a female voice announces.

The inspector carries on muttering to himself about his analysis of his notes and then pauses and slowly gazes up from his desk. At his eye-level he is facing the crotch of a set of blue female jeans about two feet away. The belt of the jeans is soft-grey/blue and studded with beads. The buckle is an ornate face with blue-beads for ears. Just above the belt-line is a horizontally pin-striped fashionable blue casual top. His eyes dilate involuntary as he continues to slowly raise them upwards to reveal a glamorous young blond-haired woman wearing a decorative necklace. The Inspector’s expression is frozen in surprise for a second as he clutches a piece of A4 paper, and then a wide grin appears on his face. He looks upwards from his desk at this tall woman, standing there, with approval in his eyes. He rises up from his seat and takes a few steps around to be at the other side of the blond woman from his desk.

“Well now constable Wallace, what I want from you is …” The Inspector’s eye-level only meets the woman’s chest-level. She towers over him. The Inspector looks distracted at what he sees just two feet away. Slightly embarrassed, he gestures with his hand. “Why don’t you sit down”.

* * *


Later ...

I’m very pleased with you Joan, very pleased indeed.” Doctor Warder leans forward over his desk. “Cure is a two-way process.” Warder’s eyes gleam with self-satisfaction. “We can lead, offer, direct, but ultimately it must come from you.” Warder speaks in his confident and formal manner. Joan sits on a hard chair, opposite him, at the other side of the desk. Her head is slightly bowed forward and she is fiddling with a string of paperclips she has assembled. Joan is wearing a medium-green open-necked top with lots of buttons running up the middle. She doesn’t look up at Warder, she focuses her concentration on adding more clips to her chain.

Warder slowly reaches over the desk to touch her hands to get her attention and to stop her fiddling away. “You are doing very well …” His voice booms out. Joan flinches at his touch and lets out a cry. Warder gives her a stern look. “But perhaps the most important factor of all … is time.” Warder maintains steady eye-contact on Joan. “Time to forget. Time to re-adjust.” Warder speaks with force, almost as if he is trying to hypnotise his patient.

* * *


Meanwhile ...

Susan stands in front of a full-length mirror, combing the neat fringe of her straight blondish hair. “I’m sure it’s going to be good news.”

“Don’t build up any hopes.” Jeff can be heard from the other side of the room.

“They said be prepared for a surprise,” says Susan, with a smile of optimism.

“I know, but don’t build up any hopes,” Jeff repeats. He has moved forward and is now standing behind Susan, fixing his cuffs. He, too, has a smile on his face.

“You’ve already said that about half-a-dozen times.” Susan turns around to look at him. “Darling, you’re beginning to sound like a needle stuck in a groove.”

“Well that doesn’t half date you. I always did go for the older woman,” he teases, and then he gives her a cheeky smack on the bottom. Susan spins around fast and swipes at him. Jeff ducks down at lightning speed and her attempted blow completely misses the target.

“I’m sure we’re going to see a great change in Joan.” Susan’s wide smile is bright. Jeff puts his arm around her as they walk, together, out of the house … (full story available in printed form)


It was a long drive to Taradale, on the edge of Loch Maree. It would probably take me four hours to get there. I was busy with other work for Trade Fairs, and the like, and so it felt like an inconvenience. This shoot was taking me well away from base. And so just as well the money was good.

I packed my road map and headed for the most remote part of nowhere, and Fionn Lodge. The house had finally found its way onto the market. Just about everyone in the North West had heard of the place and all that had supposedly gone on there - not least the staff at Chisholm and Sons, the Inverness Estate Agency, in receipt of my services, and now encumbered with the property’s future. It was an odd story indeed.

Mary Fraser, was an elderly spinster in her late nineties. She had resided at the Lodge for over half a century, before taking her own life just a month ago. She had left a note saying that her wish was to be with her long-dead son, Donald, and that the Loch would decide her fate.

Her body was never recovered. A verdict of death by suicide was recorded at the inquest. It was concluded that the old woman, burdened with grief, and advanced dementia, had leapt to her death from Slioch Broch, right on the edge of the Loch. That should have been the end of it. But then the stories began to emerge.

The local stories. Stories of a mother, Mary, and of her son, Donald, living in the big house together over many decades. They were reliant and self-contained, until Donald finally met, and proposed, to the woman of his dreams, in the nearby settlement of Poolewe.

Just a few days before they were to be married, Donald disappeared and was never seen again. The rumours quickly spread. The locals whispered that Mary had killed Donald in a frenzied rage of jealousy. She had never wanted him to leave the Lodge, and so the old woman had made sure that he never would.

Thereafter, myths evolved into predictable tales of ghostly sightings in the mists on the edge of the Loch, and lost souls wandering aimlessly, trapped in limbo, in an otherwise, deathly silent, brooding house, haunted by its past.

Following the inquest, Bruce and McKenzie -- an Ullapool-based solicitor’s practice handling the probate and settlement -- instructed an estate agent in Poolewe to sell the property. However, fuelling rumour and speculation further still, the agent refused, stating that there was no market for Fionn Lodge and that, even if there was one, he would have no hand in its sale. Subsequently, Chisholm and Sons, became involved and, in turn, my services procured.

But I had no interest in any of the ghostly stuff. My brief was simply to photograph colour and black & white exteriors shots of the Lodge. And the sooner it was done the better, as far as I cared. And so, after three and a half hours of travelling, on a dull and grey overcast day, I was now approaching the Lodge on the Loch. I was eight miles from Poolewe.

I entered the gravelled driveway and made my ascent to the house itself. At that point the sun appeared from behind thick dark clouds, beaming golden light through the spruce trees to either side. I was glad of this. I had been concerned that the photographs, especially the monochromes, would appear flat and lifeless in the absence of any bright and direct light. I knew, from experience, that the best shots would be dampened without the warmth of sunlight on the brickwork.

I parked the car and then I walked around to the front of the Lodge. I found the grass freshly mown. Someone had obviously made headway already to ensure that the property was as presentable as it could be. As I stared at the big house a cold breeze brushed across my face.

For a brief moment I had the feeling that someone was standing directly behind me but, when I turned around, there was nobody; only the house, standing silently against the backdrop of the Loch and Slioch, the 3200ft Mountain, in the distance.

The house was abandoned and paint-cracked. From another age. The forgotten past. Though it was just past midday, the paint-flaked sash-cord windows on the upper floors looked darker than night. I had to admit that the isolated Lodge was an intimidating sight. A part of me could only admire its desolate beauty as it stood bathed in the late autumn sunlight against the blackening cloud.

I used a neutral density filter to photograph the exterior. This allowed me to stop down the lens to capture long exposures that would be drawn out to over thirty seconds each. As the low-level stratus clouds were moving relatively quickly across the grey sky, I knew that this would create a blurred sense of movement in the skies, that would give more prominence to the Lodge itself as it stood silent and motionless in the foreground. My Olympus OM4 was firmly fixed to my Manfrotto tripod to ensure that the house itself was recorded tack-sharp.

By angling the camera-view slightly, and changing to a 28mm lens, I could also capture Slioch in the frame, ten miles in the distance, at the other side of the deeply grey Loch. I shot two rolls of black & white and one of colour, and that was my work complete. I packed away the camera gear and prepared to drive away. But before leaving, I couldn’t resist peering through the windows on the ground floor.

Inside, the rooms were sparse and unfurnished, dim and void of life or character. In one of the rooms, at the front of the house, a solitary wooden chair sat in the middle of the floor, facing the window. I imagined the view of the Loch from that position. (available in printed form)


The City has expanded rapidly, since the Industrial Revolution, into a gigantic powerhouse of production. Hungry and desperate souls flock here in search of employment. The infrastructure has evolved to cope with the pressure … (full story available in printed form)



Dampness permeates the night air. Across the water, in the darkness, a police-siren sounds, and a church-bell tolls. The lights of the City flicker in the distance. Cold waves brush the stony shore, illuminated by the pale and bright moonlight. A distant boat-horn groans and wails. And then there is the sound of ungainly footsteps on a muddy track.

A container-ship slowly makes its way along the river, watched by a middle-aged lady with dark, straight, shoulder-length hair. She is standing at the river’s edge, slightly smiling, as if in anticipation. A full moon shines through the broken clouds. The wind begins to pick up, and it whistles through the trees. A lighthouse pulses across the way. The lady takes a breath and then walks away from the shore.

Walking through the night, and through the woods, the lady comes across an isolated cottage. She looks cold, and her jacket is zipped up to the neck to keep the chill out. There are no lights on in the detached house. She pauses, and then heads up to the front door. The moonlight casts a sharp shadow of the lady onto the wooden frame.

The woman takes out a Yale key and opens the door-lock. The moonlight hits her face, as she glances back over her shoulder, before entering the house.

The house has two levels, and it looks in a well-maintained condition from the outside. She walks into the living room and switches on the light. The décor is modern and the house appears to be lived-in. She turns on some lamps, and the radio, and then she begins to have a look around.


After her walk outside in the wind, Carol looks a bit dishevelled, as she stands there, in the lamp-lit living room, but she’s, by no means, an unattractive woman. She’s probably about five foot six inches in height and she has a full, rounded, figure and ample bosom. Her face, has even features, and she has dark brown eyes, and a pale complexion of smooth skin. Carol is dressed casually, wearing blue jeans, and a dark-blue long cardigan, which is hanging wide open, over a green top of soft material which has six tight buttons leading up to a wide open-neck. Her chest pushes out of the top of her blouse, just enough, to draw attention.

As she flips through a photo-album, that she has picked up from a shelf, a news bulletin broadcasts from the radio.

Carol flips through a photo-album while, in the background, a news-bulletin broadcasts from the radio.

Male Radio Announcer voice: “… it’s also extremely grim out there so please do take care on the roads this evening. Gale force winds are forecast for the rest of the night and severe weather warnings remain in place across the Southwest and surrounding areas. It is really not very pleasant at all. Stay with us for updates on the weather situation every 15 minutes …”

Carol picks up some framed pictures from the bookshelf and takes a close look at them.

Announcer: “…and the headlines once again for the Southwest. The search continues for a missing patient who escaped from the Riverview secure unit earlier today. The resident, should not be approached …”

Carol is holding a small silver frame and touching the glass with her fingers. The picture is of a wholesome-looking male-and-female couple in their early forties. He stands tall, wearing a wool jumper and shirt; she is about four or five inches shorter and has shoulder-length straight dark hair.

Announcer: “… and is described as being …”

At this point there is a buzzing sound and the mains electricity cuts out. The living room becomes dark.

The radio had been plugged into the mains and so the living-room is now silent. Carol, lets out a sigh, and walks over to the wall light-switch and clicks it back and forth. There is no power. Some moonlight is shining through the gaps in the window-curtains however; just enough for her to make out the outline of a small, circular, wooden table which has, what appears to be, four glass candle-holders. Two of them are opaque and star-shaped, while the other pair are round and clear.

There is an electronic lighter on the bookshelf. She picks this up, flicks it, and lights up all four of the candles. One of the star-shaped candle-holders is deep blue, while the other is dark green. The remaining two are clear and show a golden flame. The candles all glow-away nicely on the small wooden table which Carol has moved over to sit right next to a big, comfy, sofa-chair which has wide, soft, arms. There are folded wool-blankets hanging over back of the chair, and the candle-light casts a wavering shadow of Carol’s head onto the plain wall directly behind her. She looks over to the face of a ticking-clock, sitting on top of the bookcase. The hands display a time of twenty-five past midnight.

Carol sits back on the sofa, rests her head on the blankets, and tries to relax. Her legs are crossed, and her left-foot sandshoe twitches up and down. The strong wind howls through the trees, shaking the branches. Eventually, Carol doses off. Her eyeballs move slowly, back and forth, under her eyelids, as she begins to dream. Outside, there is the sound of twigs cracking, under the force of footsteps.

There is the sound of footsteps approaching the cottage. Carol continues to dream and is unaware of this. Then, there is a loud, single knock, on the door. Carol’s eyes snap open wide. The handle of the door now rattles, repeatedly. Carol rises up from her chair, looking fearful.


Carol stares at the outside door, and then her gaze fixes on a stand next to the fireplace. The door-handle rattles impatiently. Carol’s brow is deeply furrowed and her heart is pounding in her chest. She steps, quickly, to the fire-stand and grabs a thick, iron, poker. She holds it with both hands.

Carol now stands at the outside door, poker in hand. A young-sounding voice of a man shouts “Hello! Can you let me in?” His voice sounds urgent, but not unpleasant.

“No, go away!” Carol shouts back, with strain in her own voice.

“Please, I need help!” the man pleads.

“Well, who are you?” she asks.

“I’m hurt, please!” he says. “Can I just use your phone, or anything, just for a minute. Please!”

Carol is in a dilemma. She huffs, and puffs, and sighs. But she also keeps a tight grip on her poker. Finally, she releases the bolt, and opens the door, slightly, and peers out. Standing, at a lower level, down a step, is a man of about twenty, who has thick, short, dark hair.

“What do you want?” she asks, through the gap in the door, while holding the poker up in front of her. “Do you know what time it is, for God sake, what are you doing here?” she says, firmly.

“Please, let me in,” he says. “I fell. I think I’ve busted my arm. Please.”

Carol hesitates.

“Okay, well, hurry, before we both freeze to death.” She opens the door, and the young man follows her in, along the short hall, and into the living-room. He is carrying a small backpack.

As the outside door clacks shut, the draft blows out the candle-flames on the table, and now they both stand in the living-room in near-darkness. Carol, still holding her poker at chest-level, takes a good look at the young man. He stands a few inches taller than her and has an athletic-looking, strong, body. His small backpack hangs over his left shoulder and he has his right arm tucked up, and wrapped around his torso as he winces in pain. He doesn’t look that threatening and his eyes don’t hold steady contact with hers. Instead, his uncomfortable gaze moves back and forth, from her face to the poker she is holding. As he stands there in the dim light, hugging himself, he appears more vulnerable than dangerous.

He appears more vulnerable than dangerous and Carol quickly concludes this. And so she puts the poker down as he is no threat to her. Her tone changes.

“Here, put that down.” She gestures to the bag he has over his shoulder. Her voice softens a bit. He puts his bag down on the floor. “You’re freezing, you poor thing,” she says, in a mothering type of way. He awkwardly sits down on a big armchair. She gets a blanket, spreads it wide, and wraps it around his shoulders, as he lets his weight fall into the chair. Carol then stares at the blown-out candles on the table. She holds her gaze on them and seems a little bit perturbed for some reason.

Carol stands above him, looking down. “I’m sorry there’s no electric,” she says, “the lights went out with the storm earlier.” Carol speaks with good diction and some authority. She sounds educated, perhaps middle-class. She has the sort of voice that commands attention. “Hmmm, they’ve been flickering on and off for ages but I think they have finally given up the ghost,” she says, casually and clearly.

“Ah, I don’t mind,” he says, sniffling and shivering, “it’s better than being out there.” his speaking manner is polite, and eager to take instructions for his own good. It is the voice of a boy, in a sense, rather than that of a man-of-experience. The time on the clock says twenty-five to one am. Carol sits back on the arm of the other chair and looks at the lad, wrapped in his blanket, and gently sighs.

“What the devil are you doing out, on a night like this, you’re lucky you didn’t catch your death?” she asks, slightly scolding him, but with a caring tone.

“Thanks for opening the door,” he says, gratefully, in a shivering voice. “It’s fucking freezing out there”

“Yeah, precisely,” Carol is sitting just a few feet from the lad, and looking at him sympathetically. Her open-neck blouse, revealing her chest cleavage, is at his eye-level. Carol then gets up from her sitting-position, on the chair-arm, and heads out of the living-room. “I’ll find you another blanket,” she says, as she walks out of the room. The lad sits on the chair, yawning tiredly, and clutching his sore arm.

Carol heads into a nearby bedroom, picks up a blanket off the bed, and then pauses to think. In the living-room, the lad looks towards the door to see if she is coming back, and he also takes the opportunity to glance around and get his bearings. With signs of pain in his face, he reaches out and picks up his rucksack from the floor and carefully places it next to him on the big armchair. Meanwhile, Carol is standing in the bedroom, clutching a blanket, and speaking to herself. “It’s fine, it’s all fine, I’m fine” she says, reassuring herself, and then she lets out a sigh.

"It’s fine, it’s all fine, I’m fine." Carol tries to reassure herself, and then she lets out a sigh of frustration and doubt. She actually has a thick towel in her hand, not a blanket.

She walks back into the living-room. “Found a towel. This will do, won’t it?” Carol places the bath-towel over his midriff and legs. She then freezes and fixes her gaze on the now-lit, and glowing, candles on the table. After a pause, she picks up a clear, round, candle and holds it very close to his face. He looks a bit perturbed at this, as he sits there wrapped up.

“Do I know you?” she whispers to him. She is only about a foot away from his face. Very close.

She keeps staring at him. Finally, he grunts in pain, and this breaks the spell.

“What have you done to yourself?” she asks him, as if talking to a child. “Let me see.” She folds back the blanket hanging over his shoulder. “Don’t be a baby,” she tells him, “I used to be a nurse … well … I wanted to be.” He groans in pain.

“I helped the nurses,” Carol informs him. “Anyway, let me … see. Well, do you think it’s broken? When you fell, did you feel it break, or hear it snap?”

“Fuck knows,” he says, with a pained expression. “I heard something, but it could have been the bits of wood or twigs I fell on.”

Carol puts her hand out to his arm. “I really need to …” She grips his arm. He winces in pain. “Fuck!” he says.

“Hmmm, can you move it at all, your fingers?” He twiddles his fingers a little bit.

“I don’t think you’d be able to move it at all if it was broken. I remember when my little boy broke his arm. And I think you’d be in a lot more pain …”

“More pain?” he snaps back at her. “It hurts like a bastard already.”

“How did you fall?” She puts a questioning tone into the word “fall.”

“I was running, I don’t know, and then I tripped over a fucking tree stump, and bam down, I fucking went.”

Carol puts her hand over her face in a gesture of angst. She then meets his eyes directly. “Look, I know you’re in pain, but I really would appreciate it if you wouldn’t swear quite so much. My husband always swore, and I hated it. I am sure it’s not that necessary,” she says, sternly.

“But it hurts like … a lot”. He moderates his language.

“There. That’s better,” she says, putting on a face of approval.
“So, we’re looking at it, just above the elbow. I think we need to take the weight off it for a start.” Carol looks around. “There’s a scarf I saw somewhere, we can use it as a sling.” She walks out, through the door, and then “Oh!” she exclaims, and comes back in. She picks up a candle, from the table, and then leans forward to just be just a few inches from his face. “I can’t see a flaming thing,” she tells him.

Carol heads into a dark bedroom with the glowing candle. She places it on top of a mirrored clothing-chest. She opens and shuts the drawers, in search. She finds a set of spectacles, and tries them on. Now on his own, the young man looks about a bit. His curiosity draws him to a small picture frame on the library shelf.

He looks over at a framed-picture of a male-and-female couple in their forties. The man is wearing a wool jumper and shirt; she has shoulder-length straight dark hair. And then the lad thinks his eyes are playing tricks on him. The lady in the picture begins to look like Carol. He lets out a gasp of disbelief.


In the bedroom, Carol takes the specs off and places them down on the cabinet top. She holds out a long scarf in her hands and starts to twist it around and play with it. She starts to feel a buzzing sound, and whispering voices, in her head. She wipes her brow, and shakes her head a little, as if to brush-off a strange feeling or memory. Meanwhile, the lad is shifting around in his chair, grimacing in pain. Carol waits in the hall, and peers through the gap in the door at him for a while. Watching him closely. He starts to get the creeps. He calls out “Hello?” in an unsure tone, to check where she is. She stares, through the gap, for a while more, but doesn’t answer him.

And then she finally enters the living-room again. “Why are you shouting? I’m just here,” she says, reassuringly, with a slight smile on her face. But he looks a bit disconcerted.

She starts to get slightly bossy. “Now, let’s pop this off.” She removes the blanket from his shoulder. “Right, just lift your arm up a little bit. Pop this through there …” She starts to sing a lullaby to him and hums away. “There, how’s that, better? She has slinged-up his sore arm. He looks slightly worried, in reaction to her motherly manner.

“That’s much better, thanks,” he says, politely.

“See, told you I used to be a nurse.” He gives her a little smile of gratitude. She flops back onto the main couch. “I would phone for a doctor, but the phone is dead.” Carol holds a cordless handset to her ear. She laughs. “What’s silver, and doesn’t work?” she asks him, with a giggle. She then stands up, moves forward, and puts the handset to his ear. “This telephone,” she chuckles. And then she flops back onto the couch, giggling.

He produces a mobile phone from his pocket and starts to tap it. She looks a bit disconcerted at this action, and her giggling face falls. Her tone gets serious. “I doubt you’ll be able to get a signal, in the middle of nowhere, or hadn’t you noticed?”

He produces a smart-phone from his pocket and checks the screen.

“I’ve got no battery left anyway,” he says, with a shiver. “It’s ok, just let me warm up a bit, rest, and I’ll get out of your way.”

“You wanna go back out there again?” she says, sharply. “In this? You wanna break your neck as well?” The living-room lights come back on.

“And then there was light!” she announces, in a shrill voice, with her arms splayed.

Carol has a big beaming smile on her face. “Yay!” she says, as stark white light fills the living room. He chuckles at her reaction. “Ah, thank goodness,” she says, laughing. And then her face goes stern and she stares at him.

Her sudden change of mood spooks him. “Are you okay?” he gently asks her, warily. Carol sees a vivid picture, in her mind, of a young boy, in a striped T-shirt, playing outside in a garden. The boy, in her mind, is playfully waving a bottle and there is a jet of water spraying out of it. And then the lights snap out again.

“Oh!” Carol slaps her hands on her knees and lets out a groan of frustration. “What a bugger! Or as you might want to say, what a fucking bugger.” She glares at him with hostility.

He laughs at her ‘joke'. “Oh well, it looks like we’re stuck here for the night. And, if that’s the case, I for one, would like to know your name.” She puts out her hand to shake his. “I’m Carol.” He can’t shake back with his right hand as it is in a sling. There is an awkward pause, and then he says, with a wince, “I’m John.” She grips his other hand a bit, to complete the ritual.

“That’s a lovely name,” she says, gently, looking at him with care. “Always liked it.” He looks down, not meeting her eyes. “It’s nice to meet you John,” she says, more formally. He gives her a bashful smile. She looks a bit wistful.

There is an awkward silence, between them, for a moment. And then she says: “I’d prefer more candles, if I can find any.” She stands up, holding one burning candle in her hand, and stares, somewhat transfixed, at a star-shaped candle, and a round one, sitting together on the circular table. His rucksack then falls down on the floor. A thick roll of £20 notes drops out of a side-pocket and momentarily lies next to the bag. He quickly puts it back out-of-sight into the sack. Carol heads into the dark kitchen with the small, clear, candle.

Carol finds a big, thick, candle in a kitchen cupboard. “How far from town are we?” John shouts from the living room. Carol, puts the lit candle under her face, to make herself look creepy, and comes back into the living-room. She makes her eyes stare and puts on a ‘Cornish’ accent.

“Ooooo, many many miles, John. Many many miles. ‘Tis a very lonely ‘ouse you found ‘ere. Very lonely and very … dark.”

John looks decidedly unsettled at this ‘stunt’.

She then snaps back into her normal accent, as she places the candles down onto the round table. “I’d say about 10? 11? Miles to the village. She lights the big, thick, candle. “Although, it’s easy to go round and round in circles at night in the dark and so you could end up walking 20. I’ve been lost walking, loads of times, out there in the middle of the night.” She sits back down on the arm of the chair so that her chest meets his eye-level.

John looks at her. “What?” she says, sharply.

“Why were you out walking in the middle of the night?” he asks, cautiously.

She makes a small laugh. “Well, you know … it’s nice to go walking … at night. It’s peaceful. There’s lots of reasons to go walking at night. Walking the dog? They always need walking. That’s enough reasons to go walking at night, isn’t it?” her voice is going up in pitch.

“Have you got a dog?” he asks.

This question ruffles her. “No, of course I haven’t got a dog! Do you see a dog?” She picks up some cushions to ‘check’ for a hidden dog, and then bangs the cushions back down in a strop. “I’m just saying, if you had a dog, it would need walking … at night.”

She carries on, in a shrill voice. “Besides, I can walk anywhere anytime. I don’t need permission, I am allowed. Young John, with the 20 questions. Huh, who’s in charge here?”

“Sorry, I … didn’t mean to upset you,” he says, apologetically. “I just think I may need a doctor, for my arm, that’s all.”

Her voice is still stroppy and she shakes her head about. “Yes, I know, your arm, your arm. You poor thing.” She calms down a bit. “I’m sorry.” Her voice becomes softer. “It’s so late. I’ve hardly slept, with this blooming weather and … what with the lights flickering on and off, it’s enough … enough to drive anyone up … up the wall, isn’t it?”

“You must be tired,” John says, sympathetically.

“Yes, I am, very. Just have to make the best of it. Sit it out ’til morning.” She walks over to the curtains, draws them back, and presses her face to the window. The wind howls outside and the full moon, dramatically, lights up her face. “It looks freezing out there. Not much better in here. I used to love watching storms, as a child, from the window.” She turns away from the window. “How old are you?” she demands, in a high-pitched voice. He doesn’t answer. She turns back to the window. “When I was 11 there was a storm, huge. Hellish.”

“I’m 19” he says. She doesn’t acknowledge this.


Instead, she turns back to the window, puts on a serious face, and begins speaking in a melodramatic tone. “When I was 11 there was a storm, huge. Hellish. No-one would let me watch it though, I was too little. Stay away from the window girl, it’s dangerous. They were all at the bloody window though, both my parents and my older brother.” She looks over to him, to check that he is following her story. “There was a massive bolt of lightning and the window was struck. My father was killed instantly, and my mother lost an eye. My brother was cut badly, but nothing more.”

She turns towards him and smiles. “Hey, it’s fine. My mother wears an eye-patch now and my brother, well, he recovered with only a few scars. Oh, my father … didn’t like him much anyway. So it’s all good!” She says, cheerily.

“Now I can do what I like. I can watch any storm I want from the window. Though frankly, there’s not much to see, is there. Just a lot of leaves blowing about. Don’t know what all the fuss was. Certainly not worth losing an eye over.” She closes the curtains over. Carol then flops, horizontally, over the back of the sofa, and stares at him.

John becomes uncomfortable. She then slinks over towards him, sits next to him, and puts her arm around him. She starts to stroke his neck. “So, what am I going to do with you, John?” She rubs his hair, and then grips his shoulder. “I mean, what can we do to while away the hours on this long dark night. Any ideas?”” She strokes his hair.

“What do you mean?” John says, nervously. She stares at him. “Look, I’m only 19,” John gulps. “You’re okay looking … I mean … you’re really pretty for your age, but you’re just … so much older than me,” John stutters.

Carol takes her hand off his shoulder, and looks appalled. “What are you blithering on about?” she says, with annoyance.

“I just think you’re a bit too old for me.” He doesn’t meet her eyes. “And … my arm really hurts…”

“What!” she leaps up and stands over him.

“I’m not interested in you!” she scoffs. He’s taken aback. She laughs, loudly, at him. “Goodness, that’s hilarious.” She spreads her arms out, and looks to the heavens, in a display of scorn. “I’m not Mrs Robinson,” she sneers.

John looks really embarrassed.

“Oh, you’ve no idea who I’m talking about, do you,” she says, mockingly. “She’s what you might call the ultimate cougar. Which I am not!” Her voice is high-pitched. “The very idea! And besides, you need to have two fully workable arms to have any chance with me. Oh gosh!” she cackles, “you’ve made me all coy now.” She fans her face with her hands, and then covers her face with her palms. Johns looks away. “You’re so naughty.” Carol then walks out of the room, giggling, and leaving John dumbfounded.

Carol goes into the dark kitchen and sits on a bench, still giggling. She talks to herself. “He’s young enough to be …” Her face becomes serious. Meanwhile John, wrapped up in the blanket, sits and listens out for her, in the candlelight of the livinroom. He takes the blanket off of his shoulders, with difficulty, as he grimaces in pain. John then removes the towel from his lower half. He stands up, and puts the rucksack over his left shoulder. He wanders around a bit, looking at pictures on the wall, and objects lying about. Carol is keeping silent, and watching him, through a gap in the door.

While John is having a look around, Carol is keeping quiet and watching him, through a gap in the door. John walks over to the window and folds the curtains back a bit to have a look out. She makes her move.

Carol rushes into the living-room. “Oh, look what I’ve found!” she declares, in a strident voice. She holds a pile of board-games in her out-stretched arms. “Monopoly, Scrabble, even a jigsaw. Although I hate jigsaws, don’t know why I brought that out. Keep us occupied for days."

Carol takes the board-games over to the table and starts to set them up. John sits down on the chair, reluctantly. “Em … I’m pretty thawed out,” he says. She gives a small, dismissive, laugh and carries on setting up the pieces. “I’m a bit warmer at least, might be able to get going soon. What do you think?” Carol says nothing. “Perhaps you could give me directions?”

“For goodness sake,” she says. “What’s the rush, John? I’m not going to jump on you. I thought we’d just established that. Uh! There’s no dog.” Carol exclaims. “I’m always the dog.” Her face screws up and she lets out a big sigh. She throws the pieces back into the box, in disappointment, shaking her head.

With great effort, and a lot of painful grunting and groaning, John lifts himself up from the chair and moves onto the wider sofa, for comfort. “Okay, Okay, I know, your arm,” she says, in an annoyed voice. “I’ll drive you to the village when it gets light.” she says. “As soon as my husband gets back in the …” Her face freezes.

"As soon as my husband gets back in the …in the … em…"

In Carol’s mind she sees a mental picture of a car pulling up towards the cottage. It is bright daylight, and calm, in her mind-image. The kind voice, of a mature man, then says “How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Carol says, in her mind. “I’m feeling really good,” she answers the man, with a lift in her voice. She then snaps out of her dream and is back in the candle-lit living room. “When is he back?” her voice now sounds unsure, and her face looks confused. “Morning is it?” John just looks at her. “Yes, yes, the morning, of course silly woman.” She gives herself a row. Her voice goes unsure again. “Maybe it’s the afternoon he gets back? I’m sure he wasn’t going to go for long.” She shakes her head. “I mean, he … he didn’t pack very much, not very much at all.” She begins to stammer, and her voice becomes shaky. There is concern on her face. “He should have told me though. Let me know, you know.” Her voice becomes sad.


“He’ll be back, don’t you worry,” she states, unconvincingly. She catches a grip of herself. “Anyway, whenever he’s back, I’ll take the car, and you’ll be returned to civilisation, how’s that?” she says, matter-of-factly.

Johns, nods his head. “Great,” he says, with a smile.

“Nice though, you have a husband.” John nods his head towards the photo-frame of the couple, on the shelf. “The man in the photo.”

“Yes, he’s my husband, we’re married, we’re very happily married.”

“I’m sure,” John says. His face doesn’t look too convinced, however.

She gives him daggers. “Oh, you’re sure, are you?” She puts on the mocking voice of an idiot, “nice that you have a husband” she shakes her head about in mockery.

John takes a deep breath. “Just glad you’re not out here alone,” that’s all. His voice has gone up a pitch.

“Alone? Out here?” she fires back at him. “How silly. Alone? And besides, I’m not the one running around, in the middle of a forest, with a bloody broken arm, am I John?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” John’s tolerance of her is being pushed now.

“Have you got any pain-killers?” he asks. She makes him squirm for a bit, and doesn't answer.

Eventually she says, grudgingly: “As you are in such pain, I’ll see if I can find anything in my cupboards for it." Carol walks out of the living room … (full story available in printed form)


Working the night shift, on a wet Sunday evening, John was driving past the graveyard in his taxi-cab. He noticed a young girl standing on the edge of the pavement. She hailed him down. He turned around on the quiet street and stopped to let her into the car. She hurried herself in, to get out of the lashing rain. The girl was wearing a dark winter-coat that had a deep hood, raised forward over her head. Inside the hood the girl’s hair almost completely obscured her face … (full story available in printed form)


Michael was a keen swimmer. He went for a dip, every day, in the loch near his house, in the Great Glen. Usually, he was the only person around, as he swam early in the morning, when the water was very cold … (full story available in printed form)


Two Scottish men were travelling in Texas, on business. They were coming to the end of their short stay in the US. And so they decided to have a night out on the town, to celebrate the end of their successful trip … (full story available in printed form)


A good few years ago, a bus driver was working the Sunday night-shift. It had been a long shift, and he was tired. He was driving his empty double-decker along his usual route from the centre of the city out to the suburbs, when he saw something unusual … (full story available in printed form)


Donald and Archie were a pair of seasoned poachers. Police officers from Fort William were alerted after they were notified of a crashed vehicle located in a remote part of the Cluny Estate. After arriving on the scene the police ascertained that the pair had been travelling back to Kintail following a successful hunt late at night, when their truck's headlights had failed and so they couldn't continue … (full story available in printed form)


The year is 1967. The location is France. It’s Saturday, and the time is 10am.

“Hurry up, or the motorway will be jammed,” says Jean-Paul to his wife, Mimi, as he briskly walks towards their car. There is a kid, dressed in a native Indian costume, complete with toy bow-and-arrow, firing plastic arrows at Jean-Paul’s classic car.

Without removing the cigarette dangling from his mouth, JP runs at the boy, aggressively. “I’ll show you!” he says, as he chases the lad away from his parked car.

Meanwhile, Mimi is sorting out her handbag on a nearby wall. “Get a move on!” he shouts over to her.

Unperturbed, the kid comes back. “Hey, mister,” the boy says, cheekily, “What make is this banger?”

“Get lost,” says Jean-Paul, as he gets into the driving seat.

As JP closes the car-door, the kid shouts out, in a shrill voice, “I know what it is, it’s a clapped-out Facel.”

Jean-Paul lowers down the roof of the cabriolet as Mimi is getting into the passenger side. The kid walks around the front of the vehicle and confronts JP’s wife. “As clapped out as your wife,” the boy shouts, in a falsetto tone. Mimi reacts to this by slapping the lad, fiercely, on the back of the head, several times, as the boy tries to run away. Mimi then gets into the passenger seat.

Now standing further back, at a safer distance, the kid shouts, “A clapped-out Facel!”

As the adult couple reverse out of their parking slot, the kid follows along and continues to badger them. The lad keeps whacking his bow off the bonnet of the Facel as they reverse back. There is a loud crunch as the Facel makes contact with another parked car.

“They’ve damaged the Dauphine!” the kid shouts.

Jean-Paul gets out of the car and gives the Renault Dauphine a few kicks on the bumper. “It’s ok,” he declares.

“Mom, they’ve damaged the Dauphine!” the kid shouts, in a high-pitched voice, as he runs after JP.

“Particulars must be exchanged,” cries the boy.

“I’ll kick your particulars!” replies Jean-Paul, still with the fag hanging from his mouth. And then he runs at the lad.

“Dad!” the boy calls out for help.

“Fancy some money?” Jean-Paul offers a bribe to the lad. He hands over a few notes. “Now, shut up!”

“Merci,” says the lad, while grabbing the cash.

The boy’s mum appears on the scene, carrying a few tennis rackets, and a kit-bag.

“Hey you! 8802! I’ve got your number!” she shouts, as they drive away in the Facel.

Jean-Paul comes to a halt.

“See what you’ve done to my car?” she says.

“Your car’s all right,” he replies, dismissively.

“The bumper’s dented.” She gestures over to her Renault.

“Bumpers are made to be dented,” he replies. He gets out of the car. The kid circles around the Facel and keeps whacking his bow off of it.

“Just because your father-in-law owns the block…” JP says.

“Just because you’ve got a dress from Chez Dolores,” retorts the tall lady, in the tight blue dress, as she glares at Mimi.

The lady in the blue dress grabs the door of the Facel open. “Give me your details!” she demands.

Jean-Paul, tries to get back into the driver’s seat, but she pulls him back out.

The fashionable blue-dressed tennis-lady, and mother of bow-and-arrow-boy, puts Jean-Paul into a neck-lock, and tries to throttle him.

“Give me the pistol from the boot, Mimi!” Jean-Paul cries.

As Mimi opens up the boot, the lad takes the opportunity to whack her behind with his bow.

Mimi quickly passes the gun to Jean-Paul and then grabs both arms of the blue-dressed lady, from behind, and twists them up her back.

“Get off me, you toffee-nosed bitch!” the blue-dressed lady shouts.

While Mimi is restraining the lad’s mum, Jean-Paul blasts her with a water-pistol, until she is completely drenched.

The blue-dressed lady manages to get her arms free. She steps over to her kit-bag, which had been dumped on the ground nearby, and picks up a tennis racket.

Meanwhile, the boy keeps on hitting Mimi with his bow. “Stop it. That’s enough!” Mimi shouts at him.

The blue-dressed lady, picks up a few balls and makes some first-class serves off of Jean-Paul’s head, as he ducks for cover.

At this point, the boy’s father appears in the distance, with a double-barrelled shot gun. There is an ear-splitting bang as he shoots, directly, at Jean-Paul.

Under attack, Jean-Paul sprints towards his open-top Facel. The blue-dressed lady continues to serve tennis balls at him.

As well as a shot-gun, the Father has a little dog on a lead. He passes the leash over to the boy, which frees up his hands. As the Facel drives off with screeching tyres, and burning rubber, he takes some pot-shots at the vehicle.

“Get that shit-heap out of here!” the Father shouts, as the Facel speeds away. “Bastard! Communist!” he shouts, with anger.


You are in Paris and surrounded by interesting architecture and beautiful people, and you have your camera with you. Your battery is fully charged and your memory card is empty. You are about to take some photos. Because that is what you came here for.

You whisper to yourself, “I’m going to get some great shots if I get cracking. I can see amazing opportunities all around me”.

And then you spot an elegant street lamp, still glowing in the dim early morning.

“This looks perfect,” you think to yourself.

But you suddenly freeze. How do you capture this street lamp creatively for maximum impact? Do you shoot it up close, or from a distance? Do you include the other street-lamps down the row, or shoot this one on its own against the sky? Or, do you climb up the nearby stairs to get an higher-level perspective, or more interesting angle? One street lamp; infinite possibilities.

You could maybe shoot every possible combination and just hope for the best. But that’s no guarantee of a final great photo. And, don’t forget, you have an entire city to explore. You can’t really afford to waste time. Perhaps you should follow one of the proven rules for composing a photo? These rules come from the knowledge of what the human eye finds attractive. You can use these basic rules anywhere, on any subject. Classic painters have used them for hundreds of years. Think, the Golden Section, or the Rule of Thirds.

But then you look up from your camera and discover that, rather disconcertingly, you are surrounded by a SWAT team of military police with live guns pointing at you. You quickly get bundled into an armoured-vehicle and rapidly get taken away, and locked up, for being a threat to the Free World. (available in printed form)


This man hangs his head in shame because he’s a smoker. James is hard-working. He drives off, around 7am every morning, and usually doesn’t get back until 8pm. As the manger of the branch he comes back from work, every day, in a different, flashy, pick-up truck. Ten years ago he was put on the Register for a minor misdemeanour. Perhaps he still feels guilty about this blot on his character.

At 10.30pm every night, this decent guy wants to enjoy a fag, to wind down at the end of the day. His wife, who is a gym and health freak, kicks him out of his own house. He often stands in the rain, while indulging in his light relief.


It was 4am in the morning and dark and wet outside. Dave wasn’t looking forward to his five-mile cycle-trip to work at the Aerodrome. And so he comforted himself with a piping-hot mug of coffee while he watched the weather outside…(full story available in printed form)


Richmond Pager was a Senior Scientific Officer. He lived alone. After a twelve-hour shift he would come back to his flat and peer out the window to observe the New Romantics. He disapproved of them, and their flamboyant ways. But he dearly wished he could be one of them.

He knew everything about nothing. And I called him The Oracle (in my mind).

Later that evening, he would have a glass of port and put on some Debussy. He was a Hi-Fi buff... (full story available in printed form)


Big brother, Tommy, is a genius. He inadvertently invents a device that amplifies paranormal activity. It brings spirits into the Physical World.

The boy, Robert, is practicing holding his breath, under water, in the bath. The mist seeps in and engulfs him.


This man’s biometrics have failed. He cannot work because he is not allowed to enter the building to get to his desk, and so he hides in his flat because he is too scared to show his face.

He has also been blocked from working, and will now be out of a job for life and also lose his home. His crime was that he clicked on the BBC website and was caught. This means he will be sent to a labour camp and his family will be punished…(full story available in printed form)

41. 1978

Cyndi mixes with the unsavoury, and that is how she makes her income. She is a significant member of the underground underclass. It’s 5am in the morning. Cyndi has had a nightmare. She wakes up totally alone and heads to a phone-box to call a friend, but then experiences her rejection. They had already split up. But Cyndi had no-one else to turn to at this point in her unstable life.

“Give me one last chance,” she pleads down the line. Cyndi feels lost and terrified and abandoned. Her friend, Ann, has just told her that their relationship is over and that she has to sober up and deal with reality. Cyndi collapses in despair.

It is a wake-up call for Cyndi. She seeks enlightenment and a new way of life. It’s not too late… (full story available in printed form)


Susan is a ballet student. When she arrives at the Dance Academy another student, Patricia, is fleeing in terror. The person on the intercom refuses to let Susan into the School. And so she returns to Town.

Patricia hides at a friend's flat, where she reveals to Susan that she has discovered something terrifying hidden within the School. Susan returns to the School, where she meets an instructor, Miss Tindell, and the headmistress, Madame Blanchette.

This is the beginning of Susan’s nightmare. New students are being ritually sacrificed for the pleasure of the Elite. Anyone who speaks of this meets a violent and gory death. A year later Susan leaves smiling, and the Academy is destroyed in a fire witnessed by The Blind Man.


Their Headquarters are located at the top of a hill just outside Hopetown, situated right under a 100 foot broadcasting mast.

Zanu, the woman leader of the Masu Cult, leads a group of new recruits to the Conditioning Chamber where they all live together in a claustrophobic atmosphere of control … (full story available in printed form)


The morning sun painted the sky with hues of gold and pink as I stood before the weathered facade of the Dusty Door. With the time ticking at 8:30 AM, I felt a mixture of curiosity and apprehension tugging at my senses.

Pushing against the creaking handle, I stepped into the dimly-lit interior, and was greeted by the musty scent of age, and the soft glow of the dawn, filtering through cracked and broken windows. Armed with my vintage camera, I embarked on my journey into the depths of this abandoned building. Each room held secrets … their own story waiting to be unearthed. Faded photographs adorned the walls … ghosts of the past. Antique furniture stood silent sentinel amidst the dust.

As the morning progressed, the whole building seemed to come alive with the whispers of history. Shadows danced in the shifting light, and the air whispered with the echoes of distant voices.

It was then that I heard the faint strains of a musical melody, drifting through the empty halls, a haunting refrain that made me shiver. Mesmerized, I followed the sound to a forgotten parlour, where a grand piano stood, cloaked in shadows.

With trembling fingers, I reached out and pressed down on the keys, the music filling the air with a melancholy lament. It was as if the very soul of the building had been stirred from its slumber, its secrets laid bare for those receptive and willing to listen.

As the day wore on, the shadows grew longer and the air became heavy with anticipation. The clock on the nearby church tower chimed 12:00 PM, marking the passage of time, as I continued to explore the hidden corners eyond the dusty door.
As the afternoon waned, and evening approached, the surroundings took on a new aura of mystery. The shadows deepened and darkened, and the air was now thick with an eerie stillness.

The clock struck 6:00 PM, its toll echoing through the empty halls like a portent of things to come. With the passing hours, the building began to reveal a latent malevolent energy. Shadows twisted and writhed, and the air turned cold with a palpable sense of dread.

As the night descended in earnest, the time ticking at 9:00 PM, I felt a chill run down my spine, a sense of unease settling over me like a heavy blanket. The once-familiar rooms beyond the dusty door now seemed alien and foreboding, their secrets hidden in the darkness that lurked within. The piano's melody had turned discordant and haunting, its notes echoing through the empty halls with a sinister edge.

As midnight approached, the building seemed to pulse with a malevolent energy, its walls closing in around me like a vice. With a sense of mounting terror, I realized that I was not alone…that something sinister lurked within the shadows, waiting to claim me as its own.

As the clock struck twelve, the building erupted into chaos. Shadows twisted and contorted, and the air filled with the anguished cries of the past. With my heart pounding in my chest, I fled from beyond the dusty door, the echoes of its horrors haunting me long into the night.

And though the dawn eventually broke, casting its golden light over the deserted street, I knew that the darkness would linger in my mind forevermore, a testament to the horrors that lurk within the shadows of the past.



The time period of this story is: the not too distant future.

Lucy has an approval rating of 4.2. And she constantly checks this, on her phone, while she’s out on her early-morning jog. Lucy is in her early 20s and she has gorgeous, long, red hair, and curves in the right places. She is, by no means, thin, however she is super-fit and exactly the right weight for her very feminine body-type. A lovely young woman, full of vitality. The sun is just rising as she pounds the tarmac of her middle-class neighbourhood. The backlighting on her hair, which is tied back in a pig-tail, makes her look pretty as a picture, as she momentarily stops in the middle of the road to check her phone. She is wearing a light-blue zip-up sports top, and darker blue jogging leggings. 

A group of wholesome-looking joggers pass by Lucy on other side of the road, moving in the opposite direction. She smiles at them, they wave and smile back. She points her phone at the group and up-rates them. She then gets a confirmation ping in her earpiece. The team-leader of the passing joggers points his phone back at Lucy and reciprocates. A thumbs-up appears on her phone and she gets a nice, sparkly, ping in her ear. Smiles all round. Lucy is uplifted by this and she speeds off with an extra spring in her step. Her long hair - lit by the early morning light - glows brightly, as it swishes from side to side as she speeds along.

When she finishes her run, Lucy does some cool-down stretching exercises in front of her apartment. Squatting down, she takes the opportunity to check her phone. She swipes through some profiles. "Jen" got 5 Stars for her latest, glamorous, picture of herself; Chloe Lateen has a 4.1 general approval rating, and she has just got 5 stars for a recent uploaded picture of her dog which is now on display; Johnny James has an approval rating of 3.8 and his latest uploaded picture of him and Jackie, his partner, both smiling away, has been rated at 5 stars.


When Lucy goes back inside she heads for the bathroom and takes a shower. Once out, she wraps herself in a big thick white bath-towel and stands in front of the bathroom mirror. She starts to practice the ranges of smiles, and friendly social reactions, that she has in her repertoire.

Lucy has invested in a rating scanner which has been surgically implanted inside her right eye. This allows her to see people’s scores without needing to point her phone at them. When she looks at a person, an oval outline locks onto their face, and she gets an instant read-out of their current status, as well as other key data about the person, such as age, preferences, marital status, and friendship circle.

Standing in front of the mirror Lucy laughs warmly, then cackles, then she puts on a more serious face. Each time she does this, the value of the ‘social transaction’ is scored and displayed in her eye. She keeps adjusting, and fine-tuning her reactions and responses, to see what will give her a higher score.

Now dressed in a beige lightweight frock, with her straight red hair tied back, Lucy briskly walks, with a sense of purpose, through the apartment to the lounge area. The accommodation is modern, stylish, and minimalistic.The plain furniture is smooth and shiny and pastel in colour, and so is the general décor. There is a permanently-fixed white ladder, to the side, which leads up to an overhang; a greyish, modern-looking, stand-up floor-lamp sits in the corner. There is a hologram fish-tank glowing away on a sleek table, and not much, in the way of pictures, on the walls.


There is a man, with short dark-brown wavy hair, who looks about twenty-five, sitting on the sofa. He has a thin dark-blue T-shirt on, and patterned cotton shorts. His legs are stretched out in front of him, resting on a sofa support, making him upright in his posture, leaning forward slightly. He is clutching a small hand-held gaming control-pad in both hands and there is a black Virtual Reality headset attached to his head, covering his eyes, and making him oblivious to Lucy entering the room. He appears to be looking into the mid-distance. His mouth is hanging open because he is concentrating on the game he is playing in his mind. It is not a flattering look.

The lounge lighting is quite dim because the horizontal blinds are closed over the window, blocking out the early-morning daylight. There are some discarded take-out packets and containers spread out on a small table. The remains of a meal.

""Brian," she calls. No response. "Brian!" This time louder and higher in pitch. He doesn’t answer as he is still deeply engrossed in the world of his headset. Lucy picks up a cushion and skillfully throws it at him. He takes a full hit in the crotch area.

"Arghh!" Brian cries out. "I was holding the ball!" He shouts back at her as she quickly walks out of the lounge. He still has his virtual head-set on. He then composes himself and says, "Sorry guys," in a conciliatory tone to his ‘team mates’ in the game inside the head-set.

Lucy is floating about, in a busy manner, in the kitchen area, preparing some liquid food.

"They’re sending buyers over today, so… put your trousers on," she says in an advisory tone. There is a big surfboard leaning on the wall behind her. It look,s brand new.

Brian heads up the ladder, climbing the rungs with ease and agility.

"Maybe if I don’t, it will scare them off and we can stay here," he says as he flips into the overhang area which contains his bed. He sits on the mattress and begins to pull his jeans on.

"It’s not an option Brian, the lease is up in four weeks." She draws out the word "weeks" in a higher pitch, for emphasis. 

Brian climbs up the ladder, with ease and agility, into the overhang area which contains his bed. He sits on the mattress and begins to pull his jeans on.

"I’m thinking of you," Brian says, from up in the overhang, while Lucy is still in the kitchen. "I’ve got somewhere to go. My mate, Ned, took that job, and so he is moving away. I get his place." Lucy looks slightly taken aback. She hadn’t accounted for Brian being covered for somewhere to stay. He leans over the overhang, and speaks to her directly, with his face upside down. "Now who’s the slow-coach, eh?"

"I’m… seeing some places over lunch," Lucy replies with slight hesitance in her voice. "Catch you later." She heads out the door, with purpose in her step.

Once the outside door shuts, Brian plunges down from the overhang, onto the sofa, and puts his VR headset back on.

"Catch you later." Lucy heads out the door.

Brian dives down from the overhang, onto the sofa, and puts his VR headset back on. "Sorry," he says, as he rejoins the game. "That was my sister. Yeah, I bet you would," he says to one of his team-mates.


It’s a sunny day, and later on, Lucy is waiting near the outside counter for her coffee to be prepared. A few others are also standing around, swiping their phones. Everybody around is dressed in pastel blue or pink. Lucy swipes through some profiles while she is waiting. "Sam" has uploaded a picture of an elaborate cake. Lucy rates it 5. Keith Jackson (4.2) has a new video of his kid playing outside with a garden hose, with a fireman hat on, spraying water about and laughing. She gives the video a "5" with a thumb-swipe.

"Your coffee ma’am." The barista puts a frothy cup down on the counter. She looks up from her phone. Jack (3.8) asks her if she wants a cookie. "It’s on the house," he says, with a smile.

"Awesome," Lucy responds with a wide smile, and a happy giggle. She swipes "5" on Jack’s profile. With huge tongs Jack delicately places a tiny biscuit on the edge of the saucer. He then pings his phone at Lucy to rate her.

"See you tomorrow," she says.

"See you, Lucy," Jack replies, with a warm smile.

"Bye Jack, see you tomorrow," she says to the barista.

As she walks away, Lucy sees Keith Jackson confidently approaching. Walking towards her, he has a wide smile on his face. An oval outline appears around his head in Lucy’s vision. She gets a 4.2 readout from Keith’s face.

"Oh, I saw your boy in the fire-hat just there, he’s sooo cute," Lucy says to him, referring to the video on her phone.

"Yeah, he’s really something," replies Keith, proudly. Keith is dressed in smart light-blue shorts, and a neat pink shirt, with big checks on it. They both coyly "ping" each other with their phones and apply good ratings. Lucy then looks around the cafeteria area. The sun is shining brightly as various diners drink, eat and chat. Ovals appear around everyone’s head.

John is sitting at a white table with two good-looking young women. He is wearing a neat pastel-blue blazer and white chinos. He’s gazing down at his phone, while the young ladies look at their’s. The oval says John is 4.0, while Katie is a 4.2. Steph is 4.1.  A guy walking by, Sean, has a 3.8 read-out. A grey-haired, older man, Charlie, has a 4.2 oval on his head as he walks away. Chris and Jen are sitting at a white table on white chairs. He is 4.2 and his friend, Jen, a black-skinned woman has a 4.8 reading. Sam has a 3.9, his mate opposite him, Andy, is a 4.7. A sophisticated-looking woman, wearing a straw hat, gets a 4.8. Her male partner, Karl, who looks important, also has a 4.8 stamped on him visually.

Lucy sits at a small, square, white table, with her coffee. She picks up her round cookie. It has a smiley face embossed on it. Lucy giggles. She carefully, and gently, bites into the biscuit while cupping her hand underneath, so as not to spill any crumbs on the table. The surface of her coffee has a pretty fern-pattern on it. She giggles at this and puts her cookie back onto the saucer with a perfect crescent bitten out of it. She picks up her phone, frames the cup, and clicks to photograph her coffee. She is happy with the picture and so she types in a title "Brushed Suede Cookie Heaven" and swipes. "Upload successful" the message confirms. She then puts her pink phone down on the table and picks up her tiny coffee-cup and has a sip. A slight grimace, momentarily, crosses her face. Her coffee doesn’t taste that good. Her phone then pings.

"You’ve been rated," the message says. A list of about ten ratings then display in a slide show from various people, and all of them are around 4.2. Lucy’s lights up at this. A beaming smile appears on her face. 


The recent slide-show of good ratings, from various people, has put Lucy into a mild state of euphoria. She is now standing on the ground floor of the tall building that she works at, in front of the lift doors. A sophisticated lady is standing in front of her. The door swishes open and they both walk, from the pastel pink lobby, into the lift. The interior of the elevator has light-blue soft lighting. Lucy’s eyes are still dilated from the buzz she got from her ratings. She recognises the cultured lady standing next to her. Her eye-scanner reads that Bethany is currently a 4.6.

Bethany is immaculately dressed in a tailored blue jacket and skirt over a light pink top which has a wide frilly white collar. She is one inch taller than Lucy and stands with poise, with her pink handbag around her arm. Her light brown hair is neatly tied back in a bun. This classy lady has a confident and wide grin on her face. She looks around 40 years of age and is very well maintained.

"Beth, it’s good to see you," Lucy says in a high-pitched voice of enthusiasm.

"You too," Beth replies, with a wide grin, and a more subdued tone.

Lucy then giggles, and then they look away from each other. Lucy looks down at her phone which she has in her right hand, at waste level. Using her thumb she searches Bethany’s profile while trying not to be noticed. Lucy gets a confirmation that Bethany Jones is rated at 4.614. The first screen on her profile shows a montage of pictures of her ginger-coloured pet cat "Pancake" actually licking real pancakes on a plate. The next screen is another montage of Bethany holding the cat up to the camera while feeding it cream. The caption says, "He likes sweet things.". Down the right-hand side of the screen Bethany’s friends have been awarding the picture 4 or 5 stars.

Knowing that Bethany is a 4.6, Lucy tries to engage more with her. She adopts the same posture as "Beth" in the way she is standing and holding her handbag.

"How’s Pancake?" Lucy asks Beth, with a stupidly ingratiating facial expression.  

"He’s just the best," answers Beth, with a cringingly sentimental tone and expression. "He’s such a funny cat."  Lucy titters away at this. They are both now looking straight ahead and not making eye-contact. Lucy is busy swiping her phone with her thumb.

"You’re still at Hattan-Simpson?" Beth states as a question, while keeping her eyes straight ahead.

"Yeah," Lucy replies. "It’s going pretty great." She looks over, but Beth does not meet her eyes. 

"Good to hear," Beth says, while looking at the lift door.

"So… what brings you here?" Lucy asks.

Beth does not give Lucy time to finish her sentence. "I start a new job today," Beth says. "With Blackford-Harper." This time she turns her head to meet Lucy’s eyes directly.

"Wow," Lucy says, looking impressed. "Top floor?"

"Right," says Beth, looking superior. Lucy’s face falls a bit. "It’s great you’re still happy at Hattan Simpson," Beth says, not looking at Lucy.

"Well, maybe not forever …"

"It’s ok, but not forever?" Beth suggests.

"Not forever, but it’s great for now," replies Lucy, with a head-nod to emphasise the word "great".


Lucy sits at her desk in the open-plan office. Each work-space is part of an overall grid-system. The work-stations are separated by a partition and two people share a double-length work surface. Lucy sits next to another young woman who looks a lot like her, but she is wearing a pink frock, rather than beige, and her colleague has a hair band. The colour of the office-carpet is light mauve, and the partitions and walls are a slightly darker purple, but not too dark. The big screen on her desk shows pastel pie-charts and graphs and she is typing on a pink keyboard. Lucy has a nice clear glass of water sitting on her desk to the right of the screen and, off to the back of her desk, nearly out of view, lies a small, threadbare, teddy-bear. Lucy is allowed that personal item. She gently taps away on her keyboard with a vacant look on her face. Her phone is right next to her, sitting on a small pad. And this gives her comfort.

Her phone gently rings, in a subdued tone. Lucy’s eyes widen. She picks it up and, with her thumb, transfers her profile to the big desk-screen. The pie-charts and graphs disappear and her own personal profile displays on her monitor. The main picture is one of a cup of coffee; the photograph that she had taken earlier at the café.

On the top-left of the screen is says: Lucy Rado (4.267) - currently working at Hattan-Simpson (this is in smaller type, underneath her name). And then there is a smiling picture of the lady herself.  Below that is the headline: "Brushed Suede w/Cookie Heaven!" and the photo of her cup of coffee. Below the picture are the Featured Comments, from Brian her brother (one of those "drop the bomb" mornings), and Bethany Jones (feeling blessed with life today!!). 

Three people have ‘liked’ Brian’s comment, and seven people have ‘liked’ Bethany’s comment. There are other comments running down the right-hand side of her screen but they are not the ‘Top’ ones. Eleven people have rated her picture of the biscuit and cup so far. Nearly all are giving it five stars, and this pleases Lucy. Holly Stephens says, "I love the little bite!  x"

Jayne Blanford gives Lucy’s photo a respectable four stars but, the down-marking, causes Lucy to pause and click on her profile. Jayne’s profile now fills the big screen. The profile heading is: Jayne Naomi Blanford (4.8). There is a video of an attractive blonde-haired young woman, about Lucy’s age, holding a big rabbit in her arms. Sara Blanford says, "Is this ball of fluff yours?!!!". Megan Edwards comments, "OMG!!! Sooooo cute…". Twenty-three others have rated the video. 

Jayne’s profile is full of glamorous pictures of herself, and shots of her performing yoga on the beach, and exercising in the gym, and horse-riding and the like. This makes Lucy feel a bit inadequate and so she reaches out for her teddy-bear and gives it a squeeze. She looks up from her screen and there is a young black guy standing there (Chester - rating: 3.1) with a tray full of blended drinks in large pink cups, each with two straws. He has an expectant look on his face.

"Lucy," Chester says, with a warm grin. "I’ve got you a smoothie. I’ve got one for everybody actually. There’s still a bunch of them for grabs." Lucy looks slightly wary at the offer because she has seen he is currently 3.1. Chester’s face falls a little in disappointment at her look. His expression gets slightly pleading. "They’re from the organic stall at the farmer’s market." He tries to ‘sell’ them better as he has a full tray.

"Sure, ok," Lucy says. But she doesn’t sound sure. And then she takes a smoothie from the tray. She glances over her partition. There are many eyes staring at her in disapproval. Lucy holds the smoothie but pauses. She is in tension at what to. She can’t last out and starts to drink through the straws while keeping eye-contact with Chester so as not to make him feel bad. "Mmmmm," she says. Others in the office have serious expressions on. Chester waits. "Oops," Lucy says, then picks up her phone and rates Chester by pointing her phone at him. There is relief on his face. "Thank you," he says, gratefully. "Thank you," he says again.

Lucy sips her smoothie but feel unsettled because of the looks she has received. She glances around to see if anybody is noticing. She hears a whispering voice. A young, chunky-set guy, with thick, short, black hair is leaning over the aisle from a desk opposite her. He has a light-purple shirt on, buttoned right up to the neck.

"We’re kinda not talkin’ to Chess," he says, in a quiet voice.

"Three point one? What happened?" Lucy whispers, in a conspiratorial tone, while leaning her head forward as far as she can.

"Him and Gordon split up."

"Awww," she sighs. "Poor Chess." She looks over to Chester who is still peddling his smoothies to other staff but they are giving him the cold shoulder.

"No, no, no, we are all on Gordon’s side," he says firmly.

"Sure," Lucy says, doubtfully. "Obviously."

"Chess is an ass, and he’s trying to scrape himself back. Of course if he drops below 2.5 then it’s bye bye…" He points his phone at Chester, who has his back to him, in the distance, and down-rates him, with a mean look on his face. Chester hears the ping on his phone. He gets it out of his pocket and looks hurt. He looks down the aisle to see who pinged him. They both dive for cover behind their partitions.


Brian calls his sister Lucy to inform her that the landlord has leased their current place to a couple. And so she will have to find new accommodation soon. He’s already covered, of course. She finishes work early and takes a driverless taxi to a posh estate to meet up with a sales agent.

Lucy gets out of the cab, just outside the property to view. The neighbourhood looks really lovely and all the white houses appear perfect. She pings the car with her phone to make payment and then the pink-coloured cab whirrs away, following the road like a toy car. Even the smooth surface of the tarmac looks like it has been buffed and then painted black. All the gardens are pretty, and full of colourful flowers, and there does not seem to be a blade of grass out of place. Hedges are perfectly trimmed. Everything looks bright and fresh and wholesome.

"Soooo…. now we move into the Light Space area," says a very attractive young women, with immaculately-groomed dark-brown hair, wearing a light purple dress that perfectly contours around her hour-glass figure. The agent elegantly walks into the house, with Lucy following along behind her.

Lucy is bedazzled by the expansive porch-like room, just off the patio, which serves as an entrance to the main house. This area has huge windows from ceiling to floor and contains a big glass table, surrounded with pastel chairs, and a modern sofa with lots of cushions. All the furniture colours are very light pinks or pastel blues. There are stylish glass ornaments, sitting on thin shelves, and on the main table surface. The lady agent has a beaming smile on her face giving her film-star looks. Lucy is a pretty women, and is well turned out, but she is almost looking a little dowdy in this environment.

"The Light Space area is ideal for special times, loved ones, great food, company." The attractive agent walks around, gesturing elegantly with her arms. Lucy giggles with delight like a child in a candy store. They both pass through two huge support pillars into the kitchen area. Just off to the right is a fully-equipped gym, complete with all sorts of fancy equipment and exercise bicycles.

As they move into the kitchen the sales agent, in the gorgeous purple dress, holds up a remote control box and pings it. A hologram of Lucy, herself, appears behind the elongated kitchen work-surface. It looks pretty solid but is partially translucent. "Wow!" Lucy laughs out loud.

"We sampled your photo-stream to create her," say the lady sales-agent.

Looking at her hologram, now preparing a meal in the kitchen, grinning away like a TV commercial, Lucy says, "Wow, great hair."

"Styled, free of charge, at the members’ salon," says the agent, charmingly.

Next up, a three-dimensional hologram of a super-fit-looking, muscular, young black man, in white shorts, and no top, casually walks down the stairs and into the kitchen. Lucy giggles nervously and with excitement. The Lucy-hologram beams a smile at this man. The hologram man smiles back warmly, and stands behind the Lucy-hologram, and gently caresses her, holding his strong arms around her waste. The man-hologram gently kisses the neck of the Lucy-hologram.

"Ahhh, you like him?" says the agent.

"He’s ok…" Lucy’s wide-eyes betray her muted tone. She giggles, coquettishly.

At the kitchen work-surface, the man-hologram gently kisses the neck of the Lucy-hologram.

"He doesn’t come with the apartment. But there is a restaurant, on site, with an unparalleled match-making matrix for tenants only," the agent says, with a wry smile.

The hologram of Lucy and the Fit Guy are becoming more intimate as the real Lucy and the agent speak. Lucy’s holographic wooden spoon is becoming limp in her hand as her resistance is melting away. The real Lucy stares, transfixed, by the projected image of herself in the kitchen being caressed by her holographic lover.

They are both now sitting at a polished-glass table in the Light-Space area. "I’ve gotta say, these places are going fast," says the agent. "So don’t delay, if you are interested."

"Oh, I’m more than interested," says Lucy, with a serious face, and tone.

The agent has a sleek pink tablet-computer in her hands and she is tapping away on the screen. "Ok, a Standard Occupancy, on a minimum six months contract, we’re talking…this much." The agent swings around her tablet to show Lucy the rental figures. Lucy’s face falls.

"Eh, how often are the payments?" Lucy asks, with sadness in her tone.


"Ok," Lucy says, with a nervous laugh, and a recovered smile.

"A little more than expected?" says the agent.

"Yes," Lucy sighs. Her face shows her disappointment.

"There’s options," says the agent, brightly. "You know our Prime Influencers Programme?"

"Do I qualify for that? Lucy says, hopefully.

"No," the agent says, abruptly. "No you don’t. We’d need you around a 4.5."

Lucy looks at the agent with incredulity. "A 4.5?"

"We give a 20 per cent discount for a 4.5."

Lucy stairs into the distance, considering this. She then leaves the agent and goes outside. As she walks along the perfect tarmac, she passes a billboard advert which says Limited Edition Living. On the billboard is a huge picture of Lucy and the Young Man from the Kitchen. They are both sitting a table having a romantic meal. The table has wine glasses and flowers on it. In the picture they are both gazing into each other’s eyes. Lucy stops on the street and gazes, longingly, at the image, and then she lets out a big sigh. As she walks away the Lucy part of the picture disappears to leave the space for someone else. What remains is just the man at the table.


In the evening, Lucy is eating some spaghetti at her kitchen table, skillfully using chopsticks. She has her pink tablet on a stand and she’s looking at Jayne Blanford’s profile.  The profile heading is: Jayne Naomi Blanford (4.841) Prime User. This is the attractive blonde-haired young woman, about Lucy’s age, who was holding a big rabbit in her arms in her video.

Jayne’s latest uploads show her flying in a helicopter, playing golf, and one entitled: "Beautiful Sunset" where she is kissing a guy called Paul Matheson on a beach. In all her uploads Jayne is always smiling and laughing. She looks at Paul’s profile and he is a 4.8. Lucy lets out a sigh.

Next to Lucy is a perfect-bound printed booklet-brochure for the Limited Edition Living Estate she had visited earlier. Her brother, Brian, walks over, and grabs it off the kitchen surface. He flips through it with scorn. "What is this?" he says, sarcastically. "A eugenics programme?" Lucy tries to grab it back off of him but he moves out of her reach.

"It’s a lifestyle community," Lucy says, a bit defensively, with slight embarrassment on her face. As she looks at Brian, an oval appears over his head giving hime a rating of 3.7. Meanwhile Brian is looking at cheesy pictures in the brochure, of glamorous people with beaming smiles.

"No one is this happy," he points at the photographs. "A two-year-old with a f*cking balloon isn’t this happy," he asserts, crudely.

Lucy stands up, and puts her hands on her hips. "It’s actually a pretty cool place," she says, with mild defiance. Brian has a smirk on his smug face.

It’s actually a pretty cool place," Lucy says.

With a smirk, Brian replies, "Like you’d even qualify."

Lucy decides to book an appointment with a Reputation-analyst. The next day she enters the building of RepuScore. As she is walking down the corridor there is a couple walking quickly past her, towards the exit, with the lady in tears, and the man looking inconsolable. Trailing the distressed couple is a man with a clipboard who is pleading with them, and shouting that "there is nothing I can do about it, I’m sorry."


"Well, it’s not hopeless, you are clearly a triumph," says the analyst. They are in a small square room with a thin carpet and thick, padded, walls. They are sitting face-to-face on comfortable swivel chairs. The analyst is crossed-legged and looks relaxed. He is neatly dressed and is wearing a tie. He has a clip-board on his knee. Lucy is sitting upright in her chair. Beside her is a small round table with a glass of water on it. To the side is a huge monitor which takes up most of the wall. Underneath the screen is a large air-conditioning vent. On the centre of the big screen is a smiling picture of Lucy and her rating of 4.269.

In a confident and refined voice, the analyst says to Lucy, "If we drill down into the numbers you have a solid popularity arc." On the screen Lucy’s face moves up to the top-left corner and the whole screen fills up with a graph that appears to be steadily rising upwards. "You have a strong overall trajectory," he says. "Let’s just look at the last 24 hours…" He controls the graphics by just slightly waving his hand. "At 8.45am you’re working hard on your socials." He refers to a spike on the graph. "A great little uptake there." Lucy looks pleased. "There’s a couple of minor dings there," as he swipes into later in the day, maybe you cut somebody off in traffic?"

Lucy looks a bit apologetic, no it was just a… eh … workplace thing." He gives her a reassuring grin.

"Let’s have a look at your Sphere of Influence, let me just zoom out here." A whole load of bubbles, with faces in them, appear on the screen. "Great peripherals," he says. "Strangers like you, that’s a plus. You have a healthy inner circle. That’s good."

"Thank you." Lucy has a very warm smile on her face after all this positive stroking.

"You have great peripherals in your sphere of influence and a healthy inner circle too. You’ve got a bit to go, but 4.5 is certainly achievable," the analyst says, with a smile.

"How long do you think?" asks Lucy.

"Well, barring a major set-back, a public-disgrace kinda deal, I’d say, eighteen months or so," he answers, with honesty.

"Oh, I need more short term, like… much more." Lucy laughs, nervously.

"Then you’ll need a boost," he wisely informs her.

Lucy’s voice goes up a notch in pitch. "What kind of a boost?" There is query in her face.

"Well, most of your interactions are confined to your inner circle." The analyst zooms out the bubbles on the screen by waving his hand. "And they are, pardon the term, mid to low-range people. Same as your outer circle. You’ve got a ton of reciprocal five stars from service-industry workers, but not much else. At least, as far as I can see." Lucy’s face shows that these statistics are sinking in and this is making her think about who she should be associating with. "And so, in terms of quality," he continues, "you could use a punch-up, right there. Ideally, that’s up-votes, from quality people."

"Quality people?" she affirms.

"Yes, high fours. Gain velocity on your arc, and there’s your boost."


The next morning …

Lucy is out for her early-morning run. She has a pale blue jogging-suit on. As she pounds the tarmac, puffing away with the effort, she has her phone out in front of her and she’s swiping through profiles. A short while later she is at the café, looking bright and cheerful. She exchanges friendly smiles, and positive ratings, with Jack, the barista and various acquaintances in the cafeteria area. She is wearing a light mauve blouse and a pink skirt. She walks with a spring in her step. Her deep red hair wisps around her in the breeze. She passes a man who sitting at a table.

"You look great today Lucy," he says.

Lucy turns her head around, and thanks the man, and then she pings him five stars. As she turns back around she almost bumps into a tall black man, in a pale blue suit. It is Chester, and he has no tie on, over a buttoned-up white shirt. He has a worried look on his face.

"The door won’t open," Chester says, clutching his phone. "I’m on 2.4."

"Sorry, Chess, I’m late," Lucy replies, and rushes by him to the building entrance-doors.

Chess tries to follow Lucy through the glass door. "I just need some stars, please!" He shouts after her. The automatic doors close on his face. He cannot get into the building where he works. He stands outside, with a desperate look on his face, and tears in his eyes.

Outside, Chester is looking in at Lucy, through the glass, while she is standing inside the building, by the lift doors. While waiting, Lucy is scrolling through profiles on her phone. The lift doors open.

Bethany Jones (4.6) is standing inside the elevator, immaculately dressed in a tailored blue jacket and skirt. Beth is thumbing through her phone. Her light brown hair is neatly tied back in a bun. They great each other with exaggerated, and insincere, "Hi, it’s good to see you," and then they both stare ahead.

Lucy tries to engage more with her. "How’s it going at Hattan-Simpson?"

"Just great," Beth answers, while keeping her eyes straight ahead.

There follows an awkward silence as they both say nothing and look straight ahead. Lucy breaks the silence by holding up a paper bag to Beth.

"Would you like a croissant?" she says to Beth. "They gave me an extra at the coffee place."

"No, I… eh…" Beth doesn’t finish her sentence but just dismisses the gesture with a wave of her hand. It becomes silent again and they both look straight ahead. And then the doors open at level 8. Lucy walks out into the hallway, while Beth remains, to go up to the top level. They both put on grins and ping each other with their phones. When the doors close, Lucy checks the rating she has been given from Beth and her face looks surprised, and disappointed. Beth has only given her 3 Stars.



MAIN LOCATION: 115 Kelvin Terrace West, Kelvinside, Glasgow (Top Flat Right) (1 huge room, 1 big room, 1 medium room, and 2 smaller rooms, and a big kitchen)

TIME: May 1978 until June 1979 (the "Winter of Discontent")

Some of the CAST (in no particular order, with ages at the time)

Lavinia (18)
Splee (15)
Sam (20)
Anna (26)
David (21)
Dave (18) -- this is ME
Simon (18)
Ally (18)
Alistair (32)
Cindy (18)
Sahail (24)
Night Nurse (20)
The Creep (45)
The Opera Singer (30)
The ex-nun and anorexic (38)
Max Jaffa (30)
Hamish (29)
Big Hamish (24)
Percy (62)
Stallard (23)
Astral (45)
Gavin (23)
Marion (16)
Specy (48)
The Astrologer (44)
Chrissie (20)
The Detective (37)
The Partnership (30, 31)
Linda (17)
Helen (17)
Hag Aggie (46)
The under-agers (13 to 14)
Call-girl (43)
Chow Parrot (28 to 38)
Mary M of the BBC (47)
Brian O’Kay, the Kung Fu kid
David Giltrap
Joe Cooly


David was 20 years old when I first met him and is a significant character in this story. I first encountered, him, only briefly, a few months earlier (this was before I moved into his bed-sit in Kelvinside).

In 1978 me and my mate Ally (both us were 18) used to visit a family on the other side of Pollok to where we lived. We travelled over there on my Suzuki 100cc motorbike. At the age of 15 (year:1975) my family moved out to East Kilbride, and so I used to travel back to Pollok on my bike to see my old mates.

The family, we regularly visited, consisted of a 15-year old youngster called "Splee" who had dark curly hair; and an 18 year old girl called "Lavinia" (the older sister of Splee). Their mother was called "Jenny" and there was also a friend of Splee called "Andy."


David was the "boyfriend" of Lavinia, and I met him, only once, when he turned up (in his car) to pick up his "girlfriend" (Lavinia).

The husband of Jenny (Splee and Lavinia's father) was estranged. He worked for British Telecom (BT) in a senior (administrative) position. This husband/father was an obnoxious man. Evil, in fact. Jenny (the mother-figure) was a good-natured person, and so was Splee (inheriting his Mother’s personality traits). However, Lavinia had the evil characteristics of the Father (the man who worked for BT). And David and Lavinia were an "item."


Me and Ally (both 18) were older than Splee (15) and Andy (16) and I had a motorbike, and so we were seen to be ‘cool’ in their naïve eyes.

Splee used to sit on an armchair, with his shirt completely unbuttoned, bearing his pasty skin and flabby chest. He was addicted to salt, and kept a salt cellar next to him. Every few minutes he would pour a ‘line’ of Saxa salt on the back of his hand, then sook it down. He sat right next to a gas-flamed fire, which he constantly switched to "half" if he was getting too hot, and then to "full" if he was feeling a chill.

Andy (on the couch) and Splee (on the arm-chair) sat about, talking inane gibberish, while drawing pictures of each other using felt pens and scraps of paper. Andy’s nickname for Lavinia's younger brother was actually "Splodge" (because he looked like an inkblot) but, one day when Andy was composing a drawing, he was entitling it, when his felt pen ran out of ink and all he could draw was "SPL" then some eeee’s (squiggles) which looked like "Spleeee" and so that is were the name came from, and it stuck.

Because Ally and Me were taller, heavier set, and older than the young lads we were seen to be "bears" which meant: big, streetwise, tough blokes. Their nickname for Ally was "Bear-Splee" and I was known as "Gambit" because I wore a khaki jacket and supposedly looked like Gareth Hunt from the TV series the New Avengers.


Splee, the 15-year-old younger brother of Lavinia (David's girlfriend) did not address his big sister by her actual name, instead he called her "Swoaly" (pronounced to rhyme with ‘Holy’ ) in reference to the fact that she was never to been seen without her eye make-up on. Splee would say that, to see her without make-up was a sight best avoided by those of a nervous disposition. It was true that "Swoaly" would never leave her bedroom (upstairs) in the council house without an hour of preparation beforehand. And so, when they used to bicker (almost constantly) he would say, "Shut up Swoaly," and she would reply, "No, you belt up, Splodge."


The first time I became aware of Swoaly/Lavinia was when my mate Ally informed me that, "Rab has a girlfriend."

"What?" I said, in surprise. "Rab? A girlfriend? Are you joshing me? What’s she like?" I asked, with curiosity.

Rab having a "bird" was totally out-of-character, he was a twenty-year-old loafer. He had a job, as an ‘electrician’ with a two-bit firm but wasn’t under any training programme and didn’t seem (to me) to know much about electrical installation. And he had great difficulty in turning up for work for more than three days in any given week.


Splee (15) also had a nickname for David (it was "Twurp"). Me (18), Ally (18) and Andy (16) used to sit about in the two-level council hoose while Splee described his sister’s latest boyfriend (20-year-old David) in unflattering terms.

"Twurp walks in here," says Splee, "and he just throws his car keys on the table there, and then he never stops talking. Jenny thinks he’s amazing." (referring, disrespectfully, to his own Mother, by her first name).

"He’s called Twerp?" asks Ally.

"Naw, Twurp."

"Is that his name then?" asks Ally.

"Naw, that’s wit I call him. His real name’s Davy, but he calls himself "David."

"Look, here he is." Splee then produced a black-and-white photo-booth picture of "Twurp" depicting a harsh-looking, angular-jawed, man who was shockingly ugly. "That’s him," said Splee. We all stared at the photo of David.


We stared at the photo of David and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Soon, he would turn up, and I would have the thrill of meeting him in person.

Splee and Lavinia treated their Mother worse than a lowly slave. They showed no respect for her whatsoever and called her (and referred to her) as "Jenny."

Their Mother had a full-time job (as a carer) at the local Mental-Welfare Hospital (commonly known as the "Loony Bin") and her brief descriptions of what she had to put up with, and deal with, on a shift, were disturbing. Especially at a full moon she used to say.

Jenny had jet-black, withered, dyed hair with white/grey prominent roots and a defeated and downtrodden manner. Her complexion was pasty-white making her look like a ghost or a photographic negative. She spent most of her time cleaning up, and cooking, for Splee and Lavinia, and they showed no appreciation for this. Instead they constantly scolded her for getting everything wrong and not being good enough.

Jenny bought them lavish presents from catalogues and spent a never-ending time paying for them. She dreaded Christmas as her ungrateful children would only demand more. She was usually carrying debts going back years.


Lavinia's estranged Father paid Jenny a pittance of maintenance, just £3.50 a week, and she had full responsibility for the two grown-up teenagers and Jenny worked a full-time shift-work job. The father made Jenny squirm for her allowance.

Jenny told me, one time, that she had to go, each week, by bus, to the centre of Glasgow (where the Father worked for BT, or the GPO, as it was known at the time) to pick up the meagre amount. They would meet at a piece of waste-ground (out of sight) and he would make Jenny kneel down and literally beg him for the maintenance money.

On one occasion, Jenny said to me, that she wasn’t tearful enough at her humiliation and so he put his fingers into her eye-sockets, and pushed hard, in an attempt to temporarily blind her, by way of punishment (for not appreciating the money he was giving her). She sobbed when she recounted this to me.

I took a mental note, to trace this man and give him a piece of my mind. Maybe more. In the future, this actually happened. However, in an act of vengeance the Father reported David to the police (and he got the blame for it) and so a police detective arrested David at Inverclyde University. David then blamed me, and I got questioned too.


Soon after this questioning (for harassing Lavinia's Father) I got questioned again (this time with Splee) for another charge of "causing fear and alarm" - and terror - in the community and I was looking at 30 years in jail after they analysed the Hilti-Gun capsules. Later I got cautioned yet again (with Rick, an electrician) for exploding bottles of Irn Bru in the centre of Paisley, during the day, by (apparently) throwing them from a motorbike (which I was driving without a helmet, they noted). Next up, I was identified on the front page of the Sunday Mail (me, Linda. David's new girlfriend, and David himself were all in the picture) at a National Front march in Glasgow. And then soon I was to be jailed for lying down on a box-junction at 11pm on Saturday in Renfield Street in the city centre. The charge was "causing fear and alarm" (again). Next I ‘accidentally’ opened a train door, which was travelling at full speed, and nearly got sucked out. This made the national news as someone else (nothing to do me) jumped in front of the same train and was decapitated. This was just an odd coincidence.


Next up, David got another visit from CID at the University after Lavinia received a cheap plastic mask of Miss Piggy in the post on her birthday. David blamed me for sending it. The detective said that they had a "hysterical woman on their hands."


During this turbulent period I was in the process of getting my background vetted, for potential high-security clearance, for a job with the Ministry of Defence…


And so, long before I entered my "Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll" phase, I already had considerable "form" - but this was just the start.


I had heard that Rab had a girlfriend (Lavinia). But Rab having a "bird" needed explanation because he was hardly a catch. And, at 20, Rab was two years older than my mates (Harry, Jim, Ally and Brian).

Harry was a school mate I used to go camping (in 1973) at Easter for four days without contact with anyone (into the Campsie Fells). That is two thirteen-year-olds on their own, without anyone even knowing their location (we didn't really know where we were either). The pair of us "roughed it" and survived on a few tins of beans and a couple of loaves of bread (we had a second-world-war threadbare heavy-weight canvas tent and no sleeping bags, only cheap Parka jackets).

Jim was the guy who I was going to visit when Riley stamped on my cassette tape of Band on the Run. With hindsight, I think Riley was maybe right to destroy it. It seems he did have discernible taste. Ally was "Bear-Splee" and Brian lived in the close next to me and was more straight-laced than the others (his parents were responsible and had placed Brian's two older brothers in private education, that is St Mungo's Academy, and they didn't have a TV in the house, which was unusual).

However, Rab was a complete reprobate, and born eejit and loser (although the Americanised term "loser" wasn't routinely used at that time; this rather brutal descriptive noun started to come into fashion in the 80s, mainly uttered by strident American woman, to describe a grown man that didn't have a good job or prospects, in their eyes).


Rab was the first of us lads to get a job and a wage. And so we would hang around with him at the weekend because he would buy us all a sausage supper at the chippy (22p at the time, I seem to remember). Rab would lose all his money buying approval.

The reason why Rab and Lavinia were an "item" was because Lavinia collected engagement rings. If someone was over at the house she would produce a catalogue. Very soon she would get to the jewellery pages. Rab and Lavinia were sitting on the couch, looking at the pictures. She pointed to a ring and said to Rab that, "I would like that one." Rab said that it was an engagement ring, and he would only buy it for her if they got engaged. And so Lavinia replied, "Let’s get engaged then." After the ring arrived, Rab got dumped.


David then became the new boyfriend of Lavinia, and he could not have been more of a contrast to Rab, the born loser.

David was the first person I ever knew who was genuinely ambitious and he was particularly good at presenting himself as some kind of superior Being. His Father was the Chief Officer in a huge building in the centre of Glasgow, and his older brother was a barrister. He was raised in a salubrious part of Ayr (his Dad commuted into work on a train) and he got a lot of parental support and encouragement during his studying (for an honours degree in politics) at Inverclyde University.

David had his student grant but he also got a generous allowance from his parents to keep him topped up. And being brought up in a competitive male environment ensured he had learned to be articulate and persuasive, to get his way, or stand his ground. He certainly wasn’t lacking in self-belief.

He used to tell me how Himself, his Father, and his Brother, would regularly have intellectual “debates” at the kitchen table and this was how he learned to “argue his case.” A few months later, I would actually sit at that very table. However, it was David’s Mother that surprised me … but in a rather sad way.


David's older brother looked like him - a physically stronger version - but still with the prominent jaw-line and angular face. However, he was a cold fish. His personality was detached. Arrogant. When I met him, he made no attempt to engage with me, although I did not take this personally. I think that was just they way he was. He looked at me, perhaps with pity, as if I had just crawled out from under a rock.

David’s father was an amiable type. Quick to connect with me and positive in his outlook. However, his mother was timid. The kind of woman that was almost invisible. But what endeared me to her was that she deeply cared about the welfare of animals, and I believe that this was her main purpose in life. She didn’t have any animals to look after; no pets. But I believe she took a serious interest in supporting animal charities. This was the first time I realised people like this existed. That is, those who give animals a high status.

David’s brother’s only interest was himself, and his status as a barrister. David also only worked, entirely, under self-interest, but he was good at disguising this. I would say that David’s father was a nice guy. Self-confident, but no “airs and graces.”


If we now go back a few months to the council-house in Pollok, with Ally, Splee and Andy, we get my first encounter with David.

That evening, Jenny was there, and we were expecting David to arrive any time soon, to pick up Lavinia. David had a car (which impressed Jenny). But the 1976 Opel Cadet (1.2 litre) was not actually David’s. It was his Dad’s car. However, this did not stop David referring to it as “my car.”

And so, in walked David ...


David (20) arrived in the early evening at the council house. Splee (15), Andy (16), me (18), and Ally (18) were there. Lavinia was upstairs finishing off her make-up. The withered Jenny was present also (the responsible Mother-figure/Adult).

As David entered the living-room he was already speaking. He didn’t wait to be announced. And, sure enough, he placed ‘his’ car-keys on the wooden coffee-table. David was socially adept and so was able to relax Jenny with his greeting and initial patter, while waiting for his lovely girlfriend to appear.

While waiting, David quickly, scanned the room to assess the four of us lads. He would have seen us as his “audience.” I was an unfamiliar face to him; the others he already knew. He had probably ‘clocked’ my Suzuki 100 outside, sitting there on its centre-stand, and he could see, inside, that I was in possession of a motorbike helmet.

When I encountered him, again, a couple of months later, at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr (only the second time I’d met him) he told me that his initial gauge on me was that I was a motorbike “hood” and so maybe not very “bright.”


My first impression of David was that he was confident and ‘posh’ and wasn’t frightened to look at people. It was clear that he relished an audience and was an extrovert. He was, by no means, fazed by us (four rather surly and laconic lower-working-class blokes). I’d never really encountered anyone like him before. Remember, I used to hang around with guys like sausage-supper Rab, And Rab, of course, had been unceremoniously ‘chucked’ once he supplied the sparkling rock to the lovely Lavinia.


David knew he was mixing with the great unwashed, and that his barrister brother would be contemptuous of these types of surroundings where low-life scuttled around in the nooks and crannies. But this was not a concern of his. His sole interest in Lavinia was of a sexual nature. Her appetite was voracious; and so was his. Anything else that was happening were just the social pleasantries.


And so, all David required, at this point, was an audience (us four hoods) and the Mother (to impress) and some prompting (from the lovely Lavinia) for him to launch into that evening’s rarefied selection of humorous 'stories' before he sped away in his Opel Cadet with the damsel.

And this is when I realised just how good a story-teller he was. And how finely-tuned his ‘patter’ could be.


It was also the case that David had a repertoire of well-rehearsed anecdotes up his sleeve. But none of us 'hoods' could possibly have known this because he appeared to be shooting from the hip. He also had fair acting skills too. And Jenny was in awe of him. Finally, Lavinia had picked up a ‘decent’ bloke. A bright future could now, maybe, be assured for her daughter. And so David chose to keep standing, rather than sitting (down) on the settee. He began to spin a yarn.


David was the same height as me - around 5-10” - but his physique was thinner and more angular (skinnier). He knew he was ugly, he wasn’t deluded, but this did not seem to affect his positive self-image one iota. His confident voice never wavered by a quaver.

When Lavinia appeared she prompted David. “Tell Jenny aboot rat student-form thing rat happened the day,” she said, disrespecting her mother by using her first name.

“Ah, yes…” said David, grateful for the cue. And then he launched into his first story of the evening. Jenny was soon in titters. Lavinia laughed with meanness and sarcasm. Us four lads came close to a snigger, but we made sure it did not hit our faces as we didn’t want to look like 'poofs' (guys that showed emotion) in front of this posh tit. We had to stay ‘hard.’

I watched, listened, and learned … from the master.


This was also the first time I had clapped eyes on Lavinia. When I had heard from Ally that Rab had a “bird” I was not only incredulous, I was also curious.

What is this girl (with the unusual name, for a lassie from Pollok) like I thought. Lassies, in those days, were normally called, Margaret, Anne, Bernadette, Morag, Agnes, and the like. But “Lavinia” sounded quite exotic.

“What does she look like?” I asked my mate Ally. “This Lavinia?"


“What does she look like?” I asked.

“A dog,” replied Ally.

“What, like a female version of Rab?” I asked.

“Aye. Gawky, way missin teef,” said Ally.

“A foat mibby,” I replied.

And so, that evening, I had discovered that David looked, pretty much, as shocking-ugly as his photo-booth picture depicted him. However, Lavinia must have been dabbling in the Dark Arts recently because she looked like a vamp. A sexpot. A siren. And there was no denying that she had a certain allure.

I whispered to Ally. “A foat yoo sayed she wis a dog?”

Ally replied. “Eh… she wis… but…”

“Bit wit?” I asked.

“She’s noo werin make-up,” answered Ally. “She didnae huv that own the last time a saw her.”

And Lavinia also sported a full set of molars too, into the bargain. Most guys would have agreed that she was a “corker.” And I could see why David was willing to debase himself to get access to her femininity.


With her updated act, Lavinia could now be considered a danger to men. In particular, soft-hearted and gullible ones. Which David was not. They matched each other in ruthlessness, that was for sure, and this probably meant their new relationship (of mutual gratification) would likely be a volatile one. Neither of them could be properly assuaged by using their hands for self-pleasure. They both needed the real deal, often.

And David had to carefully manage his desires, lest he jeopardise his promising career (he wanted to be “Chairman of ICI” he often declared to me). Lavinia would take (nearly) anything that was on offer (Ally, for example, on three occasions) and, on many interchanges, the local, middle-aged, Pakistani convenience-store owner (leading to a future pregnancy and a child). There was also Andy (a couple of times) and quite a few others (concurrently too). Poor Rab never got his end away, however. She drew the line there. But it did not stop her from keeping the expensive rock that Rab took three years to pay for.

I never succumbed to the ‘bait’ myself. And I don’t think I was even tempted either. It must have been my survival instinct (which was to serve me well in the near future). She’d “been around” and I thought I could be looking at acquiring a severe case of the pox. I wondered what David thought? In fact, I found out. He routinely escorted all his girlfriends to the Family Planning Clinic (for a thorough check-up) before consummating their relationship.


Lavinia was about 5-foot-4 in height, and had a feminine shape. She wore pretty good “clays” (clothing/garments). Her fine brown hair was straight and shoulder-length. She always had a fully made-up face, with particular attention paid to her generously applied, and dramatic, eye make-up. Indeed, I never saw her without her ‘face’ on, ever. But Splee, her younger brother, described her as “looking like a pig withoot her make-up own. You’ve no seen her. A hiv,” he would declare.

Fully presented, however, Lavinia was attractive and, dare I say it, sexy. At some point later, Andy (16) said to me that Lavinia looked “like wan oh those biker birds fae Splee’s motorbike magazine. Pit yer helmet own her,” Andy said, “in see wit she looks like. Try it oot.”

I did, and she did. Lavinia peered, alluringly, out through the helmet-visor at me, with a smug grin on her face. “You should be in an advert,” I said. She loved this appraisal.

“You can gee me a go own yer bike then Davie,” she replied. “We could go a run intae the Toon, the night, if yay waant.”

At initial glance, Lavinia, looked pretty good, but her accent was coarse. However, since hooking-up with David, she made some attempts to speak more ‘proper.’

“Waant” changed to “Wawnt” in her new elocution.


In fact, David demanded that Lavinia was to try and speak “more properly” as he was considering taking her for a meal to a hotel (near to his Dad’s office) and he did not “wish to have to enter by the tradesmen’s entrance.” He added, “It will not look good for me if people think you are a cleaner, and not a guest. And remember,” he reinforced, “tell your Mother, if she comes along, that if she spills something they clean it up. It was somewhat embarrassing, at the Alhambra,” David said, “when Jenny got down on her knees to wipe the floor after she spilled her coffee on the carpet. I was mortified," he said, "and my Dad was nearby too, in the next building. And, another thing, when they ask you if you'd like a menu, say, yes, à la carte please, ok?"

"Ally who? "

"Just say it. You don't have to know what it means darling."



And so David chose to keep standing, rather than sitting (down) on the settee and he began to spin a yarn.

"Tell Jenny aboot rat student-form thing rat happened the day," prompted Lavinia, disrespecting her mother by using her first name.

"Ah, yes…" said David, grateful for the cue. He then went on to tell a story about turning up at the Tax Office to get a form in relation to his summer working status. David said that he spoke to a lady-receptionist who said that he was asking for the wrong form, and she was not treating him with the respect he so richly deserved. David insisted it was the right one that he was asking for.

The lady-officer challenged him. “Who advised you about this exact form?”

David said, “My Father.”

The lady replied, “Well, obviously your Dad doesn’t know much about how the income tax system works.”

“Well, you may know my him," David replied. "He works in the office upstairs, he’s the Chief Tax Officer.”

David then said the form was placed in his hand, quick as a flash.


David went on to tell some more stories. No-one else really got a word in. I don’t even think I said anything to him directly myself, although he probably had overheard some of my banter with the other ‘hoods."

And then David and Lavinia left, driving away in the Opel Cadet. Presumably they were heading to his "West End Flat" (which was actually a bedsit-room). The flat had five separate rooms that were rented to singles or couples.

I never saw him again, until a few months later, when I spotted him operating the Big Wheel at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr (where he introduced me to Helen from Oxford. A very pure lady).

This was David’s style of self-presentation. His Dad’s car became his car, and a bedsit in a flat, with several occupants, became his flat.


Butlins Holiday Camps became popular with working-class families in the 1960s. There were quite a few of them around the UK. They were all located in England, apart from one that is, Butlins, Ayr, Scotland. And because all the others were at ‘exotic’ places such as Clacton and Bognor Regis, the perception (by those south of the border) was that "Ayr" was more salubrious. Nothing could have been further from the truth, of course, but it was all about perception, not reality.


The idea of Butlins Holiday Camps was to provide an, all-inclusive, affordable family holiday with everything provided, pretty much for free, once you had paid the fee. It was usual for a family to book for a week (Saturday to Saturday). For this you got a private Chalet (the accommodation) and three meals a day. There could be about 4000 to 5000 “campers” staying at Ayr in the peak summer months.

I had three phases of experiences there: (1) as a kid, aged 9-11 (2) as a young teenager, aged 13/14, and (3) in 1978, at the age of 18, when I met David (he was 20 at the time) who was a member of the staff and operating a ferris wheel (the Big Wheel) at the fun park.

My experiences, in these three phases, were influenced by the cultural standards and expectations of the times, and my own age and maturity. And there were many, very exciting - 'coming-of-age' - events. I developed, from a child, into an impressionable and naïve teenager, and then into, perhaps, a slightly more cynical young adult.

In a lot of ways, they were the best days of my life. Oh, and I nearly forgot. I had a fourth phase there too, when I was 24. I turned up in a Honda Silverwing motorbike, and stayed there for a week in the summer of 1984. Perhaps I was addicted to the place. And when I describe the salacious details you’ll probably understand why. Suffice to say, Butlins, by the mid-80s had become a Den of Iniquity. And I think that was what lured me back. This was the main attraction. The sleaze.

A few years later, in September 1988, a 5-year-old kid vanished from the camp whilst on holiday with his aunt and uncle. This led to the largest ever missing child hunt by Scottish Police, as 200 officers searched the camp and a six-mile radius.

Oops. I forgot to mention. There was an earlier phase (from the ages of 4,5,6 and 7). I have seen the photos of myself. But, I think I must have been in shock/trauma over that period and so I have no memory of it at all. However, I do recognise the pain in my face in the old, square, black-and-white pictures of me as a child.


And so, in 1978, I was probably a couple of months away from meeting up with the profound intellectual, David T, again, after he had arrived that evening (at the council house that we hoods hung about in) to pick up his new exotic bird (the lovely Lavinia) - telling a few yarns - before pissing off to his West End Flat (in his Dad’s Opel Cadet) to get up to mischief with the vixen that Lavinia had amazingly transformed herself into after extracting a sparkling rock from Rab (who never got anything in return for his act of supreme generosity, apart from hassle from the catalogue people for payments). Levenia had pawned the gem in order to fund her new beauty regime. She had changed from a "dog" into a "ride" in just a few short weeks. She then hung about in the centre of Glasgow, waiting to pounce on glamorous footballers, at exclusive clubs. She aimed at fit foreign blokes who had maybe being involved in big European matches against Rangers or Selik. How did she manage to wangle her way into these posh clubs? She would use her finest asset, of course, her big pair of … eyes.


And so, before I bumped into (for only the second time) the legend that was the great David T, at Butlins, Ayr, I hung about with the two immature juveniles, Andy (soon to be jailed for 3 months) and Splee (soon to be on charges of terrorism, just like me, for stupidest thing I have ever done. I was 18 and old enough to know better).

Meanwhile I was appalled at how Jenny was being treated by her offsping (Splee & Lavinia) and so I felt compelled to help their mother by doing jobs around the house and doing some chores and shopping and stuff. But I was also being drawn into a life of petty crime. Me, Splee, and Andy used to wander through the night, stealing cars, and "thrashing" them along Mosspark Boulevard, trying to reach the ton in knocked-off Rover V8 3500 hot-wired vehicles. I’m not proud of this.


In 1978 I was serving an electrical-engineering apprenticeship with Balfour Kilpatrick (a subsidiary of the global corporate Balfour Beatty). There were two big firms, at the time, that offered the best training; the other was James Scott Engineering. BK took on 12 apprentices every six months. They had their own, dedicated, training school in Paisley and positions were well sought after. I sent off an application form when I left school in 1977. I had been given no advice, or encouragement, from anyone to do this. I just did it off my own back.

400 hundred hopefuls applied for my phase. They took on 12. I was one of them. It was only after I started the training that I realised just how rare these prized positions were. Many families went to great lengths to get “their boy” on a training course with “KP’s” (the nickname for Balfour Kilpatrick) because they knew it could lead to a well-paid job for life, and travelling all over the world, working on lucrative contracts.


I received a letter of response from Balfour Kilpatrick (BK) to turn up at their Paisley head office for an assessment. This was to be between 9 and 11am on a Monday morning. I had never been to the area before and had no transport (I got a Suzuki 100 motorbike later, once I was hired).

Travelling from East Kilbride to Paisley, by public transport, required me to get a (1) local bus from Greenhills, East Kilbride, to Hairmyres train station, then a (2) train to the centre of Glasgow, then another (3) train to Paisley, then another (4) local bus across Paisley. Four separate journeys. The commute took two hours and I arrived at 9.20am (20 minutes late). I had no idea what I was in for.


When I arrived at Balfour Kilpatrick’s, Paisley, I was flustered, unsure, and 17 years old. I had only just scraped up the money for the fares (2 buses, two trains, walks in between, and the like). I had been up since 6am. I had ill-fitting thin clothes that made me feel naked. I hadn’t had any breakfast (never a feature in my house) and my stomach was now rumbling. I probably also needed a good haircut. The Balfour Kilpatrick (Works) complex looked intimidating and all ‘adult’ and ‘corporate’- not like school. It was a workplace for men.


When our family moved from Pollok, Glasgow, to Greenhills, East Kilbride, in August 1975, my life was ripped apart. Everything I had ever known was taken away from me. And so, for 2 years (ages 15 to 17) I was lost and bewildered. I wasn’t aware of this, myself, and I remained in this condition of clinical depression for the next 15 years (until about the age of 30).

I had passed all my Ordinary Level exams (6 of them, in 1976) with flying colours. However, by 1977, my depression had deepened. So much so, I never turned up for any of my Highers. I just could not bear to enter the exam hall. I did manage to turn up for one Higher: mathematics. And I passed this (but I have no recollection of actually sitting the exam).

I was a walking shell, with nothing inside of me.


There was a relatively new school-subject, in those days, called “Economics” and it was my favourite at the Glasgow school. Classes at Glasgow …

(Lourdes Secondary School, established in 1956, serviced the south-west of Glasgow, a large catchment area, including the communities of Cardonald, Craigton, Crookston, Drumoyne, Govan, Hillington, Ibrox, Kinning Park, Mosspark, Penilee and Pollok)

… usually had over 40 pupils. But Economics had maybe just 10. At this was why I chose that subject. It was quieter. Other classes were battlefields of boys (no girls, no mixed classes) trying to gain a ‘promotion’ in the hierarchy by “battering” each other, spitting on others, or stabbing them with red-hot pencils (that had been heated up by being in contact with the convector-heater element, through the grills). My rating, for any class, was usually 6 to 8, on the hierarchy, mainly because I was about 3 inches taller than average, and played for the football team, and ran for my school at Scotstoun Stadium (100 metres and 400 metres relay).


Having been brought up in Glasgow, when we moved to East Kilbride I was convinced I had landed on an alien planet. People spoke differently, acted oddly, and appeared (to me) like homogeneous clones.

And I made a fine impression on my first day at St Brides High School by getting expelled, without even setting foot in a classroom.


St Brides was near to the Town Centre of EK, however, Greenhills was on the outskirts, and 900ft in elevation. On my first day I walked the two miles to school. No-one was advising me about anything, and so I just turned up. I was wearing blue flared cords, sand-shoes, and a jazzy tank-top. I looked like one of the Bay City Rollers. And my hair was wild.


As I approached the pre-fabricated excuse for a building that morning, I thought “I think I’d rather die than walk in there.” And, pretty soon, I did die a psychological death.

As I wandered about, trying to work out which door to go in, and who to speak to, I noticed that everybody else had blazers and ties on. And they were staring at me in fear and alarm. And then a chief swot reported me to the deputy Heidy (Headmaster).

A po-faced, and stern man, appeared a few minutes later.

“Who are you sonny, and what are you doing here?” he asked.


“Who are you sonny, and what are you doing here?” he asked, in a serious, and authoritarian, manner.

“Am turnin’ up fur school,” I replied.

(who is this posh git, in a suit, I thought)

There was a pause. He looked concerned. Maybe even fearful. This is all highly irregular, he must have been thinking.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Davy,” I replied.

“Have you enrolled?”

“Wit?” I grunted (I thought he was talking about rolls of bread).

“Is this your first day?”


“Well, young man, I suggest you go home,” he said uncompromisingly, “and come back when you are dressed properly.”

And so I headed out the gate, and trudged back home.


“Well, young man, I suggest you go home,” the Deputy Head said, uncompromisingly, “and come back when you are dressed properly.”

And so I headed out, through the gate, and trudged back home. When I arrived back at the house, that morning, I got merry hell for being “dumb” and “stupid.”

“What have you done now?” my Mother asked, accusatorily.

“A goat chipped oot,” I said.

“Wit fur?” she asked, without concern (for me).

“A didnae huv the right clays own,” I replied.

I didn’t have any clothes that fitted me, never mind anything that resembled a uniform. My parents hadn’t noticed that I had been growing fast and was now approaching my adult height of 5ft 10” - but I still had the clothes of a 13-year old boy (from Pollok) in my cupboard.


“We canny afford new clays fur you,” declared my Mother. “Who jay think a um, Carnegie?”

“I wis told tae get a PE kit tae,” I said.

“Wits that?”

“Physical … eh … phys… eh … a … sports kit…”

“We’re no buying yay a fitba strip. Wit jay think it is, Christmas?” she said, with venom, and conviction.


“Will yay be able tae gee me the bus fare tae school?” I asked.

“Kin yay no jist walk?” she said

“It’s err two miles,” I pointed out. “It took me hawf an oor tae get there.”

“A bus?” she said, incredulously. “How much is that gonnae coast us?”

“Eleven and a half pence … if I go tae the right stoap, tae get own.”

“Eleven pence? Dis the school no py fur rat?”

“Naw,” I replied. “A huv tae py fur it ma sell.”

“You tell rem, they’ve goat tae py fur it, ok?”

“Awright.” I conceded.


I turned up at St Brides, that afternoon, again, having walked to the Town Centre from Greenhills, in my cousin’s cast-off jacket (a couple of sizes too small) and ripped flannels (from tree-climbing in Pollok) and my Dad’s tie on (not the official school-tie, of course). I felt naked and vulnerable.

I witnessed a peculiar mixture of fear, and appalled curiosity, coming from the pupils in the school playground, as I approached.

The deputy head interviewed me, asking, “What General Certificates of Education are you currently studying for, sonny?” showing overt disdain at my slovenly appearance. I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I dunno,” I replied. “Aw a no is rat I wis toap oav ma class at mayst oav the subjiks.”

“This was, probably, because you had no real competition, sonny,” he replied, dismissively.

(St Brides had a couple of hundred pupils; whereas Lourdes had 2,500)

“What was your favourite subject laddie, metalwork?” he asked, without interest.

“ee ka nom iks,” I replied.

“How long have you been interested in cakes?” he asked, with an expression of contemptuous pity.


“I don’t think this school is right for you, son,” he said

He then assessed me as a “slow learner” on the enrolment form.

Next, I was put into six different classes … of dunderheads. That is, those types who had trouble just balancing on stools, or chairs, without falling over. The rabble, the dregs, the lost-causes.

The first class I entered, was full of girls. They put me into a Home Economics class. The cooking and baking class. There was much tittering. Some guy shouted down the corridor.

“Hey you, Les McKeown, that’s a class fur wumin, yah f*kin' p**f".


I couldn't bear the school, and used to avoid going there. That winter was bitterly cold. And I had no proper clothing. I took to wandering around the Plaza (the shopping mall) to try and stay warm. I had no footwear. Just sand-shoes, with no soles. I walked around like a soulless zombie. If someone had asked me my name, I don’t think I could have even told them. I was disassociating from my core. I had no sense of self. I was conscious, but not alive. My feet were like blocks of ice. I didn’t have any money for food. Nothing to drink. I used to hide in the toilets in the shopping mall, until they shut the door. Sometimes I was locked in overnight.


The next two years (1976 & 1977) were the coldest, and hottest, on record. And this still stands today. John McEnroe, playing at Wimbledon, was getting burnt to a crisp. I almost perished, in East Kilbride, through the winter, as our council house wasn’t heated (a money-saving strategy) and we were positioned near to the “Trig Point” (900ft in elevation) which was marked by a pillar on top of the highest hill. I almost died of exposure, several times.


I sat 6 Ordinary Level exams in 1976, and then got so deeply depressed that I didn’t turn up for 4 of my Highers. I turned up for the mathematics test (but have no recollection of doing so) in 1977.

I left school in 1977, and applied to Balfour Kilpatrick. One year later, I moved out of the family home.

As I walked out of the door, My Mother spewed out, with bared teeth, “Don’t ever come back here, this is not a hotel, you know.” I took her up on this offer, and never did go back.

And I never returned to full-time education until the year 2000 (23 years later).


When I arrived at Balfour Kilpatrick’s, Paisley, I was bewildered, unsure, and 17 years old. I had only just scraped up the coins for the fares (two buses, two trains, and then the return). I had been up since 6am that morning. I was wearing ill-fitting thin clothes (the story of my life) that made me feel naked. I hadn’t had anything to eat (breakfast was never a feature in my house) and my stomach was now growling. I think I also needed a good haircut. My long locks were wild. Freestyle. And bottled water was not a ‘thing’ in those days. And so I was dehydrated, into the bargain.

The Balfour Kilpatrick (Works) buildings-complex looked cold and intimidating. Unapproachable and serious. It was a workplace for adults. My journey there had taken two hours and I arrived at 9.20am (20 minutes late). I had failed even to get there on time.

I had no idea what I was in for. But I thought, pessimistically, that I was going to get a ‘row’ for being late, or get ‘sacked’ before I was hired. Like what happened at school. I was wondering, at that point, if I should ever go back home again. My mother would surely take the opportunity to tell me that, yet again, I was a complete waste of space. And I believed she was probably right, too.

I, tentatively, walked in through the entrance doorway …


When I walked into the building, I went over to a glass panel that gave me a view into an office were women were sitting at desks. The glass was slid over and so I could not speak directly. I tried to say something, but my voice made no sound. I decided that it would be best just to walk out. I had caused enough trouble already, I thought. And then this bloke, with a clipboard, and wearing beige overalls, approached.

“Are you here for the test?” he said, in a serious manner.

“Eh?” I replied.”

“What’s your name, son?” he said.

I panicked. I flipped into disassociation mode.

“Brian McKinstry,” I replied. (this was a mate I had from Pollok). But my defence trick did not wash.

“Who are you?” he said.

“Davy,” I replied.



“David what?”

“Eh…” I was struggling to get my surname name out. I couldn’t pronounce it. “Ma Quarnin,” I said.

“Ma Quarnon?”


He made allowances for me, and checked his list.

“In here son," he escorted me through a door. "You’re 25 minutes late.”

I walked into a huge room. There were rows of school-desks in a grid pattern. There were 100 positions, all occupied, apart from one.


“In here son." The man in the beige overalls ushered me through a door. "You’re 25 minutes late,” he said. It was now 9.25am.

I walked into a huge room. There were rows of school-desks in a grid pattern. There were 100 positions, all occupied, apart from one. I sat down at the unoccupied seat.

Overall-Man placed an A4-size booklet, and a pen, on the small desk.

“You have until 10.30am to complete the assessment.”

I opened up the blue booklet. There was page-after-page of questions, diagrams, circuits, cogs, drawings of all types, related to electricity, engineering and construction materials.

I got cracking. I didn’t waste any more time. I blotted out the room, and got into the ‘zone‘. I was pacing through the initial questions, but as it went from number 1 to number 20 the questions were becoming increasingly difficult. An hour passed. Someone jabbed on my shoulder.

“Put your pen down son. Time up.”

I looked at the number: it was number 90. I had been an abject failure. There was a total of 100 questions to complete. If only I had came in on time, I thought, scolding myself.


One week later a letter dropped on my mat. Balfour Kilpatrick had invited me for a job interview.

I was treated very respectfully at the interview. It was as if they wanted to give me the training position, and they tried their best to help me.

I found out later that 400 had initially applied, and 100 were tested. Half of those who sat the test didn’t get past question 50. Of the people who got past question 51 only 2 reached question 80. The highest mark recorded was 82/100. Apart from my mark.

I scored 90/100.

I didn’t fail after all.