29 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part twelve


Gretl sat on the roof of the Victoria, a pseudo-Victorian building in the centre of town. It had been a theatre in the 1960s, a cinema in the 1980s and was now a trendy wine bar on the ground floor with a cheap and nasty nightclub occupying the two floors above it. If there was anywhere to pick up scum in this town, the nightclub in the Victoria was the place.

The night was still young and she had barely woken but already the craving was threatening to overwhelm her. She had been hooked on cigarettes when she died and the need for nicotine had been tremendous. Her body ached, her mind pulsed with every heartbeat and she felt herself become so tense whenever she could not get one more draw on those little white sticks. She experienced the effects of withdrawal whenever it was a choice between cigarettes or little Claus having a new pair of shoes, or the right books for school, or any one of a hundred other things a growing child needs. Money had been tight, but she could always fight the cravings when things got too bad.

She would give anything to feel those cravings now. Compared to the hell she faced each night, they were paradise.

She scanned the crowds that were starting to form outside the more popular pubs and clubs. Somewhere in each crowd there was a target. She just needed to find one. Which unlucky sod would it be tonight?

Outside the Victoria, a man in a white tracksuit sauntered over to a blue Fiat, looked both ways, then leaned into the passenger-side front window. Gretl watched him talking to the driver; saw him pass something over to him and receive something in return. Then he stood up, patted the roof and walked away.

'Dealer,' she thought, keeping her eyes on the car. 'Perfect.'


'Allo there, darlin',' the dealer grinned. His smile was crooked, like he's taken one too many punches to his already less than perfect face while growing up. 'What can I do for you?'
His eyes flicked up from her chest for a brief second, meeting hers. It was all she needed. As his jaw sagged in the vacant way that told her he would do anything she asked.

She smiled. 'Let's go for a ride.'

He started the car and headed out of town. Gretl looked around the car as they drove, taking in the black jacket slung on the back seat and bulge in the dealer's trouser pocket. Either money or drugs. She hoped it was money, drugs were useless to her.

'Stop here,' she said.

The dealer pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car.

She leaned over toward him, put her hands on his shoulders and whispered in his ear. 'Sleep.'
He closed his eyes and went limp, his head falling forward. She pushed it to one side and bit down hard on his neck. The blood flowed slowly, but it was warm and the pleasure centre of her brain stepped into overdrive as its sharp, iron taste flowed over her tongue. Her heart raced, her pupils dilated. She sucked at the wound, gulping the warm, red liquid as fast as she could. She had to get as much out as possible before the wound clotted. It was a personal rule; one bite per victim. Any more and she risked killing the poor sap.

Killing was Allemand's territory. Despite everything he had taken from her, she still had her conscience.

The blood stopped. She licked sorrowfully at the young man's neck, savouring the last of his precious, life-giving fluid, then slumped back in her seat and let it work its magic on her. The wounds that had not healed since the night before closed, leaving no trace. She looked whole again. Human. The spectre of death lifted.

Her business concluded, she searched the man's pockets, finding a roll of twenties, a half-empty packet of cigarettes and a bic lighter. She took them all, pulled him out of the car and drove back into town.

28 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part eleven

Chapter Five


Cartwright paced back and forth in front of a large window overlooking the street. He was flicking through a grey file, one of a seemingly endless number of similar files Seth had until now kept locked in the drawers of his office cabinet. The old man had been working on this case for far too long, and from the look of some of the documents he was reading, cuttings from newspapers from all around the world, he had not been working alone.

He finished reading an article about a serial killer in Adelaide in the 1920s and looked over at Seth. He was sitting at his desk, pecking at his keyboard with two fingers. He had been working here for longer than Cartwright had been out of school and yet the guy had never found time to learn to use a computer.

Seth looked over at him. 'Seen enough?'

'I don't know,' said Cartwright. 'It's hard to believe one guy is responsible for all this. It goes back decades.'

'You saw Gretl. How do you explain her?'

Cartwright looked at the older man. 'You think she's a...hell, I don't even know what to call her.'

Seth began tap-tapping on the keyboard. 'I think she's a vampire.'

'No way,' Cartwright snorted. 'No fucking way.'

'I saw her skin burn up in the sunlight. She started to look normal after drinking blood. Her death certificate is sat on my desk. What more proof do you want?'

'I saw a kid with a sunlight allergy on the television once.'

Seth looked up from the computer. 'Did she drink blood?'

'You can't honestly think that was real.'

'Why not? What else was it?'

'It could have been anything! The girl's clearly a fucking loon!'

Seth turned back to the computer. 'Keep reading.'

'Why? What am I going to find?'

'Enough evidence to make you change your assumptions about the world.'

Cartwright turned toward the window and looked out at the late afternoon skyline. There were dark clouds on the horizon and there was a chill in the air already. The night was going to be long, cold and unwelcoming. Just what he did not need.


'Condition one,' Seth had said. 'We share everything. No secrets. If you find something out, I want to know about it.'

He had not expected her to provide so much so quickly. Hand-written notes, scrawled on scraps of paper in the most illegible writing he had ever seen. She must have been collecting this crap for years, and now all he had to do was write it up in a decent form, then cross-reference it with everything the Ministry had in its computers. That would take days, but who cared? It was necessary, and he had people to do it for him.

He had chosen to type it all up personally, so he had a chance to read everything as it was going in. It would take all day to sort out the scraps of paper, put them into a coherent order and then type them up but there was nothing more important to do.

He finished typing the last sentence of a file on Allemand's movements in the 1980s. Places he had lived, people he had worked with. Some of this tied in with investigations Seth had run years earlier, but he had never heard of Allemand before.

'He works through intermediaries,' she had told him. 'Don't expect to turn up anything on him directly.'

He was chasing a ghost on the word of a woman who stank like a latrine and whose skin fell off in bright light. He was taking a lot on faith, that much was certain.

She didn't smell as much after she drank blood, he thought. What other surprises is she hiding?

Cartwright burst into the office, carrying a file in one hand and a coffee in the other.

'Got him,' he said, dropping the file onto the desk and jabbing at a photograph.


'Allemand. He's a sneaky fucker but he can't hide forever.'

Seth looked at the photograph. It was in a newspaper clipping from a French newspaper in the late 1960s. In the background of a picture showing the aftermath of a car accident was a tall, thin man with light coloured hair and a beard. The printing was too low quality to give any more information.

'What makes you think it's him?' Seth asked.

Cartwright handed him a printout of a photograph. 'I found this on a website charting the history of the Scholz family in Munich.'

'Who are they?'

'Nobody important, until you see him.' Cartwright pointed to a young man, likely the eldest son of the family. 'This was taken around 1901, before the family were called Scholz. The young lad there is called Hans Allemand.'

'So what happened to him?'

'Apparently he went off to fight in the first world war and never came back.'

Seth stared at the photograph. The boy could not have been more than thirteen when the picture was taken.

He handed the photograph back. 'It's a start. See what else you can find out about him.'

27 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part ten


Jeremy felt like he was floating, detached from everything around him. The world swam around him in a haze of dark clouds and confusion. Somewhere, he could not tell if it was close or afar, a gunshot sounded. He saw flashes of light, shouts and cries, snatches of barked orders. None of it seemed to register fully in his mind.

The girl was there; the one from the meeting. She was fighting someone. Had he also been at the meeting? Was this the meeting, going on right now? He could not be sure. The man pulled a gun, fired at the girl, hit her full in the chest. She staggered backward, almost fell but righted herself at the last moment and lashed out at the man, hitting him square in the face with the palm of her hand. Now he staggered backward, lost his footing and fell.

The girl dropped down on top of him, landing with her knee on his chest. Jeremy heard a cry of pain. Was it from the man? He could not tell. It did not matter. In Jeremy's mind, none of what he was seeing or hearing mattered. The man on the ground lashed out with his fists, sometimes connecting with the girl, sometimes not. She did not seem to care.

She reached out with both hands, took hold of the man's head and twisted.

Now Jeremy was looking up at the girl, seeing her in detail for the first time. She was attractive, but it was not her looks that made her so. She looked plain, the kind of girl he wouldn't give a moment's thought if he passed her in the street. But there was something else also, something that held his attention. He couldn't put his finger on it.

She took her hands off him and stood up. He could not breathe. He could not move. His thought tightened as he gasped for breath that would not come. He could feel his mind going cold and numb. His body felt like it was no longer part of him. It was lost in a sea of agony. The bitch had broken his neck! He was going to die, and she was the one that had killed him.

She walked away, and he saw she was no longer the girl from the meeting. Now he looked more closely, he could not believe he had thought she was a girl at all. It was Reggie. Reggie had done this to him. The old bastard! He'd set this whole meeting up to get rid of Jeremy and his men.

The world lost focus and once again Jeremy was floating in the cloudy realm where nothing was real. His mind burned with rage. He thought he could trust that old bastard but he had been wrong. Now Reggie was going to pay.

He woke in a cold sweat, sitting in the leather chair by a fire that was no more than barely glowing embers now. The whisky glass was still in his hand. He looked at it like it was alien to him.

'Then why was he not there?'

The German's words echoed in his mind. How had he known? Who could say.

All that mattered right now was that Reggie Dixon was going to pay for what he had done tonight. Good men, loyal men, had died because that old shit had ratted them out.

He would pay dearly.

25 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part nine

Chapter Four


Jeremy Pellier sat nursing a whisky. Reggie wanted him back in town but he was too drunk to drive. He would get some rest and head back first thing in the morning. A hangover would be the least of his problems and he knew it all too well, but that problem was hours away.

He downed the whisky and poured himself another. What harm would one more do?

He heard the study door open, and turned to see a tall, thin man with thick blonde hair entering. The man closed the door and walked over to where Jeremy was sitting. He took the other of the two leather armchairs by the fireplace.

'Who the fuck are you?' Jeremy asked.

'We have a mutual acquaintance,' the man said. His voice carried the subtlest hint of a German accent.

'You obviously didn't hear me. I'll ask again: who the fuck are you?'

'You can call me Hans,' said the man. 'I am told Monsieur Dupont was disappointed by tonight's meeting. I would like to know why.'

'Tough shit. Now get out of my house.'

Hans leaned back in his chair and looked at Jeremy like he was assessing him.

'Mr Pellier,' he said. 'You disappoint me, clinging to these outdated notions. Your house indeed! How can any of us claim ownership of something that may very well stand for longer than we ever could?'

'What the hell are you talking about? Get out, you babbling prick.'

'Possessions, Mr Pellier, are an illusion. We cannot own anything, not one atom. We merely take charge of them for a time; then pass them on when we ourselves pass on.'

'Look, fuck off will you. I'm a busy man.'

Hans leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees and looking James straight in the eye. James found himself transfixed, unable to tear himself away from the other man's piercing gaze.

'Tell me what happened tonight,' said Hans.

The blonde man's stare burned into James' mind. His eyes prickled, his skin crawled, but he could not turn away.

'Where do you want me to start?' he asked. The words seemed to flow out of his mouth without his mind controlling them.

'Who told the girl we were coming?'

'I don't know.'

'Very well. Who knew about the meeting?'

'Only those who were there,' said James. The words seemed distant, as if heard through cotton wool. He felt as though he was floating a little way behind his body. 'And Reggie.'

'Who is Reggie?'

'Reggie Dixon. He runs the Blexham Green Boys. But he wouldn't rat us out. He had a lot of money resting on this deal.'

'Then why was he not there?'

Hans sat back in his chair and seemed to visibly relax.

The clouds lifted from Jeremy's mind and suddenly he felt more aware of himself. The chair solidified around him, his hands gripping the arms. He felt dizzy and a little sick, like he had just stepped off a fairground ride and was still spinning on the inside.

'What the fuck?' he said. 'What did you fucking do to me?'

'Nothing whatsoever,' said Hans, watching him closely.

'Look, just get the fuck out will you?' Jeremy blustered. 'I'm a busy man.'

Hans nodded. 'Very well.'

He stood and made his way to the door. Jeremy watched him go, flustered and with beads of sweat forming on his brow.

At the doorway, Hans turned and smiled. 'Good night, Mr Pellier. No doubt we will meet again.'

He left, closing the door behind him.

'Not if I see you first,' Jeremy muttered.

13 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part eight


He could have pushed to stay outside. Some other men would have. Another time, he might have but not this time. The way her flesh had burned in the sunlight, even the low light of the early dawn; the way that rotten stench had clawed at his lungs, getting worse by the second, as the dawn light grew stronger. In the end did he really have a choice?

Not if he wanted to know what was going on.

He followed her back inside. She opened the heavy metal door like it was hardly there. He closed it behind them, pulling with all his strength. The hinges were rusted and almost immovable. How much strength was hidden in her gaunt body? She'd done the seemingly impossible right before his eyes.

Cartwright had pulled his gun on her when she opened the door, but he didn't get the chance to fire. Seth grabbed the weapon as soon as he saw it, twisted the man's hand and disarmed him. The stupid bastard obviously needed a lot more training.

They walked down the stairs and back to the empty flat in silence. Questions could wait until they were out of sight of any prying eyes. People would be getting up to go to work within a few hours; chances are some were already up and about. No sense in letting ones self be overheard if you could help it.

Gretl headed straight for the kitchen, pulled a bag from her coat pocket and poured the contents into the glass on the counter. With her back to the door it was hard for Seth to see what exactly she had been carrying.

She picked up the carton of orange juice, shook it and put it down again.

'It's empty,' said Cartwright, nursing his right shoulder. 'We checked.'

'Pity,' Gretl replied. 'It takes the edge off.'

She sipped at the contents of the glass, keeping her back to the two men.

'Look,' Cartwright continued. 'Can someone please tell me what's going on here?'

'Ask your boss,' said Gretl. She downed the last of the glass's contents and started to cough. Seth stepped forward to help her. She raised a hand, stopping him. 'I'm fine. Tell your friend why you're here.'

'Not until you explain to me what the fuck happened on the roof.'

She turned and looked at him. Her skin looked smoother, less blemished. The sores were closing, healing, right before his eyes. 'We talked. What more is there to say?'

'Let's start with someone telling me what exactly you are,' said Cartwright. 'Cause I'm pretty sure dead people don't walk the streets and I've never in my life seen someone go from looking like a disease-ridden tramp to someone who's almost healthy in the blink of an eye.' He grabbed the glass from the woman's hand and sniffed the contents. 'What the hell is this stuff anyway?'

'Blood,' said Gretl. She looked from one man to the other and back again. 'Don't you two know anything?'

Cartwright stared at her, not sure whether to laugh or leave. Seth folded his arms and simply waited for her to continue.

'Look, I thought you were after Allemand. Clearly I was mistaken. So why are you here?'

'Why would we be after Allemand?' asked Seth.

'I asked first.'

Seth shook his head. 'Doesn't work like that. If you want my help, you'll answer my questions.'

'Got im Himmell,' Gretl muttered. She ran a hand through her hair. Seth noticed it had grown back and now looked full of vigour. 'He's the head of a cartel that spans Europe, Russia and parts of the Far East. Nasty little shit, too. Works through local crime mobs, keeps out of sight whenever he can. Very hard to track down.'

'And he's coming here?'

'I'll make sure of it. After the way the meeting at the docks went down, his favourite lap dog is already here. I can use him to lure him out.'

'So that's why you were down at the warehouse?' asked Cartwright.

Gretl nodded.

'You upset months of planning for us, you know.'

'Do I look like I care?' She turned to Seth. 'Are you going to help me or not?'

'You're sure Allemand is the one I should be going after?'

'Dupont is the one who ordered the hit, but he does nothing without Allemand's say so.'

'What are you talking about?' asked Cartwright.

Gretl ignored him. She kept her eyes on Seth, watching him for any hint of what he was thinking.

You don't get the man who killed him. Thanks to this bitch you'll never get the chance.

But you can get the man who sent him. Is that enough?

I honestly don't know but there's only one way to find out.

Seth nodded. Perhaps it was tiredness, or the realisation of what he was getting himself into but he felt every one of his fifty-three years.

'We'll help,' he said. 'But there are conditions.'

Gretl leaned against the counter, appraising her companions, weighing up their strengths and weaknesses in a glance. 'There always are. Name them.'

12 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part seven


The morning light began to brighten as the Sun rose over the horizon. Gretl raised her arm to shield her eyes from the onslaught. Seth hardly registered the change, but found the reaction of his quarry intriguing.

'Do you really expect me to believe you're dead?' he asked, matter-of-factly.

Gretl looked at him through eyes that were now barely open, mere slits in puffy, red skin. 'What you think of me is unimportant. What you want to do about the man who killed your son is all I'm concerned with.'

Seth stared at the woman. She certainly smelled dead, and she seemed to be unconcerned with the open wounds and sores that covered her skin. She was clearly not in complete control of her faculties, so her claims to be deceased could be easily ignored.

But then there was the death certificate. And the newspaper reports, with photographs showing a woman who looked exactly like her. Insane or not, those would be difficult to fake.

Cartwright thumped and kicked at the heavy metal door trapping him inside the building. Gretl glanced at the door, then at the horizon. She looked distinctly ill at ease.

'Something wrong?' asked Seth.

'Make up your mind,' the woman snapped. 'Do you want to deal with the man who killed your son, or do you want to scurry away home?'

Don't rise to her, he told himself. She's trying to provoke you.

'Tell me who this man is.'

'Sollte nicht hier aufgekommen haben,' Gretl muttered.


She sighed, and looked down at the gravel. 'His name is Allemand. Hans Allemand.'

'I don't recognise the name.'

'There's no reason you should. He works through other people. Stays in the background. He is hard to find.'

'Which is why you want my help.'

She looked up at him. Seth thought for a moment that there were more sores on her skin now, but dismissed the notion as nothing more than his imagination.

'I did not come here to find you,' she said. 'You came to find me.'

Seth folded his arms. If she didn't want to be here, that was something he could play to his advantage. 'So why are you here?'

'There's no time for this! Maybe later, but not now.'

'Gretl,' Seth said, keeping his voice even but stern. 'Why are you here?'

She sighed and turned away. 'Because Allemand is coming.'

'I meant here as in here, on this rooftop. Why bring me up here when you obviously don't want to be outside?'

She kicked at the gravel. 'Are you going to help me or not?'

'Not unless you tell me what's going on.'

She turned around quickly, her face a picture of anger. 'Fine! I brought you up here to kill you. You broke into my home, you had a man outside watching me and you won't leave me alone. I brought you up here and trapped you so I could kill you then kill your friend.'

Seth's first instinct was to go for his gun and blow the bitch away. He suppressed it for the moment.

'Why?' he asked.

'Because I thought he sent you.'

Seth glanced at the horizon. 'It's going to be dawn any moment.'

Gretl nodded. 'I need to get back inside.'

'I think we need to talk more.'

She shook her head. 'Not out here.'


She pushed up the sleeve on her left arm, revealing bare skin as white as chalk. It began to turn red almost immediately. Blisters arose, turned to sores and wept a deep, red-black puss.

'Jesus!' said Seth. 'What the fuck?'

Gretl pulled her sleeve back down over the damaged skin. 'If you want to talk, we do it inside.'

11 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part six


The heavy metal door to the roof stood open at the end of a short corridor with bare, grey walls and a dull brown carpet. Outside the early morning sunlight was beginning to creep over the horizon. The rain battered the flat, gravel-coated rooftop and pattered on the ceiling.

Seth glanced around, saw no sign of the woman, and hurried out onto the roof with Cartwright behind him, out of breath from running up the short flight of stairs.

'Gimme...a minute,' Cartwright puffed. He leaned against the wall at the top of the stairs. 'I need to catch my breath.'

Seth went on without him. He stepped out into the rain and looked around. The woman was nowhere to be seen.

'Shit,' he muttered.

From the corner of his eye he saw a shadow move. He turned around. There was nothing there.

Behind him, he heard the crunch of wet gravel.

He spun around, ready to catch the woman this time. Something struck him in the chest. He staggered backward, away from the door.

The woman stepped forward, grabbed the door with one hand and slammed it shut. Inside, Cartwright hammered on the metal but the door did not budge.

'Now we can talk,' said the woman. 'But make it quick.'

Seth straightened his tie, a ploy to buy some time while he got his bearings and assessed the situation in his mind. He was on the top of a three-storey building with one clear exit route, currently blocked by a woman who was clearly fast, strong and in need of a hot bath. His companion was trapped inside, and his other companion was dead in a car. Had she killed him? Now was the time to find out.

'Why did you kill Thomas?' he asked.

The woman looked at him blankly. 'Thomas who?'

'George Henry Thomas,' said Seth, pointing down at the street. 'The man in car down there.'

'That's nothing to do with me. I haven't a clue who you're talking about.'

Cartwright hammered on the door. It did not budge.

'You want me to believe there's a man dead outside the building we know you've been living in, and it's has nothing to do with you being here? That beggars belief.'

'I'm not the only person living here. Now do you have any better questions? I have other things to do, you know.'

'Fine. We'll get the CCTV and find out what happened ourselves.'

'You do that.'

The woman turned to leave.

Seth sighed. 'Greta, wait.'

The woman stopped, looked around at him. 'What now?'

'Why are you here?'

She looked at him, appraising him, judging his worth.

'Who are you?' she asked.

'I'm with the Ministry--'

'No,' she said, sharply. 'Who are you? Not who are you with.'

'I'm Seth Baron. The man trying to break through the door is Stephen Cartwright.'

'Baron...' Greta mused. She chewed her lip as she thought. Seth noticed one of her teeth was pointed, like it was chipped or had lost a cap. She looked up at him suddenly. 'Any relation to David Baron?'

'My son,' said Seth.

'I'm sorry for your loss.'

'I'm sure you are,' Seth sneered. 'Thanks to you his killer will never see justice.'

Greta shook her head slowly. 'It wasn't justice you were looking for.'

'And how the hell would you know? You don't know me.'

'Because I'm looking for the same thing.'

The woman walked forward. The rain coursing over her was doing nothing to rid her of the stench that clung to her like a second skin. She looked him in the eye like she could see into his soul.

'The man who killed your son is still alive. Mark First was not the one who called the hit, he just pulled the trigger. I can help you find the man responsible for your loss.'

'Why would you do that?'

'Because he's also the man who killed me and my family.'

08 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part five


They waited. Outside, rain pattered on the windows. In the lounge, water leaked in through a damaged seal around the window frame. The flat became icy cold.

Cartwright buttoned up his jacket and stuffed his hands in his pockets. 'Bloody hell. Nobody could live in this place. It's like a fucking freezer.'

'Shh!' hissed Seth.

Footsteps echoed up the stairwell.

Seth crept to the kitchen door and pressed himself up against the wall, hiding as best he could from the view of anyone entering the flat. Cartwright did the same in the lounge.

A floorboard creaked outside the door to the flat.

The handle clunked, the door cracked open. The men waited, straining to hear and sound.

None came.

They waited. Still nothing.

No choice, Seth thought. Got to check.

He risked a glance into the corridor. The door was open, revealing wet footprints on the carpet in the stairwell. The carpet in the flat was bone dry.

He looked down the corridor toward the lounge, saw Cartwright staring back at him. Seth motioned toward the stairwell. Cartwright nodded his assent.

The men crept toward the door, with Seth scanning the carpet outside. There were footprints outside the door, leading up from the stairs to the left. After that, nothing. The trail seemed to simply end.

Seth stopped at the doorway and looked around. There was no sign of life outside the flat. No noise. No movement. Nothing. He stepped out into the stairwell and looked around.

A woman was crouched in the corner at the far end of the hallway, by the stairs leading up to the roof. She stared at him, her face completely devoid of emotion; her eyes wide. She looked like a fieldmouse that had been cornered by a cat.

'Why are you here?' she asked. Her accent was strong, but Seth could not place it. Dutch perhaps, or German.

'I would ask you the same question,' said Seth.

'That's not an answer.'

Seth stepped forward, his hands raised in front of him. 'We're not looking for any trouble. We're here about the warehouse.'

The woman stood up slowly as he approached. She was in her late twenties, medium height, scruffy and malnourished. There were burn marks on her hands and face. Her short, blonde hair was matted and dirty. She stank of stale sweat mixed with a sickly sweet aroma.

'What about the warehouse?' she asked, eyeing him warily. She looked ready to bolt at any second.

Seth stopped walking, but kept his hands raised. 'We just want to know what you were doing there. That's all.'

She pulled her grimy overcoat tightly around herself, hugging it close like it offered some sort of protection. 'None of your business.'

Cartwright walked up beside Seth. 'Men died there!' he hissed. 'Of course it's our business.'

'Stay back!' she ordered.

'He's right,' said Seth. 'We need to know what you were doing there.'

The woman shook her head.

Seth lowered his hands. 'Look, maybe we can make a deal. You tell us what we want to know, and in exchange maybe we can help get you sorted out.'

'I'm fine.'

'You don't look fine,' said Cartwright.

Seth glanced at his subordinate. 'Cartwright, you're not helping.'

'I was just – hey, wait!'

Seth turned back just in time to see a shadow dart across the wall. A metallic echo sounded from the floor above.

'Shit!' Seth shouted as he ran toward the staircase. 'Come on!'

07 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part four

Chapter Three


Cartwright drove at just under the speed limit, saying little. The radio played some kind of jazz music, as it often did at this time of night. Seth sat in silence, half listening to the awful music, half staring blankly ahead and trying not to get his hopes up. This could well be a dead end.

The rain was easing off when the car pulled up behind a blue Ford. Seth recognised the registration number. Thomas had already arrived.

Cartwright nodded toward a building a few metres further down the road. 'That's the place. Third floor.'

Seth looked over at the building. A window on the second floor shone light out into the street, through thin curtains. The rest of the building was lifeless: no lights, no open windows, no sign of activity at all.

Cartwright pulled a gun from his shoulder holster and checked it.

'You won't need that,' said Seth.

'It makes me feel better.'

'Just don't go for it. It won't do you any good.'

'Yeah. I got that much from the CCTV.'

The younger man slipped the gun back into its holster and they both climbed out of the car.

Cartwright pulled his coat tighter around himself and turned up his collar. 'Bloody rain. Feels like it's been raining for days.'

Seth walked over to the blue Ford and knocked on the driver's side window. There was no answer.

'Maybe he's already inside,' said Cartwright.


Seth knocked again. No answer.

He opened the door.

Thomas sat motionless in the driver's seat. His safety belt was fastened, his hands were folded on his lap. His head lolled to one side.

Seth reached in and felt for a pulse. There was none.

'Shit,' he muttered.

Cartwright reached for his gun. Seth shot him a stern glance.

Cartwright lowered his hand, sheepishly. 'Sorry. Instinct.'

'It'll get you killed,' said Seth.

He reached around, unfastened the safety belt, and slipped his hand into the dead man's jacket. Thomas's gun was still in its holster. He flicked off the strap that held the gun in place and pulled it out.

'Two bullets missing,' said Seth.

'So he wasn't killed here.'

'Most likely.'

Seth slipped the gun back into its holster and closed the door. 'Let's check inside.'


The building was an old, run down block of flats in the centre of town. Seth tried the door, found it locked, and quickly had it open. The lock was an old Yale type, providing little resistance to anyone but an honest man.

It was cold inside and smelled of mould but at least it was dry. Seth looked around, taking in all the important details quickly. Two doors, both closed and no spy holes. One set of stairs leading up. One set of double doors leading into a communal area of some kind. He turned to Cartwright and pointed up. The younger man nodded.

They took the stairs one at a time, sticking to the outside, along the wall, to minimise the chance of creaking wood giving away their presence. The first floor had four doors leading off from it, all closed, all with spy holes. If anyone was at home, there was a chance they would be seen.

He decided it was a risk worth taking.

They continued up the next flight of stairs, leading to an identical set of four doors. Muted sounds of talking and music came from behind the closest door. Seth pictured the layout of the building in his mind and determined the sounds were coming from the room with the lights on that he had seen from outside. Would they be a problem? It was certainly possible, but it was a risk he would have to take.

Cartwright nodded toward the door, a questioning look on his face. Seth shook his head and pointed upward.

Another flight of stairs, another set of identical doors. Seth looked around. Nobody there. He glanced at Cartwright, who pointed to the door marked '3c'. Seth nodded and the two men took up positions on either side of the door.

Seth reached out and tried the handle. It turned. He opened the door gently and stepped inside.

The flat was small, poorly lit and unfurnished. An empty carton on orange juice, sat on the counter in the kitchen, beside a tall glass. Seth picked up the glass, sniffed at it, and set it back down on the counter. It smelled of orange but the dried remnants in the bottom were tinged with red.

Cartwright entered from the hallway. 'There's no one here.'

'There was,' said Seth. He drummed his fingers on the counter. 'Question is: have they left for good?'

'So what do we do?'

'We wait. Maybe she'll come back.'

06 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part three

Chapter Two


Jeremy Pellier poured himself a double whisky, downed it in one, and poured himself another. His hands were shaking, the bottle clinked against the glass. He needed to pull himself together and the alcohol was not helping. It should, it always used to, but it was not.

How could this have happened? he asked himself.

Lights glided across the bar. Outside, gravel crunched beneath heavy wheels. An engine ticked over, then turned off.

He downed the whisky, pushed himself away from the counter and headed over to one of the plush leather chairs beside the fire. Better they found him looking relaxed than cowering over a bottle.

Low voices murmured at the door. He could not hear what they were saying. The front door closed. A moment later there was a knock on the study door.

'Enter!' he called. He hoped his voice was steady.

Dupont entered, flanked by two men in grey suits. Jeremy stood up, smiled a warm smile.

'Monsieur Dupont,' said Jeremy. 'How nice to see you again.'

'I wish I could say the same,' said Dupont. His thick Parisian accent made his words difficult to understand. 'I assume you know why I am here.'

Dupont walked over to one of the leather chairs and sat down. Lost for words, Jeremy sat down also.

'Now,' said Dupont, fixing Jeremy with a stare that bore through him. 'Explain to me exactly what happened tonight.'

Jeremy sat forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. 'Why don't you tell me.'

'Tell you what, Mister Pellier?'

'Oh, I don't know. How about why you sold us out?'

Dupont's associates shifted marginally closer to their boss. Dupont raised a black-gloved hand. The men backed off again.

'I did no such thing,' said Dupont.

'They knew we were coming!' Jeremy shouted. 'I was lucky to get out of there with my skin.'

'This was not my doing.'

'Then who's was it? Nobody else knew about this meet.'

'Mister Pellier, my associates and I are not in the business of selling out those we are trying to make a deal with. It is not good for business. If there was a problem with security, it came from your side, not ours.'

'All my men were totally trustworthy.'

'Were you followed?'

'Of course not! I'm not a fucking amateur.'

'Then I suggest either you pay closer attention to those you associate with, or you get stronger security. Either way, you have a mole; or a spy.'

Dupont stood up. 'Either way, our business here is concluded. Good evening, Mister Pellier.'

As the men walked to the door Jeremy leapt to his feet. 'Now just a fucking minute!'

Dupont turned around slowly. 'There is nothing more to discuss.'

'I'm out two million on this fucking deal. I lost good men tonight, loyal men, and more product than I care to think about right now.'

'That is your concern, Mister Pellier, not mine.'

Dupont walked out, his guards blocking the door so Jeremy could not follow.

'This isn't over!' Jeremy shouted. 'You fucking hear me, you French bastard!'

He stood at the window and watched Dupont's car drive away, then pulled the telephone from his pocket and called Reggie Dixon.

'Pellie, my son,' said Reggie. 'Tell me you've got good news.'

'Sorry, boss. The frog didn't want to hear any of it. Said it was our fault the deal went south, then left.'

'He's an arrogant prick but he'll learn some manners pretty sharpish when I'm through with him.'

'What do you want me to do, boss? He said we've got a Wally.'

'You'll do nothing, sunshine. That little prick's trouble now he's in with that kraut, Allemand. Just get back here tout sweet.'

Reggie hung up. Jeremy slipped the telephone back into his jacket and went to pour himself another drink.

05 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part two


The rain bleeched down, chilling the air and destroying any evidence that was still to be found on the pockmarked concrete floor. Seth stood in the middle of the warehouse's yard, his umbrella providing only minimal cover from the downpour, and surveyed the scene. Thomas wondered if the old man saw something here that he and Cartwright could not.

'Let me get this straight,' said Cartwright. 'We're here looking for evidence that a dead person wandered in here and killed a man we've been hunting for years?'

'That's pretty much it,' said Thomas.

Cartwright shone a torch around the floor, not sure anymore what he was looking for.

'But that makes no sense. The dead don't go around killing people. I'd have noticed.'

'Oh I don't know about – hold on! What's that?'

Thomas' shone his torch at the wheel of a truck. Cartwright followed suit.

'I don't see anything,' said Cartwright as the two men headed toward the truck.

Thomas crouched by the wheel and felt under the cab. 'Got it.'

He pulled his hand back, opened his fist and shone the torch onto the palm of his hand.

Laid on the worn leather of his glove was a bullet, silver and flattened on one end. The specks of dried blood covering its surface liquified in the rain and ran off onto his palm.

Thomas slipped the bullet into a clear plastic bag and called out: 'Mr Baron! We've got something you need to see.'


Seth turned the packet over in his hand and stared at it. Silver alloy. Compacted tip.

'Hollowpoint?' he asked.

Cartwright shook his head. 'Unlikely. It hasn't fractured.'

'Something doesn't add up here,' said Seth. 'If it's solid, there's no payload. If there's no payload, he couldn't kill her. We're missing something.'

Seth clenched his fist around the bullet in its packet. The younger men looked at him expectantly.

'Maybe the police found something?' Thomas suggested.

'Maybe. Get their report.'

Seth stuffed the packet into the inside pocket of his jacket and headed back to the car. The other men followed close behind. As he reached the car, he turned.

'And put out a search for anyone matching Lune's description. Maybe we can find where she's been hiding.'


The police report revealed nothing of use. Seth dropped it onto his desk, ran a hand through his hair and sighed deeply.

'So close,' he said, talking to himself.

He looked over at the window, saw his reflection; the night sky turning the glass into a mirror. His gaunt face, all thin wire glasses and grey-black stubble, stared back at him through tired eyes. God, he looked old. When had that happened?

He reached into the lower drawer in his desk and pulled out a bottle of Glenlivet. The bottle had been a birthday present from his son. It still had a message attached, tied around the neck with a piece of string.

'Happy fiftieth,' the message read. 'Here's something to finish off your liver with.'

He had intended to open it when he caught the bastard who killed his son, but that would not happen now. He was in the police morgue. That bitch Lune had got to him first.

He looked at the bottle. It glinted in the light from his desk lamp. He was about to open it when someone knocked on his door.

'Come in,' he said, slipping the bottle back into the drawer.

Cartwright entered, holding a pale blue file.

'You're still here?' said Seth. 'I thought everyone had gone home.'

'This just came in.' Cartwright handed over the file.

Seth flicked through it, scanning the pages quickly; absorbing the gist. He looked up and smiled.

'I've already called Thomas,' said Cartwright. 'He'll meet us there.'

04 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part one

Chapter One


'Run it again,' said Seth.

The technician's fingers slid across his keyboard, lightly tapping a sequence of keys. On the large screen mounted on the wall, a video began playing.

Seth Baron leaned in for a closer look at the grainy footage. The CCTV cameras at Pearson's Holdings had not been the best model available and the film was far from high quality, but it was enough to see what had happened. One person, most likely female, entered the warehouse yard, upsetting a drug deal. When the dealers attacked her, she killed all but one of them; then left, taking the survivor with her.

'Stop!' he said.

The video froze. Seth pointed to a man firing a pistol. He was so close to the woman that missing was next to impossible.

But Seth had already seen what happened next. The man must have missed; and the woman broke his neck.

Seth squinted, trying to make out the man's features in the unfocussed footage. He knew him, he was certain of it.

He pointed to the man. 'Can you zoom in on him?' he asked.

The technician drew a box around the man on the screen, and tapped a few keys. The image shifted, became less focussed. The man was little more than a black-suited blur on a grainy, grey background. Then the image shifted again, became more clear as the software processed the video. It was not enough to make the man crystal clear, but it was enough.

'These cameras are shit,' said the technician. 'We're not going to get anything more from this.'

'We've got all I need,' said Seth.

He turned and hurried out.


'Thomas,' called Seth. 'Get Cartwright and meet me in my office.'

The younger man turned at the sound of Seth's voice. 'You got something?'

'It's not much, but it's the best we're going to get.'

Seth burst through the double doors into the main open-plan office and headed to his office without slowing down. Heads turned to watch him as he passed between the rows of desks, each overloaded with trays of paperwork. He pushed open his office door, and began rifling through one of the three tall filing cabinets in the corner.

There was a knock on the door. Timid. He knew who it would be without even looking up.

'I'm busy, Porter!' he shouted.

'Sorry, Sir,' said the young woman at the door. 'It's just you wanted to know as soon as we found anything.'

Seth looked around. Joanne Porter stood in the doorway, her brown eyes wide with the same sense of fear she sported whenever she had cause to visit his office. She was gripping a blue file with both hands, like it was a shield.

'What did you find?' he asked.

She handed him the file. 'Bank records, mainly. Turns out Pearson's Holdings is owned by a front company run by Charles Longshaw.'

'Of the Blexham Green mob?' Seth flicked through the file. The records told him nothing at first glance. He would have to sit down and read them thoroughly, but that would have to wait.

'The same.'

He walked to his chair and sat down, ran a hand through his short, greying hair, and looked at the grey file he had pulled from the filing cabinet.

'This doesn't add up,' he said.


Seth looked surprised to see Porter still standing there. 'What? Oh. Nothing. That'll be all, Porter.'

As Porter left, Thomas and Cartwright entered.

'You wanted to see us?' said Cartwright.

Seth tossed the grey file onto the desk in front of him. 'Take a look at that.'

Cartwright picked up the file and flicked through its contents. It was full of photographs, police reports and newspaper clippings. 'Are these all the same person?'

'His name is Mark First,' said Seth. 'And he's something of an expert on disguises. He was at the warehouse tonight.'

Thomas looked surprised. 'He's dealing now?'

Seth shook his head. 'I don't think so. It's never been his area. He's an assassin.'

'So why would he be at a drug deal?'

'For a hit?' Cartwright suggested. He placed the file on the desk and pointed to a cut-out from The Times. 'It wouldn't be the first time. Says here he posed as muscle for a Canadian dealer over in Quebec, then killed him after the deal went down and fled with the cash.'

'That was twenty years ago,' said Seth. 'He doesn't take risks like that any more.'

'I'm just saying it's a possibility.'

'It's more likely he was there for something they were bringing in with the drugs,' said Thomas.

Seth nodded. 'Or because he knew someone would be there.'

'The girl, you mean?' said Thomas.


'What girl?' asked Cartwright.

Seth looked over at the door, saw it was closed, and hunted around in his jacket for a keyring. He unlocked the top drawer in his desk and removed a red, loose-leaf file. Stamped on the cover were the words 'Top secret, eyes only.'

He looked each of the men in the eye. 'What I'm about to tell you does not leave this room. Understand?'

The younger men nodded.

Seth opened the file and took out the grainy, monochrome photograph from the top of the pile of papers inside. He handed the photograph to Thomas.

'Her name is Greta Lune; or at least we think it is. She goes by several pseudonyms and, like First, she's a dab hand at disguises.'

Thomas looked at the photograph, handed it to Cartwright and said. 'She's the one who got him, then?'

'I think so,' said Seth. 'The footage from the CCTV isn't great.'

'So who is she?' asked Cartwright.

'Nobody knows,' said Seth as he sifted through the pile of papers. 'But here's where things get interesting.'

He selected a report from the paperwork and handed it to Thomas. Cartwright handed the photograph back.

'This is a coroner's report,' said Thomas. 'For... you've got to be joking.'

'No joke,' said Seth. 'Officially at least, Greta Lune died in 1963.'

03 August 2008

How this will work

Before the first part of the first story goes online I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain a little more about how these stories will work.

First of all, I don't intend to spent an awful lot of time editing before posting. I'll endeavour to spell and grammar check the stories but I won't be going over them time and time again to perfect every word, sentence and so forth. I'll try to make things read okay but the general idea is to get the stories down on screen as quickly as I can, so I can move on to the next part of the story. To this end, the majority of what you read will be a first draft. If I compile the stories into one long page once they're finished, I'll edit then and make everything work nicely; but for the original posts, things will be pretty much how they come out when I first write them.

Second of all, while the original premise was to tell a story in seven parts, this is clearly not going to work for all stories. In fact, it's likely to severely limit what kind of stories I can tell and it would run the risk of encouraging formulaic storytelling. I'm therefore dropping that premise right away. Stories will be told in as many parts as are needed to tell them.

Thirdly, don't count on posts at weekends. I'll endeavour to meet a Monday to Friday posting schedule, with the weekend left for me to try to get ahead of myself a little, and also to work on other projects. I'll aim for a posting time of Midnight (UK time), so each new post is ready for you to read in the morning, or evening if you're in the right time zone.

Comments are welcome, of course, and I will try to answer all questions put to me but I'm not going to tell you what happens next or reveal any plot points in answers. For those you'll just have to wait an see.

I hope you enjoy the stories.

29 July 2008

What, when and why

This blog is intended as a showcase for serialised storytelling. The idea is that I will write and publish a portion of a story every day, building up a full story as I go along. It's a test of endurance and creativity as well as a source of entertainment.

I intend to write mainly in the science-fiction, fantasy, contemporary and horror genres; possibly including elements of each genre in each story or perhaps taking inspiration from some of these genres when creating new stories. I'm hoping that you'll find something in each story that you will enjoy.

I'm putting together the first story at the moment, with the intention of getting a few days ahead of myself before starting, so I have a little 'wiggle room' in case of personal and/or family problems causing me to be unable to post on a particular day.

The idea is to begin publishing the stories on Monday 04 August 2008. If this changes (it shouldn't) I'll let you know.

20 July 2008

The Night Shift

The Night Shift was originally written as my entry for a writing competition on nightmares. It didn’t win but after I reworked it a little I’m rather pleased with it. It is purposefully over-written in places as a homage of sorts to gory films such as The Evil Dead; which seem to relish those extra grizzly details. Enjoy!

Henry Carter had never remembered his dreams before he started working the night watch at Declan and Moray, an engineering firm that had opened the year before. Maybe it was the way the couregated steel roof moaned in the breeze, or the shadows he caught out of the corner of his eye as he walked the empty halls. He often heard the sound of his footsteps continue after he stopped walking, but he knew it must be just an echo. There was never anyone else walking the corridors at such a late hour, that was for certain.

The dreams would often start out different but the ending would always be the same. He could be dreaming about lying on the beach, enjoying the sun like he had on his last holiday abroad; or perhaps scoring the winning goal for his football team, taking them to championship victory – a fantasy that was a personal favourite. However the dream started there would always come that unearthly howl; a pained cry, slow and mournful. It cut through him, stabbing at his heart, sending a wave of cold fear running down his spine.

He would look around for the source of this wretched sound, finding nothing. As he searched the light would fade until darkness enveloped him. He would reach for the torch that hung from the belt of his uniform and as he scanned his surroundings he would realise that he was walking the halls of Declan and Moray, just as he would do on any other night at work.

This particular night was no exception and as Henry dreamed of thwarting the efforts of the world's greatest cat burglar, who had the misfortune of trying to steal the Crown Jewels while Henry was on guard duty, he heard that low, ethereal howl. His heart began to beat faster; the burglar slipped from his usually vice-like grip as all his strength failed him. Unable to stop himself, he looked around for the source of that ghastly noise but once again it was nowhere to be seen.

The world faded into darkness, replaced by the hot, sticky air he knew so well. He wiped his sweaty palms on his stiff, blue shirt that clung to his back, now slick with sweat. He took a deep breath of the sickly sweet air and breathed out slowly, but it did not calm him. He knew what was coming next.

Henry scanned the hallway with his torch as he walked the halls. No matter which way he chose to go, he knew he would end up in the same place. Unlike in the real world, all routes in this nightmare realm lead to the boiler room. He could hear the low hum of the ancient boiler up ahead and as he neared the old brown door his steps faltered. He slowed his pace but he could not stop himself from going on.

The doorknob was cool to the touch but slipped through his damp grip. He wiped his hand on the leg of his trousers and grabbed the knob once more. With a clunk that echoed along the deathly silent corridor, the knob turned and the door slid open.

The air in the boiler room was hot and wet. Henry struggled to breathe, each breath coating his throat with droplets of a warm, sweet-smelling liquid. He knew it was not water but he dared not think what else it could be.

The room was bathed in a deep red glow that seeped in from cracks in the mammoth tank dominating the far wall. Shadows swam slowly across the walls of the room as whatever lurked within the giant vessel twisted and turned.

A low moaning came from close behind. Henry turned around slowly and found himself staring into the glassy eyes of a hideous mockery of himself. The creature's yellowed skin hung loosely from its shrivelled form and its tangled hair clung to its scalp in matted tufts.

It raised a meatless hand, one nailless finger outstretched, and emitted an inhuman howl as it hobbled forward; each step accompanied by the crunch of old, dry bones grinding together.

Henry shuddered and forced back the urge to vomit as the stench of the creature clawed at his senses. He stumbled backward, unable to tear his eyes from the wretched being than continued to shamble toward him.

He pressed up against the boiler. Its molten surface seared him. He screamed, and tore himself away.

Inside the broken vessel something hissed. It threw itself at the sides of its container, rending the metal. The cracks opened, the steel plates buckling under the onslaught.

Henry glanced at the tank, then back at the creature that was now almost on top of him. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. His pulse raced, his whole body shook with terror. Streams of sweat flowed down his face, stinging his eyes and coating his tongue. He moaned with terror.

A wispy tendril slithered through one of the cracks in the boiler, shifting to and fro in the air, searching blindly. It found Henry's arm and coiled around it before he could react. Its touch was cold and firm. He tried to shake it off but its grip was too strong.

The decaying wretch grabbed his other arm and pulled. The thing inside the boiler pulled back, gripping ever more tightly to his arm. Henry's fingers went numb, his arm grew cold as the blood flow stopped. He cried out, part in pain, part in terror, and struggled to break free. The grip of the monsters was too powerful, he could not get loose.

'Get off!' he cried. 'Let me go!'

He kicked wildly at the corpse-like thing, striking it on the calf. Dry bone snapped under the force of his attack. The creature fell but its grip on his arm did not wane. With a dry pop, its shoulders dislocated, snapped and came away from its body. With a howl of bleak despair the creature sank into a mass of decaying parts, its withered arms falling to the ground beside it.

The tendrils around Henry's arm pulled with renewed vigour. He struggled but he could not overcome their might. They dragged him toward the boiler, its split sides opening like the dread maw of some ancient beast as its prey grew ever closer.

Inside, undulating in a sea of piercing light and heat, lurked a being of such hideous form that when Henry looked upon it, he thought he might go insane. He screamed and kicked at the tendrils that wound their way from inside the boiler as they dragged him toward his doom, and as panic overcame him, the world faded to merciful darkness.

Henry awoke screaming and flailing his arms. His hair and clothes clung to his skin. His body glistened with cold sweat. He had fallen asleep in the old chair he always sat in while eating his sandwiches on his mid-shift break.

He sat forward, resting his arms on his knees and breathing deeply, trying to regain his composure. He ran a sweaty hand through his sodden hair and sighed. What did the dream mean? What was the creature that lurked in the boiler? It had almost got him that time.

He stood up and headed to the canteen to get a drink.

The corridors seemed more cold and unwelcoming now. His footsteps echoed through the empty air. He listened intently for any sign of extra footsteps like the ones in his dream, but there were none.

The canteen was quiet save for the low hum of the vending machines, basking in their neon glow. He rummaged in his pockets for some change, fed the slot and pushed for a Coke. The thump of the machine, which always reminded him of hitting a strike at bowling, echoed around the large room. He opened the can and drained it in one. The cool liquid radiated through his body, waking him up and chasing away the foul memories.

He laughed, embarrassed by himself. How could he let such a stupid thing as a dream get him so worked up?

'Henry, you old bugger, you need help,' he told himself.

As he walked out of the canteen and along the winding corridors it seemed that the lights began to dim. The shadows moved as if some unseen companion was walking the halls with him and darkness crept in from all sides. Soon he found himself fumbling for his torch. He scanned the hallway before him, looking for the door to the maintenance room so he could check the circuit breakers.

His footsteps echoed along the corridor, but now there were more echoes than footfalls. He stopped, but the sound of footsteps continued. He looked around. There was no one else there.

From somewhere behind him came an unearthly howl.

11 May 2008

The Beast

I wrote the following scene for a creative writing group I used to hang out with in Second Life. It is presented unedited, so what you see here is exactly what I presented to the group.
Sarah lay flat along the bottom of the small, blue boat and prayed silently that the creature would not see her. The sea had been calm for barely ten minutes but she was certain that the foul predator was still nearby.

The thick scent of its fetid body hung in the air like a black cloud, enveloping the boat and its terrified occupant in an aura of fear. Sarah shivered and hoped this sudden movement would not give away the fact that she still cowered inside the wooden contraption while her friend suffered a fate she could not bring herself to contemplate.

The creature had struck suddenly while Sarah had been teaching her flatmate, Jenny, to sail on the boat she had inherited from her father. They had been out in the water for hours and had decided to head back to shore when the humid air had turned thick and rain had begun to fall.

The sky had darkened quickly with the rain threatening to become a storm at any moment but Sarah had done her best to sail the boat back to the harbour when the creature struck. It came from behind, without warning save for the thick stench of rotting fish. Jenny saw it first and had barely time to scream in terror at the sight of its hideous form before it struck.

Its monstrous tentacles gripped the boat and threatened to pull it under had its occupants not fought back. Sarah grabbed the oar and swiftly sliced at the one visible eye upon the beast's bulbous, blue-green form. It shrieked in pain and its grip on the boat loosened enough for Jenny to pull the muscular tentacles free and throw them back into the water.

The beast sunk below the waves again and the sailors looked at one another as if to seek reassurance that what they had just experienced had indeed happened. Again without warning it rose up, this time below the boat. The wooden vessel threatened to capsise and Jenny was knocked swiftly overboard. Sarah reached out for her friend with one arm, gripping the side of the vessel with the other for dear life.

Had the creature not quickly grabbed the stricken woman, Sarah would have rescued her from the stormy water but she could not overcome the might of the beast. It dragged her screaming friend beneath the waves and disappeared.