Tag Archives: Revenge

John Barleycorn Must Die (chapter 1)

By William David Baker

3780 words

Chapter 1

Now come here me little Jackie
Now I’ve smoked me baccy
Let’s have some cracky
When the boat comes in

‘When the boat comes in,’ Northumberland. Trad, Unknown

Forget all the glamour that you see on TV and in movies, obbos are not everything they are cracked out to be. Right now, Detective Constable John Barleycorn would much prefer to have somewhere to piss, where he wouldn’t be breaking the kind of bylaws he was paid to protect. And nobody – not even him – was going to piss in his car, bottle or not. A nice warm bed would be good, too. Some company, real company, even better. Much better way to spend an early Monday morning in October.

Bob Fossett was his partner for this shift. They’d been coppering together, on and off, since he’d moved, five years ago, from the Met. to the Northumbria Police Force. John served the first three of those years in the Newcastle area, working the docks mainly, and the last two years in Northumberland, specialising in nothing much out of the ordinary. He and Bob didn’t always get on, though John knew there were worse partners he could have pulled. Still, it meant that they didn’t have to work at keeping a conversation going, for which John was mostly grateful.

Bob was born and bred a Northumberlandman, and lived just outside Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. He was married to Jenny, who just happened to be John’s bridge partner. Though he was a local, John was grateful that Bob at least spoke enough English to make communication with John just possible.

“You see that, Bob?” John asked, pointing into the bay below the church. Bob stirred noisily from his sleep.

“Howay man! I was having a good kip then. What you gotta disturb me for? Nowts gonna happen in Newbiggin the neet.” He paused. “Not iver, if you bloody well ask me,” he added, leaning forward, his considerable bulk, shoehorned into a groaning stab vest, stalling his locked seat belt, whipping him backwards. Bob cursed and, unclipping his belt, took an ineffectual swipe at the cold condensation on his side of the windscreen.

“Look, there it goes again. That light over there on the left. Shouldn’t be. Something’s going on.” John tensed. Adrenaline rush? Was that really it? He could hardly remember what that felt like, it had been so long. But it felt good whatever it was. As did the memory of how much he used to enjoy working a decent case. Was this to be a decent case? Few of his informants ever came up with anything decent any more. In fact, Bob had laughed at John when he told him he’d had a tip-off about contraband coming ashore at Newbiggin. Bob had even suggested that the tip could only have come from Narky Marky, a local nobody grass, who was trusted by no one, if they had any sense. The fact that the tip had come from Marky, John thought best kept to himself. But now, maybe John would be able to wipe the proverbial smile off Bob’s face. It actually looked like Marky was about to come up trumps.

“It’s just a lobster boat, man. Let me go back to kip. It was just getting juicy.”

“Yeah, it’s only ever in your dreams. Jenny’s told me.”

“Fuck you, ya wazzack. When did Jenny ever gob to you anyway?”

“We don’t just play Bridge, you know. We do talk from time to time. Anyway, what’s a lobster boat doing out at this time of night? Early mornings, yes.” Briefly, moonshine lit the bay as a cold easterly opened a curtain in the cloudy Northumberland night.

“Mebbe you’re right, John.” Bob was fully awake. “That’s no cobbler out there.”

“Coble, Bob. The boat’s a bloody Coble. Christ, it’s your own town! Don’t you know your own history?”

“Cobbler? Coble? Cobblers! That’s a launch, man. Let’s go check it out.”

“Check your gear first. Risk assessment.”

Bob gave John a withering look, but reached into his raincoat and pulled out a pepper spray and baton like he was pulling rabbits from a top hat.

“Beatcha,” John said,”I got the Taser,” he added, patting the holster on his belt.

“Course you got the bloody Taser, man. You got the firearms training, divinn ya?”

It was at moments like these that John thought that maybe all police officers should carry firearms, real ones, but, on balance, he decided they were better off without. There’d been times, a few years back, when he was under cover in the ports, when a gun might have gotten him killed. A quick wit, and a lot of luck had proved much more reliable weapons. When did the luck run out?

On John’s instruction, they slipped out of the estate car, and using the still shiny-as-new concrete sea wall as cover, they moved towards the top of the headland. The small launch could be seen more clearly now, fighting a strong swell. Two darkened figures stood knee deep in the black water, waving to the launch.

“Marky was right,” John said. “He said something was coming in. Drugs or tobacco, probably. Not people. Who’d want to migrate to this bloody place? Too many people trying to escape it!” John waited for Bob to take the bait but though John could almost feel Bob thinking about it, the bait remained un-chewed. “They’ll get as close as they can to the shore, then toss the gear to those two in the water.”

“Do you think mebbe you should have notified the Coasties?”

“I did mention it to the Inspector. He said we could cope with anything Marky might come up with. Anyway, how much manpower do you reckon the Coast Guard has nowadays?

They reached the gap in he sea wall and stopped. They would need to break cover to cross the open sand which was at the end of the slipway, where the lifeboat gets tractored down to the water.

U”Why don’t they land, man?”

“They’ll want to keep offshore in case they get spotted. They’ll gun it if anything spooks them, and leave those two behind to carry the can.”

“Honour among thieves, eh?”

“These are bootleggers, Bob. Don’t count. Anyway, what thieves do you know with any honour?”

“Good point. What’s that now, man?” Something was thrown from the boat and one of the figures struggled forward and grabbed it, floundering back to the sand with his prize.

“I think we’ll have to risk losing the boat and just go for those two. I’ll go first. I’ll be quicker than you.”

Bob looked like he was about to protest that he might have been the heavier of the two, but that he could still give John a race anytime, and that brawn beats tall always, and that anyway, what did John mean, when he’s the fucking oldest, even though he doesn’t look fifty – when a second parcel splashed into the water and was also soon retrieved. The other figure sloshed his way back towards the boat.

“Now’s our chance.” And suddenly John was off, leaving Bob surprised, still stranded in his starting block, but only for a brief moment. Bob was surprisingly fast for his size.

They had less than a hundred yards to go, but the going was difficult in the soft sand. They kept running, and by keeping quiet and staying low they avoided being spotted straight away. The sand hardened and they took advantage of the firmer footing to sprint the last few yards. John’s plan to cheat at the start gate, so that he could take the lead role, was, however, soon scuppered as he found himself spun around by Bob, who went crashing past him.

“Let the forward do his work, man,” he laughed, as he struck the first smuggler with the dirtiest rugby tackle John had seen in a long time, and in police rugby matches you got to see more than your share.

John winced long enough to remember to pull out his warrant card and wheeze “Stop, Police. You’re under arrest.” It seemed the polite thing to do, even if a little belated. He reached the edge of the water and came to a stop, as the other figure splashed nearer the boat, shouting the alarm. He was going to make it it, too. John knew he was not going to reach him in time. “Stop. Police,” he called again. The man turned round. Just a kid. A kid in a soaking wet hoody and faded jeans. The boy laughed as he reached up for a rope ladder, just thrown down the side of the boat, and gave John the vees. It occurred to John that maybe he was wrong about thieves and their honour, and he didn’t like to be proved wrong, and he didn’t like kids giving him the vees, either. John remembered the Taser.

The kid now had a hand on the ladder. John thought quickly about his Taser training. Did water and electricity mix? Not really, he knew that much, anyway, training or not. Electric heaters in the bathroom and all that shit. When he was a Beat Bobby, in Birmingham, he had seen it in the flesh. Frazzled flesh. And more than once. Concentrate. How far away, now? No – need to get nearer. Bloody Tasers are an in-your-face response, almost. Bloody useless sometimes, specially if you’ve forgotten to clip in a fresh power pack. Had he clipped in a charged power pack? Sure he had. No time to do anything about it now, anyway. The kid had another hand on the ladder. Think. Assess. No danger to me, the electricity is at the pointy ends, and if I miss the kid the volume of water in the sea will dissipate the charge to a tickle. No one gets hurt. The kid pulled himself up, his torso now almost clear of the water. A good, clean target, Never easy to hit what you’re aiming at though with the bloody thing. Twenty yards now, almost in range.

John took a few more strides and then unclipped the holster. He pulled out the red and yellow boxy looking Taser. Charged? Check. Thank god! Hands came down to grab at the kid’s wet shoulders. This kid must be important to them, John thought briefly, or they’d have legged it by now. He took aim.

“Police. I’m armed. Stop, or I shoot.” Sort of true, and supposed to be effective enough, fib or not.The kid was almost out of the water, being hurriedly dragged aboard. John took aim, anticipating the arc at the end of the flight. He fired at about the same time he remembered that a Taser has to drop from its initial fifty thousand volts down to ten thousand before it becomes effective and that if there was no voltage drop then the shock could prove fatal to the target. Water might interfere with the voltage drop. The remembering induced a tremor in his hand, slight, but enough of a tremor to misdirect the pair of scudding filaments, arcing them well over the kid’s head to then land ineffectually on the boat.

The kid brayed like a donkey at John, but before he could flash the farewell vees that were plainly on his mind, flames erupted from the front of the boat. Screams of panic came from inside the vessel. Curiosity overcame sense and the kid peered up and over the deck just as a massive explosion claimed the world. John got a fleeting glimpse of something sharp, big and ugly hitting the kid somewhere in the upper body. The kid had no time to shout as his upper body parted from the lower, leaving one arm still attached to the ladder. More explosions competed with the initial blast. John dived for cover as the upper deck of the boat splintered into spinning whizzing missiles.

Point of least resistance, the air, John thought. That’s why the rest of it still floats. John’s next thoughts were of Bob. He looked to see if he was OK, and was pleased to see Bob spread-eagled over his poleaxed victim. John liked to think Bob was protecting the guy, but he suspected he’d gone in for a second tackle. Bob did like to make sure that once they were down, they stayed down. John checked himself and was pleased to find he was uninjured too. A number of large objects, some sickeningly recognisable, began to appear around the wreck, and then jostle and bob towards the shore. Who’d be a SOCO at a time like this? They can have it. Another jumbled memory, again he suspected from the Taser training, started to untangle. Some concern about mixing electricity and fuel. Fuel source. Ignition source. No! The memory then bumped into the question of just how sloppy a bunch of smugglers might be with their boat housekeeping. Maybe they should have done a risk assessment? He pulled at the Taser wires and they were loose in the water, so he reeled them in and twisted them around the gun. He then threw the gun into the sea, as far as he could manage. He didn’t have to tell anyone he’d fired one off. No one saw it, still alive anyway. Not the two, having fun and games in the beach. They were too busy. Yes, best keep schtum. Must have dropped it in the struggle. The Inspector will go ballistic. Did Bob know how much a top line piece of police equipment like that cost? John did. He chuckled. About one week of an Inspector’s pay.

John got up and brushed the sand from his front, all the while questioning the wisdom of wearing his favourite suit on an obbo. But, it was kind of his work suit too. A reminder of a past secondment in Australia; the McFarland kidnap. The groovy blue of the Colmar Sharkskin denim suit suited the job too. It was his little joke. The boys in blue. The real joke, which he mainly kept to himself, was that there was no denim and no sharkskin in the suit, either. Just one hundred percent pure superfine bona fide Oz wool. It felt good. Made him feel good. He looked across the water to the burning pontoon which was now all that was left of the launch. He headed over to Bob to see if he’d had enough yet. It seemed the rugby had turned into all-in wrestling so he helped, as Bob got the deflated prisoner sitting up. John pulled the guy’s arms behind his back and secured his wrists with the quick-cuffs. It started to rain.

“What the fuck happened there?” Bob asked. “Betcha got worried abut yer wig blowing off yer nappa?”

John had a few moments of second thoughts. Should he come clean with Bob? “Don’t know. I wasn’t on the boat. Some sort of accident. Shame.”

His breathing still laboured, Bob pointed skywards. “Whazzat?” he coughed, his recent exertions briefly robbing him of wind, wishing now he’d thrown the race with John. The rain turned heavy. Real heavy, as cigarettes began to fall from the sky. Single cigarettes at first, then packet after packet slapped into the water and sand. then sleeves of the damned things, some whole in their packs of two hundred. Some split sleeves too, the ragged paper edges of their wrappers burning black and red like molten lava. Tobacco pouches too. Bob and John covered their prisoner and themselves as best they could, using their coats as umbrellas against the bombardment.

Bob left his prisoner to pick up two undamaged sleeves of Benson and Hedges, which he managed to stuff in the near cavernous pockets of his raincoat. He looked at John guiltily.

“Tabs. For Jenny.”

John shrugged his shoulders. He’d tried to encourage Bob’s wife to give up smoking. She was the last lone smoker in the Bridge club. But she couldn’t. Not even after Sarah, John’s partner had died. If seeing her best friend succumb to emphysema wasn’t going to do it, then the threat of his finding another bridge partner seemed a bit lame. So, John gave up pressuring her a while ago.

Lights began to appear in the terraced cottages along the sea front.

“Best ring this in quick,” Bob said. People began to gather in their back yards, pointing, and getting noisier.

“Yeah,” John said, looking around the beach. “Better had, or the local tobacconists will be on our backs. We’ll need a cordon throwing round this lot.” He could see onlookers already scooping up armfuls of booty nearest their feet and scurrying back indoors with it. At least, he thought, they hadn’t set false beacons to lure their booty ashore. Let them have it. Nobody gets much round here.
John called up the station on his mobile. Got them to do the ball breaking stuff. The Coastguard, lifeboat, fire, ambulance and forensics services were all alerted, and a crew arranged to come and take over the aftermath, to start securing the scene. Waste of time for most of them, John thought, but it had to be done.

Volunteers were soon on site to man the lifeboat, and John let them through the beach to do their job, whether it was pointless or not. Everyone had their job to do. He didn’t need a fight with them. Didn’t want one either. These people were good people, mostly. He’d read in the museum that stood behind him, that during the war, local women and kids manned the lifeboats while the men were away fighting. One night, the swell was so bad, they couldn’t launch the lifeboat from its slipway, to go rescue sailors torpedoed out of their ship. They manhandled this bloody great lifeboat up the hill, over the road, over the heath, down the dunes, down to a more sheltered bay where they could get the lifeboat away. No, he didn’t want to pick a fight with these good people.

A local councillor also got wind of what had happened on the beach and soon got involved too, and being very protective of her well-kept beach had many questions and a burning desire to get a band of volunteers to start cleaning up. John drew the line there, wanting to keep at least some semblance of a crime scene intact. Two vans of sleepy-eyed uniformed officers soon arrived, and some of them were put to taping off the beach area. It’s a massive long beach, so they kept the cordon to where the bulk of the debris remained. Others dispersed where they thought they might be needed, or where they could get a hot drink. There had been deaths, so John knew senior officers would be on their way to take over. John could do no more than wait.

A young looking copper stood by the two parcels that had been successfully offloaded by the gang before the boat blew up.

“What do you want done with these, Sir?” he asked.

John had almost forgotten in all the melee. “Let’s have a look,” he said, lifting the first parcel carefully by its corners to examine it more closely “And it’s not Sir. You know that. I might have out-ranked you once, but not now, Constable.” Let it pass. Memories. Let it pass. The parcel had been double wrapped in that sort of plastic sheeting that hermetically seals all over, but a corner was split open. Should be good for fingermarks, John thought. If the salt water doesn’t get at them. Misshapen lumps had begun to spill from the tear, almost invisible as they plopped into the sand, and looking like old fashioned sugar lumps, not the uniform white cubes you used to get, more like the ones used in expensive coffee shops. Only smoother. Crystals. Crystal meth. John had seen enough of it to know. SOCO would have to confirm, of course.

“Gonna taste it?” asked the young constable.

“What – like on the telly?”

“Yeah, that’s it. CSI.”

“Piss off,” John spat, with instant regret. He’s just a rookie. Cut him some slack.

“Sorry, Son,” John mellowed. “It’s been a long night. I’m a bit concerned about this evidence, with all this sea water, and if it comes on to rain we could lose some forensics. Help me get these boxes locked in the car.” He returned a few minutes later, having lectured the rookie on the inadvisability of putting strange things or substances in your mouth, and leaving him to guard his Volvo, with a promise that he’d get one of the locals to get him a nice hot cup of tea, which he did.

The senior team arrived and took over from John. The Crime Scene Manager was Sandra Cambridge. John had worked with her on two other occasions, and knew she was good at her job – a bloody good manager, in fact. Not necessarily a good copper, but that was OK. Each to her own. She was buddied with Inspector Franks, the appointed Serious Crime Scene Officer. John knew little about Franks, as he’d only recently parachuted in, and straight into the thick of it, but he seemed competent enough. They took John’s report first, then spoke to Bob, then after a quick conference seemed happy enough with what had been done, though Sandra said she would also contact Revenue and Customs, as she thought they’d have a strong interest in the case, and maybe some intelligence to share. The Senior Team left John and Bob to process their prisoner, and said they’d convene a case conference as soon as appropriate.

“Not a bad nights work, me marra¡” John said to Bob, suddenly stopping dead in his tracks at his own words. He heard Bob snigger, but said nothing. It took both of them to lift and then guide their still semi-conscious prisoner to the car. The short walk seemed to revive the smuggler a little, and he started to kick off as Jahn opened the rear door. The young policeman he’d left guarding the car knew his job well, and stepped in with some enthusiasm, Bob making sure the prisoner did not bang his head, the other pushing the reluctant prisoner into his seat. John was more than happy to leave them to it. With the car now fully loaded, and Bob guarding the prisoner, John thanked the young policeman for his help and after a few final words with the Sandra Cambridge as she walked up from the beach, they drove off and headed for the Police Station at Bedlington.

The Invisible Man

By William David Baker

2700 words

Just look at him. Doesn’t look much does he? Slouching, humped over his lab bench. God-knows-what chemicals splattered down his what-used-to-be white lab coat. Snot on his sleeves. Half eaten ham sandwich on the side. Scruffy bastard. Who’d believe he is one of the biggest names in the 21st Century? The whole world wants Professor Mungo Cameron? Yes. He could name his price, his employer, his passport.

Cameron is a chemist, but no ordinary chemist. Cameron is an inventive obsessed genius. And prolific too, churning out successful new drugs and medicines like some people shell peas. Yes, to many, Professor Mungo Cameron is a hero. The many are a particular segment of society: the adolescent, and in particular those adolescents who suffer the angst that usually goes with that most feared of teenage scourges – facial acne.

Cameron is also a fraud. His peers believe his obsession stems from his maybe suffering the same angst when he was a teenager as those who now hero-worship him. They could not be more wrong. They also believe that the miraculous lotions he creates, remedies that actually work, – a rare event indeed in the cosmetic ‘medication’ industry – are the results of deliberate and painstaking research and experiment. They are only partly correct.

True, this gaunt chemist is haunted by obsession. Not with acne, but with his own baldness. His hair began to recede when he was just twelve years old. By the age of thirteen he was left with a tiny wisp of red above each ear, which he stubbornly refused to shave off despite his father’s promise to buy him the best hairpiece that money could buy. When Wayne Rooney was laughed at for getting hair implants Cameron consulted an implant specialist but found he was not a ‘suitable case for treatment’ so he opted for a baseball cap instead, ‘Imagine, Invent, Inspire.’ See, he’s wearing it right now.

True, his obsession drove him to try every hair gain product ever launched on a highly gullible marketplace. He soon realised that the industry was full of crooks and charlatans. Nothing worked. The industry still blossomed. His red wisps did not. All this did was to drive him to become the great undeserving chemist he is now.

After years of study in which, fair enough, he excelled, he was head-hunted by one of the largest of the pharmaceutical giants. They offered him the best research facilities money could buy, staffed with all the help he could ever need. He would have none of it. He asked instead for a small well-equipped lab and insisted he could only work alone. After some debate, the company decided the risk was small, and the benefits potentially massive, so they let him have his way, but monitored him closely. Their instinct proved to be sound as in quick succession he presented them with effective patent medicines for indigestion, heartburn and trapped wind. After that, they felt there was no longer any need for close monitoring and left Cameron pretty much to his own devices. How easy he found it to manipulate them.

He was then able to spend most of his time doing what he wanted to do: find a real cure for male baldness. That is where fate took over. Because, try as hard as he surely did, as great a chemist as he surely was, he failed every time. Failure force-fed his obsession so much that he ran a real risk that his employers would find out what he was actually doing, except that fate again took a hand. There were bi-products from his undercover work, things that he threw out in temper, that others in the company thought might have promise.

Their first reworking of his rejected compounds produced a wrinkle cream that actually appeared to work. The improvements they found in volunteer complexions were small, certainly, but nonetheless measurable. They were also if not quite permanent then very long lived. A new range of creams was launched and, for the first time in their long history, the company did not have to concoct spurious misleading advertising claims, saving them millions. When Cameron found out what they’d done he was furious. How dare they steal his work? How dare they deceive him? They tried to compromise with him. Mungo Cameron does not compromise. He sued them, successfully, and almost bankrupted the company. Hundreds of people lost their savings and their livelihoods. With the proceeds from his successful lawsuit, he bought a sprawling farm in Devon which he let go to rot. But he invested heavily in extending the farmhouse itself and building his own laboratory.

He continued his research into male baldness, but, following his earlier experiences, learned not to throw away potential bi-products of his failures, the first of which was his to-be-famous preparation for teenage acne. This proved even better than the wrinkle cream. It provided an overnight, 100% guaranteed permanent cure. Cameron became famous and very rich. He also quickly ran out of new ideas and became a frustrated lonely recluse. To cure his first problem he became a welcomed Professor of Chemistry at his local university, where, completely without remorse,  he stole the best ideas from his more talented students. To cure his second problem, he flew to Thailand and brought back a thirteen year old bride. That’s her, Ha.nhQui, now a young woman. She is taking him drinks on a tray.

Cameron presses the record button on his digital recorder. “December 20th. Sample #7452. Failed.” He smashes the on key off.

Ha.nhQui shuffles nervously over to Cameron’s bench, trying not to look at him. She places a cup of tea, as quietly as she can, close to the dog-eared sandwich.

Cameron looks up. Though he is still unable to grow hair on his head he is sporting a three day stubble. His face is drawn and tired but his dull brown eyes are wild with anger. He sweeps the tea and sandwich from his bench, smashing them to the floor, only just missing Ha.nhQui, who does not flinch.

“Not while I’m in the middle of something, woman,” he screams. “How many times must I tell you?”

He raises his right arm back and goes to strike her with the back of his hand. He stares right through her, looking for a reaction, daring her to defend herself. She does not, and he drops his hand.

Hit him. Hit him. But, she won’t.

“At least have your whisky, and then come to bed. It’s getting late.” She pours a drink from a decanter on the tray and leaves the room.

Cameron picks up a sheaf of papers and reads through them quickly. He stops, and quickly leafs back a few pages and re-reads them, more intently this time. He snatches up a single sheet and leaps up from his chair like he has just been passed the Olympic baton. He downs his whisky in one triumphant gulp. He works in a fury, setting up equipment, measuring and mixing chemicals, and within three hours he produces a blue liquid which he siphons off into a large syringe. He injects the liquid into his scalp, and waits for one hour. He grabs a hand mirror from a drawer, and adjusting it to an angle that works for him, studies his scalp intently. He is sure that his usually downy skin is looking darker. He gets a scalpel and takes a small slice of skin. Strange. I thought it would bleed profusely. Head wounds usually do. But  he doesn’t bleed at all. He places the piece of skin under a powerful microscope. Yes, the down appears to be red in colour, but it hasn’t grown any, it’s just got darker. He refills the syringe and injects his head again. Suddenly looking very tired, he falls asleep.

Cameron wakes. He goes to pick up the mirror. He fumbles it. Why is he so bloody clumsy? He realises why. It’s not easy to pick something up when your fingers have disappeared. No, they’re still there. He can feel them. But he can’t see them. He manages to grab hold of the mirror. He looks for his reflection. Great chunks of his face are eaten away. No, not eaten. His fingertips find where the missing chunks should be. He undresses, and puts his clothes in a locker. He is becoming invisible throughout his body, and it’s spreading rapidly. It isn’t curing his baldness, but what a discovery! His body itches all over. He scratches violently at his skin, howling like he’s being stung by a swarm of bees. There’s a gentle tap on the lab door. It is Ha.nhQui.

“Mungo. What is the matter? Are you alright? What is that noise?” She tries to speak respectfully, but finds it difficult to be heard through the shut door, and remain dutifully quiet. His almost empty chair swivels and Cameron snarls like a wounded animal. She gasps.. “Mungo. It’s very late and I’m tired. Can you please come to bed. You are working far too hard, you know.” She again chooses her words and tone with great care. He flings what is left of his head back, and opens his mouth to abuse her but collapses, unconscious, back into his chair.

Morning. Ha.nhQui enters the lab, but stays close by the door. She looks around. Mungo has gone. It’s not the first time he’s turned down her bed for another, I know. He likes to brag about it when he comes back. Every dirty detail. Bastard. She looks confused. She shudders, but she must be happy he’s gone, surely? One less night with him has got to be a blessing. She sees the mess on the floor from last night. She goes to clean it up. The summer sun is heating the lab nicely, but making it feel stuffy.

A dog comes trotting in. It’s Mungo’s. It’s a hound of sorts – allsorts. The animal looks around nervously. Its master is as likely to kick it as he is to roll on the floor with it, and it never knows what to expect. It stops to satisfy an itch on the patch of skin its master has been recently applying chemicals to. It sniffs the air, then trots over to Mungo’s bench. It sniffs the air then stiffens and growls and drops to the floor, flattening out all four of its legs. It growls, keeping its stare on the empty chair. It crawls in a belly-wobble towards Mungo’s chair, staying flat to the floor. After a few moments, its flopped down ears flick up. It sniffs the air again and gets to its feet. Turning its back to the chair, it cocks its leg and pisses on the chair legs. The yellow stream seems to hang momentarily in the air before cascading onto the hard wooden floor, where it pools thinly between the joints in the floorboards. The dog shakes itself and trots off.

Near the chair, a shape forms out of the edge of the yellow pool. It looks a little like a footprint. Tiny waves speed across the pool. The pool is already evaporating in the growing heat. She stares at the drying pool. She clears up the broken crockery and food, and leaves. Later that day, there were visitors.

“Mrs Cameron. Sorry to disturb you but it’s really important we see the Professor. Zoey and I need our data back for our revision.”

“I can’t let you in, Ethan. You know the rules. Professor Cameron sees no-one without an appointment.”

“Sod that. Come on, Ethan. Let’s go get our stuff.” The students brush past Ha.nhQui before she can stop them and they head straight for the professor’s lab. She rushes after them and reaches the door first.

“At least let me check first to see if he’s come back yet.” Ha.nhQui opens the door slowly and looks around. Still no sign of him. Zoey pushes past her and rushes over to Cameron’s desk.

“Hang on, Zoey. There’s no need to push Ha.nh –  er, Mrs Cameron like that,” She ignores him and rifles through a pile of papers. Ethan hangs back outside the lab.

“Sorry about this. You know what Zoey’s like. Hard to stop her sometimes, when she gets going.”

“A little like you.” Ha.nhQui pushes Ethan against the wall and kisses him, smothering anything else he is going to say. He can’t stop his hands grabbing her small buttocks. She shudders.

“Not here. She’ll see us.”

“Ethan. Here, quickly. I can’t believe what I’ve found!” He breaks away and joins Zoey in the lab. “Sorry, Ethan. Here, read it for yourself.” Ethan does as he is told.

“I don’t understand. It’s got his name on this, not mine.”

“Exactly. I told you not to trust the bastard. He’s been ripping your work off as his own.” Ha.nhQui joins them.

“Did you know about this?” Ethan is losing it. He is screaming his words. His face is full of pain.

“No, Ethan. I did not.” She does not sound convincing. Ethan is almost in tears.

“I know. I know. Come on, Ethan. We’re taking this to the authorities.”

Ha.nhQui tries to answer but is flustered. The students dash off with a large pile of papers. She stamps her feet and screams. “I warned you, Mungo. I warned you you’d go too far one of these days.”

The empty chair moves almost imperceptibly. She hears it scrape first before she sees it wobble. She is silenced immediately. She looks puzzled.  She takes her mobile out and dials it.

“Hi, John. It’s me. Can you talk? Good. No, don’t worry. Wasn’t your fault. I understand it was awkward for you to get out last night. Yes. Me too. Yes. Your loss. I was going to fuck your brains out.” The chair trembles again. She looks up and smiles, looking a little less puzzled. “Listen. Any chance you can get away tonight? Make up for lost time. You can! Yes, come over. As soon as you can. He’s away for a few days. By the way, that stuff you gave me to knock him out last night. Yes, I know it was wasted. No matter. How long was it supposed to last? Well it didn’t stop him from sodding off last night, did it? What would have happened if I’d made a mistake, say I’d increased the dosage? Oh, is that all? Temporary. Perhaps he’s in some brothel sleeping the effects off then.  What was that you warned me about? Not to put the stuff in a syringe? What?  Permanent loss off motor function. No means of communicating? Good job I got it right then. OK. See you soon. Yes. Can’t wait. I’m keeping it warm for you.”

She walks over to the lab bench and pulls a large syringe from a drawer. She takes a glass bottle from her pocket and fills the syringe with its contents. She turns to the empty chair which trembles again. She pats the nearest arm of the chair and her hand stops, suspended a short distance above it. She pats along towards where a wrist ought to be. She opens her fingers, grasping at thin air, and twists her hand ninety degrees. She feels a little further up with her sensitive fingertips, searching for something. She launches the syringe at the spot she has found. The needle disappears. The chair jumps. She presses the plunger, dispensing its complete contents.

She walks away from the chair then turns and spits at it. “Bastard.” Then she thinks about all the years he’s denied her use of her own language. “Con de hang.”

She leaves the lab and returns a few minutes later struggling with a large duvet and matching cushions. She makes a bed by the side of the empty chair, “Maybe John will find this interesting. Fucking the great man’s wife in his own laboratory.”

I should show some sympathy toward you, Professor, I suppose, but I won’t. I should try to help, but I can’t. Why should I? You did, after all,  kill me.

OK, so you didn’t exactly put the rope around my neck. I did that myself, fair enough. But it was you who cost me my job when you sued the company. It was me that couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments on the house. It was me that couldn’t keep my wife and son. And I’ve been waiting all this time just to see you get yours. I only wish the world could see me laugh.