WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

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I’ve just finished reading The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North aka Kate Griffin and real name Catherine Webb. But that’s not the point. The point is that this book really made me think about life and death and my own mortality. I’m not saying I thought about it in a depressed  way, quite the opposite in fact. You see I’m secretly hoping that this life, the one I’m living as Plot Whisperer, at the moment is my first life and that when i die, I’ll have a chance to repeat it. I know it sounds crazy, right but don’t stop reading and you’ll see what I mean.

The main character, Harry August, repeats his life over and over again and the knowledge of what or where he has been before sort of hits his awareness at about 3 years of age. He lives through W.W.II and beyond and is able to create his own wealth by betting on companies that he knows will do well or horses or sport or inventions. Although much philandering goes on in this book, Harry realises that his decisions render him accountable to the world. A close friend and his worst enemy, Vincent Rankis, who is similarly repeating  life, is setting the world on a collision course by updating technology before its time and attempting to create a quantum mirror with which to play God. The concepts are absolutely brilliant and the different lives Harry leads as himself are thoroughly engaging. A thread running through the book is the idea of the Chronus Club, set up across the globe in various cities to protect others like Harry. When Vincent starts to kill members before they are born, things change that certainly bring Harry to the conclusion that the world needs saving. Overall, the novel makes you feel that you and your life is important in the grand scheme of things and that’s more than anyone can ask. Thanks Claire North.

If I were to repeat the first bit of this life I have lived I would be less afraid and try everything without worrying what others thought of me. I’d also avoid the dangers of the past because I’d know where to look. What about you?  

JUST DESSERTS is The Worst Story I Can Possibly Write (without spelling and grammar errors)

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It was the middle of the week, Wednesday after school, when the events that would cut short my entire relationship began to unfold like a piece of origami gone wrong.

I knew that Brick was happy just before he fell off because he was waving enthusiastically and skipping lightly along the centre of the roof tiles.

‘Breanna!’ He called to me, excitedly. ‘It’s so high up here I can reach the sky, see?’

He pointed to the navy expanse of sky in which the sun was setting, blazing orange on the horizon like a candle and then he lost his footing and fell. I forced a laugh and clasped my hands tightly, causing a whitening of the knuckles. I opened my mouth to say something but I thought better of it. There was nothing I could do but watch Brick drop from the roof and crash land in the backyard. Unfortunately, just as I’d always feared ever since Grandad left it there, my boyfriend landed on the fishing boat, demolishing the old thing even further. I ran over to his still body, chewing my lip.

‘Brick?’ I said. ‘Brick? Are you okay?’

The great lump that was Brick suddenly jerked like a jack-in-the-box. He was alive!

‘I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.’ I said, my chin trembling so much I thought the bottom of my jaw might crumble away. ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘It’s fine, really,’ said Brick, his voice muffled. ‘If I hadn’t been horribly disfigured, you would’ve been able to tell.’

With great difficulty and because I’m not very strong, I turned him face up and gasped. Brick had a massive splinter of wood gaping through the centre of his chest. It was as if he’d been in battle during Medieval times or even before that when they used pointy wooden spears. His white t-shirt, the one with The Cure on it, was beginning to turn red with blood. Brick smiled at me and it was the same exact smile he’d given to the judges, just before he’d walked the tightrope on ‘Australia’s Got Talent.’ I could see now that the sixteen year old boy lying before me had been telling the truth. He’d performed on the show when he was six but I hadn’t believed it was him. 

I cursed myself for being such a doubting disbeliever. Brick might’ve been a little on the square side but he was so porous that I could tell him anything and he’d soak up the best bits.  I was the one who deserved the fate that Brick was now being dealt. If only we could switch roles. He’d already been through a house fire that had scarred his skin for life. The universe was really shitting on him.

‘Got your phone?’ He wheezed. He sounded like an old man who has walked up a really steep hill, like he couldn’t catch his breath. it reminded me of a story on ‘Sixty Minutes’ where this elderly gentleman explained that the secret to longevity was to walk every day of your life. 

‘Yeah, why?’ I said, staring into his sea-grey eyes that could almost pass for the marble my brother, Byron, choked on when he was a toddler. Dad had performed the Heimlich Maneuver until Byron spewed it up and his lunch on the new rug.

‘Call the ambulance,’ he said. 

‘Oh yeah.’ I dialled the number but my fingers couldn’t seem to hit the buttons in the right order and I kept having to hang up and try again. ‘Sorry,’ I said, feeling extremely empty-headed. Finally I got it right and blurted out the correct address. 

‘I love you,’ Brick said, his chest heaving.

For a second everything was so romantic but then blood spurted out of his mouth and over his chin. No way I could kiss him after that, especially not with the tongue. He looked more like a vampire from a Twilight movie or someone who’d put too much sauce on his meat pie. Then Brick shuddered, breathed in and half-snorted, like he did sometimes when he fell asleep in front of the T.V. but all that blood told me he wasn’t just sick of Gossip Girl.

‘Brick?’ I said, my voice all soft, the way he liked it. ‘Brick? Babe?’

When he didn’t reply, I knew he was dead. My solid and dependable boyfriend was gone. Impulsively, I raced around to the side of the house and started to climb the rickety ladder to the roof. I couldn’t see the rungs in the dark but nothing was going to stop me from getting my just desserts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPOCH

There was no warning. It was a morning like any other. John ate his usual cereal of high-fibre bran sprinkled with blueberries while reading the paper. Aimee hadn’t seen it coming.

‘I’m leaving you,’ said John. ‘You’ve become boring.’

Aimee dropped her cup of coffee, smashing it over the kitchen tiles. John stared at Aimee. It was as if he was looking right through her. After twenty years of marriage he couldn’t even stick around to help clean up the mess. Aimee watched the brown liquid slide its way under the fridge.

‘I’m moving in with Anne,’ he said, walking away.

From the front room, she watched John’s green t-shirt disappear down the drive from their Californian Bungalow home, a grinning golden pig on his back. She’d bought him that t-shirt in South Korea. It was supposed to bring good fortune.

Divorce sounded ugly, like a disease or an infectious skin rash. After he’d gone, Aimee stacked his breakfast bowl in the dishwasher, along with last night’s plates. Her hands shook but her mind pretended he’d return. After all, he’d promised to fix the kitchen drawer. Aimee pictured Anne, a large, vulgar woman with too many rings and garish clothes and wondered how long they’d been having an affair.

Maureen had never liked John, whispering in her daughter’s ear on her wedding day, while she was zipped into her sequined gown. The wedding took place at a vineyard thirty kilometres from Melbourne. From the grave, came her mother’s shrill mantra.

‘I told you so. I told you so. I told you so.’

‘Shut-up,’ said Aimee.

The worst was posted like an ordinary letter, arriving in the letterbox with no hint of what was inside. It stated the facts without any trace of emotion, just like John. Aimee emptied a box of tissues while reading. It really was end. She’d signed the papers carefully at the bottom, not knowing whether to revert to her maiden name. Not surprisingly, John claimed their pet budgie, Rocket. He’d fed the bird toasty crumbs, post Carmel the cat.

Carmel had been obese. John talked to the tabby more than he had to Aimee. She’d been embarrassed whenever friends had come over to visit.

‘She has an eating disorder, poor thing,’ she lied. ‘Vet says there’s nothing we can do.’

It was a relief when Carmel was found with her legs splayed under the lemon tree, rigor mortis setting with the sun. John had to manoeuvre the wheelbarrow onto its side just to roll the cat in. After that, he’d transferred communication from a cat to its natural enemy, a bird. Rocket smashed into walls, his clipped wings rendering him directionless.

‘You’re my little Rocket, aren’t you boy?’ John said, picking up the straggly bird and placing him on his shoulder.

The last time she’d seen John was in an office on the twelfth floor in the city. Solicitors had also been present. John had worn a new suit, which made him look special. They’d smiled politely and she saw he’d had his teeth whitened. For as long as she’d known John, he’d been opposed to any form of cosmetic improvement, no matter how small. It occurred to Aimee that he was already a stranger. She’d caught the train into Flinders Street in the same dress she’d worn to her fiftieth.

Two years ago John had booked out an entire Thai restaurant to celebrate Aimee’s birthday, inviting everyone they knew. He’d stood up for the toast, tapping a spoon against his champagne glass.

‘To my wife and my love,’ he began. ‘You mean the world to me and although we never had children, I wouldn’t have wished to share my life with anyone else. Happy birthday, sweetheart.’

Raucous applause followed but Aimee’s heart was in her throat. When the first course came out, she’d lost her appetite. John’s speech was a powerful reminder that she was broken. The words ‘never had children’ were stuck in her head like the chorus of a sad song.

It’d happened when Aimee was a foetus, floating around in the womb of a drug-taking hippie. When she told her mother what the IVF doctor said, Maureen scoffed her way out of that responsibility, like any other.

‘Your generation,’ she said, ‘Always pointing the finger. Why don’t you do something about it?’

‘Mother, I’m infertile. There’s nothing I can do.’

In her thirties, Aimee wanted a girl of her own, a clone of herself, to dress in gorgeous frocks. When the tears came, John was her rock. He’d wrap his arms around her and murmur ‘I love you,’ a thousand times until she reached the snuffling stage and came up to breathe. They’d talked endlessly about their options but it seemed they could never agree until middle age crept up and they’d grown accustomed to the routine of their quiet lives. Infrequent sex in the dark was empty and passionless. Aimee only missed the company.

With the generous property settlement, Aimee purchased a two-storey sandy brick unit in a peaceful cul-de-sac in Malvern. It was close to trams and the shops. A few months later it was clear to Aimee that she and John had been chalk and cheese. He’d had been raised in the south-eastern suburbs where middle class meant a weekend barbeque with the neighbours and a bottle of chardonnay. Aimee had grown up in the western suburbs where single mums stood on street corners in fish-nets and miniskirts. The fish and chip shops were run by Greeks and chockfull of Aussie kids who’d been told to ask for credit for the Friday night meal because Dad had already spent his pay down the pub.

Aimee liked to read crime fiction, written by Australians who swore like troopers. John had always overreacted to swearing.

‘It makes you sound so cheap.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake, get over it.’

Settling in bed, she opened the latest in a series of novels, where a body had been uncovered, lying face down under a busy bridge. Sergeant Lloyd took in the bloated body, the purple discolouration of the skin and the fact that the victim’s fingertips had been snipped off with the most likely tool, a pair of secateurs. Aimee tended to agree. Good quality gardening shears would have the best leverage. Dental records took much longer to process. Murder was usually committed by someone who knew the victim. Serial killers were the exception. When the medical examiner arrived at the scene, Aimee heard a noise.

Instinctively she turned to the other side of the bed, to John. She wanted to ask, ’What was that?’ and have him reply, ‘Don’t worry I’ll check it out,’ but he wasn’t there. Aimee heard it again. It was a small sound, but not small enough to be overlooked. She lay the novel face down on the bed and concentrated. A few minutes went by with nothing but the sound of the clock. Then suddenly there it was again. Aimee felt a strange terror she hadn’t experienced since university.

Automatically, she grabbed the handset and went to dial John’s mobile. She paused over the keypad, reconsidering the call. What did she expect him to do? John and Anne lived at least twenty minutes away in Richmond, by which time Aimee could be bludgeoned to death. Finally, she replaced the phone and got out of bed. She’d deal with this herself. After all, she was a capable and independent woman.

Aimee crept down the carpeted stairs, imagining herself in an episode of City Homicide. She grabbed the heavy crystal vase, a wedding present. Down the hall to the front door, she stopped. Through the frosted glass, she could make out a figure bent over the lock. Listening, Aimee was strangely fascinated but as soon as she wondered what type of person would be breaking in, documentaries of methamphetamine users with scabby faces and desperate eyes, came to mind. John wouldn’t be able to label her ‘boring’ after this. Summoning her courage, Aimee tightened her grip on the vase, took a deep breath and opened the door.

A set of soft brown-green eyes met hers, devoid of malice. The broad head yawned, displaying a level bite and a wide muzzle. A black Labrador sat on the doormat looking up at her, his ears hanging like plush pendants.

‘Yes?’ said Aimee. The dog raised his paw and wagged his tail. She noticed he was collarless. ‘Well then, you’d better come in.’

The dog seemed to understand the invitation. He also knew his way around the unit, loping through the lounge and vaulting up the stairs two at a time. Aimee laughed, replaced the vase and sprinted after him. When she reached the bedroom, there he was, spread out at the end of the bed, like he belonged. He watched her burrow under the doona, getting comfortable. When she was still, he relaxed, allowing his jet black shape to nestle into the bed. Aimee smiled and closed her eyes, calmed by the Labrador’s light snore. John was allergic to dogs.

 

 

 

WINNERS & LOSERS

‘Tennis Elbow Back’ 

Last week I was playing tennis with my son. He’s 21 and I love to hit against him because we’re fairly well matched (talent-wise.) We also muck about, jump all over the court and make each other laugh on purpose so that we miss the ball. (Intimidation tactics) Anyway, there I was attempting to receive a passing shot when I completely missed the ball and fell backwards onto my bum. Then I ended up staying there for a few seconds and cracking up until I was cry-laughing. Cry laughing is a weird experience. Sometimes I think it’s the shock of falling over that makes us laugh, especially if you’re an adult. Kids fall over and laugh all the time but adults look extremely  awkward when they fall over. I call the phenomenon ‘when big people fall.’ (Imagine a deep and ominous voiceover when you read those words.) Anyway, after I picked myself up we kept playing, laughing and generally fooling about until the set was over. I can’t remember who won. It could’ve been 6-4 me or 6-4 him. All I remember is that the set score was 6-4. If I had won, I wasn’t a winner for long.

The day after that sailed along but  two days later, post falling, I couldn’t lean forward without having to bend my knees and it hurt. My tailbone (did we once have a tail) was killing me. It’s weird that there was such a lag between the fall on the tennis court and the pain directly related to the fall. Interestingly, I had cleaned the house because we were having friends for dinner and it was about three pm when I dropped a tea towel and discovered that I couldn’t pick it up. It’s funny to think about now, but when you have an injury that involves your back, you tend to drop everything and just stare in fury at the things you’ve dropped. I couldn’t even bend down to give the dog a smacko! I started to wonder why the washing machine, the drier, the dishwasher weren’t all affixed to the wall to make life easier. The slow way I moved, back muscles spasming, made me take the whole thing very personally. I was mad. I was super mad. I told the physiotherapist how mad I was as I lay on her therapy table, my face in a hole swearing at the carpet. Age just isn’t fair. In Grade 3 I could fall and still be running around two days later but with this backward bum bump, the outcome was dramatically different. Suffice to say, tennis elbow back does not make you feel young!Image. 

A Story for the Young

On the hottest day of the year, I was chosen for the Grade Six basketball team. I bounced my basketball all the way home, feeling awesome in the school sports jacket. I arrived knowing that the only balls allowed inside the house belonged to my sister’s new kitten so I propped the basketball on the back step and entered the kitchen. There was a note on the fridge from Dad.

‘Dear Tony,’ it read. ‘Your mother and I have gone to pick up Lily from Horse Riding.’

I poured myself a cordial and went upstairs to the living room. The high ceiling and polished floorboards had never looked so good. I smiled, loving the fact that I was alone and about to break the rules just this once. Sure, I felt a bit guilty bringing in the basketball but it wasn’t like my parents would find out. Soon I was sweating and speed dribbling, imagining my teammates and the opposition.

Slam-dunking the ball over and over through a make-believe hoop wasn’t very satisfying so I began practising the jab-step. I’d pivot on one foot, past my defender and toss the ball across the room, running to catch what I’d just thrown. I could almost hear the coach, ‘Be quick but always in control.’ Jumping around and choosing set plays was a lot of fun until I realised why there was a ‘no ball’ rule in place. I was rehearsing a behind-the-back pass, wrapping the ball around to my left when I miscalculated and threw it offside.

There was nothing I could do but watch as the basketball smashed through the sliding glass door that led to the balcony. At the moment of impact, the ball seemed to travel in slow motion. A second later it sped up and kept going, landing in the neighbour’s vegetable patch. Mum was definitely going to murder me unless…

I raced to get my phone and looked up Uncle Graeme’s glass business. Frantically, I keyed in the number. The second I rang, he answered.

‘Hello?’

‘It’s Tony,’ I said. ‘I’m in big trouble.’

My uncle chuckled. ‘Calm down, I’ll be there soon.’

I exhaled, relieved. All I had to do now was clean up the glass, jump the fence, avoid the Rottweiler next door and rescue my beloved basketball.

I went to the garage and gathered up newspapers, a rubbish bag and a pair of gloves. My plan was to lay the paper, pick up the shards and wrap them up in a fish-and-chip like parcel.  Next to the barbeque was a strange ball of grey fur. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be Lily’s kitten, killed by a jagged piece of flying glass. My heart sank. My sister’s scream would probably break my eardrums unless…

I raced to the shed and grabbed a shovel. Scooping up Ajax, I placed his tiny body in a shoebox and tucked some tissue paper over the top. Then I wrote R.I.P in permanent marker and sealed the lid with masking tape. I dug a grave under the lavender bush, covered it over and said a few words. After all, I wasn’t totally heartless.

Moments later, there was a knock at the door. Uncle Graeme earned his living fixing broken glass. While I cleaned and told him my story, he replaced the door. It looked brand new.

‘What are you gonna do about the kitten?’ He asked.

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’ll have to get a substitute.’

My eyes widened. ‘That’s brilliant!’

‘Pet Palace isn’t far,’ he said. ‘I’ll take you once we’re finished.’

Uncle Graeme had saved my skin. With a little creative thinking, my sister would never find out. I swallowed the lump of truth in my throat.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘That should do it. Stop sweating, kid.’

‘Thanks so much,’ I said.

‘No worries, Tony.’

The glazier truck held sheets of glass slotted vertically in the back, like plates in a dishwasher. When Uncle Graeme flew over a speed-hump, I was surprised the whole tray wasn’t smashed to smithereens. The rest of the drive I worried about my basketball, being stuck with a dog bored enough to puncture it just for entertainment.

At Pet Palace, I waded through fluffy beds, fishbowl decorations and bags of birdseed to a cage of mewling kittens. I selected a grey one by the scruff of the neck and threw a wad of cash at the sales assistant. I bolted back to the car and held the frozen cat at arms length but when Uncle Graeme started the engine, the animal freaked out and went feral.

‘Hurry, before I get skinned alive!’

On the home stretch, I glimpsed the back of mum and dad’s car turning into our driveway.

‘Did you see them?’ I said.

‘Yep,’ Graeme said, nodding. ‘I’ll let you out a couple of houses away, okay?’

‘You’re the best, thanks.’ Stuffing the frightened feline down my top, I got out and waved goodbye. When I reached our lawn, Lily had just opened the front door.

‘How was horse riding?’ I asked.

‘Okay, I guess,’ she said. ‘But I can’t find Ajax. Have you seen him?’

‘I took him for a walk,’ I lied, unzipping my jacket. For one heart stopping moment Lily stared hard at the kitten. Then she held out her hands and scowled.

‘He’s not a dog!’ She said, snatching him away.

I watched my sister storm off, wondering how long a Rottweiler could be distracted by a kitten.

Mum called me inside. ‘Here’s your pocket money, Tony.’

‘Thanks but this is double what I normally get.’

‘Don’t think we didn’t notice,’ said Dad.

‘The sliding door.’ Mum smiled.

My skin itched. ‘I…’

‘You did a great job,’ said Dad.

‘I did?’

‘Keep it up and you’ll own your own cleaning company,’ Mum said.

‘Your future is clear,’ smirked Lily through the glass. ‘Oh sweet, next door has a pumpkin!’

‘No that’s my basketball,’ I said. ‘But I predict an eye test in your future.’

GREAT BOOK COVERS and a terrible descent into HP territory….

The old saying is that ‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ but I think that sometimes the cover makes a huge difference. This is the latest YA book I just finished reading and I love, absolutely love the design of the cover. It’s set in the future and is about a corporation who revolutionises the health of humans  by introducing a form of tapeworm into our bodies. The tapeworm cures cancer, maintains insulin levels in diabetics and keeps everyone relatively healthy. Of course, things go wrong and the main character Sally Mitchell and her boyfriend Nathan are in the middle of things when the parasites turn ugly. I enjoyed this book but mostly I wanted to pick the Symbo-Gen tablets from the cover because they looked so real. They even have those perforated edges that packaged tablets have! Don’t get me wrong, however, I don’t fancy a tapeworm inside me. Ugh!!ImageYou may or may not have noticed that YA novels with eyes on the covers sell particularly well. Why is it so? Perhaps it’s something to do with the saying ‘our eyes are the windows to our soul.’ Ironically, there are scientists who claim that this is true based on the patterns in our irises. When I look in the mirror my own eyes look like the green, brown terrain of an alien planet so what does that make me? Everyone differs in the  number of lines, dots and structure of their irises and apparently this may be linked with our frontal lobes and our personalities. Who knew? If we think about this in relation to book covers with eyes on the front, we may be choosing them based on how we feel when we look at them.

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The funny thing about covers is that they change from country to country. So Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone looks fairly different in Japan or France than it does in Australia. I understand that each country has a unique culture but I wonder whether J.K Rowling had any input at all??? Some of the covers are definitely lacking. Take this image below, for instance!

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The Japanese cover of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone

By 2008, This famous novel in the Harry Potter series was published and translated into 67 languages. Astounding! This ends my rant about book covers where I went slightly off topic, sorry about that! Anyway, I believe the first and foremost reason that people pick up a book is the cover. Next time you’re in a bookstore take a moment to think about which ones you are drawn to if you’re just browsing. Maybe there’s more behind the reason than we realise? I’m not talking about genre. I’m talking about that split second, before your brain kicks in; that intuitive moment where you lift up a book just because …

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The UK Edition

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La French Edition

A KILLER CHRISTMAS

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Her heart was beating fast, too fast. There was someone behind her cloaked in the dark night. Her footsteps didn’t sound right. There was an added noise as if someone were keeping to her stride and stopping when she stopped and hiding in the shadows when she turned and peered behind. There was nothing to see because the moon was a sliver. The absence of light seemed to frighten her even more, dulling her sense of vision. Perspiration gathered just above her top lip.

There was that sense of self preservation that kicked in so she tried to speed up but her knee high boots weren’t landing right on the pavement. The heels kept catching in the uneven cement cracks. The bulky bags of Christmas shopping she’d put on her credit card were also knocking against each other, weighing her down. Finally she fell, her right ankle collapsing sideways. It was darker on the ground. She could tell the palms of her hands were raw with score marks. They were probably bleeding.

He waited until she went to get up before he grabbed her head and twisted. In a flash, she was a rag doll in his hands, completely dead and he was disgusted in her inability to protect herself. It was better when they fought back. He’d keep them alive for a while longer if they did. He dragged her body from the footpath and into a nearby yard that had a high fence where no one would see what he was up to.  The grass was cool and wet. It needed mowing. When she was face down in the ground he removed her top and her chubby arms popped out, the flesh wobbling like jelly under the small light of his head-torch. She wore a camisole that he cut with a Stanley knife as straight as he could without marking the skin. He didn’t want to spoil the canvas before he was ready.

Her fleshy back had fat rolls like lumps of pastry. This was a perfect Christmas gift. Last year’s had gone horribly wrong but he wouldn’t think about that right now. From the inside pocket of his jacket he removed the blade. This year he’d joined it to a bamboo dowel with a tapered edge. For a second he brandished it in the air, almost like a painter’s brush, yet he was a maestro of a different kind.

His hands went to work and in a moment of genius he’d flourished the words across her back. They glittered red under the light. When he’d finished he stood back to admire his handiwork. ‘Merry Xmas to all and to all a good night.’ Underneath, he’d signed ‘the big S,’ which wasn’t supposed to stand for Santa but he knew the press would have a field day and that made him grin.

Suddenly, the lights from a Mercedes Benz lit up the driveway. He switched off his head torch and hid behind the tree laden with unripe plums. Even as he peered into the dark he could appreciate the spiky thorns along the trunk of the tree. Nature wanted to defend itself from harm just like people. He reached out to touch one and pricked his finger. Immediately, he sucked on the blood, relishing the pain.

The driver was out of the vehicle now and rummaging in the letterbox, pulling out a wad of mail that was probably all Christmas cards and crappy seasonal catalogues. It wasn’t until the automatic sensor light went on that the guy noticed the bulky shape lying prostrate in the front yard. He emitted a kind of squeaky sound like a mouse to which the killer suppressed a gleeful giggle. In the grass, the guy emptied his stomach, taking a few moments to recover. Then he called the police. With his back to the body of the woman, he spoke rapidly, giving his address and the details of the dark crime on his lawn.

Time to make a move, thought the shadow behind the tree. Scaling the fence without a noise, he stole away and headed for the train station. Perhaps he’d travel further north and do another tonight, depending on how he felt. After all, Christmas was his favourite time of the year.