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The Secret Purpose Of Bones

 

 

 

 

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T H E

S E C R E T

P U R P O S E

O F

B O N E S

 

 

 

 

Victor Malone

 

 

 

 

 

[] Text copyright © 2014 Victor Malone

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Devil’s Wax Publications

 

 

 

 

Playlist:-

The Secret Purpose of Bones

 

 

T H E

S E C R E T

P U R P O S E

O F

B O N E S

Text copyright © 2014 Victor Malone

Devil’s Wax Publications

Playlist:-

The Secret Purpose of Bones

Dusk

The Redemption Man’s Last Stand

It rang, and rang some more, and on the eighth ring it went to voice mail. He had a split second metal debate as to whether or not to leave a message, and then hung up.

“Eer no.”

He approached the table she shared with two other girls – one fat, one utterly none descript – and a man who looked vaguely thuggish. He opened by apologising for interrupting them, and then explained that his friend had seen her with another friend, who he was rather desperate to get a hold of. She cut him off mid sentence with a staunch and irritated denial. As soon as she spoke he recognised her clipped, well spoken voice as the one on the phone two days ago. The whole atmosphere of the group was rapidly transformed. It were as though Graham had accused her of doing something obscene or illegal. He’d actually been careful to avoid making it sound as though her relationship with Michael had been sexual (although it almost certainly had been) just in case the thug was her boyfriend. Or just so as not to embarrass her.

The Uncertainty Principle

Howling at the Stars on the Wrong Side of the Border

Cold Candles: The Infinite Melancholy of Malcolm Manvers

Leather Sweets

The Son Of Perdition

The Little Girl Who Loved Worms

 

[+ The Secret Purpose of Bones+]

 

 

[] Dusk

The famous actor (whose name Carol couldn’t remember – despite trying for the past half hour) slapped Jean Simmons hard across the face. She was starting to get a little bored with the film now. To begin with she had been enjoying it, as it offered the kind of distraction she had been looking for at the time.

She looked at her wrist watch. Malcolm should be back from the office by now. Was he having an affair? This question came to her more and more of late.

A commercial break interrupted the film and she went to the kitchen, deciding to take the opportunity to make some filter coffee. As she opened a new packet of expensive mild coffee, she realised she hadn’t seen the kids all evening. They were usually home at this time also.

She spooned some coffee into the machine and decided she was just being a worrier. People had always said that about her, and she used to think it was just them, now she wasn’t so sure.

In spite of her, she watched the film to its dull conclusion and watched the news that followed. Somewhere, someone was blowing something up. The back garden was silent and still.

 

21:22

She must have fallen asleep. The news had been replaced with a game show. Surely Malcolm was home by now. She called out his name, into the quiet house, but met no response. She tried again. Nothing. She got up from her chair, and called the children’s names, as she climbed the stairs. No one responded. She went to her bedroom window to get a look at the drive. There was no sign of Malcolm’s car. Perhaps, he had been home and then nipped back out. Perhaps to the shops or to see someone. But since when did Malcolm go anywhere after work in the week? She checked both the boy’s room. They were empty, messy, but empty.

It wasn’t as though she could ring Malcolm’s work, there would be no one there now, except maybe a Janitor or cleaner. Maybe he was having an affair with the cleaner.

Should she call the police? No, she told herself, she was being ridiculous. She’d just have to wait. Give it another hour and then decide. She went to the kitchen, warmed some coffee, and sat back down in front of the television. The game show was pointless so she swapped over to an episode of Friends (which Malcolm hated, so she never got the chance to watch when he was around).

When Ross and Rachel’s argument was stopped by a slew of commercials, Carol got up out of her chair to look at the street outside. It was dead. A thin layer of moonlight covered everything. She hadn’t expected a street party, but there were usually at least a couple of kids playing in the road.

Also, she noticed, the houses all appeared deserted, as if none of her neighbours were at home. She felt a little uneasy, and a little silly for feeling that way. Behind her a soft warm voice tried to sell tampons.

Carol decided to venture outside and see if Anne or Frank had seen any sign of her children or husband.

The night was as still as a pool in the middle of nowhere. She approached her neighbour’s house with caution (why?). She reached the door and knocked firmly three times. When no reply came she stepped onto the garden and peered into the front room. Although there were a couple of lamps on in the lounge the TV was off and there were no signs of life.

She went back to the door and knocked a further three times. The result was the same. She looked at the other houses on the small street, they all appeared like this one. Where was everybody? Was she being melodramatic? She really could not tell. Her feet were damp and cold and she suddenly realised she had come out without any shoes. Then she noticed the cars. All the cars were as per usual. The Wicombe’s Red Honda, John’s Ford Focus, Anne and Frank’s Saab. The cars were there, it was the driver’s who were absent.

She walked across the road, mindful of her bare feet, to knock on the Wicombes’ door. The usual three knocks, and again no answer. She tried every house on the street, which didn’t take long.

 

22:01

Will and Grace occupied the space which once belonged to Friends. This show, Malcolm could at least tolerate. So occasionally they would watch it together. Carol decided to have a drink to settle her nerves. In the dining room she removed a bottle of Cognac and poured some onto ice.

She settled down in front of the television and fell asleep.

 

00:12

Silent as before. Only canned laughter broke it. Now it was Happy Days. Since when was this channel repeating Happy Days?

Carol got to her feet, called out feebly. When no one called back she felt sick. She went to the window. No car, no movement in the other houses. She looked up at the man in the moon. When she had been very young she had actually believed her grandfather when he had told her that there was a man living on the moon. She imagined an old man in a rusty tin shack on a white rock. She had no idea where this image came form.

She begins to think she will never see her family again. Now she knew she was being silly. The drink always made her feel this way.

She decides that she just needs to get some sleep. Her mind blends into sleep with images of a skinny old man prancing around on the moon.

 

03:03

She tastes bitter sweetness, light pours from the television. On the screen a doctor is wandering around an empty hospital. It seems to be one of those slow art movies she will never understand. Occasionally she’d catch Malcolm watching one, focused tightly on the screen like he understood what it was all about. She thought people only pretended to like them in an attempt to seem more clever than they really were. She rubbed her itchy eyes.

They must be back by now. She gets to her feet and turns on a stand up lamp. There are no sign of Malcolm’s return. His keys aren’t in the usual spot, his jacket isn’t on back of the usual chair. She goes upstairs to their bedroom. The sheets are as they were, neat and undisturbed.

She checks the boy’s rooms and the results are the same. This is ridiculous, she thinks. She looks out of a window to see all the houses as dark as before. Perhaps there’d been some sort of accident. But what type of accident would cause an entire street to disappear?

She can’t sit in front of the TV anymore, she decides, she must get pro-active in her search. She puts on some clothes and leaves the house. She goes to Anne and Frank’s, as she considers them her closest friends on the street. She isn’t sure what she is going to do yet if nobody is home. Break and Enter. She has never broken a law in her life, not even stolen sweets as a child.

Back on the street the air is colder than before, and it causes her to shiver. She walks to Anne and Frank’s and knocks on the door. She is unsurprised when the thuds receive no response. She looks over the house. She tries the door and it opens with ease.

She steps into the hall way, feeling she is doing something profoundly wrong. She calls into the darkness.

Then she hears a sound from upstairs. Some sort of movement, feint, but definitely there. She walks up the stairs, between walls of viscose shadow. She gets to the top and all the doors are closed bar one, and light spills from this room. She goes to it. It is small windowless room with plain white paint on every wall. The ceiling is a dirty yellow, and the only furniture is a small bed, against one wall, with plain sheets.

Then there are the bones. At first, naturally, she thinks they are fakes. But when she runs her fingers across one of the smooth surfaces there is no doubt in her mind. The gentle ridges, the hardness, the shade, these have to be genuine. Carol wanders what type of bone they are (surely not human). Then she sees the skulls. Their elongated features suggest dogs.

There are hundreds of them and they have been formed into some sort of structure. Like a man, or monster, with arms and legs, and an oversized head. It hangs from wires like a giant twisted puppet.

She’s always felt like she was being left out of things and here was the proof made solid. These bones seemed to taunt her. Their peculiar shape, seeming almost natural, as though that was the way god had always intended the bones to fit together, and it was a small mistake that man was destined to correct for their maker.

Then she notices the photos and wondered how she could have missed them before. They are everywhere. All of them pale Polaroid’s of bleached out colour. At first she didn’t recognise some of the people in them, but then she saw Jack Wincombe’s tiny eyes and large forehead.

He was holding a dog skull.

The lady next to him, a pretty blonde she didn’t recognise, was holding a bone in her hands. Her breasts were exposed. Why had she not noticed sooner? How could she not notice? It was glaringly obvious. Carol feels chilled by these pictures. What were her neighbours doing?

She looks over the other images. Some of them far more bizarre than others. Some just depict her friends, neighbours and strangers holding the bones, fully clothed. Some showed them naked and using them to engage in sex acts. In one Frank was being buggered with a long bone (possibly a femur) by a fat man with no hair. It really was hard to tell whether he was enjoying it or not. The same couldn’t be said for the fat man, who was grinning like he’d won the lottery. Another showed Ken (an old man who lived around the corner) wearing a pair of leather pants with a bone hanging from the crotch, like a freakish manhood. Next to him Anne was on her knees, her mouth near the bone as though she was going to fellate it. Anne was smiling in a way she had never seen her smile in real life. Do all her neighbours possess secret smiles, and were those smiles aimed squarely at her back? Is she really the only person on the street not involved in this madness? And why is she feeling left out?

It is all too much to comprehend.

Then she caught sight of something that caused the acid in her stomach to burn. Simon holding a bone. No sex act. No perversity. Just Simon, clothed, smiling with a bone.

The knowledge that even her children were inducted into this…cult, was too much.

For a moment she longed to be back in front of the TV, she’d even watch the disappointing TV movie again. Now she was the woman being slapped.

Frantically she looks at the others pictures to see if she can spot anymore of her family. Before long she sees Malcolm. His cock is erect with a bone of similar size tied to it. An unidentifiable woman is laid on the bed, spread eagle, waiting to be penetrated by Carol’s husband, and his depraved aid.

She sits down on the bed, buries her head in her hands, and tries to clear her head.

She decides to go downstairs and get a glass of water from the kitchen. The rest of the house sees normal. As she had seen it before, as opposed to cluttered with alien objects. There isn’t furniture constructed from skin and bone, the walls are not graffitied with blood and semen. Normality.

The kitchen is clean and shiny, lights glints off the edges of the expensive German appliances. She opens a cupboard, looking for a glass. She finds only plates. She opens another…

 

Dildos and vibrators. More in one place than she has seen in the rest of her life combined. A multitude of shapes, sizes and colours. More sex aids than plates. More sex aids than a sex shop. This makes her smile and for a moment she thinks she is going to burst into hysterical laughter. But this doesn’t happen. She wonders why they are kept in the kitchen. Are they cleaned here, after use? Do they change the water before the regular kitchen utensils take the plunge?

She dare not open any more cupboards so she drinks straight from the tap. Cool water drips off her chin. She stands up and wipes he mouth. What should she do now? She really doesn’t know.

She looks out the window and finds that the grass looks different now, darker and artificial. Her entire environment has changed, her reality shifted. The street is no longer a place of safety, but an alien terrain. A concrete parlour trick.

Then she remembers the dogs. They had owned two dogs since living on this street. The first had been an Alsatian, in its latter years, that came with them from their previous home. The second had been a Labrador puppy, them not wanting to get the same sort of dog again.

Both had disappeared.

And she remembered how she had wanted to get a third, but Malcolm had talked her out if it. Was he responsible for their dog’s disappearance, had he known who was?

Were they killing the dogs for the bones? They could be getting them from another source but she knew that they weren’t. Then she remembered the amount of missing dogs posters she had seen on trees and lampposts recently. And even a slightly bizarre article about dog kidnappings in the local paper a few months before. The way things were slotting together frightened her, and made her feels as though perhaps she were the crazy one. She tried to think of other strange events or clues.

One day returned had returned home with blood on his clothes. He had claimed that he had been attacked by a dog. Now that story had a whole new context and a whole new meaning.

 

Sometime before dawn

There is a scraping sound. Where is she? Have they stayed over at a friend’s house? What is that noise? There is a bone near her foot. She looks up to see the monstrosity from the bedroom standing over her. Her memories come flooding back fast enough to break the dam. She realises she fainted.

It is looking at her and there seems to be meaning in that smile. She wouldn’t be surprised if the thing talked.

It didn’t.

Instead it moved down, pulled her up. Small bones wrapping around her wrists. They are warmer than she expected. Almost as if they are radiating their own heat. Now she is stood up it begins to sway back and forth. The hard bones flowing surprisingly elegantly. Like feathers dancing in the wind, but with control instead of chaos. A secret purpose.

She finds herself stepping in times with the bones. Small movements left and right. Before long more bones are around her, a hard tentacle finds her waist, and she even feels a little excitement. A stirring in the centre of her. A rocky tendril caresses her arm.

She is no longer afraid and soon she is dancing with the skeleton. The kitchen fades into the background and soon she is in a grandiose ballroom. A million candles light the scene, but her and the bones are the only ones there. She forgets about her family, forgets her fears, her and the bones and they way they fit together are all that matter to her now.

The bones are everywhere. Not just her arms and waist, but every part of her. She feels waves of pleasure she has never experienced before. Is this what people mean by euphoria? She tries to think but her thoughts are lost. She flows around and around, she is in the air above the ballroom floor. Her feet are frees.

She shuts her eyes.

 

Time unknown

She is wet and itching. She scratches her leg and rubs her arm. An image comes back to her and she feels uneasy. A man being fucked by a dog bone. She doesn’t usually have such disturbing dreams. Then came the relief, immense happiness at the simple knowledge that she had been dreaming, and her life wasn’t really that way.

The she realises she is lying in the middle of the road. The lights are on. All the lights in all the houses, and this scares her. Every window sports a bulb, dozens of yellow squares lining the road. Seemingly burning brighter than usual.

She senses dangers, hears a low guttural growl. A dog. Barking follows, stinging the night like bullets. She is already terrified before she sees the too eyes peeping from the edge of a bush. Now she stops breathing. It is surprising that they show up in this light, those damp orbs, those muddy puddles. A dog emerges from the side of a bin. Some sort of mongrel with light brown fur. Another from behind a car, this one a small Doberman. She looks towards the bush, but that one still hasn’t shown himself. Why is he still holding back when the others have revealed themselves? Does he think he is special? Is he going to make a grand entrance?

One of the dogs is nearly next to her now. She feels it sticky breath, feels stained by it, as it clings to her cheek. The dog licks her face. This isn’t what she expected. It continued to lick her, moving form her cheek to her lips. Taking increasingly fast licks. It isn’t as unpleasant as she expected and soon she finds herself licking back. Her tongue darting from her mouth. Another dog lays its tongue down on her breast, mauling her breasts through her T-shirt. He begins to pull at the fabric, gently at first, then hard, then he tears into it. Exposing one of her tits, the nipple in the middle stiff.

Before she knows it five dogs are on her. Licking and occasionally nibbling. They become increasingly noisy.

The mystery dog makes his much awaited entrance. He is not huge but there is something different about him, as though possesses a knowledge that the others do not. Special.

As he approaches the other dogs depart. Eyeing one another up nervously, occasionally barking and yelping. His breed is hard to determine. He looks like a well known type, yet is impossible to place. He stares at her and instinctively she pulls down her trousers and rips off her pants. Now she is completely naked on the cold tarmac. The dog comes to her and buries his muzzle into her sex. She squirms and groans. The orgasm is instant. She thinks of the ball room. Her fingers dig into the road.

The other dogs bark and jump on top of each other, as though they are as excited as she is.

She sees a face. Simon. Then she sees his brother stood beside him, with a look of disbelief on his face. She has never seen him look quite like that. Is Malcolm here too, watching? She can’t see Malcolm but she can see the rest of the street. They are stood around her in a tight circle. Looking down with stares of judgement. She feels annoyed at first, then just confused.

“What the hell are you doing?” demands Ken, his wrinkly face shaking.

Small tears appear in Thomas’ large eyes. He is too young for this, and she feels guilty, but then the anger returns, and she is full of hatred for the entire crowd.

If they can have their secrets, why can she not have hers?

 

 

Somewhere Between Heaven and Mulholland

 

She was staring at her lighter again, examining its contours. She noticed, for the first time, just how much it resembled the swimming pool, in terms of both shape and colour. Which was strangely fitting, as she didn’t swim or smoke anymore. She looked across the translucent turquoise surface of the pool; the round lights shimmered below the water. She often found herself staring out at it for hours, particularly late at night when she couldn’t sleep.

The property was lined by a white stone wall. Small plants and bushes, lush and green, huddled at its base, were only alive because of the gardener. She noticed that the wall could do with a wash, a thin layer of grime clung across it.

She looked at the night sky, more for a distraction, than because she enjoyed its aesthetic value. A full moon was partially concealed by frail smoky grey clouds, and the stars hung impossibly low. The night air, neither cooling nor humid, hung all around her. While music, which she couldn’t remember the name of but knew she hated, drifted out from somewhere within the house.

She was still running the smooth surface of her over priced lighter through her fingers when someone took the seat opposite her. McKendrick was an ex-hippie who had become exactly what he hated, but wasn’t aware of the fact. This was nothing new of course; men like him were ten a dozen, especially in Hollywood. The thing was, for all his flaws (and there were many) Susanne found it difficult to dislike McKendrick. There was something about him, he had a strange, rough yet polished charm. It was as though he rehearsed his patter, but didn’t really need to.

 

[_ _
__]

She looks up at him with her small bright blue eyes. Those eyes, against the odds, shine out in the darkened room. He tries to give her a reassuring look but can’t. She’d trusted him, believed him when he said he could get her “some small jobs” leading to “some big jobs.” Now she was on her hands and knees, her small mouth a few inches from a strangers’ cock. Not even a very clean looking cock. And from what he knew of its owner it wasn’t something you would want to touch with rubber gloves. He felt guilty, but not enough to stop the shoot. Besides, he wasn’t exactly lying to her, was he, he knew girls who’d been in this business and had gone on to better things.

The director, a weird guy with a vague past, and a goatee that hung from his chin like a wad of grey phlegm, is telling the camera man to move in a little tighter.

Earlier on he’d asked the director to take it easy on her, ease her in slowly. He’d replied , “Yeah, no problem,” but didn’t really seem to be listening.

McKendrick met these people through a semi-friend who he started buying drugs from, when his regular supply suddenly dried up. The last he’d heard of his original dealer he was being questioned in connection with the Wonderland slayings.

He’d started off just hanging out, giving them the occasional bit of money, and catching the odd free blow job. Not all the girls were like Amy, after all, some of them loved it. Even if they were strung out on something most of the time.

[_ _
__]

 

“So why did you quit smoking Susie,” McKendrick asked, a thick cloud of grey swirling around his head.

“Well, it was kind of bad for me.”

McKendrick grinned at this as though she had said something naive or ironic. She didn’t like to think she was known for either.

“I didn’t think you were the type to fall for all that health fascist propaganda.”

“Ed, I was coughing up black shit, not a little phlegm, black shit. It looked like actual tar.”

“You should have gone onto lights.”

Now it was Susanne’s turn to smile.

“So where’s that husband of yours got to?” he asked, craning his neck to look behind him, towards the open double glass doors at the back of the house.

“I haven’t got a clue.”

“And from your tone I sense you don’t care.”

Susanne made a non committal gesture.

“Did he tell you about this script, the one by the young English writer.”

“He said something, something about it being one of the best he’s ever read, but then he often says that, and I doubt he reads them fully.”

“A little harsh my dear. Well, anyway, I’ve read this one and I assure you, in this case, he isn’t exaggerating. It is quite wonderful.”

“’Fucking Awesome’ was the term he used.”

“Well that as well.”

At this point a tall, slender woman, wrapped in a shimmering silver dress, comes to join them. The only thing that holds her back from being truly stunning, is that she is a little too thin, particularly around her waist, as if a couple of ribs had been removed (which wasn’t entirely impossible). The way she moved (or should that be flowed) it was almost as if her body had been blessed with an extra set of joints.

“Marie, my dear, I was just telling Susie about the English script.”

“Oh have you read it Susie, it’s, it’s…deep.”

“Really, what’s so deep about it?”

Marie stares vacantly in to space for a short while before responding: “Everything,,, the words especially.”

Susanne has no trouble hating Marie. She first met the girl about five years ago. Then she had been a pretty, fresh faced, unpretentious down to earth girl, with healthy ambition. Now she was Hollywood in the worst way. The kind of person who made Susanne examine herself. To see if there were any lines of connection that should be drawn between her and the younger girl.

She would talk left on any subject regardless of her knowledge and brought into any new life style trend or alternative medicine wholesale. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, Marie had been absolutely determined to cure her with Homeopathy. While her mother grew weaker, and her body cried out for chemicals, the silly bitch continued to pump her frail body full of water – forgetful water that held no memory whatsoever.

Also, Marie had an annoying habit of telling her where she was going wrong with her own career, even though she had been in the business a whole ten years longer than the younger girl. And her ambition knew no limits or rules, it was as though she was chained to a suicide pact, which would come to collect if she didn’t win her first Oscar before she turned twenty five. Marie was nearly twenty-two, so the clock was ticking.

Still, she had to admit, at least to herself, she envied the way the girl moved.

 

[_ _
__]

She looks at his body and tries to decide whether or not to fuck him one last time. His toned muscles still turns her on, not as much as they used to, but there’s still something there. On the one hand she feels she is being cruel, taunting him with what he can no longer have, but on the other she thinks it could be a fitting goodbye. Something for him to remember her by.

He’ll no longer have her but at least in the future he’ll be able to tell his buddies how he used to fuck Marie Antonio. A generous gift. She could make it real dirty, let him finish on her face, something she knows he likes, but she has never let him do.

When she makes her decision and advances towards him he shuns her. Tells her to ‘fuck off’ and she can’t believe her ears – who is he to refuse her? A barman, she now earns more money than his entire family combined.

He seems hurt, more than she thought he would be. She looks around his bedroom and notices, for the first time, just how tacky and dirty it is. It is as though the dirt that was hidden before has revealed itself to her now.

Like a layer had been stripped away. She’d been learning all about layers recently, and she’d realised that it was layers that were holding her back. She’d tried to explain this to her mother the other day, but she had looked at her as though she was from another planet.

[_ _
__]

[_ _
__]

Susanne caught sight of a grey object in her peripheral. She turned her neck slightly to see him. He never failed to scare her for the first few moments that her eyes fell upon him. He was grinning, cigarette in hand. It’s was though he could read her thoughts, and also, like he agreed with them. Where he stood, next to a small rock garden, and under a Dogwood tree, he resembled a slither of granite. If only she could communicate with him, but the pale apparition has never spoken a single word. Then McKendrick said something and the spell was broken. She turned to him and asked what he said. He looked offended, as he always did at these moments. The old hippy couldn’t stomach the idea that not everything he said was of interest. When she turned back the dead man had vanished.

She decided to make an excuse to go inside, saying she needed a drink. This wasn’t untrue, she did want a Brandy and ice, but more than that she wanted to be away from Michael’s guests. These gatherings were always his idea these days. In the first year of their marriage things had been different, she’d actually looked forward to such nights, but then many things were different in the first year of their marriage.

Sometimes she enjoyed McKendrick’s company, but tonight wasn’t one of them. And out of the invited guests, he was her favourite.

She stepped between the glass doors and into a spacious white carpeted lounge, where a glass coffee table supported an array of spirits. She uncorked the brandy and poured herself a generous measure. Michael was nowhere to be seen.

She’d told him about the things she had been seeing. She didn’t know why. She didn’t confide in Michael as a rule. She told him next to nothing of importance, and these days they spoke less and less. But she had to get it off her chest and for some reason found it easy to tell him. He’d laughed, then been serious, then laughed some more. He said it was the alcohol mixing with her sleeping pills. That it was normal to see things, and that he knew a Producer who heard voices on a daily basis. Except Susanne didn’t think she was seeing things, that was apart from this town’s hidden past.

She was foolish, she realised afterwards, to have expected anything from Michael. He was no help on a good day, and right now he had problems of his own. He owed money, and not to the type of people he usually owed money to. These weren’t his movie friends, or his thrill seeking companions. These were the real deal. And they didn’t appear to give a fuck about his Hollywood Status.

He’d foolishly had more coke on credit than he could afford, and had been everyone’s friend for a while. Michael always had to know the youngest stars, whoever they were, and keep up on what was considered hip. Coke and parties were an easy way to do this. The other day she had gotten up in the night, for a drink (as the pills were working less and less), and found him sat alone in the dark, mouthing silent words. He was bathed in moonlight, with a cold gun on his lap. She’d gotten her drink and returned to bed, leaving him to it. The other day he’d gone out and bought a new gun. She’d asked him why and he’d ran down about all its features as though he was a gun expert; talked of accuracy, velocity and standard deviation. It was a small thing called a G36 (funny that she often remembered things that were of no interest to her), and he was particularly pleased with it’s plastic frame. She thought this was because it reminded him of the toy guns he must have had as a little boy.

She was starting to worry about him a little, in spite of herself. Even after all he’d done to her, all the times he’d gone behind her back. She didn’t still love him, that was undoubted, but she didn’t want to see him hurt. At least, not in the way that these men could hurt him.

She was about to return to the party when she remembered McKendrick’s watch, which he had left the last time he was here, somewhat drunker than tonight (although the night was young). So instead she headed for her bedroom, opening the door she walked in on Amy Towne, who the magazines referred to as “one of the industry’s hottest new names”, draped in her husband. Her pale flesh trembled, her red hair spilt onto the silk sheets like blood. A bottle of champagne and a mirror of coke were on the bedside table. Her bedside table.

He hadn’t even bothered to lock the door and that’s what really hurt. She thought she’d be used to it by now, but obviously she wasn’t. The girl looked up and loosened her grip on Michael’s back as he continued to pound into her. Was he unaware of his wife’s presence, or could he simply not stop? It really was hard to tell.

The girl actually looked frightened, as though Susanne was liable to ram her glass, brandy, and ice, into her milky white face. She had no such intentions of course. Maybe if this was a real shock, maybe if she hadn’t seen it a hundred times before.

Although this was the youngest one she knew of, Amy Towne being only fifteen years old. The girl had only made one picture, but her performance had her tipped for an Oscar.

[_ _
__]

Amy’s father sits beside her on the bed. He’d always been somehow more understanding than her mother. He is talking to her now much in the way that he spoke to her when she’d had a bad day at school, or when Tammy, her cat had died.

She can tell from his expression that it is good news, that she is going to get what she wants.

“I’m proud of you Amy, you know that, and you know that I’ve always been proud of you. Now admittedly the situation isn’t ideal. But I’ve told your mum that I think we should let you go.”

“Even without a member of the family to chaperone me?”

“Yes because we trust you, we know you’ll make the right decisions. And I’m sorry about what your grandmother said. She’s just kind of old-fashioned.”

[_ _
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[_ _
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Susanne went outside, taking her Brandy with her. She sat back down in the seat she had occupied before. Thankfully Marie had gone. Small mercies. He could have at least been discreet, she thought, as she sipped her favourite spirit. He could have waited until he was at her place. Then she wouldn’t have known, she would have strongly suspected, but at least she would not have had to walk in on it. One thing she noticed, the girls tits were not as big as they appeared in the magazines.

It was times like this that she wished she still smoked. This thought was interrupted by the dead man’s second appearance of the night.

He was stood by the pool and looked a little concerned. His expression not as care free as it usually was. Again, she felt connected to him. This must be about the twelfth time she has seen him, and his visits seem to be becoming more frequent.

Edward A Lewis – the cult film director. Unknown to most and worshipped by a few, albeit intense film geeks who should most likely get out more.

She’d first seen him on a Tuesday afternoon, when she’d returned home in the middle of the day due to a cancelled lunch appointment. She’d gone into her bedroom to find a fresh bottle of her favourite perfume on her bedside table with a note from Michael attached. And to her annoyance, the gift had made her feel good. She opened it to take a smell (she couldn’t really explain why, because of course she was more than familiar with the scent) when she caught sight of something stood behind her in the mirror. A tall thin grey figure. Her heart stopped and she dropped the bottle, the glass had shattered and the expensive liquid splashed her feet and shins. The smell was intense and she had felt like she was going to faint.

Her mind raced, and amongst a bunch of other thoughts that were lost forever now, she remembered an article she had read the week before. Three gang bangers had broken into a doctor’s house in Beverly Hills, and sodomised her whilst her husband was at work, and her three year old daughter slept in the next room.

Then she had noticed that the figure wasn’t that of a normal man, it was vague and translucent. Grey in colour, but with detailed features.

He wore trousers, shirt, suspenders and a bow tie. He had a crumpled face, with a tissue thin moustache and the narrowest of eyes. A cigarette hung from his lower lip and a Fedora sat on his head. He looked like the movie image of a 1940s reporter.

She didn’t recognise him but he reminded her in some strange way of her grandfather. At this point she wasn’t aware of Edward A. Lewis.

After what felt like a couple of minutes, but was probably only a few seconds, he vanished. Like a cheap effect, in a second rate movie, leaving no trace of his presence.

Yet still his image haunted her thoughts. She couldn’t stop thinking of him and felt like she should know who he was. It was the following Tuesday, whilst she was out shopping (after another failed meeting), that the identity of the old man was revealed. She’d been walking by the Screen Room, a small one screen cinema that showed obscure cult movies. They were presenting a season, and a poster to promote it showed the man from her bedroom. Albeit looking about ten years younger. But there was the hat, the suspenders, and of course the cigarette. He had a huge shit eating grin that had been absent from his bedroom appearance, but that was the only difference. Above his image was printed his name and below a list of the half dozen or so pictures the cinema would be showing.

So she jumped into the first taxi she saw and returned home, where she logged onto the internet to found out more. She was tingling from excitement, suddenly she felt like she had a purpose. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt like this. Her career certainly didn’t elicit such enthusiasm.

Edward A. Lewis, it turned out, was one of the most prolific makers of low rent movies in the 60s and 70s. Although he was still churning out movies as late as 1983, but his fans didn’t seem to put much stock in those later efforts. He was an all rounder who produced, wrote and directed, and even edited when he wasn’t too drunk. Some of his most loved were Killing for Momma, Those Dirty Little Temptresses and Wheels of Destruction. The last one being a biker flick with a cameo from a no lesser American original than Charles Manson.

So she made a note of the screening times and dates and went down to the Screen Room, all by herself, as though she was doing something sordid and secret. She’d lied to Michael about where she was going, because she was embarrassed. Instead telling him that she was going to visit a friend, even though she had few left.

So there she’d sat, in a small darkened half full cinema occupied by people she was usually worlds apart from. She’d been worried about being recognised of course, but realised that any sort of attempted disguise would just make her look more conspicuous, and more ridiculous if the paparazzi were to spot her.

Of course she was recognised and during one the films a young man in his late twenties, glanced around to look at her at regular intervals. Thankfully he didn’t approach her afterwards.

The films themselves she had found hard to get on with. Not because of their sleaziness but because of their tediousness. Whole sections were padded out with, or made entirely from, second rate stock footage. Lengthy dialogue scenes were often shown with a single shot.

One of the three she saw was one of the few he appeared in. A rare recording of the man, but the cameo was banal and trivial. She would have thought he could have come up with something a little more exciting for his screen debut. He sells a young couple, who are the films’ main characters, some theatres tickets. He has a few words, none of them funny, intentionally or otherwise. It had been a disappointment, she had wanted to see him doing something gloriously over the top, something that reflected his bizarre personality. He didn’t even smoke in the scene. The only image she had ever seen of him, dead or alive, without a cigarette.

One of her favourite stories about him was how he had once given a fast food tycoon a role in one of his projects in exchange for feeding and watering the crew for the entire shoot, albeit a twelve day shoot. So for twelve days they had eaten nothing but Mr. Tex Burgers. A brand of burger she had never even heard of, but then she supposed many things simply passed away.

He’d been a chancer and an entrepreneur, and although she didn’t expect him to win a posthumous Oscar anytime soon, some argued, in the books she’d read and websites she’d visited, that he’d had an influence on mainstream cinema. If only in terms of pushing the boundaries of acceptability.

She was pulled out of her thoughts when Michael touched her arm.

She wasn’t sure how long he’d been there, but he was obviously midflow, and must have thought she was giving him the silent treatment. Not only is she seeing the dead, the living are becoming invisible to her. Perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing.

She doesn’t know why he is apologising to her. It’s far from the first time it has happened, and they kind of have an unspoken agreement now. Yet still he is yammering at her, she isn’t listening and the words are like rain splashing against a window.

Ignoring Michael she look around for the latest notch in his ridiculously long bed post. She is sat in the corner of the lounge, stealing the occasional glance, like a frightened forest animal, that has somehow strolled onto the highway.

Why is she here? All she can think is that the girl wanted to get out as fast as her limo could carry her, but Michael, the bastard, had persuaded her to stay. Talked her into sitting there like a scolded child.

Michael stopped talking and rubbed his hand, slowly, over his face. This irritated Susanne so much that she had to walk away. Back inside the house she passed her Oscar. The golden dildo is how she thinks of the statuette. As it has fucked her over a hundred times. What people thought should be a career high point was in reality a thorn in her side. The majority of the critics had said she didn’t deserve it. This however wasn’t what bothered her; the fact is, she didn‘t. There were two, if not three, stronger candidates. She displays it, because it is easier to have it on display, than face questions about why it isn’t. But it brings her no pleasure whatsoever, and a string of unpleasant memories. That night she had avoided all the post ceremony parties, a move that was not un-noted by the media, and returned home alone.

There she had lied on her bed, the little man in her hand, and wept. The hardest she’d cried since her mother died.

Above the shelf that holds the Oscar there is a picture that was hung there by Michael. It shows a grainy black and white image of some farm in the dustbowl. The farm lies on the far right and the rest is virtually empty, given over to the desert. Susanne never passes this picture without looking at it, even if just for a moment. She can never make up her mind about the picture; can’t decide whether it is striking and original, or too indulgent and self consciously composed. And in a way, this is much like her response to Michael.

She entered the bathroom, locked the door and sat down on the toilet to gather her thoughts. The Jacuzzi across from her was spotless and it’s edges gleamed under the light. She hasn’t used it for a long time. She hasn’t touched it since she found out.

Even more bizarre than anything in Edward A Lewis’ life, were the circumstances of his death.

His murder was one of those unsolved crimes that lingered in police files, but would probably never see the light of day again. There were several theories about why he had been stabbed one hundred and three times, and all of them were problematic.

Some believed his second wife, who was questioned at the time, was the killer. Although their separation had been the antithesis of amicable, there was no real evidence, nor anything in her past, to suggest that the Jewish girl from Pittsburgh could have done such a thing.

The most common belief was that he had owed the Mafia a substantial sum of money, a debt that he had been dodging for several years. Even though at times he could have paid it partially off. Though some argued that the hit wasn’t their style. Of course they could be brutal, but the sheer number of wounds didn’t make sense. The sustained violence corresponded to a crime of passion, or the act of a mad man, not a mafia hit.

His body was discovered three whole months after the killing, wrapped in plastic and stuffed underneath the Jacuzzi Susanne was now two feet away from.

His funeral had been attended by one of his three ex wives (the only one who didn’t bear a grudge) and a small group of mystery people, who most think were professional mourners. Probably aspiring actors, of much or little talent, desperate for a gig.

Was this the way that Michael was to end his days? The difference was, Michael would get more column space.

She got to her feet and looked at herself in the mirror. She felt weak and guilty as she examined the sorry looking woman before her. A woman with so much, yet unable to obtain any peace of mind. She decided to have another drink and pull herself together. She wasn’t willing to hide away like a child.

She splashed some cold water on her face, dried it with a towel and left.

As soon as she sat she was joined by a skinny young man dressed entirely in black. Adrian had just made a film that half the world’s critics were holding up as a masterpiece, but she couldn’t stand. She wasn’t keen on Adrian either. There were elements of his personality she just couldn’t fathom. False yet dedicated, there were dark spots in his character. Also, she was in no doubt that he and his house had seen more than their fair share of the coke that had gotten her reckless husband in so much trouble.

“So how you doing Susie?”

Already he had annoyed her.

“Not too bad Adrian, yourself?”

“You know me, I’m cool.”

Well yes, she thinks, if you read Connected magazine. The previous month’s edition of the uber-hip publication had named Adrian, “One of the ten most important creative people of today”. The list was comprised of architects, musicians, film people etc. And there was Adrian nestled between people Susanne admired, and ones she had never even heard of. She couldn’t comprehend his presence in the list. She couldn’t stand his films, or at least she couldn’t stand the one and half she’d seen. She thought Edward A Lewis had more vision. The inclusion had inflated Adrian’s already substantial ego. Now it verged on bursting point.

“So, I assume you’ve heard about the English Script,” he says.

Susanne grunted in reply and the young film maker looked a little taken aback.

She realised that she was getting worse and worse at hiding her emotions. Or cared less.

“You should read it, I think there could be a role in there for you.”

“You’re not helming are you?”

“No, not me…but I know the man who is.”

“Oh.”

As he talked to her now she could tell that he was thinking about fucking her. She had never had a conversation with him yet, and not gotten that impression. His eyes couldn’t help but fall upon her leg, which was revealed by the slit in the side of her black Prada dress. She never failed to note, when wearing this dress, that it cost more than the entire history of her mother’s wardrobe.

“Nice shoes…Gucci?”

“Prada.”

Adrian begins to nod at her reply in a meaningful way, as though they had just connected in some way.

 

 

Adrian’s hands tighten on the clean crisp paper.

Jesus, this is fucking stunning. Everything about it is perfect. The pacing, the structure…everything. If far outshines anything he has done previous. Before now he hadn’t even considered Bob to be that good a writer.

This is the best spec script, if not the best script period, he has ever read.

Why can’t he come up with something like this?

He had been feeling pretty pleased with the progress he was making on his own script, until he read this.

[_ _
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[_ _
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* * *

[_ _
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[_ _
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“I don’t know how to put this Bob. But I know you don’t like bullshit, and I know you don’t like falseness, so I’m just going to come right out and say it…”

“You didn’t like it?”

“It’s lousy. I mean there are few good ideas in there, but on the whole,” Adrian pauses to sigh for dramatic effect, “it’s lousy.”

[_ _
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[_ _
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Ultimately though, Edward A. Lewis, wasn’t alone in the house’s gallery of freaks and outcasts. The house’s history was a strange and twisting one. When Susanne had told a girlfriend about the new property she and Michael were thinking of buying (back in the days when her and Michael were still reasonably happy) she had told her a little of the house’s colourful history. Although Edward A Lewis was merely a footnote in this particular version of history, referred to as “some crummy director, you know like the shit they used to show in the Drive-Ins?”

The house had been built in the 20s built by a property tycoon named Harold Steadley, with funds of dubious origin. For reasons that remain unclear he left sometime in the 30s.

The first owner after that was George A Pearmund, an actor who didn’t seem able to put a single foot wrong, in either his choice of roles, or public persona, until he was investigated as a communist. He had neither confirmed or denied the allegations, but decided upon simple silence. Pearmund lost everything, his wife, most of his friends, his work, and his art collection. By all accounts the greatest privately owned collection in Hollywood, if not the whole of California, was scattered to the winds, like the ashes of a deceased love one.

Something that the actor wasn’t known for at the time was his troublesome relationship with his only son. Whilst they quarrelled behind closed doors a happy father son tableaux was created for the gossip rags. This didn’t surprise Susanne in the slightest. This town’s secrets could bury it, if it wasn’t for all its beautiful distractions. Once Susanne had dreamed of the two men arguing in the house, throwing words of anger and reproachment at one another like punches.

Many people had been damaged by red hunts, but no ones life was changed as quickly or fundamentally, as George A Pearmund’s. He ended up nothing more than a tramp and alcoholic. A picture of him appeared in the paper, sometime in the mid-sixties, it showed a long haired, wild eyed George, throwing glass bottles against the sidewalk. Who would have thought that the fifth amendment could do so much damage?

The next owner was not troubled due to his politics but for his art. Joseph Stonheim was a European director wooed, like so many others, to Hollywood. He was promised a degree of artistic freedom that simply did not materialise. Time and again he was said to have clashed with the studio heads. His films were too slow, his imagery too cryptic. One story, that stuck in Susanne’s’ mind was of the head of Columbia’s reaction to one of Stonheim’s’ motifs, that of spheres: “Balls, who gives a shit about balls.”

She’d once mentioned Stonheim to Michael, who prided himself on his “encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema”, and he’d looked at her as if she was telling lies.

It occurred to Susanne that perhaps there was a certain similarity between Stonheim and Edward A. Lewis. Although she was sure that most Stonheim advocates would laugh at the idea. Both were rejected by the establishment because both were too off centre for the mainstream, and even if Lewis didn’t have as much to say about the human condition, his work had also survived the passage of time. To be taken up by a whole new generation of film fans.

The owner before Michael and Susanne had been an egotistical record producer. The only one of the owners, that had not worked in the movies. The groundbreaking producer had had a string of hit pop records, and all the money and attention that went with it.

The stories she had heard abut him were perhaps the most outlandish and unbelievable. He had consumed gargantuan amounts of drugs, and drank inhuman amounts of booze. Even by Hollywood standards he was infamous. Perhaps his greatest addiction was sex, and he’d had a virtual harem in his house, a mixture of fresh faced groupies and high class hookers.

When Susanne looked around the plain white walls of the house, she found it hard to believe that the things she had read about had really happened. But she had no real doubts, and although she wasn’t happy, she felt like this is where she is meant to be.

She tuned into the conversation taking place at the table next to her.

“The problem is, you’re simply not making the films that you should be making. I mean look at the late sixties, early seventies. The B-movies had more to say than the big budget trash you’re producing now. For god knows what sums.”

McKendrick was lecturing some young studio exec who Michael had invited, more because of who his father was than because he wanted him here.

Susanne can tell that the young exec doesn’t now what to make of the scruffy old man before him. Its was like he was wondering if he should even be there. With his pagan jewellery, tie-dyed shirt, and greasy straggle of black, white/grey hair. Hadn’t the Hollywood elite stopped letting these people into their home after the Tate murders?

McKnedrick was drowning his tongue in smoke as he talked. She had never seen anyone take quite so much pleasure in smoking. This was probably due to him having had to give up most of his other vices.

She didn’t know, or really care, which studio the young exec worked for. Just like she no longer cared which studio was turning her down. It was true that there were no good roles for older women in Hollywood, but that was the least of her worries.

“We, or should I say you, need to show another side. Another world view. Do you know much about the Tree People of Irian Jaya?“

When Susanne heard this she had to look at the younger mans face to gage his reaction. A strange expression teetered on the edge of his features, it could go either way, he could frown, or laugh in McKnedrick’s face. In the end he did neither, just cleared his throat and shook his head. For a few moments Susanne entertained the notion that the whole night was worth it just for that moment. But then concluded that it wasn’t, and she’d rather be in bed.

McKendrick went onto to suggest a ‘real time‘, un-subtitled film about the tree people, while the exec was probably thinking about Terminator Four. Susanne thought that perhaps they should combine the two, then everyone would be a winner.

 

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God he loves this job. So much better than the last one.

He’s only been here one day and already he’d been invited to a party. And Marie Antonio was gonna be there.

He looks over the documents on his desk and makes a mental note to buy some primers on screenwriting. All day people have been dropping terms that meant nothing to him. Still, he thinks he has pulled it off, faked it. He was always pretty good at faking. Ever since High School.

Yeah, he was glad to be here. Even if he had thought it was gonna be the other one, the one with the chick with the torch for its logo.

He looks at the script in front of him and makes another mental note: get a dictionary, although not one of those big fuckers that weighs more than his maximum bench press at the gym. He needs one because there are a few words in some of these scripts that he doesn’t know. Not that’s he’s dumb or anything, he finished high school. Even if his father had forced him to.

He decides he’s gonna make some effort this time. For a start he’s actually gonna read the director’s script, the guy made it sound kind of cool in the meeting. Even if he didn’t follow every little point he made.

Plus, when this baby was done his name was gonna be up there on the screen, just as large as the directors. Besides his father was a pretty big honcho here and he’d be pretty pissed if he embarrasses him.

He picks up the bound copy with its transparent plastic cover. Flicks through the pages and then turns to the start.:

[_ _
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Int. Field. Day

[_ _
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Shit, he better check on that too. He’s about to start reading the opening scene when he catches sight of Sally through his office window. Sally is amazing. Great tits, even better legs, tight arse and pretty face. Her nose is a little pointy, but shit, it aint a deal breaker. And he’s heard she’s a slut. Fucked a few guys in the office already, and all of them below him in the company. So if she spits for them she’ll swallow for him. She bends over a desk to talk to someone and the fabric of her dress tightens against her ass.

The plastic cover falls back into place.

[_ _
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[_ _
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He was stood by the edge of the pool, like frozen smoke. She was staring at him when she heard McKendrick shout, and then grunt with pain.

Two men had appeared and McKendrick was on his knees with a bloodied face.

One of the men was large, with a bull like body, and a squared comic book head. He is wearing shades, in spite of the night. He is clad out in designer black from neck to feet. His hair was the same colour as his clothes, she imagined his eyes would not break the trend. His partner was much smaller, but no less dangerous looking. He wore a grey suit with a white silk shirt and no tie.

They looked around and then without a word entered the house through the open glass doors. After a few moments they emerged, the big man with a tight grip on Michael, dragging him towards the pool.

Amy emerged from the house and shouted at them, the smaller man slapped her across the face and pushed her to the ground. The look on her face was both comical and heartbreaking. Susanne doubted that anyone had ever laid a finger on the girl in her entire life prior to this.

The young director retreated, he looked terrified, and Susanne wasn’t surprised by his reaction. McKendrick kept glancing towards the house as if he considering some sort of action. Getting Michael’s gun perhaps. He knew where he kept it.

The big man pushed Michael and he stumbled backwards towards the pool. He then removed a handgun from his jacket.

Small white flashes bloom and disintegrate on the tip of the barrel. Blood jumps from Michael’s body in half a dozen places. He falls into the thin turquoise water, and floats on the surface like a jelly fish. A red aura surrounding him.

A shiver ran down Susanne’s body, filling every part of her. A few stars glinted through the smog.

She never again saw the ghost of Edward A. Lewis.

 

[+ The Redemption Man’s Last Stand+]

 

 

Graham watched Cindy wind her smoky body between the tables. Dropping down drinks and emptying ashtrays, with fluid movements and perfunctory smiles The club had only been open for two hours, but already it was half full. Dark and smoky with a low hum.

Occasionally he lost site of the waitress amidst the tables. You couldn’t see her scar from back here – the knife wound across the upper back – but then some people couldn’t even see it up close. He’d always wanted to know the story behind the scar, but was afraid to ask. This situation was symptomatic of a greater ill, and the reason he admired Cindy from afar.

There was a small mole or beauty spot next to the scar.

He took his eyes off Cindy for a moment, to glance about, and found Michael sat at the bar. Halfway through a bourbon, and alone, as usual. Graham liked Michael, most of the other comics on the circuit didn’t. They felt he’d come up too quick, too far, and didn’t deserve his success. Mike came across as though he couldn’t care less what the other comics thought of him, but Graham knew that this wasn’t true. In fact, Michael struck the slightly older comic as inherently and deeply insecure. There was something quietly desperate about the man.

Michael was usually a fairly up beat kind of guy, but tonight he seemed forlorn, and, from his awkward posture, on edge. Usually he sat there with a half grin perched upon his lips and a few well placed (and superficially charming) one liners for the bar staff. Confident and clear in his place as the current cream of the crop, the headliner of the night. But tonight he came across more like an anxious and nervous first-timer.

Graham made his way over, he knew Michael well enough to join him without giving it a second thought, or asking for permission. He took the vacant stool to his left. In fact, they were the only two men at the bar. Seeing Mike close up it instantly became apparent that he wasn’t merely worried, he was scared.

He expected Michael to respond in some way to his presence, but his eyes barely shifted from his golden, Kentucky whisky.

“You okay there Mike?”

“A man is following me,” Michael usually spoke fast, tonight he spoke slow.

“Come again?! What do you mean?”

“A man, out there in the street, in a black trench coat, he’s been following me all day.”

“Fuck off! Why? He not like your act or something?”

“I’m telling you, this guy has been on my case all fucking day,” Mike wasn’t usually a casual swearer off stage, “First I saw him at my apartment, didn’t think anything of it then. Then at the car park, McDonalds, on the bus…here!” He stopped momentarily to drain the glass and curtly ordered another, before making direct eye contact for the first time, “I’m not paranoid, he really is following me. It’s not like when you think it cause you see some one a few times in the same day, and your little imagination gets all carried away, this is the real deal…I’m telling you.”

His agitation clearly rising by the second, Graham had now dismissed the initial consideration that this might be a part of his new set, or some form of practical joke. Whether the younger man was really being followed or not, clearly something was up.

“Have you got any idea why?”

Mike slammed his fresh drink down with irritation and muttered an expletive.

“What?! I’m just trying to help you mate. You’re acting like I’m supposed to know.”

“Well what do you think?” The question clearly loaded with rhetoricism.

“I have no fucking idea! You pissed anyone off lately?”

“You know it’s the Redemption Man.”

“What?!” Graham laughed a little too loudly, caught off guard.

He stared into the bottles behind the bar for a short spell, seemingly exhausted, seemingly exasperated.

“Are you okay mate, look seriously I’m not sure what this is all about and I don’t know what to make of it…you sure you want to go through with your set tonight?”

“You really don’t know about the Redemption Man?”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Sounds like a straight to video horror flick.”

“Well you’ve been in the game a fair bit longer than me, so I just figured you knew, I, huh, well anyway the Redemption Man,” back to eye contact, “is a delightful little fellow who punishes comics for their sins.”

“What like you make a bad pun, or deliver a lazy ‘pull back and reveal’ and he slices your head off?!”

“Do you wanna know or do you just wanna give me a hard time all night?”

“Can I do both…sorry, sorry, no more jokes, tell me…please.”

“He goes after you if you do something really bad or inappropriate in the pursuit of your comedy dream. This can be on stage or off stage. Just stealing material isn’t going to do it, but stealing material, and winning a gong show with it, whilst the victim of theft is out on the first round, and then you never ‘fess up when challenged, and make the victim look worse, make him into a double victim, then that might get his goat. Or say you go way too far with a heckler, or you victimise some kid in the audience with down syndrome, or spend the entire evening picking on some placid, mousy girl for easy laughs,” he affected an silly American accent before continuing, “then he gonna come a calling.”

“What about off stage? You said he can get you for off stage stuff too.”

“Yeah, now this is a little stranger. Say you steal petrol money from you little old naïve mother, to get to a long distance gig, or you spread viscous and untrue rumours about a rival to get his gigs. That’s an infraction too.”

“So which one of these things did you do Michael?”

He paused to light a cigarette. Graham didn’t even know that he smoked.

“Most of them…and a few others besides.”

 

Four hours later Graham was sat on his one decent chair, drinking a premium beer, smoking a cheap cigarette, and watching an old tape of his favourite stand-up.

And although he appreciated the material on an intellectual level, it didn’t connect with him in the usual way tonight, because his mind was still too busy turning over what Michael had told him at the bar.

Their conversation had terminated shortly after his confession. Graham had had to hit the stage earlier than expected and subsequently hadn’t had time to reconsider his set. He felt bad for this, under-prepared, second rate and lazy. He’d started to take his comedy a lot more seriously these past three months, in lieu of a fuller life.

Michael’s set had gone surprisingly well however, the consummate professional, if you hadn’t been treated to his tale of woe at the bar, it would have been difficult to know anything was wrong at all.

He left immediately after his set finished. Graham had checked for him first, to see if anyone was outside, but the streets were eerily deserted. This wasn’t like Michael, he’d usually hang around to chat and flirt, before disappearing to some club or late bar.

He was still thinking of it now, because he still didn’t know what to make of it. He still wasn’t entirely convinced that it wasn’t some sort of practical joke. There had been a comic on the circuit, a few years back who was utterly notorious for his out of court practical jokes, jokes that had resulted in more than one booker or manager punching him. But Michael wasn’t known for this at all. Michael was known for showing up on time, drinking but always remaining in control, and delivering a polished audience friendly set.

And besides, Graham didn’t think that the man could act that well. If he could he should switch to the theatre with no further delay. He went to pull on his beer and found it empty. He paused the tape, stopping the gnarly old Texan mid flow, and went to the kitchen to retrieve a fresh one. Sitting back down he popped the cap and picked up the remote to unpause the tape.

Something stopped him short. There was something in those eyes, which appeared strangely darker than usual. Something evil and accusatory. Graham felt abruptly unsettled. He stood up to get his mind straight, but it was like one of those old painting where the squire’s eyes were said to follow you around the room.

He felt like there was something on the edge of his mind to feel shame for. But he couldn’t put his finger on this irrational fear.

He stopped the tape and went to bed.

h1={color:#000;}.

He awoke far earlier than usual. On a non work day, following a gig and a night’s drinking, he usually slept effortlessly late. That was not the case, however, this morning. He woke up feeling good and relaxed, but this good vibe was destroyed instantly by remembrance of the night before.

He laid in bed for a while, trying to sleep late, but when he realised that it wasn’t happening he reluctantly rose. Once he got downstairs he was greeted by three letters and a parcel on the door mat. The letters looked routine and unwanted, bills and promotions most likely, but the parcel was an unexpected surprise. He couldn’t recall having ordered anything at all.

He decided to go to the kitchen and fix some coffee, as planned, before cutting open the little box. His mood was lifted slightly by this unexpected gift. He fixed a cafetiere full of coffee and took it, along with an empty mug and a pair of scissors, to the lounge. He sat down, on his one decent chair, and fingered the box. It was small, square and extremely light. Grey in colour. It felt like it must contain one small object in plenty of padding. He used one of the scissor blades to split the masking tape down the centre of the box. He opened it, rummaged through the paper, and found a finger.

It was white, clean, healthy looking, and expertly severed.

He placed it carefully back in the box, put the box on the coffee table and stared into space.

After a few minutes of shocked and confused contemplation he thought of Michael and his head hummed.

He ran upstairs and searched frantically for his mobile phone. He found it in his jeans pocket. He raced through his glowing, purple address book. He wasn’t even sure if he had Michael’s number. He did. He dialled, misstepping the first attempt and having to go again. A perfect, recorded voice informed him that the number had been disconnected. When had he last called the other comic? Never, he realised. He’d given him that number the night they had met, over two years ago, and he’d never called him since. They simply weren’t that close. He had almost certainly changed his number since then. Most people he knew changed their phone at least once a year. He skimmed the menu looking for other people to call. Then he wondered how he could be so certain that it was Michael’s finger. But who else’s could it be? He ran back downstairs and searched the box, emptied it out carefully, looking for something else, anything else, a note, a ring…

All he found was blood stains.

 

He was virtually the only passenger on the bus, and it had just started to rain.

Michael had been successful enough on the circuit to quit his day job as an Insurance Claims Processor, and now only did the occasional bit of regular work, as a plasterer’s mate for his brother in law. He didn’t know exactly where Michael lived, but he knew that he could be found most weekday afternoons having a bite to eat and a couple of drinks (and a couple more probably) at The Red Fox pub in the city centre.

By the time he reached his stop the rain had picked up and Graham hurried to The Red Fox. When he arrived he found it as sparely populated as the bus and swiftly searched the two floors. There was no trace of Michael. This only served to validate his fears further.

He was about to leave, to go over to the club (he had no idea if anyone at all would be there at this time of day) to ask them if they had Michael’s current mobile number, when he spotted an acquaintance at the bar.

Samuel was a mediocre and formulaic comic, with a nice temperament and an easy manner, and in fact seemed to be one of the few guys on the circuit who could stomach Michael. In fact, he was pretty sure that they occasionally drank here together. He happened to turn around just as he was approaching.

“Hey, hey, what you doing here this time of day? You not working?”

“Day off. Have you see Michael Moselli?” he asked a little too abruptly.

“No not for a couple of weeks. Everything okay?”

He didn’t know how to respond to that. The same irrational fear that had prevented him from telling the police about the finger, also stopped him from telling Samuel.

“Although, I did see Tom here about half an hour ago, you know really tall Tom, and he said he saw him last night, near the Corner House, getting into a taxi with a gorgeous brunette. He said she was fit even for Michael,” laughs, “he seemed quite jealous actually, now that I think about it so am I, drinking lone in the pub on a weekday, before it’s even lunchtime. I guess that’s why everyone hates him.”

“Who?!”

“Michael, who do you think?”

“Oh sorry, of course, I’m not with it mate.”

“Unless everyone hates Tom. I’m sure dwarves must hate Tom.”

Graham emitted a phoney laugh, he wanted to open up to Samuel but for various reasons, all of which were hard to explain, he didn’t feel comfortable doing so.

“You don’t have to give me the sympathy laugh mate…the audiences don’t bother.”

This line was met with a genuine laugh.

“You fancy a pint?”

“No, sorry, I gotta speak to Michael about something pretty urgently.”

“Ha! Not like you mate. It’s usually women you’re following around town.”

Graham had no idea why he said that, he hardly had a reputation as a ladies man.

 

He had better luck at the club. He’d been knocking on the staff entrance for several minutes, and was about to leave when a bar maid named Alice answered, looking slightly stressed. He apologised for disturbing her and asked if the manager was about. She said it was just her, that she had to do an extra stock check, and normally he wouldn’t find anyone here. He explained what he wanted and was about to leave a message for the manager, when to his surprise she said she could get him Michael’s number. This was both a surprise and a relief, as he thought there was a good possibility that they would be funny about giving out another comic’s contact details without permission. She had said it was best not to bother the manager today, as he was already in a bad mood, due to Cindy calling in sick again.

She noted it down on a small scrap of paper. Graham took it, thanked her, and left. He thought that she gave him a slightly odd look, as he turned to leave, but instantly put it down to paranoia, brought on by his concern for Michael.

He ran through the rain and across the street to a Costa Coffee. He didn’t really like these types of coffee shops but there wasn’t time to be selective. He took of his now soaked coat, ordered a coffee and took a seat by the window. He wiped of his damp hands with a company serviette and carefully dialled the number Alice had given him

It rang, and rang some more, and on the eighth ring it went to voice mail. He had a split second metal debate as to whether or not to leave a message, and then hung up.

He glanced up and noticed a customer, a middle aged woman, staring at him. Did he look odd? Was he acting weird? He certainly felt anxious. He told himself that he was being silly, that the woman was just looking out of curiosity.

His coffee arrived, sooner than expected. He thanked the pretty, young waitress and dialled a second time.

This time round a woman’s voice answered on the third ring.

“Yep.”

“Eer, can I speak to Michael please?”

“Eer no.”

“What?!”

“You can’t speak to him.”

His stomach burned. The voice was pretty much neutral, and this just made it all the more unnerving.

“Why?”

The woman laughed lightly, and he thought that there may have been a second voice in the background, laughing also, but was uncertain. “ ‘Cause I don’t know who Michael is.”

Graham was confused and really didn’t know how to respond this. He was about to ask why she had his phone in that case, when she hung up. The drone of the dial tone chilled him.

He sipped his coffee, stared out the window, and began to think it over.

It could just be the woman he pulled last night clowning about. Not exactly normal behaviour, but not exactly a criminal offence either. But how had he managed to meet an attractive woman, when he’d been scurrying home like a frightened rabbit.

He didn’t care for the tone of the woman’s voice either, it had a posh, cold quality. But then this could just be a personal prejudice.

Maybe had he simply misdialled? He checked the number in his phone memory against the number on the paper. It matched exactly. So could Alice have given him the wrong number in the first place?

No, somehow he knew this wasn’t true. The woman had answered Michael’s phone.

 

Two days later he was back at the club, staring into a Jack Daniels and trying to slow his racing mind. Why were they doing this? Was it really Michael? And either way, why were they sending the pieces to him?

He’d made a few more enquiries following that afternoon in Costa Coffee and turned up nothing whatsoever. Nobody he had spoken to since had spoken to Michael. But then nobody else was concerned about him either.

That morning another parcel had arrived. This time containing a toe. A Big, fat, chubby toe with a large freckle and a neatly trimmed nail. It had been removed from its respective body as precisely as the finger that preceded it.

He feared another body part in the mail. More than that he feared the consequences of not having informed the police like any sane rational being would have.

He was here now because that evening, just as his anxieties and fears were reaching fever pitch, he had happened upon a message in his inbox. A circular from the club, that just happened to mention that Michael Moselli was headlining their ‘Thursday Night Bargain Madness!’

This brought up so many mixed emotions in Michael he didn’t know how to feel. But, he knew he had to go to the club, and see if Michael Moselli was indeed headlining tonight’s discounted line up. And if so, was he sans a couple of extremities?

So here he was staring into a glass and trying to handle himself with some semblance of normality. He’d started so many conversations with, “Hey, have you seen Michael?” that he worried he was starting to sound like he had a thing for the younger man.

And nobody had seen Michael. And he’d usually have arrived for a gig by this point in the evening, his punctuality just one element of his envied success. He wished that Cindy was here, although even watching Cindy weave her sinewy body amongst the rabble wouldn’t take his mind off things tonight. Opium couldn’t take his mind off things tonight. Apparently she still hadn’t been back and the only thing that was stopping her from being fired was the manager’s inability to speak to her. Cindy had been in trouble at the club for as long as he could remember. Once he’d thought her the victim, now he wondered if he was just blind to the truth. Once he’d obsessed on Cindy as he now did on Michael. But thankfully that obsession had died and her status had been relegated to simply another girl beyond his grasp.

He lifted his drink and began to knock it back in one when he saw a very tall man stood beside him. Before he could even formulate a sentence Tom told him how he had heard that he was looking for Michael and that funnily enough the aforementioned brunette was in tonight’s audience. He asked him to point her out and of course Tom obliged. A strikingly beautiful girl who lived up to her reputation, was perched on the edge of one of the large leather sofas placed near the foot of the stage. Funnily enough Graham had clocked her on his way into the club. But his mind being so pre-occupied he’d just mentally noted her prettiness in a matter of fact way and not given her a second glance or thought. The truth was his libido had been low even before he’d started receiving body parts in the post.

He approached the table she shared with two other girls – one fat, one utterly none descript – and a man who looked vaguely thuggish. He opened by apologising for interrupting them, and then explained that his friend had seen her with another friend, who he was rather desperate to get a hold of. She cut him off mid sentence with a staunch and irritated denial. As soon as she spoke he recognised her clipped, well spoken voice as the one on the phone two days ago. The whole atmosphere of the group was rapidly transformed. It were as though Graham had accused her of doing something obscene or illegal. He’d actually been careful to avoid making it sound as though her relationship with Michael had been sexual (although it almost certainly had been) just in case the thug was her boyfriend. Or just so as not to embarrass her.

But she flared up defensive and confrontational like a tinder stick, and now Graham was fairly taken aback and unsure how to proceed. He knew that he wasn’t willing to leave things like this.

He asked her if they had spoken before and she went from defensive to offensive. Like wise her male companion was beginning to eyeball him, even though he was going out of his way to keep his manner both calm and measured. He did his best not to meet that stare, but he could see the man in his periphery, and eventually succumbed. This was his cue:

“Look mate if she says she doesn’t know your friend then she don’t know your friend, now go away.”

Michael didn’t know how to respond.

He turned back to the girl, who was staring at him in a way that proved beauty was merely skin deep: “Fuck…Off,” she stated calmly but viscously.

He sighed as he walked away. He was angry, scared, confused.

“What the fuck was that all about mate, you usually only offend women like that during your set…what did you say?”

“She told me to ‘fuck off.’ Denies she has ever laid eyes on Michael…she’s lying”

“ Is there something going off with him that people need to know about?”

Graham turned back towards the table. The guy and the other two girls were back deep into their conversation. But the dark haired beauty was looking right at him, with a knowing grin on her face which sent a chill down his spine.

 

This one was much different in shape, flat and wide, as though it most likely housed some form of print or poster. But everything else – the colour, the postmarks, the tape, the handwriting – was exactly the same.

Was his torturer sending him a photograph this time, showing him what Michael looked like without his fingers and toes. He slit it open, carefully, and turned the flaps to the side. He then removed a sheet of tracing paper.

Underneath was a flap of skin, cut straight and square and attached to a small wooden frame with nails. It was like a demented canvas. The picture upon this particular canvas was an abstract piece – a dividing line of cicatrix. As though a mad and frustrated artist had slashed it with a knife. A lone mole orbited the abstract structure like a moon.

Michael remembered all the accusatory eyes which had tracked him for the past week, and vomited over his hands.

 

 

The Uncertainty Principle

 

 

Hopkins placed the seven horns on the seventh head. His milk white hands causing the crown to shake like a forest swaying in a haunted breeze, as if the trees of bone were bewitched by wood spirits. The roots of the goat’s horns gently pierced the grey worm like flesh. The little girl’s eyes slammed back into her skull as her small lips trembled. The veins strained under her skin, pushing at the surface. Her head flopped down, the ventriloquist’s dummy without the ventriloquist. He forced open the eyelids to examine the eyes. He prayed for a black star, the corrupted eye of the goat, but they stubbornly remained their pale and watery blue.

Just like her six little sisters before her.

 

He ascended the stairs on auto pilot, leaving the sound proofed basement behind. In the kitchen he sat at an old wooden table, and with the blood still upon his hands, filled another tall glass with wine. A triangle of grainy yellow light lay across him, projected by a dirty window. He drew the decomposed fruit flesh across his tongue and tried to think. He must be doing something wrong. Their brain chemistry couldn’t be that dissimilar. As he considered the calibrations of the execution machine, he stared out of the window and into a gun smoke sky. At some point whilst he was below the house it had begun to rain, and now a luminous green caterpillar cavorted on the edge of a damp and torn leaf.

 

He cast his mind back to his college days. To Professor Lewis’ Tuesday morning lectures. The things he’d learned there about unstable matter and the time paradox had changed everything. And then a classmate turned him onto Young’s Double Split experiment, and within the week he was obsessed by the British polymath.

These new ideas, and the alternative philosophies their garden side paths sometimes led him down, irreversibly shifted his moral perspective and world view. If an object, an entity, could be in two places at once, then…well then rules of conduct had changed and he would no longer be weighed down by his life long guilt. Particles and waves having replaced the body and soul that was never there to begin with.

 

This new world was a lonely place, but he’d come to accept that years back.

In the phantom show where they said the flesh lay, he saw only shadow chaos, merely tedious systems and processes. The man pushed the cart, the woman gave birth, the bees hummed around the hive and the sun sank from the heavens and rose in the icy depths.

 

He stood up and stepped towards the window to get a closer look at the caterpillar. Its tiny body convulsed and truncated, its flesh so willing to adjust. Why did some matter stretch and some simply snap? Why do the girl-child’s brains short circuit before they can touch the heavens…and open the door.

 

He remembers his father’s words in that far away garden of childhood, as he had explained the differences between insects and arachnids; ever the amateur entomologist. The younger Hopkins had interrupted to quote Mr Saunders’ recent classroom assertion that moths sometimes had to be killed off to protect silk farms and that this was right, because surely silk was more beautiful than a moth.

His father’s dark eyes were caught by something in the distance, over the hedges, and seemingly absent mindedly he crushed the vessel of the ladybug – which he had seemed to show nothing but the greatest care and admiration for only moments ago – into an obsidian smear.

“Never listen to your elders Jonathan, or most of your peers for that matter. They are fools in a fools’ kingdom. They will never know that they have everything they prayed for, and they will only taste the meals prepared for them…you must taste the sacrament of the flesh.”

 

But his father had had so many strange ways – always mixed truth and lies like nuts and berries, and would sometimes spend entire afternoons smoking his pipe and staring at his collection of antique ivory, and was believed by his enemies, as well as the vast majority of friends, to be insane – that it was hard to detect where his passion ended and his vindictiveness began.

 

As the years passed and his father’s assertions became more outlandish, and his colleagues grew more sceptical, he eventually lost his tenure. With the loss of status came the acquisition of a drug habit. A viscous, yet indifferent addiction to a meth amphetamine analogue, ironically synthesised by one of his biggest critics.

As his skin drained and his gait inflamed, he saw the way his father’s eyes cracked, cracked and filled with dirty mud. For years he’d mistaken his mother’s departure for the catalyst. But then he realised, sadly, that it went further back, much further back, before childhood, beyond inception even, to something that nobody had any control of.

 

There were lost sharks beneath those murky brown irises, there were dark thoughts in the heart of that mind, and they were born in ancient matter, and carried forth by waves of radiation.

 

He drained the wine dead, scrubbed the caking blood from the ridges of his skin, and spooned strong coffee into a dirty filter. As the percolator murmured into life he reflected upon the man he had seen in the street yesterday morning. He had lingered, like a split ghost, three doors down, where the lady with the egg shaped head lived. He had been stick thin and dressed in brown. Hopkins had never seen him before, and was certain he was not a neighbour, but then…who were his neighbours? He couldn’t recall the last time he had interacted with any of them.

 

  • * *

 

He was troubled by phone calls in the night, which he comprehended, frightfully, somewhere between his dreams. The ring was strangled and the sounds which came through the receiver infected and sore. Alien. He had ciphered these sounds in so many ways, but knows in his heart of hearts that it is Manvers. The ironically named creature who had come through the rift and escaped the confines of the basement.

 

Usually he would dispatch them there and then in the basement. Had even implemented a system for the task; a do it yourself mini-gun – compressed air dispatching a squadron of dum dum bullets. Instant death from the other side of the looking glass. He’d procured the hardware from licensed online weapons vendors, the necessary polymers from his university contacts, and his knowledge of ballistics from magazines.

The bullets were home made – he’d bought several boxes of .44 slugs from the local hardware store, and then simply cut crosses into the tips. He’d seen it done in an action movie, during one of his failed nights in front of the television.

But Manvers had escaped into the blue world before such a system had even been conceived of. And he worried that the ‘man’ may be mistaking Hopkins’ world for something that it wasn’t.

 

He remembered the first time something had come through the rift, triggered by the death of the second girl. Obviously he had always known the transmittance of particle and matter clusters was possible, desired even, but he was never really mentally prepared for the stuff of science fiction, for the labyrinthine daemons that populated the minds of cult authors.

 

The rift had opened, a blurry blue electrical cat’s eye, approximately a foot in length, shifting and convulsing, yonic. Its exact dimensions and placement hard to determine. Perhaps slightly smaller than the first time. The interior jet black and flat, without depth, a slab of granite in a crystal, clear pool.

A primal hissing sound filled the stolid vacuum of the basement.

It was as though the cat’s eye was simultaneously pushing air outward and pulling it in. The transmutation in air certainly stronger than the first time. His body juddered, electrical streaks ran through him. His cock stiffened. But no sooner could he concentrate on the sexual arousal than his thoughts slammed into his heart and pulled him back into his head. He became dizzy and realised he was losing consciousness, needed to pull himself back and observe the cosmic and fundamental results of his unholy experiment.

 

It appeared to crawl out in slow motion, with missing frames and juddering depths, it glowed and shook. Humanoid in frame, but with black holes where eyes should lie and arms bent the wrong way at the elbow. Forming arachnid type limbs ending in glassy talons which struck the dusty concrete of the basement floor like a death rattle.

 

Its dog like muzzle snapped open to reveal jutted, partially formed teeth which shined like silver. A mercury tongue sloshed around wet and hard.

 

It emitted an eardrum piercing banshee cry. Then it moved unexpectedly fast, first sideways like a crab, and then diagonally into Hopkins, knocking him on his rear as it went. It slammed into a filling cabinet before quickly retreating up the stair case. Its talons went to work on the locked and reinforced door in a super fast slicing motion. Piercing and shredding wood and steel.

 

He frantically searched for a weapon of some form. Wondered about the physical durability of the creature. A thousand questions and no time for fear.

He admonished himself for not having taken even basic precautions in this department. After all, a plethora of lethal hardware was available without license at the local mall. Half his neighbours possessed guns for Christ’s sake!

 

It made light work of the door and was soon in the kitchen. Hopkins followed without even thinking about it.

 

It pinned him against the ancient kitchen counter and emitted a foul stench upon his face. He noticed at this close range something which had eluded him previously, a twisted third eye, a vulvate opening of the creature’s oversized cranium.

It pinned him to the wall with one of its giant talons, with a force that whispered of strength.

He reached for a butcher’s knife, knocking over the wooden holder in the process.

He stabbed the creature multiple times in the upper abdomen – a grey nippleless expanse of muscle and bone.

For just a moment they locked eyes, and in an instant dark secrets of the universe were revealed, like lone stars of forgotten truths drifting through deep space.

***

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The Secret Purpose Of Bones

The Uncertainty Principle: A man who has never fit; a maverick scientist with an obsession and a deadly need to ascend… Somewhere Between Heaven and Mulholland: A troubled and disillusioned actress is haunted by the ghost of a director… The Redemption Man: A struggling stand up fears for the safety of a friend who believes he is being hunted by the mythical Redemption Man… The Secret Purpose of Bones: If her family, friends and neighbours are allowed their secrets, why she is not allowed her own? This is the life shattering question Carol asks herself one night, alone, waiting for her missing family to return… Howling at the stars on the wrong side of the border: In Mexico anything can happen, and be easily hidden in the shadows, until the truth washes up bruised and bleeding on the shores of home… Cold Candles: The Infinite Melancholy of Malcolm Manvers: Malcolm is middle aged middlebrow and beaten down. Passed over and pecked upon. Until one dark stormy night confronts him with the realities of his conceit… Leather Sweets: The lives of a heartbroken Sheriff, an independent young woman and a psychotic loner collide in death and light in the backwaters of the rural American south… The Son Of Perdition: A burn out hitman awaits death in a cheap motel room. The reaper is certain, his form is anything but… The Little Girl Who Loved Worms: A mysterious outsider looks on from the shadows, as a tragic young girl is held prisoner by the depravities of her family…

  • Author: Victor Malone
  • Published: 2016-07-26 17:20:10
  • Words: 52994
The Secret Purpose Of Bones The Secret Purpose Of Bones