Monday 31 July 2023

Let the Good Times Roll by S.Nadja Zajdman, a glass of vintage wine

In the middle of this month I attended a rock’n’ roll concert in a local park.  After three years of restrictions, it was a pleasure to mingle with people who were fully enjoying themselves.  What was wonderful was the air.  It was fresh.  Almost soft, the way air should feel on a summer evening.  The sky was blue, with white clouds in it.  There was a breeze.  After weeks of wildfires and heatwaves, on the eve of a near-tornado, this evening’s air felt like a whiff of an old perfume. 

            The band performing was called Vintage Wine.  This band has been coming to my neighbourhood every summer for years.  The baby of the band was forty-four years old.  The other band members were in their sixties, and even in their seventies.  At one point they belted out The Stones’ I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, though they didn’t dare attempt Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy. 

            The majority of the audience was of the same generation.  So were the neighbourhood V cops (volunteer cops) who, on this evening in the park, were mostly female.  Identifiable by their bright orange and yellow vests, they bopped along the park paths in time to the music.  One gray-haired little V cop erupted into a full-blown dance.  And she was good!  They were couples rockin’ and rollin’.  Women on their own shimmied with each other.  During a 1950s' slow number, an elderly couple entwined and swayed in a locked embrace.  Those who came by car—the park’s parking lot was full, and cars lined the streets, too—brought and set up canvas chairs.  I stood under and against a tree bathed in a setting sun.  When I got tired of standing—and bopping—I headed further into the park and sat on a bench in front of fountains, watching children frolic and splash among the spouts.  People smiled at each other, and a few smiled at me.  When I returned to a spot close to the bandstand, one of the V cops engaged me in conversation.  “You look like you’re enjoying yourself.”  She noticed.  What a pre-pandemic thing to say and do. 

            One young woman was filming the concert with her phone.  I don’t understand this.  One can find everything on YouTube these days, so why not just show up and enjoy the moment?  Another young woman asked a V cop for directions to the bar.  There was no bar.  “But it’s called Vintage Wine!”    

            At the end of the concert the local mayor and his wife glided up a path like a pair of swans.  They deigned to the crowd as though they were Charles and Camilla.

            All in all, a good time was had by all.  May there be more to come.

About the author 

S. Nadja Zajdman is a Canadian author. Her memoir I Want You To Be Free, as well as her story collection The Memory Keeper were published in 2022. Zajdman's third book, Daddy's Remains, is scheduled for publication at Christmas of 2023. 

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Sunday 30 July 2023

Sunday Serial: The House of Clementine by Gill James, orange juice,


Rozia’s Ulog

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update. I'm sorry it’s been so long.  I'm not sure where the time went. 

We quickly got used to life back on Terrestra. It was almost as if we've never been away. Except of course Terrestra had moved on too and we've been living somewhere quite different. We took one of the refurbished former Z Zone underground apartments. They're almost unrecognisable and really luxurious now. Each has its own piece of cultivated land above ground level and we've actually managed to grow some fruit and vegetables. Being underground was better for Petri and we could go up on to the surface to deal with the garden at night. Some people thought we were a bit strange until we explained about Petri's illness.

"So why didn't you stay on Zandra?" they asked.

They couldn't grasp how difficult it had become there for outsiders like us. Surprisingly, Terrestrans have become really tolerant. Who'd have thought it? They accepted us anyway.

I managed to get work as a research assistant and rarely had to go to meets. I've been looking into super-crop growing. It's all so easy on Terrestra. Since the poison cloud went the planet has become really fertile again.

Petri enjoyed her schooling. She even managed to get to the meets and got to know the other kids. The medication isn't too bad here. They were able to give her enough to allow her a few hours in daylight without getting too uncomfortable.

At first we communicated with Kaleem quite a bit. I always made sure he could see I was wearing the brooch. In fact I never take it off - even though it's quite annoying when Petri keeps asking when we're going to get attached. It got really awkward though. He could never say much about what he's doing. I told him a little bit about my work and how Petri's doing. I've explained about the changes on Terrestra. Then there didn't seem anything more to talk about.

I was almost afraid of saying too much. I wanted to tell him how much I missed him. I'd have come back to Zandra in a heartbeat if he'd asked me. I just didn't dare say it, though. I had no idea what he was thinking. He looked so sad all the time and he was quite quiet. Can the Peace Child ever have a permanent attachment?

It became really worrying when he was tried and then confined on Zenoto. I'm sure they were listening in to all of our conversations. Perhaps that was why he didn't say much. I suppose also as he couldn't get out often he hadn't really got a lot to talk about.

He did tell me about some of the things that were going on on Zenoto. It was changing. The Zenotons were trusting each other less. It used to be almost like paradise. Now they were ready to stab each other in the back. It was no longer the Zenoto we all knew and respected. It had become like any other planet. Worse than many, in fact.

Then of course he had to go and disappear. Typical Peace Child trick. I tried to tell myself this was a good reason why I should give up all thoughts of ever being with him again. I should try and make my life on Terrestra really work.

Petri, of course, saw through me.

"You should track him down. Find out where he's got to. Let him know what you're thinking."

I always have to do what Petri says. She is so wise.

I got in touch with Nazaret and Marijam. They hadn't heard anything either and Marijam was clearly as worried as I was. Nazaret was more pragmatic, though. "Peace Child stuff again. You know what it's like. Anyway, no news is good news. We would have heard if anything bad had happened."

Then we did hear. He had been found. He was well. He had reconciled two opposing parties again. The threat was gone.

"You should get in touch," said Nazaret. "He'll be pleased. But he'll be shy about making the first move."

"Go on then. Do it," said Petri as soon as we finished the communication.

Well it took me a couple of days to get round to it.

He seemed shy at first, it was true. But as soon as I saw him I knew I wanted to be with him again. I think he wanted that too though he only told me in a roundabout way. It was all sorted, he said. Zenoto and Zandra would go back to the way they had been. The discontent was over. Trust would soon come back. "It would be safe again here for you and Petri," he'd said. "Will you come back?"

"I'll think about it," I said.

"There's nothing to think about," said Petri after Kaleem had disappeared from the screen. She was right, there wasn't.

Two days later I contacted him again and told him we would be back on Zandra as soon as possible.                                   

We had to wait weeks before we could get a place on a supercraft, even with Kaleem paying. But we're off tomorrow. We're a little scared after what happened on the way here and I'm still a bit apprehensive about being with Kaleem again but it seems like the right thing to do. Yes, I'm sure it is.

My next post will be from Zandra!   



Kaleem bit his nails as he waited at the supercraft docking station. It was busy today. Trade was working well within the One World Community now. Zenotons had become frequent visitors as they came to teach the Zandrians the mechanics of the non-monetary trade system. Zandrians were eager to learn. It had taken Rozia and Petri a while to secure their place on a supercraft. Terrestrans were finding a new lust for interplanetary travel.

At least they’d been in touch. Petri was excited about coming back. And every time Kaleem had spoken to Rozia she had been wearing her brooch. A good sign perhaps. But what would it be like when they got there? Would they be awkward with each other?

A Zenoton craft had docked just a few minutes before and its passengers were making their way into the waiting area. They had that confused look that all supercraft travellers had on arrival: they were bemused by the slight change in gravitational pull and the difference in air make up. Plus these seemed not to be seasoned travellers.

An attached couple fumbled clumsily. Oh come on. Why couldn’t they get this hall cleared faster? 

They wouldn’t let Rozia’s supercraft disembark until these people were out of the building. Their supercraft had left the stand and he could see Rozia’s hovering a little way away.

As the Zenotons made their way to the exit, the supercraft from Terrestra glided nearer. They always looked like huge whales as they moved gently into place. This one was moving a little too slowly, though, for his liking. It took several minutes that seemed like hours for it to finish docking, for the doors to open and the passengers to start making their way along the corridors. He watched the video hoping that they would appear any moment. What seemed like thousands of Terrestrans and a few Zandrians filed by. No sign of them. Had they changed their minds?

 Of course not. He shouldn’t be so silly. They’d spoken to him from the supercraft only two days ago. They’d been excited about getting here then. But what if they’d now decided to stay on the craft and return to Terrestra on her?

He bit his lip anxiously as the passengers carried on filing past.

Still no sign of them but then he spotted somebody he did know. It was so clear now why they had cast Karlo Dunston as him in the film. They did look quite alike. Especially today.

Karlo made his way over to Kaleem. He offered him a Terrestran handshake. “Howdy, alter-ego.” He nodded. “Love the eye shadow.”

Oh goodness. He’d almost forgotten about that. What would Rozia and Petri make of it? But they’d seen it and not commented. How strange.

Karlo rubbed Kaleem’s shoulder. “I was thinking of doing something similar. Being a bit snazzier. Seeing you like this gives me permission somehow.”

“So, what took you to Terrestra?”

“Family matters. Plus I fancied the trip.”

“Family matters?” Kaleem had always thought he was the only Terrestran / Zandrian hybrid.

Karlo laughed. “Bro, your father wasn’t the only one to sow a few wild oats.”

He wasn’t? “So were you…?”

“No, no. I was developed in a tube. But note my name begins with ‘K’!” He tapped the side of his nose. “Terrestra wasn’t as isolated as it thought it was. There were more visitors than you’d imagine.”

What? Was this Hidden Information?     

 Then he saw them.

They walked slowly past the camera. Petri was skipping ahead and then running back to Rozia. Petri waved up at the camera. Of course she’d figured out that he would be watching them arrive. In just a few minutes they would be with him.

“You must excuse me,” he murmured to Karlo. ”I can see my visitors.”

Karlo nodded. “Catch up some time then?”

They shook hands again and Kaleem returned to looking at the screens.   

Then there they were, at the barrier. Petri rushed forward and flung her arms round him.

“You’re looking good,” Kaleem whispered. He looked over her head towards Rozia who was clearly holding back. She was smiling though and then she started walking slowly towards him.

Petri was now dancing around him. “We’ve come back for ever, you know. Rozia says if you’ll have us. You will have us, won’t you?” 

“Of course I will. You know that, surely.”

Rozia was almost there. He could see that she was wearing the brooch. She was grinning now.

“Welcome home,” he said, when she was finally standing right next to him.  

She nodded and pulled him into an embrace.   


Saturday 29 July 2023

Saturday Sample: Devils, Demons and Werewolves , As If, Bulls Blood

Closing the book on its final page, I stared at the cover. “As if!” I said, and threw it over my shoulder in disgust. 

My flat-mate, Sue, caught it as she walked past. She glanced at the title and started laughing. “So, Caro, this is what you’ve been so secretive about reading. As if, indeed.” 

 I would have blushed, if that was possible for me, anymore. “I was just curious… but as if a vampire could fall in love with a human and get a happily ever after.” 

Sue was nodding. “And all that stuff about skin sparkling like diamonds in the sun.” 

I grinned. Looked like Sue had succumbed and read it, too. “Yeah. The most that can be said for us is we’re pale and interesting – in any light.” 

Sue threw the book back to me and I caught it easily, crushing it in my fingers until it was almost powder. Still, it had been nice to dream. All the male vampires I knew were so blokey and only really interested in where their next meal was coming from, if you know what I mean. The idea, just for a second, that perhaps I could find a nice human boyfriend, that there was some loophole I hadn’t thought of, had given me something to look forward to for the first time in decades. Now, that hope was gone. 

“I’m off out,” said Sue, patting her stomach. “Dinnertime. Want me to bring you a snack back.” 

I looked up, worried she was serious, but saw the glint in her eye. I smiled. “I’ve already eaten.” 

She looked surprised, but skipped out with a wave, leaving me to clean up the mess from my destroyed book and flip through the TV channels. 

Vampire Diaries… True Blood… Being Human… Twilight… I rolled my eyes. The whole world had gone 8 vampire mad, which was fine unless you were one. Which I was. Sue, too. 

I may have looked 18, but I was nearer 70, if my math was correct. As to how I became one of the immortals, I had no idea. Sue had found me unconscious in a London alleyway and presumed I’d been someone’s dinner, but they’d been interrupted. She recognised the signs, took me home and kept me. 

She was sort of a big sister/mother rolled into one and we rubbed along pretty well together. The only thing we really disagreed on was dinner. I ate as infrequently as possible and then picked my meals carefully – the already dying, the murderers among us. Sue ate whenever and whoever she felt like. Recently, I’d tried an animal-only diet, and that wasn’t working out too badly although bizarrely, it made me feel a bit sick. 

It had its benefits, however. Take next-door’s dog, for example. Wouldn’t be driving anyone crazy barking half the night again. We’d tried talking to the neighbour about it, but got nowhere, which was unusual for us. People usually listened – some sort of inbuilt preservation mechanism. I could only think it was because said neighbour was elderly, deaf and didn’t see too good. In fact, I’d probably done the poor animal a favour. I think the old guy forgot to feed it half the time and I never remember it being taken for a walk. But I protest too much. Guilty conscience, maybe? 

Clicking off the television I sighed. I was bored – about as bored as you could be with eternity to fill. I’d taken to vampirism remarkably well, Sue had said, which I thought had something to do with having no memory of my human life. In fact, I’d quite enjoyed the first 30 or 40 years, but then it had all taken on a sameness. The only friends I had were other vampires, mostly the same ones, 9 who never changed, never aged. Sure, Sue and I moved around every five years or so, before people started getting suspicious, but it was only the location that changed. I’d been bored – and let’s face it, lonely – for decades. 

“Nothing’s ever going to change,” I murmured and wished I could just have a good cry, but I couldn’t. 

And then there was a knock at the door. I sniffed: human. Probably selling something, but it was a break in the monotony and I could always have fun scaring him. 

He had his back to me when I opened the door, but turned around at the sound, the smile on his face faltering slightly. We had that effect on people. They could tell something wasn’t quite right, but not what. I mean, how would you guess, although with all those vampire shows now, surely it would only be a matter of time. “I’m sorry to bother you,” he said, “but we’ve received a complaint about animal cruelty – your neighbour’s dog. And now, well, it seems to have gone missing. I wondered if you’d heard or seen anything.” 

For a moment, I thought he was joking, that Sue had put him up to this, but then I took in his uniform, with its RSPCA tags and realised exactly who “we” were. I also realised he was gorgeous – spiky blond hair, green eyes… I shivered. I wanted to eat him all up – quite literally. 

I licked my lips and he looked startled. Were my feelings really that obvious? 

Smiling brightly, I shook my head. “The dog did bark a lot and I don’t think I ever saw it taken for a walk. But missing, you say. How sad.” I held out my hand. “I’m Caro.” 

He took my hand and squeezed it, letting go quickly. It was pretty cold, after all. “Greg,” he said and then pulled a card from his pocket. “Here’s my number. If you do hear anything, or the dog comes back, please call me.” 

Then he turned and walked away, casting one curious glance over his shoulder at me. It took every ounce of self control I had to let him go. 

Sighing, I closed the door and went back to the TV. I almost wished I hadn’t destroyed that book – maybe there were some hints in there about a making a vampire/human romance work that I’d missed. 

“Why the long face?” asked Sue, when she came back a couple of hours later.

 I pouted. “Nobody loves me.” 

“Of course, they don’t,” she said, flopping down next to me on the sofa. “You’re a vampire. You’re not supposed to be lovable.” 

“I don’t care what I’m supposed to be. I want to be loved. I want a boyfriend, I want…” 

“You want to stop reading those books – they’ve only put silly ideas into your head.” 

I stared at my hands, all white and unnaturally smooth. “Is it silly to want to be loved, then?” 

Sue sighed. “No, Caro, it’s not. But it doesn’t work that way for us, not any more. Believe me, I know. I used to be like you, but I tried the whole romance thing and it just didn’t work out.” “You did?” 

She nodded. “At first, I stuck to our own kind – other vampires – but none of them wanted to be tied down. More than a few weeks in one place and they got itchy feet. So, I tried finding a human partner. I thought, if I fell in love, I could change him…” 

I knew Sue’s self-control around humans still wasn’t what it should be and said as much. 

“I know, I know. First, I tried meeting people through the personal ads – this was before the Internet. I got to write and talk to them first. I thought perhaps if I 11 knew them as a person, I wouldn’t be tempted to – well – you know. Hopeless, though. Remember those headlines in the papers 40 years back – Dates with Death and Dying to be Loved – and the killer they were calling The Loveline Murderess? That was me.” 

I screwed up my eyes, trying to remember. “Ah,” I nodded. “That’s why we had to move so quickly – and so far.” 

Sue nodded. “I left it alone for while – but then I saw this article on speed dating.” 

 I laughed. “You didn’t!” “

I did. Quite a few times, actually. It turned out to be a great way to pick a lunch date. All that choice – and I could just take the tastiest…” I shuddered. “So you gave up.” “I did. Because that time the papers were calling me the Quick Killer, although I don’t recall being too quick about it.” She smiled and I shuddered. “But,” she added, putting her arm around me, “that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go. You’re different to me. More controlled.” 

“I don’t think I fancy speed-dating, thanks very much.” 

Sue shrugged and stood up. “I believe the Internet is the way to go these days. Come on, I’ll help you write your profile.” 

It took two hours to come up with something I was happy with. Sue had rattled off one straight away. “Pale and mysterious ageless beauty on the hunt for a delicious date. Send me a message – I guarantee you’ll be dying to meet me.” 

I’d deleted it and instead typed in, “Camera-shy (despite the changed perception, we didn’t show up in photos) 18-year-old (still), tall, slim with chestnut hair and matching eyes (thanks to contact lenses) looking for romance with an 18-24-year-old male.”  

I added a few more details – likes and dislikes, that sort of thing – and loaded it onto the Lurve-lines website. Now, all I had to do was sit back and wait… 

I didn’t actually get that many replies – not from the 18-24 age group, anyway. Sue said it was because most of them used the more conventional ways – pubs and clubs – to meet someone. I thought it was more probably because there was no photo, so everyone automatically assumed I was ugly. I had older men try their luck – more interested in my age than looks – but deleted their messages. And then there he was. Lucas. His message started by apologising for being 25 and a year outside my limit, plus being technologically challenged meant he couldn’t seem to upload a photo, so he guessed we’d have to have a true blind date. 

 I replied and we started emailing. A week later, we arranged that date at a local pub. 

“I’m coming with you,” said Sue as I was getting ready. “Just in case.” 

I laughed. “Just in case what? I’m a vampire. If anything, he’s the one who needs a bodyguard.” 

Sue sniffed. “I’ll be discreet. Sit at another table.” 

“Absolutely not.” 

She sighed. “I’ll wait up then and you can tell me all about it.” 

 Given that we never slept, waiting up didn’t really come into it, but I nodded. If it made her happy… 

We’d agreed to each carry a red rose – all very 1930s romance movie – and I gripped mine harder than strictly necessary, the thorns digging in, but not making me bleed. It was a warm summer evening and we’d arranged to meet in the beer garden – much quieter and easier to talk. 

I relaxed when I saw he’d actually come, and I wouldn’t have to go through the humiliation of being stood up. He was sitting with his back to me, but I could 13 see him turning the rose over and over in his hands. I didn’t need to breath and now stopped, just in case he smelt too tasty. I tried to be good, but you never knew. 

“Lucas?” I asked, walking around in front of him. He looked up, startled, and then smiled. If I’d still had a heart, it would have flipped. He had warm brown eyes and floppy hair to match, both of which made him look a bit like a Spaniel. 

“Caro. Wow. I have no idea why you would be camera shy.” 

"Charmer,” I laughed, sliding into the seat opposite him. He grinned and an honest-to-goodness dimple appeared in his left cheek. 

“I’ll get us some drinks – what’s your poison?” 

As I couldn’t ask for a pint of blood, it didn’t really matter what I ordered as I wouldn’t drink it, so I opted for a mineral water. Might as well be a cheap date. 

I watched him walk into the pub, hardly daring to believe my luck. He moved easily, with long loping strides, totally unhurried. I allowed myself to “breathe” while he was away, but stopped as he came back. 

His hand brushed mine when I took my drink, but the glass was cold and he didn’t notice my hand was, too. 

e talked about anything and everything, leaning closer together across the table as the evening progressed. I still refused to “breathe” just knowing he would smell as wonderful as he looked. All too soon, the pub was closing and we walked together to the street, our arms touching. He stopped and smiled. “I think we should do this again – soon.” 

“Absolutely.” I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. He bent his head to mine and brushed his lips against my cheek. When he frowned, I sighed inwardly. Too cold. He’d noticed I was too cold. 

“Something wrong?” I managed. 

“No… you just smell… different.” 


He laughed. “That didn’t come out right. Not in a bad way. Just… different.” 

He kissed me again. “I’ll call you,” he said and I was about to nod, when Sue appeared like lightning from nowhere and pushed me behind her. 

“No you won’t,” she hissed. “You animal!” 

 I shoved her aside, horrified. “Sue, are you mad? He’s barely touched me.” 

“And that’s the way it’s going to stay.” 

 Lucas looked from me to Sue, totally bewildered.

 “You’re not breathing, are you?” Sue spat. 

 Now, I was terrified. What on earth was she doing? 

She spun round to face me. “Breathe.” 

 I’d never seen her so angry and, scared of what she might do, I breathed. And that was when the smell hit me. I looked at Lucas over her shoulder and mouthed one word: Werewolf. 

I watched the colour drain from his face and one look at Sue told me why. Her eyes were blazing red, the venom destroying the blue contact lens and her lips were pulled back in a snarl. “But you’re a myth,” he whispered. 

“And you aren’t?” Sue spat back, before slinging me over her shoulder and breaking into a run. We were four blocks away in seconds and it was only my pounding on her back that stopped her. 

“Put me down!” I yelled. “What do you think you’re doing?” 

 “Saving your arse, Caro. Vampires and werewolves don’t mix.” 

I glared at her. “And you don’t think I’m capable of making that decision for myself?” I demanded. 

“Frankly, no,” she said. “I want you to promise not to have anything to do with that thing again.” 

I laughed, but there was no humour in it. “And you think he’d want to go out with me again after what you just did.” 

Sue smiled. “Guess not.” Her eyes were still glowing red and she licked her lips. “All this confrontation has made me hungry. I’ll see you later.” 

 She was gone in the blink of an eye and I walked slowly home. A werewolf, and I hadn’t even noticed. But then, why should I? I’d never come across one before. 

I spent the night surfing the Internet searching for werewolf legends and it did seem that was exactly what they were – a legend. Only I knew better and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Lucas. If what the myths said were true, he’d become a werewolf after being attacked by one and every full moon would change from his human form into a terrible beast. I sighed. Whereas I, well I was a terrible beast all the time – much as I tried not to be. 

“What did I do to deserve this life – or half-life,” I murmured. Eventually, as the sun began to rise, I checked my email. Amazingly, there was one from Lucas. 

Not sure what to expect, I opened it. “I don’t care,” he’d written, and signed off, “From one myth to another.” 

I thought about it for all of one second before writing my reply. “Neither do I.” 

The response was immediate. “Breakfast – the little café by the river.” 

“Half an hour?” I typed back and was already quitting and heading for the door, keen to make my escape before Sue came home. 

He was waiting for me, a takeaway coffee cup in one hand and muffin in the other. 

 I allowed myself to breath and found he didn’t smell too bad. In fact, because he didn’t smell “human”, it made it easy to resist taking a nibble. 

“Let’s walk,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d want to sit and watch me eat.” 

“Very considerate,” I said, smiling at him. We set off along the riverbank, our arms touching occasionally, but saying nothing. When we came to a bench, Lucas sat, and pulled me down next to him. 

Taking my cold, pale hands he covered them with his large warm ones. “Is this too hot?” he asked, after a minute. 

 I shook my head. “No. Am I too cold?” 

“You,” he said, raising my hands to his lips and kissing them, “feel wonderful.” 

“How long have you been a…” I hesitated. “Werewolf?” he finished for me. “Much too long. So long, that I remember no other life. And you?” 

I sighed. “The same.” 

He pulled me closer, tucked me under his arm. His warmth felt wonderful. “It’s a lonely life.” I nodded and he glanced at me. “Although you have scary Sue.” I smiled. “She is a bit protective.” 

Lucas nodded. “And how do you think she’d feel if we kept seeing each other?” 

“She wouldn’t allow it.” My voice was flat. 

Lucas turned my head and kissed me on the lips. “The very heat of him burned into my body, breathing life where I’d thought it no longer existed. I responded fiercely, wrapping my hands in his hair and pulling his mouth harder onto mine. If he’d been merely human, I would have broken him with my strength. We separated, both gasping. For the first time in decades, I felt hot. Whatever it was that made him a werewolf seemed to cancel out my vampireness. I wondered if he felt the same. He did. “We’ll have to go away,” he said, “somewhere no-one knows us.” 

I laughed at the thought of it. “We could be like a proper couple, living together, looking out for each other.” 

He nodded. “But do you know what you’re taking on? When I change, well… I couldn’t stand to hurt you.” 

I took his face in my hands and smothered him in kisses. “I don’t think you could. I’m pretty much unbreakable.” And my lips found his again. 

Sue, of course, was angry, then worried, then sceptical when I broke the news. “As if that will work,” she said. “Love just isn’t for us. You’re not living some trashy vampire romance novel, you know.” 

“I know,” I told her. “This is much much better than a novel.” 

“After all I’ve done for you,” were her parting words, but I’m sure I heard her whisper, “Take care,” as I closed the door. 

And so Lucas and I – the werewolf and vampire – settled into a relatively peaceful existence in suburbia and if we had to move every few years, it didn’t really matter because we had each other. As for Sue, our paths crossed again, sort of, about 20 years later, when I spotted the news headlines screaming about the Kissing Killer whose male victims all came from a dating website. Seemed like Sue was still looking for love, after all. Elaine Westley 

For Jan Goldie, who got me hooked on everything vampire. Elaine has been a journalist for over 25 years, working on national papers and magazines both in the UK and Australia, buts love the freedom of expression writing fiction gives her. As a busy mum of two young children the biggest challenge is not what to write about, but finding the time to do it. She has previously had her story "Stuck" published in Bridge House’s Going Places. 

Friday 28 July 2023

Betrayed, Torn, Transformed by Jamie Roche, caffienation of liberation

 Katherine stood face to face with the oakwood door. The number 13 was painted upon the top.

The hotel room door swung open with a soft creaking sound. Katherine took a deep breath as she stepped in.

 Katherine took in her surroundings. The room boasted a spacious layout, adorned in warm hues and soft textures, creating an atmosphere of tranquility. Two beds, made up of fluffy pillows and cozy blankets, sat opposite of each other.

Along one wall, a grand sliding glass door stood sentinel, leading to a private patio enveloped in lush greenery. The glass offered a view of the inspiring scenery beyond.

James looked up from his suitcase, startled by his wife's unexpected presence.

"Well, well, well," Katherine finally spoke. "What do we have here? Planning a little getaway, are we?"

James's face flushed with a mix of shame and surprise. He stumbled over his words, desperately trying to come up with an explanation. "Katherine, it's not what you think..."

"Not what I think?" she snapped, crossing her arms. "You really think I'm that naive? I found the evidence, James. Those messages, those late nights... I know about her."

James slumped onto the bed; his eyes fixed on the floor. "I didn't mean for it to happen, Katherine. It just... happened."

"Just happened?" Katherine's voice trembled with anger. "So, what's the plan now, James? Run off with your mistress and sell that valuable baseball card of yours to fund your new life?"

James's eyes widened, he looked at the card he held and realized his secret was no longer hidden. "How... How did you know about the card?"

"Does it even matter?" Katherine's voice turned icy. "You were willing to betray everything we had for her, for a new life. Well, guess what? You can keep your secrets and your mistress because I won't let you have that card."

Katherine strode, snatching the prized baseball card from James's trembling hands. She examined it for a moment. Without a second thought, she tore the card into pieces, watching as the fragments of their shared history fell to the ground.

James gasped; his face contorted. "Katherine, what have you done? That card was worth..."

"Worth?" Katherine interrupted. "That card may have been valuable, but it meant nothing compared to our vows, our trust, and the life we built together. I won't let you use it to fuel your betrayal."

She turned on her heels, walking toward the door, her steps echoing with finality. James rushed after her, begging and pleading, but it was too late. The damage had been done.


She stopped at the oakwood door and faced him one final time.


"You can keep your mistress, James," Katherine said, her voice resolute. "But you'll never have that card, and you'll never have me again."


Katherine slammed the door shut, cutting her ties with James forever.


As she stepped out into the hallway, Katherine took a deep shaky breath. She felt a mix of sorrow and liberation wash over her. The weight of the past had been lifted from her shoulders, and though her heart ached, she knew she had made the right choice.


From that moment on, Katherine resolved to rebuild her life, rewrite her story on her own terms. The torn pieces of the baseball card served as a symbol of her strength, a reminder that she may have been betrayed and torn like those pieces, but she was now transformed.


About the author 

Jamie is a creative writing student at Full Sail University with a focus on digital storytelling. Being a mother of four, Jamie understands the importance of creating stories that capture the attention of her audience. 


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Thursday 27 July 2023

WIPED OUT by Fleur Lind, iced coffee

Colin was jumpy.  He wanted to get outside for some air after being cooped up for three days.  The sound of the rain was deafening as it fell on the iron roof.  He knew the homeowners were very happy about the rain; they took videos of it falling.  But he could not see the fascination.  It was damp, wet, and more to the point… it was wet.  That was enough.  Colin didn’t do wet.


Then one day, accustomed as he was to the sound of those big fat droplets crashing onto the roof;  he stopped and listened.

All was quiet.  No rain.  No noise, apart from the usual rowdy hum of the household. 

There was no time for gaiety; he had to act quickly.  As fast as a speeding bullet, he was off along the floor, mindful of not being seen.  He didn’t want to be spotted as he made a dash for the nearest gap in the woodwork or the luxury of an open door.


Safely outside, he lifted his not-so-handsome face to the sky and inhaled deeply.  Fresh air!  It wasn’t that the house he lived in had a bad pong; quite the opposite, although sometimes someone’s socks were a bit on the nose. 

No, he liked the great outdoors as there was less chance of him being seen or found or hunted down.

He regrouped his thoughts as to the best place he could take shelter.  He scuttled off to the carport; it seemed a good starting point. He was as sure as the sun that would shine eventually, that freedom would taste as sweet as he had been dreaming about during the three days cooped up inside. The saying was true, ‘as long as a wet week.’

            The car windscreen looked promising.  With his natural ability to climb, crawl and fly, he made his way up to the wheels, gripping the deep tread.  Then with a nimble, slick movement, he was up on the hood and came to rest on the windscreen.

He sat calmly for a moment, taking a breath and wondering about the complexities of life when, to his horror, he heard footsteps crunching on the gravel floor of the carport. One of the homeowners arrived and opened the car door. 

Wide-eyed and fearful, Colin froze.

She started the engine, and the car purred into life. She drove out the gate, turned right and headed down the street.  Despite his life being in the balance, well aware he was in full view of the homeowner, he relished the wind in his face, his antenna waving recklessly in the breeze. That is until the rain started again.

The wipers started moving, filling him with extreme anguish. Colin’s wish for a simple, stress-free life popped like a bubble as he was flung at high speed onto the hard, cold, bitumen road.

Dripping, he shook off the excess drops and limped off in search of another shelter to nurse his sore head.

That was a close call for even the most adventurous cockroach.

About the author

 Fleur is a Kiwi, living in SE Queensland. She enjoys the fun, challenge, and possibilities of short stories. Fleur is a member of the local writer's group - Rose City Writers in Warwick. For more of Fleur's work: 


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Wednesday 26 July 2023

Ilex Aquiflorium, Madame Briot by Liz Cox, a double brandy

 Jim stuck his spade into the roots of the holly bush, Ilex Aquiflorium, Madame Briot. It reminded him of his late wife Briony, even the name was similar. As he shovelled the earth, he wondered what had attracted him to it in the first place. It was not that he was a fan of holly. That went for his wife as well. She still haunted him, not literally of course, but the thought of the miserable years they had endured together bothered him.

The holly was a small bush but perfectly formed as they would say. When it was young it had purple stems, much like Bryony’s hair when they met. When they first knew each other, everything had been somehow full of colour, vibrant, noisy, and happy. That was the crucial word – happy.

When had happy stopped.

Jim recalled the night they met at a hedonistic party when they were in their early twenties. Both were trying desperately to be hippies, a role which never sat very easily with Jim, but Briony embraced it with both arms and then some. He was attracted by her huge blue eyes painted with spiky eyelashes and lashings of purple eyeshadow. It made her look exotic and when her blue eyes bored into his blood shot ones, he felt he had to challenge her.

‘What you looking at?’ he slurred, as he fell onto the sofa sloshing his pint all over her.

‘Not you, that’s for sure,’ she said, swishing her purple kaftan out of the reach of the liquid now dribbling onto the chair.

‘Come on now, you know you fancy me,’ he answered, holding his aching head in his free hand. The gentle notes of San Francisco by Scott McKenzie filled the room, and her eyes became dreamy, her eyelids fluttering. He thought that she was swooning over him; how wrong could he be. She opened her eyes with a jerk, furious.

‘I certainly do not, you’re a slob and the last man I would ever go out with.’ She closed her eyes again, but not until she had shot him a disdainful glance.

With the confidence of beer inside him, Jim was sure that he was in with a chance. He reached out and took one of her purple locks of hair in his fingers, rolling it around, feeling it, enjoying the sensation of its soft fineness on his calloused hands. She jerked away and in the process her hair came out in his fingers. The shock penetrated his beer fog and brought him to his senses.

‘Oh my God, look what you’ve done now, you idiot,’ she screamed, trying to pin her dislodged hair extension back to her own hair.

‘I’m so sorry.’ He could feel the warmth of a blush creeping up his cheeks. ‘Let me buy you a drink. Have I hurt you?’

‘You must be joking,’ she replied. ‘Do one!’    

She was prickly even then.

Despite the bad start, they eventually got married. Her mother wasn’t happy. Briony was. They had a suitably large wedding in the country, enough to make Jim’s own family feel inferior. They had Briony’s mother to thank for that. She thought Jim’s family were quite beneath her and especially Jim. Briony’s mother had her sights on landed gentry for her only daughter. If she thought Briony was going to meet such a person at the local tech she was off her trolley.

Not that Bryony wasn’t a lady; she certainly acted like one. Here she was stuck with Jim in a two up two down in the less salubrious part of town. But they were in love, certainly at that time, even after the babies came along. Fiona and Neil, two proper years between them the complete family, and Fiona was born eighteen months after their wedding. It was worth waiting just to see her mother’s pursed lips. She had been counting the days since the nuptials.

Then June joined Jim’s company. He supposed it was his thoughtlessness that made Bryony angry, but he didn’t see it at the time. One evening after Bryony had struggled to get the children into bed, Jim said.

‘Don’t you think June is pretty? She’s got a lovely figure and always wears the most beautiful clothes.’

‘Don’t know, I suppose so, but she hasn’t got two children and an empty purse,’ she growled. With that she slammed his dinner down on the table and gravy spilled all over his shirt. Sensing trouble, Jim quietly wiped the brown goo from his person and got on with eating his food.

That night she moved Jim into the Neil's room, turfing Neil out and into Fiona’s room. There were wails from Fiona saying something about it not being fair. Neil didn’t seem to mind.

It was her coldness that upset Jim most. He would rather they had a good row, so he could find out what he had said that was so terrible. Every meal was slammed down without a word which was worse than not having a meal at all. Bryony wore the air of a Christian martyr about to meet a lion in the Coliseum.

That night when Jim dropped June off at her house when they had had a drink in the pub after work, he spoke to her about it.

‘I don’t know why she’s behaving like that June. I don’t know what I said. I was only telling her that I thought you were pretty.’

June winced, ‘If you don’t know what you've done, you’re a complete idiot. I know how I would feel. I don’t think we should see each other anymore,’ she said gathering up her things and leaping out of the car slamming the door as she went. Jim shrugged.

When he got home Bryony was sitting in front of the fire, knitting a jumper for Fiona. The needles clicked at speed, every so often she would flick them into the other hand and turn the work around. At least Jim thought it was a jumper.

‘Evening love, sorry I’m a bit late. I had to finish some work.’ Silence. The needles clacked furiously, and the dark green garment grew.

Jim turned the television on, at least it would break the silence, and poured himself a glass of beer. He scraped his charred dinner into the bin, burning his fingers on the scalding hot plate. He turned the oven off.

‘Just popping out love,’ Jim shouted, as he opened the back door. He needed to eat, so he thought he would go to the local takeaway. Jim hoped Mei would be behind the counter, she was a lovely girl and the thought cheered him up. Silence from the sitting room.

He got there just as the shop was closing and Mei was locking up.

‘Hey, Mei, can I get anything to eat.’

‘Sorry Mr Green, I’m afraid we’re shut,’ she replied, a broad smile lighting up her lovely brown eyes.

‘Do you fancy a drink, Mei? We could go to the pub together; I might be able to get something there.’

‘I don’t think so Mr Green, I have to go home to my husband, he’s expecting me. Maybe your wife is expecting you too Mr Green.’

‘Not really, Mei, we’re not speaking.’

‘That’s a shame Mr Green; you ought to make up. Life’s too short.’ With that Mei waved and ran across the road to where her car was parked. She was right. He would go home and make Bryony talk to him, but before he went, he would need a pint to give him courage.

The Black Horse was just across the road, so Jim strode over, pushed the door open and entered. Who should he see there but June, sitting on her own, twirling a half-empty glass of white wine in her hand.

‘Hello June,’ he sidled up to her, signalling to the barman that he would like a pint, ‘would you like a drink? He could see she had been crying. ‘What’s the matter?’ Jim asked, laying my hand over her delicate fingers and admiring the silver nail polish. ‘Did someone stand you up?’

‘Don’t be a prat, Jim,’ she hissed, ‘I’m with someone.’

At that moment, the door to the ladies opened and through the door walked Bryony. How had she got here? Who was looking after the children? Jim stared as she slipped into the seat beside June and signalled to the barman to bring them two more white wines.

‘Hello Jim,’ she said, ‘meet my new friend.’

Jim stuttered, ‘How did you get here? Who’s looking after the children?’

‘My mother of course, it wouldn’t be you, would it?’ Bryony laughed and turned to June. ‘Now where were we June? Oh, I know, we were discussing what a loser Jim is.’ She turned to me, ‘Are you still here Jim?

 The look of disgust on her face made Jim angry.

That night was the last time Jim saw Bryony. Well not quite. He waited for her to return home.

Jim stabbed the spade even harder into the roots of the holly. It sliced through the earth until it reached a decayed green knitted blanket. Jim quickly covered it up and heaped more earth on top.

Looking back now, Jim realised that he was to blame in some way for when the happy stopped. 


About the author 

Liz writes short stories and poetry and is just finishing her first novel. She lives in North Yorkshire and at the time of writing is looking out over a very wet landscape. 


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Tuesday 25 July 2023

The Post Box Topper Animal Extravaganza by Dawn Knox Drink, oat milk latte with honey and two shots of caramel syrup

Vera had expected everyone to ignore the July post box topper. A pretty summer scene with its dog walkers, fisherman and picnickers should not have provoked as much interest as it had. But everyone in Creaping Bottom had wanted to know who each knitted figure was supposed to be and to guess who the few unidentified characters were.

Ravi, Sheila, Mr Snyde, Prenderghastly and Miss Witter had proudly told anyone who’d listen which figures represented them. Of course, Tony Parstedd hadn’t spotted the triangular fin on the knitted pond surface nor realised that the imagined shark below it was supposed to be him. Believing he’d been deliberately snubbed, he’d vowed revenge.

As for the unidentified figures, Vera knew they hadn’t been based on anyone. However, no one had believed her so in the end, when asked, she’d merely shrugged, and with an inscrutable look on her face, had said she was unable to divulge that information.

So, claims for the two unidentified cyclists and the dog walker were many and varied. Conversations had become heated as people insisted they’d been the inspiration for each of the figures.

One lunchtime, when Vera, Petronella, Stuart, Levi and Sally were in Bonzer Buns, a fight broke out by the post box. Two men with dogs on leads had come to blows after one of them had claimed he and his canine friend had been the inspiration for the dog and its owner.

Levi rushed outside, ready to defend the topper because it looked as though the knitted dog walker was about to be poked into oblivion as each human dog walker pointed out features that proved it resembled him, and of course, his dog.

‘That is a cockapoo,’ the chunky, ginger-haired man said, poking the knitted dog. ‘Just like my Nutkins.’

‘Nonsense,’ said the blond-haired, bearded man, jabbing the knitted dog with his finger. ‘Everyone can see it’s a Labradoodle like my Willum.’

Levi stepped between them and held up his hand. ‘Excuse me please, gentlemen. I’m sorry to disappoint you both, but I knitted that dog-walking avatar, and I based it on myself.’

Well done, Levi, Vera thought. Very creative. She’d followed the others out into the street. It wasn’t true, but it had put paid to the dispute.

Or perhaps it hadn’t.

Chunky squared up to Levi. ‘It looks nothing like you. And what’s more, you haven’t even got a dog.’

Levi’s mouth opened and closed. Opened and closed.

But sadly, not creative enough, thought Vera.

Then Sally stepped forward. ‘I think the little knitted chap looks exactly like Levi. Handsome and suave. And as for his dog, it’s currently in the canine beauty parlour.’

Well done, Sally, Vera thought.

But Chunky wasn’t about to give up. ‘And what sort of dog is it? A Labradoodle or a Cockapoo?’

Sally stared at Levi.

Levi stared at Sally.

‘A cocka—’ said Sally.

‘A labra—’ said Levi at the same time.

‘That is,’ said Levi, ‘it’s a Cocka-Loodle-Doo.’

There was silence for a few moments while each dog walker looked down at his own dog.

Finally, Chunky said, ‘Well, where do Nutkins and I have to apply to be knitted?’

‘I’ll take your names,’ said Sally, stepping forward. ‘But I have to warn you there’s a long waiting list, so we may not get around to you until 2025 at the earliest.’

Both men gave their names and contact details and walked away in opposite directions.

‘You were magnificent, Sally,’ said Levi.

‘And you were useless, Levi,’ said Sally. ‘ I mean, Cocka-Loodle-Doo?’

She and Levi collapsed in giggles.

Well, thought Vera, they seem to be getting on well together. Perhaps they might be at a turning point in their relationship.

Brought together by a knitted dog walker and a hitherto unknown crossbreed of dog. Or possibly crossbreed of species.

Not the strangest thing that Vera had seen during her tenure of the Post Box Topper Society chairpersonship.

They went back into Bonzer Buns to celebrate Sally’s triumph and to consider the August topper.

Stuart suggested flowers, and everyone groaned.

‘What, what? It’s summer. Flowers grow in summer.’ Stuart scowled at them. ‘What have you lot got against flowers? It’s probably illegal to be so flowerphobic.’

Everyone ignored him.

Sally looked up the special days in August on her phone, and read out, ‘Women’s World Cup Day…’

“No,” said Petronella. “I loathe football.”

‘How about Sea Serpent Day?’ asked Sally. She looked up to gauge everyone’s reaction, but everyone stared at her blankly.

‘Sea Serpent Day doesn’t appeal? Well, we also have various international days. What about the International Day for Owl Awareness, or for cats, dogs, orangutans or youths – presumably human youths? And not just international days, we have International Bat Night. Then there are World Days for lions, elephants and lizards.… Is that enough?’

‘They’re all heavily biased towards the animal kingdom,’ said Vera. ‘Is there anything that’s not animal-related?’

Sally consulted the list again. ‘Rice Pudding Day?’

‘Rice Pudding? Ugh!’ Petronella shuddered. ‘Well, in that case, I think the theme is clear. It’s got to be animals.’

‘In a zoo?’ asked Sally.

‘So, fauna is all right but not flora?’ There was a resigned edge to Stuart’s voice. ‘Well, okay, how about an ark?’

Everyone looked at him suspiciously. If he meant an ark such as Noah had captained, then it was a good idea. However, there was a suspicion he might have meant the mathematical geometric type of arc. After all, he was the only one in the group who would think of the number 3.14 when anyone mentioned pies.

He assured them he meant Noah’s Ark.

‘It’s perfect,’ Sally said.

It was, indeed, perfect, and for the next hour, they discussed which animals to include. After all, if you mention Noah’s Ark, most people picture popular animals, like giraffes and bears, not lizards and bats. But eventually, they decided they’d use all the animals in Sally’s list of International and World Days, and add a few more different species if there was room.

‘And, as a bonus,’ said Levi with a laugh, ‘if we knit some of the less appealing animals, at least the inhabitants of Creaping Bottom will stop asking which of our knitted figures represents them and stop pestering us.’

It turned out that Levi had been quite wrong about being pestered. Not that people had asked which animal represented them because nothing at that point had been knitted. But towards the middle of July, everywhere Vera went, people enquired what the theme would be for the August topper. Vera told them and someone asked if it was a fundraising effort for endangered animals.

It hadn’t been, but once the suggestion had been made, everyone considered it a superb idea.

‘But how do we collect money for an endangered species charity?’ Vera asked.

Stuart had taken over at that point. ‘We can’t put collection boxes around the post box because they’d soon disappear. But we could leave it up to each person to donate individually. We’ll hang up QR codes which lead to several charities’ websites.’

Beryl had a good idea. She’d been serving up the cake of the day – Cairns Coconut Crumbles ­ and had suggested that as well as the QR codes, local businesses should be invited to bid to sponsor one of the knitted animals, like in an auction. The money raised could be sent to an animal charity. She’d asked if they could, please, include a koala.

‘And whoever’s bid is the highest for that particular animal, can put a sign in their shop window to show they’re supporting an animal charity. A win for everyone… Oh, and I’ll put in a tenner more than anyone who bids higher than me for the koala,’ Beryl said.

Things were getting rather complicated for Vera’s liking, but luckily Stuart volunteered to deal with the financial side. Thank goodness. But wasn’t that what a treasurer was for?

Beryl’s plan had been remarkably well-formed, Vera thought. It was actually rather exciting, and they’d help endangered animals too.


The August Noah’s Ark Post Box Topper was extremely popular. However, as Vera knew, you couldn’t please everyone, and various people were incensed by the omission of their favourite animal.

‘What? No panda?’

‘What? No tarantula?’

‘No jellyfish?’

‘No Amazonian green spotted tree frog?’


Emails and letters had poured in, requesting – and even demanding their favourite animal be represented. Vera sifted through the emails, searching for A. Godbin’s complaint. Would he demand a particular animal? Or would he simply insist she remove the entire topper? She couldn’t wait to find out, but the days passed and although Vera even searched her spam folder, nothing came from her nemesis.

She deleted the other emails, and after reading the letters, she screwed them up and threw them in the wastepaper basket.

Honestly, some people had nothing better to do with their lives. If they’d filled their Ark with as many species as had been requested, the post box would have subsided beneath such an immense weight of woollen creatures.

‘Has anyone criticised us for not representing a Cocka-Loodle-Doo?’ Levi asked and Sally guffawed louder than Vera thought necessary. On the other hand, it had been a jolly afternoon in Bonzer Buns, so much so, Vera’s stomach muscles ached with all the laughter, as well as all the Cairns Coconut Crumbles she’d eaten.

But if there had been complaints, there’d also been thanks. Various animal charities had contacted them to express gratitude for their efforts. Apparently, people had been very generous in their donations. It was one of those days when Vera was grateful to be the chairperson of the group. The absence of communication from A. Godbin, being the only minor irritation in what was otherwise a rather successful July.


At the Tilly and Effie Private Investigation Bureau’s table, Tilly watched Beryl and the members of the Creaping Bottom Post Box Topper Society through narrowed eyes.

‘Well, I like that! Beryl’s congratulating herself for having the idea to make money for endangered species,’ grumbled Tilly. ‘But what about me? She won’t pay me more. I asked for a rise, and she said no.’

‘But you’re not endangered, dear,’ said Effie.

‘My holiday is. I’ve got enough to get to Torremolinos, but not much to spend when I get there.’

Effie patted her hand absent-mindedly; her thoughts were elsewhere. ‘Des said Alice still isn’t back from holiday. He’s wondering if she’s done a moonlight flit. And if she has, then an unsuspecting neighbourhood in Southend-on-Sea may now be in danger.’

‘Well, there’s not a lot we can do about it,’ said Tilly. ‘Nan says it’s peaceful now and she can sleep at night. It’s a good thing Alice has gone.’

Tilly had an idea. She tapped her top lip thoughtfully. ‘D’you suppose we should contact Tony Parstedd? He might pay us for the story, and we’d be doing the world a service by revealing the whereabouts of a serial killer.’

Effie shook her head. ‘Tony Parstedd wouldn’t pay up.’

‘No, I suppose not.’

‘And anyway,’ Effie said, ‘we don’t have any proof… Although if we did…’

Effie and Tilly stared at each other.

‘There’s bound to be evidence in Alice’s rooms,’ Tilly said. ‘And no one would think it strange if you got the key from the manager… Alice might have asked you to clean while she was away…’

‘I might need a forged letter from Alice asking me,’ Effie said.

‘Would an email do?’

Effie nodded.

‘Give me half an hour…’


Tilly and Effie arranged to meet at 9 o’clock that evening outside Alice’s flat. Tilly had visited her Nan and left promptly a minute before nine. Effie had been to see Des and was a few minutes late because his budgie, Pegasus, had escaped again, and Effie had to coax him down from the curtain rail before Des would let her go. She took the key out of her pocket while Tilly, with head swinging left and right, checked the corridor. The sound of blaring televisions blasted out of various rooms while Effie opened the door to Alice’s apartment and let them both in.


Tilly and Effie sat in Bonzer Buns the next morning, staring at each other over their coffee cups.

‘Well, the noises weren’t blenders and choppers,’ Tilly said.

Effie nodded. ‘I know. There’s hardly any equipment in her kitchen at all. And may I say, that Alice Gruber is a very messy woman. I didn’t like the state of her kitchen. I can’t imagine the germs she’s growing in there.’ Effie shuddered. ‘But I checked the knives, and they were all blunt. Dirty, but blunt.’


Effie shook her head. ‘Not as far as I could tell.’

‘Obviously not murder weapons, then,’ said Tilly disappointedly.

‘No, but I was rather surprised at the workbench in the bedroom. It was very well-stocked, although there wasn’t a chainsaw or anything obvious you could use as a weapon. A couple of drills, a few screwdrivers – nothing you wouldn’t find in a tool shop. But the power tools could explain the night-time noises.’

‘D’you think she was making murder weapons?’ Tilly asked. ‘There were lots of bits and pieces on the bench. It looked like she’d dismantled an electric fan.’

‘I don’t think you can fan someone to death…’

Tilly sighed. ‘We’re no better off. We’ve got no proof and I’m going to have to ask my mum for a loan for my holiday money.’

Effie choked on her oat milk latte with honey and two shots of caramel syrup. ‘I just had a dreadful thought. There’s CCTV in Hurrah House. Suppose someone checks it and sees us going into Alice’s rooms?’

Tilly looked at her, aghast. ‘Well, we didn’t touch anything, so they’ll have no reason to check the footage, and, with any luck, they’ll record over it.’

‘But what if they do look…’

‘We’ll just deny it. We’ll say we’ve been framed. AI deep fake.’

‘I don’t know what that is, but if you’re sure. In the meantime, we must keep quiet about what we found…’

‘We didn’t find anything. Except bits of electrical stuff.’

‘That’s true. Although, I was wondering…’


‘That bit we thought was from an electric fan. It looked a lot like that UFO Ravi flew down the street. That groan.’

‘Groan? Oh, you mean the drone?’ Tilly slapped her hand over her mouth, eyeballs sliding from side to side over the top. Any talk of drones would undoubtedly attract the attention of those mad topper knitters. And that was the last thing they needed.

‘Yes,’ said Effie.

‘Best we don’t mention it,’ whispered Tilly through the open fingers of the hand that was still over her mouth. Effie was right. It had looked like the rotor blade of a drone. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? And why had Creaping Bottom suddenly become Drone City? ‘People might start asking questions. And they might work out where we’ve been if we give away too much information. Best to keep quiet.’

This is a disaster, Tilly thought. Whatever Alice was making was bound to be lethal. Could she have been making drones? Drones with death rays? Drones with seek-and-destroy capabilities? It was all too awful to think about. Suppose Alice had her own CCTV camera installed in her flat? If she found out Tilly and Effie had broken in, she might send a killer drone out to pick them off. Their bodies might be found, and no one would ever know who’d murdered them. Tilly bit her lower lip. No point mentioning that to Effie. She’d lose the plot. No, best just to keep quiet. In a few weeks, Tilly would be in Torremolinos. And perhaps she might not come home…


As Vera filled in her CBPBTS journal halfway through August, she had lots to report.

A superb topper and large amounts of money raised for endangered animals. Even the native animals of Creaping Bottom appreciated their friends on top of the post box. At the beginning of the month, during Vera’s early morning walk to check the topper, she’d snapped a photo of a group of squirrels sitting at the base of the post box, looking up at the Ark. She’d sent it off to Tony Parstedd, who’d ignored it. However, it had come second in a local photographic competition and won her £50.

Still no word from A. Godbin, which was disappointing, but perhaps he was an animal lover and hadn’t wanted to criticise their fundraising attempts. Well, she was sure they’d grab his attention with the September topper.

She listed the suggestions:

Something to do with Sudoku for International Sudoku Day. Stuart had proposed that. Well, at least he’d given up on the idea of flowers… Although Vera thought flowers might have been preferable to Sudoku.

Sally had suggested something for Teddy Bear Day. Perhaps a Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Petronella had wanted a celebration of Hobbit Day. Typical librarian’s choice.

Levi’s idea had been something to celebrate harvest with a special focus on crop circles.

But Vera was going to push for her favourite – Star Trek Day.

Oh well, they’d meet later, and a decision would be made.

One thing was certain, Vera thought, whatever they chose, it wouldn’t be Sudoku.



To read the previous stories in this series:


Part 1 – Post Box Topper Outrage –


Part 2 – Post Box Topper Surveillance –


Part 3 – Post Box Topper Confusion –


Part 4 – Post Box Topper Shock –


Part 5 – Post Box Topper Triumph –


Part 6 – Post Box Topper Photo-Opportunity –


Part 7 – Post Box Topper Summer Scene –


About the author

Dawn’s three previous books in the Chronicles Chronicles series are The Basilwade Chronicles, The Macaroon Chronicles and The Crispin Chronicles published by Chapeltown Publishing. 

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