The results of the Face At The Window flash fiction competition held on 22 June are:
Many congratulations to Helen for achieving 1st place; and indeed to all our placed finalists. And thank you to everyone who took part - it was a very keenly fought contest!
I turned the key in the lock and opened the front door and pushed aside the cascade of junk mail that had flowed through the letterbox and made my way to the kitchen. The silence was total. No welcoming call or smell of roast beef and cabbage cooking for the Sunday dinner. No switching off lights that Mum kept turning on before she left a room. Apart from her photos and knick knacks that adorned every surface no-one would know that such a glorious spirit had lived here. Had it really been three weeks since I last entered the house. Mum had taken a tumble and been rushed off to hospital. Now in her eighth decade time had taken its toll, and where she would have bounced back in her youth, now she had to have an operation to fix her broken bones. As soon as I finished work I rushed over to sit with her but as the days passed she faded away before my eyes. My friend George was ever so good and arranged the funeral and dealt with the paperwork but I told him I would clear the house of her personal items. He wanted to help but I said no this was something I had to do myself. Memories came flooding back as I went through the photos and tears coursed down my cheeks as I packed her clothes into bin bags for the charity shops. As I shut the door behind me for the last time I turned and, for a moment, I saw Mum’s face in the window as she looked out for me. The image faded away and I was alone.
As I sat at my kitchen table lost in thought I heard a scratching sound at the back door. The noise persisted and I turned to see a face staring in at me. A face that only a mother could love. This cat looked so pathetic I opened the door, it rubbed against my legs and started purring. This stray gave me comfort in my loneliness
“I’ve gone and enlisted for seven years.” Clara recalled that morning in 1807 when her bleary-eyed husband Jeb had delivered this bombshell. She knew he had been in the tavern the night before, drowning his sorrows after losing his job at the tin mine. She discovered later that a canny recruiting officer had plied him with drink and flattery, regaling him with tales of the glorious military life. Jeb had taken the King’s shilling in front of witnesses so that was that.
He was a good man and the prospect of remaining at home whilst he went off to fight Boney was unappealing. So she was elated when she was chosen by lottery to ‘follow the Drum’ as one of the six wives permitted in his Company. She left Plymouth for Portugal in June 1808. As a sturdy farmer’s daughter she was well equipped to cope with the rigours of army life. In fact she enjoyed this new experience so far removed from her cloistered upbringing on the remote family smallholding near Helston She took enormous pride in her ability to keep up with the column during its interminable forced marches. So unlike the other camp followers who often straggled miles behind.
But all changed on the fateful retreat to the Galician port of Corunna a year later. On the day Sir John Moore was killed, Jeb was hit by a musket ball, shattering his right hip. On returning to England he became a different man. Morose, resentful, in constant pain and prone to frittering away on strong cider the pittance Clara earned as a laundress. She could forgive him his moods but as his violence towards her became intolerable she finally snapped.
One dark night as he was staggering home on the coastal path she ambushed him. One push sent him plummeting to the rocks below. His body was never found.
Clara was startled from her reverie by a sharp tap on the window. She saw Jeb’s face pressed against the glass. The shock killed her. Jeb’s brother Isaac saw her lifeless body crash to the hard earth floor.
We have been together, alone, too long, and it simply isn’t fair. I did not do it. She did. She was the one who told me how to get into the house. ‘Take the knife,’ she said. ‘Make sure you do not leave fingerprints’.
It was no ordinary house. It was a mansion. But she knew how to switch the alarm off, to keep us both safe.
‘It is a just cause. He deserves it. He has lived a life disregarding others, making money for himself, while people like ourselves, the ordinary ones, have to struggle with no one to care for us. When you strike that blow it will not be for yourself, but for all of humanity.’
So I did.
I was proud of what I did. I had done the right thing.
Then there was the trial and we were sent to this place. They call it a hospital, but it is a prison. We spend every day in our cell, like sisters in arms.
Now I hear people complain that they are isolated because of this virus. But it does not really exist. The capitalists are trying to make us scared again, to control us. Just like that man.
The people who complain are just puppets, being manipulated by people like him.
But my sister and I know the truth. We have been chosen.
We are proud to stand together, side by side, two fighters in a just cause.
It was her turn to take her exercise first today. So I looked out of the window. I could see her beautiful face. I had put on the same t-shirt just to be like her.
Then I heard the doctor’s key in the door. I turned away from the window to look across at him. He had his fist wrapped tightly round my daily present.
I turned back to the window to say goodbye to my sister’s beautiful face.
The doctor looked across at me.
‘Isolation is not good for you. Why do you spend all your time staring into the mirror?’
Sarah stared into her coffee, seated at a table for two. The gloomy grey weather showed no sign of abating. It had been raining in London for several days and the prospects for a break in the downpours appeared bleak. Winter had set in although the hard frosts and snow had not arrived as forecast. January was hard enough to contend with after the euphoria of the festive season, but at least, snow would provide a nice contrast to the usual facade.
Placing her headphones firmly into her ears, Sarah tuned to Radio 4 and heard the newscaster say those immortal words, ‘In London today…’ The news bulletin was ceremoniously cut by the rapid deployment of her thumb, which then proceeded to shuffle her playlist. What would it be today?
Beethoven’s Pastoral weaved its way through Sarah’s entire body, like a renaissance and her imagination came alive with the master’s example. Pen in hand and a final slurp of her cooling cappuccino, she set to work on her draft plan. Sarah was sure this novel would be the one. Briefly, she could see her face reflected in the glass window as a minute chink of sunlight pierced through a break in the storm clouds and rebounded from the Portland stone pathway.
‘Sarah, is that you?’ came a cry from behind her. Realising that she could not hear his voice owing to the headphones, the enquirer got up from his table and moved to the vacant seat at Sarah’s table.
‘David! What on earth are you doing here? I thought you went back to Manchester yesterday?’
‘May I join you?’
‘Yes, of course. Well, you have anyway,’ said the smiling Sarah.
‘My train was cancelled, so I’m setting off later today.’ David blushed, then found courage to repeat a request that had first been muted on New Year’s Eve. ‘Come with me Sarah?’
‘David, we’ve been through this so many times. I can’t. My life is here in London.’
There was a tap on the window. Sarah’s friend, Cheryl, stood and peered in.
‘Well?’ shouted a hopeful Cheryl.
“It will get better I promise” Really?
“Time heals all pain.” They lied. They lied over and over, their needles stuck in their grooves, filling my head with incomprehensible commotion until there was room for no more; no more storage space, so their utterings then drifted across my mind without settling.
They can’t say that I didn’t try. I went with all the old clichés, ‘Fake it to make it’ I faked it so well I made Harry Houdini look like an amateur. ‘Act as if you feel ok and you will’ I could have won a fucking Oscar, but there was no red carpet, no celebration.
Eventually came the day of revelation, the day I realised that their bullshit was only being fed to me to make them feel better. It wasn’t me they were trying to placate, it was themselves, so I joined their team and agreed, and smiled and nodded in all the right places, and thanked them for their kind words of wisdom, whilst internally screaming at them to fuck off and leave me alone.
The thing is, whatever anyone says or does, and whichever ‘expert in their field’ book you read, no one knows your story like you do. No one else understands your character’s deepest secrets or is aware of your experiences from before the day you were even born. Only you yourself know, and the events that your mind has forgotten are still hidden somewhere on your internal hard drive, causing uninterpretable reactions to the most unexpected situations. It happens in the same way that one child has a severe reaction to eating a peanut, yet another can die from a wasp sting. You cannot tell by someone’s outside how they are reacting on the inside. My circuit is wired very differently from yours.
So yes, I see you peering through the glass at me, and yes I hear you screaming at me to turn my engine off, and yes I can see you trying desperately to pull off that hose, but I don’t care.
And that my friend is window pain.
The doctor’s words were unequivocal. “I’m sorry, the test results were conclusive. It’s terminal.”
I remained calm, there seemed to be little point in outwardly reacting. I shook his hand, ignoring his mumbled platitudes and the leaflets he thrust at me and walked out into the gloomy evening. Looking up, searching for even a chink of sunlight, all I could see were darkening storm clouds billowing like angry grey duvets ready to tussle with my body. Even the air held a threat with a heaviness that weighed down my footsteps as I headed home.
The crowded pavements with jostling bodies, wrapped up in their perfect worlds, increased my sense of isolation.
Arriving home, the familiar stillness of the house wrapped itself around me comfortingly. The small table lamp threw out a gentle glow. I walked towards the window and glancing up, saw a woman. I stood perfectly still in case she saw me watching her. She was wrapped in a warm coat, not particularly elegant but she didn’t look like somebody I should be afraid of. The strong features, the long wavy dark hair falling across her shoulders like a velvet cape. She wasn’t a classic beauty but pleasant enough looking. She wasn’t smiling but her face held a knowing expression as if she knew my pain. But, how could she? The idea of having a friend appealed as I felt so totally alone. I know I’ve seen her before, perhaps I know her? Just as I reach up to straighten my hair she lifts her arm too. I’m scared and let out an involuntary yelp. Suddenly the room is flooded with light and a man stands there, another stranger.
“I’m your husband, Martin. Did you go to the doctors again?”
I looked at him blankly, having no idea who he was. He appeared kind. I pointed to the face in the window to see the woman pointing back at me. Who was she?
“Darling we knew this might happen with this disease. Don’t be scared, a reflection can’t hurt you”
Would I ever really know? The truth, I mean.
Her face - the look - glimpsed in the flurry of seconds it took us to pass, now seared into my brain.
Gone, but never gone.
Fixed - like a fly in amber.
I’m on a train. It’s a winter’s evening, cold and dark. Rain streaks the windows. I press my brow to the cool glass. I’m far away.
Row upon row of houses, a century old or more, their lukewarm lights seeping between half-drawn curtains or bleeding through broken blinds. The arcs of car headlamps search the sky while brake lights punctuate the darkness like crimson commas: on - off – on. I shiver, pull in my collar and stare blankly at the passing scene.
The scrape of brakes. We judder, slow down; and then I see her.
And she sees me.
Framed by the harsh light of a single, hanging, bulb she’s leaning forward, her palms pressed hard against the window. She is young, no more than a girl; her hair is scraped back, just the hint of a ponytail. She looks tired. But it’s dark and wet, so who can say? Who can be sure? Her mouth appears to be open wide. I think there may be mist upon the windowpane, but can’t be certain. Is she shouting, or screaming? Or playing a game? Children play games, don’t they … pulling faces at the passing trains?
The high-pitched whine of the engine and we start to accelerate away. I half stand and turn my head, straining to see as the rectangle of light, her face, becomes smaller and smaller, until finally vanishing from view. The man opposite looks up, coughs, then returns to reading his paper.
The train speeds through the final tunnel and soon we’re at my station. I step off and tip my hat to the man at the barrier. My wife is waiting. A peck on the cheek, then the short drive home.
And would I really want to know?
Isn’t it sometimes easier to forget, than live with the pain of knowing?
I’ve spent my whole week at work thinking about her.
Yesterday she was wearing a red shawl around her shoulders.
I swear she stared straight at me.
I am haunted by that stare. I see her every day on my way to and from work staring from that window on the upper floor of the mansion block where she lives.
I keep hoping for a sign. She must have seen me looking at her.
“You’re keen to walk the dog all of sudden,” Kathy, my wife, said to me last night.
But by the time I reached the flats it was dark and the curtains were closed.
Who lives there? I wondered. I’ve asked around but no one seems to know anything about her.
Kathy and I have been watching the brilliant BBC series “Hidden” on
iPlayer. It’s all about a woman who is being held against her will. I began to fantasise. What if my woman – because I’ve begun to think of her as my woman – was being held prisoner? You do read about these kind of things happening.
This morning I couldn’t wait to leave for work. I even left the house a few minutes early in the hope that I might see her.
To my surprise, there was a removal van right outside the flats where she lives. I had a hell of a shock because there she was being carried out by two men. I did a double take. She was naked and the red shawl had been draped carelessly over the lower half of her body. What was going on? Had I been right all along about her having been abducted?
I was just about to cry out when I realised what a fool I had been fantasising about her all these weeks. To think I had been driving myself mad and losing sleep over her when she was nothing but a dressmaker’s dummy!
How many tigers are there in the world daddy”?
Amy was her usual lively self as the train arrived on a sunny Tuesday morning at the bright and cheerful Cheney Station; reflecting the child’s mood. This was her second week at school and she always asked a question during the journey. Tuesday was Tim’s turn to take her, and he struggled for a suitable answer.
Tim had been reluctant to take Amy as it encroached on his “me time” whilst travelling to work.
After several discussions with Jane a compromise was reached. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays she would drop off Amy at school and on and Tuesdays and Thursdays he would take her. After all it was the same train line that took him to his office in town. He’d only have to catch an earlier train, walk with Amy to the school then walk back to catch the next train; they were pretty frequent at that time of day.
Tim knew that spending quality time with his only child should be a joy. She was usually asleep when he arrived home at night. Precious time which would end too soon, he thought, if only she’d ask questions that he could answer. He reminisced, “ How many bees are there in the world?”
“How tall is the tallest giraffe when it’s a baby giraffe?” Today- Tigers!
Two questions a week he mused. He had an idea.
On Thursday Tim told Amy that it was his turn to ask a question. He still hadn’t thought of one but hoped for inspiration on the train. At the station entrance a notice informed them that due to leaves on the line they should take the train standing on the opposite platform. This route would pass through a tunnel; Amy hadn’t travelled in a tunnel before and rushed to sit by a window. “ Ask me the question daddy.” she said enthusiastically. The train moved out of the station and in a few minutes they were in the tunnel. “OK Amy, can you see the face at the window?” “ Yes! It’s me, it’s me” she squealed with delight.
I’ll have to think of a more difficult question next time thought Tim.
After exiting into the cold January air outside her office building via the very hi-tech revolving doors, Karen immediately jumped when feeling a large firm hand on her arm. She turned sharply to see a man whose face looked vaguely familiar.
“Hello Karen. Do you remember me?”
“I think I’ve seen you before, but I cannot for the life of me place your name and where it was that I remember you from. I feel that we saw each other recently. Was it at my sister’s awful Goth Halloween Day wedding in Whitby?”
“No - it was the week before Xmas. I have been wondering when to catch up with you ever since, but I needed to get some more information about you first – thank God for Google.”
“Well, if you were going to ask me for a drink I don’t think my husband would appreciate that scenario. He knows only too well how I behave when I’ve had a couple of glasses of Pinot.”
“I can vouch for that. You looked totally drunk and REALLY enjoying yourself when I saw you.”
“So, was it at the Christmas office party held in the main conference room that we saw each other? I was very drunk towards the end of that party. HEY! DON’T COME ANY CLOSER.”
“I just want to hand you this envelope with a note detailing why I have approached you.”
Karen grabbed the envelope from his outstretched hand and rapidly started reading the typed note inside.
“YOU COMPLETE BASTARD – YOU’RE BLACKMAILING ME!”
“Hey - it’s not my fault you were shagging your married boss on his desk whilst I was on the high-rise platform cleaning the windows outside. Your boss should shut his blinds. You saw me and held my gaze. I got the impression you liked that I was watching you. Wonder how your hubby would like that scenario Karen. Now the nearest ATM is just around the corner.”
He held her arm tightly and they walked along the street past her office revolving doors, which Karen hoped would turn into a time machine tomorrow morning.
Sara trudged through the streets, not noticing the rain. She thought, ‘Nobody can see me, nobody cares. I must find Paul.’ Wandsworth suburbia on a dark October evening. Family life continuing behind closed doors. Porch lights highlighting the puddles on the rain-soaked pavements like moonlit ponds.
Where was he? She couldn’t contact him. She knew he was married when they first met. The glint of the wedding ring matched the glint in his eye.
He walked into the Italian restaurant, as if he was the owner, 6ft tall, sharp suit and sapphire eyes. A boys’ night after work. The wine flowed, the men in high spirits.
“What’s the fish of the day?” He asked “Sara?” Spotting her name badge.
“We have an excellent sea bass served with seasonal vegetables.” She blushed.
At the end of the night he came up to the bar to pay the bill,
“Can I say what an excellent waitress Sara is sir, an asset to your business.” He charmed the boss. Leaving an obscene tip, along with his business card, he passed her the tray and said,
“Give me a call if you fancy a drink on your night off?”
She’d looked up and mumbled “Thanks.”
They met in a wine bar, he was funny and charming, a flop of dark hair framing his face.
He told her he was married but they lived separate lives, he was ‘just sorting finances’ before the divorce.
She’d fallen for him and then got pregnant, he was delighted about the baby. The divorce was almost complete.
But now she had to find his house.
Sara caught a glimpse of a family tableau playing out in a softly lit room. There he was, Paul with a beautiful woman and a little boy, holding a balloon. Sara walked up to the window. The child saw her,
“Daddy, the lady’s there again.”
Coming closer to the window, she saw the grief lines etched on Paul’s face. He closed the curtains. He couldn’t see her.
Pre- eclampsia they said, Sara never got to hold her son. His birthday, her death day.
“Come. You must come with me.”
I awoke abruptly. Who said those words? I sat up in bed, I didn’t see anyone. Did I dream it? I considered the words I’d heard. They were not spoken, they were whispered.
Yes, it was more like they were floating on a breeze than spoken.
I'm not usually given to dreams; I'm not a dreaming person but these thoughts stayed with me for most of the day.
By the next night I'd forgotten about them but again I was awoken.
“Come. You must come.”
This time there was something there by the window. Someone outside? A shadow? I arose from my bed and walked over to the window.
Again, there was nobody there but it felt as if a strange presence had
moved away from the windows, like a large diaphanous silk scarf has
been waving in the wind but had just departed.
On the third night, I fought off the sleep assaulting my eyes to try to discover who, dressed in black silk, was tormenting me. She was beautiful, she was beckoning to me, saying again, “Come, come with me.” I couldn’t hear her, of course, she was on the other side of the
window, but I could understand from her lip movements.
What is this madness? I don't believe in spirits and ghosts so
who is this woman calling me from my balcony? How did she
get onto my balcony? When I reached the window she had gone.
I went back to bed but couldn't sleep.
Tonight is the fourth night. I'll try not to sleep to see if this woman is real. She appears on my balcony outside the window. She smiles at me and beckons. I'm going to confront her. I open the big window. She begins to move away, over the balcony, away. I follow her up onto the rail of the balcony and move across to stop her escape but she seems to float on the breeze. She whispers, “Come with me.” And I do so.
But I live on the seventh ………
Someone was knocking frantically at their door. Claire looked at Georgie; he was worried. Two months ago, he'd decided to escape his 'troubles', and start a new life in the countryside.
'You'll be away from it all!' the owner had said. 'There's no-one else for miles!'
Claire loved her life, she didn't want to be so isolated. But Georgie had promised to stay with her and their unborn child, so she'd reluctantly agreed; although she'd instantly regretted it.
‘Help me, please!’ It was a girl’s voice. She sounded terrified, and the knocking grew louder.
They peered out of the window, and Claire recognised her at once, although her face was hidden in the shadows. Thank goodness, Claire thought, they've found me at last. The girl seemed to be alone, though.
‘Georgie,’ said Claire, ‘she's so frightened!... we must let her in!’ It was obvious Georgie had no idea who she was.
‘I’m not too sure about that... maybe it’s a trap...’
Claire stared at Georgie in disgust. ‘A trap? Just look at her...’ and she drew back the locks and bolts which protected them.
'Please, come in,' she said. 'You look exhausted, but you're safe now.'
The girl entered, shivering, and almost collapsed in Claire's arms. She was pregnant. Georgie, what have you done now? Claire thought.
'Oh, my dear, come, sit down and warm yourself.'
She grabbed a throw from the sofa, wrapped it tenderly around the girl and led her to the armchair. 'You too?' she whispered. The girl nodded, tears in her eyes.
'Georgie, get her a bowl of soup, will you?' Claire said. Georgie was standing rooted to the spot, an expression of horror on his face; now he knew who she was.
Claire and the girl smiled at each other. 'Oh, Georgie!' they sighed, 'Just look what you've done!'
He turned tail and ran out of the door, straight into the arms of father and the waiting militia.
'Thank you!' said Claire. 'He's not worth it, you know.'
Wiping away her tears, her sister agreed, 'Yes, we've got each other. He's history!'
Do you ever feel like life is going on all around you
But doesn’t include you
Like it’s happening to someone else and you’re just a spectator
A spectator with an obscured view
Watching but not really seeing
Just bumbling around in an opaque bubble
Everything a muted dull version of what you expected life to be
Do you ever feel like life is something that happens to other people
But you’re just left on the sidelines
Like you’re there on the outskirts just waiting to be invited in
Waiting for someone to see you and ask if you want to join
A child waiting to be picked for PE team
Hearing everyone’s name called out but never yours
Do you ever feel like the face at the other side of the window
A one way window that allows you to see but not be seem
Watching everyone else having fun
Not knowing how to get in
Wishing you knew how to live, laugh, love and be alive
Wishing that window would just open and let you in
Do you ever wonder what it would be like if someone did see you
And opened to window to let you through
Giving you permission to enter
Giving you permission to experience and be present
A hand inviting, offering to guide you
Someone to show you the way
Do you want to know a secret
You don’t need an invite
If you just push, the will window open and you can go in
No one will see you until you put yourself forward
But once you do the rewards are bountiful
Life is a wonderful place
Come and let yourself in.
The rest of my family had finally left for their evening out. Alone, I settled in the west facing room to watch, through the French windows, the sun fade into twilight. The bats arrived, bobbing black shapes that fluttered haphazardly at the end of the garden beneath the tree branches capturing the moths and flying bugs. The activity slowed, blurred by the creeping darkness, allowing me to dream in peace until suddenly IT was there. Just as it had been for as long as I could remember. A dark grey shape against the blue-black night, given structure by two hellish black pits. IT always arrived with the moon shadows after the bright sun had disappeared. From the depths of my soul the hatred of that familiar image rose.
Always before it had been given pause by the brightly lit room. IT feared the light but tonight, there was no warm glow filling the space. I had liked the darkness before IT had first appeared. Now a shudder slid the length of my back because IT had arrived.
On previous forays, when I was alone, dreaming without interruption, IT had been refused entry by locked windows. IT could see through but not get through to me. Tonight, the lower window was open a fraction to allow the cool night air to flow in. IT had noticed, I saw the black pits inspect the opening then the face at the window silently, swiftly became the face in the room. I could see IT’s body flowing through the gap.
I crouched in my chair, my breathing slow and silent, my body tightly coiled praying it would not see me, would not smell me. IT came closer, wary as any thief should be, paused cautiously. I could not bear the tension; I sprang from the chair.
There was a single despairing squeal then the silence of darkness returned. I looked down at the grey-furred, headless, body. I purred as I cleaned my razor-sharp claws and brushed my mouth with my paw. There would be no more face at my window
Down our street some neighbours have been policing our lockdown compliance. Seeing faces at windows has brought back a memory from my childhood on Portland.
Every Saturday evening our dad took my sister and me to Mr. Crab, the fish shop in Easton and we would park in the same place by the Methodist church.
Opposite was a decrepit stone house, probably centuries old. It used to be a workhouse. Three old spinsters had moved in during the previous winter. Someone said they were from the North. I didn’t know what that meant.
Jenny, in my class at school, lived next door. She was convinced the house was haunted. She said there were screams and weird flashes every night.
Our dad laughed at the idea. “The women are witches not ghosts.”
From where we parked we could look up at the house and there would always be a face behind the front room curtain.
One Saturday, our dad said “Give a wave, show the nosey women you can see them,” When we did the downstairs curtains shut quickly.
Others curtains moved upstairs in both bay windows and we saw ghostly white faces staring at us. The women didn’t smile so my sister and I started making funny faces.
“Don’t do that,” Dad said. “You’ll have toads in your bed tonight.”
He didn’t frighten us. He was always making up stories. But that night we both felt something slimy between the sheets. My eight year old sister screamed but I was only five and still more curious than fearful and uncovered half a tinned peach in both our beds.
I always laughed at our dad’s stories until a night, much later, when my sister and I were teenagers at a late night party in Easton. She says she never saw them. But I still get a cold sweat when I remember the sight of three black shapes floating from the roof of the old workhouse and rising towards The Bill through the Portland mist.
My dad winked when I told him what I’d seen.
As the sun blazed, Tino Collins skulked in the shadows and fought back a yawn. He’d been in position now for well over six hours and there was still no sign of the government sanctioned hit. He carefully liberated a polo and popped it into his mouth. His tongue normally found pushing out his cheek, toyed with the mint forcing it up into the roof of his mouth. A little saliva greased his palate as he sucked the life out of the sweet, wrestling the urge to bite. Rule one, stay hydrated; contradicts rule two, don’t get caught taking a pee when you need to take the shot.
This was a nice little hidey-hole. A child’s bedroom in a third floor flat opposite the school that his mark was due to imminently visit.
The Frozen themed wallpaper recapitulated his last SAS mission, stuck up a mountain hunting Daesh on other side of the world. It had taken him a month to thaw out.
His rifle was nestled on a baby change unit, deep in the room, so no face or gun-barrel would give the game away at the window.
His earpiece clicked and his cross-hairs picked out the bright and breezy geraniums flooding the pot outside the main school entrance. Two further clicks slowed his breathing, the calm before the calamity.
Three clicks; imminent death. He moved his arm, and operated the armpit switch to his own radio; it clicked back.
Sniper rifle locked and loaded. Two Range Rovers pulled up. Bodyguards streamed from the first scanning every nook and cranny. They were good but he was the best. He was sure one looked straight up at his hidey-hole. Their eyes then went to the next perceived threat and the next, eventually coming to the conclusion that there was no risk.
He exhaled and pulled the trigger ensuing pandemonium.
Time to exfiltrate. Same way in; same way out.
His armpit farted a coded - mission completed message.
Somewhere deep in Whitehall, a faceless minion turned to the Home Secretary.
“The PM has fallen Ma’am; shall I escort you to number ten?”
PC 1093 turned over his notebook. This was turning out to be a long shift, collecting witness statements after the tube-train crash in the bowls of the underground.
“Right, you definitely, one-hundred percent saw the driver and he was sat bolt upright driving the train as if normal.”
“That’s correct officer… only it was as if he wasn’t aware of the end of the line. As I said I looked straight at his face, right through the windscreen. Looked like he just been dealt aces and eights.”
“Where were you standing.”
“Here, at the end of the platform.”
“So, you got a decent gander?”
“Of course. He had one hand on the throttle and the other on the dead-man’s handle. Ain’t that a misnomer if ever I heard one. How bad is it?”
“Trumpton are cutting out the last of the casualties now. It’s hard work, the temperature soaring over one-hundred-and -twenty degrees down there.”
“Blimey there’s still people alive?”
“More body recovery now. What were you doing here?”
The witness looked down at his London Underground uniform and shrugged.
“Alright I know you work here, but doing what exactly?”
“Been Station Manager here for nigh on twenty years.” He fished out a pocket watch then put it away quickly. “Sorry, just checking for the eight-fourteen. But, well, there’s not much point with no trains running cos of…”
“Did you know him?”
“Of course, I had tea with him in the canteen before shift. Borrowed some of his milk as some daft-apeth left my bottle out of the fridge to turn. Nice guy…” the Station Manager couldn’t bring himself to utter the drivers name.
“He was in a good mood?”
“Top fettle, conscientious as they come that one… Don’t go there, he wasn’t that type.”
“Well I think I’ve got everything. If you remember anything else,” PC 1093 turned and walked up the platform to interview his next witness.
The Station Manager patted his pocket, where the pack of cards and two-grand in cash nestled. Just as for the copper it had been a long shift. Time for a pint.