The Stranger

The New York night was bleak, cold and solemn. Even the moon concealed itself in the comfort of clouds so it would not bear witness of what was to come. Tonight, death felt inevitable.

Carter Samson’s stomach rumbled as he got out of the elevator at basement level. His senses took ten seconds  to adjust as he stepped out of the soft lighting and droning muzac into the pitch darkness of the subterranean garage. Clumsily, he pulled out his keys and used the mini torch on his keychain to light the path to his car, clicking the remote central locking. He climbed in, started the engine, then felt the firm crush of steel on the back of his shaved scalp. He checked his mirror and stared into the eyes of a face he didn’t recognise. 

‘Where did you hide the bodies Carter?’ the Stranger asked calmly, in a thick Russian accent.

‘W-w-w-what do you mean? I think you have me mixed up with someone else’ he snivelled.

‘Carter Samson, or should I say Cesar Samsonivich you’re not going to get away with murder any more, I know who you are and what you’ve done. This is the last time I ask, where did you hide the bodies?’

The worry on Carter’s transformed to a wide grin, a gold tooth glinting in the mirror’s reflection. ‘I didn’t hide the bodies, Comrade, I feasted on most of them and fed some to my wolves back in Saint Petersburg, well my Russian delicacies anyway. I am the embodiment of the demon, Bauk and tonight I will feast on you. It has been a while since I’ve tasted a Russian eyeball and heart. and I am hungry’

‘Oh, tonight you will only be tasting justice for the lives you’ve taken, zasranec. Turn off the engine. Now’, the Stranger replied angrily.

‘You can’t kill me here, there is security all around, you will never get away. Mmm, I  can smell the doubt on you now. A pity. It sometimes gives flesh a sour note. Maybe your blood will be sweet, though, we’ll see’ Cesar said matter-of-factly.

‘You talk of security, Comrade, but I got in here unnoticed. Very easily. I have no doubt I will be ending you tonight. So tell me, how many have you killed in total? I know of forty-seven in the Motherland and thirty-five in Finland, and for the last time turn the fucking engine off, ’ the Stranger demanded.

‘You are quite the investigator, aren’t you. Okay I’ll play along. You’re right about Russia and Finland, very tasty morsels there. Especially that young couple from Lieksa, they were pure, saving themselves for marriage. I gave them a taste of each other before they died, it seemed fair but they didn’t want to taste each other so maybe their marriage would have failed. There were only ten in England, I wasn’t there long. Then two here in America. The Americans taste of processed foods. My palate is more  refined, I can keep you alive while I gorge on you and tell you how you taste if you wish?’ Cesar replied with a maniacal look in his eyes, his lips being soaked by his meaty tongue.

Seeing the disgust in the Stranger’s eyes, Cesar used this as a distraction and pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator then braked. He no longer felt the gun on him. He turned his head, hoping to see the Stranger crumpled and disoriented in the back seat but his hope immediately turned to horror. The gun’s chamber met his eye and he felt the faintest glimmer of heat on his eyeball a millisecond before the bullet killed him.

The Stranger climbed through to the passenger seat and turned off the engine. He pulled a small axe from the back seat. It had nearly ripped him open when Cesar had tried to knock him off balance but now he was meticulously hacking through flesh, sinew and bone. He started with the head, it always took the longest time and the Stranger wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Once the head was detached, the hands, feet, arms and legs quickly followed. It was a tight space to cut up a dead body and somewhat impractical but the Stranger had worked in tighter spaces before this. He knew once the remains were bagged up, there would be much more space. 

The Stranger drove Cesar Samsonivich’s car to the Russian embassy. He wasn’t worried about being caught; the tech team knew how to get the Motherland’s preferred candidate into The White House, so making a car disappear from traffic cameras would be easy. When he pulled into the gates, a man he recognised as Ilya took the keys and drove it to the hidden workshops where there was a team ready to change the car’s silver colour to something darker and remove the New York State license plates. The Stranger knew the plan; the car would be sent to Russia by plane tomorrow with the bags of Carter’s body laid out on the leather interior and be used in a propaganda campaign to arrest some foreign nationals the FSB had identified as terror cells. Some information would be leaked. The State media always needed fed and dead bodies and terror cells always kept them full for a few days. 

The night felt cold and pure as he walked through the embassy gardens toward the rear door. The guards on duty saw him approach and waved. The youngest asked him for his identification even though they had sat together at the breakfast table earlier that day. He appreciated the normality after killing that piece of scum. The Stranger looked up watching the breath escape his mouth. He caught a glimpse of the moon peering out from behind a cloud seemingly happy at what was going on underneath it as it grew brighter. He opened the embassy door and let the rest of the night swallow him up.

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story about The Stranger. I may do a crossover with the main character in this and Killing Time in NYC. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Take it Easy,

Paul

The Shows

We called the travelling funfair
“The Shows”
the same way our parents did
when they arrived in The Wick
late summer excitement
that smelled of hot sugared doughnuts, flowing diesel and damp trampled grass
the air was always a kaleidoscope
of flickering lightbulbs and brightly painted plywood
shrill screams of exhiliration could be heard over a mile away
layered over a techno soundtrack
thumping with the pulses of waltzer-spun teens
and kids riding the ghost train anticipating the supersoaker squirt on exit
sometimes I liked to play the bandits
tuppence to ten-pence a go
so nothing to lose really
the games were good to –
one night I hooked six banana-yellow ducks
and walked home with six goldfish
struggling to hold the punch balloon and pink-pillow candy floss in my other hand
it was a great time to be alive
amongst crowded smiles and double denim
spending my paper round and pocket money like fun was going out of fashion
and just the other day
I saw an internet flyer
“The Shows” are back this year
travelling up and down the coast
and although I’ll not see them
I can taste the air –

the flavour of excitement.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem and feel free to check out some of my other writing.

Take It Easy,

Paul

Birdsong

Instead of sleep
in the early hours
I sit and listen to the
siren song of the starlings and finches
at four am
they gather on the dew-kissed fencetops
when the delicate new day
is climbing from grey earth
to sherbet-pink sky
and I wonder what’s to come
in the next 19 hours
before my head hits the pillow
because – although most days are the same –
like the dawn chorus
everyday is different.

Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. If you want to read more, please explore the site.

Take it Easy

Paul

That Shirt

that thick cotton shirt
shade of  deep midnight
with moon-silver thread 
glistening ethereal under streetlights
wearing it
felt celestial
so I only wore it once
for our first date
drinks and pizza
looking at each other
over red gingham cloth
and flickering candle
wax dripping down
an empty bottle
of last week’s
house wine
conversation mostly answers
to silent questions
asked with eyes
and the curve of
nervous lips
I tried to be a gentleman
and pull out your chair
as we were leaving
the waiter saw it as an affront
for which I apologised
to show I was a gentleman
and when we hugged goodbye
I felt our cheeks touch
both warm with wine
and affection
so when I see
the same shirt
folded neatly in your drawer
close to the memory box
and wedding album
I catch a glimmer from
the moon-silver thread 
that helped stitch
our lives together
I believe in magic.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem, dedicated to my beautiful wife.

Take it Easy,

Paul

Killing Time In NYC

There was nothing ornate or sparkly about the dagger in her hand. It was her instrument of death. The blade was fatally sharp and coated in black oxide to prevent any glints from flashing in the restroom mirror that may alert her target. She had learned that bruising lesson in Berlin a couple of years ago. 

She had been waiting almost an hour in the stall, still focussed. There had been a trickle of visitors in the first thirty minutes or so who had added some floral fragrances from the handwash and their perfumes. The occasional waft of garlic, beef, and seafood permeated the walls which made her lick her lips.

A clean, crisp server’s uniform with a stranger’s name on a white plastic rectangle, a purse, and a blonde bob wig hung on the back of the door looking down on her. That was the only company she had. She had rigged the remainder of the stalls with a remote control locking device and they were now all set to ‘occupied’. Can’t have any distractions or witnesses. It was a waiting game which she would always win. She’d not waited in Berlin and that had ended badly.

To pass the time, she thought about the small space she was operating in. There was no room for a struggle. She knew it would be a quick kill. The dagger allowed that. In. And. Out. A few times. Rhythmically. 

She placed the dagger in the purse. Removed her phone from her pocket and checked an app that was streaming the CCTV of the restaurant floor. It was busy for early evening, probably a theatre crowd, she thought. Her eyes were drawn to the round table in the back. Her target, a heavy-set woman in her fifties wearing a figure-hugging scarlet dress that accentuated her curves, was just finishing a glass of wine that had been spiked by the sommelier, with a specially formulated laxative, at a cost. One hundred dollars, her phone number (which was fake), and the promise of a date. After two minutes she saw the look on the target’s face change from joy to fear. She watched her stand up reading her lips as they mouthed “I don’t feel so great, I’m just going to nip to the ladies’ room.” The target clutched her stomach. When she saw this she used her phone to unlock the cubicle directly next to hers then put it in her purse. It gave the target only one destination. Controlling the situation was the key to her success.

The night before, before rigging the locks, she had timed how long it took to walk from the same table to the restroom. She took into account the extra patrons and factored in the polite shuffling of chairs for the target to get by, estimating it would take her target around two minutes to reach the sanctuary of the restroom. She wondered whether they would make it there before soiling herself. It sometimes happened. It had in Berlin.

The hurried click-clack of heels on the restroom floor tiles announced her target’s arrival. She lifted the dagger in her hand, feeling its perfectly balanced weight in her palm. She listened as the clack got louder and closer, hearing the lock on the stall next door slide into place, the gentle thud of flesh hitting the wood, panting groans, and a violent explosion of crap hitting the pan. Her target sighed deeply, then in a low, thick New York accent said “Thank fuck I made it in time”. A smirk slid across her face. She had made it. She waited for the target to stop tearing the luxury toilet roll and for the flush. It ended being a couple of flushes. It wasn’t a surprise based on the amount of paper used. When she heard the door unlock and a more relaxed click-clack of heels on tile and the sudden rush of water, the waiting game was over. 

She stepped outside the stall, knowing that the noise and possibly shame would make the target turn around instinctively. Which she did. The dagger plunged deep into her throat. In. Out. No need to worry about screams. Then the dagger was plunged into the target’s heart, the thin blade scraping between the ribcage. No heartbeat. A quick kill. She walked calmly to the restroom entrance and locked the door. Then she returned to her target and went to work on the rest of her vital organs, precisely, rhythmically, then finished chaotically with a frenzy of slashes. Her clients had paid extra for that. Something about sending a clear message to some crime family, but she wasn’t interested in why. 

She cleansed the blade of blood under the running sink and went back to her stall, navigating around the slowly seeping pool of blood. Put the blade in the purse, took out her phone to take a picture to confirm her kill, and used the apps to unlock all the other stalls and turn off the CCTV in the hallway connecting the restroom, entrance, and kitchen. She changed into the uniform, fixing the nametag so it was straight.  She hid her other clothes in the toilet tank. She left the stall clutching her purse and used the mirror to straighten her wig. She looked like the name on her tag. Sasha. She walked to the restroom door and unlocked it. 

She was face to face with a younger woman, mid-twenties from the same table as her target. “Oh, sorry, this restroom is out of order”. Her words came out musically. “I’m looking for my mom” the girl replied in a lighter version of that thick New York accent. “You’re on the round table at the back yes?, I think I saw someone from your table with a red dress run into one of the accessible restrooms, the middle one I think, she didn’t look so good, give me a tick, I’ll just lock up here and grab the Out of Order signs from the storeroom, and let’s see if I can help you find her” her tone was reassuring. The daughter smiled and stepped back to let her lock the door watching her shuffle the keys to find the right one. “Thanks Sasha, that would be great”. 

She left the girl by the locked restroom door then walked into the kitchen, turning and holding up her fingers in a peace symbol to indicate it would be two minutes as she slid through the door. She glided past the busy fish and sauce sections and out into a yard where the staff had cigarette breaks. She asked for help, pretending to struggle to open the black security gate then walked to the end of the alley, dropping the wig into a dumpster, and stepped out into the slipstream of New York foot-traffic.

She walked casually to the end of the block hopping into a vintage boutique. She picked out a full outfit including a stetson and a pair of suede cowboy boots. She giggled with the sales assistant saying she had a date at a line dancing bar and wanted to look the part. She asked if she could pay and get changed there and then. Her eyes smiling and hopeful. She knew she had an easy way with people. The sales assistant agreed. She handed over a credit card. It was printed with someone else’s name on it. She asked for a bag for her belongings and headed for the fitting room. She removed the dagger from her purse and wrapped it up in the trousers from the server’s uniform and placed them on top of the shoes that were nestled tightly in the bottom of the bag, folding the rest of the clothes neatly on top. She tipped the assistant fifty dollars and walked out to hail a cab. 

The cab driver was Jamaican and talkative, giving out tidbits of New York trivia believing she was a tourist. She instinctively glanced over her shoulder at the sound of the sirens and saw the unmistakable blinking of an NYPD squad car echoing behind her. She asked to be dropped at Times Square and said he could take his time. She thought about the daughter of her target wondering whether it was her who raised the alarm. She would make sure to check the news websites over the next few days to see if it was reported. It wasn’t out of sympathy, she simply would like to know. She took out her phone and removed the sim card, snapping it in two and dropping it to the floor of the cab. She knew she’d never be caught or prosecuted. Her clients valued her too much. But a loose end is a loose end. She thought of Berlin. Control the situation. She inserted a replacement sim card then turned the phone back on.

She got out a block from Times Square. Tipped the driver fifty dollars. She quickly found a dumpster and discarded the bag of clothes and her dagger. She spent time gazing at the dazzling lights, inhaling the smell of a busy New York evening, the city felt alive. Until her next assignment, she only had time to kill. And where better to kill it than right here?

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story, I hope you enjoyed it. It’s my first time writing in this form so would appreciate any feedback. I may write a series based on the main character…

Take it easy,

Paul.

Dedication

I felt it was an insult that
each new street
was named after
a different species of tree
they chopped down
a lasting dedication to
rapid decimation
of the ancient woodland and hedgerow
their deaths were dealt so swiftly
that the hawthorn berries
didn’t even get time to bleed.

Now when I walk past
Oak Avenue, Ash Drive & Beech Terrace
each brimming with life
I think of the bricks, mortar and glass
I believe the woodland remains
just in a different guise
and the dedication isn’t an insult
but a celebration of what came before
that the trees that once thrived there
are a solid foundation for new roots to form.

Thanks for taking the time to read this poem, feel free to leave a comment if you wish.

Winter Walk

Zero degrees C
in the peak of midwinter
we wrapped up warm
in wool and polyester
pulled on our boots
thick with suede upper
and gripping rubber soles
primed and ready
to walk the forest
its floor frosted white
glamourising the
natural litter
of fallen acorns and amber needles
we held each others hand
through our scandi grey gloves
a) for support since I was clumsy
and b) for love
we looked out over
the blank frozen fields
and into the feeble glare of
a weakened winter sun
some chimneys breathed in the distance
a sign of life going on
while time stood still
as we tightened our hands
our minds raced
to what the future would hold
luckily for me
I still get to hold you.

Thanks for reading. Thanks to freestocks on unsplash for use of the image.

Take it easy,

Paul

Looking Through The Window

On Wednesday morning
with my eyes closed
I looked through the window
and listened –  to –
the natural percussion
of pouring rain
drumming
against mottled flagstones
creating a cacophony of calm
in the storm of my mind
not quite serenity
but not far off.

I hoped you enjoyed reading this poem. Feel free to have a look at my other work or leave a comment if you wish.

Take It Easy

Paul