Friday, 28 November 2014

A Ghost of Christmas Past.

Claire shut her eyes and counted to ten, then added another ten on just to be sure.  Then she opened them again and looked at the man sitting across the café. She’d not been mistaken; it was a ghost of Christmas past alright. Her stomach flipped, her heart skipped a beat, and there was desire in the pit of her stomach. But her brain stayed strong, her eyes filled with hate even if her heart was letting love leak in at an alarming rate as she sat there staring.
It must have been 3, no 4 years since she’d last seen him. 19th December 2010. She remembered the passion in his kiss as he’d said goodbye. The smile on his lips as he closed the door and then the tears she cried when he never came back.
‘I need to catch that train,’ he’d said as he reluctantly dragged himself from her body and got dressed. 
‘As soon as possible, ‘ he’d answered when she’d asked him when they could get together again. Everything was so normal, but then, nothing. She was used to long periods of nothing, husbands and fathers of 3 year olds often couldn’t get to the phone to send a message. That was the price she had to pay for being the other woman to the man of her dreams, but he was worth it. 
This period of nothingness thought went on and on and when one of her friends asked her if she’d seen the story about the disappearing train passenger she knew without looking it was Mike.  A cursory search of the internet confirmed that the devoted father of three and loving husband Mike Lewis has disappeared into thin air on a train journey from London to Cardiff.
But now he was back, sitting there drinking latte like he's always done, with a trademark milk moustache. A little older maybe, perhaps a little greyer, certainly fatter but still easily loveable.
She tried to banish those thoughts from her mind, this was a man who had betrayed her, vanished without a trace, left her clueless, loveless and heart broken. She put her iPad in her bag and started to put her coat on. But it was too late, he was coming over, a sheepish look on his face like he'd come to soon or broken a plate, not like he'd broken her heart. 
‘Claire’ he said. That voice, that smile, her knees went weak as her memory reflexed. 
‘It's me,’ he said that cute smile that she’d fallen for plastered on his face, ‘Mike.’

‘I don't know any Mike,’ she said turning and walking away, a proud tear leaking from her eye. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Missing Guest - An Archer Stanley Mystery

Again apologies the audio doesn't start until about 16 seconds in.

The room stank of last night’s room service and B.O.  I looked around, I could see the source of the smells; there were the remains of a club sandwich and fries on the desk while a smart, but well used, suit jacket hung on the chair. The bedclothes were tussled suggesting someone had slept here last night. Recently polished shoes were neatly placed by the door. I went into the bathroom, there were flecks of debris in the sink suggesting he was a mouthwash user. But the sink was dry and the toothbrush was dry, the towel ever so slightly damp.
‘So he should have checked out by twelve you say?’ I looked at the hotel manager who was lingering in the doorway.
He nodded.
‘And no one saw him this morning?’ This time he shook his head. ‘And he didn’t come for breakfast?’
‘No one remembers seeing him, Mr Archer.’
‘It’s Mr Stanley’ I corrected him. ‘Why did you call me, not the police?’ I said.
‘I did call the police Mr Stanley but they just filed a missing persons report. I want my money and you’re the one to get it for me.’
I nodded slowly, looking around the main room again. There was everything you’d expect from an occupied hotel room, except the occupier.   
‘What time do the morning shift take over Mr …?’   I’d forgotten his name and he wasn’t about to prompt me.
‘7.’ He said tersely.
I looked at my watch, it was 3.30p.m. That tallied with my thought that the dryness in the bathroom suggested he’d checked out about 6.30am, probably when the night porter was just making one last cup of tea.
‘He’s long gone,’ I said to the manager. '9 hours gone. He could be anywhere by now. ‘You’ll pay me more trying to find him, than he owes for the room.’
‘I don’t care, Mr Stanley’ he said, a menace in his voice. ‘You just find him, you understand. No one stiffs my hotel.’  
I nodded. ‘Have you informed the family?’
‘I spoke to the wife this morning.’ The manager said.
‘The wife?’ I said somewhat surprised. There was gay porn on this man’s bill and enough tissues around his bed to suggest he’d enjoyed it.
‘Leave it with me,’ I said. ‘I’ll have your money by the morning.’
Coco’s was the gayest club in town and Stevie G well he was the hardest gay doorman I knew. I showed him the hazy photo I had of my missing man. He shook his head.
‘Try Rocky’s’ he said. ‘That’s where all the new ones go, we’re too hardcore for newbies.’
‘Archer Stanley I knew you’d come over to the dark side sooner or later.’  Rocky Sidoli, the eponymous owner of Rocky’s was smiling his gold-toothed smile at me. ‘Finally a real man for good old Rocky,’ he said.
‘Today’s not your lucky day. This is business not pleasure.’ I said sternly and then more playfully  ‘And even if it was, what makes you think I’d fancy you, I know where you’ve been.’
I showed Rocky the photograph and he nodded towards a sad looking dude in the corner.
‘Can I get you a drink?’ The guy’s eyes lit up but then dampened down as his gaydar told him to hold fire.
‘You Clifford Erickson?’ I asked. He nodded.
‘You know why I’m here?’
He nodded agan.
‘Look guy I don’t care, what you are or who you are or what you decide to do with your life, but I do know there’s a nice pair of shoes at a hotel near here and a hotel owner who wants his money. So what say we go back there, you collect your things and settle your bill and then try to find another way to tell your wife you’re gay?’

He nodded, I felt sorry for this guy, he was obviously living a lie and didn’t know how to escape it, but this wasn’t the way. I knew I was sending him back to purgatory but hey I have to make my money somehow.

You can find previous Archer stories here, here and here

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

25% off - A Steve Rant

‘You know’ said Steve as he took another mouthful of beer, Johnny winced, thinking he didn’t know, but he was sure about to find out.  ‘Some people are bloody idiots.’ Steve said leaving Johnny thinking it was unusual for his old friend to state the bloody obvious. Johnny took a mouthful of his own beer, experience had taught him that Steve would continue whether Johnny replied or not.
‘I was in the shopping centre today and these women were handing out some discount vouchers for the new perfume shop that has opened there, you know?’
Johnny shrugged, new perfume shops didn’t really get on his radar.
‘So they were only giving out these coupons to the women while point blank refusing to give them to men. What’s that all about? Like only women buy perfume? It was crazy.’
‘Seems perfectly legit to me,’ said Johnny wondering what the fuss was about.
‘I suppose you think it is sexism, do you?’ He continued enjoying teasing his friend who seemed to see sexism at every turn.
‘Well yes, but that’s not my point, it is bloody daft that what it is. What time of year is it?’ Steve asked but didn’t pause. ‘Christmas time,’ he said tapping his finger on the table to make his point. ‘The only time of the year when men like you notice perfume shops.’ Steve silently said touché in his head, feeling he’d got even from Johnny’s earlier sexism barb. ‘Hundreds of men at this time of year have panicky, sleepless nights, coming out in a cold sweat wondering what to buy the women in their lives for Christmas. Surely it’s be better to give these discount coupons to men; solving their present crisis and giving them a present that looks that looks 25% more valuable than what you paid for it.’
Johnny nodded Steve had a point but he felt his friend was missing a crucial detail.
‘You right and wrong Steve.’ He said bravely.
Steve looked shocked.
‘You see’ Johnny said. ‘The token gets the woman in the shop, where she tries on some scent, then uses the token to buy some make up.  But now she knows what she wants, so can drop him hints. Do you like this smell, she’ll say when she gets home, it’s Nonscents by Ralph Lauren. Hubby will take the hint and bob’s your uncle.’
‘You sound like you’re talking from experience mate.’ Steve said. Johnny smiled then continued his train of thought.  ‘For the perfume shop it’s a win-win, she’s spent money and saved 25% on something small and now the bloke will buy the perfect present at full price.’ Johnny tapped the table on the last three syllables mocking his friend.
Steve nodded his approval Johnny had a valid point.
‘I’d not thought of that. He said. Johnny smiled wondering when the last time Steve hadn’t thought of something was.
‘But it would still be a good idea to give these vouchers to everyone wouldn’t it? More likely to get the men in.’

‘True but panicking men are more likely to pay full price.’ Johnny smiled, his voice bitter with experience. He collected the empty glasses and headed to the bar.

If you enjoyed this Steve Rant you can find most of the whole collection here or check out my 100 days of grumpiness blog. Can a man really be grumpy for 100 days straight?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


The recording doesn't start immediately, please be patient. 

Who knew that the true definition of schadenfreude was lying in bed listening to a complete stranger throwing up in the next-door hotel room? The room was alive with the sound of retching. Which is not something I would normally imagine would give me pleasure but tonight it did. They say you choose your friends and not your family, they should add to that that you don’t choose fellow hotel guests either.
My heart had sunk  earlier in the day when I saw the busload of teenage handball players come into the hotel just as I was checking in. And it hit rock bottom when the receptionist told me the tournament ended today and they were all heading home tomorrow. That could only mean one thing, that tonight they would be partying and I wouldn’t be sleeping. 
But I was wrong, well initially as I was wrong. There was no noise, no party. I climbed wearily into bed at about 11.30 and was flat out by midnight. Flat out by midnight, wide-awake at three - yelled conversations have a habit of disturbing sleep. It sounded like the whole team were outside my door and at the other end of the corridor simultaneously. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, I hated situations like this – there are no simple solutions. If I went out there and told them off, I would look a fool. I could bang on my door to let them know they were disturbing me, but that would be puerile, passive aggression. Complaining to reception would probably achieve little, so my best hope was that the hurricane would blow itself out and I’d be able to get back to sleep.
But if anything the hurricane seemed to gather force for a little while; shouts got louder, laughs heartier and language more industrial.
Meanwhile I was lying in bed plotting my revenge. My alarm was set for 7.20 and I would let it ring and ring at full volume before putting the TV on also at full volume and sing in the shower. There would be some hungover heads in the morning praying  for me tone it down like I was praying for them to do that now. Petty thoughts I know, but soothing at this time of crisis.
Eventually the hurricane did indeed blow itself out leaving a perfect silence for me to fall back to sleep in.

This time my sleep only lasted about 20 minutes before another sound roused me. The sound of my neighbour talking into the great white telephone. Not a pretty sound, and the groans and moans and sobs weren’t pretty either but it made me smile, knowing that the person who had caused my misery was now suffering themselves.

Monday, 24 November 2014

On the Way to Greggs

Martha’s elbow crunched into the stranger’s nose causing a yelp of pain and an immediate flood of blood. The stranger fell to the floor but Martha kept walking, dragging the shocked looking Zoe along with her.
Both women were certainly all about the bass; they had curves in all the right places and some in the wrong places too. It was pretty clear they weren’t no size 2 but they didn’t need to be, both were beautiful women.
Zoe trotted along just behind the striding Martha occasionally looking back over her shoulder at the stricken stranger behind them. People had come to help him as he knelt on the ground like a crawling baby, letting blood drip from his nose.
‘What the…’ Zoe asked but Martha strode on. “Mart, what did you do that for?’ Zoe finally go the question out.
 ‘He was asking for it,’ Martha said nonchalantly as if she had just called the guy a wanker not smashed his nose in
‘He was?’ Zoe hadn’t even noticed the guy until she heard the sound of elbow on bone.
‘He’s a creep.’ Martha said.
‘Do you know him?’ Zoe asked, still struggling to keep up with her friend both physically and metaphorically.
‘Nope. Never seen him before in my life.’ Martha said.
‘So?’ Zoe wished her friend would just spill the beans.
‘Didn’t you hear him?’
Zoe shook her head. ‘What did he say?’
‘It wasn’t what he said, it was his whistling.’
‘He wolf-whistled us? That’s creepy. What is this, 1984?’ Zoe hadn’t heard it but she hated that.

‘No worse than that, he was whistling that Queen song.’ Martha said. ‘Fat-bottom girls. He deserves everything he got.’ Martha smiled at her friend and turned into Greggs to buy a pasty.