Saturday, 15 September 2012

Mid-season break

Due to pesky grants and lectures and things, Mystic Mog is taking a short break. Back soon...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chapter 10.6

D.I. Rhys-Morgan pulled a face as he looked over the paperwork on his desk.
  “Ow!” cried D.S. Jenkins, for the face was his.
  “This doesn’t make any sense, Tommie.”
  “I know, Guv, but that’s what the lab boys say.”
  Rhys-Morgan sat still for a moment. “I didn’t see that one coming.”
  “No, Guv.”
  Another pause.
  “Well, if that’s what they say… I guess I’d best make a phone call, then.”
  “Yes, Guv.”
  The paperwork in question was an updated forensics report with another male identification. It did not do Rhys-Morgan’s theorising any good, although it brought the total number of identifications up to seven, in line with the number of different Y-chromosomes in the morgue.
  “Any news on the missing female DNA?” he asked.
  Tommie coughed and produced another report. “It’s seems that they no longer think they’re missing one, Guv. It turns out that the sisters were actually identical twins. That’s also why they were so confused with the bodies before. Doc Maddock seemed very pleased, anyway. Identical twins means identical DNA, so four different DNA donors means five bodies because one of the four is actually two.”
  Rhys-Morgan stared at his left hand in confusion as his fingers tried to follow Tommie’s stream of numbers and his tired brain tried even harder to keep up.
  “If you says so, Tommie.”
  “Doc Maddock and the lab boys say so, Guv.”
  “OK, thanks Tommie. Anything else?”
  “Just one thing, Guv.”
  “Can you let go of my face now?”

Chapter 11.1 ☛

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Chapter 10.5

Kippie turned off the engine of the police animal van and leant round the back of her chair.
  “OK, you guys,” she said through the black metal grill that separated the front of the van from the rear. “Now, remember: Garth Jones is missing. There is a fair chance, therefore, that anyone you meet around here is not Garth Jones.”
  “So?” asked Cassidy.
  “So, basically, I don’t want you biting the face off of anyone you meet.” She glanced over at the passenger seat. “That includes you, Tommo.”
  “Sure thing,” frowned Tommo.
  “But,” countered Cassidy with a hint of optimism, “anyone we meet might be Garth Jones!”
  “That’s true,” conceded Kippie, nodding. She thought for a moment. “The thing is, though – and believe me, I’m not happy about this either – he probably hasn’t actually done anything wrong. This time. We don’t even have a warrant.”
  “What do we have?” asked Cassidy.
  Kippie smiled at him and popped open the door. “A license to snoop.”
  “I like Snoopy,” said Tommo bashfully, as he unfolded himself onto the gravel drive.
  Kippie crunched round to the back of the van and opened the doors for the dogs. Cassidy jumped out, tail wagging enthusiastically. Butch, on the other hand, stayed in the van, looking as sheepish as a German Shepherd can. (He didn’t have the natural advantage of the goats but his observation skills were good.)
  “You coming then?” asked Kippie.
  “Er… I thought I might just stay here,” he answered. “You know, watch the van, sort of thing. I mean, you don’t really need both of us, do you?”
  “Well, it would be quicker,” she replied with a bemused smile.
  Behind her, Cassidy sniggered.
  “C’mon now,” Kippie pressed. “What’s the problem?”
  “Meow!” said Cassidy, and sniggered again as Butch flinched involuntarily. Kippie cocked her head on one side. “Come now. A big ol’ dog like you can’t be scared of a l’il ol’ pussy cat, can you?”
  “That’s no cat,” muttered Butch grumpily, edging towards the open doors. “That thing’s a monster! A fell beast. An abomination from the depths of hell itself!”
  Kippie smiled. “I didn’t know you had it in you to be so melodramatic! Come on, you big wuss. If Jones is missing then maybe the cat’s gone too.”
  “Yeah”, Cassidy agreed. “Or prowling around in confusion, hungry, angry and looking for fresh meat!”
  Butch whined but jumped down, glancing about furtively.
  “C’mon,” encouraged Cassidy. “Let’s snoop, dog!”

Chapter 10.6 ☛

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Chapter 10.4

Detective-Inspector Ifan Rhys-Morgan squinted at the forensics and coroners reports scattered across his desk. Whilst his team was out investigating, he was determined to get his head around the current state of affairs.
  There had been a bit of initial lab confusion introduced by the presence of two sisters of similar build and height and shared markers in the DNA analysis. The latest report had confirmed it, though: the eleventh named victim was Antonia Fredricks, sister of Emma Fredricks. In a moment’s cowardice, he felt thankful that he would not be the one visiting the Fredricks house to break the news.
  He picked up the coroner’s report and looked at the summary for the third time that morning. The coroner had apparently been watching too much Bones and seemed a little bit too gleeful about what she had described to him on the phone as a “human jigsaw puzzle”. He skipped over the gory details and traced his finger over the bottom line: twelve victims in total, with seven male bodies and five female. Based on dental records, fingerprints and direct facial recognition, eight of these now had names attached to them.
  He turned over to where the names were listed and let his eyes linger as his brain processed them again: David and Wendy Lloyd, Frank and Sarah Jackson, Anthony Smeg, Emma and Antonia Fredricks, and Duncan Bridges. That left only three men and one woman still needing identification.
  Rhys-Morgan flicked through to the relevant pages. They were getting closer to physical descriptions that they could cross-reference to the missing persons reports. With just over two days since the blast, there was no guarantee that the remaining victims had been reported yet. He would no be too surprised if that did not yield further fruit until tomorrow. Unless the DNA beat them to it, of course.
  He dropped it back on the desk and then picked up the latest forensics report. Things were not quite so clear-cut from the lab boys. So far, they had at least eleven confirmed DNA sources: seven male and four female. Of these, only four had confirmed IDs from the records: David Lloyd, Frank Jackson, Patrick Edwards and, unbelievably, Garth Jones. Of these, only David and Frank had also been identified from physical remains.
  They were therefore busy trying to match up the remaining seven identified bodies with the DNA they had already, as well as getting the missing female sample. The original collection and analysis had understandably been a little haphazard at first but now that the “human jigsaw” was complete, they could be a bit more systematic.
  Two of the female samples had familial matches and presumably belonged to the Fredricks sisters, so they were scheduled to be tested first. The other priority was to match the other two bodiless names from DNA identifications - Patrick Edwards and Garth Jones - to nameless bodies.
  Rhys-Morgan placed the report back on his desk and shuffled the stack into some semblance of order before reaching subconsciously for his coffee mug. He drew it to his lips before noticing its emptiness for the third time since the morning’s briefing.
  He stared at the stained bottom of the mug as he cogitated. Three men yet to identify and one woman. He had no idea who the latter was. If missing persons didn’t come through, they’d have to start circulating pictures to the media tomorrow. The media. He suppressed a shudder. That was not a part of his job he enjoyed - or was any good at, for that matter.
  He turned his mind to the men. Assuming that Patrick and Garth matched bodies, that would leave one Joe Bloggs. The missing Peter Lloyd would complete the set. If that was him. If it wasn’t him... well, then Peter Lloyd would definitely be at the top of the suspects list. He put the mug down. They should stake-out his pet shop in case. Until the motive was sorted out for this, Rhys-Morgan wanted to leave nothing to chance.

Chapter 10.5 ☛

Friday, 7 September 2012

Chapter 10.3

Mystic Mog tried fruitlessly to rub the sleep from her eyes. She was still not sleeping well and today’s news from the goats was not going to help. She sighed. “That could have gone better.”
  “It could have gone worse.” Cyril told her. “They’re still alive for one thing.”
  “Yeah!” added Billy.
  “And I didn’t lose him this time!” said William.
  “True,” conceded Mog. “But we still don’t know where Pan was taking him.”
  “Wherever it was,” said Cyril, “it doesn’t look like he was heading for the same place as before.”
  “Why would he?” asked Mog. “Presumably he achieved everything he wanted to the night before.”
  “Maybe,” Cyril conceded. “But by that reckoning, he didn’t last night, so he may try again tonight.”
  Mog thought for a moment. “True, I guess. I’m not really sure how that helps us, though.”
  “William,” said Cyril, his tailing flicking in excitement as inspiration took hold. “Do you remember the route that you and Billy took last night?”
  “I… I think so.” William told him.
  “Good! Tonight, I want you to tie yourselves together as before. This time, however, I want you to go to sleep in a different spot. Try to work out the direction you were heading and pick one of Toby Ron’s fields that should let you bypass Watchtower Valley. Toby Ron and Duke should be able to help you there.”
  Mog nodded. “Yes! That should work. If in doubt about the location, err on the side of caution. We don’t want you going through that field again. If Pan keeps failing, he might seek out a different vehicle.”
  “Don’t worry,” Billy told him. “We really don’t want to go through there again!”
  “Good!” smiled Cyril. “In the meantime, I suggest that you go home and make sure that William gets as much rest as he can before sundown. With any luck, he’s going to have a busy night.”

Chapter 10.4 ☛

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Chapter 10.2

Detective Inspector Rhys-Morgan was dozing in his chair when a knock on the door roused him from his slumber.
  “Come in!” It was an awful dream anyway. (The one where he was wandering in the fruit and vegetable section of Tesco wearing nothing but his pyjamas. And a large aubergine.)
  He sat forward and picked instinctively reached for the mug on his desk and took a mouthful of the contents. It was cold. How long had he been asleep?
  “You alright, Guv?” Sergeant Jenkins asked as he entered the office and spied his superior’s face.
  “I’ll live, Tommie.” He looked up. “You don’t look too hot yourself. What’ve you got for me?”
  “Just got the official confirmation about Frank’s wife, Sarah. She was one of the victims.”
  Rhys-Morgan nodded. “I feared as much when I saw the medical report, yesterday. I think something funny is going on. This one’s tricky - take a seat.”
  “Er, Chief?” Tommie nodded at the clock on Rhys-Morgan’s wall. “Everyone’s waiting in the briefing room. I came to find out where you were!”
  “Damn!” Rhys-Morgan leapt to his feet. He had obviously been asleep for longer than he thought. “Sorry Tommie. Let’s go!”
  Tommie led the way to the briefing room while Rhys-Morgan tried to collect his thoughts. Hopefully one of his men will have uncovered the crucial piece of evidence that will make this case start to make sense. Or, failing that, will have brought him a double expresso from the Starbucks round the corner.
  “All right gang, listen up!” he told the assembled troops. “We’ve got some more information since yesterday. I want to get to the bottom of this one, quickly. The press are already beginning to sniff around and I don’t want rumours getting out of hand.” He turned to the blackboard at the front of the room.
  “OK, first up,” he said. “Bobby and Tommo have come up trumps with the vehicles. The red landrover was indeed Frank Jackson’s.” He connected the word Landrover and Frank’s name with a wavy chalk line. “The moped and volvo belonged to,” he checked the paper in his hand, ”Emma Fredricks and Duncan Bridges. Both local. Both young. Both probably victims.”
  “Er, Guv?” It was PC Robert Williams.
  “Yes, Bobby?”
  “Forensics came through about twenty minutes ago. Emma and Duncan are both positive matches.”
  Rhys-Morgan nodded and replaced the question marks linked to each vehicle on the blackboard with the appropriate owner’s name.
  “That brings the identified victims to five.”
  “Add Frank’s wife Sarah and we have six, Guv.” Tommie told him.
  “But what we still lack is a motive,” said Rhys-Morgan. “I went down to Frank and Dave’s lawyers yesterday hoping to get a lead on that. It seems that they had not received any threats of any kind. However, Anthony Smeg – the young lawyer that represented them – was missing.” Rhys-Morgan somehow managed to make the word ‘lawyer’ sound like ‘parasite’. “So too was the law firm’s secretary, Wendy Lloyd. Both Anthony and Wendy have been confirmed among the victims.”
  Rhys-Morgan paused to write both names on the blackboard, linking them to each other and to Frank and David.
  “Now,” he continued, “their roles in the Jackson and Lloyd case may just be coincidental. Wendy was David Lloyd ‘s sister-in-law, married to his brother Peter. There’s no sign of him yet but neither do we have a positive ID from forensics. Whatever happened there may simply have affected them too.
  “However,” he paused again as he chalked up Peter? and linked the name to David and Wendy.
  “However,” he repeated, “we cannot rule out the possibility that something more sinister is going on.”
  “By who, Guv?” asked Tommie. “Who could possibly want to hurt Frank and Sarah?”
  “Well, although they received no actual threats that we are aware of, Mr Butterworth informed me that they were working on a legal case against Garth Jones. It seems that Jackson and Lloyd wanted some recompense for the ruination of their reputations.”
  “Excuse me, Guv,” said PC Roger Davies from the assembly, his voice quavering slightly with the excitement of a potentially big find. “Garth Jones is missing. No one’s seen him since last day.”
  “Ha!” cried Rhys-Morgan. “I knew it!”
  “That’s because he’s probably another one of the victims, Guv,” said another voice.
  It was PC Williams again. “One of the victims, Guv.”
  “I don’t understand. What would Garth Jones be doing in a field with Dave Lloyd and the Jacksons?”
  “I don’t know, Guv.” Williams answered, shaking his head. “But it’s on this morning’s forensic report. Working from information on file, some of the blood on the robes has been given a 99.7% probability of being Garth Jones’.”
  Rhys-Morgan took the print-out from PC Williams and read it for himself. It was true. His bubble burst momentarily, he turned and wrote Garth Jones on the board, followed by several question marks and a couple of exclamation marks for good measure. He stood back then lent forward and added another exclamation mark, just to be sure.
  “I don’t like to say it,” said Tommie, “but I’d have to agree that it wasn’t him. I just don’t think this is Garth’s style. I mean, the man’s heart’s as evil as a goblin’s testicles but he wouldn’t go this far. He’d have too much to lose and too little to gain. I certainly don’t think he’s be intimidated by a court case. He gets his kicks from that kind of thing.”
  “Then what?” He sighed and scanned the faces in front of him. “Cerys. Any news on Patrick Edwards?”
  “By all accounts he was a top bloke,” she said. “He was definitely a pagan. Invited one of the nuns to do some naked frolicking once. No mention of ritual suicide, though.”
  “Anything else strange apart from the paganism?”
  “Yes. But not to do with Patrick Edwards.”
  Closing his eyes in an effort to concentrate, Rhys-Morgan pinched the bridge of his nose.
  “It was just something that Mary said – she was the nun that was tied up in the robbery there a couple of weeks ago. Apparently a couple of tortoises were taken. Now, that’s a bit odd in itself but we found that tortoise-shell…”
  “…at the bomb-site.” Rhys-Morgan finished.
  “Yes, though actually it wasn’t found at the site itself.”
  “But your report said…”
  “Yes, well, it turns out that Cassidy was not entirely honest. I bumped into the Spandex and they told me it had been blown into a wood some distance away. It must have been right in the centre of the blast. I think it could be important. I mean, what was a tortoise doing there in the first place? They’re not exactly endemic.”
  “They’re not endemic?” Rhys-Morgan had forgotten about the tortoise and his tired brain was not coping well. He spotted Cerys shaking her head at him with slightly wide eyes and did his best to recover quickly. “I mean, ahem, of course they’re not endemic.”
  “Yes but why steal them from a school?” asked Tommie. “Why not just get one from a pet shop?”
  The briefing room echoed with the sound of Rhys-Morgan slapping his forehead with his right palm.
  “Maybe it did come from a pet shop,” he said. “Peter’s Pet Shop to be precise. Wendy lives - lived - above it. Presumably, her husband Peter runs it. That theft is probably just a coincidence, after all.”
  “I guess the tortoise must have been part of the ritual,” said PC Davies. “A sacrifice, or something.”
  “Assuming this was a ritual suicide,” said Rhys-Morgan. “But I’m not so sure. Why? Why would the likes of Anthony Smeg commit suicide when they so much to live for?”
  “What’s a plausible alternative?” asked Tommie.
  “Murder.” Rhys-Morgan replied with a slight curl of his top lip. “Rumour had it that Anthony and Wendy were having an affair. Maybe Peter found out and took the matter into his own hands. We all know the stats.”
  A couple of the officers nodded in agreement but Tommie was not convinced. “But why kill the others, Guv? Why kill his brother?”
  “I don’t know,” conceded Rhys-Morgan. “I’m just brainstorming. Maybe Dave found out but didn’t tell him. Maybe Peter just didn’t care anymore and killed everyone there including himself. Last act of a desperate man. A multiple murder-suicide.”
  “Maybe it wasn’t murder or suicide?” suggested PC Davies. “Maybe it was just an accident. A sacrifice that went horribly wrong? Instead of chucking the tortoise on the fire, they chucked on a bundle of dynamite or something?”
  “Maybe someone disguised some dynamite as a tortoise to fool them,” added Tommo nodding knowingly. “A conspiracy!”
  Rhys-Morgan sank slowly into the plastic chair next to the blackboard and rubbed his eyes with his non-chalky hand as, before him, his officers bounced around ideas of steadily increasing imagination and decreasing likelihood. He waited patiently for a lull in the general hubbub before rising to his feet once more. At this the final murmurs – some theory involving a group remorse following the sacrifice of an innocent tortoise – ground to a halt.
  “Maybe a lot of things,” Rhys-Morgan told them, the frustration spilling out of him in an uncharacteristic shout of rage. “Maybe the tortoise had explosive dia-bloody-rrhoea! But we still have unidentified bodies in the morgue and, whatever happened, we can’t assume that anyone was killed in the blast until we have full forensic reports. I want looking for Peter Lloyd and Garth Jones to be top priority. They’re not to be arrested – yet – but if they’re alive then I’d definitely like to talk to them.
  “Cerys. I want you to take dogs and sniff around Garth Jones place. Look for clues that may confirm him as one of the victims. Take Tommo with you. Roger, you and Bobby pay another visit to Peter’s Pet Shop. If he’s not there, then check with the neighbours as to when they last saw him. Davie and Rhys, search for any evidence of sightings of either of them. Liaise with other forces and spread their descriptions around. Check airports and ferry terminals around the country. If they’re on the run, they’ve had over 48 hours to get away.
  “The rest of you, keep working on that missing persons list. I want those bodies identified before the end of the day.”

Chapter 10.3 ☛

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Chapter 10.1

William awoke to a sharp tug on his throat. It was the middle of the night again. It was also misty again. In the boding stakes, things were already looking bad. Gradually, the young goat’s senses kicked in, one by one, and he realised that he was moving. Backwards.
  More specifically, he was being dragged backwards across the paddock by a rope attached to the collar around his neck. While his conscious self thought “this is odd”, his unconscious self began to realise that the pressure around his throat was rather uncomfortable and was beginning to choke him. The pull on the rope was slightly off-centre, however, and the friction of his hindquarters caused him to suddenly spin round and face the direction of travel.
  The rope now stretched away from William into the mist. With the pressure on his throat eased, his brain began to receive more oxygen and he awoke properly. He could not see what the rope was tied to but he knew it to be his brother, Billy.
  Apart from the cat’s projectile vomiting, the meeting with Mystic Mog had not gone as badly as William had feared. Mog had been too shaken up by what she would only describe as an “Unpleasant Psychic Episode” to be angry with William for long for losing Billy. In truth, she was simply relieved that the young goat had suffered no damage from psychokinetic feedback or “mental friendly fire”.
  Billy had obviously been annoyed at the revelation, especially after the praise that William had received from their mother for keeping him safe. Even he agreed that the experience with Mog was recompense enough and, though quick to anger, he was quick to forgive and forget. The main thing is that they were all determined not to let it happen again. This time, the two brothers were firmly attached. Wherever Pan took Billy, William had no choice but to follow – as he was currently finding out. Before tonight, he had not realised that his brother’s psychic weakness was so well compensating by physical strength.
  The fence at the edge of the paddock loomed out of the mist, and William decide that it was time to take a more active role in his progress. With the nimbleness of, well, a goat, he managed to scramble to his feet without ending flat on his face. He then had a split second to discern whether Billy had gone under the fence or between the two crossbeams. The wrong choice would most likely result in an uncomfortable choking sensation and quite probably splinters in unfortunate places.
  Between the crossbeams it was, and through William squeezed. Once into the field beyond, he wasted no time in closing the gap between himself and his brother. Where was Pan taking him this time? It was blatantly not the same route as last night, which took him down the lane, but William had been disorientated by his drag across the paddock and was not sure in which direction they were headed.
  Normally, he would use the stars to pinpoint his position and direction but the mist and low clouds had ruled that out this evening. This did not stop him staring vainly up into the heavens, though, and he nearly walked straight into the back of Billy as a result, whose progress could best be described as slow and steady. That would probably not be a good idea – he did not want to risk waking him up.
  Being careful not to trip either of them up with the rope, which was now slack and dragging along between them, William outflanked his brother and had a good stare at him. Were his eyes normally that glazed over? William assumed not but, having thought about it, realised that he had never really stared at his brother’s eyes before.
  This time, William’s staring did cause him to walk into something – another fence. This was not a good sign. Toby O’Bee did not have too many pastures, so they would probably be leaving his land. William suddenly found the mist to be quite comforting, shielding them from view from any potential hostilities. At least, that is what he hoped.
  There was no time to think about that now, though. Billy’s steady progress had already taken him through into the field beyond and if William did not follow promptly, he was in serious danger of getting tangled up.
  Once into the field, his concerns were realised. This field was being used to grow some kind of food crop. Toby O’Bee was not a practising farmer. He did occasionally employ a local lad named Spike to make bales of hay when the sun shined but that was just for rustic charm.
  The plants were head height for the young goat, and William found that he had to use the channel of flattened crops left by Billy if he were to stand any chance of keeping up. If the other goat was finding it heavy going, he was showing no sign of it. Presumably, such things were of no concern to Pan.
  Ahead of them, William spotted a hazy shape in the mist that made his heart skip a beat. It looked like a human figure. And Billy was marching straight towards it. If they had entered the land of Garth Jones, this could be very bad indeed.
  “Billy!” he hissed. “Billy, wake up!”
  He may have been there to follow Billy but his primary concern was always his brother’s safety – and his own. Billy did not respond, however, and continued inexorably towards the figure. William would have to find another way. Gritting his teeth, he dug his feet firmly into the ground and braced for the sharp tug that was about to come.
  When it did come, the tug on his collar was so sharp that it nearly pulled William off his feet. Billy had the strength of a creature possessed. But then, of course, he was. William now found himself being dragged across the ground once more, ripping up chunks of foliage as he went along, his feet ploughing furrows into the topsoil. This was blatantly not working. He was not even sure that his was slowing Billy down.
  With great reluctance, William conceded defeat. Even if he was making a difference, Billy was now dragging William plus the harvest of a small African nation. As a result, the strain on the rope and William’s collar – and, therefore, William’s neck – was getting just too much to bear. He would have to try a more direct approach.
  Shaking loose bits of plant off himself, William trotted after his brother.
  “Billy!” he hissed again, hoping that the figure ahead of them would not hear. “You’ve got to stop!”
  Just as he reached his brother, he heard a whir and a click from the direction of the figure.
  “Uh oh.”
  Suddenly the air was full of Jehovah’s Witness propaganda. William ducked in reflex and was pelted across his back and right flank. The deterrent was obviously designed with smaller creatures in mind, but they still stung as they made contact.
  In contrast, Billy seemed totally unmoved. Pamphlets were hitting his legs and glancing off his small horns but he plodded on, oblivious. Then a leaflet caught him square on the nose. He froze, and the quickly ducked as a second leaflet shot at him on the same trajectory. This was caught him square between the eyes.
  Billy looked round in confusion. “What the…?”
  He ducked as another pamphlet shot past at high velocity. Then there was calm. The figure in front of the goats was still clicking but nothing was being launched at them.
  “I guess it’s run out of ammo,” whispered William.
  Billy just stared around, wide-eyed, trying to take stock of what was happening. The clicking stopped. The two goats looked at each other and then at the Jehovah’s Witness, which, to their surprise, promptly disappeared from view.
  Billy threw William a quizzical look. William dropped it with a hapless shrug.
  Suddenly the Jehovah’s Witness sprung back into view. This time it was wearing a crudely fashioned turban and the informational literature had been replaced by something rather larger; and considerably more scary – a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
  “Run!” screamed William.
  At least, he tried to scream “Run!”. The end of the word was cut off by his collar whipping him backwards by his neck; Billy had needed no encouragement.
  William and Billy had never heard a gun being fired before, and it was loud: loud enough to firmly convince them that to be hit would be to enter a world of pain. (The goats had already visited Eric Lovell’s World of Pain earlier in the week, when Toby Ron had been redecorating the spare room. Fortunately, this was simply the result of a missing ‘T’, although some of the shades of one-coat emulsion were quite traumatic to behold. This one would be worse.)
  Fortunately for the goats, Farmer Jones had not upgraded the targeting system of this model and so it was just spraying bullets round at random. This was little consolation to the two animals, however, and they fled as fast as they could, fertilising the ground as they went. As it was, one of the bullets whistled by William’s ear, cutting the rope as it went.
  Feeling the rope go suddenly slack, Billy glanced over his shoulder to check on his brother’s progress. Seeing that he was OK, Billy turned back, just in time to run headlong into the fence at maximum speed. Such was his momentum, Billy crashed right through the wooden beam, back into the land of his owner, where he tottered shakily on his feet for a moment.
  “Are you OK?” asked William, breathlessly, as he caught up.
  Billy did not answer. Instead, he turned to look distantly at his brother, then simply keeled over and passed out.

Chapter 10.2 ☛

Monday, 3 September 2012

Chapter 9.6

Rhys-Morgan put the phone down, poured himself another cup of coffee and took a big swig. His face contorted. It was not a pretty sight, and not only because of the day’s stubble on his chin, the coffee-stained teeth and the big bags under his eyes.
  The expression he wore was one of gross disapproval. This was partly because his coffee tasted like mud – mud that had been stewed in a wrestler’s jock strap for a week or two. But the coffee was not the main reason for his displeasure – Rhys-Morgan’s coffee was not so much a hot beverage as it was a caffeine-delivery system, and he had long become accustomed to its dreadful flavour.
  Although not entirely unexpected, it was the identification of the two victims that had just been phoned through to him that had annoyed him so much. If there was one thing that got on Rhys-Morgan’s nerves, it was mime artists. And small yappy dogs wearing little coats. And Westlife. But more than all these things, it was loose ends. And rather than tying things up, the scribbled notes on the jotter next to his phone might open the door to a veritable jamboree of loose ends, frayed knots and general poor quality rope-work all round.
  This may not be suicide after all. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter 10.1 ☛

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Chapter 9.5

William shifted uncomfortably from leg to leg. “Can I whisper it in your ear?”
  Mystic Mog threw a look at Cyril who deflected it to Billy with a deft shrug of his shoulders. Billy caught it square on the chin and was not happy.
  “Don’t look at me,” he grumbled. “I was asleep at the time, remember?”
  Mog grunted. She was still not sleeping well and this pair of petulant animals was getting more than a little tiresome.
  “No,” she said firmly in answer to the first question.
  William gave her a pleading look.
  “No!” she repeated, the last remnant of kindness having ebbed from her voice along with her patience. “Just tell us where he went.”
  William looked down at his hooves.
  “I don’t think he went down there,” Mog chided. “Now, tell us!”
  “I don’t know where he went,” he mumbled.
  “What?” said Cyril. “I didn’t hear you?”
  “That was the point.” William muttered. He sidled away from Billy slightly and spoke up. “I said I don’t know! I… I lost him.”
  “You lost me?!” cried Billy. “Why you…”
  Cyril was quick to intervene, and sprung across Mog’s clearing to put himself between the two goats.
  “Eh! Calm down, calm down!”
  William’s bottom lip had started to quiver. “I’m sorry. I did follow you. But it was very foggy. And you lost your bell.”
  “I never…” Billy tailed off as he thought back. With reflection, he had woken up without the bell around his neck. He snorted and sat down sullenly.
  Cyril could see the situation getting out of hand and was quick to try and restore some harmony.
  “Eh, now, c’mon,” he told them. “Everyone just calm down and let’s see what William does know. Everyone calm down.”
  Mog stepped back – without realising it, she had arched her back, puffed up her tail and was standing over the cowering young goat, claws out and ready for action. With a great deal of effort, she calmed her voice. “OK, William. Describe what happened up to the point that you lost Billy.”
  William took a deep breath and told them how he had followed Billy as best he could through the fog down the farm track on to the road and then down the hill, towards Swansea.
  “I lost him for a while then, by the turn-off to Farmer Jones’s place.”
  Cyril gulped nervously. “You didn’t run into him or his tabby did you?”
  “No,” William replied. “Thankfully, he didn’t go that way – he continued down to the main road. I did run into a strange character, though.”
  The others listened with interest as William described his bizarre encounter with the small brown bird.
  “I think he was trying to help but I really could not understand anything he was saying. I mean, it was English and the words themselves were OK, it was just the sentences. Which bough is about to break? And what fruit is ripe for the picking?”
  “Sounds like the Zen Wren,” Mog told him. “Irritating little bastard. His wisdom is what you make of it. Personally, I’d ignore all that crap.”
  “What?!” she asked as three faces gawked at her in disbelief. “I may be a psychic but it doesn’t mean that I believe in any old crap!”
  “What happened when you reached the main road?” she asked, changing the subject.
  “That’s where I lost him. I reckon he was heading for Swansea, though.”
  “There’s not a lot in the other direction,” agreed Cyril.
  “Well,” said Mog. “Doesn’t really help us either way. Towards Swansea and we have too many possible destinations to make a prediction. Away from Swansea and we don’t have enough.” Billy again looked like he was going to cry. He legs really ached from last night and there was no way he wanted that to be for nothing.
  “Isn’t there anything we can do?” he asked, exasperated.
  Mog closed her eyes and felt the quiet pressure of fatigue push at her eyeballs. There was one thing left to try but she did not want to try it. When she opened her eyes, however, three expectant faces were looking right at her.
  “There is something we can try,” she conceded. “But I don’t hold out much hope.”
  “What is it?” asked William, eager that some miracle cure might yet get him off the hook. Even Billy perked up for a moment.
  “Well, you’re brothers,” Mog explained. “And, as such, will have a weak, latent psychic link. Although I cannot get a reading direct from young Billy as to where he went – he was asleep at the time, after all – I may be able to read from William. It will be tough, though. I will have to try and pick up faint psychic memories – so faint that William himself was not even aware of them at the time. I don’t rate our chances.”
  William stepped forward and then hesitated. “Is it dangerous?”
  “Well, dangerous is such a subjective word.” Mog answered evasively. “I mean, there is a small chance of your brain being turned into something the consistency of porridge but, hey, it’s more likely to happen to me. Or Billy.”
  “What?!” said Billy.
  “What?” asked Mog, full of innocence. “I’m joking!”
  “Mostly,” she coughed under her breath.
  William took another step forward, rallying as much of his courage as he could. “I am prepared to have a go if you are.”
  Billy opened his mouth to argue and then thought better of it as Mog watched his brother trot up to the picnic table and place his front paws in front of him in readiness.
  “OK,” she agreed. “Let’s do it!”
  Mog felt William tense slightly as she grabbed his paws in hers.
  “Now, close your eyes,” she commanded. “And try to relax!”
  Cyril stared across at Mog expectantly. He knew she was tired but she had always pulled through when it really mattered in the past. Her face was a portrait of total concentration.
  For twenty long seconds, nothing happened. Then the wailing started. It began quietly in the back of Mog’s throat and slowly increased in volume. As it reached an uncomfortable level, slight tremors began in Mog’s body, running from her shoulders down to the table. Cyril watched in concern. She did not normally wail during a serious reading – that stuff was just for paying customers. Something must be wrong.
  When the first spasm wracked Mog’s body, Cyril was already leaping through the air. The wailing was now at the kind of volume and pitch that could smash glassware from across the room. He arrived as the Mog was having her second spasm.
  Although small, Cyril’s speed gave him enough momentum to break the two animals apart. The wailing ceased immediately and William staggered backwards before falling over. Mystic Mog sat still for a moment, wavering slightly. Then she was violently sick.

Chapter 9.6 ☛

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Chapter 9.4

Rhys-Morgan liked his coffee like he did not like his women – strong and bitter. Hot and wet was okay but they should not come in a mug. (Rhys-Morgan had visited that particular club in Amsterdam and had not been impressed.) Coffee may stain your teeth but it would never run off with the men’s room attendant from your golf club.
  He leant back in his chair and rubbed his eyes wearily. The visit to Smeg & Butterworth had stirred up dregs of bad memories from a past that Ifan wanted to remain buried. The only thing he could do in response was to bury himself in his work.
  A quick gulp of his coffee snapped him out of his contemplation and he picked up the first sheet of paper from his in-tray. It was a copy of Sarah Jackson’s medical records. He knew what was coming next but was still hesitant as he turned the leaf and read the page stapled to it. It was a forensic report. Sarah’s profile was an exact match for one of the victims.
  With an involuntarily curl of his top lip he cast the papers back on his desk. It was bad enough when a couple of scumbags had a lethal falling out (often the lethality was due to one of them falling out a tenth story window, or a moving car) but he really hated the part of his job that dealt with the death of innocents.
  There was a soft knock at the door. Rhys-Morgan could see the familiar silhouette of Tommie through the frosted glass.
  “Come in, Tommie.”
  Tommie opened the door and lent around it. He gaze quickly flicked between the report on Rhys-Morgan’s desk and the expression on his face.
  “You’ve seen my report, then.”
  It was not a question but Rhys-Morgan felt it deserved a response. “Yes, Tommie.” He did not really know what else to say.
  Tommie’s body followed his head into the office and he placed a Krispy Kreme donut box on the Inspector’s desk in which the sole survivor of an original glazed dozen sat. There was a brief pause as a Tommie tried to discern the mood of his boss. “Bobby and Tommo are back. Shall I send them in?”
  Rhys-Morgan nodded with a resigned shrug. “Please. And I phoned in a request earlier for information on an Anthony Smeg and a Wendy Lloyd. I think Rog was doing the digging.” Tommie nodded, pleased to have an excuse to leave again. “I’ll get on it.”
  Thirty seconds or so after Tommie closed the door there was another knock. This time it sounded like someone trying to be gentle but, having giant hams for fists, failing miserably.
  Ifan did not even look up. “Come in Tommo.”
  The door opened and the shut heavily. A shadow slowly loomed over Rhys-Morgan and produced a sheet of paper.
  “Here’s the DVLA’s summary, Guv. Bobby’s finishing off the full report for you now.”
  “Thanks Tommo,” Rhys-Morgan answered, taking the proffered paper. “What have we got?”
  “The owners of the vehicles, Guv.”
  “Yes, Tommo,” sighed Rhys-Morgan. “I realise that. But what does it say?”
  “Well, Guv, Bobby was right. That Landrover did belong to the Jacksons.”
  Rhys-Morgan scanned the report. “Let’s see. ’82 Suzuki moped. Red.”
  “Belongs to a young girl, Emma Fredricks. We haven’t managed to track her down, yet. Forensics are double-checking but it looks like one of the victims may be a match.” Rhys-Morgan drained the rest of his mug. “And what about the owner of the Volvo?” He checked the page. “Duncan Bridges.”
  “Yeah. Twenty-three.” Tommo smirked. “Lives with his mum.”
  “Found him?”
  “Not yet. She didn’t know where he was. Went out very early yesterday morning. Hasn’t been since. Again, there’s a likely match with one of the bomb blast casualties. We should know for sure later.”
  “Good. The sooner we get these I.D.s, the better.” He turned the page and frowned. “What’s this blue Fiesta? That wasn’t in the original list.”
  “It got towed from a different lay-by to the other three,” Tommo explained. “Somehow got overlooked. Just as well, really - it didn’t belong to one of the victims.”
  Rhys-Morgan read on. “Ah, yes. A Stephen Bailey reported it missing just before lunch.” He raised his eyebrows. “My, that is some colourful language. Send a car to his house and get a statement. He might have seen or heard something. Failing that, it might stop him lodging an official complaint; that’s one hassle, I could really do without.”
  “Yes, Guv.”
  Rhys-Morgan dropped Tommo’s report on top of the medical reports from Tommie. It was not much but it was a step on the right direction, at least.
  “Right. Thanks, Tommo. Let me know when we have something more.”
  “Sure thing, Guv.”
  The shadow retreated, closing the door heavily behind it. Rhys-Morgan reached for the coffee pot. If forensics did get a positive match with Emma and Duncan then that would bring the identified victims to five. But who were the rest? And what was the link? And why could he not shake the feeling that he was not going to like the answers?

Chapter 9.5 ☛