Saturday, 28 August 2010

Episode 54

His name was Steve Corner and he had been in telecoms ever since he’d managed to escape the dunghill town (as he privately thought of it) of Cold-Stone, Missouri. Although he’d been armed only with his high school diploma when he escaped, he’d impressed the hiring manager at Rainbow Telecom enough to get a place as a trainee engineer. He’d been bright and hard-working, and in a few short years had made it to Lead Systems Engineer, a good, well-paid position.

This morning, he was whistling Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head’ softly to himself as he sat down in front of his computer and logged in for another shift. His inbox was bulging with all the usual work requests, chasers for work requests, company Health & Safety bulletins and the like. One email, however, caught his eye. It was from a sender he hadn’t heard from in a while and had really hoped not to have to hear from ever again.

The sender was RolexBoy99. Steve sighed: they’d been trainees together and close friends once upon a time. So much so that RolexBoy had been the one he’d turned to when he’d hit and killed a pedestrian one night while driving home from a night out. There’d been no witnesses and Steve had fled the scene, terrified of what he’d done. RolexBoy had been supportive, had even urged him to go the cops at first, but had stood by him even when he hadn’t.

After a few months, RolexBoy had moved to another job and that had been that – until the emails started. They had always been just simple requests, getting Steve to alter RolexBoy’s phone records and reduce his bill, give him unlimited texts, that kind of thing. This one was different, though.

Hi Steve

One last favour – and I do mean the last one ever this time, buddy. I need the text of all messages sent to and from these numbers since 00:00 this morning


Do this for me and you’ll never hear from me again, promise.


Accessing subscribers’ messages without authorisation was cause for instant dismissal, of course, but Steve’s heart leapt at the thought of never having to give in to RolexBoy’s blackmail attempts ever again.

His hands fairly flew over the keyboard in an effortless dance of access codes and menu-shortcuts. Soon he had the information on screen. There was very little activity, as it tuned out. All of the traffic, it seemed, had been between just one of the numbers in RolexBoy’s list and one other.

There were several outbound calls – not answered, evidently, then an exchange of texts, starting with an outgoing one:

07993345276: All safe here. Please call or text as soon as possible. Othello.
07744332257: Safe also. Box says there is a traitor in OGS. Meet us at 1472 Goose Egg Drive. H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07744332257: Do you have an ETA? H
07993345276: On our way. O.

Out of curiosity, Steve called up the subscriber names for the two numbers. The first one was registered to Aunt Aggie’s Family Cheesecake Company, the second to a Mr Raymond Donnelley.
Not recognising any of the names, Steve shrugged and pasted all the information into a reply email and hit send. Now maybe RolexBoy would finally leave him alone. He started whistling again.

Seconds later, a tinny little computer speaker beeped to alert its user to an incoming email. The user shut down the game of solitaire with which he had been amusing himself and opened up the message.

It was a good thing he was currently the sole occupant of the room – his air-punch and whispered exclamation of Yessss! would have raised more than one eyebrow.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Episode 53

"So what do we do now?" Prada wanted to know. "The demon's disappeared and, let's face it, we're no nearer to solving this thing than we were before."

"Can you not track him down," asked Teatime, "the same way you did when he and I were on the run from you before?"

"No," sighed India, "We were only able to catch up with you that time because I planted a tracking device in the demon's backpack – which, as you can see, is sitting right over there."

"We're not completely out of leads yet," said Othello. "We've still got our traitor to find plus something that occurred to me while we were sitting around with those UPS guys." He turned to Reverend Box.

"You said you worked on project Dynamo with another agent - Mark Rainbow. If he's still around then maybe whoever is trying to revive the project has approached him. Do you know where he is now? Maybe would could talk to him."

Box looked less than happy at this turn in the line of enquiry. He scratched one of his large ears for a moment before answering.

"Rainbow and I didn't exactly part on the best of terms." he began, "We'd worked on the project for ages, thrown our whole lives and a lot of OGS resource into it, and had got pretty frustrated at our lack of progress. Then he had this crazy idea that instead of Dismissing the next demon OGS came across, we should just Bind it and keep it around for study. I was totally against it – as was the OGS hierarchy when I told them, so the project was canned. Our relationship became more than a little frayed after that, shall we say. The way he saw it, I'd sabotaged his life's work, but it would have been far too dangerous – a Bound demon is still a demon after all."

Prada, who had been fiddling with her phone as Box talked, suddenly spoke up.

"Your Mr Rainbow wouldn't be related to the Rainbows of Rainbow Industries, would he?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, he is," replied Box, "He's Jonathon Rainbow's younger brother and because of him OGS was able to buy quite a lot of equipment from Rainbow Industries for the Dynamo Project. When it was canned I think he got some heat from his older brother for allowing a lucrative arrangement to come to an end."

"That's very interesting," said Othello, "I don't know why we didn't think about this before. Rainbow is well-connected and might well be motivated to try to complete his life's work, wouldn't you say?"

"It's possible, I suppose," admitted Box, scratching his ear again, "But, last I heard, he was badly injured in a climbing accident at Casino Rocks. There's a part of it called Tumbling Angel, where you have to climb along hanging upside down from a roof-crack like Yosemite's Separate Reality. His safety wasn't hammered in hard enough and he fell a good forty feet. He was lucky to be alive, but the accident left him paralysed and, while his mind's OK, he's permanently on a ventilator now. I suppose he could be trying to finish the project, have one last throw of the dice, as it were, but it seems unlikely."

"He could have handed over the project to someone he trusted, though, someone able-bodied, maybe." said Othello. "Rainbow could be bankrolling it and providing guidance..?"

"I guess," Box acknowledged doubtfully.

"We have to check him out, surely." said Prada, "If only to eliminate him."

"And what of our traitor," added Teatime, "If this Rainbow chappie is really behind everything then our traitor must be connected to him in some way, keeping him informed of our movements and so forth. Is it worth looking again at those files you downloaded - or at Rainbow's own file for that matter?"

"Monkey's got a point," said Mercury, "It's something tangible to look for at any rate." He stifled a yawn. "It's been a long time since any of us slept. I suggest some of us take a nap while the others get another cup of coffee and start searching the records. We can take turns."

"Shouldn't somebody keep watch?" asked India.

"Fat lot of good it did us last time," said Prada. Then, seeing a faint bloom of red blossom under Othello's dark skin, she patted his shoulder, "Sorry, Othello, that was out of line."

"It's OK," he sighed, "I shouldn't have opened the door, it was stupid."

"Well, those guys got what they wanted, so I don't suppose we'll be seeing them again." said India. "I'll keep an eye out though, just in case. Let me just go and splash some cold water on my face first."

Meanwhile, Othello had booted his computer and was accessing the OGS system once more using Opal's password.

"What was Rainbow's codename as an agent?" he asked Box.

"Oh, it was Wood," replied Box, "after Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones. He was a huge fan of theirs, always playing their stuff while we were working. Boy, if I never have to hear Rip This Joint again it'll be too soon."

Othello's fingers tapped keys and brought up Agent Wood's file. An image of the agent stared out at him from the screen. Othello frowned.

"What's up?" asked Box, seeing the change in Othello's expression.

"It's probably the tiredness kicking in but there's something really familiar about that face and yet I'm pretty certain I've never met this guy."

"Well, he does resemble his older brother, Jonathon." said box, "You've probably seen him in the media about a million times."

"I suppose that could be it," said Othello, "But I'm sure I've seen a face like this just recently, but I can't put my finger on who it is or where it was." His fingers drummed lightly on the table as he tried to remember. "Nope," he said, after a while, "It's not coming back to me."

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Episode 52

Mr Teeth placed his glasses on the desk as Harold sat down opposite him. They'd been an impulse purchase when he'd stopped at the drugstore for some whey powder on the way here. Far from fixing his reading problems, however, all the glasses had done thus far was to give him a headache. He resisted the urge to rub the spot between his eyes.

"You can leave us," he informed the two fake UPS guys. "Tell Mr Peck to send me his final bill."

The one called Jeff grunted assent and the two men left the room, closing the door quietly.

There was a pregnant pause as Mr Teeth regarded Harold for a moment, noting the latter's change of clothes since the last time they'd met at Baron Samedi's. The little punk was still going with the scruffy look, it seemed, in contrast to his own businesslike dark suit and tie. Over the years, Mr Teeth had come to believe that his hugely muscular frame made much more of an impact on people when he dressed smartly. Jeans and t-shirts were all well and good when putting pressure on some kid in a back alley, but Mr Teeth himself rarely needed that kind of muscle these days - not that he didn't like to keep up the training, of course.

He leaned forward, steepling his fingers. The desk creaked slightly as he rested his elbows upon it.

"I've gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get you here," he said, "So I'll cut to the chase: I can see why you'd want to torch the club after we threw you out, but what have you done with my boss?"

So that's what it was all about! Harold was relieved. It seemed he wasn't about to be 'disappeared' after all. He remembered seeing Mr Teeth on the TV news saying he thought he knew who had burned down the club, but had never for a moment thought he was actually going to follow up on his suspicions – especially not to the extent of hiring people to kidnap him. He decided that the truth would be the best bet in this situation.

"Well," Harold said, "first of all, I didn't burn down your club and I have absolutely no idea where Baron Samedi is or what happened to him. I was actually in the middle of trying to find that out when your people waved guns at my friends and dragged me over here."

"You expect me to believe that?" said Mr Teeth.

Harold shrugged, "It's the truth. I wasn't even in town that night."

Mr Teeth did vaguely remember Mr Peck telling him that Harold had been seen getting on a train the day of the fire, but had decided that the little punk must have sneaked back into town on a later train or something. Who else could it have been?

Before he could pursue this line of thought any further, the silence was broken by the voice of Eddie Cochran singing I'm a-gonna raise a fuss, I'm a-gonna raise a holler.... It was Mr Teeth's phone. He picked it up, glanced irritatedly at the caller id and shut it off, putting an abrupt end to Mr Cochran's summertime blues.

"Look," said Harold, "I can prove I wasn't in town,"

So saying, Harold twisted his wrists apart, snapping the already weakened plastic cable-tie securing them. Seeing the sudden movement, Mr Teeth jumped out of his chair, gun in hand, pointing at Harold's head. Harold quickly held up his own hands to forestall any unpleasantness. Mr Teeth couldn't actually kill him, of course, but he'd already had to repair a considerable amount of damage to his vessel recently and he doubted Mr Teeth would be understanding enough to offer him pizza like the Reverend Box had.

"I'm just getting something out of my wallet," He said.

Mr Teeth lowered the gun slowly,

"You should have said what you were doing first," he grumbled, sitting down again.

Harold fished out his wallet. If he remembered rightly, it should still be in there tucked behind the bills. Yes!

"Look at this," Harold said, holding out a crumpled piece of paper.

"What is it," asked Mr Teeth, taking it.

"The bill from the Motel I was staying at that night."

Mr Teeth unfolded the paper and studied it for a few moments.

"You could have got this anywhere, it doesn't prove anything."

"You could always call them. I'm pretty certain they'll remember me, I left in rather a hurry and there was some damage." One kicked-in door, one smashed bathroom window...

Mt Teeth picked up his phone and, keeping a wary eye on Harold, dialled the Sleep-E-Zee Motel.


The Listener was awake again. No, that was too strong a word. The Listener was aware again. The voices were back, just on the edge of its hearing.

"If you don't believe me, just google 'parallel parking accident', the video's hilarious!" This was a new voice, quite deep and clearly amused at something.

"OK, if we can just focus on the job here please, people," This was the mosquito-voiced Dr Flowers, the Listener seemed to remember. "OK, careful now. Haynes, bring that dolly a bit closer will you? That's it. OK. Now lift."

"Ok, Doc, this'll be a slam dunk!"

There came a metallic whining noise and the Listener felt an unpleasant change in its world. A sort of slow invisible shimmering ran through its being like ink diffusing languidly through water. The whining stopped abruptly and the shimmering began to subside.

"Easy there," said another voice, deeper this time, "it's not quite centred. Haynes, move it a bit to the left will you?"

The machine-whine came again and with it the unsettling swirling feeling. Each swirl was almost enough to scatter the Listener's consciousness to oblivion. It was all it could do to hold on to the tatters of its self, to keep them integrated. The Listener wanted the swirling to stop. There had been a time when it could have made it stop, it thought. When was that? Memories hovered just out of reach, each one a faded postcard too indistinct to make out. Given time, though, the Listener felt sure it could make sense of them. Given time.

Suddenly, the Listener's world lurched and the voices were all shouting at once.

"Haynes, you idiot! I said LEFT!"

"Watch it!"


The whining noise cut off.

"Sorry, Doc, the damn tank swung when I wasn't expecting it," said a voice (Haynes's?), "I've got it now. I've got it."

"Alright," this was the Flowers voice again - it sounded very nervous. "Just slide the dolly a bit further under and let it down more slowly this time. There's absolutely no rush."

Another whine and swirl, albeit much shorter this time.

"That's got it," said one of the deeper voices, "Dead centre now, Doc."

"OK," said the Flowers voice, "Now unhook the chains and let's get it loaded into the truck, but for goodness sake, take it slowly!"

The world moved again, in a different way this time and, exhausted, the Listener allowed the swirling to carry it away into the dark.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Episode 51

The UPS truck rattled to a halt and the driver turned off the ignition. After the racket of the truck's diesel engine, the quiet was sudden, and Harold was surprised to hear birdsong coming from somewhere nearby. They were here, then – wherever 'here' was.

The back doors of the truck were opened and the occupants got out. Wherever here was, it was certainly nice. A long curving gravel drive wound its way up from the main road through a grove of scented orange trees. In front of a large house, fountains played noisily up and down in a large shallow pool the size of a small lake. The house itself looked like one of those experimental projects that architects like to feature in their portfolios to impress rich clients – it was a bold statement in wedding-cake pink stucco. Here and there, circular windows had been dotted, seemingly at random, giving the whole thing a curious Swiss cheese look. As he was marched up the gleaming white marble steps leading to the house's huge front doors, Harold could not help but think that there were worse places to end one's days – if it came to that..


Teatime worked on the delicate operation of freeing the stupid human OGS leader with as much speed and as little blood-loss as possible. Once or twice, he had to control a sudden desire to bite the man's hand – the old un-reconstructed monkey in him coming out, no doubt. He hated being this close to humans, they smelled horrid and had big, frightening hands that could grab and hold onto a little monkey like him and do whatever horrible pointless experiments they wanted - and had done just that in the past.

Finally the last bit of plastic parted and the job was done. Mercury briefly rubbed his wrists where the cable-tie had dug into his skin, thanked Teatime, and went into the kitchen to find some scissors or a knife to free the others.

Teatime looked up to see the other agents looking at him with a quizzical expression.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Have I got something in my teeth?"

"Oh, nothing, "said Prada, "We just didn't realise monkeys could growl, that's all."


The interior of the house was cool, pale and fashionably minimalist in decor. The tasteful monotony of cream walls and blond wood floor was relieved here and there by vividly–coloured abstract paintings. To Harold's untrained eye they looked more like the frantic daubings of a chimpanzee than the subtle expression of some deep artistic truth, but then Harold would be the first to admit that his knowledge of painting was marginal at best.

'Jeff', the fake UPS worker, knocked politely on one of the pale wooden doors leading off the hallway, then opened it to allow Harold and the other UPS guy to enter.

Whatever Harold, in his current, rather paranoid state had been expecting, it certainly wasn't the sight of an african-american man-mountain sitting behind a desk, a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles perched with incongruous delicacy on his nose, fingers tapping away on a computer keyboard.

Mr Teeth removed his glasses and used them to point to a chair.

"Siddown," he growled, "You got some explainin' to do."