Monday, 25 October 2010

Episode 62

India was glad that it was not a particularly long distance back to Box’s friend’s house, if it had been she was not sure her sanity would have held up. It was all very well for Mercury to say ‘take the demon with you’ but he had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be in close proximity to the thing for any length of time. It was like having an itch deep inside her brain that she could not scratch and it was driving her bananas.

As she drove along, she suddenly found herself remembering that ridiculous film You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and that (red-headed?) woman whose name she could never recall – where the two main characters hated each other at the office but fell in love over the internet. Now, what on earth had made her think of that? She gave the thought an irritated shove to the back of her mind – focus, India, focus!

For his part, Harold was glad to be out and about again and actually doing something – well, sort-of, anyway. Agent India had been the one actually tasked with looking for Reverend Box and he had been sent along, he suspected, to get him out from underfoot, as it were. He didn’t mind though, it was not like he had any devastating insights to offer or any master strategies that would solve the whole mystery. So far his only real use to the team had been as a door-opener of all things – oh, and an ad hoc bomb disposal operative. Actually, that last one was pretty cool, though he did say so himself. He smiled to himself as he stared out the window.

They were passing the construction site, so a sign proclaimed, of 64 luxury apartments with underground parking. A couple of cranes towered overhead, carefully tending their concrete nest. Always building things, these humans.

“I wonder why they call them apartments?” he said, by way of conversation.

India glanced at him and then back at the road.

“No idea,” she replied. “So you can live apart from everybody else in them, I suppose.”

“Pity they don’t build togetherments instead,” Harold said.

“I would have thought you’d relish the idea of humans all living apart in lonely misery.”

I certainly would,” piped up Teatime. “It’s no more than they deserve. Beastly creatures, most of them.”

“Well I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” declared Harold.

“Really?” India hauled on the steering wheel and made a right turn. “I thought the whole point of your existence was to increase the sum of human misery by any means possible.”

“Not at all,” replied Harold. He could answer this one with textbook accuracy, having heard it repeated many times by his fellow demons. “Our purpose is to distract mortals away from the light. Misery is often a by-product, of course, and it’s sometimes a tool, but it’s not the point of the exercise as such. We don’t hate humans, you know.” Actually, Harold knew, some demons did hate humans with a vengeance, but most regarded them as merely the material of their trade, like leather to a cobbler or iron to a blacksmith. A material to be worked on.

“Well excuse me if I don’t believe you,” sneered India, “ but it seems to me that, doing what you do, you can’t exactly have our best interests at heart, can you?”

“Hey, don’t blame me! I didn’t make the rules.”

“Ooh, now where have I heard that before?”

“It’s true, though!”

“If I may interrupt for just one moment what I’m sure is going to be a most fascinating discussion,” said Teatime loudly. “We are almost back at the house and we’ve seen no sign of Reverend Box. I suggest that, as we don’t know what has happened to him, we should park along here somewhere and approach the house cautiously, just in case.”


Box was drifting in and out of cosy cotton-wool land. At one point, he was sure he’d heard one of the nurses say something about a parachute, but there was no sign of one anywhere, so that couldn’t have been it. In the ER, they had cut his bike leathers off him to get at his injury (Darn, they’d been expensive!) and had dressed him in one of those stupid gowns with no back to them. Why’d they have to do that anyway? It was so undignified.

Box tried to focus. There was something important he should be doing. What had he been doing before ending up here?

Infinity Recycling! That was it! He needed to tell the others about the white van and the ‘field’ – whatever that was. He looked around him anxiously. Where had they put his phone?

Seeing him trying to struggle to a sitting position, a nurse came bustling over.

“Take it easy, Honey,” she said, pushing him gently but firmly back down into the pillow, “Just try to rest. Dr Morgan is just discussing your case with one of our surgeons. Looks like you’re going to need an operation on that leg. We won’t be long, I promise.”

“I need to make a call,” Box said. “Could you get me my phone, please?”

“Sure, Honey. Oh! Here’s Dr Morgan now.”

“Good afternoon, Mr Box!” Boomed the doctor with that brassy cheerfulness that medics all seem to employ around patients. He was a tall, greying man in his middle years, whose slightly protruding belly proclaimed him something of a stranger to hunger – or want, anyway. “Now let’s see about this leg of yours.” He continued, flipping the pages of Box’s chart. “ Our x-rays show that both of the bones in your lower leg have been badly damaged by the bullet – which is still in there, by the way – so we have no option but to operate and see if we can patch things up. I should warn you that there is a risk – a small one - that we might have to amputate if we can’t piece the bones back together. Dr Giordano will be performing the operation, though, and he’s a really first-rate surgeon. Nurse Hickey here will talk you through all the paperwork. Any questions?”

“How long am I likely to have to stay in hospital after the surgery?”

“At least a week, I’d think,” replied the doctor, “We have to make sure that everything settles in properly – we'd hate for you to come back in as a warrantee job, eh? Then you’ll be needing physical therapy for quite some time after that, I imagine. Now, I must get on.” With that, he turned and strode away. Box let his head fall back into the pillow.

This was terrible. He couldn’t afford to be out of the picture that long, but what choice did he have?

One thing was for sure, he needed to pass on what he’d found out as soon as possible.

“I really need to call and let my folks know what happened,” he said, “Can I have my phone now please?”


Across the street from the entrance to Mercy Hospital, two men sat in a white car.

“Yeah, Jackson winged him, but he got to the hospital before we could stop him and they’ve taken him inside.” One of the men explained. He was holding up his mobile so that its microphone could pick up both his and his companion’s voices and it was set on speakerphone so that they could both hear the woman on the other end.

“That’s not good.” said the woman, “Church didn’t get a look at him, so do we know who he is? Is he from RolexBoy’s list, even?”

“Well, he’s a little runty guy, he’s not black and he’s not a girl, so we’re going for him being Nathaniel Box.”

”OK,” said the woman, “Go in there and see if you can confirm it’s him while I find out what they want us to do about this mess. If they ask, tell the nurses you used to work with him or something.”

“OK, will do.” The man snapped the phone shut and turned to his companion. “Wait here while I go in.” he said, opening the car door and getting out.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Episode 61

“I hope Box gets here soon,” said Mercury, “I’m keen for us to get back to work, but I don’t want to start until everyone’s here.”

“I’ll call him,” said Othello. He dialled, listened for a while then hung up. “It’s gone to voicemail.”
“Maybe he’s on his way but can’t answer while he’s riding.” suggested India.

“Yeah, but I would have thought he’d be here by now, anyway.” said Othello.

“Maybe he got sidetracked by a garage sale on the way here or something,” joked Prada.

“Perhaps we should take the car and backtrack the route, see if we can see him.” Said India.

“Good idea,” said Mercury, “You drive, and you might as well take the demon with you, seeing as its at a loose end.”

Harold’s face lit up while Mercury’s suggestion had the exact opposite effect on India, making their two faces look like Comedy and Tragedy. Wisely, though, India didn’t say anything as Othello tossed her the car keys.


A crowded vegetable market. Everybody towering over him and no sign of Mommy in the throngs of people pushing past him without so much as a downward glance. The panic welling up and the hot, stinging tears starting. His mouth opening to begin bawling.

A taste of honey, sweet on the tongue. Abigail’s slim brown hands offering him another helping of honeycomb, fresh from the hive..

A lynx, lying in the dappled shadows, tail twitching lazily, glutted and sleepy after a kill.

The buzz of summer insects floating on the still air.

Himself, shaking and chilled to the bone, dragging himself over the frozen assault course under a lead-coloured sky which promised yet more snow, while Sgt McAllister yelled himself hoarse, letting him and everybody else in the group know in no uncertain terms that he was the single most useless maggot of a cadet it had ever been his displeasure to train.

The sudden silver flash of a fish just below the surface of the lake. His dad, showing him how to catch them, teaching him how to bait the hook and send the line far, far out over the water.

"Sir?" the mellow, husky voice broke into this dream, scattering lake, fish and dad. "Sir? Can you hear me? Can you squeeze my hand? That’s good, that’s very good . Can you open your eyes for me please?”

Box opened his eyes then quickly squeezed them shut against the harsh white light. All around him he could hear the noise of people talking, machines beeping, doors banging and general hustle and bustle.

The pain in his leg was now just a dull throb, its power to distract his attention marginal at best. His head felt like it was stuffed full of warm cotton wool and he floated in pleasant drowsiness . They must have given him something for the pain - a pretty powerful something if the vividness of the dreams was anything to go by. Box dimly remembered riding the bike into the hospital parking lot. He’d tried to stop gracefully near the entrance to the ER, but in had ended up slowing right down and pretty much just falling over sideways, unable to dismount. Still, he had reached the shelter of the hospital and they had taken him in, away from Infinity Recycling – assuming it was them who had been following in the white car.

He was safe for the moment then.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Episode 60

Good evening Campers, it's the rather late edition of the weekly wordzzle.
The agents and Harold let themselves into Mr Teeth’s house.

Othello gave a softly appreciative whistle upon surveying the interior with its cool white walls, blond wood and abstract paintings.

“The man certainly does have taste,” he said, shaking his head wonderingly.

“Are you kidding?” said Prada, scornfully, “These pictures look like they were done by a monkey – no offence, Mr Teatime.”

“None taken,” replied Teatime, “I would venture the same opinion myself. I mean to say, just look at that one over there, all bluey-grey splodges. What on earth is all that about?”

“That’s ‘Bullet the Ocean by Tom Windermere, you philistines!” said Othello, walking over to the picture.

“One of his early pieces. He was very talented.”

“Was?” asked Prada, “Was? Don’t say he died a tragic death, too! What is it with these creative types always dropping off their perches early.”

“The brightest lights burn the shortest, I guess,” said Othello. Prada made a rude noise.

“Well, he should have lived to be a hundred then, looking at this.”

“Art doesn’t have to be photographically representational, you know,” Othello began to reply with some heat, but all the chatter was cut short as the house’s front door swung open and Mr Teeth came in.

He showed them all to a large, airy room that would serve them as an office for the duration.

“Let me just clear away this junk,” he said, and began sweeping bits and pieces – a broken pencil, a candy bar wrapper or several, some screwed-up sticky notes, bent paper clips and whatnot – that littered the two large oak desks into a waste bin.

“We got wireless networking here,” he continued, “Passphrase is ‘Steamy Windows’ and when Othello raised an eyebrow, he added “Don’t ask!”

“Thanks,” said Mercury, and they began to set up.

The room was well-equipped. Apart from the desks and chairs, there was a whiteboard and dry-wipe markers, a printer/copier and one of those phones with an external speaker for conference-calls.

Harold felt a little bit left out as he was not needed in any capacity at this point: Othello was setting up his laptop at one of the desks while Mercury was writing notes on the whiteboard. India and Prada were assisting him, adding material from their own notebooks. Bored, he wandered over to the printer/copier and started to press buttons for something to do. The machine emitted a series of protesting bleeps.

“Cut that out!” snapped India, “You’ll break it.”

“Sorry,” said Harold, giving the machine an apologetic pat. “Human technology fascinates me – actually, I say ‘human’, but I’m pretty sure some of my kind had a hand in designing these things.”

“I can believe it.” Said Mr Teeth, coming into the room. “Damn thing’s given me nothing but grief since I got it,” He set down his own laptop on the other desk. “One of these days I’m gonna take it out back and shoot it, I swear.”

Mercury glanced at his watch.

“I wonder what’s keeping Box.” He said, “He should be here by now.”


Box almost lost control of the bike as pain exploded in his right leg. So they hadn’t missed, after all! Well that confirmed it – as if it needed confirming - the so-called Infinity Recycling people were definitely NOT legit.

He wrestled the veering machine back onto a straight course, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with an oncoming truck, which blared its horn at him. He risked a quick glance down at his leg. It didn’t look too bad down there – he could see a hole torn in the calf of his boot where whatever they had fired at him had gone in and there didn’t seem to be much blood as yet. Maybe the damage wasn’t too severe, just very painful.

An intersection was coming up. Carefully, Box moved his foot to see if he could still change gear, and almost lost control once more as even the tentative pressure he had applied to the gear shifter caused the pain to double. Suddenly, he felt sick and could feel a cold sweat breaking out all over. Shock. This was not good. Not good at all. He should stop before he had an accident. Fortunately, there was no other traffic at the intersection and he was able to sail straight through.

He glanced in his mirror. Was that white car following him? He tried to remember the make of the car that had stopped outside the house, but couldn’t – he’d only seen it for a few moments anyway. Ok, if the car was from Infinity, he couldn’t afford to stop or they’d catch him for sure and they were playing for keeps, that much was obvious. Neither could he just ride to Mr Jackson’s house, the whole idea of moving there was to throw RolexBoy et al off their trail so he couldn’t risk them following him there.

What to do, what to do. He was beginning to feel dizzy and lightheaded.  If he didn’t do something soon, all decisions would be taken out of his hands when he fell off the bike – as seemed more and more likely.

He made a left.

The white car turned in after him.

He made a right.

The white car followed him.

“Zeus’s Golden Gonads.” He breathed. “Gimme a break!”

There was only one thing for it. There’d be all kinds of awkward questions of course, but the way things were going, it was the only sane choice.

He made another right and headed downtown.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Episode 59

A whole squadron of butterflies was scrambling in the aerodrome of Box's stomach – it had been a long time since he'd been involved in all this cloak and dagger nonsense on a regular basis. He heard the Infinity Recycling man's hand rattle the handle of the French doors, groping for the key which he, Box, had foolishly left in the lock. The man would be inside the house in moments. Box remembered one of his old partners - Agent Solitaire, a neurotic chatter box of a man – telling him that the best defence is not to be there.

Sound advice.

Box looked up from where he was crouching behind the kitchen counter. The door from the kitchen to the garage was about ten feet away. Quietly and quickly, he began to move towards the door, keeping an eye on the kitchen window to ensure that the woman that had rung the front door bell didn't see him moving and raise the alarm.

As he dodged through the garage door, he heard the squeak of the French doors opening. He'd not had a moment to waste then. He carefully, oh-so carefully, eased the door so that it was nearly, but not completely closed, and listened.

He heard the man walk from the living room into the hall, straight past the kitchen door and then there came the sound of the front door opening.

"Doesn't seem to be anybody here but us chickens," said the man, and Box heard the woman walk into the house.

"Doesn't mean there isn't, Church," she replied, ignoring his tongue-in-cheek manner. "RolexBoy's info is usually good and these things are capable of hiding in plain sight if it suits them. With the field up, it can't get away, so all we have to do is find it. Here, take this and do the downstairs and I'll do the upstairs."

What 'this' was, Box couldn't see, of course, but soon he could hear Church moving around the living room and every now and then there was an electronic beep. The woman had trotted up the stairs and Box could hear her moving around up there, too. Were they using some kind of scanning device? If so, what were they scanning for? And what was this 'field' the woman had mentioned?

Box could feel his heart pounding. It wouldn't take long for Church to work his way round the living room and kitchen. If he was to make his escape, it would have to be soon.

The bike was parked where he'd left it, facing towards the back of the garage, which was awkward. If he was going to ride it out the front, he would have to turn it around, which would take precious time. Then there was the garage door itself. He had the remote control in his pocket, but the door would take a while to open enough for him to get out and that would also give plenty of warning to the Infinity Recycling people that something was up.

He glanced around the garage. Its shelves were a typical dumping ground of domestic bric-a-brac: candles, matches, half-used tins of paint, barbecue charcoal, lighter fluid, rags, an old car battery, a tow-rope. For a moment, Box considered using some of the combustibles to create a diversion, but quickly dismissed the idea as too dangerous (plus the house belonged to a friend, after all). Then his eye fell on something he had not noticed before. A hand-lettered placard bearing the slogan 'Save Our Schools' was leaning up against... another door! The garage had a door into the back yard, then.

Box quickly moved the placard out of the way. The door looked just about wide enough. He tried the door handle. Locked. Box scanned around desperately. There, on the wall, a key hanging on a nail. Box grabbed it and fitted it quickly into the lock. At first it seemed to be stuck but with a grunt, Box managed to get it to turn. He shouldered the door open and grabbed the handlebars of the bike to wheel it out.

At that moment, the door from the kitchen opened and Church stepped through. His eyes were fixed on some kind of hand-held device so it took a moment for Box's presence in the garage to register.

A moment was all Box needed.

A half-used tin of 'Hint of Peach' completed its short ballistic trajectory and struck Church cleanly in the face. Startled, dazed and in pain, he staggered backwards with a roar. Crashing into the shelves behind him, he managed to dislodge their contents which showered down on him in an impressive display which, if someone had filmed it, would have been a sure fire hit on YouTube.

Not waiting around to admire his handiwork, Box quickly lugged the bike out through the door. Once outside, he jumped aboard, fired it up and with a roar was quickly round the side of the house and heading down the drive to the road.

In the bike's mirrors, he saw the doors of the big white Infinity Recycling truck fly open and a couple of white overall-clad figures leap out. One of then seemed to be pointing something at him, but they were too late by a country mile.

He grinned. Ha! Still a little life in the old dog yet, then!

He was still grinning when the pain hit.