Immoral Immortal | PART SEVEN | Flash Fiction

Click here to read Parts 1 – 6. 

PART SEVEN:

Irving tried to blink several times before his eyes would fully open. They felt as though they had been glued shut for weeks. As he would later discover – it had been six days. Six days since he had been gunned down in his own home; his sanctuary. It wasn’t his first flirtation with a fatality, but he didn’t care for it all the same.

Reality came shuddering back around him; the sound of nurses busying about their day in the corridor, the distant screams of a woman in labour. A building in which life and death both fought a daily battle; contending for the populace. Irving had always felt safe in hospitals; the familiarity of a medical environment, but waking up alone in a dimmed and empty ward, hidden behind the blue screens took the comfort away. He was very much on the back foot. He pushed his palms into the hard mattress, raising himself up in the bed until he found a vaguely comfortable sitting position. His legs seemed heavy and led-like and utterly no use at all, and Irving presumed it was the fatigue.

The curtains around his bed were drawn shut, but he could make out the human-shaped shadow approaching his bedside. The woman who emerged was altogether alarmingly unexpected. She greeted him with her usual sweet smile, tinged with a deep sadness that could not be ignored.

‘Kathy? What on earth are you doing here?’ Irving didn’t know what else to say.

‘You never allocated a new next of kin, so they contacted your old one instead.’ Kathy bent slightly and kissed Irving’s forehead. She wore a soft, grey roll neck jumper that forgivingly clung to her gracefully aged curves and bootcut trousers that exposed a pair of black kitten heels. Irving could smell her perfume lingering in the air; sweetening every breath he took as if in a field of daisies.

‘I’m sorry they bothered you. It’s nothing to worry about.’

‘Nothing to worry about?’ Kathy looked confused and outraged all at once, but that sad smile never vacated her lips. ‘You were shot at.’

‘Yes, well it was a tad unexpected. But I’m right as rain, just a bit tired is all. You really don’t need to be here. I’m sure the doctor will be round to discharge me soon.’

‘Irving.’ The confusion on his ex-wife’s face melted away and left something else in its place. Pity. ‘They told me the doctor would have already spoken to you before I got here.’ Irving had Kathy had lived very separate lives for over ten years, but he still knew every inch of her face.

‘Not good?’ His voiced piqued.

‘No, not good.’ Kathy hastily wipes away a year and sniffed; attempting to curtail the oncoming cry at bay.

‘Tell it to me straight, love.’ An old familiar affection slipping from his lips as naturally as air escaped his lungs. They were both older and wiser now, but as she sat perched on the edge of his bed, stroking his hand with her thumb – it was if the pain and heartache of their divorce had never happened. Instead, of a world-worn middle-aged woman, she was the matter-of-fact young solicitor with a closed heart and an open mind who he had been charmed by all those years ago.

‘It shattered a rib, punctured your right lung, and there is shrapnel embedded in your spinal cord.’ She took a deep breath and tried to keep it together for a moment longer. ‘Operations would probably paralyse you from the neck down, and leaving it will eventually kill you if it decides to move. There’s nothing to be done, my love. Stalemate.’

‘Bugger.’ Irving knew that if Kathy said it was hopeless, then that was that. She would have called in favours from the best doctors in the city. Everyone who was anyone owed Kathy Stiles a favour.

‘I am truly sorry.’ She squeezed his hand, unsure what else to say.

‘I’ve got a question for you.’

‘Anything? What do you need? What is it?’

‘Is my apartment in better or worse shape than I am?’

‘Your apartment can be repaired and replaced. You cannot.’

‘Know any good workmen? I might need a bit of help fitting the wheelchair ramps.’ Irving smirked, swerving to dodge a swat from Kathy. He became worryingly aware for the first time since opening his eyes just how little of his body he could feel. He stretched his arms out to test them; bending, twisting and wiggling everything possible. All seemed to be in working order. Then he moved onto his toes, commanding them to dance under the thin blanket. Nothing. Irving asked his knees to bend, but there was no response. Nothing Irving asked of his lower body was permitted. He was communicating, screaming internally at anything below his hips to move – even a little – but nothing happened, and nothing kept happening. His jokes about a wheelchair ramp now seemed naïve.

‘I’m never going to walk again, am I?’ It was a question but he didn’t want to hear the answer, and she didn’t give him one. Kathy had told him plain and simple that he was paralysed, but his mind had chosen – much like his legs – not to listen.  She sat silently holding his hand, and finally, let her own tears flow. Irving’s tears soon followed suit.

They were eventually interrupted by his doctor, an hour too late to break the news to Irving himself. Irving was deaf to his commiseration and feeble strategies for recovery. Nothing in his medical toolkit could make walk Irving walk again. He just wanted to go home and fix his apartment, to have a large glass of whisky and to keep helping young Ric with the mystery of the long dead. Perhaps even return to work with witty quips about his new wheels and recant brave and elaborate tales to his eager students. Instead, Irving politely let the doctor say his piece, nodding every twenty words or so. Once the doctor had left him, and Kathy had said her goodbyes – promising to return later on – Irving closed his eyes to the world and wished he had never opened them.

Immoral Immortal| PART SIX|

Catch up with Parts 1 – 5 here. 

Chapter Six

Ric felt the artificial lighting before he could see it. It burned his eyelids, penetrating towards his retinas; forcing his to scrunch his eyes tighter shut. It took him less than five seconds to remember being whacked and to realise he was strapped to a chair. The aged wood rough against his skin, as if it had been weathered by years of damp and rain. The fabric restraints were softer, a torn cloth of some kind.

The room was cold but had the warm and familiar scent of old books. He suspected they were probably in the library that had been broken into earlier that day. He kept his eyes shut. Ric knew the longer he kept his eyes closed, the longer he could feign unconsciousness. A metallic thud finally forced his eyes open.

And there she was. Looking at her was like staring out at a shimmering mirage. His brain knew she couldn’t exist – the shadow of a long-dead murderer – but his senses were screaming out to touch her white skin to prove she was real. Even as she paced the room – her stilettos clicking on the damaged oak floorboards – he couldn’t believe his eyes.

‘Ric, Ric, Ric. Oh – you have been a naughty boy.’ She tutted his name as she spoke. Her eyes glinting in the shadows. The bright lamp was not designed for the room they were in. The corners of the room were shrouded in shadows – which she did her best to keep to. The woman was waving an i-dent scanner in her right hand. Taunting him with it. He glanced down to his left arm and saw his bullet-torn shirt pulled up to reveal his i-dent patch.

Whenever someone moved to a new city, they were required to update their i-dent. The older i-dents were cards – evolved from the original donor cards. Professor Irving had lived in their city for ten years, so he never bothered updating his card. But Ric was new in town, so a new city meant an upgrade. To stop human traffickers from stealing legal i-dent cards – the city switched to chips, embedded into the skin of the wrist. It took the pulse, had in-built GPS to assist medics, his entire medical, professional and environmental history. In Ric’s case, it also had explicit details of the events leading up to and time spent in the GenSix Correctional Facility. The chips had almost every detail about a person’s life – why is why the i-dent scanner that she was flippantly tossing in the air was Government Issue Only.

Ric was wondering how she had managed to get hold of one when she cut through his thoughts with a question.

‘Did you get to see them?’

‘Who?’

‘Did you get to see them when you broke into the hospital?’ she asked again.

‘No.’ Ric’s whole body deflated. She had gone through his i-dent alright, every gory and miserable detail of his life.

‘Did she ever find out you were there?’

‘No. she… they… were both dead before I got there. I was too late.’

Ric could see the walls of the hospital in his mind. It was like he was back in that ward all over again. The military grey walls splattered with blood; corpses lined every corridor. By the time he had reached their room, it was too late. The whole hospital had been quarantined – and those who had been healthy when the doors sealed were now scattered throughout the hospital; joining the sick loved ones they had come to visit.

The only sounds were his footsteps, and those of the police tracking him through the hospital. He had thought through an escape – he knew of a rooftop exit – if only he could get there in time. As he found their room, he knew it had all been in vain. Ric stared at his once vivacious, charismatic wife – now awash with deathly pallor, her last act was devastatingly obvious. The crisp white hospital-issue pillow was still covering the newborn’s face. Their brand-new baby girl, stiller than the ground itself. Less than a week old, and already gone. A mother’s final act to protect her child – even if it meant killing her.

Ric had known it would be too late for his wife, but he had hoped the baby had escaped it somehow. He had heard rumours of babies being immune if the mother was infected during pregnancy. But even from across the room – for he dared not go any closer – he could see the buboes purple welts on the baby’s upper arm, matching her mother. The smell of rotting flesh hung in the air. Ric stepped forward into the room, just to see his daughter’s face. The first time he had seen her, she had just been pulled from her mother – a rosy, screaming bundle of life. Now, the second time Ric laid eyes on his baby, she was blue with death and forever silenced. Just five days old. And his beautiful, strong wife – Genevieve – slumped over in her death bed, black blood oozed from her mouth.

Ric had known it was a bad idea bringing her to the hospital – had the doctors known she had the sickness; they would never have admitted her to the labour ward. She would have been segregated, observed, tested on, and eventually executed before the disease could spread. Now, because of Ric, over two hundred people had been infected and died. All for nothing. His last hope of rescuing his baby girl had been extinguished as painfully as her life.

‘Such a shame.’ The Red Woman interrupted his painful memories once more; bringing him back to his fresh new hell. Three years had passed since their deaths, but he could never shake the nightmares.

Breaking into a quarantined hospital was a federal crime – and one that ultimately ended in solitude. They could not risk him serving his sentence with the general population prisoners – he could have caught the infection in the hospital. Instead, he spent one year’s quarantine time alone in a glass box, being watched and tested every day. After the year was up, he was deemed physically healthy, but mentally unprepared to socialise with the other prisoners. His isolation had given him time to replay those horrific moments over and over again in his mind. It was enough to drive a grown man insane. He was allowed to serve the remainder of his eighteen-month sentence in solitary confinement; his only company was the once-a-day food tray delivery and a photo of Genevieve.

‘How did she get sick?’ The woman asked, a disgustingly sympathetic look on her face. ‘It wasn’t in your file.’ She explained.

‘Her sister got it first. My wife used to be a nurse, so she tried to help her get better – before we realised it was the infection. By the time we did, it was too late. Gen’s sister died in her arms. She was covered in her blood. Gen started to panic about the baby and the stress triggered her labour. I didn’t think she was sick – she wasn’t showing any of the symptoms. But when we got to the hospital, I could see the welts starting to show. Gen had just given birth when one of the midwives noticed the welts and pulled the quarantine alarm. I just managed to see my daughter be born before I was dragged from the room and sent through decontamination and evacuated with everyone else. I never saw them alive again.’

‘I’m sorry, I truly am.’ The Red Woman sounded sincere. It had surprised Ric, but not enough to let his guard down.

‘Why am I here?’

‘I thought it would be obvious. Especially considering you have just told the very story that brought you here.’ She placed the scanner on a nearby table and folded her arms, propping herself up against the wall.

‘It’s not obvious to me.’

‘You’ve been snooping around in my business. Do you know who I am yet?’

‘A weirdo pretending to be a centuries-old serial killer who looked like an old cartoon?’

‘I’m not pretending to be anyone. But I’ll give you a clue – I’m not a ghost either. And funnily enough, that’s nothing to do with why you are here.’

‘Where did you get the i-dent scanner? Who did you steal it from?’ Ric tried to change the subject and learn as much as he could about his captor.

‘Who says I stole it?’

‘You’re not a government agent. They are the only ones with scanners – so you must have stolen it.’

‘That’s one theory.’ The woman looked offended for a moment, then she smiled it away. ‘For your information, I didn’t steal it. I invented it.’ A smirk danced across her painted mouth.

The more Ric looked at her, the more it was obvious that she was not and had never been a Ward – despite the daring outfit. She had no grace, and she certainly wasn’t demure or comely. She didn’t glide across the floor, rather prowl. She was a woman on a mission, and right now – he seemed to be in her way. Ric could tell that was a bad place to be.

‘He’s okay, by the way. The medics got there just in time. Irving is lucky you were there to help. Although, it’s your fault he was shot at in the first place… so maybe not so lucky.’

Ric’s depressional melancholy dissipated at the mention of Irving, returning him to his usual stubborn state. They had been shot at in Irving’s apartment. Ric hadn’t told anyone that he was going there; he had no one to tell.

‘You were following me.’ He didn’t have to ask her; it was obvious now. ‘Since I first saw you on the train?’

‘No, Before. I’ve been watching you for a while now. We had to keep an eye on you.’ The woman finally approached him and undid his restraints. Ric rubbed his wrists gratefully but remained seated. He pleaded with himself to stay calm long enough to come up with an exit strategy. He couldn’t be sure she was alone – a woman like this would probably have back up within earshot.

‘Why are you so interested in me?’ Ric seethed.

‘Oh Ric. I thought you were smarter than that.’ Her eyes glinted in the shadows. ‘Your sister-in-law, wife and new-born child died from the sickness. You spent days stuck in the house with your wife and her sister as she died. And yet you still breathe? Oh yes, Ric. I’m very interested in you.’

Immoral Immortal – PART FIVE (Jessica Rabbit Flash Fiction)

Read Parts 1-4 here

Summary: The last time we saw Ric and Irving, they had just been shot at by unknown gunman after learning more about the Jessica Rabbit Killer. Now, they are fighting for their lives.

Chapter Five

‘Down!’ Ric barked, but he wasn’t quick enough. A rhythmic succession of bullets was screeching through the windows and obliterating every surface. The decanter turned to glittering specs across the table. Wooden walls now splintered and gaping. Papers and books shot to bits and flying around the room like a possessed madman was waving a wand.

Ric could just make out Irving through the whirl of papers. Downed, but moving.

‘At least he’s still alive.’ He thought as he tried to figure out a path to Irving without getting holes blown through his own flesh. Ric took his chance when they paused to reload or switch gunmen – he couldn’t see the shooters to confirm either way – and army-crawled across the floor. He swept books and exploded chairs alike out of his way until he reached the professor. Even in the mere seconds since he had been downed, Irving looked like he was closer to the doors of hell than the land of the living.

Ric prayed to any rotten deity that would listen, and then grabbed Irving’s good arm and dragged him back towards the lift. ‘If I could just summon the lift’, he thought, ‘I’ve got a chance of getting us out alive’. He shuffled backwards, dragging the moaning professor inch after agonising inch. A quick glance up told him there was no apartment left as the bullets still soared through the air. Once he finally reached the doors, Ric blindly shoved his hand in the air and groped for the call button, a rogue shot narrowly missing his elbow. He threw himself back down to the hardwood floors and waited for death. And then hope came in the sound of the lift arriving.

The professor was waning fast, so Ric had to keep dragging himself and Irving inch by bloody inch until all limbs were clear of the lift doors. He pushed himself as far into the corner as his broad shoulders would allow and shuffled up the wall, pushing up from his knees. He scrambled for any floor numbers he could reach and hit the ‘Close Doors’ button. The lift seamlessly drew itself closed and started to smoothly glide down dozens of floors. Ric didn’t have a plan, but as a stray bullet dinged the very top of the door, he knew he needed one – and fast.

Irving’s blood was drenching them both. The lift looked like a murder scene, and at any moment the lift doors might expose them to an unsuspecting room of strangers. Most lift entrances opened directly into the apartments, with very few hitting service floors or exits. Ric had no idea what floor he was sending them to. His prayers were answered when they came out at the Fifth Floor – Janitorial. He dragged the almost unconscious professor out onto the concrete floor and let the lift soar back down to the lobby. By now, the shooters were probably searching every inch of Irving’s apartment. Ric slumped against the wall, bleeding professor in his lap. He looked down to see the whites of Irving’s eyes, glistening in the dank light of Fifth Floor.

‘They think you know.’ Irving creaked, closing his eyes again.

‘Hey old man, come on. Stay with me’ he said, shaking Irving by the shoulders. ‘We need to get you help. Where’s your i-dent card?’ Ric searched through the professor’s pockets until he found his wallet. He didn’t want to involve anyone else, but Irving wouldn’t survive a patch up from some quickie street doctor. He needed real help. Ric pulled the i-dent card out of the front slit and pressed Irving’s bloody index finger onto the bottom right-hand corner of the card. The fingerprint glowed a neon green and started to flash.

‘Irv – help is on the way, okay? You just need to stay with it a little longer and then the medics will be here.’

‘You can’t be here. Upstairs. They’ve got everything-.’ the professor coughed, his skin growing paler.

‘I’ll take care of it, professor. I’ll burn whatever’s left.’

‘No, not the girl. They’ve got your papers.’ Irving kept trying to sit up, but the sound of approaching sirens gave him the OK to lay back down. ‘We need to talk.’

‘OK, I’ll come with you to the hospi-.’ Irving cut him off by gripping his arm.

‘No – it’s too dangerous. Wait for me to contact you.’

Ric looked at the old man, lifeline slipping slowly from view, and wondered if the professor knew he was dying. He wasn’t making any sense. Why would Irving have papers on him?

‘Kid, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve seen more bullets than movies, and one day I’ll tell you all about it. But for now, get out of here.’

The sirens screeched closer and louder, and Ric was out of time. His only hope of evading questions was to hide. He examined the floor for the first time since they arrived, and swore gracefully at the sight of a supply cupboard. He squeezed Irving’s hand, told him not to die, and ran to the cupboard door. He had yanked it open and gently pulled it closed just in time. The medics came rushing out of the lift, stretcher in tow. Ric watched through a crack in the door as his closest friend – who was really only a stranger – was carted off to the Capita Hospital in an ambulance. He prayed once more to his unloving gods that Irving would make it out alive, and once the coast was clear, headed out of his cupboard and down a fire escape staircase.

As daylight hit his face – so did someone’s fist. The last thing he saw was a flash of scarlet before his face met with the ground.

Immoral Immortal – PART FOUR (Jessica Rabbit Flash Fiction)

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here. 

Read Part Three here.

immoral immortal

It didn’t take long for the mysterious woman to make the local newsbytes.

Newsbytes streamed twenty-four hours a day, every day. Every little thing that happened in your section made it on the news. But a strange woman dressed like a Ward in weird clothing grabbed the headlines. Pushing aside the otherwise breaking news that someone had broken into a boarded-up library and stolen several books, Jessica Rabbit was all over the newsbytes.

 

The newsflash gleamed across Ric and Professor Irving’s lenses and they accepted the update. ‘WOMAN IN RED – READ NOW?’ They both blinked twice and the story was available.

‘EYEWITNESSES SAY THE GHOST OF AN OLD-EARTH SERIAL KILLER IS ROAMING THE STREETS.’ ‘WIFE OF JOURNALIST SAYS ‘MY HUSBAND WENT TO MEET HER AND NEVER CAME HOME.’ ‘MORE DISAPPEARANCES HAPPENING DAILY.’  ‘WOMAN IN RED KIDNAPPING MEN IN THE NIGHT.’ ‘HEAD-WARD, MISTRESS LUNA, CLAIMS THE SUSPECT IS NOT A ROGUE WARD.’ ‘MORE TO FOLLOW.’

They both blinked twice once more and the story slid away from their vision and the professor’s apartment came back into view.

‘We need to find her.’

‘As always Ric, you stated the obvious.’

‘Alright, old man.’ Ric jeered, a smirk on his face. Despite the professor’s aged features, he was only twelve years older than him. Irving always said that decrepitness was the price to pay for knowledge.

‘What’s your plan, then?’

‘I will be the bait, you be the hook?’

‘You’re going to meet her, is that your grand idea?’

‘Pretty much?’

‘And to whom should I invoice your funeral costs?’

‘You.’ Ric laughed but the professor didn’t seem to be joking. ‘I’ll be fine, Irving. As long as you’ve got my back.’ He glanced up at an old-fashioned clock on Irving’s mantlepiece. ‘I’ve got to go to work – they’re going to sack me if I’m late again.’

‘You are too smart to be working in that factory.’

‘Not according to my aptitude tests.’ Ric walked over to the elevator and pressed the call button. It dinged a pleasant ding and he waited for it to arrive.

‘I wouldn’t trust those if I were you. You aren’t from this area originally – they probably allocated labour work because there was a space, not because you’re unintelligent. You would be much more at home in the education sector.’ Irving had a stern, fatherly look on his face which made Ric feel like a teenager again. Which both hurt and healed him.

‘Teaching a bunch of screen-grabbing kids? No thanks, professor. I’ll be back soon, don’t you worry, old man.’ The lift doors opened and he stepped inside, his back to the professor.

It was only as he turned back to faced Irving that he heard the first shot pierce through the living room window and his Irving in the left shoulder.

A Different Kind of Work | Short Story

Everyone has a day job in one way or another. Some people work in offices or restaurants. Other people work shifts in bars or in shops. Tabitha Thwaites had a day job like everyone else. It just involved taking her clothes off instead of working behind a desk. Although, sometimes it involved working on top of one.

‘You shouldn’t have booked me, Simon – I’m doing a stand-up gig tonight.’ Tabitha pulled the phone away from her ear to check the time. ‘Okay, I’ll fit it in – but it better be a quick one. Remember what happened last time you promised me a fast getaway.’ She picked up the pace as she walked down the high street, her black patent heels clicking faster and faster on the cobblestones.

Tabitha’s phone buzzed against her ear and she pulled it away to check the text. ‘Is that the address? Tell him I’ll meet him on the bench down the street. I’ll be there in ten – do I need any props? Ah, sexy secretary – I can do that, easy. I’ve got a book and a pair of glasses in my bag.’

Tabitha continued walking until she reached the end of the main road and then turned the corner and carried on for a quarter of a mile, entering a modest housing estate. Crossing over the road, she rested her phone between her ear and her shoulder and pulled a book from her bag.

She turned the book over in her hand to check the title in response to the man on the phone. ‘Um, it’s called ‘Please Miss, We’re Boys’.  It’s quite good actually. I’ve got to go – he’s coming.’ She ended the call and dropped the phone into her open handbag. Tabitha sat on the bench, crossed one leg over the other and opened the book to a random page. The client approached a moment later.

‘They’re always nervous’, she thought to herself.  ‘He looks like he needs a drink. Maybe I should suggest one? No – don’t be ridiculous, Tabitha. It’s the middle of the day. Not exactly the best idea I’ve had all day. Me in a bar is a bad idea. Then again, tequila…’ She snapped back into reality when she noticed the man shifting on the spot as if he was desperate for a wee. ‘Yep, nervous.’ She smiled to herself and then at him, her eyes unwillingly glancing at the zip on his trousers, which was slowly bending out of shape.

‘Hi there.’ She smiled, this time looking at his face. He was tanned, deeply, as if he travelled a lot. He was in a tailored blue suit and brown leather shoes. Nothing about him screamed sexually inexperienced. Nothing about him screamed sex god either, though.

‘Ahem, yes. Hello. Are you – the uh? I mean, hi.’ The man nervously stuck his hand out in front of him to shake her hand, but in doing so he knocked the sunglasses out of his jacket pocket.

‘Nice to meet you Scott – I’m Tabitha.’ Tabitha smiled and shook his hand in return. She let her grip weaken so he could pull back, and she slipped her hand into her plum-coloured coat pocket. ‘Shall we go?’

‘Oh, um, yes, follow me.’ He gestured back toward the way he had just come, so they started to work. ‘Uh, how does this well um, work?’ Scott tried to sneak a glance at Tabitha as they strolled, but stumbled over a broken paving slab.

‘No business during business hours, Scott. That’s my motto.’ Scott gave her a puzzled look, so she clarified, ‘Whatever price you worked out with Simon, send it to him on PayPal – he’s a pimp for the 21st century. I don’t deal with the money, Simon says I’m too conspicuous-looking to be trusted not to get caught.’

‘Too conspicuous?’ Scott asked, innocently, but the penny seemed to drop as he asked.

‘Now, where’s home for you, eh? Anywhere near here?’ Tabitha asked, trying to change the subject. She could feel him looking at her, but where most men went straight for the cleavage, Scott seemed to be staring at her auburn hair, longing to touch it. But his hands stayed firmly in his pockets.

‘Uh, it’s a-across the street and around the corner.’

‘No, silly. I meant where are you from.’

‘Oh, still across the street. It’s the house I grew up in.’ He swept a pale hand through a wavy blonde fringe, eyes fixed to the floor.

‘Really?’

‘Don’t worry – I’m not a kid or anything! My parents shipped off to Spain a few years ago and let me live there. I bought them out last year.’

‘Look at you, a dashing boy in a sharp suit, owning your own house and everything.’ She teased but was inwardly impressed. Tabitha had worked two, sometimes three jobs at a time since she was sixteen and all she could afford was a boxy flat above the chip shop. It smelled of salt and grease, but at least dinner was always a few steps away. The fishmonger’s twenty-something son was sweet on her, so if she timed it right – dinner was on the house.

‘I should tell you, Scott – I’m on a bit of a time frame today, you see I’ve got another job-’

‘Another client?’ He interrupted, clearly bothered by the premise.

They turned a corner onto a street lined with bare trees, the leaves flooding the floor with oranges, reds and yellows. Tabitha loved the autumn the most, cosy jumpers and hot chocolate and early nights with a good book.

‘Uh, not exactly.’ She usually didn’t talk to clients about her gigs, but she fancied this one, so she broke her rule.  ‘I do stand-up.’

‘Are you funny?’

‘You know, I have no idea. People laugh when I speak – I’m just not sure whether it’s with me or at me.’ She walked through the oak door he held open for her and immediately felt out of her depth. ‘He could afford so much better than me,’ she thought.

‘This is a beautiful house, Scott. Props on the decorating. Oh, I love those stairs.’ She took off her coat. ‘Hand carved?’

‘Sorry?’

‘The bannisters?’ She pointed to the stairs. They were intricately carved designs on oak wood, matching the woodwork in the rest of the house.

‘Oh-oh yes. Took me three weeks. My parents hadn’t decorated this place since the Fifties. I ripped it all out and started again. God, you should have seen the Artex ceilings.’ He looked at Tabitha and then at the top of the stairs, expecting her to head straight for the bedroom. And to his credit, that was usually how she did things.

‘Let’s go to the kitchen first and have a nice cup of coffee before we start?’ She spotted the kitchen through an open door and half-walked half-jogged towards it.   She heard Scott dutifully follow her to the back of the house and felt him watching her again as she found her way around the kitchen. This time, his gaze had finally found her rack.

Tabitha had been up half the night writing material for tonight’s gig and was then kept up for the rest of it by drunk punters in the chip shop below her bedroom. Caffeine was needed before she could him a thorough going over.

She figured out the coffee machine and made herself a mocha, and Scott a black coffee upon pestering him for his preferred poison of choice. But both coffees end up un-drank and cold. Tabitha had turned around to give him his coffee to find him in a grey button-up shirt, and black trousers that were just a little bit too long for him. He’d kicked off his shoes and revealed expensive-but-hilarious Days of the Week socks. She was a sucker for a vulnerable guy. Tabitha often wondered if that was due to her pathological need to fix things, or if there just happened to be a correlation between vulnerability and cuteness.

‘Damn, I was really looking forward to this coffee.’ She joked, fake-pouting and looking mournfully at the glass mug in her hand as she placed it on the side.

‘I’ll make you another one after?’ Scott had seemingly gained some confidence now they were behind closed doors and, two strides later was pressed up against Tabitha, backing her against the counter. A drawer handle jabbed her in the hip, making her jump a bit but she didn’t care. She grabbed him by the collar and planted a kiss on his lips, and another, and another until they were seamless. They stumbled through the halls, crashing into chairs and walls and doors, tripping up the stairs until – still with their eyes mostly closed – they found the bedroom.

Several hours later when the sun had started to set, Tabitha finally got her first cup of coffee of the day. She had put her coat on as a makeshift dressing gown, her dress was somewhere upstairs and she was too lazy to go and find it.

As she sipped at the hot coffee, Tabitha glanced around the kitchen and admired the view. The beautiful wallpaper, the incredibly expensive-looking stove, and a vintage wall clock hung on the wall, the sparkling worktops. Tabitha’s eyes darted back towards the clock and panic-stricken dropped her mug in the nearby sink and went in search for her shoes. She was due on stage in twenty minutes. Tabitha called goodbye to Scott, who had disappeared for a shower, and rushed out of the door.

It was only as she approached the bar where her gig was that she realized she was missing something very important. Clothes. A perfect picture of her dress draped across Scott’s bannister flashed through her mind and she swore loud enough to startle a passer-by. She looked around desperately for somewhere to buy a new outfit, but everything was closed. It was too late to go home, and just as she contemplated calling in sick, she was spotted by Jack. Jack was the barman/events manager for the bar, and he was not quick to forgive a cancelled gig. Tabitha already owed him too many favours for times where she had been late before. She was all out of favours now.

Her chin practically digging into her chest, Tabitha waved her way past Jack and entered the bar through the back entrance, pulling the belt of her coat tighter and tighter and she walked.

‘Y’alright, Tabs? You look a bit pale,’ Jack drawled in a South-American accent, stamping out a cigarette and following her down the side of the bar.

‘Cold.’ She grumbled and tugged the back door open, barely holding it long enough for Jack to come in behind her. Tabitha rushed to the dressing room after muttering an excuse to Jack about needing to get ready. ‘Get ready?’ she thought, ‘I’m half-naked and about to go on stage and tell jokes, how the fuck am I supposed to get ready for that?’

A few minutes later, after a waitress had dropped by with her usual Jack Daniels and coke, and a few hyperventilating breaths, Tabitha heard her call to come on stage. Her feet had to carry her because the rest of Tabitha just wanted to curl up into a ball of embarrassment and die in the corner. Somehow, she made it onto the stage and found the microphone in the blaring bright stage lights. She usually disliked not being able to see the audience, but tonight it seemed like a blessing in disguise. The weak welcoming applause died down, and her cue to start being funny reared its ugly head. Her set vanished from her head, all jokes wiped from her memory – even the knock-knock ones she had learned as a child.

Tabitha took a deep breath and went for it.

‘True story for ya tonight, ladies and gentlemen – and if you don’t laugh me off the stage, I will personally give you all a refund. Won’t I, Jack?’ She gestured to Jack, who was propped up against the bar, polishing a glass. He looked shocked to be caught not working, but he laughed and nodded all the same. Tabitha slid her hands further up the microphone stand and clung to it for dear life.

‘Okay, so I don’t usually admit to this on stage – because you never know who’s in the audience, although I can guarantee my folks aren’t here tonight, thank fuck – but just this once, I’ll hold my hands up and admit it. I’m a sex worker.’ She paused and let it sink in. ‘I must be a pretty shit one if I have to tell jokes to pay the rent, but hey – whoring pays for my phone bill and weekly food shop.’ Tabitha paused as the audience laughed. It was a mostly male laugh by the deep tone. She understood why – women didn’t like hearing about prostitutes, it made them feel used and cheap. It was something she morally toyed with, but she wasn’t lying when she said it paid the bills.

‘So usually, my liaisons with clients are pretty dull – the odd banker with a fetish for lace, some unsuspecting grooms on stag nights – sorry, ladies!’ That got a couple more laughs, so she relaxed a little. ‘But today went a little differently. Wanna hear how?’ She waited as they cheered her on, and then continued her story, taking another deep breath.

‘Today, I met a real cutie. The kind of gent I rarely come across – polite, a homeowner, and quite the newbie to the solicitation game. Ladies, he did not need to pay for it – if you know what I mean. I would have spun his plates for free, let me tell you.’ Another laugh, louder and spattered with groans. One laugh stood out a little more than the others, although she couldn’t figure out why.

‘We had fun, him and me. Didn’t even get to drink my coffee – and it looked a good’un too – a fancy one from a coffee machine in his lush kitchen. A whirlwind romance, guys. I could have happily wandered around that house for hours. See ladies, he’s got cash too! Honestly, a real keeper. But I can’t date all the cute clients – how would I pay my bills, eh?’ Another big laugh. She was building up to the punch line. Tabitha glanced up at the stage timing lights – an invention of Jack’s. There are three green lights at the back of the bar – three lights, fifteen-minute sets. She was already down one light, but Tabitha had no intention of reaching the third one.

‘Anyway, like I was saying, today went a bit wrong, you see. I was so busy with my new lush client – I only went and forgot I was supposed to be coming here! And I just couldn’t bear the thought of all you lovely people sat here un-entertained, now could I?’ Tabitha grinned at them, and let go of the microphone stand as she stepped back a little.

‘Trouble is, I left something at his in the rush to come to see you all.’ She stopped and waited, knowing her crowd, waiting for something specific. Then it happened, a man sat in the front row called out and asked what it was.

‘I only went and left my clothes!’ She pulled open her coat like a flasher and let the laughter wash over her. As her bright red bra and panties were on display to fifty or so people, she went as red as her underwear. And then the laugh that had stuck out before, decided to speak.

‘I thought you might be needing this’, said the voice, cutting through the laughter.

Tabitha looked for the source of the voice, and with the crowd, discovered Scott stood at the back of the room, holding her dress in the air as if he was the guy at the end of The Breakfast Club, punching his hand in the air when he kissed the popular girl.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got to go and get dressed… and then undressed again’, she winked at the audience and held back a giggle. ‘Goodnight, folks.’ Tabitha gave them a big wave and proudly sauntered down the side-stage steps towards Scott.

‘I guess you’ll be wanting your dress back then?’ Scott smirked.

‘Keep it.’

– 

Thanks for reading! If you would like to see more of Tabitha, please let me know in the comments, or give this a Like! 

Immoral Immortal (Part 3) | FLASH FICTION

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here. 

Ric stepped into Irving’s apartment and the lift doors slid quietly closed behind him. On the coffee table in front of the professor were piles of paperwork scattered all over the place, and a screen projection hovering a metre above the table with images flickering across it.

As he walked towards the living room, he glanced at the standing bar with a glass of whisky already poured and waiting. Irving had an identical one a hand’s stretch away from him on the table, but he was more concerned about the paperwork than the drink. Ric picked up the glass and swilled the dark liquid in the crystal glass and took a sip. He welcomed its rough heat. Ric took another sip before placing the glass down in a gap on the table and picking up the closest file to him. Each file seemed to be old police reports – all the pages had faded and yellowed with time. He could taste the dust in the air as he flicked through the papers.

 

WITNESS TESTIMONY

NAME: SIMON TIMOTHY ST. JAMES

DOB: 21ST JUNE 2055

OFFICER MCNALLY: Can you describe the assailant?

ST. JAMES: She was wearing a bright red dress and purple heels. And she had really red hair – like orange-red. I only saw her quick – so I didn’t see her face or nothing.

OFFICER MCNALLY: What did you see happen?

ST. JAMES: She walked down the alley where I’d seen a bloke in a suit go ‘bout five minutes before. Then there were loads of noise and she came out and he didn’.

OFFICER MCNALLY: Did you witness the crime?

ST. JAMES: Love, I jus’ told you – they went in the alley an’ only the lass came back out.

OFFICER MCNALLY: So, if you didn’t see a crime being committed, why did you call the police?

ST. JAMES: Saw the body though, didn’ I? Big ol’ hole right in his chest. I tell you what – I recons it was them heels the devil ‘ad on. Stabbed him through the heart, she did.

OFFICER MCNALLY: Did you see any other evidence that the woman in question was the one to commit the murder?

ST. JAMES: Well, I didn’t need any did I? She’s that Jessica Rabbit killer, aint she?

END OF INTERVIEW

 

Ric looked over to Irving, who had is head in his hand and was watching him closely.

‘They’re all the same. No one ever saw her close up, they never witnessed her actually committing the murders. There’s no proof it’s even the same woman – just the same clothes. Not that they would have been easy to get hold of. Even back then – they weren’t making items like that anymore, the uniform structure was already in place unless you were an elite or a Ward.’ Irving looked defeatedly at the mess of paperwork on his table and started scraping it together to make what vaguely resembled a pile.

‘No, she’s not dressed like a Ward. She’s… different. People try not to look at Wards – but her, well you just sort of can’t help it. She doesn’t belong somehow.’

‘What exactly did she look like?’

‘Like this.’ Ric said, waving the witness interview around. ‘Red hair, red dress, purple heels.’

‘But did you see her face?’

‘She looked right at me, Professor. The face of an angel. Except-.’ Ric stopped halfway through his thought.

‘What?’

‘Eyes. Her eyes! Fuck sake – I knew she looked different!’ Ric touched his index finger gently to his left eye and as he pulled it away, an artificial lens came with it. ‘She’s not wearing lenses.’ He stared at the glint of the lens. If he looked close enough, he could see the coding scrawling across the top. They recorded everything, they showed you everything. You could even link them with ear pieces and use them as an entertainment system. But Ric could never afford that. He put the lens carefully back in his eye and blinked a few times.

‘But everyone wears them – even the Wards. Even the President of the World wears fucking lenses. It’s the law. If you’re caught not wearing them, you’re arrested.’ Irving searched through the papers and pulled out the only sketch of the woman. But there was no face depicted in the image, just her signature outfit.

‘I know, but I’m telling you she wasn’t wearing them.’

‘You can’t get anywhere without them. One of the murders was committed in a Public Library – they do retinal scans to check your Clearance.’

‘So how did she get in?’ Ric asked, picking up his drink and taking a swig.

‘Someone’s helping her.’

– End of Part Three –

Immoral Immortal: Flash Fiction (Part 2)

Part One Summary: Ric sees a woman on the shuttle who looks just like the infamous serial killer, Ruby Bennett, whose look was modelled on the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. Ric is left wondering whether the woman he saw was the real serial killer, still alive over 300 years later, or an imposter – both options are highly unlikely but possible.

Part Two: 

In the days that followed, Ric spent every spare moment researching Ruby Bennett, which was hard as he didn’t have Additional Education Clearance. He was a semi-skilled worker with Basic Education Level 4, with some Leisure Privileges – meaning most info stamps were out of his grasp. Ric had reached out to an old professor of his, Prof. Irving Stiles, implying it was research for a friend and was awaiting a response but didn’t hold out much hope.

In the meantime, he sought out as much as he could about Wards. He had seen them in the shuttles or on the streets, and the occasional one in a bar – but they wore a brighter red and never clothes so revealing. It was all part of the chase, the modesty, the allure of the hidden beauty under all the layers of scarves and linen robes. Men would pay a fortune just to see them naked – not even to touch them. Only the wealthiest men could afford such pleasures. Some of them even had Personal Wards – loyal only to them – but they were rare as many Wards lived in huge mansions in groups for their safety.

Ric had never considered paying for a Ward. He had encountered free-women in his youth and had even once had a wife for a brief but happy four years, but then she caught the Fire Fever during an outbreak and died. They had no children so Ric was left a widower and was free to marry again. But he never met another woman that held a candle to his departed wife, so he remained alone.

Ric kept looking for the woman on the shuttle, but after nine days of no sight of her, he began to wonder if he had made the whole thing up. Had he been dreaming; tired from a laborious day in the forest? Or had he truly seen a woman dressed as Ruby Bennett, and if so – why on earth would a woman dress as a 300-year-old serial killer from the 21st century?

Just as Ric had begun to give up, he received a comm from Irving with a vague message and an address. ‘Meet me to talk about your project. 122 34. JR D245’.

After his shift, Ric jumped on the shuttle heading North instead of South, and got off in the JR subsection. The country was divided into divisions, and then each division was split into subsections. Within each subsection were numbered blocks with individual living units. Ric headed through the streets to find Block 34. It was a much grander block than the one he lived in. it had plants out the front, and six steps leading up to huge wooden doors. It was unusual to see wood used in an almost decorative function after deforestation led to near-extinction of many species of trees. It had taken nearly two hundred years to genetically modify the spores to grow trees again, making them rare and very expensive.

Ric climbed the steps and put his thumb on the touch pad to the left of the door. The screen lit up with a keypad, and he typed in 122 for the unit number. The AI selected ‘122’ on the screen, and started to flash yellow. After a few seconds, the number turned green and Ric heard the door click open. He entered the lift and it zoomed up for a moment, and then to the left for several seconds, before stopping at 122. The lift doors opened into the unit, and Ric saw Irving sat on his sofa, surrounded by piles of faded papers and comm-screens.

‘Get in here.’ Irving said, a concerned look on his face. ‘Tell me everything you know, Ric – and don’t spare a single detail.’