Friday, May 13, 2016

"Leaves of The World Tree" by Adam Misner (Short Stories)



Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Leaves of the world tree is a collection of six short stories that take place in a wide variety of worlds, with varying degrees of fantasy and technology. The stories are stand-alone, making each is it's own adventure. Ranging from a bloody Viking battle to a necromancer love story, the collection is sure to give you a diverse dose of fantasy both high and low, urban and medieval.

Excerpt:

Like many Olafs before him, he was named Olaff. It was not a bad name by any means. He shared his name with four others born that year, and he would share it with seven the year after. Olaf was then, as it had been before, and would be for generations to come, a common name. It was as though his parents had expected him to be average. Growing up he never felt as though he were different from the other boys. He was not scrawny and smart, or muscular and dumb, nor better or worse at most things. He threw the axe at the tree and hit five times out of ten, and his spear landed smack in the middle of everyone else's. It was only when they taught him how to write his name that he realized he was unique. His mother, being the literate one, had spelled his name with an extra “f.”

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Lost Lake House: A Novella" by Elisabeth Grace Foley (Novella)




Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fairytale

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  All Dorothy Perkins wants is to have a good time. She’s wild about dancing, and can’t understand or accept her father’s strictness in forbidding it. Night after night she sneaks out to the Lost Lake House, a glamorous island nightclub rumored to be the front for more than just music and dancing…in spite of an increasingly uneasy feeling that she may be getting into something more than she can handle.

Marshall Kendrick knows the truth behind the Lost Lake House—and bitterly hates his job there. But fear and obligation have him trapped. When a twist of circumstances throws Dorothy and Marshall together one night, it may offer them both a chance at escaping the tangled web of fear and deceit each has woven…if only they are brave enough to take it.

Excerpt:

At eight-thirty Dorothy turned out the light in her bedroom and put on her hat and coat. If her room was dark and her father had not heard an outside door shut he never came to look in on her, but assumed she was asleep. She had learned his routine carefully, lying awake and listening on the nights she was at home. Still she had lately taken to rumpling up her bed and putting pillows under the coverlet, just in case—her conscience, recovering from the sulkiness that had set her on this path, was beginning to be jumpy. Then she climbed out the window onto the sloping back porch roof, slithered down an ivy-covered trellis and ran through the dark backyard to the side street. Their house was a big old-fashioned brick with a mansard roof, with the boughs of stately old oak trees brushing the upper story; situated at the corner of a block, its yard rimmed with hedges. There was an opening at the side for the path where the milkman and the grocer’s boy came to the back door, and Dorothy slipped through this and darted across the street in the dim light from the lamp on the next corner.

By quarter to nine she had reached the street corner where a group of girls and young men were waiting, milling about and laughing and teasing each other under the street lamp by a drugstore. Dorothy joined them, and they walked a few blocks to where some of the young men had cars waiting. They piled in and drove out the winding roads through the outskirts of town toward the lake, a little too fast once they were out of the part of the city more regularly patrolled by the police. Dorothy had at first been exhilarated by this ride, later a little alarmed by it, and then shamed into saying nothing by the nonchalant way in which the other girls took the whirling speed amid careless banter with the drivers. She laughed with the others, but kept a tight grip on the inner door-handle.

The dock for the Lost Lake ferry was at the bottom of a steep hill—cars were parked up above in an empty lot off the road that was supposed to be secret but which everyone knew about. Standing a little back from the dock, on the trodden gravelly shore, Dorothy stared across the water. On cloudy nights like this the lake and sky and island all melted into a uniform invisible black, so the blazing golden windows of the Lost Lake House seemed suspended in the middle of the lake like a floating fairy palace. The lighted ferryboat, which had left on one of its trips before her party reached the landing, inched across the lake like a little glowing caterpillar swimming toward it.

Dorothy shoved her hands deep in her coat pockets and suppressed a little shiver. It seemed they always arrived when the ferry was halfway across the lake to the island, and had to wait for its return. She could never entirely escape the chill of nervousness in her stomach while waiting, almost as bad as it had been the first time she crossed. It had not taken her long to hear the whispers about the Lost Lake House—that there was a hidden speakeasy inside—that there had been police raids before, and that it might happen again. Every time she had to wait in the half-dark by the ferry, near a little group of girls and men still teasing and laughing in half-whispers—by habit rather than fear with them—her jangling nerves expected at any moment the white glare of headlamps on police cars would pour down from the bank above and pin them in their blinding beams, branding them all as criminals and exposing their secret expeditions to the world. (Oh, wouldn’t her father be furious then!)

The ferry was coming back now, the strings of little Japanese lanterns that ornamented it bobbing above the black water. Dorothy’s breath came quicker as it always did at this moment, when the lighted ferryboat drew closer and the fear of the police began to recede. This was the moment—as the ferry bumped against the lower dock, and she followed the others down the wooden steps—the moment she tried to hug to herself, to savor the magic of as she stepped under the string of lanterns, fixed her eyes on the shining house across the lake, and felt the little lurch of the ferry carrying them out from the shore. She tried not to hear the chatter of the other passengers and the chug of the motor; she was busy making the Lost Lake House into fairyland.
Buy this story on Amazon or Kobo.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"The Bizarre Half Life of John Fortune" by James Gideon (Novelette)



Genre:  Alien Invasion, Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  John Fortune is a street kid made good. Thanks to an instinctive understanding of maths and physics, he carves out a successful career in interstellar engineering. But there's something not quite right about John. Something not quite human. His one true friend, Frank Patterson, is sure he knows the secret. Frank can't afford to be wrong. Mankind's survival depends on it.

Excerpt:

"You're not human, John. You are an alien."
 
There was no good way to say it so I chose simplicity. Do I regret it now? If I had my time over, I might have done it another way. So, yeah, I guess I regret it. Had I known the consequences, I suspect I would have said nothing at all. At the time, I believed I was doing the right thing.

John laughed. It was an abrupt barking sound, like someone trying to clear their throat and chuckle at the same time. As with so many of John's responses, it was learned. Or rather: it was taught. I was the one who did the teaching. His laugh was a sound I was used to but I was aware that people still glanced at each other the first time they heard it. It wasn't quite right. There was a quality to it which didn't ring true. Until that moment, John himself hadn't noticed.

It was 2098. We were together for the first time in years, on a rooftop in Central London. Once, this had been a restaurant called La Brocade. It was famous for its food, but also because city traders used to go there to commit suicide by throwing themselves over the railings and onto the concrete below. It was a popular thing to do after the 2071 market crash.

John and I had loved the place though. When we were still kids, struggling with the realities of life in a residential care home, we used to spend every hour we could in this part of London. The glass fronted buildings, the unusually clean streets; the aura of wealth. All of it spoke of a future we wanted to be part of. We couldn't see the restaurant from the ground, but we had pored over photographs. It was arranged like a terrace garden, with canvas parasols above each table, wooden decking, and decorative shrubs and plants everywhere. We used to think it had its own climate. In every photo we saw, it was always sunny; always summer. For two poor nine year old orphans, it was like paradise. We promised ourselves if we ever had the money, we would eat there once a week. It took us fifteen years but we did it. In the evenings, we used to sit, picking at our food, and staring up at the night sky. It was a game for John. He liked to pretend he could see faces in the stars. He couldn't, of course. Seeing faces was a human trait, so I knew he was lying. I couldn't see them either but I played along, trying to make my friend - my truest friend - feel a little happier, a little less alone.
Now, though, La Brocade was unrecognizable. The single remaining parasol was broken, torn canvas flapping like a dying bird struggling one last time to take flight in the breeze. Poking through the damp, mouldering decking were shoots from some of the same plants that had been used as decoration. The railings, erected to discourage the suicides, had fallen away. 

Below us, stretched out over miles, was the quarantine zone. It had physical boundaries - armed guards, electrified fencing; high graphene walls - but even from our elevated position, I couldn't see them. I knew John could, though. My eyesight was good, his was supra-normal. Always had been.
John again laughed at my words. "An alien?" he asked; his tone incredulous. "I've been called a lot of things, Frank. A lot of things, most of them really unpleasant, but that's a first."
Buy this story on Amazon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Three Roses" by P.S Henderson (Short Story)



Genre:  Erotica

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A woman agrees to relinquish control over her life to a BDSM Master who will train her to be a Submissive. For her pleasure, he allows another Master to enjoy her 3 times. Each time she is blindfolded and has never seen his face. Afterwards, he leaves a tiny rose tattoo on her ip. When her agreement is over, she meets her mystery Master again but this time they are fall in love.
Excerpt:

He bent down and kissed my cheek. Immediately, from the touch of his lips and his smell, I knew that he was the man I could never forget. The man who now lived in my darkest fantasies. He was the man that had taken me to the height of sexual ecstasy and back three different times and he was standing before me, only now he had a name and a face.

TWO YEARS EARLIER
A mentor Dominant. That’s what Daniel “Danny” Santiago was offering to me. In return for training to be a submissive, I would contract to be owned by him for one year.

“I will give you the world but in return, I will own your body and your mind completely.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

Within minutes of signing our contract, he ordered me to suck his dick. My training had begun. Why did I agree to such a deal? Why would any woman? Well, I instinctively knew that I had a submissive type of personality especially when it came to men and sex. Pleasing others is what I do best, and pleasing a man satisfies me sexually. So does the idea of being in his complete control.
Notice I said ‘idea’. Up until the moment I signed the contract, these ideas were fantasies. Danny had taken on the job of releasing my fantasies from their cage in my head and bringing them to life.

Buy this story on Amazon.

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Unbearable Data of a Thread Curtain" by James Dann (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Magic Realism

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction

Complete Flash Fiction:

Button up, button down, a rustic brown zip on a pocket that doesn’t open. Red and blue patchwork joined with… custard yellow thread? No, ivory white, idiot… focus. Channel it through the centre. Hemmed sleeves, logo stitched onto the breast pocket? No, at the back, under the shirt, long sleeved allowing the option of rolling them up in extreme heat and bouts of unjustified confidence. Unjustified Confidence. A new line? U.J For Men. Will it sell? Is that it?

Garson was hideous. An animal, barely passable as a functioning member of society. He was angry, flatfooted and slunk grotesquely about the office. Carrying with him, then depositing, a musk that seemed to linger (even in the factory) for an eternity & 10. His hostility was, at best, utterly over whelming. A 27 year old human-pretzel hybrid, swept into the darkest corner of every room. Sitting, muttering incoherently under his tongue with his arms folded so tight he could feel his cells replenishing and legs wrapped restrictedly around one another in a way that seemed to imply some sort of slow motion vasectomy.

His limp, hunched physique and thin cassette tape hair, supported by the ever quivering of his bottom lip seemed to hiss:

“Stop. Staring”

Which in turn, naturally, sent the spotlight forever above his head. The subject of ruthless office gossip, the strange one, bosses pet and friend to No One. Eyes so hollow that you could scream into them and hear the echoes bouncing of the sides. If they were any deeper bats would have a new home.

Garson was, as far as the staff could see, a repulsive dead weight. Anchored to the workforce and determined to drag everyone down to his depths. A dirty feather in the duvet, forever sticking out and nipping you in your sleep.

“God.”

Thought Toby, shaking his head, as he observed his clothes factory, his world, from his glass fish tank office at the top of his stairs. His wife, Mel, next to him, her earrings, his money, her eyes, looking at him, on her lunch break, a break from whatever it is she does. Hanging on his every word like she has none of her own. He sat beside her.

“If Garson ever learned to use his ability to predict the future, for something more than just keeping one step ahead of the change in shirt fashion…” Toby said, taking her hand and studying diamond ring around her index finger “-T.S Sherper would be ruined.”

At that, they turned silently to peer at Garson, down on the factory floor, hidden away in the corner behind the no.45 sewing machine, ignored and drummed out by the whirring hypnotic predictable hums of machinery. A lullaby for the grown man.

Sitting, straining, nervously gripping himself as the future predictions flooded his brains. Unable to control the never-ending cosmic onslaught of information, Garson sat quivering at the lips, too tense and exhausted to meet the eyes of his co-workers. Toby and his wife stared at Garson for a while, contemplating the thought. Then, like well-trained studio audience, they both simultaneously erupted in laughter. Holding each other, mocking their livelihood sitting in the corner. All the while Toby, hysterical with luck, never taking his hand off her index finger.

Cruel Godparents to say the least.

After Garson’s father took his own life, the next in line were Toby and Mel. They were mostly given the title as a courtesy to Toby, as he always fancied the word ‘God’ to be next to his name somewhere on paper.

After a neglectful eternity of consciously droning out the majority of what Garson was saying, Toby reluctantly started to take notice. Psychiatrics, teachers and various social workers could only determine that Garson was unquestionably deranged. It only took Toby three years of walking down the high street to realise he was much more than that.

There he sat, day after day. Staring at the others in a desperate plea for help, only for it to be taken as cynicism and hate. A scared and confused boy, with a curtain of shirt fashion prophesies clouding his every thought and movement. All the while his Godparents celebrated him silently, basking in the effect of torment and watching their empire grow.

Two sharks, lurking, pounding against the glass and baring their teeth. Knowing full well no one would ever dare put their hand in the tank.
Find out more on the author's website.

Friday, May 1, 2015

"Six Weeks" by Nnamdi Anyadike (Short Story)

Genre:  World War II Spy Thriller

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Complete Short Story:

June 4 1941

Jesus Green - a park in Cambridge, England

Sitting on a park bench and feeding the occasional bird that landed close by with the crumbs from a half eaten sandwich, Ilyavitch Romanov surveyed his surroundings with a practiced eye. It was early afternoon and it had become pleasantly warm. Few people were in the park and those that were ambled by slowly, singly or in twos. The foppish young man, who Romanov noticed had entered the park a moment ago, now minced towards him. “Do you mind if I join you?” he lisped slightly. Without waiting for an answer, the flaxen haired young man took his seat beside Romanov. Placing his sandwich box beside the Russian he sat in silence for perhaps a minute. He then made a wry face.

“My landlady, she’s ALWAYS making me ham sandwiches. She KNOWS I can’t stand them,” he said in camp anger. Romanov sat and looked ahead in stony silence, barely able to conceal his contempt. ‘If this is the pride of English manhood then Hitler will win the war and this little island is doomed’ he mused. ‘Still, Comrade Stalin had been right all along about Cambridge University and its upper class gang of useful idiots.’ “You should try my cheese sandwiches. They were made especially for me this morning,” Romanov said at last. The effete young man placed his hand softly on Romanov’s knee and leaned in towards him. He moved his lips close to the Russian who instinctively flinched in distaste.

With his mouth brushing Romanov’s left cheek and his right hand concealed from view the exchange was made. Picking up Romanov’s identical looking sandwich box - with its £1,000 in used notes hidden inside under a white napkin - Guy Burgess got up and without a word left the park the way he had came. Romanov took out a handkerchief and wiped his cheek. He looked around casually. The man who had been tailing him for the past hour and whose head was now buried in a newspaper casually got up slowly from his bench about 50 yards away and also left. Romanov smiled. The man would have seen exactly what he, Romanov, wanted him to see - nothing more nothing less. Later that evening in London the precious contents of Burgess’ box were assessed at the Soviet embassy. “You are to be congratulated comrade. This document is gold, pure gold,” the defence attaché said shaking Romanov, whose face remained expressionless, warmly by the hand.

Easter Sunday 1942

12.15 am – a Luftwaffe airfield somewhere in Northern France

SS officer Wolfgang Schmidt, together with an eight man Fallschirmjaeger team under the command of Captain Rudolf Nedermayer, left the Nissen hut and began walking purposefully in single file. Crossing the rain soaked airfield, they marched silently and grim faced towards the converted Dornier bomber that was parked 100 metres distant. Luftwaffe pilot Dieter Frank saluted Schmidt, “we may be lucky with the rain. The weather ship says it is clearing.” Schmidt acknowledged and without a word entered the aircraft followed by Nedermayer and his men. They checked their ‘chutes, weapons canisters - and the map - one last time. Then Schmidt spoke. “Gentlemen, the destiny of the Reich is in your hands – Heil Hitler.” The twin engines roared into life and the Dornier gathered speed. Racing up the grass runway it took off into the overcast night - heading towards the English Channel



May 4 2010

11.30 am

With a skid that ploughed neat twin furrows into the gravel strewn car park of Alexander Palace Kevin O’Dwyer brought his digger to a halt. Glancing at the haphazard array of JCB dump trucks, tracked vehicles, mobile power generators and assorted other construction equipment, he stepped down from his cab.

It was a fine sunny mid-morning and Kevin’s throat was parched. Opening a flask, he took a swig of the lukewarm remnants of his coffee then lit a ready made roll-up cigarette retrieved from a battered plastic pouch.

“Jayzus Kevin, are you’ze having another break already?” It was Paul Duffy the foreman. Emerging from the portacabin he strode angrily across the muddy ditch towards the young plant operator. Stepping on to the pedestrian path that was now closed off to the public and passing the piles of plastic piping, he looked at him with exasperation, “Sure it’s your second since you started this morning.”

Duffy and the rest of the crew at Hannity Construction knew that their company was on a tight schedule. Renovation work at London’s historic palace, located in the scenic heights of North London’s Muswell Hill, had started in January. It was supposed to be completed by the end of the year. But they were already two weeks behind schedule. Duffy knew that any delay could mean a hefty penalty for the company – in which case he could kiss goodbye to his Christmas bonus.

“OK chief,” said Kevin stubbing out his roll-up, “just let me finish this swig and I’ll be right back with you.” Returning to his dumpster, Kevin drove out of the car park and followed the sloping path until he reached the trench he had been digging. He sighed, he was on piecework after all and he knew that he needed to get a move on.

A popular song by the hit Irish boy band was playing on the small radio in his cab. Grinning, Kevin sang along with it in staccato bursts. A minute later he stopped. The clanging sound as he brought the digger’s shovel down was unmistakeable. ‘That’s not concrete – don’t tell me I’ve cracked a f***kin’ gas pipe,’ he swore under his breath.

Jumping down from his cab, he peered down into the trench. With another curse he descended hesitantly into the three foot deep excavation to get a better look. “Guv,” he shouted in the direction of the portacabin 50 metres away. “Guvnor,” he shouted louder. Duffy marched over to him, belligerence oozing from every pore. “What the f**kin’ hell is it this time?” he demanded.

“I think you’ze better see this,” Kevin replied quietly.

                                                            ****

The wail of sirens and flashing blue lights that an hour ago heralded the arrival of the speeding convoy of emergency response vehicles were now switched off. A police van had been turned into a mobile incident unit, while three squad cars blocked the entrance to the park.

All work on the site had now stopped and Hannity Construction’s employees were being ushered round the blue and white incident tape that had sectioned off the trench into the van to be questioned.

“So, Kevin O’Dwyer – that is your name, is it – tell me again what happened,” asked Sergeant Mike Timms. “It’s just loike I said,” Kevin answered wearily. Timms looked at him again and scrutinised the youth’s baffled young features for a full minute. “OK,” he said at last, “you may go, but we may want to speak to you again – you do understand that, don’t you?” Kevin nodded and left the van.

The sergeant shook his head and returned to his notes. Beside him on the floor the item found by Kevin was now bagged up, ready to be taken back to the crime lab. The door opened silently and two figures entered the mobile incident unit. Seated at his desk Timms started to look up “You need to wait your turn,” he began irritably.

Then, observing the two well dressed men who were standing in front of him, Timms quickly moved to press the alarm button on his police issue tunic. The older man spoke as Timms hesitated with his finger poised on the security device. “I don’t think we need to involve the police lab with that,” he said with quiet authority, nodding in the direction of the bag while simultaneously taking out a card from his wallet and holding it out for inspection.

Timms examined the card, turning it over and over. “Yes sir,” he said slowly. “Do you mind if I show this to my chief first, just to confirm?” “By all means,” came the response. “Oh and let’s try and keep this as quiet as possible – you know, no press that sort of thing.”

Five minutes later, the two M15 men together with the item that was still in its official police bag, were driving away from Muswell Hill. In less than an hour they were sitting in the office of Senior Intelligence Analyst Tony Halcroft - the contents of the police bag on open display on his desk.

“Any problems?” he asked. “No, the Sergeant and his superior were quite cooperative. As for the young chap that found it? I don’t think he’ll be any trouble,” said Dave Hicks, the older M15 man.

The three fell silent and looked again at the desk. “What exactly is it?” asked Trevor Stubbs the younger man. “That young Stubbs, still factory wrapped in its protective oilskin, is a Schmeisser machine pistol. And beside it, is its ammunition clip, “said Halcroft.

He turned to the other item that was retrieved from the trench – an old disintegrating leather pouch, which contained a folded silk map. He opened it. Still clearly visible on the map, though now faded with age, were lines of Russian text in an undecipherable Cyrillic script. To the side were jottings in German.

“My God,” Halcroft said finally. “So it WAS true after all.”

                                                            ****


Easter Sunday 1942

The fine sheets of rain, which had fallen incessantly across southern England for much of the previous evening, had begun to subside - it was 1.40 am. SS officer Schmidt and Nedermayer’s men worked feverishly.

Half an hour earlier, the Dornier flying at low level had dropped through the leaden skies to disgorge the team, which drifted silently down into a blacked out North London. Gathering up the last of their parachutes from the sodden ground they buried them in one of the wooded areas that bordered the otherwise tranquil 196 acres that surrounded AlexanderPalace. Then opening their canisters they began to assemble their standard issue Schmeisser machine pistols.

“Damn,” swore paratrooper Kurt Manneheim softly as his weapon and ammunition clip slipped from his gloves into a flooded ditch. Bending, he frantically scrambled to find them in the pitch dark only to realise with horror that the water proof leather pouch containing the map – the precious map - had also fallen into the ditch. The sound of a twig breaking made them all hug the ground and freeze instantly.

For a minute nobody moved. Then half standing Nedermayer gestured for the others to make a run for the assembly area. Attaching their ammunition clips they dashed across the field in a crouch towards the car park. In the foreground, loomed the huge, unlit shape of the palace. The two estate cars were parked side by side, doors unlocked - just as agent Juan Pujol had assured them they would be.

Silently, they opened the doors and separated into the two pre-arranged snatch teams. Nedermayer would drive the lead car, SS officer Schmidt would follow in the second. “Captain,” Manneheim stammered. Trembling, he told Nedermayer about the lost map and weapon.

“Idiot, it was just as well we have two copies of the map. Get into the second car with Muller and follow us. God help you when we get back to Berlin and Schmidt makes his mission report,” he hissed venomously. He started the car engine, ‘perhaps I should have said - if - we get back to Berlin’, he thought as he moved off.

Sweating with panic, Manneheim tried to start the second car. “What’s the matter man, we’ll lose them,” said Schmidt. “The fuel line, it must be flooded, sir.” He responded haplessly. The lead car moved slowly down the narrow road towards the park gate that would exit Nedermayer and his men onto the main road to Crouch End.

Fifty metres from the park gate, and hidden from view by the clump of trees that sheltered a dirt path, stood the parked British army Bedford truck. Captain Kirkby Lane was silent and tense, waiting with his squad of ten men. Across the other side of the road in trench coat and trilby hat, ‘Colonel John’ M15 officer from the ‘XX committee’, gave a signal to Lane – the car was approaching.

Moving towards the gate, a movement caught Nedermayer’s left eye. A split second later, a bright flash from the trees split the darkness and shattered his windscreen. “Out, out it’s an ambush,” he yelled. Moving as one, the four man team rolled out of the car and headed for the trees on the other side of the road. The sharp cracks from the single shot British Lee Enfield rifles were answered by concentrated automatic fire from the four Schmeissers. The fight was intense.

Alerted by the sound of the gunfire, the second team sitting in their motionless car started to exit - only to be stopped by SS officer Schmidt. “Halt,” he said firmly. “The mission comes first.” “But our comrades,” protested Muller. The paratrooper code of honour, deeply embedded in basic training, was ‘all for one and one for all’.

“They will have to look after themselves - Heil Hitler,” he ordered. The five returned to the car. As planned, they would now make for the second gate. “The map,” Muller remembered. “They now have the only map.”

“We know roughly where it is. That will have to do,” Schmidt barked tersely. Muller released the hand brake and rolled the car in neutral gear noiselessly over the roadway down towards the second gate at the opposite end of the park. As the car picked up speed, Muller put the gear shift into second and with a judder the engine gunned into life. In minutes they were speeding through the gate.

The gun battle at the first gate continued unabated. But by now, two paratroopers were dead, leaving just Nedermayer, who was bleeding profusely from a rifle round that had shattered his left shoulder, and uninjured paratrooper Ulrich Masterson, to continue the fight. Four British soldiers also lay dead by the truck and a further two lay severely wounded in the woods.

Grim faced Captain Lane motioned two of his soldiers to move through the trees to take up a position to the left of Nedermayer’s car. Crawling, he advanced with the remaining two soldiers through the undergrowth until he was positioned within forty metres of the car on the other side. ‘Try and get some of them alive,’ the M15 officer had said.

“You’re surrounded, you might as well surrender now,” Lane called out loudly. Weakened through loss of blood, Nedermayer turned to Masterson, “the second car - did it get out?” The reply was hoarse, “It must have done sir, through the second gate.” Nedermayer nodded with quiet satisfaction. “It’s been an honour to have served with you, Kamerad. Are you ready?”

Without saying a further word they both a fired a final burst from their machine pistols, before they were cut down by Lane and his men.

Several minutes passed before Lane and the M15 man walked cautiously up to the car. “These two are dead. There’s another lying among the trees and a fourth in the grass,” said Lane. “Where’s the other car,” quizzed Colonel John. “We disabled it to make sure it wouldn’t start. It should still be up there in the car park. They won’t get far on foot, we’ll radio in now and get a cordon set up to cover the area,” replied Lane confidently.

The M15 man wasn’t listening. He was searching the bullet riddled car frantically. “The map,” he muttered, “it must be here.” Lane reached into the tunic of Nedemayer and pulled out a leather pouch. He opened it and a map unfolded. “I think this is what you are looking for, sir” he said turning to the agent. Switching on his torch, the colonel looked carefully at it for several minutes. “No, this isn’t it. This has to be a copy. The original must be in the other car.”

They marched hurriedly up the incline of the park road until they reached the now deserted car park. “Where the hell is it?” cried the colonel frantically. “I thought you said the other car wouldn’t start? This is your cock-up,” he yelled. The unmistakeable signs of fresh car tracks leading in the opposite direction, down towards the north exit, were evident by the light of the agent’s torch.

“I want that cordon set up immediately. Jesus Christ, Scotland Yard will have to be informed, as will the Prime Minister. There’ll be hell to pay. That team could be anywhere in England by daybreak,” Colonel John said finally.

**

Peering out of his side window, Muller tried to make sense of north London’s deserted streets. “I think we need to go over that junction we’re now approaching and go straight on,” said Manneheim hesitantly. Muller was silent as they drove on slowly in the direction of Archway. The two figures standing casually, hands in pockets, by the traffic light motioned the car to stop.

“What the hell,” muttered Muller. “Keep going” ordered the SS officer tight lipped. As the car drew level to the traffic light the last thing Muller saw was the men’s coat pockets rip open and spew an avalanche of automatic fire. The bullets sliced through the car killing three of the occupants instantly. Manneheim lay mortally wounded in the back seat and SS officer Schmidt had a flesh wound on his upper right arm.

The two men yanked open the car doors and shot Manneheim again, killing him instantly. SS officer Schmidt tried to shoot but dropped his Luger pistol. The two Russians looked at him. “Where is the map?” they asked savagely. “It’s lost,” smiled Schmidt, “tell that to Comrade Stalin. It’s lost for ever.” A burst of fire riddled his chest and silenced him for eternity.

A ten minute search of the car and its occupants revealed nothing. “Do you think our British ‘allies’ found it in the other car?” asked NKVD officer Sergei Molotov, mildly contemptuously. “Let’s hope so Sergei, for all our sakes, let’s hope so,” said Colonel Andrei Rostov.

                                                            ****

May 4 2010

2 pm

The three M15 officers had finished the first course of the lunch that Halcroft had ordered be brought up to the office overlooking Central London’s Whitehall. “So what does it all mean? You know, the weapon and ammunition - and what’s all this about a map?” asked Hicks.

Halcroft dabbed his mouth with a napkin and sipped a glass of water. He motioned the waiter to clear the plates and asked for coffee and the dessert be served. He looked at Hicks and Stubbs, who were sitting across the table. “Of all the unsolved mysteries about the Second World War there’s one that’s always puzzled me the most. It is this - why on earth did the Germans NEVER attempt to rescue Rudolf Hess?

Halcroft looked at the two again and continued, “He was Hitler’s deputy, after all, the number two man in Germany. Yet not a single attempt to rescue him was ever made?”

“It was as if the Germans had managed to capture Eisenhower or Attlee and the allies decided to abandon him to his fate in a prisoner of war camp – or worse. It just never made sense to me.” The dessert arrived as did the coffees. Halcroft paused.

Hicks sipped his coffee and spoke musingly, “Well, I don’t know what they could have done. Britain is an island and even if the Germans had managed to get a squad in, how would they have got him out - assuming they were able to find out where he was being held in the first place?”

Halcroft waved his hand dismissively. “You forget one thing Hicks. Germany was winning the war at that stage. It had all the necessary resources at its disposal. They also had that brilliant SS officer Otto Skorzeny. He was a master of rescuing captives held by the allies. In September 1943, he managed to snatch Mussolini.”

“Even as late as December 1944, his team were still capable of causing mayhem behind allied lines in the Battle of the Bulge - at a time when Germany was on the verge of defeat. No, that’s not the answer,” he said standing up. Walking across the room he looked out of the sash windows on to Whitehall below.

He continued, this time softly, “Various live fire exercises were carried out throughout the war in England, particularly in the early stages. But there was one in North London, on the night of Easter Sunday 1942, which caused a particular stir.”

“After the war, locals spoke of a ferocious exchange of automatic gunfire in the grounds of Alexander Palace. Intriguingly, some also swore that they heard German being spoken.”

“For the rest of the war the palace grounds remained sealed off and most people in the area soon shrugged it off. After all, these were a hardy people that had survived the blitz as well as attacks from doodlebugs and V2 rockets. What was one noisy live fire exercise, no matter how realistic, compared to those?”

“When I joined M15 I did make some inquiries, surreptitiously of course, as to whether there had ever been any documented attempts by the Germans to rescue Hess. All my inquiries pointed me, tantalisingly, in the direction ofAlexander Palace and Easter 1942 – but then the trail ran cold.”

“The files are officially closed for 100 years. But a little more digging provided new clues and now together with these items here,” he said pointing to his desk, “I think I can finally piece together what actually happened that night.”

He paused for effect then started to speak again. “On May 10 1941, Rudolf Hess flies to Britain in his ME 110. He parachutes out over Scotland, claiming he is on a peace mission. Hitler is furious. Publicly, he dismisses Hess as insane, but behind the scenes he orders the SS and Abwehr to immediately draw up plans for his rescue.”

“However, there is one seemingly insurmountable brick wall. By early 1941, too few Abwehr agents have been inserted into England to provide the vital background intelligence for such a complex operation. Skorzeny then proposes an audacious solution - he suggests asking the Russians for their assistance.”

Hicks spluttered, “That’s bloody impossible. Hitler was at war with Russia and Stalin was our ally.” Halcroft smiled, “Not yet he wasn’t. Under the terms of the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Russia and Germany were still formally at peace.”

“Skorzeny had a six week window of opportunity from the time Hess was captured on May 10 until Hitler’s invasion ofRussia on June 21 to act on his plan. His boldness could have worked. Remember, right until the eve of the German invasion Stalin was doing everything in his power not to antagonise Berlin.”

“So, Skorzeny approaches the Russians in Moscow via Ribbentrop. Stalin then orders the NKVD, later to be known as the KGB, in the London embassy to provide Skorzeny with all the help he needs. The embassy provides the Germans with a detailed map of the various places where Hess is believed to be held, including the Tower of London.”

“But how - where could they have got the information?” began Hicks. Halcroft walked slowly towards the window, stopped and turned back a few paces to face Hicks. “From their moles in Cambridge University, of course” he said quietly. “No one back then suspected Guy Burgess and his gang of being communist sympathisers.”

“While M15 was concentrating on Mosley and his fascist Blackshirts in London, they were missing what was going on under their very noses in Cambridge. And remember this, unlike Mosley’s street fighting thugs, Burgess and the rest of the Cambridge moles were right at the heart of the British establishment.”

“By late May, the NKVD, SS and Abwehr were - incongruous as it may seem now - collaborating on a mission to rescue Hitler’s deputy from British custody. But of course, as we now know, at the end of June Hitler launches his invasion of the Soviet Union. For the time being at least, the rescue plan is put on the backburner.”

“The Russians, as you rightly point out Hicks, become our allies. But now there is a big problem. Moscow realises it could be implicated in any future German attempt to free Hess - with all the ramifications that could have for the allied cause during the war.”

“To limit the damage, they embark on a deception. They inform M15 in early 1942 that their agents have just ‘learned’ of a German plot to spring Hess. The Russians hope to lure a German rescue team to London. The team would have the map supplied to them by the Moscow embassy in London a year earlier, giving the NKVD an opportunity to seize it back right here.”

“M15 falls for the Russian ruse and hands the matter over to the ‘XX department’ and its team of double agents. They decide to use their most successful agent, Juan Pujol, alias ‘Garbo’. Garbo is told to make contact with Berlin in the spring of 1942 and inform his German handlers that Hess has been moved to the Tower of London. He arranges the delivery of the two cars to Alexander Palace.”

This time it was Stubbs’ turn, “But what so special about that particular map?” Halcroft continued, “Don’t you see? It was an NKVD map giving what we assume to be secretly coded directions in Russian, against which the Abwehr had jotted down the German translation.”

“If the map was ever found, it would be proof positive that the NKVD had helped the Germans to at least formulate a plan to rescue Hess. The Russians simply had to get the map back and make sure that it was destroyed.”

“But the map found in the first car that night was merely a copy as it was minus the Russian code. The original must have been lost during the fire fight that night and was never found – that is until today.” Halcroft finished speaking.

“So what are we going to do?” asked Hicks finally looking at the map and the Schmeisser. “Do? Why nothing of course,” replied Halcroft. “The files are officially sealed until 2042. As for these?” he said pointing at the map and weaponry, “We shall destroy them. No one need ever know. It was after all, one heck of a live fire exercise that night,” he winked. Hicks and Stubbs left his office.

Halcroft stared out of the window again. “Six weeks, that’s all it was, six weeks” he shook his head muttering softly to himself, “time enough to change the destiny of the entire world.”

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Friday, April 17, 2015

"version.X" by Daniel Ksenych (Short Story)

Genre:  Slipstream Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  The life story of Max Cube, avatar of 21st Century consciousness and/or seriously mentally ill person.

Excerpt:  

The story of a boy, glossy headshot perfect and clean and lit, precise like a clone, rendered mythical. He's the memories you wish you had, to have known him or to have been him, but it's somehow too late. Max is a Tarot card. He's been told all the stories about boys, the fatherless boys, the prodigies, the first loves. So he can't get out easy. He'll have to pull off something. Young Max, like a home movie or a documentary. It looks like there's nectar beading in the corners of his eyes, on his forehead, when he's older, the way he looks you can see backwards and forwards in his time. It's sweat in candlelight. He looks too perfect, people have to back away. The stories of boys come to save the world. The way children point out and forgive and erase flaws.
Read the entire story on the author's website.