Nanowrimo is a compelling challenge to write 50,000 words during November: that’s an average of 1667 words per day. My plan is to write a set of 30 short stories each 1667 words long instead. Each story come from a prompt, a lot from fellow bloggers.
‘Is that you Derek?’
Derek Dongle sighed. Bloody neighbours.
‘My name’s Kreed, Mrs Pickwick.’
Derek hated how he couldn’t shake his good manners. Spies weren’t polite.
‘Kreed?’ She handed Derek a parcel. ‘The postman left this. I like the dinner suit. Very smart.’
“Thanks. Do you…?’
‘What’s that?’ She pointed at his lapel. ‘Lunch?’
Mrs Pickwick wiped it clean. Derek imagined his gold plated Beretta trained on her forehead. ‘You mum would be proud.’
He nodded, willing her to go. Why hadn’t he had the suit cleaned after he picked it up at Oxfam, he thought as he looked at the parcel? Another for his mother. He felt angry and then guilty. She’d been dead four months and still everything was for her. It was so annoying. Especially as he’d yet to find anything on the boring list sent by the solicitor; when he’d done that, maybe all these packets would stop coming.
He detoured to her study to add it to the unopened heap and paused by the mirror. It had never reflected properly, he thought. It made him look fat; given the work he’d done in the gym that was ridiculous. Any time now his six pack, currently protected under a layer of glutinous fat would emerge rippling with seductive intent.
Derek stopped; a package was on the mat. Mrs Pickwick must have dropped it. When he saw the sender he yelped – in an unfortunately girly way for the rough diamond he aspired to be and ripped it open. The box of business cards proudly proclaimed:
Man of Action
Derek turned the embossed card over in his fingers. He had perfectly captured rule one of being a spy (as described in the work of the same name by his hero Professor Troussant Tourenell): learn to hide in plain sight. Making an anagram of his own name for his Nom de Guerre had been genius, Derek was certain.
He allowed his mind to wander, to Monte Carlo and the Casino. ‘Monsieur Golden, your usual table,’ whispered by a white jacketed flunkey. Reality returned when the cat, Mr Gribbs, clawed at Derek’s trousers which were rather unstable. Yanking them back in place, grabbing his bicycle helmet he let himself out. Colin would be so jealous.
Four hours later and still seething from Colin’s unacceptable laughter, Derek put his bike in the garage and opened the front door. He had barely time to pull his key from the lock when hands grabbed his collar and forced him on to the floor. Some sort of bag was pulled over his head and his hands yanked behind his back. Derek was petrified. He concentrated on the voices, muffled by the cloth, and on not peeing himself.
‘It’s got to be here somewhere.’
‘She had it, Johnson said so.’
‘Try her study… Oww, what the…? Bloody cat’s scratched me. Get…’
‘Someone’s at the door.’
Derek heard the key rattle. He knew that rattle. It was Anastasia the cleaner. Part of him wanted her to help him, part of him (the bit that fantasised about Anastasia’s unfeasibly huge breasts) wanted her to leave and not get hurt.
Derek thought about shouting but with his face in a bag pressing into the carpet, he knew that was hopeless. He tried to lift his head when a voice – Anastasia’s, only she suddenly didn’t have an Albanian accent – whispered by his ear. ‘You ok?’
Stupidly he nodded and banged his nose, making his eyes water.
The voice added, ‘Lie still,’ (as if he had a choice) ‘Won’t be a jiffy.’
Derek couldn’t have said exactly what happened save that something happened to a man, or possibly men that they didn’t enjoy. In what seemed like moments, the bag was pulled off his head; Anastasia knelt next to him. Behind her, lying on the hall carpet, two men looked at him, gaffer tape over their mouths, hands held by plastic ties behind their backs. One had an expression of fury, the other the residue of a smirk.
‘You ok, Derek?’
‘Yes.’ He rubbed his wrists. ‘What…?’
‘Questions later. I need to get rid of the bodies.’
‘Bodies? They’re not dead, are they?’
‘No, but they will be in ten minutes.’ She looked at the two men whose expressions were now the same: surprise and panic. ‘I’ve injected them.’
While Derek sat on the stairs, Mr Gribbs on his lap, Anastasia began to wipe the hall. She held some sort of magnifying glass that showed marks on the walls, etc. He’d seen it before but not really thought much about it. Unusually Anastasia chatted happily. ‘Your mum insisted we did a deep clean every week in case you had to leave in a hurry. She worried about you.’
Derek though about how his mother constantly criticised him; he hadn’t detected much ‘worry’. He said, ‘You’re not a cleaner, are you?’
She smiled at him. ‘Not in the traditional sense. I’m more your DNA Destroyer rather than Dust Buster.’
‘In a sense. Have you been to Braintree? You don’t know what’s going on, do you?’
‘No. No, I don’t think I do.’
Anastasia nudged one of the men with her toe. ‘They’ll not die, unless they swallow their tongues. The drugs will just keep them compliant.
Derek nodded, like he understood.
A van appeared. ‘Acme Cleaning’ it said. ‘Their little joke,’ said Anastasia.
‘Later.’ She stroked his face like she cared. Maybe she fancied him as he had fantasised though the stroke had a little too much of the great aunt about it. No one paid Derek any notice as they worked. When the men had been bundled inside and Anastasia finished talking to the driver, she came and sat with him, holding his hand. ‘I know this is difficult. But here,’ she dipped her fingers it her capacious cleavage and snagged a chain. On the end was a key.
She nodded. ‘She said it would explain. I’ll be back later. We have work.’
Derek stayed on the stairs until it became dark and his buttocks cramped. Only then did he hobble to the bureau and open it. On the top was a sheet of A4 with his mother’s spidery handwriting.
If you are reading this, it means I’m dead and someone has given you the key. I hope my death wasn’t violent but if it was, sorry, Derek. Start with what’s in the envelope below this note and do exactly what it says, in the order it says.
Derek lifted the envelope indicated and tipped the contents on the floor. A black and white photo, a group of people was on top. He turned it over. Marseilles 1984, it said with some names. The people were dressed for hot weather: the men in trunks or shorts and the women in small swimsuits. Derek dropped the photo like he’d been stung. He had been staring at two women kissing, both topless when he realised one was his mother. He picked the photo again and looked on the back. The other woman was called Claire. He knew none of the other names other than his mother and he thought Klaus rang a bell. He wanted to look at Klaus but the risk of seeing his mother’s nipple was too much too soon. He put the picture face-down.
The next item was a photocopy of a birth certificate. His. He had seen his before but this one looked different. The surprises were getting to be out of hand. Where he was used to a blank for his father this one had a name. Travis Dradman.
Derek had always been told his father abandoned his mother a week after she told him she was pregnant and she had never given Derek even a hint of a name. He had come to think it more likely she had had a one night fling. But Dradman? The solicitor?
Next was a print of a spread sheet. On the top it said ‘assets’. He scanned it and frowned. It was a list of stocks and shares and property. The only one he knew was the house he was sitting in at that moment. He turned to the second sheet and his eye was drawn to the number at the bottom right corner. The total value. £14,789,000.00. Did that mean what he thought it meant? And if so why did the lawyer just think the only asset his mother had was the house? And how could she have these other assets, given she was a librarian? Even Derek knew it wasn’t a well-paid profession.
He went and made himself tea. If these were his mother’s assets, where were they? And did he get them?
He went back to the bureau. He hadn’t noticed the writing on the back of the spread sheet.
First pet, favourite scrabble word, mother’s birthday
It made no sense.
The doorbell rang. Anastasia stood in the doorway. Gone was the polyester uniform with the zipped front; in its place a short mini-dress and vertiginous heels (though, noted Derek with touch of disappointment, the cleavage had also gone). ‘We’ve a date. I see you’re ready.’
Derek frowned. ‘Sorry?’
‘You’re dressed for dinner. Apart from your shoes.’ He was still wearing his tiger slippers.
She flicked out a cigarette and lit it. Derek wanted to tell not to smoke; his mother hated it and in truth he wasn’t keen but he wasn’t about to say anything that might make her change her mind about the date.
‘Where are we going?’
‘To the future. I’m going to tell you some things that will make your eyes pop out.’
They were already doing a pretty good job without any more help. She took his arm and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
He straightened up. ‘Can you call me Kreed? I…’
She didn’t blink. ‘I know. Kreed Golden, hiding in plain sight.’
How did she know his new identity?
‘Kiss me, Kreed.’
To be continued