Nanthology – Derek Dongle: Uncowed

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 comes from a prompt, a lot from fellow bloggers.


Day Twenty-Nine

nanthology jenni

This picture comes courtesy of my daughter, the Vet. It is one of her colleagues. Throughout this challenge I have included link between some stories. Here there is some sort of conclusion Or is there? If you want to check the previous clues then look at the following:

                                                               Mrs Pickwick Takes a Chance

Spies Surprise – a Derek Dongle Mystery

I am Death

Derek Dongle Takes a Beating

The Monitors

Derek Dongle – Uncowed

Derek stayed in the car while Anastasia scouted his house, worried it might be booby-trapped. Moments later she waved him inside. He walked reluctantly. One week ago he sat in his bedroom in his underpants and watch repeats of Free Willy and Babe and having a good cry. Where had that gone?

He jolted back to the moment as he stepped inside. The place had been trashed. Even the walls had been smashed and the brickwork exposed in many places.

‘I’m sorry Derek. I thought this might happen.’

He confronted Anastasia, fury on his features. ‘You knew? Why is this happening?’

She took his hand.  ‘I didn’t know, but we are dealing with nasty people here. When your mother was alive she could keep everyone happy; now everyone wants what your mother had.’

‘Can’t we just give it to them?’

‘Do you know who they are? Or where it is?’

‘Don’t you?’

‘No, but I can guess. You see there are two gangs. One was led by Klaus. They were the muscle. The other…’

Derek had a flashback to when he’d been attacked in this very hall, when his nightmare started. ‘Johnson. Those men who attacked me said they’d been sent by someone called Johnson.’

‘Yes. Johnson’s people were the brains, calling on Klaus if needed. Ostensibly your mother worked for Johnson…’

‘Not Klaus? He said mum… mum and he were lovers. And he might be my dad.’

‘He lied. In that picture – the one in Marseilles …’

‘Yes.’ Derek coloured trying but failing to forget his mother’s bare breast and lesbian kiss.

‘She was working for the French government. Top secret.’

‘But Klaus is dead so did… Johnson do this?’

‘It could be they are still working together or fighting for the spoils without your mother holding the line.’

‘Can’t you speak to your colleagues? Surely the police will be the best place to get answers …’

‘No Derek. Not yet. There’s links to the police. Corruption. That’s why your mother was working undercover. If we can find the money and who’s after it… that’s the ‘it’ by the way, the money. Find that and we can begin to unpick this mess.’ She looked at the paper-strewn hall. ‘Let’s start here. There must be something. Your mother was so meticulous.’

Derek felt hollow. He felt he should hate his mother for allowing this to happen but… Another thought occurred. He left Anastasia reading a folder and headed for the study. His mother knew this was coming. She’d left him a letter with the photo, an apology and the spreadsheet showing the money. He prayed it hadn’t gone.

It took him half an hour but finally he found it: the last page of the asset register, the rest missing, torn and left on the floor. The apology was there but the photo had gone too. Derek turned over the page. On the back his mother had written


First pet, favourite scrabble word, mother’s birthday


That was her clue to him.

Holding the sheet he went to her bedroom. In amongst papers pulled from the cupboards he found a cache of old photos. Happily the burglars had tossed them and his mother’s meticulous filing system helped him find what he wanted. A black and white picture of her with a small black dog. On the back, in her neat handwriting it said, ‘Me and Pickwick’.

That was it. Her dog, named after her father’s favourite book.

‘What are you looking at Derek?’ Anastasia stood in the doorway. ‘Is that your mother?’

‘Yes. She was about ten here.’ As he checked the picture again, his eye was drawn to another album, lying open by the wardrobe door. It was a later picture, the same time as the Marseille photo. In it his mother sat at a table with the debris of a meal. To one side, staring at her, sat Klaus. But what caught his eye was the woman, whose hand rested on his mother’s shoulder. The woman his mother had been kissing in the other picture. He picked it up and turned it over. His mother always wrote who was in each picture.

Claire Johnson.

His hand was shaking as he handed it to Anastasia. ‘Is Johnson a woman?’

She nodded.

‘Did you know…?’

‘Yes, Derek, I knew. But does knowing make things better?’

‘Who is she?’

‘She was part of an elite French group that went rogue. They built underworld links and exploited them, especially following the growth in personal computers. She…’

‘And mum was part of this? For how long?’

Anastasia closed the album. ‘Why’d you come here? What were you looking for?’

Derek met her stare reluctantly. He handed over the page.

‘Do you know what this means?’

‘The first pet is a dog called Pickwick. I’m not…’

‘Your aunt?’

‘My what?’

‘Oh come on. You knew your neighbour was your mum’s sister? Didn’t you?’

Derek held his face. ‘She was our neighbour. I have an aunt and no one told me?’

Anastasia had already gone. Derek picked up the album and opened it again, looking at pictures of his mother. There was another with Claire. He held it close, then turned in to the light. ‘Shit.’ He felt sick. Tearing out the photo he headed for the stairs. Anastasia had left the door open. He knew she’d gone next door to Mrs Pickwick’s. She was a cleaner, like Anastasia.

Her house looked abandoned. Gloomy. Anastasia had already prised up a window. ‘She’s gone missing too. I… What is it?’

Derek held out the picture. ‘You’re Claire’s spitting image in this one. I thought she looked familiar.’

‘Yes she’s my mother.’

‘So what does that make you? Goody? Baddy? Some category I haven’t heard of like a Known Unknown. A good baddy? Will you kill me?’

‘No. What are we looking for here? What’s your mother’s favourite word?’

‘It’s in the garden.’ Derek led the way. He pushed open the French doors. The garden was even more neglected than the house. In the middle of the unkempt grass was a fibre glass cow with peace symbols over it. ‘Friesian. She once won scrabble with it. She always said it was her favourite word.’

While Derek remembered the jokes when Mrs Pickwick bought it at a charity auction, how her dead son had loved sitting on it pretending he was at a rodeo, Anastasia checked it over. ‘Here.’ By the tail was a panel. It took a moment to realise the tail released a catch. A simple keypad was revealed.

Her eyes sparkled. ‘Her birthday. 29th November 1954. 291154.’

Derek watched her punch in the code, take hold of the handles and pull. Instead of opening some compartment, two cords snaked out and wrapped themselves around her wrists. She screamed and struggled but all that did was pull the cords tight.

A key dropped to the floor.

‘Unlock me.’

Derek shook his head. He reached past her and tapped in 130926. ‘My grandmother’s birthday.’ The whole back of the cow hinged open. Derek jumped as he heard his mother’s voice.

‘Hello Derek. I’m sorry about this. You’ll only be hearing this message if someone has been caught. I’m guessing it’s Anastasia or Claire. Yes dear I know who you are. Leave whoever it is here and take the box back into Mrs Pickwick’s kitchen. Only open it when you are there. Oh and so you know, Anastasia is your half-sister.’

Derek stared at the cow, at his newly disclosed sister and the box. ‘Erm, sorry. I think I’m meant to leave you now.’

Anastasia shrugged. ‘So many new relatives Derek.’

‘Who’s my father then?’

‘You really are stupid, Derek.’

He smiled. ‘I think you can call me Kreed now.’

Back in the kitchen, Derek unclipped the box. As he lifted the lid, the room filled with a blue light. A tiny but completely accurate version of his mother stepped onto the table. ‘Derek, this will be rather confusing. First let me introduce my sister, your Aunt Claire. Mrs Pickwick. Different Claire, of course.’ A similarly sized version of Mrs Pickwick joined his mother and held her hand.

Derek sat heavily on a stool. Was she real or a what? Hologram?

‘You need to understand I have been deeply involved in a very secret operation involving contacting alien life forms. Marjory too. Various unscrupulous people have tried to interfere with the contact but Claire.. Dear Claire she was a disappointment. It takes a lot of cash to run this sort of operation. Many governments are interested. Claire just wanted the money. I expect you’ve been told some crazy story about it. Proceeds of crime I expect.’

‘But… But…’

‘Let me finish Derek…’

Derek’s mouth dropped open. ‘You.. You can hear me?’

‘Yes dear. You will have a lot of questions but hold them for now. We don’t have much time. I expect your sister is free…’

Derek looked out of the window. Sure enough Anastasia was at that very moment running towards the side of the house, a gun held in her left hand.

‘… The police will be on their way and will, eventually find the basement…’


‘It links both my and Marjory’s properties. Our office. And both Klaus…’

‘He’s dead.’ Derek felt pleased he knew something his mother didn’t know. His mother shook her head and pointed at the TV over the fireplace. A picture appeared. Klaus and a woman he took to be Claire were walking up the drive. They were both armed.

‘Now this is the hard part. You need to relax completely and lie on the floor. Derek…?’

His mother walked to the edge of the table and peered over. Marjory joined her. Mrs Pickwick smiled. ‘He could always be relied upon to faint to order.’

As the front door crashed open, the two women jumped. Klaus, Claire and Anastasia burst into the kitchen as the two landed on Derek’s chest. The three stopped dead as they realised the kitchen was empty.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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8 Responses to Nanthology – Derek Dongle: Uncowed

  1. Ritu says:

    Loving the twists Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to want to read this whole thing as one great big ‘chapter book’ [as the little kids say] when/if you ever finish it – there are so many twists and turns and genre changes and yet I am completely hooked 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. noelleg44 says:

    I’m hooked and I want more!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Love all the ways these stories connect and the silliness of the cow key pad.

    Liked by 1 person

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