Sunday, 20 January 2013

RING RING RING (Extended cut)



    Steph marched back into her room swerving many of the toys that littered her floor. Then, a stabbing pain...an old part of Gideon's alphabet-phone toy had pricked the skin of her left foot. 
    Last night Steph had been diving through an old box of playthings to give to the local Shelter Shop. She must have missed this one in the clear up and ring, ring, ring blared the continual hail of Steph’s front door buzzer...its bicycle-bell alarm sound clanging so rudely, charging through the insistent tribal rhythms of Joy Division's Transmission.
    And so, Steph’s eyes returned to her EasyNote and its display of adventure fiction. Despite the aural disturbance and the agony associated with the task, her editors’ muscles would recommence with more of their solitary and gruelling toil. 
RING. RING. RING.   

    The irritant noise rang anarchic through the Tufnell Park flat, blasting Steph’s concentration, ruining her resolve to pretend she wasn’t home. After all, she had travelled down her rickety stairs twice already to find no one at her door.
RING. RING. RING.
        No, no, no, organising the density of any Spiderfingers plot demanded much more quiet than this. Steph had been working since seven am. Without a proper rest. Without an actual meal. The catalyst behind her early morning nose-bleed, and that awful chest pain could well be appropriated to these many weeks of sporadic eating and sleeping. Steph was living, but only for her art. All these reasons to stop and yet she typed on, as if lives depended upon it's completion. She had no time to involve police and make them tea as she went through the tedious task of aiding their investigation of idiot pranksters.
    A fortuitous glance at the T.V reminded her that breaks were actually good, and that in the ignoring of the obstacle, any problem in prose might be solved subconsciously. So, Steph dumped Ian Curtis' baritone for the comparatively prosaic world of SKY NEWS, amplifyng a conversation between a studio-based newsreader and a police chief outside Scotland Yard. Steph had succeeded in wholeheartedly swamping out the aggravating blast of the doorbell wallowing as it did, no longer the effective siren, but a weak chime, floating under a heated discussion regarding the latest ‘algebra-murder’. 

    ‘…That is for the French constabulary to decide as we cannot speak for them and at this time it wouldn’t be prurient to speculate on such a deduction since Captain Prideaux is working completely alone and without our sanction and -’

    Steph found herself looking down at the alphabet toy on the floor. Then she stared at the t.v screen in front of her. 
    Another long hard glance at the toy cemented a new realisation. The detective in her was filled with amazement because there, stark on the T.V flashed new pop culture mysteries, secrecies to all but her:

1FROM26=7OF 8
18FROM26=3OF8

   Had Steph not stepped on the multi-coloured A and had the curio not been dotted with numbers, it was doubtful that the garish 3D dayglo display of these latest ‘algebra’ clues would mean anything. To Steph they now made a sense, and that knowledge had to be completely understood, rushing as she did back to her writing desk to manically, enthusiastically, punch the freeze-frame information through her keyboard. Filled with a lightening joy, Steph let out a ‘Whoohoo!’ on her short journey. Lucky for this writer then, that she’d been gifted the foresight to open a word doc exclusively for notes on Hero-Worship, for even the general whereabouts of a handy pen or pencil was clandestine information at best. The mess of her reasonably furnished bedroom had been quite formidable and for some months now.  
    Since April, the ‘Algebra-Killer’ had entered his or herself onto the frighteningly long list of that most notorious of vocations. The serial slayer's name derived from the scribing of numbers and letters upon the bodies. A baby’s torso, a young ladies forehead and now two more murdered innocents bore the taglines of this prolific butcher. Tonight however and due to an accidental incident with an old knick-knack Steph was convinced she could now speak the language of the beast.
    Her television set filled with all four markings that had garnered the media's morbid interest:

1FROM26=7OF 8
18FROM26=3OF8
 19FROM26=1OF8
21FROM26=2OF8
    For heaven’s sake, she wondered, hadn’t the police or whoever figured it out yet? It’s impossibly clear, assumed Steph eying the plastic A token she’d discarded on the desk.
    As the victim in her nursed her left foot, rubbing the ball of it into the carpet, her scribers-drive wouldn’t halt at commanding small nimble hands to perform swift rampant dance patterns across the black keys – Steph couldn’t transport the clues to the laptop quick enough. She only paused to listen out for the barely audible ring upon ring of her unexpected and rather unwanted candidate for company. Steph lowered the television volume and waited for her enemy's wail. She heard the rain fall increase against her window and anticipated a heart pumping clamour.
    Ah, so he was gone then.
    Off went the telly as Steph let out a sigh of relief, smirking as she did so, considering with a private mirth how bad she let out a sigh of relief looks on the page. That would be bad writing, forgivable only if discovered within the exercise books of teenagers. Stupid teenagers. The ex-teacher froze, reckoning that at this tiresome moment of afternoon fatigue, her exhale could erupt no artful strategy to describe it. At this instant of worry a majestic new tidal of descriptive prowess crashed through her: shoulders relaxing for the effort, posture revisiting a statute of comfort, a letting go of stale air, for the zone of tension had been survived, oh yes! All these ways of painting out the redundant unconsciousness of she let out a sigh of relief
    Steph channelled her re-inherited diagrammatic powers into the examining of their current target, interpreting the grisly opacity's with all the guile and dexterity of a young Ernő Rubik demonstrating his first cube. These were clear dispatches and all because of the repetition of the number 26.
  Moderately, the writer hoped for more slaughter to occur. The Agatha Christie in Steph craved fleshy hints, more evidence to complete the psychos puzzle – their eventual eight letter word memo to the world. If only Steph knew where all this was heading. For now though, her brain was ticking, her typing was unyielding and her vision was as revealing as an X-Ray. For a few more minutes, Steph busied at rearranging frantically and over and over again her discovery – the four letters. And then, after a solid half an hour more, Steph began to relent; her obsessing over a mad persons ciphers was proving fruitless. She took a slight repose from this element of casework to Google the first homicide, that of the new-born: Abigail Winter. 
    The engraving on the little girls’ limbless dismembered torso read as 19FROM26=1OF8. However, Steph now read the riddle as one lone letter.
    On the forehead of the executioner’s second quarry, the young Shanice Wilcox, the serial-killer had carved a brainteaser. Steph was no calligraphic expert and like the whole nation, she had been horrified to learn that the grafting of the code had been so different in pressure and incision to the last, that the theory of a copycat case really couldn't be ruled out. She could see what the police somehow couldn’t, that 21FROM26=2OF8 was lexis for yet another capital. Steph scrolled through circumstantial detail, dress codes of the slain and their height and weight too. And soon she had wandered off the trail, meandering onto web pages profiteering from the macabre works of Myra Hindley, Ian Brady and oh, she had to refocus and reign her mind away from fancy as she felt linear concentration evade her – her brains rather abstract insistence upon obscure acknowledgments, triangles as metaphors for plot. She had a hot flash and then...more triangles, a scene from Friends involving Ross, some English actress and what was Jennifer Aniston's character again?
    Shutting down the irrelevant sites, Steph resisted her bucking awareness, honing in on these last two murders announced today. Childhood sweethearts this time and in Euro-Disney no less (granting the maniac international news coverage). King Mickey and his crew were up until this afternoon, total strangers to the reality of the unlawful death - his world had lost a wall between it and the outside that Steph had mistakenly believed indestructible.
    And then she clicked on a link regarding a Sri-Lankan political refugee. Nineteen years ago this man was stabbed to death in that ridiculous strawberry-pink hotel. 
    Steph shook images of fire and triangles out of mind and pressed on. 
    And she felt a pride playing gumshoe because Steph, why, she saw the letter A whereas everybody else buying the Evening Standard tonight, well they would be given reportage of Augustus Roux’s opaque gouging. 1FROM26=7OF8 had the media in a spin granting them the podium to declare the police at a loss. 'Cripplingly baffled' pronounced the French pundit on T.V. Somewhere within the hullabaloo Steph heard the words 'age' and 'fourteen'.
    18FROM26=3OF8 had been inscribed on the genital area of one Catharina Chevalier, Augustus’ girlfriend of five years – dredged out of their shared watery resting place. The world focussed on her mutilation whilst Steph double checked her private deduction, that envisioning the eighteenth letter of the English alphabet was the cases big step forward. The alphabet was being used to send out an letter communication which -
RING, RING, RING!
    No more - this abuse warranted action and if only Steph wasn’t quite so knowingly absorbed in so many intellectual pursuits, not to mention that looming nine pm deadline; her approval of layout and specs, and there was the fragile matter of her sketches; that they be placed in the right order. Her Photoshop pictorials were key to the seguing in of her next batch of Spiderfingers’ tales; her grandest story arc yet – The Russian Doll Stories.
She had to and though she wasn't sure about the how, she had a bubbling awareness spreading over her about the very, very soon. This expanding feeling, well, the sensation grew from the middle of the mother, rising from her growling belly, murmuring, soliciting her permission to give it life - something new wanted into the world. 

RING, RING, RING.

    God that he'll always be, Raymond Chandler couldn’t work through this. Steph finally gave up her delicate hope that this whoever would leave of their own accord. It was in this mode of combat then that our victim had shoved back from her writing table, and upon throwing her burqa over her body, Steph began her marching whilst bickering quietly with non-existent confidents on the subject of her own idiocy - the logic behind bringing the bloody laptop home at all.
RING, RING, RING.
    On the way to the staircase she tormented the dark plastic covered machine that had quit on her months ago, assaulting it with kick after heavily aimed kick, and Steph relished the secrecy of her upstairs hallway. This plaguing of her dust-gathering P.C often proved to be quite the stress alleviating ritual though Steph felt compelled to perform for Milo and soon. She gave the base unit one more punt expecting to at the very least smile. Her scowl however had weakened, if only a little.
RING.
    ‘So you won’t go away Mr Seller of carpets?’ mumbled Steph.
She sincerely hoped that the mystery applicant that had braved the downpour was indeed an urchin doing the rounds for some grey haired old uncle. He’d be waiting on his teenage apprentice in a nearby dirty blue van. Much better an idiot Del-Boy and Rodney duo than young muggers, resolved Steph.
RING.
    ‘You’d better be a minion of unsolicited enterprising.’ Steph shouted, semi-hoping her uninvited guest had heard her over the cacophony of the -
RIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG.
    She’d read about vicious urban crime like this, daily, as did any Londoner. This ex-teacher was in no mood to be jumped on her own doorstep and wondered if grabbing some cutlery from the kitchen was entirely warranted, nothing too sinister – a fork maybe. .
    Swiftness supercharged by royal indignation jet rocketed Steph down the fraying steps of her abode, those moth eaten reminders of why she wrote Spiderfingers – one day it will be gold underfoot, resolved Steph somewhat seriously.
    At last, through the spy-hole, she found her right eye peeping out at…nobody?
    No one at all?
    And the ringing had ceased. Steph growled comically at the hallway ceiling; her steps being such creaky things that they can be heard from the outside, easily – so, this dwarf-bastard-carpet-seller has only now decided to refrain from this, this barely legal disturbance has he, she fumed albeit inwardly. Should she have fetched the fork?
    Stephanie P Tent drew heavily on the door, absentmindedly neglecting to remove its security-chain.
    Though embarrassed by this stupidity, closing the entrance again provided time for a more measured attack. Indeed, the speed at which Steph loosed the metal-restraint was funnelled by even greater fury and she prepared to use words like midget and pigmy to anyone on the other side regardless of age, job-title, and typical English weather conditions. Regardless of the identity waiting on the cold outside, Steph would be wrathful and would spare no amount of colourful metaphor or severe arm waving.
    Of course, because she’d received that inexplicable feeling on the threshold of intuition, because she felt that separateness one acquires when alone, and perhaps, like many twenty first century millions she’d been schooled by severe exposure to cinema and the conventions of film, Steph was hardly surprised and in fact expected to find the doorstep as it was - thoroughly and so entirely unoccupied.
    Up and down Station road she looked and the street was the perfect picture of an English autumn afternoon, the horrendous rain so obviously not a weather condition to be hanging about in. The online novelist preceded her glum return route, the journey back to her nearly completed story, mere paragraph-ticks and illustration-checks from being reader-worthy. Upon the closing of her paint peeling door (the eyesore needed to be shoved in twice to properly shut), something caught Steph’s attention – unravelling on her main entrance step was a magazine.
    Rescuing the paper from the furious pitter-patter, Steph sighed, ‘Ah, the carpet-boy’s catalogue.’
    Rather immediately, Steph speedily retracted her flash assessment; she needn’t hold the publication so close under the nose to discern a familiar title, the usual soft colour picture informing her brain that she now held a copy of the Jehovah’s Witness magazine: Watchtower.
    The writer got lost in this periodical, this well-meaning gift from western suburbia’s other unexpected visitor, who if Steph had the guts would declare during the shaking of hands and introductions that she would love to stay but had a black goat to offer Beelzebub, that she’d kept the dark lord waiting long enough. A great idea, Steph often thought, until her eyes met the usually pension aged missionaries. They sent old biddies on purpose, she theorised. How do you tell a random senior citizen to get lost? Steph could never do it; the greying codger only seeking to deliver good will.  
    Steph struggled to remember the last time she'd engaged a Jehovah's Witness - must have been before her conversion. And the practice of sending the dying to knock on strangers' houses, well, it made a devious commercial sense and besides, proclaiming allegiance to the devil, well that might only encourage them, pondered the writer. Steph was confused enough about the world as it is and the unwelcome dogma that accompanied such doorway exchanges had never delivered The Great I AM to her (she had been a regular goer of ‘his’ kingdom hall three and quarter years and five faiths ago). 
    It was then she unglued her stare from the illustrated print.
    Into the deluge wondered her grey eyes, darting about the three O’clock elemental rage. She traced not a single soul. Not even moving cars.
    Steph mused, a silly Spiderfingers-type-vision, that of God. The Almighty watching Bambi for the first time; the poor creature’s demise causing our heavenly host to jab at the stop button on the nearest and unfortunately wrong channel changer.
    There was nothing but an icy bluster aboard the eerily vacant street, utterly empty except for (and then Steph peered harder through the heavily falling water), an old lady stationed beside a younger man, an amputee in a wheelchair…
    And now Steph overturned the details of the disabled war veteran in Invisible, Spiderfingers' second Babushka tale.
    Her first thought was to grab her sea green coat and follow the odd thoroughly drenched pair who were seemingly waiting, so invitingly static and at the bottom of her road.
    A more reasonable action would be to get inside before she started sneezing. She placed Shelley, Chandler, King, Quayle, Koontz, Moden, Picoult, Pratchett, Fox, Palahniuk, Austen, McKenzie, Newton, Gaiman, Lovecraft, Miller and even Shakespeare in her shoes and decided that even the great bard would follow his instinct rather than be a constant slave to what seemed safe.
Laughing at the notion of writers and safe, Steph messily and not without an ungraceful stumble, handled her feet into nearby Wellington boots; her coat was slunk around her as she retreated a little into the corridor, snatching at the umbrella, relieving it from its copper pail. She sprinted back towards the main entrance. Sleuthing the next moves of London’s most enigmatic serial-killer, well, that could wait.    

Next time in Spiderfingers...


    And also...


And last but by no means least we have...

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