Under Pressure

James could feel the pressure building. The stage was set, the pieces in their place and the moment of decision was at hand. Would he have the courage to follow through and be the hero he was meant to be?

The flight had started so pleasantly. For the first time in his life he’d been upgraded to Business class. His wife and he had been almost skipping through the security line in anticipation, joking about the luxury in store for them.

“I’ll be asking for scented bubbles in my spa”, James said with a knowing wink to his wife.

“Don’t be silly”, she responded. “You can’t have a scented bubble bath on a plane, the champagne they fill the tub with is already carbonated”.

With that they dissolved into sniggers of laughter at the stupidity of the idea, but in the back of their minds, images of luxury continued to ferment.

The wait in the terminal lounge seemed an eternity for them as they imagined their up-coming flight. When they finally arrived in the cabin, the beckoning leather sofas that counted for seats welcomed them gloriously into their soft supportive embrace like the arms of a lover. James melted into the luxury and finally relaxed.

He didn’t feel so relaxed now though. It was a little difficult with a maniacal hijacker waving a gun around demanding the flight be re-routed to Fiji. The guy was deranged, the manic glint in his eyes betraying a grip on reality that was about as firm as jelly. The universe his mind inhabited only tangentially related to the physical one around him, and in James opinion, probably only touching in some fairly unhelpful places. For one thing, the guy kept raving about Red Dwarf and preventing the apostasy of Ourobouros.

James was trying to relax, but the pressure kept building. Internally and externally things were building to a critical juncture. He could see the Air Marshal a couple of rows ahead of him steeling himself to take action. There would soon be a breaking point and, one way or another, something significant was about to happen.

It was now or never. The scene was set, the fuse primed, the pressure building to a peak level and, almost in slow motion, the action started. It began as a low rumble. From there it quickly built to a level that caused the seats to start vibrating. That got the maniac’s attention. His head swivelled towards James in astonishment as his bowel released a good hour’s worth of pent-up anxiety. And still the emission grew.

Afterwards, James would swear that he even saw the plane’s wing tips quiver from the force of the gale he was expelling as it reached the climax. A fart so powerful it would register on the Richter scale had it been performed at ground level. A fart that could not be denied. A fart that gave provided the moment of opportunity to save the flight because it was at that point the Air Marshall saw his window to act.

With the hijacker distracted, almost incapacitated by shock, the Marshall tackled him, wresting the gun from his unresponsive fingers and immobilising the offender in one swift and practised move. Never had an opponent been so unprepared for an assault. It was graceful. It was flawless. It was team-work in action.

As the shock subsided, the passengers and crew began a round of applause. Sporadic at first, but building to a dull roar of approval as each person regained their senses. They were saved.

A stewardess approached James coyly, and with admiration in her eyes. “Well done sir”, she said, “is there anything I can get for you”.

“I believe I would like a Martini”, James replied as he gave her a charming smile.

“It would be my pleasure sir”, the attendant nodded, and as she turned to walk away James called out. “And I believe you won’t need to stir it, things should have already been well and truely shaken by now”.

With that, he sank back into his chair, turned to his wife and said, “So Mrs Bond, where shall we ski first when we arrive?”. The smile she gave him back was indescribable.


Santa Trial

Film poster for The Santa Clause 2 - Copyright...

It’s been a trying week and I needed to just let out a little craziness.  This is partly inspired by a ridiculous lunch time conversation yesterday and partly by the article 5 Writing Exercises That Will Make You More Creative.  Anyway, enjoy (maybe).

“Patrick McCallister, you stand before us today charged with the most heinous crime of the murder of Santa Clause.”

Echoing from the bench, the voice of the Judge reverberated around the chambers with the leaden solemnity and gravitas of a tomb. His face peered down, a terrifying visage cloaked with the fury of a well worn and aged mantle of authority, and locked onto the tiny trembling form of the boy. Cowering in the dock and barely managing not to wet himself, Patrick tried to hide under the full glare of the assembled court.

“How plead you?”, demanded the Judge. The three words slammed into place with the force of locking bolts on a prison door.

Patrick squirmed. On or twice his mouth opened, but no words would come. He wriggled in his seat, perhaps betraying the size of his small four year old bladder. He tried looking away, but when he caught a glimpse of the packed courtroom and rank upon rank of reporters, his confidence took a further hit. Turning his eyes to the floor, he shrank into the smallest ball he could and remained silent. It was soon evident that no answer would be forthcoming.

The assembly noticed movement and swivelled their attention as the defence attorney rose from his seat. With the sleekness of a puma, he paused to iron out the creases from his suit with his hand before responding, “Your Honour, my client wishes to plead ‘Not Guilty'”.

Around the room, people came to life as they responded to the plea as if to a jolt of electricity. The reporters were ecstatic. This trial had a long way to go. So many storied to be written, their excited babble almost drowned out the outrage erupting from the Santa Impersonators Union. Having been put out of their seasonal work, they had come en-mass to see the criminal who had destroyed their livelihood and spat venomous insults at the pint sized assassin who sat before them.

Toy manufacturers, paranormal investigators, researchers from Harvard Law, Groklaw journo-legals and all manner of people had come to this, the fourth trial of the century to have been offered this decade. And, over it all, presided Judge McCallister, his face a transparent picture of fury at the plea now on offer. In his fury he didn’t respond with his customary swiftness to still the cacophony before him, but eventually he did respond, his gavel beating out a staccato of taps to accompany his calls of, “Order! Order!”

The room responded promptly, the Judge was well known for his merciless court discipline, and he continued in his practised authoritative tone.

“Very well, let it be recorded that the defendant has pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. We proceed to trial. Dr Brody, please outline the prosecution’s case.”

Standing with a well practised ease, Dr Brody positioned himself in the centre of the courtroom. He was an expansive man, filling his shirt, which he wore without a coat, until it stretched taut against his stomach. A pair of suspenders held his pants up and he hooked his thumbs through them as he began to pace the room. In his Southern accent, with a conversational tone that was carefully calculated to put the Jury at ease, he began.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Your Honour. What we have before us today is a case of cold calculated murder. A boy – yes I admit it, he is a child – but a boy who none-the-less has a hard bitter vengeful hatred of that man we so loved and cherished. That man who brought us all so much joy. The man in red, Santa Clause. A hatred that lead him to murder.” Emphasising his last word, Dr Brody paused for effect, allowing time for the significance to sink in.

Abruptly his demeanour changed, taking on an air of innocent credulity. “Now the defence will argue that their ‘client’,” he said using air quotes and a knowing smile for the last word, “is just a boy. That his act of poisoning was done accidentally. That as a four year old he would have no way of understanding the repercussions of his actions.” Changing his demeanour once again, he followed with a visage of wisdom and gravitas, “But don’t be fooled by their lies.”

“During the course of this trial, the prosecution will allege, and demonstrate mind you, that on or about 8:30pm on the 24th December last year, the defendant, Patrick McCallister, did knowingly and wilfully leave out as a snack for Santa, crackers with off ham and rancid milk, thereby giving him the fatal dose of food poisoning that killed him.”

The court was silent. Patrick was still curled up in his little ball in the dock, but a reedy voice called out, “S’not true.”

Just then, the doors to the chamber burst open and a man in a lab coat came running up the aisle. Glasses askew on his face and panting from his unaccustomed exercise, he gasped, “Stop the trial, stop the trial. You have the wrong person.”

Glancing up at the Judge, Dr Brody looked uncertain and then asked, “Who? You mean Patrick?”

“And who the heck are you anyway?” demanded the Judge.

Catching his breath slightly but still visibly heaving, the man replied, “No no, not Patrick. Santa! You’ve got the wrong man with Santa.” This definitely had everyone non-plussed. It wasn’t what the Police had said.

“Look I’m the pathologist assigned to this case, and this morning I figured I should probably get around to taking a look at the body. You know, what with the trial starting today and all that.”

He wilted slightly under the whithering glare of the assembly. “Oh come on give me a break,” he protested, “I’ve got so much work to do, and you know … Santa, jolly red guy. Everyone knows what he looks like and all that. It’s not like the Police were going to get it wrong and so I figured …” His voice petered off as he saw his excuse garnering no sympathy and, if anything, just digging himself deeper.

Changing tack he said, “OK, ok, fair enough. Bad me. But look, I did get around to it today and I’m telling you, this ain’t Santa. Well the body I mean, obviously. He’s not here in the courtroom … sitting on my slab … back in my …” The glares were just intensifying and he couldn’t bring himself to finish a sentence under such searching silent accusations.

“And so, pray tell, who is the victim in this case?” asked the Judge with a sickeningly horrific calmness.

Eyes downcast, the pathologist mumbled, “Well I’m not 100% sure but I think from the dental records that it might be Patrick’s father dressed up in a Santa suit.”

In the dock, Patrick’s head snapped up, tiny eyes open wide like saucers and he started blubbing softly.

“But who would do such a heinous thing?” the Judge demanded in astonishment. “Everyone knows that to impersonate Santa requires a license. This is sacrilege and probably a bigger crime than the murder in the first place.”

With a thunk, the editor let the manuscript fall to his desk. He motioned for his assistant to come over and said, “Jerry, this is probably the worst ‘Law and Order’ fan fiction script I’ve ever seen. Please don’t let anything from this author cross my desk ever again.”

With that he binned the manuscript, chose another from the pile and sat back to continue reading.

Sorry 🙂

The Doc

This short story is a break from my Fortune Kitty series.  I keep having ideas and wanted to try one before going back to that series.  If you’ve got any comments, feedback or suggestions feel free to leave a comment.

Jane’s hands shook as she stood at the gate leading to the house. In her hands her iPhone felt solid, providing a focus of reality for her to concentrate on. She grasped the sleek surface more firmly allowing the edges to dig slightly into her palms and the sensation helped distract her from the palpable fear that threatened to overwhelm her. “I’m not the first”, she reminded herself, “hundreds of kids have done this before me”. The knowledge was reassuring and she reached forward to push open the gate.

Before her lay the old house. Shrouded in night’s shadow and over-grown with vines, the weathered boards and dilapidated state of repair emanated a brooding atmosphere. It spoke of neglect and isolation, pronouncing to the world a disinterest in conforming to social norms and confirmation that what happened within its decaying walls was none of anyone’s damn business. Whether by design or symbiosis, the house resonated with and enhanced the image of the man rumored to live within. A man whose real name she could not remember but who was known as ‘The Doctor’. Despite her best efforts, Jane found her thoughts drawn to his legend as she made her way up the path.

He’d once been a paragon of virtue, one of the most respected members of her little town. Opening a practice in the main street, he’d quickly become one of the most sought after GPs around through an unusual combination of an endearing personal manner and sheer medical brilliance. Patients loved him. From those who mainly needed a chat and some placebic advice, to those whose ailments benefited from physiological treatments.

Starting fresh from medical school he’d begun at the town’s small hospital where he worked, as all interns must, as the general dog’s body for the more senior doctors. Doing all those routine, boring and messy tasks unwanted by others. Loaded by endless hours of triviality, almost as if they meant to keep him busy with banality until he learnt enough real world medicine to be trusted. It’s a dangerous business easing a newby into the risky job of healing people. But he’d persevered and flourished, soaking up the pressure and particularly the knowledge with a desert-like thirst.

Having completed his internship and residency, he opened his practice working full time while still picking up shifts at the hospital. It meant he was able to maintain a personal watch on his patients who had the misfortune of requiring admission and they loved him for it. Mothers were forever trying to match him up with their daughters. More than once he’d been forced to apply some of his patented charm at the end of a consultation to extricate himself from being setup on a pre-arranged date.

He never did marry, well not in the traditional sense. His marriage was to medicine. Throughout his life he maintained a laser like focus on his job keeping few close friends, living alone and enjoying an increasing insular existence outside of the clinic. It was a habit that worked against him in later years.

The town itself had primarily existed to support the factory. Long abandoned now, it once produced vast quantities of asbestos sheeting for the country, employing a large percentage of the population in the process. Of course that was all long gone now. With the long-delayed discovery of asbestos’ dark secret, mesothelioma, government legislation had seen the factory shut and most of the land marked as contaminated. The building still stood as an empty skeleton, testifying to the thriving business that had been both the boom and bust of the town.

The asbestos industry had left its mark on the Doctor too. Working in a community with unusually high rates of lung cancer had caused him to focus his career further on oncology and to some extent palliative care. Over the years he spent many an hour keeping vigil beside the beds of his long time patients who, despite his best efforts, invariably passed away into that long night. It was both the blessing and curse of working in a small town. He had time to get to know and love his patients, to give them much of himself, but it also made the parting so much harder to bear. So he plowed on in his study, desperate to discover the cause and cure for the community he so loved.

When the announcement about asbestos had finally been made public, it did not come as a huge surprise to him. He’d suspected it could be a factor and when the community around him started leaving in droves again he wasn’t surprised. But not all left and in a show of solidarity with those he sought to treat, the Doctor refused to sell his house despite being in a risky area. From his back porch he could see the old factory rusting in the background. “The production has ceased,” he would say, “if I were going to breathe in the fibers it has probably happened already. No, I’ll stay right where I am thank-you.”

So he had stayed. Treating his old friends and the occasional new patient until retirement, even then he had stayed. Those who used to know him well would comment, “Where else would he go now anyway?” He grew old, his friends died or left and his practice did not pick up new patients and then closed. Around him his house grew old and neglected too, a magnet to the imagination of those who never knew him but wondered all the same.

Jane winced at the sound her footstep made on the gravel path. She paused, waiting to see if it caused any movement up in the house. Heart hammering in her ears, she strained to hear any other sound, any signal that she’d been detected. A gentle breeze stirred the trees, causing their slight moon-shadows to flicker across the ground, phantoms dancing in her peripheral vision urging her to turn and run. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she silently urged herself, “no-one could hear that. But try to be quieter just in case.”

Placing her next footstep on the grass, she continued creeping towards the house. She had no idea what the Doctor would do to her if she was caught, but her imagination had plenty of suggestions. The kids here about mainly called him Doctor Death, a nickname that had once been overheard from a parent’s conversation up at the hospital. It had stuck. It seemed to sum him up perfectly. A strange old man living alone in a run-down house. A man no-one really saw much anymore. What did Doctor Death do behind those peeling walls? There were a thousand stories trying to provide the answer.

The first one she ever heard was that at one time, one of his patients was in so much pain that he had begged him to die. The next day the nurses had come in to find the room painted in blood, the patient in a number of pieces with an axe embedded in the torso. Despite their best efforts the cops couldn’t prove it was the Doctor, but everyone knew. Jimmy Tanner said it was rubbish. The patient was dead alright, but there was no axe or blood. But how could he be sure?

Jane shivered involuntarily as she imagined an axe swinging from behind to take her in the spine. She spun around in fright but behind her was nothing but the night. A path, the gate she’d entered through and beyond that the street and safety. Closing her eyes tight she once again summoned her reserves of courage and forced herself to turn around.

As she approached the front porch, the stories in her head grew stronger. The sick kids he kept locked in his cellar. The voodoo dolls he carved using footage from his hidden security cameras. The immunity he gained by eating parts of his dead patients. Last week she’d heard that ‘Silence of the Lambs’ had been based on Doctor Death’s life.

After a seeming eternity, Jane finally reached the front door. Now all that was needed was to put her iPhone through the mail slot. Her hand shook almost uncontrollably as she stretched out her arm and once again she squeezed to feel the cool metal dig into her palm. Inch by inch she got closer. Almost there. She could see the reflection of the phone in the dull surface of the metal surrounding the slot. “Just do it and get out of here,” she screamed inside her head when suddenly all hell broke loose.

The bushes lining the edge of the porch thrashed wildly and out of the corner of her eye something darted towards her. Dropping her iPhone, Jane turned and bolted back up the path screaming hysterically. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away … an apple a day keeps the doctor away …”, she sobbed again and again like a mantra warding off evil as she disappeared down the street.

From the bushes, Justin strolled onto the porch barely covering a chuckle. “Kids these days were so easy to fool”, he thought to himself. Spin them any old story about the Doc and provide a way to placate the demons and they’d jump at the chance. Even something as silly as recycling the old phrase about apples and doctors. It had been his genius to find the right phrase that let him regularly pick up second-hand electronics to finance his pot. Seeing kids piss themselves in fear was an added bonus.

He smirked as he sauntered over to the door and stooped to pick up the dropped iPhone. “Not a scratch, this one should fetch a fair bit plus whatever blackmail material I can get off it first”, he thought to himself just as the door opened. An old leather dress shoe was planted close to his hand, the edge of the worn sole gently grazing his skin as it came to rest on top of the phone stopping him from retrieving it. “So the old coot is still alive”, he thought to himself as he straightened to see a wrinkled old face, weary with age and the weight of the world, but set with piercing intelligent blue eyes.

“So pleased to finally meet you Justin”, the old man rasped, “I’ve heard rumors of your endeavors but it’s finally good to meet you in person.” The wrinkled face smiled, emphasizing the lines that creased his papery skin. “I do believe that you’ve been quite a bad boy. Do come in.” Justin was about to sneer and push the Doc off his prize when something gave him cause to pause. He’d just noticed the gun …


Crime Scene

Horatio Caine

Lieutenant Horatio “H” Caine pulled up to the scene, immaculate hair complimenting of a jaunty air of arrogance that marked him out as Miami’s top homicide detective.  The day was just starting to warm up at Long Beach.  The salty humidity stirred by a gentle sea-breeze promised the hope of another perfect day in paradise.  Perfect that is if it wasn’t for the dirty business of death.

Stepping out of the car, Horatio swaggered over to the scene of the crime.  A team of forensic specialists swarmed over the remains like an army of ants, analysing the sticky mess that dominated the lawn.  White fragments, thousands of them, could be seen scattered in amongst the sea of internal fluids.  The entire macabre location had been sealed off from any passers-by with the requisite miles of polices tape.

As his officers sought to record the visual evidence, cameras flashes popping like paparazzi at a Lindsay Lohan court appearance, Horatio looked past the immediate scene to the wall that stood behind it.  It was tall, probably 10 feet, and made of stone blocks put together by hand.  The type of extravagant designer architecture that he’d come to expect from the wealthy residents who lived in the area.

Cynicism running high, he reflected that he was unlikely to get much help from the local residents.  Preoccupied with their own doubtful celebrity, they tended to spend their time socialising, yachting and playing polo down at the aptly named King’s Polo Club.  Seriously, who played polo these days but English aristocrats and these pretentious doctors, lawyers and business men who in many ways considered themselves the royalty of America?

Detective Calleigh Duquesne extricated herself from the scene and, removing her mask and hood, she walked over to her boss.

“So tell me what we’re looking at?”, he prompted.

“Well notice those white fragments all over the scene?  Forensics have determined that it consists of predominantly 95-97% calcium carbonate crystals, stabilized by a protein matrix.  At first glance they all look flat, but over here you can see a bigger piece where the curvature is obvious.

Furthermore, this goo that covers the area is not just one homogeneous consistency.  These yellow patches here tend to stick together more tightly into lumps, and around the rest is this more clear fluid that runs more freely.  The yellow appears to be characterised by phosphorylated proteins, lipovitellins and phospholipids.

If I’m not mistaken, I would say that prior to death, these liquid contents would have been co-located on the inside of a three dimensional oval-ish structure with the white curved calcium carbonate encasing the lot.”

“So what you’re telling me, and let me get this right, is that what we have here is a giant egg?”, asked Horatio.

“That’s about the size of it sir”, she replied.  “Even more strange, you can see over here a whole bunch of foot prints.

These ones are unmistakably hoof prints from a horse, while these ones over here are human.  We’ve taken some plaster molds and will be checking the local sports shops, but for me, my money’s on them being riding boots.

I can’t quite understand why, but it looks like they were trying to piece the shell back together again.  There are a whole bunch of fragments over in this corner that have been lined up together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.  Would be an impossibly hard one too, with no edges or pieces of sky to start from.

I think whoever it was must have realised that too and got spooked.  They certainly left in an awful hurry.  You can see there’s no human footprints leaving, only horse and they were going at a fair clip too.”

Bloody King’s polo club, Horatio thought to himself, why did they get involved?  Well they’ve now got me to contend with.  He rose from studying the footprints and looked into the distance.  With a wry smile he said, “It’s not going to be easy”.  Then whipping off his glasses, he turned to his deputy as said, “But we’re just going to have to take a crack at it.”


Patrick’s War

English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...

Sending a plume of spray, the vessel turned sharply into the oncoming wave.  Her captain steadied himself against the main bulkhead, smiled grimly at his crew and gave the order to return fire.  As torpedo tracks streaked away from the ship, he could see out of the corner of his eye similar bubbly contrails racing past as the rest of his armada followed suit.  This was his throw of the dice, it was now time to see if the gamble paid off.

Being put in charge of a 13 craft fleet at such a tender age could have been a crushing weight for young Patrick.  Many who’d been placed in such a position previously had felt that weight all too keenly, becoming burnt out well before their prime and needing rotation to a gentler occupation.  Patrick it seemed had no such issues.  Perhaps he just didn’t realise the enormity of the situation and so the responsibility sat lightly on his shoulders.  Or maybe he was just made of sterner stuff.  Whatever the reason, his superiors were content, they’d found their man and he was doing brilliantly.

This latest conflict had arisen very quickly even by modern standards and, while he was fully committed to the cause, Patrick still hadn’t been given the privilege of knowing why he was fighting today.  One minute he’d been relaxing at the end of a long day and seemingly the next he was here plotting strategy and entering the fray.  Who knew what went through the minds of those in charge?

Still it looked to be going well, that latest salvo of torpedoes slammed home with a satisfying thud.  A massive crack appeared in the side of the enemy ship and it then split neatly in two, both halves sinking immediately to the depths.  Bodies littered the water, their forms stiff and unmoving as they bobbed on the surface refusing to follow their vessel in defeat.

In his mind’s eye, Patrick could imagine the cries of dismay and pain emanating from his foe.  As his fleet bobbed their way over to the scene of victory, he mimicked the sounds he imagined coming from their prone forms.



“Blub blub blub blub”

For such a young mind, it was fertile grounds for invention giving so much scope for experimentation.  An infinity of new ways to battle open to be explored.  A dreamer’s paradise of wondrous new weapons, ones that no-one had thought up before.  Like a giant under-water claw that reaches up and drags unsuspecting ships down!

Suddenly, excitement getting the better of him, Patrick re-enacted the explosion.  Arms flailing, energy welling up from some hidden internal reserve, he brought his hands slapping down on the surface of the water.

“Patrick stop that”, came the exasperated cry.  “You’re getting water all over the bathroom floor and now you’re towel is soaking.”  His mother came bustling over, weary exasperation born of countless past experiences etched on her face.  “If you don’t calm down right now, I’ll take your toys away.”.  It was the standard routine.

At the other end of a secret camera feed, a black suit clad agent smiled wryly to himself and muttered under his breath, “Not likely”.  His partner glanced across at him and asked, “What was that?”.

“I was just saying, it’s not likely his toys will be taken away.  What would the world do then to solve disputes?”

With his face a carefully constructed mask of innocence, his partner responded.  “You know I’ve been thinking about that.  Why is it again that we spy on this kid every night at bath time to see whether the lego or rubber ducks win his imaginary battles?”

“Because he’s the best of the best obviously.  We haven’t found any other kids who repeat the same type of battle night after night with such a low degree of bias for either side.  He’s the ultimate proxy for real battles.  He’s invaluable – I don’t know what we’ll do when he grows out of it.”

“Oh right.  Of course.”  The second agent subsided to quiet contemplation for a while before trying again, “Yeah, but what I don’t get right, is why we have need a proxy in the first place?  Kinda seems a bit silly using a kid’s imagination to decide who gets to keep possession of say Afghanistan.”

“Agent J, we’ve been over this.  It saves lives doesn’t it.  Back in the old days, we used to send soldiers over to fight the battles for real.  But all that would happen is the team with the most luck or the best weapons would win, and who says that they were right.  Just because you were lucky at fighting, or stronger than the other bloke, or could make a bigger bomb, it doesn’t mean you right.  And then when it’s all over, the loser just decides that if he tries a bit harder next time he might come out on top, so why not take another crack at it.  It all just didn’t work.

So one day, Ling Zu Chi turned up to the United Nations with a radical idea.  Since a real battle is no guarantee that the right side wins, and all it does is get people killed, why not run all future battles by proxy.  Pick some mechanism for randomly deciding the outcome of the battle and then each party agrees to be bound by the outcome.  It just makes sense, because then if you’re going to lose you’ll at least not be slapped with the massive economic and human cost of actually fighting a battle on top of it.

So after extensive research, it turns out that Patrick here is the perfect man for the job.  Seemingly without bias, but with that human touch just to make people feel like we’re still masters of our destiny.”

“Oh yeah”.  Another minute passed as they stared at the picture, mum mopping up the mess on the floor before bundling Patrick out of the bath, into pyjamas and whisking him off to bed.  Lastly the light went out accompanied by the gurgling sound of the remnant grey water journeying down the plug hole.

In the silence that followed, metaphorical mental cogs could still be heard turning.  “Yeah ok, but why are WE watching?”

“Because, if we can call our Bosses with the tonight’s result before Patrick’s mother gets on the phone to the UN, we just might be able to negotiate better terms of surrender after this loss.  Now snap to it, they usually spend about 10 minutes saying their bedtime prayers.”