Thursday, 28 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter seventeen

What is ? (This will hopefully explain the plot flaws and typos...)
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Covent Garden, London

Seven Dials is a prosperous, largely commercial, neighbourhood between the West End theatre district of Shaftesbury Avenue and the fashion focused shopping district in and around nearby Neal’s Yard. Inevitably the junction of seven roads, renowned in the nineteenth century as one of the most notorious slums in London, means the space is dominated by traffic which is inevitably slow moving in the overly narrow streets.

It was this slow moving traffic that had caused Stephen Charles to be late for his meeting. The drive into London from his warehouse in Wapping had been uneventful but since entering the West End his journey had slowed to a crawl. It was not unexpected but still annoying and he detested being late.

However, the trip had not been without it’s silver lining, he reflected, recalling the phone calls from one his men who was tailing Alexandria Baxby and her companion. He’d almost had them taken when they left Canary Wharf but the fact that they didn’t return to their car had surprised him and he’d decided that following them for a while couldn’t do any harm. His patience had been rewarded when the second call had come in with the Professor’s insights. Why should I struggle to open the box myself, he reasoned, when they are doing a perfectly good job of discovering how to do it all by themselves? He now had men stationed at every exit of the antique market that they’d entered a couple of hours previously and it wouldn’t be long before the box would finally be in his possession.

Turning his attention to his meeting he rapped on the partition between him and his driver with the end his cane.

‘I’ll walk from here,’ he said getting out of the car and walking slowly towards Neals Yard. He couldn’t afford to be late for his injections. Not many more, he promised himself. As soon as the vial is in my hands I will be free of the pain. Free, he repeated with each step, as the fire travelled up his legs, threatening to consume him.

Note: The first paragraph of this chapter relies heavily on the wonderful Wikipedia entry for Seven Dials

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter sixteen

What is ? (This will hopefully explain the plot flaws and typos...)
Read the previous chapters in 


LONDON, May 1857

Oliver Stockett turned the wooden box over in his hands as the wood carver counted out the notes that he’d been given in payment for his commission.

‘Excellent work.’ Stockett said, sliding the pieces carefully as he’d been taught by the craftsman until the top section finally pulled back and the box was open. He walked over to the basement window and held the box up to what light was able to filter through the dirty glass. He could just make out the letters and numbers that he’d specified, carved into the base of the box. It was a map of sorts and a vital record of the whereabouts of the vial.

His Master Pugin had been a genius, of that there was no doubt, but in his final months he’d slipped in and out of lucidity and on one such occasion had passed onto Stockett the secret that he had sworn to the Order he would keep to himself. Stockett also learnt that over the centuries the Order had permeated the highest echelons of society and that his life would be in danger if they discovered what he knew. He had already given written instructions to his solicitor for the box to be delivered with a letter to his closest male relative, his nephew, in the event of his death. It sickened him that the Order had kept the wonder of the Elixir to themselves all this time. The privileged few will not be the only ones to benefit from the Elixir, he thought to himself, reversing the steps he had taken to open the box and feeling a click as each piece fell back into place, sealing the map within.

‘Glad to be of service, Sir.’ The craftsman said, ‘Do tell your friends, a recommendation is worth a thousand advertisements I always say.’ The man chuckled quietly as if laughing at a private joke but he stopped laughing the moment the blade pierced his thin cotton shirt and penetrated his skin. His eyes widened as it continued through his ribs towards his heart but they had ceased to be useful and glassed over almost immediately. The rest of his body realised it had the same fate and slumped forward, the man’s head resting briefly on Oliver’s shoulder before he fell to the ground.

‘I’m sorry,’ Oliver said quietly. ‘This is one piece of work that I cannot recommend to anyone else.’ He picked up the box and stepped over the body, removing the knife and placing it within his handkerchief before leaving the shop forever.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Monday, 25 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter fifteen

What is ? (This will hopefully explain the plot flaws and typos...)
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day

Anyone standing before the beautiful nineteenth century terracotta building in the heart of London’s West End would be forgiven for not expecting there to be a river running through its’ basement. Grays and the Mews, the epicentre of the art and antique dealing world established by Bennie Gray in 1977, not only housed two hundred or so dealers but also the hidden river Tyburn.

Before Oxford Street took it’s present name in the 18th Century, it was known as Tyburn Road, which led to the Tyburn hanging gallows at the site of Marble Arch and Park Lane, or Tyburn Lane as it was known at the time. The river flowed through Regents Park and the West End to the Thames via The Mews where it could still be seen underneath the basement.

Alexandria pushed through the group of Japanese tourists that were clustered around the clean running water, pointing excitedly at the golden fish swimming lazily to and fro. Ryan was in front of her but the bow wave of people he created as he walked through the group kept threatening to swallow Alexandria up. She jogged a little to catch up and was on his heels just as he paused outside a small dealer’s shop front. He checked the address against the note that his Uncle had given him before pushing open the door. At the tinkle of the bell that sat just behind the door to signal a potential customer, a man appeared behind a mahogany desk.

‘Welcome to Wimpole Antiquities,’ The man said. ‘Please, feel free to look around and let me know if I can answer any questions you might have.’

‘Actually you might be able to help us,’ said Ryan. ‘We’re looking for a Robin Wimpole, I assume he’s the owner?’

‘Mr Wimpole isn’t here at the moment, I can leave him a message for you if you like?’ said the man, pulling a brass framed note pad from below the desk.

‘We need to speak to him urgently,’ Alexandria pressed. ‘It could be a matter of life and death!’ Ryan placed his hand on her arm and frowned at her; on the way to the antiques market she’d promised to let him do the talking. He was irritated that she constantly let her emotions get the better of her.

‘Maximilian Huntley sent me,’ Ryan said, ignoring Alexandria’s outburst. ‘We have something to show him.’

‘Max Huntley? How do you know him?’ The man asked, rubbing his chin.

‘He’s my Uncle.’ Replied Ryan and as he introduced himself and Alexandria he pulled the cloth bag containing the puzzle box out of his rucksack and placed it on the desk. At the sight of the cloth bag the man’s eyes sparkled with anticipation and Ryan’s hunch was proved correct.

‘Your Uncle, you say? Well then that changes things somewhat. Let’s have a look at it then.’ He said, reaching out for the bag, but Alexandria pulled it away from him.

‘No, this is for Mr Wimpole’s eyes only.’ She said.

‘This, if I’m not mistaken, is Robin Wimpole.’ Said Ryan, pushing the bag back towards the man who picked it up and then opened up a flap in the wooden desk to usher Alexandria and Ryan through to his side.

‘Let’s take this into the back room, shall we? One can’t be too careful in this business.’ He said, ignoring Alexandria’s raised eyebrows.

He led them through a doorway in the back of the shop and along a short narrow corridor lined with metal shelves full of antiques from vases and silver teapots to guns and swords. At the end of the corridor was a small room that functioned as his office and somewhere private that he could do business with his more secretive clients.

‘Let’s have a look at what you’ve got then,’ he said pulling the box out of it’s cloth bag and placing it on the table between them. He turned it around, checking each face before putting a single magnifying glass up to his eye to study the detailed carvings.

‘Exquisite.’ He said drawing out the middle vowel in appreciation. ‘But unfortunately fake. I’ll give you five hundred for it.’

‘We know it’s a copy of a Japanese puzzle box,’ Alexandria said impatiently. ‘What we need to know is how to open it. And it’s not for sale.’

‘I’m sorry, Mr Wimpole, the contents of this box, if there are any, could be very important to us. Do you possibly know how to open it?’ interjected Ryan.

‘That I do,’ Robin Wimpole said mischievously, ‘in theory. I’ve watched the masters in Japan open a number of these boxes and managed to open a twelve move one myself a few years ago, but this one is so intricate I expect it to take at least forty moves to open it.’ He paused to inspect the box again.

‘Why don’t we just break it open with a hammer to see what’s inside?’ Alexandria asked, her impatience building.

‘Because we have no way of knowing whether what our friend is looking for is inside the box or how delicate it might be.’ Ryan said without taking his eyes off the box in the forger’s hands.

‘Now, now, don’t look so downhearted my dear,’ he said to Alexandria who was looking more crestfallen by the minute. ‘We’ll solve this little conundrum, don’t you worry. Just give me a little time.’

Alexandria and Ryan settled into the two leather arm chairs on their side of the desk and watched as Robin played with the box,gently pressing each side and each section within each side, looking for the slightest movement in the wood. When one small section moved slightly he continued his search until he recognised the pattern of movements. Each piece of wood giving just enough under the gently pressure of his fingers to release another section in another part of the box. It was painstaking work and it took almost an hour to get the combinations right but eventually the top face of the box slid completely to one side.

Alexandria and Ryan stood up to peer into the wooden shell created by the open side. What was revealed in the base of the box was entirely different to anything they had imagined.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter fourteen

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
The British Museum

There are very few walls or doors that can mask the sound of a human voice, the man considered, when the right technology was available. He quickly pulled the listening device off the glass section of the library door behind which Alexandria and Ryan were discussing the box with a professor who, it turned out was related to Ryan. That could prove useful, the man thought, and made a mental note to include it in his report back to Mr Charles.

He quickly pulled the cheap trilby he’d bought on Tottenham Court Road from one of the street vendors down so that his face was obscured and bent the top half of his body forwards, creating the appearance of an older man. As the door opened and his two charges walked out he squinted heavily and ran his index finger down the list of faculties on the sign next to the door, as though he was short sightedly looking for the one he needed. Alexandria and Ryan didn’t even look his way as they pass by him on their way to the lift.

Once the lift doors closed he straightened up and pulled the mobile phone out of his pocket, dialling a number that he knew off by heart.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Friday, 22 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter thirteen

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Central London

The British Museum lies in the middle of a triangle created by three stations; Holborn, Russel Square and Tottenham Court Road. Either of the three stations provides a short walk to the museum. Choosing the famous London Underground tube network over driving, Alexandria and Ryan travelled from Canary Wharf to Waterloo Station on the Jubilee Line before changing to the older Northern Line until they finally arrived at Tottenham Court Road. The box was safely back in it’s cloth bag, carefully placed inside Ryan’s rucksack.

When they arrived at the entrance to the British Museum on Great Russel Street Ryan spoke to one of the guards who took the walkie talkie off his belt and had a brief conversation. In a matter of minutes a slim grey haired gentleman in a white lab coat was walking towards them, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. Ryan stuck his hand out to shake his hand in greeting.

‘Ryan, as I live and breathe!’ The man said, ‘It’s been far too long, to what do I owe this pleasure?’

‘Hi Uncle Max,’ Ryan said with a grin, and Alexandria noticed how much this unusual occurrence suited him, as though a light had been switched on inside his heart. ‘This is Alexandria Baxby. We need your help with something.’

‘Hmmmm… sounds intriguing!’ Said Maximilian Huntley, shaking Alexandria’s hand warmly. ‘You haven’t brought me anything interesting for some time. Come up to the library and let’s take a look at what you’ve got.’

As the three of them travelled up to the fifth floor of the Museum in one of the museum’s many lifts, Ryan used the time to fill his Uncle in on some of the details of Alexandria’s family kidnapping and the strange box that Stephen Charles was looking for. Maximilian was clearly startled by the situation that had brought his nephew to see him and placed his hand on Alexandria’s shoulder on more than one occasion in a sympathetic gesture. Once out of the lift it was a short walk to one of the many libraries within the museum. Each of the museum’s curatorial and research departments had public facilities including a library and study rooms although this was a smaller private collection with books that lined only the outside walls of the room. The middle had been given over to three long wooden desks, one of which was piled high with various books and antiquities, all placed within clear plastic boxes.

‘Excuse the mess,’ Maximilian said, waving his hand at the priceless treasures. ‘I’ve been catching up on some cataloguing since some recent finds in the Far East.’

‘Uncle Max is an expert in Eastern antiques.’ Ryan explained to Alexandria. ‘That’s why I immediately thought of him when I saw the box, I’m sure those mosaic’s are a Japanese design. I saw something like them in his house once - that black resin box that I used to play with as a child?’ He directed the question at his Uncle who smiled at the memory.

‘Yes, yes! The Japanese puzzle box. I picked it up on one of my trips there in the seventies, it wasn’t a very good example, only took four moves to open it, but you used to love playing with it, hiding some little trinket you’d found and challenging everyone to try and open it.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Alexandria to Ryan, ‘I’m a bit lost, are you saying you think our wooden shape is one of these puzzle boxes?’

‘Well now,’ said Maximilian as Ryan took the cloth bag out of his rucksack. ‘Why don’t we take a look and see?’

Ryan pulled the wooden rectangular shape out of the bag and handed it to his Uncle who turned it over in his hands before placing it on the table in front of him. He walked silently over to one of the shelves at the far right of the table and scanned the books with his index finger, mumbling under his breath. ‘Ah, here it is.’ He said selecting one of the books and bringing it back to the other two. He flipped through the pages until he found the picture that he’d been looking for and turned the book around so that Ryan and Alexandria could see it for themselves.

‘It’s exactly the same!’ Alexandria exclaimed.

‘So it is my dear.’ Maximilian said excitedly. ‘This is most definitely a Japanese puzzle box. But it’s no ordinary puzzle box. This box was designed by the Master box maker Yukio Hamada in the early 1800s.’ But even as he spoke Maximilian frowned. ‘But this doesn’t look old enough to have been made by him.’ He peered closer at the box before continuing. ‘And the craftsmanship isn’t quite as delicate. Interesting… I think this is a very, very good copy of the original box, probably made sometime in Victorian times.’
‘Is it very rare?’ Alexandria asked, trying to find a reason for Stephen Charles to want it so badly.

‘Well now, if it was the original that I first thought it was then yes, it would be very rare, and worth an awful lot of money too, especially to a collector. But this copy? It’s beautifully crafted but not worth half as much I’m afraid.’ Said Maximilian.

‘So either Stephen Charles doesn’t realise that it’s a copy, or there’s some other reason that he wants the box.’ Said Ryan, picking up Alexandria’s train of thought and running with it.

‘You said it’s a puzzle box Max,’ Alexandria said ‘And that it can be opened, right? But we couldn’t find any way to get into it. There’s no lid.’

‘Ahhh, that’s the beauty of these boxes,’ said Max, perching on a high stool and taking off his round glasses. ‘Japan has exported secret opening boxes to the West since before 1870. They are often complex, requiring many "moves" to open them. The puzzle is to find the secret compartment inside. To solve a puzzle box, one or more sliding parts in one end are moved, allowing the other end to be moved slightly. This partially unlocks a side panel, which allows other pieces to be moved. These, in turn, partially unlock the top or bottom. This method is continued, moving around the box, until the top panel can slide, opening the box.’ He chewed on the end of the arm of his glasses for a moment, letting Ryan and Alexandria process the information.

‘Wow, I’m lost already.’ Alexandria said, rubbing her head.

‘It sounds complicated but really it’s quite simple once you know how.’ Ryan interjected. ‘I had no problem with Max’s box when I was a child.’

‘Yes, most of the very early puzzle boxes from the late 1800s/early 1900s only had a few moves to open, usually two to four. But some are much more complex requiring over 100.’

‘So perhaps it’s not the box itself that’s important,’ Ryan said. ‘But what’s inside it.’

‘We need to open this box.’ Alexandria said, picking it up and looking over each side, trying to see where the movable sections might be.

‘It’s very hard to see where to start the process,’ Max said ‘The craftsmen that made these boxes chose wood of different cross sections and of different colours to design patterns of great beauty and complexity. These served not only to decorate the boxes but also played an important role in concealing the sliding pieces. Unfortunately the art of making these boxes has never been written down. Instead, it was passed on from master craftsman to apprentice for generations, so it’s unlikely that we’ll find the answer in any of these books,’ He continued, looking around the room.

‘So we know what it is now, but we’re still no further forward.’ Said Alexandria, slumping onto one of the stools herself.

‘Now don’t look so downhearted my dear,’ said Max putting his glasses back on and opening a drawer in front it him. ‘I said we wouldn’t find the answer in any book. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find out the answer at all.’ He pulled a small black address box out of the drawer and turned through the pages until he found the name he was looking for. ‘Yes, here we are.’ He said, copying the address down on a small orange Post-It note and handing it to Ryan. ‘Ask for Robin Wimpole and be sure to say that I sent you. He is himself a master craftsman of sorts, but let’s just say that his copies are not exactly kosher.’

Ryan laughed. ‘How do you come to know a forger Uncle Max?’ He said.

‘It’s a long story that I will tell you one day over a nice Claret. In the meantime I wish you both luck.’

Note: Maximilian's knowledge of puzzle boxes relies almost exclusively on the expertise of Jerry Slocum via


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - so far so...

...good? Well not exactly. I'm behind on my word count - a lot. So much so that if I keep going the way I am I won't be finished until the end of December. But I'm telling myself THAT DOESN'T MATTER because I'm actually writing and I'm enjoying the antics of Alexandria, Ryan and my cast of misfit characters. Ok, so there's a lot of creative licence being taken - how lucky is it that Ryan just happens to have an Uncle that works at the British Library? And why isn't Alexandria just a little more upset about her Mother and daughter being kidnapped? And where is her husband?! But all THAT *points up* is for the re-write later on, much later on. (Note to self, still haven't started the re-write for NaNoWriMo 2009... *oops!*)

But the point is that I'm writing. Every day. Well almost every day, and that's a huge improvement on not writing at all. Writing fiction is so different from writing blog posts. I find that blog posts just sort of haemorrhage out of my fingers whereas fiction has to practically be wrung from my pores like blood. Once I get going I love it of course and it's even better when the characters get up and start walking around on their own - yep I've even had to race to keep up with them sometimes - but inevitably with two kids under five there are interruptions like needing to feed them or eat myself and those interruptions become pauses that stretch into 'not sure I can be bothered today.'

Still, there is only 10 days to go and while I know that there's no way I will actually win (that's NaNoWriMo-speak for hitting the 50,000 word target) I'm ok with that. I'm writing and that's what's important.

I'm publishing chapters of my NaNoWriMo novella - The Elixir - up there on the tab. If you've got a spare mo, I'd love to know what you think.

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter twelve

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Canary Wharf, London

The man watched as Alexandria Baxby and another man left Number One Canada Square and made their way back to the car park where he knew they’d left the Land Rover that they arrived in. The bench he was sitting on, reading a copy of the Financial Times, provided him with the perfect vantage point to see both the lobby of the skyscraper and the rest of the square.

‘Yes Sir, they’ve left Cutler and Bross.’ He said into the tiny microphone attached to the ear piece that was itself plugged into the mobile phone in his pocket. ‘Yes Sir, I’ll keep a safe distance.’ He dropped the call.
As Alexandria and the man entered the main Canary Wharf complex that the car park was situated in he folded up the newspaper and checked his watch, as if confirming the time of a meeting he was going to and, picking up his briefcase, he followed them.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Monday, 18 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter eleven

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Canary Wharf, London

The drive into London in Ryan’s Land Rover had been a quiet one. Other than the phone calls he’d made to his contacts trying to find out more about Stephen Charles, Ryan was clearly a man of few words and Alexandria was lost in her thoughts. Mercifully the traffic on the M25 had been light for a change and they were soon in the heart of London’s thriving Docklands area, formally part of the port of London at one time the World’s largest port. The shiny skyscrapers that filled their view were indicative of the extensive redevelopment of the area over the last thirty years, the result of which had seen the population of the area more than double. The glitz belied the area’s historical beginnings, the lightermen and quayside workers now replaced by bankers and insurance brokers.

They had taken a brief detour to a lock-up garage near Hackney Marsh so that Ryan could pick up a few items and he’d returned to the car with a large black duffel bag which he threw into the back seat. Alexandria wondered what he thought they might need to search Simon’s office other than some luck that they’d be let in without too many questions, particularly as Simon was known to be out of the country on business. But she knew most of the security guards fairly well having taken Aryanna to meet Daddy at work when they lived in London, forcing to take an hour’s break for pizza and a glass of wine before they went their separate ways - he back to the office, she and their daughter home for bath time. The guards loved Aryanna with her cheeky grin and sociable chatter. Just thinking about her made Alexandria’s breath catch in her throat and she had to stop herself from breaking down. She knew that she couldn't lose focus - the cover story she and Ryan had decided on required her to be a persuasively exasperated wife who’s husband had left her without a spare set of house keys. She hadn’t acted since her University days and in her current state of mind she wasn’t sure she’d be able to pull it off.
They parked in the underground Car Park at Canary Wharf and made their way to 1 Canada Square where Cutler and Bross had a floor of offices. The security guards remembered Alexandria easily and bought her story without a second glance. Within minutes they were safely in the lift on the way up to the forty-second floor. While they waited Alexandria tried calm her nerves by engaging Ryan in conversation with the little details that she’d gleaned about the impressive building from her husband when they’d moved there from the West End the previous year.

‘This tower has 3960 windows and 4388 steps.’ She said casually. ‘And 90,000 square feet of Italian and Guatemalan marble were used in the lobby.’

‘Really.’ Ryan said flatly, not even feigning interest and looking up at the numbers as they travelled ever upwards. But then he stopped and looked back at Alexandria again. ‘That’s a lot of numbers to remember.’ He said.

‘Oh, yeah, I have a semi-photographic memory.’ Alexandria replied. ‘Helps me remember all sorts of useless information.’ She smiled ruefully as the doors opened and they stepped out into the lobby of the International Law Firm Cutler and Bross. For the first time since she’d met him, Ryan smiled back.

They bypassed the woman at the reception desk easily, Alexandria was a regular here and her well rehearsed story was a plausible one to anyone who worked with lawyers; ‘Minds on their work and nothing else!’ The navy blue suited lady had said, sympathising with Alexandria and letting her and her ‘brother-in-law’ Ryan through the electronic barrier into the rabbit warren of offices. Once they were safely inside Simon’s office on the East side of the building Ryan shut the door and surveyed the room.

‘Where would your husband be likely to hide something valuable in here?’ He asked Alexandria.

She looked around the room, realising that while she’d been here on a number of occasions she’d never really noticed the room in any detail. Some photographic memory, she thought.

‘Let’s start at the desk.’

Moving round to the opposite side of the ultra modern glass topped desk, so unlike their antique one at home, she started opening drawers while Ryan searched the bookshelves lined with bound volumes covering everything from family law to criminal litigation. Piles of Law Society Gazettes created a floor level bar graph that he had to avoid toppling.
Alexandria found nothing in any of the desk drawers that resembled a box, but the bottom drawer was locked. That wasn’t unusual in a law firm where confidential papers had to be kept under lock and key but it posed them a problem. Knowing her husband wasn’t one for carrying a large bunch of keys around with him she scanned his desk looking for somewhere that he might have hidden a key. Suddenly she saw the small clay pot decorated with childish paint splodges that Aryanna had made at school and given to Simon for Father’s Day the previous June. It had an ill-fitting lid that slipped to one side and as Alexandria lifted it she immediately saw the glint of metal from a small silver key. She tried it in the lock and with a reassuring click she was able to pull the drawer open. She rifled through piles of papers bound with red ribbon but found nothing until she realised that the stacks were sloping forwards, forced towards the front of the drawer by something they were lying on. She started taking each bound stack out and piled them on the desk in front of her. As she lifted the last bundle, bound in blue instead of red ribbon she noted, she saw a cloth bag in the very base of the drawer. It was closed at one end with a thin cotton rope tied in a knot.

‘Ryan I think I might have found what we’re looking for.’ She said, lifting the bag and its contents out of the drawer and placing it in front of the papers in the middle of the desk.

Ryan immediately joined her and watched as she untied the rope and put her hand inside the bag pulling out a smallish rectangular wooden object. It was close to Stephen Charles’ description, about five inches wide and seven or eight inches across and exquisitely carved in various shades of highly polished wood. Alexandria turned it over in her hands, marvelling at the detail in the design. Each face of the rectangle was different, with small squares creating a different mosaic pattern on each side. But one thing puzzled Alexandria - it wasn’t a box.

‘There’s no lid,’ Ryan said, as if reading her thoughts.

‘But it looks like it should be a box,’ Alexandria replied and she gave it a gentle shake. There was a feint noise from within, like something inside the shape was rattling around as she shook it.

‘There, did you hear that? It IS a box,’ she said excitedly, resuming her search for an opening. ‘But how do we open it?’

‘It looks old.’ Ryan said, taking the box from Alexandria’s hands and inspecting it himself, including the shake trick. ‘I know someone who might be able to help us understand more about it,’ he continued. ‘My Uncle works at the British Museum, he might be able to shed some light on how to open it.’

Alexandria was adamant. ‘No, Ryan we should just take it straight back to the Major and wait for Stephen Charles to call us. I can’t risk anything happening to Mum and Ary,’ she said. Her face was set.

Ryan leaned on the desk with both hands until his head was quite close to Alexandria’s and spoke clearly and quietly to her, looking her straight in the eyes. ‘Your Mother and daughter are not safe no matter what we do. Our best bet to find them alive and well is to have an insurance policy and this box, that Stephen Charles has clearly set his sights on, is just that. He thinks it’s his point of negotiation but it’s actually ours. He needs it and if this is what we think it is, we have it. And the more we know about it the better off we’ll be when that negotiation starts.’ He held her gaze a moment longer and then stood up, as if confirming the matter closed.

‘Ryan I’m not sure,’ Alexandria stated to say but he cut her off.

‘I’m here to help you.’ He said, ‘So let me.’

Alexandria nodded, realising that she was totally out of her depth and that if anyone was offering to help her in this crazy situation she probably should listen.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter ten

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Squall’s End, Essex countryside

Alexandria sat in the drawing room with her mobile phone in her lap, waiting for the call from Stephen Charles. Major Banwell was sitting next to her and Ryan was sitting opposite them both with a pen and two pieces of A4 paper in front of him. In the time leading up to this moment, twenty-four hours since Stephen Charles had called confirming that he had Perla and Aryanna held captive, Alexandria and the Major had filled Ryan in on what had happened the previous day and he had listened attentively, interjecting occasionally to ask her specific details, making notes all the while in illegible shorthand.

Alexandria fidgeted with nerves. She didn’t like sitting doing nothing and didn’t like Ryan’s plan to wait until Stephen Charles called back instead of starting to search for the box. Ryan had said it was likely that Charles’ men had already searched her house for the box so unless she particularly wanted to see her home in it’s almost certainly newly ransacked condition they should continue the search elsewhere. Alexandria had nodded her agreement, as most of their things were still in storage boxes it was likely that anyone searching her house would have simply emptied them out onto the floor, likely breaking their precious possessions. That wasn’t something that she felt she could deal with right now.

The Ryan Russet that had come into the drawing room after freshening up was a completely different looking man to the dishevelled rogue that had left the kitchen earlier. He was clean shaven now, showing the deep cleft in his chin, and dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt and North Face zip up sweater. Even his hair looked different, short all over and messed about liked he’d just rubbed a towel through it and done nothing else. Alexandria had found herself watching him as he made his shorthand notes, wondering what he was writing, wondering what he was thinking. She was usually quite good at reading people, but Ryan was no open book.

The vibration of her phone pulsing in her hand before it started ringing distracted her from her thoughts and she looked to Ryan before she answered it. They’d discussed what she should do, put him on speaker phone so that they could all listen, appear afraid (that wouldn’t be difficult), listen first, keep him on the line as long as possible. Ryan would use the pen and paper to write her messages, telling her specific things to say. She assumed the other page was for him to make more notes.

Ryan nodded and she pressed the green answer button followed immediately by the speaker button.

‘Hello?’ She said, knowing full well who would be calling.

‘Alexandria, I have your Mother and daughter here right with me and we’re all dying to know - do you have the box?’

Alexandria winced at his choice of words and looked to Ryan again. He held up one of the pieces of paper with words written on it.

‘Yes.’ She said lying. ‘But I don’t have it yet. It wasn’t in our house. I just need a bit more time.’ She said, sounding as nervous as she actually felt.

‘Oh that’s a shame.’ Stephen said and there was a pause. In the background Alexandria heard her Mother’s voice calling out in pain. The sound was like a dagger tearing into Alexandria’s heart.

‘Stop! Stop please!’ She shouted into the phone. The Major placed his hand on her shoulder, but Ryan stayed motionless, with no change of expression on his face. Time passed slowly until Stephen came back onto the phone.

‘I’m disappointed in you Alexandria.’ He said flatly. ‘Clearly you didn’t realise how much there was at stake for you and your family. Perhaps that little demonstration will put you in a more urgent state of mind. You have another twenty four hours to find the box and have it in your possession. Please know that if you’re still unsuccessful tomorrow it will be your daughter.’

The phone went dead and Alexandria gulped back tears as she dropped the phone.

‘You said he would leave them as long as I said I knew where the box was!’ She said to Ryan between sobs.

‘I miscalculated.’ He replied quietly, looking at his notes. ‘I underestimated this Stephen Charles, he’s clearly not just a punk looking for a quick buck. This box must be very valuable. And it looks like he’ll do anything to get it.’

‘Where do you want to start, Ryan?’ the Major asked, handing Alexandria his handkerchief.

‘Let’s follow the plan that we discussed earlier. If the box wasn’t in your house Alexandria then perhaps your husband left it in his office. So we go to London. On the way I’ll make a few phone calls and pick up some things that we might need.’

‘And I’ll pack you some food; neither of you have touched a bite today.’ The Major said, pointing to the tray of sandwiches that he’d rustled up while they were talking in the kitchen earlier. ‘You need to keep your strength up Alexandria, for both your and their sakes.’

Alexandria dried her eyes and stood up. Action was what she’d been waiting for and the thought that this box might be at Simon’s office gave her hope that her daughter would be in her arms again soon. The alternative was something that she couldn’t bring herself to consider.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter nine

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Squall’s End, Essex countryside

Alexandria woke with her daughter’s name on her lips. The remnants of a dream haunted her consciousness; excerpts replaying in her minds eye. Aryanna, her arms outstretched, pleading for help as she slipped into a pool of dense, sticky mud. No matter how hard Alexandria tugged her arms she couldn’t pull her out. The mud pool sucked at Aryanna’s body and she slipped deeper and deeper until her head finally submerged and Alexandria woke up, sweating.

Rubbing her hands over her face she yawned and stretched her arms above her head. Suddenly the events of the morning crowded in on her and nausea swept through her body. After a long morning of waiting and pacing she had finally fallen asleep on the sofa, exhausted. Pulling a soft cashmere blanket from her legs she swung herself off the leather seat and realised that there were voices coming from outside the drawing room. She stood up and went towards the voices, coming back into the hallway where she had first entered the Major’s house earlier that day before turning right towards the back of the house. There were two narrow stone steps leading down into a large square kitchen and Alexandria saw the Major leaning against a wooden cabinet talking to another man who’s back was facing her. As she entered the room the man turned around and she was struck by his rugged and unkempt appearance.

‘Ahhh, Alexandria, you look much perkier my dear, that nap did you the world of good.’ The Major said moving towards her and pulling out a chair so that she could sit at the oblong kitchen table. ‘Let me introduce you to my friend, Ryan Russet.’

Alexandria raised her eyebrows at the alliterative name but simply said ‘Hello,’. Not for the first time she felt out of place in the Major’s home and an inconvenience to him - clearly he was having a meeting of some sort with this man and she was interrupting them.

‘We were just discussing your situation,’ the Major said. ‘Ryan is somewhat of an expert in matters of this sort. I do hope you didn’t mind me calling him and asking him to come over.’

Not for the first time that day Alexandria was surprised by how generous the Major was, first with his time and his hospitality and now with his connections. She was also keen to know how this man could help her to find her Mother and daughter, although he dishevelled appearance didn’t fill her with hope.

‘What sort of expert, Mr Russet?’ She asked, turning towards him.

‘The experienced kind.’ He said flatly, before the major held up his hand to interrupt him.

‘Now then why don’t you freshen up before we start talking details, eh Ryan? I’m sure you’d love a hot bath.’

Ryan grunted and grabbed a large rucksack from the floor by the doorway before making his way out of the kitchen towards the stairs. When he was safely out of earshot the Major turned to Alexandria.

‘I’m sorry that I called Ryan without speaking to you first,’he apologised, ‘he's a little ummm... prickly but I trust him and I don’t know of anyone better qualified to help get your family back.’

‘What is he, a private investigator?’ Alexandria asked.

‘Of sorts. He’s a person for hire, I suppose you’d say. He’s ex-special forces, retired from active duty four years ago following an incident overseas.’

‘An incident?’

'He was stationed in Afghanistan with a small platoon, searching for military info at an abandoned rebel base. Unfortunately the base hadn’t been quite as abandoned as they’d been led to believe by their informant and they actually walked straight into a trap. Ryan and another man, his friend, were cut off from the rest of the platoon and had to fight their way out of a bunker. His friend was shot and Ryan had to leave him behind.’ The Major paused for a moment, lost in thought. ‘He blames himself of course, as military men often do, but really there was nothing he could do. When the platoon returned home he immediately left the service. Since then he’s been nomadic to say the least, working for whoever pays the bills. Damn shame waste of a good soldier.’ The Major paused again before finishing, ‘But most importantly he has the skills that we need.’


‘Well of course, we.’ The Major replied crossly. ‘You didn’t seriously think I’d throw you out of my house to fend for yourself after everything you’ve been through? This will be your base, I won’t hear of you going back to your house unless one of us goes with you, this Charles fellow clearly knows where you live and so you’re not safe there.’

Alexandria was grateful that the Major’s hospitality wasn’t going to end any time soon. She wasn’t one to ask for help at the best of times but in this situation she needed all the help she could get. ‘Thank you, for everything.’ She said, standing up and kissing the older man gently on one cheek. As she walked back into the drawing room she didn’t see the Major tenderly place his hand over the spot where he lips had touched.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Happy 1st Birthday to our beautiful Little Man

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Chapter eight

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Wapping, London

Stephen Charles winced at the aching in his bones and popped two Codeine tablets into his mouth, swallowing them whole with a chaser of single espresso. The coffee was good and strong, the way he liked it, and he savoured the jolt to his brain as the caffeine kicked in, nullifying the effects of the strong painkiller on his senses.

He could clearly remember when the pain had first started in his childhood, his wealthy parents taking him from one expert to another to try and diagnose his condition. Finally a consultant in Harley Street had confirmed their worst fears, a degenerative condition that would age him before his time and likely leave him dead within ten years. His Mother had tried to wrap him in cotton wool but his Father had turned away from him, perhaps the sorrow was too much. His life as a normal boy had stopped that day and his new life as a survivor had begun.

And yet here I am, he thought, thirty years later; a modern miracle. A wry smile almost played across his lips but there were other matters to attend to. Putting his fine bone china coffee cup back on its matching saucer and resting them on the table in front of him he rose from the antique wing backed chair that was placed rather incongruously in the middle of the warehouse. Checking the time on his pocket watch he replaced it in the pocket of his waistcoat and picked up his cane. The metal tip tap-tapped on the ground as he walked towards one of the small rooms at the side of the warehouse that had been knocked together by a team of builders at his request and turned into a small single story apartment, complete with a bathroom, bedroom and living room. Fully furnished it was almost impossible to tell from the inside that you were actually in a beautifully designed prison cell. Unless of course you counted not being able to leave.

Stephen nodded to one of the two armed men who flanked the only remaining door in the rooms and he immediately unlocked and opened it. Stephen stepped into the living room and found Alexandria’s mother, Perla, sitting on the small sofa, her hands crossed on her lap, staring straight at him with a level gaze. This was not a woman to be trifled with, Stephen noted with humour.

‘Is the lovely little lady asleep?’ He asked her, sitting in the armchair opposite the sofa and resting his hand on the top of his cane. ‘I trust that you have everything you need?’

‘What the hell do you want from us?’ Perla spat in response.

‘My dear Perla, always straight to the point, eh?’ He replied, twirling the cane as he spoke. ‘I don’t actually want anything from you,’ he continued, ‘other than your complete co-operation. Which, as long as your granddaughter is still here with you, alive and well, I assume I will have.’

He let the thinly veiled threat rest in the air before speaking again. ‘What I do want is for your daughter to find the box that her husband has hidden. We did try to ask him ourselves but unfortunately he… well, he isn’t with us any longer.’

Perla gasped and Stephen noted how easy it was to gently twist the truth and let others come to their own conclusions. Simon Baxby had eluded his men when they had tried to detain him at the airport and again when he touched down in Hong Kong but they would find him soon enough. His Chinese investigator had been promised a hefty bonus to find Simon and likely had subcontracted a number of willing locals at a much reduced rate to help him scour the downtown maze of streets and hotels. In the meantime Stephen reasoned that he wouldn’t have taken the box with him in any case. He was much more likely to have left it behind at their new home at Squall’s End. However a thorough search of the property, enabled by his unique and rather expensive relationship with certain members of the Metropolitan Police Force, had turned up nothing and so Stephen was forced to use more invasive techniques to find it’s whereabouts. Hence his two new house guests.

‘What is so special about this damn box?’ Perla asked.

‘This damn box, as you describe it, is of great interest to me.’ Stephen replied, ‘And that is all that you need to know.’ He said finishing their conversation and standing up. ‘Now if you will excuse me I have other matters to attend to. I just wanted to check that your accommodations were satisfactory. I’m afraid there is no television here but there is a deck of cards in the bureau draw and most of the modern classics on the shelves. If you get hungry just knock on the door and one of my men will get you whatever you’d like to eat. In the meantime I bid you good evening.’ Stephen bowed gently and left the room, making his way to the waiting car outside.

Within minutes he was speeding towards his offices in the centre of London and after a few phone calls he laid his head back against the sumptuous leather headrest and considered Perla’s question. What was so special about the box? It was only a matter of days since Nancy Gafford had telephoned him about it and he hardly dared hope that it was quite as special as he’d been led to believe. Still, every possible avenue that could lead to the infamous Elixir had to be explored he reasoned. He congratulated himself on recruiting Nancy to work for him while maintaining her cover as Personal Assistant to the head of International Law Firm Cutler and Boss. Little did Managing Director Phillip Hindmarsh realise that his trusted right hand was really passing information to Stephen. It was an arrangement that had served him well many times at all of the companies that he invested in, and he found it hard to believe that using the inside information he received to trade on the stock market could so easily have netted him the small fortune he now enjoyed.

But this time Nancy had reported back with more than just information. She had overheard a conversation between her boss and Simon Baxby who had recently been promoted to lead solicitor after a number of profitable client wins at court that had been procured by rather dubious means. Perhaps he and Simon weren’t so different after all, he thought ruefully. Phillip Hindmarsh had a business trip planned the next day, Nancy had explained and he had asked Simon to look after a box while he was away. He had sounded very agitated, she said, like the box was really important. He made Simon promise to hide it carefully but Nancy didn’t hear the rest of the conversation as the Finance Director had come into her office asking for some diary time.

No matter. Nancy had done well. She had not only given Stephen useful information, she had given him a sense of hope. Hope that he might finally find the solution to his eternal problem, the solution that would banish his degenerative disease and give him back his life. Everlasting life.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day seven

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 



The dim light from the candle on the table to the right of the work bench created little enough light to read a newspaper let alone carve intricate detail into wood. The woodcarver rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms above his head to relieve some of the stiffness he felt from sitting in one position for too long. Focusing back on the box in front of him he blew gently across it’s surface, removing tiny shavings of wood that had been removed as he chiselled the strange pictographs and made sure that the pieces slid freely.

This was exacting work, copying a piece that had been made by a Japanese master craftsman with many more years experience than he himself had. Each element had to be constructed precisely to enable the piece to work. But he wasn’t going to be beaten by it. After turning the wood initially on a lathe he had used a two-handed grip to chisel the shapes he needed, one hand guiding the cutting edge while the other provided the driving power. But now for the more precise work he braced his guide hand up against the wood and used it as a fulcrum to pivot on throughout the motion, affording him much more control and accuracy.

Squinting in the poor light he cursed his failing eyesight. He was not used to working through the night but his customer, a Mr Stockett, had paid handsomely a fortnight ago for the commission to be completed with speed and accuracy and he took his profession, and his livelihood, very seriously.

Finally he sat back and reviewed his work from all sides. The box was complete. It was five inches wide and eight inches across with enough space inside for a small object. By his reckoning it would take a total of 52 moves to open the box. For a moment he wondered why his customer needed such a strange and detailed place to hide something, but that was not his business and he retired to his bed for the remainder of the night, satisfied with both his work and his reward.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Friday, 8 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day six

What is 
Read the previous chapters in 


Present day
Squall’s End, Essex countryside

Major Charles Banwell sat back in his seat and sipped from his own glass of whisky. The story that Alexandria had told him after she’d stumbled through the door struck him as both strange and entirely plausible. As a retired senior officer that had served in both the Korean war and Northern Ireland there wasn’t much that surprised him but this seemed more than just a straightforward case of kidnapping for ransom. He didn’t know Alexandria or her husband very well; he’d invited his new neighbours to dinner when they’d moved in to get to know them but he knew the politeness of first meetings often hid people’s true personalities, natures and backgrounds. Even so, they weren’t overly wealthy or famous which were the usual reasons for the sort of so-called ‘express kidnapping’ that required a quick pay out of a sum of money for the release of a loved one. But Alexandria was clearly terrified and it was that fear and her description of the events that had transpired that morning that cemented the plausibility of the story for him.

Alexandria had been right to ask him to call the Police straight away. While the Major didn’t have any experience of kidnapping himself he did know that time was usually of the essence and indeed a police car had arrived within the hour. Inspector Brian Crowl had wasted no time taking Alexandria’s statement and was currently talking her through the process that they followed when a kidnapping was reported.

‘Ok, Mrs. Baxby, is there anything else you’d like to tell me before we wrap this up?’ Inspector Crowl asked, his pen poised above his regulation issued police notebook.

‘No, I don’t think so.’ Alexandria replied, shaking her head gently and rising from the sofa. ‘How long do you think this will take? To find them I mean?’ She asked him.

‘Our team will start working on it immediately,’ The Inspector replied, closing the notebook, standing up and placing his black and white checker board rimmed hat under his arm. ‘I’ll be in touch with you this afternoon to give you an update.’

‘I’ll see you out Inspector,’ Major Banwell said, standing up himself and walking the policeman to the front door.

Back in the drawing room Alexandria’s head was in her hands.

‘I just can’t believe that this is happening.’ She said, the desperation clear in her voice, as the Major came back into the room.

‘Well it is happening, Alexandria, and the sooner you accept that the better you’ll be able to deal wit’h it. Believe me, I know.’ The words were harsh perhaps but he meant them kindly and looking up into his face, she could see that too.

She was just about to ask him what he meant by those last words when a buzzing from her jacket pocket stopped her. She grabbed at the phone hoping it was Simon or some good news at least. On glancing at the screen the caller’s number had been withheld and when she answered the call, she realised immediately why.

‘My dear Alexandria,’ a man said. ‘What a frightfully busy morning you’ve had.’

Alexandria didn’t recognise the voice. ‘Hello? Who is this?’ She replied.

‘My name is Stephen Charles,’ the man said, ‘I wanted to call to let you know that your Mother and daughter are just fine. For now. In fact we’ve been having a marvellous time getting to know each other over the past couple of hours.’ His ultra politeness was completely out of place yet at the same time it rendered him chillingly calm.

‘Who are you? Where are they? What do you want?!’ Alexandria rose out of her seat as she shouted into the phone and the Major immediately joined her standing close enough to the phone so that he could hear the caller as well.

‘Now, now, don’t distress yourself Alexandria, or is it Alex? No matter. I didn’t call to upset you. No, I called to make one thing perfectly clear to you.’ All politeness left his voice as he completed the reason for his call. ‘There is absolutely no point in you trying to find me or them. I am a powerful man with powerful friends throughout the length and breadth of this fair country, including, as a matter of fact, that nice Inspector Crowl who just came to visit at your neighbour’s house.’

Major Banwell felt his sense of unease increase exponentially and slipped his arm across Alexandria’s shoulders both to comfort and support her as she started to slump back down onto the sofa.

‘Am I making myself understood? He is by no means my only friend in the Police force either in case you were thinking of calling again.’ The man paused to let his words sink in before continuing in a lighter more jovial tone. ‘Now, I’m sure Aryanna would like to get back home as soon as possible, even if she isn’t particularly looking forward to your skills as a cook my dear, so why don’t I just explain what I need from you.’

Alexandria sat motionless on the leather sofa trying not to think about how much this man knew about her family, and how he might have gone about finding it all out.

‘What I’m looking for is a small box. It won’t be much more than six or eight inches across and it will most probably be wooden. Perhaps your husband gave it to Aryanna as a toy? She doesn't seem to remember it at the moment, although I shall of course be asking her again very shortly…’ his voice trailed off slightly for a moment before continuing. ‘Bring the box to me and I will release your family immediately and, of course, compensate you for the inconvenience. I'm sure the mortgage on a new property such as yours is a but of a millstone around one’s neck? Perhaps I can do something about that for you. In any case, you have twenty four hours to find the box. I will call you back then. Goodbye Alexandria.’

Alexandria dropped the phone on the floor and couldn’t stifle the sob that exploded from her chest. Major Banwell held her tightly as the panic gripped her but she pushed him away and he realised that she wasn’t shaking with fear but with anger.

‘How DARE he do this to us, to our family!’ She roared, letting all the pent up frustration and fear that had been building inside of her out in one go. ‘Who the hell is this man?!’

Rather than replying Major Banwell picked up the extension phone on the sideboard to the right of the leather sofa and dialled a number that he knew by heart. It took less than three rings for the call to connect.

‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Are you busy right now?’

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day five

What is ?
Read the previous chapters in


House of Parliament

The man who had entered the ante room just as Grayson Woodridge III had discovered the flask was Sir Milton Barrington; the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain and Grayson’s master. An impressive figure in the black robes and white collars of his office, he commanded attention whenever he walked into a room and none more so than now. In fact it could be said that he had the complete attention of his deputy at that precise moment but he chose to pause and savour this moment before addressing the man seated on the floor in front of him.

Once again he had upheld the responsibilities of his office but not the role that most people knew him for. The robes he had just discarded were but a part he played, concealing him in plain sight. The Lord Chancellor may have been at the top of his profession but he was only one of many servants in his Mistress’ church. The High Priestess would be pleased, he knew, that the whereabouts of the vial had been secured and the secret maintained. It was unfortunate that Stockett had found out about the Elixir from Pugin, who had clearly been careless in his later years and shared the knowledge with his favourite pupil. But now that both Pugin and Stockett were dead the secret was safely back within the ranks of the brethren. There was just one more loose end to tie up.

‘May I be the first to congratulate you, Mr Woodridge, on your amazing discovery?’ He said, removing his robe and long woven wig and placing them on the wooden table before pulling up a chair and sitting down just in front of Grayson. ‘It really is rather remarkable how you manage to persuade people to divulge their secrets.’ He removed his glasses as he spoke and holding them in one hand, polished them gently with a white handkerchief.

At the look of surprise on Grayson’s face he continued. ‘What, you thought I’d just let you find what I’ve been looking for and keep it for yourself? Come, come my man, surely after all this time you know me better than that?’ He raised his eyebrows and watched as Grayson’s shoulders simultaneously dropped.

‘I had you followed from the moment you left the asylum,’ Sir Barrington said. ‘I must admit I was surprised when you came into this room, and it is ironic is it not that our little treasure was sitting under our very noses all the time, but what better place for Pugin to hide something so precious, so monumental, than the very seat of power and democracy in the civilised world?’

‘I was about to bring it to you myself, Sir.’ Grayson said, realising that his ambitious were shattered and attempting to save his career working alongside one of the most powerful men in the country.

‘Of course you were, Grayson, of course you were. But I’m sure it must have crossed your mind for a moment that this would be quite the money spinner for you, yes? Perhaps you were planning to pay off those huge debts of yours…’ he let the rest of the sentence hang in mid-air letting his full knowledge of his deputy’s financial position become clear.
‘Sir, no, I would never…’ Grayson stammered.

Unseen by Grayson a door hidden in the panelled wall behind him had opened and a man dressed in black had slipped into the room with them. As the Lord Chancellor spoke again he crept sideways until he was just a foot away from Grayson.

‘Quite so. You would never and you will never. And my poor dear man, neither will anyone else.’

The man in black’s arm was a blur as the scythe in his hand arced through the air swiftly, severing Grayson Woodridge III’s head from his body which remained in it’s sitting position for one long moment before sliding sideways to the floor.

The Lord Chancellor nodded once at the assassin before stepping over his ex-deputy’s prone and bleeding body and, after checking that the vial was still in place, he pushed the panel back into the wall just as Grayson had found it. Then he addressed his fellow believer who was wrapping the body in a sheet.

‘And you’re absolutely sure that he spoke to no-one before he came here, to this room.’ He asked him.

‘Quite sure, Sir,’ the man replied.

With a satisfied smile Sir Barrington reflected that except for the two men in that room the secret of the Elixir would remain just that.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day four

What is ?
Read the previous chapters in

Chapter four

Present day
Squall’s End, Essex countryside

Alexandria sat on the floor of the hallway with he head resting in her hands. As she breathed in and out she counted slowly in her mind from one to ten and back again. Slowly she felt the panic that had gripped her after the phone call from her Father starting to subside and she looked up, almost surprised to see that the house was just the same as it had been before the strange events of the morning. Standing up she grabbed her phone and dialled the only number she knew that could possibly help her - 999, for the emergency services. As she waited to be connected she heard the crunch of tyre on gravel that signalled a car pulling into the driveway. With the phone still stuck to her ear she walked from the hall into the dining room, one of two rooms at the front of the house and peered out of the window. A black SUV was parked diagonally behind her own 4x4, pointing at the front door and blocking her in.

Alexandria’s phone beeped to tell her that she was out of signal range in that particular room of the house. ‘Damn it,’ she said taking her eyes off the window and looking at the screen. She often cursed the bad reception in the countryside that had never been a problem for her in London. She turned back to the window and watched as two men wearing black jeans and black bomber jackets climbed out of the car, one from the passenger seat, one from the back. They walked round to the boot of the car and pulled out two large bags before starting to walk towards the front door.

Alexandria froze. Simon had told her to get out of the house. Her Father had told her that men were coming for her. While her rational mind told her to go to the front door to find out what the men wanted, her instincts told her to do the complete opposite and run. Stuffing the phone into her pocket she ran back into the hallway, grabbed her coat and small leather holdall that she had packed ready to go to her parents house and made her way through the kitchen and utility room to the back door. She fumbled with the key for a moment before it connected and she wrenched the door open almost overbalancing with her own adrenaline-fuelled strength. Luckily they had replaced the flimsy back gate that used to connect the main house to the garage and roof store with a solid brick wall immediately on moving in, the contractors arriving the same day that they did and completing the job quickly and cleanly much to Alexandria’s surprise. You almost couldn’t see the join and there was no way of telling that it was just a simple wall and not an extension. She was so grateful that Simon had planned the work in advance after buying the property and reasoned that it should slow down anyone who might try cutting off her escape route.

Once outside she ran down the long narrow garden that was hedged on both sides, past the crooked wendy house that had been a surprise but welcome addition not mentioned in the particulars of the property and through a wooden gate in the middle of the hedge at the end of the garden. The gravel path that sat between her garden and the wall around her neighbour’s house was wet from overnight rain and she almost slid straight into the bricks. Recovering quickly she followed the path until she reached a set of huge wooden gates and ran straight to the intercom panel that was attached to the brick on the right hand side, pressing the call button frantically. While she waited she alternated between glaring into the small camera mounted above the intercom and glancing backward down the path to see if she had been followed.

Suddenly there was a whirring noise and the gates started to open. She slipped inside as soon as the space between the gates was wide enough for her to pass through sideways and ran down the gravel path that led to the front door of her neighbour’s house. Major Charles Banwell was already waiting at the door for her and pointed her straight into the wide oak panelled hall where she finally stopped to catch her breath. The Major didn’t speak or even look at Alexandria until he was certain that the gates were shut again. Then he turned and fixed her with a strong, confident gaze that was at odds with the casual, almost jaunty tone in his voice.

‘Looks like you’ve had an interesting morning, my dear,’ he said. ‘Why don’t you tell me why you’re shaking like a leaf and pale as a ghost, eh?’

‘Major, we have to call the police right away, Aryanna, my Mother…’ Alexandria said, but before another word could come out of her mouth the panic she had felt just a short time earlier welled up again and she started to gasp for air.

Almost immediately she felt big hands gripping her arms and sitting her down on one of the antique chairs in the hallway. As she started counting again, as she had been taught to by her Mother as a little child whenever a panic attack gripped her, she felt a brown paper bag being placed in her hands. Gratefully she placed it around her lips and breathed in and out of the bag, feeling the carbon dioxide flow back into her lungs, correcting the imbalance caused by her hyperventilation. After a couple of minutes, although a little dizzy, she felt able to put the bag down and breath normally.

The Major put down the receiver of the hall telephone and led her into a drawing room with two comfortable sofas facing each other and sat her down on one of them before moving towards a table at the other end of the room and pouring a small measure of amber liquid from a cut glass decanter into two crystal tumblers. He handed one of the glasses to Alexandria and placed the other on the table between the sofas before sitting down opposite her.
‘Drink that down in one,’ he said sternly.

Alexandria did as she was told and drained the glass. The whisky burned her throat but she immediately felt a warmth spread through her that distracted her from the thoughts racing through her mind.

‘Ok, the Police are on their way.’ he said more softly, ‘So while we’re waiting why don’t you just start at the beginning and tell me exactly what’s going on.’


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Monday, 4 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day three

What is 
Read the previous chapters in

Chapter three


Grayson Woodridge III paid his carriage driver and hopped down into the beautiful surroundings of St James Park. He’d decided to walk the last few streets back to the Palace of Westminster, or Houses of Parliament as they were more colloquially known, to consider his options. He knew that he had the information that the Lord Chancellor wanted. He also knew that once he handed that information over to his master all potential profit-making avenues were closed to him. Unlike the Lord Chancellor Grayson hadn’t been lucky enough to have a privileged upbringing and had fought tooth and nail to get his position. Of course he was grateful to his master for taking him under his wing but he knew that he was just one of a number of minions that the Lord Chancellor called on when circumstances deemed it necessary. His position as deputy was purely ceremonial and didn’t afford him the lifestyle of many of his peers in the seat of British Government. That he was in hock to his bookmaker didn’t help matters of course, but perhaps this new situation could be played to his advantage in more ways than one, clearing his debts once and for all.

He stopped by a tall chestnut to bang out his pipe and reload it, chewing on the end while he pulled the tobacco apart. As he prepared his smoke he wondered what price the Elixir would command on the open market. Surely thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. He would be set for life. A smile played on his lips, curling up just enough at the ends of his mouth to twitch his moustache gently. Of course there was the matter of confirming the information was correct first and it was this thought that led Grayson to up his pace across the park, head straight out onto Birdcage Walk and then Great George Street towards Parliament Square.

Once safely through the Parliamentary gates Grayson made his way through the labyrinth of offices and meeting rooms that the Members used on a daily basis until he found himself at the great Lord’s Chamber. This was the home of the House of Lords, the second chamber or ‘Upper House’ of parliament which existed to work with the House of Commons to make and ratify laws, check and challenge the actions of government and provide a forum of independent expertise. Although less powerful than it’s sister house since the Reform Act of 1832, the House of Lord’s was still in a position to question government and it made good use of that role.

At the entrance Grayson stopped briefly as he always did to admire the grandeur of the space before him. Generally regarded as Augustus Welby Pugin’s masterpiece the Lord’s Chamber was the most lavishly decorated room in the Palace of Westminster. The Chamber’s ceiling was divided into eighteen panelled compartments each showing ancient emblems such as the white hart of Richard III. The monarchs of England and Scotland were depicted in the original stained glass windows by Pugin and the armorial bearings running beneath the side of the galleries were of the sovereigns from Edward III and the Lord Chancellors from 1377. Between the windows were statues of the sixteen barons and two bishops known to have been present at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Grayson also knew, following long port-fuelled diatribes from his master that many of the fittings and furnishings in the Chamber were designed by Pugin himself, including the solid brass gates at the entrance of the chamber, each weighing some three quarters of a ton.

Focusing his mind on the task at hand Grayson turned away from the opulence and headed towards the Throne at the far end of the chamber. He passed by the woolsack on which the Lord Speaker sat when the chamber was in session, thought to have been introduced in the 14th century to reflect the economic importance of the wool trade to England, and walked around the throne to a small door that was mostly hidden from the rest of the chamber. Grayson knocked twice gently and waited. When he was sure there was no-one coming to answer he turned the round looped handle. The door led into a small ante-room whose decoration was a complete anathema to it’s neighbour, similarly wood panelled but sparse and simple with just a wooden table and chairs and a large wardrobe. The wardrobe contained the robes of the Lord Speaker, controller of the House of Lord’s, and the room could easily have been in use but thankfully it was quite separate from the Speaker’s office which was situated further along the hall and so Grayson was alone.

From this point on he would be relying on the words of Oliver Stockett to guide him. The old man had been insistent that he follow his instructions precisely so he paused for a moment again to remember them. Taking a breath to steady his nerves he walked to the far wall and placed his hand in the middle of the panel that was second in from the window and second up from the floor. The surface was smooth and identical to the others around it. He felt along each edge of the panel looking for the loose section that Stockett had described to him. Finally part of the panel gave way under his fingers and as it moved forward a small space was revealed below behind the panel, just large enough for Grayson to hook his index finger behind. Saying a silent prayer he pressed down gently and felt a mechanical ‘click’. Immediately the panel moved outward by almost an inch. Grayson held both sides of the panel and pulled it gently along the pair of runners that allowed it to move forward and backward. Once it was far enough forward for him to reach his hand behind, he manoeuvred himself over to the side to give himself more room. His hand slid between the panel and the wall into a small box-like space. He felt his way carefully along the floor of the box until his fingers touched something. It was cold and smooth and about four inches high, cylindrical but tapered at the top with what felt like a stopper. Grayson closed his hands around the small flask and pulled it gently towards the front of the box.

It was just at this moment that he heard another mechanical sound, but this time it was behind him and it was most definitely not a sound that he was hoping to hear. As the looped handle turned further and the door to the ante-room opened Grayson realised that he was in the worst position possible - not only was he in a room that he shouldn’t be in but he was about to give away the secret of his salvation and future success. He left go of the flask and pulled his hand away quickly, hoping to be able to move in front of the panel before his discovery was seen.

However, the man who entered the room didn’t seem at all surprised to see Grayson sitting on the floor of the Lord Speaker’s dressing room. Nor did he ask him what he was doing there. Instead he simply smiled.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day two

What is 
Read chapter one over at 

Chapter two

Present day
Squall’s End, Essex countryside

The tiny bead of sweat that trickled down Alexandria’s forehead before plopping onto the tablet computer in front of her went unseen. So did the leaves that blew around outside the door to the small room above the garage that she used as a makeshift gym. She was blind to everything but the music and her own movement. Her legs pumped the pedals of the spinning bike, matching the rhythm of the up-tempo track as it reached a crescendo. Her lungs felt like they were about to explode and the lactic acid that had built up in her thighs was a burning fire that she had to force herself to ignore. Finally the track was over and she sat back on the bike, her breath coming in gasps for a few moments before returning relatively quickly to normal. She towelled herself down and packed up her iPod and headphones into their small case, stowing them on top of some precariously stacked packing boxes next to the bike.

She checked her watch, there was just enough time to stretch and freshen up before she picked her daughter Aryanna up from her parents where she’d been staying for the weekend. Her parents had jumped at the chance to spend time with their only granddaughter but it had been Alexandria who’d sighed the deepest when she drove away from their small chocolate-box cottage to return home to her empty, new house. Not that she didn’t love spending time with her four year old daughter, but since they’d move out of London to their new home at Squall’s End the week before it had been hard to function with all of their things half unpacked and strewn around the house and Alexandria was looking forward to some time on her own to make sense of everything and build some order into their new home.

As she stood on her right leg and leaned on their antique Captain’s table to stretch out her quadriceps her eyes rested on a small handwritten note underneath one of Simon’s law books. It wasn’t unusual for the desk to be strewn with scribbled notes, Simon wasn’t as technically adept as she was and preferred pen and paper over the note-taking apps that she synced across her phone, tablet and laptop. But this note, written in neat script on light blue paper marked with a hallmark, wasn’t written by Simon it was addressed to him. Alexandria knew so little about Simon’s role at international law firm Cutler and Bross that her interest was immediately piqued and, despite feeling a twinge of guilt at prying into her husbands things, she picked up the small note and held it up to the daylight coming through the skylight window above her head.
You know what to do. You know what is at stake. Don’t let us down.
Alexandria frowned. Phillip was Simon’s boss, Managing Director of the company and the man who had just given Simon his promotion to lead solicitor. Perhaps the note related to some special project Simon had been given she thought turning the note over in her hand. Was it usual for lawyers to write each other hand-written notes like this? She wondered. Realising that time wasn’t on her side Alexandria pocketed the note in her training jacket and locked up the roof-store, vowing to quiz Simon on the note later on.

Back in the main house she showered quickly and ran a wide-toothed comb through the unruly dark blonde curls she shared with her Father and daughter before throwing on jeans, a vest and an old cashmere sweater that had seen better days. Rolling up her sleeves she reflected that it was just typical of Simon not to be here when there was so much to sort out. ‘Just bad timing’, he’d said shrugging his shoulders when she’d groaned at finding out his next business trip was just the day after they’d moved. ‘Can’t someone else do it?’ she’d said, but even as the words had come out of her mouth she’d know what his answer would be. Simon was wedded to his job at Cutler and Bross. And none more so than since he’d received the promotion that had led to them leaving their small flat in North London and moving out here to the beautiful Essex countryside. They’d hardly seen anything of each other the the past three months; he’d be gone before she woke up in the morning and often came to bed long after she was asleep. It wasn’t the life that she’d expected when they’d met and married as young students twenty years ago.

Alexandria shook off the negative mood that these thoughts had wrapped her in and grabbed her car keys off the hall table that she’d pushed into place earlier that morning. She was just opening the front door when she heard her phone ringing somewhere close by. ‘Damn it,’ she thought, ‘where is it?’ Each incessant ring had her hunting closer and closer to its source until she finally found the phone in her jacket pocket, hidden under a pile of other coats on their old-fashioned hat stand.

‘Hello?’ she said.

‘Alex? Thank God you’re still there.’ Simon said.

‘Simon? Where are you? I can hardly hear you. How was your flight?’

‘There’s no time! You have to leave now, get out of the house, get Ary and go somewhere where they won’t find you!’ Simon said.

‘What are you talking about?’ said Alexandria, frowning in confusion. ‘Where ARE you?’ she said, then more cautiously; ‘Is this about the note from Phillip?’

‘I can’t tell you. There’s no time, I have to go. Just do as I said. I’m so sorry Alex, please, please forgive me.’

The line went dead.

Alexandria looked at the phone in disbelief, her stomach starting to knot. What on earth was Simon talking about? Why did she need to get out? Why was he sorry? The whole conversation hadn’t made any sense. She was just about to try calling Simon back when the phone started ringing again.

‘Hello, Simon?’ she said, trying to keep the panic from her voice.

‘Alex it’s me, Dad,’ her Father said.

‘Oh hi Dad, look I’m just on my way to you, can you ask Mum to get Ary ready…’ she started to say but her Father cut her off mid-sentence.

‘Alex stop. Just listen. I need to tell you something and you need listen carefully.’

Alexandria heard her Father take a long and strangely rasping breath before continuing.

‘Your Mother and Ary have been taken. I don’t know by who. I don’t know why. You need to get out of the house, now and get somewhere safe where they won’t find you,’ his voice got quieter as he spoke, almost as though he was running out of breath but didn’t want to waste the time breathing in.

‘What the heck is going on?’ Alexandria’s head was in a spin. First the note, then the call from Simon and now this. She felt the hairs standing up on her arms and the knot tightening in her middle.

‘Can’t talk any more…waiting for the ambulance…don’t worry I’m ok…just couldn’t stop them.’

‘Dad! Ambulance?! Are you ok? What happened? And what do you mean Mum and Ary have been taken?’ Alexandria realised she was almost shouting down the phone but couldn’t help herself.

‘Some men came, hit me over the head, grabbed your Mum and Ary. I overheard two of them speaking when they thought I was out… Alex they’re coming to you next. Now you must go, I love you my darling.’

For the second time that day the phone went dead and Alexandria slid to the floor of the hallway dazed, confused and sick to her stomach.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Copyright belongs to the blog owner 2013.
Newer Posts Older Posts Home