Tag Archives: Aidan Thorn

Barbershop Vagrant by Aidan Thorn

Frank had meant to make the place more secure, he just kept forgetting. But every time he opened up his barbershop and found one of the local bums sleeping on his floor it was a reminder that he had to do something about it. He had shutters that pulled over the front of the shop which he unlocked and lifted every morning – as he’d done today. It was the rear where there was a problem. The back door was just secured – or not as the regular break-ins suggested – with a padlock. He’d call someone today, he promised himself – get a proper door ordered, with built-in locks . But first he was going to have to kick another vagrant out and fumigate the place before his first customer rolled in looking for a pre-work short-back and sides.

The guy on Frank’s floor looked rough and smelled even worse – like something had crawled into his pocket and started rotting. His face was washed out white; another drunk with problems who thought Frank should share them.

‘OK pal, wake up, you can’t sleep here.’

Frank gave his uninvited guest a gentle tap with his foot to rouse him.

The sleeping man bolted upright and stared at Frank with vacant eyes, his long lifeless hair stuck to his face. If drink was the only poison he was under the influence of Frank would be surprised.

From his upright position the vagrant didn’t move. He was alert, like a guard dog woken by a sound at the window. Tense arms held him up like he was ready to pounce. Frank half expected him to start growling.

‘Come on, pal, you’re going to have to leave. I’ll have customers coming in any minute.’

‘Is it morning?’

The voice surprised Frank. It wasn’t that of a man sleeping rough. There was authority to it. He’d asked his question in a way that suggested he demanded an answer – it was more than a mere enquiry about the time of day.

‘Yes, it’s almost eight o’clock.’

Hearing the time seemed to root the visitor to the floor, he stiffened.

‘I’m staying here. You’ll just have to pretend I’m a customer.’

Frank was starting to get spooked by the man on his floor. There was no way he could stay in the salon – the smell was going to be tough enough to get rid of once he’d left, there was no way of masking it with him there.

‘You can’t stay.’ Frank was wary, but it had to be said. ‘The smell alone will put the customers off. If you’re not going to leave by yourself, I’m going to have to call the police.’

‘I really don’t want you to do that.’

Frank was spooked by the vagrant’s tone. It didn’t suggest he was concerned about the police but more the consequences for Frank if they were called.

‘Really? So… you’ll go then?’ Frank was nervous now, stumbling over his words. He couldn’t work out what, but there was something different about this guy. He’d kicked out rough sleepers in the past – plenty of them. He’d never really thought about it. There’d never been an issue – most had gone without so much as a word. He’d even given a couple a few coins for food as he’d sent them on their way. This guy was different.

‘I can’t go, not right now.’

‘Look, it’s quiet outside. Whoever you’re hiding from isn’t out there. I need to open my shop in a few minutes. Now if you’re on the run from the police or hiding from someone, do you really want my customers coming in and finding you? Better to go now and find somewhere quiet. Right?’

The vagrant was on Frank in a flash. There had been no time to move and yet he’d somehow closed the gap between them. Frank felt his eyes widen and his pulse quicken. The vagrant’s breath was putrid as he stood large over the barbershop owner.

‘I can’t leave now.’

The demanding voice now boomed at ear shattering volume. Before Frank knew anything about it, the vagrant had snapped his neck like he was twisting the lid from a jar, letting his body slump to the ground.

The vagrant looked to the front of the shop. Shutters up and door still open from Frank’s entrance. Frank had been right – the street outside was quiet. The vagrant walked with caution to the shop front. With one quick yank he pulled the shutters down leaving the unit in darkness. He slammed the door and the glass shattered.

The skin on his hands and face smouldered with blackened burn marks. His face contorted in pain. He had a minute at most. He bent to his knees, the pain reaching his core and radiating from there.

Was there time?

He crawled to Frank’s lifeless form. He’d been dead for just a few seconds. There was hope. He sank his teeth into the dead barber’s throat and drank. The blood was still warm… still alive.

The vagrant’s skin healed. He slumped against Frank’s lifeless body and slept. He’d move again when it was dark outside.

Aidan ThornBio: Aidan Thorn’s short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest and Shadows & Light as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Near to the Knuckle, Pulp Metal Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Spelk and The Flash Fiction Offensive. His second short story collection, Urban Decay, is published by Grit Fiction and out now.

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The Guest by Aidan Thorn

It had been a wonderful day, Angela thought as she looked through her wedding album. She’d lost count of the number of times she’d leafed through its pages since collecting it just a couple of hours before. She had studied every outfit and smiling face that had been part of her and Richard’s special day.

She stopped on a group photo. It showed Richard and her in the centre of their guests. It was her favourite, everybody they loved in the same shot.

Something caught her eye, something she hadn’t spotted on any of the previous looks through. Over her mother’s left shoulder stood a dark shadow-like figure. It was the wrong size and far too dark to be her own shadow. No light penetrated the shape and it partially blocked Richard’s friend, Carole, who had been stood just beside Angela’s mum.

She blamed herself, she’d insisted on traditional photography rather than digital – she just felt it produced a warmer, more honest finish. Clearly there had been a problem in development or perhaps a fault on the film. Why hadn’t she spotted this before? She gently rubbed at the image but the dark shape was definitely part of the image rather than something that had spilled on the photo. It must have been there before, she thought, and turned the page. She now inspected each photo more closely than on previous viewings.

Angela was interrupted by a knock at the front door. Two female police officers greeted her, their solemn expressions told Angela something bad had happened.

‘Is it Richard?’ she asked.

‘Mrs Giles, I’m PC Franklyn and this is PC Brown, can we come in?’ one of the officers said.

Angela still hadn’t got used to her married name. Usually she felt a glow of excitement when somebody used it. Today it filled here with dread as it seemed to confirm that they were there looking for Richard Giles’ next of kin. She gestured the officers into the house.

In the living room PC Franklyn spoke, ‘Mrs Giles, I regret to have to tell you that a woman matching your mother’s description was hit by a car this morning.” There was a pause, then, “I’m sorry, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.’

Angela went numb, her emotions confused. Her mother? She’d been preparing for news of Richard’s death – not this. There was an element of relief and then an overwhelming feeling of guilt and grief. She dropped to her knees and began to sob. PC Brown bent to comfort her. There was no hug just a hand to the shoulder – the reassuring touch of human contact.

‘We’re going to need someone to come and formally identify the body,’ the crouching officer said once Angela’s sobs subsided. ‘Is that something you feel you can do?’

Angela nodded. ‘What happened?’ she asked in a voice broken with disbelief.

PC Brown looked at her colleague. A nod of approval came from above.

‘We have witness statements from the driver of the car and neighbours who saw the incident. They say she ran from her house yelling and then threw herself under a car. There was no way the driver could have reacted in time. It looks like suicide.’

‘Suicide?’ Angela questioned bemused. ‘No way, she was a happy woman. No… hang on a minute. Did you just say she ran?’

‘Yes, she ran out in front of the vehicle.’

Angela was filled with hope – this had to be a mistake. She moved over to the open wedding album on the coffee table and pointed at the group photo.

‘Well, then it’s not my mother,’ Angela said, a glimmer of optimism in her voice.

Both officers leaned over to look at the woman Angela was pointing at. She was standing proudly next to her daughter both hands clutching a walking frame. They looked at each other, both clearly confused.

‘Mrs Giles, I’m afraid we’re only looking for a formal identification from you. We’re almost certain the deceased is your mother, the neighbours have confirmed as much. The lady ran from your mother’s home, the door was left open and there is no one else left inside,’ said PC Franklyn.

‘But look! She’s used that frame for the last four years,’ Angela exclaimed.

As she stared at the photo her expression changed, the hope gone, replaced by confusion. The dark shape behind her mother had disappeared. She flipped to the next page, and then the next, a photo of Richard and herself alone under a tree. Except now they weren’t alone.

‘Mrs Giles, are you OK?’ Officer Franklyn asked.

Angela appeared not to hear. She let out a primal scream and with superhuman strength pushed past both officers, knocking them to the floor. The officers scrambled to their feet and gave chase as Angela raced out of the room and up the two flights of stairs in her marital townhouse. She appeared to fly as she took the stairs. The officers arrived in an empty bedroom, its window smashed. Angela’s lifeless body laid two stories below.

‘What the fuck was that?’ PC Brown asked.

PC Franklyn looked at her colleague, fear etched deep across her face.

‘Sue, Sue, snap out of it, we have to call this in,’ PC Brown shouted.

Franklyn pointed over Brown’s shoulder. She turned tentatively to see both of them reflected in a floor standing mirror.

‘What is it?’ Brown asked.

‘You don’t see it?’ Franklyn finally spoke.

A dark shadow enveloped Brown’s reflection.

 

Aidan ThornBio: Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books Radgepacket series and the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves off, as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. In Spring 2014 his story ‘Taking out the Trash’ will appear in Exiles: An Outsiders Anthology from BlackWitch Press. He released his first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts in December 2013.

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Last Orders by Aidan Thorn

The Royal Oak had been quiet all night.  George wondered how much longer he could keep the place afloat.  It hadn’t been completely dead.  A few punters had kept the pulse ticking all evening.  Alf and his missus had been in for an hour, turned up a couple of minutes after seven-thirty and left not a minute after eight-thirty.  They had the same routine every night, pint of Ringwood for Alf, white wine spritzer for the missus.  A couple of lads had stuck a pile of coins on the pool table and steadily fed it all evening whilst taking it in turns to get the beers in between games.  There was also a young couple that had sat in the corner most of the evening gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes barely saying a word to each other – probably a first date.  Who said romance was dead.   The lad had bought the drinks all evening.  George wasn’t convinced either of them was old enough to drink but he was hardly in a position to turn away the custom.

People claimed the smoking ban was killing off the pub business.  George could see that it had contributed but he wasn’t going to grumble about it, he’d never been a fan of smoking having watched his old mum die of emphysema after chugging through 20 a day most her whole adult life.  No, George laid more blame at the doors of Simon Cowell, Ant and Dec and that fruity looking Lloyd Webber prick.  What hope did he have of attracting the hard of thinking out of their armchairs and into his pub when he was competing with naked fat people dancing and celebrities being mildly tortured – put like that it held a certain appeal, he  had to admit.

A couple of minutes before last orders the door opened.  Rather than getting excited at the prospect of getting another seven quid in the till from selling the two men that walked through it a couple of pints, George’s heart sank.  The sight of Neil Andrews and Gary Jacobs always had the same effect.

‘Hello George, usual please,’  Andrews called as he approached the bar.

‘Tonight lads? But you don’t usually come in until Sunday,’ George said, nerves clear in his voice.

‘Well we’re here tonight,’ Andrews said, picking up a glass from the bar top and dropping it to the floor. ‘Oops,’ he said, as he and Jacobs stepped sideways slightly to avoid the splinters of glass as they flew.

The action on the pool table came to a halt and one of the two lads picked up the three remaining one pound coins and made to put them in his pocket.

‘You can leave those there lads,’ Jacobs said without turning around.

For a moment the lads looked like they were considering spinning their pool cues and rushing Andrews and Jacobs with the fat ends.  It looked easy in the movies, the reality was they were frightened and out of shape – from too much time on their arses watching movies.  They placed their cues on the worn green felt and left without taking their eyes off of Jacobs.  George thought he heard running before the door fully closed.

‘Four-hundred George,’ Andrews said.

‘Neil, Gary, it’s Thursday night lads. I haven’t taken four-hundred quid all week yet. I wasn’t expecting you until Sunday,’ George pleaded.

Gary Jacobs walked over to the pool table and picked up one of the cues.  There was still a clammy warmth to it from an evening’s use.  He swung the cue, bringing it down violently against the side of the playing surface.  It snapped and splintered and he ran the splintered end across the felt , tearing through it.

‘Four-hundred!’  Andrews repeated with increased menace.

‘I’m sorry, really I am, but I just don’t have it,’  George’s voice trembled.  ‘I can have it for you Sunday, after the weekend trade I promise.’

Jacobs picked up the second pool cue and gave it the same treatment as the previous one.  George ducked low behind his bar as both halves flew  past him and shattered the bottles in the optics behind him.  Glass and liquor stung into the back of his neck and soaked through his shirt.

The room boomed and Gary Jacobs’ chest opened in a bloody hole as George rose from behind the bar and pulled the trigger of his shotgun.  Neil Andrews watched as his friend’s head bounced off of a table and his eyes went blank.

George re-trained his shotgun on Andrews.  The nerves were catching, George could see his shakes echo through the outstretched weapon.  Andrews was trembling and ranting incoherently as he saw the final moments of his life coming into focus.

‘I never wanted it to come to this Neil. It was ruining me but I was happy to pay you boys once a month. I saw enough bloodshed in the forces. But I don’t have the money until after the weekend,’  George said. ‘Why couldn’t you have just waited until Sunday?’

Andrews didn’t appear to be listening.  His incoherent noise turned to sobs and tears started to fall down his face, joining spittle that flew from his mouth as he struggled to breathe.

‘Why today?’ George screamed. ‘Why?’

Andrews focused briefly and answered through broken sobs. ‘The missus wants me home over the weekend. It’s the Britain’s Got Talent final and she’s doing a party.’

George shook his head and pulled the trigger.

Aidan-ThornBio:  Aidan Thorn is a 33 year old writer from Southampton, England.  His short fiction has appeared in Radgepacket Vol 6, Gloves Off – the Near to the Knuckle Anthology and online at Thrillers, Killers ‘N’ Chillers and Near to the Knuckle.  He is currently working on various longer projects, including his second novel ‘Rock Idles’.  More on Aidan’s writing can be found here http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com/

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