Greedy George

SO… I decided to start writing some flash fiction again, and as Miranda is already running #MidWeekFlash with photo prompts, this seemed like a good place to start. Right. It’s been a while. Deep breath. Here goes…

Week10Phot

Greedy George

George took a bite of his burger and felt the grease oozing down his chin. OH GOD IT TASTES SO GOOD. George had been a vegetarian for 27 years. Ever since that school fete where his (ex) best friend, Harry Baudsley had eaten a burger from the van and puked chunky yellow vomit all over George’s brand new trainers. Two cycles through the washing machine and they were clean, but the logo had faded and it was obvious that they were nothing but cheap fakes.

Like George.

It’s not what he’d planned for himself in life. When the teacher had asked him, aged 10, what he wanted to be, he’d said A LAWYER, LIKE MY DAD (because back then, it seemed like his dad could do no wrong, and it was like that right up until the day when he got arrested for some dull and boring tax evasion and his mum had told him to ROT IN HELL.) So George had taken another route, and anyway, being a con man was a hell of a lot more fun than being a lawyer, right?

He’d done well on this latest venture: THE HOLIDAY SCAM. It’s amazing how gullible people can be when they let their greed cloud their pea-size brains. He used one of those buy and sell websites, always a different name, different email, but the same old story – I can’t make this amazing 5-star luxury holiday due to illness but I forgot to take out insurance, I can  transfer it to you, and I don’t mind losing out… if you want to take my place, CALL ME. He took more calls than his cheap phone could handle. He fleeced more fools than a box full of foolish.

Then he got greedy… too greedy… as greedy as the greediest of the greedy fools.

He tried a new scam. It involved his own magical mystery tour. He set up a fake outdoor adventure company. Got people to turn up to a secret location, where he’d trick them and rob them and leave them to find their own way home – miles away, with nothing but the clothes on their backs – no money, no phones… and when they made it home, they’d look for his number and it’d be gone. His website would be gone, always rerouted some way that no one could ever find it.

Every time he made bundle of cash, he’d stroll down to the park, and he’d sit by the burger van, under the canopy of dark, spindly trees… and let the smell of frying onions tempt him in… but he never touched one. He still couldn’t get the image of Harry Baudsley and the yellow vomit on his brand new trainers out of his head.

UNTIL NOW.

‘Hey…’ the man from the van called to him. ‘I see you here all the time. How come you never eat one of my delicious burgers? I’m offended!’

‘Nah, nah,’ George said. ‘I don’t eat meat. I’m a vegetarian.’

‘SURE you are,’ the man from the van said. ‘Until you try one of these…’

George stared at the man. There was something weird about his eyes. Something shiny and twirling and bewitching. He stared, and found he couldn’t look away. Eventually, he said, ‘Sure… OK. Maybe just a bite.’

So he took that bite, and let the grease run down his chin, and he flashed back to the image of Harry and the trainers and he blinked and blinked, let the smell of the frying onions lift him away… and he felt great. FOR A MOMENT. Then he started to feel swirly and dreamy. The burger dropped from his hand, although he didn’t feel himself letting go of it. The man from the van came out around the other side and he spoke, but his voice seemed to come from far, far away… and he said:

‘You don’t remember me, do you?’

And as George fell to the floor, he remembered… he remembered the first man that he conned for £5000 for the holiday to the Maldives that never existed… the man who said he was taking his wife, and his sick child, because it might be their last ever holiday together, the man who said he would GET HIM for this, ONE DAY…

ONE DAY…

The last thing George saw was the shapes of the trees, their swirling twirling branches as they spun round and round, their vine-like tips caressing and strangling and choking. Until the last few breaths fizzed and popped from him as his cheap fake life slithered into the damp grass, leaving nothing but a greasy stain.

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You can read the other entries HERE.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Mel Sherratt #FollowTheLeader

ftl

Mel Sherratt‘s latest novel – the much anticipated follow up to Taunting the Dead – is a corker. Not just a perfectly executed, entertaining read for crime fans, it covers a topic that many people will relate to, but not many have the courage to talk about.

Bullying.

I’d like to hope that some people never experience bullying of any kind, whether it be at school, in the workplace, online, or even from family and friends. If you’re one of those people, you’re one of the lucky ones.

So here’s a very brave and personal post; Mel’s story, told in typical Mel fashion. From the heart.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

by Mel Sherratt

I’m often known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. And sadly I’ll never have a poker-face as my emotions are written all over it. But one thing I do have is courage. Writing a book about a serial killer who is one step ahead of the police while he seeks payback for his bullies – was it my therapy because I was bullied? In a way yes because it gave me an outlet to show how bullying can affect individuals. But mostly no – it just gave me a licence to twist and say ‘what if’ a lot more than possible reality. Well, hopefully!

We all know a bully, and we all know of someone who has been bullied. Let me share with you my experience. It started several years ago when I became ill almost overnight. I was then ill for years, with major surgery once a year for three years, eight emergency admissions to hospital via an ambulance, tests, scans, more tests, scans. If I could walk at all without passing out in pain (still not sure what that was all about), I walked with a limp. I couldn’t sit at my desk for long periods, and if I did I would often get up and pass out. My life became one long haul of dragging myself through a week of full-time work without passing out, getting home and that was it. I couldn’t even walk around the supermarket to do the weekly shop. It was during these times that my writing became my sanctuary.

It turns out that a fall in my early twenties resulted in the bottom disc of my spine being crushed beyond repair, damaging lots of nerves with it. Now, degenerating with age, my spine is curving to the right and putting pressure on my hip and I have permanent nerve damage – plus it seems I had three lots of surgery that I didn’t necessarily need. Since then, I’ve learned to live with the pain. Sadly I’ve had to forgo my love of killer high heels, but it’s a small price to pay.

During this time, when I was at my lowest, one person in particular mistook my condition for weakness. I was working at senior officer level, and in a nutshell, one of the manager’s made my life hell. I would work on a project for weeks on end and then be told it wasn’t necessary, nor was it good enough. I would be ‘spoken to’ in the manager’s office for hours (I’m talking three or four hours at a time) and told over and over that I needed to buck up my ideas. I would be sent to meetings with all the wrong paperwork, or not be given the relevant information I would need to complete a report, and then be told I was incapable of doing research. I was warned in front of other staff, criticised in front of other staff and was made to look totally incompetent continually. I was tripped up on every occasion possible. Why? I think it was because a project I had worked on had been a success and I’m not sure it went down too well.

I made a complaint through my union rep, other staff did too but sadly nothing happened. During the last three months before I left, I was sat in a tiny office on my own across from this manager. Up until that point I’d always shared an office. The atmosphere was so bad that none of the other staff that I worked with would dare come in to me as the manager would appear and ask what they wanted. It was awful. They were the lowest three months of my entire working life. Being constantly told that nothing I did was good enough, nor gaining any help when I asked for it was soul-destroying. Finally, I was made redundant as part of that manager’s ‘restructure.’ Honestly, I have never been so glad to be finished in my life – I would never have given that person the satisfaction of leaving.

On my last day, I didn’t feel that I could go in. Why should I? To sit in that room again for eight hours, all alone, with no one daring to speak to me for fear of repercussions? I’m not sure how I got in that day, pride I guess – I wasn’t going to lower myself to their standards by not showing up. But what I will never forget is as everyone was saying goodbye to me, my manager took my id card and went into a room closing the door in my face until I had left the building.

Looking back on the situation, I think I must have been one hell of a strong person to stick at it for four years, plus go in to work every day of those last three months. It made me into the person I am now. Yes, I am emotional but that’s me and I won’t apologise for it. I am a strong woman, kindof an underdog if you think about it. But actually, I’d like to thank my bully for making me into a stronger person. Yes, I have my down days but ultimately I know I can always get back up again. I have a fantastic set of friends, and I work for myself – no office politics for me.

So maybe that’s why my serial killer Patrick’s story seems so raw. Two wrongs most certainly don’t make a right, and of course this is fiction, but I wanted to show how someone damaged by bullies could be affected. Yes I write about a serial killer – which is a rarity in real life, thank goodness. But also, in Patrick, as well as understanding what he was doing, I wanted readers to understand his rationale for his justification – he thinks what he is doing is right.

And maybe it will make people think just how our actions might affect another person’s life and mental state.

*

Thank you for sharing, Mel. That was a brave post.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a Jeremy Kyle researcher: Have you ever been bullied? Do you want to confront your tormentor? Perhaps you’ve been a bully, and you’re ashamed and want to apologise, but you’re scared. You can tell us in the comments, no need to mention any names. Get it off your chest. And if you need help, clicking here might be a good start.

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Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. Since successfully publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of #1 bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindmelle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to write three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series and Watching over You, a dark psychological thriller.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.

A Hallowe’en Tale

She knew she looked good. Her long dark hair was straightened as smooth as silk, her deep violet eyes ringed with black kohl. She wore a perfect little-black-dress – the type that hugs in all the right places, showing just enough of her milky cleavage to tantalise without looking provocative. A dark cape with deep pockets. Black tights, black lace-up boots… and at black velvet hat – not a witches hat, as such – but some might say that’s what it looked like.

It was Hallowe’en, after all.

She left home at seven, the night already dark but for the amber glow of the streetlights and the headlamps of the passing traffic. Almost every pub she passed by was advertising their spooky parties. Ghoulish decoration in the windows, face cobwebs and green fabric tossed over lamps. Nights of scary fun and drinks mixed to look like blood and ooze.

But she wasn’t going to the pub. She wasn’t even going to a party.

What she loved about Hallowe’en night was the anticipation – the costumes – the crowds of children with their long-suffering parents, carrying pumpkin shaped buckets to collect their trick or treat wares. The teenagers preparing to scare people in alleyways… and the older ones – the pub goers – all set for a night of drinking and dancing and apple bobbing. Witches snogging skeletons in doorways. Zombies smoking fags in beer gardens.

She reached the park, where it became darker, less lit. She hesitated, only briefly. Who might be lurking in the shadows? Not those out for Hallowe’en cheer… there were sinister people who hung around at all times of day any night, waiting to see what the darkness might bring them.

The first one was pretty tame. ‘Hey sexy, where’s your broom?’

She fought the urge to turn and look. Picked up the pace, just a bit.

‘Hello gorgeous, fancy a drink?’

‘Baby… where you going all dressed up?’

‘Nice hat, sugar…’

‘Nice tits, baby…’

She crossed her arms over her chest, irritated now. Felt the heat in her cheeks. She looked down at the path, kept walking, faster now, faster. Until…

Thump.

She felt like she’d walked into a wall. Stumbled back, dazed. Felt arms grabbing at her.

‘Hey darlin’, you wanna watch where you’re going…’ she looked up into yellowing eyes, took a step back. ‘Fancy a coffee, sexy? You can come back to my place if you like?’

Low whispers. Sniggers from behind the trees. She felt a change in the air.

It was time.

‘You know what? That’s exactly what I’d like to do. Where’s your place?’

Yellow-eyes took a step back. She saw confusion flit across his face, before he smiled at her, revealing a row of rotten teeth.

She felt her heart thumping in her chest. She swallowed.

This is it.

She had to fight hard to control herself, the feeling was so strong. She slid a hand into her pocket. Took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. She’d been looking forward to this night for weeks… months even. Since the last time she’d walked around the park. Since the last time she’d had to listen to them calling her, beckoning her… luring her.

Yellow-eyes placed a hand on her shoulder, guiding her towards the other side of the park.

‘This way, gorgeous,’ he said.

She said nothing. Let herself be led. She took his hand, gripped it tight.

In her other hand, deep in her pocket, she gripped the carving knife.

‘This is going to be so much fun,’ she said, grinning.

Yellow-eyes grinned back, oblivious.