Den & Lauren, c04 e50: Changes

‘I hope neither of you are vegetarians,’ Den said.

Detective Inspector Cleo Foster shook her head. ‘I’m a meat eater,’ she replied. She looked at Detective Sergeant Siobhan Leahy, who also shook her head.

‘I’ve eaten beef all my life,’ Siobhan said. ‘Can’t beat a bit of Irish beef.’

‘Good,’ Den replied, ‘because if I get it right, this Wagyu beef will blow your mind.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e50: Changes

Den & Lauren, c04 e49: Deep Anchor, Part 2

Moire Studio

‘I just received a text from Candace,’ Lauren said to Den.

Den looked at Lauren’s phone, and nodded. ‘They’re pulling up to the station,’ he said. ‘That’s good.’

‘What’s the plan?’ Lauren asked.

‘We let them get to their destination,’ Den said, ‘and they deploy first thing in the morning.’

‘”Deploy,”‘ Lauren said, grinning. ‘You read too many spy novels.’

Den smiled. ‘I’ve always loved spy fiction,’ he said. ‘Modern spy movies are too full of action. I’ve always loved books which explored the intrigue.’

‘That Michael Caine movie you watched the other day?’

Den nodded. ‘The Ipcress File? What about it?’

‘Did it inspire … all of this?’ Lauren asked, taking in all of the naked, entranced students lying on couches, gazing up at spirals on screens overhead.

Den smiled, and began taking off his robe, as Lauren did likewise. ‘Shall we?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e49: Deep Anchor, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e48: Deep Anchor, Part 1

‘Hi, Dad,’ said Megumi’s voice over the phone.

‘Is it time?’ Isao asked.

‘Yes,’ Megumi replied. ‘Kami no itte.’

The line disconnected. Isao grinned with pride at Megumi’s use of the Go game term, “Divine Move.” He called up Saga’s number on speed dial.

Time to make his move, and close an eye on the board.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e48: Deep Anchor, Part 1

Den & Lauren, c04 e47: Open Point

‘What are you looking at?’ asked Tamara, as she entered the office space on the ground floor of the Moire Annex. Den and Lauren were seated around one of the low circular tables in the colourfully-decorated space. On the table was the dossier, its contents spread out across the table.

‘It’s the Backgammon Project dossier, isn’t it?’ Tamara asked.

‘Yes, it is,’ Den said, looking up at Tamara. ‘Our six targets, who will be backing the bid to build the Moire Institute.’

Tamara looked at the six names on the top sheet of the dossier. ‘You already have three of them,’ she said to Den. ‘Dan Cornings, Saga, and Jenny Frodsham. Who are the last three?’

Den pointed to the as-yet unencountered personnel from the dossier.

‘Dr Anselm Grange,’ Den said. ‘Retired Dean of the University’s Architecture and Engineering Faculty.’

‘The University?’ Tamara asked. ‘Not the one in town?’ She looked at Den, who nodded.

Den pointed to the next one. ‘Meredith Stapley, designer of the big sports stadium in London, and the Franklin Towers in Cardiff and Edinburgh.’

‘London?’ Tamara asked. ‘Who do we have in London?’

‘Three connections,’ Den replied. ‘One of them, you met a while back.’

‘Diana,’ Tamara said.

‘And her friend, Marina,’ Den added. He looked down and pointed to the last of the six. ‘And Nigel Crowe, philanthropist and billionaire.’

‘Why do we need him?’ Tamara asked.

‘He has more contacts than the others combined,’ Den replied. ‘And he can direct them to fund a whole army of builders to come here and build the Moire Institute, if need be.’

Tamara nodded. ‘So you’ve hypnotised three of these,’ she said, ‘and now what do we do to bring in the rest of them?’

Den smiled. ‘Wait till Megumi gets here,’ he replied. ‘Then we can talk.’

‘You mean you’ve got a plan?’ Tamara asked. She glanced at Lauren, who nodded, solemnly.

‘You could say that,’ Lauren said.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e47: Open Point

Den & Lauren, c04 e46: The Long Moment

The Met Office promised; Nature delivered. Saturday morning dawned warm and bright, with thundery showers threatening late in the evening.

A perfect day to hold a music festival in the street.

Outside the Church in the centre of town, Den and Lauren stood on stone steps, watching the crowd gathering around the music stand which had been set up over the course of the previous week. The festival hadn’t even begun yet, but already the crowd was eagerly awaiting the start of the festival.

Den looked at Lauren. ‘Are the others in place?’

‘Tamara, Megumi, and Belinda are, yes.’

‘They brought cameras, right?’

‘All three, yeah.’

Den looked at the crowd. ‘Then this is where I’ll do it,’ he said. He looked at Lauren.

‘I’m going to trance everybody at this music festival.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e46: The Long Moment

Den & Lauren, c04 e45: The Path

There came a knock on the door of Den’s office. Lauren peered around the door.

‘You can stop work now,’ she said. ‘It’s lunchtime.’

Den looked up from his project, and beckoned for her to enter. His stomach growled in anticipation. Isao always knew how to fill the belly and satisfy the palate at the same time.

Lauren entered, bearing a picnic basket, and set it down opposite Den. Den switched off the computer, and Lauren spread a tablecloth over the desk.

‘What have you got?’ Den asked. Lauren took out several small rectangular glass container pots and placed them on the desk. Each container was airtight, sealed with a metal latch. Lauren took out two plates, and chopsticks, and slid a container over to Den to crack open. It contained rice.

‘What’s in the rest of these?’ Den asked. He peered into some of the little pots. ‘I think I recognise a few of these. Those green pods are edamame. How the hell did he get hold of those?’

Lauren smiled. ‘What else can you see?’

Den cracked open one container, and sniffed it. ‘Vinegar,’ he said. ‘Kind of a vinaigrette smell. Is this a sunomono? It doesn’t look like cucumber.’

Lauren encouraged Den to try a piece. ‘Itadakimasu,’ he said, picking one piece out of the dish and popping it into his mouth. A moment later, his eyes widened.


Lauren nodded. ‘Radish,’ she replied. ‘Though he did mix in some cucumber.’

Den lowered his chopsticks, holding them in his hand, and looked at the other dishes. His stomach growled its approval.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e45: The Path

Den & Lauren, C04 e44: Domestic Bliss

Lauren was waiting for Isao, when he got up a few mornings later and came down for breakfast. He saw her in the kitchen, stirring something in a saucepan.

‘What are you doing?’ he asked, blinking.

‘Cooking you breakfast,’ Lauren replied. ‘You need a breakfast to boost your energy and overcome your jet lag.’

‘I think I’m over most of it,’ Isao said. ‘What are you cooking?’

Lauren pointed to a bag of oats on the counter. ‘Oatmeal porridge,’ she said. She pointed to a bunch of bananas by its side. ‘Bananas. There are natural sugars in the bananas, and of course the bananas are a rich source of potassium.’

‘Thanks, honey,’ Isao said. ‘And now, I have one more question I would like to ask.’

‘And what is that?’

‘Why are you naked?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, C04 e44: Domestic Bliss

Den & Lauren, c04 e43: Return

Den looked up from his screen when he heard the knock on the office door. He checked the time. Almost 5pm.

Lauren entered the office, bouncing with excitement. ‘Today’s the day,’ she said.

Den nodded. ‘I know,’ he replied. ‘They landed a while ago, and they just cleared Customs. We can meet them at the station.’ He turned off his computer, and got up. ‘Might as well head on out early. We can catch them there.’

He glanced down at the training room. ‘How’s that new spiral? The one Diana came up with?’

‘Unbelievably powerful,’ Lauren replied. ‘Want to see?’

‘I watched the live CCTV stream,’ Den said.

‘Then you saw how quickly it works,’ Lauren said.

Den nodded. ‘Send Diana a bonus – ten thousand ought to do.’

‘That’ll keep her happy,’ Lauren said.

‘She deserves it,’ Den said. He reached for his coat, and handed Lauren hers. ‘Let’s go.’

Lauren grinned as she and Den left the premises of Moire Studio. It was time. Isao and Megumi were coming home.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e43: Return

Den & Lauren, c04 e42: Network, Part 3

Tamara looked at the equipment in Diana’s home. She looked at Lauren. ‘Where do we go now?’

‘We need to find Diana,’ Lauren said, ‘and find a way to reverse the effect of whatever spiral she has been exposed to.’

‘And how do we do that?’

‘I don’t know,’ Lauren replied. ‘I’m making things up as I go along now.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e42: Network, Part 3

Den & Lauren, c04 e41: Network, Part 2

‘My feet are killing me!’ Tamara complained.

‘Suck it up,’ Lauren replied. ‘We haven’t even got to the end of this street yet.’

‘Where are we?’

‘I think we’re going down Alpha Street,’ Lauren replied.

‘Alpha Street?’

‘There are a few roads and streets in England called Alpha,’ Lauren replied. ‘Eastland Park should be at the end.’

‘Did you eat the map before you came here?’

‘Sort of,’ Lauren replied. ‘Never thought I’d be walking, mind you.’

‘Yeah, our rental car disappearing like that still kind of spooks me,’ Tamara replied. ‘And the empty streets still make me nervous.’

‘I hear you,’ Lauren said. ‘Look.’

Tamara looked ahead, and saw a park coming into view. ‘Eastland Park,’ she said, ‘just like you said.’

‘No,’ Lauren replied, pointing to the left, opposite the park entrance. ‘Look at that.’

Tamara grinned. ‘Just the thing.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e41: Network, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e40: Network, Part 1

Lauren woke up from a particularly erotic dream. She opened her eyes, and gazed up at an unfamiliar rough beamed ceiling and rough stone walls.

Rising to her feet, the satin sheets slid from her nude body. Lauren crossed the room, entering the bathroom, and showered. As she showered, she heard footsteps approaching. It was Tamara, and she was as naked as Lauren was.

‘Is there room in that shower for two?’ Tamara asked, her eyes still sleepy. Lauren wordlessly pulled aside the curtain and let Tamara into the shower.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e40: Network, Part 1

Den & Lauren, c04 e39: Walk Around The Block

‘Do you love her?’

Den opened his eyes. Lauren had propped herself up beside him in her bed, and was looking at him.

‘Tamara, that is,’ Lauren added.

Den looked at Lauren. ‘Yeah, I do,’ he replied.

Lauren nodded, and lay back in her bed. ‘Good,’ she replied. ‘You deserve a relationship without too many complications or previous history.’

Den paused, and looked at Lauren. ‘What are you saying?’

But Lauren was already asleep.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e39: Walk Around The Block

Den & Lauren, c04 e38: The Dance Continues

The following morning, Den answered the door. It was Lauren.

Den looked out at the dawn sky. ‘It’s really early,’ he whispered.

Lauren nodded, and didn’t say a word. Den looked into the interior of the house. He could hear footsteps upstairs. A moment later, he heard Beryl.

‘Who is it?’

‘It’s Lauren,’ Den replied. ‘Mind if I head on up to hers to, er, help her unpack?’

‘Will you want any breakfast?’

Den looked at Lauren, who shook her head. Den turned back to the interior.

‘No, thanks,’ he said.

‘Okay,’ Beryl said. ‘Take your key and lock up after you.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e38: The Dance Continues

Den & Lauren, c04 e37: Phone Tree

‘I liked being a consultant,’ Den said. ‘Even if it was to the police.’

Beryl sat across from him at the breakfast table. ‘But did they pay you?’

‘Yes,’ Den replied. ‘They actually paid in cash. Small, unmarked bills. I don’t think they wanted my name to be written down in any records anywhere.’

‘The downside of being a hypnotist for hire,’ Beryl replied, grinning behind her coffee mug. ‘What have you got lined up for today?’

‘I was thinking that I could swing by work and see how the project is going on,’ Den replied. ‘Beyond that, I don’t have much else planned until six, where I’ll be awaiting the arrival of the train at the railway station.’

Beryl nodded, and said nothing.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e37: Phone Tree

Den & Lauren, c04 e36: Crashing

Belinda’s phone rang. It was Beryl.

‘Sorry to call you,’ Beryl said, ‘but have you seen my Den anywhere?’

Belinda checked her watch. It was half past ten. The street was empty, and the Posta was dark. She’d just closed up for the night, and drawn down the shutters.

‘Hang on, Mrs Thompson,’ Belinda said, locking the shutters. Then she turned back to the phone. ‘I’m not sure,’ she said. ‘Has he not come home?’

‘No,’ Beryl replied. ‘I haven’t heard from him all evening.’

‘Weird,’ Belinda said. ‘Can I get back to you? I’ll try and call his phone.’

‘Good luck,’ Beryl said. ‘I haven’t been able to get through.’

Belinda tried calling. Beryl was right. The call did not go through. She stared at her phone, and tried calling Tamara. There was no response there, either.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e36: Crashing

Den & Lauren, c04 e35: Taking The Reins, Part 2

Den’s phone rang. The ID read “Megumi.” He answered it.

‘Hi, Den,’ Megumi said.

‘Hi, Megumi,’ Den replied. ‘How’s everybody?’

‘I’m fine,’ Megumi replied. ‘You heard about Granddad?’

‘I did,’ Den said. ‘How’s your Dad taking things?’

‘He’s stressed,’ Megumi said. ‘Granddad is in hospital right now. He seems to be stable, but he’s in poor condition. I don’t know much else at this moment.’

‘I understand,’ Den said.

‘I’m sorry I can’t say more,’ Megumi said. ‘I’m on the same plane as Lauren. I just wanted to call you in person so I can hear your voice.’

‘Thank you,’ Den said.

‘I know it must be difficult for you,’ Den said.

‘Yeah,’ Megumi replied. ‘Hey; say hi to the rest of the gang from me, will you?’

Den lifted his phone aloft.

‘Hi, Megumi!” chorused most of the room.

When Den looked back at the screen, Megumi’s cheeks were red, and her eyes fought back tears.

‘Can you call me when you can?’ Den asked. Megumi nodded, her hand over her mouth. The line went dead.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e35: Taking The Reins, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e34: Taking The Reins

The following day, Den opened his eyes, gazing up at the ceiling. He wondered whose room he was in for a moment, before remembering that he was, in fact, in his own room.

From the next room, he could hear snoring. His Mum, Beryl, had at least returned eventually – at midnight. He could only imagine her hangover when she would awaken.

Rising from the bed, he went into the bathroom, to turn on the shower and set the shower head to deliver a high pressure mist. On the periphery of the high-pressure blast, the mist felt like a hot breeze against him, reduced in heat but not in intensity after he’d made the proper adjustments to the hot / cold water mixture.

The shower blasted his head, a high-pressure water massage which he felt down to his feet. The water battered his flesh as he applied the intense spray to all parts of his body. Once he emerged, and reached for the towel, his whole body tingled. After drying himself, he was back in the bedroom and dressed within minutes.

Den skipped his usual breakfast, slipping on his grey business jacket over his sky blue turtleneck sweater. Checking his matching grey suit trousers and grey shoes, he grabbed his keys and headed out to his car.

Lauren’s departure had left him in an interesting position. For one week, he was effectively the boss of all of her holdings and interests.

For the next seven days, until her return, he was the CEO of Lauren’s empire.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e34: Taking The Reins

Den & Lauren, c04 e33: Reconciliations

It was late. A harsh rain was beating down outside Den’s home, bouncing off the paving slabs of the garden path.

Den emerged from the car, which he’d parked in his parking spot nearby. He rushed towards his house, holding his briefcase over his head.


The voice from his left gave Den pause. He turned in the direction of the voice.

A shadowy figure emerged from a well of deep shadows cast by the streetlight. The figure drew closer to Den, until his face could clearly be seen.

Den smiled. ‘Hi, Joe!’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e33: Reconciliations

Den & Lauren, c04 e32: Moments of Revelation, Part 3

Detective Foster looked at Den. ‘How do you figure out that our star witness is actually our prime suspect?’ she asked.

Den, who had been sitting back in the chair, his arms folded, sat forwards and looked at the Detectives. ‘Can I outline my suspicions first, before you go on to ask about corroborating my assertions and getting evidence?’

Cleo nodded.

‘I really hope you’re not going to tell me it’s “gut instinct,” or that the spirits told you or something,’ Cleo said, glancing at Siobhan before returning her gaze to Den. ‘Go ahead.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e32: Moments of Revelation, Part 3

Den & Lauren, c04 e31: Moments of Revelation, Part 2

Sandra Morrison’s House

‘So this is where she died, then?’ asked Den.

Cleo and Siobhan flanked Den, as they stood in the front yard looking at the house. ‘Yeah,’ Cleo said. Siobhan nodded.

‘Shall we go in?’ asked Den.

Cleo let them in with a key. ‘I had a copy made,’ she said. ‘I know it’s against procedure, but there’s nobody here, and there hasn’t been since the last occupant was murdered.’

‘Sandra,’ Den said.

‘Yes,’ Cleo replied.

‘Is this where she died?’

‘Yes,’ Cleo replied. ‘In fact, right about where you are standing.’

Den glanced down. ‘Oh.’

‘This place is still unsold,’ Cleo said. ‘It’s been on the market ever since fer death, and it just isn’t shifting. No estate agent seems to be able to sell this place, even with the cachet that it had once had a murder.’

‘Harder and harder to sell a house these days,’ Siobhan said, trailing along behind Den. As Den slowed down in the corridor to check out the dust on the small side unit beneath the hallway mirror, he felt Siobhan’s body brush against his as she squeezed past him.

For a moment, it had felt as though she’d touched his behind.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e31: Moments of Revelation, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e30: Moments of Revelation, Part 1

The phone call came through to Den’s phone as he sat in the workshop of the restored Moire Studio, looking at the furnishings. They’d gone out of their way to restore the old workplace practically exactly as they’d remembered it, before the fire.

‘This is Detective Chief Inspector Cleo Foster,’ came the voice on the phone. ‘Am I speaking with Dennis Thompson?’

‘Speaking,’ Den replied. ‘How may I help you, Chief Inspector?’

‘Can I ask you to come in to the station this afternoon? There’s been a development. I’d like to hire you again as a consultant.’

‘What time this afternoon, Inspector?’

‘Five pm,’ Cleo replied.

‘Five it is,’ Den replied. ‘Anything else?’

‘No, just be here at five, please.’

The call ended. Den looked at the phone in his hand, then slipped it back in his pocket and went back to admiring the view.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e30: Moments of Revelation, Part 1

Den & Lauren, c04 e29: Moments of Transition

‘What’s going on?’ asked Tamara, as she entered Den’s office in Moire Studio.

‘I’m working on something new,’ Den replied, without looking up.

‘Okay,’ Tamara said. ‘Is it a surprise, like the Moire Instution?’

‘Not really,’ Den said, looking up at Tamara and smiling. ‘I’m just arranging a special thank you to everybody who helped with the feast and, er, social activities last week.’

Tamara blushed. ‘About that,’ she said, crossing over to Den’s side of the desk to peer at the image on the holographic display in front of him.

Den looked up at Tamara, as she leaned her body over his and draped her arm over his shoulder. ‘What about it?’ he asked her.

‘Throughout the event,’ Tamara said, ‘all I could think about was you.’

Den gently pulled Tamara around. She parted her legs, and straddled him, facing him, her arms on his shoulders.

‘Tell me more,’ Den said.

‘I’m serious,’ Tamara replied. ‘I know how you feel about Megumi and Lauren, and it feels really weird even sharing with just one.’ She looked into his eyes. ‘I just wonder how I stand with you.’

Den wrapped an arm around behind her, reached up and caressed the side of her neck. He closed his eyes. A moment later, Tamara closed hers. Their foreheads met, touched. They felt the warmth of one another’s hands, arms, bodies, and breath. They caressed one another’s bodies, feeling the warm flesh moving beneath one another’s clothing.

Den and Tamara remained like this, in this posture, in silence, for what felt like an eternity, during which time the only thing each was aware of was the other.

They parted, and Tamara’s eyes were softer, no longer concerned.

‘That’s what I wanted to know,’ she said, in a whisper. ‘Thanks.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e29: Moments of Transition

Den & Lauren, c04 e28: Ways and Means, Part 3

Part Three


‘Is it set up?’ Den asked Isao.

Isao Tanaka, naked but for a gas mask, nodded.

‘Do you have the remote control?’ Den asked.

‘No,’ Isao replied. ‘You do.’

Den smiled. ‘And so,’ he said, ‘you’re coming back in the room, and what you’re seeing is perfectly, perfectly normal. Just Shae removing the incense burners, and the air will clear presently, and you’ll be unaware of having been in a trance, but you’ll follow instructions … and here you are now.’

Jenny blinked and shook her head. ‘I’m really going to look forward to this,’ she said. As Megumi leaned past her to clear away her burner, she smiled. ‘Thank you,’ she said to the naked woman wearing a gas mask.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e28: Ways and Means, Part 3

Den & Lauren, c04 e27: Ways and Means, Part 2

Part Two


A taxi rolled into the car park, and drove up to the main entrance. Lauren was waiting in the reception area for the passenger. She rose from a chair as the glass doors opened.

‘Hello, and welcome to Moiré,’ Lauren said.

‘Pleased to be here,’ said Jenny Frodsham, the television personality.

Another taxi rolled up to the entrance, distracting Lauren. She looked at the newcomers as they entered the reception area, and her smile returned.

‘Hello, there,’ she said, to Cassie Simons, and her plus one, Dan Cornings.

‘Hi, Lauren!’ Cassie said. ‘I’d like to introduce you to my fiance, Dan.’

‘Pleased to meet you,’ Lauren replied. ‘You’ve been on the television a lot lately.’

‘Yes, as head of SPICA,’ said Dan.

‘The media don’t do you justice,’ Lauren said. ‘They don’t like painting you in a flattering light, do they?’

‘No,’ Dan replied. ‘The paps caught me on the day I received some lousy news about one of my relatives, and ever since that day they’ve used that image.’

‘It always looks like you’re scowling,’ Lauren said.

‘I’d just been asked an intrusive question by a vile journalist for the Daily Mail newspaper,’ Dan said. ‘Something about my daughter and what she had planned for her Hot Girl Summer. Natasha’s fourteen, for crying out loud!’

‘No wonder you looked like you’d just been picking piss off a stinging nettle,’ Jenny said. ‘Pleased to meet you.’

‘Jenny Frodsham,’ Lauren said, ‘let me introduce you to the Dan Cornings, and to Cassie Simons, my occasional adversary over the backgammon table when she comes up here to play in my club. I think you’re one game ahead of me to date.’

Cassie chuckled. ‘Two ahead,’ she replied. She looked at Jenny. ‘I’ll have to introduce you to the game some time.’

‘Wow,’ Jenny said. ‘I haven’t played backgammon since I was six. It always reminds me of wet Thursday afternoons in a caravan park in August.’

‘You’ll find it’s a lot more exciting when you play it as an adult,’ Lauren replied. She took a step back. ‘In any case, welcome to Moiré, everybody.’ She rubbed her hands excitedly. ‘And now, the guest list is complete, and we can begin.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e27: Ways and Means, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e25: Active Builder

Den looked at the ties in his hands – an ordinary tie, and a bow tie. He looked up at his mother.

Beryl pointed to the bow tie. ‘That one,’ she said. ‘Though why you need a tie at all is beyond me.’

‘Why the bow tie?’ Den asked. ‘I’ll look ridiculous!’

‘If you’re wearing that other tie while you’re doing what you’re going to be doing,’ Beryl replied, ‘you’re going to look even more ridiculous.’ She looked at the jumper on Den’s bed, lying beside his best shirt. ‘I don’t see why you can’t wear that. That’s perfectly acceptable.’

‘Mum, it makes me look like a stage magician!’

‘Well, if you’ll let me fix that widow’s peak, I might take care of that.’

Den looked in the mirror, his hand to his forehead. His hair was normal. Den glanced back at Beryl, whose expression was unreadable.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e25: Active Builder

Den & Lauren, c04 e24: Wrapped Around My Little Finger

‘How’s everyone?’

Detective Sergeant Siobhan Leahy sat at one of the public laptops which had been secured to the bench lining the far wall of the Posta Cafe, near the staircase up to The Hub.

Siobhan looked up from the laptop. Den was carrying a tray with a cup of tea and a plate with a sandwich on it.

‘I’m busy,’ the Sergeant snapped, brushing back her long, red hair. She was in civvies this afternoon, wearing only a top, jeans, and sneakers. Her purse sat on the bench beside her smartphone and the laptop. A corner of her police warrant card poked out of her open purse.

‘I understand,’ Den replied, kindly, his voice low and slow. ‘I heard. My condolences to all of you, and Lauren had a quiet word with the staff, which means you and your colleagues are entitled to free hot drinks and food for the rest of this week.’

Siobhan looked up again at Den. ‘Really?’

‘Totally serious,’ Den said. ‘You can use The Hub upstairs for the rest of the week, too,’ he added, ‘because it’ll be a nice, quiet place for you and your colleagues to get away from the world and organise your thoughts, and you can choose to go up there now, or later, if you wish.’

‘I’ll think about it,’ Siobhan replied. ‘Generous of you. I could do with getting away from the canteen back at Headquarters, right now.’

‘Happy to give you the option, which means you can tell your colleagues, any time you like, and again – I am very sorry for your loss.’

Siobhan took in Den’s words. ‘Thank you,’ she said.

‘Think nothing of it,’ Den said, putting the tray down beside the Detective and moving away from Siobhan and the laptop.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e24: Wrapped Around My Little Finger

Den & Lauren, c04 e23: Voice of Authority

In this story, some of the names have been changed.

It was dark outside. The police station was quiet – most of the activity was taking place down at the booking desk.

Detective Cleo Foster looked up from the dossier of the case she was working on, picked up her phone and speed dialled Siobhan.

Detective Sergeant Leahy answered. ‘Hello?’

‘Hi, Siobhan,’ said Detective Foster. ‘Want to drop by my place tonight? I want to go over our findings on the Sandra Morrison case.’

‘Sorry,’ Siobhan replied, ‘I just got to bed. Have you come up with anything new?’

Cleo shook her head. ‘Still nowhere,’ she replied. ‘Our only lead’s still the witness, Daniel Sullivan.’

‘I understand,’ Siobhan said. ‘By the way, Mr Thompson texted me a half an hour ago.’

Cleo frowned. ‘What about?’

‘He says he’s got a list of questions about the case,’ Siobhan replied.

‘The cheek of him,’ Cleo said. ‘Bloody civilians. The minute they get involved, they all think they’re Sherlock Holmes.’

Cleo could hear Siobhan smile. ‘He said that you would say about the same thing,’ she said. ‘He sent me the document with the questions, and told me to pass them on to you. You can delete the ones which would compromise the case if you answered then, even if that meant deleting them all.’

‘Did he now?’ Cleo asked. ‘Okay, just forward the file to me.’

‘It’s already in your inbox,’ Siobhan said.

‘Thank you, Detective Sergeant,’ Cleo said. She paused. ‘Hang on … why you?’


‘Why did he text you?’ Cleo asked. ‘Why didn’t he email me directly?’

‘Possibly because I told him to contact you through me, and only disturb you if it’s urgent,’ Siobhan replied.

Cleo nodded. ‘I can live with that,’ she said. ‘Good thinking, Sergeant.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e23: Voice of Authority

Den & Lauren, c04 e22: Expert Advice

The police came to the Moire studio, arriving as Den was getting out of his car in the car park. It was a cold morning, but the sun was out and the day promised to warm up a bit later on.

‘Mr Thompson?’ asked Detective Chief Inspector Cleo Foster.

Den turned to face the Detective and her Sergeant. ‘Hi. How can I help you?’

‘Can we speak here in private?’ Cleo asked. ‘There is something we need to discuss.’

Den looked at Cleo and Siobhan. ‘Come in,’ he replied. ‘Nobody’s here yet. I’m going to check in with Greg and head for my office.’

They entered, and checked in with Greg in Reception, before making their way up to Den’s office. Den gestured to the comfort sofa in the corner. The Detectives declined. Den sat on the sofa, and looked up at the Detectives.

‘We can speak,’ Den said.

‘We’ve been aware for some time,’ Detective Sergeant Leahy said, ‘that you have been dabbling in … hypnosis.’ Siobhan’s involuntary shudder spoke volumes: she might just as well have said the phrase black magic as hypnosis.

Den nodded. ‘I use hypnosis, yes,’ he replied.

Cleo loomed over Den. ‘We need you, Mr Thompson,’ she said. ‘We’re here to read you in on an investigation we are conducting. We thought we could have done this without you, but … Mr Thompson, we need to hire your services as a consultant hypnotist.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e22: Expert Advice

Den & Lauren, c04 e21: Comfort In The Dark

When the Merseyrail Metro train emerged from the dark tunnels into the night, the rain fell against the windows in a rush, streaking the glass.

Lauren sat by the window, facing forwards, her face leaning against the cold glass. Beside her sat Den, his eyes closed, lost in meditation.

‘Look at this, Den,’ Lauren whispered.

Den opened his eyes, looked at the streaking street lights going past, and smiled. Lauren sighed.

The train drove on through the night, passing out of the orange and silver pools of light into inky blackness. The rain on the window reflected the light from within the carriage, diamonds and streaks lancing down diagonally. The train rumbled and lurched beneath them. There was not a single human sound from the rest of the carriage: apart from Den and Lauren, and the driver, the train was practically empty.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e21: Comfort In The Dark

Den & Lauren, c04 e20: Three-Point Prime

‘Are you sure you can do this, Den?’ asked Ayesha.

Den glanced at Lauren, who sat beside Saga Sjöberg on the edge of the hotel bed. Lauren smiled. Den turned his gaze back towards Ayesha, who stood beside the window.

‘Of course,’ he replied.

‘But two people all at once? How could you do that?’

‘You adapt what you know, to extend your technique from trancing one,’ Den said, pointing towards Lauren, ‘to cover more than one.’ He looked at both Lauren and Saga, and gestured. Both fell into a deep trance immediately.

Den looked back at Ayesha, whose shocked expression told him all he needed to know.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e20: Three-Point Prime

Den & Lauren, c04 e19: Five-Point Anchor, Part 3

‘So, then, what exactly do you do, Den?’ Saga asked, as they, Den, Lauren, and Ayesha climbed up the stone steps towards the entrance of the restaurant.

‘It’s a long story,’ Den replied. He stopped at the entrance. ‘Shall we?’

Den let Saga and Lauren enter first, followed by Ayesha, and finally himself. From the rear, he had the perfect vantage point from which to view the stunned reactions of the restauranteurs to Saga’s and Lauren’s entrance.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e19: Five-Point Anchor, Part 3

Den & Lauren, c04 e18: Five-Point Anchor, Part 2

‘So, Saga, can I make you feel more comfortable?’ asked Ayesha, without looking up from their feet.

Saga looked down at Ayesha. ‘I’m comfy enough,’ they said, their voice conveying irritation.

‘I understand,’ Ayesha said. The tool in her hand began to buzz.

‘What’s that?’ Saga asked.

‘It’s called Mynt,’ Ayesha replied. ‘Multiple heads for different results. Your nail polish is Kiara Sky. Nice, but I’ve got a bio seaweed gel polish that knocks the socks off the best brand polishes on the market.’ Ayesha’s Mynt buzzed away as it gently removed the thick polish from Saga’s toenails. ‘It’s a new brand. ToeBalm. Brand new on the market, and honestly I swear by it.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e18: Five-Point Anchor, Part 2

Den & Lauren, c04 e17: Five-Point Anchor, Part 1

‘And they held his funeral near here,’ said Ayesha to Den and Lauren. She pointed vaguely in the direction of the church.

‘Gerry Marsden?’ Den asked.

‘Gerry and The Pacemakers,’ Lauren replied. ‘A big name here. Part of the Mersey Beat generation. My Mum loved his songs.’

‘He must have been a good man,’ Den said, looking at the roses in Lauren’s hand. ‘Is that what you came here for?’

‘Partly,’ Lauren replied. ‘Are you ready?’

Den looked just up the road, at the Pier Head ferry terminal. ‘We’re going on that?’

‘Yeah,’ Lauren replied. ‘The Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey. made famous by one of his iconic songs.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e17: Five-Point Anchor, Part 1

Den & Lauren, c04 e16: Training, Part 4 – … Energy Flows

‘Do you think they remembered anything afterwards?’ asked Tamara. Megumi nodded silently, and continued to scroll through her tablet.

Tamara got up off the beanbag on which she had been sitting, and crossed the empty workplace to get to the kitchenette. She turned back to glance at Megumi, who continued to scroll through whatever she was reading on her tablet.

‘Want some coffee?’

‘I’d love some,’ Megumi replied, absent-mindedly.

‘The usual?’ Tamara asked.

‘M’mm,’ Megumi replied.

‘Two spoons of espresso, and three spoons of salt?’

‘Yeah, sure,’ Megumi said. A moment later, her head shot up. ‘What?’

Tamara chuckled, and poured out coffees into their mugs. She padded across the soft tatami mats to their little beanbag island, and offered Megumi her mug before sitting down herself. She peered over Megumi’ shoulder, and watched as the words scrolled up at blinding speed.

‘How the hell can you read so quickly?’ Tamara asked.

‘Training,’ Megumi replied. ‘Tony Buzan training in speed reading. I bought a book on the subject, once. Took me two months to get through the exercises. By the time I’d finished it the third time, it took me less time to finish it than it took for me to finish the first exercise, that first time.’

‘I have no idea who this Tony Buzan is,’ Tamara said, sipping her coffee.

‘I’ll send you links to his books,’ Megumi replied, stopping to drink her coffee. ‘Well worth reading.’

‘I’ll take your word for it,’ Tamara said. ‘What are you reading?’

‘An electronic book,’ Megumi said. ‘Something that’s been on my wishlists for a long time.’ She looked at Tamara. ‘It’s about operant and classical conditioning, and how to combine it with hypnosis.’ She showed Tamata the title page.

The Brainwashing Book?‘ Tamara asked, her eyes wide. ‘Why that book?’

‘Work,’ Megumi replied, handing the tablet over to Tamara. ‘Den bought it for me. He’s got a plan, and I need to learn this really quickly.’

‘Wow,’ Tamara said, poring over the first few pages. ‘It looks intense. What’s the target readership?’

‘The hypnokink community,’ Megumi replied. ‘How to keep, and look after, your little army of hapless conditioned slaves.’

Tamara frowned. ‘Er, what?’

Megumi laughed, and took back the tablet. ‘Honestly, sometimes you can be so easy!’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e16: Training, Part 4 – … Energy Flows

Den & Lauren, c04 e15: Training, Part 3 – Where Attention Goes …

‘What do you mean?’ asked Tamara. She looked at the Council offices. ‘The Council?’

‘Yes,’ Den replied. ‘That’s where you, Lauren, will carry out your training.’

The red brick building sat placidly across the square from the Posta Cafe. Hundreds of Council employees visited the Posta monthly, to eat in and to order takeout coffees for the office. Lime trees partly obscured the building, which had been built in the Seventies to take the load of the residents in the new regions which had sprung up during that time.

The old building, adjacent to the modern Council structure, was a relatively compact Victorian edifice of sandstone which had once been almost pitch black due to the heavy industrialisation of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. Small windows looked down over the citizens who milled around the square, on their way to buying bargains from the tiny shops lining the edge opposite.

There was a cheap, tinny sounding chime, sounding the hour. It came from the little bell tower of the old sandstone Council building.

Lauren looked at Den. ‘There is something I need,’ she said. ‘I brought it with me, in the car.’

‘I thought you would,’ Den replied.

As Lauren rushed off to her car, Tamara and Megumi looked at Den. ‘What is she after?’ Tamara asked.

‘Lauren’s access to the interior of the Council buildings is somewhat limited,’ Den said. ‘She needs a solid credential to be allowed in.’

Megumi gasped, and slapped her own forehead. Tamara looked puzzled. ‘What sort of credential?’

Den pointed. Lauren was coming back to join them. Tamara gasped, and looked at Den, who nodded.

‘Now they’ll have to let her in,’ Den said, as Lauren approached the group, grinning.

Lauren turned to Den. ‘What’s my timeframe?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e15: Training, Part 3 – Where Attention Goes …

Den & Lauren, c04 e14: Training, Part 2 – Field Training

Den sat in the Posta, nursing a black coffee, when Tamara entered. She crossed the busy floor, with its chattering patrons, and kissed Den on the cheek.

‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere,’ she whispered. ‘Where have you been?’

‘Getting ready for the next phase of your training,’ Den replied. ‘Is Megumi with you?’

‘She’s coming,’ Tamara replied. ‘Lauren texted me to say she was going to be late.’

‘I know,’ Den said. ‘She texted Megumi and I, too.’

‘So, then,’ Tamara asked, ‘are we going to go through with this?’

‘Of course,’ Den replied. ‘The best way to learn is through experience.’

‘So who will we be trying out these techniques on?’ Tamara asked.

Den smiled. ‘Here is as good a place to start,’ he replied, glancing around at the customers.

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e14: Training, Part 2 – Field Training

Den & Lauren, c04 e13: Training, Part 1 – Advanced Class

Lauren dropped in on Den the following Sunday morning. The dawn sky was crisp and clear, and there was a cold nip in the air.

As Lauren came up to the door, it opened. A bleary-eyed Beryl stood in the doorway, blinking at the daylight.

‘Come on in, Mrs Tanaka,’ Beryl said. ‘I have coffee on the boil. Den’ll be coming down to meet you shortly.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e13: Training, Part 1 – Advanced Class

Den & Lauren, c04 e12: Night Shift

‘Here you go, Den,’ said Belinda, putting a strong black coffee on the table in front of him. Den took a sip and closed his eyes in appreciation.

‘Not many in tonight,’ he said, looking around.

‘You missed the lunch crowd,’ Belinda replied. ‘It was heaving.’

‘Students or council?’

‘German tourists,’ Belinda replied. ‘They’ve been flocking here all summer since we got rid of the tories and reversed Brexit.’

‘Any local malcontents?’ Den asked.

‘Not since you managed to get them banned from everywhere but the Spoons,’ Belinda replied.

‘Keeps the idiots in one place,’ Den said.

Tamara entered the Posta Cafe, followed by her sister. Den smiled and beckoned for them to join him at the table.

‘I’ll be in the back,’ Belinda said. Den touched her hand.

‘Only if you have to,’ he said.

‘Okay,’ Belinda said. She looked at Shae and Tamara. ‘I’ll get your usual.’

‘Ta, Belinda,’ Tamara said, as she and Shae sat down.

They sat and drank their coffees in silence. A light rain began to fall outside.

Den turned to Tamara. ‘Are you any good at backgammon?’

‘What, like the boardgame?’ Tamara asked.

‘Yeah,’ Den replied.

Tamara and Shae glanced at each other. ‘Can’t say that either of us are,’ Shae replied. ‘There wasn’t much fun and games when we were kids.’

‘Don’t look at me,’ Belinda replied. ‘I never got into that. I think I stopped at ludo and went straight to Lego, and then video games and eventually girls.’

Den nodded. ‘I’ve been invited to a backgammon festival next year, in Liverpool,’ he said. ‘I could enjoy having a plus one along.’

‘I thought you’d be going as Lauren’s plus one,’ Tamara said.

‘Lauren’s the organiser,’ Den replied. ‘Isao’s her plus one.’

‘Yeah,’ Belinda said, ‘I can see where that would be awkward.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e12: Night Shift

Den & Lauren, c04 e11: Consultant

‘I suppose you want to know why I brought you both here today,’ Den said, sitting back in his office chair. Tamara and Megumi sat facing him. Both were naked.

They looked at him with a quizzical expression. ‘I always wanted to say that,’ Den chortled.

‘Is it time?’ Megumi asked. ‘I had been beginning to wonder whether it would happen.’

‘I never imagined that I’d be naked when the call came,’ Tamara replied, looking down at her body.

Den smiled. ‘I didn’t mean to drag you away from what you’d been doing,’ he said. ‘Just that I received a call from Lauren. Cassie has sent her an email attachment from last night.’ He looked at Megumi and Tamara. ‘We have a new task – and we’re going to need you two.’

He stood, as Megumi and Tamara glanced at one another with mounting excitement. ‘You’re sufficiently skilled at hypnotising people now that you can take on your own assignments. I’ve trained you both up enough. It’s time to activate you.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e11: Consultant

Den & Lauren, c04 e10: Starting Positions

A classic Porsche 911S purred along a dark country road, just off the brightly lit main thoroughfare about five miles out of town. The bright orange sodium lights which picked out the road like a vein in the dark had been left far behind, and the fields either side of this winding, narrow road were a swathe of black.

The car approached a set of iron gates, beyond which was a gravel driveway leading up to an impressive mansion. A gruff voice barked “Yes?” from an intercom. A blonde woman wound down the driver’s side window and leaned out.

‘Simons,’ she said. ‘I was invited by Lauren Tanaka.’

The gates swung open ponderously. The Porsche drove up along the driveway, the lights either side of the road picking out its cherry red colour. With a crunch of gravel, it drew up to the main entrance of the mansion. A valet was standing on the portico outside the entrance; he opened the door to let out Miss Simons, before accepting the car keys from her.

Cassie entered the mansion, and checked her coat with the receptionist. Without a word, she strolled past the waiting staff, into the main hall, where the main activity of the night was already well underway.

An attendant approached her, bearing a silver tray. On that tray was a small stack of poker chips. ‘For you,’ said the attendant. ‘Courtesy of your host, Mrs Tanaka.’

‘Where is she?’ asked Miss Simons, as she accepted the stack of chips.

‘Right this way,’ said the attendant, offering to guide her.

‘Show me,’ said Miss Simons.

They went past the poker, blackjack, baccarat and canasta tables, straight into a side room up a small set of steps.

‘This is the Tournament Room,’ said the attendant. ‘Go, Mah-Jongg, and of course Mrs Tanaka’s favourite game, Backgammon.’

Cassie looked around, and saw Lauren, dressed in a dark blue ball gown, seated at one of the backgammon tables opposite a dashing-looking man immaculately dressed in a tuxedo.

Cassie watched as Lauren, with just two of her checkers left on the four-point of her board to her opponent’s three, threw a double four, to the astonished gasps of the crowd.

Lauren bore off her last checkers, and extended a hand to her opponent, who shook her hand in good graces. She looked at the doubling cube, which had the number 8 uppermost.

‘The stake was two, was it not?’ Lauren asked.

Her opponent nodded. ‘I’ll arrange to wire you the sixteen thousand,’ he said, gesturing. An attendant appeared, handing the man a wireless transactor. He tapped in his PIN, and pressed a key. A moment later, the attendant nodded to Lauren.

‘Thank you,’ Lauren said. She turned to face Cassie, and smiled. They embraced and air kissed.

‘Welcome to The Pheasant Orchard,’ she said. ‘Thank you for accepting this invitation.’

‘My pleasure,’ Miss Simons replied. She showed Lauren her chips. ‘Thanks for these,’ she said.

‘A small gift,’ Lauren replied. ‘Would you like to jump in right away, or just watch?’

‘If it’s all the same,’ Cassie said, ‘I think I’ll take a running start.’ She looked at the vacated seat at the backgammon board. ‘It’s been a while since I played backgammon,’ she said, ‘but in my family I was unbeatable.’ She looked at the young man who’d just lost to Lauren. ‘Want to lose some more money?’

‘Hello, Miss Simons,’ said the young man, smiling. ‘My name’s Den. Give it your best shot.’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e10: Starting Positions

Den & Lauren c04 e09: One of Six

Beryl knocked on Den’s bedroom door. ‘Den?’

‘What?’ mumbled Den.

Beryl pushed the door open. Warm light spilled into Den’s cramped room.

Den blinked and looked at Beryl’s silhouette. ‘What is it, Mum?’

‘Something I think you should see,’ Beryl whispered.

Den sat up. ‘What?’

‘Come with me,’ she said, ‘and bring that.’ She pointed.

The dossier sat on the unit beside Den. He pointed to it. ‘This?’

Beryl nodded. Den grabbed the dossier and went downstairs in his pyjamas.

They entered the living room, where Den looked and saw that the television was on. He looked at Beryl. ‘Are you still watching TV last, Mum?’ he asked.

Beryl nodded. ‘I can’t sleep,’ she said.

‘I told you about that, Mum,’ Den said. ‘A very simple exercise, and you’ll sleep like a log. Works every time.’

‘I know, Den,’ Beryl said.

‘What did you want me to see?’ Den asked.

Beryl went across to the television, and called up a program she’d recorded. ‘The news, just now,’ she said. ‘I got the repeat. I had to watch it twice to be sure, but now I want you to watch it and check.’

She cued the program. It began with the headlines – more war in the Middle East, the usual incompetence of Westminster, vast crowds protesting outside, the Prime Minister threatening to call the military in to disperse the crowds, and his look of surprise when his insane, burbling proclamation had the effect of doubling the size of the protest crowds.

‘That clown,’ Den said. ‘Why can’t they just haul them all out? They clearly don’t belong there. We need real politicians, not cretins who pretend to be leaders.’

Beryl shrugged. ‘Here we go,’ she said, as the screen cut to the Prime Minister walking towards the camera, followed by a small man with sparse hair and pursed lips set in a tiny face with a ten day stubble.

Beryl froze the pic. The man’s angry glare continued to stare at the back of the idiot Prime Minister’s face. ‘That’s the PM’s new special adviser,’ Beryl said. She looked at Den. ‘Doesn’t he look familiar?’

Den squinted at the repugnant, perpetually-infuriated little man on the screen. He opened the dossier and stared at the top file, with its little photo attached to the top cover with a paperclip.

It was him. The Prime Minister’s special adviser was one of the six people in the dossier.

Continue reading Den & Lauren c04 e09: One of Six

Den & Lauren c04 e08: Relax

The opening ceremony was very simple. As the Moiré community gathered outside the main entrance, Den said a very brief speech, and cut a red ribbon which had been stretched across the doors. There was a moment of hurried applause, and the employees rushed into the warm lobby to get out of the heavy rain which had just begun to pour down, right on cue.

Den stood on the threshold, feeling a fine spray of rain as the wind gusted it under the canopy. He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of the employees, new and old, talking amongst themselves in the lobby.

Lauren joined him outside, and handed him a glass of champagne. They raised their glasess together.

‘To new endeavours,’ Den said.

‘To new endeavours,’ Lauren replied.

Continue reading Den & Lauren c04 e08: Relax

Den & Lauren c04 e07: Renew

‘I don’t know what I’m doing back here,’ Den said.

Beside him stood Lauren, her hand on his shoulder. Together, they looked at the burned-out ruins of the Moiré studio behind the construction fence.

Den looked at her. ‘I didn’t get to stay here long,’ he said.

‘No,’ Lauren said, ‘you didn’t. But that’s not your fault at all.’

Den nodded. ‘So, Lauren, what am I doing back here?’

It was getting dark. The air was cooling with the approach of winter, and the leaves on all the trees were yellow and gold. Den looked down at his feet. A great shelf of some sort of bracket fungus had pushed out of the grass in front of him. There were other brackets, larger and smaller, their upper surfaces orange-brown.

Lauren smiled, as a light rain began to fall. She squeezed his shoulder through his thick raincoat. ‘Wait and see,’ she said.

Continue reading Den & Lauren c04 e07: Renew

Den & Lauren, c04 e06: Reset

The crew were in the back of the Posta Cafe when they heard the door opening.

Belinda, Tamara, Shae and Lauren emerged from the back office, to see Den Thompson standing in the doorway, large as life.

Den looked at the customers, who’d turned to face him.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘I’m back. Did you miss me?’

Continue reading Den & Lauren, c04 e06: Reset

Dawn (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Eight – Story Finale)

‘Tell me what my name is,’ Lamplight said to Abel Cain.

Abel glanced around Topside, then at Vicky, then at the table with the sheet bearing the Foster family tree. He breathed in, once, and looked at Lamplight. All the thinking and research, all the failed guesses, all those weird little trips into the past – they all boiled down to this one moment; Abel’s final guess.

All of magic, and the continued existence of The Mansion and even Lamplight herself, rested on this guess. But now he knew with certainty what Lamplight’s name was. The only name it could be.

‘Lucy,’ he said, looking at Lamplight. ‘Your human name, the name you chose,’ he said to the genie … ‘is Lucy.’

He paused a moment, without taking his gaze off her. ‘Lucy Cain.’

Continue reading Dawn (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Eight – Story Finale)

The Last Guess (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Seven)

The last echoes of the thunder faded out. Silence returned to Topside.

Lamplight looked at Abel and Vicky. ‘You have now used up two of your three guesses apiece,’ she said. ‘You now only have one guess each.’

‘What time is it now?’ Abel asked, his heart pounding.

Vicky checked her phone. ’23:38,’ she said.

‘We’ve got to guess Lamplight’s name before midnight,’ Abel said; ‘so I’d say we have to guess before 23:59 at the latest, in order for us to give us time to say the name.’

‘Yeah,’ Vicky said. ‘No pressure.’

Continue reading The Last Guess (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Seven)

As Time Runs Out (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Six)

Abel had the Gift.

That was Vicky’s conclusion, as the aromas rising from the plates filled her with joy. Her stomach growled; she had had no idea how hungry she was.

The meal began with a simple starter, some pate served on little water biscuits. Abel must have sneaked them into the holdall while Vicky had been in his bathroom, freshening up. The little wafers’ salt taste offset the dark flavour and solid texture of the chunky pate. Vicky felt tempted to ask Abel if he’d made the pate, as well.

Some people’s Gift came in the form of prophecy, or being in the right place at the right time. Abel’s Gift, it seemed, was in cooking – as close as it got to alchemy, in the way he could turn a pile of tasteless ingredients into a feast.

After the starter, Abel cleared up. He insisted that Lamplight not move, or use her little trick to freshen up the kitchen while nobody was looking.

‘I want to do this,’ he said to Lamplight. ‘I want there to be dishes for me to do in the morning. That’s one thing I’ve missed – doing the dishes, first thing. It makes me feel at home.’

Vicky kept her mouth shut as she realised that if she and Abel failed to guess Lamplight’s human name by midnight, there wouldn’t be any dishes for him to clear up in the sink in the morning, because there wouldn’t be any sink, either.

The main course was duck pieces, served with a light sauce, and the roasted broccoli, parsnips and carrots. She hadn’t imagined that vegetables could have had flavour, and yet Abel had brought out a certain something that she’d never even guessed that greens could have.

As she ate, Vicky watched Lamplight, who sat at the table, beaming broadly.

‘How’s the meal?’ Abel asked Lamplight.

”I’ve never feasted like this,’ Lamplight replied. ‘First, you invite me to work with you as part of a team; and then to be served food, instead of doing the serving …’

Vicky saw a little gleam in Lamplight’s eyes. This meant more to her than Vicky realised. She saw Abel turning to serve her; and he paused for a second to wipe moisture from his eye, too.

Vicky caught his gaze as he put more carrots on her plate. They nodded. He must have read her mind at that point. They had come so far. They weren’t going to let Lamplight down.

Continue reading As Time Runs Out (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Six)

Final Afternoon (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Five)

‘You’re very quiet,’ Vicky said, as she and Abel got out of the car in front of Abel’s apartment building.

‘I’m just concerned,’ Abel said. ‘I don’t know if I’ll be coming back here to live, or starting to move all of my stuff out tomorrow.’

‘Assuming you make the right guess,’ Vicky said, ‘you might still spend the next few months back here. I know I plan on spending many nights back home, in my bed, over the summer. I’m not counting on winning; my stuff’s going to be there waiting for me, win or lose.’

‘Likewise,’ Abel said, as his keys jingled in his hand. The door opened. ‘Come on in.’

Continue reading Final Afternoon (Lamplight, Episode Twenty-Five)