Fresh Hell

As my old mother might have said if I’d ever met her, “It’ll end in tears,” and it usually did along with a rain of other, less disposable bodily fluids.

I was sitting in the living room of a terraced house opposite Bill and Bella McKinstry, their two kids Montel and Imani running around hyper and hysterical, which from the non-reaction of their elders appeared to be the default position. Bill and Bella sounded like a comedy duo, but nothing could have been less amusing than this god-forsaken set-up.

The room itself was rectangular with two sets of windows facing the front and back gardens. Seventies décor reigned supreme complete with mustard brown swirly carpet and stone fireplace in front of which an electric fire squatted like an enormous toad. Through the window, over Alec’s shoulder, darkness routed the day and the sodium lights began their thankless vigil even though it wasn’t 4pm yet.

Bella heaved herself off the fake leather sofa muttering about putting some lights on, although that didn’t turn out to be an improvement. The kids had drawn on the walls over the peeling, yellowing woodchip and there was a mound of dirty washing spilling out of the adjoining kitchen to within inches of my feet. Bill was small, thin and wizened, dark eyes looking out soulfully from beneath a base ball cap onto a world that hadn’t been kind to him in the past and wasn’t expected to change anytime soon. He was chain-smoking roll-ups and a small graveyard of the butts lay in the large glass ashtray bearing the legend “World’s Best Dad.” She by contrast was large, blond and anxious, wearing a dirty pink shell suit, small mouth set in a permanent sneer of disgusted disbelief as though that was the only expression she had had any use for and couldn’t remember the rest. I couldn’t decide what age they were: it could have been over forty or under twenty. Poverty and nae luck tended to do that to a person.

I was about to find out how far their run of bad luck had really stretched, although the mere fact that they needed my services spoke volumes.


The thing clinging to the living room ceiling winked at me and wiggled its little backside before venting the contents of its bowels on the corpse in the half-open casket beneath. It giggled, a high girlish sound and scuttled to the corner of the room where it hung upside down, watching me and rubbing its six fingered hands over vestigial ears like a monstrous, mutated bat.

Not paying it any attention, I picked my way through the wrecked furniture, moved aside the teetering pile of clothes on the untouched fake leather sofa, and sat down. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes, it began to creep back towards the centre of the room and the dead body. Posing for a moment like a prize diver showing off a new move, it stealthily dropped down onto the open portion of the half casket where it began to vigorously dry hump the stiff. While I certainly knew that feeling well enough, I also knew something the creature did not: that in death as in showbiz, timing was everything.

Beyond the window, the dark extinguished the remaining light. Not a difficult task given this was the frozen heart of a Scottish winter: perpetual dark leavened by shades of grey. Twisted as my sense of fun undoubtedly was, being caught after dark and on the job in a run down housing estate in Gilmerton, was not my idea of a night on the town. Gilmerton, while technically within city limits, did have any others which dared to apply. Perhaps that was why, in true old fashioned pioneer spirit, the hardy family that had survived here for the past two years only thought they a poltergeist to deal with. I hadn’t had the heart to tell them it was so much worse than something that just wanted to throw the pots and pans around.

A phlegmy chuckle this time, muffled by whatever it was doing to the corpse, a woman of indeterminate age, although given the part of town I was in she could easily have been anything under thirty. Isa Simpson had been a big woman, someone the quacks would have classified as morbidly obese. The collapsed lower third of her face and absence of lips indicated a teeth free zone and grey, straggling hair struggled to make it to her shoulders.

Her distraught husband had told me that the whole sorry business began last week when she’d died of a heart-attack. While it was true pots and pans had been thrown, some of which had even struck the two little boys Kenny and Ryan glancing blows and injured Tyson the dog, there was a new and sinister aspect to this little mortality tale: the creature appeared to be guarding the body. No one could get near to take it for burial and so it lay in all its decomposing splendour stinking up the house and giving the family a whole new take on dust to dust.

A feral growling sound reminded me what I was here for. Crossing the room, I took the scrying glass out of my pocket and, studiously ignoring the humper, positioned the obsidian surface to reflect the corpse’s eyes. Scrying glasses, if you made them properly and had the eyes to see, showed not just the surface, but the behemoth lurking underneath waiting to break it.

From the frantic activity it looked like something was about to….

Dietary Fibre

Murder always drew the bad stuff to it: a lonely spot at the side of a road where a hit and run victim had died; the bedroom where a sadistic killer finished off his thirteenth victim; the site of a car crash engineered by a unloving husband for his unsuspecting wife. But the real jackpot were the murderers themselves, hoaching with enough raw, spiritual sewage to generate enough power to light up the city. Oh, and little old me of course.

Not being a telepath I couldn’t access the murdering bastard’s memories directly, but the evil spirits that infested them could. They literally ate into the homicidal maniac’s fond recollections and I ate them. From these memories it was possible to piece the victims final moments together and it was rarely a pretty picture. But I couldn’t deny, it was indeed a proud moment when you realised you were standing at the top of such a distinguished food chain.

And then the dreams…