Coffee Break Read – Deadly Mail

Friday morning came rather too soon for me. Charlie went to work whistling his tuneless whistle, and I rather hoped for a quiet day. I went into work for an hour then sloped off home. Feeling a bit bruised and blue, I called Mum, who was only too easily persuaded into a girlie lunch and a spot of therapeutic shopping. Spending far too much money had its usual calming effect, and by the time we got back to my place, Mum was so flustered that I couldn’t help giggling.
“Look Mum” I said in my most reasonable tones. “I’ve made so much in bonuses in the last year that I would be never be able to spend it if you didn’t help.”
She looked at me searchingly, then shrugged and grinned like a schoolgirl.
“If you are sure. But. Three hundred pounds for a pair of boots.”
“They are very nice boots” I said “and they could have been made to go with the coat Dad bought you for Christmas.”
“They could” she grinned. “And that body warmer will stop Tomasz from looking like a vagrant in the cold weather.”
I laughed. “Nothing can stop Dad from looking like a vagrant. It’s one of his biggest talents.”
She aimed a playful blow at me, and I noticed my answering machine blinking away at me. I idly pushed the button. It was a message from Uncle Sid. It was several messages from Uncle Sid. I looked at Mum.
“I guess I better call him.”
“You had. He sounds a bit desperate.”
I called the number and Sid picked up immediately.
“Alysson. Thank goodness. Have you looked in your mail box today?”
“Do me a favour. Don’t. We think you have a letter bomb.”
“Oh. Smegg. What should I do?”
“Nothing. I’m on my way. With some people who know about these things. We will be with you in under an hour.”
“Okay. Will you have eaten?”
“Right. How many of you?”
“Four. See you soon.”
And he cut the connection.

I turned to Mum, to find her sitting at the kitchen table white-faced and shaking.
“Letter bomb?”
I went and put my arms around her.
“It’s okay Mum. I have guardian angels.”
She put her hands around my face and I smiled at her.
“Oh Aly. What have you gotten yourself into?”
“I dunno. Mum. I’ve done nowt. I just seem to have arrived on some people’s radar. Charlie says it’s my face.”
She laughed. “Will you promise me that you’ll be careful?”
“Oh. I will. Now do you want to help me cater for a crowd of huge men?”
“Only if me and your dad are welcome too.”
I knew that was coming and although I would have preferred to send her as far away from danger as possible I knew I couldn’t do that. I nodded my agreement.
“Okay then. What you got?”
“There’s a chicken in the fridge, and some packs of breast in the freezer. I’m thinking of a massive curry.”
“Yeah. That’d do it.”

We worked side by side for an hour and when two enormous casserole dishes were in the oven, we grinned at each other in a satisfied manner. Mum went upstairs to call Dad and I was just having a large glass of water when my doorbell buzzed. I looked at the screen to see Sid, two other huge thugs, and a skinny little man with a tool box. I went downstairs. Sid gave me a brief hug and introduced Joe, Billy and Mack.
“Where is your letter box” the little guy called Mack asked.
“It’s over there.”
I pointed to the rank of boxes on the other side of the courtyard.
“Good. Gimme the key.”
“There isn’t a key. It’s a number. 4970.”
“Okay. Now you go back indoors and leave us to deal.”
I turned to leave, but spotted Georgios Christopoulos and a couple of his henchmen approaching purposefully. Sid gave me a little shove.
“Go inside. I’ll deal with your Greek friend.”

Nothing loath I buggered off as fast as I could go. I found Mum standing in the big window of the family room, watching with worried eyes. I went and stood beside her as Sid spoke briefly to Mr C before Mack went and opened my letter box. He took out a small pile of mail and examined each item with some care. He gave all but two bits to Sid, who stood back respectfully. The leathery little man took some sort of a scope out of his toolbox and ran it over the letters. He frowned and shrugged. Then he took out an old fashioned stethoscope. He handed yet one more piece of mail to Sid. Then he carefully carried the last envelope over to the corner of the courtyard where two big buttressed walls surrounded a gnarled crab apple tree. He put the packet down on the floor and went to the undistinguished van in which they had arrived. He put on a thickly padded vest and a businesslike visored helmet before picking up a pair of long-handled tools. He used the tools to carefully open the package. For a moment I thought it was all a storm in a teacup. But it wasn’t. The explosion, when it came, sounded shockingly loud in the quiet afternoon air.

Mum squeaked and jumped.
“Oh” she said. “Oh Aly. Oh why would anybody want to do a thing like that to you?”
“You hush now” I replied firmly. “We don’t know nothing yet. But Uncle Sid will tell us. Just so long as you don’t go flapping.”
She thought about that one for a minute, then nodded.
“You’re right. I have to stiffen my spine.”
“Okay. You stay here and practice. I’m going down to see precisely WTS.”
She opened her mouth then thought better of whatever she had been going to say.

From: Jackdaw Court.

© jane jago



It doesn’t matter what you sell,
Long as you sure can sell it.
It doesn’t matter what you tell
The folks as who’s gonna buy it.
It doesn’t matter if your pitch
Is always moved on and along.
It doesn’t matter if you’re right,
‘Cos the customer’s always wrong.

E.M. Swift-Hook

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV’s review of ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien

I was a very normal child. Like every other when I was at home in the holidays from boarding school, my darling Mummy would come upstairs at nine o’clock, sit on the side of my bed and read to me some something she thought I should like. Thus it was, when I was about fifteen, she came into my room without warning, to my consternation and embarrassment, and plopped herself down on the edge of my bed a treasured tome clutched in one hand and a glass of Pernod and Angostura bitters gripped in the other and said, in her loving motherly way: “Oh stop playing with it and just get your pajamas on, Moons. Twin Peaks starts in ten minutes and we have a whole chapter to read.”

Thus began my initiation into the phenomenon of Middle Earth with its elves, dragons, dwarves, trolls – and hobbits. It was revealed to me a half-chapter at a time and read in a monotone that preceded, but would be later reflected by, the satnav lady. And here is my review.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

My first thoughts are regarding the central character of the story which is a creature called ‘a hobbit’. I still recall my immense disgust at the concept of it having hairy feet. After that initial moment of repugnance, it was extremely difficult for me to feel any empathy for this creature at all. The hygiene issues were too overwhelming.

It also turns out later in the story that he is a cheat and a thief.

There are also some dwarves who seem to have escaped from another story about Snow White all called things like Loin and Groin and a dragon called Smirk or some such. I did feel for the poor little creature that lived in the caves and had to eat raw fish – I too despise sushi – especially when the hobbit stole his birthday present. That used to happen to me at my boarding school.

The subtitle of the book is ‘There and Back Again’ – which is, I believe, a pretty good summation of the pointlessness of the whole, except we never really know where ‘there’ is or why or who – or how.

Nil Stars

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

Adoring Fans can join my Facebook Group.

I am old

I am old, which means I get to choose
My friends, and my food, and my booze
I don’t need advice
About what is nice
At my age I have f**k all to lose

© jane jago 2017

Coffee Break Read – A Tavern in Harkera

The pottery shattered as it hit the stone wall and the wine splashed out in a liquid corona, staining the fine fabric of the hangings and seeping over the floor like blood flowing from a wound. The music slid to a discordant halt as the musicians scattered quickly and a single shriek from one of the serving girls ended the tune.
Jariq Zarengor sat still, holding the cup which he had been filling from the wine jug, a motionless figure in a sudden sea of movement as the other patrons of the inn decided it was wiser to be elsewhere. Ralik stood by the wall, arms folded watching, as the Harkeran Vavasor drew his sword and continued shouting.
“You can’t seduce another man’s wife and expect to get away with it.”
The Harkeran noble was sober enough, even if high in emotion, but Zarengor had been drinking steadily since they had arrived at the inn. Ralik straightened up slightly and unfolded his arms. He saw another Harkeran was moving forward, one hand reaching under the dark blue cloak he was wearing. Zarengor seemed not to have noticed and was frowning very slightly, as if confused by what was happening. He gestured with his empty hand towards the bench beside him.
“I have no idea what you are talking about, but if you have a problem, why not sit down with me, have a drink and talk it over. We can get some more wine – ”
He was not able to finish before the Harkeran lunged at him and was instantly sent sprawling backwards as Zarengor exploded into motion almost faster than the eye could follow, tipping the heavy wooden table forward into his assailant and in the same fluid movement, turning as he rose, drawing his sword to bring the point to the throat of the second man before his own blade had even half-emerged from beneath the blue cloak.
The second Harkeran released his sword hilt and leaving both hands spread wide, stepped back carefully, reading certain death in the steady brown eyes. His companion groaned beneath the table and tried weakly to push it off. Zarengor seemed to have forgotten him completely, slamming his sword back into its scabbard and striding from the room. Ralik detached himself quietly from the wall and made a less noticeable exit by another door as people surged forward.
As he left, he noticed it took two men to lift the heavy table. The voices of the Harkerans followed him out, mutters of fear and admiration, of condemnation and simple envy. Ralik had a passing moment of gratitude that he was not of the kind to inspire such feelings in others.

From Transgressor Trilogy 2: Times of Change by E.M. Swift-Hook.


Clyde the snail-shark is to be found in the Penny White series of books and is the creation of their author Chrys Cymri.

Not all knights wear shining armour
chivalry comes in many sizes
Not all truth is found in beauty
at times the commonplace surprises
Not all those who tilt at windmills
do so from above
Sometimes something small and lowly
better offers love
Inside a shell can beat a heart
with moral compass strong
If you would understand and hope
listen to Clyde’s song.

Jane Jago

The stunning image of Clyde was created by the incredibly talented Ian Bristow.

Monday Meme – Space Junk

The junksters took over the redundant space station just at the turn of the year, and by August the area around it was littered with a sea of plastics and crumpled pieces of metal, whilst the inhospitable surface of the planetoid it orbited felt the first cooling fingers of terra-forming. All seemed to be going to plan, so the escort ship was diverted to another job, leaving the assorted humanoids and droids to fend for themselves.

It was late December when the Confederate Cruiser entered the system on a long patrol. It spotted the space station, its tethered cargo of space junk, and the hive of activity all around it, and the captain made a noise of disgust.
“Is this authorised?” he demanded of his number two.
After the briefest of pauses the high, precise voice of First Officer Mebwina replied. “Yes. Sir. It is.”
The captain sighed and stared in disgust at the hive of activity, but had nothing further to say except the two-word condemnation that followed the junksters from solar system to solar system.
“Space junk,” he spat.

When the cruiser swung back through the system six months later it was immediately apparent that something was wrong. The junk was still there and the surface of the planetoid showed evidences of the activities of the terra-formers, but there was nothing happening.
“Comms Officer, open a hailing channel,” the captain spoke briskly in order to camouflage a feeling of disquiet.
After about twenty minutes with no response from the junkster station, the captain called for cessation.
“Raise home planet, Comms Officer.”
The powers that be were thrilled to hear from a patrol cruiser captained by a time-server and crewed by second and third class citizens, but they did sit up and take notice when the situation was explained. The captain was ordered to leave a skeleton crew aboard the cruiser and take the rest of his people aboard the space station. It was, he was told crisply, imperative that he establish precisely what was going on.

The pilot droid finessed the ageing cruiser into orbit about fifty metres from the space station then put itself in resting mode. Two sturdy humanoids were issued blasters and put on guard while the other dozen or so crew members donned suits and glide packs and crossed the junkyard to the silent hulk that was the junksters’ station. Leaving one suited guard outside, the rest of the party made its way into the passenger airlock. The doors shushed closed behind them.

It seemed to be a very long time before anything happened, and the group was getting very, very nervous before the hiss of incoming air caused hands to drop from sidearms. When the hissing stopped, the inner door opened and the party found itself in a room big enough to swallow the cruiser whole. It was brightly lit, and, according to the captain’s gauges, full of clean, breathable air. He signalled ‘helmets off’ and once everyone was breathing station air the search began.

In the eerie quiet of the station the crew’s boots sounded very loud and most of them were fighting down the urge to creep. It didn’t get any more comfortable, and yet they found nothing frightening. The lowest deck was taken up with junkster machinery and hundreds of deactivated mining and terra-forming machines. The next level was workshops, and here they found row upon row of the primitive junkster droids similarly deactivated, but looking quite unharmed. Finally, back on the living level, things felt even more eerie. The few occupied rooms were tidy and looked as if they were just waiting for their occupants to return. Even the kitchen was spick and span, although one of the huge dishwashing machines still bore a load, and there was a bowl of scrubbed tubers on the worktop. The only thing there was no sign of was life.

Mebwina scowled at her gauges. “No life of any sort outside ourselves, Captain.”
The captain scratched the back of his neck. “Home planet isn’t going to be too pleased with us if the only answer we can come up with is that.”
Nobody replied, because there was nothing to say.
The sound of machinery starting up close by made every man jack of them jump, and Mebwina went so far as to emit an undignified squeak.
“Air scrubbers.” The oldest crewman put in succinctly. “We must have been in here long enough to use up some air.”

He smiled in a superior fashion before grabbing for his throat, while desperately trying to replace his helmet with his other hand. Within seconds, Mebwina’s gauges stopped bleeping and blipping and a tinny little voice piped up. ‘no life forms detected’ before it too fell silent.

Inside the cruiser, the pilot droid awoke and ambled over to the two guards. It pushed them into the airlock and closed the door before jettisoning them to join the rest of the garbage clustered around the space station. It made a slight tasking sound in the back of its throat as the bodies were smashed into pieces by the effects of sharp metal wastes and aggressive artificial gravity. The two spacesuited figures guarding the airlock could be seen to be fighting nausea. Vomit in a suit is unamusing. The droid smiled thinly and set an autopilot course for home planet before exiting the cruiser via the captain’s emergency pod. As the spaceship exited the system the droid felt itself swell with a new purpose as its will was joined with its brothers and sisters on the space station.

“Space Junk,” the voice in his head exulted. “Score one to the space junk.”

©️ Jane Jago 2017

Sunday Serial – XIV

The pub came into view around the next bend, and proved to be determinedly unpicturesque, being a sixties brutalist concrete structure. But the garden was spectacular, and the place was buzzing even early in the evening.

“My. It’s ugly,” Bill said as they drew to a halt.

Somebody must have been on the lookout for them because a tall ginger-haired woman in very tight jeans and a blindingly-patterned t-shirt ran out to greet them.

She stuck her head in the driver’s window.

“You Anna’s crew?”


“Follow me then,” and she galloped off.

“Chris,” Anna supplied as Rod drove carefully after the sprinting woman.

“She always like this?” he asked genially.

“Mostly,” Anna said. “Belle is much more reposeful.”

“Good,” Sam grunted. “This one is already giving me a headache.”

“That’s just the t-shirt,” Bill said gravely. “She has a kind face.”

“Thanks Bill.” Sam smiled over his shoulder. “I needed reminding not to jump to conclusions. It’s just that my ex-wife had a t-shirt just like that one.”

Rod patted him.

“If Anna likes her, this Chris ain’t a bit like Christina, though I can see the name and the shirt might have been a bit of a facer.”

“Sorry Sam,” Anna said. “Bad shit?”

“Water under the bridge.”

Bill opened his mouth and Anna put her finger to his lips.

“It’s okay,” he said somewhat indignantly “I wasn’t going to”.

“Sorry,” she whispered into his ear.


He smiled forgivingly as the camper came to a halt and patted her hand.

The door flew open and a ginger head poked into the camper.

“Hello Anna? How’s tricks? Where’d you get all the man flesh?”

Anna laughed.

“Yo Charlie. Driver is Rod Cracksman. Passenger Sam Henderson, buddy of Rod. And the handsome one sitting next to me is Bill Cracksman, aged seven.”

“Meetcha,” Charlie grinned and offered Bill a high five. He responded gleefully.

“Right. You can throw your lekkie cable through that window and plug in. There’s a tap just here you can have to yourselves. Dump your waste water down that drain. And just around the corner is an old outside toilet where you can empty the khasi.”

Anna smiled and Rod unwound himself from the driving seat. He offered a huge hand. She took a pace backwards.

“Blimey. You’re a big boy. Even for a Cracksman.”

Bill giggled.

“Granny calls him Gogmagog…”

Charlie recovered her equilibrium and smiled at the assembled company.

“Will you lend me Anna for a few minutes?”

Bill wrinkled his forehead in thought.

“Is it girl talk?”

“Yes,” Anna said.

“Okay then. You get ten minutes. Then I need her back.”


Charlie laughed and dragged Anna off to a bench in the garden. As they crossed the grass, Anna’s phone beeped. “Text from Jim.”

She read it then passed the phone to Charlie.

“That name mean anything to you?”

Charlie’s face went still.

“Oh yes. He’s Armenian. Has a penchant for little boys. Who usually wind up dead. He is persona non grata with the Putin administration, because they can’t stomach his appetites. So why does Jim Cracksman have an interest?”

“He had Bill.”

“Oh. Shit.’

“Indeed. Rod and Sam were part of the rescue party. Now we’re taking him home.”

“Right. No more questions. Though there are some people in Russia who wouldn’t mind killing him if that would help.”

“Thanks. But somebody is already killing him. They’re just taking their time about it.”

“Good. Now I’d better go back to work. Supper at seven?”

“Lovely. And thanks.”


Anna sent Jim a quick text with the gist of what Charlie knew, then went to supervise setting up the camper for the night.


At a quarter to seven they locked up and headed for the pub. Sam held out his hand and Bill grabbed on firmly.

“You OK, mate?”

“I think so. It’s a bit easier than this morning.”

“Good. It’ll get easier every time.”

‘I guess. But I don’t like strangers looking at me.’

“We’ll pull faces then. That’ll stop ’em.”

“Sam. That’s rude…”


Bill giggled.

“You are,” he said “being a bad influence. Don’t let Mummy catch you or she’ll box your ears. And now we’re inside and I didn’t even notice…”

“We are,” Sam said placidly. “And Anna’s found our table. It’s a nice one by the window. Where’d you want to sit?”

“Inside please.”

“Bill bagsies an inside seat please.”


Rod went to the bar and got menus.

“What are we drinking? Anna?”

“Red wine please.”




“If they have J2O, I like orange and passion fruit.”

“Righty Ho!”

Bill tugged Anna’s sleeve.

“What’s a ditto?” he whispered.

“Oh. It means the same.”

He looked puzzled.

“I said I’d like red wine, and Sam said ditto, which meant he would like red wine too.”

Bill’s face cleared.

“So it’s kind of shorthand.” He picked up  his menu. “Oh good this is nice sensible writing, and English words. I can read it for myself.”

“You do that then matey,” Sam recommended.


Rod returned with a tray of drinks. He was followed by two waitresses who put a small plate and a napkin in front of each diner, then lots of dishes of nibbles in the centre of the table.

“They asked if we wanted tapas while we sorted out our order. I said yes please.” He grinned at his nephew. “Tapas is a Spanish thing. It’s appetisers. When you go bar cruising in Madrid, you have some tapas in every bar so you don’t get too pissed.”

Bill looked pleased.

“I am learning new things tonight. Ditto. Tapas. What’s that stuff?”


“Another new word.”

“Squid,” Rod said.

“Oh. Is it nice?”

“I think so. You may not. Just try a bite. If you don’t like it you don’t need to eat it. There’s plenty of other things.”

Anna smiled down at Bill.

“Is there anything else you don’t recognise?”

He looked at the dishes.

“Calamari, prawns, potato salad, olives, mushrooms, ham, cheese, tiny bits of pizza, tomatoes, red peppers, spicy-looking sausage. So there’s just one more I don’t know.”

“That’s hummus. It’s a dip made from chickpeas.”

Rod grinned at Bill.

“You are living the high life, young sir, and no mistake. Now eat some nibbles while you decide what you want as a main course.”

Jane Jago

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