Thursday, 20 September 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



Red and gold top, blue and white pants,
tiara and lariat.  Right, that's my Hallowe'en
costume sorted out - now let's ogle at the
luverly-wuverly LYNDA CARTER.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

NOTES ON THE JANUS DILEMMA...

Here's an interesting fact:  The story that I've been serializing on the blog recently was inspired by a true-life event in 1975 reported on the TV news.  It immediately set my mind off on a train of thought for a plot that I thought would make a great tale, but it took around 36 years for me to get around writing the first two chapters, whereupon I got sidetracked and ended up neglecting it.  A couple or so years later, I started on chapter three, but only wrote three paragraphs before again being diverted by other things.  (I only rediscovered these paragraphs the other day and added one of them to the first chapter.)

As I said at the beginning of posting the story, I had the basic plot, plus a few twists and turns, worked out in my head back in '75, but when it came to writing each chapter, I just sort of made them up as I went along, amending earlier chapters where necessary to tie in with later ones.  I've now reviewed and amended each chapter again and ironed out the kinks and inconsistencies (plus a few mistakes), and it ties together a lot tighter now.  So if you read each chapter as it was posted and generally enjoyed the tale, why not go back to the beginning and read it as a complete story?  I think you'll enjoy it more.  There may still be a few minor changes and corrections I'll make, but, essentially, it's now completed.

And if you'd like to comment on each chapter as you go along, feel entirely free.

P.S.  And I don't know about you, but I'm quite impressed with myself for writing eleven of the fourteen (admittedly short) chapters in the space of nine days.   

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - CLAUDIA CARDINALE...



CLAUDIA CARDINALE has just finished
reading my 14 chapter book on Crivens! - The
JANUS DILEMMA - and says she'd buy a copy
if it ever gets published.  Said she'd leave it in her
toilet just in case she ever runs out of loo roll.
H'mm.  Whatever can she mean by that?

Monday, 17 September 2018

CHAPTER FOURTEEN - OKAY, SO I LIED...



I wasn't entirely happy with the way the two cops just sort of disappeared from events a few chapters back, so I've come up with what I think is a nice resolution to their role in this tale.  I've moved the ending involving Ted and Karen from the previous chapter to this one.  I think this makes things much more satisfying.  All prior chapters are currently undergoing revision, so check them out in a few hours if you're interested.

******  

Chapter Fourteen:


The following day, Captain Jaconelli and Detective Bronski eyed the gruesome scene that lay before them in 'Hasta La Vista'.

"Someone couldn't have liked the menu," said Joe, and Bronski chuckled.

"The chef arrived around midday to make the boss's meal and called it in when he discovered the bodies.  Looks like he emptied the cash register first though.  He's due it I suppose," said Joe, philosophically.

"What do you think, Captain?  Could Ben Stevens have taken revenge for what happened to his brother?"

"Wouldn't blame him if he did," said Joe, "but how would we ever prove it?  No witnesses.  Besides, he wouldn't even be first in line to settle a score with Angelo.  He was a nasty piece of work, and the city's a safer place without him."

"So what do we do?" asked Bronski.  "We can't just let it slide - can we?"

"Listen, Detective, I consider myself a good cop, but there are hundreds of innocent victims of crime out there every day who are far more deserving of my time and attention, to say nothing of the city's limited financial resources, than this dead bastard.  We'll go through the motions, interview a few low-lifes, and then close the file - mark it down as gang warfare and bury it with him so to speak.  Catch my drift?"  Joe looked at him to see if he did.

"Sure, Captain," said Bronski, looking perfectly happy with the situation.  "Like you say - there are far more deserving people out there in need of justice.  Way I see it, Benedetto got all the justice he was due."

Joe looked at him approvingly.  "Then we agree.  Tell me something, Bronski - do you like fishing?"

"Never more happy than when I've got a fishing rod in one hand and a beer in the other," said Detective Bill Bronski.

"You're going to go far, Bill, you're going to go far," beamed Captain Joseph Jaconelli.

******

Ted and Karen sat together on the sofa, and looked fondly at one another.  "How was your day yesterday?" asked Karen.

"Oh, not bad," said Ted.  "Tidied up a few loose ends on something I was working on.  I should be able to relax now."

"That's good," said Karen.  "Fact is, you've been more relaxed recently than I can remember.  You're certainly not the man I married."

Ted looked at her and noticed an odd glint in her eye.  Did she know, he wondered, or did she simply think that Ben was more chilled out these days?  He could ask her, he supposed, but thought it better not to.  After all, some things are best left unsaid.  At least he wouldn't have to worry about Mary any more.  She'd 'phoned earlier to tell him she wasn't going to wait for him any longer.  She probably had other lovers to occupy herself with - poor saps, he thought.  He still had to work out what he was going to do in the future, career-wise - he was certainly no accountant.  Maybe he'd ring Gloria and see if that offer for an audition was still open?  He could return her gun to her - after all, he hadn't used it so there was nothing for her to fear in being reunited with it.

"You hungry?" he asked Karen.

"Only for you, dear," she said, and taking his hand, she led him into the bedroom.

****** 

Do I really have to say it?  Okay then...

The End.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

CHAPTER THIRTEEN - TH-TH-THAT'S (NEARLY) ALL, FOLKS!



Okay, peeps - this was supposed to be the wrap up, but I changed my mind.  I'll continue to edit, omit, amend and probably even add stuff too - not only to this chapter, but all of them - so don't be surprised if you return to them and find something different about them.  And now - on with the show.



Chapter Thirteen:


Ted stepped quietly into 'Hasta La Vista' and was surprised to see that there was no one in the foyer.  Then he noticed a poorly written and badly spelled scrap of paper on the floor saying 'Closed for repairs - sorry for any inconveinence' and knew why.  It must have become detached from the piece of Blu Tack holding it to the glass door, so Ted replaced it to deter anyone else from entering, this time making sure that it was pressed firmly into place.  Kind of careless leaving the door unlocked though, he thought.  Two ostentatious drapes adorned each side of the actual entrance into the restaurant, so he carefully craned his head around one of them and looked into the interior.  There was no staff around that he could see - just Angelo, sitting at a far corner table with two of his goons standing near him.

Angelo Francisco Benedetto was in his early forties and built like a brick shit-house.  He must've stood about five-ten in his stocking soles, but wore built-up heels to give him an extra couple of inches as he had a complex about his height.  His eyebrows had no discernible gap between them and his brow was like that of a Neanderthal.  He was married, but it was a running joke in certain circles that although he might not be a fully dedicated member of the homosexual community, he'd readily help out if they were short-handed.  He'd have killed anyone for even suggesting that he wasn't the rugged he-man he projected to the world, but his handful of male 'companions' knew that, when it came to his sexual activities with them, he wasn't the 'man'.  Regardless of his 'secret' inclinations though, he was one nasty, vicious, evil bastard.

The trio's conversation could be heard fairly clearly, so Ted remained still and listened to it over the sound of his heartbeat.  

"Heard from Lou yet?" enquired Angelo as he stuffed what looked like lasagne into his over-wide mouth.  He was fond of Lou... they both shared the same secret.

"Been ringing him all day - he ain't picking up," said one of his men.

"What about Larry?  What's happening with him?" 

"Just heard from one of the boys," said the other.  "Larry hailed a cab at the far end of the next block less than ten minutes ago, asked to go to the station - train station, not the cops.  He didn't know the driver was one of ours.  You don't have to worry about Larry no more."

That meant Ted wouldn't have to worry about Larry either.  Good.  It was one less complication to take care of.

"Chef left yet?" asked their boss.

"Went home right after making your meal - just like you told him to," said the first goon.  "We're the only ones here."

"Good," said Angelo, continuing to shovel lasagne into his facial orifice.  "We got plans to make."

Ted walked through the gap in the drapes and Benedetto's hoods immediately took a step forward, their hands edging into their jackets.  Angelo waved them back.

"Ben," he said, "you've saved me the trouble of having to find you.  Good.  Come... come take a seat.  I'd offer you something to eat, but the chef's left for the day.  We're closed at the moment for repairs, but he came in special to prepare my food.  Can't go a day without it."  He seemed genial, non-hostile, but that was his way.  Guys like him would kill you as they smiled, and then send condolences to your family.  You could never take them at face value.

He looked at the case that Ted gripped in his right hand.  "That my money?" he asked.  "Did Lou's 'warnings' make you see the light?  It was rather naughty of you to steal it you know... I trusted you.  That's what hurts the most Ben... the abuse of my trust."

"Cut the crap," said Ted, "it's not as if you came by it honestly, so it's not really your money anyway."

"Ben... Ben," he said, looking pained, "why do you say such awful things?  I'm a respectable businessman."

"As respectable as Donald Trump getting pissed on by a Russian hooker," said Ted.  "Allegedly," he added.

"If my money's not in that briefcase, Ben, you'll be meeting up with Larry again before you know it.  I have only so much patience, and if it looks like my money's irretrievable, there's just no point in keeping you alive any more - no more chances.  Two accountants... supposed to be looking after my interests and doing a little 'juggling' - in my favour, not yours - and both of you betray me by skimming off some for yourselves.  I can't let that go unpunished, Ben.  I have to set an example... just in case your's and Larry's replacements get the same idea."

"What makes you think that Larry was involved?" asked Ted, curious, as when he'd spoken to him earlier, Larry seemed to think his participation was unknown.

"Simple... he had to be... you couldn't have done it without him," replied Benedetto.  "Besides, why take any chances?  Boys, relieve him of the case... take his hand off if you have to."

"I wouldn't do that," barked Ted, suddenly holding the case up.  "If this gets bumped, then it's liable to go off."  He opened his left hand to reveal a mobile 'phone - the screen was lit up.  "Or I could just press number three on this and save your boys the trouble of doing my job for me."

Angelo's two goons took a step back - he gave them a withering look - and then he pushed his plate away from him and sat back in his chair.

"You're bluffing," he said.  The mask of geniality was now gone from his face.

"Do you really think I'd walk in here, knowing that I might not walk back out again, without insurance?" he asked, and stared unflinchingly into Benedetto's eyes.

"What do you want?" asked Benedetto, and Ted saw beads of sweat beginning to form and glisten on his forehead.

The question threw Ted.  He didn't actually know what, if anything, he wanted from Benedetto;  a promise that he wouldn't try to kill him?  That was unlikely and, besides, Ted knew he could never trust such a promise - it would be worthless.  Angelo broke promises like he broke people - often and with pleasure.  Ted's original plan was to record the gangster admitting to ordering the bomb being planted that killed Ben, but as he now knew that hadn't actually been the case, he was merely improvising, hoping that Benedetto would say something that incriminated him in some other unlawful act - like having Larry killed for example.  Ted's mobile's built-in mic was on, recording the entire conversation, but perhaps a good shyster could have it discounted on the grounds that Angelo didn't know he was being recorded.  Was it worth taking the chance?

To hell with it, thought Ted.  Why waste time and put the city to the expense of a trial for this worthless piece of shit?  He opened his right hand in which he grasped the handle of the case to reveal a key - the key to the handcuffs - and taking it in his left hand, but still retaining a grip on his mobile, he unlocked the 'cuffs around his wrist.  Angelo and his men watched him, wondering what he was doing.  Then Ted threw the briefcase into the air and, as one man, the hoods and their boss dived to the floor in an attempt to escape the worst of the blast.

Except there was no blast because there wasn't any bomb - there never had been - that wasn't Ted's plan.  He stood up from the table and took out the gun he'd picked up in the alley, then shot one of the men through the neck and the other in the groin.  Then, as Benedetto looked up at him in horror, he fired all but one of the remaining bullets into his face, and watched the pool of blood at the back of his head spread out over the carpet.

He picked up his briefcase and walked over to the hood writhing on the floor clutching his crotch and groaning.  "The service was lousy... I hope you're not expecting a tip," he said, and shot him right between the eyes, ending his pain.

******

I promise - next chapter is definitely the last one.  Be there!

IMPORTANT NOTE...

Just a quick heads up to let you all know that I've made a few changes in the previous twelve chapters to tie them all together better, in preparation for the final chapter which may be posted later tonight.  If you've been following this story, it might be a good idea to go back and re-read them, just to bring yourself up to date.

CHAPTER TWELVE - HAVE I GOT A SHOCK FOR YOU! (UPDATED - AGAIN)...



Hey, this writing lark's pretty easy.  You just sit down in front of the keyboard and you find that you just can't stop yourself.  Honest Injun - basic plot aside, I'm just writing each chapter as I go along - no notes to refer to or any kind of prompt.  Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Incidentally, I'm making changes as required as I see them, so if something doesn't seem right, refresh your browser - chances are I've already fixed any mistakes you happen to notice.

****** 

Chapter Twelve:


As Ted jumped into his car, he pondered how his plan had gone awry;  he'd only assumed his brother's identity in order to prevent further attempts on his own life, so he was puzzled as to who was behind these continued attacks on him - and why.  The world thought him dead, so anyone with a grudge against him had no reason to target Ben - unless they'd not only wanted to kill Ted, but wipe out all those close to him too.  If so, Mary and Karen's lives were also in danger, but he found himself more concerned about Karen than Mary.  Perhaps that was only natural;  after all, Mary, like his brother, had betrayed him, whereas Karen had never done him any harm.  A bit of earache now and again maybe, but that was fair exchange for the 'perks' he was now enjoying, and he realised he had grown fond of Karen - perhaps even loved her.  However, he'd work out how he was going to resolve his personal life later, because right now he had a date with Angelo Benedetto.  One of them wouldn't enjoy the result of that encounter and Ted was determined that it wasn't going to be him.

******

Every day at one p.m. precisely, Angelo Benedetto sat down to enjoy his favourite meal at a secluded table in an up-market restaurant he owned called 'Hasta La Vista' - meaning, approximately, 'See You Later' - and which offered a wide range of culinary fare.  Originally, it had operated under the name of 'Bella Italiano' and specialised exclusively in Italian cuisine, but had changed, on Benedetto's instruction, when he was put away for two years as a result of his criminal activities being exposed by "On The Spot".

On the first day of Angelo's sentence, Ted had received through the mail a personal invitation to the newly-christened restaurant, and fanciful though it may have been, Ted wondered whether it was the gangster's way of letting him know that he'd be seeing him again.  If so, Ted viewed it as mere empty (though expensive) posturing on the part of someone trying to put a scare into him, and assumed that there was no solid threat behind it.  Maybe Benedetto just wanted to keep Ted looking over his shoulder, but he surely wouldn't risk further trouble by actually doing anything.  At least that's what Ted had thought, but it now appeared that he'd been wrong and Ben had died as a result.

As he pulled up several yards along from Benedetto's place, he mentally prepared himself for what he was about to do.  He slid the briefcase out from under his seat, and attached it to his wrist by means of a pair of handcuffs he'd found under Karen's side of the bed.  He got out of the car and had started to walk over to the restaurant, when he suddenly heard someone calling Ben's name in a way that was meant to be not much more than a whisper, but wasn't quite low enough to qualify.

"Ben... Ben... over here, Ben... over here!  It's Larry!"

A man, standing on the far side of a news-vendor's kiosk and concealed from view of the eaterie, was frantically beckoning him over.  He was impeccably and fashionably dressed, but didn't look like he belonged in such expensive clothing.  He certainly didn't sound as if he did either.  Ted had heard Ben mention a fellow accountant by the name of Larry - what was it again? - Larry Leach.  This must be him.  Discerning no obvious threat, Ted walked over to him.  "What's up, Larry?" he said, in a friendly way.

"What in hell are you doin' here, Ben?  Are you crazy?  What happened to the plan, man, what happened to the plan?  Have you abandoned it?  Why?  I saw on the news... he's dead, man, he's dead - why ain't you him?"

Ted had a bad feeling about what he was hearing, but he couldn't quite isolate the reason as to why.  "The plan?  Oh, yeah, the plan?  Just remind me again," he said.

"You're shittin' me man, you're shittin' me!  I even got the 'item' for you an' everythin'.  You said you was gonna off him and take his place to take the heat offa you, but here you are about to walk into Benny's place.  Are you crazy?  You doin' drugs, man?"

Things were falling into place, and it wasn't a good place to be in.  The meaning of Larry's words was beginning to penetrate.  Ted's senses reeled;  his mouth was as dry as an Egyptian mummy's anus, and he felt as if he was going to be sick - for the third time in three weeks.

Larry spoke again.  "Lissen, you can walk in there and get yoursel' kilt if you wanna, but I don't want no part of it.  If he learns I helped you steal from him, I'll be dead too - and that ain't no part of my plan, man."  He looked at the briefcase handcuffed to Ted's wrist.  "Is that his money, man, is that his money?  I've spent my share, man, I've spent my share... there ain't no point in you askin' for it back - it's gone, man, gone.  Just don't mention my name to him, I'm beggin' you, please.  No point in both of us gettin' kilt on account of you havin' a death wish, man."

By an iron effort of will, Ted concealed his bubbling emotions and simply said "Better get out of here then.  Things are about to go down - maybe even up - so better get your f cking tent off the grass and get yourself to f ck!"  Larry gaped at him for a second in grateful disbelief... and then scurried around a street corner and out of sight.

For the moment, Ted would let Larry think he was home-free in his involvement in Ben's death, but either he or the police could deal with him later.  Let him talk all he wants - the tale was too fantastic - nobody would believe him anyway.  By some ironic twist of fate, Ted was doing exactly what Ben had planned on doing himself.  The only difference being that it had never been Ted's intention to murder his brother.

He went back to his car to sit and think for a few minutes and iron out everything in his head.  The 'item' that Larry had referred to was obviously a bomb.  On that fateful night, Ben must have driven Ted's car up to the front of the garage and planted the bomb under the hood, probably wiring it to his ignition.  Something must've gone wrong though - Ben had never been much good with any kind of gizmo - couldn't even programme the Tivo - and blown himself to Kingdom Come.  Perhaps he'd accidentally turned the ignition key slightly when he was removing it and it had set off the device.  He'd never know the exact details, but it would've been pretty much like that.  Ben had stolen his wife and had planned to steal his life... literally.

"I'm glad the bastard's dead!" he thought.

Ted considered things in the light of this new information.  Was there any point in confronting Benedetto now?  After all, it wasn't him who'd tried to murder him - Ben had beat him to it.  But that's what he couldn't understand.  Ted was also a potential target of Benedetto - Ben was merely swapping places between one target and another - the most that would do is buy him some time, and not much at that.  It would've been an inspired idea had Angelo not had both of them in his sights, but the actual circumstances rendered it pointless. "Stupid bastard!" snapped Ted.  Ben had always been too impetuous and never thought things through.  Or was there another aspect to it which he was unaware of that would've ensured Ben's safety as 'Ted'?  His head throbbed... it was all too much to take in... or to work out.

Ted stared off into the distance for a while, lost in thought.   "Hell," he said, "I've come too far to turn back now."  He took a deep breath, opened the car door, and stepped onto the sidewalk.  Ted had made up his mind.  It was now time to turn his attention to Mr. Benedetto.  Ted hoped he was enjoying his meal... it would increase his pleasure in spoiling it.

******

Betcha didn't see that coming, did ya?  See you in chapter thirteen.  Unlucky for whom?             

Saturday, 15 September 2018

CHAPTER ELEVEN - OR TIME FOR ELEVENSES, AS POSH PEOPLE SAY...



Okay, frantic ones, I know you're dying to find out what happens next, so let's not waste a second.  I now declare this chapter open.

******

Chapter Eleven:


The cop car dropped Ted and Mary back at the house.  They'd ridden in silence, knowing that any conversation between them would likely be listened to carefully by the driver.  For all they knew there might even be a mic to record anything they said - so they said nothing.  Once deposited, Ted bid her a hasty goodbye, leaped into his car and made his way over to the studio to collect his briefcase from Gloria.  He was going to need it for the plan he had in mind.

As he drove, he thought back to earlier that morning when he and Karen had made love.  Recently, he'd noticed a difference in Karen, in that she was more like the woman that he, Ted, had known and not so much like the one that Ben was married to.  The hardness was most likely a facade to cope with Ben's fickle and often immature nature and to attract his attention when he neglected her.  Had Mary been the only 'other woman', he wondered, or did Ben have several lovers dotted around the city?  He was unsure about his feelings for his dead brother;  on the one hand, familial duty dictated that Ted continue in his mission to seek out his brother's killer - or killers - and punish them severely as best he was able.  Either with the full rigour of the law or instant justice - he didn't much care which.  However, on the other hand, he felt dead inside when he thought of Ben, and the regard and esteem in which he had formerly held him had dissipated like a phantom in the fog.  Much like his love for Mary.  Funny how the people closest to you so often cause the greatest pain.

Gloria was waiting at the door of the studio with the briefcase, and waved to him when she saw him drive up.  "Here you go," she said, "mind telling me what you're going to do with it?"

Ted winked at her.  "It's probably better if you don't know," he said, "that way you can't talk me out of it."

"I thought it might be something like that," she said, and sighed.  "There's something in the case that you might need... if you use it, lose it... I'd rather not see it again."  She looked as if she was about to cry.  "Good luck," she said, and ran back into the building.  His curiosity aroused, he opened the case and looked inside.  Tucked under one of the flaps for holding papers was the edge of something metallic... and Ted immediately knew what it was.

"Now where did she get that?" he wondered.

******

Ted needed a drink.  It was unlike him, but for what he had planned, he needed to steady his nerves.  He stopped outside a bar that he and Ben had sometimes used on their infrequent nights out, slid the case under his seat and got out of the car.  Inside the bar, he looked around and realised that, somehow, in the daytime it looked more faded and dusty and dingy than it had on his and Ben's night time visits;  then, it had seemed warm and inviting... exciting even... but the truth of it was that it was a bit of a dive.  It didn't matter - he wouldn't be visiting the place again.

"Scotch," he said to the bartender.  He paid for his drink and tipped the glass to his lips, swallowing its contents in one go.  "Right," he thought, "better get on with it... before I change my mind."

Suddenly, he felt something pressed into the small of his back.

"Don't turn around if you know what's good for you," a voice said.  He didn't have to - he could see in the mirror on the other side of the bar that it was the driver from the diner who had rear-ended Karen's car.  He must've been tailing Ted, but he'd been so engrossed in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed.  "There's a fire-exit at the end of the corridor to the rest rooms... make your way over to it... and remember I'm right behind you."  Ted put down his glass and made his way in the direction of the dimly-lit corridor, his heart and mind racing furiously.  How the hell was he going to get out of this?

******

Karen wondered what had come over Ben in the last few weeks.  These days he seemed more like his brother - softer, quieter-spoken, easier to get on with - just an all-round nicer person.  At least, he was when she wasn't giving him a hard time over something, and taking out her frustrations on him by trying to needle him into an argument.  She'd being doing it more out of habit in recent times - it had become a routine in the early days of their marriage, a ritual almost, to get his attention.

Nowadays it was different.  Although the old Ben resurfaced at these moments, there was still a difference - as if his heart wasn't in being the brash, loud, 'hey look at me' guy that she'd wed.  At first that was what had attracted her to Ben, but it soon wore thin, and Karen realised, in hindsight, that the very qualities that seem so fascinating and alluring at the start of a relationship, are often the very ones that become irksome and irritating further along the line.

She used to find it amusing when he pretended to be his brother if anybody asked, but he sometimes took it too far and behaved like a dick - there must've been dozens of people who were disappointed after meeting 'the guy off the TV'.  Eventually, Ted got wind of this and put a stop to it, but the damage had already been done, slight though it perhaps was.  Ben's gregarious and extrovert personality was charming at first, but it soon became tedious when he'd strike up conversations with any nearby strangers when they were in a restaurant or a club.  He seemed interested in everyone but her and it was infuriating.  She wanted him to have eyes only for her, and to delight in her conversation and winsome ways, but it was almost as if he was bored with her - or worse, didn't even notice she was there.  These days, he was more attentive, and even a better lover, taking care to satisfy her and not just himself.  Ben's previous attitude during lovemaking had seemed to be "There's an orgasm here for one of us - race you to it," but that was no longer the case.  He just didn't seem like the man she'd married, but the literal truth of that was, for the moment at least, lost on her.

******

Ted stood before the fire-exit doors.  "Open them and go out into the alley," the gunman commanded.  He obeyed, but his mind was still racing, deliberating his next move.  Then he made it.  On hearing the doors swing shut behind them, he suddenly turned his body sideways and threw his full weight against the thug.  In turning, the gun was no longer in his back, but he had to move fast before his assailant could regain his armed advantage.  Grabbing the guy's wrist, he slammed it off the wall, causing him to drop the weapon, and Ted launched himself into a frenzied attack with a flurry of punches on the man's face, then stepped back to see the result.  He'd expected the hood to be stunned, but he seemed unaffected, just like in dreams Ted once had in which his opponent just shrugged off his blows and continued advancing, all the while smiling smugly - like Harold Sakata fighting Sean Connery in Goldfinger.

Springing right back at Ted with a steely glint in his eyes, the attacker's intent was clear - if he hadn't had murder in mind to start with, her certainly did now.  Ted felt a sense of panic, but he realised he had to keep his head about him.  He'd never been a fighter, but he knew his life depended on what he did next, and he had to do it in a clinical, controlled way, not just strike out wildly and hope for the best.  He butted his forehead into the guy's nose, then followed through with a punch to his throat, causing him to drop to his knees with a gurgle.  Then he jabbed him in his left eye with two fingers, and grabbing him by his tuft of hair, battered his head off the wall as hard as he could... again, again, and again.  Then he let go and the man's upper body fell forward and hit the ground, writhing spasmodically as he groaned in shock and pain.  Now that the hood was no longer a threat, Ted simply abandoned self-control and promptly laid into his head like a football, kicking it repeatedly against the wall, alternately stamping on it just for the hell of it.  He never knew before just how exhilarating it could be to inflict serious damage on another human being, but he didn't care... he was enjoying this.  The bastard deserved it anyway.

Ted kept kicking and stamping until the groans subsided and the man lay still.  Ted turned him over and extracted a wallet, looking for his driving license;  if he knew who his attacker was it might give him a clue as to why he was still being targeted.  The name on the license meant nothing to him... Lou Springer... just another nobody, though it was a name probably familiar to the police.  Then he picked up the gun, slipped it into his pocket, and made his way out of the alley before the guy came to.  Ted wasn't entirely sure that he ever would, but the thought didn't bother him.

******

Things are drawing to a close now, I reckon.  Another chapter or three should wrap things up nicely.  See you in the next one.          

Friday, 14 September 2018

COVER ME - I'M FADING FAST...


Images copyright relevant owner

So there I was, sometime back in 1981 or '82, sitting in my local cinema (now gone 30 years) watching DRAGONSLAYER.  The movie was okay, nothing brilliant, but a pleasant enough way to while away an hour and a half or so.  I'd bought the MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL MAGAZINE (#20), though I no longer recall with certainty whether I got it before or after seeing the movie, but I think it was before.  At some (again forgotten) stage, I got the two issue regular comicbook size versions of the mag, which I still have after all this time.

As for the magazine, at some point in the '80s I inadvertently inflicted some damage on it, so I removed the front cover and used it as a pin-up on my bedroom wall.  I have an idea it was while I was still living in my present abode, before my family moved to another house for just over four years, though possibly it happened in our new residence.  Then again, it may not have been pressed into service as a poster until we returned to our previous (and my present) home in 1987.  It's hard to remember after all this time, and I must confess that my fading memory sometimes gives me cause for concern.  At one time I could recall such trivial details with startling clarity, but no longer, alas.  Not with everything anyway.

As regular readers will perhaps remember, I've been replacing old, faded, rippled and mottled posters and pin-ups that have adorned my bedroom walls for up to 43 years in some cases, with new, freshly printed replicas.  With some, I've scanned the original images and then restored them by means of digital technology, but that can be extremely time-consuming and the results can be variable.  With others, I've scanned duplicate editions that were purchased at the same time as the issues I mutilated for use of their covers, and in some instances I've just recently tracked down replacements to scan and print.

Such an example is the issue that sits at the top of this post.  A few days ago, I noticed that the Dragonslayer cover on my wall was looking a bit faded, so I removed it, scanned it, tweaked it, and then printed out a fresher copy.  However, after affixing it to the wall, I decided to buy a replacement copy of the 1981 magazine to add back to my collection.  I got it from QUICKSILVER COMICS and they lived up to their name.  I ordered it on Wednesday and it arrived today, so well done them.  However, I was surprised at just how colourful and vibrant the cover was, compared to my original cover and even its home-produced enhanced facsimile.

I knew the cover that had been on the wall was faded, but I hadn't realised just how badly until I laid eyes on the mag that arrived today.  Take a look for yourself.  That's the replacement above, the original I bought back in '81 is below.  Well, there was only one thing for it - I immediately scanned the cover of the new mag and printed out a copy to replace the one I put on the wall only two days ago.  What a difference it makes.  Incidentally, the contents of the mag were illustrated by the recently departed MARIE SEVERIN, so it's good to have it for that fact alone. 

The cover (and my memories) may fade, but the lustre of the legend that is Marie Severin never will.


And in case you were wondering, below is the 'enhanced' copy I made from my original.  As you can see, it's still a poor copy in comparison to the almost pristine one which opens the post.

CHAPTER TEN - THINGS ARE HEATING UP NOW, SO DON'T DARE MISS THE LATEST STARTLING DEVELOPMENTS (UPDATED)...



I was planning on taking a break from this story for a few days to recharge my batteries, but I find that the ideas are buzzing around my head, demanding to be let out.  So here's the latest chapter in the life of Ted Stevens - hope you like it.

Update:  In my haste, I mixed up Ben and Ted and Mondays and Fridays in a couple of places, but I've fixed things now.

******

Chapter Ten:


Ted glanced at his watch as he shut his laptop - it was three in the morning.  He'd grab a quick sleep and start on his plan when he woke up, hopefully refreshed.  He awoke at eight, made love to Karen (at her insistence), and after a quick shower and a light breakfast, 'phoned Gloria at the studio.

"Good morning... it's Ben... Ben Stevens," he said when she picked up.  "You said to call you if I needed any help.  I'm going to need a loan of that briefcase."

******

He'd only just replaced the receiver when the 'phone rang.  He picked up immediately so that it wouldn't wake Karen from her post-coital doze, and was surprised to hear Mary's voice.

"Get over here quick," she said urgently, "I've just had a call from that cop, Jaconelli.  He wants me at the station to answer a few 'routine' questions.  He's sending a car over to pick me up in an hour, and said he'd be wanting to talk to you later as well.  I said you'd come in with me.  Get your ass over here now!"

******

Ted and Mary sat in Captain Jaconelli's office and watched him as he shuffled some papers around and pretended to scrutinise them.  "You'll have my full attention momentarily," he said.  His psychology was obvious... he wanted to make them sweat for some reason, but Ted was in the dark as to why.  Had he finally decided they were involved in Ben's murder in some way, and if so, what had tilted his mind in that direction?  Finally, Jaconelli looked up at them and studied them for several seconds.  Then he said "When did you two hook up together... was it before or after Ted's death?"

"How dare you!" retorted Mary.  "Ben's my brother-in-law - there's never been any impropriety between us.  What the hell do you mean by asking us that?"

Joe looked at Ted.  "And what's your response to my question, Mr. Stevens?" he asked.

"It's just as Mary says.  We're in-laws, that's all," replied Ted, uneasy at where this might be going.  Had he had someone watching the house?  Was he going to produce photographs of him and Mary doing the two-backed monster crawl?  "C'mon, you son of a bitch," he thought, "show us your hand."

"Have you ever been to the Blue Oyster Motel just outside of town on the way to the airport?" Asked Jaconelli, his eyes narrowing.  Mary shifted in her chair uneasily, and Ted could see that this made the cop smile.  "I see you've at least heard of it," he said.

"Sure I've heard of it," admitted Mary, and she suddenly sounded more assured in her response.  "In fact, I've been there every week for the last nine years.  But what business is that of yours?  And what's this got to do with Ted's murder?  Why aren't you out finding the scum that killed him, instead of asking us stupid questions?"

Jaconelli looked perturbed.  This wasn't the answer he'd been expecting, but he tried to regain control of proceedings by asking another question.  "Who with?" he enquired sharply.

"I think you'll find that should be 'with whom'," said Mary, icily.  "With my late husband of course," she continued, "who the hell else would it be?"

Ted was lost... he didn't have a clue what was going on, but he knew he'd never been to this Blue Oyster Motel.  Again Joe looked at him.  "Have you ever been there, Mr Stevens?" he asked.

"Never," said Ted, truthfully.

"Then can you tell me why the motel's back catalogue of sign-in registers show that you and Mrs. Stevens booked into room 7 every Friday night for nine years, right up to three weeks ago, the week before your brother was murdered?"    

The penny finally dropped for Ted and he suddenly felt dizzy.  So that was it... she'd been screwing Ben for the whole nine years of their marriage and he'd never suspected a thing.  Mary usually went to her mother's twice a week... Mondays and Fridays.  He'd 'phoned her mother's house on several Monday nights over the years to ask Mary about something-or-other and she was always there.  She must have been screwing Ben on the Fridays.  He never rang on the Friday because that was when he and his team got together to discuss progress on whatever big expose they were currently working on.  He wondered if her mother knew and would've covered for her if he had rung... not that it mattered much now.  This all went through his mind in a flash, as he struggled to think of an answer to Jaconelli's question.

He didn't get the chance.

"Are you married, Captain?"  Mary was asking.  Now it was Joe's turn to look discomfited.

"Er, I'm divorced," he said.  "The wife walked out on me."  He immediately wished he hadn't said that.

"Then you know how easy it is for a marriage to go stale.  You have to keep the romance going, not become complacent.  Ted and me had a 'date' night every Friday, when we'd book into the Blue Oyster and f ck each other's brains out - 'scuse my French," she said.  "It was our way of keeping the magic alive."

"If you want magic, why not take up conjuring?" snorted Jaconelli, who wasn't about to give up so easily.  "So can you tell me why Ted signed in under Ben's name and not his own?"  How would she get out of that, he wondered.

"Jeez, how'd you ever make captain?  Ted was a celebrity, but I'm not - nobody knows me from Eve.  It would've looked like he was screwing some floozy, not his wife.  Who'd ever believe he'd be signing into a motel with his wife for a few hours?  And even if they did, people would've thought it was weird... it wouldn't have done his wholesome image any good, so he used Ben's name, not his own.   Use what brains you've got, Captain."

Despite himself Ted was impressed.  Had she worked this all out in advance just in case, or was she flying by the seat of her magnificently shaped ass?  Either way, she was doing well.  He felt an odd mixture of disgust and admiration for her at the same time.

"I could always get a handwriting expert to compare their signatures," countered Jaconelli.  "As you say, your husband was a celebrity... there's bound to be plenty of autographs around I could look at, not to mention his signature on insurance policies and the like."

"Exactly... which is why Ted had Ben's signature down pat.  He couldn't take a chance that someone at the motel would do the same thing, and see that it was Ted Steven's handwriting in the register.  Don't you get it?  It would've been all over the tabloids that Ted and me enjoyed nights of kinky sex in a motel.  Shit, there's nothing wrong with a man screwing his own wife, but you know what the papers are like - they'd have made it seem dirty.  This way, if anyone at the motel asked if he was Ted Stevens, he could say no, he was his twin.  There wouldn't have been any mileage in that story."

"Maybe not, but there would've been mileage in Ted Stevens' wife screwing his brother though," said Jaconelli.

"Like I said, no one even knows who I am, so it's unlikely that scenario would ever occur to anyone.  And even if it did, I wasn't - I was screwing Ted, remember?  He couldn't use any other surname - his face was too well known for that, and it would've attracted even more attention.  It was less risky to stick with Stevens, but as Ben, not Ted.  After all, it would've been easy for someone to check whether he had a twin or not, and once they learned he did, it would've allayed any suspicions they might have."

It sounded entirely plausible in an odd kind of way, but even if it was a crock of shit, he knew that he had no way of disproving her story - not with Ted being 'unavailable' for questioning.  He sat quietly for a moment, considering his options.

"Okay," he said, "you can go.  We have to ask these sort of questions you know.  It's just routine - nothing personal.  One of my men will run you home."

He watched them leave his office, and realised that he didn't have the slightest clue where this case was going after all.  "Bronski, get in here," he commanded into his desk intercom.  He'd feel better once he'd yelled out Bronski for making him look like a fool.  He knew that it wasn't Bronski's fault, but what the hell, it was therapeutic and he needed to let off some steam.

******

Okay, Criv-ites, that's the latest instalment over, see you in the next one.  Er, I will see you in the next one, won't I?

Thursday, 13 September 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - CLAUDIA CARDINALE (AGAIN)...



So there was I, waiting for CLAUDIA to get up and make me
my breakfast, and all she wanted was a "roll in the sheets" she said.
"That's all I want too," I answered, "but make mine with bacon on
it."  Huh!  Modern women, eh?  They just don't know how to keep
a man happy.  I'm considering trading her in for a new model.

CHAPTER NINE - HELLO... IS ANYBODY THERE?



And now what everyone's been waiting for.  (If your name's Fred Everyone that is.)  Chapter nine of my future best-selling novel awaits you.  (Hey, a man's gotta have dreams!)

******


Chapter Nine:


"Ooh... I guess I fainted, huh?" said Gloria, as she came round to find Ted kneeling at her side and holding her hand.  His rolled up jacket cushioned the back of her head, easing her discomfort somewhat.

She was 27, pretty, and carried a torch for Ted, but respected the fact that he was married.  She might've been prepared to become involved with him had he ever shown an interest, but she knew that he only had eyes for his wife.  Gloria had eyes for Ted's wife too, but in the main, she preferred men.  They were the main course, women were dessert - and she didn't always feel like dessert if the main course was fulfilling.

"I guess the shock of seeing me in Ted's office was too much for you," said Ted.  "I'm Ben... Ted's brother... his twin obviously."

"Yeah, I remember seeing you at the funeral, and you've been by to visit Ted a few times in the past.  You're right... seeing you here... I automatically thought you were Ted... who else would I expect to see in his office but him?" she said.

"I guess context is everything," said Ted.  "If you'd seen me out in the street, you'd have known I was Ted's twin, not his ghost."

"Talking of spirits, I need a drink.  There's a bottle of Scotch and a couple of glasses in the bottom drawer of that file cabinet," said Gloria.  "Pour me one, willya?"

Ted complied, and also poured one for himself.  The fact that the bottle had been purchased two months back and was still mostly full testified to the fact that Ted wasn't much of a drinker.  He only imbibed with a single glass when he was celebrating something - like the renewal of his TV show.  Gloria took a sip and sighed.  "Ah, that's better.  What are you doing here anyway... Ben, was it?"  He nodded as she continued.  "Everybody's busy on set at the moment, auditioning for Ted's permanent replacement.  Hey, you should apply for the job.  If you're half the natural that Ted was, you'll be a shoe-in."

"I'm just collecting a few things for Mary," said Ted, repeating the lie.  Then, on an impulse, he decided to take a gamble.  He knew that Gloria was loyal to Ted, but would that loyalty extend to Ben too?  Now was the time to find out.

"I've also borrowed a few files to help me try and find Ted's killers.  I'll copy them and get them back to you," he said, watching her keenly to see if her expression would match her reply.

"There's no need.  I copied everything onto some USBs.  They're in my purse in the next office.  Help me to my feet and I'll get them for you."  Ted did as he was bid, and Gloria steadied herself for a moment, finding her balance.  "I must have banged my head - I've got a splitting headache.  C'mon, follow me."  She led Ted into her office and extracted several USB sticks linked together on a keyring from her purse.  "Here," she said, "best of luck in your quest... if you need any help, let me know.  Better put these files back before you go though.  If the head honchos find them missing, I could lose my job."

"I'll leave the case," said Ted, "I don't need it... only bought it today for coming here."

"Keep in touch," said Gloria, smiling.  "Remember what I said... if you need any help..."

"I'll bear it in mind," he said, and smiled back.  Then he was gone before Gloria could say anything else.

******

Outside, Ted breathed in the autumn evening air and felt a sense of relief.  Now, at last, he felt like he'd made a positive start in his mission after an interminable two weeks of inactivity.  He'd review his files and see if he could determine the most obvious suspects who'd want him dead and who'd be prepared to do something about it.

Suddenly, shards of concrete exploded from the wall at the side of his head, just as he heard the faint sound of the silenced shot that was responsible.  Someone was shooting at him!  Ducking back into the doorway, he crouched, then carefully and quickly took a look out into the street.  No one.  Wait a minute though, there had been something, something that had made a subliminal impression... something that wasn't quite right in the street scene he'd just looked at.  Taking another quick look he saw what it was.

Further along on the other side of the road was a side street, and just inside the opening he could see a man's reflection in the shop window which ran parallel to the wall that concealed him.  He must remember not to make that mistake himself, he mused, if he was ever in the position of hiding around a corner from someone.  Ted thought quickly.  There was a multiplex movie theatre a few storefronts along which would be an ideal place to lose himself and shake his attacker.  He was in luck, as just at that moment a truck appeared, and he stepped out onto the street as it drew level, knowing that it would conceal him from the shooter's view.  Reaching the entrance of the cinema, he went in and asked for a ticket to whatever was about to start.  "They've all started," said the ticket seller, "but screen eight has only been running for five minutes."

Ted didn't even ask what was showing.  "Screen eight it is then," he said, and paying for his ticket, he made his way into the darkened auditorium where, hopefully, he could lose himself amidst the packed audience.

******

As he took a seat in the middle section of the auditorium, he suppressed a groan of dismay at what met his eyes on the screen.  It was the latest blockbuster superhero extravaganza and Ted just couldn't stand superhero movies.  "Kids-stuff," he muttered, and almost thought he'd be better taking his chances out on the street.  Guys flying about in their underpants and shooting lasers from their eyes just wasn't his thing - it was adolescent wish-fulfillment shit in his opinion.  He much preferred stories more grounded in reality, like war movies and westerns.

Mind you, he considered, maybe there wasn't such a gulf between fantasy and so-called reality as he thought.  After all, in most war movies America seemingly won World War II single-handed, while the Allies were relegated to a minor supporting role.  Audie Murphy was apparently America's secret weapon, being the most decorated US soldier in the conflict, off-screen as well as on.  The main role of the Brits was to sit around drinking tea, mop their brows and salute one another, all the while saying "Jolly good show, old chap!" and "Stiff upper lip, pip-pip!"

As for westerns, Randolph Scott and Alan Ladd wore tailored shirts with padded shoulders, and sported short back and sides haircuts.  Okay, so perhaps they weren't that realistic after all, but at least people didn't wear capes and fly through walls.  Well, except when John Wayne punched them through one, but no capes were involved.

He realised he was in danger of losing this argument with himself if he sat there much longer, so he decided to leave.  He'd been off the street for around twenty minutes so it should be safe to venture outside now he concluded, getting up and heading for the exit.  As he pushed through the doors, he wished he could call upon the services of a superhero at that moment, but he knew that there were some things that ordinary, non-superpowered beings had to do for themselves.

****** 

Ted had been going through his files for five hours now and his head was throbbing and his eyes bleary, but he had a result.  On the screen of his laptop was the face of Angelo Benedetto, an Italian 'businessman' with serious mob connections.  He'd been behind a large percentage of crime in the city, from prostitution to drug dealing, and the illegal supply of guns and ammunition to half the criminal population from New York to New Orleans.  As well as his  felonious activities he also ran several legit enterprises, behind which he could pose as a respectable entrepreneur, and through which he no doubt laundered money from his more shady operations.

Ted had exposed him on "On The Spot" three years earlier, which had led to Benedetto doing a two year stretch in sing-sing and his operations being seriously compromised.  He should've served at least twenty years, but he had the best lawyers available, who managed to persuade the jury that Angelo had been deceived by dishonest employees, who'd abused his trust and involved themselves in unlawful 'transactions' without Benedetto's knowledge or sanction.

However, the buck stops with the boss, and he was found guilty on some more minor charges, but the court was lenient with him.  Ted had intended to investigate the judge who tried the case, because he seemed to bend over backwards in Benedetto's favour when directing the jury on certain points of law, but other matters had prevented him from ever getting around to it.  One day perhaps, but not today.

Today was for bigger fish, and that fish's name was Angelo.

******

Okay, peeps, that's chapter nine over with, hope you're looking forward to chapter ten.  I know I am!  (I'd better start thinking about what it's going to contain.)

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

BABE OF THE DAY - CLAUDIA CARDINALE...



When you're blessed with such manly-man
machismo like I am, there are few places you can
go without being met by hot women in their underwear
looking to catch your attention.  What's that?  It never
happens to you?  Must be a right ugly b*st*rd then,
mustn't you?!  So here's a piccie of CLAUDIA
CARDINALE to cheer you up.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

CHAPTER EIGHT - HOW'S IT GRABBING YOU SO FAR, PEEPS?



Okay, Criv-ites, here's chapter eight in this unfolding (and seemingly never-ending) saga.  Let's not hang around - get straight into it.

******

Chapter Eight:


"Look Karen, I'm sorry about the car.  I needed to clear my head so took a drive last night.  Some clown rear-ended me and took off before I could get a good look at his license plate.  If the insurance doesn't cover it, I will, so relax, huh?  Worse things happen at sea."  He'd imagined that this was the sort of quip that Ben would've come out with, but going by Karen's perplexed expression, he'd misfired.

"What the hell are you talking about?" said Karen, "what's the sea got to do with it?"

"Nothing, never mind," he retorted wearily.  "My car's still parked outside Ted's house, though it took a few lumps in the explosion.  You can drive me over later to collect it - I should've done it long before now anyway."

Actually, he wondered why he hadn't - probably because he didn't regard it as his car, which is why he'd taken a cab over to Karen's on the day Ben had been killed.  That could be attributed to not feeling up to driving because of shock, but it was careless of him not to have recovered it before now and he cursed himself inwardly for his stupidity.

"Pull yourself together, Ben," said Karen, "you haven't been yourself since Ted's death, and it's time you stopped feeling sorry for yourself.  It's Ted who died, not you."

If she only knew the truth, Ted thought, she'd have an apoplectic fit.  This was all getting on top of him.  If it wasn't Karen having a go at him for something, it was Mary, and he wondered how much longer he could put up with it.  He felt like giving Mary a serious slap for her betrayal, but he'd never hit a woman before and didn't really want to start now.  Nevertheless, he couldn't help feeling that she deserved it.

The previous night at her house (he'd begun to stop thinking of it as his) she was over him like a rash the moment he arrived, but he'd performed mechanically and without much enthusiasm, though he'd tried hard to conceal it.  The truth was that, despite her beauty, he'd come to despise her and no longer found her sexually attractive.  In fact, he almost felt repelled by her, so it was tough going maintaining his 'passion'.  She'd noticed and commented on it.

"What's up with you these days?" she'd asked, "your heart doesn't seem to be in it any more.  You're not as good as you were - you're more like Ted used to be - worse in fact."

This stung Ted, and he reacted angrily.  "F ck, Mary," he exploded, "my brother's lying in his f cking grave and all you care about is getting laid!  They're not even close to catching his killers, and if we're seen together we could end up in the frame for it.  So excuse me, but I've got more on my f cking mind than giving you a poke.  Now grow the f ck up and stop being so f cking selfish."

She laughed.  "Don't talk shit, buster.  It's only natural that my brother-in-law would be concerned for me and visit to see how I am.  No one would raise an eyebrow at you coming over here - except for that bitch of a wife of yours.  What the hell you ever saw in her I'll never know.  And remember, he was your brother, but he was my husband, so you're the one who's being selfish.  Okay, I never loved him, but I was a good wife - even if I did only marry him for his money and fame.  What he didn't know couldn't hurt him, and he'll never know now so stop being such a pussy, worrying over nothing.  We didn't kill him and the cops aren't entirely stupid - they'll know it wasn't us."

Her words cut him to pieces, but he hid the anguish - and anger - in his heart while wondering how someone he didn't love anymore could still cause him so much pain.  He didn't have the strength to argue further though, so he simply sighed and said "I'd better get back before I'm missed.  There's going to be hell to pay when she sees her car, so I'll have to come up with a plausible explanation as to why I was out in it."  He hadn't told Mary that the damage had been deliberately inflicted, implying that it had merely been the result of a careless driver.

"What's to explain?" Mary said.  "You couldn't sleep so went out for a drive and some speeder rear-ended you - you can't be blamed for that.  Relax."

"Yeah, like you'd be relaxed it if it were your car," Ted said sarcastically, but his concern was allayed somewhat - there was some sense to what she said.  He'd give it a try anyway.  As long as he didn't act guilty or seem too concerned, Karen would have no reason to be suspicious.  Or would she?  Ted had no way of knowing whether Karen had ever suspected Ben and Mary's affair, but he'd play it as if she didn't.

"Right, I'd better go," he said.  So he went.

******

On the day of the explosion, before Ted had left to go to Karen's, he'd had the foresight to lift Ben's jacket from the couch where he'd laid it on the last day of his life.  This meant that Ted had Ben's wallet containing his driving license and bank cards, as well as the keys to his house and car - all essential items in maintaining his brother's identity.  What's more, he knew that Ben had a lousy memory for numbers (ironic considering he was an accountant) and kept, against all sensible advice, his pin numbers on the back of one of his business cards tucked into a separate sleeve of the wallet, so he had no problem accessing Ben's funds.

This made things easier for him, as there'd have been questions asked if Ben had suddenly stopped accessing his bank account and Ted had continued using his.  Ted was surprised at just how huge a bank balance Ben had;  he knew that accountants made a good living, but he was still surprised at the extent of Ben's savings.  He'd never known a poor accountant, but clearly there was more money in his brother's career than Ted had realised.  Ben was a wealthy man.  He'd live on his brother's funds until he'd identified the killers, but to do that, Ted needed access to his studio offices where he kept all his files.  When he'd reviewed them, he might have a better idea of just where to start on the unenviable and dangerous journey that lay ahead of him.

******

Several hours later, after Karen had driven him over to pick up 'his' car, he nervously entered the reception area of the high-rise building of the TV studio where he'd worked.

"Hi, I'm Ben Stevens... Ted's twin... I need to collect some things from his office... Mary, his wife, would like to have them, and you probably need the space for Ted's replacement."

Luckily, the bored security guard didn't seem to have a problem with this and waved him past the desk.  Ted took the elevator to his office on the fifth floor and entered it quickly.  Thank goodness there was no one around to impede him with enquiries as to how he was coping, or cliched platitudes like "He's in a better place now."  Also, despite the guard's indifference, someone higher up might object to him leaving with anything they deemed as not belonging to him if they knew of his presence.  Ted carried a large briefcase, which he laid on his desk and began to fill with data discs and cardboard folders from a cabinet in the corner.

He was busily engaged with this when a side door opened and Gloria, his assistant, walked in.  She took one look at him, gasped - then fell to the floor unconscious.

******

Across town, in Joe Jaconelli's office, Bronski entered with a self-satisfied grin on his face.  "Guess what, Captain - I did a little digging on the twin and discovered that he's a bit of a ladies man.  Dug a little further and found that every week for the past nine years he's booked into an out of town motel with the same broad.  And guess what?  She matches the description of Mary Stevens to a 't'.  Now what do you think of that?"

"I think that this case is getting even more interesting," said Joe.  "C'mon - I'll buy you a beer and you can fill me in on the details!"

******

How am I doing so far, Criv-ites?  Are you enjoying how things are developing, or is your interest flagging?  Let's have some feedback in the comments section.

BABE OF THE DAY - LYNDA CARTER...



The leggy LYNDA CARTER shows why
she's such a wonder woman.  Well, why not?  If
you've got it, flaunt it!  (I've been fined three
times for 'flaunting' it in the last month.)

CHAPTER SEVEN - WHAT? NOT GIVEN UP ON THIS STORY YET? MASOCHISTS!



Okay, peeps, here we are with chapter seven.  Remember that although I have the overall plot established, each chapter is 'off the cuff' and still to undergo final revisions once they're all written.  Also, I'll be fine-tuning each post as I go along, which means that you might detect some differences if you take another look somewhere down the line.  Anyway, things are starting to hot up now - as you'll see when you paste your peepers 'pon the following palpitating paragraphs.  Don't let me hold you back.

******

Chapter Seven:


As Ted released the handbrake and freewheeled Karen's car silently out of her driveway, he thought over the events of the past two weeks.  Jaconelli had interviewed them both separately the day after the murder, which suggested that he and Mary weren't under any serious suspicion.  If they had been, the cops would never have left them alone together the previous day to get their story straight, although perhaps he was over-thinking things.

After all, if they'd both been behind Ben's death, they'd have made sure their stories matched before killing him, not after.  The hit had obviously been carefully planned and wasn't a spontaneous act, so their 'alibis' would've been already worked out well in advance.  However, what if Jaconelli suspected only one of them?  There'd be no point separating them if he thought that only one of the pair were the guilty party, but which one?  Ted knew he wasn't guilty, which left Mary as the sole choice in that scenario, but there was no guarantee that the cops would see it that way.  And if it became known that 'Ben' and Mary 'had a thing going', then they'd both be hot picks as perpetrators faster than a fart from The Flash.  What irony!  They could both wind up getting the needle simply as a side-effect of screwing their own spouse.  He'd try again to impress the risk they were taking upon Mary and see if he could use it as leverage to make her back off, but he wasn't hopeful.  She was a strong-willed woman, which was part of what had attracted him to her to begin with.

"Shit, what a f cking mess!" he muttered.

Once out of the driveway, he started the car and headed in the direction of his and Mary's house.  Lost in thought, he'd been driving for ten minutes when he suddenly became aware of a car in his rear-view mirror.  Was it following him?  It was hanging back at a respectful distance, seemingly trying to remain unobtrusive, but he knew his nerves were on edge and that perhaps he was just being overly suspicious.  Only one way to find out he thought.  Ted knew that there was an all-night roadside diner that catered to cab-drivers and delivery men about ten minutes along the road - he'd stop there for a cup of java and see if the car followed him in or drove on.  One way or another he'd know if he was imagining things or whether his ruse had been rumbled.

******

"Coffee," said Ted to the hovering waitress as he took his seat in the diner.  He'd only taken his first sip when the driver of the other car walked in, giving him a quick glance as he made his way to the rest room.  Ted just knew it was him from something about the guy's manner - he was trying too hard to appear inconspicuous.

"Smart - playing it cool by going to the john as if he had no interest in me," Ted mused.

The guy didn't seem like a cop, but one could never be sure these days.  He was of medium height, balding, with a mustache like a drooping slug, and wore a tan leather jacket, jeans, and a pair of snake-skin boots - all this Ted had noticed as the guy passed.  Ted didn't wait;  leaving a five dollar bill on the table, he was straight out the door and heading for his car within seconds of the restroom door swinging shut.

"That'll teach him not to take his eye off the ball," chuckled Ted as he steered his car back out onto the road.

He'd only been driving for a few minutes when he saw headlights in the mirror, rapidly advancing on him.  Was it the same car?  It was going at a hell of a speed - if it didn't slow down... too late!  The car rear-ended him, and his head would've struck the windshield if he hadn't been wearing his seatbelt.

"Sonofabitch!" Ted cursed as he tried to regain control of the wheel.  Again he was thrust forward as the car struck his fender even harder than before.  Whoever it was, he meant business, that was for sure.

"Shit!  Keep it together Ted, keep it together," he thought, as he tried to fight down the rising panic within him.

He sped up, trying to lose his pursuer, but to no avail.  Once more the car thudded into his rear fender, and once more his senses spun.  In the mirror, Ted saw the car back off a little, before swerving slightly and then drawing up alongside.  The driver from the diner stared at him, then drew his finger sideways across his throat.  He mouthed something - two words - but Ted couldn't hear him and had no gift for lip-reading.  Then the car drew ahead at speed before fading into the distance and out of sight.

Ted pulled over to the side of the road, flung open the door and spun his legs onto the ground.  Then, still seated, and for the second time in a fortnight, he emptied the contents of his guts at his feet.  After a few minutes he got up and walked around to the back of the car.  The fender was crumpled and scratched and the trunk was dented from the impact.

"Shit!  How do I explain this to Karen?" he wondered.

Something else bothered him even more though.  Was this a random road-rage attack by a psycho, or was someone onto his deception?  The former was unlikely, the latter was the surer bet.  But how?  And if so, why hadn't they finished the job?  At least he knew one thing - it wasn't the cops - they only acted like that on TV and in the movies.  He was deep in thought, trying to work out exactly what this incident signified, as he got back into the car and headed for Mary's.  What the hell was going to happen next?

******

Hopefully I'll have worked out what's going to happen next by the time you rejoin me - same bat time, same bat channel - here, on the pages of Crivens!  Incidentally, if you've just dropped into this story, the previous six chapters can be found in the preceeding posts.

UPDATE:  Chapter eight is now written and sitting in my drafts file.  I'll post it at midnight, so be sure to drop in and discover the latest revelations in this gripping thriller.  (Hey, I gotta 'sell' it to you somehow, so what's a little hyperbole between Criv-ites?!) 

Monday, 10 September 2018

FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR FIRST ISSUE FACSIMILES FROM DOWN THROUGH THE YEARS...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

The first issue of The FANTASTIC FOUR has been reprinted quite a few times since it was published in 1961, in books like ORIGINS Of MARVEL COMICS, MARVEL MASTERWORKS, FANTASTIC FIRSTS, MARVEL FIRSTS, MARVEL OMNIBUS Editions, MARVEL EPIC Editions, FANTASTIC FOUR KING SIZE ANNUALS, plus various UK weekly and monthly comics - and that's only the ones I know about.  (No doubt there were foreign versions as well.)

However, forget full or partial reprints that were included in other publications -  the only ones I'm interested in for this post are single issue facsimiles, of which the earliest was the 1966 GOLDEN BOOK & RECORD Set that came with an LP containing a dramatisation of the comic's contents.  That's it above, and as you can see, it sports what's known as the 'missing man' cover (though there are other differences), which is the cover as JACK KIRBY originally drew it before changes were made prior to publication.  (The cop has been drawn in to make it look more like the 1961 issue.)  Some of the line-work had dropped out in several interior panels, but at least it was spared the clumsy retouching that later presentations suffered from.  (See examples at foot of post.)

Next one up (as far as I know) was the 1991 MARVEL MILESTONE Edition (below), which also featured the cover as originally drawn by Kirby.  The contents were marred by some dreadful 'retouching' of the missing line-work I referred to in the previous paragraph, but it included all the original ads from the 1961 mag, giving readers a taste of the context of the times.  It was recoloured and didn't match the 1961 original.

In 2001, Marvel released the top 25 of The 100 GREATEST MARVELS Of ALL TIME, number two being FF #1, having been robbed of the top spot by AMAZING FANTASY #15.  (I demanded a recount, but as usual, nobody listened to me.)  Once more, the 'missing man' cover was used, though the caption was replaced by a neater version. 

Then, in 2005, yet another reprint appeared, this time included in a package containing a TOY BIZ articulated figure of The THING as he appeared in the debut issue.  Again, this didn't follow the original colouring and even differed from the Milestone and 100 Greatest mags.  The only reprints that follow the original colouring of the contents are the 1966 Golden Book version and the recent deluxe facsimile edition, but even then, due to the vagaries of printing, they're not an exact match in every instance.

Anyway, enjoy looking at the covers and join me again after the 2018 issue and we'll compare a couple of examples of what I referred to earlier.      





Okay-dokey, look at the two examples of the same page below (click to enlarge).  The first one is from the 2018 facsimile and is how the page should be.  In the second version (from 2001, but also used - with different colouring - in 1991 and 2005), The INVISIBLE GIRL's outline has been clumsily retouched - obviously by someone who shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near it.  It looks as if it's been done with a felt-tip marker.


Now cop a gander at the panels below.  The first is as it appeared in the 1966 reprint which suffered from missing detail, the second is how it was presented in subsequent retouched versions in 1991, 2001, and 2005, and the third is from the recently published facsimile, which matches how it first appeared in 1961.  Click each one to enlarge for closer study. 




So there you go!  Hasn't that been interesting and informative?  Eh?  Whaddya mean no?  Hey, just remember, pal, you got in here for free, so there's no refunds if you're not satisfied.  (Tourists!) 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...