Archive for the ‘You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly’ Category

The serialisation is over, so what now?

You can now buy the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly for £4.99!

The world outside your window has never known super-powered beings until now. The first is a man named Ian Davies, an ordinary man who’s about to face some extra-ordinary events in his life. But what if, instead of giving an interview to The Daily Planet, he gives an interview to The Guardian, a newspaper with a reputation for typos?

He wanted to be known as The Public Defender. But someone at the Grauniad forgot the word Public has an ‘L’ in it…

Described by one reviewer as “Siegel and Shuster via Douglas Adams”, you can have the book on your ereader as soon as *snap*. (Well, maybe not THAT soon – I’ll have to email it to you…)

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Just click on the button and I’ll email you the book…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 27 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Fourteen (Continued…)

“Doctor Clooney? Gentlemen? The Prime Minister will see you now.”

They got up as a group and followed the man through another corridor, Docherty’s Head of Section taking the lead. They arrived at a set of double doors and the man who had fetched the group knocked twice. He waited a moment and then opened the doors and led them into a room that had a large oval table in it. Docherty caught his breath. The Cabinet Room.

The Prime Minister was seated half way down the table and stood to welcome them. “Thank you all for coming. Please, sit down.”

They all took seats apart from Davies, who remained standing. The PM looked at Davies and asked him again to take his seat.

Davies looked at the Prime Minister and spoke. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stand.”

The Prime Minister smiled gently at the comment. “It is indeed all the same to me, Mr Davies, but not, I’m afraid, to my security people. I’m sorry, but I really do have to ask again. Please sit down.” There was a touch of steel in the voice now.

Davies shrugged, took a seat and then reversed it, straddling the seat with his hands resting on the back of the chair. Docherty and Williams both winced, then grinned at each other.

The Prime Minister spoke briefly, confirming that he’d been briefed on the outline of the plan about to be presented. “However,” he said, “I’ve yet to be convinced of its merits. So, gentlemen,” he said to the agency directors, “convince me.”

Williams and Monkton had agreed, over Patt’s objections, to brief without any visual aids. “This has to be on your feet stuff,” Williams had insisted, and then, hunting around for a suitable phrase to swing the day, he had said to Monkton, “The only visual aid we need is Davies.” Monkton had seized on that and Patt had reluctantly acquiesced.

Monkton stood and addressed the room. “Prime Minister, after a chat we had with Ian,” a brief nod in Davies’ direction, “we agreed with him that he had four basic problems to address. In no particular order, they are: complete loss of personal identity, his personal future, his personal credibility, and the future effects of his powers on himself and others. I think we’re in agreement on that.”

The Prime Minister raised his head. “I think there’s a fifth problem, but we’ll get to that afterwards.”

The other people in the room shot looks of concern at each other, but Monkton continued as if the PM hadn’t spoken. “Every scenario we modelled which doesn’t involve the government and yet still remains legal only solves three of the four problems. It’s a different one that’s left out each time, but we can only solve three. We believe, however, that there is a solution in which both the State is secure, while answering all four concerns. But it requires government co-operation.”

The Prime Minister looked curious, and only realised when Monkton stopped talking that he was expected to comment. He gestured for Monkton to continue. Instead, he sat and Williams rose. “Sir, our unanimous view is that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. Under no circumstances can Ian be allowed to possess, without control of any sort, powers that he neither understands nor knows how they will develop.”

Davies reacted with a start. This wasn’t what they’d discussed; he didn’t know that this part of the briefing had been deliberately kept from him. He stood up. “No way am I being controlled by anyone,” he said, and started walking towards the door.

“Ian,” said Williams quietly, “how long have we worked together?”

Davies stopped and turned to Williams. “About three years, why?”

“Have you ever known me to lie to you? Not to tell lies, but to lie to you?”

Davies thought for a moment. “No.”

“Then sit down and listen to me, please,” stated Williams. This was the dangerous bit, he’d always known. Curious, Davies took his seat again.

“Therefore,” Williams resumed, “given that and Ian’s reluctance either to be controlled or to be answerable to the government, and wrapping in the fact that Ian needs money and a personal life, while being able to act in public without his powers going out of control, there’s only one thing that works.”

Docherty noticed the other two partners nodding in agreement, as well as his Head of Section and Clooney. Williams continued, “The government must cover Ian’s expenses, look after his health, create and protect a new identity for him, train him in the use of his powers and yet have no say whatsoever in how he uses them.”

There was a brief moment of silence, before the Prime Minister laughed out loud. “All right, nice one,” he said, “and what’s the real plan?” Everyone in the room except for Davies looked at the Prime Minister without so much as a smile on any of their faces and the truth slowly sunk in.

The Prime Minister opened his mouth and then closed it. And then he repeated the exercise. And then, for good measure, he did it again. When he finally found his voice, he spoke relatively calmly and reasonably given the situation. “Are you all stark staring mad?” he asked.

“No, we’re not,” said Clooney, speaking for the first time. “Look, Prime Minister…” That was as far as she got before the Prime Minister spoke to Davies directly.

“What do you have to say about this?” he asked.

Davies considered his answer carefully. “I know what the fifth problem is,” he said in reply. The Prime Minister didn’t look surprised. Davies spoke slowly. “The fifth problem is how do I convince you and your successors that I’m not about to take over the country the next time a government policy or a minister pisses me off?”

“Exactly,” said the Prime Minister, exceedingly pleased that he’d not had to say it, less pleased at Davies’ mention of his successors.

“I can’t,” said Davies, “except to ask that you look at my record since I gained these powers. OK, I’ve only had them a few days, but… Do I agree with your government’s policies? No, not entirely. But then I’ve never agreed with any government’s entire raft of policies since I became an adult. All I can say,” he said to the Prime Minister, slowly, dropping the other shoe, “is that if I did want to interfere, I truly believe that there’s very little you or anyone else could do to stop me.”

“And that being the case,” said the PM, “why not assist you in the meantime?” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “Yes, well you have a point.” He looked at Williams, who was still standing, “OK, Mr Williams, convince me.”

And Williams started outlining the plan.

– o –

It’s reckoned that in the public relations industry, the average length of employment is a shade under three years. Given that, and the publicity he’d gained, no one was particularly surprised when Ian Davies resigned from the job he’d loved for the past few years, and the email he sent around the company expressed his gratitude to everyone for their best wishes and promised that he’d keep in touch.

However, emails sent to the address he’d left with them bounced back as undeliverable and calls to his telephone only got a “number unobtainable” signal.

The directors of Doncaster and Monkton made all the right sounds publicly about losing Davies but, as previously mentioned, it wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone inside or outside the firm. What did astonish many, however, was Lester Williams’ announcement a few weeks later that due to health reasons, he was semi-retiring, and would only be in the office a couple of days a week, and even then it was ‘understood’ that he was just ‘keeping himself busy’. People immediately talked about what a loss he’d be, then gossiped about what disease he had.

At around the same time, Doctor Rosemary Clooney resigned from Dance-Oliver Medical Research (to the intense delight of Mark Toster) and took up a post she described to friends and family as “something incredibly boring working for the Department of the Environment, but paying shitloads”.

And despite no new public sightings of the “Public” Defender, police officers in London were becoming used to finding criminals who’d been stopped in their tracks, while committing muggings, bank jobs, rapes and drug sales, by “this bloke dressed all in black.”

– o –

Philip Samuels, The Chief Political Correspondent of the BBC, was irritated beyond measure. It was understandable. He regarded his time as valuable and not to be wasted. He’d been called into the office on his day off, and his wife had given him hell over it. What irritated him even more was that he’d been required to come in to attend a meeting about office reallocations.

He walked into the reception office of the Head of News trying to control his temper. “I swear,” he told his wife before leaving, “if he still has those damn fish in that tank in his office, I’m going to have sushi for dinner.”

Samuels knocked on his boss’s office door, opened it without waiting for a “come in” and stopped dead in his tracks. The Head of News was talking to a man standing in the middle of the room, dressed completely in black. Well, not standing; floating would have been a more appropriate description. Samuels recognised him at once.

Ian Davies moved smoothly towards him, dropping in height all the time. He touched the carpet directly ahead of Samuels and extended his hand. “Hello, Mr Samuels. Want to interview me?” Samuels smiled wanly at him, his head already filled with the questions he wanted to ask.

– o –

Gathered around a television that night in an office in Central London, four people watched anxiously as the interview on the specially extended ten o’clock news began. As it progressed, Clooney squeezed Docherty’s hand gently. He leaned over and kissed her.

Yes,” came Davies’ voice from the television, “for obvious reasons, I abandoned the secret identity idea.” There was a sympathetic laugh from one of the camera crew which quickly died out.

“It’s working,” she said. “The camera loves him.”

“Quiet,” Williams said, from the other side of the desk, his pen scratching notes in the pad he was leaning on. Not bad, he thought, not bad at all. We’ll have to explain that answer, but he got away with that and that.

No,” said the slightly distorted version of Davies’ voice, “I have no idea where my powers came from; one day they were suddenly just there.”

There was a sound from behind them and the three of them glanced at the open window, the net curtains flapping in the wind.

Docherty looked at the others. “Well, he said he might not want to hang around.”

Clooney smiled and turned back to the television, squeezing Docherty’s hand again, thinking of the lab that had been set up for her to run, and how Davies’s powers had blown seven sets of measuring equipment in the first week. They were waiting for new equipment to arrive.

There was a beep from the computer terminal and Docherty said “leave it until the interview’s over.”

Clooney let go of Docherty and walked around to her terminal, scanning the email. “It’s that fellow at the Depot.” She scanned the email and gasped. “He asking whether or not we want to know about the other super-human that was created by something from Roswell?”

Docherty and Williams gaped at her as Davies continued the interview with “I suppose, yes, I am the first super powered human, although I’d quibble with the term super-hero…”

– o –

Half way across the city, and eleven hundred feet up, Ian Davies hovered above London. He opened his senses just slightly and heard a scream suddenly cut off. His eyes seemed to know where to look and his brow furrowed slightly as the scene a fifth of a mile away snapped into sharp focus.

Not your day, my friend, he thought as he saw another mugging taking place. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly and then aimed himself at the scene, gathering speed as he went.

You know, he thought, I could get to like this…


– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

You’ve just read the final part of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly.

You can now buy the ebook for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 26 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Fourteen

When they’d left the briefing room, with Docherty’s enigmatic comment floating in the air, Clooney had been formally introduced to Ian Davies. The latter had been only slightly interested in the former until Docherty had casually mentioned that it was she who’d sent the package by car in the first place.

When he heard that, Davies was consumed by a fierce desire to fly Clooney up into the air as he had done with Jordan and similarly drop her. Only this time, he decided, he wouldn’t interfere with gravity’s natural processes.

Docherty could see the effort it took for Davies to control himself. He said to Davies, “the reason I’m telling you this is twofold: first off, old son, you’re going to find out sooner or later, and it’s better sooner than later, because this lady has some interesting things to tell you about how your powers work.”

Davies shot her a look of pure shock. Clooney nodded slowly.

“Secondly,” Docherty continued, “if I’m right about what’s going to happen – no, don’t ask me yet – I need you to know that no one from HMG is trying to pull a fast one on you. Whatever you hear from us will be the truth.”

Davies smiled, but said nothing.

Docherty smiled back, “Okay, not necessarily the whole truth, not all the time, but no blatant lies. And Rosemary, you’re going to hear some things tomorrow that will surprise you.”

Clooney looked incredulous. “After what I’ve been through in the past two days, you think I can still be surprised?”

Davies laughed loudly. His anger had gone as quickly as it had arrived, and the laugh was genuine. “What you’ve been through? Doctor Clooney, you don’t have any idea what it’s like to be surprised.” He took off his watch and watched it bob gently directly in front of her face for a moment before putting it back on his wrist. He looked at her, waiting for her response.

Clooney grinned at him. “OK, point taken.” She was beginning, grudgingly, to like this man.

They had been walking for several minutes and went through a door that led to an underground car park. Docherty walked over to a bay in which a blue car was parked and opened the driver’s side front door. He opened the glove box and found the gun he’d requested laying in a moulded compartment, together with a pale leather shoulder holster. He shrugged off the jacket, strapped on the holster, slid the gun into its home, and replaced his jacket over it, ignoring the wide eyes of Clooney and the ill-disguised contempt of Davies. Car keys had been next to the gun, and he picked them up, then turned to the others. “OK, get in. Davies, where are you staying tonight?”

Davies gave the address of William’s flat and was surprised when Docherty said “Lester Williams’ place? OK.” He’d memorised the addresses of all of Davies’ contacts, and then just to be safe, the addresses of anyone with whom Davies got on well within the agency. “I’m staying with you tonight, and sorry, Rosemary, but so are you.”

Docherty was a good, if fast, driver and as Clooney had previously discovered, an interesting person with whom to have a conversation. By the time they were half way to the apartment block, all three were on first name terms.

They were about five minutes from the flat when Docherty, driving marginally in excess of the posted speed limit, shot past a police vehicle and it was with a sense of disbelief that he saw blue flashing lights in the rear view mirror. For Davies, though, it was just one more ludicrous thing that had happened today. He laughed again, and suggested that they tell the police officer the truth, but one look from Docherty shut him up.

He could sort of see the point. If they told the policeman that they’d just come from Downing Street and that among the occupants of the car was an intelligence agent, an expert in mutagenic materials and the world’s first genuinely super powered being, they’d all probably spend a night in jail, on suspicion of being drunk as skunks.

Docherty pulled the car over and stepped out of the vehicle. The police car pulled in behind them and Docherty went to meet the policemen before either of them approached Clooney and Davies. As they watched Docherty showing the officers his ID, inside the blue car Clooney looked at Davies, an impish look in her eyes. “Go on, then,” she said.

“What do you mean?” asked Davies.

“You’re dying to do something, aren’t you?” she said, trying to keep a smile off of her face.

Davies grinned back at her and said nothing.

A moment later Docherty returned to the car and said to them, “It’s sorted. Let’s go.”

They drove off, Docherty expecting the police car to follow them in pulling away from the kerbside. It was with mild surprise that he noticed that the other vehicle remained stationary. But he thought no more of it as he drove out of view.

Behind him, the two policemen were wondering how the hell they were going to explain to the traffic department how all four tires had suddenly gone flat.

– o –

Once inside the apartment, Davies said that he was going to bed and promptly did so, leaving Docherty and Clooney alone in the main room. Clooney looked at the couch and offered to sleep there.

“Don’t be daft,” Docherty said. “I’ve got to stay in here because this is the only entrance and exit from the apartment; you don’t. Grab some sleep; it’ll be a busy day tomorrow.”

“I could stay here… with you,” Clooney said hesitantly.

“There’s nothing I’d rather,” said Docherty, “but not tonight, eh? Sorry, but…”

Clooney smiled at him and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “You’re on duty.”

“Yeah,” he replied, a crooked half smile on his face.

She smiled at him and looked at the door leading to the second bedroom. “Well, if you change your mind…” and she went to bed.

Docherty looked at the closed bedroom door for a long time before he sighed, then smiled. Moments later, his face became serious again and he walked around the apartment, checking the windows, the electric sockets, anything really to keep himself busy. His eyes lit up as he saw a small elegantly carved chess set and he placed it on the small coffee table, laying the semi-automatic next to it. OK, he thought, it’s been a while. Several hours later, Docherty was on his sixth cup of coffee and his third attempt to actually win a game as opposed to the stalemates so far when he heard steps outside the front door. He grabbed his gun and stood flattened against the wall to the side of the door, with his gun outstretched.

As the key was inserted into the lock, he saw Davies coming out of his room, a questioning look on his face. “What’s up?” Davies asked in a normal tone of voice. “I heard something…” Docherty shouldn’t have been surprised, but he was.

“Shh…” Docherty whispered and motioned to Davies to get out of view, but a second later the door opened.

Williams walked into the room and stopped in mild surprise as he saw Davies in a bathrobe, and then in shock as he felt a gun against his face. To give him due credit, all he said was “The company you’re keeping these days, Ian, eh?”

– o –

As they walked into Downing Street that afternoon, Davies was tired. That he shared that tiredness with his companions didn’t help in any way. A yawn made him wonder whether his powers required more rest than he’d needed previously. But, when he recalled how little sleep he’d had over the past few days, and balanced it against what he’d recently been through, he realised that it was purely what it appeared to be: he was unreasonably overtired. He was also irritable, something that a policeman at Number Ten had discovered when he stopped them in the corridor on a spot check and asked for identification, despite them having been through the same procedure less than five minutes earlier.

In a fit of annoyance, Davies looked at the man and the police officer suddenly found himself six feet off the ground. Docherty turned to Davies. “Put him down, Ian. Gently,” he said, a touch of irritation colouring his words as well, but the firmness of authority was unmistakeably there.

Davies did just that and smiled an apology at the officer.

Docherty sighed; he was also tired, but pleased with how the day had gone so far. After Docherty had explained to his boss, earlier, his suggestion, backed up by Clooney and by Davies’ former employers, an enormous amount of activity had taken place in the ensuing hours. Downing Street had been informed that instead of four people meeting the Prime Minister, it would be seven. Docherty thanked his lucky stars that one of the directors of Doncaster and Monkton was an ex-intelligence man, since that meant that both Williams and Monkton had been vetted previously, when Patt had joined the agency; matters progressed much quicker.

Jez Docherty had to admit, looking around the room, that if, forty-eight hours earlier, he’d have been told that he’d be working with them all, he would have either laughed, or simply resigned his commission. He leaned against the wall, desperately wanting a cigarette, but knowing he was unable to have one, and let his eyes rest upon them each.

To his mild surprise, he’d grown to like Ian Davies over the past day, although he wouldn’t admit to feeling any guilt at all about trying to blow his head clean off his shoulders immediately before meeting him. That was different; that was when he was acting under instructions to protect the nation.

He wasn’t blind to Davies’ faults. Docherty thought that Davies was unforgivably naïve about matters in general and the state of the world in particular. He’d given him a pop quiz on current affairs just after dawn and had noted that Davies had been pleasantly surprised to score four out of ten. Docherty was genuinely disappointed that the man fate had chosen to be the most powerful being on the planet hadn’t scored at least eight. On the other hand, Davies was pleasant, had a fast wit and seemed to feel a genuine obligation to use his powers responsibly. But not, he had made clear, at the whim of government. It had led to their only raised voice argument, only a few hours earlier.

The argument had been useful though, Docherty thought; it had shown that even when angry, Davies’ first reaction was not always to use his powers. The ‘not always’, as opposed to ‘never’, worried Docherty more than he’d admit.

Docherty’s eyes moved on to Clooney. Ah, he thought, and moved on. He wasn’t quite ready to deal with his feelings about her yet.

Next, he looked at his Head of Section, a man who Docherty had come to respect even more in the past few days, than previously. How he had dealt with all of what he usually had on his desk and this at the same time shook Docherty. Up until this week, he’d always wondered whether he could rise through the ranks to take on such a job. Now he was only sure that even if he could do it, he wasn’t convinced he wanted such a role.

Docherty considered the three men from Doncaster and Monkton; once he’d listened to their suggestions, he had sought and received permission to bring them along. He knew that opposites often attracted, as much in business as in personal lives, but he would never have put the three of them together in any form of business. Well, not unless he wanted the business to catastrophically fail. But incredibly, as the financial statements and reputation of the firm confirmed, the agency went from strength to strength. It was only now, watching them together, that he realised why. Despite their obvious professional respect for each other, the truth became equally plain, once you looked for it: they actually disliked each other personally. Not wholly, not completely, but enough. And the ‘agreeable tension’, as Davies had described it when Docherty mentioned this to him, seemed to work well.

His eyes moved back to Clooney. Nope, he decided, he still didn’t want to think about her. He was saved from having to do so as an impeccably dressed man in his late forties knocked on the glass door and entered the room without waiting for a reply.

“Doctor Clooney? Gentlemen? The Prime Minister will see you now.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read the final part of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 27 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, the penultimate segment.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 25 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Thirteen (continued…)

In COBRA, the members of the UK Blue Committee watched Davies defeat the creature and then waited for the unfiling to occur. It had already been agreed what the press statement would say: “The man known as The Public Defender died today as he had lived, defending those less fortunate than himself. Unfortunately, due to wounds created by his brave battle…” It would have been a fine eulogy and, the Prime Minister thought, would have guaranteed the next election for him and his party.

A pity then that the best laid plans of mice, men and Prime Ministers so often go astray. When the PM saw Davies rip the door from the van, he sank back into his chair in disbelief. He shivered. He’d heard of this reaction, but had always thought that it was an exaggeration, created by those who just couldn’t deal logically and rationally with real life. But his logic and reason didn’t assist in the slightest as he felt his blood run cold. What the hell were they going to do now?

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Docherty’s Head of Section grab for one of the telephones on the table and start punching numbers. The members of the Committee heard the ringing tone once, then again and a third time before a click. Then a voice came on the line.


The Head of Section heard the voice of his top agent and said merely “put him on.” He looked at the Prime Minister with an expectant expression and gestured for him to speak, pleading with his eyes.

There was a pause as a new voice was heard through the loudspeaker.


The Prime Minister carefully cleared his throat and asked if he was speaking to Ian Davies…

– o –

Davies hadn’t known what to expect when he tore open the door to the van, but he wasn’t overly surprised to see a rifle on a tripod and a dark-haired man leaning into the rifle butt. The man stood up and smiled at Davies.

And then he extended his hand towards him. “Mr Davies? I’m Jez Docherty. Pleased to meet you. Nice work out there.”

Davies looked at him like Docherty had grown a second head. “I beg your pardon?” he said, astonished at the other man’s poise.

Docherty may have appeared calm and collected, but inside he was shitting himself. This has to be played just right, he thought, or I’m a dead man. “That was amazing,” he said, “I’ve never seen anyone move so fast.”

“Yeah, well,” Davies replied, looking at Docherty’s face, maintaining eye contact. “Having someone shoot at you will do that, you know.”

“Yes, I’m sorry about that,” Davies replied. “Bad call on my part.”

Bad call?” Davies shouted. Then he seemed to suck in his fury and he looked at the rifle. It reacted as if it had had a 100 ton weight dropped on it, and collapsed to the ground flattening itself to a depth of about a millimetre. The tripod underwent a similar implosion. Davies looked at Docherty, who wondered if he was about to be subjected to the same fate. Instead Davies just asked him what other weaponry he had in the van.

Davies stayed silent. There was nothing to be gained by telling him and everything to lose.

“Never mind,” Davies said and swept his look around the van. As his eyes moved over each cupboard and holder, the same flattening occurred, and less than a minute later, Davies turned to go.

Docherty moved towards him. “Mind if I ask you a question?”

Davies stopped and looked back at him, his eyes contemptuous. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I do.”

“That’s ok,” Docherty said, “I’ll ask it anyway. Why?”

“Why?” repeated Davies. “Why what?”

“Why did you come to the hospital tonight? Why stop that mugging two days ago, and the bank robbers yesterday?” Docherty stopped, realising with some surprise that he’d stepped over the line from an attempt to maintain control of a dangerous and potentially lethal situation into genuine enquiry.

“Well, because people were in danger.”

“That’s not it,” said Docherty. “That can’t be it. That explains why you’re here now. And why you did something. But why come at all?”

Davies thought about it, and felt his anger drifting away. “Because someone has to,” he said.

There was a sharp buzzing noise and Docherty pulled out his phone. “Hello?” he said, grateful that he’d done so smoothly without making a fuss.

He listened for a moment and then handed the phone to Davies. “It’s for you.”

Davies took the phone, curious to find out who was calling him. “Yes?” he said into the receiver.

He heard the familiar voice of the Prime Minister and almost dropped the phone.

“Yes, I’m Ian Davies,” he said.

– o –

Rosemary Clooney was sitting in the Downing Street refectory, drinking her third cup of atrocious coffee when Bowman came to get her. She’d hoped to have left by now, but when she had attempted to go, she’d been politely but firmly told that her presence might be required later and until that time, she was ‘invited’ to remain in the building.

Unlike most people, she didn’t mind waiting. She’d once spent seventy-two hours with her team watching a petri dish to see when a reaction would occur. What was bothering her was two-fold. She’d realised after the brief telephone conversation exactly what Docherty’s specific role in these circumstances was and this troubled her greatly. Although she supposed she was vaguely patriotic, she drew the line at killing, even if it was for the purposes of national security. The second thing that concerned her was Davies himself. She had no idea whether or not he could beat the creature, but she guessed that if he didn’t triumph, then there was very little that could restrain that thing she’d seen. And if Davies did beat that monster, there’d be nothing on the planet that could secure him if he turned out to be as soulless as the thing that had once been Withers.

Her mouth opened of its own accord, and she yawned. Damn, she was tired, she thought. And she leaned forward to the table, resting her head on her crossed arms.

After what seemed like a few seconds, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Doctor Clooney?” asked Bowman. He repeated the question as she raised her head, shaking it gently and rubbing her eyes. “I’m sorry to wake you, but if you could come with me again.”

She stood up slowly, and caught sight of the clock. She’d been asleep for three hours. She ran her fingers through her hair and looked down at herself, still dressed in the outfit she’d chosen to go out on what she’d thought might turn out to be a date with Docherty.


“Sir Anthony?” she ventured, as they left the restaurant and started down a flight of steps.

“Yes?” he replied, leading her back towards COBRA.

“Do you know what happened to Jez Docherty?”

“He’s right behind you,” said a voice she recognised and she turned to see Docherty standing there, accompanied by a man that looked vaguely familiar. She surprised both herself and Docherty then as with a rush of emotion, she hugged Docherty tightly. To Docherty’s greater surprise, he hugged back.

Bowman smiled to himself. What’s the harm? he thought, giving them a few seconds and looking away. But then, after those few seconds, he coughed diplomatically. By then, Docherty and Clooney were looking at each other, their eyes locked.

It was Docherty who broke away from the hug, and he just looked at her and said “Later, ok?” She nodded, wondering where the tears in her eyes had come from. She wiped them and as she did so, the other shoe dropped.

She spun and looked at Davies, staring openly at him. He looked smaller in real life, was her immediate reaction, more compact. Then he moved slightly and she wondered how she could have thought that as he seemed to grow an inch or two while she watched. She shook her head, then looked again.

The way she studied him made Davies feel astonishingly uncomfortable, as if he was on a slide under a microscope.

“Shall we?” asked Bowman and they walked through the doors into the large COBRA room.

– o –

As they entered, everyone automatically stood.

There was no formal reason for doing so. Unlike the American system, the British are more restrained. If the Prime Minister stands, it’s not assumed that everyone else has to. They save that for royalty.

But in this case?

As Davies stepped over the threshold into the room, he saw everyone immediately stop doing whatever duties they had been previously performing. And they all stood. Davies uttered a brief prayer that they weren’t about to start applauding. He really didn’t think he could handle that.

Surprisingly, given the build up, the meeting shouldn’t really have lasted that long.

It doesn’t take long to be invited to be the United Kingdom’s secret weapon, and (with a nod to the American guests), even “on occasion, help “out our cousins across the pond.” It takes a still shorter period to reply “get stuffed”, even to a Prime Minister.

The politician sat down in his chair, not in the least surprised at the response. “Mr Davies,” he said, “Let me ask a question.”

“Why?” asked Davies pre-empting the question.

“Why what?” enquired the Prime Minister, thoroughly confused. “Why am I asking? Because I want to know what you’ll say.”

“Oh,” said Davies colouring lightly. “Please go on.”

“Let me put it plainly,” the PM said, glancing at his opposite number, The Leader of the Opposition, and warning him with his eyes not to say one damn word. “You believe that these abilities you possess carry with them obligations, yes?”

“To a certain extent, yes,” said Davies.

If the Prime Minister noted the qualifier, he gave no indication of it, but merely politely asked, “obligations to do what precisely?”


“I’d prefer it that way,” said the Prime Minister, keeping his voice calm with effort.

“I don’t know,” said Davies, “I’m still trying to work that one out.”

“To rescue cats?” the PM enquired.

Davies smiled. “No, not really.”

“To overthrow the government then?” There was an immediate tightening of jaws and buttocks in the room.

“Of course not,” Davies shot back.

“Somewhere in-between?” asked the PM, smiling gently.

Davies smiled back. “Yes, pretty much, I guess. Somewhere in-between. Yeah, that works.”

“Good, we’re getting somewhere,” said the Prime Minister, rubbing his hands. Davies looked at him, puzzled, but said nothing.

Without looking away from Davies, the Prime Minister said, “Mr Docherty?”

“Yes, sir?” replied Docherty.

“Please give Mr Davies here every assistance he needs tonight. I’d like to see you both in Ten Downing Street tomorrow afternoon at two o’clock please. The Cabinet Room, I think. You as well, Doctor Clooney. Don’t be late.” And the Prime Minister turned on his heels and walked out of the room.

Davies looked at Docherty in confusion. “What just happened here?” he asked.

Docherty had a slight inkling what was to happen tomorrow, but caught the eye of his boss who shook his head very slightly.

“Let’s talk about that tomorrow, Davies. In the meantime, let’s get you home, ok?”

They left the room, together with Clooney. As they left, Clooney could hear the silence that had permeated the room start to dissipate, with the most common words said including “Bloody” and “Hell”.

Davies stopped for a moment and looked at Docherty. “Have I just been drafted?”

Docherty smiled and wondered what he could say to Davies. He settled for “Yes. No. I don’t know. Take your pick.”

– o –

The offices of Doncaster and Monkton officially opened the doors to the public at nine o’clock in the morning, although many of the consultants didn’t turn up until later.

Monkton and Williams had been in the office since just after four o’clock that morning, Williams commenting that while he’d occasionally left the office at that time, he couldn’t recall actually arriving there before dawn. At five, they’d been joined by Patt who’d been up since three, having been awoken by Williams with a brief “Get in to the office as soon as you can. We’ve got work to do.”

The three had worked together for two hours and by seven they had what they considered, and called, a ‘working strategy’. After the events they’d watched on television only a few hours earlier, they knew that they were unlikely to be contacted by Davies until later that day, if at all, but they didn’t want to be caught by surprise. When they’d finally sat back, knowing they had somewhat more than a germ of an idea, Williams had then taken the opportunity to leave the office and drive to his apartment for a shower, a shave and a fresh set of clothes, promising to be back in a couple of hours.

It was turning out to be a week for surprises, his usually unfailing sense of events around him letting him down. As he walked down the corridor to his front door, pulling out his spare keys, he would have bet the company’s next annual turnover that wherever Davies was at the moment, the apartment would be empty.

Which explained the look of pure stupefaction on his face when he opened the door to his flat and found a gun pointed at his face.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

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Chapter Thirteen

An hour earlier, Peter Monkton and Lester Williams had been in Monkton’s living room, relaxing after a delicious meal prepared and cooked by Monkton’s wife. Williams sat in a well stuffed armchair, his feet stretched out, while Monkton was standing by the bar.

“Very passable that, very passable bit of risotto,” Williams said, extremely satisfied.

Monkton poured himself a brandy and raised the decanter in Williams’ direction. “Drink?”

“Yes, thanks,” Williams replied, and watched as Monkton reached for another glass and poured a sizeable measure for him.

Monkton walked across to Williams and passed him the drink. “Cheers,” he said and raised his glass.

Williams raised his in reply and grinned. “A toast,” he started. Monkton looked askance at him and then sighed. Williams was always coming up with strange and weird toasts. It appeared that tonight was no exception. Without standing, Williams looked into the middle distance and recited,

“Here’s to the health of your blood.
Here’s to the blood of your health.
If your blood isn’t healthy,
Your health must be bloody,
… so here’s to your bloody good health!”

It seemed oddly appropriate, and Monkton touched his glass to that of Williams.

“It’s a bastard, no doubt,” Monkton ventured after a large swallow of Rémy Martin and Williams was in no doubt to what his colleague was referring. Monkton sat on the sofa opposite Williams. “How the hell are we going to do it?”

“Davies, you mean?” asked Williams. “Well, he’s right on several scores.” He sat forward, watching the brandy as he gently swirled the glass. “First off, his credibility is down the toilet. Even if he were to change the name, no one would ever let him forget that he was known, even for a short time, as the Pubic Defender. The news organisations would never let it go.”

“I wonder if…” Monkton said, a distracted look on his face.

“Yes?” asked Williams.

“No, forget it, it’s not quite there yet. Need to think about it. Go on.”

Williams was used to this. Monkton would start to extemporise some bright idea, but by the time he’d started to say anything about it, his brain had already seen the flaws. On those occasions, he’d either say “forget it,” in which case the idea was a dead duck or he’d add that he needed to ponder some more about it, which meant that Monkton knew there was a way around it and he just needed to consciously work out what it was.

Williams sipped his drink and said nothing, waiting.

Monkton looked at Williams. “You said Ian was right on several scores.”

Williams stretched out again. “Yes, well number two is that he was right that he needed to be fired. We’ll do that in the morning.” He sighed, drained his glass, stood up and walked to the bar. Then he turned around and looked at Monkton, an expression of revelation upon his face. “You know there’s only one way to get on top of this, don’t you? I mean, really get on top of it, come out of it in front?”

Monkton swallowed the remainder of his brandy before he joined Williams at the bar. “If I knew that, my dear fellow, we wouldn’t be having the conversation.”

“He has to go public,” Williams said.

“I rather think that the public angle has already been taken care of,” Monkton said dryly.

“No, no, you’re not where I am. Think about it. I don’t mean operating in public, I mean, he has to go public.”

Monkton stopped in the act of pouring himself a second brandy. He looked at Williams, realised what he meant and then continued the pouring. He took a swallow and then said “Full court press, you mean?”

“Yes,” Williams said, sitting down again. “Saturation coverage. Television interviews, Sunday supplement features, the lot. We play this so that it’s Ian Davies that’s the story, not whatever he calls himself.” He glanced at Monkton, but the senior director was just standing there, his brandy in one hand.

“Go on,” said Monkton, waiting to see Williams warm to his theme.

“We get him interviewed by a big name, someone the public is used to trusting. Not one of the morning television imbeciles, but a heavyweight, someone the chattering classes are accustomed to seeing interviewing Prime Ministers and Presidents. That way Davies is lent credibility by whoever interviews him.”

“If so-and-so thinks he’s worth his time, he must be worth ours?” Monkton suggested.

“Exactly,” said Williams. “And then we go for the big kill.”

“Hold your horses, Lester. Don’t get ahead of yourself,” said Monkton, “Davies was right on another point. What’s he going to do for money? We both know him, he wouldn’t accept charity. And can you really see him doing endorsements? And what about our fees?”

Williams snorted. “Our fees? Of course I’ve considered that, but stop thinking in the short term, Peter. When it leaks out that we’re his PR people, we can bill everyone else whatever the hell we want. We do this one pro bono. That won’t hurt the story either. Money hungry PR firm does it for nothing, for the public good? We’ll have every worthwhile account in the country.” He paused briefly. “You’re right, though – no endorsements.”

He finished his drink. “But you agree it’s worth thinking about?”

Monkton nodded. “It’s a start. Sleep on it and we can flesh it out tomorrow before he comes into the office.”

Williams stood and placed his glass on the bar. “OK, I’m heading upstairs.”

As he was heading out of the door, the idea that Monkton had had earlier finally crystallised in his brain and he said to Williams’ back, “you know this would be a lot easier if he could be officially sanctioned.” Williams stopped and turned to look at Monkton, a smile struggling to appear.

Then he turned away, his brain already playing with potentialities, and left the room. Monkton drained the last remaining millilitres of alcohol from his glass and picked up the television remote control, intending to check the news before bed. He watched the scene unfolding on television and saw Ian Davies float out of the sky and gently land before what Monkton thought a particularly ugly statue.

In disbelief, he watched the events of the next few minutes unfold, while he regained his power of speech. He walked to the door and shouted up in an accent that betrayed his East End origins. “Lester? Get your arse down here, sharpish! Things have moved on.” Then he turned back to stare at the television as Davies destroyed the creature again and again .

– o –

If the bullet had been fired at Davies more than thirty-six hours previously, there’s no doubt that he would have been dead before he knew what had happened. Even if he’d have seen the bullet somehow, the human brain takes about a twelfth of a second to respond to any stimulus. He literally wouldn’t have known what hit him.

Moreover, even this evening, had he been looking away from Docherty’s position, it’s also more than probable that one second after Docherty fired, the body of Ian Terrence Davies would have been falling to the ground minus a substantial portion of his head.

But this wasn’t thirty-six hours previously, and it was merely dumb luck that at the very moment Docherty pulled the trigger, Davies turned away from Gordon to point at the remains that he’d just more than efficiently created. A fiftieth of a second later, he saw a black dot in his peripheral vision. Two fiftieths of a second later, his brain had processed what he’d seen, interpreted it, told the rest of his body that the dot had grown in size, was now recognisable as a bullet and then told his muscles what to do.

As far as Gordon was concerned, Davies was turning away from him when he dropped out of view as if shot. Ironically, it was precisely to avoid this situation that Davies had hit the ground, and time seemed to slow down for him for an instant as he felt the scorching air of the bullet passing him. Less than half a second later, Davies was three feet into the air, his brain having already calculated the velocity of the bullet and the precise vector from which it had originated.

Gordon barely heard a muttered comment from Davies that he was well and truly fed up with people shooting at him before Davies rose to ten feet from the ground and launched himself at the van.

– o –

One of Docherty’s colleagues always commented that you knew how much trouble you were in on a mission by how softly Docherty swore. If he was merely irritated at something or someone, he swore in a normal tone of voice. If it was mildly serious, his voice lowered and decreased in volume. And if someone had really screwed up, Docherty swore almost at a whisper.

Docherty couldn’t believe it. He’d never seen anyone move so fast. The instant he’d pulled the trigger, David had reacted. For a moment, he thought that Davies must have precognitive abilities, but then it hit him with the force of a three ton elephant in heat. No question about it, he thought, he moved after I took the shot.

He took his eyes from the sight and went for another bullet. His eyes were off the sight for no more than a couple of seconds, but when he returned, all he could see was a uniform black. In the half a second it took to realise what the black was, he swore so softly that even he couldn’t hear it.

There was an awful shriek of metal as the van doors were torn off their hinges and Docherty had a very close up view of Ian Davies. A very close up view. Convinced that this was his last moment on earth, he expected his life to flash before him. It didn’t.

For once, he didn’t know how to behave, what to do, then he heard the words coming out of his mouth before he could stop them, “Mr Davies? I’m Jez Docherty. Pleased to meet you. Nice work out there.”

It didn’t go down well.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 26 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 25 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

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Chapter Twelve (continued…)

Docherty disconnected and swore, the two happening almost simultaneously. He didn’t have a problem with the assignment in theory, but had absolutely no idea how to go about it. Strangely, for someone who regarded himself as a total cynic about altruism, what troubled him was not how to kill each of them. Davies he’d take out with a head shot – despite what he’d seen about his healing abilities, he didn’t think that even Davies could survive a shot to the head from a sniper rifle with the right ammunition, like the weaponry, say, that he had brought with him. At least he hoped not. Though if he turned out to be wrong, he’d yet to see anything that could put up a decent struggle after being doused in napalm.

And he didn’t have the slightest qualm about killing the monster. He’d seen enough to know that he’d just be putting it out of its misery. At least that’s what he knew he’d be telling himself afterwards. He just hoped he’d be able to accomplish it without anyone else losing their life.

No, what concerned him was killing Davies; from what he could see, the man had voluntarily put himself in danger’s way. Nonetheless, Docherty wasn’t so stupid that he couldn’t see the reasoning for unfiling both of them.

At that moment, he heard the scream of pain from Davies and his first instinct was to go to see what had happened. Instead he went to the van in which he’d arrived and climbed inside; darkened windows ensured no one could see his actions from the outside.

He placed his thumb against the storage area at the back and pulled five items from it: a rifle which he twisted and collapsed, a set of dum dum shells, strictly illegal but incredibly useful and effective; and three small containers of a particularly vicious form of napalm. He loaded the rifle with four of the shells and then placed it onto a tripod designed for the task. He took off his jacket and shrugged his way into a large coat with pockets designed to carry the rifle, which he then slid the weapon into. The three canisters were smaller than he remembered and he slipped them into the outside pocket.

Then he left the truck and headed for the source of the screaming.

– o –

It was the first time he’d felt prolonged pain since he’d gained powers, and on balance, Davies believed that he would rather not have had to experience it now. Something slithered over his face and from sheer panic, he lashed out with his mind. A hole, no more than two inches across, was blown straight through the creature, allowing air through the perforation. He inhaled sharply and then grasping exactly what he’d just done, he pictured himself surrounded by tiny bulldozers. And then he started their engines.

The creature was pushed away, slowly, the tentacles disconnecting from Davies with a horrible sucking sound as they was torn away from him. Davies rolled away, gasping for air, then stood in a hurry.

Gordon, who’d been watching, concerned, shouted to Davies, but Davies, who hadn’t heard him properly ignored him. He turned to face the creature, by now standing up and ready to charge again. Davies looked around to see if there was anything he could use, and saw the metal pole. It had been crushed flat by the creature’s weight and now, Davies realised, was completely useless.

Well, maybe not completely, he thought and held his hand out. The almost completely useless poll flew into the air, and Davies sent it spinning towards the creature. It had only made three revolutions when it hit the creature… side on. The creature didn’t even notice it as it started a run at Davies.

An amplified voice came over the area. “Davies, this is Gordon. Brain and Brawn, man. Brain and Brawn!”

What the hell is he going on about? thought Davies and then as he moved backwards, it clicked into his mind. You defeat brains with brawn and brawn with brains, he realised. And my powers come from my mind! What powers can I use to defeat this bastard?

He stopped and faced the creature as it ran towards him… and the concrete on the ground in front of it rose up with a tearing sound. It formed a wall that the creature smashed into, bouncing back. It tried again and the six feet wide, ten feet tall wall moved to frustrate it. A large probing limb started growing out of its head testing the wall to see how far up it extended.

Davies let it get to two meters before he pictured in his mind what he wanted; the effect was instantaneous and the crushed flat metal pole leaped into the air, neatly slicing off the limb before twirling around as if it was being handled by a cheerleader. As it did so, the pole seemed to grow in thickness as Davies concentrated on unflattening it. One end formed a barbed spear head and once completed, the pole shot away from the creature behind it. As Gordon, onlookers and millions of television viewers watched, the pole seemed to snap into ten separate objects, each with a barbed spearhead. Once that was completed, there was a shriek of metal as eight lampposts and the remaining sign posts all left the concrete, each one splitting into foot long weapons. Then each formed an identical spearhead and in ten seconds, there were a little over two hundred lethal looking spearheads, hovering in the air in a metallic cloud.

At eleven seconds, they started moving at the speed of bullets. At eleven point two seconds, they hit the creature.

Forty might have been enough had they hit the right spots. Seventy would pretty much have done the job even if placed randomly. Two hundred and eight?

The monster that had once been Samuel James Withers didn’t stand a chance as the impact of the weapons literally tore it apart. However, Davies wasn’t taking any chances. Seconds later, the weapons all withdrew to a distance of ten feet, each of the small spears covered in creature and liberally dripping gore. He lifted into the air and hovered over the remains of the creature. He mentally shoved the remains together… and then slammed the metal flights into it again. And again. And again.

After the fifth repetition, Davies could feel all energy leave him, replaced by an overwhelming weariness.

He lowered himself to the ground and fell to his knees, exhausted. His forehead was cold with sweat and he wiped it off, grinning at Gordon who was walking towards him, smiling now, shaking his head in astonishment.

“Bugger me, you don’t fuck around, do you?”

– o –

Docherty was pleased that Davies had wiped the sweat away – it had been interfering with his sighting. Upon witnessing the astonishing end of the fight, he’d returned to the truck and raised the tripod in seconds, carefully attaching the rifle. He’d then screwed on the huge silencer and had slid the infra red sight into place.

Now he leaned into the rifle, aiming carefully, sighting along the length of the weapon. He had a perfect shot, a set of crosshairs superimposed over Davies’ forehead.

He pulled the trigger.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 25 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 24 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 22 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
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Chapter Twelve

There hadn’t been a television spectacle like it in years. All the main channels switched to covering it live, and remarkably, there were later fewer than ten thousand complaints, even though the three main soap operas had each been interrupted.

The number of vehicles (news vans, police, ambulances, fire engines and just the curious) seemed to grow with exponential rapidity. However, it couldn’t be denied by anyone that the initial ten minutes of the confrontation was… well, “boring” was probably the best description.

The creature, once it had seen Davies, let out a huge roar, that was totally out of keeping with its previous almost gentle and quiet noises. Davies braced himself and then prepared for battle, thinking as he did so, that he was almost certainly about to get smashed to very small pieces. It hurt to look at the thing in front of him for too long; his eyes kept wanting to look away. But he forced himself to keep his attention on it.

Davies stared at the creature, and he guessed, the creature stared back at him. But other than that, there was no movement from it. Davies took a step to the right and as far as any reaction went, he might as well have stayed still.

He looked away at the gathered throng and saw what looked like a senior police officer. Well, he rationalised, there were lots of police officers, including armed ones, deferring to him. Davies called to the officer. “Are you in charge?” he asked, turning back to face the creature.

“Yes,” replied Commander Bridger. “I’m Commander Bridger. And who the hell are you?”

With gallows humour, Davies asked, “Don’t you read The Guardian?” It was a moot question. During the day, he’d learned that all the main news media had picked up on the story.

“With all due respect, sir,” Bridger replied, “you’re not the fellow who…?” His voice tailed off, as he realised that he couldn’tjust couldn’t… say that out loud.

Davies let out a sigh and said, “Yeah, that’s me.”

Bridger considered Davies for a moment and then told him to remove himself from the crime scene immediately, as almost every other police officer would have done.

But ‘almost every’ isn’t ‘every’, and just as Bridger was contemplating how to get a man who’d just flown out of the sky to follow his instructions, the matter was taken out of his hands as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service arrived and took control. He had been briefed on the way and, although he’d never have admitted it, he was disappointed that he hadn’t seen the man flying. But that was for another time. This was an urgent situation that required calm and careful handling.

He shouted to Davies. “Mr Davies?”

Davies’ head whipped around in surprise. Despite not currently wearing a mask, it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be recognised, especially since Bridger hadn’t called him by name. But then Bridger hadn’t just come from a top secret briefing a hundred feet below Downing Street. “Yes…” he replied slowly, still keeping his eyes on the creature who was moving its upper body, while its feet remained in place.

“I’m Commissioner…” the police officer stared to say and then paused. In spite of the ribbing he’d taken over the years, he’d never expected to ever come across a situation when his name would be oddly appropriate, rather than a source of gentle mockery. If anything, the mickey-taking he’d endured since acceding to his current position was part of the reason he was sympathetic to Davies’ situation. But he was the Commissioner of the Met, and he had his duty.

Davies looked puzzled at the pause, and he turned his head fully towards the police cars. The Commissioner scowled and then said it. “Mr Davies, I’m Commissioner Bill Gordon, and…”

Here it comes, he thought resignedly.

Davies couldn’t quite believe it. “You’re Commissioner Gordon?” he asked, struggling to keep a straight face. This was one for the record books, he thought. My life has been nuts for the past twenty four hours because of the credibility I’ve lost through a laughable name, and this bloke… He shook his head at the ways that the fates messed with human lives. “You’re Commissioner Gordon?” he asked again, this time managing, just, to keep anything other than polite questioning from his tone.

Gordon heard the effort, and appreciated it. “Yes,” he called, “and what I’d suggest is…”

“Sorry for interrupting,” Davies interrupted with, “but would this be more sensible if we talked with me over there?”

“Well, yes, it would,” said Gordon, astonished.

“OK,” said Davies and went to hover over to him. He didn’t get far. About three feet in fact. The moment he activated his powers, the creature came to life and its arm extended towards Davies, some fifteen feet away. From the end of the arm, fleshy material extruded at astonishing speed and wrapped itself around Davies’ leg. The base of the tentacle withdrew and the tentacle itself became a tight cable that began to be pulled back into the arm. The creature raised its arm and then lowered it at great velocity.

The thing wrapped around his leg had taken Davies by complete surprise and while he was still wondering what the hell was going on, the whiplash affect, which had travelled down the taut tentacle, caught up to him and he was jerked up into the air before being smashed into the ground, his head making an audible crack! as it impacted.

The shock evinced on the faces of those watching was nothing compared to the shock felt by Davies. The back of his head was suddenly wet and his head pulsed with pain. Then it seemed to diminish, reducing from sharp pain to dull ache, as his body started to heal.

The creature raised and lowered its arm again, but this time Davies saw it coming. He braced himself on the ground and willed the effect to stop.

It didn’t change a thing as he was lifted into the air and then deposited on the ground in a heap; he felt a rib go and then yelled in sudden pain as he felt it mend. Again, the dull ache quickly replaced the sharp stab of agony

Davies looked around him and saw a police officer standing next to a long metal pole, about ten feet in height, at the top of which was a sign showing directions to various departments. He reached his hand out towards it and the sign neatly detached itself from the pole, falling to the ground. The pole lifted out of the concrete and shot up into the air in a perfect parabolic arc that ended at the outstretched hand of Ian Davies. It happened so quickly that to onlookers it appeared as it Davies had suddenly conjured it out of thin air. It snapped into his hand and as it did so, he whirled around, the pole slicing viciously through the air… and then through the limb that was holding his leg. There was a spatter of thick liquid onto the ground which bubbled for a moment before becoming still.

Ominously, there was no sound from the creature… for about ten seconds and then with a bellow, it charged at Davies. Again, he was shocked as the reports and conversations he’d heard since he arrived gave the maximum suggested speed of the thing somewhat comparable to a that of a very determined slug. It just went to show that past experience was no guarantee of future performance, he guessed, at that moment just grateful to have his leg free.

He hefted the pole as if it was a spear and went to throw it, but the monster was on him before he had a chance to use it and then he was under the creature and feeling severe pain as twenty tentacles erupted from the creature’s hide, attaching themselves to Davies.

And Gordon shuddered, along with the rest of his officers, as he heard Davies scream.

This time without any exceptions, no one saw Docherty arrive.

– o –

The members of Blue Committee were still watching the screen and as Davies cried out in pain, Clooney saw the Prime Minister frown and whisper something to Bowman. Bowman nodded and turned down the volume of the television slightly.

The Prime Minister stood up. “OK, despite us knowing that what we’re seeing is completely impossible, we have two possible scenarios to deal with. Either this Davies man defeats the creature or he’s unable to. If it’s the latter, we need proposals to kill it. On the other hand, if Davies does manage to triumph, we need proposals to deal with him.”

There was a moment of perfect silence before he continued, “ Well, under no circumstances am I letting him walk around able to do what he can. What if he decided that he didn’t agree with our policies…?”

The Leader of the Opposition couldn’t resist the temptation, although to be fair, he didn’t really try all that hard. He whispered to his neighbour, “We can only hope”. Unfortunately his voice carried further than he would have wished and the Prime Minister’s voice was like acid as he continued “…and decided to kill anyone who disagreed with him?” That silenced the Leader of the Opposition, as the PM had intended.

“I believe we have an Uncontrollable Event,” the Prime Minister said, rather more formally, and Clooney noticed the immediate change in the room. “Is there anyone here who disagrees?”

Clooney looked around the room and saw that everyone else was looking at the Prime Minister, expectantly, as if their very silence signified something. The PM looked at each face in the room, reacting with surprise when he noticed that Clooney was still there. He paused for a moment and then moved past her to Docherty’s seat. It was then that she realised, for the first time, that he’d gone; she couldn’t recall when he’d left. The Prime Minister noticed Docherty’s absence, but since he suspected the reason why, he moved on to Docherty’s Head of Section, and then past him continuing around the table.

When the Prime Minister had gone around the table, he explicitly and separately asked Lady Constance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the CIA representative and Docherty’s Head of Section whether they agreed. They all spoke, confirming their assent, the military man grudgingly.

The Prime Minister sat down, leaned forward and placed his hands palms down on the table. He looked at Docherty’s Head of Section one more time. His tone was sonorous. “As with previous occasions, I leave this to your department. I believe,” a glance at the seat where Docherty had recently sat, “that you have matters in hand. Arrange an unfiling,” he said, and then he turned his back to them, the television once again taking his attention, as Bowman increased the volume.

The Head of Section took Clooney’s hand and motioned with his head. They left the room and returned to the ante-room where Clooney had waited earlier. The Head of Section took a small phone from his pocket and punched in a number. He heard it ring once before it was answered.

“You know who this is?” he asked.

“I know who this is,” came Docherty’s voice in his ear.

“You have authorisation for an unfiling.”

“Who?” came the quite reasonable response.

“Whichever of them survives their battle,” Docherty’s boss told him.

There was a long pause. “Repeat and confirm,” Docherty asked. It was the usual next phrase in the sequence. Any such order had to be given twice to ensure that the correct order had been given. And more importantly, that the right person was identified.

“I repeat and confirm: if that thing beats Davies, blow it out of existence. Whatever it takes. Whoever else has to die to accomplish it. Destroy it.”

“Acknowledged. And if Davies wins?”

“Kill him.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 24 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

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Chapter Eleven (continued…)

Underneath Downing Street, the soldier moved away from the door as Sir Anthony Bowman walked into the room. “Mr Docherty, Doctor Clooney? If you’d come with me please?” he asked, and turned without waiting for their reply.

Docherty and Clooney stood up and followed him. Clooney was tired, as well as thinking that she needed a shower, and was pleased at the thought of leaving Downing Street. She realised her mistake when Bowman took a left turn and led them back into COBRA. She took a deep breath as she entered the room and at Bowman’s direction, she sat at the table again, Docherty sliding into place beside her.

Where previously, the atmosphere and appearance of the room had been businesslike, there was now an air of barely restrained tension in the room. It seemed faintly familiar, and Clooney tried to place it, before with a small start she recognised it as the same feeling in a lab when a team absolutely knew that an experiment had just suffered a catastrophic failure. She could see the military people sketching out some plans on paper, while others around the room looked expectantly towards the head of table.

The Prime Minister was in discussion with his fellow politicians, Bowman and some army personnel. The PM raised his voice, partly in anger, partly in order that Bowman would be left in no doubt as to his feelings.

“Is this confirmed?” he asked. Bowman said something too quietly for Clooney to eavesdrop and the Prime Minister said with some force, “Don’t tell me what you don’t know, man – tell me what you do know.”

He stood up and looked at them all. “As I understand it, there’s no way to trace either of these people, and as a result, the considered opinion of this committee is that we start looking for them? Brilliant,” he exclaimed, sarcasm dripping from each word. “This is amateur work, people.” As he was winding up to further excoriate them, a door opened and a young woman appeared. She was accompanied by a soldier, his hand placed just above her shoulder. The picture was one of complete readiness.

The Prime Minister turned and saw the newcomers. “Yes?” he asked, barely containing his impatience.

“Prime Minister,” the young woman said, “I have a message for Lady Constance.” He nodded in her direction and turned back towards the papers he’d been studying.

The woman who was the head of the intelligence services rose, walked across to the younger woman and took a piece of paper from her. She quickly read the message and then thanked the woman who then left the room. She walked slowly to the Prime Minister, her face betraying the irritation she felt at whatever she’d read.

“Prime Mister, members of the Committee. I now believe that we have identified the whereabouts of Withers.”

“Excellent news,” said the PM. “I take it that’s a note from your section.” He looked at the Americans. This’ll show them how it’s done, he thought.

Lady Constance blushed. “Not exactly, Prime Minister; this comes from the television news.”

Docherty grabbed Clooney’s hand and squeezed hard. The moment Lady Constance had told the Prime Minister from where she’d received the news, he’d seen Clooney’s mouth clench tight and he knew she was about to laugh. Despite it being a more than understandable reaction, it wouldn’t exactly do Clooney any favours. Not in this room.

The Prime Minister closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, his face was a combination of relief and despair. No one at all doubted that he and Lady Constance would be having words later, quite loud ones at that.

A second later, the television which had recently been used to show Clooney’s DVD was switched to a news channel and the members of Blue Committee watched the report in silence. The most senior police officer present rose to his feet. “With your permission, Prime Minister?”

The PM didn’t even take his eyes off the screen. “Go,” he said, and the rest of the committee watched, for possibly the first time in their lives, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service running at a sprint.

The television channel continued to report the same news and, unbelievably, after thirty minutes, Clooney began to notice that the members of the Committee were getting frustrated at the lack of new information.

And then something happened. Something that took any such frustration and tedium, bounced it on the ground a couple of times and smacked it over the net to score an ace. On the television, the view switched to that of an outside camera and as the Committee members watched, they saw the scene shift, and the camera pan up, pausing for a moment, as if to admire the night sky. And then it seemed as if the camera was attempting to focus on what appeared to Clooney to be a dark smudge on the screen, possibly a bird or a light aircraft.

The smudge grew and then the image on the screen became more distinct; she caught her breath as she realised what it was, who it was, who it could only be.

Despite not wanting to look away, she allowed herself a brief glance around the room and for a split second caught the eye of the Air Chief Marshall. As what they could see became clearer, he nodded, once, in acknowledgement and acceptance, and then returned his eyes to the screen, where Ian Davies flew out of the sky, and landed gently in front of the hospital.

With one exception, no one noticed as Docherty rose and left the room.

– o –

Deep in the creature’s mind, something stirred. Even if it had been able to talk, it wouldn’t have been able to explain the sharp pangs of hunger that now permeated its every pore.

It moved.

Slowly at first, but it moved. And scared the crap out of the doctors around it who had, in the previous hour, almost got used to its stillness and statuary like appearance. But it didn’t kill anyone. It didn’t even injure anyone, except the junior doctor who happened to be directly in its path when it first moved and who was crushed against the wall. But that was pure accident, and it’s probably not fair to blame it for that one.

The wall separating the accident and emergency room from the rest of the hospital lasted longer than anyone expected when the creature attempted to walk through it. About a third of a second longer, then the thing increased pressure and passed through the resulting debris.

It barely remembered the name for where it believed its hunger would be satisfied as ‘outside’ although it dimly registered the reduction in temperature as it left the reception area for the cold night air.

Facing it, dressed in a black shirt, black trousers and a very, very dark grey, ok black, jacket was Ian Davies, who took a long look at what used to be Samuel Withers and said what later, and with hindsight, he still regarded as the only appropriate thing to say: “Oh fuck.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 23 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 22 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

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Chapter Eleven

It was unfortunate for Janey Evans, who had just finished her shift on J Ward, that she happened to be standing by the elevator doors in the North London Hospital just as they opened. If she hadn’t been, then she’d likely have lived a long and happy life. As it was, her life ceased precisely two and a half seconds later as the creature that had been Samuel Withers smashed her to one side, and then pushed her into the wall, before moving on.

Though it would not have been any consolation, she soon had plenty of company as the creature moved slowly but deliberately through the accident and emergency unit leaving mayhem and bloodshed in its path. It stopped at one bed for a brief moment, seemingly fascinated by the various items of electronic equipment surrounding it, and gazed at the heart monitor connected to the elderly patient lying there. He was unconscious and mercifully knew nothing of the chaos around him. Immediately thereafter, he knew nothing ever again, as with one swing of a hideously mutated arm, the creature destroyed the equipment, the bed and the patient.

There was a moment’s silence, and then a scream pierced the air; the thing turned towards the source of the noise. Slowly, it limped towards the nurse who had let out the penetrating shriek, its bottom half sounding like slabs of gravel being dragged through tar. It would have undoubtedly continued its slow advance had not its body suddenly started juddering in response to the impact of bullets thudding their way into its hide.

The armed response vehicle had arrived minutes earlier and three armed police officers had run into the reception area. They were too well and carefully trained to react to the carnage with anything other than complete and total professionalism, mindful at all times that they carried a heavy responsibility. They couldn’t just go around shooting anything, they’d been warned.

The lead officer took one look at the creature and all that careful training and sense of heavy responsibility vanished. This thing is just wrong, he thought. He glanced at his fellow officers and he knew they were in agreement. Immediately, the three armed men braced themselves at the main door and opened fire, without even shouting the required warnings. (At the official inquiry several months later, the lead officer had politely but firmly expressed his considered view that in his opinion, the creature would have been unlikely, at best, to stop on hearing the words “Armed Police, Stop!” But that didn’t stop some of the newspapers running their bi-annual feature on ‘trigger happy cops’.)

When the fusillade of shots ceased after a minute or so, the creature also stopped where it was and what was left of its head cocked onto one side, appearing almost puzzled at the interruption. It seemed as if stopping caused something to stick, because from that moment, and until the arrival of Davies a little over an hour later, it didn’t move at all. There was an ominous rumbling sound that was assumed to be breathing, just from the regularity of the sound, but it didn’t sound like any breathing anyone had heard before.

Louder than the strange noise coming from the creature was the sound of moaning, filled with pain, that came from various areas of the accident and emergency room. This was from the injured, both the pre-existing patients and those who had been hurt by the thing that had once been Samuel Withers. Looks exchanged between those still conscious and ambulatory confirmed initial suspicions: no one was brave enough to risk movement, fearing that the creature might move again at moment if provoked.

The three armed officers looked at each other, not knowing what to do. The lead officer took a step back from the door and the others followed. The last one to back out looked around the room as he left, seeing it clearly for the first time. He shuddered, and swore softly to himself, before following his fellow officers, heading for the foyer to brief the senior officer who’d arrived.

Doctors crowded around the door, unsure whether or not to enter the room. Finally, one, a senior consultant named Mitchell took a step into the room, warily keeping an eye on the still creature. There was no movement, no indication that the creature was stirring from what appeared to be sleep. And as the doctor thought that, he made the mental jump to a possible conclusion: the regular rhythmic noise sounded like, of all things, snoring.

Mitchell beckoned to Howard Baker, the charge nurse, who broke all decorum by mouthing a heartfelt obscenity right back at him. The consultant sent Baker an impatient look, and then, pointing at the injured, conveyed to him what Baker correctly interpreted as a ‘patients look’, i.e. ‘look at the bloody patients!’

Baker sighed and reluctantly followed the doctor as the latter dropped to his hands and knees and crawled into the room. The pair reached the first man, a fellow physician, and Mitchell gave him a cursory glance. The man was obviously dead, his chest crushed in, and the doctor swallowed hard. He looked at Baker and motioned with his head that they should move to the next victim. Mitchell crawled a little further, and reached slowly towards a groaning man. The doctor pulled at the other man’s legs, then paused as the groans increased in volume. The physician grimaced, swallowed hard and beckoned Baker who grabbed one leg while the doctor took a firm hold on the other. Together they pulled the patient out of the emergency room to reception, where he was immediately taken away to be treated.

“OK,” Mitchell said, “That’s one. Thanks, Howard.” He looked at the others. “All right, who’s going to help me with the next one?”

The floor tiling suddenly became a matter of great interest for the rest of them, except for one enterprising fellow who looked up, as if he’d always wanted to spend time examining the ceiling. The consultant looked at them with contempt. When this was over, he’d have some things to say, he thought, but not now.

Baker stepped forward. “Looks like it’s you and me again, Mister Mitchell.” The consultant smiled resignedly, but gratefully. Baker may have not wanted to do the first journey, but now that he had, he obviously regarded it as his duty to continue. “Thanks,” said the doctor. “The one by the broken stretcher next?”

Baker nodded and the pair of them entered the room as before, on their hands and knees, trying in vain to ignore the low rumbling noise, and the monster who was responsible for it.

– o –

Davies had intended to stay in that night. He’d flown almost directly from the agency to the address of Williams’ apartment, which he found after a couple of wrong turnings. He was finding flying at night far more confusing than during the day time and had already clipped two lampposts on the way. He might heal fast, he knew, but it still hurt like hell when it happened.

He’d found the flat just as Williams had promised and hadn’t even needed the key: a mental suggestion and the door swung open. He walked in to find a well sized two bedroom apartment, exquisitely decorated. Each room was done differently, but the style of each fitted the dimensions perfectly. Davies spent ten minutes just wandering around the flat, marvelling at the taste. Williams was a constant surprise, he realised, when he saw a small collection of crystal figurines, one of a perfectly beautiful ballerina almost taking his breath away.

Williams had a large DVD and video collection, and he noticed three or four titles that he’d not previously seen, but had always intended to watch sooner or later. He decided that it was much too late now to be described as sooner, but after a wash and a bite to eat, he’d watch the DVDs. This could, after all, be the last night where he’d be undisturbed for some time, he realised, and he wanted to do nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary.

He liked the idea of doing something mundane: watch television, take a bath, have something simple normal to eat.

When he’d checked around the flat, however, he’d realised that unless he took Williams’ earlier suggestion and acted on it, only the first of those would easily be accomplished. He’d opened the refrigerator and just stared at the contents. He should have known. The fridge was almost full, but with macrobiotic foodstuffs, all of which looked less appetising than the packages in which they came.

He pulled out the scrap of paper upon which Williams had scribbled the local details and, memorising the details, he left the flat, closing the door after him. He took the narrow steps leading down to the entrance door just a tad too fast and it was with an sense of alarm that he felt one foot slide on the edge of a step. For a moment, he tottered on the edge of the stair, before losing his balance. As his foot slid away from underneath him, a wave of frustration hit him and he grabbed at the stone railing that ran down the side of the steps. It crumpled and he was suddenly holding a hand full of powder. A split second later, he was hovering above the stairs and he floated down to the ground floor.

Bloody idiot, he thought, knowing that his fall could have been witnessed by anyone. He walked to the main door, hit the exit button and entered onto the street. He turned left and started to walk down the pavement away from the apartment block. As he did, he noticed that there was an almost instinctive wish to fly, but he tamped it down, knowing that to fly would just lead to more chance of being discovered.

The five minute journey to the shop at what to others would appear a normal pace seemed excruciatingly long to him, the self-imposition seeming like a chore. He wondered how long it would take for him to start resenting it.

“Maybe I should be resenting it now,” he said out loud, gaining him a very strange look from the woman who happened to be walking past.

“She’s not worth it,” the woman said, and then walked on, leaving Davies in bemused puzzlement, wondering why she’d interpreted the comment that way. He smiled at her back and continued on his way, seeing just ahead of him the pub Williams had referred to in the directions.

Davies soon reached the all night shop and was profoundly grateful for the money that Williams had given him. He stocked up with several cans of soft drink, a slab of butter, a jar of pickle, some full fat cheese and some white bread. He didn’t care that it was supposed to be less healthy. He was pretty sure that whatever damage the combination would do to his body, it wouldn’t be a patch on a bullet wound, and he now had experience of his body’s restorative abilities in that regard.

The manager of the small shop greeted him at the check-out and Davies paid for the goods, remembering at the last moment to get some soap and shampoo. He added a bottle of scotch to the bag almost as an afterthought. The journey back to the flat was equally frustrating, and he was grateful to get through the front door.

As he did so, he let go of the bags which obediently rose up as if they were on invisible columns. They floated ahead of him as he entered the kitchen, and the food contents found their way into the small gaps left in the refrigerator. He felt a twinge of guilt, at storing cans of fizzy drink next to the health foods, but quickly got over it. He placed the toiletries in the bathroom and decided to have a bite to eat before a bath. Williams had told him to relax and after making himself some cheese on toast, he intended to do just that.

He switched on the high definition flat screen television; comedy. He needed comedy to just relax to, laugh along with, and forget about the world for a short while.

The programme was only five minutes from the end when the screen darkened and then brightened again as the word “Newsflash!” appeared. A voiceover announced “We’re going over to the Newsroom for a urgent news report…” and then the voice faded, along with the news notification board. Davies saw (along with several million other viewers) the face and upper body of a familiar senior BBC presenter, in front of a busy newsroom. The news presenter looked solemn, and Davies wondered which Royal or senior politician had died. They rarely interrupted for anything else these days. But behind the newsreader a large graphic of a red cross, with the words “Gunfire at London Hospital” suddenly appeared.

The newsreader spoke clearly and slowly. “A siege is in its second hour at the North London Hospital. Early reports suggest that some doctors and patients have been killed. We’re going over live now to the hospital, and our correspondent, Amanda Robinson. Amanda, are you there?”

The scene switched to an outside shot of the hospital, and a young attractive female reporter. She looked unsure of herself, and Davies recognised a look of fear on her face.

“Yes, David, I’m here.”

“What’s going on?” asked the presenter.

“Latest confirmed numbers are nineteen dead and about forty injured, David,” the woman said. “The police are not releasing any details about the names of the deceased or those injured. However, I understand that a number of medical staff are among the victims. Also, the police are withholding any details about the perpetrator, but I’ve heard from several people that he’s a victim himself, of an industrial acci…”

Davies didn’t hear any more, since he’d opened the window and left the flat, heading for the North London Hospital.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 22 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 21 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 19 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
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Chapter Ten (continued…)

Monkton and Williams looked at each other. Of course, Davies was right. No-one would ever take them seriously again with Davies as an employee. It was partly for that reason that Monkton had offered their services as representatives. As an employee, it was hopeless. As a client? The possibilities were almost endless.

Davies didn’t wait for an answer, and made his last point. “Fourthly. As far as I know, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, I’m this planet’s first real super powered human. And yet I don’t know really how I got my powers, nor what their affect upon me or others is going to be.” The directors weren’t surprised when the words “4. Effects of Powers” appeared on the flipchart.

Patt couldn’t help himself. He interjected with “or others?”

Davies turned to him. “Of course ‘or others’. I’ve no idea whether or not anyone else can be affected just be standing near me, for example. I doubt there are any effects, simply because if there were, I think we’d know about them by now. After all,” he said, looking directly at Patt, “I spent a day working here before there were any big effects on me, and I was working with other people during that time…”

Patt suddenly looked even paler.

“But,” Davies said, “what my main point on number four is… it’s that I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. In the space of thirty-six hours, I’ve gone from having the odd scar or shaving cut heal up, my body healing itself from a bullet wound, to being able to move small things with my mind, to being able to fly to… well…” He looked at the three of them and they were lifted out of their chairs before being gently put down in them again.

Monkton looked at his watch, and stood up. “OK, Ian – let me suggest this much. You’re in a spot of bother.”

Davies laughed, a harsh sound.

“Ian, you asked us to let you finish…” Davies smiled and nodded, so Monkton continued. “Can I suggest you let us think on this for the day and then come back tomorrow? After work, I think would be best. Say seven o’clock?”

Davies nodded again. Twenty four hours wouldn’t make a lot of difference, he thought.

“Where are you staying tonight?” Williams asked.

“Do you know, that hadn’t even occurred to me,” said Davies, truthfully. “I can’t go home and any friends’ places are out for obvious reasons.”

Williams’ next words surprised him. Williams pulled out a set of keys, detached two and tossed them to Davies. “Stay at my London flat. I can stay with Peter tonight. That ok, Peter? You can relax, Ian, and take it easy for the night.”

Monkton, who had a large town house, nodded his agreement to the arrangement, thinking that it was a superb idea. At least they’d know where he was and could get hold of him. But Williams had already thought of that. “And do yourself a favour – take the phones out of the sockets and turn your mobile off.”

“I left the mobile at the hospital,” Davies said, remembering now where he’d left it, “and it was broken, anyway”.

“There’s food in the fridge, but there’s an all night place about ten minutes walk away, in case you want anything else,” Williams added, writing down the address and directions to the shop. He handed the paper to Davies, together with five twenty pound notes. “By the way,” he asked, “out of pure curiosity, when was the last time you shaved?”

“Erm, the day before yesterday, just before I came to work, why, do I look rough?” Davies asked, going to rub his chin.

“No, that’s just the point. You look like you shaved five minutes ago.”

Davies realised it was true. His chin and face were completely smooth.

“Oh, and one more thing,” Williams said, “it looks like everyone else has left. So you can use the door on the way out, ok?”

Davies nodded again, then grinned and raised an eyebrow as he noticed the flipchart. “So,” he said, “whatever else has happened, my handwriting hasn’t improved.”

He laughed, a short bitter laugh. And then he was gone.

– o –

PC Marcus Gold heard screaming and it was a full ten seconds before it hit him that the reason the screams sounded so familiar was because they were emanating from his own throat. In that short time, he had managed to run from the carnage that he’d seen in the basement and he fumbled for the radio, screaming for backup. He knew he’d been a fool: it had been exceedingly stupid to have come down here without anyone accompanying him. If nothing else, he thought, they could have verified what would undoubtedly sound like the ravings of a diseased mind that had taken a left while reality had taken a sharp right.

Such a reaction would have been perfectly understandable, he realised. What he had witnessed in the room was nothing that anyone should encounter and expect to remain unchanged. He was constantly trying not to throw up at the mental image that wouldn’t leave his brain, and he was incredibly grateful when the radio bleeped twice and his sergeant called for him to answer.

It was when he heard the tearing sound of metal being shredded as he was attempting to answer the call that he realised his penultimate mistake: he’d assumed that the ‘thing’ hadn’t followed him. He’d ducked out through a door that led to an abandoned operating theatre and had then hidden behind a large cabinet before running for the open elevator. Once the doors had shut, he thought he’d been safe, which was part of his final error of judgement: he’d led the creature to a way out of the basement.

In his final thoughts, he begged forgiveness for the hell on earth he would be responsible for letting loose when the elevator would shortly open its doors into the accident and emergency room.

Two minutes later, rarely had such a description of a hospital area been so appropriate.

– o –

There was complete silence in the large briefing room as Clooney froze the image from the DVD on the screen. It was interrupted by the release of several sharp intakes of breath, including that of the Prime Minister.

Docherty who had seen the video sequence before was still shaken. The Prime Minister, having watched it once, had asked to see it again, immediately. And, after that, a third time. Docherty admired the man’s fortitude. Once had been enough for him.

“How could…?” The Prime Minister stopped, wiped his forehead from the beads of sweat that had appeared and shook his head. “How could they…?”

Clooney stood and answered. “If what you’re asking, Prime Minister, is ‘how could they do that?’ The answer is I don’t know. And more than that, I don’t know if there is an answer that is scientifically valid. The rats were dead. There’s no question of that. Their life signs had terminated.”

From across the room, a voice quietly said “they were ex-rats, they had ceased to be,” and unbelievably, there was a shocking and shocked burst of laughter from some of those present. Not from the PM though, who sent the speaker a look that could have curdled milk at twenty paces. “Thank you, Bernard.” The man who’d spoken coloured and dropped his eyes.

All eyes stared at the image and all thoughts were of the frightful violence that had presaged it. What was left of one rat looked directly at the camera with its sole remaining eye, as if it knew the camera was there. What was left of the other two rats was not in any state to even move, let alone stare at anything.

“Bloody hell,” said the Chief of Staff of the British Armed Forces, neatly summing up the view of the room. He’d served in Northern Ireland at the most violent time of the Troubles, and also Afghanistan, and had seen the results of car bombs and terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, he’d never been shaken like he had been over the previous fifteen minutes.

“And as well as that,” he pointed at the screen, “you’re saying that we have a human being with powers that compare to a comic book super-hero…”

“Or super-villain?” added the Leader of the Opposition.

“Well, yes…” Clooney said. She didn’t think there was a lot to add to that, but in a day filled with surprises, there was one more coming.

“Doctor Clooney?” asked one of the Americans.

“Yes,” she replied, not being able to remember whether this was the CIA man or the other one. His next question told her the answer: it was the other one, the “sometime colleague” scientist.

“Can you tell us please the exact parameters of the experiments your team performed on these rodents?”

“Certainly,” she said. “We subjected the rats to an exposure of the material. They died. Next?”

“My apologies,” the American said, clearly not apologising in the least, “if I could prevail upon you for the exact,” he stressed the word, “parameters.”

Clooney looked around the room, making a quick estimation. “With due respect, sir, you, Sir Anthony and maybe three or four others in this room might understand the implications of the question you’ve asked, but I’m pretty certain that only those people would understand the answer.” He smiled in polite acknowledgement of, and more than polite agreement with, her comment.

Clooney opened her folder and removed a set of stapled papers. She glanced quickly at them, then tossed them across the table to him, and he nodded in acknowledgement as he read them in silence, apart from a brief “These are accurate?” addressed to Clooney about half-way through his reading and a “Holy Christ!” towards the end.

After he’d finished reading, he said to the room, “We have a Condition Blue,” at which everyone in the room except Docherty, his Head of Section and Clooney reacted. The first two didn’t react because they had been trained far too well for that; the latter didn’t react because she had no clue what that term meant.

Docherty looked at his boss and took the hint from the sharp jerk of his head towards the door. “If you’ll excuse us, Prime Minister, committee members,” he said, and whispered to Clooney, “On your feet, Rosemary.” They left the room and went into a small ante-room. Clooney noticed that the door to the room was immediately darkened by the presence of a large soldier.

“What’s going on in there now?” she asked.

“Now?” Docherty repeated, wishing desperately for a cigarette. “Now they’re discussing what to do. And how many.”

“What to do?” she asked.

“Yes, what to do,” he replied, and she knew that he wouldn’t say any more in answer.

“Well, what do you mean, ‘and how many’?” she asked, trying another tack.

“Well, if you are right about there being both a super-human and the human equivalent of those rats out there, and I think you are,” he responded carefully, “then what they’re considering is how many people are going to die before this is all over…”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 21 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 20 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

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To start from the beginning, click here
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Chapter Ten

After an hour, the Prime Minister had coughed and then suggested, “A break?”

The people in the room had gratefully agreed and they had drifted away from the table in small groups, talking animatedly, taking an occasional look at Clooney, who sat at the table, her head in her hands. She was grateful that no one could see her legs under the table as they were shaking.

A coffee was placed in front of her, and she turned to thank Docherty. Instead, she found herself face to face with the Prime Minister. She started to stand up, but he waved her down. “You’re doing fine, Doctor, just fine.” He smiled warmly at her, briefly put his hand on her shoulder, and then moved off to talk, she could see, to the Leader of the Opposition. She was genuinely touched by the gesture and then Docherty was there, holding a coffee. For a brief second, she wondered whether he’d brought it for her, but then he sipped it and looked at hers, saying only “I see you’ve moved up in the world.”

“Thanks,” she replied, unsmiling. “I have no idea whether or not they’re listening to me or not, you know. I’m sure I saw one of the Americans falling asleep.”

“He’s American,” Docherty said, as if that were all the explanation that was required. “You’re doing well, better than well, in fact. You’ve impressed him for a start,” gesturing towards the back of the Prime Minister, “which isn’t easy, I’d imagine. I didn’t realise you’d prepared so much information. How much more have you got?”

“Bored, are we?” she asked, her features crimpling in what Docherty thought was an attempt at a very tired smile.

He realised that she was genuinely concerned that she was blowing it. He sat next to her. “Look over there,” he said, gesturing towards a group of men in military uniforms. “You’ve got the Chiefs of Staff talking military matters.” He pointed towards the Prime Minister. “Look at him. He’s with his two opposite numbers in the parties wondering what the political and national defence aspects are. And over in that corner, you’ve got intelligence people asking how this affects them. Here you are, Doctor Rosemary Clooney,” he said, using her full name, “you’ve got some of the most important men in the country here, and they’re all listening to you.”

That shook her, he could tell, and he then asked, “what’s next?”

“The rats,” she replied, tipping out the DVD from the folder. She’d asked during her talk whether a DVD player could be made available and was only faintly embarrassed when Bowman had replied “we do have some amenities here, you know,” and had showed her where it was.

“Oh boy,” said Docherty, looking at the PM. “And he thinks he’s been surprised so far. He’s about to get a real shock.”

“Jez,” Clooney said, “there’s one question they’re going to ask me, and I can’t answer it. In fact I’m surprised I haven’t been asked it already.”

“I told you not to anticipate questions that weren’t asked, didn’t I?” he asked, knowing what was coming.

“Yes, but… Where did the material come from? We only got it under a Ministry of Defence contract.” she said. “Only it would make it a lot easier to predict stuff if I knew that.”

Docherty grimaced. “Trust me, Rosemary, it wouldn’t make any difference if you knew. But you’re not going to be asked that. Absolutely not.”

“But why not?” she asked, “isn’t anyone the least bit curious?”

“Haven’t you figured it out yet?” he queried. “They’re not going to ask you, because they already know.”

What?” Clooney cried, loudly enough to attract attention for a moment. Docherty smiled at everyone and they looked away again.

Docherty didn’t altogether blame her. It wasn’t until he’d seen the Americans but representatives from no other countries there that he had put it together. It wasn’t the CIA man that had worried him. It was the other American, the man who the deputy director of intelligence had only identified with his customary drawl as his “sometime colleague from The Depot”.

The Depot was an international code designation for a small town in New Mexico; just under sixty years ago, it had made world headlines, and ever since then, work for a thousand conspiracy theorists for pretty much all of those almost sixty years.

The Depot was Roswell.

– o –

Scott Jordan was drunk.

He was very drunk. In fact, if you’d asked him, he would have said that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this drunk. Well, he would have said it, if he could have formed the sentence with any degree of skill. And if he could remember much at all, which wasn’t a sure bet. He considered himself very lucky that his wife couldn’t see him like this. She was on duty this evening.

So he didn’t have to tell her that he’d been fired. Not yet – he was getting drunk so that he didn’t feel guilty about not telling her.

He was also getting drunk because he knew that his firing was unfair. He turned to his drinking companion, the former editor who’d also been fired that afternoon. Strictly speaking, they hadn’t been fired. But in both cases, it had been made clear to them that they were expected to resign. And if they didn’t resign, they would be fired.

When he’d been sober, Jordan was pretty sure why he’d lost his job. Nothing to do with the story per se, but more to do with the reaction. They’d made the newspaper a laughing stock, they’d been told.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Jordan had protested, firmly of the view that it was hardly his fault if the typesetters had screwed up.

What he didn’t know, and couldn’t be told, was that it wasn’t the managing editor’s idea to fire him. Nor had it been his boss’s idea. And not even the newspaper’s owners had come up with the idea to fire him, although it was at their command that anyone who’d had a say in approving the story was let go.

The owners had received threats. It was as simple as that. None of them knew from where the threats had originated, but they had been conveyed in manners which left no doubt as to their sincerity and seriousness. With one it was blackmail; with another, a threat to the safety of her grandchildren. Another had simply been physically bullied. All had received the same message: fire them.

And so the order had gone out… and two hours later, both Jordan and the editor (as well as some junior staff) were out of work.

In his drunken state, Jordan wasn’t sure who to blame. But his sodden mind was rapidly coming to the conclusion, well as rapidly as it could, that Ian Davies was to blame. With enormous effort, he summoned up the energy to tell this to his former boss, but the other man wouldn’t have heard him even if Jordan could have made the comment intelligible. The former editor of The Guardian, who hours earlier had been responsible for the daily production of one of the country’s great newspapers, was currently responsible solely for laying his head on the bar and snoring softly.

– o –

The level of detritus of coffee cups on the table of Doncaster and Monkton would normally have signified great activity and large amounts of brainstorming. Davies knew this, if only because of the number of nights that he’d worked late in this very room, frantically sketching out press campaigns and media defences.

He still recalled the time when they’d been hired to represent a computer manufacturer whose chief executive had given an interview during which he’d admitted that the machines were never designed to last longer than a couple of years. Davies had known what the man meant: since software increased in power and memory requirements every year, the latest up to date machines this year would be effectively obsolete in three years. But the public, understandably, saw this as a company admitting that their products were useless, what was known in their game as “doing a Ratner”.

After fourteen hours, and constant infusions of caffeine, Davies was the one who’d come up with the solution: an entire campaign based around the idea that most computer purchases were brought by families, and even then, the most frequent users were young adults. What did they care about? Fashion. So the campaign led on the dual concept that “we redesign them to be the most fashionable… and don’t you always want to be ahead of the crowd?” and for the mature adults, “we design them from new every year because we’re the best… and you deserve the best.

The campaign had been a runaway success and had made his name in the agency; Ian Davies later calculated that during those fourteen hours, he’d drunk a little under fifty cups of coffee.

So when he’d been in a meeting with three others for only two hours, and there were, after only that length of time, the remains of several dozen cups of coffee either on the table or in the bins, Davies knew that meant that they should have gotten somewhere.

Except they hadn’t.

For a start, it had taken him some time to stop laughing, and when he’d finished, he’d spent another few minutes wiping his eyes. After that, he’d let Monkton talk. And after he’d finished, Williams took over, by now a fervent convert to the idea. Patt had then added his views, though far more cautiously.

Now, for the past couple of minutes, there had been silence in the room. Davies stood up, and the others stood as well. He looked at them. “Sit down, please, I’m not going anywhere… yet. I just want to stretch my legs.” Patt and Monkton sat down, the latter fiddling with a pen. Williams stayed standing, at least for a minute or so, before Davies, who’d started pacing, noticed him. He said “I said ‘sit down’,” and Williams sat, though not of his own volition. He’d simply found himself shoved down into his chair.

Davies continued pacing, the other three staying silent, even when they noticed that Davies was so deep in thought that he’d actually left the carpet and was pacing the air, as if on an invisible gentle slope. He got higher and higher and just before he banged his head on the ceiling, he blinked. There was a soft “bugger,” before he fell to the ground.

Williams jumped up and made as if to move to him, but Davies stood up and grinned ruefully, “Sorry, that’s the second time that’s happened.” Williams was more relieved than he wanted to admit that Davies had actually apologised, and appeared to mean it.

He sat down and looked directly at Monkton. “I’ve considered your comments carefully,” he said, “but as of yet, I’m not convinced that anything you do will help the situation. Apart from anything else, there are four things that concern me.”

He stood again and walked over to the flip chart in the corner of the office, obviously intending to write down the points. This was a habit of his during planning meetings, and though he didn’t know, it irritated the hell out of both Patt and Monkton, taking time up instead of just getting on with it. Both of them, however, wisely decided to say nothing about it.

Davies picked up a marker pen, looked at it curiously and then let it go. It obediently scribbled a 1. and the word “Credibility” on the blank sheet of paper. Davies turned to the three men and said “First, any credibility I wanted in what Peter accurately described as a public,” he winced at the word, “identity has been utterly destroyed. If today is anything to go by, then if I appear again as the Public Defender, all that’s going to happen is that more people will take the piss out of me.”

Monkton started to say “Yes, well…” but stopped as Davies looked at him. “Let me finish, please, Peter. You can shoot me down in flames after I’ve concluded, okay?”

Monkton nodded, and gestured for him to continue.

“Number two,” Davies said, “as you’ve realised, and as no doubt one or more of the news media will soon report, The Public Defender is me. Ian Davies.” Behind him, the marker wrote a neat 2. and the word “Identity”. Davies continued “I can say goodbye to any private life I had. And despite what you might have guessed from comic books or movies, I don’t have a huge backup to get myself a new identity.”

He looked at the others, as if challenging them to disagree with anything he’d said. Sensibly, they all stayed silent, Williams scribbling on a scratchpad and Patt taking a large swallow of coffee. Only Monkton was looking directly at him. Davies had always liked Monkton, although with the necessary fear that came along with working for a self made man who never missed an opportunity to remind you of it. But this evening, he was developing a respect for the man that far outweighed any previous feelings. He seemed to be the only one who was entirely unafraid of him. Though how much of that was pretence, Davies didn’t know.

“Number three. As well as the end of any private life, I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do for money.” At this, all three of them looked at the pen write in neat lettering “3. Money/Prospects”, then back at him, and Davies laughed at the idea that they were about to protest. “No, don’t insult me by pretending that I can continue here. I’ve enough experience in this game to know that if I stayed here, the agency is finished as a serious player in the market. And I respect and like this place too much to allow that to happen. And so do you. When were you planning on firing me? Tonight? Tomorrow?”

No-one dared reply.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 20 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 19 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 17 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Nine (continued…)

In the North London Hospital, the siege was about to start.

The time from the first murder until the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth murders (which had conveniently but tragically occurred within seconds of each other) had only been a few hours. Though when all things were considered, it’s unlikely that things would have turned out any differently in the short term even if the creature had been discovered after the first killing.

The thing that had been Samuel Withers didn’t have much else to do, after all, and the little conscious thought it did have at that time didn’t really have an appreciation for anything other than assuaging a feeling of need, of desire, of hunger. What time it had had to occupy itself that day had been taken up with murder, destruction and other assorted mayhem. However, the changes that had taken place within, for want of a better word, its brain were continuing and the destruction was taking on a more creative edge.

It hadn’t taken that long for the hospital staff to start wondering where their colleagues were, those who had been sent to the basement for one reason or another. The first theory had been that the poorly paid employees who hadn’t returned had just had enough of working for the national health service and had, as one porter put it, “just buggered off”. And were that to have been the case, there’s not a lot of people working in the hospital who would have blamed them.

Telephone calls to the vanished staff got no response, though, although one mobile telephone rang for some minutes before a recorded voice came on the line to apologise and inform the caller that the telephone was not in signal range. A more accurate recording would have stated “We’re sorry, but this telephone is no longer working because it’s been stepped on by a mutated creature that’s horribly maimed then killed the registered owner of the handset”.

One enterprising doctor had suggested almost off-handedly that there must be a poker game taking place. A few others, who were no mean hands at the game in their own right, and had their own (strictly against the rules) floating game running in the wards at night, thought they’d get in on the act. Five of them went down in their next break, hoping that they’d find something that the hospital administrators didn’t know anything about. They got their wish, but not in a way that could have been predicted.

The other staff only became aware that things were seriously amiss when one of those doctors (by now lacking his mean hand, as well as several other body parts) staggered up from the basement screaming about “a monster” before crashing to the floor unconscious, a thick trail of blood in his wake.

Police Constable Marcus Gold came running at the screams and arrived at the accident and emergency ward to find a scene of chaos. He saw the blood on the floor and half a dozen medical personnel surrounding someone on a trolley. He grabbed a doctor to find out what was going on and was a bit upset when the doctor told him, in no uncertain language, to seek sex and travel, (but in not so many words). Gold was about to react with some well-chosen words about courtesy and politeness to police officers when he followed the doctor and saw what was left of the person who had been doing the screaming.

He staggered out of the treatment room and leaned back against the wall, trying to keep down his lunch. Before he could say or do anything else, he felt a hand on his neck. “Stick your head down and breathe deeply,” came a familiar voice. He followed the instructions and when he felt a tad better, he stood up. Next to him was Howard Baker, an old school friend, and a charge nurse at the hospital. Baker slipped Gold a couple of pills and a glass of water. “Take them,” he ordered, “it’ll help with the nausea.”

Gold swallowed them gratefully.

“What the hell…?” he got out.

“I don’t know,” his friend replied. “Half a dozen staff have gone down to the basement for supplies and stuff. None of them came back this morning and then,” he gestured towards his colleague, currently being worked on by half a dozen different staff, “this happened.”

Gold grabbed at his radio and started talking to his station, calling for back-up. As he was waiting, he asked Baker whether or not there was any connection between the doctors.

“Other than that they were all doctors? No – oh, they played poker, but then so do most of us on occasion. No, some from every department. He’s from paediatrics.”

“OK, I want to talk to his boss – can you arrange that?”

“Sure – I’ll call him,” said the charge nurse and went to do just that. As he left, Gold confirmed with the station that they had an incident, that it probably involved an armed suspect and received, in turn, confirmation that backup was on the way.

It would have been most sensible for Gold to have waited both for the backup and the doctor, since in short order, he’d need both of them, the latter more urgently than the former, but what ran through his mind was that he was overdue for promotion and sorting this out would surely get it for him. His wife was constantly going on about it and it’d be nice not to have to worry about that any more.

It was true. In about half an hour, Gold would never have to worry about promotion again, unless, of course, he wanted the harp and wings and special halo that went along with it.

– o –

Across London, in (and just outside) the offices of Doncaster and Monkton, the four men stood there looking at each other for a few minutes.

Patt stuttered out something that sounded to Williams like “impossible”; unlikely it was that, Williams considered, given that what he was witnessing was obviously possible, indeed actually happening. He had to cut Patt some slack though, as he was finding it hard to believe it himself.

He mentally ticked off the possibilities. Hologram? Not likely, since he had a client in that field and he knew precisely how advanced the technology was. No matter how advanced, it couldn’t be that. Projection? Similarly impossible. Williams held on to the window frame, getting his head around the idea that Ian Davies – Ian Davies for Pete’s sake! – was hovering, without visible support, outside the window. I always knew you’d go far, he thought, but at this moment, I wish you had gone even further… far, far away.

Patt also held on to the window frame, but in his case it was to prevent him falling down, since he felt like his legs had turned to water. It was Monkton, surprisingly, who opened the window first. Williams just continued staring at Davies, and Patt was wishing his legs were firmer, if only so that he could discover how fast he could run, and how far away he could get by running.

But Monkton, who already thought he had an inkling as to what Davies wanted, opened the window and called out to him. “Ian, my dear chap. How are you?”

There was a moment of silence before Davies’ face, previously looking like a doctor about to tell a patient that he had six weeks to live, relaxed and a second after that, there was a brief chuckle. “How am I? How am I? Fine. Peachy keen. Never been better. And yourself?”

There was something faintly ludicrous, Monkton thought, about the situation.

“Cold, to be honest,” Monkton answered truthfully, “Would you care to step inside?” He stepped back from the window and motioned for his fellow directors to do the same. Williams did so immediately and moved to the other side of the room. Patt just shook his head and continued holding to the frame for dear life. Oh dear, thought Monkton, it’s almost comical. Patt stood there grasping the window frame as if scared he’d fall down, while Davies, who he would have thought would have understandably been grateful for something to prevent him plummeting to the ground looked coldly confident.

Davies appeared to consider Monkton’s invitation for a minute and then, without apparent effort, he moved smoothly towards the window. A moment later, he stepped through the frame and stared at his employers. He would have had to be blind, deaf and stupid not to notice that the uneasy feeling coming from the men. And he didn’t miss how all three of them made sure there was something between him and them even if it was, in the case of Monkton, a folder.

He looked around the room, as if seeing it for the first time. He noticed the table and the damage that he’d done to it and shook his head, slowly. The three directors looked at each other, wondering whether or not Davies had expressed mild regret for the table or whether he’d just decided to kill them all. Davies hadn’t taken his eyes off the table.

He walked to the table and put his hand directly over the damaged section, level with the surrounding wood. Closing his eyes, he pictured the table complete.

The lump of wood that was embedded three inches into the carpet, and which had resisted the best efforts of Doncaster and Monkton’s staff to remove it, smoothly rose as if pulled by a string and slotted into its previous home. There was a noise that sounded like a hundred bees buzzing and when he removed his hand, the table was once again whole. Davies opened his eyes, and they found Monkton.

“Sorry about that, Peter,” he said, and everyone in the room noticed the use of Monkton’s first name.

“Not a problem, Ian,” Monkton replied. “I appreciate the repair work, genuinely.” He motioned to a chair. “Please sit down. Can I get you a drink? You’re a coffee drinker, I recall, yes?”

Davies nodded slowly, carefully, saying “white please, two sugars,” and watched Monkton as he moved to the portable coffee machine in the back of the room. There was a small smile on his face as he wondered when the last time Monkton had made coffee for someone else in the office had been.

He wasn’t sure what he was doing there, if he was honest with himself. After he’d left Jordan, he’d flown to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and had sat on the top of one of the towers, wondering what the hell he was going to do. He’d spent the next two hours either rescuing depressed people who were considering jumping or saving people who had climbed up, convinced that he needed their help, but who had then themselves fallen. For an hour or so, he’d not had a problem. But then the girl had asked why he’d not chosen a better name than The Pubic Defender and he’d flown off.

It had been the same for the rest of the day; for every person he’d saved and who’d thanked him (including victims of two road traffic accidents, four muggings and six people trapped in a lift) there had been two that had, frankly, mocked him. Two made a gag about how they were surprised the mask covered all his hair, since they found it got everywhere, one woman had asked whether or not he was sex crazy (and had seemed disappointed when he said no), and six separate people had wanted to know whether he got taller when he was excited.

Monkton brought him the coffee and placed it before him. “Thanks,” Davies said, realising that he meant it. He did want a hot drink, and couldn’t remember the last time he’d had one. He thought it might have been in the hospital, or maybe the hotel room. Again, he shook his head. He couldn’t recall. He sipped the coffee and made a sour face as he realised that Monkton had forgotten the sugar. Without conscious effort, Davies looked over at the tray by the coffee machine and two lumps of brown sugar rose into the air, quickly crossed the room and deposited themselves in his cup. The directors looked at each other worriedly and then at Davies warily.

Monkton wasn’t sure what to say, and then plumped for “I suppose that the explanation for yesterday’s incident has now presented itself, yes?”

Davies finished his coffee and said slowly “yes, I guess you could say that.” He put the coffee cup down and then shrugged. Across the room, another coffee was poured out and the filled cup floated across the room to him, sugar and milk being added on the way. Patt watched the milk stream from the jug into the cup and surprised himself by not gaping.

Williams coughed and then asked “What on earth has happened to you, Ian?”

The phraseology of the question caught Davies’ attention. “I wish I knew. I do know what I can do scares me shitless.”

“Scares you?” Patt asked, having regained some composure. Davies considered the comment, and nodded slowly. “Yes, I see what you mean.”

“Now, if I can ask one more question?” Monkton interjected

“Certainly,” Davies replied, wondering what it could be.

“Ian, given the publicity you seem to have attracted in your, let us say, ‘public identity’…” There were audible gasps from Patt and Williams, as the two of them made the same connection that Monkton had made the moment he’d seen Davies, “I’d say you need a top class PR agency. Interested in hiring us?”

Davies looked at Monkton and started laughing.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 19 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 18 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 16 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Nine

In the board-room of Doncaster and Monkton, voices were raised, which was fitting since tempers were as well. Monkton and Patt had been shouting at each other for twenty minutes, Williams staying quiet throughout it all.

A passer-by, passing, well, ‘by’, and looking on, as onlookers tend to, would have thought that Williams had the enormous patience of a saint in being able to resist jumping into the argument. However, as he’d proved many times in the past, Williams was anything but a saint. He wouldn’t have even qualified for inclusion on the list, although he’d have made a superb Devil’s Advocate. His quiet demeanour owed less to virtuous patience than it did to the certain knowledge that any interruption would only add more heat to the discussion but no light.

However, enough was enough, and Williams had slowly begun to get angry at what he heard. For a start, although Monkton had asked Patt to use his contacts to get someone in to look at the table, Williams was not naïve enough to assume that it would stop there. It annoyed him that for once Monkton appeared to have been precisely that innocent – it was unlike the senior man. Besides, Patt’s comments regarding the telephone call he’d had from Ross, and the contents thereof, worried him.

Moreover, he genuinely liked Davies, inasmuch as he genuinely liked anyone. The man was good at his work and, as well as being conscientious and honest, was reliable. That last attribute counted more than all others combined, as far as Williams was concerned. He was also concerned that events outside anyone’s control had forced him to re-evaluate an analysis of someone long after his initial assessment. He didn’t like that, didn’t like it at all.

He wondered what he could say to command attention from the others. Williams had begun to suspect that, as so often occurred when Patt and Monkton argued, they enjoyed the argument far more than they should have. Williams’ eyes wandered around the room and fell upon the gap in the table where Davies had hit it. Instantly the solution to his current problem presented itself.

He wasn’t foolish enough to risk his hand though, so he stood and took a heavy book from the coffee table. He lifted it above the table and waited for a moment, although he knew he could have run naked around the room and they wouldn’t have noticed. Well, maybe not. He let go of the book and it immediately fell to the table in a manner that would have pleased Sir Isaac Newton greatly; the short sharp bang! surprised the other two into silence. The nearness of the sound to the missing segment of table didn’t escape them. They stared grudgingly at Williams who, completely unaffected by the looks, leaned forward, placing his hands on the table.

“What on earth are you two playing at?” he asked. He was curious to see how they reacted and if those reactions matched his silent predictions. Patt he expected to fall silent almost immediately. It would be Monkton who’d bluster.

Depressingly, his expectations were almost immediately met. Patt stared at the table and then sat. Curiously, Williams had the idea that Patt hadn’t been staring at the book, but at the hand sized gap. Williams sighed as Monkton started to complain loudly at the interruption. “What are we playing at? One might ask…”

That was as far as he got before Patt, quietly, said “Shut up, Peter.”

Monkton reacted by giving him a sharp look, and then he quietened, knowing that Williams rarely spoke to him like that, and that when he had done so in the past, it had been with good reason. Williams revelled in the brief respite and then asked what he thought was the most apposite question: “Why?”

“Why what?” asked Patt in return.

“Look, Andrew, you say that you had a call from your nameless ex-colleague, and…”

“I never said he was an ex-colleague,” murmured Patt, who felt he should put up a token defence.

Williams, who thought that even a token defence was too much, started again. “You say that you had a call from your nameless ex-colleague, and he wanted to know why Davies hadn’t been suspended yet, yes?”

“Well, yes.”

“And you told him that Davies hadn’t turned up for work yet, right?”


Williams let out an exasperated though guttural sound. “Then what’s the problem?”

Patt was about to tell Williams precisely what the problem was when there was a knock at the door.

He looked up and Colclough poked his head through. “Sorry to disturb, gentlemen, but there’s a message for you.” He looked puzzled though, as if he wasn’t sure of the meaning of the message.

“Yes,? Yes? What is it, man?” asked Monkton, taking out his frustration on Colclough, who was well used to it from Patt.

“It just says ‘look out of the window’.” Colclough looked at the message again, and repeated it.

“Look out of the window?” asked Monkton. “What do you mean, ‘look out of the window’?”

“That’s all the message says, Mr Monkton,” said Colclough.

“Peter, Andrew. Would you join me, please?” asked Williams, who had gone to the window and was staring out of it. “Thank you, Joe,” he said in dismissal.

Patt and Monkton walked to the windows, puzzled, and then joined their colleague staring in disbelief at the sight they saw.

Outside the main board room window, fifty feet off the ground, hovered Ian Davies.

– o –

At that precise moment, several miles away, and a hundred feet below Davies, Doctor Rosemary Clooney was rehearsing her opening words, trying to find the right tone.

She was still getting over the shock of being told by Docherty precisely to whom she would be delivering her briefing, but at the same time trying to remember whether or not she’d brought all the information with her to justify what would, undoubtedly, be regarded as science fiction. She sighed with relief as she remembered slipping the recorded DVD of the rats into a plastic wallet and bringing it with her.

As she approached a large set of double doors with the legend “PRIVATE – NO ENTRANCE EXCEPT FOR AUTHORISED PERSONNEL” written next to them in large white letters, she gasped. “Oh no,” she said, something that had troubled her from the moment she’d been driven into Downing Street springing to the forefront of her mind.

Docherty gave her an urgent look, concern flooding his features. “What is it?” he asked.

Clooney looked at him in genuine worry. “I just remembered. I didn’t vote for him.”

Docherty’s face creased, as if he was trying not to laugh, which was indeed the case. “Don’t worry about it – I doubt if he’ll ask you.”

“No,” she continued, “but what if he does?”

Docherty gave up the struggle and laughed. “I suspect that what you’re about to tell him will worry him far more than how you cast your vote three years ago.” He grinned at her sudden and inappropriate relief, and then continued, “Though he might well ask you whether you’re voting for him next time,” which didn’t exactly reassure her.

She soon gave up trying to remember the route she took from the front door of The Chief Whip’s Office, two doors down the street from the Prime Minister’s official residence, to what she’d been told was called COBRA, the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. When she’d walked through the large black door with the number 12 on the front, she’d turned to Docherty, almost slightly disappointed that she didn’t get to walk through one of the most famous doors in England. But then Docherty, anticipating her comment, had merely asked her if she’d rather be in all the morning newspapers. Given that one of the reasons she was here was precisely because of the truth or otherwise of a newspaper report, she’d understood his meaning.

After she was taken down a dozen corridors, each more anonymous than the previous, they stopped at the door of an elevator. Waiting for them was a man who Docherty greeted with a respectful “sir”; he introduced his Head of Section to Clooney and vice versa. A soft ping signalled the arrival of the elevator and the three of them, accompanied by armed and uniformed soldiers, stepped inside. As soon as the doors closed, they dropped fifty feet and when the doors opened again, she was subjected to both a handprint and retina scan.

She asked Docherty what baseline they were using. After all, how had they previous scan results to compare these to? He gave her a look that basically, and quite effectively, told her to shut up.

They walked past two more armed soldiers into a large briefing room, far larger than Clooney had anticipated. There were about twenty people already in there and she swallowed hard as she recognised the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. She turned her head and saw half a dozen men in military uniform and then the woman who was head of the Security Services, the first to allow herself to be known by name in the media.

A man she didn’t recognise came over to them. He nodded to Docherty’s boss and introduced himself to Docherty and Clooney. “Mr Docherty? Miss, I’m sorry, Doctor Clooney? I’m Anthony Bowman, the PM’s Chief Scientific Advisor. The PM will be down shortly. He’s just waiting for the men from over the pond.”

A voice came from their side. “Sir Anthony? They’re on their way down,” said a young man, hanging up a telephone.

“Right,” Bowman said, rubbing his hands. “Let’s sit down, shall we?”

At that, the doors opened, and the Prime Minister walked in, together with the Deputy Prime Minister and two men who had to be American, Clooney thought.

The Prime Minister, looking older and far more tired than he appeared on television, asked everyone to take their seats, and introduced the Americans as he did so. Clooney only half caught their names, but started at the position one of them held. She looked around again, wondering what her mother would have said at her daughter sitting in a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, assorted military personnel, the head of the UK’s intelligence services, and a Deputy Director of the CIA. Mum would probably have wanted to know if any of them were single, she thought.

As the Prime Minister was sitting, he beckoned to Bowman, who went over to him. They had a brief quiet, conversation, during which Bowman pointed at Clooney. Clooney saw the Prime Minister take a long, hard look at her.

When everyone was seated, the Prime Minister addressed the room. “Good evening, all. Thank you for coming at such short notice. As always with Blue Committee, there are no official minutes. Well…” he gave a small, tired smile, which was matched by many around the room. “However, I understand that we’re in for something of more than usual interest this evening.” He stopped, and looked as if he wanted to say more. But then he merely said, “OK, Dr Clooney, we’re all yours.”

He looked at her expectantly. Clooney panicked and looked at Docherty, who thankfully stood. “Prime Minister, gentlemen, Lady Constance,” he nodded at the sole other woman in the room. “You’ll have to forgive Doctor Clooney’s confusion and slight reticence. Until approximately ten minutes ago, she had no idea that she was going to brief this committee on the subject matter for discussion. Nor, as it happens, was she aware of the existence of this committee. However, I have no doubt that what she’s about to tell you will certainly deliver the ‘more than usual interest’ that the Prime Minister just promised.”

He sat, and as he did so, he whispered urgently to her. “Stand up, deliver your report, sit down. Don’t anticipate questions until they’re asked. Just tell them what they need to know.”

Clooney had used the few moments to gather her thoughts and especially how to grab their attention. She’d not seen a copy of The Guardian in the room, but would have bet her pension that everyone there would have read it. She stood slowly and pulled her copy from her briefing notes.

“Prime Minister, gentlemen, madam… you’ll have all seen this headline today, I presume?” She was greeted by nods and a few muttered comments about tabloid journalism and the gullibility of the masses.

“We’re fortunate,” she continued, “that the reactions you’ve all just expressed will, I have no doubt, be common.” Her mouth was dry, and suddenly there was a full glass in front of her; she noticed Docherty’s hand sliding away. She took a sip of ice cold water from the glass, and then went on. “After all, who would believe that a man can move things with his mind, can halt speeding cars with a look. In short, who would believe a man can fly?” She smiled, deliberately giving the impression that the very thought was laughable. And then she looked directly at the Prime Minister, who was also smiling. “There’s only one small problem, Prime Minister. This story? There’s every likelihood, indeed probability, that it’s true,” she said.

There was silence in the room for a moment, before the laughter started. Docherty, concerned, looked at Clooney, as if expecting her to crumble. To his surprise, she stood there waiting for the laughter to stop. When it subsided, a minute or two later, she said “I’ll repeat that for the hard of believing: it’s true.”

“Come now, Prime Minister,” said a man in uniform, “are we seriously expected to…?”

“Air Chief Marshall?” interrupted the Prime Minister. “Please do me the courtesy of shutting up, and Doctor Clooney the courtesy of listening to her? Please go on, Doctor,” he nodded to her, “you’ve got my attention.” His words implied to the others in the room that he hoped she had theirs as well.

Clooney swallowed again, opened her folders, scanned them for a moment, and started briefing Blue Committee on the material, what was known about it, the mutagenic effects thereof and why she thought Britain had its first real life super powered being.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 18 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 17 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day until completion, Monday to Friday.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

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Chapter Eight (continued…)

In the first second, a body in freefall drops about sixteen feet. Two seconds after that, it’s fallen a total of 138 feet. Two seconds after that, Jordan had plummeted another 228 feet.

And during each and every foot, he’d screamed.

Bravery, Jordan thought, during those heart-stopping seconds, was wildly over-rated. Convinced that his life was about to end, and equally convinced that when he hit the ground, he’d leave a mess that would take days to clean up, he only partly paid attention after four and seven-eighths seconds to a black blur by his side. He felt something take hold of him, and in his panic, tried to turn and grab whatever it was.

He barely heard Davies telling him to shut up.

In the next two seconds, several thoughts ran through his head. First was that he was still falling. For some reason, this troubled him, and for a wild moment, he thought that Davies’ plan was to ram him into the ground, not trusting good old gravity to do the job. Then he realised he was decelerating, and he realised that Davies was slowing them both down. It sunk into his fear filled brain exactly what was happening.

Had Davies grabbed hold of him and just stopped him falling, the deceleration to zero velocity from a freefall speed of over eighty miles an hour in a tenth of a second would have outright killed Jordan. There had to be, as there was, a gentle (or less than gentle in this case) slowing down, just to keep him alive.

Finally, the idea that he was going to live beyond the next second or two sunk in.

The two men slowed to a halt less than ten feet from the ground.

Davies let go of him again and for a moment, Jordan expected to fall the final few yards to the ground. Instead, to his surprise, he stayed where he was, and he realised that Davies was still holding him up, only this time without physical support. It shocked him. Davies was holding him eight feet above the ground just with the power of his mind.

One might have thought that if someone had just saved one from a seven hundred foot drop onto concrete, that there would have been a smidgen of gratitude from one towards that someone, maybe even more than a smidgen. But then, of course, one would have to be an extraordinarily virtuous person not to want to kill that very someone if he’d been the someone who’d dropped you from that height in the first place.

And Jordan wasn’t that virtuous. Far from it.

“Are you bloody insane?” he asked, wishing he could pull back the words from the air the moment he’d spoken them.

There was a pause before Davies, his eyes literally blazing, but the rest of his face supernaturally calm, replied “Very probably.” He gestured and Jordan fell the last eight feet to the ground.

He looked up at Davies, who stared down at him for a moment… and then left, flying at an angle, heading for the City.

– o –

At Doncaster and Monkton, the senior directors of the company were in crisis management mode.

It was approaching the Six in the evening, and Patt had been like a bear with a sore head all day. His personal assistant, Joe Colclough, a young man with long black hair (and occasionally fingernails to match) was, for the eighth time that day, considering whether or not to look for a new job. Long used to making excuses for his boss, today he’d given up trying to explain Patt’s foul and hair trigger temper and was now reduced to telling people that he was unavailable. It didn’t help matters when, just as he was passing this message on over the telephone, everyone in the office could hear Patt shouting at the top of his voice, screaming at someone or other down the corridors.

Colclough had worked for Patt since Patt had joined the agency and he was resigned to the man’s foibles and eccentricities. He was also semi-aware of Patt’s previous career, and there was little, he thought, that Patt could do to surprise him.

It could, one supposes, be looked on philosophically that a day is wasted when something new isn’t learned. And today certainly wasn’t that day for Joe Colclough, who realised that while he’d seen Patt in various moods, he’d never seen him either scared or needlessly offensive. The assistant’s computer beeped, a flashing icon alert that in precisely five minutes, Patt was due at the directors’ meeting.

Despite the normally warm, cordial and businesslike relationship he had with Patt, the senior man was never averse to reminding him exactly who worked for whom. Today, he’d been even worse and it was with some trepidation that Colclough knocked on Patt’s door. There was a brief noise, which might have been a start of surprise, from behind the door and then it opened. To anyone else, Patt may have looked as if there was nothing concerning him. To the assistant, Patt looked like he’d lost a million pounds, found it again in bundles of notes and then realised that the new notes were forgeries, bad ones.

“Yes?” Patt snapped out, as if he didn’t give a damn what the interruption was for. Which was, more or less, actually the case.

“You’re due to meet with Mr Monkton and Mr Williams in…” Colclough checked his watch, “three minutes.”

“What?” asked Patt, pulling his mind back to the present. “What did you say?”

“I said,” the assistant responded, “that you’re due in…”

He got no further as Patt interrupted him with a brief “Yes, yes, yes… I know.” He walked back into his office, grabbed his jacket from the hanger and shrugged his way into it. He left the office, walking hurriedly.

Colclough stood in the doorway and glanced at Patt’s desk. It looked dishevelled, but that was nothing new. He saw the object on the desk, made a quick calculation and then started counting. Quietly, but regularly, the numbers left his mouth. “One… two… three… four… five… SIX!”

As the final number was spoken, Patt appeared again, giving his assistant a baleful glare. “Where the hell are my briefing notes?” he asked belligerently.

Colclough merely pointed to the desk and Patt saw that the stack of briefing notes and papers were neatly piled in the corner of his desk, where he’d left them. He stalked across the room, picked up the papers and stopped in front of Colclough, as if to say something. And then, not trusting himself to say anything, he straightened up and marched away towards the meeting room.

For the ninth time, Colclough wondered whether or not he should get a new job. Quickly followed by the tenth time as he heard Patt bellow at someone on his way to the meeting.

Colclough sat back at his desk, then looked up as a shadow fell over him. Patt was standing there, silently, and Colclough panicked for a moment before Patt simply said, “Sorry, Joe. Bad day. Shouldn’t have taken it out on you.” He fished out his wallet and dropped a stack of notes onto Colclough’s desk. “Drinks for the team. On me. Sorry again.”

And then Patt was gone again, bellowing at someone else who’d had the audacity to be standing in the corridor when Patt was on his way somewhere.

– o –

At about the same time Patt was entering the meeting room, Docherty put down the telephone, terminating the call that had informed him that Clooney was on her way up. He stood and walked to the coat stand, from where he retrieved his jacket. He was just putting it on when Clooney opened his door and walked in, carrying a buff folder.

Docherty’s eyes found the office clock. “Excellent, Rosemary – you’re right on time.”

“Of course,” she replied, in a tone that elegantly conveyed her amazement that anyone would arrive late for a meeting.

“Did you bring the report with you?” Docherty asked, momentarily turning to his desk, and retrieving his ID card.

“Yes, it’s here,” Clooney said, opening the buff folder, extracting a small folder with, Docherty could see, about twenty sheets of paper inside. “There’s a one page summary at the front, the ‘Janet and John’ bit.”

“Yeah,” he said, accepting the folder from her and skimming through the first page. “Do me a favour, will you? Don’t call it that again. It’s an ‘executive briefing summary’, ok?” He’d said the last without lifting his eyes from the paper. He finished reading and then looked at her, and then stared at her.

She looked fabulous.

The make-up she’d chosen set the natural green of her eyes off perfectly and the two piece outfit she wore flattered her figure. In short, she looked like she was going on the date of all dates. Dressed to kill, Docherty thought, wincing at the accompanying thought that the appearance was oddly appropriate, given the meeting they would shortly be attending.

“Come with me,” he said.

“Oh, are we leaving?” Clooney asked, puzzled. Maybe, she thought, they were going to dinner. At least that was the hope. She genuinely wanted him not to think that she dressed like this just to deliver a report.

“We are,” said Docherty, not giving her a chance to query it. He almost pulled her out of the room, and down the corridors. Clooney gave up trying to ask Docherty where they were going in such a hurry after the third attempt, when it dawned on her that he simply wasn’t going to answer her.

When he got downstairs, Docherty stuck his hand up in the air and a taxi pulled over almost immediately. As they were getting into the cab, Clooney tried again and then stopped, thinking at least that when the address was given to the cab driver, she’d know it.

That was a fine plan; unfortunately at about the same time as she was thinking that the interior of the taxi was a lot cleaner than she was used to, she also realised that they were already moving, without Docherty having given the driver directions.

“He works for me,” Docherty said, in answer to Clooney’s unanswered question. “And as for where we’re going, you’ll see in a minute. Sorry to do this to you, Rosemary, but you’re not just briefing me this evening. There’s going to be some other people there.”

“What other people?” she asked, noticing the cab was heading for Whitehall and wondering whether she was the only scientist involved. Hey, she thought, maybe that’s it – maybe he wants me to consult with others.

“Pardon?” asked Docherty.

“Will I know any of them?” she asked, wondering who from the science of mutagenics they could have drafted in.

Docherty half smothered a smile. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m pretty sure you’ll know one of them. By reputation at least.”

But Clooney didn’t hear him. She was too busy gawping at the road sign on the wall as the cab turned into Downing Street.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 17 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 16 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next three weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

As previously evidenced (here and here) the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly contains some lovely, wonderful, glorious artwork.

Well, so as not to spoil the upcoming story for those of you who’ve been reading, here are Ian Davies and Scott Jordan after the publication of THAT headline, by the lovely and hugely talented Cath Tomlinson:

Cath’s art, as well as other pieces by Robin Riggs, Mike Collins, Sam Hart, Natalie Sandells, Jim Wheelock, Dwight Williams and Lea Hernandez appears in the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available for £4.99

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as the aforementioned gorgeous art, sprinkled throughout the book.

Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

I have mentioned that the ebook comes with lovely, wonderful, glorious artwork, have I not?

Well, so as not to spoil the upcoming story for those of you who’ve been reading, here’s Ian Davies in hospital, examining his shoulder – and discovering how little damage remains. The art is, of course, by the wonderful Lea Hernandez:

Lea’s art, as well as other pieces by Robin Riggs, Mike Collins, Sam Hart, Natalie Sandells, Jim Wheelock, Dwight Williams and Cath Tomlinson appears in the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available for £4.99

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as the aforementioned gorgeous art, sprinkled throughout the book.

Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 14 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Eight

Jordan had been worried before, or at least he thought he had. But whatever he had previously experienced, he knew, no longer qualified to be counted in the same universe as the worry he currently felt.

The story had been filed to great acclaim from his editor and the by-line had been his alone. Scott Jordan wasn’t an idiot. He was aware that most people had no idea of the process that led to a story appearing in a newspaper. He was pretty confident, however, that the public, even the British public, were intelligent enough to realise that he wrote the story, not the headline, but that didn’t matter. Not anymore. Not right now.

In the two hours since the story had broken, there were five things he unquestionably knew about his current predicament. The first was that he was now famous: his name was known around the world, and would be forever, given the state of online media. Secondly, he knew that the world was now aware that super powered beings were not limited to the realms of science-fiction, badly produced movies and comic books. The third thing he knew with certainty was that his newspaper, Scott Jordan and the editor were the laughing stock of what was still called Fleet Street even though no newspapers had actually been based there for years. Further, he also knew that Ian Davies, despite not being identified in the story by name, would never, as in ‘not ever’ live it down. That whatever credibility he had had up until then had been completely, utterly, totally, entirely, absolutely, comprehensively and more than somewhat destroyed.

The final thing he was absolutely sure about was that he was about four hundred feet above London, his jacket being tightly held by a very, very angry super-hero. And that he was increasing in altitude with every second. Although he couldn’t see Davies’ eyes, he wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been little lightning flashes coming out of them.

What he didn’t know was what Davies was thinking. What flat out scared him was that Davies hadn’t said a word.

Davies had heard the story on the radio as it had awakened him. At first, he couldn’t quite believe the details of the story and had flicked through the television channels in his room as the truth slowly sunk in. In disbelief, he’d taken a shower and had stood there, letting the ice-cold water wash over him, hoping that the feelings, a mixture of incredulity, upset, irritation and sheer blinding anger, would somehow diminish.

They hadn’t.

Once dressed, again in the black outfit, although without the mask, he had opened the door from his bedroom, wondering if Jordan would still be there. He was. He looked, Davies thought, as if he’d been kicked in the gut. Repeatedly.

He hadn’t been, but Davies knew the day was still young. There was still time.

He’d walked across to the window, opened it, looked out across London, and then very casually walked across to Jordan. The other man had seemed to shrink slightly as Davies approached him. Jordan’s mouth opened and closed a few times, doing an impression of a fish that would undoubtedly have gained him a starring role in the sequel to Finding Nemo, before shutting at the look on Davies’ face.

Davies had smiled a single half-smile, feeling his mouth curl up at the same time as his eyes turned to flint. He took hold of the lapels of Jordan’s jacket and to Jordan it seemed as if Davies was falling backwards. Then, just before he fell to the ground, Davies aimed himself and Jordan at the open window and took off.

They exited the room, from a standing start, doing 70 miles an hour horizontally before Davies changed the angle of his flight and shot up, still carrying Jordan.

When they reached seven hundred feet up in the air, Davies stopped, the wind buffeting him and Jordan. He hauled Jordan up to his level and pulled him close, staring at him in the face. He said, slowly, “you bastard.”

And then he let go.

– o –

It was later calculated that of all those who heard or read about the story either because they saw the newspaper, because they heard about it in offices and shops, or because they saw the news, 99.384% of them laughed.

One of those who didn’t laugh or express any reaction that morning probably would have laughed if he’d have been remotely capable of human thought. A sense of humour would have helped, but the shambling wreck that used to be Samuel Withers had lost that as well. He’d lost a lot since he’d died, but that was only to be expected.

What wasn’t to be expected was that two days after he’d been roasted in a petrol explosion and had a carcinogenic, not to say, mutagenic mass of material blasted through him, he’d be walking around. Well, maybe walking was putting it too strongly. To walk, you need legs, and the appendages currently under the body of what was formerly Samuel Withers could only be described as legs if you placed far more weight upon the English language than it was ever truly expected to bear.

No one who saw the creature would have recognised it as Samuel Withers. To be fair, though, it’s unlike that anyone would even have recognised it as human.

The lump of matter on top of the body didn’t look too bad, as long as it was looked at side-on. And from the right side at that. From the left, what could be seen was an almost entirely flat surface, with the occasional mass of what may have been scar tissue, but it was, as has been said, only occasional. The rest of it looked like what a four year old child may have sculpted from Play-Doh, if told to imagine a head that had been scraped along a cheese grater.

It was from the front, though, that it looked truly disturbing. It appeared as if someone had taken a meat cleaver, sliced a head in two and thrown one half away.

And that was the best part to look at.

It’s unlikely that it would have understood The Guardian piece, although it would probably have still been a reader of The Sun, had it been able to get hold of a copy.

There was only one thing that could have passed for a thought in what some anthropologist possibly would have called a brain: hunger.

Unfortunately, even if it knew what it hungered for, it didn’t have much left of a mouth with which to communicate that need. And so it contented itself with walking around the basement of the hospital.

And, of course, with killing the three people who’d so far wondered downstairs to the basement that morning.

– o –

Someone else who didn’t laugh, or at least didn’t admit to it, when they learned about the story was Jez Docherty. Docherty thought himself an intelligent man, but even he was surprised how easy he’d put it together.

Unlike many people, he’d actually read the story, and completely missed the mistyped headline. He had the newspaper spread over his desk and he gulped down steaming hot coffee as he read it. He’d often wondered how anyone could drink coffee unless it was hot enough to hurt. As for tea, he never drunk it – it got cold too quickly for him.

It was only after he’d read a hundred words into the story that it hit him. He stopped, looked up at the headline and winced on behalf of the poor bastard who’d have to live that down for the rest of his life. Then he returned to the story and as he read it became convinced that he was one of the few people that knew the identity of the Pub(l)ic Defender.

Everything fit. Even the meagre physical description given was close enough to that of Davies to convince Docherty that he had the right man. He wondered how long it would be before he got the phone call, and as if the thought were mother to the deed, his telephone rang. The digital display showing Caller ID was exactly as helpful as usual, giving the number as “Number withheld”. He hit a six digit code and the number was revealed. As he’d expected, it was Clooney on the other end of the phone. He considered for a moment whether to take the call, and grimaced.

He picked up the receiver and said “Yes, Rosemary?”

There was a pause as Clooney wondered how the hell Docherty knew she was calling him. Her telephone was always set to “Number Withheld” and she knew that it would bug her unless she asked. So she did. Her only answer was a “don’t ask silly questions, Rosemary,” and then Docherty asked, “what can I do for you?”

To Clooney’s intense embarrassment, that simple question, or rather her potential answer to it, led to her feeling flustered and she could feel her face colouring. To cover her discomfort, she asked whether Docherty had any leads about Withers.

“No, none,” he replied, troubled. “It’s beginning to irritate the hell out of me, you know.”

Clooney didn’t know, and was surprised for a moment that anyone as self-assured as Docherty could be irritated by anything. Upset, sure. Even angry, but irritated? It just didn’t fit in with her image of the man. But then, she considered, she’d only known him for a couple of days and she was still learning new things about him in almost every conversation they had.

“What about Davies?” she asked, wondering for the twelfth time since she’d read that morning’s Guardian if she was going completely nuts. It had taken her some time to read the full story, just because she’d been laughing so hard at the headline. She was pretty sure that Docherty would have creased up at it as well, but didn’t think it was the right time to ask him. “Is he…” she asked, “is he… the … Pubic…” She couldn’t complete the question, falling back into her chair in helpless laughter.

Docherty waited for the laughter to subside. When it became apparent that it wasn’t about to any time soon, he hung up the phone.

He turned back to the newspaper, starting the story again, and this time making notes on a scratch pad while he read. He was about half way through the story when his phone rang again. He hit the answer button without looking and said “Docherty.”

“It’s me again,” came the voice of Clooney through the loudspeaker. Then a slight pause, followed by “Oh hell, you haven’t got me on speakerphone, have you?”

“Yes, I have,” he said, for some reason enjoying the annoyance in her voice, “and for what it’s worth, yes, I think it’s him. I think the…” he stopped, wondering what he could say that wouldn’t set her off again. He finally went with, “…Defender is Ian Davies.”

“But,” Clooney said, grateful at Docherty’s turn of phrase. “If it is him, and he can do all these things that the newspaper says, why that’s… that’s…” She stopped again, trying to marshal her words.

“Super?” asked Docherty, a smile playing across his features.

“You can joke all you want,” Clooney started, before being interrupted by Docherty’s “I’ve never needed permission before, but thanks.”

“This is serious,” she said.

“Doctor,” Docherty said, reverting to formality, “Trust me – things are far, far more serious than you know. If we have got a real Superman out there, then…” said Docherty, wondering whether or not to tell her the rest of it, and deciding against it for the moment. “If we have got a real Superman out there, then just think of the benefits to mankind.”

“Exactly,” Clooney said, missing the hesitation in Clooney’s voice. “I’ve looked at the reports and have some tentative ideas as to how he can…”

Docherty was suddenly very attentive. “I beg your pardon, Rosemary. Are you saying that you know how he’s doing what he does?”

“Not quite yet, no,” she replied, “but I’ve got some theories. Why?” She’d only mentioned it to try to justify to herself why she’d wasted an hour scribbling formulae down.

“This is really important,” Docherty said. “Seriously, Rosemary, how long would it take you to prepare a briefing paper?”

“For you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he lied, fluently.

“The rest of the day,” she said, “if I’m left alone to think. Do you want to come to the lab or to my home to pick it up?”

“Could you deliver it here, in person?” he carefully enquired. “Say around five this afternoon?”

“Sure, I’ll put something together for you, Jez,” she said.

“Great, see you later,” he quickly said and hung up. Docherty leaned back in the chair, deep in thought, the fingers of his hands steepled before him. She would be delivering it in person, he thought, but not just to him.

He dialled a number and spoke to his Head Of Section. “Yes, sir – Docherty. I believe that we have identified the man in today’s newspapers. Ian Terrence Davies. Yes, that Ian Davies. Doctor Clooney is going to present to Blue Committee this evening.” There was a question asked in response to this and Docherty frowned. “How did she react to being told that she’d be presenting to Blue? I don’t know; ask me again at seven o’clock.”

Blue Committee was the liaison group responsible for extra-normal activities. Every major country had a Blue Committee, and its chair at anytime was the head of government of whichever country convened it. Unusually, as a result, it included representatives from other country’s security services officialdom, and what minutes resulted were circulated to all, eventually; attendance to individual meetings, however, was by invitation only. The ostensible purpose of Blue Committee was to protect the safety and security of the planet, and make recommendations based upon mature consideration. Indeed, that’s what it’s remit gave it the authority and power to do: consider and recommend, that and no more.

However, Docherty knew the other purpose of Blue Committee. If an event occurred that was not controllable, each Blue Committee, ever since the first in 1945, was authorised at its own discretion and without later punishment, to use ultimate sanction. If this man was Superman, it could be said that this was the only committee on Earth who had a direct mandate from the Presidents and Prime Ministers of twenty-eight countries to come up with Kryptonite.

Because that was the unspoken part of the job. That was the bit of the job that he didn’t like doing. That he was superbly efficient at it was just unlucky… for those who were uncontrollable. In the past six years, Docherty’s department, under authorisation of the UK Blue Committee, had “unfiled”, as the jargon had it, eighteen people whose actions threatened global safety.

Docherty had unfiled seven of them.

That gag he’d made about being Lex Luthor wasn’t as funny anymore.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 16 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 15 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next three weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 13 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Seven (continued…)

“He might very well be dead. I just don’t think that he knows that.”

Doctor Rosemary Clooney’s words hung in the air for a moment, and then she pulled some papers towards her. She scanned some of the pages, discarded a few and then pounced on one sheet. She studied it for a moment and then passed it to Docherty who looked at it carefully.

He read the paper with speed, and then read it again, more slowly. “Ah…” he said at one point, and then carried on reading. “Umm…” he vouchsafed when he was about half way through, and then when he’d finished, he raised his head. A wary and worried look on his face, one hand holding the paper lightly on his leg, and nodding slowly, he offered, “Yes, I see…”

Clooney looked at him and said, with complete confidence, “You don’t have a clue what you’ve just read, do you?”

Docherty stared her in the eye, as if daring her to repeat a base lie and then admitted, “Nope.”

Clooney sighed and took back the paper, attaching it in the file. “All right, we’ve computer modelled the situation that occurred and in my opinion, leaving aside Davies for the moment…”

“Isn’t that a bit like ignoring the elephant in the room?” Docherty asked

“Shut up a moment, ok?” Clooney said and Docherty wisely followed the suggestion. “As I was saying, we computer modelled the event and based upon that and the empirical data…”

Docherty thought that the moment for silence had passed and jumped in again, not caring at the raised eyebrows from Clooney. His voice was deep, slow and dangerous as he asked “What empirical data? I thought that the entire sample had been destroyed.”

“It had been,” Clooney said, “but how do you think we knew the material was mutagenic? We tested it on rats, remember? Well the last batch died, but hadn’t yet been disposed of. The reason I was back in here today was because I got a call from the lab telling me that three of the rats had commenced moving.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose and told him to come around to her side of the desk. As soon as he was there, she clicked on her computer and began playing a video sequence. “The cage you can see is made from steel, with bars one-half inch thick. The three rats were in there purely by chance. We’re lucky they were.”

“What do you mean?” he asked and then fell quiet as he watched the screen. He only said three more words before sitting back down again in shock. “Oh”, “My”, and “God.”

– o –

Luck didn’t come into it, Jordan later thought. It was too perfectly timed to be luck. It could only be fate.

What cannot be denied was that it was an incredibly complex set of circumstances that placed him and Davies at the scene of what could only be described as a tailor made inaugural event for London’s first super-hero.

Suffice it to say that when the two groups of men who were exchanging large wads of cash for equally large wads of drugs met, they hadn’t intended the meeting to end the way it did. A minor disagreement about the quality of the drugs quickly led to a full blown row about one gang trying to con the other. And from there it was just a matter of moments before three of them had been killed; the rest of them were either in the car that was currently racing along the streets of London trying to escape from another car, or in the vehicle that was doing the chasing.

The drivers of both cars decided, on balance, that they’d place their own interpretations upon the traffic by-laws and shot through successive sets of red lights with increasing abandon.

Davies and Jordan were approaching the pizza restaurant when they heard the squeal of tires getting louder. A couple crossing the street with their children at a pedestrian crossing turned in horror and froze as the cars bore down on them.

For Davies, it seemed as if time slowed down. He looked at the cars and somehow instantly gauged the speed they were going. Without looking, it was as if he could see the two adults and three children standing there unmoving in shock. The cars were getting closer and he knew that he had merely seconds in which to act. When he did move, his actions were purely those of instinct. He grabbed the handkerchief from Jordan’s top pocket, without knowing why for a moment. Then he looked at it, had an idea, and two holes appeared in the material. He was already running while placing it around his head, the holes over his eyes, and he felt the material ‘move’ behind him as it fitted itself securely around his head and gripped it. Without conscious effort, he left the ground and flew directly at the family, picking up speed as he did so. He slowed down momentarily as he grabbed them and hoisted them into the air as if they each weighed no more than a bag of sugar. The lead car ploughed through where they had been a second earlier and he memorised the details of both cars as they shot past him. He spun in the air and shot back towards Jordan, putting his passengers down in front of Jordan.

“Stay here,” he said, “I’ll be back.”

And with that he was gone again, flying about ten feet off the ground, following the cars. People stopped and looked in amazement at him but then he was past them. He caught up to the rear car and looked at the tyres.

All four blew instantly and the car slewed before it seemed to be driving through thick tar and slowed to a halt. Another glance at the metal around the doors and it melted, sealing them in the car. He carried on without slowing and reached the lead car. He frowned as a gun was pointed at him and suddenly the gun flew out of the hands of the man holding it. It rocketed upwards out of sight, and at the same instant the tyres blew on the car in exactly the same manner as on the other vehicle. It slowed to a halt and all four doors opened.

Davies stood there, floating five feet off the ground. The three men exited the car and looked around.

“Up here,” Davies called, and then, as each man looked at him, they reacted as if they’d been punched directly in the solar plexus. They went down hard, gasping for breath from paralysed muscles.

Davies felt himself sweating under the outfit, and when he realised what he’d done, his heart starting beating like a trip-hammer. He looked around him at the gathering crowd and then a policeman forced his way to the front.

“What the…?” the policeman asked, viewing the scene. “Come down here!” he called, and Davies thought that of all the things he wanted to do, talking to the policeman and his colleagues all night at the local station was so far down the list, it was actually on a separate piece of paper.

He flew up into the air fast enough and high enough that it looked like he’d vanished from view, then shot back towards where he’d left Jordan, who had by then interviewed the couple. He grabbed Jordan under the arms and flew back to the Ritz, landing in front of the foyer.

The doorman, who’d thought, after thirty years in the job, that he’d seen everything, merely nodded. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he said, and opened the door. As they walked in, Davies felt the cloth loosen around his head and he pulled it off. “Let’s go to the room,” he said.

“OK,” said Jordan, knowing that whatever Davies had planned, what he had in store was a front page story.

– o –

And so it turned out to be.

To be fair, even if Jesus had landed in San Francisco, gotten out and danced naked down Lombard Street commenting on how steep it was, it’s unlikely that The Guardian would have led with any other story.

Davies had already told Jordan what he wished to be known as and it was just unfortunate that the duty typesetter, in the best traditions of The Guardian, gave their corrections and clarifications column the following day the best correction it had ever had. It was quoted on The News Quiz for years afterwards, and was a staple internet bloopers headline for decades.

That didn’t help Ian Davies though when the banner headline on The Guardian’s front page read:

The Pubic Defender:

London super-hero debuts

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 15 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 14 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next three weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 12 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Seven

Scott Jordan yawned, apologised and stood up, in that order.

It wasn’t that he was bored, far from it. The day had been one of the most extraordinary he’d ever known, and, although he didn’t know it, it was far from over. Neither was it that Davies was a difficult interviewee. Far from it, in a rather touching show of naiveté, he’d been open and honest with Jordan. And, Jordan reckoned, if he’d been working for a tabloid, he’d have had enough material for a week’s worth of feature material.

They’d covered the basics in the first couple of hours: early life, an only child, parents (both deceased), his employment history. Jordan was now waiting for various calls back to confirm bits of the story, including a call from The Guardian’s crime correspondent, who was phoning through full details of the explosion near the National Provident bank. An interesting bit had come from a correspondent on the science desk, who’d said that he’d heard a whisper of a link between the explosion, a medical research company called Dance-Oliver and the bank job, something about a missing container of chemicals. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together and make four, especially when Davies was more than happy to demonstrate the apparent effects of these chemicals.

Without realising it, his asking for demonstration after demonstration of Davies’ new abilities had provided useful training for Davies, although as Jordan had pointed out after the second hour, there seemed to be a direct link between Davies’ lack of effort in applying those abilities and the effectiveness of them.

At the moment, Davies appeared to be laying on a large sofa, his head leaning against one arm of the couch as he held a hand in front of him; “appeared” being the operative word. The television was on in the background, switched to a news channel, but was silent. It was a perfectly normal scene, Jordan thought, apart from the small fact that if you looked at him side on, you realised that Davies wasn’t actually laying on the sofa, but laying on a layer of air, about an inch above the sofa. And, about six inches above his palm, were three marbles floating in perfect peace.

Jordan made a scribble in the notepad and then said “OK, next.” He had a theory that he wanted to test out, something that had occurred to him when two things had come together in his brain: primarily what Davies had said about the first time he had tried to get the mouse to come to him, but also, when it became apparent that Davies hadn’t realised that he was floating above the sofa.

Jordan had just asked “comfortable?” and Davies had replied, “yes, this couch is great – I can see why the Ritz has its reputation.”

Davies turned his head at Jordan’s “OK, next.”

“Yes?” he queried. He didn’t feel tired at all; if anything he felt slightly euphoric. The more he used his abilities, the better he felt.

Jordan decided to nail him flat out. “Ian, you do realise that you’re floating on air, don’t you? That you’re not actually touching the surface of the sofa?”

Immediately, two things happened: Davies’ body dropped the inch or so to the sofa and there was the sound of surprise from Davies. Interestingly, Jordan realised, the marbles had stayed where they were, hovering above Davies’ palm. “Ian,” said Jordan, “you know those marbles – why not try to get them moving in circles above your palm? But,” he cautioned, “actually try to picture them individually. Don’t just picture them moving, try to move them with your mind.

Davies shot him a sceptical look and his face took on a look of concentration. The effect on the marbles was dramatic and instant. They dropped to the ground. Davies’s eyes went wide and then he consciously relaxed and, his fingers still together, beckoned to them. They dutifully calmly and smoothly rose from the ground and commenced orbits around his hand. Davies looked at Jordan but before he could say anything, Jordan jumped in. He’d already persuaded Davies to sign over permission for his medical examination at the hospital to be passed to Jordan for publication.

“You’re thinking too much about it, Ian. It looks like your new abilities are as natural a part of your system. As you said earlier, you don’t think about walking, you just walk. If you think too much about it, it wouldn’t work.”

Davies’ previous sceptical look returned.

Jordan developed his theme. “Look, first you move one foot forward, then you put your weight on it, then you shift your body over the foot and push it past it, and then just before your centre of gravity topples you over, you shift the other foot forward and begin the whole process again. I’d say it’s the same thing here. If you think too much about it, the theory gets in the way of the practical application.”

He’d stood during this and demonstrated. Unfortunately, the effect was neatly and utterly destroyed by a rumble from his stomach. “Oops”, he said, and was grateful to see a grin appearing on Davies’ face.

“Come on,” said Davies. “You’re paying for the room, I’ll treat you to dinner.”

“What, here?” asked Jordan, thinking of fillet mignon.

“Don’t be daft,” said Davies, who had a pizza and a coke more in mind, “let me shower and get changed.” Despite Jordan’s concerns, they’d stopped off at his home to pick up a couple of days’ worth of clothes and twenty minutes later, he was showered, shaved and dressed all in black (what he called, to Jordan’s amusement, “the Gaiman look”) in a t-shirt, slacks and black lightweight jacket.

Jordan looked at him, and dressed like that, there was definitely something different about Davies. He couldn’t place it then, but when it struck him later, it hit hard. To cover his surprise, he joked to Davies that the only black objects he had on him were the black handkerchief in his jacket pocket and his black socks. Wisely, he only showed Davies the former, before tucking it back in.

They moved towards the door, and Jordan noticed with unspoken disquiet how the lights, and then the television, were switched off, both without being touched by Davies. The feeling intensified as they left the room and the door shut behind them as if pushed by an invisible hand.

– o –

The fading light from the windows in her office had finally reached the level where Doctor Rosemary Clooney had to turn on the main lights. It bothered her to move away from her desk, since the results from the experiments she was reading about had been so fascinating that she’d been sitting there unmoving for some hours.

She found, however, that she’d stiffened up and when she turned the lights on there was a distinct crick in her neck. She was rapidly becoming convinced of the truth of the old Chinese proverb about the dangers of living in ‘interesting times’. There was, she knew, no earthly reason why she’d reached the conclusion she’d slowly come to, but there was no getting away from it: come to it she had.

Despite the firm rules against such things, she’d asked her secretary to go out earlier and buy a large bottle of vodka and one of tonic. She’d poured herself a generous measure of both and now sat back in her chair, nursing the drink, eyes closed.

“Now there’s a sight for sore eyes,” came a male voice from a few feet in front of her.

Her eyes snapped open to see Jez Docherty standing there. “Any chance of one for me?” he asked.

“Help yourself,” she said, gesturing towards the filing cabinet in the corner. “Bottom drawer. Careful, it catches on the way out. There are some glasses in there as well.”

Docherty opened the cabinet and found the indicated items. He poured a drink, then replaced the bottles in the drawer. He stepped over to her and sat on the chair in front of the desk.

“You look like hell,” he said, sympathetically.

“Gee, thanks,” she replied, taking the sympathy in her stride, considering it, and then writing it off.

“Doctor Clooney…” he started.

She interrupted him. “Oh, for Pete’s sake, I thought we’d taken care of that last night. It’s Rosemary, ok?” She didn’t fully realise how much more harshly it had come out than she’d intended until she looked at his face, which had taken on that same look from the previous evening, where she could actually see his eyes seeming to flatten. “Sorry,” she added, “that came out a lot harder than I meant it to.”

There it was, she thought, as she watched his face relax imperceptibly.

“I’ve been trying you at home all day,” he said.

“I haven’t been there,” she said, which intrigued him. He obviously thought she’d only recently come into the lab. “I’ve been here since about an hour after you called.”

“You might have let me know,” Docherty said, and she nodded, only half listening to him as she asked, suddenly, “anything new you can tell me about this thing? Because if not, I’ve got some news for you.”

“You first,” Docherty said, interested in anything she had to say.

“We’ve got to find him,” said Clooney, the tiredness showing in her words.

“We’ve found him,” Docherty replied, and was about to tell her all about Ian Davies.

“Excellent!” Clooney cried. “That’s fantastic – ok, now you need to utterly destroy him. I mean it, Docherty… Jez – you’ve got to find some way of breaking down the tissues to nothingness. I’ve got some ideas on that, but I’m not kidding. You need to completely and totally eradicate it.”

Docherty thought that was a tad excessive as a first option. Now, it might be necessary if the idea of Typhoid Davies was a real concern, but surely there were other options to investigate first. And he said as much.

“Davies? Who the hell is Davies?” asked Clooney, completely confused.

“Davies is the eye-witness,” said Docherty, equally perplexed. “Who are you talking about?”

“Withers,” she replied, shocking Docherty into silence for a moment, but only for a moment.

Withers?” he asked. “Withers? What’s so bad about Withers? He’s dead. Ok, he’s missing, but he’s most assuredly dead.”

Clooney looked into Docherty’s eyes, worried. “I don’t think he is dead is the thing. No, wait, let me rephrase that. He might very well be dead. I just don’t think that he knows that.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 14 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 13 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next three weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 11 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Six (continued…)

There were, Doctor Rosemary Clooney decided, only so many times you could swear at the television without repeating yourself.

After the phone call from Docherty, she’d settled down for the morning, confident that for once, since she had a morning off from work, she’d relax, read the newspaper, and watch some daytime television.

It was when the two simpering presenters on Hi Britain! introduced the next item on the show that she came to the aforementioned conclusion. She didn’t think that she was completely out of line in wondering how terrifying it was that someone was actually paid to put together the running order of this show. How desperate must they have been, she wondered, to book the small girl with the incredibly obvious overbite? “And she whistles,” said one presenter, in equally obvious amazement. A terribly unkind fantasy about throwing the girl out of an airplane and listening to her teeth catching the wind occurred to Clooney and it was then that she gave up and turned the television off.

She switched on the radio and flicked between the only two stations she ever listened to. Hmm. A choice between a round table discussion with Brian Blessed, Germaine Greer and a cabinet minister on Five Live or a dramatisation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Radio 4. There really didn’t seem to be a difference.

She looked at the telephone again, as if looking at it would somehow cause it to ring.

It didn’t.

With a grimace, she made herself a coffee and spread the papers Docherty had left with her over the large dining room table. Included were clippings from the previous night’s Evening Standard reports of the explosion by the National Provident bank, together with print outs from the main newsfeed sites, including BBC and ITV. There didn’t appear to be anything on the US led sites, but that didn’t surprise her. If Docherty was right, then there wouldn’t be.

But then, she thought, there was no reason for anyone to suspect that the event was anything other than what the news media had said it was: a tragic accident.

The disappearing body worried her and she wished she knew someone that she could call to ask about it. With a start, she realised that she did know someone. The last she’d heard of him, he was head of Paediatrics at the hospital the bodies had been taken to. But she couldn’t call him. Under no circumstances could she call this person. No way.

She shook her head and continued reading.

She stopped again and thought. No, she couldn’t. He wouldn’t be amused to hear from her, to put it extremely mildly, and it was that, as much as anything else, that made her mind up.

She picked up her smartphone to check the number of the hospital when her email bleeped loudly, the setting detecting the word “URGENT” in the subject heading. Fifteen seconds later, she was reading an email from work that completely wiped all thoughts of calling her ex-husband from her mind.

And two minutes after that, she was out of the door and running to the tube station, cursing that she wasn’t already at work.

– o –

When he got her voicemail for the third consecutive time in ten minutes, Jez Docherty uttered a similar though quieter curse and a fervent wish that Clooney might consider getting off the bloody phone occasionally. He clicked his phone off, muttered an apology to Ross, and turned to him.

“Not a problem,” Ross grinned at Docherty. The latter was surprised at how well they’d got on together once they’d returned to his office. The last time they’d seen each other was when their two departments had held a training day together and both of them had been their respective departments’ unarmed combat representatives. It was with a shock that they’d both realised that the other was their equal if not better. The natural competitiveness that accompanied such inter-departmental days had grown during the day to almost unhealthy levels by the time they’d met on the floor of the gym for the final bout. It helped that each had detested the other on first meeting.

Both men had known that, strictly against the rules, but not unexpectedly, a book was running on the eventual outcome and this, combined with the revelation that they supported rival football teams, had made the fight more dangerous than either liked to remember.

At the end, Docherty had won, but he had suffered a broken nose and two snapped ribs in the victory. And a week later, Ross had still looked like a panda bear from his two black eyes, and he’d limped for a fortnight after that.

And yet, here they were, in Docherty’s office, working together.

“So how did you get involved in Winter Snow, Ross?” he asked.

Ross leaned forward. “Let’s make it first names, ok?” Docherty nodded, thinking it was the second time in the past twelve hours he’d received that invitation, but this one was under far less pleasant circumstances. “How’d I get involved? Completely by accident,” Ross continued. He saw the look of disbelief on Docherty’s face. “Seriously,” he said, “I was doing a favour for an old mate, ex-job.” At that, the look faded from Docherty’s face. He was more than aware of the strength of old favours owed and repaid.

“I got a call from him, asking if someone from Science Section could drop by to take a look at something very weird that had happened at his office. I made a couple of phone calls and was basically told that everyone was busy, so I thought I’d take a look and get some shots. I took Powers along. You know him?”

Docherty didn’t, but didn’t really want the full resume of Powers from Ross, so just said “No, and…?”

Ross took the hint and related what had happened when he got to Doncaster and Monkton. He gave the address but it didn’t mean anything to Docherty. Ross continued. “When I got back, I got Powers to download the pictures to my work terminal and then did a brief report on it and filed it with Central Filing, copies to my Control and Science Section, with a request to the Watch section to stick the bloke on surveillance. Then I got on with my work.”

He leaned back again, stretching out. “After all, Jez, I do have half a dozen real cases I’m working on, including a couple of Russian agents I’m trying to, erm, ‘persuade’ to defect.”

“Blackmail, you mean?” asked Docherty, and he received a pained look in response, as if to ask there’s a difference? “So you filed your report, went back to your work and…?” Docherty asked, knowing there was more to come.

Ross stretched out again, his hands joining above his head. Then he sat up. “And that’s when the brown smelly stuff hit the round whirly thing. Boy, did it ever! Twenty minutes after filing, I got a call from Control asking me, no, instructing me, to drop whatever I’m working on and report to his office. PDQ was how it was phrased.”

“Yeah,” said Docherty, “Control always did like that phrase.”

“Anyway, I go over to see him, he asks me a few questions about my meeting, then gives me a brief – and brief’s the word, trust me! – on Winter Snow and then he tells me to get over to see you, smartish.” Ross stopped, as if for breath and then slowly said, “And one more thing: before I leave his presence, he makes me sign a PX473.”

“OK,” said Docherty, putting the pieces together in his mind, “did he tell you why he wanted you to come and see me?”

“Yeah – he thinks I know who your eye witness was.”

That got Docherty’s attention in a hurry. He wasn’t even polite as he sat forward, grabbed his keyboard and snapped out “name?”

Ross opened his notebook and read out “Ian Terrence Davies,” and gave his address.

As he was still speaking, Docherty was punching in Davies’ details. He couldn’t make the connection, but did as Ross added “and in case you were wondering, the route that he takes from home to work every day takes him straight past the National Provident bank…”

Among the information that was thrown up on the computer screen were Davies’ mobile, work and home numbers. Reasoning that the mobile number was favourite, Davies moved the mouse cursor over the mobile phone icon and clicked on it. Immediately his desk phone switched to hands-free mode and called the number. Ross and Docherty could hear the phone ring once and then a standard voicemail message started. The two men stared at each other, and both were thinking the same things: where the hell was Davies, and what the hell was he doing now?

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 13 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 12 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next three weeks or so.

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Chapter Six

The Guardian, 30h December 2012
The plural of ‘obiter dictum’, (a statement said in passing) is ‘obiter dicta’, not, as we maintained in a leading article on the Duke of Edinburgh and Attila the Hun, “obita dicta”.

Later, it struck Ian Davies how quickly he’d gotten used to his new… well, he guessed, ‘powers’ was as good a word as any. He was first overtly aware of it when he was watching the television in the hospital room, prior to discharge. Doctor Jordan had told him that the hospital had waived any charges, about which he was more than happy, since he shuddered to think how much the room would have cost.

Apparently, the hospital administrator, though he hadn’t been told the whole story, was more than happy to authorise the write-off, given Davies’ ‘heroism’. The only fly in the ointment was that Davies had felt honour bound to agree to Jordan’s husband, the reporter, driving him home. He reconsidered it for a moment, then remembered the old saw “if it were done, best it were done quickly”. He made up his mind – he’d let himself be interviewed that day.

Davies suddenly realised that he hadn’t thought about work at all, and – a glance at his watch confirmed it – they would certainly be wondering why he wasn’t in today. After all, it was a shade after noon. He thought of what he could tell them. “Yeah, sorry I’m late, but yesterday I got super powers, I can move objects with my mind and I can fly; so, I may be a bit late in.”


On the other hand, he didn’t want to lie outright to them. He found it more amusing than he probably should have to use the same training he’d received while working for them and tell the truth, well part of it anyway. “Misleading by omission” it was called in the trade.

He’d be the first to protest against the idea that the industry’s motto “The truth, and anything but the truth.”; he always thought it was more fairly put as: to tell the truth and nothing but the truth… but for Pete’s sake, not the whole truth.

He picked up his mobile from the side table and then stopped, wincing at the shattered screen and dented top, consequences, he supposed, of having impacted with the mugger and then the ground in succession. No wonder he’d had no calls – if anyone had tried to contact him, their messages would be on voicemail, he supposed. His eye caught the room’s landline on another table. Hey, it’s free, so why not? He dropped the mobile phone on the bed and walked to the phone by the other side of the bed. He picked up the receiver and dialled his work number, judging what he was going to tell them.

And that was when it happened. As the final digits were punched in, Davies realised that the television was too loud and with a glance at the television, the volume decreased. That in itself didn’t surprise him, but then he wondered whether he’d ‘instructed’ the television, or the remote control, to reduce the volume. He was sure that the difference was an important one, but he couldn’t for the life of him think why.

He heard the phone ring twice at the other end and then the receptionist’s voice answer: “Good Morning, Doncaster and Monkton, Staci speaking. How may I help you?” To be more precise, he heard her say, “GoodMorningDoncasterandMonktonStacispeakingHowmayIhelpyou?” but he’d heard it so many times at the office, that his brain made the necessary interpretation.

“Hi Staci,” he said, “it’s Ian. Are Mr Patt, Mr Williams or Mr Monkton around?”

This was obviously a tough question for Staci, who, Davies was convinced, had been hired more for her stunning good looks than for any telephonic or receptionist-like qualities. Though, if the rumours around the office were true, she gave a very good reception to certain senior members of the agency.

A few seconds passed while Staci considered the question before she replied, “Yes.”

Davies sighed and asked if he could speak to one of them.

“Which one, Ian?” asked Staci, and on hearing Davies ask to speak to Monkton, put him through to Patt. This didn’t overly surprise Davies, who, although he knew he was supposed to report to Monkton, had always gotten on better with Patt and, surprisingly, Williams.

There was a brief interlude, and Davies listened to the several renditions of Memories by Elaine Paige which was this year’s ‘music to kill yourself by’ on the phone system, before a sharp click heralded the arrival of Patt on the line. “Ian!” came the hearty voice of Patt, “where are you?”

He didn’t sound overly concerned, more curious, which was par for the course. There was no reason, as far as Davies knew, for Patt to be worried, other than that Davies had been told to report in that morning, and hadn’t.

Here goes, thought Davies, and launched into his prepared tale. “Erm, I’m in hospital.” He sat down on the bed, and realised he’d sat on a pillow. He half stood up and casually threw the pillow to the other side of the bed, then sat down again.

“Hospital?!” came the astonished reply.

“Yes,” said Davies, “Sorry I’m not in, but I got caught up in a mugging yesterday night and… ended up in hospital. Nothing serious,” he added. Nothing serious anymore, he concluded silently. “But they wanted to keep me overnight just to be safe. I’m heading out later and if I feel up to it, I’ll be in tomorrow. That’s ok, isn’t it?”

“Of course, old chap, of course.” Davies couldn’t know that Patt was sitting there in his office, pale white, feeling as if his gut had turned to water. All he heard was the reassuring tone of Patt asking him to be sure to check in when he got home and then wishing him well. Just as Davies was about to end the call, Patt added, in a slightly false tone that puzzled Davies, that he’d have to tell the whole story when he got back to the office.

Davies agreed, ending the call just as the door opened without knocking. Scott Jordan walked into the room. His mind still on the telephone conversation, Davies didn’t hear him. Jordan walked over to Davies and said, in a bluff tone, “Afternoon, Ian, how are…”

He didn’t get any further as Davies spun round – My God, he’s fast! thought Jordan – and grabbed the hand that Jordan had outstretched to offer and shake. It was only a split second, but Jordan was convinced that if Davies hadn’t recognised him, he’d have thrown Jordan clear through the wall. The look on Davies’ face was one of supreme concentration that, after a moment, relaxed into the face that Jordan had come to like.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Scott, fine. Just not sure what the rest of my life’s going to be like.” He didn’t realise it, but as he said this, and showed a touch of frustration, his grip increased. Only marginally, but it was enough to make Jordan wince.

“Well, that’s up to you, surely,” replied Jordan, slowly extricating his hand, and wiggling his fingers to ensure the circulation was still ok.

“Well, not entirely,” Davies said, with a hard stare at Jordan. Then he relaxed again. “Look, Scott, I’ve come to a decision.”

Jordan thought that sounded more ominous than he liked and like any journalist, believing that a good attack was the best form of defence, jumped in with “Look, Davies, if you’re thinking of not doing that inter…” before he realised that it probably wasn’t necessary as Davies laughed.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. I’ll do the interview, with two provisos: the first is that my real name isn’t mentioned at all, and the second is that I get to read the piece before it goes out.”

“You want copy approval?” asked Jordan in disbelief.

“Not copy approval, but just to ensure that the first condition isn’t breached. You want to write that I’m an arrogant son of a bitch with no business being a ‘have-a-go-hero’, feel free. You want to use me to condemn vigilante justice, have a party. As long as you don’t use my real name! That’s the deal breaker.”

“No, no, I can live with that,” replied Jordan, thinking that Davies was incredibly naïve if he genuinely thought his name would be secret for long. And that being the case, he was quite prepared to save revealing it until the third day of the story. Maybe the second. He’d see.

“All right then,” Davies said, “let’s go and you can interview me on the way home.”

Jordan stopped him with one question. “Ever stayed at The Ritz?”

Davies looked at him, unsure of the reason for the question, but sure about the answer. “No, why?”

“Because you’re not going home, Ian. You’ve promised me an exclusive, and I don’t want to take a chance that someone else is on the story. As soon as you get home, there’s a chance that someone else, I dunno, someone who saw what you can do, will find you. So I’m authorised to put you up at The Ritz for a couple of days.” That wasn’t true, but Jordan was sure that once he filed the story, his editor would stump up the cash. A real live super-hero? And he lived in London? And The Guardian had the world exclusive? Jordan would have bet his pension that he wouldn’t have a problem getting the expenses through.

The implication that he was untrustworthy (for he knew that was the real reason) stung Davies and for a moment, he was tempted to tell Jordan to get stuffed. Then he realised that it was true, he never had stayed at The Ritz, and he quite fancied it. He picked up his wallet and watch, and headed for the door, Jordan following, already phrasing the questions he was going to ask.

On the bed, covered by a casually thrown pillow, his mobile phone remained…

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 12 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 11 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next four weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

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To start from the beginning, click here
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Chapter Five (continued…)

An hour later, just about the time that Andrew Patt was briefing his fellow directors at Donkey and Monkey, a groan signified the return of Ian Davies to part consciousness.

It took a few minutes for him to fully come to, and while he did, his mind was replaying the events of the previous few hours. When he got to the bit about being shot, his eyes snapped open.

Hell’s teeth!

He’d have been quite happy not to have continued remembering, but the mind is funny like that. The more you try not to think about something, the clearer the details become and with sudden clarity, he winced as he recalled the bullet tearing into his skin. He shuddered and as he did so, he tensed, expecting the immediate pain that had struck him last night.

There wasn’t any and with a sense of curious wonder, he reached back to feel for the dressing. Maybe they’d given him a local anaesthetic, but when he pushed on the dressing, the skin below didn’t feel numb. Nor did it feel… well, anything really. He could feel the pressure of his fingers, but nothing else. He swivelled his legs off the bed and gingerly stood up, placing his full weight on his feet.

He found that he could stand comfortably without even a slight pulling on his muscles. He walked to the large cupboard and opened one of the doors. Then he closed it and opened the other one, successfully anticipating the mirror there. He slipped the robe off from his shoulders so that it hung around his waist and then turned away from the mirror, pulling at the large dressing. There weren’t any blood marks on the outside of the dressing, and Davies guessed that they must have changed it recently. As he pulled it away, he realised that he’d been mistaken. There was a large bloodstain on the inside of the dressing. He pulled the dressing away and looked at his shoulder, examining it for the vast tear in his shoulder he knew he’d incurred.

There wasn’t a mark on him.

He pulled the rest of the dressing off and ran his hand over his shoulder. Not a mark. The skin was slightly pinker and shinier than usual at one point and when he touched it there, it was mildly sore, as if he had had an injection there. New skin, he guessed, But as he watched it, the skin seemed to lose its shine and take on the normal pale colour of the rest of his body.

There was a knock at the door and without thinking, he said “Come in” just as the door opened and Doctor Jordan entered.

“Oh,” he said, turning, his hand still on the shoulder, “you’re already in.”

“You’re looking at your shoulder,” Jordan said, “any theories?”

“As to what?” Davies replied, taking his hand away from his shoulder and pulling the robe up around him again.

As to what?” she asked incredulously. “As to how you could be shot twelve hours ago and now there’s not even a blemish on your shoulder. How’s that for ‘as to what?’ “

Davies grimaced and moved back to the bed. “All right, all right. I take your point. No, I don’t know how, although I’ve got a couple of ideas. Well, one actually.”

“Well?” Jordan asked, her arms folded across her chest.

Davies remained silent. Jordan waited for him to say something in the understandable, though ultimately incorrect, belief that he was considering his words. A minute passed. Then another. Then, another minute.

And still Davies stayed silent.

And then, a minute which seemed to last an hour but was only a minute… passed.

Jordan sighed. Davies wasn’t the first patient she’d had that had been reluctant to talk about medical history. Given that he’d saved her entire family from a mugging those same twelve hours ago, however, she was more than prepared to cut him some slack, and she could wait him out, she was sure of it.

“Well?” she asked, hating herself for not exactly waiting him out.

“Well…” Davies replied, “I’m not sure what I can tell you. After all, anything I tell you will end up in the newspapers, won’t it?”


Jordan had the grace to blush at that. “I’m sorry,” she said, realising that she’d already apologised a number of times to him. “But it is his family as well.”

“Yeah, ok,” Davies said.

“And whatever you tell me related to your medical history is under doctor-patient privilege, you know,” she said slightly more positively.

“A deal?” asked Davies. “I tell you what you want to know and you hold off your husband. Tell him I will talk to him. I’ll give him an interview, but not for a day or so. Can you stall him that long?”

“Of course,” she said. “Look, you didn’t think that he’d run something like this without both your and my okay, did you?”

Davies looked sceptical, and she said “wait here,” before leaving the room.

Davies leaned back on the bed and said out loud, “I wonder where on earth she thinks I could be going,” but as he finished the words, she returned carrying a newspaper and handed it to him.

It was a copy of that morning’s Guardian. “There you go,” Jordan said, “take a look. Nothing in there at all, right?”

He quickly looked through the news pages and then the ‘in brief’ pieces. There was a large piece on the explosion by the National Provident Bank, but nothing about him, either in that piece or anywhere else, from what he could see. And, more importantly, there was nothing about the abortive mugging either. “Fair enough,” he said, a few minutes later. “Next question, when can I go home?”

“Any time you want,” she replied, and then as he moved to get up off the bed, she held a hand up, “as soon as you answer my earlier question.”

He didn’t insult her by asking which question. Instead he fell silent. A minute passed. And then…

He opened the newspaper to the article about the abortive bank robbery and handed it to her. “Read that,” he said.

When she’d done so, she looked at him, puzzled. “What has…?”

“What has that got to do with this?” he asked. “Everything,” he said in a tired voice. He looked at her carefully and she was surprised, so remarkable was the change that came over him. His voice had deepened and it was almost as if he’d straightened his shoulders. His very demeanour was different, and again she was struck by the fanciful notion of super-heroes, and secret identities.

There was only one way to tell her, Davies realised, and that was to tell her straight out, leaving nothing out.

So he did.

– o –

At the same time that Davies was unburdening his soul to Doctor Jordan, well at least a sizeable part of it, another Doctor, Rosemary Clooney, was waking up. In short order, she realised three things: first, she had a cracking hangover, a real beauty. If hangovers could be compared to sound, and she was pretty convinced at that moment that they could, then a light hangover would qualify as a raised voice, she decided, and a normal hangover would sound like a police siren going past. The hangover she currently suffered felt like she had road workers using trip-hammers in her bedroom… whilst a Boeing 747 took off from under her pillow.

She groaned as she took in the time on the small digital clock by the side of the bed and realised the second item in the list. She was late for work. This was sufficiently unusual for her to actually stop groaning, in shock. She was late for work. She couldn’t remember being late for work that year.

It was while that thought was forming that she realised the third thing: she couldn’t remember some of the previous night. Oh, she remembered the conversation in the restaurant all right, knew that Docherty had seen her home and that she’d invited him in for a coffee. Indeed, she remembered that he’d come into the house for the coffee and she faintly recalled him standing in the kitchen, leaning against the wall while she put the kettle on. And she distinctly remembered the point at which “Dr Clooney” and “Mr Docherty” had been abandoned for “Rosemary” and “Jez”. What she couldn’t remember was whether or not anything more than that had happened, whether, in fact, they’d kissed.

She was pretty sure she’d wanted him to kiss her. But then again…

Her telephone rang and any kind thoughts she had towards Docherty vanished like the dew on the dawn as the increase in noise worsened her headache and moved the Jumbo jet from beneath her pillow to right up against her temple. She answered the phone more to stop that noise than from any urgent desire to talk to whoever it was that was calling.

“Hello?” she said. At least that’s what she thought she said. What the person on the other end of the line heard, though, was “Herugh.”

Luckily, Docherty spoke fluent hangover and understood exactly what she meant. “Good morning,” he said, cheerfully, then winced at the stream of abuse that came down the phone line at him which, in no particular order, considered his parentage together with his ability in the sack and ended with an instruction to perform an act that, as well as being anatomically impossible, would likely have qualified him for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Though ‘entry’ might conceivably have been too touchy a description.

Docherty grinned and said again, “Good morning.” There was a slight pause before a voice he finally recognised as Clooney’s replied with the same greeting. “Are you ok?” Docherty asked, and when told that she had the headache from hell, and was also late for work, he told her not to worry about the latter. She was assigned to work with him today.

At the other end of the phone, Clooney frowned. Very carefully, trying not to make too many muscles do their work, she asked “Was I?”

“Yes,” Docherty said, patiently. “Don’t worry about it, I’m at home at the moment, but I’ll be around in a couple of hours.” He put the phone down and almost immediately it rang. He knew it couldn’t be Clooney – his phone line was exempt from Caller ID, and he hadn’t given her his number.

The telephone rang again and Docherty lifted the receiver.

“Hello?” he said, naturally enough.

“Hello, is that the Board of Control?” came a voice from the receiver. “8123 0937?”

“No,” said Docherty, looking at the clock on the wall, which was set to a radio signal from a station just north of Alexander Palace. The clock read a little after nine-thirty. “It’s 0932.”

“I have a message for you, Mr Smith,” said the voice, completing the official coded greeting.

“Go,” replied Docherty, wondering why the hell he was getting a Flash message over the phone at home. It had only happened twice before and one of those had been a mole hunt.

“Come in immediately. There has been movement on Winter Snow.”

Docherty snapped out an “on my way” and dropped the receiver back onto the cradle. Winter Snow was the designation for the National Provident operation, and “movement” meant that there was critical information necessary, vital and urgent for him to know.

He grabbed his jacket and ran for the door, snatching it open and then slamming it shut, almost knocking over his elderly next door neighbour, who looked on in shock as he left the apartment. Well! she thought, some people simply have no sense of courtesy, an opinion which changed later that day when a bunch of flowers arrived for her, from Docherty. He’d been taught the trick early on in his career – “always keep your neighbours sweet, especially if they’re ‘nosy little old women’. They’re better than neighbourhood watch for keeping an eye on the comings and goings around where you live…”

As he started down the street in a fast walk, though not one fast enough to make him look suspicious, he pulled out his mobile phone and punched in Clooney’s number. He made his apologies and said he’d call her later that morning. He hung up before she had a chance to argue and shortly thereafter he was on the Underground. He made it to the office an hour later and wasn’t in his room more than a minute when his internal phone rang, summoning him to Head of Section’s office. When he got there, he was surprised for several reasons. The first was that his boss wasn’t alone. The second surprise was that he knew the other man in the room; he didn’t belong here. Hell, he didn’t belong in civilised company. The final reason was that the last time he’d seen the second man, they’d both almost killed each other on an inter-departmental training exercise.

“Morning, sir,” Docherty said.

“Good Morning, Jez,” replied his Head of Section. “Could you take your guest back to your office? I think you two might have things to discuss.”

“What do you think, Mr Docherty? Think we might have things to discuss?” asked Brendan Ross.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 11 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 10 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next four weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 8 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Five

The Guardian, 28th February 2003
A country diary, p16, Feb 17, was headed Heald Green, Cheshire. Heald Green is in Greater Manchester. The error was caused by nostalgia.

The dawn had barely broken when the Mercedes belonging to Andrew Patt pulled into the underground car park belonging to Doncaster and Monkton. And less than five minutes later, he, together with his two companions, the latter dressed in identical dark suits, entered the building. Patt, wearing a lightweight cream business suit, had swiped his ID card through the reader and was walking through the empty reception when one of the other two men called to him. Holding out his hand, he said, “Hold up, Andrew – let’s take a look at that.”

With only the briefest hesitation, Patt handed over the plastic card, with an almost apologetic air, the explanation for which became immediately apparent. The man who’d asked for it looked at the card in faint disbelief. “This is what you call security? This piece of rubbish?”

He handed it back to Patt, who merely grinned. “OK, it’s not perfect, but…”

The other man was 32 but looked younger. His employers were legally the Ministry of Defence, but like Andrew Patt’s curriculum vitae, the error was one of deliberate omission. Neither of them were recorded anywhere as members of the intelligence services (in Patt’s case, retired) but Monkton had long suspected that Patt had not retired from the army. However, the previous day was the first time Patt could recall that Monkton had ever explicitly said I knows, you know. It concerned him, but not overly so. He’d always known that sooner or later his cover would be blown. Fortunately, it wasn’t likely to lead to his death, unless the news circulated outside the office.

Patt had been with Doncaster and Monkton now for four years, and genuinely hadn’t ever expected to have to deal with his former employers other than, his pipe-dream, landing a public relations contract. The two men with him at the moment, however, were from his old Section. They dealt with security, which explained the disdain with which they obviously regarded the ID card.

Not perfect?” said Brendan Ross, the man holding the card, not bothering to keep the contempt out of his voice. “Not perfect? Christ, Andrew, even young Powers here could forge one of these.” He tossed it to his assistant, who looked at it doubtfully.

“Brendan,” said Patt, “it’s been half a decade since we worked together, mate, so leave it out, eh? This is a public relations firm – it’s not like we need additional security, is it?”

“Well, isn’t that what we’re here to discover?” And Patt had no real reply to that.

When they got to the boardroom, the two intelligence officers went straight to the table and stared at it before closely examining the chunk of it in the floor, Ross getting down on his haunches. Powers had opened his briefcase and taken out some measuring equipment and some electronic devices that Patt didn’t recognise, as well as a small digital camera. He was using the former now, taking the measurement of the hand-sized slice of table that was missing, and scanning the surface of the table watching the hand held device’s oscilloscope. He frowned, then scanned around the room. The signal didn’t vary, even when he played it over his body, and then the carpet.

“Well?” enquired his senior partner.

“Nothing. Nothing at all out of the ordinary.”

Ross grunted a non-committed sound and looked again at the chunk of table in the ground. “Go through it again for me, Andrew,” he instructed Patt, who was leaning against the wall, one foot placed flat against it. Patt stood upright and then paced as he spoke. Ross rolled his eyes at Powers, who grinned back in return. They’d both been to training sessions given by Patt and he was well known in the game as a pacer.

“Well,” Patt started, knowing what he was saying made no sense, “he was in the middle of a client briefing.”

“Ian… Davies, right?” interrupted Ross, standing and then taking a seat in one of the comfortable chairs.

“Yes, Davies,” replied Patt, mildly irritated at having been interrupted. “If I can continue?” he asked, letting the irritation show slightly. There being no response from either of the other two men, he took that as an indication that he might indeed, continue. So he did. “As I was saying, he was in a client meeting. Nothing special. A big client if we landed them.” He stopped for a moment, and showed a half smile. “From all accounts, it was profoundly boring until… it happened.”

Ross looked up at Patt. “Was this usual?”

“What? That initial client meetings are boring? Hell yes.” The half smile became broader. “Fully half of all client representatives could bore for England, were it an Olympic event. Makes sense, really, I guess. If they could put themselves over in an exciting and original manner, they wouldn’t need us.”

“OK, point taken,” conceded Ross.

“So from what I understand, and from what he told me, after a couple of hours, Davies was struggling to stay awake, a feeling that was shared by most of his colleagues. Then he saw a spider hanging from a web about to land on his hand. He knocked it off its web and slapped his hand down. There was a very loud BANG and well… then this happened.” He gestured towards the table. “What do you think?”

“Honestly, Andrew? I haven’t a fucking clue,” Ross said. “The only thing I’m sure of is that the story you’ve told me…”

“Story?” protested Patt. “Story? It’s what happened, damn it. You know me better than that.” Ross just stared impassively at Patt, who with a visible effort cut off whatever he was about to say.

“You know what I mean. The scenario you’ve outlined, better?” He looked at Patt questioningly and Patt nodded slowly. “OK, the scenario you’ve outlined just simply couldn’t have happened.” He raised a hand to forestall Patt’s inevitable protests. “Look, Andrew, no-one, and I mean no-one has the sort of strength and speed to hit a table so fast and so powerfully to slam a piece of wood six inches thick from this table. It’s impossible.”

“And yet… it happened,” maintained Patt.

“And yet… it happened,” repeated Ross. “So that’s our problem. Look, the best thing can do is to go back to the office, and report in.” He stood up and gestured for Powers, who’d been taking photographs of the table and carpet, to cease. Ross started for the door and then stopped, turning. “Just in case, though…”

Patt looked at him, the puzzlement clear in his eyes. “Yes?”

“Let’s put this Davies through the ringer. I take it you’ve his personnel file handy?”

Patt nodded vigorously. “It’s in the HR office,” he said. “I’ll get a copy sent over.”

Ross shook his head, a faint smile playing over his lips. It was rather touching really how quickly Patt had forgotten the rules. You never, never, allowed someone the opportunity to tamper with paperwork when you had the chance to prevent it. “I think I’d rather take a copy. Now, please.” For the first time that morning, Ross allowed a touch of authority to enter his voice.

Patt recognised the tone, and bristled before recognising the reason for it and with a mental shrug said, “Suit yourself. It’s in HR. This way…” and left through another door. Ross followed him, after instructing Powers to take a final set of shots.

They returned in a couple of minutes and Ross studied the papers for a moment, particularly Davies’ terms and conditions of employment. He was looking for something and smiled when he found it. “Nice one” he exclaimed, quoting from the document: “employees may be suspended on full pay pending a disciplinary board leading to dismissal for gross insubordination or for what this thing calls ‘gross negligence.’” He turned to Patt. “Fire him.”

Patt was stunned. “Fire him? On what grounds? For what reason?”

“Oh, come up with a reason. You’re in PR now, Andrew. You lie for a living. Though I’d have thought that the table gave you enough reason. Did you land the client?” Ross contrived a semi-interested look.

“No,” said Patt ruefully, “and we’re unlikely to.”

“Excellent,” retorted Ross. “Sorry, Andrew, but I do mean that. Nothing against your agency, but this gives you a reason to fire him. Well, suspend him, anyway. After all, if he hadn’t smashed the table, you may have landed the client, yes?”

“Well, yes… but why on earth do you want him suspended?”

Ross sighed loudly. “You’re slowing down, my friend. I don’t want him fired, I want him available. When he comes into work this morning, call me, then suspend him for negligence and we’ll have a tail on him from the moment he leaves the office.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 10 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 9 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next five weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

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To start from the beginning, click here
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Chapter Four (continued…)

It’s been said that those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. It could be added that those whom the gods wish to make mad, they first enjoy taking the piss out of.

At the lab, Dr Rosemary Clooney had finally sorted out her office. A place for everything and everything in its place.

She sat back in her chair, very pleased with herself and not a little smug. She’d finally found the paper she’d been looking for. It had become stuck to the back of another sheet of paper in a 600 page report in such a way that it would have been impossible to find it unless the report had been examined page by page. And that’s what she’d done. Page by page. Sixteen such reports. And she’d looked through every one.

Still the job had been worth it. Everything was filed, and she knew where everything was.

And then the telephone rang.

She looked on the desk for it, but it wasn’t there.

A place for everything? Not a problem. Everything in its place? Somewhere the gods were peeing themselves laughing.

The telephone continued its ringing while Clooney started panicking about not being able to find it. She finally discovered it by tracing the telephone wire from the socket in the wall, under the carpet through to her desk. She pulled open the bottom drawer and there it was. Success! She lifted it onto the desk and pondered it for a moment, enjoying the success of the hunt. She picked up the receiver… at the very moment the caller decided that she’d obviously left for home and disconnected.

She uttered a very unladylike swear word and replaced the telephone in her desk, automatically thinking of that as its new home. She closed the drawer just as the phone started to ring again and this time she pulled open the drawer and snatched at the receiver. “Hello?”

“Dr Clooney? Docherty here,” she heard down the line. “Wasn’t sure if you’d left yet.”

She glanced at the wall clock and was surprised at the time. “Not quite, no. But I’m just about to leave, Mr Docherty – can it wait until the morning?

“It could,” said the voice, “but I’d rather it didn’t. Have you eaten yet?”

As if prompted, her stomach rumbled loudly. She hadn’t realised quite how loudly until Docherty chimed in with “I’ll take that as a no. OK, meet me at The Ivy in an hour. I’ll book a table.”

Clooney laughed. “Not that I don’t like the confidence, Mr Docherty, but you can’t just phone The Ivy and immediately get a table.”

“Doctor,” came an ominously quiet reply, “you’d be astonished what I can do with one phone call.” Then the tone lightened and he asked “An hour then, ok?”

He rung off without waiting for a reply. Clooney looked at the telephone, irritated beyond belief. “And just for that,” she said, blaming the telephone, “you can stay on the desk.”

The telephone, politely, declined to respond.

Clooney grabbed her jacket from the back of her chair, flicked off the light and left the building, looking forward to the meal more than she wanted to admit.

– o –

Two hours later, as it was approaching midnight, Clooney was very glad she’d accepted the invitation to dinner. Docherty had turned out to be a delightful dinner companion and for the first hour of the meal, he hadn’t raised work at all, and she had been happy not to suggest that he did so.

She’d been surprised, when she arrived, that he’d already been there and despite knowing that she’d been correct about the impossibility of getting a table at such short notice, they had a superb table by the window.

The meal had been magnificent, but that was no surprise, and it wasn’t until they were finishing their desserts and had ordered coffee that she looked quizzically at Docherty and asked why he’d invited her out to dinner.

“Why, Doctor Clooney,” he protested in mock-surprise, “isn’t the pleasure of your company enough of a reason?”

“Of course it is,” she replied, grinning, “but I suspect that’s not the reason you invited me out.”

“OK, no, it isn’t,” he said, a look of serious contemplation appearing on his face. “I want to talk to you again about the incident.”

Docherty had similarly been enjoying the evening, and was not exactly looking forward to dropping the surprises on her that he was about to. He’d gotten permission from the Department to include her in the small circle of people who knew the information he was about to relate, but while he enjoyed surprising people, he rarely felt it appropriate to be smug about it. And certainly not about this.

Slightly disappointed, despite her comments of a few moments earlier, Clooney sighed. “There’s really not a lot I can tell you. Honestly. You’ve read the report, I know. And pretty much everything I know about the effects of the material are in there. I still don’t know why you want to know though.”

“No?” Docherty asked.

“No,” she said. “You worried me for a moment, with your questions about the dead tissue, but I’ve checked with the mortuary at the hospital where… what was his name?”

“Withers. Samuel James Withers,” replied Docherty slowly.

“Thanks. Yes, where Withers was taken. They’ve checked the body for radiation. There wasn’t any.”

“That’s what they said, was it?” Docherty asked, his face a picture of innocence personified.

“Yes, and no one else was contaminated, so, what’s the problem? Why are you so interested?”

“That’s your professional assessment, is it, Doctor? Everything’s ok, because nothing actually went wrong? Well, it’s a novel approach, certainly.”

Clooney paused in the midst of pouring herself a glass of the exceedingly fine dry white wine that Docherty had ordered for them. She felt once again as if she’d missed something, just as she’d felt when he’d quizzed her about the dead tissue some hours earlier. She waited for him to continue, and he did a moment later.

“Well, Doctor, there are only two things wrong with your reasoning. Not major things, you might think, but others, including me, could differ on that assessment.” The dryness in his voice could have given the wine some competition.

“OK,” she said, taking another swallow of the exceedingly fine dry white wine. “So why don’t you tell me what they are.”

He ticked them off on his fingers.

“First, the mortuary were instructed to give that information to you. It’s true they can’t find any radiation on the body, but mainly because they can’t find the body.” He paused at the look that had appeared on Clooney’s face. “And before you ask, yes, the remains of Withers, Samuel James of that ilk, were clinically dead when he was taken in. At the moment, it’s assumed that the remains have been removed by persons unknown, for purposes similarly unknown.”

Clooney took a large swallow of the wine, now not caring in the least how exceedingly fine, dry or white it was. “Well, that’s a good assumption, I’d have thought. Because whatever the alternative is, I really don’t want to consider it. However, I’m more concerned about the other potential error in my judgement,” she said, not knowing what was coming and not particularly wanting to hear it.

“The CCTV cameras covering the street area near the National Provident bank have been examined and all of them, both film and digital are completely blank.” He halted, and his hand reached towards his pocket briefly before returning to the table. He’s a smoker, Clooney noticed, and enjoyed the moral superiority of not needing that particular crutch.

“Understand what I mean, Doctor. I’m not reporting that the cameras recorded nothing – I’m saying that the cameras were completely blank, as if they’d been wiped clean. So they’re no use at all. However,” and here he again took a break, as if considering his words.

“However,” he began again, “according to four separate eye witnesses, a man, aged in his mid-to late thirties, was standing about fifty feet from the explosion. He was seen enveloped in a cloud of smoke, and then witnessed wiping his suit down afterwards, before exiting the scene.” Docherty stopped talking as the waitress arrived with their coffees. Clooney and Docherty looked at each other, the former’s eyes wide and shocked. She didn’t even smoke, but for some reason, she really wanted a cigarette.

When the waitress had walked away, Docherty poured some milk into his coffee, and stirred. He picked up the other cup and passed it to Clooney as if he expected her to take it. She didn’t and he placed it in front of her. He looked at Clooney who was staring incredulously at him as if he’d grown a second head. “How are those lottery numbers coming along, Dr Clooney?”

She gazed at him in utter disbelief, then shook her head. “And I suppose none of the eye-witnesses spoke to the media?”

His face hardened and for some reason, she suddenly shivered. He looked like a completely different man; his eyes had taken on the look of chilled stones. “They were… persuaded… not to. Now,” he said, “don’t you think we ought to be talking about what effects that stuff can have on a human being? And right now, Dr Clooney?”

She nodded slowly, her brain racing.

“From prelimin…” she stopped and sipped at her coffee. Her face pinched and she took some sugar cubes and dropped them in, stirring slowly, marshalling her thoughts. “From preliminary results,” she said in what her mother referred to as her ‘teacher mode’, “the material affects both the natural healing abilities of a body via massive cell regeneration, as well as the autonomic systems. In most cases, that increased healing led directly to tumours forming, although the precise causal effects were untraceable. However, in every case, the exposed mammal died. Anyone exposed to it would certainly die.”

“And if they didn’t?” asked Docherty.

“If they didn’t what?” Clooney’s brain was still overwhelmed by the very idea of what she’d caused just by sending a package out for delivery. Unconsciously, she reached for more sugar, and her hand jerked back when Docherty’s hand gently tapped it.

Docherty sat back in the chair, watching Clooney carefully. He sighed loudly. He thought of how often he’d sighed since that morning, and realised that he was rapidly approaching his month’s quota. “If they didn’t die, Dr Clooney?” he reminded her. “What then?”

“If they didn’t die, it’s genuinely impossible to guess what would happen to them: the effects could be anything from being a carrier of, for want of a better word, let’s call radiation poisoning, to vastly improved reaction times and healing. But I still can’t… I still can’t…”

Docherty leaned forward into sharp relief, the candles throwing an odd pattern onto his face. “So, unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying, Doctor, we’ve got either Typhoid Mary or Superman running around somewhere in London tonight.”

He leaned back and laughed, a short barking, laugh. “I’m almost hoping it’s the former.”

Clooney looked at him, puzzled. “Why…?”

“Because I don’t much fancy being Lex Luthor.” He stood up. “Come on.”

She stood up and watched as he threw some £50 notes on the table.

“Where to?” she asked.

“I’ll take you home. Tomorrow we…”

She interrupted him with “…go and get your head shaved?” and walked away from him, not seeing the genuine grin that appeared on his face.

– o –

Davies was glad the lights were low, and when he saw the time, the surprise was that the Doctor was still there, on the two-seater couch against the wall. Three o’clock in the morning, and she was still there, though she appeared to be asleep. Her head was on the shoulder of the man Davies had assumed was her husband, and she was snoring softly, while the man read a paperback. His assumption was confirmed when the man gently shook her awake, placed the novel on a side table and then walked forward to introduce himself, while his wife checked a clipboard by her side.

“Mr Davies,” he said hesitantly, “I’m Scott Jordan.”

The name sounded familiar, but Davies couldn’t recall why for a moment. Then the man moved into the light and he placed it immediately. “You’re Scott Jordan,” he said, cursing himself for his stupidity.

“Erm, yes,” said Jordan, mystified.

“I read your pieces in The Guardian,” Davies said quickly, and then ruined the effect somewhat by saying “well, sometimes, when I can’t get The Times.”

“That’s fair enough,” Jordan said, with an easy smile. “Honesty. I like that in a bloke.” He sat by Davies’ bed and became serious. “Though, I’d be prepared to forgive a blatant lie from the man that saved my wife and son from a gun, and took a bullet for them.”

Davies noticed that Jordan hadn’t included himself in that tribute and his estimation of Jordan took a few jumps before he remembered that Jordan made his living through words, and through persuading others with his skill in the use of them.

Jordan extended his hand, and Davies took it; a firm grip, but not overly so. Davies had the suspicion that Jordan was a man who shook a lot of hands. “Thank you,” Jordan said, and Davies didn’t know how to reply. He glanced at the doctor, now looking at both of them, and then back at Jordan. Davies nodded, his face serious.

Jordan’s next few words though took his breath away. “Hope you’re ready to be a media star, Mr Davies.”

“What?” He was stunned.

“PR Executive saves journalist and family from gun crime? Tailor made for a story. Beats ‘man bites dog’ all to hell.” Jordan’s expression was now a combination of earnestness and eagerness, neither of which were appealing. “And don’t even think of saying no,” Jordan said, “it’s my way of saying thank you.” Davies realised that Jordan actually meant it; he thought Davies would be grateful. Davies thought briefly and then made the penultimate decision that, together with everything else that had happened to him since nine o’clock the previous morning, changed his life forever.

“Is there any way my name can be kept out of it? Seriously – I don’t want to be named.”

“Unavoidable, my friend. Sooner or later, it’s going to come out. Someone will find out who you are. It’s not as if you have a secret identity or anything.” Jordan stopped for a moment, then said “Why not take the bows? Defending members of the public like you did. It’s something to be proud of.”

Then Davies made the final, fateful, decision. “Well can’t you call me something else? I mean, your wife made a crack about super heroes earlier,” he glanced at her and even in the semi-dark of the room, he could see her blush, “and you just talked about a secret identity. Can’t you call me just…”

He paused as if in thought, but more just for effect if he were honest about it. “You said it yourself a minute ago. Just call me just A Public Defender.”

If only he’d have been talking to a reporter from any other newspaper, he would almost certainly have been fine. Any other newspaper: The Times would have been fine. The Daily Mirror has been known to report things accurately. Even The Sunhas, on occasion, as has The Socialist Worker.

But no, the fates had conspired to put him at the mercy of The Guardian.

And despite each of them knowing why some people referred to it as The Grauniad, not one of them even saw it coming.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 9 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 8 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next five weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 6 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Four

The Guardian, 15th October 2003
The Book of Revelation is not part of the Old Testament, as we mistakenly stated in the article on 22nd September 2003. It is the final book of the New Testament.

The soft natural light had left the sky, giving way to glaring neon, as signs advertising a thousand products sent their messages out to the masses. Well, primarily to those walking through Piccadilly Circus. Under normal circumstances, Jez Docherty enjoyed looking at the garish view.

To him it represented all that was normal about the world. He was convinced, various attempts to persuade him otherwise having failed, that the best way of judging the state of the world was by advertising, and the amount of it. If ever the amount spent on advertising fell, he knew that he had a rough time coming. Conversely, when the quantity of advertising grew intensely, he believed that his masters would be getting nervous. There was no justification for this that he could have convincingly explained, but then he’d discovered over the years that everyone had their superstitions and why should anyone say his were any stranger than those that others held to?

And when he saw the stark neon the same as it was the previous day, he was always comforted.

But not tonight. This night, Jez Docherty was worried. He walked past the signs advertising camera films, soft drinks and fast food without even pausing, his pace fast and determined.

His meetings with Toster and Clooney had been inconclusive. He knew three things, he had immediately concluded. He disliked Toster immensely, while he liked Clooney a lot. However, he was sure that one of them was lying. And if he had to, he’d have bet his salary on it being the former. But he wasn’t quite that sure yet.

Crossing the street at a fast, yet natural, pace, he stopped by the newspaper kiosk directly outside the main entrance to his offices. He picked up a copy of the final edition of the newspaper he’d shown Clooney earlier and briefly read the story on the front page, absorbing the new information the reporters thought they possessed. This wasn’t good, not at all. With more details coming out the whole time, how long would it be before…?

His thoughts were intruded upon by the man in the newspaper kiosk. “We’re not a bleeding library, mate,” the older man said, with a grimace, and Docherty dug in his pocket for some change. He handed it over with a muttered apology and headed for the front door of his office. The newspaper seller regarded him with jaundiced, knowing eyes, then turned away to another customer.

Docherty flashed his ID at the scanner by the door and a moment later was buzzed in.

“One of these days,” he said to the armed security guard on duty as he showed his ID again, watching as it was closely examined.

“What? Old Langbridge?” laughed the security guard. “He’s like that with all you new boys.” The guard handed back Docherty’s ID and the latter slid it into his side pocket.

“New boys?” Docherty asked, raising an eyebrow. He’d been with the department a little under ten years. Although, he thought, as he took the stairs to the second floor where his office was located, Langridge had retired before Docherty had joined; the newspaper stand was a concession to his long service. No doubt he regarded the Permanent Secretary, who’d been with the department coming up to twenty years, as a new boy as well.

He entered his office and threw his jacket at the coat stand. It landed on top of the stand and hung in a manner that suggested it was about to fall at any moment. From long experience, Docherty knew that wasn’t the case and he sat at his desk, to check his email before writing his report. The yellow envelope placed on his keyboard put paid to any ideas of that nature and also, he suspected, any plans he had for that evening. A yellow envelope meant “most urgent” and “most secret”, not necessarily in that order. Docherty opened the envelope gingerly and pulled out the single sheet of paper. It was printed on pale yellow paper, which meant that it was from Head of Section.

He sighed as he read it. He had been hoping that it was going to be something minor, but the fact that it was in a ‘yellow’ should have warned him that it was a forlorn hope. He read the memo from Head of Section again, suddenly curious. It was stark and devastatingly brief: Any and all operatives with information relating to the explosion near the National Provident Bank of this date are requested and required to file a PX473 in these offices upon receipt of this memorandum.

He put the paper down and leaned back, flicking on the powerful fan behind him. A blast of cold air circulated around the room. Smoking may have been banned years ago in most government buildings, but the security services? No one would have dared suggest it. As a fop to those who detested the habit, it was a convention that fans were required if a cigarette was wanted. And he most certainly wanted one now.

A PX743? But why?

He pulled out his cigarettes and lit one, inhaling slowly, trying to work it out, to put the connections together. A PX743 was, at first glance, a standard document. It acknowledged that the signatory was aware of the confidential nature of the contents of the file referred to therein, and that breach of that confidentiality could lead to criminal prosecution. However, despite the ostensibly harmless nature, Docherty had only ever been aware of one department wide signing previously. And that was as a favour to the Americans.

Wait a moment…!

What was it that Clooney woman had said, if only in jest? That the material had come from America? What if she’d actually been right? And it had been lost? Holy hell.

Whatever plans Docherty had for looking for the person, who several eye-witnesses had confirmed had been soaked by the cloud, suddenly took on a more urgent nature. He flicked on his computer and opened up various applications, including the email. He dumped the memo and envelope in his in-tray, intending to file the paperwork later.

It didn’t quite work out that way. He had seventeen emails waiting for him, but the one with the title in capitals garnered his attention. Headed MOST URGENT/TOP PRIORITY, it contained the same message as the memo, and was marked with a ‘receipt when read’ instruction. Damn. Docherty gave up the one-sided battle and left his office, heading for Head of Section’s rooms to sign the form, hoping that the stranger that had been at the scene of the abortive robbery, whoever he was, was still alive.

– o –

“Urgh, I feel like death,” said Davies, as he rolled over.

“Well, you’re not quite there yet, laddie,” said a kind voice, and Davies opened his eyes to find a petite older woman, in a nurse’s uniform, looking at him.

“Where…?” he managed to get out and the nurse smiled at him.

“You’re in Central London Hospital,” the nurse said, leaning to her side and lifting a telephone receiver. “Aye,” she said into the receiver, “could you page Dr Jordan? Yes, Mr Davies is awake.”

Davies looked down and saw that he was in a bed, and from what was visible over the covers, was dressed in a cotton robe. Across the room, the open door of a cupboard showed him his clothes, pressed and hanging up. He glanced around the room and saw that it was almost like a hotel room. He guessed that it was a private hospital and a quick glance at the menu card by his bed pretty much confirmed it for him. His wallet and keys were on a small table by the side of the bed, and he realised that she must have known his name from the plethora of identification he had in the wallet, everything from business cards, to credit cards, from his underground pass, to a library card. Which reminded him that he had a couple of books that were overdue for return.

I’m mad, he thought. Here I am in hospital and I’m worried about bloody library cards? He shook his head to clear it and immediately regretted doing so, as his shoulder ached. He reached back towards it and the nurse stopped him, her hand gently removing his own and placing it back on his chest.

“Not just yet, eh, Mr Davies? Just wait for the doctor.” His memory was returning and he recalled the events immediately prior to his loss of consciousness. Had he really been shot? Shot?

“Doctor Jordan will be here in a minute,” the nurse said, and as she said it, the large door opened and the woman he’d seen earlier at the aborted mugging walked in. She looked different, and for a moment it shook him, and then he realised that, of course, she was wearing a white coat. That and, he presumed, she’d taken the pearls off.

He was wrong though; as she approached him and smiled at him, the pearls around her neck caught the light. He could see she was wearing the same evening clothes she’d been wearing earlier and the natural assumption was that she’d brought him to the hospital and then stayed around.

“Good evening, Mr Davies, I’m Doctor Jordan. How are you feeling?” Beth Jordan asked. “And don’t say ‘fine’.”

There must have been quizzical look on his face, as she carried on. “Well, the last time you said that was immediately after you’d flown down an alley, disarmed a mugger and been shot in the shoulder. So I can only presume you define the word ‘fine’ somewhat differently than the rest of us.” She smiled again, to take any sting out of her words and Davies knew a pang of regret, for he guessed that the man had been her husband, and the boy her child.

“How…?” he realised that his two questions so far had been single words, but he was finding it difficult to talk. He rubbed his neck and was surprised at the tenderness there.

“Erm, yes, sorry about that,” the doctor looked sheepish for a moment and Davies had no idea why. She handed him a glass of water and, after she had cautioned him about drinking too much in one swallow, he sipped at the water. It was cold, very cold and it felt wonderful going down.

“When you came in,” Jordan said, “we couldn’t detect a heartbeat, nor a pulse, but it was obvious that you were breathing. We had to stick a tube inside you to check.”

“And…?” Davies asked.

“And what?” responded the doctor.

“And what did you find?” asked Davies, delighted to finally put a sentence together. He had been wondering if he’d ever get a chance to.

“That’s the thing. We didn’t find anything. Any images we were hoping to get from your insides wouldn’t transmit through fibre optics. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. But then we saw your shoulder and somehow things didn’t seem quite so impossible any more.” Jordan scratched her head, in a manner that Davies found curiously endearing.

Fatalistic about the answer, Davies asked “what do you mean?”

“Mr Davies,” said Jordan, “before I go on, I’ve been incredibly and unforgivably rude.” Her professional demeanour wavered, as if it was making its mind up whether or not to depart and then it said to hell with it and booked a trip to Tahiti. Tears sprung to her eyes and she grasped Davies’ hand firmly. “Thank you. Thank you so much…”

Davies felt uncomfortable and wanted to take his hand back, but wasn’t sure it was appropriate. He needed to be sure what he was being thanked for. “Erm, for…?” he got as far as asking before the woman in front of him interrupted with “well, for stopping that mugging!”

His memory was still a little vague but as she told of her wonder at what he’d done, it began to creep back into his mind exactly what had happened. But one thing was bothering him. Both originally and when she repeated the tale, she’d said that he’d flown. He presumed that she was describing his running, but then she stopped him short with, “OK, let’s have a look at that back of yours. Though, mind you, it wouldn’t surprise me if you had wings!”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Doctor?”

And that was when Jordan explained to Davies that when she referred to him flying down the alley, she wasn’t using a descriptive vanity; he had actually left the ground.

And that was when he fainted again. As he fell unconscious, he heard the words that were going to cause him so much trouble in the next few months:

“You know,” Doctor Jordan said, looking at her nurse, a gently mocking though exasperated tone to her voice, “you wouldn’t think a real life super-hero would faint so much, would you?”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 8 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 7 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next five weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.

To read part 5 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.
To start from the beginning, click here
To buy the complete ebook, click here

Chapter Three (continued…)

Davies had walked back to his office and when he’d got there, taken off his jacket from habit and hung it on the back of his chair. On the walk from the meeting, he’d decided to check job opportunities, as he suspected he may well need to take advantage of any soon.

He sat in front of the computer and moved the mouse while looking at the screen, reading the headlines on the job agency’s website. The mouse was under his hand and he was already using it when he stopped as the penny dropped.

He lifted his hand and stared at the mouse. He hadn’t reached for it. He had a habit of doing just that, he knew: reading the headlines on the screen while he fumbled for the mouse. But this time it had been there immediately. On any other day, he’d have written it off as just a coincidence, but today wasn’t any other day.

It’s nuts, he thought. Completely impossible. Then he thought of the table upstairs and realised that he was changing his opinion quite rapidly as to what was and wasn’t impossible. He looked up and checked the office door was shut, then took the mouse and placed it on the far side of his desk. He reached out and said, to the open air, “Come here.”

The mouse stayed where it was.

Davies reached out his hand again and said, harder this time, “Mouse – come here!”

Again the mouse stayed where it was.

Then he realised he was doing it wrong. He couldn’t tell his fingers to form a fist by telling them verbally to do so. He just wanted to form a fist and it duly formed. Davies followed though the thought and suddenly reached out his hand, palm down, picturing the mouse resting beneath it.

This time, the mouse didn’t stay where it was at all. It moved, speedily and accurately, and half a second later, it was below his hand.

“Holy shit,” Davies said, and then looked again at the door, double-checking it wasn’t open. In front of his eyes, the door handle moved, then the door opened a few inches, then slammed shut. A thought struck him, sparked by a movie he’d seen in the Christmas holidays last year. He glanced at his desk and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them and snapped his fingers twice. Before him, the surface of his desk, never tidy at the best of times, tidied itself up. Papers organised themselves and were duly paper clipped together, and his phone and hole punch moved to their respective corners of his desk.

He opened his drawers. The same had happened in them – each was neat and better organised than he’d left them.

“Oh, great,” he said, “I’m Mary Poppins.”

– o –

Dr Rosemary Clooney was far less satisfied with her desk. In contrast to Davies’, her work area was usually pristine. She’d once spent two hours looking for a report that had slipped under her keyboard and the embarrassment factor (which had been legion) had ensured that it would never happen again.

Until this afternoon. She’d just spent the last hour, since the astonishing meeting with Toster and Docherty ended, reading the files and papers on the material, reviewing every scrap of information she had on it.

And five minutes ago, she’d realised that there was one sheet of paper missing.

The office no longer looked neat and tidy. It looked like a small tactical bomb had hit it. She had opened every folder, looked in every file. It wasn’t there. In a mark of desperation, she’d even lifted up her keyboard but there was no sign of the sheet of paper.

There was a knock on her door and she said “come in” without raising her head from the waste paper bin.

The door opened and Jez Docherty walked in. He was surprised because the room looked empty. Messy like you wouldn’t believe, but empty. And then, as he watched in some bemusement, what he’d taken to be a white sheet thrown over an area in the corner moved, rose and turned vertical. He realised he’d been looking at the rear of Dr Clooney, but thought it best not to mention it.

“Yes?” asked Clooney as she turned and looked at her visitor. “Oh! Sorry,” she politely said, feeling anything other than polite. She didn’t trust him. She couldn’t have said why but she didn’t. It was just a feeling, but she considered herself an excellent judge of character. And she was… as long as you excluded men who she found attractive. And, crucially, as she’d have been the first to admit, Docherty was attractive. Six feet four inches tall, with close cropped hair, he had, she’d noticed, perfect teeth and hazel eyes, a combination that was always dangerous for her.

And given that this was the sort of physical type she very much found attractive, she was pleased at the curious fact she’d realised within moments of meeting him: she didn’t like him. At all.

“Not a problem,” said Docherty, who knew that Clooney neither liked nor trusted him. It wasn’t that he could read Clooney; he just naturally assumed that no one liked nor trusted him. It didn’t bother him, not with the job he had.

He took another, obvious, look at the room. “Lost something?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Clooney. She wasn’t inclined to say what and to her surprise, Docherty didn’t pursue the matter.

“I was wondering,” Docherty said.

“Yes? What about?” asked Clooney.

“Well, some minor questions, really. Nothing too important, but they’re questions I’d like answered, if you can.”

“Mr Docherty,” Clooney said, shifting some papers off of her chair and from the visitor’s chair in front of her desk. She gestured with her head to the now empty chair. “Sit down,” she said and then moved to her side of the desk. She looked around briefly and then with a mental shrug, dropped the papers on the floor before sitting herself in her chair. “Mr Docherty,” she said again, “There’s nothing I can tell you that’s not in the report I gave Dr Toster, a report you’ve no doubt already read.”

Docherty was still standing and Clooney smiled good naturedly at him. “Look, the least you can do, since I went to the effort of clearing you a space, is to sit down.”

Docherty smiled back at her. “You’re right.”

“Yes?” asked Clooney.

“Yes,” said Docherty. “It’s the least I can do… so it doesn’t matter whether or not I do so, right?”

Clooney shook her head partly in bemusement, partly in disbelief. “What do you want, Mr Docherty?”

“As I say, just a few questions.” Docherty reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small notepad, took a pen out of the spiral binding and flipped open the cover. “You said that the material could be mutagenic only if it was exposed to dead tissue.”

“Well, yes, it would have had to have had the heat and force applied to it first, but…” She didn’t get any further before the next question came and when it did, it astonished her.

“What would happen to the dead tissue?”

“I beg your pardon?” She looked at him with surprise.

“The tissue that was exposed. You know, exposed to the material. What would happen to it?”

“It would constitute part of the combined vapour that would form as a result of the exposure.” Clooney was puzzled, and beginning to lose her patience. She couldn’t see where he was going with this, nor why it was supposed to be important.

“Yes, yes, but what about the rest of it?” Docherty was quietly persistent. But persistent he was.

“What ‘rest of it’? There wasn’t any ‘rest of it’. In the trials, the dead tissue was utterly consumed.” Clooney stopped. There was something there, but she wasn’t sure why alarm bells had started ringing in the back of her head.

Now Docherty sat, and crossed his legs. “Ah…” he said, understanding that he was watching her brain click into gear.

He waited for a moment. “It’ll come, give it time,” he said, and only got a look from her that, had her hair been formed of snakes, would have turned him to stone. He watched her intensely and a few seconds later her eyes widened as she made the final connection. “There it is,” he said, getting another Medusa-like glare from her.

“We only used grams of material, a thousand at max.” She couldn’t believe she’d missed the implications, but the thoughts which were now speeding through her brain were brought to a shuddering halt by Docherty’s next question.

“So, you’ve no idea what the effect would be if the dead tissue was, say, 190 to 200 lbs? And was previously a career criminal name Samuel Withers?”

There was a long pause before, under narrowing eyes, the mouth of Dr Rosemary Clooney said simply, “no”.

“OK,” said Docherty. “Next question – I’ve only two more. Where did the material come from?”

The temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees as Clooney considered her answer. “America,” she finally said. She watched Docherty write the answer down and then said “A small farm outside a town in Kansas,” waiting for Docherty to make the connection. She was hoping for the same time lagged response she’d had to go through a few minutes ago. She was disappointed as Docherty put down the pen.

“Really? I suppose it was called Smallville,” Docherty said, without a smile. “Dr Clooney, this is serious business. I’d be obliged if you’d actually tell me the truth.”

“The truth? I don’t know where it came from. We were given it under a contract from the Ministry of Defence. We’ve always referred to wherever it came from as ‘The Site’.” Clooney shrugged. “It’s not unusual; we get sent material all the time to work on.”

“OK, where do you think it came from then?” asked Docherty. “Best guess, doctor.”

She pointed up at the ceiling. “Somewhere out there. There were elements in there that I’d never seen before, and that were unidentifiable. Who knows, maybe it did come from Krypton.” She smiled to take the sarcasm out of her tone, and was only partly successful. “You had one more question?”

Docherty sighed. “OK, to the best of your knowledge, experience and guesswork, what mutagenic changes could hypothetically occur to a person? And I stress, could, not would.”

“Ah, that one I can answer. I’ve a list of everything that I could conceive happening to someone who was exposed to it under the circumstances you outlined earlier.” She reached behind her to the printer, pulled a sheet of paper from on top of it and handed it to him. “There you go.”

Docherty looked at both sides of the paper. They were equally blank.

– o –

Davies smiled and waved at the security guard as he left the agency. He wondered whether he’d be either smiling or waving when he exited the following day, or whether his expression would be grim, as he was escorted from the building.

He had a lot on his mind, to put it mildly, and he felt like walking. Walking had always helped him get his thoughts in order, and he enjoyed the solitude. A short while later, he looked at his watch and was surprised at the time; he thought he’d left work about thirty minutes ago. He shook his head. More like ninety. His arms ached and he stretched them above his head, irritated that his shirt came out of his trousers. He pulled it back down and found that it only fitted in when he pulled it tight. He yawned and automatically stretched again. This time he felt a tightness at his back and heard material tearing. What the…?

He took his jacket off and felt by his shoulder blades. He could feel air and knew that he’d torn his shirt. He swore, quietly, then put his jacket back on, becoming rapidly convinced that whatever his body was going through, he needed to get it checked out in a hurry.

He really didn’t want to go to his local doctor; the hypochondriacally inclined general practitioner was a lovely bloke, but he did have an almost supernatural faith in the words “Let’s get that checked out”, and he positively enjoyed sending patients for blood tests. Davies wasn’t quite sure why he continued to stay with a doctor who was convinced that he himself had every illness going, and he knew the doctor would schedule him for any number of tests. But needs must…

Davies crossed the road and fumbled in his pocket for his mobile phone. He walked past the local cinema which had an Anthony Hopkins season playing, and was almost knocked over as a crowd of noisy teenagers came along the street, talking far too loudly. For a moment, Davies wondered if his hearing had suddenly become hypersensitive, but then he rationalised that he had always found crowds of teenagers too loud. Noticing an alley running down the side of the cinema, he ducked into it, pulling the successfully located mobile phone out of his pocket at the same time. As he left the main road, the light dimmed and he hoped that he could get a decent signal. He looked down the alley and noticed that it ran for some distance. He was, for a moment, stuck by how a city’s architecture always seemed to develop its own style. You could never, for example, mistake the alleys of New York for those of London, nor those of Johannesburg for Toronto.

He was just trying to remember his doctor’s number to see if he could get an emergency appointment when he heard raised voices. He looked up and saw in the shadows three adults and a small child some way ahead of him. For a moment, he couldn’t see them clearly and then, when he blinked hard, it seemed as if they were rushing towards him, as the area, several hundred yards away, snapped into focus. And what he saw turned his blood cold.

A well-dressed middle-aged woman held her small son to her body, trying to get him behind her, her other hand half-covering the single string of pearls around her neck. By her side, a tall moustachioed man was trying to calm down the third adult, who wore a peaked cap and held a gun in front of him, pointing it at the couple.

Davies started to run towards them, and as he did so, he threw the mobile phone at the assailant. He had no idea why he did so, but the phone, thrown with incredible speed, rocketed towards the mugger, hitting him on the arm, just below the shoulder. There was an audible crack! and he cried out in pain, dropping the weapon.

When Davies was thirty yards away, he realised that he was moving far faster than he’d ever run before, and on instinct, he threw himself at the now unarmed and cursing man. He left the ground and hit the guy doing twenty miles an hour; the mugger collided into the wall close by, sliding to the ground, screaming in pain. Davies stood in shock and started shaking, sweat pouring from his forehead. He was lifting a trembling hand to wipe away the sweat when he felt a touch on his arm and whirled around to find the man with a moustache looking at him in disbelief.

“Who are you?” the male asked.

Davies didn’t get a chance to respond, as his peripheral vision picked up the mugger aiming the gun at them; Davies spun around leaning towards the threat. There was a loud noise and Davies reacted before he consciously realised doing so, throwing himself into the air, beating the almost 900 miles per hour of the bullet. It hit his shoulder, gouging out a wedge of flesh and muscle. He landed and while his body was still registering that it had been shot, he picked up the man with his other hand and threw him twenty feet away onto a pile of rubbish bags, feeling some satisfaction as he saw him fall hard.

“Bloody hell! Are you ok?” asked the now rescued mugging victim, prompting a giggle from the man’s son. “Mum! Daddy said a naughty word!”

For some reason that struck Davies as very, very funny and he started to laugh. “Yeah,” he said in reply, “I’m fine.”

Then he fainted dead away.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 7 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 6 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next five weeks or so.

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Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

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I did mention that the ebook comes with lovely, wonderful, glorious artwork, did I not?

Well, so as not to spoil the upcoming story for those of you who’ve been reading, here’s Doctor Rosemary Clooney, from Chapter Two, from the marvelously talented hands of Mister Sam Hart:

Sam’s art, as well as other pieces by Robin Riggs, Mike Collins, Lea Hernandez, Natalie Sandells, Jim Wheelock, Dwight Williams and Cath Tomlinson appears in the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available for £4.99

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as the aforementioned gorgeous art, sprinkled throughout the book.

Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

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Chapter Three

The Guardian, 30th October 2012
A review of The River at the Royal Court theatre in London was amended to correct a description of the bait a character said she and a young poacher had used to catch a sea trout. It was not a pickled onion, but a pickled onion flavour Monster Munch.

The office was a nice one. Davies had been in it many times, often to get praise from the senior director for some deal that he’d secured or some campaign that had gone well. In each of those meetings, he’d always known that he had the respect of the older man, that his employer had looked upon him as a valued member of staff. The fact that Davies had added sufficient value to the organisation to ensure that the director’s hefty bonuses became almost obscene was, Davies was convinced, not entirely unrelated to the bonhomie which usually greeted his presence there.

Of course, he was not immune to mistakes, but on the single occasion the error had been serious enough to merit a rebuke, the resulting meeting to which he’d been summoned had been far too casual to be accurately labelled that. Even on that occasion, Davies now recalled, the senior director had looked at him with gentle puzzlement, leaving him with no doubt of the personal respect in which he was held.

This time was different. If there was any gentle puzzlement in the room, it emanated from Davies, who was wondering what the hell was going on. The other men in the room, forming the management board of the company, showed Davies one single palpable reaction: fear.

He glanced at them, standing and talking quietly in a group across the room while he sat in front of the senior director’s desk.

Davies could quite understand their reaction, since on one level, he was scared shitless himself. He’d been telling himself for two hours that it was just a joke, that he’d been set up, that at any moment one of his colleagues would own up to sabotaging the table.

But there was no mistaking the memory of that loud crack as his hand had broken the sound barrier on the way down to the table’s surface. And the physical evidence in the floor of the boardroom was jammed into the carpet solidly. He lifted that same hand up now and looked at it. It didn’t look anything special, other than the previously noticed healthiness of it.

It occurred to him that even if he had been responsible for the rapid journey from table to floor of that hand-sized piece of wood, there should have been bruising of some sort, but there was none. He noticed a small, hard hangnail by the little finger. Quickly, before he could change his mind, he pincered it between his other thumb and forefinger, and pulled… hard. A split second of pain signalled the hangnail’s removal and there was instantly a small red dot in its place, which started to well. Then, as he watched, he saw the blood dissolve back into his skin and in seconds you couldn’t have told that moments earlier he’d had a hangnail, nor a wound. The skin had completely healed.

This shouldn’t have been as big a shock to him as it was, he realised, remembering both the disappearing shaving cut and the vanished scar on his forearm. What the hell had been in that stuff?

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a cough. Looking up, he saw the senior director, Peter Monkton, and two other directors sitting, gazing politely at him, having taken their seats behind the huge desk. Monkton was a large man, but his body was in complete proportion. You didn’t get the impression, looking at him sitting, that he was much larger than average. Until he stood up, and then carried on standing up for some time. When he’d finished, he was six feet ten inches tall and was about three feet wide. Many people had thought to mock him over this, until Monkton loomed menacingly over them. He was very good at looming menacingly, and had considered taking it up professionally at one time until he realised that he’d never take to the discipline of the police force. Despite his wealth and ostensible old-school style, he on occasion betrayed his origins as a market trader who’d decided at 17 that he could earn a lot more in an office than in a street market. Davies had been in dozens of meetings with Monkton, respected him hugely, and had always admired his ability to handle any change of circumstance with equanimity. Nothing had ever seemed to surprise or phase the man.

But at the moment, he was sitting with his colleagues, looking hesitantly at Davies, as if expecting him to say something. Davies realised that he’d been so consumed in his own thoughts that he’d ignored whatever it was that Monkton had asked him. “I’m sorry,” he said, “what did you ask?”

Monkton looked as if he’d rather be anywhere other than in front of Davies.

“What I asked, young Mr Davies,” Monkton said, “was whether you had any idea how this, this, this…” he paused for a moment and then, gathering his fortitude, he continued, “this vandalism occurred? And once again, I ask you. Have you?”

Davies was tempted to reply “yes, I hit it,” but he didn’t think that would help the situation. Instead, he leaned forward in his chair, noticing as he did so, how the three men on the other side of the desk leaned away from him. To his surprise, he quite liked the effect.

“No,” he said slowly, judging his words carefully. “No, I don’t have any idea. I mean, the spider was there, I hit it and…” He stopped, knowing that what he was about to say was just plain daft, but then the whole day had been weird so far. Why stop now? “I hit it,” he repeated, “and… well, you saw what happened.”

“Indeed,” said Monkton and looked at his fellow directors. They nodded, and Davies realised that whatever they were about to say had been decided upon before he’d entered the office, and merely confirmed during their brief chat.

“Mr Davies,” said Monkton, standing up as he did so. “I think it would be wisest if you were to take the remainder of the day off.”

Davies shot a look at the large grandfather clock in the corner of the office. “With respect, Mr Monkton, it’s almost half-past five.”

“Your point being…?” asked Monkton, as if Davies had made a crucial interjection, but one of which Monkton couldn’t understand the relevance.

Davies shook his head. “Nothing, forget it.”

“Very well,” continued Monkton, “as I was saying, take the rest of the day off, and we’ll reconvene tomorrow to see if we can, together, understand the events of this afternoon.” He sat again, and smiled not unkindly at Davies. The change in his demeanour was immediate. “Look, Ian, it’s obvious to me that you didn’t plan it. So why don’t you sleep on it and see if you can devise some form of explanation. Because, frankly, if you can’t, you’re buggered, old son.”

With that, he stood again and offered his hand. Davies shook it and left, still shaken at the implied threat to his future prospects in the agency.

After Davies left the room, Monkton walked over to a cabinet and opened it. The bar revealed within the cabinet had a wide selection of drinks, but he went straight for the bottle of scotch and poured three large ones without asking his colleagues. He walked back to the desk and offered a glass to each of his fellow directors who’d now moved from behind the desk to in front of it.

He sat in his chair and asked, “Well?”

He was pretty sure of the response he’d get from Lester Williams, a man he had at one time personally detested, but now merely disliked intensely, at least on a personal level. Professionally, Monkton couldn’t help but admire the man. Williams was genuinely of the old school, two of them in fact, Eton and Harrow, before a double first at Oxford. “A first class brain inside a first class shit,” Monkton had heard him described as, and it was, Monkton thought, a superb analysis of the man, until you got to know him. Not many achieved that hallowed state of affairs though.

Williams was without doubt the best reader of people Monkton had ever come across and it was his quite open and frank analysis of Monkton’s original partner at Williams’ interview that had led to him replacing the not particularly missed Mr Doncaster on the board of directors. Since then, not a single deal had gone through the agency until Williams had met the client and decided whether they were right for the company of Doncaster and Monkton. The man appeared to have no guile, which was his secret weapon when concluding deals, and Monkton knew he was the most unshakeable man he’d ever met.

Williams took a sip of the scotch, smiled in recognition of the good stuff, and then took a large swallow. “Well, in my opinion, he hasn’t a clue what happened. But I’ll tell you something for nothing: that isn’t the same man I interviewed for the agency three years ago or worked with on the PHJ account last month.”

Monkton started. “I beg your pardon? I’ve worked with Davies on half a dozen projects since he joined us. Of course he’s the same man.”

Williams shook his head. “No, I don’t mean that someone’s taken his identity. There’s something very, very different about him. The way he sits, the look in his eyes, even the way that he fidgets. There’s something that’s changed.”

The third man in the room leaned forward, interested. A relatively new addition to the agency, Andrew Patt was a non-executive director, added to the board to give it some weight in the City’s eyes. He had retired from a long and successful military career in counter-espionage, and it was with some surprise that he’d found he enjoyed the more cerebral aspects of his new employment. “Are you saying that he’s playing a role of some sort?” Unfortunately, Monkton knew, in times of pressured crisis, he could be petulant, overdemanding and a nightmare to work for. Still, his skill in sorting the wheat from the chaff was superb, and Monkton was pleased to have him on the board, despite his ability to irritate.

Williams rolled his eyes. “Don’t be an idiot, Andy. No, whatever’s happened to Davies isn’t a role. But…” he paused and looked at Patt, sitting ramrod straight, even when leaning forward. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say that he’d spent some time in the forces. He sits like you do, straight. And,” he paused again, briefly, “he looks as if he’s grown an inch or two.”

Patt laughed at that, but stopped laughing when Monkton admitted, “yes, I didn’t know whether I’d imagined that, but I’d noticed it as well.” Monkton looked at the pair of them, and then at Patt. “Andrew, my dear fellow, have you maintained your contacts with your previous employers?”

“Yes,” said Patt cautiously, knowing what was coming.

“I wonder if you could get any of the science section to wander over. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to get that table looked at, do you?”

Patt was relieved. It had saved him making the suggestion. “Certainly, Peter. I’d be happy to.”

“Soon as you can, Andrew, eh? I’ve a feeling that this can’t wait.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 6 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 5 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next six weeks or so.

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Chapter Two (continued…)

A few hours after Dr Rosemary Clooney was contemplating the potential survivability of her career, Ian Davies was sitting in a meeting, being bored out of his skull. If the two of them had known about each other’s predicament, they might have been tempted to swap.

He’d almost completely written off the events on the way to work, and was in fact more concerned about that bus, by now convinced that if he’d have stayed on the bus he’d have made it to work faster. It didn’t matter a huge amount if he was officially half an hour late for work. Some of his colleagues often didn’t get in until eleven, but Davies hated to be late for anything, especially when he had a meeting to prepare for. All through the morning, and into the early afternoon, he’d had a slight headache, but he loathed taking painkillers unless necessary. The slight dizziness that had assailed him as he took the stairs to the third floor meeting room three at a time for his meeting at two had gone just as quickly as it arrived.

He’d felt fine when he got to the room, although he had a suspicion that he was putting on a bit of weight, since his trousers seemed a tad tight; probably a good idea to take the stairs, then, rather than wait for the lift, he thought. He surreptitiously fingered his waistband but then realised, though he gave it no serious thought, that the tightness seemed to be about his legs rather than his stomach.

There were six of them in the room, including three of his colleagues and a director of the agency. The five people from the agency were sitting around the magnificent sixteenth century mahogany desk that was a family heirloom of the senior director. Six inches thick, it had needed a crane to lift it into the building through the large glass double doors leading to the balcony. It sat twenty people. Not comfortably, but it sat them. But five around the table was more than agreeable.

The sixth man was standing, and was currently speaking. And it was he that was the cause of the ennui that had settled over everyone else.

Davies tried to pay attention to the man talking. It wasn’t easy. The monotonous tone would have had a good chance at putting a teenager on amphetamines into a deep slumber and it was only the faint chance that the speaker might actually say something important kept Davies even semi-conscious.

The meeting, however, was an important one, to discuss a new client pitch, and how that client might best be served by the PR firm of Doncaster and Monkton, known in the industry as “Donkey and Monkey”. The speaker was the media buyer for Allied Cosmetics, a big account and one that, if Doncaster and Monkton gained the contract, would secure large bonuses for all. And Davies, like any other PR man, liked bonuses. He liked them a lot. They even occasionally made up for having to sit through meetings like this.

Davies kept his eyes on the image being projected on the wall, hoping the view would spark some creative juices. Three faces of women, supposedly the same woman at three different ages: twenty, fifty and eighty. Davies knew that there were professional models who were in fact grandmother, mother and daughter. There were even computer applications that could, with a modicum of talent from the operator, show what someone would look like in thirty years’ time. He had even heard rumours that there were women who kept photographs of themselves of what they looked like when they were younger. None of this knowledge answered the single question he was sure the others shared: why the hell did none of the women look like they belonged to the same species, let alone the same family? He leaned forward, and made some notes on his scratch pad, filling the remainder of the fifth page, and then turning a page, starting a sixth.

And the meeting had only been going on for two hours.

Above his head were four things, none of which Davies paid any attention to. The lights were, as one might expect, lit, and securely locked in place, performing their usual function. The discreet and almost hidden cameras and microphones were similarly unmoving, and were, for the moment turned off, since the room wasn’t being used for focus groups or other meetings that required later documentation.

It would have been helpful later if they had been turned on, since that year’s Christmas blooper reel would have been substantially more interesting. As it was, the most entertaining bit was when someone in a focus group, while tasting a new product, swallowed twice and then promptly threw up over the rest of the product range.

The fourth object above Davies was a spider. It wasn’t a special spider. In fact, as spiders go, it was fairly typical of the species. Relatively small body, eight legs, spins webs. The usual. The only point of note was its position, directly above Davies. The spider lowered itself down on a thin strand of web-line and without knowing why, carried on going down… down… down, until it was almost at the large pink thing that everyone else in the room would have called a “finger”. The spider continued towards its target, not knowing why, but convinced (as much as a spider could be) that it was destiny. Slowly it continued, almost stalking its prey.

In a moment of sheer desperation, while attempting to stay awake, Davies stretched his neck muscles and arms, knocking the spider completely off its web, where it fell onto the table, rather puzzled. The puzzlement didn’t last though, as Davies, surprised and with a hitherto unknown dislike of spiders, slammed his hand down on the tiny arachnid.

Whatever anyone was expecting to be the result, what happened wasn’t it. Davies’ hand moved through the air so fast that it set off a small sonic boom in its path and it hit the table with the force of a steam metal press. The impact was so contained that a six-inch thick hand-sized piece of mahogany was neatly excised from the table and hit the ground, burying itself three inches into the carpet.

Davies lifted his hand in shock. Very, very slowly.

– o –

At precisely four o’clock, Dr Rosemary Clooney knocked on Toster’s door. She had with her four small files and one large one, containing summaries of her work on the material that she’d sent out that morning. She’d been puzzled when she got a call from her contact at March & March asking why it hadn’t arrived but following the morning’s discussion, she had made the quite logical, though incorrect, assumption that Toster had recalled the package and that was why she was being taken to task. It hadn’t even occurred to her to contemplate that the package hadn’t arrived for another reason.

“Come in,” she heard and opened the door, walking into the room showing a confidence that she did not entirely feel. To her surprise, Toster wasn’t alone. With him was a dark man in a darker suit. He walked to her, extending a hand in greeting. “Dr Clooney? I’m Jez Docherty, from HMG.”

“Really?” asked Clooney, shaking the proffered hand, “Which department?”

Docherty smiled a deliberately insincere smile and answered “The Post Office.”

Toster didn’t even bother to be discreet. “So what do you have for me?”

She addressed herself to the current situation, knowing that leaving the matter unresolved, though almost preferable, was not an option. “Dr Toster,” she replied, “let me bring you up to date on…”

“Sorry?” interrupted Toster. “Are you under the mistaken impression that I’m unaware of the scale of this monumental snafu?”

Now that shook her. She wasn’t prepared for that. Anger, yes, but the contempt was new.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, Dr Clooney,” continued Toster. “But let me just confirm that I’ve got the situation straight. You, on your personal authority, sent out by courier delivery material recovered from… the site. Yes?”

“Well, yes, but…” attempted Clooney, but Toster had more to say.

“And, you’ll forgive me if I’m unclear about a couple of details, but…” he went on.

Cocky bastard, thought Clooney.

Toster paused, almost as if he’d heard her thoughts. “Yes, I am,” he said, “and with good reason.” He raised a finger to forestall Clooney’s next comments. “It’s not me who’s made a cock-up the size of this one. Continuing… it was also you who chose to send mutagenic material to another lab for them to confirm your tentative findings on the material, without checking it with anyone else, yes?”

There was a pause of a few seconds.

“You may now speak,” he said, in what he undoubtedly considered a magnanimous tone.

“The material is mutagenic,” Clooney exclaimed, “I don’t deny that. But I’ve shown that only under a specific set of circumstances could those mutagenic effects come anywhere close to being activated. Without those, the material is completely inert.”

“Yes, yes, yes, I read your reports, Dr Clooney.” Toster closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he stared at Clooney with eyes of flint. “Now,” he said, with ominous care, “remind me what they were again.” He and Docherty shared a glance, but not one Clooney was able to interpret.

There was a warning buzz at the back of Clooney’s mind, but she ploughed on regardless. “First of all massive trauma to the material, a sudden application of force…”

“Like sudden deceleration, perhaps?” asked Docherty.

Clooney paused for a moment, and considered. “Yes, that would do it, why?”

“No reason, please continue,” Docherty said.

“The trauma needs to be followed by exposure to rapid heat expansion…”

“Oh, say, like a petroleum explosion?” interjected Toster.

This time Clooney paused for a lot longer before answering. “Yes… why do you ask?”

A wave of the hand led her to continue.

“And finally, close exposure to recently deceased tissue.”

“Hmm,” Toster murmured. He looked at Docherty, who nodded slowly, twice, then moved away from the wall he’d been leaning against.

“Dr Clooney,” asked Docherty, calmly, with another half-smile. “Let’s suppose that this material did go through the process you hypothesise. Would the material be harmful to human life?”

“Of course it would,” she exclaimed. “Are you an idiot?”

“Dr Clooney, please,” Docherty protested mildly, lifting a hand. “I’m just trying to sort out what has happened here. You say it would be harmful to human life. How harmful?”

“Oh, deadly. Anyone within twenty metres of direct exposure would die. Simple as that. There’d be some genetic malformations, at the cellular level, and they’d die.”

“Hmm…” said Toster again.

“Luckily,” said Clooney, “the effects would be short lived.”

“Well, if the victims are shorter lived, that doesn’t strike me as particularly lucky,” Docherty said, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” replied Clooney, shaking her head, “I mean that the contamination area is small, no more than fifteen or twenty metres, and any contamination within that area must take place within less than a minute. Otherwise it metabolises and evaporates.”

“A hypothesis, if you please, Dr Clooney,” said Docherty, his hands in his trousers, leaning against the wall again.

“Sure,” she nodded.

“Let’s just say that exactly your scenario is met. Rapid deceleration, breach of secure holding, exposure to a petroleum explosion, contact with dead tissue and contamination at, say, exactly twenty metres. What would happen to the person so contaminated?”

Clooney laughed out loud. “I’ve no idea,” she said, “The idea’s so ludicrous. You’re talking about odds of tens of millions to one.”

Docherty walked to Toster’s desk, opened a leather briefcase and took out a newspaper. Clooney could see from the masthead that it was the first edition of the evening newspaper. He threw it gently onto the desk in front of her, and it lay there, open at the front page story, “CHEMICAL BLAST NEAR BANK INFERNO”.

“Checked your lottery numbers lately, Dr Clooney?”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 5 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 4 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next six weeks or so.

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Chapter Two

The Guardian, 12th November 2003
We gave the impression that Beverley Baxter was a woman in Curtain up, G2, page 17, yesterday. Sir Beverley was a Tory MP from 1935-64 and editor of the Daily Express from 1929-33.

Davies wasn’t sure where to look first. The acrid smoke rising from the remains of the two vehicles that were burning, the human shaped lumps of mess on the ground in front of the vehicles, or his suit. But since the suit was the thing that most personally affected him, he chose the latter.

At that moment, the primary thought running through his head was that living in a city made one incredibly selfish. At any other time, his first considerations would have been those of concern and pity for those who had obviously just died. Did they have families? Were there people who would mourn them?

And yet, instead, what consumed his mind was the simple “Shit – I’m going to have to get a new suit”, convinced that the goop covering him would never wash out. However, to his astonishment, as he looked at it, the condensed mist covering his suit seemed to dissolve and evaporate. A second later though, any mild concerns vanished (almost as quickly as the mess covering him did) and in their place was a growing feeling of serious worry. The liquid wasn’t melting away as he had first thought. It was disappearing through the suit and the rest of his clothes. He could feel his skin grown cold as the liquid hit it and then, equally surprisingly, a feeling of great warmth ran through his body and he realised that the liquid had vanished entirely.

Quickly, he took off his jacket, and looked at it. There were no stains, well, none that hadn’t been there before, at least. That small grease spot on the lapel that four different dry cleaners had been unable to shift was still there, as was the equally small ink stain on the elbow, caused last week when he’d absent-mindedly leaned on his open fountain pen. But no other stains. He lifted the jacket to his nose and smelled: no residue of any sort that he could detect.

His body felt warm, hot. But even as he thought it, he shivered, just the once, and the warmth vanished. He was freezing cold. Another shiver. And then he just felt… normal.

Then his right hand twitched. He flexed the hand, formed a fist, then opened it flat. No pain, no tenderness. Nothing out of the ordinary.

He knew, in a small part of his mind that he should be worried about what else was occurring around him, but he wasn’t. Not at all. Shock, he thought, and gave into his growing curiosity.

His arm itched; he rolled up his right sleeve and saw that it looked just a tad too monotonously healthy. The scar was gone. He’d had a scar on his forearm for fifteen years, ever since a dart had rebounded badly from the dartboard in The Rose and Crown and had torn out a thin lump of skin. It had healed but had always left a slender jagged scar in the epidermis, about an inch long. But it wasn’t there now.

Now that was just plain weird. Hurriedly, he checked for other marks and blemishes that he knew were there. There was no mirror handy, so he had to guess, but he felt over his chin for the shaving cut from earlier. It wasn’t there. Nor was the spot on his nose that had plagued him for two days and had been responsible, he was convinced, for Tracey Andrews turning him down for a date. For a brief moment, he wondered exactly what was in the stuff that had briefly covered him, but for no more than that. If what it had done was to clear up his skin and get rid of a few scars, then he could live with that.

He shook his head to clear it and walked on towards the bank, now hardly glancing at the throng of police cars that had turned up in the last couple of minutes and were surrounding the burning vehicles. As he walked past the bank, sirens made him look up and he saw the familiar red of two fire engines as they entered the street, looks of determination upon the fire officers.

Davies turned away from them and continued his walk to work, knowing at least that now he had both a good reason for being late and a cracking story to tell his colleagues. He enjoyed his job, which was unfortunate, because when he lost it, less than forty-eight hours later, it would have been nice if he’d have gleaned some comfort from doing so.

– o –

One would have thought that the people most concerned about the liquid that had escaped from the vehicle would have been the police and other emergency services on the scene. Failing that, possibly one would have supposed that Ian Davies would have been the best guess as to who was very worried.

Well, one would have been spectacularly wrong, since the person who was most concerned was a woman by the name of Rosemary Clooney (no relation). Or, to be precise, and to give her her full name and title, Dr Rosemary Clooney (no relation). It was she who was responsible for deciding that the package should be sent by East End Deliveries and it was she who had thought that there was no material risk in doing so.

It was also she who was, currently, running down a corridor in Dance-Oliver Medical Research as if the devil himself was after her.

She flung open the doors to her lab and ran inside. Since the lab was only about twenty feet by ten feet, this might have seemed to some people a slight over-reaction, but she didn’t care. ‘Some’ people didn’t have a clue as to what was in that package. Though, as she admitted to herself wryly, that only made them part of a growing crowd, including Dr Rosemary Clooney herself.

She stopped in front of a large door, eight feet tall and six feet wide. Upon it were the stencilled words “Do Not Enter”. Some more words, in a faded black marker that no one had bothered to clean off since 1982 when they were added, were written underneath: “Abandon every hope, ye that enter”.

Way too late, thought Clooney, as she had thought a hundred times before, and she punched that week’s password into a code pad by the side of the door. With a slight puff of air that indicated the release of the airtight seal, the door moved outwards and then, with surprising gentleness given the size, swung open. A click as the door reached the full length of the arc indicated that the magnetic lock had engaged. Clooney stepped through the space and immediately turned and punched another set of numerals in to an identical code pad inside the room. The lock disengaged and the door moved, equally smoothly, and locked in place. There was a brief movement of air around Clooney and a light situated next to the number pad turned from red to green, letting her know that she was sealed in.

She moved quickly through the door at the back of the room to a shower area, stripped off and showered, sniffing at the smell of the water from habit. The day that she didn’t do this was the day to worry about, she knew, since it would show that she’d grown careless. When she walked out of the cubicle, she stepped into another; this one detected her presence and warm air dried her body.

Clooney grabbed one of the paper uniforms hanging by the side and put it on. It was pretty meaningless as protection, but the paper had been soaked in a chemical that would react to radiation, and in the event of a tear in the heavy and bulky suit she was now putting on, it would show where the breach had occurred.

All of these safety mechanisms could protect against was radiation and infection. And who they could protect was the person wearing the suit. And the theory was that this would protect the wearer against anything that they were likely to encounter in the secure area. Unfortunately, the creators of the suits, when designing them, had neglected to build in protection against the sheer, unfettered fury that was a boss who had discovered that you’d screwed something up. Clooney’s sole remaining hope was that the suits they were both wearing would blunt both the attack from her boss and the reaction of her body to it.

It was, of course, a forlorn hope, one that died on the vine as soon as her immediate superior saw her enter the secure area.

“Dr Clooney,” her boss said, turning to look at her as if inspecting a particularly loathsome bacterium on a slide. And, Clooney acknowledged to herself, that was a pretty fair description of how Toster regarded her. As well as having no sense of proportion, no sense of humour and an attitude to his employment that would make the most jobsworthy lending officer at a bank seem like a spendthrift fool, Mark Toster was, simply, an unpleasant man. It was purely natural, no talent involved, but Toster was someone who relished his unpleasant reputation. It was rumoured among those who didn’t know him well that he lived his life according to Charles Colson’s dictum: when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.

Clooney who knew the man well, also knew that was a fallacy: Toster thought Colson was a wimp.

It was a far shorter meeting than she had expected, but how long does it really take to receive the dressing down of your life? She didn’t even get the chance to explain herself before he’d ordered her out of the secure area with instructions to pull her notes on the material and report to him that afternoon, at four o’clock, where she would account for her actions, and the resulting situation, in full.

As she left the area, she was covered in sweat. She needed to confirm her growing suspicions that the material was more dangerous than she’d previously thought. It certainly, she realised, had the potential to end her career.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

To read part 4 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, click here.

You’ve just read Part 3 of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. Further parts will appear every day, Monday to Friday, for the next six weeks or so.

However, if you don’t want to wait to read each part as it appears, you can buy the ebook now for £4.99!

Formatted for either ePub or Kindle (please say which when ordering), this wonderful gem contains more than 55,000 words (all in the right order and everything), as well as gorgeous art by Mike Collins, Robin Riggs, Lea Hernandez and others sprinkled throughout the book. Click on the button and I’ll email you the book in a few hours…

The free ebook of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction is still available here.