Sailor Bucky



Travis Bucky awoke to the terrible noise of what sounded like a rabid hyena making love to a chicken. He felt blocked up in one nostril, like his hay fever was acting up – a sign Spring had begun. Still with eyes half closed he attempted to pick his nose, discovering there was in fact a cigarette stuck up there. He removed it and stuck it in his mouth and searched his pockets feebly for the lighter, writhing and turning. The noise upstairs continued.

‘Jesus!’ he called upstairs. ‘What kind of depraved fuckin’ orgy is going on up there, you goddamn perverts?!’



Kat Velcro was eating an ostrich burger at the farmers market down the bottom of Queens Park. It had cost her six pounds and fifty pence.

‘It’s a damn liberty!’ the Kid snapped.

‘I thought you said you were hungry’ Kat replied. ‘I offered to pay. I don’t mind buying us both lunch.’

‘I have the money! That doesn’t change the fact it’s too much. It’s not even that big. There should be chips on the side for six fifty.’

On the grass across from them a boy was wrestling the stick away from a large Alsatian’s jaws. The Kid imagined the dog tearing into the boy’s young flesh.


The Whale

‘Hard to Port Starboard Mr. Bucky!’ called out Captain Flak from the Wheel as he spun it with all his might.

‘They’re fair gainin’ on us Capt’n’ said Midshipman Sensible. ‘Shall I wake the Admiral?’

‘Fuck no!’ said Captain Flak, brushing his long black hair out of his eyes. ‘That’s all the bollocks we need.’

Midshipman Sensible ran across the deck to assist First Mate Bucky rally the crew out of bed. Bucky had his trusty belt out and was whipping the men beneath the covers with it.

‘You lazy sods!’ Bucky shouted. ‘What does the company pay you for?! We’ve a whale to catch, now come on an get out there.’

Blood splatted from the behind of one of the larger men as he scurried up the stairs to the main deck.

‘Is that the last of them Mr. Sensible?’ asked Bucky.

‘That’s them all up, sir’ replied Sensible.

‘Oh thank God for that’ Bucky said, flopping down onto one of the men’s racks for a quick little rest before going back to work. ‘So whit’s happening wi you these days? How’s yir old dad then?’

Sensible stole a guilty glance up the stairs, then remembered he had a little flask of rum in his coat pocket. He unbound the leather on the cork and had himself a wee swig. ‘He’s alright like, aye!’

Suddenly a loud banging rocked the ship back and forth and Bucky fell out of bed. When he looked up, Sensible was in the corner huddled over the flask like it was his only child and there was a tiger giving them both the evil eye.

‘Oh fuck,’ said Bucky. ‘That’ll be the whale!’



‘Oh my God, you are such a pyoor dobber man!’ quipped Bucky to Flak before digging into his sausage sandwich.

‘Fuckin, how um ah?’

‘Nae other cunt puts that much mustard in a sandwich, mate. It’s heavy bowfin the amount you dolloped in there.’

Flak looked back at Bucky, hurt and sad. He reached inside his security uniform and scratched his armpit.

‘You’re heavy one to talk about moderation, ye bampot’ Flak said, practically welling up with tears. Bucky looked back at him and understood his mistake and said nothing. He picked up the remote control for the television, fumbling with it and gazing at the multi-coloured buttons with some confusion. Finally he picked the right thing to press and turned on the snooker.



The door to Bucky’s flat was off its hinges and Kat pushed it open to let herself in. Bucky was standing in his un-ironed blue suit staring at the ceiling.

‘We’re going to be late’ she said, looking at her watch. ‘Apologies. Are you ready?’

Bucky shushed her urgently and made an aggressive yet flailing motion with his arms that Kat found tremendously insulting.

‘What?’ she shouted back. ‘I didn’t have to come here at all, you know! I’m not your bloody chauffeur….’

‘Quiet!’ Bucky cut back. ‘Can’t you hear? I’m trying to understand…’


‘The hyena, it’s speaking. Sounds like French. Something about some Howard cunt. Who else is up there?’

‘I’ve never met your neighbours.’

‘Neither have I? Listen.’

Kat heard something in English. ‘Did he say something about a ‘grassy knoll?’

‘See! Aye, eh!’ Bucky grinned. ‘Told ya something was going on!’



Doctor Hobknob spied the H.M.S. Fatsman through the telescope and ordered The Kid not to spare the whip.

Kat pulled her sailor’s cap down to shield the sun from her eyes. Hobknob had come dressed as Louis the 14th, and she as Dizzy Gillespie. The Kid was chained naked to the treasure chest.

‘This time we’re going to ride this bitch right into the side of her hull’ Hobknob cried, drooling at the prospect of total destruction.

The Great White Whale beneath their feet whistled beautifully over the sound of The Kid’s attempts to beat it with the whip he wielded in his one free hand. He groaned as the whip came down and he twisted his other handcuffed arm.

‘Hurry it up, man!’ shouted Hobknob. ‘We need speed if we’re gonna wreck this fucker.’

The crew of the Fatsman could hear the sound of the whale-call from the deck.

‘Mr. Bucky,’ said Captain Flak, gravely. ‘Mr. Sensible.’

‘Yes, Captain’ replied the Midshipman while First Mate Bucky stared at the glare of the sun cut in twain by the mainmast.

‘You know what to do.’ Midshipman Sensible nodded in understanding, and Captain Flak ran up the stairs signalling the men to make ready.

Bucky and Sensible returned from the armoury both carrying with tommy guns. They took a look over the side. The Whale was 20 feet away.

Neither spoke. They waited 10 seconds for the Whale and it’s captors to come a little closer to being in range, and then blindly opened fire.



Bucky looked glumly at the shop floor and the mountain of sweets which had fallen from the torn lining of his pockets. The Woolworths security guard said, ‘son, this is a serious matter’ and ushered the boy to the back offices.

‘Go on, honey’ the other security guard in the office said to the CCTV monitor. ‘Take it all off.’ Bucky caught a glimpse of a woman in a changing booth before the guard stood up and blocked his vision.

‘Chris, this boy’s been stealing sweets from the pick’n’mix’ said the guard behind Bucky pushing him in. ‘What’s the minimum sentence for shoplifting? 6 months inside?’

‘I thought it was a whole year mate.’ Chris said, chuckling. ‘What’s your name? How old are you?’

Bucky trembled. ‘I’m 11. My name’s Travis.’

‘That’s a stupid name,’ Chris said. ‘But you’re obviously a very stupid boy, aren’t ya?’

Bucky wouldn’t answer. He glared at the floor wishing he could feel more anger. He felt tears behind his eyes. He tried to throw a punch at Chris, but the unnamed guard grabbed his arm.

‘What ye gonnae do? Make a break for it? Sit down ye wee shite.’

Bucky sat on the chair in front of the monitors. He sat for two hours in silence watching people change. He could not make out the faces well. One woman undressed entirely to try on a tight-fitting dress he imagined was red while gazing at her on the black and white screen. She stood in front of the mirror, admiring herself. It looked as if she was speaking, or perhaps whispering to the mirror. He watched in silence with Chris. Neither of them looked at the other. Bucky gazed at the television, falling in love with her. He memorised her every outline, paying special regard to her hips, and also the way she had her long hair tied back. When she had returned to her regular clothes and was hanging up the red dress Chris smiled at him and said. ‘Your sister is coming to pick you up in ten minutes.’

When Bucky looked back at the screen the woman was gone. He stared at the empty room and wished he was inside it, and could hide there forever.



Bucky fed his faithful parrot, Chico a cracker while he hobbled around the deck, pretending to have a peg-leg. He had changed into the Captain’s jacket, put on an eye-patch and striped long-johns, and had been referring to himself as Long-John Bucky for the past half an hour.

‘You’ll never get away with this!’ cried Captain Flak, struggling pointlessly against the ropes tying him to the mist-mast.

‘Avast ye scuppers!’ thundered back Bucky. ‘I have heavy taken total control of this here vessel.’

‘How could you betray us like this?’ shouted Midshipman Sensible.

‘For money.’

‘I understand.’

‘For I am Buckbeard the Pirate, ye see. And ah’m all about doubloons. Also Captain Flak kept half the rum hidden in his cabin, and I thought it wisnae fair and we should pyoor get some. So all ye who would like to drink merry, serve under me! And all will be cooshty.’

‘Ah’m with ye!’ cried Sensible.

‘Awright then’ said Bucky. ‘Doctor Hobknob, let the prisoner go.’

Hobknob, having just tied up the Midshipman, strode over to Bucky, nostrils flaring with red indignation.

‘Hold on a minute, Travis,’ he gasped. ‘Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? What?! You think you’re the captain of this ship, now? Just cos you’ve got a parrot?’

‘Aye, I dae actually,’ said Bucky. ‘What you gonna do about it?’

‘True sailing is dead,’ said Sensible.

‘I mean,’ Bucky began thinking aloud. ‘You just think you should pyoor be in charge cos you rode in on a whale. Now the whale is in the hull paddling or whatever the fuck a whale does and taking us fuck knows where. Looks like you lost control, mate.’

‘And you’re taking over?’

‘As far as that goes, aye. I’m like the Queen of England. I’ve got ma costume, so ah’m happy as a….hahahaha’

Bucky continued to laugh and the rest of them watched him.

Kat Velcro returned from the hull with a bottle of rum and a cigar hanging out of her mouth.

‘I’ve had a word with the whale. I hope you cunts can breathe underwater cos he’s hungry, and that means we’re going under.’

‘Oh fuck,’ said Hobknob.



Kat knocked on the door of the upstairs neighbour while Bucky complained.

‘I don’t like knowing who my neighbours are. It only means I’ll have to talk to them when I see them, and that will be all the time and it’ll be awful.’

There was no sound inside.

‘We know you’re in there!’ Kat called out.

‘Hyenas don’t have thumbs like,’ Bucky said. ‘How are they gonnae open the door?’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake,’ replied Kat. ‘Fine, let’s just go then. We’re really late now anyway.’

They went downstairs and got into Kat’s E-Type. Bucky turned on the radio and Z.Z. Hill’s ‘Am I Grooving You?’ came on and he was so happy.

‘So,’ Kat began to say, regretting opening her mouth while speaking. ‘who do you think killed Kennedy?’

‘Oswald, obviously.’

‘Well. Yeah…’

‘Fuckin’ neighbours man.’

They arrived at the fish restaurant. Sensible was outside smoking a fag. He looked at Bucky and stood on one leg and stubbed the cigarette out on the soul of his shoe, providing the signal that Flak was inside.

Kat passed Bucky the revolver.

‘Remember, it’s to be done through the head or we only get half,’ she said, grabbing his arm.

He got out of the car, keeping his eyes fixed on hers – neither giving anything away. It was cold. He buttoned his coat and went inside.

He asked the waiter where the toilet was. It was on the other side of the room. He walked past Flak’s table and went inside. The window wasn’t large and he had a tough time climbing out, ripping his trousers and dropping the gun along the way. He hit the ground shoulder first, and thought he might have broken it. Nonetheless, he managed to get himself up onto his feet quickly, and from there ran as fast as he could towards the country.

The Booze is my Business (And Business is Good)

jimmy reed

The streets were dark and the night was howling past 8 o’clock. Death stalked the cobblestoned pits in the lanes and alleyways of Hot City, while the music blared through the windows from inside the cold damp flats.

Travis Bucky, feeling dread, and walking down the lane toward the off-licence, had a strange sensation creeping up his toes, like a battalion of ants were racing through his shoes and up his legs towards his spinal coulomb.

Darkness reeling and roaring all about and a voice behind him said ‘Stop.’


In the Hotsman Hotel, by the fireplace, the men sat in leather seats wearing corduroy and satin speaking of things to come, and deals to be made. Kat Velcro entered by the service elevator behind the bins in the lane under the Northside Bridge.

The Porter spoke into Doctor Hobknob’s ear and he excused himself to Mr. Stanford and told him he would return shortly.

He picked up the old receiver from the wall and a cold voice spoke to him.

‘In the beginning there were three of us,

We lived in a cabin, constructed by my hand from Oak and Pine.

When Winter came we ate Wild Berries

That was when I was first touched by the Spirit.’

Hobknob turned around, hoping to catch the Porter and reprimand him for his bad poetry.

‘Who is this?’ he asked. ‘You’ve had your fun, now why don’t you just piss off?’

The line went dead and Hobknob hung up the receiver. He snapped his fingers for another Brandy and returned to the fire place.

‘Well that was a waste of time,’ he said to the back of the chair. He then saw that Mr. Stanford had left, without finishing his drink. His glasses were also still on the table.

Hobknob snapped his fingers again irritably. The Porter came up behind him.

‘Sir,’ he said, with pitch perfect submission.

‘What happened to Mr. Stanford?’

‘Is he not in the lavatory?’ he asked. ‘I apologise sir, but I did not see him leave.’

Hobknob marched to the toilets and found them empty. He asked for his coat, and a taxi, and walked out into the lobby, insulted and angry. The rain was heavy beyond the awning. Looking out towards the hills towards the sea, he lit his cigar and cursed his luck.


Flak Johnson sat in the café, desperately seeking validation in a world with no meaning. Travis Bucky had been up all night doing terrible things to himself with the aid of various chemical substances and was now unveiling his plan to unseat world government.

Flak nodded as Bucky talked.

‘Something has to be done’ he repeated over and over again throughout his rambling.

Flak nodded as Bucky talked.


Kat Velcro was with Billy the Kid, watching the news footage of the Superintendent being interviewed after they retrieved Mr. Stanford’s body from the river. She had tied him up with nylon strings which wouldn’t chafe her hands too much as she made the knots. She was becoming very good at this. So much so that she was beginning to lose interest in assassination.

‘I only started this so I could quit my day-job,’ she told the Kid, who’d heard it all before. ‘And now it’s getting like I’m working in a pissing book shop. I’m stuck hiding indoors half the time, clients complain and complain and they are all idiots. Everyone wants it done this way or that way. ‘Oooh would you mind making doubly sure it’s untraceable, that’s important.’ Some want it theatrical. One guy asked me to throw his wife off the top of London Bridge. I mean bloody hell! It’s a buyers-market too. I lost a job last week cos I told them I didn’t accept Credit Card. I mean for fuck’s sake! What if I got audited by HMRC! How am I supposed to explain that one?’

‘That’s showbiz, babe,’ replied the Kid putting some more ice in his banana daiquiri.

‘Maybe I should be thinking about eliminating the competition.’

‘Travis isn’t even competition. He’s a drunk with a gun. It’s a miracle he ever kills any of the right people.’

‘I know!’ she said, spilling Martini all over the carpet. ‘Why does anyone ever hire him anyway?’

‘Brand familiarity,’ said the Kid with an academic air. ‘People are afraid of the unknown.’

Kat walked over to the pantry and pulled out a bottle of gin. The Superintendent was imploring the public to come forward with clues.

‘Listen to this cock,’ she said, pouring a large one and chopping a slice of lime. ‘The station will get a hundred phone calls tonight, from a hundred different people who saw the murder, all of them mad, and only a handful will even live in this stupid little town.

The Kid walked over and caressed her bottom, trying to comfort her.

‘Let’s turn off the TV,’ he said. ‘I can’t fuck with the BBC on. It puts me off.’

‘Go have a wank, I’m trying to watch it.’ Kat removed his hand and sat back down, filling the remainder of the glass with tonic, and proceeding to drain half of it with a single gulp.

‘There’s no bloody pleasing you is there?!’ he shouted through the tears, slamming the door on his way out.


Hobknob’s office was like a tomb. He spent most of his days in the lab and rarely saw clients on his own turf so he barely used it. The cleaner came in once a week, but she never bothered to change the bulbs once they went. Bucky was kept waiting for ten minutes while Hobknob got out of his scrubs and into a suit.

‘Mr. Bucky, you are on time,’ he said pompously and offering a hand. ‘Forgive me for my surprise.’

‘Hawright,’ replied Bucky. ‘Whit’s happenin?’

‘Straight to the point, very good. A business acquaintance, or rather a potential one – old friend if you must know – was slightly murdered. Mr. Morris Stanford of Detroit. I was wondering if you could remember if it was you who did him in? I wouldn’t normally ask, but we were in the middle of quite an important meeting.’

‘Nah, mate,’ Bucky said. ‘Wisnae me, like.’

‘It didn’t seem like your work. It was rather professional.’

‘What are you implying?’ Bucky giggled. ‘Look I’m a detective, see. No an assassin.’

‘Then why do your clients enemies end up dead so often?’

‘It’s a dangerous world man. Ever heard of ISIS? Who knows what’s going on!? Whole world’s in pure chaos man.’

‘What?’ Hobknob said, exasperated by Bucky’s foolishness.

Bucky pulled out his card and traced the line with his finger. ‘See,’ he said. ‘It says Travis Bucky, Private…Aye?’ Right? No Travis Bucky, Cunt Who Murders Other Cunts for Money.’

‘My mistake. Well solve this for me, will you? Who killed Mr. Stanford?’

‘Well I don’t know do ah?’ Bucky said, not appreciating Hobknob’s tone one bit.

‘Find out then!’ shouted Hobknob. ‘How much do you charge?’

‘My rates have all gone up,’ Bucky lied. ‘It’s £7.85 per hour now. I deserve a Living Wage.’

Hobknob rubbed the dust from his sleeves and stared at them in disgust.


Bucky arrived at Stanford’s hotel on Motortown Cross. It was one of those giant hotel chains with a name like a furniture sales company. The carhop was sitting outside hungover without a jacket on and smoking what looked like his twentieth of the morning, drawing every last wave of chemical out of it before carelessly dropping it on the kerb and turning around to see Bucky standing there grinning at him.

‘Hello rat,’ said Bucky.

The carhop turned back around to make a run for it, but Bucky had anticipated this and brought his trusty voodoo skullhead cane, and tripped him up with it. The pavement tore through the carhop’s clothes and cut his knee.

‘Mr. Bucky, I’m just working here. What do you want?’ he stammered holding his knee and struggling to find the strength to get up.

‘Always guilty of something, ain’t ya, Bobby?’ Bucky said, resting his weight on the skull. ‘Get up and tell them you tripped and you need the rest of the morning off. I’ll be waiting at the Lucano.’


Bucky was onto his third pint of hard cider by the time Bobby hobbled in, looking sheepish.

‘You’re late,’ Bucky growled without looking at him.

‘They had to fill in an incident report and take details and then they had the nurse look me over. It’s policy to keep from getting sued.’

‘Poor you,’ Bucky said absently. ‘Want a pint?’

‘Please,’ Bobby said, sitting down with some pain and looking over the menu. Pulled Pork, Chicken Wings, Chilli Dog. Bucky ordered and after the drink came he looked him over. Bobby had aged a few years. His hairline was receding, and he had bags under his eyes. He couldn’t have been much more than 28 but he looked like he had borne the weight of the world for half a lifetime.

‘Mr. Morris Stanford. What do you know about him?’

‘He checked out early.’

‘Yes he did. What do you know?’

‘Not much. He was a Yank. He tipped well. I met him twice. Once to have me send a girl up to his room. And another to arrange the purchase of some gifts for his family – A postcard, a lady’s kilt and a case of whisky from an address in Gobhill. He was pretty non-descript.’

‘Can you remember the address?’ Bucky said, passing him his used napkin and a pen he had in his pocket. ‘And also the number for the girl, I’ll want.’

‘Does this make us square?’ Bobby asked, hopefully and writing them down in big capital letters.

Bucky looked out the window at the traffic passing out the motorway exit, and the rain beginning to pelt down and thought how good it was he was inside with his drink and not out there.

He looked back at Bobby and smiled and his hope and told him ‘no.’


Bucky was standing by the bar hours later, grumbling and rolling his eyes crazily under tired lids. The young bartender was looking at him with concern while his manager across the other side looked fed up, knowing what he would have to put up with should he try eject this swaying asshole. The young bartender held the telephone right up to his face and tried to tell him again ‘there is someone on the ‘phone for you Mr. Bucky. You are Mr. Bucky right?’ he asked, wondering if some terrible mistake had happened and whether it was safe to step away from the situation unfolding, or perhaps hoping simply not to get thrown up on.

‘But this is future land!’ Bucky leered at him. ‘There’s no arcane devices left such as telephones now. We’re way fucking past Alexander Graham Bell at this fucking point. There’s Faceyspaces and mobile contraptions, and fully operational drone bombers to lay waste to the enemies of the state, and robot wives and carrier pigeons.’ Bucky looked into to the black plastic telephone and at the scratched and cut hand holding it out.

‘It’s for you,’ the young man repeated dumbly.

‘Well in that case…’ Bucky finally took the phone. ‘Maybe it’s a previous incarnation on the line to tell me where I left my house keys.’ The claim of lost keys was in fact true. He had lost his house keys, though this served more of an excuse for him to stay in the pub than as the dominant reason he had half-attempted to portray it as.

‘In the beginning there were three of us,’ the voice spoke. ‘We lived in a cabin, constructed   by my hand from Oak and Pine. When Winter came we ate Wild Berries. That was when I was first touched by the Spirit.’

‘I’ve been touched by some spirits myself also of late. In fact I’ve allowed them molest me half my goddamn life. Still, that doesn’t explain what the fuck it is you are wanting? Or who you are. Or how the fuck you know where I am. Who are you anyway?’

‘A wise man does himself disservice performing the errands of others’ the voice said in a mocking tone.

‘I’m hanging up now, ye sack.’

A silence fell across the bar, after the air was split in two by arrow now sticking out of the young barman’s heart. Bucky instinctively grabbed his glass before the young man fell onto the bar head, hands breaking his fall but in too much shock to do any other good.

Bucky ran out, downing his whisky and throwing the glass on the pavement. His head swivelled from side to side as he looked across the square, wondering where the assassin could have gone and what concealed vantage could have been possible in the open public thoroughfare. He bolted across the road, peering inside the taxi going past ahead of him and quickly into the square he thought he spotted a black figure darting into the train station. He pursued, the sweat on his neck and brow cooling in the freezing night air. The rain would start soon. He reached the station and saw the last passengers across hoping onto the Fat County Circle train. He lunged towards the barrier trying to hop over and was grabbed by two station personnel. ‘Take it easy,’ one said. ‘Where’s your ticket?’ The whistle blew and Bucky and the train began moving away from the platform. Bucky felt something in himself churning and mouthed an ‘excuse me’ before throwing up all over the barrier operators.


Chloe was a nineteen year old prostitute, who stayed a block away from the hotel Stanford stayed in. She let Bucky in and offered him tea. She didn’t seem afraid she was going to get busted. She was wearing a Japanese style dressing gown and her dark hair was tied up with a red tartan bobble.

‘Someone knocks on your door enquiring about a dead man, they likely won’t leave without some answers. I don’t know much, but what I do I’ll tell.’ She said all this, offering Bucky a seat in the kitchen and pouring the hot water into two identical flowery mugs. The smell of black tea made it through Bucky’s blocked nostrils and he began to relax a little in bursts. Then the nice things in the room, and the calm possessed demeanor of this young woman, who he had assumed would be somewhat afraid of him, made him feel uncomfortable.  He kept readjusting the way he was sitting, trying to effect a pose of calmness. She placed a plastic squeeze bottle of honey on the table in front of them and a spoon for stirring.

‘How did you know Stanford was dead?’ Bucky asked.

‘I work that hotel regular. I used to KP there, but the money wasn’t worth it. You a cop?’

‘Private, aye, like’ he said.

She nodded, as if she was waiting for him to be more expansive. Bucky sat silently examining the old family pictures on her fridge and grey view from the window, brightened from the colours inside the room. She had plants everywhere, and jars of red and yellow spices lining the counters.

‘Can you tell me anything about Mr. Stanford? Anything out of the ordinary? Or anything at all that occurs to you.’

‘Nothing much,’ she said, between sips of the hot tea. ‘He was heavy set. He didn’t ask for anything in particular. Seemed kinda distracted. He seemed offended when I refused a drink.’

‘Why did you refuse a drink?’ Bucky said, genuinely confused why anybody would turn down something free, let alone alcoholic.

‘I never do with tricks.’

‘A safety thing?’


She sat back looking him over. Bucky hadn’t touched his tea, and she made him feel self-conscious. He tried some, then reached for the honey.

‘He showed me a picture of his girlfriend. You’d be surprised how often some kinds of men do that.’

‘Was there anything unusual in his room? Any odd bit of luggage or anything?’

‘He had a crate. Whisky I think. But that wouldn’t have gotten on a plane. He had a bag of tartan kitchy stuff. He said I could take something. It was mostly pretty horrible.’

‘Did you take anything?’

‘No. He got mad at that, but it was time for me to go anyway.’

‘He got mad?’

‘Not so mad,’ she said as if afraid of speaking ill of the dead. ‘ Just a little upset, I guess.’

Bucky didn’t know whether she was holding anything back or not. All he knew was he wanted to leave. He got up politely and bid her a good day.


The address Bobby gave Bucky was a warehouse on the far side of Gobhill. Bucky smoked a surprisingly potent joint that he had left in his jacket pocket days ago and forgotten about on the way there. He felt great.

The gate was locked so he waited until it was dark, passing the time by having a pint down the road and playing pool with a bent cue. When he came back he began climbing, halfway up wishing he’d gone for a piss before he left the pub. He hit the ground with a kidney shuddering stop. He wondered for a half-second what would have become of him if he had submitted and agreed to go to the gym that time with Ernest Manuel.

He walked cautiously towards the half open door and slid in, pulling out his torch to combat the pitch blackness and ward off any stray rats. The place was empty. He called out ‘Hawright! Pyoor any cunt in here?’ and received was an unflattering echo in response.

He was sure there were rodents of all varieties living here. The paranoia was becoming strong. He could feel something crawling up his leg slowly in the dark. He needed to slash like a racehorse now but he was afraid of unsheathing his penis and making it even more vulnerable to the attack of skulking vermin. He banged his knee and cried out a curse word. He shined the torch and saw he had banged his knee against an empty crate. There was a label on the side marked with dirt and half ripped off. ‘Hobknob I. P. A.’ it said, with the address of the warehouse.

‘Hobknob Hipster Brewing? Sweet Jabbering Jesus. Even he’s getting involved.’


Billy the Kid was on the wire to his man on the East Coast, ‘What do you mean you got it under wraps?! Jings man! No. I DINNIE trust you wan feckin bit, ye overgrown spitoon!’

Kat Velcro was sitting at the back of the office removing her nail polish, making condescending noises from time to time. ‘You know I’d never have missed that shot if you hadn’t had that ridiculous sneezing fit. Aren’t there pills you can take for your ‘allergies?’’

‘Bucky is too close. The CCTV was kept on at the Gobhill Warehouse. He was bumbling around.’

‘Did your pal clear the warehouse before he got there?’

‘He says so.’

‘He says so?’ she said, voice rising and eyes narrowing.

‘Yeah!’ Billy shot back a little louder than he’d meant. ‘He fucking said so. And I believe him.’

‘I’ll bet you do. The two of you are peas in an incompetent fucking pod!’


Late the next morning Bucky left the flat to buy some tobacco. He felt rested and tranquil, and ready to meet the day, cold as it was. He felt something against his foot and heard the unmistakeable horrible noise of a half full bottle falling and spilling. For a minute he forgot that they didn’t deliver the milk here anymore, and hadn’t since they finally realised he was never going to pay the dairy company. He looked down and saw the label. There was a picture of a mad scientist with dark shades on, looking through a microscope at a screaming, decapitated head. ‘Hobknob Lager – Dinnie Lose yir Heid – Drinky Responsiblily.’ It had all spilled out and Bucky felt the November cold rush through his body.

He ran stupidly fast down the close steps, as if whoever left it there might not be far off. On top of a car outside there was another bottle. Full this time. He sniffed at it and began drinking, sorting through trace elements with tongue. It still had its fizz. The killer couldn’t be far!

This one was called Happy Hoppy Hobknob and had a strong aftertaste of Vanilla. He drank the whole thing and looked around for more clues.

The next was outside the Hotmid Co-op, a pale ale of dubious quality. He drank it behind the bin as he saw two policeman walking close by and he couldn’t deal with that kind of aggravation at this precise moment. Inside the shop there were Christmas cards and water pistols on display and hundreds of different types of sellotape. He stood staring at the gaffa tape, transfixed and confused as if in awe. He felt his balance getting shaky and the Santas blurring together. He reached towards the crisps shelf for something to steady his drunken nerves. There was a dull thud and then a blankness.


He woke up taped to a swivel chair facing a fridge full of Hobknob’s beer. His head felt like it had been wrapped in a bag and thrown against the side of a wall. As if someone holding it was trying to break up a bag of ice. A hand from behind turned him around fast. It was the Kid. He looked rough too, with bags under his eyes. Kat Velcro sat behind him wearing a U.S. Army Green Beret uniform. She had her hands clasped together in front of her like she was interviewing him.

‘You’ve been messing around with business that doesn’t concern you Travis,’ the Kid growled at him. His breath smelt like he had a chest infection.

‘Booze is my business, baby,’ Bucky said.

Kat laughed. The Kid didn’t.

‘You’re working for Hobknob?’ the Kid said.

‘Well I took his money, so aye, I guess. Why? Ain’t you?’ Bucky grinned, as if he had any idea what was going on.

‘Hobknob’s planned to enslave humanity with his new line of ales. He thinks that in an independent Scotia we can take over the world with his designer alcohol. I can’t stop drinking it myself. Once he has the public hooked he plans to spike the entire supply with truth serum and laxatives. If he can get into the House of Commons bar during Happy Hour who knows what could happen! Bomb codes. Drone strikes all over the country. Anything!’

‘That type of shit’s inevitable, mate’ Bucky said.

‘How?! Inevitable? What are you talking about?’

‘I dunno man. Crazy shit’s happening every day. Just not enough love in the world I say. Plus I pure hate Westminster anyway. So what if Hobby wants to take the reins for a bit. Can’t get worse, like.’

‘Of course it can get worse! Things can always get worse!!’

‘So you work for the Brits?! Man. That’s weak.’

The Kid threw up his hands in exasperation and Kat cut in. ‘Our plan is to take over the business. I mean, there’s a lot of cash to be made. Hobknob’s off his rocker but the beer is definitely worth a swally. Don’t you agree?’

‘Aye, I guess’ Bucky said, feeling a little flutter in his heart.

‘We could make you a partner and you’d get a lifetime supply,’ she said. ‘All you have to do is help us get Hobknob and force his to sell. We don’t even have to kill him if you don’t want to. We just want ownership.’

Bucky couldn’t believe his ears. Was this finally the moment he’d been waiting for all of his life? He remembered endless days and wet grass and a schoolbag full of cider, and the smells of a summer long gone.

‘Nice one. Aye, let’s do it! Fuck Hobknob! He’s a heavy dick anyway,’ Bucky said.


Bucky arranged a meeting with Hobknob and Kat went in his stead. When they didn’t untie him before leaving Bucky guessed something was up. The Kid had washed his face and come back looking completely rejuvenated before leaving. He didn’t say a word. Some of that end of the world stuff was a bit far-fetched, Bucky thought in hindsight. Had he made a terrible mistake?

‘Oh bollocks,’ he said to himself. He began throwing himself and the swivel chair head first at the glass door of the fridge, ostensibly so that he could cut the rope with the glass, though in fact he was also very thirsty. He didn’t make a dent, and on the third attempt fell to the floor. He began laughing uncontrollably before passing out from exhaustion.


Kat returned later on and woke him up. She untied him. And passed him her hip flask. He sniffed it.

‘You were always into your fancy gin,’ he said.

‘You can have beer if you prefer?’ She rolled her eyes, rolling up the rope and throwing it down into the wastepaper basket.

‘Beer is for chumps,’ he said. He stroked the worn, red patches on his wrists. ‘What was the point in all this?’ He took a swig and passed it back.

She sat down on the floor next to him, placing the lid back on and putting it in her brown leather bag. ‘Another day, another…’

‘Don’t say that,’ he said, welling up but trying to stay cool and conceal his upset.

‘It’s true,’ she said, slowly and deliberately so he couldn’t help but take it in. ‘It doesn’t get better, Travis. There’s no point, and it doesn’t get better. Don’t you know that by now?’

He tried to light a cigarette, but his nerves gave way and he dropped the lighter on the ground and felt like a dumbass. She picked it up and got it for him. She placed a hand on his shoulder before getting up. She left the door open for him.

‘Kat!’ he called out after her. ‘We used to have fun, didn’t we?! It wasn’t always like this!’ He heard her footsteps down the corridor and the sound of a stone dragged, wedging the outer door.

Bucky sat for a while, too embarrassed to move. He hoped Hobknob’s death was quick. It usually was. ‘That’s the way it is with some people,’ he mumbled. He picked himself up after a few minutes and walked out into the dark.

‘Stop,’ the voice said.












Hot City – Fit 1, Chapter 3


Thomas Monroe worked in the records department at Jackson, Pollock, & Jim, an investment group with offices in the centre of Burgh town. They handled European and overseas contracts for a number of new digital media companies. They had recently found themselves in the public eye after having won a dispute in favour of the management of an Italian firm who were battling the union representing call centre workers. The union had demanded the workers be allowed to eat in the office now that their lunch hour had been reduced to 12 minutes and 30 seconds. Management claimed this was not in the interest of productivity.

Bucky saddled up and headed out East. When he reached the reception desk, he told the secretary he worked for a new Music Distribution enterprise called Buckify and asked to see the Head of New Business.

‘Sir,’ she said. Bucky looked her over and gave her a long smile. She was all curly, red hair, and blue eyes. ‘May I ask if you have an appointment?’

‘Babe,’ said Bucky. ‘Do I look like I have an appointment?’

‘I’m afraid that Mr. Sommerton is a very busy man.’

‘Not too busy for what I’ve got right here’ he said, tapping his briefcase.

‘I’m afraid so. He’s in a meeting with the auditors. I don’t think there’s much chance without an appointment.’

‘Auditors eh?’ he groaned, bad memories returning. ‘I hate auditors.’

‘Pardon me,’ she said, growing impatient.

‘Take my card,’ he said handing it over to her and letting his fingers rub against hers.

‘Travis Bucky – Private, Aye?’ Bucky thought she read beautifully.

‘Why don’t you call me and we’ll have our own little appointment? Maybe some dinner, and a bottle or two?’ She looked at him with a touch of condescension, which he mistook for something else. ‘I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Right, where’s the lavvy? I need to take a heavy slash before I be on my way.’

‘I thought you said you worked for a music distribution group?’ she said, suspiciously.

‘Aye. I do like, pure….investigations for them.’

‘Is that so?’


‘The toilet is downstairs Mr. Bucky.’

Bucky went down the stairs and headed for the records department. He knocked on the door and a tall, middle aged man answered.

‘Toilet is down that way,’ and pointed down the hall.

‘Are you Thomas Monroe?’ Bucky asked.

The man hesitated a second, slightly panicked.

‘I am,’ he said, looking the unshaven stranger over.

‘I come from the accountants. We’re doing an audit. Can I come in?’

‘I sent all the documents upstairs this morning. Have they not gotten to you yet?’ Office tension was coming out of his eyeballs.

‘Oh no! They are all there alright. I just came to talk to you and see if you had any other stuff here to audit.’ He pointed at the lamp on his desk. ‘Has that light been audited recently?’

‘Um. I brought it from home a couple of months ago.’

‘Hmmm. I see. Well I think we can overlook that. Just be careful with the electricity. Dry your hands before you switch it on and off. Do you want to write that down? We can’t be too careful with health and safety, you know.’

‘Umm. I’ll uh…go get a pen, I guess.’

‘See that you do.’ Bucky began to prowl around while Monroe went to get a pen and paper.

‘Doesn’t seem much to be afraid of’, Bucky thought to himself, wondering why Fats had sent him here. He checked out the filing cabinet, and looked at the papers on his desk. Productivity reports marked August. On the desk lay a contract between himself and the Nautilus Corporation. Jackson, Pollock and Jim weren’t mentioned on the document.

‘Who are the Naughty Lass Corporation?’

‘That’s new business. They are a privacy software company who are expanding their operation into social media. They work out of Thailand. The information is all upstairs. That’s just a carbon.’

‘So what do you do here Tommy?’

‘Well, I am deputy manager of this department.’

‘How many people do you have under you?’

‘Well, none actually.’

‘Who else is here?’

‘The manager. But he’s off work.’

Bucky talked to him for five minutes or so. After he left he called Fats. Monroe had access to all company emails and business related documents, but he was not allowed to read the majority of them. He only knew the passwords. Bucky hadn’t understood exactly what Fats wanted to know but he said he seemed to be pleased and thanked him for a job well done.

When he got back to Hot City one of Papa Li’s grandchildren was waiting for him at the station.

‘Papa has a car waiting for you. He says it’s urgent.’

‘Well he better not mind my smoking a doob in his car cos I’m heavy choking for one after that train ride.’ It was a whole 52 minutes. The young child pulled at his sleeve.

‘Come on!’

Papa Li looked shaky. Pale, like he was going to shit.

‘Your sister is in my shop. She won’t leave.’

‘You’re kidding me on?’


Bucky lit up and watched the kid turn his Game Boy back on. He didn’t understand the appeal of computer games. Today’s youth wasting itself away.

Bucky hadn’t eaten yet, and there were no windows open in the car. The buildings outside began to blur into each other, and Bucky began to think the car was going at least 70 miles an hour through the city centre and that soon they were going to meld into the windscreen and it was going to be gruesome.

When they arrived at the shop Ava was behind the counter looking through recipes.

‘Hello Ave.’

‘Traaavis!’ She bounded round the table and hugged him. ‘I’m so glad you came. Are you well?’


‘That’s good.’


‘How’s work?’


She ran out of ideas there. ‘Li, remember when we were going out you used to have the best incense and make us that delicious tea? Why don’t you put a brew on?’

‘Ok,’ he said and promptly left the room.

Ava hadn’t changed. To her chagrin, no-one ever believed she was a natural blonde, but she was. She wore the same make-up, and the same Armani pantsuits as always. She also had on a new, big white hat with a black bow over the brim. She wore thick heels and never carried her own lighter. Bucky shot her a smile which said, what do you want?

‘So tell me,’ she said signalling the beginning of what were to Bucky further incomprehensible, though in fact probably not entirely superficial pleasantries. ‘How are things Trav? Any juicy cases?’

He said nothing.

‘Have anyone special in your life right now?’

‘Do you?’

‘Why Travis!’ She began to laugh, loudly. Travis could never understand what affect she was trying to make. He felt like he wanted to sit down, before her giggling made the room spin any faster.

‘Well Travis I’m not seeing anyone. Not seriously anyway. No, I’m busy working as always.’ She looked to see if Papa Li was coming back. ‘Are you going to long, doll?’ No answer. Bucky hoped he hadn’t managed to squeeze through the window into the back patio. No escape out there, but a lot of places to hide out. The whole neighbourhood behind them dumped their trash in those gardens.

Papa Li came back in looking worn out. He brought the tea and incense in on a tray.

‘You look like you should be wearing an apron. Wouldn’t he look lovely in an apron, Travvy?’

‘Sure,’ he mumbled.

She leaned on the counter and flashed her lids at Li. ‘Why don’t I tell you why I came down here?’

‘It wasn’t for pleasure of seeing us?’ asked Li, in an attempt to appear stupid.

‘Oh, well it is delightful to see you but as a matter of fact…’

Travis looked at his watch. He was missing The Sweeney on television. De da da. De da da. Da da da da daaa, de-da, da da.

‘I’m here because I’m expanding my business, and I’m buying some property just up the road from here. We’re going to be neighbours. Isn’t that fine?’

Papa Li felt himself drawing one step closer to the grave. This tease would lure him into her lair and devour him. His marriage would be end in tatters, and he’d be left listening to her spiritual examinations of the world, cosmological discoveries, and endless lectures on the genius of Ayn Rand.

‘But I won’t be around all that much of the time. So I need a minder or two. It’s going to be a rather delicate operation, but I’m taking over from the woman running the place now.’

Li was confused. He didn’t know anyone was selling their property on this street. ‘Which business is it you are buying out?’

‘Lil’ Lucille’s.’

‘What?’ Li cried out in total disbelief.

‘Something wrong?’ She looked either smug or oblivious – Bucky wasn’t sure.

‘She has no right to sell without my consultation. She’s been operating under my protection for 10 years. Where she get the balls?’

‘Oh it’s all perfectly legal, and all checked out by my solicitor.’

‘Legal? It’s a fucking whorehouse! It is only legal while myself, and Detective O’Brien say it’s legal.’

‘Listen I know there were some goings on in the building that weren’t quite on the books, but Lucille has assured me that this is no longer the case. From now on Lil’ Lucille’s is going to be a ‘Dating Spa’ for people who meet up on our new social media dating site.’

‘Dating Spa? Jesus…’

‘You can make fun of me all you want. My stockholders are all very impressed with my wee idea and the project is going full steam ahead. We’d be willing to honour old arrangements you may have had with Lucille up to a reasonable degree.’

‘We’ll see about that. Wai Chong!’ he shouted, and within seconds a very large thirteen year old boy appeared. ‘Get Miss Lucille and bring her here.’ He waddled off fast.

‘That will do no good, I’m afraid. She’s on holiday.’


‘It doesn’t matter. She signed over the property this morning.’

‘This is an ambush,’ he said, beside himself. As if losing this business were like waking up in hospital and being told he had lost a limb.

They continued arguing for some time and Travis fell asleep in Li’s chair.

Hot City – Fit 1, Chapter 2


‘I’m going to play on the Nintendo’ said a young voice.

‘Only for half an hour now’ said Papa Li, ushering the children past Travis Bucky who was standing in the corner looking uncomfortable. The sound of children running up the staircase to their parents’ flat thudded through the downstairs kitchen of the shop.

The kitchen of Papa Li’s Homoeopathic Medicine Shop was somewhere between a witches’ storeroom, and the servants’ kitchen in a country mansion. Everything was made of fine looking wood, and there were various types of herbs and spices lying around in sacks or growing out of little pots hung just above eye level. Papa Li began chopping onions at the pace of a seasoned chef. He was short and formidable man who kept a trim moustache. He wore formal tailored versions of traditional Chinese peasant clothes which looked like fake costumes to anyone who wanted to see past the hokey stereotype he sought to embrace. His broken English was half real and half put on, like habit had taken over from affectation. He had cultivated the nickname ‘Papa’ long before he became a grandfather and had sought to establish himself as the pater familias of the Chinatown community. But today he was merely tolerated as an aging old conman who made good soup.

‘Where is my money, Mr. Travis?’ he said, staring the grinning Bucky down.

‘You only call me Mr. Travis when you are upset. Why would you be upset, Papa? Also, what money?’

Bucky noticed that Papa Li was holding the knife in the air at such an angle he might lunge with deadly intent at any time.

‘I checked at tracks. £1600 from the last race I sent you to bet on.’

‘What are you talking about, man? The horse lost. Also I did you a favour, eh! You didn’t just ‘send’ me.’ Papa Li put down the knife, to Bucky’s relief. He picked up a pot that was about to go onto the stove, when he began beating Bucky about the head with it.

‘You cannot pull wool over my eyes! You are wolf in idiot’s clothing. £200 on Lucky Goy in the 3rd race at 8 to 1. Where…’





‘Alright stop.’


Travis rolled over on his back to avoid further pain, and moved his hands in self-defence poses as he rose to the ground, feebly pretending he knew more Kung Fu than he’d seen on the telly.

‘It came in last! What are you talking about? That really hurt.’

‘What came in last?’

‘Plucky Boyo’ protested Bucky, rubbing his head.

‘Plucky Boyo? You mean Lucky Goy. What race?’

‘Fuck do I know what race? I went to the track and placed your bet.’

By this point Papa Li wasn’t listening and was going through the stack of papers by the bread-bin looking for the racing forms.

‘Plucky Boyo, 5th race, 100 to 1. You idiot. You lost me £1800! You pay.’ Papa Li went into a drawer and pulled out a garlic crusher.

‘Ho! Ho! What’s the big idea? What are you doing with that thing there?’

‘What?’ he exclaimed horrified by Bucky’s dimwittedness. ‘I am making dinners for month and freezing them.’ He took a bulb of garlic out of a sack and began peeling it. ‘You owe £1800.’

‘I owe £200.’

‘Please explain.’ Papa Li was growing tired of Bucky’s excuses and now spoke without anger. He now only had energy left for withering contempt.

‘You wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make £1600 had I not showed up that day to say hello.’

‘To say hello? You came here looking for business. “Please Papa Li, I need leads. I am so broke.” Maybe if you had not spent all of your money on booze and cheap broads you would not have come screwing up my day!’

‘We used to have a nice business arrangement. So right now it’s a little one sided. But when you asked me to go to the track, did I complain. Did I say it was beneath me?’

‘Yes! You did. Then you screwed it all up and lost my money.’

‘Ok. Ok. Bad example.’

Li looked down at the ground sadly having risen above his desire for violent revenge.

‘Well lucky for you I can give you opportunity to pay me back. A new client came to the shop today. Very rich lady. She came to me with stress problems. I gave her a bag of old oregano and rosemary and told her to boil in some of my special tea. She was vague about her troubles. I think wandering husband maybe. You come to the shop tomorrow morning at 9.30 and find out.’

Bucky perked up greatly at this news. ‘Nice one Paps! We’ll fleece this dame for whatever she’s got. Just like old times!’

‘Except with slight change in percentage in my favour. 5 points more, plus £800 for your failure at the track.’

‘You think we’ll make more than £800?! Holy Mama!’

‘Perhaps. Perhaps not. Still. Is it deal?’

‘Deal.’ Bucky shook Li’s hand vigorously, delighted beyond rational thought.

‘Now in the meantime’ Li pulled a brown sack out from under the stove. ‘You take sack to Shanghai Billy. Tell him “That cat can really swing” and hand this over to him. Do not give to employees. See only Billy. Understand?’

‘You can count on me, Pappy.’

Bucky skipped along to his drop-off in East Chinatown singing ‘We’re in the Money’ in the voice of Bosko from the early Leon Schlesinger cartoons. He felt he was long overdue a respite from his troubles, legal and financial. A spell in the slammer had renewed his joy at the sights and smells of the city. He hopped over a junkie and smiled at the neon signs from the takeaway diners, and the chefs standing outside chain-smoking through their breaks. Everything was as it should be.

He knocked at the door of Shanghai Billy’s Gambling House. A pair of eyes came through a little shutter in the middle of the door and said ‘What’s the password?’

‘Swordfish’ said Bucky, and the door opened and the sound of dueling oboes on the bandstand came out and welcomed him. ‘Which way to Billy’s office?’


He went and was greeted by a young Japanese receptionist in a long silk red dress with tiny dragons down the sides and things like pencils holding up her hair.

‘Awright’ he said, with customary bag-man charm. ‘Billy in there?’ He motioned towards the door. She stood up to block his path.

‘I can handle any deliveries you might have for Mr. Brown.’

‘My instructions are to hand this over to Billy personal like. Tell him I come from ‘somewhere beyond the sea.’ Use those exact words please.’ She looked at him with obvious disgust and buzzed Billy over the intercom. Billy said to send him in.

‘So, when do you finish work, Cherry Lips?’ said Bucky, trying to be friendly.

She didn’t answer and opened the door for him, and sat down again.

He walked in and Billy, wearing a white tuxedo with a red rose in the lapel, stood up with an outstretched arm.

‘Pleasure to meet you, Mr…’

‘Bucky. Travis Bucky. Your secretary’s a real piece of ass.’ He heard the door shut behind him.

‘You are too kind, Mr. Bucky.’

Billy never could remember Bucky, although they had met several times. Bucky had learned to overcome his resentment, at least while their meetings lasted.

‘Anyway. Ahem. That cat can really swing.’

‘I’m glad we understand each other.’

‘That’s only your opinion.’

‘How is our mutual friend, Mr. Li.’

‘He’s still a dab hand in the kitchen.’ The pain at the back of Bucky’s head where Papa Li had whacked him with the pot began to come back.

‘You can tell him from me this favour is appreciated.’

‘Cool. Cool.’

‘I’m afraid this must be a short meeting as I have many things to attend to. But please, feel free to stay and watch the band upstairs.

Bucky headed upstairs and lied to the bartender, telling him that Mr. Brown said he could drink for free tonight. The bow-tied zhlub in the waistcoat looked uneasy, but decided not to argue in case he wasn’t lying. Bucky sipped his sloe gin and watched as the band played Limehouse Blues a little too clean for his taste but with enough zeal to be forgiven. As a shadow passed behind him he had the uncomfortable feeling he was being watched. He decided he was being crazy because he’d just been arrested and still felt a little shaky. Gaol was a total bum-trip. He ordered himself another drink.

He looked across the bar and saw a lot of men in suits talking to each other, and their wives and girlfriends watching the band. In the corner he noticed Fats Murray holding court. He turned his head hoping not to be noticed when he heard the inevitable ‘Bucky the Magnificent! Hola Monsignor. Comment allez vous?’

‘Hi Fats. How’s the numbers racket?’

‘Oh the market has a will of its own. But I guess I’m doing alright. How about you?’

‘The same I guess. How’s your wife?’

‘She’s dead to me. I want to introduce you to my new friend, Tina.’

Tina looked just like his wife. Big hair, lots of make-up, and a sparkling dress that could have been off the rack but wasn’t.

‘Tina’s gonna be a TV star.’

‘I thought you said movies!’ she bleated in a voice like an adenoidal frog.

‘One thing at a time, honey. Isn’t she a bit of terrific, eh Buck?’


Fats looked suddenly despondent, and unbuttoned his jacket and let his belly hang out.

‘Go buy some drinks with this money and wait at the table, hen, go on.’ He handed her a roll of bills without looking at it and turned his attention back to Bucky as she took it out of his hands and leaned over the bar.

‘So’ he said. ‘I need a favour.’

‘Is this the kind of favour where I get to make some money or the kind where I have to do somebody’s laundry?’

‘Don’t be so hostile. There’s money.’

‘Oh thank God for that’ Bucky said, knowing that whatever it was Fats asked he’d probably have to do it regardless.

‘I need some information on an “accountant?” named Thomas Monroe. Got an office on George St, out in the Burgh. Find out what you can about him and relay any names you recognise. He may be harbouring information about friends of ours. We can’t break in ‘cos the security is a heavy shitemare at that place. But if you went over and checked out his shit when he’s out the room, could be real helpful.’

‘Why don’t you go in and talk to him? Is he not the talkative type?’

‘I like you’ Fats said smiling and touching Bucky’s shoulder, big brother-like. ‘Don’t be an arsehole.’

‘Yeah ok.’

‘Have a good evening.’ He went back to his table and Bucky slumped back onto his stool, relieved not to be talking to him or anyone else.

Next morning was a suit and tie job, sans sweat stains. All night dry cleaners charged double but Bucky figured you gotta speculate to accumulate. Li had on his Chairman Mao outfit, and smoked his long pipe. Even Bucky thought it smelled like dry rot and he hadn’t had a sense of smell since he was 12 years old. That was when he had first got a taste for pool tables and bad skunk. The two waited in silence for Ms Paige to arrive on the scene. She was half an hour late when the eldest of the grandchildren opened the door for her.

She came in wearing a leather cap and close fitting leather jacket, cut at the waist, with a kind of military look about it. Red lipstick, sharp eyes, mid to late twenties, and acquainted with the art of making an entrance. Bucky stood tall by the desk while Li greeted her with a warm handshake and introduced them with full fanfare.

‘Mr. Li recommends you highly’ she said, offering her hand to shake Bucky’s.

‘Heavy flattering to hear that, like, eh.’

Li and Paige had seats. Bucky was left leaning on the desk, trying to find a comfortable position to rest in without blowing his cool.

‘Let me get straight to the point. As Mr. Li has probably told you, I have been suffering from back issues over the past month. I think it’s largely to do with stress. I asked my GP to prescribe me medicine some time ago but I don’t like the pills. Flak always said they did more harm than good and the pharmaceutical…anyway. That’s not important. Mr. Li has been good enough to give me some of his own remedies which I think are already beginning to work. I feel…quite a lift in my spirits.’ She paused and took a deep breath, and sighed.

‘I’ve been conducting an affair with a married man. Flak. I won’t bore you with the details.’

Bucky felt his slow heart beat a second faster. She continued.

‘Nevertheless it is a stressful business. Anyway. The thing is…he’s disappeared. The police found a suicide note but no body, as far as I know. Obviously I’m not the person who would be invited to ID…’ She was faltering heavily now. Li passed her some scented tissues from the top drawer of his filing cabinet.’

‘Ms. Paige. What is the name the man you are having this relationship with?’

She said it. Click. Johnson. Flak chuffing Johnson. Of course. It would be. Feeling sick,  Bucky turned and faced the window and mouthed the word ‘Bollocks.’ Li saw Bucky had lost concentration for whatever reason and asked the woman why she seemed to think her lover was still alive.

‘I was with him the night he disappeared. I mean a man doesn’t… Nothing was wrong. I know it. There’s no way. I’d know.’

‘Are you sure about this?’ Li said, frowning. ‘Often-times, people keep thoughts so private they do not divulge even to trusted companions.’

‘We had a very nice evening together. No fights or anything like that. Candlelit dinner at my place. He cooked a stew. I still have the leftovers.’

‘You went to police.’

‘No.’ Bucky, head rushing, decided to re-join the conversation.

‘Why not, Ms. Paige?’

‘His wife didn’t know.’

‘Maybe she found out that night when he came home. Maybe things got nasty.’

Li stood up from his desk – the signal for Bucky to stop talking.

‘Laura, you are trembling. I am going to prescribe you special tea leaves for you to drink right now.’ He led her out of the office and into the store front.

Li was going to want him to investigate Johnson. But if he did and O’Brien caught him messing with a tied up bundle that would cost him pride, time and paperwork, he would bust him for his year’s list of unsolved cases, clearing his desk in the process and sending Bucky down for life.

All this after a long life of admitted and sometimes celebrated misdeeds, Bucky still found himself asking:

‘Fuckin’ why me?’

Hot City – Fit 1, Chapter 1

out to lunch


Travis Bucky was having pleasant dreams. Before he had gone to sleep he had been cleaning his Private Investigator badge with a special brand of polish that was generally only used by the collectors of military medals. Sending away for the bottle had been quite expensive. Bucky had even needed to borrow the money for the postage from his barber. November had been a slow month.

He had used about half of the contents to get the badge really shining. Looking at the ingredients label he then saw that some interesting chemicals were used in the product, several of which were now banned in the United Kingdom. The polish had also included a small amount of ether. So he brought a towel from the kitchen and poured some on. He wrapped a blanket round himself and fell into the easy chair inhaling deeply.

Suddenly the phone was ringing, loud and violent like a call from the Keystone Cops, and Bucky woke up with his heart pounding. Could it be his mother?

‘Bucky, is that you?’ screamed the voice on the other end, or else it sounded like screaming to Bucky. ‘I’ve been trying to reach you for hours.’

‘I was getting laid. What’s it to you, fucko?’

‘A likely story,’ said the voice, chuckling.

‘What time is it?’


‘You’re a sadist. You…come to think of it who are you?’ Bucky wiped his eyes knowing that this really wasn’t a dream, this was still the 21st century, and he was still a deadbeat PI with asthma issues. He wheezed.

‘It’s Sergeant Turner from Vice.’

‘I said I’d return your videos man. Despite the fact I know that shitbird isn’t getting tried since he skipped breakfast…I mean town.’ Bucky heard his stomach rumbling and realised he hadn’t eaten since they had turned the water off in his flat. ‘Ah, fuckit.’

‘Detective Inspector O’Brien wants you in his office at 8.’

‘Tell him to come to mine at noon.’ Bucky hung up and sank back into his chair. He shot a look at the phone, then stretched at a funny angle and pulled the cord out of the wall. ‘Too slow, Turner. Maybe you got stubby fingers.’

Bucky shuffled through to the bedroom and finished a half smoked joint in the ashtray to put himself back to sleep.

Bucky was enjoying the plane ride. The stewardess was wearing a low cut dress just half a size too small and she was serving him two Margaritas, a double Rum, a beer, and cheeseburger with jalapeños, salsa, and a side order of BBQ pork ribs. Executive first class jet: the only way to travel. He was just about to tell the stewardess he was having trouble unbuckling his safety belt and he needed her assistance, when the plane hit some major turbulence. Suddenly and without warning he felt the beer spill all over his face down to his crotch, and the plane began to go down….

He opened his eyes and there was Sergeant Turner shaking him, and O’Brien standing over him, smiling, and holding a bottle of Deuchars.

Bucky shouted, struggling to get the words out. ‘I was having the most beautiful dream, you cunts.’

‘Well ain’t that a damn shame. Here, maybe I’d better wake you up.’ Bucky saw the fist raised, ready to strike.

‘No Sergeant, leave him be. He’s just expressing himself. You can’t take that particular liberty away from a man.’

O’Brien’s manner was patronising in just the right way. He had been around, had acquired some wisdom, and lost his east end accent somewhere along the way, preferring instead a cut glass military type drawl. He spoke a little as if he was trying to build a bridge across the River Kwai or something like that.

Free of Turner’s rough embrace Bucky sat up on the bed. ‘Ok. What’s this about?’ He looked at the clock on the wall. ‘9 o’clock?!’

‘You haven’t counted Daylight Savings Time. You should go get a digital clock. Saves you from human error’ said Turner. His boss wanted him to stop talking from the way he was looking at him, but Turner’s eyes were fixed on Bucky’s. O’Brien cut him off.

‘Yesterday a friend of yours went missing. Flak Johnson.’

‘Never heard of him,’ Bucky said automatically.

‘He used to live in this flat with you.’

‘What are you implying?’

‘He’s saying that you’re a poof, horsebreath’ said Turner.

‘My flat’s been burgled a few times and I’m away a lot. Maybe this Flak guy pulled off the burglary then decided he liked the whole house enough to stay for a while.’

‘The only thing that’s been burgled around here is your arse, Detective Bucky.’

O’Brien told Turner that was enough, just as if the two of them had played this good cop, bad cop game before.

‘If it’s a choice between here and downtown, I choose downtown. Food’s better there. Does your station have central heating by the way?’

‘It’s cosy as your maw’s crotch. Let’s get going.’

Upon entering, Bucky reflected that Sergeant Turner had oversold this joint somewhat. The station had been revamped from its seventies industrial paint-fleck and rust tone to what now looked like a McDonalds with a mini gaol at the back. There were heavy halogen lights and shiny plastic marble floors and Government issue racial/sexual equality posters on every wall. The officer at the desk had a solid night watchman look about him, like he should have been relieved an hour ago. He grunted and handed O’Brien a form to fill in, while Turner held Bucky handcuffed against the desk.

‘My handcuffs are too tight and this policeman has been touching me inappropriately’ Bucky told the Desk Sergeant. ‘Would you be so kind as to get him to undo these and leave my nipples alone.’

‘This a drunk and disorderly?’ the Desk Sergeant asked O’Brien.

‘No. He’s just here to answer a few questions. He’s not being booked for anything. Yet.’

‘Nah I came out here in the spirit of good citizenry.’

‘Put him in Holding One. It might smell a little of ammonia. Don’t ask.’

Turner uncuffed him in the holding room. Yellow paint. Reeking of cheap bleach and piss. Bucky took a look at the chair before sitting down. It looked ok. O’Brien and Turner had left him to stew for a while. He lit up a cigarette, daring the security guard watching the CCTV to get off his ass and come tell him he wasn’t allowed to smoke. He felt just like every other second rate scumbag that was left to sit in this room and answer questions from halfwits. He felt very depressed all of a sudden, knowing that the room and the smell was doing the job it was supposed to, and that he was not above its effects.

He walked over to the two way mirror and started giving it big sloppy kisses and singing ‘Happy birthday, Mr. Police Inspector á la Marilyn Monroe and began to take off his tie the sexiest way he knew how. He gave them quite a show.

When O’Brien entered the room he looked the model prisoner. He wondered if he had imagined the whole thing.

‘So. Flak Johnson? Your friend.’

‘If you say so.’

‘He was at your house on Wednesday night.’

‘Were you peeking through my window again, you naughty man?’

‘I questioned your neighbours.’

‘He had come straight from the airport. Flight from Bangkok via Berlin. Did he bring you any presents from his vacation perhaps, Mr Bucky?’

‘Look. What’s this all about, huh? Here I am trying to sleep one off and these two goons break into my house and say some guy I’ve never heard of is dead…’

‘I never said dead.’

‘Whatever you said. Disappeared. Whatever. And I’ve got a lot to do this morning. I gotta go to the shop, buy groceries. Sign on at the Jobcentre. This, that. And you’re dicking me around in here.’

‘I’m dicking you around?’

‘Yeah. I don’t appreciate it. Stevie, come on. What is this about?’

‘Who is Flak Johnson?’

‘I dunno.’

‘You went to school with him.’

‘I went to school with a lot of people. All of them dickheads like you.’

‘And that’s why you became a deadbeat Private Investigator? Because you were bullied in school?’

‘That’s why most cops start.’

‘Most cops aren’t quite as dumb as you. And that’s really saying something.’

‘Careful Stevie, you’ll hurt their feelings if they hear you.’

‘Flak Johnson. We know he was at your house between 11 and 1 in the morning.’

‘This is bullshit.’

‘You want me to bring in Turner to haul your ass out to the drunk tank. Remember he’s very clumsy and there’s lot of metal filing cabinets a drunk prisoner might accidentally fall into. Have you met the nurse we got stationed here. His name is Bubba, and he’s a dab hand with the Xanax and Talcum Powder and all that kind of thing.’

‘Sounds like my kinda gal.’

‘Sergeant Turner. Escort this man to the cells.’

They let Bucky go the next morning. He’d been enjoying a lively conversation with a pimp called Benny about the Lizard Conspiracy at the heart of the British State. Apparently every British Prime Minister for the past hundred years had had tongue surgery at a clinic in Harley Street to remove the fork, and learn how to digest things other than flies and mice. He told Benny that if he ever needed a PI to look into this whole business he charged £6.50 per hour excluding expenses, and that he was very enthusiastic about the case.

One of the officers led him towards the outgoing desk to pick up his things and sign out of gaol. He spotted O’Brien on the way out talking to a young journalist with a notepad and pencil.

‘Stevie! Babes. I’m free to go? What happened? Did you find this Johnson guy?’ The journalist turned around first. He looked like he was about 17, with a terrible looking suit on and a yellow tie. Just awful.

‘Get out of here, you’ said O’Brien.

‘Not without the story. What is this? I’ve been banged up for 24 hours in that smelly cell. How come? And why shouldn’t I sue the city for wrongful arrest?’

‘You weren’t charged. You were in for questioning. You know you can’t sue the Police for that, don’t you?’

‘Of course I knew that! I was just using an expression.’

‘Uh huh.’

The journalist piped in meekly. ‘Detective O’Brien. May I ask who…?’

‘My name is Travis Bucky. It’s great to know you son.’ He clapped the boy on the back. ‘I gotta give you the lowdown on this here Detective Stevie. He is the most incompetent ham-fisted cock I’ve ever laid eyes on, and you can quote me there son. You got your pencil? Yeah it’s I-N-C-O-M-P-T-A-N-T. Aye. This lousy son-of-a-bitch banged me up in the cells for no reason at all last night. Tried to say that I killed some guy I never heard of, and now I’m being let go for no reason at all. And now I can’t sue him. Is this a free country still? Tell me son, is this still Scozia we live in?’

‘Uh, sir? Is this regarding the Flak Johnson case?’ He directed his question towards O’Brien.

‘Sharp as a tack this one. Stevie, where do you find such great sycophants?’

‘Bucky, this is Norman Casey from the Hotsman Newspaper. Travis, Norman, Norman, Travis. Flak Johnson’s dead. Suicide note was found in an abandoned car by the river. It’s over. Now go away.’

‘Why was I dragged here for questioning, then abandoned to rot for 24 hours?’

‘It’s the system. Sign yourself out.’

‘Not even an apology? Delighted to meet you, Casey. If you want to find me I’ll tell you all the details of my wrongful arrest. Put it on page one with a big picture of Stevie’s face on the cover with a big old size 32 font headline reading ‘TOTAL CUNT.”

Travis knew he had to calm down. This anxiety about getting arrested was going to give him wrinkles. He went down to Max’s for the mid-day cocktail hour. He sat up by the bar and admired the picture of Charlie Parker on the wall and the novelty Eric Dolphy, Out To Lunch clock hanging up above the spirits. They were playing Duke’s Black and Tan quietly in the background and he ordered himself up a Margarita and a Guinesss. He lit a cigarette. Private Members Club meant you could still do that in here. Everything was ok again.

The Peace Frog


Since I am coming to that holy room,

         Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,

I shall be made thy music; as I come

         I tune the instrument here at the door,

         And what I must do then, think here before.

John Donne

The Threat

Kat Velcro saw the foam bubbling between the teeth of the Dalmatian. She stood watching as it readied to tear into the flesh of the pig.

At first nothing registered. The blood spurted over everything and she felt a drop hit her cheek. Then the sound of the gunshot rang out. Tinnitus took over and she was dazed, looking over the dead white, black spotted dog all covered now in black ooze.

Bucky walked towards her with the pistol to his side.

‘Awright,’ he said. ‘How’s it goin?’

She still could not hear anything and stood staring at the blood running towards her.

‘Your dog?’ he asked. ‘It was coming towards ya heavy fast.’

‘Where’s Rita?’ said Kat.


‘My pig.’

‘Ain’t no pig here.’

Bucky holstered his gun and offered Kat his hand. She took it and he lead her out through the garden gate. All along the white picket fence Bucky rattled a twig until smacking it in two off the end corner.

The Plan

The bed bugs bit up Flak. He had tasty blood. Being a parasite by nature he felt compassion towards the now stoned little bugs living in Tanya’s mattress. She had gone out to work with the Kid. He owned half the block now.

He offered Flak leg-work. Debt-retrieval. He was to report to the Post Office in Stockton at noon. The Kid told him not to be late. Flak had no way of telling the time so he got out of bed and looked for his socks.

Outside the Post Office a man in a beige trench-coat and a purple Stetson hat and red neckerchief was smoking a joint. A man in a leather jacket walked out the door and he followed him round the corner. Flak followed and saw the man with the Stetson forcing the other man against the wall by the neck. He slapped him in the face and said something Flak couldn’t understand. The man in leather’s nose began running blood. Instinctively Flak searched his own pockets for a handkerchief for him, but only found a used one. Bucky searched his pockets and pulled out the post office packet. He counted four notes.

‘Where’s the rest of it?’ he shouted.

‘Got sanctioned, man. Please. It wasn’t ma fault…’

The Stetson hat man released him and kicked him in the ass so that he fell face first onto the pavement. He strode towards Flak.

‘Whit ye lookin at?’ he growled, knocking past him with his shoulders.

‘I’m Flak.’

‘Aw right, mate,’ he turned back around and extended his hand. ‘How ye dain? Ma name’s Travis. We’re headin north? You got a car by the way? I cannae afford the bus like so if ye don’t we’re flat-footin it.’

‘Listen mate,’ Flak said, following Bucky’s long footsteps. ‘I’m not sure I’m cut out for this type of hing. The Kid said he needed someone but you seem to have the operation in hand so maybe I’d better jist go home.’

‘Up to you man, but I’ve got some chocolate in my pocket you can share with me if ye wanna walk me up the road for a bit, seeing as yir here.’

Flak had not eaten since lunchtime the day before. He agreed.

‘I’m pure not mad about this kinda work masel but I got sanctioned and I need to pay for food. Lecky are about to cut me off too. I’m really a Private Detective by trade. But there’s not much goin on the now, crime-wise.’

Flak was mildly surprised at this assertion.

‘That’s a shame,’ he said.

‘Don’t worry though,’ said Bucky. ‘I have a plan.’

The Preparation

‘Pass me that wrench, useless.’ Hobknob stretched out his hand like a surgeon. ‘Come on.’

Flak passed him the wrench. He looked back at the Kid, sitting in the corner counting the money. It looked like thousands.

‘The car is never gonna be road ready at this rate, Kid,’ Hobknob said, wheeling himself out from under the KIA. ‘You are just going to have to take the gear on the train.’

‘Maybe it would be ready if Flak did some work,’ said the Kid, without looking up.

‘I’m an old man’ said Hobknob. ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

‘You don’t grow old till I tell you to,’ replied the Kid, picking up the telephone and dialling.

‘Travis, this is not what I asked for…No, I do not want a copy of The Best of Graham Parker and the Rumour instead…No…No, I want you to get hold of what we discussed and send the package over…If he’s a whiny bitch about it knock him out first…Come on Travis, have you never heard of NSA? MI5?…That’s ridiculous, you’re brother isnae a spook…One hour. End of chat.’

Flak was finding it hard to breathe. The paint fumes from the garage were only supposed to get him stoned. He began to wish he had worn Hobknob’s stupid mask.

‘Flak, it’s on. I need you to watch the store for me while the Doc and I go sort out a few things.’

‘Ok,’ Flak said as the room span, and his eyes glazed.

The Target

The Klub Koma served drinks with little umbrellas and the waitresses wore hula skirts, like they do in Hawaii. Bucky loved the tacky coconuts taped to the wall and let out a sigh of satisfaction as he entered the club’s inner sanctum. The VIP lounge was usually locked to outsiders but Bucky had managed to sneak past the bouncer by telling him there was a homosexual orgy going on in the men’s toilet and it had really put him off his pee. The bouncer went to tell the manager and Bucky wandered in.

The Target was sitting at a round table with a woman who definitely was not his wife. There was a candle between them and they were both eating lobster. Bucky always thought lobster tasted shite so he didn’t feel too bad about interrupting.

‘Hawright’ he said.

The Colonel turned his head. ‘Travis,’ he said, irked. ‘Dolores this is an old acquaintance of mine, Mr. Travis Bucky, Private Eye.’

‘Private Eye?’ Dolores said, enthusiastic to meet a friend of the Colonel’s.

‘Private, Aye,’ grinned Bucky, all attention going toward the Colonel’s little blonde friend. ‘I like your girl, Colonel. Where can I go get one like that?’

‘Oh, I have a lot of friends Mr. Private Eye’ she said touching his arm.

‘I’m sure you do,’ said Travis. ‘Me and the Colonel have got some business. It’s up to you whether you want to join us but we can’t talk here.’

‘Sounds intriguing,’ she picked her make-up mirror out of her purse. ‘Sebastian, go get the bill and let’s go with Mr. Eye here.’

‘I was enjoying my dinner.’

Sea Dogs

Kat Velcro was standing with one foot on the deck and the other over the starboard, a captain’s hat, sunglasses, red and white Breton top, navy dress jacket, white trousers, stiletto heels and a half smoked cigar hanging out her mouth, smouldering.

‘Your speedboat?’ asked Bucky.

‘Pop’s money paid for it.’

Bucky opened the back door of the hired car and pulled out the first brown sack.

‘Bloody hell, Travis! This is fucking not on. You know that?!’ said the first sack. Bucky gave it a little kick and told the sack to shut up while he grabbed the second one.

‘Ow! You are pulling my hair,’ shrieked sack number two in a voice that had gone from pleasant country manor to howling Lewisham over the course of a car ride.

Kat took the knife from her belt and with one long slice each freed the Colonel and Dolores. The Colonel’s white hair stood on end and he whimpered like dying goat.

‘Ye cyan’t treat people like this! Ye cyan’t’ said Dolores animatedly rising and brushing down her long red gown. Kat blew a ring in her face and Dolores huddled back over, sure she was going to throw up.

‘You better not get sick in the boat,’ said Kat, standing over her. ‘Leather seats man. The smell lingers like an aging fucking uncle.’

‘We can make the Dorset coast in, like pure four hours,’ Bucky said, pointing a finger at her. ‘You are not tae throw up.’

He went back to the car and brought out a bag. ‘Look, I got us lunch in the Duty Free at Nottingham Airport.’ He pulled out five packets of crackers, and triangle of brie, some pate, and some Boursin. ‘Why couldn’t you retire actually in France? Jersey is so full of wankers man. Do you know how much pure Anglo condescension I had to put up with just to find the main drag?’

The Colonel didn’t answer, so Bucky continued.

‘I mean if ye didnae wanna pay yir tax n shit like that, fair enough. I’ve never paid any masel, but come oaaaan. Couldn’t you huv moved tae Switzerland with the dough? I mean, they are wankers too. Racist shitebags. But, somehow I never mind that much when it’s foreigners. It’s like, part of the experience to get shat on by the locals. Know whit ah mean? But when it’s uptight country club Brits, and wee arseholes from the City gien ye nonsense, it’s just no the same. It’s too much like living at home, except worse because at home ye can turn aff the television and shut them up. I mean, I don’t hate the English or nothing, but…’

Kat, at this point was checking her watch and removing the anchor. The Colonel was moving away from Bucky towards the boat, eager now to get his kidnapping over with in as little time as possible.

‘…there’s no escaping the fact that there is no group of people in the world who can piss a person oaff mare than them what colonised him and his pals. No offence, but…’

Dolores noticed that Bucky had left the car door open and made a dash for it. Kat calmly followed her. Dolores climbed into the front and scrambled around for the keys. Bucky had put them in his pocket. As Dolores climbed out of the car, Kat gave her a judo chop to the back of the head, then carried her unconscious onto the speedboat.

‘She won’t throw up now,’ said Bucky, thanking her, and shoving the Colonel on-board.

The Situation

Kat had been up all night smoking while Flak slept sprawled with limbs reaching almost each corner of the bed.

‘This paradigm is illegitimate,’ she said, looking at the mole on his shoulder resting under her arched legs.

The clouds passed and the moon shone through the shutters. The light felt cold against her bare skin. Having run out of straights, she picked up the Gideon Bible from the desk and tore a strip from Deuteronomy to roll some tobacco. She got up and opened the window. She heard the cries and sirens from the 14th Arrondissement. The rioters had burned down half of Montparnasse and had been driven into the Seine by Police water cannon.

She picked up the phone and dialled.

First Instincts


Hobknob and the Kid returned to the garage at half past four, carrying four bags of shopping from Lidl. Hobknob was wheezing terribly and dropped his bag at the door. Flak sat behind the wheel of the car with his hands gaffa-taped to the steering wheel.

‘We had a visitor,’ he said.

The Kid went to the cash desk and found it empty save for a chewed tooth-pick and some ash.

‘Bucky,’ he said, brushing his slicked brown hair back.

‘That’s right,’ Flak responded, eager to distract them from his own shortcomings. ‘He asked for the keys to the E-Type.’

‘That cunt,’ the Kid said, collapsing in the chair. Hobknob stood still staring at Flak for a moment, hate in his eyes. With a jerk he turned around and picked up a steel pipe and began smashing up the fax machine.

‘What the hell does he think he’s doing?’ the Kid shouted through the car window. ‘What the hell could that fool be playing at? What did he say about the Colonel?’

‘Nothing, he just asked for the keys and went off with the Jag. I swear.’

The Incommensurate Present

Travis parked outside The Jazz Hole. The bouncer outside had a glass of bourbon hidden casually on the chair behind him while he smoked. Inside the Joe Fischer Quintet was playing Moanin’ with Cunt Morton on the piano, Conor Smith on guitar, Bobby Tibbs on trumpet, and Smokey Bandito on the saxophone.

Norman Sensible, the Manager, sat at the bar. Bucky sat next to him. Sensible watched the band.

‘I heard you got a problem with The Kid?’ he said without turning round.

‘Just ain’t enough love in the crazy world.’ Bucky said, waving the attention of the bartender.

‘That’s the truth,’ replied Sensible. ‘A man lives faster than the world spins, he’s gonna fall down sooner or later.’

‘That’s when they spit on you.’

‘I can’t help you with that.’

‘Nobody can.’

‘One time I was in this Carnival. I drove the van and fixed up the gear and props and that kind of thing. It was an evening in Newry we were eating bagels before the second show went up. Big bagels with bacon and cheese. Anyway.

‘This boy came up to me and said he had lost his mother. So I says alright Lil Jimmy I’ll help ya look for her. So he says they were having a picnic in the little foresty bit up to the right. He leads me through. Next thing I knew I’d woken up there with a splitting headache and my wallet was gone. So I ran like a bastard, blind through the forest vowing revenge. Two minutes later I somehow end up back at the place where the carnival was and the damn thing was gone. They’d packed up and left. They were on the way back home.

‘So I’m stranded in Ireland and I try hitch-hiking and spend the night on the road. I was picked up by this truck driver with a big beard and a baseball cap. He was playing this song. And the first thing he says to me is:

‘How do we know time is going forward? Because you are going to die soon. I drive a truck because it makes me feel a little better about dying.’

Bucky asked the bartender for a bigger straw.

‘How was his driving?’ he asked.

‘It felt like the world was moving and we were static.’

Bucky bit an olive and stuck the stone on the bar. Sensible smiled and sipped his Martini. The band were howling as they played hot and wild. It felt like wave of incomprehensible beauty washing over his face like surf, and he turned to smile at Bucky, but Bucky was not smiling.

‘I need you to do a job for me,’ he said.

‘Oh fuck,’ said Sensible.


Dolores and the Colonel were left sitting tied up in the garage when the Kid, Hobknob and Flak arrived.

‘Bucky!’ shouted the Kid. ‘Where’s ma motor ya fat slob!’

Just then the electronic garage door started to close. The Kid turned to Hobknob wondering why he was closing up, when he saw Flak ducking under and heard him running.

‘Bucky! What’s going on?’ he screamed at the top of his lungs as the blackness covered him. ‘Get the lights, Doc’ he began to say as the garage exploded.

Bucky saw it go up and Flak running towards the car.

‘Mate, awesome you got out,’ he said. ‘How did you know it was gonna blow?’

‘I just did,’ answered Flak panting.

‘Want a lift?’ Bucky asked.

Flak looked at Kat in the next seat taking the bottle of gin out of the glove compartment. She said ‘it’s alright,’ not looking at him and checking the road for police cars.

‘Ok,’ he said, getting in the back as his heart broke in two. She passed him the bottle and Flak took it from her gratefully, as if he thought she was making amends.

She put her foot on the pedal and they sped off up Garscube Road, and made for the country.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…Aye


It was twelve o’clock in the evening and Travis Bucky woke up the feeling of warm milk coagulating over his bare chest, and looked down to see little sodden Cheerios balanced on the hairs of his happy trail. The bowl was somewhere lying on the carpet, but that out there, was a desert. Objects that made their way to the floor seldom returned, unless to repay the carelessness of their master with a cut or a splinter.

‘Oh, God,’ Bucky moaned at nothing in particular. He had a terrible itch between his right leg and his scrotum, which he proceeded to scratch. A sigh of relief echoed through the flat. He looked out the balcony window and stared at the moon, glowing full over the rooftops.

Bucky, rose from the E-ZAY Chair letting the pieces of cereal fall where they might, and wondered when it was he passed out yesterday afternoon. The end of a joint lay in the ashtray and Bucky picked it up with the tweezers and lit it, hoping for more than cardboard. He was disappointed, and burned his lip.

‘Fuck,’ he cried. The pain had woken him up completely, and now he knew he was stuck, alone with the night. Naked, he stepped towards the window, stretched his arms out, Christ-like, and greeted the city.

He picked out his long trench-coat and his purple Stetson hat, and a pair of alligator boots and made his way down the close stairs and out the front door.

He had just lit another one skinner, when suddenly everything went black and his face was in searing pain. His arms were held back and he was being pulled into the back of a car.

Once the car started moving the sack was taken off his head and he saw his assailants. The one beside the driver packed a standard issue Beretta. And beside Bucky was a familiar hard face with an eye-patch.

‘Evening, Travis,’ he smiled, condescendingly. ‘Pleasant evening, I trust.’

‘Oh, Christ.’

‘Well. Quite.’

It had been a long time, but not long enough as they say in the movies.

‘Can I offer you anything to drink dear brother? Scotch? Brandy?’

‘Otis, why do you insist on calling it Scotch? We’re in fucking Scotland!’

‘Well, I’m going to have one.’

Bucky leant down and fiddled around the ground and around the seat of the car, looking for the little joint he had burned his face with.

He found it. It was bent, but smokeable.

‘So, Otis,’ Bucky said, beginning finally to relax a little despite the gun aimed at his chest. ‘How are ye enjoying working for M-Aye-5?’

‘It’s called the Devolved Secret Service.’

‘So what’s that mean? You investigate the kind of terrorism no-one gives a fuck about? And things like sheep-trafficking? That sort of thing?’

Otis gave Travis an irritated glance and poured himself more than he meant to. ‘It’s not like that, and you know it. Terrorism is a real concern.’

Bucky grabbed the bottle of Lagavulin and took a long swig. They sat in silence for a few minutes and Bucky looked over the dark haired one with the gat. He was young. 6”3. Bucky decided there and then he did not like him one bit.

‘Ok, ok,’ Bucky said, finally defeated by the lack of conversation. ‘Why are you kidnapping me?’

‘Oh, we are having a family dinner,’ Otis said.

‘It’s past midnight.’

‘I’ve been on the train. But at least this means we don’t have to clear the restaurant.’

‘You said family dinner. Who…’

‘Sister Ava is waiting for us at…’

‘Oh, fuck no.’

Bucky buried his face in his hands and smelt the oil coming from the empty blackness of the chamber staring him in the face.

‘Travis! Dwaaaling! How good to see you. Come over here, I want to look at you. O-M-G! You look just divine… How are you?’


‘How’s your wee Detective business?’


‘Any hot cases?’

‘Couple awright ones.’

Otis kissed her cheek. ‘Hello Otis. How lovely this is. Shall we sit down?’

The waiter offered to take Otis and Ava’s coats. His professional demeanour quaked when he took a closer look at Travis, who proceeded to undo the strap of his trench-coat and hand it over to him.

‘Well don’t just stand there staring, man,’ Otis growled, and the waiter marched off.

‘Honestly, Travis. At least take your hat off, you look ridiculous.’ She grabbed his purple Stetson and dropped it over his penis.

‘Can we get some bloody drinks over here, please?’ Otis called over. The waiter came back with his head held high, obviously picturing the overtime on his payslip.

‘Bottle of champagne for the table, please,’ Otis said.

‘And an Old Fashioned, a beer, and a bowl of olives,’ Bucky added. ‘Ava, you havin anything before we eat?’

She said nothing. The waiter asked Otis if he wanted three wine glasses and he nodded.

‘So,’ Otis said, evidently feeling it was time to get down to business. ‘I suppose you are wondering what brought on this little reunion.’

‘You mean you weren’t just desperate to see us?’ Bucky asked.

‘Rarely do I get to mix business with pleasure, to such a degree.’ He looked lovingly over at Ava and she held his hand. ‘But, business must come first when you are in the employ of Her Royal Majesty. This comes direct from Whitehall.’

The waiter brought the drinks and Bucky drank half the bottle of Peroni while Otis poured the champagne.

‘But first, to us.’ Otis raised his glass and his brother and sister followed.

‘It is good to see you both.’

Bucky had already moved on from pleasantries and was at the menu.

‘Before we eat, the reason for calling you here concerns a mutual acquaintance of yours. Mr. Flak Johnson.’

‘Who?’ asked Bucky.

‘He’s disappeared.’ Otis pulled out his briefcase. ‘One of our men took this photograph.’ He handed over a black and white shot of what looked like Bucky sharing a joint with a young guy with short hair and jeans who was carrying a trombone.

‘This was taken three weeks ago outside Butch’s Steakhouse.’



‘You’re gonna have to be more specific. You aren’t jogging my memory.’

‘Think harder.’

‘I’ve had a few joints and a few steaks over the past month, man. I don’t fuckin know this guy.’

‘Ava, this is Flak Johnson. Do you recognise him?’

‘No, I do not.’ She looked over at her younger brother imagining the dives he spent his time in, and the kind of people he called friends.

‘Does the name Dr. Cornelius Thomas Hobknob mean anything to you?’

‘Why, yes! I designed his attic renovation.’

‘Indeed. My office has been keeping tabs on Dr. Hobknob, and more recently, Mr. Johnson. Two days ago they both vanished outside the Daisy Chain Saloon on the West Side.’

‘Never heard of it.’

Otis went back into his files. ‘I also have a picture of you here on the night of…’

‘I don’t wish to see that,’ said Ava.

The waiter came back. Bucky went for the Duck with Chorizo, Black Pudding and Stir Fried Vegetables. Otis ordered the King Prawn. Ava had Saffron Chicken. Bucky ordered a round of Martinis.

‘Travis, we need you to find your friend Johnson. He has information critically important to us.’

‘Who’s us?’

‘Her Majesty’s Government, who do you think?’ Otis replied, curtly. ‘Ava. I want you to pull all the receipts from business you transacted with Dr. Hobknob, and find out what you can from the contractors you used at the time.’

‘Sure thing, Otis,’ she said proudly. Bucky almost thought she was going to give him a salute.

‘Will I get a knighthood out of this?’ Bucky asked. ‘I always liked the sound of Sir Travis.’

Otis haw-hawed unconvincingly.

Bucky agreed to help Ava look through her filing cabinets for documents relating to Hobknob in exchange for a free lunch. They met at Old Horse. She ordered salad. He went for ribs.

As he was putting on his bib he saw familiar black bristles and a black coat pass him by. He looked intently at Ava, hoping for the man not to draw any attention to himself. Ava was talking about something animatedly, but Bucky had no idea what. So he started nodding agitatedly to show he was really, really engaged listening to whatever she was saying.

‘Travis man! Y’awright!’

Ava turned and Bucky watched to see if she recognised him.

‘Travis, it’s me, Flak!’

‘Ava’ Bucky grimaced. ‘This is my friend Flak Johnson, Flak, this is my sister, Ava. Hiya. Hiya.’

‘Nice to meet you, by the way.’

Flak stretched out his hand and gave her a firm shake.

‘What you guys up to anyway?’

‘Just a bit of lunch,’ said Ava, looking very concerned.

‘Nice one. Aye sorry I meant to text you mate, but been heavy busy. I spent two whole weeks drinking wi that guy, Hobknob. He’s intae some heavy weird shite by the way. Nice feller though. But, it got a bit intense and I bailed the other day. Lost ma phone too. Think it went in the Clyde. Right, anyway man, I’ve got to go conduct some business, but I’ll be back in two secs.’

Flak went to the toilet.

Ava stared Bucky in the eyes, and reached for her phone.

‘Don’t do that.’

‘Don’t do what? We have to tell the waiter!’


‘What if he’s planting a bomb?!’

Bucky started laughing, uncontrollably.

‘This isn’t funny. We could all be in danger.’

Ava looked genuinely frightened. It was a strange thing to see. She lived in a constant state of minor anxiety, but generally hid her fear of the day to day. Encountering Johnson felt like staring potential death in the face. He was a criminal. How was she supposed to react?

Flak returned with a big grin on his face.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘Who wants a drink? I’m buyin.’

‘Subtle, mate.’

‘Listen actually I got some left… Anyway, business later. Beers? Aye? Magic.’

‘See,’ Bucky said to his scowling sister as Flak went to the bar. ‘He’s nice.’

Bucky grabbed her phone and joined him.

‘Mate, dinnie look now but I just found out yir a wanted man.’

‘Nah, I handed masel in. They didn’t find enough plants in the house to prove intent to supply, so it’s all peachy.’

‘Nah, nah, nah. I mean heavy MI5 is after you. Ma brother told me. He’s a pure secret agent.’

‘Stop talkin shite,’ Flak quipped derisively.

‘Straight up man.’

‘No kiddin? Cool.’

Bucky grabbed his arm, and indicated how serious the situation was.

‘Man, you’ve got to actually lam it. Right after these pints, you should hitch a ride out. Ma brother’s probably watching the bus stations n that.’

‘No sweat. I’ll get on it, pronto.’

They went back to the table and Ava was gone.

‘Here, whit happened to your sister?’

‘Oh, mate. She’s probably off to grass you in.’

‘Harsh. What did I do, anyway?’

‘Somethin to do with Hobknob.’

‘Aw man. That doesn’t narrow it down much, like.’

They downed their pints and Bucky went back to Ava’s office. He told Flak to go hide somewhere, and not to tell anyone where he was going.

Ava wasn’t at the office and Bucky stomped around for a while. Why would she try to shop his mate? She always sided with Otis. Otis was always ‘the real’ investigator. Bucky didn’t even have a proper badge. He got his from a joke shop and sellotaped his licence in it. All Otis did was go to Cambridge and noise up the MI5 recruiter in some library toilet or something, and there he was with a Home Office gig. He never had to take the hard route, like Bucky did. That was what Ava had never respected.

Bucky stepped into a payphone box and found it working and smelling just like the old days. There were even calling cards for girls. He rang up the manager of The Daisy Chain Saloon and his wife answered. She said he was at a meeting but he would be back at work shortly. Bucky didn’t want to pay for a taxi so it took him forty minutes to get there.

The bar was painted pink and was covered in flowers. Bucky went towards the office and was intercepted by a waitress wearing a pink American diner style uniform with two missing buttons at the top.

‘This office is private’ she sneered. ‘Are you here to deliver somethin?’

Bucky flashed his I.D.

Travis Bucky, Private…Aye?


‘I’m a friend of Harry’s.’

‘That don’t surprise me.’

Harry opened the door to his office, wearing a three piece grey suit with the zip down.

‘Travis, come here me old pal!’

He proceeded to give Bucky a hug with which Bucky was not overly comfortable. He offered Bucky a Brandy and they sat down in his office. It was a nice room, furnished with a big oak table with a picture of Harry’s wife on it beside a tacky sign that said ‘The Buck Stops Here!’ There was a big mirror for Harry to look at himself in too.

‘I’m afraid this ain’t just a social call,’ Bucky said.

‘Why am I not surprised? It takes a lot these days for you to bless us with your presence.’

‘Did you have a crazy old man in here called Hobknob recently?’

‘We get a few crazy old men in here.’

‘This one came in with this guy.’ Bucky passed Harry the picture of Flak. ‘Hobknob’s the type to get grabby with the waitresses. And Flak’s the type to be very polite, and then try to foist his wares on them. Here maybe three weeks ago. Hobknob wears glasses, and he’s bald.’

‘Travis, if you were ringing any bells I’d tell ya.’

Bucky stood up to leave. ‘You told ma brother.’

Harry smiled and shrugged.

Bucky opened the door to the flat and Ava was there sitting in the dark. She looked like she had just woken up. Bucky turned the lights on.

‘How could you do that to me?’ she said, completely still. ‘You lied. And then…’

‘Offered you a drink?’

‘Offered…he’s dangerous! You don’t know who he really is.’

‘What did Otis tell you about him?’

‘Only that his Doctor friend is a killer, and is developing chemical weapons and trying to sell them to terrorists.’

Bucky laughed.

‘What is so funny?!’

Bucky borrowed Ava’s car after she fell asleep. She had drunk too much to drive herself home.

Across the bridge over the river Bucky passed the abandoned biscuit factory and the multiplex cinema and gazed into the vast emptiness at the heart of the civilisation.

‘Hot City ain’t jack,’ he muttered to himself, trying to work the CD player with one hand, light a joint with the other and change lanes on the motorway with his knees.

Ava’s copy of The Best of ABBA came on and Bucky kicked it until the CD ejected. Then some Radio Scotia dick came on and started jabbering about deficit reduction or some such pish and a wave of indescribable sadness washed over Bucky’s soul. As he waited at the lights between the Centre and road out of town he fumbled hazily at the glove compartment, trying to get it open and maybe if he was lucky find some Dexy’s Midnight Runners or Beatles or something Ava just might have had the class to have around. His breathing became shallow and he began coughing like an old man.

‘…the weather in the south of England tomorrow will be bright and sunny. However there will be patches of torrential rain and cold weather moving across Northern Ireland and…’

There was nothing in the glove compartment other than business cards and handkerchiefs. Bucky fumbled with the radio and turned it off. He opened a window and let the wind rush against the tip of his fingers and thought about the next day and how it was destroying him.

He got to the farm at half past eleven. It was pitch black in the forest on the road leading up. He parked by the bushes and walked up to the barn door. He knocked and heard the cocking of a shotgun.

‘It’s Travis Bucky!’ he called out. ‘Unarmed.’ He resented giving away additional information. What business of it of his whether he carried a gun or not?

He opened the door and looked around the lab. Dr. Hobknob had a 12 inch shotgun under his arm.

‘Awright, Doc.’

‘Happenin mate?’ said Hobknob.

‘Harry whatsit from the pub grassed you to my brother. He’ll be here soon. I’d run if I was you. Like, now.’

‘He’s outside.’


‘Aye. CCTV picked em up.’ He pointed to 5 little television screens at the other end of the barn.

‘They were a lot quicker than I thought they’d be.’

‘They’ve blocked the road two miles up.’

Bucky considered the situation for a second and looked around, pointlessly, for another exit.

‘A wee shotgun like that isn’t gonna do much good.’

‘It’ll do,’ Hobknob said, laying it on top of a haystack.

‘Why are you developing highly flammable material in a barn? Aren’t you worried setting the whole thing ablaze?’

‘Nice atmosphere. Plus cheap rent.’


Hobknob looked over all his work with a degree of satisfaction, knowing it would all be gone within the hour. It looked like a large scale version of a child’s chemistry set. He picked up a mask connected to a Nitrous Oxide canister and turned on the gas. He sat down and relaxed, almost knocking over the Sarin.

Hobknob giggled and offered the mask to Bucky.

‘Cheers,’ said Bucky taking the mask and applying it to his face. He looked around and found himself, first, in awe of his friend’s collection. There were vials of cyanide and arsenic, and a vintage series of Russian Novichok agents all laid out on the table, with hand-written post-it notes next to each group of chemical compounds.

Then, after 30 seconds of deep breathing and staring at Hobknob’s set-up, the full reality of the situation hit him and he fell around on the floor laughing. ‘What the hell were you planning to do with all this stuff you mad Jessie?!’

‘Hahahaha, I tried tae sell em all on Gumtree!’

‘What’s Gumtree?’

‘It’s a pure internet thing. Nevermind.’

Bucky tried to get up but all he could do was roll around on the floor like a stoned penguin, laughing itself to death.

After a few minutes of this Hobknob managed to get up and pick up the gun. He put on his ammunition belt.

Bucky, still giggling, said, ‘You’ll be dead before you get a chance to reload.’

Hobknob handed the shotgun to him, and pulled out his revolver and checked the barrel.

‘That yin’s for you,’ Hobknob said. ‘I’m fine with the handgun.’ Bucky lay the shotgun down and got up.

‘I think I’m gonna sit this one out,’ Bucky said, looking at his friend one last time.

‘Don’t ye wanna take some with ya?’ Hobknob said, gearing himself up.

Bucky smiled and shook his head gently. Then he turned and made his way out the barn door.

As he closed the door behind him a light shone out and Bucky raised his hands and held out his licence. He continued walking slowly and moved out the way of the armed squad of men out there in the darkness, just about ready to charge.

When it became clear they weren’t going to shoot him, Bucky placed the I.D. back in his breast pocket and with his right still raised in the air, pulled the half bottle of Jamesons out of his other pocket. The soldiers stormed in and it was over in second with the sound of two and a half rounds of automatic fire.

Otis walked out of from behind the lights, holding a superfluous megaphone. He probably had to fill out a form at the end of the day saying all measures were taken to end the situation peacefully.

‘Thanks for leading us to him, Travis,’ Otis said. ‘You’ve been a fabulous help…’

Travis couldn’t tell whether he was trying to sound superior or friendly.

‘Don’t ask me again,’ Bucky said, beginning to walk away. Otis laid a firm hand on his shoulder, stopping him for a moment.

Bucky felt the warm weight of his brother’s hand and took another swig and walked to his car.

Bucky returned to Ava’s office in the morning. She was on the phone. He sat down without being asked and she stared at him with a look of disgust that made him feel better somehow.

‘Y’awright?’ he said, as she put the phone down

‘No, not really.’


She said nothing, and he knew she wanted him to leave, but wasn’t going to say so. Not yet. So he waited until she did.