Flash Fiction Friday – One Thousand

The Last Job

It was Oliver Twister’s last job. His family, those who were still speaking to him, thought he was going straight. Well robbing a betting shop was not theft, the punters had already given their money away.  His family and the probation officer thought he was clean and he was more or less, given that he could no longer afford to pay the drug dealers. Money was short; hence his latest plan. Nobody would stop him, who would risk their life to save the bookie’s money? Not that they would be risking their lives, but if they believed they were about to be shot or gassed they would flee the shop.


It was Bill’s last visit to the betting shop, that’s what he had vowed to himself. He was supposed to ring his ‘Gamblers’ Anonymous Buddy’ if he got the urge. But this was not gambling, it was a certainty; he had followed the horse since she was a filly and everything was in her favour for the ‘three fifteen’ at Ascot. The jockey had notched up several wins with her, the wet weather made for the soft track that she loved and Ascot was her ‘lucky’ course. When Bill read in Racing Times that the favourite was out of the race with a tendon injury, he knew he must place one more bet.


It was Samuel’s first visit to ‘The Bookies’. He had won ten pounds when he bought himself a lottery ticket for his eighteenth birthday, that in itself had been an act of rebellion against his Exclusive Brethren parents. A bloke at work assured him this was a good omen and gave him an excellent tip for the ‘three fifteen’ at Ascot; there was no reason why his parents or the elders of the church should find out. The only problem that he could foresee was that he had not a clue how to place a bet. When he walked into the shop trying to look casual, the first person he saw behind the counter was Lara, the beautiful girl he had worshipped from afar when she was in upper sixth and he was in fifth year.

‘Is it young Sam? I bet you don’t recognise me,’ she trilled ‘don’t tell the elders you’ve seen me working here, my aunty goes to your church. I need a part time job, my student loan isn’t enough.’ She helped him place the bet. ‘Just in time, you can watch it live on the telly in five minutes.’

There was only one other customer in, who looked like a regular, but their cosy chat was suddenly interrupted.

The door burst open and a gun entered, followed by an outstretched arm belonging to a large man wearing a contraption on his face that looked like a gas mask. They could not hear properly what he said, but they got the general idea when he waved his gun at Lara and Samuel. As Lara screamed, another primeval cry came from Bill the regular punter. He launched himself at the masked man, catching him off balance, but it was not enough. For a split second Samuel was paralysed with fear, but he focused on the dangerously waving arm and pistol.

Somehow the robber was face down on the floor. The older punter was sitting on him and Samuel had the arm pinned to the floor.

‘Don’t touch the gun,’ said Bill ‘it might go off.’

Samuel knelt on the robber’s wrist to make sure the weapon stayed at floor level, pointing away from them. A muffled cry came from the robber.

‘Shall I press the alarm’ said Lara, rather belatedly.

‘Not yet love, the race starts in two minutes.’ Bill pressed down heavily on the robber’s shoulders. ‘Nobody robs our bookies, no one threatens our Lara.’ He felt like a cowboy.

A faint gurgle was the only reply.

It seemed a long wait till the race started, but in seconds it was over. Bill cheered, while a confused Samuel asked which horse had won. Lara pressed the button.

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The police were quick to arrive and Lara was thrilled to be surrounded by hunky officers, who seemed more interested in her welfare than the prisoner.

‘I pressed the alarm button straight away’ she said.

‘Well done.’ They turned to the men on the floor. ‘Okay chaps, don’t move till we’ve got the handcuffs on.’

The prisoner did not try to resist; when Bill and Samuel struggled to their feet the prisoner did not move at all. The officers turned him over and with difficulty removed the fake gas mask.

‘Bloody hell.’

Suddenly all hell did break loose, one officer was urgently calling on his radio for an ambulance, while the others whipped bits and pieces out of their first aid pouches. Something was put on the robber’s blue face and a policeman started blowing, while another pressed on his chest.

Just as Lara kissed Sam’s cheek to thank him for saving her life, he looked down at the body and realised the full implications. He fainted.

Bill raised his feet while Lara patted his cheek.

The paramedics shook their heads, but soon had the man on a stretcher with an oxygen mask where the gas mask had recently been.

As the sirens receded into the distance the remaining officers chatted for a few moments in a surprisingly light hearted manner. Bill thought he heard one say ‘Oliver Twister’s finally got his come-uppance then, he won’t be missed.’

They put on more serious expressions as they turned to the two men.

‘We have to arrest you for murder of course, but it seems like a clear cut case of self defence, the CCTV will prove you saved the young lady’s life. You don’t need to worry about being charged with murder.’

‘CCTV,’ groaned Bill ‘I’m not worried about the murder charge… my wife will kill me when she finds out where I’ve been.’

‘We won’t be on the news will we?’ said Samuel ‘How am I going to explain this to my parents and the elders?’

‘At least you both won some money’ said Lara sweetly.



Brief Appearance


Do you ever spare a thought for the fruit seller and the uniformed policeman? You know the ones, they always appear in action movies and fast moving crime series on television. There is always a fruit stall in the path of a car chase; whether the hero is chasing or escaping, he screeches round the corner straight into the hapless fruit seller. If he’s lucky he escapes death, but his stall is smashed, his fruit rolling down the street. A day’s earnings lost, perhaps his livelihood… and that is all we ever know of his life. The hero cares nothing about the man and all his dependents, he’s too busy grinning at the sight of the criminal crashing into a plate glass window. Another business ruined, the shop owner showered with splinters of glass and someone else’s blood, suffering from shock at the sight of the criminal’s head thrust through the windscreen, almost separated from his body. But the viewer has already left the scene, unaware of the shop keeper’s future struggles with post traumatic stress.




But there is more than one criminal the hero has to chase, uniformed police have now arrived, but their role will be brief. The slightest brush with the villain’s vehicle and the police patrol car rolls over, crushed, occupants killed instantly. Our hero spins round deftly to continue his pursuit.



Often our hero is a maverick secret agent, answerable to no one except perhaps M, if he is James Bond. If our hero is a plain clothes detective he may condescend to return briefly to the police station, before meeting his glamorous girlfriend. In real life he would have a mountain of paperwork and a great deal of explaining to do. But our hero does not hear other officers talking in shocked tones about the death of their colleagues. He slips in to see his boss and avoids the collection going round for the families of the dead officers. It’s just another day for him.



Caught on Camera

One holiday not long ago we were on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall; a dog walker, a few sheep and a man tending a crackling bonfire in the garden of the solitary house. A strange noise made us look up into the evening sky. We zoomed in with our cameras, not a UFO, but the first drone we had ever seen. Not the sort that drops bombs luckily, but what was it doing? Watching us? Is there anywhere you can go without being seen?


The next day we returned and drove up a road to investigate the tall mast on Caradon Hill we had seen from afar. Warning signs said Private road, access only. We walked the rest of the way up the grassy hill, veering away from the unmade road, past the gigantic guy ropes, steel cables holding up the metal tower. There was a complex of buildings, entry by security pass only, CCTV in operation. Obviously a secret facility, we were being filmed and I expected armed troops to emerge at any moment to take us in for interrogation. The signs were headed by the word Arqiva – a sinister secret organisation for sure.


The truth was more prosaic when I looked the place up on Wickepedia.

The Caradon Hill transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications facility. Built in 1961, the station includes a 237.7 metres (780 ft) guyed steel lattice mast. The mean height for the television antennas is 603 metres (1,978 ft) above sea level. It is owned and operated by Arqiva, a British telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcast transmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

But perhaps that information was a cover up; we only escaped arrest because they had identified us as civilian ramblers.


We are all being watched, all the time. CCTV cameras we know about, on buses, station platforms, in shops. We don’t know if we are being filmed or watched live. Above us are police, military and coastguard helicopters.

It is not only people who are being watched, so is your vehicle. Drive down many main roads and your journey has been recorded by ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition; if the car is stolen or of interest for any reason it will be spotted. Police cars can now carry similar equipment. Writers of thrillers or crime novels have a harder time than ever helping their characters hide or escape, though in fiction and real life criminals are often one step ahead of new technology.

But writers can find new inspiration for plot ideas.

Pity the chap whose neighbour offers to give him a lift to Heathrow Airport in his mate’s car. By the time they are driving through the tunnel they have already been spotted on the spur road. Unbeknown to the occupants of the car, the neighbour’s friend is a criminal or terrorist. When the car is stopped they will have a hard time explaining who they are, by which time the flight will have been missed.

We have all seen pleas on television for missing persons or witnesses to the movements of a murder suspect. There on the screen is a CCTV picture taken inside a bus with the exact time and date. A wife spots her husband, who never uses buses and should have been at work on the other side of the city. A good starting point for a mystery.

In Brief Encounters of the Third Kind the main characters fear they are not only being observed, but controlled. There is no rational explanation for inexplicable events and when they finally reach a glimpse of the truth it is not what they expected.