Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Palpable Obscure - Chapter 1

Hi All, since it's been a while since I posted any fiction, I thought I'd share this. It's the first chapter of my new novel 'The Palpable Obscure' - a story that follows Edinburgh ex-detective Max Milligan on his journey to find a reason to live. Enjoy!

Who shall tempt with wandering feet
The dark unbottomed infinite abyss
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way

- John Milton        


1. Able to be touched or felt.
2. (esp. of a feeling or atmosphere) So intense as to be almost touched or felt.

ob·scure   Adjective
adj. ob·scur·er, ob·scur·est
1. Deficient in light; dark.


Duddingston Loch, Edinburgh
- February 15th 1987 -

Faster than he could realise it, the world began to hurtle up towards the sky, and the boy was pulled into the green and blue demon’s lair that lay beneath the ice. As he plunged into the murky water, time began to slow down and he felt the icy lake’s long watery fingers gripping him, slowly working their way up his body. The water felt like blades, tiny shards of glass working their way under the boy’s skin. They slowly worked their way up his legs and pulled his body under, the searing cold hitting the boy’s chest and knocking the breath out of him. He reached his hands high into the sky in one last scramble towards his world, when he felt an icy finger take hold of his face and pull him under, choking for breath. He held on tightly to what little air was in his lungs as he sank deeper. The pain paralysing – his brain was telling his arms to swim, but his arms wouldn’t oblige. They lay limp at his side, paralysed by the cold. He would die here. The boy looked up towards the light at the surface, and as his body forced him to exhale, he watched the bubbles float gently up towards it. He could feel his vision fading now.

It was time to let go.


Marchmont, Edinburgh
- Twenty four years later -

‘Just do it, man! Stop wasting time.’

Max could only hear Virgil’s husky voice very faintly, gurgling through the thick blanket of water that covered his face. The lukewarm bathwater had stung his eyes for only a few seconds as he looked up, soaking in the last earthly sights he ever hoped to see. He could vaguely make out the mottled outlines of his bathroom ceiling swimming above his head. He fought the urge to cry – he didn’t want to go that way, weeping like a baby.

Death was the only thing he had thought about for a long while, and now, at last, he would be able to welcome it. His work was done; he had nothing left to care about – only death. He would embrace it at last, and let every last part of his miserable life slip away to nothing. He probably wouldn’t have chosen drowning - that was Virgil’s idea - but it seemed like an easy enough way to do it, and in the end, he thought, it didn’t really matter how he did it. In a few seconds he would be gone, and drowning would be as good a death as any. He had always imagined that the last few seconds would be filled with thoughts of his life – of the little beauty he had seen in his youth, but all he could think about as he lay there, holding his breath, was how his body would look when they found it. He imagined some detective, someone he had known, no doubt, strolling into his bathroom, notepad in hand, and finding Max’s body, all blue and ivory, bobbing in the bathtub.

Poor Mr. Milligan, they’ll say, he thought. What a tragedy, they’ll say. No one had any clue he felt this way! He imagined everyone’s pity. He despised their pity.

‘You’re stalling. Just let go, Max. Exhale and let your lungs fill with water. Let the pain all slip away.’ Virgil’s voice bubbled out from the distance, and Max could just see his head rippling above the surface in the corner of his eye.

Max held on tight to the air in his lungs. He was stalling. Just a few more seconds. Suddenly he began to doubt himself. He began to feel afraid. Was this the only way? He tried to find some thing to cling to, a reason to stay; some beauty so perfect that it could save his life. There was none, of course. There had been so many long ago, he thought. So many questions, so much beauty – so much life and experience ahead of him. Stop it. Virgil’s right – just let go. He had nothing to be afraid of - life was the terrifying place. Life was where the demons dwelt. But death would be different. Empty. He longed for the emptiness. He longed for the nothingness. He longed for nothing.

Max snapped his eyes tightly shut, and as the darkness enveloped him, he slowly let out the air from his lungs, and it poured out into a torrent of bubbles which disappeared above his head, popping away to nothing on the surface. He was ready now. He began to feel his body sinking ever so slightly deeper into the bathtub.

Just as he began to open his mouth, and prepared to let the lukewarm water course into his lungs, he began to hear something. A loud beeping noise was bubbling through the water, and he instantly recognised it as his smoke alarm. Without really thinking about what he was doing, Max instantly sat up in the bath and the piercing sound became instantly louder as the water drained from his ears.

‘What?’ Virgil looked down at him from his perch at the side of the bath, seeming undisturbed by the whole situation.

‘That noise,’ said Max, trembling. ‘There’s someone in my house.’

‘There’s no one in your house, Max, it’s just in your imagination, just get on with it, before you lose your balls.’

But Max knew what he was hearing – this wasn’t his imagination. He climbed to his feet and negotiated his shaking legs out of the bathtub and onto the bathroom floor. For a second he stood motionless, just listening to the piercing beeping which stung his ears, and the drip-drip-drip of his saturated suit depositing his bathwater onto the tiled floor.

‘For Christ’s sake, Max, it’s nothing,’ snapped Virgil. ‘Just finish it – now.’

But Max had already begun to make his way towards the hall, apparently with little care for Virgil’s pushing, leaving tiny pools of glistening water in his path.

There was someone there alright, Max could tell. After a thirty year career as a detective, Max had learned to trust his intincts. His flat didn’t feel right, it felt disturbed. There was definitely someone there. When he reached the hall, he began to slow his pace down, and he crept, almost tiptoeing towards the kitchen. As he reached the illuminated archway that led into the kitchen, he felt many emotions welling inside of him, but mostly he felt anger. I can’t even kill myself without someone breaking in and interrupting me. He looked around for a weapon, and after seeing nothing more suitable, he picked up a cane from the hat stand in his hallway. The cane had a real ivory handle and had belonged to Max’s grandfather – it had been his pride and joy and Max was certain that he would disapprove of him using it as a weapon.

Slowly he tiptoed into his kitchen to see his toaster spewing smoke, and a tall, dark haired man in dirty, ripped clothes standing in front of it, waving a towel to try to dissipate the smoke.

‘Who are you?’ snapped Max from the archway that led into the hall, his cane held defensively in front of him. ‘What do you want from me?’

The stranger instantly swung around, and stood, frozen on the spot looking at Max, before bolting for the door. Max could hear the squelch-squelch-squelch coming from underneath his feet as he ran after the intruder. A much younger man than Max, he quickly bolted out of the house, and left without explanation.

Max stood at his front door, which was still swinging open, and listened to the man’s footsteps echo down the stairwell. He knew there wasn’t a chance in hell of catching him, so he stood there and listened until the footsteps died away and once again all he could hear was the drip-drip-drip of his soaking clothes.

‘No one here then?’ Virgil’s voice coming from the hallway startled Max. ‘I told you it was nothing.’

‘There was a man,’ snapped Max. ‘He was in here just now. His clothes were all ripped and he looked like shit. And he was making…’ Max walked over to the toaster on his marble worktop, which had now stopped spewing smoke, and pulled from it a charred slice of Hovis. ‘…Toast.’

‘Oh, come on Max,’ sighed Virgil, ‘you have to be kidding.’ He began to walk slowly towards Max, rolling his eyes. ‘You mean to tell me that at the exact minute you’re finally ready to do it – that precise second we’re gonna do what we talked about all these years, a man walks into your house and ruins it? Bullshit, Max – you’re full of shit. That’s just a little too convenient, mate.’

‘He was here, in my house,’ pressed Max. ‘I saw him; I’m not making it up.’
‘If you keep doing this you’ll never escape, Max,’ said Virgil, turning his back in disgust and walking back towards the bathroom, raising his voice more and more the further away he got. ‘There’ll always be an excuse; you’ll always find a reason to pussy out. This isn’t a game, Max. This is atonement.

Max dropped the charred toast onto the worktop, and turned to follow Virgil. Maybe he was right. Maybe he did make this guy up. It was very convenient timing after all. As he turned, he noticed something lying there next to the toaster. It was a scrap of paper. He picked it up and read the handwriting that was scrawled across it.

          ‘Dear Max, d’

Dear Max? He was here. Max hadn’t imagined him. But who the hell is he? And how does he know my name?


Kathy Heath clambered up the stairs, struggling to keep the recently cracked plant pot in her hands held together, and to keep the banana plant which it housed from falling to the ground. She now cursed herself for lugging it all the way up to Marchmont; but when she had seen it at the office, she thought of her recently departed new boss and decided to return it. The detective under whom she had worked, Max Milligan, had left recently (she wasn’t quite sure if had left of his own accord or not - it was all a bit strange and sudden), and he had forgotten to take his plant, (which he adored), with him. He had always seemed such a sad and lonely creature, and Kathy thought it would be a good deed to return it, and also she wanted to wish detective Milligan all the best in the future.

Soil was beginning to leak from the cracks now; as Kathy began the last flight of stairs. Some idiot had come tearing down the stairs and through the close, knocking Kathy, and the plant pot, over in the process. He had stopped to apologise, but not long enough to help Kathy up, or to help retrieve the cracked plant pot. Bloody idiot, thought Kathy. Why can’t people look where they’re going?

Kathy scaled the last few steps and came to the third floor, panting for breath, and immediately spotted the door labelled ‘Milligan 3F/2’. As she walked over to it, she noticed that it was sitting slightly ajar.

Max sat in his armchair, still dripping wet, holding his ivory handled cane across his lap. The world in front of him was a blurred sea of colours, rippling in drunken waves. Suddenly, through the silence, Max began to hear creaking coming from the hallway. Yes… footsteps – he’s back, he thought. He took a tighter grip of his cane and stumbled to his feet, and before long, a figure appeared in the doorway.

‘What do you want from me?’ roared Max at the top of his lungs. ‘Why are you in my house?’ Then, as he looked closer, he saw that this was no man. As his eyes began to focus, he realised that it was a woman, standing timidly in the doorway holding a banana plant.

‘Sorry, Detective Milligan… I… I didn’t mean to disturb you… I was just bringing your… and … and your door was open…’

Max looked closer and recognised the girl. ‘Kathy?’

‘Yes, Detective Milligan. Sorry, I just wanted to bring you your plant… it’s just you always seemed to love it so much, I thought you should have it with you…’ Kathy eyed Max’s soaking clothes and the cane which he held defensively in front of him. ‘Are you… okay, Detective Milligan?

Max sighed and slunk back into his seat. ‘I’m fine,’ he growled.

‘I’m… I’m sorry about your plant… it got a bit cracked. Some guy knocked me over as I was coming up the stairs, and-’

‘A guy? What guy?’ interrupted Max.

‘I don’t know,’ said Kathy, still visibly quite afraid. ‘Just some guy… he came tearing down the stairs like the devil was chasing him.

Maybe he was, thought Max. ‘Was this guy wearing a green jacket and a baseball cap?’

‘Yeah,’ replied Kathy. ‘Do you know him?’

Max coughed and lit a cigarette, which obscured his face in a cloud of smoke. ‘No,’ he said, almost laughing, ‘but he seems to know me. He broke in here just now, to my flat.’

‘My god,’ replied Kathy, feeling the fear that had been welling in her slip away, ‘are you okay? Did he hurt you…what did he take?’

‘Nothing,’ growled Max, feverishly puffing at his smoke. ‘In fact it looked like he was leaving something…’

Kathy took a couple of steps towards her old boss, which clearly made Max uncomfortable.

‘Thanks for bringing me up my plant, Kathy...’ he said, ‘…but I think you’d better go now. I… I need to be alone just now.’

Still Kathy advanced ever closer. ‘Are you hurt? Was there a struggle? Is that why you’re all wet?’

She was getting far too close, and now, more than ever, Max needed privacy. ‘Please Kathy,’ he shouted, startling the girl. ‘I – need – to – be – alone!’

Kathy, ever the Good Samaritan, put aside her own fears of the ever more irritated, clearly drunk man in front of her, to ensure that he was okay. ‘But… detective Milligan… you’re soaked to the skin and out of breath…You’ve just had a break in! I need to make sure you’re okay before I-’

‘Leave me alone!’ roared Max, trying to get to his feet. ‘Don’t people knock anymore, anyway?’ He had to get rid of her. He couldn’t bear human company just now. He needed to be alone.

‘…the door was open…’

‘That doesn’t mean you can come waltzing in here, sticking your nose into my affairs!’ Max got up and began to stumble towards the hall, reaching for his overcoat, snapping again. ‘If you won’t bloody well leave, then I will. Show yourself out, Kathy.’ And with that, he left Kathy alone in his flat, slamming the door behind him.

Kathy stood, dumbstruck, still holding the cracked banana plant in Max Milligan’s hallway, desperately trying to make sense of what had just happened. How ungrateful, she thought.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

KitFosterDesigns.com is online!

Announcing the birth of KitFosterDesign.com! After many weeks of blood, sweat and messing around on the Piano whilst my friend Andy did all of the work, KitFosterDesign.com is now finally online. I'd like to say a really big thank you to all of the authors who gave me the opportunity to work with them to create this portfolio. A huge thanks to Andy Squires, too - without him I my website would no doubt have been shocking.
So please stop by and check out my shiny new site!

- Kit

Friday, 21 October 2011


The Second Coming by Griffin Hayes

Bird of Prey by Griffin Hayes

The Next Stop is Croy and Other Stories by Andrew McCallum Crawford

Sex, Death and Mind Control by Robert Chazz Chute

Saving The World by R. Eric Swanepoel  

Night Sighs by Emma Meade

Don Coyote de la Merika by Kathryn Anthony

Persephone's Library by Kathryn Anthony

The Grip by Griffin Hayes

The Owl's Mirror by Wilfried Wlochal

Apocalyps by Mark Ronald Robinson 

New Raine by Sass Cadeaux

Sex, Drugs and Romeo by Robert Chazz Chute

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cover Designs III

Hi All - not had much time to write lately as I've been doing so many covers. Here's what I've been working on.

Bird of Prey by Griffin Hayes

The Next Stop is Croy and Other Stories by Andrew McCallum Crawford

Night Sighs by Emma Meade

The Owl's Mirror by Wilfried Wlochal

Monday, 29 August 2011

Cover Designs II

Hi All,

As I said in a previous post, I've recently been doing some cover design work for authors. Below are some of the fruits of my labour. Please let me know what you think!

To build my portfolio with a view to building a design business, I will be offering to do a free cover (back and front) for any author until 30th September (2011) - so if anyone wants to take me up on this, then please get in contact at: theterrapinempire@gmail.com.

Also, If anyone wants any more info about any of the novels listed below, please get in touch.

'Saving The World' By R. Eric Swanepoel

'Apocalyps' By Mark Ronald Robinson (Draft Version)

'Apocalyps' By Mark Ronald Robinson (Alternate Draft Version)

'Persephone's Library' by Kathryn Anthony

'Don Coyote De La Merika' by Kathryn Anthony (Unused Draft Version)

'The Owl's Mirror' By Wilfried Wlochal (Draft Version)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Novel Cover Design Tips

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Sure – but we all do, anyway. We don’t have a choice. Aside from the hundred-or-so words on the back and the occasional review (if you’re lucky enough be reviewed), the front cover of a book is pretty much all a perspective buyer has to go on. So as the main tool that you use to market your magnum opus – the work into which you have poured your heart and soul, and countless lonely hours hunched over a keyboard – you had better make sure that it is the very best it can be.

So what makes a great cover? Hmmm… that’s a hard one to answer, as there is no one thing that makes any work of art great. And that’s just what your cover needs to be – art. It needs to be good enough to represent the potential Pulitzer prize winner it contains. Why spend all that time slaving over sentence structure and character arc, only to shoot yourself in the foot at the last hurdle by settling for anything less than a brilliant cover?

I’d like to share with you a few tips that I find useful when creating covers, and a few pitfalls to try to avoid, too.

  • Don’t settle. I mentioned it above, but it’s such an important rule that so many self published authors over look, I felt that it needed to be reiterated. Never settle for any thing less than the perfect cover for your magnum opus.
  • This one is really a personal thing – don’t put a clear image of your main character’s face on the front cover. I feel that this encroaches on the reader’s imagination and doesn’t permit them to build an image of the character through descriptions woven into the prose. If you feel you have to put a character on the front cover, I find that simply the suggestion of a character is much more effective. Think shadows and silhouettes, or even just a view where the face is obscured. From the back, perhaps?

  • Perhaps the most important one of all, keep it SIMPLE. Bold, striking designs tend to catch the eye better than over complicated pieces. Many amateur-looking book covers fall into the trap of being overcrowded to the point of being undecipherable. In many cases, if it’s done right, you don’t even need to use an image at all. If the text is bold and impressive enough, it alone can make for a great cover. For good examples of this, see the covers of ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’ by Phillip Pullman, or ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy.
  • Make your title clear. It sounds obvious, I know, but all too often I see covers, and not just by self-published authors, where the title is crammed in to the very top of the cover in a tiny font, or placed haphazardly on top of a busy image that obscures it. Stay away from unreadable fonts, too. Within a split second of picking up your book, the customer shout know the title.
  • For most self published authors, and indeed most traditionally published authors too; their main source of customers will be on the internet, though sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so it is incredibly important that your cover looks good at a smaller size, as nine times out of ten on these sites it will be displayed as a thumbnail. This is where making it bold and simple becomes really important, as it will still stand out when reduced in size.
One of my favorite book covers of all time illustrates all of the above beautifully – the original Penguin cover for Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, designed by David Pelham. It is Bold and eye-catching; it uses a character, but it is only the suggestion of a character, and with out a face to distract, and the title is clear and bold. I also love the way that the bright, almost comic-like effect contrasts so much with the dark themes of the book. But above all, this design works so well because it is simple and memorable. Follow these tips and you should be a lot closer to designing that perfect cover!

If you have any tips etc to add, I'd love to hear them!

- Kit

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cover Designs

Hi all,
I know it's not strictly speaking fiction, but I thought I'd share these with you anyway. I've recently been doing a lot of work designing covers for self published authors, and below are the finished results for a few soon-to-be-published novels, plus some of my own works. Let me know what you think!

Also, if anyone is looking for design work done for their novel, let me know and I'll be happy to knock something up for you!


After the Revolution

King Kong By Callum J. Stewart

Welcome to Nowhere

You Can't Say Dallas Doesn't Love You

The Second Coming By Griffin Hayes

This City Never Sleeps

Persephone's Library by Kathryn Anthony

The Known Experiment by Mr. X

'New Raine' by Sass Cadeaux

'The True Tale of Snow White' by Eduardo R. Chavez

Sex, Drugs and Romeo By Robert Chazz Chute (Draft Version)

The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1
By Callum J. Stewart

See my latest collection of my covers here, and here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Welcome To Nowhere

Howdy all - I'm afraid the updates have been a little thin on the ground of late - this is because I've been spending my hours editing my first full length novel, a mystery/thriller called 'Welcome to Nowhere.' The novel follows the story of FBI agents Jack Burton and Celia Washington, who are sent to a remote town in the Arizona desert to investigate a series of strange murders. The townspeople have begun killing each other, apparently without motive or even any memory of their crimes and the two agents are in a race against time to solve the mystery before the body-count grows any more. As Burton and Washington immerse themselves in the small backwater town and begin their investigation, they come to realise that these murders are only the beginning, and that the case is much closer to their own hearts that they could ever have guessed.

I'm hoping to have this finished and available for sale in a couple of months (I'll keep you posted on that), but in the meantime I thought I would share a little taster of it with you. Please feel free to offer any constructive criticism; It would be very gratefully received. Enjoy!

Welcome To Nowhere


It had been one of those nights; the instant he opened his eyes, he wished he hadn’t.

Frank Zuckerman finally awoke to the sound of heavy knocking at his front door, and as he rubbed his pounding head, which felt as though it had spent most of the night in the tight clutches of a vice, he struggled to remember even one vague detail about the previous night’s events. It had been a wild one; of that much he was sure. Past the third tequila shot there was nothing; no memories at all. He hadn’t been that out of it in a long time.

The knocking began again, this time louder and more impatient. Okay, I’m coming.

He stumbled out of bed, hardly opening his eyes; hardly able to open his eyes. Using only his memory, and the blurred strip of colours that occasionally flashed between his eyelids, he scrambled his way towards the staircase and began to feel his way around. With each clumsy, pained step he took, his head swam, begging him for caffeine.

Out of the fuzzy, incoherent world that lay beyond his heavy eyelids, he suddenly became aware of another noise; a different, more piercing noise occasionally making its presence known behind the wall of knocking. As he descended the stairs, the noise drew closer and as he slowly focused, he recognised it.

Pip… pip… pip…

The fire alarm in the kitchen. This wouldn’t be the first time he had come in late at night with a post-alcohol appetite and accidentally left the oven on.

Slowly he became more accustomed to the waking world, and his eyes gradually began to focus as he descended the staircase. He looked down at his wrist and checked his watch, which had been left on from the night before and had left small indentations in his skin where it had dug in during the night. Seven fifteen? Who the hell’s knocking my door down at this time on a Saturday morning?

As he reached the bottom of the stairs and began to cross the long hallway towards the front door, he noticed a dark stain on the tips of his fingers. Stopping to take a closer look, a wave of adrenaline ran through him as he recognised the maroon stain instantly. Blood.

He’d had bleeding noses a lot as a child, but he hadn’t had one for years. He figured it must have happened whenever he got home last night and was either too drunk to do anything about it, or too drunk to care. Knowing he couldn’t answer the door with blood all over his nose, he turned around towards the full length mirror at the side of the room to assess the damage.

Suddenly, the banging stopped and there was silence. As Frank Zuckerman’s eyes swam in to focus on the reflection of himself, he froze. In a split second, his stomach turned to lead, and he was instantaneously wide awake.

His nose was clean; not a drop of blood.

As he looked down, he saw that the stains ran all the way up his arms. His denim jeans and his pale blue shit were covered in long maroon-brown patches. This is no nose bleed. Frantically he began searching for a wound that could have caused this amount of blood… but he found none; it was not his blood.

The welcome silence that the hallway had only just reclaimed was instantly cracked in two as the front door burst open, broken down with brute force. Frank Zuckerman turned around with his blood stained arms stretched out in front of him and saw the dark, towering silhouettes of two large men standing the doorway.

Part One

~ The Man with the Brown Leather Gloves ~


Twenty miles south of Wikieup pass on highway ninety three, somewhere between Here and There, lies the town of Nowhere, Arizona. Nestled into a deep valley which had been cut into the earth thousands of years ago by the wide river that flowed past the outskirts of the town, and hidden behind long stretches of thick woods, Nowhere lived up to it’s name.

The long, dusty stretch of highway that joins Nowhere to the rest of the world simmered in the afternoon sun as FBI special agent Jack Burton pulled in to a small gas station at the side of the road. An old wooden sign, painted in crumbling, heat blasted paint towered above the one solitary gas Pump. The cracked letters read ‘The Middle of Nowhere.’

As Jack Burton slammed the door of his SUV, leaving his partner, Celia Washington, waiting in the passenger seat, he looked up at the sign and smiled as he rattled coins between his fingers deep in his pocket. Cute.

The gas station was crumbling in front of him and Burton realised that he was probably entering a place largely forgotten by the rest of America. Old car tyres of various sizes leaned against the grubby corrugated tin walls of the main building appearing to almost be holding them in place.

Standing outside the small building next to the lone gas pump was an old man, and a young girl of around six or seven pulling at his trouser leg. The old man stroked his white beard, which occasionally wisped in to nicotine stained peaks, and his toothless mouth gripped a wooden pipe that shot clouds of smoke in to the air.

‘Can I help you, friend?’ his pipe bobbed up and down as the words croaked from his yellow lips.

Jack Burton walked towards the man, using his hand as a sun visor. ‘I’m lookin’ for some gas…’

‘Well,’ replied the old man, ‘you’re in the right place.’ He shot Burton a toothless grin as the young girl pulled again at the man’s trouser leg. ‘Hush, Sally…’ he said to her, shooing her gently with his left hand, ‘you run along inside. Grandpa will be through in a minute.’

The young girl frowned as she stepped back into the shade and walked in to the gas station building.

‘Where you headed?’ asked the man, limping towards to Burton’s SUV.

‘Nowhere,’ replied Burton, a tiny smile crossing his lips.

‘Yup,’ the old man laughed as he began to fill the SUV with gas, ‘most folks on this stretch of highway are heading to nowhere. You’re not from around here, are you?’

Phoenix,’ replied Burton, pulling a coin from his pocket and rolling it between his knuckles. ‘Do I stand out that much?’ The sickly taste of gasoline caught the back of Burton’s throat, making him feel suddenly very queasy. The car ride out here had been bad enough without the stale reek of gasoline adding insult to injury.

The old man pointed down the badge hanging from Burton’s belt. ‘You CIA or something?’

Burton smiled. ‘Something like that… FBI.’ Trying his best to keep conversation to minimum, he stared intently at the numbers spinning incoherently on the gas pump.

‘You’ll be in town about what happened to Tom Douglas’ kid… terrible thing, that.’ The man looked towards the ground and shook his head.

‘You knew Jerry Douglas?’ asked Burton.

‘Place like this;’ replied the old man, squinting as he looked up towards the sun, ‘it’s so small if you stay here a while you get to know pretty much every one. I knew Douglas, and his folks; good kid. It's a damn shame, what happened to him... damn shame… god knows what was going on in that Zuckerman kid's head.’

'You knew Frank Zuckerman as well?'

'Sure,' replied the old man, 'his old man buys his kindling here... has done for years. Frank and Jerry used to ride along with him in the car. Thick as thieves they were, ever since they were just young ’uns. But,' he continued, 'I guess buddies sometimes fall out.' The old man rattled the nozzle of the pump against the outside of Burton's gas tank. 'That everything, friend?'

'Thanks.' replied Burton. 'How much?'

'Forty bucks.'

Burton handed the man two twenties and smiled as he tucked his wallet into his jacket pocket. ‘They fell out? And that’s why he killed him? Do you believe that?’

‘No,’ replied the man without hesitation, ‘But I guess it don’t matter much what I think…’

‘Please…’ Burton held out his palm, urging the man to continue.

‘Well…’ he said, looking up towards the crystal blue sky. ‘It was this place; this town. That’s what killed Jerry Douglas… not Zuckerman.’ The old man tucked the two twenty dollar bills into his trouser pocket. ‘This place got kinda’ a… history. I don’t know if it’s being way out here, cut of from the rest of the world or what, but this town does things to people. Back in eighty eight, two little girls…’

Burton interrupted. ‘The Peterman case, yeah…’

‘I guess you already know about that… you are the federal bureau of investigation. I guess it’s your business to know. Well… what happened in eighty eight and what happened to Jerry Douglas last night t‘aint no coincidence, agent, I can tell you that much. Being in the middle of nowhere does strange things to folks…’

Burton smiled at the man uneasily. ‘Strange things like what?’

‘Like what happened to Jerry Douglas.’ The man smiled, fully exposing his pink gums. ‘Can I get you anything else, agent?’

‘No, thank you,’ replied Burton, climbing into the driver’s side of his SUV. Burton smiled appreciatively once more at the man, before pulling off on to the dusty highway and heading in to Nowhere.


The dust on the road danced in the slipstream behind Jack Burton’s SUV as he tore down the desolate stretch of highway. Sitting in the passenger seat, checking her reflection in the rear view mirror, was Burton’s partner, Celia Washington. Beautiful brunette locks flowed over her olive skin, occasionally obscuring her deep green eyes. She straightened the collar on her power suit and gazed out in to the road ahead. ‘How far now?’

‘Not far,’ replied Burton. ‘A sign at the gas station said three miles.’

‘Good,’ replied Celia, yawning, ‘I need to stretch my legs.’ She looked on to the horizon as the town began to creep up from behind the trees. ‘These hick towns give me the creeps… Why the hell are we even out here, anyway? It doesn’t sound much like a federal case from the brief.’

‘You know why we’re here…’ grumbled Burton. ‘Paulsen’s still mad at me, so he found the shittiest assignment he could and placed me on it.’

‘Of course,’ replied Celia, half smiling, ‘…your little… encounter. Well, think yourself lucky, for what you did you could have got a lot worse than just a dull assignment. I think it’s quite reasonable of Paulsen…’

‘You would say that, Celia; you don’t know what he’s like. The guy’s an asshole…’

‘You punched him in the face! He would have had grounds to kick you out if he wanted… I’ve worked with him just as long as you have, Jack, I know exactly what kind of man Simon Paulsen is.’ She sighed and checked her hair in the mirror again. ‘And don’t get ratty with me – I’m the one that’s stuck on a dead end case in a dead end town in the middle of the desert because of your stupidity, remember. Sometimes I despair at being your partner…. Punching the boss…’ she muttered. Celia smiled, and looked out of the window. ‘But… I’m sure he deserved it.’

As she stared out she saw a dark figure appearing in the distance at the side of the road. Burton pulled down his sunglasses and looked out at the simmering silhouette. ‘It’s a hitch hiker; Jesus, he’ll fry out here. Do you want to give him a ride?’

‘Are you kidding?’ replied Celia. ‘Picking up some hitch hiker in literally the middle of nowhere? Haven’t you ever seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre? He’s probably some axe wielding maniac.’ As the car drew closer to the man his form began to become clearer. He was in uniform and carried a kit bag on his shoulder. ‘Technically…’ said Burton, grinning to himself, ‘we’re on the outskirts of Nowhere. Look, he’s a soldier for God’s sake!’ As Burton pulled over to the side of the road to pick the man up, Celia looked at his face. Great; a trained killer.

Burton wound down Celia’s window and called out to the man. ‘You want a ride, friend?’

The man smiled and pulled the back door open before climbing in to the back seat and wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. He wore a kind smile and spoke softly. ‘Thanks, I was sweating something awful out there.’

‘We’re only going as far as town; that okay?’

‘That’s great. I managed to catch a ride as far as the gas station a mile or so up the road, I just walked from there.’ He pulled his kitbag from his shoulder and rested it on the seat beside him.

‘What brings you to Nowhere?’ asked Celia.

‘Me? I’m going home. I’m stationed at the army base just outside town. I’ve lived here all my days, but I’ve just been up in Phoenix for a few months looking after my aunt. Man, does it feel good to be back. I missed the country air.’ He looked wistfully out of the window. ‘What brings you guys so far out?’

Burton looked the soldier in the eyes through the rear view mirror. ‘We’re performing an investigation…’

‘Are you guys cops?’

‘FBI,’ replied Celia, nodding towards a badge that swung from the rear view mirror ‘I’m Agent Washington and this is Agent Burton.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘There’s been a murder in town. A kid named Jerry Douglas?’


‘You knew him?’ asked Burton.

‘Sure,’ replied the soldier ‘I went to school with Jerry, I’ve known him forever. What the hell happened?’

‘Well…’ said Burton tentatively ‘I guess you’re going to find out soon enough. He was killed by a supposed friend. A guy named Frank Zuckerman?’

‘Frank? Jesus Christ, that’s huge… Those guys were inseparable. I can’t believe my mother never said anything on the phone.’

Celia turned around in her seat ‘I guess some things have to be said in person.’

‘Wh… why did he do it?’

‘That’s what we’re here to find out,’ said Burton, staring straight ahead at the road.

The soldier smiled sombrely, and then pointed out of the window to his right. ‘This is me; my mom’s house is just up that hill. Anywhere here’s just great.’

Burton pulled the SUV to the side of the road and with a smile and a half salute, the soldier jumped out. ‘Thanks for the lift, folks… I hope you find whatever you’re looking for.’ Burton smiled at the young man as he slammed the door and walked away from the car.

‘See,’ said Burton as he pulled off again, ‘he wasn’t an axe wielding maniac after all.’

‘Hmmm…’ replied Celia ‘…going to see his mother in a big house on top of a hill? That doesn’t remind you of anybody?’

Burton smiled as they headed towards the town. About half a mile up the road, they were greeted by a large green sign that read, in chipped paint:

‘Welcome to Nowhere’

It looked like a land caught in a time warp; it felt like the nineteen fifties with a hint of cowboy.

Celia looked out of her window at a large poster hanging in the window of the general store. A shiny, sleazy looking man dressed in a suit was staring out from it and underneath, the caption read:

‘Vote for Change. Vote for Caine.’

‘Look at him,’ she said to Burton, turning round. ‘Staring out with those sleaze ball eyes. Can you think of anyone you’d want less as the President of the United States? Another four years of him? No thanks.’

‘Well,’ replied Burton, ‘the election’s in a week and this is where he gets all his voters. Small towns like this; they probably love him here… look, there’s posters all around.’ Warmongering asshole.

President Charles Caine had been voted in to power nearly four years ago and his entire term had been a colossal historical disgrace. And yet, thought Burton, he does have a knack for rallying hillbillies. It was long thought that he had cheated his way in to power during the last election. He was well known, not only in the US, but across the world, as an odious, repulsive cheat… but still they flocked to go and vote for him in small towns like this. He was a face, thought Burton, to put on that horrible twenty first century idea of American patriotism; blind faith; that we should trust our leader, because he is in power… regardless or how he gained that power.

‘Not a single poster for Gable, either. At least we’ve never had him as president, so we don’t know for sure he’s crooked,’ said Celia, sighing as they pulled in to a parking spot outside a small café.

Burton smiled as the engine coughed to a stop. ‘He’s a politician, Celia. They’re all crooked. The very fact he wanted to become a politician makes him crooked.’ He climbed out of the SUV and slammed the door shut, feeling the warm sunlight beat down on his face. Taking a deep breath of the fresh country air, he turned to Celia. ’Well… welcome to Nowhere.’