Monday, 21 June 2010


  The smell of death was everywhere. Gerald Lynch wrinkled his nose, his eyes adjusting to the darkness inside the villa. He picked his way through the rubbish, shaking his head at the clatter of Palmer’s blundering outside. The small washroom off the entrance hall had overflowed.
  Shit and death.
  Lynch tiptoed across the hallway and gingerly opened a door, yanking it shut against the buzzing cloud of flies. The next entrance led to the kitchen, the floor strewn with empty cans and water bottles, plastic cups, rotting food and, oddly, a number of dried teabags stuck to the ceiling, flicked up there when they had been hot and wet, their little yellow and red printed tags dangling from tea-stained strings.
  He winced as Palmer stumbled into the building.
  Moving back into the hallway, Lynch found Palmer smoking in his white, open-necked shirt. The younger man had a linen jacket slung over his shoulder and a look of disgust on his reddened face. Lynch grabbed the fat arm, digging his fingers into soft flesh. He hissed, ‘Shut up, would you?’
  Palmer’s nervous laughter was a bark. ‘What, you think they’re here, do you? You reckon they’re hiding in the bog waiting for us? We wouldn’t have got within a mile of this place if they were still around.’
  Lynch shoved the young man away. ‘Shut up. And don’t touch anything.’
  Shaken by Lynch’s violence, he whined. ‘Okay. Anything for a quiet life. I wouldn’t have to be here at all if the Embassy hadn’t taken that call.’
  Lynch stole into the living room. The furniture was scattered; the terrazzo-tiled floor littered with clumps of stuffing from the destroyed sofa. He searched for the TV remote, gave up and walked over to the set. He pulled a pack of tissues from his pocket and wrapped one around his finger to switch the set on. The sound was almost deafening in the hot gloom: urgent Arabic, Hezbolla’s Al Manar channel. Snapping the set off, he turned to speak to Palmer, but the Embassy man had left. Whispering a curse, Lynch followed him to the bedroom doorway.
  ‘Christ,’ said Palmer.
  Lynch pushed past. The rich stench was appalling. The overturned bucket in the corner of the room spilled waste onto the burn-pocked carpet. Rusty streaks arced across the walls. Something darker, likely more shit, completed the artwork. Eyehooks were set into the wall at the opposite corner to the bucket, a long tangle of Day-Glo yellow rope coiled on the floor below them. The bedsheets were streaked with filth.
  Lynch flicked the newspaper on the floor with his foot: The Beirut Times, 22nd March. Five days old. He reached towards the piece of expensive-looking paper folded on the bed, halted by the sound of Palmer puking. Lynch wheeled, the rebuke dying on his lips as he took in the opened cupboard and the thing, once human, slumped inside. Pulling the paper tissue over his face, he shoved the retching man’s bulk aside and stared into the cupboard. The corpse stank, even through the scented tissue. Fat bluebottles crawled over sightless eyes. Dark rivulets crazed the marble white flesh. The slashed throat, an obscene second mouth, grinned blackly at them.
(I finished Beirut last night.)


Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Heartiest congratulations!

So, when will it be translated? ;-)

alexander... said...

What language you wannit in, ven?

Susan said...

Fantastic - congratulations! Now the real works starts :-)

Stained said...


the real nick said...

Great, another comedy!

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