An eclectic collection of short stories from the fuddled mind of Kerry J Donovan.
The Collection includes over two dozen stories ranging in length from fifty word micro shorts to a full-blown novelette. Comedy, drama, crime thrillers, romance, true-life tales, gory horror, historical epic—you’ll find samples of each.
The hauntingly evocative semi-autobiographical tale, Sweet William, and the poignant, The Phone Call, are stories to tug the heart and bring tears to the eye.
In The Long Wait, Ryan Chisholm has spent seventeen years waiting to avenge the death of his father.
A Father’s Tale is a heart-warming story of family life told in short vignettes.
At over 7,000 words, The Chamber is the longest in the book, and perhaps Kerry’s most gruesome tale. Psychopath Porter Robinson holds Robert Forbes captive in a cellar and tells him a tale from Porter’s childhood. Will Forbes survive, or will he go the way of countless other victims? This is definitely not for the people of a timid disposition.
If you enjoy your fiction in short bites and read across many genres, The Collection is certain to delight.
Taking Your Life In Your Hands
Sweet, Cold Revenge
It’s five minutes to midday and I sit behind the wheel of my taxicab, staring at the imposing black wood and wrought iron gates of Her Majesty’s Prison, Garside. Razor wire tops the gates and the twelve-foot high granite walls.
I’m waiting for the bastard, Wilkes, to step out from behind those doors. It’s taken every penny I have to make sure I’m the one called to collect him on the day he’s released.
It’s a grim winter’s day, grey and cold, but inside I’m a boiling cauldron of hate.
A howling wind whips eddies of dead leaves and rubbish into drifts against the rough-hewn walls. I’m parked diagonally across the road from the gates and I can see the south face of the jailhouse.
I grip the steering wheel with white-knuckled fists, and I wait.
Cyclists take their lives in their hands every time they hit the open road on a bike in England. Every second driver seems to be out for cyclists’ blood. An alien visitor would think Kill the Cyclist a national spectator sport
In my thirty-odd years as a road-racer, I’ve been sworn at ad nauseam, knocked off three times, and hospitalised once—sideswipe, whiplash. All caused by drivers who thought themselves more deserving of a specific piece of tarmac than my bike and me. Only one of those drivers ended up paying for their actions. But he didn’t pay nearly enough, not yet.
Eighteen months earlier
Steve ‘Stocky’ Stock and I were near the end of one of our manic training rides. It was, as I recall, a wonderful spring afternoon. One of those surprisingly warm April days that offer the promise of a long, hot summer to come. With the trees in bud and the days lengthening, it was a beautiful day to be out training. So good was the weather, I’d taken my competition bike out of its winter storage, dusted it off, and gloried in its freewheeling majesty.
Our route meandered through quiet villages and leafy lanes and we finally had the wind at our backs after fighting it for much of the way out. We made great time and had just rolled through the picturesque village of Preston Deanery, on the B562, heading for Northampton and home.
We rode two abreast on the empty road, chatting.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear all you drivers out there shouting, “Bloody cyclists, side-by-side on narrow roads holding up the traffic. You bastards deserve all you get.”
In our defence, we were in a 30 mph zone, and my trip computer registered 29.7 mph. So whom were we holding up? Besides, there was no traffic.
About four miles from Northampton, we closed on the village of Wootton. The fields and hedgerows gave way to houses and industrial estates and the road rolled downhill in a gentle anti-clockwise arc.
Our speed slowed when we negotiated a mini-roundabout and a car horn blared at us from behind, angry and impatient.
I glanced back. A silver Mercedes Benz SLK, soft-top lowered, careened towards us at Mach 0.5—half the speed of sound.
Without reducing speed or removing his hand from the horn, the driver swung out to overtake. Once alongside, the driver slowed the car a tad and shouted something unrepeatable. His blonde trophy passenger shot us a double ‘V’ sign with arms waving in the air.
At that same instant—and I still can’t believe he did this—the bugger jerked his steering wheel to the left and sent the SLK veering towards me!
The look of malevolent glee on the animal’s face as he did it will live with me until Alzheimer’s finally takes its toll on my memory.
Blondie squealed with delight.
“Look out!” I screamed.
I twitched my handlebars left to avoid the car. Stocky and I bumped shoulders.
At the speed we were travelling, neither of us stood a chance.
We hit the tarmac in a tangle of broken bikes, broken bones, and scraped to the edge of the road, screaming.
The pain of skin tearing over the cheese-grater road surface is a terrible thing. The mesh scars on my shoulder, back and hip have faded to white, but will never disappear.
With nothing to stop us, we plunged off the edge of the road into a ten-foot deep, storm gully.
I felt nothing for a time until a hatchet smashed into my right kneecap. At least that was what it felt like. When I opened my eyes, I couldn’t see anything. My bike helmet, torn off by the fall and slide, twisted and bent out of shape, covered my face, blinding me. I tried to reach up to move it but my arms wouldn’t obey my instructions.
A low sound, a moan, drifted into my ears, but I couldn’t tell from where.
The axe bit again and I screamed, or at least tried to scream, but no sound came out.
Again, a low moan filtered through the pain. One thought stood out above all the others tangled in my fuzzy mind.
Each breath caused agony. The broken ends of at least two ribs scraped together and tore at the inside of my chest. The iron-rich taste of blood filled my mouth and I fought against the rising tide of panic.
I slowed my breathing and the pain subsided.
With slow, deliberate movements, I raised my head. The fragmented helmet fell away. I had come to rest on my right side staring at the muddy face of the ditch. My right arm was pinned beneath me. I couldn’t move it.
Turning my head to the left only made the axe fall again and my right kneecap split apart in a searing bolt of agony. Thigh muscles, no longer restrained by the patellar attachment, bunched into a tight knot and I lost control of bladder, bowel, and sanity.
Something howled with the fear and agony of a wild animal caught in a tooth-sprung trap.
I wanted to lose consciousness again to earn respite for the pain but the little voice in my head kept asking stupid questions.
Why isn’t he helping me?
Did I have a puncture?
I’m thirsty, can I have some water?
By clamping my jaws together, I stopped screaming and opened my eyes once more. Tears rolled down my cheeks and the agony flared again.
The human brain is a wonderful, protective thing. It has a built-in defence mechanism—adrenaline mixed with a host of other hormones and neurotransmitters—that blocks out pain when necessary. This was one of those times. My friend needed me and I had to help him.
I rolled onto my back to find the deep blue sky stretching above me. The sun, high to the left, bit into my eyes and I discovered the reason for my broken ribs and the grating sensation as I breathed.
The broken crossbar of my bike stuck out of my chest. Its hollow, broken tube stared up at me in an accusatory ‘O’. Stuck to the jagged edges of the torn metal were bits of flesh and drops of blood—my flesh, my blood.
I looked at it twice. I would have rocked with stunned, hysterical laughter, but the pain would return so I kept myself in check. Locating Stocky was the only thing holding me together.
Despite the damage caused by the fall-slide-plummet, looking back I can count myself lucky. I had a fractured patella, broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, crushed ribs, a broken right arm, cuts, and a road rash to rival corned-beef hash, but I was lucky in three ways.
First, the broken bike-tube was no longer attached to the rest of my bike—the other end had snapped clean off. This allowed me to sit upright without tearing the tube out of my chest. I learned later that the only thing stopping me from bleeding to death was the bike-tube, which plugged one end of an arterial bleed. Being downstream, the other end only oozed blood, it didn’t pump out.
Second, I’d landed in the soft, muddy part of the ditch. It cushioned my fall and prevented further damage.
Third, I’d avoided a concrete block that stuck out of the side of the gully. I’d missed it by less than three feet.
Yep, I was lucky.
Steve Stock wasn’t.
When I extricated myself from broken bicycle parts and half-obscured street-furniture, I saw what had happened to my fallen friend and wept.
Stocky had smashed headfirst into the concrete stanchion. A cycle helmet doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a motorbike crash-hat. Stocky’s had exploded on impact, and so had his head.
When faced with the remains of my best friend, I lost my mind. It took three paramedics to hold me down and strap me on my side on the stretcher. The heavy sedation kicked in and I knew nothing more until I awoke in the hospital the following night with my wife and children lying asleep at the foot of my bed.
In the eight months it took me to recover, I missed two important things.
The first was Stocky’s funeral. I saw it on a video link-up, so I attended in spirit if not in body. They interred him in a family plot on a beautiful summer’s morning. My family was there to support his family. Joan, my wife, presented Alex, Stocky’s fiancé, with a letter from me to place, unopened, in his casket.
It had taken me a dozen tries and many tears to write the seventeen words.
Sorry, mate. I couldn’t save you, but I’ll never forget you, and neither will the bastard. Goodbye.
The second thing I missed during my convalescence was the trial and conviction of the bastard who ran us off the road. A traffic camera had captured his act of road-rage, so the bloody things do have their uses after all. The police arrested him four hours after the ‘incident’ and he claimed not to have remembered overtaking any cyclists that day.
When the detectives played the video evidence to him in the station, he is reported to have broken down in tears and apologised for his actions. He blamed a family argument for his loss of control. He pleaded guilty to—and get this—‘Driving without due care and attention’!
Not murder, not manslaughter, but a simple lack of concentration.
He received an eighteen-month jail sentence with a further six months suspended because he didn’t have valid motor insurance.
The bastard, Mr Frank Wilkes, received eighteen months in a cushy jail cell, with colour TV, and three square meals a day. Steve Stock received an oak box and a plot in the cemetery.
I still have nightmares and haven’t ridden a cycle since that day. Damage to my inner ear means I can no longer hold my balance.
Call that justice?
It’s one minute to noon and the sun comes out to warm my face through the windscreen. Any minute now, he’ll be there. He’ll cross the road to my taxi and pop into the back, free as a bird.
What he doesn’t know is I’ve activated the childproof locks so he can get in but not out. I’ve installed bulletproof glass in the windows and a five-millimetre Perspex sheet between the passenger’s cabin and me. Once he’s in the back, he’s staying there until I let him out.
Under my seat is the two-foot long bike-tube they pulled out of my chest during the operation that saved my life. I’ve wrapped one end in electrician’s insulating tape. I wouldn’t want a slippery handle, now would I? I’ve sharpened the other end to a razor point.
The prison gates open and out walks a smiling Mr Frank Wilkes. He shields his eyes from the strong sunlight and steps towards my cab.
My heart is stone and my blood is ice.
Kerry Donovan's novels keep you attached and consumed: the stories in this anthology are another reflection of the power of this writer. Bravo!