A – Z Challenge Day 12

Day twelve of this April’s Challenge and my suggestion for today comes from one of my Twitter followers. Sakina Hussain and I have only been following each other for a short while, but she has given me some great encouragement with my writing and was kind enough to provide me with a few suggestions for this Challenge.

The word she suggested for today is “LEGERDEMAIN”.

Yes, that’s right, LEGERDEMAIN. She went right ahead and slapped me with a word I had never heard of before! Kudos to you, Sakina!

After looking it up I decided that I would use it, and this is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.


By Adam Dixon

“Ahh, but good, sir, a magician never reveals his tricks!” The old man flashed a broad grin at the bemused businessman and winked at his wife. Sweeping off his garish feathered hat and bowing low, he looked up at the assembled crowd.
“Would anyone else care to test the finesse of my fingers?” He asked dramatically. “I may look old and indeed I feel it during these cold winter months, but my dextrous digits are just as nimble and and eager as when I was a lad! How about you, sir? Perhaps you and your friend there would care to challenge me? Or you, madame? May I say what a fine coat that is? It is such a privilege to be entertaining a person of high quality this morning! Alas, no offence intended to my other guests, of course!” The small crowd gathered around him chuckled at the joke and a few of them agreed to test his skill.
“He can’t possibly win every time,” one man in a suit whispered to his lady friend. “Just watch, my darling, I’ll show the old fellow up!” The woman giggled and nuzzled him in encouragement.
Unbeknownst to them, a little girl who could scarcely have been more than ten years old moved among the crowd like a wraith. The girl was constantly surprised at how easy it was to distract people in the city. Here she was with her blond hair shining like a beacon amidst a sea of greys and browns, yet no-one saw her as she delved into their coats and purses. All it took was one charismatic old geezer with a silly hat and a few sleight-of-hand tricks and she could pilfer their valuables as easily as breathing. Of course, she had to have quick hands herself in order to do so, so at least the old man’s teachings had been worth the time.

The crowd oohed and ahhed as the old man made cards and coins disappear and reappear under the hats of his spectators. They cheered loudly when he began juggling first three balls, then four, then six, then eight and so on until their jaws hung low and their eyes were trapped following the whirling spheres. That trick was also a signal to the young girl; it was his final performance, so she had better hurry up. She swiftly stole a few more handfuls of coins and pound notes before backing off and striking up the same awed expression of those around her. Not a moment too soon, either.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been an excellent crowd!” The old man panted as he bowed low and flung out his hat, neatly catching all the falling balls in it one after the other. The crowd gasped and applauded, and the man bowed lower still.

“Thank you, thank you! You are most kind!” The man exclaimed, beaming at his audience. “I shall be performing for your pleasure here again for the following two mornings, so be sure to inform your friends and relatives!” The people were murmuring amongst themselves good-naturedly as they began to disperse, and not one of them noticed how light their pockets were. The young girl walked away slowly and turned the street corner. A few minutes of walking led her to a small churchyard, and she stood reading the cracked gravestones as she waited for the old man. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moist air of the morning, tasting flavour the old earth which wafted up to her nostrils.

“Well, how did we do this time?” The girl opened her eyes to see the old man standing next to her. She never heard the wily old sod approach and she had given up trying.

“Quite well,” she responded flatly. She held out the bulging pillow case containing her hoard and frowned as he snatched it away. After leafing through its contents and nodding, the old man looked up at her sharply.

“Can I trust that you’ve not squirreled some coins away about your person?” he asked suspiciously. She shook her head, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be enough. The girl didn’t blame him, really. One thief could never fully trust another. The old man seized her with his bony fingers and subjected her to the humiliation of forcing her mouth open to peer under her tongue and down her throat, as well as lifting her ragged clothes to check her undergarments. Such a display was indecent to say the least, and not at all befitting an older gentleman in Victorian society, but they were alone there and the girl was powerless to resist. Satisfied, the man released her.

“Mmmhmm, good,” he said, stooping to pick up the dropped pillow case. “You’re doing wonderfully, my dear, and I shall pay you your share once I have counted this up properly. You stick with me and we shall both be rich!” He cackled and strode away, not bothering to wait for her to reply.

The girl sighed and rubbed her arms where his fingers had gripped her. He still had strong hands for one so old, strong as well as fast. A small smile crept along the girl’s lips as she opened her palm to reveal a beautiful golden pocket-watch. It belonged to the old man, and he had coveted it ever since he had stolen it from a passing politician. The girl would sell it that afternoon and the man would simply believe that he had lost it somewhere.

“Your fingers are still quick, old man, but not as quick as mine!” The girl grinned to herself as she walked back towards the market. One day she wouldn’t need the old man anymore, and that day was fast approaching.

A – Z Challenge Day 5

Day 5 is here! With it comes my next prompt from Kate, and once again it is a brilliant one. Today’s word is “EFFERVESCENT”. You probably reacted the same way I did: a raised eyebrow accompanied by an appreciative nod. An excellent suggestion which stumped me for a little while. An idea formed once I decided to think slightly outside the proverbial box, and a sinister little narrative formed in my head.

So, consider that a brief disclaimer. THIS ONE IS DARK! Based on true events, too.

Here’s what I came up with.


By Adam Dixon

It’s just like the fizz from a glass of champagne, that’s all. John tried to fix that thought into his head as he continued pouring and the hissing filled his ears. Yes, just like champagne. The lovely, crisp bubbles that make it such a wonderful drink. What’s that word that fellow from the golf club used to describe it? That’s right, ‘effervescent’. Capital word, that one. I must use it more often! Beastly chap, though. Must avoid him in the future…

John continued holding the image in his mind as the noise from the within the oil drum intensified. It served the dual purpose of distracting him from what he was doing as well as motivating him to keep going. Think of the bubbly, John old boy, that’s the ticket! He also daydreamed of the next few meetings at Cheltenham and Ascot, and he noted that it wouldn’t be long until the Derby came around again, either. He could almost smell the cigarette smoke in the stalls, almost hear the excited babbling of the commentator and the thundering of hooves…

Eventually, the smell became unbearable and John was forced to vacate his workshop. The putrid odour of burning flesh had crept past the barrier of his gas mask, stinging his nostrils and making him heave. At least he’d finished pouring the acid this time; he was certainly becoming very efficient with his tasks. This time it had all been so easy! Well, practice makes perfect, Haigh old boy! John smirked behind the mask and moved away from the drum, scooping up the valuables he had liberated from the corpse. Mrs Durand-Deacon had certainly been a decadent old crone; he held in his hands three jewel-encrusted gold rings, a beautiful pearl necklace and a Persian lamb fur coat. He had, of course, relieved her purse of its contents as well and to the merry tune of several pound notes and a handful of shillings. A fine haul, indeed!

John placed his hoard into his attaché case before straightening up and steeling himself for his final task. He marched back to the drum and picked up its heavy lid. He paused for a moment, taking a final look upon the old widow. With her ludicrous hair style and claw-like false nails, Olive Durand-Deacon looked as ridiculous in death as she had done in life as far as John was concerned. He was aware of the strange new fashion trends which had sprung up once the war was over, but he couldn’t see that particular one catching on. People had better things to spend their money on, what with rationing still in place! Better things, like champagne…

John curled his lip contemptuously before slamming the lid down. He dusted his hands off, enjoying the squeak his rubber gloves made as he did so. He’d return in two days and poor, dotty Olive would be just a drum of sludge, waiting to be poured onto the adjoining patch of ground outside his workshop. The rains would then come and wash away every last trace of her. He’d try to make the money last a bit longer this time; he had gotten rather reckless with the capital he’d gained from the deaths of the Hendersons…

John unlocked the doors to his workshop and strode out into the street, pulling his mask off and breathing in deep lung-fulls of the chilly February air. The air cooled the sweat on his brow and the damp patches under his arms; moving the old crone had been hard work despite her short stature. Moving the dead weights was always the most strenuous part. He stood for a moment, ridding the smell of the burning woman from his nostrils and methodically removing his gloves and apron. As he did this he thought about all the places he would be visiting shortly with Durand-Deacon’s money in his pocket. First and foremost, he would be paying his pawnbroker a call. The rings alone ought to fetch a fine price! John thought gleefully. He’d checked them once he was out in the light to make sure that he hadn’t damaged them; he had been forced to pry them from the dead woman’s swollen fingers with his teeth. They were perfectly alright, sparkling gaily in the meagre winter sun. John smiled and walked to his car, whistling a merry tune as he did so. My thanks to you, dear departed Olive! John thought as he started the engine. I’ll raise a toast to your memory very soon! With that, John stepped on the accelerator and drove back in the direction of London, feeling very pleased with his afternoon’s work.



The prompt for this story was provided by Esther Newton. I have had the pleasure of writing for her a few times now, and it has always been rewarding. Check out her blog at https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/

By Adam Dixon


Dorothea hummed to herself as she folded her clothes and placed them into a suitcase on her bed. She straightened up and adjusted the towel wrapped around her head as it started to teeter to one side. Her damp skin smelled of luxurious bath salts beneath her silken dressing gown and her dark hair was enriched with the expensive creams and shampoos. As she brought the wayward towel under control she glanced at her reflection in the full-length mirror by her wardrobe. Dorothea was pleased with what she saw; she still looked twenty-five despite being almost a decade older and her blue eyes had lost none of their seductive gleam. She winked at herself and smiled demurely. Turning back to her suitcase she nodded in satisfaction and zipped it up carefully. She moved towards the bay windows of her bedroom and reached out to draw the curtains.
She froze. There was a black car parked in plain view outside and a man was sat behind the steering wheel, staring at the house. Dorothea blinked a couple of times and took a careful step closer to the window. The man was of medium height, somewhat scrawny-looking even from such a distance and he had a mop of ginger hair. The sunglasses perched on his beak of a nose were unnecessary in the dark street and they gave the man a sinister appearance. The man was looking directly at her bedroom window, and as Dorothea approached it his face broke into a grin. He raised a pale hand in a mock salute. Dorothea swore under her breath.
The phone on her bedside table rang, making Dorothea jump. Annoyed at her reaction, she strode barefoot across her shag-pile carpet towards it. A moment later, her mobile phone rang from its resting place on her bed. Dorothea stood for a few moments and listened to them ring. It amused her to hear the two phones sounding their distinct calls and competing for her attention, it was as if she were a doe between two warring stags. Well, if a stag ever sang “Spice up Your Life” by the Spice Girls, that is. She smiled and picked up the house phone.
“Hello, Dorothea Wilson speaking,” she answered smoothly.
“Evenin’, precious,” a man’s voice replied, high-pitched and cheerful.
“Detective McClean, what a pleasant surprise,” Dorothea said, lifting the handset and moving towards the window. The detective gave her a cheery wave with his free hand, holding his mobile to his ear with the other. Her own mobile continued ringing behind her, filling the room with cheesy pop music.
“Now, Detective, this is bordering on harassment,” she said, returning the wave lazily. “I know you were following me this afternoon and you are still hanging around. Surely you have a wife to go home to?”
“And miss a chance to keep an eye on you?” the detective grinned as he leaned back against his seat. “’Sides, she’ll have some trash on the box anyway, like that stupid sitcom with those losers in New York. Honestly, I’d rather just sit here.”
“Well then, colour me flattered,” Dorothea said, setting the handset down on the windowsill. She perched her rear next to it, lifting her leg to give her balance. Her dressing gown slipped and exposed her leg up to her thigh. She noted with the detective fidgeting in his car and smirked.
“Am I under investigation, Detective?” She asked. “You released me yesterday, so is there a reason that you’re keeping me company this evening?”
“Oh, maybe,” the detective replied. “But that’d be tellin’, wouldn’t it? For now let’s just call it surveillance.”
“Surveillance?” Dorothea repeated as she peered up and down the street. It was empty: the occupants of the highly desirable detached houses would be snoring in their beds by now. “Are you still on the clock then, Detective?”
“Nope, not this time, precious,” McClean flashed a toothy smile from below his thin moustache. “The boss won’t grant me any more overtime. Can you believe that?”
“Tragic, I’m sure,” Dorothea glanced back over her shoulder as her mobile stopped ringing. She stood gracefully and sauntered back to the bed to pick it up.
“Now, where are you off to, precious?” McClean said in mock disappointment. “You’re not gettin’ bored of me already, are you?”
“Perish the thought, Detective,” Dorothea answered sarcastically, smiling to herself. She flipped open the silver Motorola with her free hand. One missed call and one text message from the same number. She read the text.
R we gd 2 go? Boat will b ready in 30 mins. D x

Dorothea closed her eyes and sighed in resignation. She quickly thumbed a reply.
Fraid not. McClean outside. Will try again 2moz. Luv u x

“Why the sigh, precious?” McClean squeaked in her ear. “I’m not keepin’ you from anything, am I?” His voice had a mocking tone to it which tempted Dorothea to hang up. Instead she glided back to the window and smiled down at the detective.
“Of course not, Detective, I simply feel for your poor wife. All alone tonight because her husband would rather survey another woman. It’s almost sordid.”
“Yeah, almost,” McClean chuckled, and Dorothea could feel his eyes on her curves. “But don’t worry about my old lady, precious. She’ll have the brats keepin’ her company tonight. That’s if they’ve bothered to come home, anyway. Either way she’ll be fine, so I’ll just sit tight and keep an eye on you for a while.”
“Lucky me,” Dorothea replied sarcastically.
“Yep, it’s just like the lottery, ‘cept it’s free,” McClean leaned forwards in his seat, staring intently up at Dorothea’s window. They stared at each other in silence for several minutes. McClean’s smile faded and was replaced by a stony expression.
“I know what’s goin’ on, Mrs Wilson,” he said, the cheery persona slipping from his voice like a dropped mask. “Not the whole thing, I’ll admit, but I’m certain that I’m pretty darn close. You’re too smart to give anythin’ away but I’m on to you. I know your husband is contactin’ you, and I intend to keep an eye on you ‘til we catch him.”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you are talking about, Detective,” Dorothea said calmly, holding back the panic she felt with practiced ease. “I haven’t heard a word from David since the morning of the theft, as I told your department this afternoon. If I knew where he was I would inform you immediately.”
“Yeah, course you would, precious,” McClean replied, sneering. “’Cos you’ve got absolutely nothin’ to gain from keepin’ him hidden from us, do you? Nothin’ at all…’cept for those millions of dollars he got away with, o’ course. You’d be like that crook’s wife from the Great Train Robbery they had over in Britain in the 60’s…just without the messy divorce later on, I’m sure.” He barked out a laugh, clearly pleased with the comparison.
“Well this is all very amusing, Detective,” Dorothea allowed her voice to betray her irritation this time. She absent-mindedly caressed her diamond engagement ring and golden wedding ring with her left thumb. “But it is getting late and I have had a long day.”
“Sure you have, precious, sure you have,” the jovial tone was back as McClean slouched in his seat. “You must be all worn out, I know my boys at the station can be pretty darn rigorous with their questionin’. Maybe you should get some shut-eye and try to forget the whole thing. Don’t worry, ole Marty McClean’ll keep watch tonight!” He cackled down the phone and Dorothea wished she could reach an arm through it and throttle the smarmy bastard.
“Glad to hear it, Detective,” she said, pulling the curtains closed with calm, controlled movements, shutting out her view of the policeman and his black car. “Goodnight.”
“G’night, precious. I’ll be seein’ you again soon.” The line went dead as McClean hung up. Dorothea sat down on her bed in silence for a few minutes, allowing her brain to tick over this new problem. Eventually, she picked up her mobile phone and sent another text.
D, McClean knows something. Might need 2 b taken care of. B careful. Luv u x

Dorothea then removed the SIM card from her phone and snapped it in half. She replaced it with a brand new one from a stash of them in her desk drawer before turning off the light. Outside her house, Detective McClean smiled and sipped on a flask of strong black coffee as he maintained his lonely vigil.
Three days later, David Wilson sat in his spacious yacht and read a text message from an unknown number.
D, McClean gone, thnk God. R u ready? Luv u x

David hesitated, his thumb hovering above the keys. He took a deep breath and replied.
Gr8! All set, just w8in 4 u. Luv u 2. D x
David put his phone into his pocket, a faraway look on his rugged, handsome face. A cough from the man seated in front of him jerked him from his reverie, rattling the cuffs on his left hand.
“So, what’s the deal, bucko? Did she bite?” Detective McClean leaned forwards, his eyes bright with anticipation.
“Yes, she did,” David replied, staring at the beautiful wooden flooring of the cabin. His arm was handcuffed to a railing and he kept flexing his fingers in agitation.
“Well, doggone it if that’s not the best news I’ve heard since my old lady said she was goin’ on a diet!” McClean grinned, sitting back against the plump pillows of the cabin bunk.
“I’m pleased to hear it, Detective,” David said, flashing McClean a black look.
“So was I, she was gettin’ a little too fond of those Wendy’s burgers,” McClean replied, still grinning. “Anyhoo, now all we’ve gotta do is sit tight an’ wait for the Ice Queen to show up. Johnson!” McClean barked a name, and a moment later a swarthy uniformed policeman poked his head into the cabin.
“Yeah, Detective?” He answered quickly.
“Get your ass in the boat next to us an’ keep your eyes peeled for Mrs Wilson,” McClean ordered. “The moment she turns up an’ comes in here I want you outta there quick an’ blockin’ her escape. Think you can handle that?”
Yeah, I can handle it, sir,” Johnson answered, wincing at McClean’s mocking tone.
“That’s great,” McClean replied, waving him off. “Now get to it! An’ stay outta sight, for the love of God!” Johnson retreated into the morning sunshine, and McClean turned his smug grin on David once again.
“He’s a real peach, that one,” he said. “Not much upstairs, but he’s one reliable cop.”
“Fantastic,” David replied, fidgeting in his chair. “Did you really need to cuff me so tightly, Detective?” He asked, glowering at McClean. “I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me, surely I deserve better treatment.”
“You deserve whatever I decide you deserve, bucko,” McClean said, a threatening edge creeping into his voice. “I wanted you to sing and you went full Pavarotti on me, but that doesn’t make you anythin’ more than a dirty, double-crossin’ thief, so shut your yap or I’ll forget about our deal and let you serve your full sentence!”
“Alright, alright!” David sighed and slumped in his chair.
“Good,” McClean said, smiling again. He tucked his hands behind his head and gazed up at the ceiling. “It was pretty stupid of you to leave the boat, Mr Wilson. You musta known that the whole county’d be lookin’ for you.”
“I needed to eat,” David shrugged. “I wasn’t expecting to be waiting for Dorothea more than a day.”
“Well, thank the good Lord for sharp-eyed shopkeepers, huh?” McClean chuckled and shook his head. “I can’t wait to see the look on Mrs Wilson’s face when she walks in!”
David did not reply, and before long Dorothea appeared. McClean was not disappointed: the look on her face was priceless.