Excerpt Two

Here you will find the continuation of Lynch Heinouson: The Early Years, following on from the first excerpt and covering Lynch’s young life up as far as his first official murder.

3


It was the most important day of Samantha Carriage’s life. That meant vomit and lots of it.

Samantha had always had a problem with puke and important events. It was the tension.

She wasn’t married. She was attractive and pleasant to be around – it wasn’t that. She’d had proposals, but she’d declined them politely because she couldn’t stand the idea of the vicar asking if she took this man to be her lawful wedded husband and her saying “I bluuurgh” down the front of his robe. Better to steer clear.

Today she was pitching a marketing account to a vast company whose investment in what her company was offering would make them (and Samantha herself) particularly rich.

Her boss had applied a modicum of pressure on her, to ensure she did her best, in the form of a threat to obliterate her life if she messed up. Due to connections in the local branch of the Rotary Club he claimed to have the power to make her legally cease to exist. Samantha didn’t know if he meant it as a real threat or as a jokey pep talk but decided it was best to assume the former.

That was why she had prepared for this presentation harder and more thoroughly than for anything before in her life (including the time she bought herself a vibrator with a unique multi-ripple shaft and separate clitoris tickling arm).

When the hour came, the investors entered with her boss and took seats around the long polished board room table. The chief investor sat closest to her: a fat wrinkled Japanese man who looked like a cross between a carp and her elderly grandmother, Doreen. Samantha’s boss sat on the other side opposite him, to her immediate right. He didn’t look like any kind of fish. Maybe a dog.

The beginning of the presentation went well. The chief investor and his minions kept nodding and smiling at one another. Samantha’s boss grinned and nodded whenever he caught her eye.

For the first time in her life, Samantha was going to succeed without barfage. This might even mean that she could get married after all!

Then something happened.

Samantha wasn’t looking at the board room anymore. Instead she saw a series of images, each more horrifying than the last, flash across her eyes.

Her arms went out, her head dropped back and she screamed.

“Oh my God! Something awful’s going to happen!”

She’d never had a premonition before but she knew it for what it was. She screamed again.

“The sky on fire! An explosion! Thousands dead! People lying in the streets! Bullets being fired! Hundreds and hundreds of bullets!”

The chief investor looked uncertainly at Samantha’s boss. He chuckled and looked nervously back.

Samantha grabbed the chief investor’s tie and yanked him forward.

“You don’t understand! Nothing can stop him! Nothing! He’s going to kill and kill and kill and he’s going to enjoy himself while he’s doing it!”

The chief investor’s face turned blue. Samantha screamed again and threw him back in his chair.

She took several deep breaths then she screamed again.

“The end is coming! We’re all going to die!”

She screamed one final time as the visions of horror vanished then she threw up on the chief investor, staggered across to her boss and threw up on him.

There was a silence in the board room. Samantha delicately wiped the vomit off her chin with her handkerchief, peering round at the shocked faces gaping at her. She cleared her throat, did her best to smile and said brightly, “And that’s why we think investing in our marketing plan is the best choice you could make.”


4


Haircut day was Lynch’s least favourite day of the month. He dreaded it in the way one of the French aristocracy might have dreaded a trip to the guillotine.

It was an oddly similar procedure.

He was six years old and Hell Hag pushed open the lounge door and shouted for him to get out of bed.  Lynch didn’t have a bed but he got up anyway.

He slept in the lounge of their flat in an armchair. He wasn’t allowed to sleep on the sofa in case his mum needed it for sex at short notice. On the few occasions he’d tried it he’d felt the pointy end of a high heeled shoe jabbing into his backside in the middle of the night, followed by being thrown literally head first out of the window and into the river.

Sometimes the window was opened beforehand. Sometimes not.

Lynch had never had any official swimming lessons but he had found a natural aptitude for it after his first plunge four years earlier. He had never heard the phrase sink or swim but if he had done it would have born a special meaning for him.

He didn’t like it when his mum had sex next to him when he was trying to sleep because it left him tired the next day. Try as he might he couldn’t drop off when she was bonking.  

Thankfully she frequently didn’t get as far as the flat when she had a client. Hell Hag wasn’t particularly choosy about where she conducted business: in the bog at the back of the pub, in the street outside, on the pavement, in the car, outside her building, on the stairs, or occasionally just in one of these places.

Their flat only had the one bedroom and after she’d told him to get up, Hell Hag slammed the door as she went back into it, shouting “Get the slab ready!”

Lynch gulped so heavily he almost swallowed his tongue; but he did what he was told. Going against his mother was NOT a good idea. She didn’t believe in discipline. She rejected it completely.

She believed in retribution. Discipline was far too soft a word for her methods.

He went through to the filthy kitchenette and put a stool in the narrow passage between the units. He climbed on it and reached for the slab from on top of the wall cupboard. It was a thick breadboard made of wood, big enough for two loaves side by side. It was covered in deep gouges.

Lynch started to sweat.

“I’ve got it!”

Hell Hag’s voice came from the bedroom. “Find the cleaver!”

He looked through the cutlery drawer. “Here!”

The bedroom door slammed open. Hell Hag stood framed, wearing tight black hot pants, matching stilettos and a burgundy bra. “Where is it?”

Lynch handed her the meat cleaver, struggling to lift it. It wasn’t the sort that came in a knife block for a wedding present. It was huge. It was butcher’s issue. It was the elephant gun of meat cleavers. The blade was like the oar of a boat. It had snags along its blunt edge and slits up its sides where old blood had caught and scabbed over.

Hell Hag said, “Right. Put your head on the block.”

Trembling, Lynch did so. When he looked up at her he could see more boob than face. In later years, that image would provide many a happy hour of wanking but now it simply chilled him. She put her hand round his throat and squeezed tightly enough to pin him down.

“Ready?” she asked, smiling.

“Yes,” stammered Lynch.

Hell Hag raised the meat cleaver above her head then rammed it down into the wooden slab, literally a hair’s breadth from her son’s scalp. It severed a bunch of hair as close to the skin as a razor blade would have taken it.

Lynch crapped himself.

She lifted it again. “Hold still you wimp.”

She chopped it down, skimming the side of his head, trimming another area.

Lynch crapped himself again.

Hell Hag manoeuvred round him, readjusting her grip round his windpipe to keep him pinned. “Are you alright?”

Lynch gargled and released another fist-sized chunk of faeces into his underpants.

“Good,” said Hell Hag.

She chopped down several more times, working her way round his head. Sometimes she nicked the skin but that was par for the course and certainly built spirit in a child. To her mind the meat cleaver method of cutting hair was far more efficient than any razor or scissors. She had often considered starting up a business in it but held back because, fun though it was, she didn’t want to be staring at sweaty bleeding heads all day.

When she was done, Hell Hag pulled Lynch back up to his feet and prodded him in front of the broken mirror over the cooker. There were numerous cuts all over his scalp but he had to admit she’d given him a close shave.

Hell Hag had brought Lynch up to believe that bald was good in blokes. “Show me a man with hair,” she’d say, “and I’ll show you a Nancy boy who should have his throat slit.”

Like most of his mother’s sayings, Lynch took this advice as literally as it was meant and added it to the growing library of handy tips she kept passing his way.




5


Jackie Guttierrez had a very serious problem.

He absolutely could not decide which Enid Blyton book was his favourite.

The Wishing Chair was definitely super. It was just so exciting to read about the children’s adventures when they flew hither and thither. On the other hand the Famous Five were fandabby. Having said that, who could beat the Faraway Tree with its politically incorrect characters: Moonface and Golly?

It had to be the Faraway Tree he decided. Yes. The Faraway Tree.

He lay back on a grassy bank in the school grounds and closed his eyes, imagining where he would go to if he could climb the Faraway Tree and be transported to another world. Probably to the Land of Fairies.

“Hey, look who it is! It’s girlie boy!”

Jackie sat up. “Did you call me?”

Three boys from the year above his stood close by. The nearest one, Carl, had only just transferred in from elsewhere and was busily trying to consolidate a power base as school bully. So far he had achieved this through a vigorous regime of name-calling and face-punching. As any good bully can attest, building up a rep throughout the playground as being a bad mother fucker wasn’t as easy as it looked. It required someone who was efficient, diligent, able to kick small children in the face and was a good team player.

This was the first time he’d caught Jackie in the open. Jackie tended to spend most lunch breaks and play times fawning at his teachers.

Carl wasn’t a bastard – his parents were married when he was conceived – but he was a nasty piece of work. The nerves down one side of his face were dead because of an accident he’d had with a steam iron as a child. This “accident” did involve his step dad shouting “How do you like this you little shit! That’ll teach you to eat with your mouth closed!” but had in no way affected the development of his personality. The immobile side of his face made him look a little like a zombie but Jackie thought it was sweet.

“He knows his name!” laughed Carl. “Girly boy!”

“Actually it’s Jackie but I don’t mind if you call me Girlie Boy. Do you want to come sit with me and chat?”

“What?”

“I was going to make daisy chains. You can join in if you like, though you might want to tuck in your shirt first. It makes you look a tad scruffy and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that.”

Carl looked down at his shirt. He felt like he was losing the initiative. “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes. You’re the new boy. I heard your name’s Cecil.”

“What?”

“Come and sit with me Cecil. We can gossip and I’ll let you plait my hair.”

The two boys with Carl sniggered.

“My name’s not Cecil.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it isn’t! It’s Carl!”

“Oh.” Jackie’s mouth fell. “Do you mind if I call you Cecil?”

“Yes!”

“Oh. Shame. Even if I let you call me Girly Boy?”

“Yes!”

“Oh.”

“What money have you got on you?” snapped Carl.

“Just enough for my sweeties. I can share them with you if you like.”

Carl started to feel hot.

“It’s in my purse,” said Jackie. “Here.” He got it out. It was a sparkly pink purse with gold clasps, a bow and a picture of a flower on the side. He tipped out the contents and held it in his palm. “Run along and get some sweeties for us from the tuck shop,” said Jackie, “then skip back here and we’ll eat them until we’re sick and just blow the diets!”

Feeling profoundly confused, Carl did the only thing he felt sure would get him out of the situation quickly. He punched Jackie hard in the face.

Jackie fell back on the grass with a split lip and a smile, climbing the Faraway Tree in his mind, dreaming of happy days with Golly and Moonface.

It was the first time he was punched in the face but it was far from being the last.

Carl wandered off with his friends, feeling sorry for himself, wondering if maybe daisy chains would have been a good idea after all.




6


Samantha Carriage shambled along the street, huddling into her coat, ruing the day when she discovered her precognitive powers.

She did a lot of ruing nowadays.

Her daily routine had some rue pencilled in before and after breakfast, in the middle of the morning, just after lunch and several times in the afternoon. She rued during dinner (if it didn’t taste very nice) and a couple of times before going to sleep in her cardboard box.

Most ruage was to do with the fact that her entire life had fallen apart, but she kept some spare for the coming apocalypse.

It had turned out that her boss hadn’t been giving her “a jokey pep talk” when he said he would use his Rotary club contacts to make her legally cease to exist if she messed up the presentation on the last day of her job.

Samantha had no money, no means to make anymore and no bank account to put it in if she ever did. Her only consolation was that she would never again have to go through the bastard number pressing, bad on-hold music and incomprehensible foreign call-centre clerks of telephone banking.

She had no home, no car, no cat, no dog and no teddy bear. Her main occupation was lurching into people with crazy eyes and shouting “It’s coming! Don’t you understand! The end! It’s coming!”

Sometimes she varied it so she didn’t get bored: “The end is coming! You don’t understand, do you! It’s coming! It’s coming soon!”

Or if she was really drunk: “Coming end! Understand you the don’t! Coming! It’s! It’s!”

She shambled into the opening of a shop and felt a terrible shudder. The edges of her vision flared with light so bright that the inner area, still showing her what was in front of her, faded out to white. Then the psychic vision came and Samantha lost hold of the breath in her lungs.

She grabbed a sales assistant’s arm. “Something’s going to happen!” she cried. “I sense death! It’s getting closer!”

“What?”

“People getting killed! You have to do something!”

“What?”

“Please listen to me, for God’s sake!” She shook him hard. “People are going to die!”

“Get away from me you freak!”

“No!” cried Samantha, “You have to listen!”

He pulled away, stumbling backwards, reaching for a clothes stand to stop himself falling. He missed, slipped and crashed through the plate glass window at the front of the shop, getting annoyingly decapitated at the same time.

There was a man on a ladder outside, cleaning the second floor windows. His ladder tipped back toward the fast moving traffic as the headless sales assistant rammed into it.

The window cleaner’s arms whirled then a truck hit him and he was carried off. The truck veered, straying into the other lane. It clipped the side of a coach full of old folk on an over sixties trip to the denture museum, sending it careening off the road and into a petrol station. It ploughed through the pumps and into the attached mini mart that sold overpriced drinks and sweets.

The pumps exploded. A fireball shot up into the sky. Windows all around shattered.

Samantha Carriage picked herself up out of the wreckage of the front of the shop. Several people on fire ran past screaming.

“See,” she said, “I told you… People getting killed.”

She noticed the sales assistant was no longer there to listen. He was impaled on the shards of glass pointing up in the bottom of the broken shop window. It looked almost as painful as the decapitation.

Feeling a little embarrassed, Samantha sidled away, trying to look nonchalant.




7


On Jackie Guttierrez’s eighth birthday (by coincidence, the same day as Lynch’s), his father, Emma, took him out on a very special trip.

Birthday presents were a huge thing in the Guttierrez family. Because of their wealth, they figured that over-commercialisation of family events was their way of giving a little back to society. That was the purpose of the trip: not so much to impart passed-down wisdom but to buy a large number of overpriced gifts for little Jackie. This had been the way of the Guttierrez family for generations.

Emma Guttierrez, Jackie’s father, had enjoyed a very positive relationship with his parents. Unlike the smack-around-the-head mode of guidance provided by Hell Hag’s mother and father, Emma (or as he had been known in those days, Brian) had been surrounded by love.

Brian was raised by three lesbians who made all their decisions as a committee. They encouraged their son to be free and caring and he had absorbed every bit of affection they had meted out to hand on to his own children. When he came of age he didn’t head-butt any of his mothers to death but continued to enjoy a long-term adult relationship with them. He never found out which one, if any, was his actual mother. They all insisted on sharing equal responsibility for him. He called them Mummy one through three.

Jackie’s eighth birthday was a landmark. While waiting for his beehive hairdo to set under the driers at the salon, Emma Guttierrez had read in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan that eight was the age of reason. After that a child could really develop an understanding of the world around them and take up the path toward adulthood in earnest. Emma and his wife Sarah both agreed that now was the time for their pretty little son to get what could be the most important gift of his life.

All five of Jackie’s sisters fussed round him when he got out of bed, making him ready: setting his hair, picking out an outfit, applying his foundation and lip gloss. They dressed him in knee length pleated shorts, a tweed blazer and a darling pair of shiny green buckle-up sandals. His breakfast was a huge spread of low cal/low carb luxury. The Guttierrez family had live-in French and Italian chefs and there had never been a more sumptuous morning repast.

“Are you ready darling?” asked Emma when all was eaten.

Jackie bowed and softly said that “Yes father,” he was.

He buttoned up his duffle coat and they left together, side by side, Mr Guttierrez wearing a formal navy blue dress that dropped down to his matching court shoes.

The limousine was waiting outside. It wasn’t pink; nothing so gaudy. It was mauve. The seating in the rear was covered in teddy-bear fur. There was a variety of faintly chilled non-alcoholic beverages tucked away in a hidden compartment. A selection of make-up was on hand for touching up if the wear and tear of the day became too much.

“Thank you Tarquin,” said Emma to the driver who held the door open for them as they climbed in.

Tarquin, whose real name was Jason, smiled as pleasantly as he could then stuck his fingers up at his employer’s back.

“Drive us to the centre of town if you would please Tarquin,” said Emma when they were settled. He patted Jackie on his knee. Jackie gave a squeal of delight and expectation.

The limousine rumbled into life and pulled away from the curb. Jackie bopped up and down with excitement while his father crossed one bare leg over the other and gave his most feminine smile.





8


On Lynch Heinouson’s eighth birthday, his mother, Hell Hag, took him out on a very special trip.

Birthday presents had never routinely been given or received in the Heinouson household. Hell Hag hadn’t had any when she was a girl and she didn’t see why the fuck her son should get some now.

Hell Hag’s relationship with her parents hadn’t been as positive and sadomasochistic as the one she shared with Lynch. It had been a darker time then, before power tools were so readily available. Her father, Larrikin Heinouson, had been nowhere near as generous with alcoholic beverages as she was, though one could only respect his famous pool hustling technique. It involved thrusting a pool cue up his opponent’s nose into the brain then stealing their wallet.

Her father had been the first person Hell Hag head-butted to death, which was not as easy as it sounds. It was a tricky procedure to do without cracking one’s own skull and the blood kept getting in her eyes. It was quite the rite of passage.

In lieu of birthday presents, there was a Heinouson family tradition that Hell Hag did continue that many might say was more positive, and certainly less commercial, than the giving of gifts. This was the imparting of wisdom: a present far more enduring than a toy knife with a retractable blade that makes it look like you’ve really stabbed someone (though perhaps not quite as cool).

Each year, Heinouson parent would take Heinouson child on a journey of discovery, to either a quiet spot to talk of this new wisdom or a slightly noisier spot to illustrate it. Heinousons since before the dark ages had followed this way and would go on doing so until the end of time (or until they were all gunned down by a police SWAT team).

Because Lynch was turning eight, his mother decided it was time to learn what she ascribed to being life’s most important lesson. While sitting on the karsee, Hell Hag had read that eight was the age of reason on a torn page from a back-isssue of Cock and Anus magazine. While she wiped her arse with it she mulled that over and decided she agreed.

The boy was starting to question the world around him and he was mature enough and had sufficient muscle mass to take this next step.

“Come on dumb-ass,” she said, “we’re going out you dumb little shit.”

Lynch followed her through the “streets” of their home slum. They were exceedingly narrow, mainly because of the four or five foot high piles of food scraps and vomit on either side that people chucked out of their windows, but also on account of the bodies. These were either drunkards or dead people but both were equally irritating to Hell Hag. Winos and corpses didn’t tend to react much to a stiletto kick in the face but it sure relieved a bit of the tension when they kept getting in the way.

The streets turned corners every twenty yards or so, forming an intricate maze of deeply shaded stink. That was how the residents liked it. The population ratio of criminals to good honest working folk was pretty high. If you weren’t a criminal yourself then your sister, brother or dad was (maybe all of them). Nobody wanted the police running round willy nilly, making out like they owned the place. The short lines-of-sight, as well as the poor hygiene of the residents, kept the cops out and the gonorea in.

Hell Hag exited the slum near the wharf with Lynch behind her and followed the water’s edge toward the centre of town. Because her legs were so long, Lynch had to jog every few steps to keep up. Hell Hag didn’t slow down for him. Every bit of adversity she could put in his path was all for the good. She didn’t want a vegetarian charity giver for a son when he grew up. She wanted a hard nut.

For example… On a rare trip to school as a girl, Hell Hag Heinouson had heard a story about the demi-god Hercules fighting off a serpent in his crib. This had seemed like an awfully good idea to her and she had long planned to try it out on her own child. After all, Hercules had gone on to be the world’s strongest man before he died horribly. She wanted the same for any fruit that popped out from between her well-greased loins. After she had Lynch she had set out to re-enact the incident.

The fact she didn’t have a crib was the first stumbling block. Baby Lynch slept in a wooden fruit crate. That wasn’t a big problem. The worst barrier was that serpents weren’t easy to find. In the end she’d had to settle for a large black rat. In the slum they were fairly common.

How well she remembered the day when, as a girl, she had woken up screaming to find four of them running across the covers of her bed. Her father (who hadn’t yet been head-butted to death) pulverised them for her with a Bovril tin. It had been one of their tenderest moments.

With this in mind, Hell Hag had caught the biggest rat she could find and (after starving it for getting on for a week) held it above her infant’s crate. Its body was longer than Lynch’s. Its fur was damp and matted. It had red eyes and pointed teeth that were individually longer then one of Lynch’s pudgy little fingers.

Hell Hag dropped the rat into the crate alongside her son. It turned round and round, sniffing, its long slimy tail brushing across the sleeping baby’s face, then poked its nose into his belly and opened its jaws wide.

It was the hardest thing Hell Hag had ever done to turn her back on that scene but she had, and when she came back later to find Lynch, still fast asleep, his tiny hand crushed around the throat of the enormous rat, she had known… she’d known that he was going to be her little Hercules.

And that was why on his eighth birthday she took him out of the slum to teach him this most important lesson and knew, as any proud mother would, that he would take that lesson learned and go out into the world with the same solid family values she had been brought up to follow.




9


Samantha Carriage was practicing babbling.

She wasn’t sure whether she was a madwoman or not but felt that if she wasn’t then she was probably heading that way.

In her former life as a Creative Account Manager, Samantha had been hot at her job. She’d been phenomenal. Some might say a whiz. That knowledge had made her happy and though she no longer held that illustrious and well paid position; though she now had to drink dirt soup out an old tire most nights; she was determined to be the best she could be at what she did.

That realisation had prompted some amount of thought about what constituted a “good” psychic madwoman.

Using a piece of coal to write on the inside of a pizza box, Samantha had made a list of the qualities she felt said psychic madwoman should have, so that she could aspire toward developing them.

Gibbering was on the list, as was moaning. Banging her head against the wall was something she already did so she crossed that one off. There was babbling of course and then dribbling.

Perusing the list on the steps outside the town hall, Samantha had decided it was an adequate starting point and made a start on babbling. Any fool could dribble but babbling was something she’d never really done.

She had a go.

The first attempt went quite well and earned her a couple of odd looks from passers by. That was good. On a scale of one to ten it was probably about a four.

She tried it again.

An old lady shook her head. A young mother hurried her children along.

This was going well. That one was a 5.8.

Suddenly everything went bright white and Samantha grabbed the sides of her head. She gibbered, moaned, banged her head against a nearby wall, babbled and dribbled but sadly wasn’t conscious enough to be pleased by her progress.

Then her eyes flicked open and she stood up. She didn’t scramble or climb up. She was suddenly just... up.

She stared straight ahead into the traffic passing by, the vision just now fading, to superimpose itself across reality. What she was seeing now was exactly what her vision had shown her: a long mauve limousine crawling slowly through traffic.

“Oh my God,” she said. She let out an involuntary babble that would have rated a nine point five on her one-to-ten scale.

The limousine was still moving but very slowly. Suzanne staggered to the side of it, through the near lane of traffic without even a glance for her safety and pressed her hands against the window.

A car skidded, trying to avoid hitting her and ploughed through a cluster of Dianetics. Passersby who were sick of being bothered by them cheered.

Inside the limousine, Jackie Guttierrez and his father watched curiously as the crazy looking woman started hammering on the glass with her open palms.

“What’s going on Daddy?” asked Jackie.

“I don’t know sweetie cuddle pop,” said Emma.

The madwoman’s mouth started opening and closing but they couldn’t hear what she was saying because the limousine had soundproofed glass to keep out unpleasant traffic sounds and rudeness from passersby in the form of crude (though true) accusations of gender confusion.

“She’s seems very excited about something,” said Jackie. “I wonder what.”

“Probably nothing to do with us,” said his father demurely.

“She keeps pointing at me though,” said Jackie, “and shouting something. I can’t make it out.”

Emma leaned forward. His curly blond hair fell around his face. “It looks like she’s saying something like you’re the phone.”

“Ooo daddy. This is all rather beastly. What’s she saying now?”

“I’m not sure sugar plum fairy. It’s hard to tell just by reading her lips. Maybe something about billing someone? You can bill him? I don’t know.”

“How rude,” said Jackie. “I don’t like her.”

“No,” said Emma. “Quite gauche in the extreme. Drive on Tarquin! We don’t want to see that nasty woman anymore.”

The limousine pulled away leaving Samantha running after it through the dense traffic. She kept waving her arms and hopping in the hopes of drawing their attention and went on repeating what she’d shouted through the glass.

“You’re the one! You can kill him!”




10


Lynch and his mother reached the vast town square and took a seat on the edge of the fountain. Lynch watched his mother cross her legs and settle herself, lingering on her shapely ankles for perhaps a little too long, then sat down next to her. He turned to her and said, “Hell Hag?”

“Yes son?”

“Why did we come here?”

“Well, it’s your birthday,” she said. “You’re eight and I decided it was past time for me to teach you life’s most important lesson.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Do you know what that lesson is?”

“No.”

“Well … There’s something that I enjoy more than anything and I want you to learn to appreciate it too. Can you think what that might be?”

The eight year old hesitated. “Shagging?”

“No.”

“Getting pissed?”

“No.”

“Giving head?”

“Well… No.”

“Then I don’t know Hell Hag.”

She ruffled the stubble on his head. “You’re such an innocent child. You really have no idea?”

Lynch shook his head.

“It’s killing.”

“Oh, of course!” Lynch clapped his hands. “I was just going to say that!”

“Sure you were.”

“I was!”

Hell Hag gave him a friendly punch on his chin. As per usual, her definition of friendly was a couple of notches closer to brutal than not but young Lynch was used to it. Truth be told, in a life that had more slaps than kisses; more plummets from a two storey window into freezing water than hugs… a good old punch was a potent sign of affection.  

“You know I’ve killed a couple of people in my time,” said Hell Hag. She chuckled, shaking her head at the fond memory. “Why you must have seen half a dozen or more in our kitchen alone.”

Lynch nodded.

“Now each one of them has made me happy, that’s certain, and I want you to be able to share that.” She got a twinkle in her eye. “There are a lot of pleasures waiting for you Lynch… a lot of pleasures.

“Like you said, shagging’s close to the top of that list – especially if you use garden implements – but you’ve got a bit of a wait before you can start to really get into that. At least a year or two. Killing’s something you can start to enjoy at any age. I’ve only waited until now to introduce you to it because I didn’t want to ruin your childhood.”

Lynch looked thoughtful, then he said, “Why is killing good Hell Hag?”

She laughed, throwing her head back.

Lynch looked at her cleavage.

She stopped laughing.

Lynch pretended he’d been waiting politely.

“Until you’ve tried it it’s hard to believe there was ever a time you didn’t do it. Why, I remember when I head-butted your grandfather to death. I couldn’t have been much older than you. It changed my whole life—and I don’t just mean spending that time in prison. It opened my eyes.

“You wouldn’t believe what a difference a day makes. There I was, strutting round the yard at the maximum security juvenile centre my mum sent me to… I felt like I could take on the world! However bad things got, however nasty people were, I knew… I knew! I could hit them and just go on hitting them until they were a bloody pulp under my fists or high heeled shoe. It was an incredible feeling.”

She wiped a tear from the edge of her eye.

“Hell Hag?”

“Yes son?”

“Why did you kill granddad?”

“Because he was a total psycho.”

Lynch struggled to find a definition for that word in his mind that made sense.

“And what did you say to your mother when they let you out of jail?”

Hell Hag squeezed him good naturedly. “They didn’t let me out fuckwit.” She giggled. “Actually it’s a funny story.”

“What happened?”

“I won’t go into the details but I actually sort of… ate my way out—Well I used my teeth, let’s leave it there.” She chuckled again.

“So what did you say to grandma?”

Hell Hag leaned back on the wall round the fountain. “Well. I didn’t exactly say anything to her, though she said some stuff to me.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Oh you know, the usual... “No, please!” “Have mercy on me!” “I’m your mother!” That sort of crap… It was a pretty good day.”

They sat quietly for a while.

“And now it’s your turn,” said Hell Hag.

“Mine?” Lynch felt suddenly nervous.

“That’s right. You’re old enough. Past the age really, being a boy. To tell you the truth I was starting to worry – a son of mine. Although there were those kids at your playgroup you buried alive; though it was never clear if that was intentional or not.”

“It sort of was.”

“Good boy. Now your first really intentional kill… it has to be a good one. You have to do it well. And you need to have a good reason, right?”

“Right.”

“Wrong!” Hell Hag slapped Lynch round the back of the head.

When she got back from a nearby cake shop ten minutes later he was just coming round lying face down on the floor.

“Trust me,” said Hell Hag. “The people you kill would much rather you didn’t have a good reason. It complicates things horribly. Also, think how long you might have to go between killings if you’re hanging around waiting for a good reason of all things.”

She shook her head. “No. Random is best. Sure, sure, if somebody pisses you off… I’d be the first to say knee em in the groin until they break in two. Just… don’t limit yourself to it. I want you to be… the best you can be.” She touched Lynch’s cheek tenderly. “Alright?” 

“I won’t let you down Hell Hag.”

“That’s my little bastard.”

She looked out across the town square. “Right. This is the special moment.” She gestured. “Take a minute to look around.”

Lynch did so.

“There must be a hundred people in sight right now, on their way to and from work; going shopping; spending time with their families, all of them wasting their lives. Each and every one of them is a target.”

Lynch started to point.

“Wait! Don’t be hasty,” said Hell Hag. “Savour it. Make sure you’re choosing correctly. This is your first time. It’s important that you don’t rush into anything you might regret later on. It’s special.”

Lynch looked at all the people: mothers, sons, daughters, fathers, friends, clergymen… They were all busy getting on with their lives; happy. They had struggles; they had good days and bad; but they did their best – all of them – to get along with the others around them and be free.

For a moment he felt guilty. He questioned whether maybe his mother, whether all his upbringing had been wrong… if, heaven forbid, she was just a nutter, and that if he did this with her then he would be a nutter too. And he’d be damned. He’d spend eternity in Hades, being punished for the wicked life he’d led.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Ah, what the hell.”

He pointed. “That one. There.”

Across the square, at its edge, was a row of expensive shops. Walking along in front of them, window shopping, was what looked like a woman and her son. The “woman” was wearing a formal navy blue dress that dropped down to “her” matching court shoes. The little boy looked to be about Lynch’s age. In fact he was Lynch’s age, exactly. He was dressed in knee length pleated shorts, a tweed blazer and a darling pair of shiny green buckle-up sandals. He was prancing along beside his “mother” happily. Just behind them a mauve limousine crawled along the pavement.

“Good choice,” said Hell Hag. “Off you go then.”

Feeling nervous again, Lynch got up and started to walk towards them.

“Wait,” said Hell Hag.

Lynch looked round.

“One more thing,” she said, coming to him and proudly straightening his clothes. Lynch had never felt so much affection in one year.

“You won’t be able to always do it. Sometimes you’ll be in a situation where shooting as many people in the head as you can in as short a time as possible is your only option. That’s a given; we both know that. Just… if you can… always do your best… to keep your killings gratuitous.”

“Okay Hell Hag,” said Lynch and set off across the square with a spring in his step.




11


Jackie Guttierrez pranced girlishly along beside his father.

There was a row of the city’s most prestigious shops along the edge of the square. Each was a treasure-house of sparkling beauty: adorable dollies, the latest fancy silk embroidered trousers, perfumes to match any mood from sickening happiness to nauseating glee.

Jackie’s eyes were brimming with anticipation of the gorgeous gifts he would be receiving. It was the happiest day of his life.

“Daddy?”

“Yes honey?” said Emma.

“Please may I have a pony? Please Daddy, please! Please daddy! Every little girlie boy deserves one!” He squealed with laughter.

“We’ll see sugar-coated dumpling.”

“May I have a new pair of sandles? Lilac ones to match my favourite sweater vest?”

“We’ll see little light of my life,” replied Emma, sweeping his long blond hair out of his face and straightening his dress. “But first I wanted to talk to you.”

They stopped at an expensive café with huge front windows and went inside. Emma led his son through the double doorway and they found a table. He ordered a white wine for himself and an ice cream soda (with extra ice cream) for Jackie.

“This is a very important day,” said Emma Guttierrez.

“I know,” replied Jackie. “Normally I’m only allowed one scoop of reduced fat ice cream.”

“And I wanted to have a very serious talk.”

“Like when I first had my eyebrows plucked?”

“More serious than that.”

“Oh. Like when I first got earrings?”

“No Jackie darling. Even more serious.”

“Like when—”

“It’s serious! It doesn’t matter how much!” Emma smiled benignly to ease the slightly tense moment.

“What is it Daddy?”

“When I was a little boy about your age,” said Emma, “there was something I realised that I wanted very much but I wasn’t allowed to have it.”

“How beastly!”

“I know. I was devastated but I never gave up and in the end I got what I wanted.”

“What was that daddy?”

“I got rid of my penis.”

Jackie became very solemn. “Your penis?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“I see.”

“My mother… all three of them… didn’t understand that losing my penis was the most important thing in the world to me; even more important than the breast implants and all the hormone surgery in the world… even having my bum enlarged.”

Jackie covered his mouth in surprise.

“I’ve done my best to take the wise things my mothers taught me and raise you to be the best little gi— ahem… little boy that I could; and I want you to be able to make your own choices… now that you’re old enough.”

“Old enough Daddy?”

“Yes Jackie. It’s time I asked you something I’ve been wanting to ask you from the day I first held you in my arms.”

“What’s that Daddy?”

Emma took Jackie’s little manicured hands in his. “Would you like to have your penis removed?”

Jackie didn’t know what to say. It was the most important moment of his short salad-garnished life. What he said next would change his entire destiny. There were tears in his father’s eyes. 

He found himself starting to nod then suddenly he was pulled up from his seat.

He was twirled round violently and let out a squeal of shock when he found himself gaping into the eyes of a madwoman. For a moment he didn’t recognise her, and then it clicked. It was the same woman who’d been banging on the limousine window, the woman who said he was the phone.




12


Samantha Carriage had made a lot of mistakes in her life, she knew that. Just in the last week she’d made half a dozen; to name but two: trying to sleep in a cardboard box that was cleared away and dumped at the landfill site with her still in it; and finishing off the remains of somebody’s doner kebab she found in a dustbin that turned out to be a donar kebab (in that it contained three dismembered fingers).

What she was doing now wasn’t a mistake. It was the first thing that felt right that she’d been involved in since her life fell apart.

At first she’d thought the boy she’d snatched up was a girl. There was every indication from his clothes and hair but if anything he was too effeminate. No real girl would have looked so perfectly camp. He was the one from the limousine though; she was sure of that.  

“You’re the one!” she blurted.

Jackie winced from her kebab breath.

“You can kill him!”

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Jackie, trying to remain polite. “I don’t follow. Are you sure you have the right person?”

“You can kill him!” repeated Samantha. “I see light! I feel the wind! I see an aeroplane!”

People in the restaurant were starting to look embarrassed and irritated at the same time. Emma Guttierrez started to get up, concerned that the penis speech he’d been preparing for the past eight years was going to be ruined.

“And now!” shouted Samantha suddenly, staring up into the middle distance. “Right now! I sense someone crying out in pain… breaking glass… fire! And then a roaring noise! And people running!” She pulled Jackie closer to her face. “You have to believe me!”

Jackie said nothing. He was too shocked by all this. He felt he might even faint.

“Now look here madam,” said his father, Emma. “Please can you leave my son alone. He has a very delicate heart.” He grabbed her arm.

“You don’t understand,” snapped Samantha, pulling away. “He’s the one!”

She stepped backwards and trod on the foot of a waiter. The waiter cried out in agony, lost his balance and dropped the tray full of glasses he was carrying.

“The breaking glass!” cried Samantha, spinning round. She clipped the waiter on the shoulder by mistake and he toppled backwards, landing on a table where a flambé was flickering with tall flames.

The waiter screamed, rolling to the floor, carrying the tablecloth and its contents with him, swatting at his head.

Samantha gaped down at him dumbly, horrified as her vision came to pass. She didn’t notice the man two tables away staring in wonder and intrigue at her.

Jackie had his little fists against his ruby red lips. He was screaming too. He’d never seen such havoc in his life. He didn’t know what to do with himself. It was horrid – simply horrid!

Then he looked up.

He heard something.

They all did.

Samantha turned toward the front of the little café, the memory of her vision again layering itself over reality.

It was a roaring. It was a roaring she hadn’t recognised in the vision but she recognised it now and a second later she saw the source as the front window and half the front wall of the café caved in as the mauve limousine smashed its way through.




13


It was almost the moment: Lynch Heinouson was going to commit his first intentional murder.

It was true, he’d killed a few people before but they were pretty much accidents; just a little boy experimenting with the world around him, trying to find out what his limitations were.

The kids in the sandpit at school had been bothering him a little but when he buried them alive he meant it as a friendly gesture. He just didn’t understand about four year olds needing to breathe. Or if he did it was lower on his priority list than watching their arms squirm as they fought for breath. Certainly he hadn’t set out to kill them per se.

A couple of his teachers had disappeared under mysterious circumstances... Again these hadn’t been deliberate kills. As such. True, they had irritated the six year old Lynch, making irrational demands about working in class and paying attention. He hadn’t set out to kill them though. He’d just given them a little nudge in that direction… toward a steam roller.

Today was going to be his initiation into the world of genuine first degree murder.

The limo driver didn’t count. He was just a means to an end. Although cracking a man’s skull in a repeatedly slamming limousine door was hard to make unintentional, Lynch somehow managed it.

The way he justified it to himself was by looking in the other direction and pretending he wasn’t really paying attention until he felt the bone splinter. He turned round and as innocently as he could said, “Oh dear. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

He pulled the chauffeur out of the way by his hair, accidentally tearing free the back half of his skull.

“Oops,” said Lynch.

He checked to see if Hell Hag was watching. He wanted his first official kill to be special. Nothing could stand in its way, especially not some incidental other deaths beforehand.

He had never driven a car before, certainly not one as big as this. The only motorised vehicle he’d taken control of was the forklift his mum used down the docks. That had been easy (though he’d chalked up a couple of unintentionals then too).

And of course the time he had to wrestle the steering wheel off his mother when she started having sex with a couple of Norwegians while driving down the motorway.

It was hard to back up the limousine without hitting anything. He knocked down three or four pedestrians in the town square but he was pretty sure they were only maimed so they didn’t count.

Being eight, it was hard to see over the steering wheel but Lynch did his best, which really wasn’t very good. The limousine lurched a few times as though running over things but he didn’t hear any screams so figured there were just speed bumps or something. He hadn’t noticed any such bumps in the town square but he was being optimistic.

When he felt he was far enough from the front of the café where his target disappeared inside he stopped reversing. He couldn’t see anything out the front while keeping his foot on the accelerator so he bent the rear-view mirror in such a way that if he looked straight up it showed him an upside down view over the bonnet.

Then he put it in drive and gave it as much gas as he could.

He hit two more people in the fifty yards between him and the café. That took his quota of unintentional kills that day to eight. There were tables and chairs – French style – outside the café. Many of the patrons saw him coming and fled but he racked up three more that didn’t.

As he crashed through the front wall of the café he imagined how proud his mum would be.

Jackie Guttierrez turned, startled, and stared at the huge mauve sledgehammer of a car crashing towards him.

A young couple in front of the window upped Lynch’s unintentional list to thirteen (unlucky for them). An old lady and her dog fell face first underneath its wheels as its front end crashed down hard and kept coming.

Fourteen (fifteen counting the dog).

Jackie put his hands on his cheeks and thought about Golly and Moonface on the Faraway Tree and tried to imagine what they would do.

Samantha Carriage started to open her mouth to shout “I was right! It’s happening!” then slipped and fell over backwards, impaling a waiter on the shish kebab prongs he was carrying.

The limousine smashed through two more tables, crushing a vicar and his harem of choir boys.

Lynch realised this was the most excited he’d felt since his mum electrocuted him in the bath the year before as a birthday prank.

The front end of the limo left the ground and sailed toward Jackie’s chest.

Then suddenly a hand grabbed him and threw him to the side and the limousine hit his father, Emma, hard in the flank.

It drove him headlong into the back wall of the café then abruptly everything became still.

Eighteen unintentional kills and one intentional.

Lynch pulled his dazed and bloody head off the steering wheel and smiled to himself.

He wasn’t just an ordinary boy anymore. He was a killer.

His mother was going to be so proud.