Tom Harris

Writer of edgy Middle Grade & Young Adult Fiction


September 2012

Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 4

Episode 4: The Spectre

Verb paused near the vehicle as Proverb handed him the Spectre Spirit Level, which he pushed quickly into his plum jacket pocket.

“A man’s spirit will endure sickness but a crushed spirit… who can bear?”
“Yes, quite, Proverb… wait across the road, will you,” said Verb, and in seconds, the cab had disappeared into the murk.

Simile led the way through the frothy fog and turned the key in the front door of his shop. Verb peered up at the sign, hanging above the shop window. It was imaginatively entitled – Smilers.
The weird little man was grinning back at him through the gills of the guard, pausing at the shop window, but still Verb followed this most intriguing of clients across the threshold.

Simile closed the door behind them and in the dark they pressed forward.
“Should I turn on a light? It’s as dark as coal in here…” asked Simile.
“Not necessary, we don’t want to alert the spirit… In fact I think I see it already…”
Verb moved through the gloom and rows of creepy masks stared back at him from the shelves as he edged closer to the feint glow of the spectre.

In his hand, the luminous bubble in the centre of the spirit level began to settle.
The spectre was close.
As Verb rounded another shelf the bubble became fixed, dead centre, and the spectre was revealed.

The spirit was a young boy, no more than twelve years old. He was dressed in a what looked like a night shirt and a scarf, and like most spectre’s he had encountered, it seemed to hover, shrouded in an electric haze, as if forever captured in an X-ray image.

Spirits could be particularly misleading by their appearance and so Verb approached the boy with care – sometimes the most innocent looking were the most vengeful, but at first glance it was hard to think that of this child.
“Simile, I have your ghost,” he called. “Tell me, do you recognise this boy?” he asked, but Simile was nowhere to be seen. It appeared as though he had left the room, judging by the merest crack of light that glimmered beneath the adjoining door that led down into his basement living quarters beneath the shop.

Verb stared into the damaged eyes of the child, but the spectre wasn’t moving. It seemed terrified of Verb. Most creatures of a supernatural origin were of course, but this one wasn’t in retreat or contemplating attack. The apparition instead forced open its mouth to reveal a wide smile that had been sliced into its ghostly skin. The wound stretched across the boy’s face from ear to ear and Verb stumbled back into the shelves, putting his hand down onto a rubber knife with a luminous handle.

The image of the knife and the boy’s wound resonated with him – newspaper headlines, kidnappings, abductions, endless young bodies piling up in the shadows of this fog-bound city.

The flurry of memories were all from the case they’d never taken…
‘A serial killer of children is not supernatural enough for this agency,’ …he’d agreed with Maleficent.
The decision was amicable between the two, but the visits from the parents of the missing kids begging and pleading them to reconsider had kept them up for months, as they contemplated the merits of their agency losing its identity over saving innocent lives whilst consuming endless bottles of red dessert wine from the Gulf of Patras.
Then everything had gone quiet…until now.
“The Grinner…” Verb mumbled to himself and then suddenly, glancing down at the floor beneath the spectre, he noticed the markings.

“Laqueum! – Trap!” he muttered, translating the Latin. Recognising the significance immediately, he turned to the ceiling, using the light from the spirit level to reveal the second marker. His blood ran cold. “Spiritus! It’s a spirit trap!”
Too late, Verb realised his mistake. He turned to see the smiling face of the weird little man just before he took the blow full on the head.
Simile was now unmasked.
Verb’s world went dark and The Grinner began to laugh.

Follow the link for the next installment – Episode 5: The Invitation

Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 3

Episode 3: Proverb

With the taxi beams penetrating the smoky alleyway with their electric white light, Verb flicked his fog guard gills open and turned to Simile. “Maleficent believes the headlamps to be a pair of spectres from the beyond, sent to guide us on our righteous path…”

“I see that now, yes,” said Simile, flicking open the gills on his own guard. “Staring into these lights though, it’s like a needle being pressed into my brain,” he said, shielding his eyes from the ancient halogen beams.

“Do not fret, Mr Simile, for the ghoul will be banished in time and your mind will be your own once again…” said Verb, guiding his client to the vehicle.

Suddenly, the boom of a ship’s foghorn blared out, filling the silent city with its deep, resonating moan.

Simile stepped back into the mist and began tugging at the Fire Exit door in a frantic attempt to get back into the building.

“Do not be alarmed,” said Verb. “It’s merely one of Proverb’s vehicular enhancements. There is more than mere road safety at the origin of its adaption. As you are aware the permanency of this fog we now reside in has heightened the appeal of our city to those from the netherworld. This is our way of letting them know that this city still has her voice and will not slip quietly into the darkness…”

Simile let go of the door and his body sagged. “That’s a relief, I thought we were being attacked! I’ve been as jumpy as a Jack-in-a-box since this spectre arrived!”

Verb stared at the little man through the mist as the deep, throbbing engine of the black cab purred.

From out of the fog a Chinaman appeared, doffing his chauffeur’s beret as he moved closer.

“Mr Simile, I’d like to introduce you to our driver, Proverb.”

“Harsh is the voice which would dismiss us, but sweet is the sound of welcome,” said Proverb and he bowed as he opened the door of the vehicle.

“Indeed, thank you. My, my, why it is like the fog has been lifted from my eyes to see such a rarity up close. Is this really one of the lost black cabs? This is an ancient thing indeed, how is it still running?” asked Simile climbing through the door.

“If a ruler hearkens to lies, all his servants are wicked!” said Proverb, still holding the door ajar.

“Er, yes it is Mr Simile, the last one of its kind in fact, but what Proverb implies is that you don’t judge the car at first glance. First impressions can be deceptive. Thank you, Proverb.”

The chauffeur closed the door on Verb and his silhouette appeared at the driver’s door in what seemed like seconds.

“He moves like a shark in the murky depths of the ocean,” stammered Simile. “What speed…”

Proverb slipped into the driver’s seat and set off through the fog, accelerating down the alley.

He sounded the horn again and flicked another switch to trigger a massive xenon beam that emanated from the old Taxi sign on the front of the vehicle.

The road ahead was clear.

“So, Mr Simile, there is one question that I have not yet asked which still lingers within my cerebrum. I need to know the precise location of your spectre. Where is its local haunt, so to speak?”

Simile grinned through the mask like a hungry cannibal. “It appears only when I’m inside the joke shop. It comes before me, as bold as brass, like a whispering death.”

Simile’s words chilled Verb, as the Taxi crossed the deserted streets, skirting Pinnacle Park.

“A man isn’t really poor if he can laugh,” said Proverb.

Simile nodded, still smiling through the gills in his fog guard. “I live in the basement beneath my place of work… hence my complexion. I’m as white as a sheet in case you didn’t notice. It’s as tight as a drum in there but trying to find accommodation in this city is like looking for the sun in our sky.”

“So, why the shop and not your place of dwelling? This is crucial, Mr Simile. Has anything significant happened there? Try and think!” said Verb, staring through the front window of the cab into the endless gloom.

Simile shrugged.

“A good laugh is the best medicine, whether you are sick or not,” said Proverb again.

“Yes, thank you Proverb,” sighed Verb.

Suddenly the brakes squealed, shooting Verb and Simile forward in their seats.

“Don’t laugh at the fallen, there may be slippery places in your path. We have arrived, Mr Verb.”

Verb pushed himself away from the barrier that cut off the driver from the passenger’s in the back seat, and peered out of the window. The street sign across from him was barely visible through the blanket of fog, but they had obviously reached Amusing Avenue.

“I should have mentioned that Proverb drives quickly, Mr Simile, and as you now know this is no ordinary black cab…”

“Bad news travels fast… I have to be faster!” said Proverb, who was already outside the cab, opening the passenger doors.

“Right then, work is to be done, let us slay said spectre with immediate effect!” said Verb, pushing out into the smog with the smirking Simile close behind him.

Follow the link for the next installment – Episode 4: The Spectre

Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 2

Episode 2: The Black Cab

“So where are we heading, Mr Simile? Disaster or ruin?” asked Verb, his footsteps echoing out of sync with his client’s as they descended the stairs to the lobby.

“Mr Verb, you are like a ray of light on a foggy day,” chuckled Simile. “Your comedic repartee is more appropriate than you realise… You see, I own a joke shop in the city. It’s on Amusing Avenue; which I know is a bit like having a bakery on Loaf Lane, but that’s the truth of it, I’m afraid…”

“Well, what can I say?” said Verb. “That must be great for business, what with your shop fitting its location so perfectly,” he grinned, turning to make eye contact with his client.

Simile’s silhouette was striking against the mist through the stairwell window, which had taken on a blue hue.

Like the occasional streak of red in a rare evening sky this fleeting colouration dissolved back into wisps of grey and white. Colour in this life was fleeting but for a man as busy as Verb it was impossible to savour.

Simile was dragging his heels and Verb paused to wait for him. He was met by a fixed grin. Simile had done nothing but smile since he had set foot in the office. There was something about this odd little man, something hidden behind that happy facade that made Verb’s skin crawl, but there hadn’t been a case he and Maleficent had not cracked and today would not be the day he registered their first strike in the supernatural column of defeat.

“This encroaching evil of yours must be destroyed Mr Simile, but before we can go about dispatching it, we must be certain of its identity and its intentions, oh, mind your step, Maleficent spilled her latte macchiato earlier this morning.

I told her there was no use crying over it, but that’s Maleficent Metaphor for you.”

“Very good Mr Verb,” Simile chuckled, nudging the glass aside with his instep. “As to the identity of my ghost, I’ve about as much foresight as the back end of a pantomime horse, I’m sorry to say.”

“Surely, you have a hunch of some degree?” asked Verb, running his right hand down the banister.

Simile just shrugged. “That’s unkind, Mr Verb. It is merely the way I walk. Some say my spine curves like the smile of a man with something to hide.”

Verb shot him a curious glance. “The stage is always open for a willing jester, but our concentration must remain on said spectre. There must be a clue in its behaviour, Mr Simile. Tell me, what has your spirited spook been up to?” he asked, turning to his client, as the bulb above his head flickered poignantly.

“Apart from stabbing at me like a vengeful blade you mean?”

“Apologies, I mean is there anything of a specific nature – the inconceivable sight of moving objects, the sudden fizz of electrics or merely an unexplained presence that grates and wearies?”

Simile shrugged, still wearing a grin as wide as the sweep of the dark staircase.

Verb nodded. “Your shrug is reason enough for summoning our assistance. Mark me Mr Simile, that by the day’s end this apparition will be vanquished,” he paused. “Do you have a fog mask?” he asked, as they approached the foreboding lobby and the radioactive glow of the exit door.

“To leave home in this city without a fog guard is like failing to call the great Deed Verb when something supernatural comes a calling,” grinned Simile, delving  into his jacket pocket for the mask.

“Nicely put. I don’t suppose I may bother you to place such a quote in writing? It would make a marvellous motif to hang in the office,” smiled Verb, as they both strapped on their breathing apparatus.

Simile just chuckled.

Pushing through the exit door, they were quickly engulfed by the miasma, which poured over the threshold from the alley.

Verb pulled up the collar of his long, plum jacket, tapped his bowler hat, straightened his pin-tie and ushered Mr Simile further into the fog.

As he slammed the exit door behind them, the rumbling of an engine split the quiet of the alleyway and through the mist came the electric glow of headlamps that resembled a pair of lightning bolts.

It was a sight that struck terror into the souls of the creatures from the netherworld that lurked in the darkest corners of the city.

It was the Black Cab.

Follow the link for the next installment of Deed Verb: Episode 3: Proverb

Deed Verb: The Case of Simon Simile: Episode 1

Episode 1: Simon Simile

“Verb! Wake up will you! You have the work ethic of a sloth. Your client is here!”

Verb flicked open an eye from beneath his bowler hat and grinned.

“Just resting my weary peepers, Miss Metaphor, pray tell what does the weatherman bring us today?” he asked, adjusting his waistcoat and leaning back on his chair, peeking through the blinds.

“My memory is a little foggy on the subject, I’m afraid.” She shook her head. “It’s Foggy! It’s always Foggy… this office and this city – it’s a two tone graphic novel.”

“So, you’re saying it’s all black and white, then?”

“It’s nothing but darkness and fog. Yet into each life some fog induced rain must fall, right? Though, rest assured, you are forever the sun in my sky, Verb!” her dark eyes widened, her pierced nostrils flared and then her velvet-black hair swished across her back as she stormed out of his office.

“Sarcasm doth not become ye, fair maiden, but the misty veil does indeed remain,” he sighed, lost in the swirling smog outside his window.

“Oh, and by the way,” she called, pausing outside the door. “You call me Miss Metaphor one more time and you’re a dead man! And that’s not a metaphor! My name is Maleficent.”

“Maleficent by name but magnificent by nature!” he pronounced and promptly saluted her, smirking as the small, smiling man with octagonal spectacles scuttled nervously through the shadows into his office. The door slammed shut behind his new client as the echo of his partner’s angry boots clomped off down the corridor.

Verb glanced down at the pristine paperwork on his desk under the lamplight and rocked his chair back to an upright stance.

Of course he had read the client profile thoroughly last night, as he always did, but he enjoyed making his partner Maleficent Metaphor think that he had no concept of its existence.

“So, Mr Simile… Mr Simon Simile, please take a pew if you will. I hear you have a troublesome spectre?”

“That’s correct, Mr Verb, it may only be like a brush of summer wind against one’s skin, but it is there. I feel it,” said Simile, climbing up into the seat, only just keeping contact with the ground through the tips of his squeaky brown shoes that matched his ill-fitting suit.

“Well then,” said Verb clapping his hands together and pushing back his seat. “You’ve agreed a reasonable rate with Maleficent, I trust? So lead on Macduff!”

“The name is Simile. Think of me as a smile with an extra eye, which I understand would make me as strange as a silent whoopee cushion, but you get the gist,” said the man grinning and tipping his glasses.

“Forgive me that mere trifle from my theatrical past, Mr Simile. Please, if you would…” said Verb, getting out of his seat with purpose and guiding his client to the door.

“Is that it? Well, I’d like to say I’m as happy as a clown, but I sense that my words are having as much impact as a firecracker without a bang, Mr Verb.”

“You don’t understand Mr Simile, I simply mean that we should get on with the job in hand. I am a man of action – a doer of deeds if you will. Deed by name and deed by nature, and I mean to rid you of said Spectre before the night doth fall.”

“Well, well…” said Simile, now grinning from one stubby ear to the next. “That is as refreshing as homemade lemonade on a summer’s day…”

“Right, let’s get to the rub. Do you have any idea why you are being haunted by this apparition?” asked Verb, opening the office door for his client and standing majestically before him back-lit beautifully by the struggling bulb in the corridor.

“I’m as baffled as a bat without sonar, Mr Verb, all I know is that whatever it is, it’s trying to kill me!”

“Hmm, spectres with such murderous intent, usually have good reason, which shall be revealed in time I am sure. We shall take the stairs to the alleyway, so much more invigorating than the jerk of a lift, don’t you think?”

Simile continued to smile.

“Miss Met…, ah forgive slipping tongue, I will try again. Maleficent! I will return before the sun doth set…” he called down the corridor as, on cue, her head popped out of her office door. “If we should ever see thy glowing orb of light in these parts again my biggest joy would be to see your fabulous face, fair lady…”

Verb turned to see her shaking her head, her bright green lips pursed in contempt and she turned her back on him staring into the fog through the gaps in the window shutters, as was her way.

“Your words are a hail of bullets to my heart,” she said.

“Hmmm, now there’s a storm I may never weather,” he said aside. “Come Mr Simile, a spectre slaying awaits.”

Verb moved along the corridor with purpose, and paused at the top of the staircase to wait for his slow moving client.

Simile nodded his appreciation and his smile curved like the blade of a reaper’s scythe as the two men took the dark flight down.

Follow the link for the next installment of Deed Verb – Episode 2: The Black Cab 

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