The Hound of Moulsecoomb (A Short Story)

All he could see out of the window was the reflection of himself and the empty carriage he sat in. Unflattering lights above made his reflection look drawn out and old. His eyes strained to see things in the gloom. Faint silhouettes of leafless trees and house lights. Thinking of warm homes and central heating made him feel far away.

Tiredness spread over his body. Eyes heavy, he scanned the document he was reading making sure it was worded perfectly. He was going to hand the Divorce papers to his wife, that very night. Fifteen years of marriage. He sighed as the brakes screeched, a great scrapping of metal on metal. He wrapped his tartan scarf about his neck and departed the train at Moulsecoomb.

Crisp night air greeted his face at the deserted station. The chill reached his bones. He walked down the dark platform and up the stairs to the bridge over the track. His heels clacked on the concrete. It echoed all around him on the walled bridge but the sound that bounced back made him stop in his tracks. A growling emanated from somewhere in front of him followed by unnatural snarling.

His wits lost, he stood stock still for a second and lifted his briefcase in front of him, as if using it as a shield and shuffled forwards. Barks sounded around him making him cower, terrified, but he could see nothing. He edged towards the stairs and as he turned onto the next set of steps, waiting for him at the top was a black blood hound the size of a horse who lunged at him, ghostly passing through him. And so he tumbled down three flights, landing dead on the platform, the divorce papers falling quaintly about him in the still cold air.

© Jack Nugent

 

Somerton

This is a story I have been writing about The Tamam Shud Case or the Mystery of The Somerton Man. It is one that is little known but has extraordinary circumstances. The man’s body was found dead on Somerton beach at 6.30am on the 1st December 1948, sitting propped up on a wall on the southern coast of Australia. It has come one of the country’s most profound mysteries, the identity of the man has never been known. Found months later (the case was reopened a number of times even by an academic in 2012) was a page torn out of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam a poet of 12th Century fame. The page found in his fob pocket, read Tamam Shud, meaning “finished” in Persian. As well as less romantic evidence and suspicions of military interference, this one is a head scratcher from start to finish.

Please note that many of the people, places and storylines are works of fiction and it is not to be considered fact, those can be found easily, for all to read.

I

Dead before Dawn

In South Australia, he was found, the sunrise wreathed his death, casually he slumped against some steps. It looked like he was just enjoying a smoke, but alive he was not. Discovered by two swimmers and two horse riders, the early risers, on Somerton Beach at around 6am on the 1st December 1948. Opposite the Crippled Children’s Home on the corner of The Esplabade and Bickford Terrace on a fine summers day.

The pristine beach soon had the police arrive and carry the body away, bagged up in the back of their van as the low swell swept morning waves up the warm sand. His death was considered suicide and unsuspicious, the body being rigid with rigor mortis, meant he had died the night before,

“Arr he was dead before dawn” one of the coppers said.

They thought suicide as he carried no proof of identity on him. That theory soon unravelled as his body was searched and the autopsy began, things were found that police couldn’t quite understand.

The most mysterious of these things was a piece of paper torn from a book discovered in the fob pocket sewn into the dead man’s trousers. The paper had printed on it in distinctive font, “Tamam Shud”. The autopsy produced more confusion, the means of death was by an unknown poison. They did not know who the man was, his identity apparently non existent.

The case was reopened after suicide was declared and investigations began in earnest.

Detective Timothy O’Keefe sat on his veranda watching rays of the setting sun dance through the leaves of his gum trees. A few kookaburras chatted away on their branches as the crickets struck up their dusk choir. He eased off his braces and sat back on his wicker chair, curls of dark Brylcreemed hair coming loose, a sign that duty was at an end. He put a cigarette to his lips but he never lit it, his eyes were already closed and sleep came, uncomfortably.

A man was running down a beach trying to light a cigarette in cascading rain, he ran with the terror of a beast in flight. For behind him was a pack a lions, sniffing prey and drooling death from fanged mouths. His feet sank in wet sand as the big cats pounded closer, forming a circle around him. Feebly mumbling short moans he spun around trying to see all six lions at once; strangely he still tried to light his cigarette as well, in vain.

Suddenly there was a great rumbling from the earth and out to sea a great wave was forming, as big as mountain,  its steely grey slopes coming ever closer, great foam peaks frothed menacingly. The wave was upon them and its might was going to crush them.

A hand shook his shoulder and his eyes opened to find his wife’s face in front of him looking quizzical.

‘You alright there dear?’ She laughed

‘Look like you’ve seen a ghost’

‘Just a dream, love’ he replied  although his mind was still furiously trying to remember it.

‘What’s for tea?’

‘Lamb chops and veg, like we always do on a Wednesday, anyway, I saw Joyce today and she was saying this bloke Finn….’

His wife’s voice trailed off and he thought about the man who died looking like he was just enjoying a smoke and who the hell he could’ve been.

© Jack Nugent

7am

Grey dawns and routine yawns

The beeping from the rubbish truck mingles with the sound of my boiling kettle

Caffeine to wake the senses

While the radio plays the soft trumpets of Primal Scream

 

Here’s to the rubbish collectors and early risers

 

The 7am tooth brushers

The make-up applying bus riders

The silent line of oaps at the chemist

The street sweepers and office cleaners

 

The over worked class

By the end of the day it’s all done

Trudging home to fester in front of a flickering TV

Grabbing my attention like a moth to a flame

 

Aldi or Lidl? That’s my choice for booze and discount food

Buying paint stripping kidney rotting juice

On Friday afternoons

The integral part to that fleetingly glorious night of the week

 

© Jack Nugent

 

Gary Beggs & The Year of 1823

This exert is from the beginning of story I have been writing about one of the poorest areas of 19th Century London and the characters such places create. St. Giles is where our story begins and is as notorious as a Victorian slum can get. Dangerous alleys and dark nooks this neighbourhood had in plenty. It was eventually destroyed in the 1870s leaving 5000 people homeless, with literally nowhere to go. But for decades people lived and breathed amidst the rats and the dirt.

Introducing the gang

Gary Swift Fingers, named so for his Gary Swift Fingers, named so for his deft skill at plunging a hand into a pocket and withdrawing its contents before you blink. He was a gutter rat and linguistic extraordinaire. He could charm your sister in a sentence while rifling through your mothers pockets. Born to a whore and an unknown redcoat of the 48th Foot who died from a French Bayonet at Talavera on a warm Sunday morning.

Before he was seven begging was his trade and wooing old ladies for a penny was the aim or thieving a cravat when it was in range. No one taught the rascal to behave. Thrice they tried to put him in the orphanage, the beatings and misery of those who lived in poor relief wasn’t such a privilege. Thrice he escaped ready to retrace his steps in the crux of St. Giles’ alleyways and ten to a room houses. Within ten years he had a crew that would follow him into Buckingham Palace to steal the sleeping King if he asked. Soon their crew had a name, The Lost Rats, and their fame spread throughout the great city like the coming of the high tide ‘pon the river.

Their hideout was in view of St. Martins Church off Bethnal Green road, the dank rookery was a treasure chest of stolen goods, there five brooding criminals lived amongst their profits. Holders of hundreds of nabbed items; sold off hand through the back doors of antique and jewellery shops to be spent straight away in rowdy inns. The five famous thieves sowed their seeds of crime deep in the city’s ever churning belly.

There was Tom the silent eyed pick pocket, a handsome lad of nineteen lost in conjuncture with the grimy shit ridden streets of St. Giles. Sly Tom was expert at moving silently on account of being beaten from an early age by a drunken father. Nightly passing a snoring dad to creep around the dark city aiding and abetting house breakers. Entering by an attic window, or trap-door to the cellar, sometimes lifting tiles off the roof as silently as he could, then creep through the house as candles burned low to let the burglars in.

Getting a cut of the stolen items, he started saving, a secret from his violent father till he had enough to escape and learned he had the skills to become an expert pick pocket. In his a-hunting for purses and bracelets, he wore his hat low and stooped like a drunken beggar with too big a coat clumsily swaying this way and that bumping into a few gentlemen, robbing them of their hard earned coin. Young Tom has a missus with a bump and needs booty so they can have off to Bristol where said missus has a cousin who said he could get them passage on a ship bound for America.

Slack Jack the six foot mugger, a giant of an Irishman, armed robbery and hold ups were his speciality. A violent man who spent his life drunk, when he walked through the rookeries streets people avoided the hulking menace looking every inch the thug he was. With no family to speak of, drink and crime were all he knew. Another past time of his was bare knuckle boxing, his fists were so hard it was as if he had Galway lead for bones. He was prone to making a right mess of his opponent. Brave or stupid was the man who threw fists with him.

Bold Peter had a gait that no one could miss, had it ever since he was a boy, his right leg always turned inwards and it had to be dragged. He was an orphan like Gary, and the two had met at a young age. Gary had punched his lights out on their first meeting but since then Gary had brought Peter under his wing and barely ever left his side, even twenty year later. Pete was mousey haired and slight, not made of substantial stuff like Slack Jack. Despite this, Pete was a con man, or at least tried to be but hardly ever gained a penny, even as Gary liked to joke:

“You couldn’t con dinner off a blind lady that she had giving up eating”

Gary always maintained that Pete was soft and Pete comfortably accepted this, he always looked up to Gary, with a mixture of adoration, jealousy and longing. Gary knew differently, Pete wasn’t cut out to be a cutthroat like one of them, he had a heart of gold, well at least compared to the other four.

Lastly there was Mary the murderer, whose name was well known around these parts of London. Her name was pertinent to her occupation. Give her enough coin and she would kill whoever, wherever, however. She never killed for pleasure though, only business and was a crack shot with a rifle. She had connections with the Forty Elephants and they had once tried to recruit her, however she owed Gary a life, and that she would repay or her name wasn’t Mullins. She had her hand in many pies, as did the rest of them and together they were amassing a small fortune, delivering their liberation, or so they hoped.

 

More will be published in the coming months

© Jack Nugent

Welcome

In the vast celestial like web of the internet, this little corner is my own, although blogs are entirely modern in their gumption, writing has been a staple part of our history, evolution and imaginations. There is, I am sure you know, a power in words that exists that can evoke in plenty, our emotions. A love of words led me to doing this.

Here, if you wish to continue reading and indulge me, you will find some of my poetry, stories, opinion pieces and general musings. I will also post substance I find inspiring, funny, weird, controversial, interesting, whatever, ay. Words have their meanings, their histories, their uses, their misuses and their profoundness.