There’s an abundance of poppies in a field near my house. They make such a lovely splash of colour.
There’s an abundance of poppies in a field near my house. They make such a lovely splash of colour.
Distance completed = 17.70 miles (28.50 km)
Distance to go = 631.71 miles (996.53 km)
Distance completed = 18.90 miles (30.40 km)
Distance to go = 612.81 miles (966.13 km)
Passed a nice milestone by bringing my km ‘to go’ distance down below the 1000km mark. Also after the next two weeks my miles ‘to go’ will be into the 500’s.
Hmm, you never know…..
No internet for over a fortnight – I feel I’ve so much catching up to do!
Anyway, yesterday was the hottest day of the year which meant today the weather would be awful (naturally!) It also meant some very spectacular thunder storms – thunder is fairly common here but I can’t remember seeing such dramatic lightning as I did this morning.
I managed to capture a little bit – this was taken between 4.30am and 5.30am on Wednesday morning.
At the risk of repeating myself, nature can put on a spectacular show.
At the moment more storms are forecast for Friday so fingers crossed I might get some more clips!
Distance completed = 17.30 miles (27.80 km)
Distance to go = 666.41 miles (1052.43 km)
Distance completed = 17 miles (27.40 km)
Distance to go = 649.41 miles (1025.03 km)
Ever so slowly my weekly totals are beginning to creep up again, but are they increasing enough?
Only time will tell!
Here’s a short video I made with sound I recorded myself and a few photos I’ve taken recently. I realise the sound does not always match up with the pictures but I wanted to create a video which conveyed the atmosphere of the outdoor world in general.
At least that was the aim!
Back in the Council building Jake, Ruth and Davie were walking up a corridor.
“I don’t know how you can tell,” Jake was saying. “They all look the same.” Ruth half laughed.
“Oh believe me you get to know which places to avoid.” She gestured with her head. “Down here.”
“Ah the steel door yes. I don’t suppose you know how to get us in?” Before Ruth could answer Jake, they heard another voice. Jake turned around quickly.
“Mr Malone. You don’t need to worry about that.” His jaw dropped.
“Betty? What are you…it’s not safe.” Suddenly the steel door swung open.
“If only you knew,” said Betty brandishing a gun in their direction. “Get in.” The trio did as they were told, Betty following behind.
“Betty what’s going on?” Jake said. “What are you involved with?” She threw her head back and laughed.
“You have no idea have you? Too busy chasing ghosts. Chasing murderers. I believe you know my friend Mrs Hobbs?” Right on cue, Mrs Hobbs stepped out of the shadows.
“Malone,” she smirked. “Found your killer yet?” Anger run through Jake’s veins.
“It was you wasn’t it? You killed Sally?” She shrugged.
“Don’t suppose it matters now. Yes I killed her. She was useful at first selling the booze. Got paid well for it but got too greedy. She had to go.”
“But why get us involved? Why investigate her death?
“Oh Mr Malone, the old double bluff.” He remained silent. “Why would I call you in to investigate Sally’s death if it was me that killed her?” She saw the look on Jake’s face and laughed mockingly.
“What did Sally ever do to you?” Ruth said quietly. “I can’t believe you killed her.”
“I’ve got a retirement to plan,” Mrs Hobbs said plainly. “I needed the money. Got downgraded and lost thousands.” At that moment the door opened again and a reluctant Maggie was thrown through the doorway. Jake’s heart sank.
“Maggie what are you doing here?” She forced a smile through her bruised face.
“I didn’t want to miss all the fun.”
“Oh,” Betty tutted. “You’re alive. Pity.” Maggie staggered across to Jake.
“Betty, what are you doing here?” Jake took her arm.
“It’s a long story Maggie. Only it isn’t Betty is it? You’re Donald Cameron aren’t you?” Maggie looked at Jake.
“Never!” said Ruth
“Who?” said Davie.
“Nope.” Betty answered, somewhat sheepishly. Jake’s face flushed slightly.
“Oh, okay.” He turned to Mrs Hobbs. “But what about you? What do you get out of this?”
“She gets to live,” Betty interrupted. “What more could she want?” Jake laughed.
“Are you prepared to let this woman rule your life? Is that what you really want?” The slightest expression of doubt began to flicker across Mrs Hobbs’ face.
“She is the Queen. I am here to serve her.” Jake shook his head. He was getting to her. He could feel it.
“Oh don’t give me that. Look at her, she’s old. Look at you. You’re the ball crusher remember? There’s no contest. You kill people yourself. She needs people to do it for her. She’s no competition.” Betty moved to Mrs Hobbs’ side.
“I am your Queen. Remember that.” She flicked a switch on the wall and gradually a humming noise started, mixed in with the occasional crackle of electricity. Maggie braced herself, fearful they were about to be subjected to a barrage of 1970s hits.
Diamond. Manilow. Humperdinck.
The Unholy Trinity.
The thought chilled her to the bone.
“Come on Mrs Hobbs. I know you didn’t want this.” She turned to Jake and he could see it in her eyes.
“I was only in it for the money. All I wanted was to top up my pension fund.” The noise was getting louder.
“I know,” Jake said. “But you can make it stop.” Mrs Hobbs took a step towards Jake.
“I didn’t want world domination. I only wanted a world cruise.” She spun round to face Betty, a glint of anger in her eyes. “Enough!” In an instant she had thrown herself at the older woman. The two scrambled across the floor and the spectators caught fleeting glimpses of Mrs Hobbs with Betty in a headlock.
“Leave me!” Betty screamed. “I am your Queen!”
“Oh pull the other one,” Mrs Hobbs shouted. She reached into her pocket for her travel scissors. “Here, have a haircut.” Her hand darted into Betty’s hair and seconds later the older woman screamed as chunk after chunk of blue rinse fell onto the floor. Her screams echoed through the room – moments later, she was still. “Much better,” Mrs Hobbs gasped, falling back onto the floor. “Much, much better.” Jake, Ruth and Davie exchanged glances as the humming noise became louder and louder. Ruth moved to the switch.
“I’ll get the…” In an instant the noise stopped and Jake was suddenly aware of Mrs Hobbs lying on the floor.
“Mrs Hobbs.” He moved to her. “Are you all right?” She looked at him through heavy eyes, her skin now a deathly pale complexion.
“I didn’t mean to.” Suddenly a wave of sympathy washed over him. Too many people had died already. Far too many people. He put his hand to her forehead and recoiled at the cold, clammy feeling.
“No don’t speak.” Mrs Hobbs reached out and touched his arm. He took her hand in his. She squeezed it weakly. He could almost feel the life drain from her.
“It’s too late for me son. I never meant any of this.” He nodded slightly and stroked her hair.
“I know. I know. It’s okay now. Everything’s okay.” She smiled at him then gasped. Moments later she fell silent. Jake looked at her then gently pulled her eyelids shut.
“Everything’s okay”, he heard himself say again. Except it wasn’t okay.
And it never would be.
They all sat quietly, nobody knowing what to do or say. Eventually Maggie ventured,
“Is it over?” Jake looked up at his partner.
“Yes. It’s over.”
And indeed it was over. When Jake and his friends safely negotiated their way out of Council Headquarters the scene before them left them speechless. The streets were packed with people going about their everyday lives as if nothing had happened. It seemed that life in Inveranywhere had returned to normal.
“Look at everyone,” Ruth said. “They’ve gone back to normal.” Davie laughed.
“Even the hair.” Jake surveyed the scene then shook his head.
“How can we go back to normal after this?” Davie put his arm on Jake’s shoulder.
“Listen to me Jake. I don’t know how to….” His voice trailed off.
“For everything Jake,” Ruth added. “Thank you.” Jake smiled at them.
“How are you?”
“We’re fine, aren’t we….dad?” Davie took his daughter’s hand.
“Yes we are.” Jake offered Davie his hand, which the older man shook.
“I should be thanking you Davie.”
“Don’t say anything sonny. You don’t have to say a word.”
“See you two around?” asked Jake.
“You can count on it.” Ruth looked at Maggie.
Maggie waved a hand. “Bye love.”
“Yes,” Jake added. “Take care.” Ruth hugged him briefly.
“You too Jake. You and Maggie.”
“We’ll take care of each other.” With a quick nod Davie and Ruth turned and walked away. Jake watched them go. Suddenly he felt so proud.
He and Maggie stood and looked out across the street. He glanced at her and put an arm around her. She stiffened in surprise then smiled.
“Peter came to see me in hospital.”
“Oh. That’s nice.” They began walking down the steps.
“Well it would be except he was some kind of double agent.” Jake looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
She nodded. “Tried to kill me.”
“Oh that’s harsh,” he winced. She smiled but there was a fleeting glimpse of sadness in her eyes. He saw this and hugged her tighter.
Maggie’s phone rang so she turned away to answer it. Jake closed his eyes briefly. Suddenly he felt so tired. They’d experienced something extraordinary – and come out the other side. Somehow they had survived.
“Yes okay, okay thanks bye.” Maggie was in the process of switching off her phone. “Mr Malone,” she said excitedly. “We’ve got a job.”
“What another? Not already?”
She was busy scribbling in her notebook. “I know,” she grinned excitedly. “Never ending isn’t it!” He matched her smile as they walked down the few steps towards his parked car. “Mr Malone,” she said as she reached for the passenger door. “Do you ever think about your life before you came here? About when you were married?” He stopped dead in his tracks, her question taking him by surprise. He was about to answer when he glanced across the street from where they were parked. A woman stood watching them. She was a beautiful woman with a smile like sunshine. Jake watched her, lost deep in thought.
“Not really Maggie,” he lied. “Not really.”
Twenty minutes later and Jake and Davie were at the hospital. The phone call had been brief and to the point. Maggie had been found – unconscious – on the steps leading to the front door of the Council building. The voice on the phone muttered something about her condition being stable, but Jake hadn’t been listening. He could not get past the fact that Maggie had been hurt. Was it his fault? Had he been insistent enough? Should he have gone with her? Probably, but as he walked towards the reception desk he knew this was neither the time nor the place for recriminations.
“Nurse!” he said quickly as he spied a short slightly plump woman. “Nurse I’m looking for Maggie….eh Margaret Mitchell.” She pointed a fat finger down the corridor.
“End of the corridor, last room on the left.” He touched the nurse’s shoulder.
“Is she..how…?” The nurse smiled weakly.
“I’m sorry I can’t…I have to go.” In an instant she disappeared into another room.
“Go sonny I’ll wait here.” Davie patted the younger man on the shoulder and found a seat in the corridor. The hospital smell was making Jake feel sick as he hurried up the deserted corridor. Finally he reached the room and glanced through the window. He could see a figure lying in the bed swathed in bandages. Jake’s heart sank.
“Oh Maggie,” he mumbled and pushed the door open. Immediately he was aware of the rhythmic beeping of the banks of machines which surrounded the bed. He pulled up a chair and sat at the side of the bed watching the prostrate figure. “I told you to be careful.” His hands found one of her hers and he squeezed it gently. “Oh your hands are so cold. And look at your face.” Her left eye was a mess of blue and purple where she had been struck. Jake’s stomach heaved and he squeezed her hand again. “You can’t leave me like this Maggie. You do know I can’t do any of this without you?” Tears filled his eyes. “Actually you probably don’t. I’ve never told you have I?” He wiped a hand across his eyes. “Story of my life that.” Suddenly he felt her grip tighten on his fingers. “Maggie?” She groaned slightly. “Maggie can you…..?” He moved in close to her.
“Mr Malone….can I call you Jake now?” Despite the situation Jake’s face cracked into a huge grin. She swallowed slowly then licked her lips. “You’re laughing at me.” He put his hand to her cheek.
“With you Maggie. Definitely with you.” He perched on the side of the bed. “Can you remember what happened?” She turned her head very slightly towards him.
“I was in…corridor….looking for Hazel.” She took a deep breath. “Someone came behind…can’t remember…”
“In the corridor?” She nodded slowly then forced her eyes open again.
“What is it?” He was deep in thought.
“Ambulance found you outside on the front steps of the building. So someone pulled you out.”
“That would be me.” At the sound of the voice Jake turned around quickly towards the door and saw a familiar figure.
“Ruth?” She moved to him.
“I’m sorry I know I haven’t….” He smiled at her.
“You probably saved her life.” An unsaid ‘thank you’ hung in the air. Ruth glanced at Maggie.
“So what now?” the young woman asked.
“It was you that phoned me,” Jake said quickly. “All roads lead to the Council.” Ruth nodded slowly.
“You thought correct. We have to go back to the Council building,” he said firmly. “Before Julie died she told me the Queen had to be destroyed.”
Ruth nodded. “You think the Queen is there?”
Jake shrugged. “I’m counting on it.” He looked back at Ruth. “Listen, your Dad he’s…” Jake nodded towards the door. “Down the corridor.”
“Dad?” Ruth said quietly. “Really.”
Jake smiled. “You’ve no idea how much he’s missed you.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Go see him.”
“I..I…okay.” Now it was Ruth’s turn to nod towards the door. “I should go…” Jake smiled.
“I’ll come and meet you in a minute.”
Ruth exited silently and Maggie began to stir from her bed.
“Well if you just give me a minute…..”
He pushed her gently back down onto the bed.
“You are going nowhere.”
“But Mr Malone….” He waved a finger at her.
And that’s an order Maggie. How am I going to get my typing done if you’re not fully fit?” She managed a weak smile.
“And I thought you cared.” He matched her smile then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
“You know I do, don’t you.” Alas Maggie – at this point – was incapable of rational thinking thanks to Jake’s show of affection, and could barely manage a whimper in response. She closed her eyes and quickly fell into a deep sleep leaving Jake and his new colleague to fight for survival, an end to alien invasions and a return to sensible haircuts.
It was to be a very tall order.
Jake had sensibly decided that their first port of call should be back to Betty’s café. He felt some semblance of normality, of a location where they could feel safe, was what was required. However when he opened the front door the bell above the doorway did not sound its normal resounding chime, more of a pathetic clang. Jake, along with Ruth and Davie, stepped into the café, broken glass and damaged furniture crunching underfoot.
“Oh this is not good,” Jake whispered. Ruth’s eyes darted across the shop.
“Look at the mess.” The crunching of footsteps sounded from behind – Jake felt himself tense then gradually relaxed as the familiar face of Betty, still wearing her famous flowery overall appeared before them.
“Hello my dears,” she smiled. He moved to her.
“Betty thank God you’re all right.” He grabbed her arm. “You can’t stay here.” She seemed oblivious to his concerns.
“Don’t be silly my dears. Of course I’m fine. They won’t bother me.” She stepped away from him and turned on her heel.
“Betty wait!” He moved to follow but Ruth stopped him.
“No Jake. Something’s not right. I can’t….we can’t stay here.” Jake’s eyes flashed with anger.
“The place has been trashed, that’s what’s not right.” She shook her head quickly.
“No there’s something else.” Then Davie was at her side.
“Listen to me Jake. If she says something’s wrong then I believe her.” With an expression of pride, Davie turned to his daughter. She looked her dad up and down.
“Thank you.” Davie put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
“Ruth, I just wanted to say…” Before he could finish, the window at the far side of the café crashed into a hundred thousand pieces. The three flung themselves to the ground, hands over their heads, too afraid to look at what was happening. Eventually silence fell and Jake slowly raised his head.
“Is everyone all right?” Davie was up next.
“Fine…fine…” He turned to his daughter who was pulling tiny shards of glass from her jacket.
“I think so,” she stammered. They stood up and gazed out the window onto the street. The scene which greeted them was indescribable. “They’re everywhere” Ruth said unnecessarily. And they were. Now they were in their thousands. The most unstoppable….the most unspeakable army which ever walked the Earth. Marching in perfect time, in perfect unison. With perfect identical blue rinse hair cuts. Jake took a deep breath. It was time.
“We can’t stay here. Definitely time to go.”
The three negotiated the hazardous route from the café to Jake’s car. There was only one destination – Council Headquarters. On the journey, Ruth fiddled with the car radio until she found a news channel.
‘I repeat the situation is increasingly grave. The zombies are spreading everywhere. Official advice is to stay inside and barricade the doors. Stay tuned to this station for further advice.’ She switched off quickly as Jake pulled up outside their destination.
“Here we go,” he said. Davie glanced up and down the street.
“It’s so quiet. There’s no one here.”
“The eye of the storm,” Ruth said quietly. Davie looked at her and laughed bitterly.
“Yeah, I suppose.” Jake paused then banged his hands on the steering wheel.
“I’m going to end this. You two stay….”
“Not a chance Jake,” said Ruth quickly. “I want my revenge for this.” She pointed at her hair. Jake opened his mouth to speak but Davie interrupted.
“And if my girl’s going then I’m coming too.” Jake shook his head.
“Look this could be a one way trip.” Ruth looked at her dad.
“I think we’re both willing to take that chance.” Davie nodded in agreement.
“Okay.” Jake shrugged. “Let’s go.”
Back in hospital Maggie was still glued to her radio. As she sat transfixed, a figure approached her. It was a Nurse.
“There’s no need to fuss dear,” she groaned as the Nurse approached her bed silently. It began pulling at her bedclothes, as if adjusting them and plumping up her pillows. “Please just leave it,” Maggie said, straining to listen to the radio. She glanced at the Nurse – there was something just a tad familiar. And that smell – an alluring mixture of aftershave mixed with sweat.
The Nurse leaned over Maggie and looked at the machine beside her, apparently checking the readings.
“So, am I going to live?”
“You most certainly are,” the Nurse replied in a very deep, manly voice.
And then it struck her. Maggie pulled herself up, as far as she could, which was not very far in her present condition. Her mouth opened in shock then closed, then opened again. Surely it was the drugs? The knock on the head? Was she still asleep?
“Yes Maggie, it’s me,” the Nurse smiled, perching on the edge of her bed.
“Hang on. Peter?”
He took her hand and squeezed it gently.
“I tried to tell you, I followed you everywhere. I wanted you to know the truth.”
Again Maggie’s mouth opened and again she failed to produce a sound.
“You can run, but you can’t hide!”
“Sorry Maggie but I am going to have to kill you.” He shrugged slightly. “I did enjoy dancing with you very much but you’re far too dangerous.”
“But you can’t be…”
“They got me ages ago.” With a flourish he removed his wig to reveal a bald head. “Hang on.” With another flourish the bald head disappeared to be replaced by a shock of blue rinse.
“Peter…” was all Maggie could manage.
“It was great how you told me all of Jake’s theories on the case.” Peter reached towards Maggie’s drip. “Made things so much easier.”
“How could you Peter?” Maggie pulled herself as far upright as she dared. She winced in pain.
“The Queen,” he said as he removed a hypodermic needle from his pocket. “I must obey.”
In a panic, Maggie grabbed him as hard as she could and pulled him towards her. He lost his balance and fell across the bed, the needle falling from his grasp. It landed by her pillow, presenting Maggie with a perfect opportunity.
“Sorry Peter.” She grabbed the needle and stabbed it into the back of his neck. His legs bucked twice then he slithered backwards off the bed in a very ungainly manner.
Maggie lay back in the bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to comprehend that the new man in her life had just tried to kill her.
When she came back to her senses she realised the radio was still playing – an emergency news bulletin was being broadcast – and Maggie forced herself to concentrate on it. She began thinking of Davie, and Ruth, and Hazel, and Jake.
‘…We will continue to broadcast as long as possible. I repeat we will continue to broadcast as long as possible. More news to follow….’
She stretched out a hand and switched radio off then lay back in her bed and sighed. Her head throbbed so much, but it did not matter. She had a job to do.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.
Sunshine, Smiles & Happy Miles
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller