Saturday, 9 April 2011


Clockwork Lemons

Friday 13th March, 01.42: Hull  CCTV Control Centre….

A WALL OF TV SCREENS light the room with eerie flickering bluish light. Two operatives sit at a desk in front of the shimmering panel scanning the monitors for movement.

Monitor, HCC-11L (second row down, third in from the right) shows two smartly dressed young men sitting on a bench in the city centre. They seem to be chatting  together. To the left of the screen there is movement. Two lads dressed in black fleeces and jeans swagger over to the men on the bench. Without any provocation, a fleece smacks one of men on the side of his head. His friend protests. The other fleece pulls a knife and stabs at him repeatedly. Both men jump up and run off-screen in different directions. Each runner is chased by a fleece.

One of the operators sees the incident and raises the alarm. He tries to follow the action on the other monitors, but the men run into camera blind-spots. Several minutes pass before two patrol cars arrive at the scene. The cops carry out a search of the area for the next hour. They find nothing: no blood; no weapons; no clothing and no tyre marks. Nothing.

Sunday 15th March, 11.12: Beverley Road Police Station, Hull…

AN OVERWEIGHT WOMAN approaches the Sergeant at the reception desk. He nods to her in recognition and sighs. She’s about 30 years old, but her greasy, lank brown hair and the dark bags under her dull blue eyes give her an older look. She smells of stale Carlsberg Special Brew and cheap perfume.

‘You fuckers got my ‘arry locked up in ‘ere agin?’

‘Please watch your language, Mizz Barnes.’

‘Don’t gimme that Mizz Barnes crap, Sergeant, fucking, Jack Evans. An’ if I wanna fucking swear, I’ll fucking swear. I’m fucking worried sick. I ent seen my fucking lad since Thursday night. You bastards got ‘im locked up again entya?’

‘Calm down now, Linda. Young Harry’s not been arrested to my knowledge. Wait a moment, I’ll check with central.’

At 13.06, after several phone calls to local stations and hospitals, Humberside Police add, Henry David Barnes - aged fourteen years and four months - to their missing persons register.

Wednesday 18th March, 00.52: Sheffield City CCTV Control Centre….

MONITOR, SCC-5R is showing two smartly dressed young men sitting quietly on a bench in the city centre bathed in the orange glow of the sodium street lamps. They glance at a couple of stocky young guys stumbling along, apparently drunk. One of them stops and starts mouthing off at the two seated men. One raises his hands in a gesture of submission. The drunk walks over to him, waving a large kitchen knife. The men get to their feet and back away. Suddenly, they turn and run off-screen. Both drunks chase after them.

An operator notes the incident and raises the alarm. By the time he looks back to the screen he finds they have run into a blind-spot and their movements can’t be traced. A Police SUV arrives in seven minutes. A grid search of the area reveals nothing.

Saturday 21st March, 03.13: Exeter City CCTV Control Room….

MONITOR, BSP L/C 24 is showing two well dressed young men sitting on low wall in Bristol Street Plaza. They are approached by three aggressive looking youths in blue hoodies. . . . No traces of the incident that followed, most of which took place in a camera blind-spot, were found by the local police.

25th March….

SIX MISSING PERSONS have been placed on the lists of; The Humberside Police; The South Yorkshire Police and The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. It will be many weeks, while local enquiries yield nothing, before details of six young males (aged between fourteen and twenty-one) find their way onto the National Missing Persons list – run by a charity. A Romanian living illegally in Sheffield wasn’t reported missing.

Saturday, April 26th, 17.00: North Atlantic, 1186 Miles West Of Morocco….

AGENT JADE trots down the steps that lead from the upper decks carrying a darting rifle: the kind used by vets for sedating wild animals. The seven captives watch Jade take position in front of the cage at the bow end. He fires a dart into the right thigh of its occupant. Jade reloads and fires three more times. When the first dart hits, the Romanian screams in pain and shouts foreign curses. He’s collapsed, but still conscious when the second dart buries itself into the left thigh and comatose by the time the forth dart hits the left bicep. Jade is one of the two smartly dressed men who’d introduced themselves as agents, Amber and Jade to the prisoners while they handcuffed them on the nights of their capture – still paralysed by the Taser.

Jade unlocks the cage door and enters. He lays the gun on the floor and takes a pair of surgical gloves and a roll of cotton wool out of his shoulder-bag. After putting on the gloves, he rolls the cotton into small wads and makes a neat pile. When he has enough, he starts stuffing them into the Romanian’s mouth, nostrils, ears, and anus. He finishes the job by tying a bandage tightly around the tip of the penis and sealing the eyes and mouth with duct tape. While he does this, Jade speaks to the shocked onlookers in a calm, faintly American voice – like he’s giving a lecture.

‘Each of those darts contained a lethal dose of morphine. In a short while, number four will die. The process takes longer when it is not injected intravenously. At the moment of death, autolysis commences. Soon, blood and other bodily fluids will start leaking out of all his orifices. In the interests of your health, they need to be sealed before this begins.’

He looks away from the body to check the others are listening.

‘Unfortunately, our tests showed number four is infected by Hepatitis C. That means he is no longer of use to us. The reason I didn’t shoot him in the head with a regular gun is because I want to avoid blood spatter. As some of you may be aware, Hep. C is transferred in blood and we don’t want to risk infecting the rest of our stock.’

This is the first time anybody has spoken to the captives since they awoke naked from drug induced coma, each with a number tattooed on their right cheek-bone. Even when man-handled into position for the blood sampling and medical inspections, the “agents” said nothing, despite the screamed curses and frantic questions hurled at them.

The guy in the next cage with a three tattoo, strains against his chains and starts shouting, ‘What the fuck did you do that to Stefan for? He’s my mate.’ Number three looks quite different to when he arrived, having lost five kilos of beer blubber. His skin now has a healthy luminescence.

Although chained in a six-by-three cage with only a bed-roll and a chemical toilet, the captives are fed delicious, highly nutritious, food. All of them find it hard to resist.

Jade stands and removes his gloves, dropping them next to the corpse. He picks up the rifle, steps out of the cage and closes the door behind him. He faces number three. A short-lived smile flits across his face. ‘Ah. The man from Sheffield. The one that was so ready to skewer me – a total stranger – on the end of one of his mum’s carving knives. I bet she’s wondering where you are right now. Huh?’ Jade crosses his arms, clamping the rifle diagonally across his chest and leans back a little. ‘Why should you care what happens to your Gypsy friend when you are so ready to kill for no reason?’

Number two finds his voice, ‘Oi, cunt. You gonna leave him there?’

‘Hello, number two from Hull. Another one keen to stick a knife between my ribs as I recall. Lucky I remembered to wear my Kevlar vest.’ Jade takes a syringe-dart out of his bag and loads it into the rifle. He raises it and aims carefully at number two. He pretends to squeeze the trigger and whispers, ‘Pow.’ He lowers the gun. Without expression, his eyes follow the stream of urine as it trickles down two’s leg. He stares at the spreading yellow pool until the last drop splashes on the floor, then turns and heads toward the steps. When he reaches them, he stops and addresses the centre of the room in a loud voice, ‘The Gypsy stays here until it cools down. We’ll collect it in a couple of hours.’

‘What you gonna do with him?’

Jade checks his watch and sighs. ‘It’ll be cut into handy-size pieces: under hygienic conditions of course. Then we’ll put it into the ocean. Plenty of hungry sharks around here. Anything they miss will sink three miles to the ocean floor. Don’t worry though, the residual morphine won’t hurt the sharks and they aren’t affected by the Hep.C virus. . . . It’s quite humane.

‘What d’yer mean by stock?’ five shouts.

‘Well now. One of you was listening. That’s— ’

The sound of someone coming down the steps interrupts Jade. Agent Amber enters the deck carrying six cardboard boxes.

‘Special treat today lads,’ he calls out in a Manchester accent, ‘Pepperoni Pizza.’

Jade and Amber distribute the packages using the sliding drawers in the side of the cages. When they finish, both men leave.

A few minutes later, while the captives are unpacking their food, Amber returns. Standing on the bottom step, he says, ‘Agent Jade tells me one of you asked about our stock. The answer is of course, you. You are our stock. Well, not you exactly. . . . Your organs.’

Amber spins around and climbs the steps. He stops on the fifth step, bends down and looks back into the room. Only his head and shoulders are visible.

‘I forgot to mention something. We begin harvesting in four days. Enjoy your meals lads.’ 

Wednesday April 30th, 09.30: North Atlantic: 53 Miles East Of Miami….

A LARGE OCEAN GOING LUXURY CRUISER heads slowly west, its white paintwork glinting in the tropical Sun. The cruiser: one of thousands of privately owned and charter vessels in the Bahamas, is different from most. On a specially adapted deck hidden deep in its bowels, seven stainless steel cages are arranged around its curved walls: three starboard, three port and one at the bow. The cage at the bow is empty. The other six contain a naked young man shackled inside. Three of the occupants are highly agitated, shaking the bars of their cage and screaming abuse. Two are on their knees begging and crying. One, the youngest, stands motionless as if in a trance.

The two men dressed in green surgeon’s gowns, securing an ex-army field operating table to the floor in the space between the cages, don’t seem to hear or notice them.


  1. Wow, Keith! Reckon you could get a novel out of this, fella.
    Great work.

  2. Thanks Col,
    Extending this has certainly crossed my mind. I am working on changing the POV from narrator to the 14 year old Harry Barnes, but it aint easy.

  3. It never is, Keith, but stick at it!