Authors: Colum Sanson-Regan
Henry Bloomburg is a private investigator created by struggling writer Martin Tripp. With Martin pulling the strings, Henry has solved many bizarre cases, but one remains open: The Fly Guy—a strange man who slips unseen through the streets in an endless pursuit of the dead. Once Henry is on the trail of The Fly Guy, Martin discovers he no longer has the power to turn Henry’s path. Even as Martin establishes a predictable rhythm in his real life, his obsession with Henry discovering The Fly Guy’s identity in his created world threatens to dismantle everything he is.
Smashwords Edition - 2015
Copyright © 2015 Colum Sanson-Regan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except where permitted by law. This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover design by Emma Michaels
Art Director Kevin J. Anderson
Book Design by RuneWright, LLC
Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Publishers
WordFire Press, an imprint of
PO Box 1840
Monument, CO 80132
“… Man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point. Others will follow, others will outstrip me on the same lines; and I hazard the guess that man will ultimately be known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens.”
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
– Robert Louis Stevenson
“Ultimate horror often paralyses memory in a merciful way.”
The Rats in the Walls
– HP Lovecraft
Martin Tripp put his dream in the ground. At the end of his tiny garden he dug a shallow grave in the sticky brown clay, just deep enough to bury a child. The soil clung to his spade, and in the darkness steam rose from him as he sweated and dug and dug, scraping and pushing the reluctant earth away. Moonlight reflected off the plastic bundle he laid in the earth. He straightened, and his heavy breath and sweat made a cloud around him, rising like a spirit in the night. In his shadow his dream glowed. He felt it begin to grow again like a whisper getting louder inside his head. He grabbed the spade and covered it in darkness.
Since that night Martin felt the darkness cling to him. That was months ago and now his weekday routine at the printing office was like a blunt iron thumping inside the walls of a tomb. On the day he started Alison kissed him at the doorway and said,
Remember, this is the start of something real.
Now every morning he auto-piloted the noisy little tin can of a hatchback to the third floor of a grey building sandwiched between a life insurance company and a debt repayment specialist. In the office the days ran to the rhythm and clunk of the printing machines. Brief static phrases of processing and the soft slide and swish of page after page after page pushed time forward slowly.
Martin had a cramped office space opposite the café, and this morning there was a small man sitting at one of the café tables. In a glance Martin felt a pinch and tug at the base of his skull. He knew this man. Here was Henry Bloomburg. Although he could see him, Martin knew how impossible it was. How he could not be sitting there sipping from a tiny espresso cup.
Martin turned away and ordered his coffee. When he looked again he expected the seat to be empty, for the ghost to have vanished, but Henry remained. He wore a black suit with a thin black tie and trilby hat, exactly as Martin had written him. The pinch grew more intense, but Martin looked away again before Henry could make eye contact.
Today was an important day and he didn’t want distractions. He tapped the counter and shifted from foot to foot. When his coffee came he spilled some as he turned. He crossed to his office and didn’t look back.
He was tired, that was all. His mind was playing tricks. Henry would disappear, of course he would. He had to concentrate. There was a pre-proof press that had to be sent this morning, and it could land him with a series contract. This would be something he could bring home to Alison. Something real.
“The series?” she would say, beaming at him. “Darling that’s fantastic!” and she would close her laptop and stand up and say, “Let’s celebrate!”
The file opened and he looked again at the cover note. Goodbooks
presents a series which revisits the most read religious texts of all time and offers a new, easy way of reading them, and a way to understand their teachings in relation to the modern world.
The title page loaded and Martin moved lines and angles, like manipulating a bird’s wing. The text floated and stretched, grew and shrank. Martin tasted sweat on his upper lip. He was mumbling to himself,
Sell it on the first page, sell it on the first page.
He pressed print. When he stood to go through to the print rooms his shirt was pasted to his back with clammy sweat.
As he stood by the printer he glanced out the window to the car park below. Henry was there looking up at him. Henry was so out of place, standing there. His arms were limp at his sides and his head cocked at an angle, like a bird listening for a reply. He was perfectly still. His stillness was magnetic, as if everything that moved revolved around him, in his gravity. As he looked Martin felt something come from him, a swell, a wave about to break.
The metallic drone of the printer’s buzzer broke his reverie, and he picked up the cover page from the tray.
The Old Testament—Today.
The first page of his future was in his hands. It looked good. Maybe now was the time. The first chink of light through the walls. He looked again down to the car park. Henry was gone.
He went back into his cramped office and started to type. To the drones and clicks of the printers Martin revised his proposal for
. All day he lined up numbers, knocked them down, and set them up again.
During dinner Martin said nothing. Halfway through Alison went to the fridge and took out a bottle of chilled wine, stopping for a moment to check her teeth in the mirror.
“Yup. A big chunk of salad. A green tooth, you could have told me.”
She sat and poured the wine. The bottle felt cool in her hand. She closed her eyes as she drank. When she opened them Martin was looking down moving the food around his plate.
“Not hungry? Did you eat earlier? Martin?”
She forked some salad into her mouth and chewed, waiting for him to look up.
“Well, if you’re not going to talk—” She reached for a magazine and pulled it next to her plate.
“It’s just this meeting tomorrow, it’s on my mind. The contract.”
“I’m sure it will be fine, I’m sure it will. You know what you’re doing, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I think so. If this works I will get a cut and I can start paying you back.”
“I know, you said already.” She turned the pages. “Don’t pin everything on this one contract though.”
As soon as Alison put her fork down he picked up the plates and took them to the sink.
“Do you want any ice cream?”
“No, I’m fine.” She turned another page. She wasn’t reading, she was scanning for anything interesting. Nothing there. Another page.
“Sally is huge,” she said. Martin spooned ice cream into a bowl. “She won’t find out if it’s a boy or a girl though. I mean, wouldn’t you want to know? How can you have the answer there in front of you, but choose to remain in the dark?”
Martin sat down. “I don’t know. It’s hard to say till it’s happening to you I guess. This contract could set me up for a while.”
Alison took a spoonful of ice cream.
“You said already.” She put the spoon in her mouth.
“I’m just going up to go over the proposal.”
She handed the spoon back to him. “Go on then, abandon me. Leave me alone with my wine.”
“Come on, it’s—”
“I know, I know, go on. I’m kidding, go on,” she said as she poured another glass. “I’m not going to stay up late, I have meetings tomorrow, too. The docklands plots are moving, The Bucket O’ Blood is ready to sign, but I’ll believe that when I see it. So we’ll both be busy tomorrow.”
Martin leaned over and kissed her forehead. Then he picked up his bowl and went upstairs.
* * *
Martin sat and turned his computer on. He put the bowl on the clean desk. Months ago he would have had to hold it in his lap or balance it on a tower of loose paper, or clear away old coffee cups and post-it notes splattered with brandy splashes.
In one afternoon, Alison had cleared away nearly three years of words. He remembered the sweaty determination on her face when he came home and found her taking down the sketches from the walls, the figure drawings, the hand-drawn maps and words in capital letters inside circles within circles. All of the pages with scribbles in the margins and arrows pointing chaotically were stacked neatly into storage boxes. Now there was even a coaster for him to put the bowl on so that it wouldn’t mark the clean desk.
she must have scrubbed and scrubbed that desk to get it so clean.
She had even replaced the bulb in the room for a brighter one.
Martin clicked on his documents folder and opened up his paper-sourcing outlines. As he read, he felt a voice, like a whisper being pressed to his cheek—
. He caught a movement in the corner of his eye and snapped his head around. He was alone.
The next morning, Martin saw Henry again by the lights at the big junction. He looked the same as he did the day before, motionless. It was as though he had blinked out of existence in the car park, only to reappear here.
The lights changed. The fat man in his vest in the grimy van behind Martin beeped his horn and chewed on thick curses. Martin pulled off, looking in the rear view mirror at the thin figure on the side of the road, just standing there. The pinching and nagging at the back of his head got worse.
Martin tuned on the radio. At this time every morning there was a DJ with an over-enthusiastic voice who did a rundown on the issues of the day, but all Martin could hear was static with a faint indistinguishable voice behind it. He tried tuning the radio up and down, but nothing changed. He turned the volume up to hear the voice. It was no good. The car was filled with grainy aggressive undirected noise, caught in a storm of swirling ground masonry and shattered steel. Behind him another angry driver beeped and waved her arms around behind the glass as if she was sinking. Martin realised he had slowed down again. He turned the radio off and picked up speed.
As he pulled into the car park he saw a woman step from one of the cars. She moved elegantly toward the main entrance with the confident stride of a model in a catwalk. Martin parked up and half ran across the car park, slowing to a walk as he reached the door. She was waiting for the lift. Martin stepped beside her. She shifted slightly and gave him a brief smile.
“Hi,” said Martin.
“Hello,” she replied. Martin recognised her voice. Her look suited her voice perfectly. When they had spoken Martin leaned into her luxurious tone, pressing the receiver harder against his ear, wanting to get closer to this voice, serious but sensuous.
“Can I ask, are you here to see Mr. Tripp?”
“Yes. Yes, we have a nine o’clock.”
“I’m Martin,” he said extending his hand.
“Aha! Nice to meet you. I’m Susan—”
“—Purvis. Hi. Yes we spoke—”
“—on the phone.”
Martin said, “So, em, there’s a café upstairs. Do you want to grab a coffee and—”
“Oh yes,” she said, smiling. “Let’s grab a latte and chat an outline before we get to specifics.”
Martin let his eyes slide down over her for a moment before he said, “I’m sure we can provide everything you need here, but as you say, the devil is—”
“—in the detail.”
The lift door opened.
There was Henry, looking straight at him. His face was rugged, there was a scar running from his nose under his right eye. Susan Purvis stepped into the lift. Martin forced himself to move. As he stepped in he heard Henry ask, “Which floor?” Martin looked from Susan to Henry and back to Susan who was looking at him expectantly. Martin felt his insides turn to ice as she said, “Well, I don’t know. Mr. Tripp? Which floor?”
“That’s, em, I thought …” Martin felt the blood drain away from his face and the floor begin to tilt. Susan put her hand on his arm.
“Mr. Tripp, are you alright?”
“Yes, I … I, em … floor three, third floor.”
Henry pushed the button and Martin turned to face the doors. His stomach began to churn with anxiety. Behind him was Henry Bloomburg, who he had buried all those months ago. Martin had seen him before, yes, but he was always in his head, wasn’t he? But he had spoken and Susan Purvis heard him. Henry had pressed the button and here they were, going up. The scar on his face, where did he get that? He never gave Henry a scar. The churning anxiety rose to his heart now, and he could feel it reaching up and tugging at his face. Martin’s mind was spasming, kicking against the inside of his skull. He wanted to bend over and clutch his head.
When the doors opened it was like breaking the surface and he rushed forward, almost falling on his shaking legs. Susan came to his side.
“Mr. Tripp? Are you okay?”
Martin took a breath. He forced his face into a smile and said, “Yes, I’m fine, I’m fine. Just a bit … just dizzy for a moment. I’m fine … let’s sit down”
As they ordered coffee Martin glanced around. Henry was not there. Susan was talking, “—We see ourselves as facilitators of spiritual literacy—”
“Well, people are always looking for, well, the—”
“Creator. Whether they know it or not, that is what they need in their lives. It’s not just Christianity, we look at all spiritual texts—” Martin nodded his head in interest, trying not to grimace as he stuffed Henry Bloomburg into a dark space in the corner of his mind. He swallowed hard, forcing the pressure down, down.
With coffees in their hands they sat at the table.
“What if Jesus was your homie?” she said.
Martin laughed, then changed it quickly to a cough. He felt himself frown, so he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to one side.
“What, like in the ’hood?”
“Exactly. Jesus in the ’hood.”
He considered her face. It was open and earnest. He could see how thick her make-up was.
“Well, I guess … I’d be lucky. I’d be hanging with Jesus.”
“Jesus, as he is now, is all ‘thees’ and ‘thines.’ We want to give him a modern voice. You can’t be saved if your saviour is trapped in an ancient text. You shouldn’t need a preacher to explain it to you.”
Martin agreed and glanced around the room. Had Henry been there? Maybe it was in his head. But yesterday Henry was sitting at this table, and today in the lift he was real. As real as this elegant and effortlessly seductive woman who was saying, “Punchy parables. Instant insight. Easy access to the word of God.”
When Susan spoke she spread her fingers wide and her hands rotated from her wrists, like a magician inviting agreement; look, there’s nothing there.