What a glorious day, I thought. Already I had seen performing acrobats, listened to the sweet melodies of musicians, and taken in the salivating aromas of tradesmen selling the most delicious smelling pies and pastries. Many had brought their children to enjoy the numerous entertainments accompanying my own starring role.
It couldn’t have been far, no more than a few feet, but I remember hurtling downwards, swaying and spinning as I went. The pain was indescribable, admittedly for just a moment, so no need to dwell on that bit, at least not for now.
I had tried to keep my eyes closed at the start to avoid being blinded by the glare of the sun directly overhead. But curiosity compelled me to witness the event in its entirety. And why not? I was, after all, the star of the show.
The previously baying crowd were united in a rapturous thunder of applause. Many were in attendance, everyone from wealthy merchants, farmers, and the soldiers, of course, to the most wretched peasant.
People were enjoying what some might call a carnival atmosphere, encouraged by the warm weather and grandness of the occasion.
It did anger me that despite being at the centre of the celebrations, I was somewhat restricted in my ability to enjoy the occasion to the full. Still, I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed, I’d had the best view of all during my brief attendance. Had those in charge had their way, my last sight of the world would have been the insides of the cushioned wicker basket in which I, or rather my head to be precise, was meant to land – and stay.
The force of my landing, or rather my head’s landing, had sent the flimsy basket tumbling over on its side and me, my head that is, rolling two, maybe three feet, leaving it in a sideways position, skewing my view of the surroundings. I was just thankful for not having additionally suffered the indignity of my head rolling a little farther and bouncing down the wooden steps leading up to the platform. Given the mood of the crowd, I’m sure they would have taken the opportunity for an impromptu game of football with it.
I had a perfect if oddly angled view across the town square. Unfortunately, I could also see the thick puddle of red, viscous liquid forming about me, no doubt the waterfall of blood flowing from the neck of my decapitated body. I was quite worried it might reach me and that I, my head that is, would roll over into it face-first.
I needn’t have worried. The Judicial Executioner reached down to retrieve it, grabbing and lifting me up by the hair. I would guess this was an easy task now that that part, the bit that was still me, probably weighed no more than two or three kilos rather than my previous eighty.
I was suddenly aware of the panoramic view of my audience while the executioner turned 360 degrees to give everyone a good look at me. Once more, the crowds cheered their approval.
Without warning, the executioner suddenly thrust me – my head that is – down over the top of a sharpened pike, the business end slicing through the underside of what was little was left of my neck, rising straight up through the brain and out the top of my skull. Oddly enough, that hardly hurt a bit, something to do with the brain not actually having any pain receptors of its own, just the ability to process pain signals from elsewhere about the body … well, that was hardly an issue for me now.
I was further enjoying my birds-eye view of the world as the executioner hoisted the pike aloft and vertically into the air. I was afraid I, my head, might slide down, but several protruding ridges along its length held me in position.
Shortly after, one of the soldiers carried the pike (with ‘me’ still on it like some piece of skewered kebab meat) all the way back to the Bastille.
To this day, the pike and my now embalmed head remain there, embedded at a 45-degree angle from the prison walls for the public to come and gawp at like some cheap tourist attraction.
It’s not so bad now, well, except for the pigeons and other pests that use me as a landing perch (and other unmentionable things), but I do feel a little aggrieved. Admittedly I made my victims suffer quite horribly, but at least they all died … eventually.
I had expected a quick and relatively painless death. It was anything but … time had slowed to an incredible degree, much like all those stories you hear of your life flashing before your eyes immediately prior to death. I was sure that was what was happening with me, and as such, I was also experiencing a lifetime of pain in that same moment.
Perhaps this endless persistence of awareness in my decapitated head is to be my eternal punishment for ending the lives of so many others in my own butchering activities … I guess there’s a certain perverse karma in that.
Arguments had raged for years about how long the victim retained consciousness after decapitation. The notorious Parisian serial killer, Henri Boucher, otherwise known as The Butcher, had been the clearest indication to date supporting the idea that life lingered on for somewhat longer than the few seconds advocates of the guillotine claimed. The Judicial Executioner and many in the immediate crowd swore on the lives of their nearest and dearest to observing Boucher’s eyes rolling from side to side in response to those watching, and movement of the mouth and lips in the manner of a scream when the head was forcefully thrust onto the pike.
Perhaps La Guillotine wasn’t the quick and painless death they imagined it to be?
No one could imagine the real truth of the matter … except perhaps, Henri Boucher.
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It was reasonable to assume Melina Jackson was her name given that was the only female name on the list of doorbells.
The flat-capped, raincoat wearing man liked to stalk his victims first. He deliberately cultivated an unassuming, almost invisible appearance for the initial stages of his work for obvious reasons, ensuring that any possible description of him would be as nondescript as that of the nearest lamppost. The knife-wielding sociopath was most meticulous in his planning, proud indeed of his attention to detail. But then, of course, he had to be otherwise his career would most likely have been a short one …
The mere presence of Bartholomew Brown was enough to make the skin crawl – if he wanted. Mostly though, he was the most affable and charming man you could ever hope to meet.
He preferred to be called Mr Brown rather than Bartholomew – Bartholomew sounded too Bohemian, too pretentious, he thought. Mr had more of a cold and enigmatic feel to it, for, beneath his superficial charm, Mr Brown possessed the most twisted imagination ever; perhaps that was what compelled him to do what he did?
If you were foolish enough to ask Mr Brown about his interests, just five minutes into the reply would be enough to have the strongest of stomachs heaving and ready to expel their contents in a fit of projectile vomiting. You see, Bartholomew Brown was no ordinary man.
Over the past twenty-five years, he’d been responsible for the bodies in the canal murders, the butchering of seventeen prostitutes, and the cold-blooded murder of six unfortunate serial killer hunting detectives. And those were just what he considered his most notable successes; there had been many others, but they had been when he first started out, so he forgave himself for those initial somewhat sloppy and amateurish efforts. He’d long since perfected his craft though and was again looking forward to satisfying his darkest fantasies.
The next one was to be a woman by the name of Melina Jackson. Oh yes, she would make a fine victim, he thought, what with her sun-kissed red hair, those ‘come to bed and ravage me’ eyes, and the short, slutty skirt and high-heels that just screamed whore from head to toe. This one deserved a slow death, as painful and bloody as any to date. Mr Brown was determined to excel himself this time.
… Melina Jackson left the upmarket hotel by the back entrance, her business done with her latest trick, her third of the night. With a bra stuffed full of cash, she walked along the dark side-street, intending to call a cab from the nearby taxi rank. It was only a short distance but enough to provide her assailant with sufficient cover to hide in the shadows before stepping out to confront her.
The serrated knife entered her breast at the same moment he looked into her eyes. A hand clasped her mouth before the merest hint of a scream could escape her ruby red lips. Her mutilated body would probably be found by an early morning street cleaner or perhaps even earlier, some late-night reveller turning into the dark street to take a piss …
Oh yes, Mr Brown was happy with his efforts with this one, of creating a scene of bloody carnage to rival that of the very best efforts of Jack the Ripper.
Thank god it was just Mr Brown’s vivid imagination, that the details of Melina Jackson’s death were simply the ones staring back at him from a computer screen, and later, some anonymous reader’s Kindle or while scrolling a Dark Web fiction forum.
Finally satisfied with the level of detail he’d achieved in his latest serial killer story, Mr Brown typed … The End.
Finishing a story always gave Mr Brown another craving too, an almost ritual one of making himself a sandwich. He was about to cut himself a couple of slices of bread when he stopped himself … Mr Brown frowned, silently annoyed at himself; there was still blood on the serrated edge of his carving knife … even after twenty-five years, Mr Brown could still be sloppy.
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What are the odds on that?
Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.
“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.
“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.
“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.
“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”
“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”
Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.
“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”
“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”
“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”
With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.
Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.
With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …
“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.
Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?
The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.
For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …
Sharon Brownlie was born in Malta in 1962. Her parents were in the Armed Forces and she spent her childhood travelling all around the world. As a mature student, she graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master of Arts Hons degree in History and a PGCE. Sharon spent some years working in Adult Education. Sharon Brownlie is also another valued member and prolific contributor to the wider Indie Author community, and I’m proud to say, an equally valued member of my own IASD writing group.
In addition to her writing, Sharon Brownlie is a talented and successful print and eBook cover designer, as well as offering a number of other related highly competitive author services, including formatting, proof-reading, and copy editing.
Amazon description – Betrayal (Book1)
What makes a woman kill? An upbringing marred by rejection and hurt when you are let down by the ones you love and a society that is supposed to protect you? As a teenager, that rejection lures Helen King into the world of drugs and prostitution.
Now, as an adult, Helen is spiralling out of control. Old wounds are surfacing; can she face her demons without the drugs? Will revenge help release her from her past? Beating her addiction is her only chance at a new life. But, an encounter with a former school teacher opens up old wounds that had been festering deep within her. While quitting drugs, another craving takes its place. A desire for revenge: payback for those who’d betrayed her.
Plagued with bitterness, Helen heads to Edinburgh to begin her killing spree.
Police are mystified when her first victim is found. A second death convinces them it’s the same killer. Can they connect Helen to the crimes? How many more will die before she is stopped?
What an awesome book! As a fan of police procedural and murder stories, I can honestly say this is one of the best I’ve read in the genre in a very long time. While some books try to intrigue and tease the reader into reading beyond that all-important first chapter, Sharon Brownlie grabs you by the throat from the very first line, commanding your attention to the last.
The writing was crisp and sharp, always propelling the story forward or helping set the scene in the reader’s mind. I liked too that there were strong female characters on both sides of the law, which gave the story an additionally interesting slant. The portrayal of the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, namely the drugs and prostitution, and the equally seedy characters that inhabit such a world was utterly convincing.
This is a story of bloody revenge taken to the nth degree. The main character, Helen King, is as loathsome, ruthless, and manipulative an individual as you would never want to meet outside the pages of a book, and yet her background and motivation allow the reader to, if not condone, at least understand and sympathise with her, even more so when she finally shows a few glimmers of humanity. Likewise, with the other characters – the author doesn’t strive to make the reader actually like or empathise with them, concentrating instead on portraying them as realistically as possible within a totally engaging story. A couple of traumatic incidents and a chance meeting of sorts are the catalyst for Helen’s transformation from an abused and cruelly exploited young girl and woman into a ruthless killer. Driven by her vivid dreams of revenge on those people she perceives as having let her down when she was a child, she’s consumed by a need to make them pay for their ‘betrayal’ of her. The author doesn’t exaggerate the violence in the book i.e. it’s not as graphic or detailed as you might expect given the theme of the book, but yet the author still manages to conjure a clear image of it in the reader’s imagination. The investigations into her activities are authentic and well constructed but without bogging the reader down with every precise detail or overuse of police terminology. As you would expect, there are several police officers involved in the investigation, though of course, the story focuses on those leading it, and the author brings them to life with little snippets of background information and all the varied character traits you would encounter in the real world. In addition to the story being told, these characters could easily warrant further crime thrillers in their own right.
It’s impossible for me to overpraise this book; anyone who’s ever read and enjoyed Lynda La Plante’s ‘Prime Suspect’ series (or seen the tv adaptation) will be in for a real treat with this one. My favourite crime book this year.
Amazon description – The Consequences (Book2)
A year has passed since the arrest of serial killer, Helen King. She has languished in jail awaiting her fate. Her wait is over and her day of reckoning has arrived. It is time for her to face the consequences of her crimes.
Will Helen go quietly? Has she laid her ghosts to rest?
The Consequences (Book2)
The second of this two-part series is really more a short novella than a full-length novel, but every word of it helps bring closure to the first part. In this second part, The Consequences, we learn more of the detail of Helen’s tragic young life in her own heartfelt words, and through that, the reader is finally able to empathise more with Helen, and this time truly understand her compulsion to exact revenge on all those who had failed in their duty of care towards her at an age when she needed it most. We also see a softer, more human side emerging in DS Brennan and DI Ellington, two of the female detectives responsible for bringing her to justice. Although a relatively short read, it was for me, the perfect length epilogue – any longer and it would have come across as needless ‘padding.’ I sincerely hope for more of the same from this splendidly talented author.
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