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The Publisher Demands (standard:drama, 1038 words)
Author: Brian CrossAdded: Sep 22 2008Views/Reads: 1979/1182Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A handbag left in a pub leads writer John Bunting to revise the end of a story.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

Resisting the urge to gulp his pint Bunting sat by the window
concentrating on the quiet village street, but Margie didn't show. 
Surely she had to realise she'd left her bag and retrace her steps? 
Well, if so, it was taking some time. 

More time than he was prepared to give; his nerves close to snapping,
Bunting downed the last of his pint and made for the door. 

He sat in his car, re-checking the contents of her bag, pulling out a
scrap of paper the size of a business card, “Orchard Cottage, Railway 
Approach, Micklewater.” 

What the hell was that about? But the notepaper bearing his wife's bold
handwriting intrigued him. Railway Approach wouldn't be hard to find – 
he wasn't well acquainted with Micklewater, but he knew the long 
disused station had been acquired by a steam railway preservation 
society and lay off the main street. 

Sure enough, off a leafy lane lay Station Approach. The station lay at
the end, an impressive Edwardian building, but to its right surrounded 
by apple trees was Orchard Cottage. He pulled up some distance from it, 
where the lane parted company with the approach. 

Two four-by-fours were parked outside, one was clearly Margie's and the
other was familiar although he couldn't determine the owner. Not until 
the burly shape of his publisher, Tim Harrison-Clarke emerged holding 
Margie's hand. Now Bunting saw what was going on, what might have been 
going on for years. He roared up, saw the shocked look on the pair's 
faces and then shaking with barely containable anger he handed over her 
bag. ‘You might want this. You left it at the pub.' 

Tim Harrison-Clarke brushed the lapels of his well-pressed suit, ‘Er
John, I was just showing your wife around this lovely cottage; weren't 
you supposed to be working on your compilation? Time is short, you 

‘It sure is,' Bunting growled, eyes on his wife, ‘weren't you supposed
to be in Cornwall?' 

Margie sighed, looked him in the eye, full of defiance, ‘I was in
Cornwall - if you must know we both were. And you may as well know 
John, that Tim and I are an item. We've had our eye on this place for 
some time. We came back from Cornwall when we heard it was vacant.' 

‘And that's why you set me so tight a deadline, and not for the first
time,' Bunting said to Harrison-Clarke through clenched teeth, ‘so the 
pair of you had space to-‘ 

Tim raised a hand, ‘John wait-‘ 

But Bunting wasn't waiting, he felt like thumping the pair of them both
there and then, but that wouldn't have been a painful enough ending. 

Back home Bunting's cleaner had finished and gone. Only the ticking of
the clock disturbed Bunting as he worked on his piece - 

Todd Butchers had a split personality, more than that he lived two
lives; a shy retiring type most of the time but his other self was 
vindictive, volatile, aggressive – as the stabbings in Orchard Cottage 
were to testify... 

Bunting took the machete from his drawer, caressed the blade carefully
with the tip of his finger – 

So he'd need to find a new publisher, who gave a damn? 


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