I was sat on an amplifier in the band's rehearsal room on Wincolmlee, secreted away on Bankside, a decaying industrial area of Hull. In front of me was the city's hottest band, Witham, presumably named after the area on the edge of the city centre. Talk about a lack of imagination. From the way they were lounging around the room, I assumed I was meant to be impressed. I smiled politely and asked what I could do for them.
'Steve Hollins.' The man stood up and offered me his hand. 'We need your help.' He was a short, fat man, in his mid-thirties. The manager. 'We've got a problem and we haven't got long to sort it out.'
I nodded, encouraging him to continue. My partner, Don Ridley, had taken the initial call. Together we ran a small private investigation office in the city. People only contacted us when they had problems.
'I assume you know all about these guys?' Hollins asked me.
I nodded vaguely but my interest in the band's music was limited. Everybody knew they were the biggest music sensation since the Arctic Monkeys. I'd heard the breakthrough singles and even bought the debut album. The music press had hailed it as the first classic of the 21st century but it sounded like a case of the emperor's new clothes to me. The hits chugged along nicely enough but the rest of the album was padded out with filler. My music of choice is punk and ska; music which stands for something. The transparency of Witham didn't really do it for me.
'It's been a rollercoaster' he explained.
'It's been what, eighteen months?' He looked for confirmation from the band. One of them eventually nodded. 'When I first saw the band, they were playing the country's toilet venues and releasing badly recorded demos onto the Internet.' He shook his head in amazement. 'But I heard something in them and to cut a long story short, I got them a proper deal. The single took off and the album was last year's biggest seller. Amazing really, how the public can take a band to their hearts.'
Everything seemed to be a dream for them. I smiled. 'So what can I do for you?'
'The boys have just finished recording the new album and it's even better than the first, I can tell you.' The room fell silent. All eyes were on me. Hollins cleared his throat. 'The master-tapes have been stolen.'
'That's right. Obviously there's no end of people who'd pay an awful lot of money to get their hands on them. If we're not careful, they'll be leaked onto the Internet before we know it.'
And people will be downloading them for free, I thought. I understood the problem.
'It's a fucking nightmare' said one of the band. I couldn't see which one it was through the darkness at the back of the room. 'And them cunts release their new record tomorrow.'
I looked at Hollins. 'Them cunts?'
'Don't worry about it.' He explained that the band's arch-rivals were releasing their new album tomorrow. It'd been a race between them to get their follow-up records out, but they'd lost. 'It's not a race. It's about getting it right' Hollins explained.
'A bit like Oasis and Blur?' I suggested 'or The Beatles and The Stones?'
'The important thing is we need those masters back, or we've wasted six months hard work.' He stood up and circled the room. 'There's a complication.'
There's always a complication. I waited for him to explain.
'We fly off to America shortly, so we need them back by tomorrow.
'I'm afraid so. Unfortunately, the media have got wind of the situation. To settle things down, I've arranged a press conference for tomorrow lunchtime, at which I hope you can hand the masters over to us.'
I had less than 24 hours to locate them. Don and I were good at our job but it was a big ask. Before I had chance to ask how on earth I was supposed to do this, Hollins walked across the room and sat down next to me.
'Don't look so worried, Joe. I can tell you exactly who has them.'
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Hand that Rocked the Cradle By Lin Whitehouse
Hearing his mother's footsteps, the boy climbed out his bedroom window. They were both angry. He wanted to run away but it was a long drop and he might hurt himself.
She shouted when she saw him, sitting on the tiled roof, suddenly scared and remembering a time she had climbed out of a similar window.
He hugged his knees not wanting to look at her; she could not look away
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Resurrection By Leah Scarpati
The rhythmical drip-drip of condensation echoed around the cave. Kate couldn't see her hand in front of her face, were her eyes even open? The fall had shattered her torch as well as her ankle; as the pain continued to bite, panic rose. She couldn't feel her toes.
Hours of calling for help had been swallowed by the chasm of darkness,
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Latter-Day Luddite Saves the Day By Laura Fry
The police were on a coffee break, at a loss. Despite all the technology, the wanted man had got the better of them. They didn't notice the young woman at the opposite table with an old-fashioned tape recorder, on her way to teach a friend's child German.
She had found the man who had just left the café somewhat suspicious and pressed record.
This latter-day Luddite was able to tell
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Lost Property By Manuro
My dreadful husband died at an elephant hospice. To this day, whenever I see a sick elephant I feel a rush of overwhelming joy! I changed my name in 1979 and never foresaw the problems this would entail - car insurance, washing machine hire purchase agreements.
Women are named through male lineage: we disappear over time, our identity the property of others.
Fiction - Two Sides of the Same Tattoo Needle. By Leah Scarpati
Well I can certainly say I've learned my lesson! Mummy had always warned me about expressing myself through body art, tattoos, piercings and such like; but the more she told me not to, the more determined I became to disobey her.
"It's just not what people like us do dahhling," she purred in-between a long drag of a cigarette and a sip of her dry martini. "Just because
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Beginnings and Endings By Lin Whitehouse
It's a hypothetical question, what if - my father hadn't died in June - I hadn't known about my husband's girlfriend - I hadn't looked up when I did?
I was caught in a web and struggled to avoid his gaze, felt myself flush. I drowned in his smiling eyes. Could he see my outer sorrow, sense the inner excitement I concealed?
It's funny, funerals signify an end, but I felt something was
Fiction - Hangover By Leah Scarpati
The day ended as it had begun - disastrously. From the minute she opened one sticky mascara eye, then the other and the hangover woodpecker began to tap-tap-tap at her head; she knew the day was a right off. Her head hurt so much she could she feel her hair growing, her tongue was dry like an arid river bed and was fixed to the top of her mouth;
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Say No More By Joe Hakim
I'm on my way to the shops. I don't see him until I nearly step on his head.
I look down at the man on the floor, and notice he's on a bike - crotch on seat, feet on pedals, hands on handlebar. Like he's been zapped by a super-villain's freeze ray and toppled over.
I look around to make sure it isn't some kind of prank.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he replies.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - A Depressive and a Botched Suicide By Laura Fry
And once again boats sail down the Danube, but you; don't worry about me any more, I'm like leaves, the wind blows me away, wolves die alone...
The mourners read the translation of the deceased's beloved Croatian song. The male voice booms from the CD through Hull Crematorium, bringing additional shivers to the late autumn Yorkshire morning. The European flag
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Fun and Games By Shep
It was easier than he thought. Several swings of the bat and his problem had disappeared like the last drag of his cigarette. He looked at the windows adjacent to where he stood; half expecting to see the neighbours looking on with horror and disgust, but there was not a face in sight.
He smiled to himself and walked down the garden path back to his front door. Read more...
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Conversation In A Small Room By Manuro
'I went to the shops
And bought a new toffee
Hammer. The old one got
Damaged during the 'incident'
With those burglars.
You remember, waking up with
Some Burberry-capped thug in
Fiction - Beyond An Accidental Shoreline By Christopher Skolik
Dennison had covered some disturbing assignments in his time;
Neo-psychopathology and its preoccupations concerning future psychological abnormality.
Contagious mental illness and media psychosis, the way suicide or spree killing spread thru lines of communication.
Mutant-criminology and the adaptation of deviancy in our strange new psychological landscape.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Pain in Vain no Gain By Joan Moffat.
Sweat trickled down my face, droplets formed on my nose. Sharp pains tore at my back muscles.
Leaning over, as I struggled, constricted my breathing and squeezed my stomach into cramp.
Red flashes floated before my eyes. I was about to faint. I began to weep.
Why had I got myself into such a stupid situation? I was the victim of my own vanity.
I struggled more.
Fiction - Faster Than the Speed of Silence By Leah Scarpati
The phone's ringing again - the second time today. Its shrill chime echoes around the house, reverberating through the hall and into my warm little cocoon of a living room. It makes me nervous. It's like a foreign body, stealthily making its way through the house, looking for me- preparing to bump me off, to throw something at me when I least expect it.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - A is not only for Apple By Lin Whitehouse
Is this what it feels like to sit on death row, morbidly freefalling through the past? I keep averting my eyes from the clock face but the minute magnet holds me hostage.
Had I done enough to be reprieved?
Another hour swallows my resolve not to panic, in God's name how long does it take to open an envelope?
Perhaps the results aren't what we predicted.
Fiction - Everyone Loves The Big Girl By Leah Scarpati
The lights go back on and there are cheers, claps and wolf whistles as I
take my final bow. That plank of a DJ ruined the end of my performance
by cutting Shania off short instead of fading her out like I told him to.
Thankfully I don't think anyone noticed.
I'm sweating like a pack horse, but at least I've given it my all.
Large Lady Kiss-a-grams are getting a good reputation and I reckon
it's all down to me. Read more...