So. It has begun. The Orange Scourge rises. Donald Trump, the man with less votes than the woman who lost, has become President of the United States.

And an all-seeing eye, breathed in flame, took up residence in the White House, and did throw a tantrum every time he was mentioned on Twitter. #DarkLordTrump 

So what’s in store for Sauron’s Trump’s presidency? If you foolishly think healthcare is a right, and not determined by how much money you earn, you might be in for a wee bit of a shock very soon. If you thought Mexico were paying for some masonry work, guess again. Hillary being arrested? Not gonna happen.

What is likely to happen? America’s new Dark Lord might raise an army of orcs. He might decide to go all ‘Harry Potter’ and raise an army of Death Eaters. Or he might do a crossover and raise an army of orc eaters. I’m sorry, I am really struggling for inspiration for this post. Here’s a picture of a cat instead:

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That cat there? She was Trinity. She was the most loving, affectionate and friendly cat anyone could wish for, and I’d much rather think about her good spirit, rather than the spiteful spirit that’s just taken up residence in the White House. If you presented a lap to her, she would jump on it without hesitation. Sometimes, she’d do exactly that, even if you didn’t want a cat on your lap.

But be warned. You couldn’t leave prawns unguarded in her presence. You didn’t dare leave chocolate unguarded either (yes, she had been known to lick chocolate). When she was hungry, she was not shy of telling you.

She was also the boss. When we got a young buck, Castiel, he thought he could exert some  form of authority on our old lady. Not. A. Chance. Trinity didn’t settle for that, and made sure Castiel knew it. A bat across the nose, a swipe at the face, and a complete and thorough disdain for existence, in the manner only cats can manage – Trinity delivered the full package of contempt for this new arrival. Truly, a queen among cats.

So today, look to your pets. Look to your friends. Look to your significant other, your children, and your family. Look to all that is good, and kind, and unite in that spirit. Unite against the new occupant of the White House and his ilk. You are many, and you will make a difference.

Ok, enough being inspiring. Let us return to the other side. It is not only time for Trump, but it is nearly time for something altogether different. Sometimes I am chomping at the bit to do. I can sum it up in one word: Zelda.

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On the 3rd of March, I will become a big kid again (assuming I ever actually grew up – there are grounds to question this). Nintendo are bringing out the Switch, and I want one. I want one enough to sell body parts. I want the new Zelda game for it. I can’t wait to go back to Hyrule and explore all there is to see. I am GEEKING OUT!

I might need to go lie down. I am so excited that I am barely sleeping. Curse you, 13 year-old mind!

A double homicide wasn’t what Detective Inspector Adjoa Idowu had planned on dealing with when her shift started, but no sooner had she sat down behind her desk at Barkingside than the call had come in for her to take a trip to Gants Hill. Reports of a shooting and a man seen forcing another man into the boot of a taxi, which then left the scene. Uniform had found a second body near the house where shots had been reported, and now Idowu was crouched down, over the body of a middle-aged Caucasian male, whose cause of death seemed pretty evident.

“Is the neck wound the only one?” She asked of the paramedic now on the scene. The younger woman ran her fingers through her tied-back blonde hair and nodded. “Only wound.

Idowu stood back up. “I had wanted to see you tonight… just not…”

“Yeah, I know.” The other woman offered up a lop-sided smile. “Still, first time our jobs have crossed our paths eh? One to tick off the list.”

Despite the scene, Idowu smiled. “Yeah. I don’t know if there’s much more to do here.”

“Body dumped in the woods, but not too discretely, as though the killer didn’t care if the body was found.”

Idowu raised an eyebrow. “I thought I was the detective.” She asked sardonically.

“Sorry, you’ve rubbed off on me.” The paramedic grinned. “But yeah, I don’t think there’s anything more for me or my colleagues to do. Don’t suppose you’ll be able to tell me about this later?”

“Sorry, case confidentiality and all that.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll see you later. Be safe.” She smiled one more time, because heading off toward the waiting ambulance.

Idowu watched her go, appreciating the discretion, in more ways than one. With a shake of her head, as if to dismiss certain thoughts, she flicked out the wallet of the deceased cabbie and held out the driving licence. “Liam Roper. Jeez, just 23… Sorry Liam. I really am.” She thumbed through the cards, which confirmed his cab licence. Nothing stood out as unusual.

A young uniformed officer, bundled up in a warm hi-vis jacket, wandered over, dipping under the police cordon. “Ma’am. We think we’ve found the weapon used here.” He held out a sealed evidence bag, containing a bloodied blade.

“Thanks Kevin. Can I have a look?”

“Yes Ma’am.” Kevin handed over the bag. Idowu flipped it over, studying the weapon.

“Looks like a carving knife.”

“Yes Ma’am. Seems like it. We’re asking residents if they saw or heard anything suspicious, so far no one’s seen anything.”

If it’s gang trouble they don’t want to know, and I don’t blame them. “Thank you Kevin. I don’t think anyone will come forward, but for now, let’s keep asking and keep searching for any clues. I need to visit the other crime scene, get the knife to forensics please.”

“Ma’am.” Kevin nodded, and headed off toward the road, with Idowu following on.

****

Broken glass, a broken door, and signs of a struggle. An old man murdered in his own home. Idowu rubbed the bridge of her nose. Aside from the pointlessness of it all, how did this crime connect to the stabbing of a taxi driver?

Fortunately Liam’s cab card had the details of his employer, and a call had already been made to find out what cab he’d taken, so in a matter of minutes the licence plate would be in the database and every police officer notified to keep an eye out for it. Unfortunately, in Idowu’s experience the perps usually dumped the car shortly after taking it, and in other cases burned the car as well. Still, maybe their suspect would get spooked and make a mistake.

“We’ll have to get forensics to carry out a thorough sweep of the house.” She remarked to the other detective, her regular partner.

“Yup.” He started to walk upstairs, running a gloved hand along the bannister. “Poor old sod. He was a war veteran you know. Didn’t deserve to be gunned down in his own home.”

“Any connection between him and the other victim?” Asked Idowu. She stepped out of the living room, having just looked at the bullet holes in the sofa.

“Nothing found so far. Andrew Harper had used the taxi firm a couple of times, but Liam had never been one of the drivers.”

Idowu sighed. “We need to find out of they shared any interests. Same hobbies, same pub, anyone that knew them both, though I’m starting to think this was random.”

“Robbery gone wrong?” Asked her partner.

“Most likely. Except for one thing – the neighbours mentioned that the man being forced to get into the boot of the taxi was wearing something over their face.”

Her partner yawned. “Sorry, long night last night.”

Idowu smiled sympathetically. “Cassandra keeping you up?”

“Yeah. Teething stage. She’s grizzly and wants nothing but cuddles, even at four in the morning.”

“You wanted to be a dad…” She began.

“And I wouldn’t change it for the world. Still, I’d kill for a couple of hours kip. You were saying something about a man in a mask?” He asked as they walked out of the house and back into the night.

“A man with something on his face, being forced into the back of the taxi. Seems a bit weird.” She looked down the road, in the direction the taxi was said to have headed. “We’ll know more once forensics come back with their reports, but I have an idea.”

“Well, don’t hold back. Let’s here it.”

“The killer stole the taxi to use as a getaway – probably the first car he came across. Quickly killed the driver and disposed of his body, before heading off to find what he thought was a vulnerable target.”

Her partner nodded. “Old man, living alone, but our killer didn’t bank on him having a visitor. Still, why would this guest kidnap the killer?”

“That’s the piece of this puzzle I don’t get. It doesn’t make sense. Stephen, we’ll have uniform go door-to-door, ask if anyone recognised our kidnapper. You find out where the taxi was meant to be taking Mr Harper, and I’ll see if we can find out where the taxi is.”

“Gotcha. This is gonna be an all-nighter isn’t it?” Stephen rubbed his cheeks and groaned. “I’d better let Michelle know.”

Idowu offered a weak smile. “Fraid so mate.”

 

Back to Techno Fail

Originally I was going to review each Hobbit film separately, but having watched them all, I’ve decided to review the trilogy as a whole. It is after all, intended as one big movie right? Right?!

So, what can be said of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth? How does it stack up to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and is it fair to compare the two sagas?)

The first thing of note is that if you have seen Lord of the Rings prior to The Hobbit, there are several nods to it throughout the new trilogy, that nonetheless don’t require prior viewing of Lord of the Rings for the films to work. As a standalone piece of work, it does work, in terms of setting up the characters, and telling their story.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. The principle cast of dwarfs numbers some 13-strong, plus Bilbo Baggins, plus Gandalf, plus other supporting characters that turn up over the course of the trilogy. As a result of this, some characters are inevitably caricatures and lack any meaningful backstory or narrative, even with three films in which to tell the story. The secondary storyline concerning the Necromancer (later revealed to be Sauron) seems completely disjointed with the main plot (though, this does tie in somewhat in The Battle of the Five Armies), but it does provide a little insight into the histories of the powers that reside in Middle Earth.

The weakest part of this trilogy is An Unexpected Journey, which seems to wane during the middle, picking up the pace as the film draws toward its conclusion. To me, the trilogy is at its best whenever Smaug is on the screen – Benedict Cumberbatch lends malice to this monstrous beast, which is impressively realised.

You cannot help but warm to Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, who sees the world very differently to his companions. He is driven to do what is right, even if his Dwarfish friends don’t share in his opinions, and puts himself in harm’s way for his friends, despite his small stature. Sir Ian Mckellen lends gravitas to his familiar role as Gandalf, and it’s clear that director Jackson has poured a lot of love into his craft. I cannot say that The Hobbit Trilogy is as good as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but it has been maligned in some quarters, unfairly so in my opinion. It is worth watching, and it will enhance viewing of Lord of the Rings as well.

 

So now we know a little bit more about the upcoming Nintendo Switch. We know what the price will be. We know some of the additional items that will be available with it. We know a launch title. Am I an excited meerkat at this moment?

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The answer is very much yes. Already criticism is coming in about the Switch, and I understand why, but let’s focus on the positives shall we? The recommended retail price here in the UK is £279.99. This is actually slightly lower than I’d expected. For this, you get the console, the docking station, the controllers and the docking station for the controllers. You also get a HDMI cable for linking the docked console to the TV. The console has a touchscreen. It’s battery life is up to six hours, but with the warning that this depends on how it’s being used (the website advises that when playing Breath of the Wild, the console’s charge will last around three hours).

What else can we expect? It’s nigh-impossible to go into detail about the Joy-Con controllers (the detachable hand-held controls seen in the trailer), but suffice to say, they offer a range of motion controls and an individual Joy-Con can be used as a stand-alone controller. Nintendo are also launching a subscription-based online service (probably similar to those found on the PlayStation and Xbox systems). Multiple Switches can be linked together for local multiplayer too.

What of the software? For me, the biggest news is that Breath of the Wild will be a launch title – Nintendo showed off a new trailer for their latest, biggest Zelda game alongside their Switch presentation, and it reaffirms why I badly want to get my hands on both the Switch and this game. This latest trailer revealed quite a lot of voice acting, something previous absent from Zelda games, and in my humble view, this is long overdue. Whether this voice acting is present in both the Wii U and Switch versions of the game remains to be seen, but both versions launch on the 3rd of March, and both versions have an optional Master Sword edition available.

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This game will be amazing, I just know it

A Nintendo announcement wouldn’t be a Nintendo announcement without mentioning their other big A-lister, and sure enough, Mario is coming to the Switch, in an open-world game that might be similar in scale to Breath of the Wild. Details are sketchy, but Mario visits a city that looks very much like New York, as well as several other locations, and Bowser is suited and booted in a style reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart.

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Guess whose back

Super Mario Odyssey won’t launch until nearer Christmas.

The UK site also hints that big third-party titles like FIFA and Elder Scrolls will be hitting the Switch. If so, this is big news. The Switch lacks the raw power of the PlayStation and Xbox, but might there be enough to handle titles like those mentioned? If so, Nintendo might have cracked a winning formula.

All that remains now is to wait for the 3rd of March!

 

 

“Good job I can’t drive, this bloody stuff has gone right to my head.” Said Andrew as he heaved himself out of his chair. “I need to take a piss, you alright…” A knock at the door interrupted him. “Taxi’s here. Too bloody quick. Let them know I’m pissing for the eighth time in an hour would you?” Eric laughed again.

“Never change Andrew.” He replied as he got up and followed Andrew out into the hallway. Andrew started to head up the stairs as Eric went to open the porch door.

He dropped the USB stick as he fumbled with the handle, and in bending down to pick it up, saved his life. A bullet smashed the glass of the porch door, having just punched a hole in the wooden front door, and Eric hurled himself to the floor as another sprayed still more glass everywhere.

Andrew had made it upstairs, and was cursing. “No fuckin’ thief is taking my stuff…” Eric could hear him mutter. If it was a thief…

The front door shuddered, hard, then again. Whoever was outside was trying to kick it in, and a third, particularly hard boot achieved that goal. The face of the man who entered was concealed with a grey balaclava, but Eric’s attention (as he scrambled into the living room) was drawn to the tatty clothes. A beige coat, slightly worn and with threads hanging loose from the buttons, dull white trainers and faded blue jeans. He wanted to memorise every detail.

Eric had barely made it back into the living room when another shot made his ears ring and a third bullet embedded itself in the wall just by the living room entrance. No silencer…

Whoever it was, they came charging into the living after Eric, but hadn’t banked on having a thick glass figurine of an elephant flying towards their head. It caught the assailant on the nose, and he let out a small noise, but fired his gun again, albeit wildly. The bullet pierced Andrew’s chair, sending plumes of fabric everywhere.

Eric charged the man, tackling him and sending him into the banisters. The man brought the handle of his pistol down hard on Eric’s back, and kicked out, before raising his weapon again. Eric braced himself…

A vase came crashing down on the attacker’s head. Andrew had made his way back down the stairs, and the china pot spewed earth, dirt and lilies everywhere as the assailant staggered. The man then caught Eric’s right hook with his jaw and stumbled to the floor, but before Eric could press his advantage the gun fired again. The sound of Andrew wincing nearly made him freeze, but instead Eric drove his knee down onto the man’s chest, placing all his weight on the ribcage and driving the air from his lungs. With the attacker’s grip on his firearm loosened, Eric quickly prised the gun from his fingers, pushed off the man and pointed the business end squarely at his face.

“Andrew, are you alright?”

Silence reigned. Stuck between keeping watch on the mystery attacker and checking on Andrew, Eric stepped backward, continuing to do so until he saw the blood. Resolving himself, Eric took another couple of steps back, and laid eyes on the body of his former commander. Andrew’s dark blue jumper was stained, with blood seeping from where the bullet had punctured his right lung. He had stumbled down the remaining stairs and crashed into the small table at the bottom, sending several photo frames to the carpet.

Anger rose in Eric. It rumbled up within him and his fingers tightened ever so slightly on the trigger. He looked back at the assailant, who had sat up but hadn’t moved. The man’s eyes were errily calm.

“Give me one reason…” He began, stepped back toward him. “Why I shouldn’t kill you.”

“You want to know why? Because I know why you’re so scared.”

“You came here to kill me, you killed my friend, and if you want to live through the night, you’ll tell me why.”

The man’s demeanour was haughty. “I won’t talk. I have dealt with threats before.”

Eric stole a glance outside. An empty black cab was parked outside the house. Stolen? How had they known to find him here?

One thing at a time…

“I’ll dealt with people like you before. You’ll talk. Get up. We’re going for a drive.”

“Fuck you. I am going nowhere.”

“Oh really? So you want the police to come here and find you?” Eric retorted.

“And you don’t?” Sneered the man.

“No, I don’t, and I think you know why, so get up, and get in the taxi.”

Sirens kicked up in the distance. They looked at each other.

“You can get in of your own accord or I can knock you out and carry you. Your choice.” Eric snarled.

The man’s eyes narrowed. A choice was being weighed up.

“Fine.” He said after a moment. He hauled himself up, and Eric was sure to keep the business end of the pistol pointed squarely at him until the man was outside. Eric followed him, then ushered the man toward the back of the cab.

“You get in the boot.”

“What?” The man was momentarily peturbed.

“You heard me.” Replied Eric. He reached in to the driver’s seat and noticed the keys were still in the ignition. His attacker had planned on a quick getaway. Realising that Andrew’s neighbours were peering through the windows (but wisely choosing to remain indoors, given the recent sounds of gunfire), Eric popped open the trunk, and gestured with the gun. “Get in, now.”

The man glared at him but wordlessly climbed in. Eric shut the boot hard, and jammed his backdoor key into the lock, twisting it and breaking it, making it virtually impossible to somehow open from the inside. It would pose a challenge to open from the outside, but that was a bridge Eric would have to cross later.

With the sirens getting louder Eric climbed back into the driver’s seat and closed the door. There was only one other place he could turn do now, he just hoped he wouldn’t be exposing anyone else to danger.

Chapter 4

Back to Techno Fail

Black glass held the sort of minimal look that appealed to the suited and booted man seated behind the desk. It was a pity then, that he had to look into replacing it, and even more of a pity that this would involve removing and refitting the intergrated computer panel that was tucked away in the desk. A visible crack, where his mug had come crashing down far too hard, was now irritating him enough that he couldn’t even bring himself to turn his brown leather chair around.

“Sir, what do we do?” Asked the other man in the office. The seated man looked out over the South Dock, taking in the curious mix of old and new. A hand went through neatly trimmed brown hair as a response was formed.

“Inform our operative in Whitehall. It’s crucial they know about this and start taking steps to protect the plan. Start random employee searches here, under the guise of anti-theft measures. If you have any initiative, you’ll already be checking CCTV?” The voice was deceptively warm and pleasant.

“Yes sir, everyone is on it. We think we have a lead.” The sense of victory in the assistant’s voice was aggravating.

“You think? Tell me what you know.”

“Ah, yessir, one of our older employees, Eric Cooper – it was his terminal anyway – downloaded the full code onto a USB device. Minutes afterward, CCTV shows Mr Cooper leaving the building.”

“How did the code get onto his terminal?”

“We don’t know sir. It’s unclear as to whether he found it and assembled it himself, or someone sent it to him.”

Despite the damage to his desk, the man swivelled his chair around. Steel blue eyes met the softer blue eyes of his assistant. “You mean to tell me there may be a wider security issue, but you can’t be sure?” Every word was laced with danger.

The other man hesitated. His hands pressed down his suit, before finding each other and clasping. “The computer is being analysed…”

“So you aren’t sure. Do you have any idea…” He stood, walking around the desk, each step measured. “Of what this could do to our plans? Of the damage it could do, to you, to me, to all of us?” Cold fury was entering into his voice now.”

“Mr Lanker, we are doing everythi…”

You are not doing enough!” Lanker took a deep breath. “I apologise for my outburst, but if everything was being done, you would not be here, explaining to me of one security breach, whilst alluding to another. We may have someone in our ranks who is betraying us. We may have someone who has accidently stumbled upon the information now in the hands of Mr Cooper, and for whatever reason, they are using him rather than handling it themselves. First things first, we must find Mr Cooper and… after that, it is best you don’t know. You have his details correct?”

“Yes sir. He resides in the Upminster area, however, we have access to TFL CCTV. It’s taken a while, but we know he took a train to Gants Hill.”

“Good work. What is at Gants Hill for him?”

“We are cross-referencing records for connections. His former SAS unit commander, an ‘Andrew Harper’, lives there.”

“Even better. Access all available data on Cooper, Harper, and this SAS unit. I want to know everything. We may need leverage.”

“Yes Mr Lanker, I’ll see to it personally.”

“Good. Go.”

Once his assistant had left, Lanker sat back down in his chair and returned to his view of the Dock. This is a strange city, a city of contradiction. He could not understand London. The people alternated so easily between brusque and rude, to unbearably polite, to aloofness so refined it would make a fortune if such a trait could be bottled.

The expansive office that cradled his vision had been designed to be as minimalist as possible. The (now broken) desk, chair, and a large flat-screen TV on the left wall were the only visible features in an otherwise featureless room. Blank white walls kept the room looking bright, but also served to focus attention on the desk, and the man behind it – which was exactly what Alfred Lanker wanted.

Plain walls concealed other secrets. With the barest sound of gears, a panel within one of the walls slid to the right, and another man stepped out of the compartment behind it.

“How much did you hear?” Asked Lanker, without turning around.

“Enough to know who to go after. I assume you want Eric Cooper dead?”

“Yes.” Came the answer, after a moments’ doubt. “He knows too much. I trust you can take of things without drawing suspicion to this company?”

“You insult me. I can make it look like anything, you know that.”

“Apologies old friend. Go, tie up the loose ends. Then nothing will hamper us.”

Chapter 3

Back to Techno Fail

 

What was the saying about greatness? That it was thrust upon those who didn’t want it? Did anyone also say that sometimes, problems – big problems – were thrust upon people who didn’t want them? That was the case for Eric, as he shuffled down the corridor of his workplace, heading for the stairwell. He wasn’t about to trust the lifts, not now.

Dark blue carpet was thankfully muffling the sound of his footsteps, but he dared not breathe too much, in case, somehow, someone would hear him, find him, and…

You’re being paranoid. Or are you? You have reason to be after all…

Maybe no one would suspect a thing. There were thousands of employees working for One Touch Security, including hundreds in their London office. Would they know without any doubt that his computer was the one that had accessed the data now stored on the USB stick in his coat pocket? Even if they knew it was his computer, everyone knew old Eric was terrible for letting others use it…

No one was calling for him from the main office, and none of the bigwigs had stepped out of their private offices to call him in, so maybe he was safe. The only conversation he could hear from his colleages concerned football scores, who was secretly shagging who, and plans for Christmas. He reached the stairwell, pushed open the big heavy safety doors and started his descend down three flights to the ground floor. He’d have a short walk to Canary Wharf tube station, and from there, he could get himself well away from any possible harm.

Assuming there’s anything actually wrong, and you’re not being a stupid old man…

The young woman, Sally, Sarah? She was coming up the stairs and Eric had to try very hard not to appear worried as she smiled at him. He flashed a smile back and carried on walking, hoping it didn’t look like he was rushing. There didn’t appear to be another soul on the stairs, a small mercy.

Angelo was behind the security desk as Eric stepped out of the door. He looked up briefly in Eric’s direction and then turned his attention back to his monitors. Visitors and employees were always coming and going, so it probably wasn’t that unusual to see someone leaving the building. Trying to look cool calm and collected, Eric walked out onto Bank Street and into the crisp December air, over the zebra crossing, and toward the station.

There still appeared to be no sign of anyone coming after him, in any way shape or form. Still, Eric couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. Years of training and experience had taught him to trust his instincts and they were telling him to be careful now. Entering the station frontage, Eric already had his ticket in his hand, keen to save every possible second (besides, he hated people who faffed about at ticket gates), and became one with the swarm of Londoners and tourists traversing the Underground as he headed down the escalators and toward the platforms.

Every little look, every sideways glance in his direction make Eric tense. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, keeping him alert, and ready, if needed, for a fight. The carriage was growing hot, thanks to the throngs of people, and despite the winter chill outside, Eric was tempted to take off his coat, but decided against it, in case he somehow lost his evidence. Or in case someone stole it (which was possible in normal circumstances, let alone right now).

First things first. He couldn’t go home, not right away. The Jubilee Line would take him as far as Stratford, and from there, he could connect to the Central Line. He wasn’t at all sure if what he was planning was fair, but he couldn’t trust official channels, not yet.

The changeover to the Central Line went without incident, and from there Eric kept scanning the carriage for any faces that were familiar. No one leapt out at him, figuratively or otherwise, and after a couple of stops Eric allowed himself to relax, just a little. He also paused to think a little about what he’d seen, and the data that was now safely stored on the USB drive. Every so often his hand went into his pocket, feeling for the little plastic box, gripping it tightly, to assure himself it was still there.

“The next station is Gants Hill.” Came the voiceover. By now the carriage had started to thin out a little, and Eric stood to leave as the train pulled into the platform. Within a few minutes he was above ground again, both thankful to be out of the confines of the train, and concerned to be exposed.

It had been a few years, but Eric had a good memory. He took off on foot, down a specific road, looking for a specific house. There was every chance no one was home, but if Eric knew the man like he thought he did, he was prepared to take that chance. It came as no shock to him to see the little front garden was immaculate, with neat groups of Cowslip and Monkeyflower plants (waiting for the cold to end so they could bloom again) lining the bath up to the front porch. On the white door was a printed sign, warning cold callers to take a hike. Taking a deep breath, Eric knocked on the door.

There were sounds of movement from inside, and a shape appeared as the main door to the house opened. A moment later, and Eric was face to face with an old friend.

“Bloody hell, Corporal Cooper!” The wizened old man exclaimed as he opened the door. “What in God’s name are you doing here?”

Eric smiled, despite the situation. “Captain Harper, good to see you sir.”

“It’s just Andrew now.” Replied Harper, offering a hand, which Eric took and shook. The old boy still had a strong grip. “Don’t just stand there in the cold man, come in, come in! Take off your shoes first though…”

Eric kicked off his shoes and also took off his coat at Andrew’s insistence, though he was careful to take the USB drive and slip it into his trouser pocket. He couldn’t help but notice only one pair of black shoes in the porch, and only a single, grey sheepskin coat.

Andrew caught Eric’s pause. “Caroline passed away a couple of years ago. Had a stroke in her sleep.”

“I’m so sorry.” Eric couldn’t think of anything more to add. He was never sure of what to say in such circumstances.

“She led a full life, despite being married to a grumpy git like me. Come on, I’ll get you a drink, what do you want, tea, or something stronger?” The voice was as gruff and commanding as Eric remembered, even when asking such a simple question. Eric followed him into the living room as he answered. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”

“Whisky it is then. You didn’t drive here did you?” Eric shook his head. “Good. Not that I’d have given you a choice anyway.”

A chuckle escaped Eric’s lips. “I’m not surprised.”

“I keep my emergency heating…” Andrew knelt down and opened one of the doors on the lovely walnut-coloured cabinet, pulling out a decanter of amber liquid. “In here, in case you’re likely to drop by again and I’m out. Don’t drink it all.”

Eric laughed again. “I was never much of a drinker sir… I mean Andrew.”

The older man scooped two small glasses, placed them on coasters on the small glass table in front of the brown leather sofa, and sat down beside Eric, before pouring a generous sum of whisky into each glass. “No, you weren’t. I vividly remember that mission in… north Africa, you know, where we had to drag your unconscious arse out of that bar…”

“Funnily enough, I don’t remember that one at all.”

“Ha! I suppose you wouldn’t. To absent friends…” Andrew held his glass aloft, and Eric held his up as well. There was pain in Andrew’s eyes, and not only for Caroline. Eric knew he meant fallen comrades as well.

They both took a swig of the liquid, which always had a powerful kick as it went down. Silence briefly followed, before Andrew piped up.

“So you didn’t come here, out of the blue, just for a chat. What’s wrong?”

Eric opened his mouth to start speaking, then closed it again. Had he made the wise decision in coming here? Did the old man he had looked up have the contacts he needed? No sense in doubts now you’re here Eric.

“I… I found something at work. Some information, and it scares the hell out of me. I don’t know who I can give it to.”

Andrew leaned forward, perceptive blue eyes narrowing slightly as he studied Eric. The face was worn now, cragged, but the eyes reminded Eric that age had done nothing to dampen Andrew’s mind. “You want to know if I can get it to the right people.”

“Yes. Look, Andrew, I’m sor…”

“Shut it. You’re about to apologise for dragging me into some sort of shit. Don’t. I could do with an excuse to be awkward.”

“You never needed an excuse before.” Eric said, grinning.

“Yes well, marriage calmed me down. Most of the time anyway. Caroline would probably tell me to not be a fool. I’d usually listen, but this time… well, I suppose it depends on how juicy this is.”

Eric took another sip of his drink. There was no doubting Andrew’s taste in whisky, and Eric watched the stuff swirl around in the glass as he spoke. “It’s juicy alright. I work for a computer place, One Touch Security.”

“Never heard of ’em.” Remarked Andrew.

“Not surprised. They’re one of these ‘behind the scenes’ companies. They make a lot of stuff for mobile phones, smartphones actually, tablet PCs, laptops – wireless security stuff.”

“Boring shit.”

Eric laughed. “Yeah, it can be. I took it on when I left the forces, to stay busy. Would have driven Mary mad otherwise. A lot of what I do is about checking and testing the anti-virus stuff. To do that, I have certain access rights to bits of the code, but the company doesn’t let everyone see all the code. That way no one can sell it off to a rival.”

“Sounds like strategic division of labour to me.” Replied Andrew. “Clever.”

“Their projects are worth billions. In fact, the company is about to be worth a load more money, because they’ve just got contracts for big public sector stuff. Water works, power grids, local councils, education and healthcare, things like that. That’s what I was working on…” Eric pulled the USB drive out of his pocket. “When I noticed something. I’m not sure how it ended up on my computer, but it was a line of ‘back door’ code.”

“Ah.” Andrew sat back. “Even I know what that means. A way into a system that shouldn’t be there.”

“Exactly. It’s everywhere, and when I checked, it turns out this code is in smartphones too. OTS sells their hardware and software to manufacturers of them all over the world. This code lets them into any device, any time, and I have no idea what it will let them do.”

“You could just go to the spooks you know.”

“I thought about it, but I don’t know how far this goes. To get this sort of free access, without anyone checking and finding it, to nearly every phone, tablet and PC in the country, and within government offices too… I didn’t want to risk it.”

Andrew’s eyes sparkled. “Ah, you think they have an inside man?”

“I… shit. That makes sense.” And it did. It had to. How else could they land so many lucrative deals with major institutions, all over the country?

“This is juicy. Alright, so I’m still welcome down at the barracks, and I bet you would be too. You drive here?”

“No, got the Tube.”

“Bugger.” Andrew stood up, stretching. “Not allowed to drive at my age. Fuckin’ stupid if you ask me. I’ll call a taxi…” Eric grinned to himself as Andrew picked up the old-fashioned green telephone, complete with rotary dial. Despite the twenty or so years of age difference, Eric had often seen Andrew as a kindred spirit, and his utter disdain of modern technology was but one way that was true.

After a few moments, the taxi was booked. Andrew sat back down and poured himself another whisky, insisting on refilling Eric’s glass too. “To adventure!” He boldly declared, before knocking back the glass in one gulp. Eric raised his glass and did likewise. Andrew wasn’t wrong about that.

Chapter 2

Back to Techno Fail

The old man had always been vindictive and cruel, bullying those who he felt were beneath him. As this feeling extended to every last soul he met, the old man lived alone, with only his dogs for company. Even they were not often spared his misery and contempt.

So the old man wore his smoking jacket and puffed his pipe and ambled around his large yet empty stately home. He grew sick, and no one cared, not even enough to phone him. He wrote of his disdain for the ‘idiots of the village’, and pledged to hide his wealth from those he deemed unworthy. Upon his death, his will bequeathed his fortune to his two dobermans, and once they were to pass, the money was to go to the sea.

Unless…

Unless his wealth – hidden in the form of bonds and shares – was found before the dogs, now being cared for at a local trust, died.

****

“We shouldn’t be doing this…” The young man muttered, but he drove the shovel into the earth anyway, throwing the dirt behind him.

“If it gets us fourteen million quid then we should be doing this.” Replied his girlfriend, who was also pushing a shovel into the ground.

The air was still and not a creature made a sound, lending a creepy air to proceedings as the pair dug their way deeper. Sweat poured off them, even though they had reduced themselves to t-shirts and shorts – such were the trials of grave-robbing on a hot July night. Every once in a while they paused to grab a swig from the bottles of water they’d brought with them – it barely took the edge off the close humid heat.

Fortunately, their efforts were soon rewarded, when the young man’s shovel scraped the top of the coffin. From that point on, it was a case of hands and knees, and pushing away as much as earth as possible, until it became possible to actually open up.

“You still wanna do this?” He asked nervously.

“Yeah.” She replied, after a moment’s hesitation.

“Alright then, on three… one, two, three…”

They shoved away the top cover, bracing themselves for the sight (and stench) of a corpse. Instead they both cried out in shock and fright as a pair of dogs burst out of the coffin, barking like crazy. The pair scrambled their way out of the hole they’d dug and ran, not keen to check the coffin for anything else.

Chapter 2

Back to The Coffin and the Dogs

I just know the title of the post has you itching to read it.

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I doubt it…

You never know…

So, how was 2016 for the site? How did it compare to 2015?

Well, in 2015 the site had 2,224 visitors. In 2016 the site had 3,405 visitors – an increase of 1,181! Not too shabby…

I posted 217 time in 2015, and in 2016 553 times – so clearly I had more to say in 2016!

Ignoring the homepage visits, the most successful page or post in 2016 was my page on F1 legend Ayrton Senna, which received 191 views. In the runner-up position was my page ‘Why Meerkats?’ The UK provided the most views, with 2,549, with the USA in second place on 2,386 and Australia in third on 601. There were views from all over the world, including Nepal, Pakistan, Egypt, Barbados, Bahrain and many other locations. It’s fair to say that Meerkat Musings has gone international!

So, will the site gain even more views this year? Watch this space!