The Commission

First Woman Jury, Los Angeles, Nov 1911. PD photo by Library of Congress.

He always looked about him after neutralising a target to make sure there were no surprises; a bounty hunter could make enemies easily.

The parking lot was empty save for a few cars, silent bar the chirrup of one or two birds. A plastic carrier bag skittered across the sun-baked tarmac, bounded into the air, performed a somersault in the warm breeze before sliding up to an elderly Ford and snuggling up under the wheel arch.

Rasputin allowed his thoughts dissolve into quietude, took a deep breath, exhaled and relaxed his muscles…

…which tensed instantly to rock-hardness as somebody tapped him on the shoulder. He dashed forwards into a lunge, turning as his feet slid across the ground, drew his blade in one fluid motion before settling into a stance.

A group of stern-faced women stood before him, dressed in late 19th century attire, the edges of their petticoats undulating beneath their pinafores.

“Rasputin, the bounty hunter?” asked a tall woman in a plain black dress.


“We are the Commission. You will come with us. Now.”

Smirking, Rasputin disappeared….

…reappeared in a 19th century court room, saw the women already sat before him on rows of benches.

“You cannot escape justice Rasputin, any more than you can escape yourself.”

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Night Archer. CC2.0 photo by Tanakawho.

Night Archer. CC2.0 photo by Tanakawho.

Boyd Kuznetsov’s knees quivered, then collapsed underneath the weight of his listing torso as his head tumbled from his shoulders, a geyser of blood spurting from his neck into a cloud of fine red mist.

Rasputin stood up from his stance, took a silk rag from within the folds of his gi and wiped slowly along the length of his sword.

There were better ways to kill a person – cleaner, quieter ways – but certain jobs required more of a spectacle; this was one of those jobs.  Few escaped death by shifting between dimensions, and certainly none of his marks, but there had been a group of them using this particular locus as a staging post.  This could not be tolerated, a warning had to be sent.

He sheathed his sword, rolled up his sleeve, tapped and swiped at some of the pictures and text scrolling across his forearm.  He looked at the corpse, at the blood, then up and around the empty parking lot.

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Don’t fall in love with people like me

“Do not fall in love with people like me.  I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth.  I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible, and when I leave you will finally understand why storms are named after people.”

Caitlin Siehl

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Kenya kittens. CC2.0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith.

Kenya kittens. CC2.0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith.

Xiang Min Heulwen lay sprawled across the grass with one arm crooked under her head, her free hand shading her eyes against the sun, a warm breeze caressing her face and tousling stray wisps of hair.

Her eyes opened slightly as she heard the tinkle of a little bell, then closed again languidly as soft velvet brushed against her cheek and loud purring filled the air. “Felix…” she murmured as the young feline made another pass. She felt the furry muzzle pause beside her ear then she heard the cat whisper gently.

“No, not Felix my dear.”

Her eyes flashed wide open. “Rasputin!”

“I told you it was no good shifting to another dimension, nobody ever escapes me.”

“Bastard!” she screeched, raising her head and shoulders off the ground, then collapsing again.

“Oh, are you trying to move? I’m afraid that will be impossible, I used quite a potent toxin on you just now.”

Her mind flashed an image of the cat licking her face. “B..b…bu…” she stammered, saliva pooling under her tongue and dribbling out of the corner of her mouth.

The cat chuckled softly. “Goodbye, Gladiator Heulwen.”

Her disbelief and frustration faded into incoherent rage as she slowly lost consciousness.

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“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.

You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement.

They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful.

There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever.

Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby.

Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible.

You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”

Bob Marley

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Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.

Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.

Ruddy palaver, gettin’ this blood off the walls.

Bloody gladiators an’ lions and whatnot, bludgeonin’ each other to death, rippin’ each other open. Oh it’s great fun, until muggins here has to clean it all up.

Anybody would fink they’d know better. I mean, it don’t even matter if you clean it off, ‘cos it’s just goin’ to get all filthy an’ blood-mucked again innit?

Oh, but the Emperor’s comin’ tomorrow they say. Oh, but there’s this senator, now it’s a foreign ambassador.

Well, that’s all right then; just hang about whilst I shovel up these guts and brains an’ that, an’ then I’ll go scrub the blood off the walls.


That’s what I told Septimus; vinegar. That’s what we should use to wash blood off the walls, or lift it off a bit anyway. Would he listen? Would he b*ll*cks.

Vinegar smells he says.

Vinegar? Smells?

Bleedin’ lackwit.

I’ve half a mind to let on he’s a Christian!

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Duck Duck Moose

Eva didn’t love Peter, but she did love the money and that big old house his auntie was supposed to have left him.

Only, what if Peter’s auntie hadn’t left him everything?  Only one person knew for sure, and that was Meyer.  So after the doc had removed the slug from under my ribs and I’d been patched up, I went home and changed my clothes before heading to Meyer’s office.  There was no need to wait, no sooner had I sat down in the foyer than his assistant showed up right away and took me up to his office. Meyer was stood in front of the big glass window overlooking the city, for all the world like a bird of prey.  He turned and smiled at me as I took off my hat and the assistant closed the doors behind me.

“Ah, Mr Devine.  said Meyer, pulling his high back leather chair out from under his desk and lowering himself into it gingerly.  “Here to ask about the will no doubt?  No need to look surprised, I heard all about your little skirmish down at Clancy’s.  So you plan to find out if Peter’s going to inherit everything, and then you’ll use this information against that showgirl who has managed to captivate him so completely.”

“Yeah, you got me.”

“I suppose you know that I’m bound by client confidentiality.”

I grimaced.  Yeah, I knew alright.  “I was kind of hoping you would cut me a break in this particular instance Mr Meyer.”

He rested his elbows on the desk, his fingers forming a temple as he raised his eyebrows.  “Oh I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly do that Mr Devine.”  He smiled, then rose slowly from his chair.  “Now, I’m going to go and meet a client but you’re welcome to visit again next week.  We can continue our discussion then.  Your payment is in this envelope” he said, his fingers tapping on the one solitary envelope that was sitting on his desk.

After he left the office, I walked over and picked up the envelope.  It was unmarked, and wasn’t sealed.  I lifted the flap and pulled out a sheaf of paper, and sure enough it was the will.  Maybe Meyer was alright after all.  I went back to my car, drove for a few blocks then parked and had a look at the will.

After a few moments of reading, I couldn’t help but grin like schoolboy.  Now all I had to do was find Eva and Peter.  No doubt they’d be at his auntie’s house, waiting for Meyer to bring them the will, only I knew Meyer wouldn’t turn up.  He was far too smart for that.

Just as dusk was falling my car dragged itself along the gravel driveway of Mrs Fredrickson’s estate, headlights off.  I parked a few hundred yards away from the gardens at the front of the house, looked around for goons.  There weren’t any, so far so good.  They clearly weren’t expecting any trouble.  I made my way over to the house, took hold of the door knocker and slammed it loudly a few times to get their attention.

The door opened to reveal Eva in a red evening dress, and her smile turned to a mask of rage.  “Frank.  I told you what would happen if…”

“Shut up Eva” I replied, whipping my revolver out of my coat pocket and flicking off the safety.  “I’m not here for small talk.  Where’s Peter?”

She pouted, then pushed the door fully open and started walking slowly down the corridor into the main hallway.  I followed, equally slowly, my eyes flicking around looking for mooks, then back to her.

I heard the snick of a gun being cocked behind me, glanced to my left to see Peter walking towards me, pistol in hand. He removed my revolver from my hand, then backed away. Eva smiled, walked over to his side.

“You look disappointed Frank.  What were you thinking was going to happen? little game of duck-duck-moose?  Well sorry to have to say this, but you’re nothing but a beached clown.  Peter and I are together now and he’s going to get what he deserves, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Yeah, sure”  I replied.  “You’re a regular genius, a shining star.  Sure all your plans are gonna work, and all your dreams will come true; except it’s all bullshit.”

“Oh yeah?  What are you, the fucking dream police?”

“No, I’m just a burnt out private dick who drinks too much.  Here’s the thing though, you’re insecure.  You need validation.  You need schmucks like me and Peter to chase after you and tell you how beautiful you are, how talented you are, how worthwhile you are.  You can’t go a week, hell, even a day without wanting somebody to lather you with praise.  You’re fake.  You know what I’m talking about don’t you Peter?  You’re nothing but her lapdog, just like I was.”

Peter’s eyes went wide and he pursed his lips as Eva glared at him.  “That true Peter?” asked Eva through clenched teeth.  He gripped the handle of his pistol tighter, trying to still his trembling hand.

“No, honey, I…I never doubted you…not once I promise!”

Eva smiled at him, then turned her attention back to me.  “You’re clutching at straws Frank.  Don’t you have anything better?”

“Sure I do.  I’ve got Mrs Fredrickson’s will.”

“What?  No you don’t.”

“It’s right here” I said, opening my coat slowly to reveal the envelope sticking out of an inside pocket.

Eva marched over to me, snatched the envelope from my coat and marched back over to Peter.  She removed the will and started reading.  After a few moments, her eyes went wide as she grimaced.  “What, but, this isn’t right.  It can’t be!”

I grinned.  “Oh it’s real sister, you can see the signatures for yourself.  Peter doesn’t get anything until he’s been to rehab and the docs say he’s cured his gambling addiction.  Not one fucking dime.”

Eva screamed as she threw the will to the floor, glared at me then at Peter.  “You fucking bastard!”  She snarled.  “You just had to have a fucking gambling addiction didn’t you?  You just had to fuck everything up for us.  Now what the fuck are we supposed to do?”

Peter, baffled, began backing away from Eva’s onslaught.  “Eva, honey, it’ll be ok…”

“It won’t be ok you fucking weasel, we were supposed to have a happy romantic life together but you fucked it up.  You make my fucking skin crawl.”

“…but, honey…”

Eva drew nearer to him, her eyes flashing like lightning, her face dark as thunder.  “Well I’m not putting up with this shit any longer.  I’ll just have to take what I can get and move on.”  She made a grab for Peter’s gun, her fingers closing around the barrel as she tried to wrench it from his hand.

“Eva, what are you doing?  Eva, let go of the gun!”  Peter shouted as he struggled with her.  I lunged towards the both of them, too late.  The gun went off, the sound reverberating and echoing around the mansion.

Eva slumped to the floor, looked down to see a red stain spreading out over her chest before she passed out and collapsed onto the mosaic tiles.

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