The Snack Bar ConMANdrum

In the office (yes, I do have a respected profession beyond this blog) someone set a unique challenge…

1. Write a short story that in some way is connected to you based on this format:

THE STORY SPINE

STRUCTURE

FUNCTION

Once upon a time…

Beginning

The world of the story is introduced and the main character’s routine is established

Every Day…

But, one day…

The Event

The main character breaks the routine

Because of that…

Middle

There are dire consequences for having broken the routine. It is unclear if the main character will come out alright in the end

Because of that…

Because of that…

Until finally…

The climax

The main character embarks upon success or failure

And, even since then…

End

The main character succeeds or fails, and a new routine is established

2. Pick an image or photo that captures the essence of your story.

In essence I wrote a more condensed version of a previous blog post, the one about the letter to Jordan’s cereals: “Why Can’t Men be More Like Snack Bars?”

My submission went like this:

The Snack Bar ConMANdrum

Once upon a time, I used to be obsessed with eating breakfast cereal bars (like, “this girl is going to turn into Tony the Tiger” obsessed).

Every day, I’d power through multiple Kellogg’s bars, if not whole boxes of the sticky bars of milk coated treats.

But, one day my dealer (Mr. Asda Supermarket) well Asda, he only had “Frusli Bars” to offer me. They’re like cereal bars but more fruit, less cereal and more socially acceptable to eat as an adult.

Because of that, I developed an even stronger addition to the new substance. Frusli came in different varieties and kept me going when I needed the energy or strength to haul luggage across the London Underground. They were always there for me (in my bag) and didn’t give me grief when I wanted to eat something.

So naturally, because of that, my dating life went to pot.

Because of that, I wrote to the makers of Frusli, Jordan’s Cereals, with a well-constructed argument that the world would be a better place is men were more like snack bars. I kinda hoped they’d send me their equivalent of the Milk Tray man to help, but instead they sent me a three month supply of their products.

Until finally, after devouring everything Jordan’s had sent me, I realised that I needed to apply my energies into something other than consumption. But also, that stringing a funny tale together can get me free stuff and exposure.

And, ever since then I’m more open and honest with my writing and send more physical letters to the people I want to grab attention from. And trust me, it works.

sb

 

Originally drafted in October 2019 for later publication.

 

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“As Exciting as an East German Portrayal of Russian Culture in the 1970s” – MHAM Quiz of 2019

Wow, so that was 2019! That was a decade! What have we learned in that time?

a) Politicians still lie

b) The dating world is still a mess

c) I’m still incapable of getting through a coffee without spilling its contents everywhere

d) Through consumption of c. 50 gallons of coffee and tea at the start of the decade, I not only like, but have developed a mild addiction to hot caffeinated drinks.

Coffee Meme

Progress!

While my blog has only been going for five years (sor-ry for living in the dark all that time), I thought it would be a great time for a little 2019 quiz on the MHAM stats! Yayyyy! (Look, I’m working to a £0 budget here.)

My Housemate’s a Mermaid – the 2019 Quiz

Questions

  1. How many blog views (i.e. clicks on the homepage, pages and individual posts) did MHAM have in the year 2019? (To the nearest 500.)
  2. How many comments did the blog receive?
  3. Which five individual blog posts obtained the most views? (Nb this excludes views on the homepage and page tabs.)
  4. How many countries, globally, did viewers come from?
  5. Of the top ten countries for views, name three from the latter half (i.e. poled between 6th – 10th)?
  6. Name five African countries that accessed the blog in 2019.

Those are you questions. Ready? (Stop giving me that look.)

Your time starts…now!

Ooh I feel as excited as an East German portraying Russian culture in the 1970s!

(Just me then?)

Answers!

Rightyo, let’s do this.

Question 1) How many views did the blog get in 2019?

Answer – 11, 332 (put into context, that’s 31.04 views a day!)

**

Question 2) How many comments did the blog receive?

Answer – 6

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Question 3) – Which five individual blog posts obtained the most views? (Nb this excludes views on the homepage and page tabs)

Answer – In order…

The Morning I Re-evaluated my Relationships with Men 373 views

A Very British Complaint Letter to Cadburys Chocolate – 350 views

The Cat’s Guide to Christmas 248 views

The Time I Discovered I was a Dominatrix…At Speed Dating 170 views

While You’re Here 166 views (I’ll discount this as it’s a self promotion piece)

Five Minute Review: What the F*** is Normal?! By Francesca Martinez140 views

**

Question 4) How many countries, globally, did blog viewers come from?

Answer – 84 (including six views from an area referred to only as ‘European Union’)

**

Question 5) Name the five countries who ranked 5th – 10th in the view list

Answer – In order… Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, Spain

2019 Top Countries
Top fifteen countries with viewing numbers

**

Question 6) Name five African countries who viewed the blog in 2019

Answer – Any of the below:

  • South Africa
  • Nigeria
  • Kenya
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Algeria
  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Libya
  • Zimbabwe
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Sierra Leone
2019 Countries.jpg
Global heat map of views – 2019

Now wasn’t that fun? Here’s to the year and decade ahead! While I’ve written this blog post I’ve successfully managed to uncork my first wine bottle. Depending on who you are, this is either the greatest human triumph of the decade (so far) or something that makes you worried for the future state of what ‘success’ looks like in the years to come. Either way, I have wine, so…

Here’s to the roaring twenties, version 2.0

AB in Dress

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The Shoes!

A video that perfectly sums up the state of my feet post Christmas party.

They’re ruddy nice shoes mind. I don’t think Swindon’s karaoke bar knew what hit it when I rocked up looking like this.

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(Me with a work colleague – excuse the slightly psychotic look, I was blinded by the world’s brightest flash in Wiltshire’s darkest room.)

Forget an alcoholic hangover, shoe hangovers are now a thing in my world!

The shoes!!

Whichever way you choose to spend your New Year’s eve, have a good (and safe) one. I’ll probably be spending mine in a pair of fluffy slippers, a glass of Baileys and a sharing bag of kettle chips, stopping only briefly from writing to shout “is it 2020 yet?”. Literally, New Year’s Eve is my least favourite day of the year.

Anyway, anti-climaxes aside, happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2020!

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(I don’t know why I picked that photo, I had a browse through my WordPress image library/achieves and the memory from Cyprus in 2015 made me happy.)

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The Cat’s Guide to Christmas

Alright? I’m Bubble. Bubble the cat.

Bubble the Cat

You may wonder why my owners would give a name like Bubble to a male cat. Well, my sister is called Squeak (Bubble and Squeak, get it?) And all the stupid humans thought I was a girl until the vets confirmed differently. It’s not a name I’m particularly fond of and, as a result, I have spent my entire life in a constant sulk, excluding the times I shout at the humans to feed me.

Like a lot of men I like to work out, only I can’t get to the gym on account of being a cat so spend most of my free time doing the next best thing; sleeping in a gym bag.

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And trust me ladies, it shows.

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I’m sexy and I know it.

Anyway, this human thing called Christmas is coming up and while I’ve tried to hide from it…

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…it has finally caught up with me. I wasn’t even going to do presents this year (thinking about the environment, y’know?) But then I walked in one day and found my sister had already started wrapping up gifts.

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So really I didn’t have a choice. Luckily I don’t have many others to buy for (my advice if you’re looking to become a self-reliant, anti-social git? Become a cat). I just needed to get something for my annoying sister, even if she does always steal the best sleeping spots in the house.

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I took inspiration from my humans and first went for a dig around the cupboards, see if there was anything from past year’s of Christmas shopping I could give her.

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But had no joy. Then I took to the online shops but kept getting messed up suggestions like this:

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(I think one of those humans has been using my browser to search for dodgy products again.)

There was no other option, I’d have to hit the high street. I hopped on the roof of the next family cab into town and away I went.

The first thing that struck me was the weird customs humans have for celebrating what is meant to be a happy time of year. If they’re not advertising surreal…

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…Then they’re hanging and impaling little elf people in some kind of pagan ritual.

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It’s no wonder you’re all fat alcoholics. You actually decorate your homes with these!

Then again, after seeing this I have a new found respect for the miracle of the Virgin birth.

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And why is this woman’s face all over bags of crisps? Is this what you humans would call ‘the height of your career?’

Mariah

(And if you think I’m being mean just remember, I’m a cat. It’s what we do.)

When it came to shopping for Christmas presents, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, many of the shops displayed their wares in a way that was perfect for the average bloke applying a scatter gun/panic buy approach to gifting.

Random

A little bit too generic female for my sister who happens to like her fur coat very much. Instead I went to the male default #2, a nice new perfume.

Perfume

Or maybe not.

I popped into a book shop because I know Squeak the cat likes to read a light weight novel or two. I was instantly drawn to a title that looked like it could have been written by the human in my family who writes for that blog, the one they call Alice. It just screamed her style of writing.

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And then I read the blurb and felt less convinced. I mean, the average writing quality was on par with Alice’s, but the plot development was anything but.

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I mean it’s completely unbelievable…it’s obvious that Daisy is sleeping with Greg (that’s why he keeps vanishing) and the Goose is mad because it’s Greg’s jilted lover. I’m a male cat and I can see that. Humans don’t half write some rubbish when they’re trying to pull sales or views.

In the same shop there was also this book:

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(One of the humans I was with said to Alice, “hey, Alice! They wrote a book about you trying to get a life!” And she said, “hey, India! They wrote a sequel where I hit you with that very book!”)

To be fair to the human called India, Alice does have a tendency to hang out in coffee shops by herself and woman-spread everywhere.

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She likes to think it makes her look smart, I think it’s just to cover up the fact that she’s constantly spilling good coffee.

Like a lot of humans, she’d buy just about anything that’s coffee-branded.

Candles

(If you had to look twice before spotting it, you’ve got a problem.)

On another note, I’m not sure what image you big humans are trying to suggest to little humans when you give them dolls with drugged up eyes.

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In the same way that I don’t fully get the need to take the Every Love Matters campaign to the extremes of inanimate objects.

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(I did try to tell her that her companion didn’t seem interested, but she told me to tinsel off – hah, and you thought Cats have no sense of poor humour…)

And as for this…

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…You humans are alright with making your spawn think they’re being spied upon but I just happen to walk in on you taking a shower and suddenly it’s completely unacceptable? Your species is seriously messed up.

But then I saw this and I restored my faith in the tat you humans gift each other:

I’ll have ten please…for myself.

And this made me laugh:

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It’s a physical chocolate replica of Bitcoin, but Bitcoin isn’t physical, it’s a virtual currency! Sadly however no one in the store seemed to get the joke. It’s as if people shopping in Poundland for Christmas presents don’t dwell on that level of humour.

God, you humans don’t have produce some weird looking babies? At least kittens are fluffy, but you guys decide to put the strangest looking ones on jigsaw puzzles! Why?

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And what the hell is this?!

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Have people literally turned to gifting c**p to each other? No wonder people have started donating money to the Slippers for Donkeys campaign or whatever far out animal charities exist nowadays.

When did the Grinch get sold into human-creature trafficking? Asking on behalf of a friend.

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It’s a niche market, granted, but humanity really has lost its heart if it can’t cough up £1 to help.

Jesus Christ! What is this?!

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Why would you even entertain the thought of inviting this into your house? It’s flipping scary!

It was around this time that I gave up with Christmas shopping. The final straw came when, after hours of searching, the one and only thing I thought I could gift my feline sister, a nice new outfit, well it turned out to be out of stock in her size. Typical!

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I give up. I knew I should have picked something from the National Trust’s Christmas store when I had the chance.

NT

All this shopping for Christmas presents just takes too much time!

Sod it, this year I’ll just wrap myself up and be my sister’s Christmas pressie, because lets be honest, family is the best damn thing you can have.

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Great, so that’s Christmas settled. Now I can crack on with watching some high-quality festive films, ones which in my view were robbed of Oscar nominations…

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…And deal with more pressing matters. How do I get this human to move out of my spot?

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Meowy pawmas everyone!

 

(Special thanks to the members of my immediate family for making this post possible by constantly spamming my WhatsApp feed with cat photos.)

 

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McDonald’s, You’re Missing A Trick!

It’s my birthday and I’ll have wine with my McDonald’s if I want to! A quiet in ahead of the Christmas craziness – new blog posts coming soon!

I’ll also bake for my team if I want to, even if ‘baking’ means staying up until crazy o’clock the night before to get it made to my demanding standards.

(The team valued it, I made two batches and they devoured both on a day. I was even told it posed a risk to productivity because it was so good.)

So yeah, go me. Go me and my baking and my wine-sipping awesomeness. Whoop.

A Whistle Stop Tour of Throwbacks

It’s my birthday this week (yay) so how better to celebrate me then a few personal favourites from the AEB playlist? Let’s waste no time, let’s get to it!

A Whistle Stop Tour of Throwbacks: A Playlist for Alice

Firstly, as with all things in life you have to make an entrance. I have always loved the bolshiness of Sledgehammer’s opening.

(Can we also take a moment to reflect on how ground-breaking the music video was at the time it was released?)

But where are my manners? I should probably introduce myself. I’m Alice, although Paul Simon keeps calling me different.

I’ve tried to stop him, but he really won’t give it up.

Most people, I hope, would think of me as a something a bit different to the norm, but still very much a product of the early 90s…

90s but not as you know it. You’ll find me catching up on Radio Four on the evenings and trying to make out I’m really listening to some hip new song by Ed Sheeran or Stormzy.

Sometimes I feel like my outlook on life is stuck decades older than my years so ‘1985’ seems apt on many levels (and only a year off one of my favourite novels, Nineteen Eighty-Four).

While I never prescribe myself to a ultimate favourite song (it changes so frequently) ‘My Girl’ by the Temptations will always sit in the premier league of faves. I’m also massive fan of international music which is why I’ve spent days of my life listening to both the English and Italian versions.

On the subject of off-beat and a little bit quirky…this striped back cover of a Britney Spears classic is just wonderful. Britney was my career icon for all of six months as a young child, nowadays if I want to unleash my inner sass I’ll mentally play this track in my head.

And in support of the many, many songs that were perfect just as they were…

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Bringing the pace back up while throwing the music right back, good luck trying to pin me down when The Kinks come on. I’ll have no embarrassment busting some abstract 60s moves to this:

When I get down to this it’s like Mr Tickle decided to release a fitness video, arms everywhere!

Similar with Mel Torme’s I’m Comin’ Home, a song which I first heard as part of the soundtrack for the movie An Education.

It’s a film set in the 60s involving slick men in suits dealing art. Hmm, I can’t think why I’m particularly drawn to the film…

And following on from that, I couldn’t possibly consider the soundtrack of An Education without giving a shout out to the 50s-set French film Popularie. ‘Golden Baby’ rightly deserves to sit as top bill on this film’s soundtrack.

And when I hear this next piece of piano music…for two minutes I transport myself somewhere completely other and fall in love with the idea of old fashioned romance.

 

Right, that’s enough soppiness, let’s up the tempo. Someone get the dance mat out!

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And if you really show off your moves maybe, just maybe, I’ll let you take me out.

(As long as you accept I will be singing along to the guitar solo.)

And why wouldn’t you want to spend a night hanging off my arm? I’m anything but common.

Nah, not me. I’m a one of a kind, I’m unique, I’m a classic.

And then… *cough*

(Or, alternatively, stick on ANY song by Marvin Gaye. They all get a massive thumbs up in my book.)

And then…

At the same time, I’ve got a life to lead and if you can’t handle that then sorry, you’re just not the bloke for me.

Sorry, not sorry for being awesome.

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When I was born (first week of December) the UK chart number one was Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You. Ironic, most of my nights out probably end with the same song.

Everyone has a song which is so truly horrific they love it and, following a seasonal line of thought, mine has to be this gem from Squeeze.

I mean, where do you even begin to start with what’s right in that video?

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In the Cotswolds it’s not Christmas in the family household until either a) Papa Bennett has attempted to play Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross and we’ve shouted him down, b) I’ve dropped the Michael Buble CD in oil/fat or c) Celtic Christmas gets played. It’s usually a close run battle between the three.

TUNNNNEEEE!

And how better to exit the day/week/year than with ‘Bat Out of Hell’ and ‘St. Elmo’s Fire back-to-back? (Rhetorical question, there is none.)

Right, I’ve gotta dash now, real life adult stuff to do. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my mind and music taste (and understand why asking me for my favourite genre and/or song is a pointless question, I don’t have one).

If you’re ever in a position where you’re feeling a bit low and missing my blog/real life lovin’ don’t you worry, I’m always here*.

*Swimsuit not included.

Happy birthday me!

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Lunch Break Scribbles: The Naivety of Youth

As well as other things taking shape in my life I’m also enrolled on a writing course, for which I have to submit exercises as well as sections of my novel for review. Each exercise is marked in isolation, so it’s great for giving me the freedom and discipline to write hyper-fiction (self-contained stories less than 1000 words in length).

One weekday lunchtime at work (i.e. in an hour) I wrote “The Naivety of Youth”, a first draft of a story that places sensory experience at the heart of scene setting.

While not the finished article, I wanted to make a point of how important regular breaks are. I hear so often people say that they’re either too busy or they simply don’t know what to do with themselves so don’t take the time out.

In the UK you are entitled, by law, to an unpaid break by your employer (length dependant on your contracted hours). Don’t squander the opportunity to look after your mental health, if I can write the below in an hour, then there’s no excuse! You’d be amazed what you can achieve in even thirty minutes.

**

The Naivety of Youth (First Draft)

Declan landed three hard knocks on the chipped plywood door. The sound bounded around the room behind, a hollow chamber of noise swiftly chased by the crackled voice of the flat’s tenant.

                ‘I’m coming, I’m coming!’

                There was the jingle of a chain and a shunt of a bolt before the old woman pulled the door open ajar to greet her visitor.

                ‘Who are you?’

                ‘I’m Declan, I recently moved into the flat a next door…’

                ‘What are you selling?’

                ‘I’m not selling anything, I just…’

                ‘Then why didn’t you ring the doorbell?

                Declan glanced to the left. The doorbell of which the lady referred to was caked in deep dirt and grime, he hadn’t even been aware of its existence.

                ‘I tried but it didn’t work,’ he lied. ‘Thing is, I’ve been relocated here and I don’t know anyone. Can I come in? I’ve got some leftover cake from work.’ He lifted the cheap blue bag, its colour imposing on the dark brown corridor it swung against.

                The old lady looked the man up and down several times and eyed up the bag before grumbling and permitting Declan inside. Using her walking stick for support, she waddled across the square room and flicked on a light switch before approaching Declan and making a gesture at the bag. He politely handed it into her vicious grasp that made the plastic scrunch up in recoiled submission. As she headed toward the kitchenette Declan decided to make himself more comfortable and placed a hand on a sofa that faced an old box TV set.

                ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’

                ‘Ruby!’ Came the muffled response. The lady was too busy staring into an empty cupboard.

                ‘It’s a…err…nice place you’ve got here…’ Declan lowered himself onto the collapsed sofa, his bum tensing and reshuffling momentarily when he happened upon a broken spring.

                ‘Don’t try softening me up, boy, I know it’s a dump.’

                Ruby placed the half-eaten cake on the stained coffee table and shoved a plate into the hands of Declan. Even though it had the appearance of being clean it still felt sticky beneath his fingers.

                ‘Is this what you call a welcome gift?’

                ‘Well, I did say it was the leftovers from work.’

                ‘You never said such thing!’

                ‘I’m sure I did?’

                ‘Are you calling me a liar now?’ Ruby took the cake knife and jabbed it toward Declan. Declan instinctively jolted backwards in such speed the firm backboard of the chair cracked with the impact. Ruby cackled at the scene just as Declan bent forward in pain.

                ‘I’m not gonna stab you! Young people, so gullible…’

                ‘I’m thirty-four years old.’

                ‘You’re young,’ Ruby said decisively. ‘Now, eat this cake I’ve made you.’

                Declan decided to not challenge Ruby’s assertion, deciding that acceptance was an easier path to take. As he bit into the stale sweetness of the baked item he became aware of how dry the air was in the space between he and Ruby. It sucked whatever moisture was in his throat, it burned at his eyes. When he helped himself to the water jug he found the result even worse; the chemically treated liquid tasted of metal mixed with cleaning fluid as it fell down his gullet in haste. The air dried where the water scorched, the two worked in unison to make the effects of the other worse.

                It was when Declan stopped to look at Ruby that he realised the old woman hadn’t said a word this entire time, nor had she tasted the cake. Instead she’d quietly sat in her faded floral armchair; knife resting on lap, an unnatural smile playing on her lips.

                ‘Do you like the cake?’

                Declan suddenly fell to the floor, scrabbling at the stained beige carpet. With his knuckles he pushed back the rag rug and saw for the first time large red patches of stained blood under it. As he gasped and spluttered Ruby kicked him back so the rug returned to its rightful place.

                ‘I keep a tight ship around here, boy, one of which being the importance of keeping the flat next door clear of people like you.’

                Declan tried to utter a response, a plea, but nothing came out.

                ‘P…p…p…’

                The frail, tiny lady towered over Declan, watching and observing his slow demise. It was only sometime later a clanging buzz pieced the stillness of the room.

                ‘Open up!’ Boomed the deep voice.

                Ruby looked from the direction of the noise back to Declan’s tangled body. The corpse’s blood had started dribbling from his nose, falling onto the carpet with a muted pat, pat.

                ‘I told you,’ she stated flatly. ‘You should have rung the doorbell.’

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