Goons – Chapter 21


We bury her in the Severn Estuary, under a starless sky. It’s not a fancy funeral, or even a funeral at all, really. I wear black, but I always wear black when I’m working. Bossman does most of the digging, and even in the darkness I can see sweat running down his face and soaking through his shirt. Em doesn’t dig at all, since her wound is still healing.

Patty’s remains are a liquid slop, contained in a thick plastic bag and tied with a cable tie. I pick her up and drop her in the hole. Bossman shovels mud over her, grim-faced and silent. He seems different, which makes sense, I suppose. To create something, and then have that something try to kill you because it thinks you’re a danger to the world, must be difficult to deal with. When Patty is all covered up, Bossman leans on his spade, breathing heavily, and says, “I’ve been re-evaluating things.”


Airports stress me out. Maybe that explains the tight, bunched-up feeling in my stomach, like I’m a dad sending his kid off to university. The kid in question is 30, and failing at taking over the world, so I should probably be glad to be rid of him. In ten hours, he will be America’s problem.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea, having the meeting scheduled for tomorrow?” says Em. “You’ll be jetlagged.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. And these guys are pretty serious about the wound filler with the time release antimicrobial. They want it for the military, so…” he rubs his thumb and fingertips together, meaning there is money to be made.

This is Bossman’s idea of a sabbatical. He has put his plans for world domination on ice, and is experimenting with the radical idea of letting other people use his inventions. He looks up at me and says “Remember to shred all the files. Like, literally everything. We need a fresh start when I get back.”

I nod. “Remember to eat properly. Three meals a day.”

“Yeah, I know.”

There is an awkward pause, and then a slightly less awkward hug. Em joins in, and Bossman disappears for a moment between us.

On the way back from the airport, I drop Em off at Gillian’s house. She says, “See you soon” and I say it back, and we both know that we will be seeing each other in a purely social capacity from now on. By the time Bossman gets back from the States, Em will have retired to the countryside and be properly settled, with horses and dogs and roses round the door. It’s a nice image.

I go back to Bossman’s place and let myself in. At first it feels strange to be the only one there, rattling around like a divorced empty nester. I go to the office and sit at Bossman’s desk, spinning around a few times in his chair. Then I find a classic rock playlist on my phone, and start the process of tidying up.

The crazy wall is the obvious place to start. I tear down Bossman’s plans and scatter them on the floor. Then I fetch the shredder from a cupboard and start shredding, piece by piece. File by file. It’s a nostalgic process.

At some point, the insistent whine of the shredder falls silent, because I have stopped shredding and started reading. I’m pleased with how much of this stuff I understand. I’m tickled at how ridiculous it all is. I laugh, and the laughter comes out sounding like a Bond villain.

Something dirty-pink and slow-moving creeps around the edge of the doorframe. Igor.

“Still here, mate?” I say. Igor, obviously, does not respond. “Yeah, me too. Come and keep me company.”

I sit on the floor, with Igor on my lap, stroking him like a cat. I read files without shredding them. At 2am, I am still reading.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed Goons, check out the ‘Published Work’ section of my blog. It has everything from urban fantasy to YA contemporary, because I can’t commit to a genre.

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