Two-Stroke Maggie found the body.
Stepping from the car of her most recent punter, his silhouetted cheeks blown outwards with sexual exertion, Maggie stood and rearranged her leopard print skirt as the vehicle pulled soundlessly away. She watched as it turned from the alley near to Hallam Street and predictably waited for the headlights to ignite as it reached the main drag of Mary Street.
Maggie flicked the used rubber into the abstract shapes of alleyway darkness and, as she lit her cigarette, Maggie was immediately aware of a ripe and gamey stink. Braver than usual with hits from the Spa brand vodka in her matching leopard print leather bag, she decided to saunter down the alley a little further and identify the source of the hanging smell; anything to break up the carnal monotony of her regular trade. Dead cat, she thought, pigeon maybe. Lights from the council homes of Park Avenue gave the further end of the alleyway a strange dirty-gold hew. It was still very dark, but somehow the tips of the alleys mute crows and cragged fence-tops were illuminated, much in the way that the same high moon creates fins of rolling waves on deserted night-time beaches far away.
She was heading the right way; the odour grew to a degree that forced a scowl from Maggie’s rouge-splattered face. She turned her glossed–red lips downwards as she came towards a heaving mess pressed tightly against the bulbous shimmer of bin bags. Dragging deeply on her cigarette, Maggie peered down and used the hissing tip of her smoke to get a better view. Her first thoughts, with some air of strange disappointment, was that the gamey tableau she made out with a fierce squint was, in fact, just another case of one of the workers from Khan’s Halal Butchers dumping the day’s post-sacrificial leftovers as far from the shop as possible. Maggie came across such abandoned meat quite often, especially in the pull-ins around Balsall Heath Park when she was working. Usually, if the flesh was found amidst the early traffic hymns of dawn, the discarded chicken stomachs and bone shards would be accompanied by a pack of homeless bull terriers ripping at the rank trays and each other as they fed with red jowls and wild unblinking eyes.
Maggie was about to recede to the hush of her lamp-lit corner when she noticed the wrist watch; its broken face staring at her blindly. A cast-off watch was no sign of macabre undertakings as a rule; usually just something flung downwards after a mugging, when the thief realised that his dreams of Rolex high-times were nothing more than some tragic high street apology barely able to keep an accurate hour. But this was different. As Maggie traced the watch with thin analytical eyes, she saw clearly that the cheap timepiece was still connected to a wrist. Maggie didn’t scream. She saved that phoney racket for the regulars. No, Maggie recoiled a little and, reaching for her lighter with shaped, lustrous nails, she shone the light down towards the torn portrait below.
Above the watch, turned back slightly with a deep gash, was a tattoo of a Celtic cross, the work faded over pronounced veins. The blueness of the ink, under the glare of her shimmering lighter, seemed more vivid than any tattoo she had ever seen; projected as it was from such pallid skin. As Maggie dragged the dancing flame further upwards, she saw that the arm was only attached to the naked trunk by what seemed like thin, spoiled laces. Tendons, she guessed fearfully, her nerves beginning to rap and wrangle, the fire clutched in her bony fingers beginning to shudder in an orange fit. Maggie’s investigation got no further than the neck. As the light swept over the ruined pasture of the dead man, it brought depth to the battered shank of the throat; the building blocks of the spinal cord unbearably evident behind that which had been torn terribly from the front of the corpse; affording her the picture of a man that seemed to have swallowed entire pieces of himself.
Recoiling quickly, as if suddenly awoken by salts, Maggie reached for the bottle in her bag, twisting the cap off and letting it fall to the bruised concrete as she glugged greedily at the gut-rot inside. The cap pinged as it bounced from slab to slab and, in that hidden cove of immediate singular violence, the small sound was increased to something like gunshots. Maggie stood for a moment, exhaling the vodka burn and smelling the briny copper piss of her own breath. Considering her next step, she was hurried by the suggestion of slow hungry movement nearby; a large shadow in the middle-distance seemingly unlike its stationary brethren; expanding and retracting against the sullied tower-block lights above them.
Maggie didn’t wait.
Turning on stilettos that shed leather as they ground, Maggie sprinted down the alley towards Hallam Street, her skirt riding eagerly up past the knickerless crescents of her arse; the white skin tiger-striped by the manifold electric lights of nearby Birmingham City Centre.
Something is feeding from the lost and impoverished inhabitants of the city.
Birmingham, England 1991. Fourteen-year-old Tom Rudd lives in the city’s red-light district with his alcoholic father, Malcolm and his pit-bull, Mack. Following a brutal murder near his home, Tom, obsessed with horror films, becomes convinced that something evil is stalking the area, killing at will.
Meanwhile homeless Chrissie witnesses a murder whilst taking shelter in the city’s catacombs. Chrissie sees the killer at work. He finds himself wracked with paranoia and fear as he tries to hide amidst the neon of the city, franticly attempting to avoid the beast.
A chance meeting brings Tom and Chrissie together. Linked by their mutual desperation and loneliness, they embark on a horrifying hunt; one that will bring them face-to-face with a savagery neither could have imagined.
Beasts of a Blue City is a dark horrific adventure set in a city beneath the city; a place of the maleficent and the marvellous, the murderous and the unique. Amongst the wretched and the wrecked, Tom, Chrissie and Mack will find that folklore is just truth that refuses to be forgotten.
Following on from his debut novel, The Master’s Marionettes, author G.J. Wood returns with a story of loss, anger, friendship, and brutality.
Step forth into the night and join the Beasts of a Blue City.