Holiday Reading, Fowey, Cornwall, 2012.

Source: Holiday Reading, Fowey, Cornwall, 2012.


Blue-Jacket – Action story by Chris Butler.

After being disowned by my parents because I did not match their idea of what a daughter should be like and do, I moved to a large city where no one knew me and found work as a table-waitress at a late night club. I also enrolled at a gym, and, oh, while I was living there I received a letter from an old friend of mine from school, Gina Carson, telling me that her parents had died in a car accident and my parents had got in touch with her and told her she was welcome to come and live with them while she completed her studies. The room they offered her, of course, was my old bedroom. That was their way of finding a replacement for me. Gina wasn’t sure whether she could accept the offer or not and that was why she was writing to me but I wrote back saying she should accept it if she thought that it would help her with her studies. Why not?

Soon after sending my reply to Gina, I was on my way to work when I saw a blue jacket in a shop window. Asking inside the shop, I was pleased to learn that the jacket was available in my size. The following night, I was out again, wearing my new jacket, when I heard someone yelling. A woman wearing a white mask and carrying a large knife came running towards me. I tried to stop her but she was stronger than I thought and she knocked me over. While I was still stunned she drove her knife not only through my new jacket but also through my shoulder, pinning me to the fence behind me. Then she pulled out another knife from somewhere.

‘You should have kept out of my way,’ she said.

She drove the second knife through my other shoulder in the same way as the first and ran away. There was no way I could pull either of the knives out and I would have bled to death if an old woman had not come along. When she extracted the knives I passed out for a moment or so, but after I came to again, she led me to her house which was nearby. Her name, she told me, was Psittica and I said I wanted to track down the woman who had done that to me. Did she know who she was? She said that she didn’t but, she added, she could track her down using the knives. Closing her eyes and burning something, she did something with the knives and then she told me where I could find the woman but she advised me to wait until I had got my full strength back.

Arriving at 44 Jefferson Place, two days later, and wearing a small black eye-mask to hide my identity in case anyone saw me, I climbed into the house through an upstairs window. The woman must have heard me make a step on the landing because she came out of a room as I was creeping along the landing. She was not wearing the mask and her face was strange. Taking advantage of my surprise at the way she looked, she caught me off-guard and pushed me down the stairs. I hit my head on something and the next thing I knew I was standing up, my head was throbbing and I was manacled to a wall in a small room without any windows. The woman was there in front of me and now she had the mask on again.

‘I am Lady White Mask,’ she said, stroking the blade of a knife even larger than the ones with which she had skewered me before.

She then explained that the other evening when she pinned me to the fence she had just attacked a government agent called Number 60 who had discovered the secret island where she had her base and where she trained assassins. She had under-estimated my strength. I wrenched my arms free, pulling the chains clear out of the wall and knocked her flying across the room before she could even react. While I wrenched the manacles off my wrists, she fled the house and it took me weeks to track her using Psittica’s help to her island headquarters where I caused a volcano to erupt using a special stone Psittica had given me. When at last I cornered Lady White Mask she begged me not to hand her over to the authorities and promised she would change her ways.

A few weeks after I had moved to the island, I received a letter from Gina Carson saying that she thought my parents were ready now to forgive me. She was sure that if I were to visit their house, they would welcome me back with open arms. I thought I knew my parents better than Gina did, however. I knew they would be horrified if they saw me now. In any case, I was happy where I was.