The paper jutted halfway out of the typewriter, four words black in the moon light:


At least this time, Daniel thought, he had managed four of his own words.

He sat there, in the gloom, looking at it. The sleek grey metal body looked darker in the moonlight, and the white letters on the black keys shone out. The “Olivetti” on the back plate was readable, but the “Lettera 22” was a little harder to see.

The typewriter was a birthday present from Josh. In the six hours he’d had it, he’d rearranged the office desk. The typewriter on the left, Macbook in the middle, and the turntable on the right. Despite the modernity of the other items, the typewriter lent a 1950s retro quality to his desk. There was something thrilling anticipating being able to say that you had a typewriter for addressing your envelopes, something beautifully retro about the whole setup, even if the turntable was new enough to be a bluetooth speaker for the Macbook.

Daniel desperately wanted a smoke.

“I never smoked in my life,” he said to himself. “What’s wrong with me?”

From the other room, Josh moaned in the bed. “Are you coming back to bed?”

“Yeah,” Daniel said. “In a minute. I just want to try something.”

He stared intensely at the typewriter for a moment.

He rolled down the paper, breathed deeply, closed his eyes, and began to type while speaking out loud.

“My name is Daniel Trent, I’m thirty two and I live on Foxglove Road. I was born up north, moved here ten years ago. My mother’s name is Sue, and my father’s name is Malcolm, although I never met him because he died of a heart attack three weeks before I was born.”

“Give it a rest!” Josh shouted from the bedroom. “Dan, it’s 3am.”

Daniel ignored him.

“Please, be nonsense,” he whispered.

He opened his eyes and read.

My name is Richard Smith. I was seventy one and lived on Jacinta Avenue. I was born here in the city, and murdered five months ago. My murderer lived in the apartment below me, although I don’t know his name because I only met him once, three months before he str

“What were you trying to say? ‘Str-’ what?” he wanted to ask, but his mouth had gone dry.

He sat there feeling numb for a very long time.


Daniel woke up still in his office chair, covered by a blanket.

“Coffee,” Josh said, pushing a mug under his nose.

“I can see that,” Dan said, taking it. “I’m cold. You didn’t bring me to bed?”

“I tried,” Josh replied, sitting on the edge of the desk. “But you wouldn’t go.”

“I wouldn’t?”

“You refused point blank. Said you needed to stay here in case Richard came back?” Josh shrugged. “Who’s Richard?”

Daniel pointed at the typewriter. Josh leaned over, rolled the paper up a little and read.

“That’s what you were typing at 3am?”

“It’s what I typed, yes. But it’s not what I intended to type.”

Josh turned around and looked at him, raising one eyebrow. “Seriously? A haunted typewriter?”

“That’s what it looks like. Close your eyes and try it.”

Josh laughed.

“I’m serious.”

Josh shook his head, stood up from the desk, turned round, closed his eyes and tried it.

“Blah blah blah,” he said, his hands hitting keys randomly. “Monkeys monkeys in the zoo, monkeys monkeys just like you, I’m making this up as I go along, la la la what a silly … song”

Daniel looked to see Josh was now staring at the page. A few lines down from last night’s paragraph, the words continued:

angled. He got into my flat and tied me to one of the chairs in the kitchen, broke two of my fingers so I would tell him the combination of my safe and then he took the bonds, the money and

Josh gulped.

“I have to sit down,” he muttered, and stumbled over to the sofa.

Daniel stood up, went to the bedroom and got dressed. When he came back out, Josh was still sitting on the sofa, staring at the typewriter.

“What are we going to do?” Daniel asked.

Josh shook his head.

Daniel sat down at the desk again.

“No,” Josh said. “Don’t.”

Daniel shook his head. “Got to,” he replied.

“What do you want us to do?” he asked the typewriter. Then he closed his eyes, and began to type randomly. Almost immediately, he stopped, as though compelled. He opened his eyes and read two words:

Avenge me.


Daniel closed his eyes and began typing again.


The next day, Daniel and Josh spent three hours in the small cafe over the road, watching the entrance to Smith’s apartment block before the neighbour went out.

“You got the instructions?” Josh asked, swinging the typewriter bag in his right hand.

Daniel unfolded the sheet as they walked over the road. “You’ve only asked me three times.”

“I’m nervous,” he replied, putting his gloves on. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Never took revenge for a murder victim before?”

“Keep your voice down.”

Daniel smiled.

The door code was 7934 the last time I knew.

Daniel tried it. The door buzzed open.

My downstairs neighbour is in flat 3B. He keeps a spare key under the mat because he has a paranoid fear of being locked out.

“Here it is, sweetheart,” Daniel smiled. “Just like the old man promised.”

Josh looked around at the faded green paint on the wall. “This place creeps me out.”

“We won’t be long,” Daniel replied. “I promise.”

He picked up the key with one gloved hand and turned it in the lock. The door opened easily. He replaced the key under the mat and they went inside.

The apartment smelled of old grease and sweat. The front door opened into a small living room, dominated by a sofa with mismatching cushions, mended in two places by duct tape. A table in the corner held an old television with a dial tuner, its old white plastic faded yellow. A small digital tuner box sat apolgoetically next to it, the only concession to an encroaching digital age.

“Yecch,” Josh groaned. “How can anybody live like this?”

“Let’s get the things and get out,” Daniel replied. “Now where would someone this sleazy keep this stuff?”

“Under the mattress?”

Daniel shrugged and looked around the small apartment. The first door led to a bathroom, which had obviously not been cleaned in a while. The second, to a bedroom that smelled musty.

“You could keep horses in here,” Josh said.

“No you couldn’t,” Daniel replied. “They’d be repulsed by the smell.

They each took a corner of the mattress.

“Is this what you were looking for?” Josh asked, holding up a book. A red cover, depicting a woman spanking another, read Jeux de Dames Cruelles.

“Funny,” Daniel snarked, feeling under the other side of the mattress. “Hello…”

He pulled out an envelope. Inside, as predicted, were bond certificates. He grinned.

“Pass me the bag,” he said. Josh did. Inside the bag were two weeks worth of old newspapers, cut to size.


Bosham Carter was late coming back from town that day. He’d scored well, but nearly got busted coming back from lifting the purse from a black girl’s bag near the metro. Still, she had a good slice of cash, which made up for it.

He had his shopping with him – microwave chips, some ready meals, those three-for-two wines he liked. He turned on the TV and it turned onto a vintage music channel. It wasn’t great, but it would do.

He opened one of the bottles of wine, poured some into a tin cup and sniffed.

“Something don’t smell right here,” he said out loud.

Maybe it was the wine?

He shook his head. Not the wine. Like a cologne type of smell. Like some rich banker type came in and had a look around.

He frowned. Placing the cup on the table, he opened the door and checked under the mat. The spare key was still there.

He shrugged. Maybe someone knew about it, but who? He’d never told anyone, had he?

He closed the door and put the bolt across as well.

“You’re being crazy, boy,” he told himself. But that didn’t feel right.

He picked up the frying pan from the stove, and carried it in one hand. Walking slowly, deliberately to the bedroom, he opened the door gingerly and looked around, holding the pan as a defence.

There was nobody there.

Still the smell lingered a little, stuck in his nose because it was out of place, like smelling rotten eggs at the pharmacy.

The bonds. His nest egg. The stuff he’d taken from that snivelling old coward upstairs. That old perv. Yeah. World was definitely better off without that guy. Still… best to check.

He lifted the corner of the mattress and breathed a sigh of relief. The envelope was still there. He put the frying pan down on the bedspread and then picked out the envelope. He pulled the front sheet out and paused.

Dear neighbour, it began.

Five months ago you came into my home and took things from me.

My life is the least important of those to you; the money I saved all through it is also important to me, as it was intended for the care of my daughter after I could no longer provide for her.

Carter felt himself grow weak. His heart hammered, the chest tightening. He was finding it difficult to breathe.

You may be aware that fingerprints can be had from paper these days. Even if you are not, the police almost certainly are. By now, these bonds are in the hands of the police, who no doubt will be visiting you very soon.

“How?” Carter tried to speak, but his voice came out merely as a croak.

In the mean time, I hope you don’t mind my paying you a little visit.

Yours, Richard Smith

“A visit?”

The bedroom door slammed shut. Carter yelped, picked up the pan and ran over to the window.

The window opened by itself, as Carter looked on in horror.

Turning his face away he looked at the mirror on the dressing table and saw nothing in it except the face of his neighbour from upstairs.

“Jump,” the face hissed.

He jumped.

The post “The Quick Brown Fox” first appeared on and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.

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