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Alice Hill

Short Stories
More stories coming soon!

Alice Hill lives in Zimbabwe, amongst a bewildering number of cats and other animals. She's passionate about all things African, loves people and hates injustice. She has recently published her first novel, When the Tree is Dry, an African adventure that will make you laugh - and make you cry. She's currently working on a thriller set in Boswana's Okavango Delta. Occasionally, she has to work at a boring day job in order to eat. The photo to the right is Alice, twenty seconds before she discovered she's not Spiderwoman.


Watch this space for upcoming publications, events and other news.

Short Stories

Wings of Justice ~~ by Alice Hill

The tale of a nightmare journey, a dead man and a winged destroyer who turns fear to reality.

Wings of Justice

Wings of Justice








Nemesis, winged balancer of life, dark-faced goddess, daughter of Justice – Mesomedes

A flat tyre. At a time like this.


Shaking, I hesitate for a long moment before opening the boot. Maybe I’ll wake up and find it’s all a dream. Maybe the nightmare will pass and the boot will contain nothing it shouldn’t. Just tools and a spare tyre.


It’s not a nightmare. The lid swings open, and the moonlight plays on the outline of a  hunched shape. I take a deep breath. I’ll have to move it to reach the wheel spanner, jack and tyre, and I can’t turn squeamish now.


I fumble for a good grip. It’s lucky I’m a big man and I’ve always kept fit, because the thing is a dead weight. Not just a dead weight. Dead. Hamish McIntyre is undoubtedly dead. The plastic wrapped around him falls away a little, revealing his silver hair, matted and congealed with a dark stain.


A moment of panic. I can’t leave him lying in the road. What if another car arrives while I’m changing the wheel? Unlikely in this remote area, but . . . no, I can’t take a chance. I haul him up and walk the short distance to a thick patch of shrubs. A gust of wind blows the plastic into my face, blinding me for a second, and then flapping back, leaving one slack-fingered hand uncovered. I stumble, half-dropping him into the undergrowth. I waste precious minutes securing the covering and making sure nothing is visible.


Panting a little, I power-walk to the car. Assemble the tools—must hurry. A tendency to drop and fumble doesn’t help. At last, the wheel is changed, and I put everything back, not too neatly. Now to retrieve the body. Lifting is harder this time, trying to raise the burden from ground height. Just as well McIntyre isn’t big. Small and wiry. And, until this evening, assertive, quick-witted and unforgiving. And loud. Now he is silent.


Careful. Don’t let any exposed parts touch the interior of the boot—there must be no trace that the car ever held a body. Make sure the plastic is wrapped tight. He’s in, but the lid won’t close. My heart races. I open the lid and rearrange the unresisting mass. Close it.


Car keys. Where are the car keys? Blood pounds through my veins. I pat each pocket in turn, then sigh with relief. Here they are.


Off again. I can’t drive fast. Can’t use the headlights, in case some remote villager wakes and wonders. Off the road, and onto a rough track heading upwards at an ever-increasing gradient. The track ends, and I slow to a crawl, weaving my way between trees and boulders, until I can go no further.


I sit for some moments, reluctant to move. I can’t do this. It’s impossible. Then panic sets in. A swirling vista of consequences. A filthy prison in this underdeveloped country. Perhaps the hangman’s noose. I can almost feel it around my neck.


I have to do this.


There is another way. I could just dump McIntyre right here, then go to some remote country and begin life again. But then I’d lose everything, and I’ve worked hard for it. The mine. It’s been my life for the last ten years, and it’s just starting to make money. Lots of money.


I have to do this.


Cold determination replaces fear. I lever myself out of the car. I open the boot, confronting the silent heap, which, not long ago, was a living, breathing human. I won’t think of him that way. He—it—is just a collection of minerals bound together by a departed life force. A collection that needs to be disposed of. It’s not going to be easy. A heavy burden, a long climb through rough country. Time is not on my side, and I need to get started. But first, think each step through.


I can manage the weight—they taught us in the army how to do a fireman’s lift, leaving one hand free. Getting the dead weight onto my shoulders will be tricky. If I fumble it, I’ll get McIntyre’s DNA all over my car, and I don’t want that. The police in this country may be backward and inefficient, but even they know enough to test for DNA. And they will, if there’s any suspicion McIntyre disappeared when he was with me. Which shouldn’t happen, but you never know.


First, get the body out of the boot, carefully, so the plastic remains in place. The moon slips behind a cloud, making it difficult to see what I’m doing. I get a good grip, and heave him onto a convenient waist-high boulder. I’ll have to remove the wrapping so I can arrange his arms and legs for carrying.


I unwind the covering, and a sudden shaft of moonlight illuminates McIntyre’s face. Are his eyelids twitching? No, it’s just a trick of the shifting shadows that flutter as an overhead branch sways in the wind. And the slack jaw is not really screaming. It’s all in my head, an illusion caused by moonlight, conjuring up ghosts where there are none.


I can’t leave the plastic covering here; someone may find it. I fold it neatly, wind it twice round my waist and tie it like a belt. Why do I feel as if it’s pulling tighter, squeezing the breath out of me? Is his spirit close by, determined to avenge his passing?


I blink my eyes, trying to rid my mind of phobias. On with the job in hand. I raise him till his head is level with mine, my eyes staring into his. It’s like being sucked into a void, and I turn my head away. Steadying him with my left hand, I use my right to pull an arm over my shoulder. Shift my weight forward onto my right leg, turn my head under his arm. Get a grip behind his knees. Squat and pull him over my shoulders. An arm slides down my back. He’s trying to escape. No. It’s only the effect of gravity on slack limbs.


At last I have him balanced, and I wrap my right arm around his legs, reaching across to hold his elbow. Have to leave my left hand free to help with the climb. Stand up, and I’m good to go. But I can’t. The close contact is almost too much for me. The mingled smells of McIntyre’s brand of soap, aftershave and cigars fill my nostrils, and I want to cry out.


I stifle the scream and force myself to walk forward. I can’t give up now. I will lose everything. I set off, finding the path easily, as the moon has emerged from hiding. The going is not too difficult. I can do this. I just have to pretend I’m hiking with a backpack. I even find time to notice the clean, sharp angles of rock and tree glinting in the soft light; listen to the chirp of insects and the occasional eerie echo of a nightjar’s call. All familiar sounds.


Time passes. Time to think. Remember.


I’d hit him hard, but I hadn’t mean to kill him. Harsh words, snapping tempers, a primeval surge of anger and a crashing blow. I hadn’t set out to be a murderer.


McIntyre was my partner in the mine, a distant partner, cushioned in his luxurious Scottish mansion from the dirt, the backbreaking work and the raucous complaints of the labour force. Raking in his share of everything. Yes, he’d put up most of the money, but the vision, the effort and the daily grind were all mine. Once a year, he’d visit, niggling, interfering, demanding tighter controls, more profit. Could anyone blame me when I opened a new shaft and found it rich with gold, much richer than we’d dreamt, that I didn’t put it through the books? McIntyre still got his profit, year in, year out. He didn’t need to know there was more.


Then he’d phoned me unexpectedly, asking me to collect him from the airport. We arrived at the mine office just as it was growing dark, He sat opposite me and leaned forward in his chair.


“I want to see everything. The books, the mine, the stores. Everything.” His cold grey eyes left no room for argument.


I stared at him for a stunned moment. “Why?”


"Why? Because I've been doing ma sums." His thin lips twisted. In a tone that could have frozen a tropical storm in its tracks, he itemised the precise amount of chemicals required to refine the gold shown in the sales figures. Compared it to the amounts we'd actually used. "Perhaps ye'd care to explain this to me, laddie?"”


He insisted on a tour of inspection. Cornered me and finally, proved his point.


“I’ll be prosecuting, of course.” His voice was calm.


If he’d shown anger, I might have believed he’d change his mind after he had time to think. I lost my temper, shouted, even pleaded, but he was implacable. And finally, I hit him. Hit him hard. I hadn’t meant to kill him.


I’m jolted back to the present when I stumble over a tree root. My burden slips, pulling me sideways and over, and McIntyre and I sprawl on the ground, entwined like a pair of lovers. I curse, alarming some unseen creature, which darts off with a rustle of leaves.


It’s much harder to lift him back onto my shoulders this time; I’m beginning to tire, and my muscles shout in protest. I succeed in the end and set off, climbing ever higher. I pass through a tangle of tree branches, ducking and twisting to enable myself and my burden to pass through. The branches snatch at McIntyre’s clothes, pulling him backwards so that I almost lose my grip. I retreat a pace, duck lower and try again. Ten minutes of this and I’m exhausted. I’d like to stop and rest, but time is not on my side. I must be back before the mine workers arrive. No-one must ever suspect I’ve been away.


At last I reach a grassy plateau, and my thoughts drift back yet again. No, I hadn’t meant to kill him. Not then, not when I hit him in temper. But afterwards, when he lay on the floor unconscious . . . .


Heart racing, I’d examined him. No blood, no obvious injury. His chest rose and fell slowly, and I gave a sigh of relief.


He’s alive. I thought I’d killed him.


I stood over him. Watching. And thinking.


If I had killed him, I wouldn’t be prosecuted.


And then the thoughts crowded in. When we set up the company, we’d included an agreement that if one partner died, the other had first option to buy his shares at current valuation. And the valuation would be low, because no-one but me knew how much gold we really produced. McIntyre knew, but he’d be dead.


I can do it. The mine . . . I’ve worked for it, cared for it. It could belong to me. Only me.


I closed my eyes. Went through the implications. Why not? No-one knew he was at the mine; the workers had all gone home hours ago. I could do it; it only needed a bit of courage. But what to do with the body?


The chasm.


I’d found it months ago, when I’d gone deep into the surrounding bush, camping and prospecting for a possible site for a second mine. It’s a deep, narrow gap between the rocks, the sides so steep no-one can get down without sophisticated climbing equipment. And no-one would want to get down. There’s nothing down there, just a jumble of jagged rocks. You can’t even see the bottom without leaning precariously over the edge. No-one would find him.




Be careful. I must leave no trace.


A stream runs past the mine—that would be the place to do it. Any traces would be washed away, and there’d be nothing for anyone to find.


I snatched up my raincoat and put an old pair of trousers over my clothes—I could discard them later. My heart hammering and my brain flying, I picked up his limp body with muscles super-charged by adrenaline. Stumbled to the stream. Snatched up a jagged rock, and waded in until the cold water reached halfway to my knees. Paused, my heart beating wildly.


MacIntyre twisted a little in my grip and gave a groan. Now. It had to be now, or he would wake and struggle, perhaps escape. I smashed the rock onto his skull, feeling the crunch and the sudden softness, like a boiled egg when you tap it with a spoon. He gave a sound halfway between a gasp and a cough. Blood seeped onto my hands and poured through my fingers. His body went limp.


I don’t know how long I stood there. It could have been a minute, or even ten. Water swirled around my ankles and the blood on my hands turned sticky. Then I‘d come to myself. I had work to do.


And I still have work to do. I’ve stopped halfway through the clearing, forgetting my objective in reliving the horrors. I push myself to go faster. Time is short. The memories have made me edgy, and I keep thinking I see something or someone moving. Foolish fancies only. Nobody would come to this wild place at this time.


The moon shines brighter as the clouds shift, and a dark shape moves in front of me. A winged creature—a half-forgotten childhood fear blurring the barriers of reality. I let out a startled cry. As I stop and stare, the shape comes to a halt.


Then my logical mind reasserts itself. It’s my shadow, with the hunched load on my back giving the appearance of wings.


Only my shadow.


I breathe deeply and continue, but the night feels full of an unseen presence. What happens to the essence of a person when they die? Where is McIntyre’s soul? Does it lurk in the night, a ghostly nothing, seeking retribution?


I curse out loud, needing to hear my own voice. After a little while, I feel calmer, able to continue.


The going gets rougher, rising between boulders and gnarled, stunted trees. I stumble again, and struggle to right myself without dropping McIntyre. The moon goes behind thick clouds, and soft rain begins to fall, whispering as it strikes the dry leaves. It’s dark, and I can’t see my way. I use my free hand to test the area in front of me, moving my feet cautiously, feeling for every step. It’s no good. I quickly become disoriented. I can’t get lost now. And how will I climb the last section of the path, where I’ll need both hands to make my way up the rough, rocky incline?


I sink to my knees, exhausted in body and spirit. All around me, the rain whispers, and the sound becomes McIntyre’s voice. No escape, it murmurs. No escape.


I close my eyes. I see the winged creature, the legend that terrified me as a child. Nemesis, the avenger, inescapable. Darkness reaching out for me, darkness with wings, and the sound of the rain becomes the fluttering of feathers. And McIntyre’s weight becomes a strong pinion pressing me down. No escape.


A cramp in my leg pulls me back to reality. I am stronger than this. And I am being a fool. I have my mobile phone with me, and it has a flashlight. Enough to show me the way. I reach for it in my pocket, fumble and drop it.


I can’t find it.


Stop. Think.


Cut the panic.


I shift McIntyre onto the ground and, on my hands and knees, grope for the phone. I find it. Now to lift him again. My breath comes in short gasps. No good. I’ll have to rest for a while. I lie flat on the ground, the rain drumming on my face and creeping under my coat in cold trickles. But my brain is working now. And I know how I will manage the last, steep climb.


The rain eases, and I get to my feet. Untie the plastic which I’d knotted around my waist. Heave McIntosh upright, wrap his arm around my neck, stoop, lift his legs, and, with a superhuman heave, get him onto my shoulders. I arrange him in the correct position, then wrap the plastic tightly around his arm. I tie the other end under his knees, leaving both my hands free. I can do this. I will do it. And when I have done it, the mine will belong to me.


I turn on the flashlight and step forward, checking the way carefully. Not so far to go now, but I mustn’t get lost.


Half an hour passes, and I’m on autopilot. Step forward. Check the path. Step forward. The gloom lightens, and at first I think the cloud is thinning, but then a line of muted colour spreads across the horizon. Dawn is coming, and I know where I am. Only the last, and hardest, part of the path to go. And with the daylight comes triumph. New day, new life.


I make my precarious way over boulders, through narrow gaps and up steep, slippery inclines. But determination has returned now I am so near my goal, and I force my hands and legs to move faster. At last I reach the place where the ground disappears into a deep ravine. The perfect place.  No-one will ever go there. No-one will ever find a body dropped into that chasm. I stand still for a few moments, triumphant. I have made it.


Breathing deeply, I shuffle forward onto a wider foothold, where I have room to untie my burden and send it to its last resting place. The soft, grey dawn reveals the sharp edges of the rocks, and I shiver as I imagine his body crashing, smashing, disintegrating.


A sharp scuffle to my left. I swing around in alarm. Wings flap towards me, wings rise into the air above me, I scream and step back. One of my feet slips over the edge. As I fight for balance, I see it is only an eagle, a giant eagle disturbed from her nest. I lean forward, but McIntyre’s weight drags me back.  He falls from my shoulders, and his arm and legs, tied in front of me, pull against my neck, taking away my breath. My front foot slides. And MacIntyre and I are flying, flying downwards to the place where no-one will ever find us.


High above, the eagle spreads her wings, circling and rising until she is just a speck in the sky.

*   *   *   *   *

~~Published in Issue # 1 of Reader's Abode~~

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