Friday, March 31, 2017


Every growing boy needs a hobby. For me, it's Lego. I loved the toy as a child, before undergoing what Lego fandom refers to as 'The Dark Ages' when I was thirteen or fourteen-- that period between discovering Lego and rediscovering it. 
I rediscovered it a few years ago thanks to my kids: Luscious and I had bought Ms 15 some Duplo when she was a little sausage person, and passed it on to Master 12 when he became a little sausage person. Neither of them had really taken to it, until one day, when searching for a way to create a maze for the remote control T-Rex they were playing with, they brought it out. 
"I wonder what they'd do with some real Lego?" I said to Luscious.
"You should nip down the ships and pick some up," she replied. (He says, passing-the-blamingly).
Today, I have a collection that lies just short of 200 sets, and just north of 55,000 pieces. The children, meanwhile, have iPads and iPods, and laptops. I have displayed at the last 2 Bricktober exhibitions, and am currently working on my display for a third consecutive year, and have travelled to Melbourne to exhibit at their giant Brickvention exhibition. I am a member of several online Lego groups, have a Flickr account, and spend hundreds of dollars a year at the Bricklink second-hand site, buying individual pieces for my MOCs (My Own Creations: what adults call this thing wot I built all by myself to make it sound more adult).
In short, I'm an AFOL: an Adult Fan of Lego. And I loves it with great lovingness. 
In many ways, I've passed beyond buying sets: I'm more interested in MOCs, as it expands my creative skills, and it's the act of artistic creation that fires my juices. But, like many of my colleagues, sets were where I started before I slid over to the more self-expressive, artistic end of the spectrum. So here are five sets that fuelled my love of the brick, and which will be the last to leave my cold, dead hands.

5 for Friday: Lego sets
918 Space Transport and 928 Galaxy Explorer
The set that started it all, and the set I lusted after my whole life.
The 918-- all 81 pieces of it-- was the centrepiece of my collection when I was a child. I received for my birthday it in the year of its issue, 1979, and it kick-started an obsessive love that lasted another 4 years, and multiple purchases of smaller, less expensive sets, all firmly placed within the Space theme. It's a love that has never left me-- even coming back to Lego thirty-plus years later, it's spaceships and bases that I lean towards building, and which I display almost exclusively. 
I gave away my collection to a work colleague in my early twenties, and have regretted it ever since. When my collection was approaching 100 sets, I determined to make this one my hundredth, and did so, at a price that would have made my childhood eyes water. 
The 928 was the flagship of that series, and so far out of my parents' price range that I was warned repeatedly not to even ask for it. As a consequence, I've lusted after it my entire life, even when I no longer had any interest in Lego. That's just how my brain works. Like every set from that era, it's now eye-wateringly expensive, but dammit, I'm an adult with my own income and I'll get one if I want one, so there. I have one, my eyes watered, and it's absolutely everything I expected it would be when I was a kid. I loves it.

5984 Lunar Limo.
The first 'family' set that we bought when deciding to introduce the kids to Lego. It's a mad build, as you can see from the box, and kicked off the obsession: having built it, I immediately went in search for more sets from the theme it belongs to: Space Police III. And they were mad as all get out, too, and had weird pieces I'd never seen, and super-cool alien minifigures, and so I needed to get another one, and another one... and that was me hooked, lined, and sinkered.
But look at it. LOOK AT IT! I mean, come on....

79003: An Unexpected Gathering
Look, we can all agree that the Hobbit movies were bad. Bad, bad, bad. So bad. So very, very bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad
But this set almost makes up for it. This set and that bit where Smaug goes over the top of the bridge and rains coins. But mainly this set. Put simply, after almost 200 sets, this is still the most enjoyable, satisfying, and fun set I've ever built. It's a joy in every way, from new techniques, to new parts, to surprising connections. It's a builder's delight. It's still the only set I've demolished the moment I finished building, purely so I can immediately build it all over again.

10228: Haunted House.
All jokes aside: this set is a monster. Clocking in at over 2000 pieces, it's the largest set I own by nearly a factor of two, and is packed full of little surprises and tricks that add joy to the building experience. The fact that it's a freaking haunted house, the cool minifigs, the metric fucktonne of sand green (a pretty damn rare colour) pieces... all just gravy.

70709: Galactic Enforcer.
It's a tank, and a jet plane, and a tankjetplane, and there's aliens, and it comes apart, and then there's two toys, and aliens, and it does this, and if you pull this bit then that happens..... I would have killed you all for this when I was a kid. Luckily, I have a job, and my own income, so I didn't have to kill you all for this when it came out. But honestly, look at it: if this isn't every space-kids wet dream come to life, you tell me what is. Even now, several years after first building it, it makes my inner 9 year old weep with joy.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Back in the day when the TV show Pimp My Ride was a thing, I sketched this piece. Titled Pimp My Dalek, I intended the finished piece to be a painted artwork for entry into a Swancon fan art show. I don't do Swancon any more, and I never got around to painting the work, so this plan is as close as I've ever come.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


The Terrors pulled up three hundred metres outside the town. There were six soldiers left, only half the team that had left the Reclaimed Zone a month before. They’d known the risks—that was why Reclamation Bounties were so high. But a team is a team. The losses hit hard. Nerves were shredded. Reclamation was high stakes work, but there came a time when a team wanted to bug out, claim their R&R and spend their hard-won on the few comforts available in the Zone. The Terrors had reached that point. Even so, they’d barely relaxed before Sarge took out his scope and scanned the township at the bottom of the rise.
Into the Pit, a psychedelic, post-apocalyptic, military SF story,  is completed at 5220 words, and submitted. 
Along with the picture book I submitted earlier this year, that marks my second submission for 2017. Sadly, this represents a high-watermark for the last couple of years. So onto the next project, to keep this momentum rolling. I'm sure I know what the next project is......


I've known and admired Adrian Bedford for nigh on a decade. One of the gentlest people I know, he's made a career of taking readers into uncomfortable places, and then rewarding them with endings that give hope and uplift. A multiple Aurealis Award-winner, his latest work, Black Light, is a crossover crime novel that mixes supernatural fantasy with a taut, tightly-plotted thriller. His genuine humility is revealed by the fact that his website is named Little Known Author, and he seems to truly believe it. 
A good friend, it's a pleasure to have him reveal his soul for you here.
Precious Things: Adrian Bedford.

When I was fourteen, in 1977, my whole world changed. A work colleague of my dad gave me a box of books. In the box were about forty old, well-worn paperback science fiction books. This colleague of my Dad's knew I was crazy about space and stuff (ever since the Apollo moon-landings), so thought I'd be the perfect recipient. There were a few dud one-offs that never did anything for me, and though I tried I couldn't get to grips with any of the complete set of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books--but that left an Aladdin's Cave of Wonders.

All of the Robert Heinlein juveniles, plus some of his others, up to and including Time Enough for Love, and I Will Fear No Evil. Loads of Clarke and Asimov. Of the Asimovs, I didn't much care for his novels, but there was a short story collection, Asimov's Mysteries, which featured sf stories that were also detective stories. I loved these, and read them to death. There was a Philip José Farmer time-travel novel that I gobbled up, too.
 These books, more than anything except the moon-landings, made me the sf writer I went on to become. It was no coincidence that in that same year I decided I wanted to be a published science fiction writer, of novels. I'd been trying to write novels since I was about 11, but couldn't figure it out and nobody would teach me. When I tried asking English teachers, they told me to work on short stories, and in any case to forget sf and write literary fiction. But my mind was filled with spaceships, robots and aliens, exotic worlds, and the piloted galaxies (!) of EE "Doc" Smith's Skylark series (also in that amazing box, and which I read over a few days while sick in bed). It would be more than 30 years before I saw any point in literary fiction.
Those books were old when they came to me in 1977. I still have many of the Heinleins, just my favourites, such as The Moon is a Harsh MistressHave Spacesuit Will TravelThe Rolling StonesStarship Troopers and Space Cadet. They are now so fragile, so careworn, that I dare not touch them. I'm also a little afraid to touch them for another reason: I suspect 2017 me would not find them so enchanting, so transporting. A couple of years ago I did reread a new copy of Spacesuit, which was, in places, gripping, but in others, the way the young male protagonist treats the young woman in his care is appalling.
Have Spacesuit
Times have changed, and I have changed with them. I'm no longer so crazy about sf. I read more crime and literary fiction than anything else these days. I love classic literature. I don't know if I've grown up or simply away from sf. But that box of books when I was 14 changed my whole life like nothing else, and those books are my real literary treasure.


Today is my 12th wedding anniversary.
Twelve years married to this amazing, talented, wise, intelligent, stylish, caring, kind, wonderful woman:
who was told she was destined for nothing, so became an author and artist;
who was told she was stupid, so fought and scratched and refused to give up, and earned her degree;
who was denied years of family love and responded by nurturing and given flight to two families' of children;
who was told she had nothing to give and now prepares to give direction and education to hundreds of schoolchildren;
who is afraid of heights so abseiled;
who is afraid of snakes so held them and kissed them;
who illuminates and inspires and conquers and endures;
who qualified as a massage therapist;
who has travelled the country;
who has run distance races;
who has taken on every challenge and dismissal and marginalisation, and won;
who has potential in unlimited amounts;
who can do, and had done, anything she sets her mind to. 

Who is the most interesting, complete, and endlessly fascinating person I have ever met.
Who loves, and is loved in return.

She persisted? She persists.

Who has a quite unbelievable number of photos of her poking her tongue out...

Friday, March 24, 2017


You know how it is: you have an idea, and it sounds brilliant, so you write it down because, damn, man, this is the one. This is the one. And then, somehow, it never quite pans out that way. The zag never matches up with the zig. The yang never quite lives up to the ying. Or the zag and the yang elope when your back is turned, and there you are, propping up the end of a bar with poor, bereft zig and ying, bemoaning what could have been.
Or, you know, you just have an idea for a title and the story never quite comes. 
In the depths of my thumb drive, I have a page of such titles. Just under 150 of them, as a matter of fact. Here's a random selection of five. Take them, with my blessing. If you make something of them, let me know. 

The Crucifixion of Saviours.
Joined at the Wound.
On the Junkie Hunt.
Silver Wings.
Her Hands Like Spiders.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I mean every single one. 

"Are we there yet? Are we? Are we?"

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Gerry Huntman is one of the giant brains behind the truly excellent ezine SQ Mag. He's also a writer in his own right, having published over 50 pieces of short fiction, mainly towards the dark end of spec fic. Like me, however, he has a tendency to wander all over the genre as his attention span takes him. His novel, Guardian of the Sky Realms (Cohesion Press), for example, is a young teen fantasy work. You can find more about him over at his Livejournal Blog
He may also be the only other person besides me who remembers Willard Price's Adventure novels.
Here he takes us on a journey through his development as a reader, and like all good stories, leaves us guessing until the final, climactic reveal of his Precious Thing.
Precious Things: Gerry Huntman
Lee asked me to write a little piece about the ‘one book’ - the one that really affected me significantly.

I find the topic a hard one as I had distinct phases in my life - particularly during my formative years, where reading, and types of reading, were different and had serious influences on my life. I’ll cheat a bit and talk about these phases and then, with a moist finger hoisted into the air, I will choose which was the most profound.

My mother always encouraged me to read, even from a very early age, and I think it had to do a lot with the class system she was brought up in. Both my parents were Dutch migrants, who actually met in Australia, and my mother’s parents were ‘socially mixed’, in the sense that her mother’s family were well off middle class while her father’s family were working class. These days this is nothing, but when they married in the 1930s in Europe it meant a lot, and it did cause a lot of friction. I think my mother always wanted to find a way to have her children climb the social ladder, even though in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s this was almost no issue for me and my brother. Regardless, I loved reading and creating stories of my own so who was I to complain if my mother acquired copious numbers of comics and books for me to read.

At an age when reading meant at least as many words as there was illustration space used in a given book, I improved my reading quickly by reading a lot of the ‘mini books’ that were based on comic and cartoon characters, usually with text on one side and an illustration on the other. Disney’s ‘Little Golden Books’ were particularly loved by me and I can say that they probably represented the very earliest of important reads. That and comic books - Harvey Comics, Disney Comics, etc - all were read voraciously and had positive effects - I even managed to sneak a look at DC comics and the Phantom on occasion.

On the topic of comics, when I was on the cusp of reading full text books, my mother bought for me the complete Classics Illustrated - comics that allowed children to be introduced to classic works. Over 150 of them. It was an amazing experience for me as it gave me the appetite to read these classics, which I eventually did (not all, but most). Another profound effect on me.

I don’t know when or under what circumstance I transitioned to full text reading. The Adventure Series by Willard Price - gosh I read and reread every single book in that series (and yes, boy’s own adventure etc - but it was a different time). I dimly recall a book I read several times at a younger age about children being able to breath underwater and having adventures in the depths of the ocean, but for the life of me the name of the author and the title escapes me - this was formative reading, but Price’s series was probably the big hook on reading novels.

My father was a very big scifi/fantasy reader and could finish a book a night - so we always had a lot of adult speculative fiction lying about the house. It did not take me long to swipe them after him and read them. Did I always fully appreciate them? No - not always as I was quite young, but many books stuck out and I did get a chance to return to them. The Lensman Series was big for me, but I have to say that during my teens the book that affected me the most was The Forever War - I still think it’s one of the best books ever written. At that time scifi was my main gig, but that was because my father preferred the genre - beggars can’t be choosers (in fact my father particularly loved British Scifi and I have had a soft spot for them ever since).

Later, when I had some control over what I could read, I was mesmerised by fantasy - particularly books by Avram Davidson and H Warner Munn. And of course, eventually, I read Lord of the Rings - and was hooked. Horror followed soon after.

So we return to the ‘one’ - was it the first of the Little Golden Books of my early reading, or comics, or a particularly powerful Classics Illustrated edition? Or was it Amazon Adventure, the first of the Adventure Series by Willard Price, or The Forever WarLord of the Rings? Tough, tough choices and a bit unfair as I implied above. In the end I have to remove myself from the mindset of which I ‘loved’ the most, and instead decide which ‘influenced’ me the most. I choose The Forever War by Joe Haldeman as it was the first adult speculative book I read that TOTALLY captured my imagination, made me THINK, made me GROW and want more.

Friday, March 17, 2017


To further my descent from ordinary son of a bigoted, white, working class, English family to inexplicable arty-farty possible-poofter who 'aint never been t' same since 'e went off to t' Big City darn Sarf, I got me a tattoo for my most recent birthday.
Honestly, I have no idea why, but tattoos are genuinely addictive. I cannot explain it-- although I have confirmed it with others who have them-- but having received my first one, all I can think about is how soon I can go back and get my second, and third, and eighth, and fifteenth.
Seriously. This is me. This is me, now.

So, for today's 5 for Friday, here are 5 designs I'm determined to get.
5 for Friday: Ink Me!
I was lucky enough, for my first two novels, to have astonishing covers created by the superbly talented Nick Castle. Even luckier, Nick was kind enough to create a couple of snips for me to use in promotion, and granted me permission to use the 'hanging jester' section of the cover as my logo, which is why it appears on my letterhead, web pages, and everywhere I can stick it. 
I think the above snip is utterly beautiful, and I want it wrapped around my upper arm like a torc.
Madness. The nutty boys. My favourite band of all time. This is fandom, pure and simple.

More fandom, and a choice. I've been a fan of The Lord of the Rings since I was ten years old. I first read the collected edition at that age and re-read it every year until I was well into my twenties. Then, of course, there were the movies. And, yes, basically, it's the overriding literary love of my life.
I'm still undecided over whether I want the original Tolkien-designed logo, the words of the ring itself around my arm, or the full eye of Sauron across my upper back. If my physique was better, there'd be no argument, but I'm a little afraid my fat-arse back fat would make the Lord of all Evil look like he was very, very surprised......

Psi and Phi. I first saw these two letters of the Ancient Greek alphabet entwined together on a tee shirt many years ago at a Swancon. Unfortunately, I was never able to get the tee, but I've always liked the usage to represent a genre and a form of thinking that has meant so much to me over the course of my life. This is one to fill a calf, I think: a nice long, clear space where it can climb, and spiral, and fill.


Does anyone need this one explained? Anyone?

Thursday, March 16, 2017


One that made it as far as inking, but never went any further. All my faults are on display, here. All of them. Right there. Where everyone can see.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017


It's taken 6 weeks to write 5200 words, which for Past Lee is a somewhat glacial pace, but tonight I've finished the first draft of Into the Pit, my psychedelic, post-apocalyptic military SF submission for Cohesion Press' upcoming anthology SNAFU: Judgement Day.

Why is that significant? Well, if you count the picture book manuscript Anthony the Ammonite, it's the second work I've completed this year. And it's been a ludicrously long time since I've finished two pieces of work in the first quarter of the year.

Here's raising a glass to kicking onto number three.

Monday, March 13, 2017


It's taken 14 years, but the Battersblog has just recorded its 150,000th visitor-- or to put it another way, the same number that Neil Gaiman gets half an hour after he farts-- which, given that I rarely have anything worthwhile or deep to say, is a number.

Thanks for reading, and following, and here's to more entertaining nonsense along the way.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


I've known Alan Baxter for a while now, although the Australian SF scene being what it is, we've only been face to face on one occasion: a raucous evening at a Natcon a few years back that started with beer and ended with wandering the streets of Perth looking for a decent curry.... and then ended with more beer. It was that kind of Natcon.
Alan writes supernatural thrillers and urban horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the multi-award-winning author of several novels and over seventy short stories and novellas. You can read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything. He says.
Sounds like a challenge to me....
In the meantime, settle back and enjoy as he lets us view a Precious Thing of real beauty.
Precious Things: Alan Baxter
This my second edition copy of The History of Magic by Eliphas Levi, translated by A E Waite. First published in French in 1860 it was originally translated in 1913 and this is a 1922 second edition of that translation. It's a beautiful book, with ragged page edges and presence and weight.

It's a seminal magical text of the era and seems to hold a magic all its own (which all books do, of course.) This book represents the most I've ever paid for a single volume. My wife and I were travelling down the south coast of NSW and stopped in a small town called Cobargo. There was a great shop there, full of all kinds of antiques and treasures, and in one corner a kind of mini-library. I saw this book and got incredibly excited.
"Are these books for sale?" I asked.
"Yes," said the shopkeeper. "Well, all except the Levi."

I was crestfallen, my hand suspended in space halfway to the book.
"It was the Levi you wanted, wasn't it?" she said.
"Yes. Can I convince you to sell it?" She frowned.
"Well, my rego is due and I've been wondering how to pay it." 
There followed much searching the internet and negotiating and I eventually walked out with this book.
I simply can't afford it, and couldn't then either, but I just had to have it. And I've treasured it ever since. It's my own little grimoire.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I'll do anything to avoid real writing.

A couple of years ago, I threw up a post in response to a Triple J segment in which Megan Washington listed 5 songs she wished she'd written. While avoiding life the other night, I decided to revisit the concept, and make it a regular feature of the blog, because why not?

So: 5 for Friday. 

Whet your appetite: travel back in time to read the original post, 5 Songs I Wish I'd Written

Now, let's journey to The WOOOOORLD OF..... well, today, with a the first entry that is actually the second entry of our brand new segment! 


To paraphrase the immortal Tom Lehrer, Madness have been my particular idols since childbirth. I've been a rabid fan of the group since 1979, when One Step Beyond strode into my radio and nutted the Neil Diamond/Boston/America MOR pap right in its pasty white face. It was a moment of instant and life-long devotion. 

38 years, 12 albums, and millions of sing-a-longs later, I've got a tiket to see them live. For the first time. 


So here, by way of celebration, is the first of my Friday Fives. Five Madness songs I need them to play at the concert THEY'RE HOLDING JUST FOR ME EVEN IF SOME OTHER PEOPLE TURN UP, and five songs that show just why they are the greatest band in the history of pop*. 

(*Yes, they fucking are. Shut up.) 


The song that started it all. The nutty boys. The lads. The Ska Gods. The heavy, heavy monster sound. The greatest introduction to a song ever. 



From my favourite Madness album, 1999's Wonderful, which simply is. It's filled with superbly catchy, singalong masterpieces, such as The Wizard, No Money, and the utterly superb collaboration with the legendary Ian Dury, Drip Fed Fred. But there's something about this song of broken  dreams, and the sad descent of a promising mind into delusion and vagrancy, that strikes home, so much so that the opening stanza is the by-line to this very blog. 

And it's catchy as fuck. 



The best cover song of all time? The best love song of all time? 

Yes, and yes. 

Just yes.



Steel drums, typical Madness hi-jinks, and such a rising sense of joy that it's impossible not to swing in your seat. This is the band at its positive peak, bouncing along for no other purpose than happiness and exultation. Almost supernaturally catchy, it's simply a delightful slice of pop perfection. 



Come on. You knew it was coming. The greatest explosion of ska nuttiness ever recorded. yes, I could have included Driving In My Car, or House of Fun, or any one of a hundred other slices of brilliance. But play the video, and tell me you'll ever, ever, ever get this song out of your head again.

Oh what fun we had, but did it really turn out bad? 

Thursday, March 09, 2017


It's been a very long time since my last Thumbnail Thursday post. And just for laughs, the randometer has selected a thumb on the difficulties of cartooning.
Which, along with a total lack of talent, was the reason I stopped in the first place. Ooooooh, spoooooooky.
So, welcome back to the land of what I could have been had I spent the time I was practicing writing practicing the other art form I wish I could do for a living!

Sunday, March 05, 2017


Talitha Kalago is an author with a deep love of the horror genre. She lives on the Sunshine Coast, surrounded by tanks of snakes and freshwater shrimp. Talitha loves entomology, rock climbing, reading, web design, photography and video gaming, and is found online at both her website, Traditional Evolution, and her blog
As might be expected from such a damned cool sort of person, her Precious Thing is both gorgeous, and very, very cool.
Precious Things: Talitha Kalago
When I was sixteen, in 2001, I went to the Southbank evening markets. I was up in QLD alone on holiday and I was actually having a really shitty time. At one of the stalls, I saw a leather-bound notebook holder with a quill etched into it. I brought it for myself, I think it cost about $25. I'd been writing in note books I carried around since I was about six years old. However this was designed to have notebooks slotted inside, so they could be replaced as they were filled. it also has a loop for a pen and another slot, which I keep my kindle in.

I don't think it has left my side since the day I brought it. It sits beside me wherever I am, it goes in my handbag when I leave the house and it rests on my beside table when I sleep. I have filled dozens of notebooks and probably written over 200, 000 words in it. It may be the most treasured possession I own. I don't know what I would do if I lost it.

It's not a book by someone else, obviously. So I didn't learn from someone else's wisdom and I wasn't moved by someone else's words. However most of the books I have written started as ideas and concepts I planned out within it. I definitely learned who I was, through the words I wrote. Everything from love letters, poems, goals, plans, daydreams, snippets of dialogue, ideas, dreams and notes taken during church services, when the pastor really moved me or said something special.

No single notebook could contain all that, no pen could last so long, but the notebook cover protected it all, housed it. I know every ridge and line and stain of the leather. The smell of it. The feel of it. It's almost an extension of me.

It is, by far, my most precious literary treasure.

Saturday, March 04, 2017


One of the real issues with my day job is just how much of my energy and commitment it sucks up, often leaving me with very little when it comes time to taking care of the career I really care about. A decade ago, I was averaging ten sales a year. Now I'm lucky if I finish writing three stories in a year. 
A case in point is the story I'm currently working on: Into the Pit is intended as a submission for SNAFU: Judgement Day, an anthology of post-apocalyptic military stories that closes on 30th April. I started at the turn of the year, full of piss and vinegar and story ideas. As of yesterday, I'd managed 2000 words. In terms of my previous writing efficiency, that's not even glacial-- it's positively geological. 
Thankfully, Luscious has declared today a day of solitary working-- she's got Uni lectures to listen to-- and I've managed to add 1200 words to the story, taking the running total to 3200. At this rate, I may even get this bugger done before the submission period closes.
Into the Pit is one of those stories that has a long lead-up before everything goes tits-up, and it's a relief to get through all the careful placing of chess pieces and finally let rip. Here's the turning point, at 2500 words in....
“A body. I’ve found a body.”
“So?” Burns was behind the Sarge. He turned his back and scanned the room. “There’s bound to be skeletons in a place like this. It was occupied at some stage or another”
“I didn’t say skeleton. I said body.” She backed up until she came up hard against the bar, and turned to face the Sarge, her face white with sudden fear. “Sarge. It’s Burns.”
Sarge vaulted the bar and knelt down next to the body. It was curled up under the shelf, its face turned over its shoulder to stare back at the stunned soldiers. Sarge slowly rolled the body out from its perch, so that it lay on its back in the middle of the confined space. He played his torch over its face, then down the fatigues-clad body and up again, stopping on the name badge above the heart. A single, five-letter word stood out clearly. Slowly, he and Wightman stood and turned to face Burns.