MURMURS is a Fortnightly Periodical of Writings by JMF Casey

Family Business - Episode 3


Down the blandly lit corridor of rental offices the warden strolled, spinning his key chain idly. He was carrying an envelope to the office of the lawyer, Sebastian Hausman. He unlocked the door and plopped it on his desk. It was too early for Sebastian and the envelope had come enticingly near to opening, so he locked the door, and hastily glanced over its contents.

Dear Sebastian

I hope this doesn’t find you too early, as it means i have come to a grizzly end. All the shit we’ve done over the years and it’s taken this long for death to catch up? Fuck it, bring on Hell. 

As soon as you saw my shitty handwriting you would have already started, but i’ll say it anyway, put it into action!

Don’t mourn me you fucker. 

The Boy


Hobbling slowly down the white aisle lined with toiletries and cold remedies, Cheryl joined the cue for the pharmacist. It had been a month since she’d been off the machines, and although she looked as fragile as a glass web, she felt full of vigour. The return of her second son Sal, and then pottering around the pub, had brought the old woman back from the brink, and despite requiring a multitude of pills to survive, she had improved no end. 

All the people in the queue, except the ancient solemn skeleton at the front, allowed her to pass, smiling vaguely as they stepped aside. Then while she stood there, slightly swaying, a figure by the till caught her eye. It was a short middle-aged woman in jeans and jacket counting money and talking to the cashier, as she turned around she stared straight back at Cheryl.  

Then the woman walked slowly towards her with an expression changing from surprise to deep disgust, as if she were about to spit on her. “Yes Dear?” said Cheryl unfazed by the hostility.

Suddenly the young pharmacist hurried from behind the counter and interjected, “Mother, no!” he said as he ushered her towards the door at the back. 

“I don’t know what her problem is!” Cheryl said loudly. 

The lean, grey man in front of her huffed with impatience. 


Sal was wrapping cutlery on the bar, rhythmically dipping his finger into a glass of water and smoothly rolling the knives and forks together in a tight napkin wrap. It was mid morning and the bar was nearly empty, except for a few elderly groups having tea and fried egg cobs. 

The young pharmacist Akil entered the bar, Sal nodded and laid down the unwrapped implements, and reached down for a Redbull from the fridge. The quiet thin-faced man slid the exact change across the bar and murmured his thanks. For a split second Sal noticed something deep in Akil’s eye, like a gentle burning, an echo of danger. Then the man turned away and took up his usual spot at the back of the pub. Sal shook his head and shrugged off the vivid impression.

When he turned back from the till another man had entered through the panel door, he was dressed in a dark suit and had the pummeled features of a street brawler.  

He came up to the bar and flipped out his badge. 

“I’m Detective Gibbons, are you Sally Cormack?”

“I am”

“And are you now proprietor of the Hermit's Hearth?”


“Do you happen to know how your brother came into possession of this place?”

“Ermm, no, I don’t think I do, I was young at the time.”

“I see, well do you know a man called Skarphedin?”

“Sort of, he was a friend of my brothers, from long ago, back in the old days.”

“He was more than just a friend, let me assure you of that Mr Cormack, did you know he is due to be released from prison next week?”

“No, I didn’t even know he was in prison.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know Mr Cormack, isn’t there? So tell me this, where have you been all these years?”

Roy glanced around the pub anxiously, and at the back he suddenly noticed Akil, grinning triumphantly. 


For many weeks Chloe lived in the squat stone farmhouse that clung to the shore of that lone island. With only the two dogs as company on those windswept days and chilly nights. The tumultuous grey sky writhed above them as they strolled out across the scrublands, gathering wood and inspecting the moldering ruins of farm buildings and fishermen's cabins. 

In the evening, after the wood-burner was billowing warmth through the cold bones of the house, Chloe would climb up into the attic space. Lighting a few candles she would stare for a moment at the piles of papers and magazines filling the void, here was the story of her father’s life, a scrapbook of the rise and fall of Roy “The Boy” Cormack. Then she would dive into it, sorting letters from publications, documents from photos. 

Among the (annotated) motorcycle magazines, gun catalogues, books on Norse mythology, and right wing pamphlets, there were dozens of exercise books filled with wild scrawling, as if spiders had ran through wet ink. The contents appeared to be journal entries, undated and barely punctuated. Slowly deciphering the crude text, Chloe uncovered brazen tales of fights and romances, crimes and celebrations, the illicit story of a young hoodlum from Bolton. Almost immediately she came across a boastful entry describing how he had sliced the face of a rival with his flick knife. 

Soon she recognised a host of recurring characters in the violent drama, most notably the towering figure of Skarphedin, the undisputed leader of their motorcycle gang, The Burning Skulls. He describes the gang boss as a “fucking champion” and a “brick shithouse on wheels”, and goes into detail about his cruel nature and mighty prowess with chain and knife. 

Skarphedin led the gang of youths into deeper and darker deeds, until they were dealing heroin and running protection rackets in Sheffield. At night they would plague the North, knocking off pubs in sleepy villages, or relieving truck drivers of their loads. At some point during this time the landlord of the The Hermit’s Hearth fell into debt with the Burning Skulls and gave them the pub to prevent a beating. Skarphedin gave it to Roy as a reward for his loyalty and it became the front for the gang. 

A name started appearing frequently, “Al-Malak”, “Al-Malak is a fucking fool if he thinks the Skulls will put up with this shit.”, “Al-Malak’s scumbags down our street again, we chased the bastards off!”, there seemed an increasing anxiety about this figure. Then came that page in calm, straight rows, it was still recognisably the same hand, but an eerie chill of clarity had entered it. 

We waited for a long time outside the balti 

Skarphedin Gunnar Harry and me in balaclavas and carrying

It was snowing and cold as a nuns tits

That big gorilla of Al-Malaks was hanging on the door smoking a fag

the rest of the bastards were inside eating curry 

We waited for a good hour when they finished up their business and made for the door 

Al-Malak was out front swaggering like a prick. 

Just as he stepped out the place that mad bastard Skarphedin shot forward like fucking lighting on the sheet ice right up to the door 

Shining “Little Death” in his hand

He shoved the knife into the neck of the fat goon and swinging out his foot kicked the door shut 

leaving everyone stuck inside but that rotten cunt Al-Malak and the dying goon 

We stormed behind that crazy fucker and with knives and boots and fucking screams of death we laid that bastard Al-Malak all across the fucking pavement 

Skarphedin leaned on the door laughing like a fucking devil 

Those cunts inside could do nothing but stand there and watch the show.

The Warning

When he returned from the safety deposit place across town, Sebastian was surprised to find his office unlocked. As he pushed open the door he gasped at the chaos of papers strewn amuck. Upon one mound sat a conspicuous note written in red ink, a vivid sketch of a burning skull screaming in the margin. 

Sorry about the mess, I needed an address and you weren’t in. Lucky for you! Don’t move against me you fuck, if you do then me and a ball-peen hammer will find your brains, and if you snivel away like a coward then we WILL find your wife and kid. Don’t fuck with me my dear. S x

As Sebastian finished reading the horrifying message, the warden suddenly slung his greasy head around the door.

“What’s all this mess here? We can’t be having that!”

“I’ve been robbed you idiot, you’re supposed to be the fucking security here!”

End of Episode 3

Slug Face