Southside Fringe

The Cellar, Glasgow

May 23, 2019 8:00 pm

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Four Blokes in Search of a Plot

Created Live at

The Cellar, Cathcart on the 23rd of May 2019

Poisoness Philidia

Philidia Songthrush knelt down on the shag pile carpet, gingerly extending her fingers through the plush, thick fibres. Somewhere close, something had been buried deep in the carpet.

She leaned forward, a shadow covering her hands, and she let her eyes adjust to the dim bedroom lights. Every hotel she had stayed in had mood lighting and it drove her insane. It seemed the more expensive the hotel, the dimmer the lights.

She let out a small breath and slowly pulled back her hands. Nervous. When she had gone to sleep, a shard of afternoon light had shone through the blinds, but now there was only the eye-thudding pulse of neon from outside. She sat up in the bed, and knew that at some point she had not been alone in the room. They wouldn't have come too close, for their own safety, but she knew that someone had been here; the disturbed pile of the carpet gave their game away.

She leaned forward again, then a buzzing from the wall-lights timer made her heart thud hard against her rib cage.

Then, what light there was, died.

She froze, holding her breath, the neon tattooing the room in lurid flashes of red, blue and green that burned afterimages into her eyes.

Forcing herself to stay calm, filtering out the static thrum of the city outside, she needed to focus. To listen for the creak of a floorboard, the squeal of a door, the dull, cold click of a round being chambered in a gun.

They were coming. She had known that ever since she had arrived in New York from Edinburgh. It was inevitable. As inevitable as the fact that there was an object secreted in the rug.

The thought strobed through her mind, bright and revealing like the neon bleeding into the room. The object. And the object told her something. It told her someone was coming after her.

Two years ago, Philidia had been the rising star of Broadway. She’s landed a part in the hottest musical for years. A small part, but one that gave her the killer song. She was heading for glory. She was a shooting star on steroids and everyone knew it. Offers flooded in and she had the luxury of sitting back and waiting for the bids to grow and grow. Two days before she was due to play the final night of the musical, she’d accepted a multi-million-dollar deal to take on a new TV role.

She was made.

She’d rolled out into the New York night. Happy. Ecstatic. A future bright. A world lying at her feet. The first bar had been one of nine that night. She didn’t remember the last four. She didn’t remember anything after the triple shot of vodka and tequila. She’d woken up, back in her hotel, clutching a small, glass bottle. The smell from the bottle had made her vomit and she’d thrown it to the floor.

Hours later she’d turned on the TV. The news appeared and there, staring back at her, was her own face. A shot from the Broadway publicity material. And under her face there were five words running along the digital ticker tape.

‘Philidia Songthrush – wanted for murder.’

She should have stayed in Edinburgh, she was anonymous there. Her fame had not spread across the Atlantic. But something had drawn her back to the States, back to New York. Getting in and out of the country had been surprisingly easy. When you have money, anything is possible. And she had money.

But money couldn’t get you off a murder rap, not even in the land of the free, where nothing was really free.

She hadn’t killed that guy. She was sure of that. She didn’t even remember meeting him. But when she saw her face staring back at her on the screen that night, closely followed by his picture, she felt there was something familiar about him.

Poison, they had said. He had been fed something corrosive and deadly. Something fast-acting. She had stared at the liquid from the glass bottle that night, soaking into the carpet. It wasn’t her bottle, she was certain.

And then she had fled.

But now she was back because she had to know why she’d been framed.

She was back for answers.

She’d paid the bellboy and five other people in the hotel to act as an early warning system. Each given enough dollars to keep them from talking and a promise of more if they kept their eyes open for anyone showing interest in her.

But three days had passed. She’d drunk the mini bar dry, run the pay movie channel to repeats, had thirty-six baths, fourteen showers, cut her nails ‘till they bled, ironed the curtains, repaired a broken window, fixed the busted toilet and was now dismantling the wardrobe as she’d run out of things to do.

Because she knew that knew stepping outside the room was not an option.

The brick through the window had been a bit of a giveaway, as threats go. She though the second and third brick a bit excessive. Each had a note attached. Each said the same thing.

‘We know you are in there. We are coming for you. Step outside and you die. Phone and you die. We’ll come when we are ready.’

The fourth brick had landed seconds ago.

Its message simpler.

‘Thirty minutes.’

She blinked in the dark, hauling her attention away from the note. They had made two mistakes. Giving her a timescale for their attack. And assuming she was defenceless.

She splayed her fingers out again, searching, probing the rug for the strand of metal that had been hidden there. A long, thin, sliver of steel - like a giant paperclip that had been untwisted and straightened. Except this paperclip was 20cm long, one end sharpened to a wicked blade.

She palmed it, making sure the end of the blade protruded between her second and third knuckle. She took a second to send a silent thanks to Laura, who had slid into the room and hid her favourite, and most subtle of weapons. Now she thought on it, Laura had probably secreted the blade while Philidia was in the bath. While she had been drowning her sorrows with the whisky from the minibar. Philidia made a mental note to buy Laura a bottle of something expensive when this was all over as a thank you.

If, that was, she survived the night.

She felt the air con kick in with a buzz, and the first tendrils of scent tickled the tip of her nose. She froze, trying to remember the scent of cyanide. Almonds? No, not almonds. Not death. Something heavier, sweeter, muskier. She breathed deeply as the thick, heady waft of incense filled her head, taking her back to the orphanage and the dark cells that were guarded by the Sisters of Perpetual Suffering - and back to the violence.

She felt a surge of adrenalin burst up her spine. The violence was her best memory. She’d loved every minute of it. And now, she almost laughed out loud as she realised what the scent meant.

She stepped slowly over the carpet, feeling the soft pile tickling her feet, and stood before the door to the corridor.

The scent of incense was overpowering.

She didn't have to wait for the knock.

She didn’t need to fear who was outside.

She opened the door, and looked down.

Sister Euphemia of the Sisters of Perpetual Suffering stood erect, five-foot bugger all and three feet wide. Her dark, flowing habit hiding many sins.

She grinned at Philidia, showing her one gold tooth, then threw open her arms, revealing a leather weapons vest, stuffed with nine-millimetre Glocks and a stack of magazines.

‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,’ Sister Euphemia said.

‘Amen,’ said Philidia.

‘Have you been a good girl?’

‘Certainly not, Mother. But they are coming for me. We have maybe ten minutes.’

‘There is no one coming for you, save me. It is time, dear. Time for you to return to the fold. We have the Lord’s work to do.’

Philidia understood all now. She should have realised when the bricks came through the window. Her hotel room was on the 20thfloor. It would have taken a fearful heft to send those bricks into the room – and Sister Euphemia had played fly half for Ireland. She had once thrown a ball so high it had sent Air Traffic Controllers into a panic.

‘It was you that killed that man two years ago, sister, wasn't it?’ said Philidia.

‘I did, my child. You and he had been sinful. And you have wandered so far from the righteous path since.’

‘You were there? You saw us?’

‘I was under his bed.’

‘But it was divan.’

‘I didn’t say it was easy getting under there. I had to remove him, my child. He was supposed to be your target but you were so drunk that you told him our secret. The one that we must never tell.’

Philidia remembered now. She had talked too much. She had told the man about how the sisters raised money in dark ways, to keep the orphanage running. About why she liked violence so much. About what she and the Sisterhood were really about.

‘No one suspects nuns as hired killers,’ Sister Euphemia said. ‘No one knows we train our charges in the arcane arts of murder.’

Philidia nodded. The Sisters of Perpetual Motion were assassins of the highest order. And they were very good. They were, in fact, Holy Terrors.

‘I’ve been waiting for you to return to us for some time, my child,’ said sister Euphemia. ‘So, come with me. We have a job to do. A big one.’

‘Who’s the target?’

Sister Euphemia smiled, her tooth glinting. ‘I can’t say his name out loud, as walls have ears. But let’s just say, we’re going to weaponize his combover…”

Philidia felt a surge of excitement. Sensed her old skills, buried deep, preparing to return. She wanted the thrill back because, as the sisters had often told her, murder can be habit forming.

The Four horsemen at work talking, creating and wearing a tea cosy.