Monday, March 7, 2011


"SALIGIA" - Mark Tomlinson

Frances placed the mail and the messages on Sir Andrew Maples’ smoked glass desk.

“What’s new?” he asked.

“You’ve received a call from Mr Ash at Saligia, Sir Andrew” she replied.

“Who the bloody hell are Saligia? Sounds like a sexually transmitted disease.”

“I…I assumed you knew them Sir Andrew. The call came through on your private line.”

Maples slammed his hand down on the desk top. This he didn’t need, he already had a headache that seemed set for the day.  “What have I told you about assuming Frances? What’s the bleedin’ point of a private line if any Tom Dick or ‘Arry can call me? Tell me that.”

“There’s no point, Sir Andrew,” Frances said in a small voice.

“Dead right. Go on, get out.” Frances hurried to the door but just before she reached it Maples said, “Did this Ash geezer leave his number?”

“Yes Sir Andrew, it’s on the memo.”

Maples found the sheet and dismissed his PA with a wave of his hand. He picked up the phone and punched in the number. “I’ll give you a bloody call, Mister Ash, and when I find out who gave you my number I’ll have his bollocks for breakfast,” he said.

The call was connected after two rings. A deep, smoky, female voice answered. “Saligia,” it said.

Despite his anger Maples found himself reacting to the voice.  Something about the timbre or the tone just oozed sex. He cleared his throat. “I want to speak to Mister Ash,” he said.

“Certainly Sir Andrew.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Oh come, Sir Andrew, everybody knows you.”

The woman’s voice was doing things to Maples that he usually had to pay for. If nothing else he was going to headhunt this girl for his own company. Or something.

“Well put me through then.”

“Certainly,” she breathed into the mouthpiece. “Putting you through,” she whispered.

There was a soft click. Maples swallowed and loosened his tie. His headache had eased but he was hot.

“Ash here. Good morning Sir Andrew, I’m so pleased you called.” The voice was cultured, public school and Oxbridge. The voice of an immaculately dressed arsehole that’d never had to do a hands turn in his life. It was not the voice of a man who had bawled in the street selling his wares from a barrow. A man like Sir Andrew-self made Maples.

“Are you now? Well how the hell did you get my private number?”

Ash chuckled and the sound made Maples fume. “Oh, we know everything about you, Sir Andrew.  It’s our business to know all about our most important clients.”

“Listen to me, Sunshine, I’m not your bleedin’ client and I never will be; now who gave you my number or do I have to ring my legal team?”

Ash laughed. “There’s no need to bother, Sir Peter,” he said.

“I’ll do what I bleedin’ like!”

“Perhaps it’d be better if we had a face to face Sir Andrew.” If Ash was scared he didn’t sound it.

“You can piss off!”  Maples hung up. He glared at the phone. There would have to be an investigation, firstly into the leak and then into Saligia after which he would use all his power to crush them like beetles. He licked his lips at the prospect. He flicked the intercom.

“Frances get me some coffee and danishes,” he said. Business always made him hungry.

The office door opened. Maples, engrossed in reading his mail said, “Put it on the desk Frances.”

“Sorry, I’m afraid it’s just me.”

Maples looked up. A young man in a beautifully tailored suit stood beaming at him. “Ash?” Maples said.

“Yes, Sir Andrew. So pleased to meet you at last.”

“How the bloody hell did you get in here?” Maples rose and dashed to the door throwing it open. The reception area and Frances’ desk were empty. When he turned around Ash was sitting on the corner of his desk looking as if he belonged there. “I’m calling security!”

Ash shrugged.

Maples grabbed the phone and dialled. The line was dead. He felt a cold tickling in the pit of his stomach.

Ash stood up and as he moved away from the desk Maples saw what was on the other side. His mouth dropped open. His own body was slumped on the glass top.

Ash was suddenly at his side. “Heart,” he said. “At least it proved you had one, eh?”

Maples couldn’t tear his gaze from the sight of his bald patch. A fly was walking across it. “Who are you?”

“Saligia - Superbia, Avarita, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, Acedia.”

“What the hell’s that mean?” Maples asked, backing away from the man who seemed to have grown in stature.

“You never had the benefit of a formal education did you. Those are the Latin names of the Seven Deadly Sins, Sir Andrew, and I represent their sponsors - Saligia.”

“I don’t understand.”

Ash shook his head. “Don’t you? Just think for a moment, search that shrivelled husk you use for a soul. Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride - you’ve got the full set, Sir Andrew. You should be pleased. You’d be amazed how few people manage that but you’ve exceeded our wildest expectations.”

Maples backed against the wall. “What do you want?”

“I’ve come to collect you, Sir Andrew. There’s a great deal for you to do.” The floor between them fell away and yellow flames burst through. The smell of sulphur and burning meat filled the room. Ash advanced through the fire. His suit had burned away now and he was clothed in flame. His smile was still broad and very, very white.

Sir Andrew Maples slid down the wall, bereft of speech and movement. He could only stare in terror as Ash pointed a talon tipped index finger at him.

“You’re hired,” he said.

BIO: Mark is a father of four from the North West who doesn't write as much as he'd like to. He's had work published on EDF, Fantastic Horror, EDP, Bewildering Stories and Millionstories.


  1. Very good tale! I thought the letters of Saligia had to represent something but I couldn't work it out...nice one.

  2. I'm guessing the job doesn't come with a pension scheme?

    Like how you worked all his sins into the story.

  3. Dead right about the pension scheme Patsy...but their dental plan's a doozy
    Thanks for the comments folks.

    Mark Tomlinson