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Steve Turnbull
Web Dev | Creator of Universes | USA Today Bestselling Author
Web Dev | Creator of Universes | USA Today Bestselling Author


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I will add to this as I add chapters.

Ch. 1:
Ch. 2:
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#saturdayscenes #crime #thriller #historical #steampunk

You can find the table of contents for this at


The police arrived less than an hour later in a steam-powered van. From the office window overlooking the main drive, Maliha watched them drive up and the men pile out. Three uniforms, one of whom was a sergeant by his stripes, and a detective who seemed relatively young—perhaps in his thirties.

The atmosphere in the office had been difficult and no one spoke, except when Mrs Lancaster tried to comfort Lane. She wasn’t crying and Maliha did not think that was a good sign. Though nobody questioned why she herself seemed unaffected.

Mr Gunnell had been left to guard the library.

There had been a series of frantic telephone calls by Mrs Clemence until she finally succeeded in tracking down the Headmistress and was able communicate the terrible news. Although Mrs Clemence had made the call from the Headmistress’s office the volume of her voice was such that every word could be heard plainly. With only one side of the conversation to follow, Maliha gathered that Mrs Ramsey was suitably horrified but that emotion was quickly followed by anger.

Mrs Clemence assured Mrs Ramsay that only the police had been called and that the press was not involved at all. Sadly Maliha suspected that would not last and, worse still, something of this nature was bound to attract national coverage. This did not bode well for the school.

By the time the police had found their way to the office the call was finished and Mrs Clemence was back.

All four men looked particularly tall. The helmets on the three uniformed ones made their height even more pronounced.

“I am Detective Inspector Ralph Williams, and this is Sergeant Hughes,” he said taking in the faces of the room with a sweep of his eyes that paused on Maliha. “Perhaps you would care to enlighten me as to why I and my men have been called out. Someone said a girl had been found dead?”

“Ethel Bryant,” said Mrs Clemence in a breathless rush. “In the library. I think she was murdered.”

“Perhaps we should leave that kind of judgment to the police. But this is true? This Ethel Bryant is dead?”

“The caretaker is standing guard over the body,” said Mrs Lancaster. “These girls found her.”

Maliha held her tongue. She had experience of how this was likely to go. If it had not been for the grey uniform she wore she doubted the policeman would even have noticed her.


Since Lane was unlikely to respond she spoke up. “I found her. After dinner.”


“I usually go to the library after lunch. She was on the floor and clearly dead.”

“You are used to seeing dead people?” His tone was mocking.

“In India it is not uncommon to see the dead and dying on the streets, Detective Inspector Williams. I may have been away from home for a long time but I have not forgotten. And given the amount of blood on the outside, I do not think she could have been alive. I would have been happy to be incorrect.”

“You hated her.”

Maliha was surprised at the sudden outburst from Rainie Lane. What was she doing?

“She was not a popular girl, Detective Inspector,” said Mrs Lancaster quickly.

He held up his hand. “I am only interested in facts. I will interview you one at a time. In the order in which you discovered the body or found out about the incident.”

With that he sent the two uniformed men to find the crime scene and send the caretaker back. Meanwhile he appropriated the headmistress’s office for his interviews.

“But what about the rest of the school?” said Mrs Clemence. “There will be rumours and when the next class begins they will see your policemen. There may be panic.”

“Your girls have dormitories I take it?”

“Of course.”

“I want them all returned to there and a full head count of both pupils and staff, both academic and all those who provide other services. I want to know if anyone is missing now. And everyone will need to be interviewed.”

“But some of the pupils belong to the aristocracy. And even those who are not have extremely rich and influential parents. When they find out many will want their children sent home.”

“Then you will keep the news to yourself and any that are requested must be told this is a police investigation and no one is above the law. They will be allowed to leave when I say so, not a moment before.”

He stared thoughtfully at the window for a moment.

“I also want details of any trade deliveries for today.”


“Good.” He looked over at Maliha. “You first.”

He sat in the headmistress’s chair and pulled out his notebook. The sergeant remained outside and closed the door after her. Maliha sat opposite without being asked.

“And you are?”

“Maliha Anderson, seventeen years of age, from Pondicherrry in French India.”

“French India?”


“I had no idea.”

Maliha bit back a caustic comment and kept her face still.

“Tell me in your own words the events leading up to your discovery of the body.”

“I thought you would want to look at the body first.”

“It’s not going anywhere.”

Maliha sighed. He was right, of course, but that was not how it worked in stories. “As I said before, I usually go to the library after the midday meal.”


“Because I find it more pleasant to sit by myself and read than put myself in a position where I might be insulted, struck, or otherwise denigrated by other pupils in the school.” In her mind she dared him to disagree or argue the point.

“Carry on with your rendition of the events.”

“I opened the door to the library—”

“It’s not locked?”

“Only at night and on Sunday mornings.”

“Why Sunday mornings?”

“We are to go to the chapel for weekly prayers and listen to the sermon, and then we are supposed to study and contemplate the Bible.”

“Supposed to?”

“It is not generally done.”

“Do you?”

“I have read it.”

“All of it?”

“Yes, all of it. Even the parts young girls, such as I, are not supposed to read,” she said.

“I was not aware there were such passages.”

“Then you should study your bible more, Detective Williams. You will find it quite revealing, I am sure.”

He nodded and made some notes. “Continue with your story.”

“I opened the door—”

“It was shut.”

“Yes, otherwise I would not have had to open it.”

He looked up and smiled at her humorlessly. “I find it important to clarify the details. If it is something you do every day it’s entirely possible you might confuse the actions of one day with another.”

“I don’t get confused.”

He did the smile again and waited.

“I opened the door and stepped inside. I was about to close it behind me when I saw her lying in the middle of the floor. I assumed she was dead immediately.”

“Ah, your Indian experience.”

“She had severe blows to her skull and I could see bone where her hair had been separated and stuck down with blood from the blows.”

“How do you know there were multiple blows?”

“I looked.”

“You did not find it unpleasant looking at a dead body?”

“I found it very unpleasant. I was trying to determine what my action should be. If she was alive and mobile I could help her to the infirmary, as it was there was nothing to be done.”

“I thought you hated her?”

“You want the truth about Ethel Bryant, Detective Inspector Williams? Ethel has an utterly obnoxious girl. She took pleasure in causing other people pain—I believe the correct term is sadist.”

This time he really was surprised and looked directly at her. “How do you come to know such a word?”

“I am extremely well-read.”

Let him ask whether she had read the works of de Sade. She knew he wouldn’t. She doubted he had, particularly not in the original French, not the watered-down English.

“I realise this is a progressive school, but I doubt they carry such books here.”

“You are quite correct, I have read them outside of the school.”

“Tell me more of Miss Bryant.”

“The school did their best with her, and channelled her violent nature into hockey.”

“The Beast of Roedean?”

Maliha smiled. “You have heard of her then.”

“But you say you did not hate her?”

Maliha shrugged. “I disliked her intensely and abhorred her desire for violence. That is no different from any other girl in the school who suffered. I know with certainty the Rainie Lane suffered severe contusions when Ethel Bryant decided to kick her in her right leg until she could no longer stand.”

“You’re suggesting she was deflecting the possibility of guilt to you because she had more reason to hate the girl than you?”

“I am not suggesting anything. I am giving you some appropriate facts,” said Maliha. “Linda Trafford was hospitalised from a blow to the head with a hockey bat.”

“Could she be the murderer?”

“She never returned to the school, I believe her general health was so severely impaired she was moved to the south of France by her parents.”

“Yet the violence of this girl was never reported to the police?”

Maliha smiled. “That incident was an accident. Hockey is notorious as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“But these other incidents?”

“The school relies on the parents’ trust. I am sure they would rather not have any sort of scandal.”

“They have one now.”


Maliha waited while he wrote a several pages of notes.

“So after you had established the girl was dead?”

“I wrote a note to put on the door in an attempt to prevent any other girls going in there and discovering the body. Then I went to the school office to report the incident. Unfortunately Miss Lane saw me leaving the library and tried to stop me. I ignored her but assumed she would chase after me.”

“But she did not.”

“It seems she saw my note and decided to look in the room.”

“And she was not as resilient as you.”


“Where’s the note now?”

Maliha reached into her school bag and handed it to the detective. He scanned it.

“Infestation of rodents?”

“The prospect of mice and rats should have been good enough to keep most girls out for the short amount of time needed to raise the alarm.”

He nodded and wrote it down. He folded the note and put it in his pocket.

“Is that everything?” he asked.

“I spoke to Mrs Clemence who did not believe me until Miss Lane came in. I told the secretary she should ring the police and that I would fetch the caretaker to lock the door to the library.”

“Very practical of you.”

“Thank you.”

“Is that something you learnt in French India as well?”

Maliha withheld the frown from her face. He would seem to relax into being a decent human being and then he came out with that pointless reference to her heritage.

“No, Detective Inspector Williams, I learnt it from my mother and father.”

He closed his little black notebook and leaned back in the chair.

“How much do you know of the suffragist movement, Miss Anderson?”

“I know a great deal. I read the newspapers and the pamphlets.”

“And are you one?”

“A suffragist? I suppose I am, though not a member of any organisation. I do not think half the population of the country should be ignored.”

“Deeds not Words?”

“You are attempting to lead me into a trap, detective, though I have no idea why.”

“It’s part of my job to determine whether there are any threats to public safety.”

“You think this is a training ground for suffragettes?”

“A girl’s school run entirely by women. Yes, I think that is a distinct possibility.”

“Let me reassure you that while some of the girls might discuss the subject, the headmistress Mrs Ramsey is utterly opposed to the behaviour of the Pankhursts and their associates. And the sermons we receive every Sunday, particularly since the march in February, have all been about women staying in their place.”

“I am reassured.”

“Have you finished with me?”

“I will need you to write a statement as to the events and sign it.”

“I can do that straight away of you wish.”

“That would be acceptable.”

Without being told Maliha stood and went to the door. “You’ll be wanting to talk to Miss Lane next?”

“Send her in.”

Maliha hesitated. “Be gentle with her, detective, it was a terrible shock and she is not well.”

“I will do what I need to do, Miss Anderson. A girl has been murdered.”

Maliha swallowed an angry retort and left.


This is almost raw me. There will be errors.

Checkout the Saturday Scenes 2018 collection: where you can find all the posts in one place. (One week in arrears.)
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OMG. Seriously these guys GRETA VAN FLEET are incredible.

If you'd said it was a recently discovered Zep track I would have believed you.
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Something odd must be going on at Amazon Canada if Dale Carnegie is #2 in Cyberpunk, but look at #1.
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KINDLE NEWS. A reminder that both of our books are now available on Kindle! Here is a link to our latest one; "Write a Script in 10 Weeks" -
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#saturdayscenes #crime #thriller #historical #steampunk

It had been a long time since she had thrown up after the meal in the middle of the school day and finding the bloody body of Ethel Bryant in the library—where Maliha had retreated after forcing down the meal—did not make her stomach turn over at all. Maliha sat down in a chair nearby, after checking it was not bloodied, and contemplated the body.

The thing that surprised her the most was the Ethel Bryant was not known to frequent the library at all. She was not studious and barely read anything she was supposed to, and certainly nothing for her own pleasure. Her only pleasure, as far as Maliha was aware, was beating the living daylights out of other girls.

The teachers had redirected that violence to the hockey pitch which was, thankfully, an all-year sport. There were a hundred girls that might have wanted Ethel dead, Maliha herself had suffered more than once at the girl’s hands, but somehow Maliha could not imagine any of them actually doing it. Except herself, and she knew this was not her doing. The attack had been far from subtle. The poor girl’s head had suffered numerous blows and there was blood on her hands.

Maliha looked around. Another curiosity was that Ethel—who had not been in the main hall for dinner—was lying with her head towards the door as if she had been heading for the door when attacked. And yet, despite the violence of the attack there was no evidence of a fight. One thing was certain, unless caught unawares Ethel would have been able to put up a fight against even a grown man. She was very masculine in her build and her constant hockey playing had made her muscular.

No, it had not been one of the girls who had done this.

The assigned monitor, somewhere in the building, rang the hand bell vigorously for the next lesson and the sound echoed through the corridors. Maliha sighed, she was going to suffer for being late for class, even though her justification would have been perfectly acceptable—if she had been white. She pulled out her journal and ripped a page from the back. She had a very nice Birmingham fountain pen with which she wrote “Do not enter. Infestation of rodents. By order.”

It wasn’t a very clever sign but it would keep the girls out.

She made a hole in it and, as she left the library, she looped it over the door handle and shut the door. She was very aware that she was leaving fingerprints but she did not think she would come under serious consideration as the murderer. More likely she would be disregarded completely.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Maliha ignored the voice. It was Rainie Lane, lower sixth bully and, of course, a prefect. Maliha was in the upper sixth now and would be leaving the school this year after six terrible years. The only Indian girl in a boarding school devoted to the education of the children of the titled and moneyed classes. And some others whose parents had money and hopes of making good connections.

Rainie Lane was typical product of the school. Her name was Erin because her family were Irish but the alliterative nickname had been applied in her first year and had stuck.

“Stop, Anderson!”

Maliha rounded the corner and judged the distance to the school office. Running was an offence but she pelted down the corridor as fast as she could for five seconds before returning to a fast walk and turning right. There was no further shout so she must have managed the turn before Lane had reached the first.

Maliha ran again, grateful that the classes had commenced and all the teacher and pupils were in their rooms receiving their education. Maliha no longer needed them. She had not needed them by the end of her fourth year. She devoured the books and recalled everything she read in utter perfection.

She reached the school office and knocked rapidly. She was a little out of breath but judged that would add credence to her story.


Like the rest of Rottingdean School, the office consisted of dark oak panelling, heavy curtains and heavier furniture. Most of it inherited when the building had been purchased ten years earlier by Putney College, moving from London to the South Coast of England. The School Secretary was a slight woman with no fashion sense, but she lacked in stature she made up for in discipline. Though Maliha was aware of the woman’s passion for pulp romance of certain type.

“Anderson? Why are you not in class, and have you been running?”

“Mrs Clemence, it’s Ethel Bryant.”

“What is Ethel Bryant?”

“I found her.”

“I was not under the impression, she was lost.”

“Not lost, Mrs Clemence, she’s dead.”

Perhaps it was that Mrs Clemence did not expect to hear those particular words in that order coming from the mouth of one of the girls but she hesitated as if attempting to understand them.

“In the library. I just found her. There’s blood everywhere.”


At that moment Rainie Lane stumbled in without knocking her face pale and clutching a piece of paper. She had seen the note on the door handle and gone into the library. Maliha felt sorry for her this was not something she had needed to see.

Mrs Clemence fixed her eye expectantly on Lane but though the girl opened and closed her mouth several times no sound emerged.

“You saw the body,” said Maliha, wanting to move things along.

Rainie’s gaze locked on Maliha and nodded, the horror in her eyes said everything. Maliha turned back to Mrs Clemence. “I think you should call the police, Mrs Clemence, and perhaps ask Mr Gunnell to lock the library in case anyone else stumbles in on the body.”

“You better sit down, Lane.” She pointed at a chair and almost like an automaton, the girl did as she was told. “Let me take that.” Maliha relieved her of the paper and she put it in her bag.

Mrs Clemence still hadn’t moved. Maliha felt as if she could see the woman’s thoughts as they marched across her face: Things like this simply did not happen in a girls school. This must be a prank by the girls. The Indian girl is probably behind it, just trying to cause trouble.

“Please, Mrs Clemence, this is not a joke. You must call the police. I will find Mr Gunnell.”

Maliha did not wait for confirmation but stepped out into the corridor. After lunch on a Wednesday? The caretaker would be cleaning down the furnace room, located on the other side of the building.

She ran. It was too late to worry about rule-breaking now.

The heating system for the school was not efficient but it stopped the whole place from freezing solid. Though there had been plenty of mornings over the six winters she had been here that the pipes no longer flowed and everyone went without washing for days at a time, except when buckets were brought in.

It was 1908 and King Edward had ruled for seven year since his mother had finally died. Technology was bounding forward by the day and still they could not stop the pipes from freezing.

She opened the door to the furnace room—out of bounds to all pupils—and headed down the familiar stairs. Mr Gunnell had been a major in the British Army in India. He even spoke a little Hindi which pleased Maliha since it reminded her of home. The caretaker was the one person in the whole place she considered a real friend, and he seemed to welcome her visits.

“Ethel Bryant has been murdered and we need to lock the library to stop people stumbling on her body and possibly erasing any evidence.”

Mr Gunnell also took her entirely seriously. He had been scraping dust from a corner—he kept the place spotless—but no sooner were the words out of her mouth than he dropped the brush and headed for the stairs picking up his patched tweed jacket on the way.

The caretaker did not run, but he marched double time at a speed that ate up the distance in no time. Maliha had to run to keep up with his long legs. As they approached the library he began fishing his keys from his pocket. Two teachers were outside the room. Mrs Lancaster (English and French literature) was comforting the sobbing Mrs Fenoughty (Home Economics and Physical Education). Mr Gunnell pushed past them, took in the scene in a moment, then slammed the door and locked it.

Maliha liked Mrs Lancaster she was enthusiastic about language and was one of the reasons Maliha had taken to reading—the other reasons were avoidance of boredom and hiding from potential troublemakers. The colour of her skin, even though she was only slightly off-white since her mother was Brahmin and her father a Scot, seemed to attract trouble. She had learnt how to stay away from it.

Only three months until she escaped this terrible place and could go home to India.

Then the school secretary arrived, with Lane in tow still looking as if she was in shock.

“Can you help her?” Maliha asked Mr Gunnell. “I think she’s in shock. A medicinal whiskey?”

Mr Gunnell looked at the girl and nodded. “Seen that look before. Raw recruits when they first see death. Not sure how the school board would react to me giving a girl a slug.”


“Right you are, Miss Anderson.”

He moved away and spoke to Mrs Clemence who insisted on tasting the drink first. Apparently it required considerable tasting before she agreed to let the girl have some.

Maliha did not watch. Somehow she felt the sight of the dead girl was going to haunt Rainie Lane for the rest of her life. Instead she turned and stared at the door. How was it possible that Ethel had been so brutally murdered within the confines of the school?

“The police are on their way,” said Mrs Clemence. “Perhaps we should all just carry on as if nothing has happened.”

“Excuse me, Mrs Clemence,” said Mr Gunnell. “What would be best is that everyone who has sen the body should go to the school office and wait for the police. They will want to take statements. The less this affects the rest of the school the better. Don’t you think?”

“Oh dear, and with Mrs Ramsey away in London today.”

The headmistress seemed to spend remarkably little time in the school, Maliha had observed. However she was aware that there were constant efforts to generate donations from benefactors and this required a considerable number of personal meetings.

That the murder might have a negative effect on the school itself, and on her, seemed to strike Mrs Clemence but then she relaxed. “Thank heaven, Bryant’s parents aren’t important.”

This is raw me, I wrote it yesterday evening. There will be errors.*This

Checkout the Saturday Scenes 2018 collection: where you can find all the posts in one place. (One week in arrears.)
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When Dreams Are Big Money, Who Will Be Allowed to Sleep?

For a limited time, my cyberpunk novel, The Somniscient, is on sale for just 99¢.

When reformed dream hacker Nix Nighthawk's sleep chip malfunctions, he is forced to seek help from a world he is trying to avoid—his old friends in the pirate dream network.

But that world has changed, and Nix soon finds himself at the center of a complex plot to overthrow the vast corporation that controls every aspect of society.

Betrayed by his lover, his friends, and even the technology that defines him, he has to choose: go back to living his safe and controlled existence, or be the hero and join forces with the revolutionary known only as The Somniscient.

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Not intending this in any kind of judgemental way - but I like to analyse writing and am intensely interested in Story as a subject (hence the capital).

I read all sorts of erotic stories (good, bad, truly appalling, excellent) and always lurking in the back of my mind is the question: what is porn and how is it distinguished from other writing, if it is at all?

I've come to a conclusion that works for me, maybe others will feel differently, which is fine. But here's what I think (comments welcome):

Typical story structure sets up a normal situation, disrupts that situation, a character tries to do something about the disruption but there are barriers, the barriers are overcome (or not, in tragedy and horror), and a new normal is achieved.

Porn generally leaves out key parts of this (sometimes all of it), but the most often omitted is the bit in the middle: The main character is trying to do something but there are barriers which must be overcome to achieve their goal.

In porn there are seldom any barriers, and if they exist at all the overcoming of them is easy. Even in rape porn, because the victim is never a barrier to success.

Which essentially makes porn just a sequence of unchallenged events, (although it's shades of grey with varying degrees of story-ness).

Not that I'm unhappy reading a sequence of unchallenged events sometimes :-)


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