Fevered dreams of a Black Pencil – By @AlexTaylorHello

By Alexander Taylor


Fevered dreams of a Black Pencil

The clock struck three as the man in the pinstripe suit stepped off the gondola.

He was exactly as they said he’d be. Immaculately presented from head to toe. Polished pointed shoes, and a crisp white shirt. String tie. Clean shaven round his face and even cleaner round the top. Aviators hugged his nose as they scanned the Venetian square. Amongst the hubbub of tourists he should have been noticeable. But he was so adept to blending in, even the pigeons were still cooing at his feet.

HQ never mentioned his name. Standard intelligence practice. No names. Not even in death. Spying was a game of ultimate trust, but trust amongst thieves. With nameless funerals. It just so happened the two of us had been lifelong friends. Where we played together as kids amongst the monkey bars and swings. When being a spy was a party game, not a death-wish.

The man in the pinstripe suit was Dean. Codename Viper.

My attention was briefly drawn to a group of loud American tourists and it was enough for him to dip from my sight. Like a shapeshifter. He materialised before me in a matter of seconds and I pointlessly pretended my attention had been divulged with intention. He smiled with the blank expression spies wore amongst friends.



I motioned to the back seat of the vespa. He raised a cursory eyebrow.

“When was the last time you took shotgun?” I asked.

My question invited no reply. He simply waved his leg over the seat and kicked off the stand. I squeezed the accelerator and the vespa spat into life. In a matter of seconds we were speeding through the tight streets of Venice, weaving between tourists.

His hands approached my waist as he leaned to my ear. The rushing wind in my ear was loud, but not as much as his whisper.

“I bring news from Macau.”

I gulped. Rubenstein.

Leviathan boss of the Forest Casino. Crooked as they come. Not only were his pockets lined, but he had the entire criminal underworld within them. It was the best kept secret amongst European governments that Rubenstein held the puppet strings. Rumour had it that a solitary smoking gun existed in the form of a USB. But no one had it. Not even the devil himself.

If only I’d known Lucifer wore a pinstripe suit and a clean-shaven look.

The vespa screeched to a halt as I slammed on the brakes. A chorus of pigeons flapped into life, thronging a group of Japanese tourists’ photo opportunity. I turned to look at my passenger with horror in my eyes. But they were not met. He was gone. Vanished into the Venetian hubbub once more. A ghost in the afternoon.

I turned back and saw it there. In the basket of my dear vespa. The smoking gun that would be Rubenstein’s ultimate downfall.

I stared for what seemed like an eternity before the vespa chugged back to life, and disappeared to the crowd. Just as the pinstripe man had done just minutes before.

The black pencil.


The copy scores 79.2 in the Flesch Reading Ease test

Related SCABs

Go back

Student Application

  • Fill out the Application Form below to be a part of our next Award-Winning intake.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY