"Skin Deep" drabbles by Neville Hunt

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Skin Deep #278

Mark discovering that he might have feelings for Beth and his unborn child was hardly convenient. It didn't fit with him being and staying dead.

He must banish all thoughts of them, albeit barely formed. The warnings given by Bayliss were very convincing, but Mark allowed himself brief thoughts of a very different kind of life for him than currently planned, even if he could no longer be Rufus Johnson. He was young and had that sense of his own immortality.

If he really wanted to return to see mother and baby, he was sure he would find a way.

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Skin Deep #277

The delay in Mark's departure wasn't wasted. He was fitted for a smart suit, delivered the next day along with a few other pieces of clothing to give him a start. He could get more at his destination.

While recovering, he consumed TV news avidly. He was completely taken aback when he saw the video coverage of his own funeral. He was shocked, wondering who, if anyone, might be in the coffin. If that had shocked him, then seeing Beth, ripe with baby, at the crematorium speaking to Amy Tate really got to him.

A paternal instinct was slowly forming.

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Deep down

Skin Deep #276

If Mark thought he would remove the chip inserted under his skin later, he had another think coming. Bayliss and MI6 were far too smart to let that happen. Unlike a dog's chip inserted just under the skin, Mark's chip wouldn't be skin deep, it would be inserted much deeper inside his body, close to a vital organ so any attempt to remove it surgically or otherwise would be extremely risky, assuming he knew where it was located.

That meant the operation to insert the chip would require a general anaesthetic.

Recovery took longer than originally anticipated, delaying his departure.

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Skin Deep #275

Rufus should have heeded Bayliss's insistence that 'Rufus Johnson's dead', but, fitting with his character, he pushed it.

"Well whatever's on my passport I will continue to answer to Rufus Johnson."

"Perhaps you've misunderstood, Mark, if we find out you've been calling yourself anything other than Mark Toomey, we will kill you instantly... and believe me, we would find out! Now, what's your name?

"Mark Toomey", was the disgruntled reply.

"Excellent, Mark, excellent! Now, tomorrow we will insert your chip!

"Fuck off, you won't!"

"You really have death wish, don't you lad?"

'Mark' agreed... planning to remove the chip later!

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Skin Deep #274

Mac2 had deduced from what came from Rufus's brain that there was a real threat to its survival if the police case continued. With Rufus in prison, Mac2 would probably be junked.

Picking up post-hoc the vibes of meetings with Bayliss, Mac2 calculated that what was on offer, although lacking in detail, was highly beneficial to its long term survival.

In order to maintain control, Mac2 ensured that Rufus's headaches were more frequent. The doctors at the police station had diagnosed temporary amnesia and said the migraines were stress-related.

They'd assumed that Mac2 provided a placebo effect!


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Skin Deep #273

Although Mac2 had stripped Rufus of his memory of the past year, it had been gradually seeping back after his hostile interview with Twigg. He'd gone along with being shipped out to MI6 because it seemed better than hearing Twigg's lies again. When he had got to MI6 though, more than a mere recollection of the previous year's events had returned. He realised that if Twigg was right he would be in for a lengthy prison term.

Sitting in the MI6 flat, he needed a friend. That would be Mac2.

Its act of friendship was complete restoration of Rufus's memory.

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What's in a name?

Skin Deep #272

Commander Bayliss was a traditional public school and Oxford educated man. He was bureaucratic by discipline but humorous by nature. He loved his little jokes and in particular the name he'd chosen for Rufus.

"What a poncey name that is!" declared Rufus, "why didn't you give me a cool name, like Brett Butcher?"

"I think you've done enough butchery! Your new name acknowledges your rebirth, the new you, the Mark 2 you. Allow me my little joke, Mark! Live with it.... or..."

"OK.... I don't give a shit what you call me. I know I'm Rufus Johnson."

"Rufus Johnson's dead!"

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The name game

Skin Deep #271

In the week Rufus had to wait for his new documents, for accommodation and flight to be organised, he had the run of the MI6 flat, but no further - he was very securely locked in. It was a good place and he had limited access to the Internet, although social media sites were blocked, lest he spill the beans.

But he wouldn't do that because they would kill him!

There was a TV, where he watched reports of his death and details of his forthcoming funeral. Creepy!

Bayliss finally arrived with his passport.

"Welcome to the world, Mr Mark Toomey!"

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My word is my bond

Skin Deep #270

The deal was agreed, confirmed with a handshake... Bayliss was kind of old-fashioned in that way. The commitment of a handshake wouldn't mean diddly-squat to Rufus though.

"It will take a week to get things organised for you, and that's fast, believe me. However... we've been expecting you, Mr Bond." Bayliss's little joke amused him, but fell rather flat with Rufus. But he carried it on "You'll be in oh-oh seventh heaven there!

Joking aside, Bayliss agreed that Rufus could attend a local university to continue his studies if he wished...

...and that Mac2 could go too.

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Deal or no deal?

Skin Deep #269

"What if I say no?" responded Rufus, aggressively.

"You won't say no, Rufus!" countered Bayliss.

"What if I want to come back to London for a holiday?"

"You can't, that's the deal we've had to make regarding you.You can never come back to the UK.”

“And if I do?”

“Why, you’re already dead so we’ll kill you of course!”

"And if I sneak in without you knowing?"

"We'll know, because, like a dog, you'll be 'chipped'!"

"And if I say no deal?"

"We'll also kill you!"

"You wouldn't dare, not on British soil!"

"We're MI6!... Deal or no deal?"


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The Deal

Skin Deep #268

Bayliss continued. "We'd like you to join the Service. We have interests somewhere, let's say, east of here, that you can help us with. You will live in a nice place and you will get a decent enough allowance to fund a good lifestyle. New identity, of course, and passport, because we'll need to send you here and there from time to time."

"Where is it, then?", Rufus asked rather aggressively.

"All in good time", Rufus, "all in good time!"

"I'm not living in a fucking war zone!"

"You won't be! Rufus, you have nothing to lose... except your life."

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That's perfect!

Skin Deep #267

“Now Rufus”, started Commander Bayliss, “No-no!”, he remonstrated, “ I’ll do the talking if you don’t mind!” Rufus was about to say something argumentative. He stopped, realising he was currently better off than he had been in the police cells.

“The thing is, we can use a chap like you in the Service. You have been very naughty indeed..... but you’re a highly intelligent chap, who’s self-sufficient and importantly not afraid to fight your corner. You’re rather ruthless, Rufus”, Bayliss’s eyes twinkled as he emphasised the alliteration and the rhyme. “And that’s perfect!”

“Now Rufus, here’s the deal!”

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Skin Deep #266

A week maximum would have been the time The Goss could have extended the coverage of the Rufus affair after his cremation. However, flavour of the year Amy Tate, with her instinct for a story, brought them Beth.

She was a gift. At a time when the story seemed to have breathed its last along with Rufus, there was Beth’s story, then the birth of Rufus’s baby, a load of features on single parenting and the importance of a father figure.

To crown it all, an appeal to provide a fund for Beth and Rufus's new baby broke all records.

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Skin Deep #265

News of Rufus’s death enabled The Goss to grasp the initiative and for Amy to redraft her earlier profile into an obituary and pave the way for a week of follow-up articles on physical and mental abuse in the home.

Then came his funeral. This was no pomp and circumstance event, but a very sad affair. Rufus’s humble coffin, with pall bearers accompanying plus a horde of press... and nobody else to weep except a heavily pregnant young woman.

With a nose for a story, Amy went up to the woman.

“That wouldn’t be Rufus’s baby?”

Beth nodded sadly.

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Hold the front page!

Skin Deep #264

The news five days later that Rufus had been killed in a backstreet knifing near his mother’s home in London was leaked to Amy Tate of The Goss at 10.30pm. This was no thank you from MI6 to Amy but rather the very best way to get wide coverage of the tragic end to a sad young psychopath. The timing was carefully planned so that she would have time to pen something that would get tomorrow’s first editions. It was another coup for The Goss and a fillip for Amy’s career.


You decide!”

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"Unavailable for comment"

Skin Deep #263

The Goss had a field day. Claiming it ‘spoke for the nation’, its front page read:


Detective Chief Superintendant Twigg of the Met’s West End Central, who led the aborted enquiry into the recent nationwide murder spree has failed to build a case against chief suspect and electronics genius Rufus Johnson. Mr Johnson has been released secretly, most likely due to the residual suspicion and hate in the community. We tried to speak to DCS Twigg, but he was ‘unavailable for comment’.

The Goss says: Thank goodness ‘Twigg’ wasn’t attached to Special ‘Branch!’”

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Naughty boys

Skin Deep #262

Rufus was secretly delivered into the custody of MI6. It was all done under cover of darkness. Dressed in a dark grey hoodie and jeans, he was smuggled out of the back of the station into a nondescript small saloon with tinted windows.

At MI6 he was led to a secure kind of bedsit and told to rest.

The next day, Commander Bayliss arrived at 08.30 and proceeded to set out a deal.

“It seems, Rufus, that you may have been a very, very naughty boy!... STOP! Don’t bother to deny it, let me continue...

...we rather like naughty boys!”

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The powers that be

Skin Deep #261

“Charlie, about these murders and this young brainbox who’s supposed to have been on a killing spree. It’s not going to serve any purpose to bang him up is it? The dead are dead after all. Shall we take him off the Met’s hands old boy?”

“Are you having a laugh Freddie? He’s now very high profile thanks to the bloody Goss and he’s making .....”

“...Charlies of you, Charlie?”

“Ha-bloody-ha! He’s a psychopath. Kills for fun, knows no fear, even killed his own parents.”

“Exactly! Just what we need!”

“No deal!”

“Might have to bigfoot you, Charlie!”

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On a higher plain

Skin Deep #260

While he was waiting, irritably, for his turn to speak to Rufus after the doctors had done their examinations, Commander Bayliss decided to push the problem up the line. It went right to the top in MI6. The service needed to solve a particular problem and someone like Rufus might well fit the bill.

It was a bit of an ‘inconvenience’ that Rufus was subject to a particularly high profile multiple murder enquiry, but that wouldn’t stop the service in getting its man, if he were shown to be the right man.

Charges dropped for ‘insufficient evidence’. That should do!

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Time out

Skin Deep #259

“A Goss source close to the multiple murder enquiry in which young electronics genius Rufus Johnson has been charged with 5 counts of murder suggests that he has ‘lost his memory’. Very convenient, says The Goss. Johnson is also believed to be suffering extremely acute migraine headaches, which is inhibiting questioning him. DCS Twigg, who’s running the investigation, has called in a police doctor and psychiatrist to check him out before continuing questioning.

The Goss legal expert has not ruled out the possibility of ‘diminished responsibility’ or ‘unfitness to plead’. Either way DCS Twigg might get well and truly burned!”