Book of the Week: Salman Rushdie – 'The Courter' (East, West, 1994)

 'The Courter' is a short story by Salman Rushdie that was published in 1994 within the collection East, West. It is told from the perspective of a teenage boy from India who has been sent to boarding school in the United Kingdom. The now grown-up narrator reminisces the time during the sixties, when he was joined in London by his family – his parents, his three sisters and his ayah – and lived with them in ‘Waverley House’. 'The Courter' explores the immigrant microcosm of Waverley House - where two Indian Maharajas are also living -  and binds different storylines together.In the foreground is the love story between the narrator’s ayah and the porter, whose name she mispronounces ‘courter’ and who himself is an immigrant from the USSR. Both have to deal with their dislocation, being cut off from their relative homelands and living in an environment where they have troubles finding their place - which is constantly articulated through the medium of language and language barriers. Even so, they find a way of communicating with each other through the game of chess.'The Courter' is also the story of the narrator himself, a story staged in the background. It shows how he deals with his status as an immigrant, belonging neither to India nor fully to Britain yet applying for British citizenship. It shows how he deals with his situation as a ‘hybrid’ while simultaneously facing more ‘down-to-earth’ problems such as teenage issues or dealing with his disharmonic family - such as his authoritarian father and his rebellious sister.'The Courter' is a wonderful story by Rushdie, that – contrary to many of his novels such as, of course, The Satanic Verses – deals with the subjects of exile, hybridity and dislocation in a very direct and quite positive way. It is a story that shows how ‘newness enters the world’ and highlights the possibilities and the unexpected combinations of ideas, people and cultures that can arise from the borderline position of the exile.  'The Courter' explores the tensions, mistranslations and miscommunications that arise from hybridity, but it also emphasises that something very positive can come from the position of being caught between two cultures. It displays how the hybrid changes the landscape of which he is part, how he has the power to subvert the dualisms and binaries of power, and how new historical subjects emerge from hybridity:'But I, too, have ropes around my neck. I have them to this day, pulling me this way and that, East and West, the nooses tightening, commanding, choose, choose.I buck, I snort, I whinny, I rear, I kick. Ropes, I do not chose between you. Lassoes, lariats, I choose neither of you, and both. Do you hear? I refuse to choose.' (211)  Charlotte Wirth

To Prove a Villain - Chapters 5

 Catriona Scott sends us part five of her ongoing serial To Prove a Villain 

Dramatis Personae

Richard Plantagenet – Comptroller of New York City.Edward Plantagenet – His brother, Mayor of New York.Elizabeth Plantagenet – Edward’s wife.Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.Katherine Woodville – Elizabeth’s sister and Harriet’s partner.William Hastings – Public Advocate and good friend to Edward.Dr Shaw – Doctor at King’s County Hospital.

In Momentary Grace of Mortal Men, the fifth chapter of To Prove A Villain, we revisit our key players, Richard and Harriet, in the wake of Edward’s death. Edward is dead, but that is not yet enough. Richard persuades Harriet to get rid of one of his competitors in the mayoral race – and when he says that, he really means it. 

Momentary Grace of Mortal Men

“Over the course of the past month it had seemed the mayor’s condition was improving, but his health took a turn for the worse two weeks ago and this is being cited as the cause of his death. The full details surrounding the circumstances of his death have yet to be disclosed - ”Richard laughed as he re-read the article once more, smoothing out the page the better to look at it in full. Those fools. Accepting everything without question. Purporting these lies. How were they so blind to the truth, how could they not even suspect that -He stopped himself there. He should not question their blindness, their stupidity, but instead accept it. Questioning it would only arouse suspicion, and that was what he needed to avoid. He had been supportive, comforting to his grieving family, tearful when he addressed the press to respect their privacy – it was all an act, of course, but a very good one. Noone, not for one second, doubted his sincerity. And why should they? He had lost his brother and it was only natural that he should grieve.And yet, and yet…The elections had been announced in Edward’s obituary, and it was not unknown that Richard was running for office. Some would see this as strange, suspicious – but he was able to allay these fears with the assurances that he simply wished to continue his brother’s legacy (a lie that was painful even for such a dissembler as him to tell). But there were still others who had been unhappy with the very idea of an election, let alone his running for office, and William Hastings – the Public Advocate and second in line to succeed to the mayor’s seat – was chief among them. Richard and Harriet had discussed how best to oust him from office – ruining his name by exposing the scandals of his past was a given, as was using his position as the public face of the hated martial law against him. But they needed something more than this. Hastings would not go quietly, that was certain, and even if he kept his mouth shut for the present, it would not be long before he opened it again, to say something incriminating. No, they would have to do more than just remove him from office. They would have to remove him entirely. It was the only way. A violent solution was the best solution.“I wish you wouldn’t laugh when you read that, Richard.”And here was someone else who could work against him, for all her protestations to the contrary. Harriet Stafford was loyal, that Richard knew. But he did doubt her loyalty; he mistrusted her as he mistrusted everyone, even someone as sycophantic as she. Her flattery could be as false as his, the means to an end. She seemed loyal to his cause – but how far would this loyalty go? He was paranoid, and he knew it – Harriet was the most loyal associate he had, she knew so much and she had not breathed a word against him. She had accepted his faults, his plots, almost without question. But she knew too much. If he was to ensure the security of position, of his ascent to power, he would either need to be rid of her, or have her be just as incriminated in the plot as he was. And Richard did not want to be rid of her just yet.“I can’t help it, Harriet. You can’t deny the piece is amusing – ‘Edward Plantagenet was a great man and he did great things for this city’ – honestly…”“Amusing as it may be, I like to think you didn’t ask me to come here this morning for a dramatic reading.” Harriet stood then, closing the folder she had been scanning as Richard spoke, moving towards his desk and placing it before him. “I have the article exposing William Hastings ready to be sent off to the New York Times' offices; I thought you would wish to read over it before it goes to print."Richard opened the folder and glanced at the paper within before looking up at his colleague and closing the folder once more.“It’s excellent, Harriet, as is everything you write - ”He did not miss the flicker of a smile on Harriet’s face at this compliment, but pressed on without further response.“ - but it isn’t enough. I said before that we would only rid ourselves of the man politically, ensure he wasn’t a contender in the mayoral race, but I have come to the conclusion that a more, shall we say, permanent solution to the problem is needed.”There was a slight pause. Then:“But I thought you said we wouldn’t need to…Richard, we discussed this - ”“And I have changed my mind, Harriet. We simply cannot take the risk.”Harriet's tone became desperate as she fought to find a solution - any solution other than the one Richard was proposing. “But if we remove him from office - ”“He would still pose a threat to us. He doesn’t know the circumstances of Edward’s death, true, but there are other things he knows too much about, truths he’d be all too happy to tell. No, we need to silence him.”Harriet’s tone was quieter when she spoke again, almost fearful. Before she had smiled at the idea of herself and Richard working together, conspiring together, not ‘you’ and ‘I’ but ‘us. But now? She could not bring herself to even force a smile.“All this time and you didn’t think to discuss this - ”“We’re discussing it now, aren’t we?”Richard was leaning back slightly in his chair as if this were some banal office small talk, rather than the discussion of a colleague’s murder. Harriet continued to stand on the other side of his desk, unwilling to meet his eye.“Y-Yes, I suppose we are.” It was then that she looked up and met his eye, her voice now steadier - almost accusatory. “But it seems to me that your mind is made up and that this is, once again, ‘our only option’. Murder.”Richard smiled, unfazed by Harriet’s tone, the panic and fear poorly disguised beneath her show of strength.“And so, once again, we are on the same page. Excellent.”He moved from behind the desk and towards Harriet as he continued to speak, extracting something from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and holding it out to her, expectantly.“It dissolves clear. There should be enough there to get the job done. The symptoms won’t begin until a few hours afterwards – that’s how it was with Edward, at least, and the dose is the same-”Harriet looked from the small bag of powder in Richard’s outstretched hand to his face and back again. He couldn’t possibly mean...he didn’t...this was just him explaining his plan, wasn’t it…?“ - we’ll write the death off as a tragic suicide in light of his best friend’s death, or maybe guilt for the chaos martial law has caused, we’ll figure it out – Harriet, have you been listening to a word I’ve said?”“I…I have, I just…Richard, I can’t - ”Richard suppressed a sigh.“What part of ‘get the job done’ don’t you understand, Harriet?”“The part that involves me doing this! I can’t be the one to - ”She paused then, trying to calm her rising hysterics, trying to speak more calmly even as her voice continued to tremble. “Richard, I have lied for you, I have supported you loyally in every aspect of your plans, I will ensure the elections run in your favour – is that not enough for you?”“If you were truly as loyal as you profess you would have accepted this without question!” Richard’s voice had risen too. He didn’t understand why Harriet was finding this concept so difficult to grasp. He tried to make his voice softer, coaxing, as he spoke again, recalling how such a tone had worked before. “It’s not as if this will be difficult, Harriet, it’s not as though you’re killing a relative - ”“And since you have no problem with that, Richard, surely you’d have no problem killing a colleague! I will help you in every way I can, but I won’t - ”“You won’t?” Richard repeated, still calm in the face of Harriet’s fury. “You won’t do this…not even for me? For us?”He could see her resolve beginning to weaken even as he spoke those words. He took the advantage and moved closer, taking one of her hands in his and placing the poison in her palm, closing her fingers around it with his other hand. This done he did not move away again but held her hand in his – comforting, pleading – however Harriet wished to read it.“Richard…”“You will do this, won’t you, my dear Harriet? For me. For us, for our cause. I can’t do this without you; my plans won’t succeed unless you help me. I need you, Harriet. I need you to prove that you feel the same.”Harriet did not know what to think, what to say. She wasn’t a murderer. She couldn’t believe she would ever be…and yet, Richard’s words made sense, and what words they were – this was their only solution: he needed her to do this for him, he needed her help, he needed her… She felt the weight of the small packet in her hand, and she did not feel it, all at once. That did not matter – what mattered was the man before her. He needed her, and she would prove herself worthy of that. She would do this.She saw Richard was smiling at her, and she returned his smile, hesitantly. She found she was holding back tears – gratitude, fear, relief, she could not tell. He’d noticed. His smile faded a little, and he held her hand in his more tightly than before. Reassuring.“You shouldn’t look so worried, Harriet. This is our only option, and it means so much that you would do this for me. You won’t regret this. Trust me.”And, like the fool she was, Harriet did. Even though Richard was the man she should trust least of all. As Richard released her hand, she placed the poison in the inside pocket of her jacket. Without any further words they parted. Richard stood a few moments more after her departure before returning to his desk, looking over the article again as though he hadn’t just manipulated one colleague into murdering another.Richard Plantagenet shall remain as the city's de facto mayor in this period following Mayor Plantagenet’s death, until such time as elections can be held to establish New York City’s new leader.It would not be long now. 


 When Harriet had called at the Public Advocate’s office to speak to Hastings, it was to find he had yet to come into work that day – which wasn’t unusual, as the man often ran late, but he had become even more tardy recently, following Edward’s death. That Hastings mourned him, Harriet was certain – William Hastings had been one of Edward’s closest friends and confidantes, and they had often been seen together out on the town, and in the headlines of the tabloids the following morning. He was a far worse drinker even than Edward himself, yet in spite of this his reputation in office was still somewhat respectable – he was popular and well liked, even with his many faults, and he had maintained a good relationship with the public he helped to govern.That was until martial law. Although it had been Richard who was instrumental in introducing these new policies, it was Hastings who bore the brunt of the criticism and backlash for them as he was the one to announce them, the one who kept the people updated on how far these new measures stretched. Although he did not mean to shield Richard from the harsh words he deserved, by virtue of his public office this was unavoidable – and while Richard was responsible, it was Hastings who was blamed.  He tried, in vain, to redirect the people’s criticism to its proper target, but he himself was far too obvious a target which they did not intend to miss, while Richard remained in the shadows, unknown by comparison, difficult to grasp.Following Edward’s death martial law had been lifted, but this had done little, if anything, to salvage Hastings’ damaged reputation. It was now not just his affairs and his drinking that weighed on his position, but his failings as a politician into the bargain – there were even rumours now circulating amongst the tabloids that his wife was planning to divorce him, and take their two children with her.All this in mind, Harriet could not say she was surprised when Hastings arrived at her office that afternoon, looking more downcast than she had ever seen him, a copy of the New York Post held limply in his hand. The paper had reported details of the upcoming elections that morning – a blow by blow account of who was in the running and how each of the candidates was rated amongst the public. Richard was doing surprisingly well, although that may have been due more to the bribing of an editor or two than it was his own merit.“I was told you wished to speak to me, Harriet,” Hastings began, his voice perfectly matching his dejected expression, sitting on one of the office’s sofas without invitation and tossing the paper carelessly on the table before him. “If it’s an election update, you can save it. I’ve seen the papers.”“Good afternoon to you too, William,” Harriet replied, somewhat coldly - but still managing a smile, however small. She stood and moved from behind her desk towards the table just beyond the sofas on which stood several glasses and a decanter of water, underneath which was a small cabinet. Before she could move to pour her guest a glass, however, Hastings spoke again.“You wouldn’t happen to have anything stronger?”Harriet turned to face him then, one eyebrow raised.“It’s two o’clock.”“It’s five o’clock somewhere, Harry. So long as you don’t tell the ethics committee on me, we’ll both be fine, right?”Harriet frowned, but decided it was best not to antagonise the man further, as their conversation was likely to be unpleasant enough as things currently stood. She bent down and opened the cabinet with a key from her inside jacket pocket, and retrieved a small bottle of whisky and a crystal glass from its interior. Having stood up once more it was the work of a few moments to pour a suitable measure and, with her back to Hastings and her movement hidden from view - to empty the contents of the sealed bag Richard had given her into the glass as well. It all seemed far too easy – she didn’t feel anything, no worry, no fear, just a steely determination to get the job done. If this was what Richard needed her to do then she would do it.But then, however calm and determined she may have felt inside, it seemed her body was betraying her. She could feel her hand shaking as she passed the tainted glass to Hastings, and he was quick to notice. His frustration seemed to dissipate a little at this: “Go ahead and have one yourself, Harry. I won’t tell if you won’t.”She dealt him a small smile at the offer, and indeed did not need much encouragement to retrieve a second glass from the cabinet and pour a measure. Having done so she replaced the bottle in the cabinet and locked it again, ensuring as she returned the key to her pocket that the empty bag was there as well. It was still there. Thus far Richard’s plan had worked. She couldn’t believe her luck. When she turned back to Hastings and sat on the sofa opposite him, her smile was genuine. She was quick to hide it behind her glass, however, for such an expression on her face would surely be cause for suspicion.“I’m afraid it was the elections I wanted to speak to you about,” she said, having set the glass down. “As I understand it, you have been working alongside a number of others to try and prevent them from happening – I want to know why that is the case.”Were they in a different period of time, Hastings’ actions could be viewed as traitorous, treasonous. As it was, in this day and age, such attempts at sabotage were simply politics, only to be expected. But that wasn’t to say his actions weren’t throwing a spanner in the works in terms of the progress towards the votes – yet another reason why William Hastings had to go.“Isn’t it obvious?” Hastings replied, setting his own glass down having taken a large gulp from it. “They shouldn’t be happening at all – I should be sitting in Edward’s office right now, as mayor, instead of Richard, and the elections should take place in November. Richard shouldn’t be running this city – he isn’t fit for the position!”“Your opposition to the change, then, is a result of your own ambition?”“No!” Hastings replied, a little too quickly. “No, I just think that…this isn’t what Edward would have wanted.”“Surely what Edward would have wanted no longer matters?” Harriet replied coolly, taking another drink.“What are you saying, of course it matters - ”“The man is dead, William, let’s not pretend otherwise.”There was a small pause; Hastings’ eyes were wide with shock and he took another, deeper drink, as though to steady his nerves, abate his surprise. Harriet took advantage of his lack of response to continue.“You would be against giving the people a voice, giving them a say in government, which they have so sorely lacked in the past month, thanks to martial law – martial law which you-”“I wasn’t responsible for that, and you know it - you of all people know that!” Hastings snapped. “You think I’ll take the blame for Richard’s mistakes? You think I’m unfit to lead this city because of what he did?”“It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s the public’s thoughts that I’m concerned with. They don’t want you as mayor, William, they don’t even want you in the race. I’ve heard that some would like to see you removed from government altogether.”At these words Hastings drained the glass, setting it down with such force that Harriet was surprised it didn’t break. But when he spoke again he was not angry – instead his voice was thick with unshed tears, the understanding of the precariousness of his position hitting him with a force he couldn’t have anticipated.“I didn’t realise…I knew I was being blamed for martial law…but this…”Harriet found that she didn’t quite know how to respond, what to do, what to say. Instead she took another, larger drink from her glass. She was never much good at comforting people.“I’ve failed him, Harry. I’ve failed my closest friend…I felt I couldn’t govern the city with him in hospital, nor did I deserve to…and now… I’ve let this happen, this is my fault…”“You haven’t failed him,” Harriet replied, softly, although her heart was not in the words – but it wasn’t as though Hastings, in this state, would notice. “He would have wanted you to do what you felt was right, and you felt it would be wrong to govern the city in his stead, so you didn’t. No one can blame you for that.”Hastings nodded, slowly. He looked up then, dealt Harriet a weak smile.“Thank you, Harry, I’m sorry, I… I have to go.” He stood then, a little unsteadily. “Thanks for the drink…and thanks for telling me what you did. It can’t have been easy, but I needed to hear it.”Harriet stood along with him, placing a comforting hand on his arm.“You won’t have to deal with this for much longer, William,” she said, returning his small smile. “You can take comfort in that, at least.”Hastings nodded, and left the office without another word. Almost as soon as the door had closed behind him, Harriet swiftly sat once more, and found she was trembling. She exhaled shakily, as if hoping to release the adrenaline and the tension she felt, but it did not abate. She stood again and picked up Hastings’ glass. Empty.Richard had said it would take a few hours to take effect, but he had not said how long after this it would take for the man to die. But she could not say she was surprised at his desire to label the death as a suicide – with Hastings so despondent, she wouldn’t have been surprised if that were the case without their intervention. But with him gone – murder or not – they would be one step closer to their goal.Now all they had to do was wait for the headline pronouncing his death.It would not be long now.She took his glass and hers over to her desk and set them down, picking up her cell phone instead and trying to stop her hands from shaking as she typed her message.It's done. 


Just days shy of Mayor Edward Plantagenet’s funeral, tragedy has struck the city once again in the loss of its Public Advocate, William Hastings. Hastings, a close friend and confidante of Mayor Plantagenet, was found dead in his City Hall office at approximately 9:45AM on the morning of the 29th of August. Although medical officials at the scene pronounced his death to be the result of a heart attack, there are some who suspect Hastings’ death was, in fact, a suicide, although the Times cannot cite the reasons for these suspicions. William Hastings was fifty two years old.A popular and well respected man both in his public office and his private life, Hastings will be sorely missed by those closest to him and his colleagues at City Hall. A government spokesperson told the Times that Hastings’ death ‘came as a shock’ and that it was ‘sudden and unexpected.’ This same official expressed their concern at the rumours of suicide, stating that Hastings ‘had no reason, that we know of, to wish to take his own life’ - his unfailing cheerful demeanour had only begun to change following Mayor Plantagenet’s death.The New York Times would like to express its deepest sympathies with William Hastings’ family during this period of mourning. He is survived by his wife, Katelyn Hastings, and his two children, Mary and Robert.  His funeral is set to follow that of Mayor Plantagenet on Sunday 31st August.  Catriona Scott Make sure you catch the last installment, which will be published next Friday at 12pm!  Disclaimer:This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location – as are other businesses and events I have used – I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Visit Rewritten City 

To Prove a Villain - Chapter 4

 Catriona Scott sends us the fourth instalment of her ongoing serial To Prove a Villain

Dramatis Personae

Richard Plantagenet – Comptroller of New York City.Edward Plantagenet – His brother, Mayor of New York.Elizabeth Plantagenet – Edward’s wife.Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.Katherine Woodville – Elizabeth’s sister and Harriet’s partner.William Hastings – Public Advocate and good friend to Edward.Dr Shaw – Doctor at King’s County Hospital.

 In When Most I Play The Devil, things take a turn for the murderous. It has been almost a month since Edward was admitted to hospital, and Richard will ensure his brother does not leave…unless he’s covered in a white sheet.

When Most I Play The Devil

It had been almost a month since the attempt on Edward’s life on the steps of City Hall. For a while now it had seemed he would recover and the papers had even predicted his return to the mayor’s office a week or so ago. But it was not long after that announcement that his health had taken a turn for the worse – gossip columns and even the more reputable newspapers were unable to cite the true cause, instead speculating on complications with his treatment or underlying issues relating to his injuries that had somehow been overlooked. But none of these contained the truth. The true factor behind Edward’s unstable condition was his brother.Richard was able to disguise what he had done with relative ease, whether through misinformation given to the doctors in order to change Edward’s treatments, and bribing others to keep the truth a secret. His family took everything these doctors said at face value and so, when Edward’s condition worsened and their explanation was a complication in his treatment, which they had slightly altered in the hopes of speeding him towards recovery, none of them thought to question it. All the better for them.Elizabeth was still a near constant presence at her husband’s bedside. George came in occasionally and brought the children with him, as he was taking care of them in Elizabeth’s place, but they did not stay long – the boys were restless, and Lizzie, for her part, found it almost too distressing to see her father in this state. There had only been a few occasions where the three brothers had been together, but even then Richard was quick to take his leave – as de facto head of the city government in Edward’s place, his duty to the city weighed heavily upon his familial duty, his duty as a brother – or so he would claim. In reality, he had no desire to spend any longer at his brother’s bedside than was necessary to keep up appearances - and soon he would no longer need to use that excuse. Edward’s condition was worsening by the day; it was only right that Richard should end his suffering, rather than prolong it. Surely.He greeted the officers at Edward’s door with his usual nod, a gesture which they returned before one of them opened the door to allow him to enter. As he had expected, Elizabeth was at Edward’s side. She held one of her husband’s hands in hers - just as she had done on the day he was shot, Richard was quick to recall - and her red rimmed eyes told him she had been crying. He couldn’t say he was surprised; Edward had been so well as to leave his hospital bed a few days ago, even managing an unsteady walk down the corridor and back, yet now he was consigned once again to the bed, hooked up to machines as though nothing had changed. Richard was surprised, therefore, to see that his brother was awake, and to see him look up and him and smile as he entered.“Richard! Good to see you!”Elizabeth did not seem glad of Richard’s arrival in spite of her smile. She did, however, pick up an old copy of the New York Times from the chair beside her and place it on the bedside table to allow him to sit down at Edward’s bedside with her. Richard smiled and took the offered seat, looking back over at his brother having done so.“It’s good to see you too, Edward, though not in this state. I thought you would have been out of this godforsaken place by now.”“Godforsaken indeed,” Elizabeth snapped, her grip on Edward’s hand tightening a little as though to protect him from the wrath of the man upstairs for having said so. “He should have been, but those doctors - "“Please, Liz,” Edward interrupted her. “You shouldn’t be so angry with them – if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t - " He cut himself off, seeing the look on his wife’s face. “Sorry.”Richard observed this exchange in silence, making no move to intervene himself. He knew he had spoken unwisely with his use of the word godforsaken, but it was true enough...not just in that Edward was here in the first place, but now that he was in the room with him, even God wouldn’t be able to save his brother now. He continued to be amazed, even now, at this turn of fortune – he had wanted to do something to be rid of Edward for years, but the idea of murder had only entered his head recently. It was so simple; he didn't know why it had taken him so long to come to the conclusion. And then the gunman, or gunwoman, whoever they were – they had almost done the job for him. The task had been well begun, and Richard was here today to ensure it reached completion.He dealt Edward and Elizabeth an apologetic smile.“I’m the one who should apologise,” he said. “I spoke without thinking.”There was a small pause – Elizabeth nodded, stiffly, and Edward returned his brother’s smile.“What’s the latest from the outside world then, Richard?” he asked, after a moment. “I’ve been trying to keep up with events, but it’s difficult – everything seems to be happening so quickly.”“There’s nothing good to report, I’m afraid,” Richard replied, his attention now focused entirely on his brother. “There have been more protests and we still seem to be no closer to tracking down your attacker…and there have been some unpleasant accusations regarding their identity, so my sources tell me.”“What sort of accusations?” Elizabeth interjected. “Who on earth are they blaming?”“Believe me when I say you’d rather not know,” Richard replied.He knew he had spoken out of turn again, but it had been deliberate – he took great delight in watching Elizabeth’s become angry, watch as her alarm swiftly turned to panic. She was paranoid, and had every right to be considering recent events, but even before then she had been wary, supposedly undeserving of her title as First Lady due to her once lower status as some claimed. Richard resented her for this rise in fortune, it was true, but it was not Elizabeth Woodville towards whom he should be directing his displeasure at present, enjoyable as that was. Before she could interject, as he saw her beginning to, he spoke again, his tone slightly softer than before.“Elizabeth, may I speak with Edward alone?”Elizabeth was indignant.“Anything you have to say to him you can say in front of me; I’m his wife, for God’s sake.”“And I’m his brother. Please, Elizabeth. This won’t take long.”He smiled having said this and as Elizabeth looked from him to her husband, this small smile did not fade. It would not do to be seen as a threat, in any capacity – not now. He saw Edward squeeze his wife’s hand, saw the encouraging smile he gave her – looks and gestures to which he felt he should not be witness. He turned away for a moment, observing the various monitors and machines on the other side of his brother’s hospital bed - primarily the ECG monitor and the drip he was hooked up to. As he did this, he checked in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. The small plastic bag was there, barely an inch wide, and in it was the powder he would need to get the job done. Strangely enough, there had been letters laced with this particular poison sent to Edward’s office before, but the toxin had been quickly identified and no harm was done. This time Edward would not be so lucky – Richard would make sure of it.He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of Elizabeth’s heels clicking on the floor as she stood.“I’ll be just outside, love. Do you want me to get you anything?”“I’m fine thanks, Liz. I’ll see you in a bit.”He turned in time to see her leave the room and stood almost as soon as the door closed behind her. He moved closer to Edward’s bedside, looking over the cards and flowers, noting the labels attached to the latter - well wishes from mostly female admirers. Edward’s floozies, no doubt – Ellie Butler, Jane Shore, Marguerite Saint-Just...“You have plenty of admirers, don’t you Edward?”“I always have,” Edward replied, with a small laugh. “And Liz is chief among them. I’m sorry about that – she doesn’t want to leave me alone for more than five minutes, just in case anything happens. It’s a bit excessive, isn’t it?"“I wouldn’t say so, Edward. She loves you and she wants to be with you as you recover – what’s excessive about that?”Edward nodded, sighed.“Good point. I just wish we could spend this time together without me having to be in a hospital bed.”“Well, I’m sure you’ll be out of here soon enough. This is just a temporary setback while the doctors adjust your treatment, isn’t it?”“I’m not so sure anymore,” Edward replied, and there was a note of urgency in his voice now, a note of fear. “They don’t want to tell me much, they don’t want to worry me, but I’ve overheard them talking to Liz…”Richard sat down then, took his brother’s hand in both of his.“You’ll be fine, Edward. You’re a lucky man – that’s what you always say, isn’t it? You’re a lucky man and you’ll be fine – trust me.”As he looked at Edward, Richard saw his brother’s smile return. It was cruel of him to say such things, he knew – Edward’s luck had run out; he would not be fine, and he most certainly could not trust Richard – but then, the poison in his words was nothing compared to the poison he would use to kill the man. It would not be a quick death either – Richard’s research and sources told him the symptoms would only manifest themselves after a few hours, perhaps even days. The dose he had was strong enough for the former, he knew – but this timing was crucial in order to avoid suspicion. If he were to enter Edward’s room when he was still alive and to leave it minutes later with him lying dead – that would not do, even though he planned to use the assassination attempt as a cover up. That would not do at all.“I’ve always trusted you, Richard, you know that. We’ve had our differences, you and I, but you’ve always had the right idea and done what was best in the end, especially when it comes to running the city.”His smile faded a little then, and he sighed once more.“I’ve really screwed things up recently, haven’t I? Who am I kidding, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”Well, Richard couldn’t really deny that, and he was sure Edward knew it. Therefore, instead of trying to comfort his older brother with falsities, he replied:“I’m not going to lie to you, Edward, that’s true enough. But you didn’t exactly deserve this as a response to your proposed tax increase – now that’s something I’d call excessive.”Edward laughed, but the laughter was clearly painful for reasons other than it being a little forced. Instinctively Richard looked over at the various monitors and machines – and it was then he noticed that the IV drip which was delivering Edward’s medication – some of it, at least – was running low. Perfect. What was it he had said to Harriet – ‘All in good time’? That good time had come.He let go of his brother’s hand and stood. Edward looked confused until Richard explained the cause for his movement, and told his brother he would go and find one of the doctors to arrange a replacement for the drip. Edward thanked him and Richard left the room, proceeding immediately to the office a couple of doors down, the office of a certain Dr. Shaw whom Richard had entrusted to administer the means of his brother’s death. The good doctor had not required too hefty a bribe, to Richard’s surprise, but he wasn’t about to question the man lest he ask for more. Shaw was waiting for his arrival, having been forewarned of the afternoon’s potential; having removed the new IV bag from its protective packaging and ensured it contained the necessary dose of medication, he took the small bag from Richard’s hand and tipped its contents into the IV bag in one fluid motion. The powder dissolved on contact, and dissolved clear. Dr. Shaw glanced over at Richard, having sealed the IV bag, and - seeing the youngest of the Plantagenet brothers was smiling - he smiled too.When they returned to Edward’s room it was to find Elizabeth was there before them, two takeaway cups of coffee on Edward’s bedside table. She stood as Dr. Shaw and Richard entered, greeting them with a smile.“Dr. Shaw, good afternoon,” she said, with a slight nod before sitting down once more.“The same to you, Mrs. Plantagenet,” Shaw replied, returning her smile as he moved over to the IV drip and began the process of replacing the bag, before addressing Edward. “And how are we feeling this afternoon, sir? Any better than this morning?”“A little better, thanks,” Edward admitted, shifting a little on the bed to allow Shaw to check the drip’s connection to the vein in his arm, his voice slightly indignant when he spoke again. “But I was much better last week.”“I know, sir, I know, and I apologise,” Shaw said – he sounded it, he looked it, but Richard, the master dissembler, knew an act when he saw one. It was a good one though – it certainly had his brother fooled. “But never fear – you should be up and about and out of here within the week – at least, that’s what one of my colleagues has said.”“Some good news at last,” Elizabeth said, looking visibly relieved. “Thank you, doctor.”“My pleasure, madam,” Shaw replied, stepping away from the drip to check the charts at the foot of Edward’s bed. As he did so Richard glanced over at the IV and the monitors, casual as anything, but even with so small a gesture he was sure Shaw had done his job. Now all that remained to be seen was how long it would take for the toxin to take effect.“Well, everything seems to be in order here,” Shaw said after a few moments. “I’ll show myself out – and if you need anything, as ever, just let me know.”Edward and Elizabeth thanked Shaw in near perfect unison and the doctor left the room. Elizabeth then turned to Richard and handed him one of the cups of coffee.“This one’s for you, Richard – I thought you’d be needing it, with all the work you’re having to do back at City Hall.”Richard smiled and took the proffered cup.“You’re too kind, Elizabeth. But you’re right, I do have a lot to attend to and I really should get back to it. It’s been a pleasure to see you both again – I’ll come back tomorrow.”With that he smiled and made as though to take his leave, but as he did so he spoke in an undertone to Elizabeth – Edward had turned his head away, towards the monitors, as though hoping Shaw’s arrival would have changed their data for the better.“Call me if there’s any change, won’t you?”“Of course,” Elizabeth replied. “Thank you for coming, Richard. I know it does Edward good to see you.”Richard smiled. He was glad to hear it. Before he moved to the door again he set the coffee cup down and moved to embrace his brother; Edward seemed surprised at the gesture but returned it wholeheartedly. In fact, the hug was so prolonged that it caused Elizabeth to speak up once more.“For goodness sake, you’re acting as though you won’t see each other again! Ed, love, let Richard go – he’s got work to get back to, and you should really try and get some sleep.”Edward laughed and did as his wife bade him, but even as he did so he whispered to Richard – three small words but words which were almost painful to hear, which reverberated inside Richard’s mind long after they had been said.“I love you.”It was normal, familial – what one brother would be expected to say to another. But Richard found the words stuck in his throat even as he tried to return them – instead he simply smiled and nodded.“Don’t worry Edward,” he said, having picked up his coffee again and with his free hand on the door handle. “I’ll see you again soon, I promise.”And with a final smile, he was gone. 


It is with great sadness that The New York Times can confirm the death of Mayor Edward Plantagenet who died in the early hours of this morning from complications in his treatment, having suffered a gunshot wound in a failed assassination attempt last month. Mayor Plantagenet was in the care of medical staff at King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn, and a spokesperson from the hospital has stated on its behalf their regret at being unable to save him. He was forty five years old.Over the course of the past month it had seemed the mayor’s condition was improving, but his health took a turn for the worse two weeks ago and this is being cited as the cause of his death. The full details surrounding the circumstances of his death have yet to be disclosed. The hospital continues to serve as a secure area with a limited media presence, and the mayor’s family has asked for privacy at this most difficult time.Mayor Plantagenet’s death is not only a cause of grief for his immediate family and friends, but for the city as a whole. The Plantagenets have been a prominent political dynasty in this city for over twenty years, and Edward Plantagenet’s policies helped ensure improvements within the city, as well as in his role as a leader due to his high approval ratings and popularity. A spokesperson from City Hall stated that Mayor Plantagenet’s death is ‘a tragic loss, both for the city and its people; New York will not be the same without him’.In light of Mayor Plantagenet’s death, the martial law which was introduced last month in order to safeguard the city (due to the terrorist threat made on Mayor Plantagenet’s life) was lifted early this morning by Richard Plantagenet, who worked as mayor in his brother’s stead whilst he remained in King’s County. Richard Plantagenet shall remain as mayor in this period following Mayor Plantagenet’s death, until such time as elections can be held to establish New York City’s new leader.The New York Times would like to express its deepest sympathies with Mayor Plantagenet’s family during this period of mourning, and would like to assure them that the city mourns with them. Edward Plantagenet was a great man, and he did great things for this city; he should not have been taken from us so soon.Mayor Edward Plantagenet is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Plantagenet, his two brothers, George and Richard, his daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie), two sons, Edward (Ned) and Richard (Dickon) and his step-son Thomas.The New York Times will have updates on the details of Edward Plantagenet’s death as they become known.  Catriona Scott  Disclaimer:This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location – as are other businesses and events I have used – I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.Visit Rewritten City 

'Yesterday' by Rachel Abreu

Rachel Abreu, another one of our new writers for the Creative Writing section, sent us her poem Yesterday. Short but powerful, Rachel's poem captures a moment in time which induces melancholic meditations upon a 'friend.'  YesterdayI poured my heart outBut my blood fell throughLike water through cracks between fingers,And words fell out of my mouthFaster than you could catch them,So I thought that maybeI could borrow your lips for a whileAnd pretend we were making history,When really I wouldn’t rememberThe next minuteAnd the next week I wouldHave to pretend all over again,That the only label I gave you was ‘friend’.  Rachel Abreu 

'Existential Crisis' by Stan Usovicz

This week we have two brand new pieces from Stan Usovicz. If you're inspired by Stan's fantastic work please send us your submissions to either or to our Creative Writing sub-editor Olia Kuranova at  Existential CrisisHis eyes flitted quickly hither and thither, scouring the room for something which was not there, nor ever had been. His outstretched arms and legs flailed desperately like a novice swimmer in the deep end of a pool, looking for a solid foothold – a familiar dry patch of land – a sanctuary or a savior, a solution or an answer.He had yet to learn that this world –when stripped of its attributed meaning, when demolished of its social constructions, when it is unencumbered by the occupations, professions, expectations, and regulations that comprise this thick façade called society- is something awesome and unintelligible.Yet, he could not fully appreciate this message. Like a dyslexic researcher scanning the page of an ancient Aramaic text, he held the answers only inches from his nose, but could not even begin to interpret the shifting sentences or the jumbled characters, and perhaps never could.He had lived his whole life in blasphemy: worshipping false deities which he had been told acted in his best interest, condemning practices which others called bad, striving for that which was called success, and seeking salvation in the shade of a money tree.“Be happy.” They told him. “Stay focused”. They warned. Play the game and if you’re lucky, success will be yours. They accepted this message as if it were an innate fact of nature, something that exists and always has existed.But, what of the banal bunny? What becomes of the common coyote? They are unaware of social success, these inorganic trivialities. They can’t climb ladders, they don’t hold grudges, and they possess a complete disregard for the concept of reputation aside from the manmade demarcations of herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore. In this game they are poor players. Few rabbits are remembered forever, and no tears are wept at the death of a deer, yet they soldier on regardless and irrespective of this reality - and in death - they leave their progeny with no inheritance other than the gift of life.  Yet they continue the cycle, season after season, just as their ancestors had done, and as their children will.These thoughts pulsed through his head, bouncing from one firing synapse to the next, subsuming him. It had been quite a journey for him to get to this point.  Stan Usovicz