Keith’s Karakters – Max Matham

This is the latest in an occasional series looking at some of the key characters in my current works - The Orphans, and Knight & Deigh.

If ever there was an unlikely hero, Maxine Matham (INTJ) must surely be that person.

When we first meet Max, she is self-employed, working as a freelance forensic accountant. Max lives alone in a late 19th century cottage in rural Buckinghamshire. Her only company is her cat, a four-year old Russian Blue tom named Ivan. Sophie Deigh, her housekeeper and assistant, is her only regular visitor. Sophie also house- and cat-sits for Max when her work takes her away for short trips.

At just over forty years of age, Max is a woman of habit, with strong standards. Even when alone in her house, she dresses for business when working, favouring matching skirt and jacket, blouse and low heels. She refuses to work in the jeans and jumper she favours for relaxation. Physically, she stands at 165cm, and is always on the cusp of carrying too much weight. Her light-brown hair is close-cropped, and she does not usually wear any make-up.

The only child of Maxwell and Gillian Matham, she spent much of her early life under the close control of her domineering, authoritarian father, himself an independent accountant. Despite this, or maybe because of this, her relationship with Maxwell was stronger and more durable than with her mother, an outwardly meek woman who lived in the shadow of her husband’s overpowering personality.

Predictably, when she fledged the nest and took up her place at university, she donned a new persona. Her hair, then long, was dyed blond and kept in ringlets, and she dropped her weight to give her the very slight figure that was fashionable at that time. As did so many of her fellow students, she experimented with the limits of relationships and sexuality, aided by hypnosis and alcohol. Unlike many, she never indulged in any of the mind-altering substances that were popular in her circles.

After graduation Max found that although jobs were plentiful in her chosen field, her appearance was not an asset to her. She learned that people took her more seriously when she looked the part. Things changed when she stopped using make-up, and adopted a simple, short hairstyle and practical dress, appropriate for where she was and what she was doing. Men started to treat her more as a person and less as a potential love-interest, and women respected her more and didn’t see her as competition. From then on, her work became the centre of her life, pushing all other considerations to the periphery.

Max Matham takes pride in being as close to self-contained as it’s possible to be in the modern world. Married to her work and hobbies, and comfortable in her own company, she sees no need to complicate her life further with a lover of either gender. She is an avid reader – mostly crime and spy fiction – and often fancies taking on the rôle of amateur sleuth. She considers this a frivolous fantasy, divorced from real life, and suppresses the thought. She has been working on a novel, on and off, for more years than she cares to admit.

Max is a heavily conflicted individual. Although outwardly unemotional, rational and calm, she carries a mass of insecurities that cause her to question her every action, her every decision. This often keeps her awake at night, analysing her day’s actions and decisions. In itself, this is frequently a positive exercise; her head is certain of itself, and can almost always convince her heart. On occasion, though, the conflict is too close to call. At those times, Max needs someone to bounce her thoughts off. Sophie fills that role when she’s about, but when she’s not, it becomes Ivan’s job. It is at these times, and only at these times, that Max Matham questions whether she is right to remain alone.

Kreative Kue 82

Each Monday brings a new picture prompt. Last week, Kreative Kue 81 asked for submissions based on this photograph:

John W Howell, author of MyGRL and His Revenge, who blogs at Fiction Favorites, sent this:

The Bar by John W. Howell © 2016

“So then I said to the guy, ‘What makes you an expert?’”

“OMG, that must have set him off.”

“Yes, it did. he then came back with some comment about Claire.”

“What kind of comment?”

“He asked if she was with me.”

“And ?”

“I said, “Yeah, of course, she is with me. Who do you think she’s with my good man?”‘

“Sounds like a rude one.”

“Tell me. He then goes on to say he felt Claire could do better than to hang with me.”

“What did you do?”

“Do? Nothing. I had to agree with him.”

“What did Claire say?”

“Say? Nothing. She had to agree with him as well.”

“Oh, Jerry my man. You are pathetic.”

“Why? Because I have someone who hangs with me and can do better?”

“No. Because your self-esteem is in a position where you think Claire’s not good enough for you.”

“Claire is staring at you. She just might get up and pop you one.”

“I don’t think so. I think she ought to pop you one.”

“Now that’s funny. Hey, Claire, Billy thinks you should come over and pop me one.”

“You both should be popped.”

“Did you hear that Billy. Claire just cracks me up.”

“Yeah, she’s funny alright. What do you think Seal?”

“Keep me out of it. Get me a drink. Please.”

My effort was “Scram, scam!

“So yesterday, just before lunch, this guy with an Indian accent called me at home, and asked for me by name.”

“Were you expecting a call from India?”

“Not really. We’ve booked to go there on holiday, but that was all done on-line and there shouldn’t be any need for them to call me. Anyway, the bloke said he was calling from Microsoft.”

“From India?”


“Why would someone from Microsoft in India be phoning you?”

“That’s what I thought. Apparently, their security systems have detected malware on my PC.”

“Which one?”

“I asked that. He said it didn’t matter. If one computer in the house is infected, it would be sure to spread to any others.”

“Did he say what the infection was? Virus? Trojan? Ransomware?”

“No. He just said it was infected and I should deal with it quickly.”

“And what did he say you had to do to deal with it?”

“I had to log on to a web site he gave me, which would allow him to take control of my computer, inspect it and fix it. For a small fee, of course. He guaranteed that he was a genuine Microsoft engineer and that he had successfully cleaned dozens of computers for people. I asked him what I should do about my other machines, to which he said he’d give me a web address to download a tool that would fix it automatically.”

“So did you log on to the address he gave you?”

“Not likely. I said that if that tool works, I can use it on all my machines and save him the trouble of cleaning the first one.”

“What did he make of that?”

“He became really officious. Told me that I was acting irresponsibly and that if I didn’t let him fix it, I’d risk infecting everyone I send emails to and every web site I visit.”

“You’re joking?”

“Exactly what I said to him. I asked him why, if the tool was good enough to clean my other machines, he needed to do the first one personally. You know what he said?”


“That until he had done the first one, he wouldn’t know exactly what the infection was and so couldn’t give me the right tool. The wrong tool could do more harm than good. I asked him how he could know I had malware but not know what sort or which computer. He said that Windows 10 includes a reporting tool that just tells them there is a problem, but it’s not clever enough to know exactly what the infection was. Apart from which, he said, these things keep changing.”

“Is that true?”

“I decided to find out. I told a little fib. I told him I don’t have Windows 10 on any of my computers. He asked me what I do have, and I said I had one PC on Windows 7 and the rest on XP. He immediately came back and told me that this facility existed in Windows 7, but not XP, which is why he only knew about one of them. I asked him which one, and he said ‘the one with Windows 7’.”

“You’d have thought that if the system reports back that there’s a problem, its data would include details of the machine; hardware and software.”

“That’s why I asked. I knew he was a scammer; I just wanted to give him enough rope to hang himself.”

“So, what happened next?”

“I told him I was very busy, and asked him if he would give me his home number so I could call him during the evening. He immediately came back with ‘I don’t take work calls at home’. ‘Bingo!’ I replied, and put the phone down on him.”

Oh, how we laughed…

On to this week’s challenge:Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; and either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here – for reasons I have yet to fathom, pingbacks don’t seem to be working.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.

Kreative Kue 59

Kreative Kue 58, issued on this site last week, asked for submissions based on a photograph showing a lobster-fishing vessel in action.

John W Howell, author of MyGRL and His Revenge, who blogs at Fiction Favorites, was the first to arrive:

What is that? by John W. Howell © 2016

“Do you believe it is 2016 already?”

“I know right? It seems like it was just a couple of days ago it was 2015.”

“Erm. It was 2015 a couple of days ago. I was making a comment on how fast time goes by.”

“Oh, I get it. Hey, what is Jerry doing back there?”

“Back where?”

“In the stern. He’s pulling something out of the water.”

“Could be the bumper genius. One may have gone overboard.”

“I don’t think so. I’m going aft to check it out.”

“Take the walkie talkie with you.”

“I got it. Can you read me?”

“I’m standing next to you. Of course, I can read you. Also, you need to turn the thing on.”

“Oh yeah. Gosh. Makes me look foolish right?”

“Yeah right. Now go back there and contact me when you find out what Jerry’s doing.”

“Captain, can you read me? Over”

“Yes. I can read you. What’s going on? Over”

“Jerry has hooked some kind of tube. It looks like it might be a scientific buoy. Over.”

“Is it heavy? Over”

“Naw. It’s pretty light.”

“Bring it to the bridge. Over.”

“On my way. Over and out.”

“Hey, cap. Look at this thing.”

“I’ll be damned. I’ve read about these but never thought I would see one. I know what that is.”

“You do?”

“Yes. it’s a document carrier. It’s used in the submarine service to carry important documents. If anything happens to the sub this thing is supposed to be jettisoned and explode at a preset depth.”

“Did you say explode?”

“Come to think about it I wonder why this thing is intact. Let me take a picture of it and send it to the naval office.”

“Do I hear ticking?”

“Don’t be silly. It’s obvious something malfunctioned and the pod did not self-destruct. We need to turn this into the Navy. To be safe, we better tow it a few yards astern. Tie it off with a line and throw it overboard.”

“Aye aye.”

“Did you get it deployed?”

“Yes. Not too soon I’m thinking.”

“I got a text from the navy and they have identified the pod as a document carrier.”

“Really. Which sub was it on.”

“They are not sure and need to open it. What was that noise?”

“I think the pod just went off.”

“See if Jerry’s okay. I’ll circle back. Maybe there’s some debris.”

“Captain? Over.”

“Yes. Over.”

“Jerry’s fine. Over.”

“Good. Over and out.”

Well, the captain and crew never found any debris and all they have left is the photo. The mystery of which submarine released the document carrier may never be solved.

My effort was: “The lobster pot deception“, a sequel to last week’s effort.

“Are you sure this is right?” Krola asked.

“It’s what the High Commander ordered, Krola,” Deputy High Commander Ari said, “the method of placement fits well with established practice in the area, and will not arouse suspicion.”

“It seems strange, just throwing it out of the boat, kind of random.”

“We’ve studied the images, Krola,” Ari replied, “it’s what they do. Why, we have no idea, but we know that they move along in their boats, boats just like this one, and throw these things out at random intervals.”

“Perhaps they’re just littering; getting rid of their rubbish.”

“If they were, Krola,” Fran observed, “why would they come back later and pull them up again?”

“Perhaps that’s how they do their washing,” Krola suggested, “that would fit in with all these things on sticks. They must be drying after the wash.”

“Ladies,” Ari insisted, “the High Commander and I have studied the images in detail. What we are doing won’t arouse suspicion. Trust me.”

“We trust you, Ari,” Fran said, speaking for Krola and herself, “but there are questions marks over the High Commander’s mental state.”

“He’ll be fine; no need to worry about him. Since the singing incident, his every move is under my personal scrutiny. He believes he is still in charge, but I won’t let any questionable decision from him jeopardise the mission.”

“Okay,” Fran continued, “but how can we be sure the signal will get through?”

“Is it the fluid that’s worrying you?”


“We took density and viscosity data from the sample we brought back. We can measure the depth by seeing how long it takes for the beacon to reach the bottom, and allowing for gravity and drag. Once we have that, we can calculate the signal strength at the surface and remotely adjust the output to give the power we need to get the message home.”

“What if the Terrans detect the signal?”

“They won’t; it’s shielded.”

“But what if they do?”

“We’re overlaying our message with noise of the type many of their radio signals carry; something called ‘RNB’ which we believe, based on its content, stands for Random Noise Bamboozler.”

“Is there any hope, Ari?” Krola asked, her voice shaking with worry.

“We must have confidence that there is, Krola,” Ari replied, “Since the Droidette’s gravity-wave drive was knocked out by the CME, we’ll be stuck here unless the message gets through, is believed and is acted on.”

“How did the Droidette’s database systems knock out the main drive?” Fran asked.

What?” Ari said.

“The Content Management Engine doesn’t interface with the gravity-wave generator,” Fran explained.

“CME doesn’t stand for Content Management Engine.”

“Does so.”

“Does not.”

“What does it stand for then?”

“Coronal Mass Ejection; it’s a blast of charged particles from their star. That’s what knocked the engines out.”

“Oh, I see.”

“What does OIC stand for?”

“Not OIC, Ari, Oh, I see.”

“Ah. IC2 now.”

“Meanwhile, Mr Deputy High Commander, Sir, what message are we sending?”

“That’s the brilliant part. Entirely the High Commander’s idea.”

“Well, what is it?”

“The beacon is set to transmit, at intervals of ten Terran minutes, in the High Commander’s own voice,


On to this week’s challenge:

Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; and either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at before 6pm on Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here – pingbacks don’t seem to be working, and I haven’t yet figured out why.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries, with links to your own blog or web site, next Monday.