Tuesday, 26 June 2012


So Michael Jackson has been dead 3 years. Why is it that legends always die young? This is my own tribute to them, some who were around in my lifetime, some who weren't.

Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962

Judy Garland 1922-1969

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley 1935-1977

John Lennon 1940-1980

Princess Diana 1961-1997

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Holiday and other stuff

OK so I haven't been around much recently. First I spent 5 days in New York, visiting all the tourist sites. Statue of Liberty, 9/11 memorial, the usual stuff.

Then I had jet lag for what felt like a week and then there's been the Euros. I have a slight crush on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Then my friend came home for a while, having recently extended his trip, we have had a few mammoth drinking sessions. He has been comforting me as this is a difficult time of year for me what with one thing and another.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Chapters 15-16 of End Game

Chapter 15 Wheels in Motion

DS Steven Potter was working at his desk on so much paperwork, they must have cut down a whole forest to print it. Most of it was pointless. So many open cases, that would never be solved. He broke off to answer his ringing phone.  
He could hardly believe what he was hearing. He listened incredulously to what the caller was saying. He ended the call by promising to investigate and then hung up the phone. No way, the call he just got was a joke. It had to be, but he was worried too. The scenario just seemed so unlikely and yet....
He rubbed his tired eyes and took off his designer glasses. He was working all the hours God sent to keep Princess Kayla in the cushy lifestyle she was accustomed to. She spent his money like water, faster than he could earn it, going shopping and lunching with the ladies and they were getting on no better. This was his call, if he made the wrong one, he could easily get demoted.
He made his decision and picked up the phone to dial his superior officer’s number. He had decided to err on the side of caution.

Chapter 16 Heavy Duty

Later that night Darren sat in front of the TV, his second whiskey in hand. Dutch courage he told himself. The twins were out for the evening, so there was no one there to stop him. He could get as plastered as he liked except... except she was counting on him.  
He drained the whiskey glass and stood up. He reached for his jacket and brushed the fat envelope in his pocket. There wasn’t even a quarter of what they’d asked for in there, but he hoped he’d be able to promise to get the rest and they would be satisfied. Yeah right and the Pope would suddenly start advertising condoms.

Laurel was full of nervous energy. Something was happening tonight, she could feel it. There was an excited air about the place. Her guard had been as uncommunicative as ever when he’d brought her the remains of the pasta, they’d had for dinner. His eyes had been as hostile as ever in his masked face, but that didn’t matter, perhaps tonight it would all be over. For the first time in a long time she prayed. Please Darren, please don’t stuff this up.

Darren sat in his car in the park and took a deep breath. Watching as the digital clock ticked towards midnight. Slowly he got out and waited under the trees. The wind whistled eerily through the trees, an owl hooted loudly, causing him to jump nearly out of his skin. He was barely waiting 5 minutes when he heard footsteps and someone shone a torch right in his eyes. He shielded them automatically. The person holding the torch nodded once and someone grabbed him from behind. He started to struggle, but a voice spoke in his ear.
“If you ever want to see your wife again, I suggest you stay still”

Darren stiffened and immediately went still. The person holding him threw him to the ground. He then proceeded to blindfold him and for good measure kicked him in the ribs. Darren held in his pain as repeated blow after blow rained down on him. He curled into a ball to protect himself.
After a while the blows stopped and he was forced to his feet and made to walk. The sound of a car door opening and then someone pushed roughly on his head, so that he had no choice, but to duck. Minutes later the car moved off. As it did so the unmarked police car, waiting in the shadows began to follow, keeping a discreet distance. Lights off, sirens quiet.
Darren spent most of the journey reflecting on the situation. Is this the treatment Laurel had received when they took her or had it been worse for her? Where were they taking him? What would they do to him when they got there? Where were they keeping her? The same place, maybe. If so would he be allowed to see her? Would he want to? What would he feel if he was allowed?
He quashed the growing bubble of hope, rising in his chest with difficulty. If you allowed yourself to hope, you made mistakes.

The car stopped suddenly and he was bundled out. Walking clumsily, held up by two men, followed by several others. His muscles ached from the beating they had received, but he dare not complain or slacken his pace. Eventually after what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes he was forced down onto his knees, where they preceded to thoroughly strip search him, searching he presumed for hidden wires. Finding none they took his briefcase and emptied out the money.
“This it?” The guy who seemed to be in charge asked. Darren nodded.
“I need more time to get the rest. I...” he was cut short by a sharp blow to his abdomen, which knocked the breath out of him. He rolled with the blow, ending up on his back. It seemed that the person who’d punched him was about to land another blow, but his companion held him back with a sharp look.
“Seems like we’ll have to talk to the boss about you and he’ll have to decide what to do about your wife. But as neither of you seem too interested in giving him the information he requires, don’t bank on the decision being favourable.

Without another word they left the room. Darren heard the sound of the key turning in the lock. He ran his fingers through his hair. That hadn’t gone at all well. In fact they couldn’t have gone much worse. Everything now depended on a gangster who apparently routinely went around kidnapping and hurting people being merciful. The odds didn’t look good.

Luke Timberlake stood staring out of his office window. What he could see at this time of night was anyone’s guess. He was quite ordinary to look at, no red tinted glasses that reflected his eyes blood red, no wheelchair, no cat sat on his lap. He was just an ordinary businessman as far as the taxman was concerned. Only his business was far murkier than most other people’s.
He sighed exasperatedly as there was a loud knocking on the door.

The door opened and two of his senior henchmen came in.

“He hasn’t got the money”
“Well he has, just not all of it”
“He’s asking for more time”

Luke smiled, enjoying how they talked over each other, clamouring to get their explanations in before he could even think of blaming them for the slight hitch in the plan. He put his fingers together and considered what he was being told.

Yes it was an inconvenience. But not a major one. He wanted someone to pay for the event that had changed his life forever, caused him to go off the rails, enter the English criminal system at an early age. So what if this person and his wife weren’t directly responsible, someone close to them was. He wanted to send a message to that person. Innocents sometimes got hurt. Collateral damage. He had taught himself patience in prison, patiently planned this out. a little more patience was all that was needed.
“Let him go. He can have his extra time”

Darren breathed a sigh of relief as he was let out into the open air. That was close. He really had believed they were both dead. He had even said a quick prayer. Nothing had really changed though. He might be free, but Laurel wasn’t. Somehow he had to get her released without any more harm coming to her. But how? He was out of ideas.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

End Game Chapters 13-14

Chapter 13 Creative Accounting

Days turned into weeks and still Laurel Hunter was not to be found. If people were confused by her absence, nobody said anything.  Darren continued to go about his normal business, though with a slightly more distracted air. He knew it was too much to hope that no one would notice, but no one said anything.
One evening Rueben Hammond sat in his office, working late yet again. He was going through the books for the business, but they just wouldn’t balance this evening. He rubbed a hand over his sapphire blue eyes in frustration.

A deep frown creased his forehead. He was worried, though he didn’t really know why. All he knew was that Darren, his business partner was acting oddly. He was however far too discreet to say anything. He knew that Darren would come to him, if and when he needed to. He just hoped it wasn’t too late to help him when he did. There were discrepancies in the accounts. Rueben didn’t like this. It appeared someone had been stealing from the company and only one person other than him had access to that particular authorisation code. That was Darren, but how could it be Darren? He was so honest. Deciding he could do no more tonight, Rueben went home to his wife. An early night for once, Danielle would be pleased.

This assumption turned out not to be true however. Danielle Hammond was not pleased to see that her husband had left the office early once in a blue moon. In fact by the end of the evening, she was rather wishing he'd stayed the night there. He was distracted all night, snapping at her unfairly, so that she retired to bed early deeply hurt. He tried to apologise, but she just kept reading her Catherine Cookson novel. Great! She would hold a grudge against him for days now.  He barely got any sleep that night, tossing and turning, much to Danielle’s irritation as he kept her awake too.
"What is wrong with you?" she snapped at breakfast the next day. "You were as twitchy as a fox caught in a trap last night"
Rueben winced at the example she'd chosen to use.

There were a good many things bothering Rueben at the moment, besides the apparent creative accounting. There was that meeting to award the new contract. They had discussed this only a few months before. It had been a tossup between two companies and Rueben thought they’d reached a decision, agreement. Then today Darren had voted the other way. Darren’s vote. as the slightly more senior partner had swung matters. The contract had been awarded the other way. There might well have to be a meeting to dissolve the partnership. Not something he wanted, but needs must sometimes, he reasoned.

Chapter 14 Consequence of Conscience

Darren’s evening as you can imagine was little better. The children were keeping their distance these days, as he was as likely to snap as the average piranha fish. He tried to do some work for the office, but he couldn’t concentrate. The angry red crossings out, signified that. Now he lay on his bed, staring at their wedding photograph in its silver frame. Five weeks since she’d kissed him goodbye and promised not to be late, that they’d do something special.

He had by now realised that the house had been searched, the safe. The bastard hadn't forced the safe. He'd got the combination from somewhere. Had he got to her by then? What had they done to Laurel to make her give that up. His mind was spinning with worst case scenarios. His wife cold on some pathologists slab, Steven telling him she'd been dragged out of the river. Every time these thoughts occurred, his breathing accelerated uncontrollably.

Courtney had made him a doctor’s appointment with Adrian. This he had attended to shut her up, but he’d been less than honest. Nonetheless Adrian had put him on anti-depressants and upped his already large Vallium prescription. 

What wouldn’t he give to have her in his arms now? Safe, happy? Instead here he was with a million unanswered questions. Had she been hurt? What was she thinking? She was secretly blaming him, despising him? Who were they anyway? Why him, why his wife? What should he tell the kids? Would he ever see her again?

His mind spinning with the same unanswerable questions, he fell asleep. Only to be jerked awake again by the sound of his phone, delivering  a text message. He sat up and flipped his phone open.

2morrow, the park, midnight, be alone, bring the money, be under the trees.

His heart sank like a stone and he swallowed, cleared his throat. He felt as though he was choking. He retched, but nothing came up. Deadline day and he wasn't ready. Cold sweat drenched his forehead.

The following day Rueben went into the office, still undecided. There could be an innocent explanation. He hovered outside Darren’s office. He could see him, filling in forms with his silver Parker pen, a 21st birthday present from Laurel. Laurel, now there was something else that was worrying him.  The last time Darren had mentioned her, he’d said they’d had a row. That was 5 weeks ago and Laurel had not been seen, or heard from since. Darren? Surely not. He knew him didn’t he? Rueben went back to his desk and twiddled his fingers, his conscience uneasy. Coming to his decision he picked up the phone and dialled a number.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Chapters 11-12 of End Game

Chapter 11 Meal Ticket

Laurel sat and stared at the blank wall. They’d moved her again, though she had no idea where. She had been placed in someone else’s hands now. No idea whose, but this must be the big boss. The guy who’d planned it all. He’d certainly done his research. It was uncomfortable to think how much work had been put into this. What was it all for?

Her thoughts returned as they regularly did to Darren. How was he? She knew he’d be trying desperately to get her out of this, but how had he ended up in this mess in the first place? What had he to do with men like these? If he was in trouble, why hadn’t he told her? For the first time in their married life, she was doubting her husband. What else hadn’t he told her? She shook her head. This wasn't healthy. She needed him. She needed to be able to trust him.

She let her thoughts wonder back. The Irishman had complained that he was getting sick of talking to her and had suggested she got some sleep. Before she knew what was happening she had felt herself become light-headed. He had obviously drugged her, though why she hadn't been able to tell with what. She had come round with rain pouring on her face. The blood had rushed straight to her head. She realised she was upside down. She struggled to right herself.
"Hey she's awake" someone yelled.
"Knock her out again then" someone snapped.
"Smack her over the head with a baseball bat"
"Nah she dies, there goes our juicy meal ticket"
"Give her the whole cocktail and let's have some fun"
She suddenly felt herself set on the ground. She felt someone feeling for a vein in her arm with a sharp object. She felt herself drifting again, as something new flowed through her veins.

Then someone was undoing the buttons of her red silk blouse. He skilfully unhooked her jet black bra and threw it. She braced herself knowing what was coming. Praying to God that this would end now. Let them kill her. She felt a cold, rough hand brush her breast and then an excited catch of breath. She shuddered, she couldn't stop herself. He took a firmer grip, digging his fingernails in. The cry of pain escaped her lips before she could stop it, stifled by the almost entire roll of tape, blocking her mouth. Some of the men laughed.  She waited for the next move.  Her thoughts drifted, this was just another summer's day. That guy wasn't a violent thug. She wasn't here, she was with Darren. She wanted to vomit, felt the bile rising in her throat. She was starting to choke. The ground vibrated underneath her, as someone fell to the ground next to her.
"You bastard, you broke my nose"
"The boss said he wanted her unharmed"
"He won't fucking notice"
"You wanna bet? Your funeral"

All in a rush she was set on her feet. The tape was ripped hurriedly off her mouth and she vomited. This done her head was pulled back by the hair She felt something cold and sharp against her throat.
“The very next person to make a move towards her I’ll gut him like a fish” a soft Irish voice threatened.

Chapter 12 Top Dog

She followed her thought through to its conclusion. No one had dared come near the Irishman. They knew him to be a deadly marksman both with the knife and the bullet. The only person who could best him at either was reputedly his uncle. He had won trophies for his accurate marksmanship. He, seeing no further opposition had lowered his knife, buttoned up her blouse, feeling the need to do nothing, but stare. Her "saviour", if you could call someone that sadistic that.

She had once again lost herself in dark thoughts, as she hugged herself. She could imagine what Darren would say if the worst came to the worst and she didn't come home. He would be told and he would be horrified, blame himself. He was probably already having nightmares about their treatment of her. His mind would be running riot. Some of his thoughts probably wouldn't be that wide of the mark either.

She had been drugged again, but this time it was more of a relief to escape the memories of the last few hours and she'd been brought here, to this hellhole. Marched in military style, black hood pulled down over her head, eyes down to the ground. She'd stumbled along, going from gravel to smooth stone floor. They'd forced her to sit on a chair and had chained her hands behind her back. She was almost used to this now. Her muscles had at least stopped protesting at being in this position. She had tried to reason out what day it was. Sunday? Monday? Could it possibly be less than two full days since she was shopping and chatting with Marina?

Now she sat across from "The Big Boss" "Top Dog." She had been surprised that she was allowed to see for this interview. But then again he was wearing a balaclava for the occasion. All she could see were grey eyes with the warmth and consistency of steel.

"Do you know why you're here?"
"There are some things, which only your husband can do, that need attending to. We thought this the best way and I'm sorry for that. You may not believe me, but that is of no consequence to me and will make little difference in the long run. We thought he might give his full attention to it, if it was your life threatened, than say Edward or Courtney's..." he broke off with a cold smile of satisfaction, as she convulsed at the mention of the twins.

"You will be glad then that I chose you. That my nephew was able to find you. I had contingency plans in place at the hospital or at the pub. I am nothing but thorough, you see Laurel. May I call you Laurel?"
"Go to hell, you're a fucking psychopath"

One of the "bodyguards" for want of a better word stepped forward fists raised. He looked as though he'd recently had an argument with a brick wall and lost.

"Peace Hans. I asked a fair question. I got a fair answer. Mrs Hunter it is then"

He went on to question her about the ransom demands, but he got none of his answers from her and when Hans and Gustav had no effect, he left her threatening that he would give them free reign next time she refused to answer.  She was left alone.

She looked round her new prison. It was some kind of warehouse, with industrial pallets in the corner, green dripping walls, stone floor, one naked light bulb, dim, bucket as a toilet and rats for company. She was wrapped up in a brand new coat. It was freezing and presumably they didn't want her dying of hyperthermia. After all a dead hostage would get them nothing.

She was still chained to the chair, but sideways now so she dragged it over to the bed, the legs making a horrible screechy scraping noise. She lay down on the bed. Her mind full of images. Edward or Courtney in her place. Courtney experiencing what she had this afternoon. She was supremely glad that they had caught up with her first.

"Oh God Darren please find a way out of this" she begged in her head as the first salty tears escaped from her eyes.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Chapters 9-10 of End Game

Chapter 9 Catch 22
If he gave up the secrets, a lot of people would suffer, lives would be affected, possibly ruined. He knew the sensible thing would be to call the Police, but the wrong move now could prove disastrous in more ways than one. This required thinking about. He picked up his mobile phone from the carpet and scrolled through the names in there, stopping abruptly and tapping tunelessly with his thumb. He suddenly snapped the phone closed and threw it back on the table.  He looked down at the carpet and his vision suddenly blurred. He felt the first tear slide slowly down his cheek. He wiped his hand swiftly, angrily across his eyes. He couldn’t afford to go to pieces like this. He had to be strong. She needed him, like she had never needed him before. Together they would get through this.

The first light of dawn was beginning to creep over the horizon, a huge sigh escaped him. He couldn’t sit here forever, things had to go back to normal, and the children would be back soon. They couldn’t know there was anything wrong, but how to hide it from them. Oh well, he would cross that bridge when he came to it. He looked at his watch and then went upstairs to change into his best, most uncomfortable business suit. He had a meeting with a French businessman this morning. Monsieur  Pierre Noir was a multi-millionaire. He walked with a limp, but refused aids of any kind. No one else he did business with insisted on working on a Sunday. This would be the easy part, getting the money he needed would be stage one of securing the safe return of his wife.

Two figures crossed the road and walked up the driveway, causing gravel to spurt everywhere. The key scraped in the lock and the door creaked slowly open. They walked through the door and nearly walked into Darren. He was absently straightening the jacket of the suit, Laurel had ironed for him yesterday, before going out.
“Morning Dad” the blonde haired blue eyed boy said, smoothing down his gelled spikes.
“Morning Edward, Morning Courtney. Good time last night?” Darren replied, a heartbeat too late.
His son nodded and his daughter grunted, moving slowly past him.
“Chatty this morning” Darren commented.  His voice sounding off, even to him. Would they notice?
“Oh never mind her, she fell out with Declan last night” Edward replied.
Darren groaned. Declan was Courtney’s boyfriend, a spotty youth with a shaven head and who went around saying things like “Yo man and “sic”. He was supposed to be studying for a law degree, but hell had a better chance of freezing over than Declan Dawson did of making a success of things. He was too heavily into the drugs scene. They’d met at the University of Northampton, when Courtney had started her nursing course. 

Darren remembered thinking what a dump the halls of residence were. The size of a shoebox, brown carpets, blank off-white walls, bathroom barely big enough for shower, toilet and sink. Step either way and you could bruise yourself on either one. Laurel had pissed herself laughing when he had. She’d gone to the tiny section of the room, which served as kitchen in the bigger rooms and made him a cup of tea, shaking her head at his request she put brandy or whiskey, or both in it.
Afterwards they had found a pub, the King William IV in Kingsthorpe, the next village. Laurel had bought the drinks and had spent ages at the bar, talking to some guy. He’d grumbled about the speed of service, saying that carrying boxes up four flights of stairs, stairs ringed by florescent yellow rails was no mean fight. She’d hugged him playfully and called him “a grouchy old man.”

Darren knew he was remembering all these irrelevant details, because he was trying to work out when the surveillance, there must have been surveillance had began. Everyone was a suspect, the barman, the milkman, the guy who’d asked him the time in the street the other day. His clients, any one of them could be working for the enemy, taking contracts out because the enemy had said so. His employees spying on him and reporting to the enemy.

Chapter 10 Paranoia

He stopped this thought dead. Courtney, what to do about Courtney?  It was Laurel who was good with dramas such as this, not Darren. Declan had expressed a desire to marry Courtney, she thankfully was resisting the urge to settle down. Laurel had visions of some nice young doctor or brain surgeon  sweeping Courtney off her feet and eloping with her to the Seychelles. Laurel was convinced Declan was just a “phase” Courtney was going through, and would come out of without any interference from them.
“All teenage girls are attracted to what’s bad for them, they grow out of it” she had said.
“You didn’t” he’d replied.
“The difference is my prince Charming grew up, so when I kissed the frog, it wasn’t a problem” she’d bitten him playfully on the nose. “So stop playing the worrywart, overprotective father and let events take their course” in a few years we’ll be saying Declan who?” 
“Don’t worry yourself Dad, Mum will sort it, you know what Court’s like. Dramatic as always.” Edward rolled his eyes. Darren nodded mutely.

He’d been brought back to the present with an abrupt, unpleasant bump. He picked up his briefcase and walked out. Edward stared after his father, a look of concern crossing his face. There was something wrong, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what. He stood irresolute for a minute or two, thinking fast. Then he made for the stairs. He knocked loudly on his sister’s bedroom door.

“I’m fine Dad, Go away. You don’t need to check on me. He’s a pratt. I don’t ever want to set eyes on the loser ever again” Courtney practically screamed.
“Actually it’s Edward. Dad’s at work"
“Oh sorry Ed. Come in. Edward opened the door and went in. His sister was dressed in a nurse’s uniform. Her shift at the hospital was due to start soon. She pinned back her auburn hair in a tight bun on top of her head, wincing slightly as the pins slid in.
“What did you want anyway?” she asked, her mouth full of pins. Edward sat down on the bed and fiddled with the pale lilac duvet.
“Do you think Dad was slightly strange this morning?”
“Not particularly. Dad’s always strange”
“No this was different. He was pale as a ghost, distracted. He put on a good act, but it seemed a little forced. I notice Mum isn’t here either.”
“Well two possibilities. Either they’ve had a row again and she’s stormed out. Wouldn’t be the first time would it?”
“Or you’re imagining things. That wouldn’t be the first time either would it?” Courtney retorted. Edward stuck his tongue out at his sister. “Now if you’ve finished expanding on unfounded theories I’m going to be late for work”

She sighed as her brother didn’t look reassured.
“Listen, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll have a word with Adrian. He saw Dad the other day. Satisfied?”
She waited for her brother to nod and left the room. He stared after her. He really should get ready for work too, he was a bartender in a local pub and was on his last warning. The last thing he needed was to lose his job.