Nov 14, 2016

Audio / Video - The Neanderthal in me

Busy weekend! Here is an audio recording of a short story I wrote about one of my interests, Neanderthals. The photo, by the way, is actually me, with my features morphed into those of a Neanderthal. This is something you can get done at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Very good fun!

Nov 11, 2016

Video - "How companies really work"

On my Facebook page you can see a short film (4 mins 30) that I made explaining - not too seriously - my view on how companies work. I hope you enjoy it!


Dec 30, 2015

Work, work, work...

Well, little by little I inch closer to my goal. I've been doing a lot of work over the holidays tightening up the text and ironing out inconsistencies. To my horror I discovered that I'd got my time-line wrong and Celia was taking Jeremy to the Oktoberfest when it would be closed.

I've also being researching e-publishing and other such topics which I will have to get my head around soon. But the most alarming part of my research was when I realised that I'm about 20,000 words outside the standard length for this kind of novel which is ca 80,000 words!

Agh!

I need to think hard about this. Do I add in more content, or do I just decide it should be a short novel?

Some thinking necessary. Any thoughts from you welcome.

Nov 8, 2015

Chapter 37 - The Hunt

Beer wagon, Oktoberfest
As promised, here is Chapter 37. Only one more chapter after this one, stay with me!

The story so far ... Jeremy Fisk has proved to be the keystone to the UN embargo breaking carried out by British companies during the war in Croatia. He has stolen all the evidence collected by Celia and Franz and left Celia to be killed by his accomplice, Morpheus Herman, who will make it look like a suicide.

Celia manages to take advantage of a distraction to escape from the store room at the Oktoberfest where she is being kept, but in her semi-drugged condition, will she be able to flee from Morpheus?


Chapter 37 – The hunt
“Nothing!” said Max to his father when they met at the agreed time in front of  one of the fairground rides. They’d split up when they arrived at the Oktoberfest and searched the main tents separately, looking for Celia.
“And she hasn’t gone back home either. I just phoned Tante Ilse and Arnold,” said Franz.  “Let’s try the Oide Wiesn section next. Where is it exactly?”
“Under the Big Wheel. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be a bad place to meet somebody, it’s quieter than the main area.”
“Come on then!”
**************************************************
The cool air outside the store room was almost like a slap in the face for Celia and increased the dizziness that the drug in her beer had caused, making it hard to move in a straight line. Once she fell, only the adrenaline got her up again.
She realized that the storeroom she’d been in was somewhat away from the central area of the Wiesn and there was a stretch of ground she had to cover before she could merge with the crowds. Even then, she didn’t dare stop and ask just anybody for help. Morpheus would not necessarily hold back from completing his task, just because there were people around him. She needed the police, but they were mostly by the exits and entrances.  
**************************************************
Morpheus was angry. Fooled into talking about himself and then being caught off-guard in that way! By a woman! It was another example of how he was falling to pieces. The drugs he took to dull the constant pain from the cancerous clusters nesting in his chest were slowing him down mentally and physically. Ah well, not much longer, but before he went he was going to get this job done. He always did his job. He set off after Celia as she ran towards the crowds.
****************************************************
Franz swore. The path towards the Big Wheel was blocked by people waiting to see the different brewery wagons pulled by enormous cart horses go down the main thoroughfare.
“’schuldigen … ‘schuldigen … muss durch … muss durch!”
Max pushed his way through, pulling his father after him to the front of the crowd where their path was blocked by barriers.
“Please, let us across,” begged Max to a nearby policeman walking down the line. “We’re looking for my mother!”
“You’ll have to wait, sonny. Won’t be long.”
**************************************************
The crowds were much denser now and Celia had to push and barge her way forwards. People swore at her and pushed back, but she was beyond caring.  Looking over her shoulder from time to time she could see Morpheus’s pale face bobbing along behind her, gradually gaining ground.
*****************************************************
There she was again! He thought he’d lost her but then Morpheus caught sight of her pink dirndl again, slightly to his right. He followed doggedly after, ignoring the pain which had changed to sharp stabs in his lungs, making each breath feel as if he were breathing in glass needles.
*****************************************************
The crowds clapped and cheered as the first wagon trundled by, the huge horses tossing their heads and snorting so that their decorations clinked and their ribbons shook. In the crowds on the other side, Franz gradually became aware of some sort of commotion, with people shouting at somebody as if a fight was taking place. And then he saw Celia ploughing forward, red in the face, hair disheveled and eyes desperate. He clambered over his barrier, ran to her side, grabbed her arms and started pulling her over towards him.
“Hey, was macht ihr da?” a policeman further up the line shouted.
“Morfeus is behind me, he’s got a gun, he’s got a gun!” Celia gabbled. She toppled over the barrier on top of Franz and they fell to the ground. He jumped up pulling her with him, but she could only cling to his neck as her legs gave way beneath her. He wrapped his arm around her waist and started dragging her towards the other side, aware of police moving towards them but also of another wagon approaching.
******************************************************
Morpheus made it over the barrier with nearly his last strength. There they were, the two people who’d managed to destroy his friendship with Ivan Kaiec, the only thing he had left in his life. He felt a rush of hate so powerful it drove everything else aside. He raised his gun with a wavering hand and squeezed the trigger at the exact moment they tripped over each other’s feet and collapsed to the ground again. He thought for a moment he must have hit one of them because there was a terrible scream of pain, then realized it must have been something else, it was too loud. He moved forward to finish the job, just as Celia and Franz started rolling towards the side. His focus was so complete he never registered the panicked horses bolting towards him, blood from his bullet streaming down one animal’s flank. He was knocked over and his chest and skull crushed by iron hooves as the frantic coachman tried helplessly to get them under control again.
******************************************************
The police, almost as terrified as the horses, dragged Celia and Franz to their feet and started shouting. Both of them were incoherent with shock, the wagon wheels had so nearly crushed them too.  It was only Max who was able to explain to the police what had been happening.
“The airport, Max!” said Celia eventually. “Fisk has got all the material, they mustn’t let him get away!” Then she felt dizzy again and collapsed for the last time that day.

Nov 6, 2015

Chapter 36 - Finding Celia

Oide Wies'n
 How disgraceful, April 19 was when I posted my last chapter! And I left poor Celia all that time locked up with the bad guys ... I can't imagine she'll ever forgive me. I hope to post again before 10 November.

The story so far ... Celia meets up with Jeremy Fisk at the Oktoberfest and shows him the material she and Franz have collected concerning Ned's investigations into the British government's involvement in arms smuggling to Croatia during the independence war in '94-95. Jeremy tells her he has somebody who will publish her claims and they arrange to go to meet him. As Celia stands up she feels very dizzy and confused and Jeremy is able to take her with no resistance to a small storeroom where they are joined by Morpheus Herman. But what is Jeremy's connection with Morpheus?



Chapter 36 – Finding Celia
It was Max who guessed that Celia had gone to the Oktoberfest.
‘I saw her from the window heading towards the underground,’ he said. ‘She had a dirndl on. Where else would she be going?’
‘It seems an odd place for a meeting,’ said Franz. ‘So many people and so noisy.’
‘Yes, and that makes it difficult for anyone to find her. Phone her immediately! Maybe they haven’t met up yet and we’ve got time to warn her,’ said Tante Ilse.
Franz rang, but Celia ignored his call and by the time Max tried with his phone she’d turned hers off completely.
‘Call the police,’ said Timothy. ‘It’s our only chance.’
They weren’t particularly helpful. With the Oktoberfest on and a football match scheduled for that evening their resources were overstretched and Franz was hampered by not being to explain properly why Celia should not be meeting Jeremy.
‘They just think I’m a jealous husband whose wife’s having an affair. I’m going down there to look for her myself. You lot wait here and warn her if she calls back.’
Max insisted on going too, so they left Timothy in one flat and Tante Ilse went back to hers.
‘Bring Celia back safely,’ she said to Franz, gripping his arm as he bent to kiss her goodbye. ‘I love her so much!’
Franz nodded, his eyes suddenly stinging, and left.
*****************************************************
‘If you could see the look on your face!’ said Jeremy. ‘Priceless!’ He drew up a chair the other side of the desk from Celia while Morpheus remained standing behind him.
‘What’s … what’s going on? Why is he here?’ asked Celia. The smelling salts Jeremy had given her had helped to clear her head, partially at least.
‘Ah, Morpheus is a good friend of mine. We’ve been working together on and off for many years. First of all with the Colonel and then - when he started getting all idealistic about how he wanted to fund his adventures in politics - without him!’
‘But Ned …’
‘Ah, dear old Ned. He was much too interested in the arms deals that I was organizing for the Colonel during the war.”
“That was you?” asked Celia. “Not … not Timothy Arnold?”
Jeremy laughed. “What? That fussy old woman? No, no, it was me. And your brother was starting to be a real nuisance with his questions. Very unpatriotic of him. I had the unofficial blessing of the British government itself! Or at least the Department for British Export Development.’
‘Did you kill Ned?’
‘No, but we might have had to if it hadn’t been for that Croatian tank shell landing in the right place at the right time. Just extremely good luck – for me at any rate!’
‘But …but why did you believe me when I said I’d seen him?’
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders. ‘Best way to know what you were up to. And there was always the remote possibility that you were right. There were just bits and pieces of body in the building after the shell hit it. I could see you weren’t going to give up looking for him and if we kept an eye on you then maybe you’d lead us to Ned. But that’s not going to happen now.’
‘What do you want though? What are you trying to achieve? I don’t understand.’
Jeremy waved the bundle of material Celia had brought with her.
‘Well, first of all this stuff. I have no intention of being prosecuted for helping the British government break UN embargoes. And then secondly, Morpheus here is very unhappy at the damage you and your husband have caused to his business operations.’
‘The prostitution rings?’
‘Exactly. Though you don’t need to sound so judgemental. Very bourgeois of you.  By destroying his relationship with the Colonel you’ve lost him his friend and protector, the only one he had left after his family was wiped out. And as perhaps you’ve heard, Morpheus believes in revenge.’
‘Have you poisoned me, is that why I feel so ill?’ said Celia, her voice shaking.
‘No poison, just a little drug in your beer to make you cooperative. A pity, if you’d only just given everything to that sleazy boyfriend of yours, Tomislav Lederer, none of this would have been necessary.’
Celia felt dizzy again, and again Jeremy put the small bottle under her nose.
‘You know about Tomi?’ she asked finally.
‘Of course! Tomi approached Morpheus a short time ago, wanting to sell him Ivana’s information which he believed he could get from you, thanks to those most artistic photographs that he took of you two. Morpheus told me and we hatched this little blackmail plan for Tomi to try to get hold of everything without anybody getting hurt. But then you spoilt it by being all noble and refusing to hand it over. Very foolish of you! It’s going to lead to two deaths.’
‘Deaths?’
‘Morpheus will explain. It was his idea.’
‘One is already happen,’ said Morpheus. ‘Sometime soon police find Lederer’s body near Ostbahnhof . With nice photos. Two will be you, also with nice photos. Look like you murder him, then suicide with same gun.”
“The shame you see, Celia. You couldn’t live with yourself,” added Jeremy.
“But … but the police will know you’re involved. I told Franz I was meeting you!”
“And I shall tell them all about it! You rang and said you had a story from my good old friend Ned about UN embargo busting. Because I’m so good-hearted, I agreed to try and help Ned’s poor little sister.  I came to see you, found you had nothing and left again, very annoyed at how you had wasted my time.”
He looked at his watch. “Speaking of which, Morpheus, I need to leave now if I’m going to get my plane. Give me about an hour’s start before you kill her, there’s a good chap,” he turned back to Celia. “Perhaps I’ll hear about this on the news tomorrow night back in London, eh?”
He got up from the chair and patted Morpheus on the back. “I’ll be in touch again soon. I think we can use this material against our good friend the Colonel in due course.”  He opened the door and looked at Celia again. “Sorry about this Celia. It’s nothing personal with me, just business. Morpheus on the other hand … I think it’s very personal!” Then he left.
Morpheus pulled out a gun from his pocket and sat down in Jeremy’s chair. His Grand Inquisitor’s face had developed dark rings under the eyes since the last time she’d seen him and they made him look pitiless. Celia shrank back in the chair behind the desk, her heart beating faster than she’d have thought possible, tears starting to trickle down her face.
“Maybe you pray. We have time. Nobody come here until much later. Pray!”
Celia fell to her knees and put her elbows on the desk and started to pray like never before. At first just random words, but then she began to whisper all the prayers she could remember one after another, over and over again, like a chant. The repetition gradually calmed her down and she started to think. She had to try to make a connection to her captor.
“I know what happened in the war to your parents and your wife,” she said eventually, her hands still clasped in front of her and her elbows on the edge of the desk. “It was very terrible!”
Morpheus said nothing. He kept his eyes down and the gun steadily pointing at her. After a moment, Celia carried on.
“What kept you going? How did you manage to survive that?” At first she didn’t think he’d respond, but then he spoke.
“Anger. Hate. Revenge. Very powerful emotions. Makes many things possible,” he said.
Celia was silent, thinking what to say next.
“But … but those emotions eat you up inside if you can never let go of them,” she said. “They can make you ill, give … give you cancer …
As she spoke she saw his eyes flicker up to her face with a look of surprise in them. Then she realized.
“Oh …it’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You have a cancer, don’t you?”  she asked. Again there was a moment’s silence.
“That’s what doctor say.”
“So it’s serious then?”
Morpheus nodded. “Nothing can be done anymore, but …” he shrugged his shoulders. “… we all die some time.”
“How much time do the doctors say you have?”
“Longer than you. I think you should …”
Celia never heard what he thought because at that moment something crashed against the wall of the store room and she heard the sound of German voices arguing outside.
“Ich hab’ doch gesagt, wir müssen die …”
Surprised, Morpheus half-turned in his chair to see what was happening behind him. Celia seized the chance and with all her strength tipped the desk up and over so it toppled onto Morpheus and knocked the gun out of his hand. She leapt for the door, wrenched it open and was outside and running before he could stop her.

Apr 19, 2015

Chapter 35 – Meeting at the Oktoberfest

 I've always had mixed feelings about the Oktoberfest. Travelling around Munich during the season can be horrible, with too many drunks, too much noise and the constant necessity to step around piles of vomit.
Yet when you're actually there it's very hard to resist the atmosphere. There are so many people having fun and this is infectious. 
In these last chapters I want to try to convey these mixed feelings I have and I also think the Oktoberfest can provide an exciting setting for the finale. I hope you agree!

The story so far ... Franz had an unexpected visit from Timothy Arnold, looking for Celia. He's heard that she plans to give the information she's collected about the arms smuggling tolerated by the British government into Croatia during the civil war in the 90's. He warns Franz that under no circumstances should she give this material to Jeremy Fisk, the very person she has just gone to meet.

Chapter 35 – Meeting at the Oktoberfest
The late September sun was shining out of a blue sky as Celia hurried through the crowds towards the entrance of the Oktoberfest and her meeting with Jeremy. Although it was only midday it was already busy and she couldn’t go as quickly as she wanted.
‘Don’t stand out,’ Jeremy had warned her. ‘Make sure you’re not followed. Dress and move inconspicuously.’
Celia forced herself to slow down and by the time she reached their agreed meeting point outside the Löwenbrau tent she was calm again.
‘You can’t miss it,’ she’d explained to him. ‘There’s an enormous model of a lion above the entrance, holding a mug of beer which moves up and down. And the lion roars from time to time.’
 Jeremy wasn’t there yet, so Celia stood slightly to one side and waited for him, sniffing the Oktoberfest scents in the air. The smell of sugared almonds being roasted dominated, with the occasional whiff of charcoaled fish providing a contrast. From time to time she caught a touch of cinnamon from the large spicy biscuits, decorated with kitsch sentiments written in faux Bavarian that hung around many people’s necks, while underlying everything was the stale, sour reek of beer, spilt over the previous days. There were groups of middle-aged, camera-clicking Japanese and American tourists being led around while the atmosphere was still relatively sober and their anxious guides had a reasonable chance of getting them something to eat and drink and out again before losing somebody. That was nearly impossible to do in the evening when the atmosphere became rowdier.
Somebody tapped her on the shoulder making her jump. It was Jeremy.
‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’ve got us a table inside the tent. We might as well make ourselves comfortable and have something to eat and drink, don’t you think?’
He was much more relaxed than he’d been on the phone the previous evening and insisted that Celia drink with him although she didn’t much feel like anything.
‘We need to look very ordinary,’ he said after he’d also ordered food for them. ‘My contact has agreed to meet us here if I say it’s worth his while. Now, have some of this delicious beer … that’s it … cheers! And tell me again about everything you’ve found.’
Celia went over it once more, adding the information about Tomi’s visit, but leaving out his blackmail attempt and her subsequent row with Franz.
‘So, you just told him that you hadn’t received anything from Ivana, is that right?’
‘Yes. He was suspicious, but there was nothing he could do to prove we had got something.’
‘Very good. Now, Celia, my contact will ensure worldwide publicity for this story, but in return he wants exclusivity. Where is all the material? In your bag there?’
‘Yes,’ said Celia. ‘Everything’s here, including our print outs, Ivana’s memory disk and Bernard’s CD.’
She showed him a couple of the photos including the incriminating address and the fake inventory lists for school equipment signed by the Colonel.
She’d just finished putting everything back when her mobile phone rang. She looked at the display, it was Franz. Well, he could wait. She turned it off completely. That would teach him.
‘I see. Did you make any copies to your computers?’ asked Jeremy. ‘I’m sorry to be a bore about this but my contact is insisting on absolute exclusivity for this story. He told me that if I had even the slightest concerns that you’d kept some of the material, then he wasn’t interested. I have to protect my reputation, you see.’
‘This is really everything. We decided not to risk making copies. The CD and the disk were easy to hide but the computer wasn’t. I told you our flat was already broken into once.’
‘Smart thinking. I can see you’ve got a talent for this kind of thing. Now, I’m just going outside the tent for moment to make a phone call. I think we should go ahead, but let’s see if my contact agrees. Excuse me a moment…’
He got up, leaving Celia alone at the table. The tent’s brass band began playing the first set of the day and as she listened to the sentimental trashy music she felt the Oktoberfest charm start its work. The place was noisy, vulgar, over priced and full of drunks but somehow she nearly always enjoyed going there. She began to relax and drank some more.
Jeremy reappeared, carrying a giant pretzel for them both.
‘It’s on!’ he yelled at her above the brass band. ‘He said he needs about an hour to get here, which gives us time to enjoy ourselves a bit. I think we should drink a toast. To Ned and his sister: the two best journalists I’ve ever worked with!’
Their food arrived shortly afterwards. Jeremy asked if Celia would fetch him some mustard and then attacked his pork knuckle while keeping up a flow of conversation and joining in enthusiastically with the frequent toasting required by the brass band. Celia felt relaxed for the first time in a long while. It was good to be freed from the burden of knowing what to do about Ned and Ivana’s material. Somebody else’s problem. She had enough other ones still to deal with, it would be nice to be able to go to sleep and wake up with them all solved.
‘Are you alright, Celia?’ Jeremy’s voice penetrated her thoughts. ‘You look very sleepy suddenly.’
Celia shook herself.
‘Sorry, I don’t think I’d better drink any more beer. It makes me tired. Where will we meet this person? We can’t talk here!’
Jeremy looked at his phone.
‘He’s just sent me a message. He’s arranged somewhere quiet for us nearby. Come on!’
As Celia stood up she felt the ground beneath her feet tilt and would have fallen if Jeremy hadn’t caught her elbow. He grinned.
‘Powerful stuff that beer, eh? Never mind, let me help…’ and he steered her out of the tent into the crowds.
‘Don’t understand … didn’t drink much,’ she mumbled, swaying from side-to-side. She saw people looking at her and a group of teenage girls began giggling.
‘Come along my dear. This way …’ Jeremy put his arm around her waist and half carried her along with him. Celia tried to work out what was happening but it was as if her brain had filled with treacle and she couldn’t string two thoughts together, while around her the world span out of control.
A door appeared in front of them. Jeremy opened it and pulled her inside, then sat her on a chair in front of a desk. Celia looked blearily round the tiny room, lined with files. She knew she was still at the Oktoberfest because outside she could hear the noise of the funfair and screams from people on the different rides. This must be some sort of office belonging to one of the tents. The desk suddenly rose up and hit her in the face.
‘Here, sniff this!’ ordered Jeremy, thrusting a small bottle under her nose. The liquid inside had a sharp, smell that stung her nose but cleared her head and allowed her to sit up again and stay upright if she held onto the arms of the chair.
‘What … what’s happening? I think I’m ill. You’ve got to take me to the doctor,’ she said, trying to stand up. Jeremy pushed her back into her seat.
‘You don’t want to go anywhere, Celia. And anyway, you’re supposed to be meeting my contact aren’t you?’ There was a knock at the door.
‘Ah, that must be him now. Please don’t feel you have to get up!’
He opened the door and Morfeus Herman walked into the room.