Post 67 – Pre-election mischief in the UK!

Elections are usually boring for journalists. But this time in the UK we had seven contenders. They were all shouting and denigrating each other, but my news editor wanted a sensational story that would captivate and excite our readers. Prime Minister Cameron had just addressed the press from a podium outside 10 Downing Street, and we all needed a drink.

‘A bit of quirky sex would liven up the show,’ my tabloid colleague Trevor suggested when our drinks arrived and we ordered sandwiches in a pub close to Downing Street. Men or women straying from their marital beds were frequently our standard fare, and I was presently distracted by a curvy Polish barmaid with an inviting smile. The challenge now, however, was to set up some serious seduction with an irresistible male or female luring a decidedly hapless politician towards political disaster.

‘We have a few Ac/Dc possibilities,’ Mark – a serious guy from one of our more conservative newspapers – suggested. He was thinking of susceptible Westminster targets who might be distracted by another guy or girl. It wouldn’t be too difficult for an appealing young man to catch the interest of at least a dozen of our male Members of Parliament. But I was more in favour of a newsworthy female politician being covertly taken with a hunky fellah. It would make for a better story, which readers would love.

‘So how about …’ I say – only to be interrupted by Sonya, an ascending tabloid star, who was scarily assertive.

‘Get real, guys,’ she told us, crossing her legs provocatively. ‘We need something original – with race and hot sex.’

Great … but how does one do it? Who’s the target, and what’s the bait?

We needed another round of drinks, but Sonya was drawing us in, and I had heard that she was recently seen with a muscular Jamaican footballer – so we were all ears and waiting discreetly.

‘The ideal target,’ she declared, ‘would be a male right-winger who is totally opposed to African, Asian or East European migrants. Someone who is particularly opposed to people of colour coming to the UK, and who is constantly going on about how we need to deport those who are already here.’

There were a few right-wing male politicians to choose from. But who might the seductress be, and how were we to snap the pair of them in bed, naked and compromised for our front pages?

‘That, gentlemen, is your challenge,’ Sonya declared. ‘But I’m pretty sure my editor would pay generously for the pictures.’

Up to now, we had  been fantasising as journalists in a central London pub. We did it all the time, but we were presently in the run-up to an election – and I was definitely interested. I knew an alluring Indian woman with seductive inclinations. We had talked occasionally about venal male tendencies, and I thought she might be up for luring in a nasty right-wing politician. She also had a decent Knightsbridge apartment where, ideally, one might be able to secrete a press photographer in her bedroom wardrobe.

None of us in the pub were sharing our thoughts just now, but I guess we were all homing in on potential male targets for exclusive stories: Parliamentary candidates who were openly averse to coloured residents in the UK; but who might also not be averse to a wink or a smile when an attractive woman of any colour appeared. If  I was to secure a  rewarding front page scoop, however, I needed first to target a suitably right-wing politician with roving eyes and a loose libido. I would then contact and hopefully do a deal with my ravishing Indian seductress … and see how it went from there!

*************

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to honey-trap the anti-immigrant right-wing politician I targeted: a guy who wanted to send all foreigners home; although I did secure the services of my truly seductive Indian lady who winked at the right-winger I chose. He responded with enthusiasm and was delighted to accompany my svelte temptress back to her fashionable Knightsbridge apartment. I had positioned an experienced news photographer in the Indian beauty’s bedroom wardrobe, but as she and the right-wing politician stripped and kissed, our photographer coughed.

He later explained that he was recovering from a winter chill. But as soon as our anti-immigrant politician heard the stifled throat noise, he withdrew from the Indian beauty, rushed to the wardrobe and battered our photographer into a pleading mess. He then took the  guy’s expensive camera and smashed the lens with a kitchen knife before extracting the photographic content. My editor wasn’t too pleased with the result, and I had the impression that I now needed to deliver a decent story within a week, or find alternative employment. A lovely friend helpfully suggested a not too demanding tutoring job at her rural college … and if I could stay off the booze for a while … well – I might just possibly write a piece of fiction!!

 Do check out my dark humor nuclear terror & neo-Nazi #thrillers on my home page above or on my Amazon link    Also, see my ‘contents’ link above or click on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt  for #FREE chapter excerpts from DARK CLOUDS, WEIMAR VIBES, UNDER COVER and HARPS & TEARS

Post 66 – Political tensions escalate as love evolves – from my novel Weimar Vibes

‘Rudi? ‘ Julia Stein asks and I’m holding my breath.

‘Yes – ‘

‘Could we possibly meet?’

My god – of course. This is a very special person; it must be important.

‘Sure – is everything OK?’

‘It’s Saulie. I’m concerned about him, Rudi.’

‘Look, I’m on my way back. I could drop by.’

‘Would you?’

‘Julia – if the traffic’s OK, I should be with you in half an hour.’

There are stripped shutters in the windows at the Stein house. It’s a discreet Islington Georgian place with subtle shrubs in the front that give an impression of controlled wildness.

‘Rudi – ‘ a beautiful, dark-haired woman says when the front door opens. ‘It’s so good to see you.’

She’s got a smile that breaks my heart. Every time I see her I lighten up. It’s my guilty secret: I’ve been smitten from the first day I met her. I’ve even taken to reading the Guardian occasionally, hoping to offer interesting snippets on the sort of stuff that might appeal to her.

‘Come in,’ she says taking my hand. We’ve brushed our cheeks together. My palms are moist and my blood pressure’s shooting up. There’s a short walk to a sun-filled rear living room that looks out over a little gem of a town garden.

Robinia trees sway gently in the wind. The Stein twins smile from a photograph on top of a piano. With their fragrant mother and scrubbed up father in the background, it’s a picture editor’s dream family. The image hurts and makes me wonder where I’ve slipped up.

‘And how is Angela?’ Julia asks.

I’m not sure, but I’m looking on the bright side when I say she’s going along on her journey. Julia nods with encouragement. She understands; she and my wife were friends. They used to spend a lot of time shaking their heads about the state of the world. They would also occasionally go on demonstrations or attend meetings together to discuss the plight of disadvantaged people. Right now though, Julia’s main concern is her husband, Saulie.

‘Could you take him off somewhere, Rudi? Maybe try to cheer him up.’

Of course. We’ll go out on the town … but what’s the problem?

‘He’s not himself at present,’ Julia explains. ‘It’s as though everything’s churning around in his head. I feel helpless, but I can’t explain it. We’re just not connecting and it’s getting worse.’

This is seriously major stuff. My therapist might be able to help with counselling sessions. Julia opens the patio doors. I’m groping for solutions amongst flowers and shrubs in the garden. I will do what I can for Saulie, but there’s still sadness to her lovely eyes.

‘I feel we’re polarising as a society,’ she says. ‘It’s distressing. Did you hear about the fire at the Jewish primary school in Holloway last night?’

I caught a headline on a newspaper poster. It must stir painful memories for Julia. She and Saulie are Jewish. They don’t go to synagogue, but there were family members who perished in a Waffen SS camp outside Prague.

‘It’s all down to low life louts,’ I tell her. Shameless hooligans taking a lead from unprincipled characters who lurk in the background.

‘Oh Rudi –’

‘With a bit of luck, it’s just a phase we’re going through,’ I say with as much conviction as I can manage. ‘I’m sure good sense will prevail eventually.’

I want to believe this, but Julia’s crying. Delicate tears are dropping from her eyes. I open my arms to try and comfort her. The strain is unbearable, because for months I’ve stayed awake at night fantasising about a loving embrace with this woman. The reality is even more awesome than my most tormented dreams.

‘Steady on,’ I’m thinking like it’s a meditation mantra. I’m a solid guy who wants the best for my near-neighbour. The temptation of her enticing breasts is really no more than a tender consolation between good friends.

‘Heavens – I’ve got to get a grip,’ she says, her arms falling away from my shoulders. ‘You must think I’m an emotional wreck, Rudi.’

‘Oh no – not at all,’ I say, pulling back discreetly. I want to tell her that she’s an enchanting angel. Someone I could sit on a cloud with and float up to heaven. It’s a great thought, but she’s coughing and wiping away tears with delicate fingers.

There’s a news item on her sitting room radio about Chileans who’ve been devastated with an unexpected eruption in the Pacific. It’s another of the good lord’s natural disasters: a terrible diversion that demands sympathy. I’m fighting off a tsunami of passion for Julia Stein. It’s getting turbulent inside my head, and my neck’s sweating when there’s a commotion at the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some weeks later, there’s an unmarked police car waiting outside the Cabinet Office. ‘Where to, sir?’  the driver asks.

‘Islington please,’ I tell him. ‘Just up from the Angel.’

I’m thinking of Julia Stein, but my police driver’s radio has something about an incident at the Conway Hall in Holborn. ‘Suspected arson with casualties’. The traffic’s slowing from Covent Garden. ‘It’s the fucking socialists,’ my driver mutters irritably.

‘You mean they set fire to this place?’

‘No – they own it. It’s where they have their meetings. It was probably the Nationalists who torched it,’ he says proudly.

He’s looking at me in his rear view mirror; waiting for a response.

He’s a Nationalist. He’s got one of their stickers on the down side of his sun visor. He shows it to me and I’m back in Germany during the early 1930s. The battle lines are drawn. Munich and Danzig are the initial flashpoint areas. Then, each day, all over the collapsing Reich, there were increasingly violent clashes between Weimar socialists and Nazi Brownshirts. Is it happening here now, in London, and around the UK? In this green and pleasant land that is forever England, or whatever it was the poet guy said?

There’s a stream of ambulances going in and out of Red Lion Square and the Conway Hall is a smouldering ruin. Our political situation is serious, but I need an emotional strategy. If I call Julia, she will see who it is and could ignore me. If I go to her house, she may not open the door. Or if she does, she might close it in my face. Then there’s Saulie. After my piece in The Post, he might attack me. I could call my therapist, only I’m not sure if he can help on this one.

I’ve got a bunch of flowers and there’s a car outside the Stein residence, which I think is Julia’s, so I walk up the steps. I press the bell and move in close to the door. I don’t want her to see me if she looks out from a window, but nothing happens. She could be on the Upper Street and I’m thinking of just leaving the flowers when I hear footsteps. Kitten heels perhaps? Or sensible court shoes? I don’t think it’s Saulie.

‘Hi …’ I say with a big grin when she opens the door. God – she looks good.

‘Rudi – ‘ Surprise at first until her jaw sets. She’s not sympathetic. ‘Why are you here?’

Because I love you, babe. I can’t live without you … we need to talk.

‘Julia … I must speak with you.’

I’m holding out the flowers, which she ignores. I’m expecting the door to close. She was, however, brought up to show consideration for other people. Her good manners are struggling with her emotions. She glares at me before turning to walk back into the house. The front door’s still open and she doesn’t object when I come into the hall.

‘How could you?’ she asks when we reach the sitting room.

‘What?’

‘First you write this ridiculous piece in The Post and then you throw water all over Beatrice in the café …’

‘But …’

‘And I’ve just been listening to the news. Apparently, you assaulted this woman in Athens, where you’re also reported to have made a reactionary right-wing speech. I don’t think we have anything in common any more, Rudi … it would be best if you left.’

I’m in a fragile sailing boat with a force 8 gale coming up. My Neuro-Linguistic Programming anchor isn’t working, so I try the meditation mantra. I’m thinking my sound at the foot of a Tibetan mountain – and yes, I think it’s happening.

‘Julia – I owe you an explanation … please let me tell you what’s happened.’

She’s reluctant, and gorgeous. I want to hold her hand. I also want to kiss her and give her a hug. None of this is appropriate just now however, so I put the flowers on the floor.

‘That thing with Beatrice and the water jug. It was an accident. I stood up in shock when you left the café. I really didn’t mean to upset the table. I owe Beatrice an apology.’

‘And the woman you assaulted in Athens … Fiona McCutcheon.’

Oh Jesus. What I’m thrown by is the speed with which she managed to get her side of the story out. It’s untrue and defamatory, but it was on the BBC news within hours.

‘Julia – this woman followed me into a male toilet. She ripped her shirt apart and said that if I didn’t reveal some information, she would accuse me of trying to rape her.’

‘And how did she get wedged into the lavatory pan?’ Julia wants to know.

I’m doing my best. I give her a version of what happened. Fiona slipped into the bowl, but the flushing was accidental. My elbow hit the lever as I tried to defend myself. It’s not quite true, but I can’t say I deliberately tried to soak this violent woman as she attacked me.

‘And the rest?’

‘You mean my Post piece …?

‘And your reactionary speech … I gather you now favour Plato over Aristotle?’

One day, I’ll get something on this McCutcheon woman. I’ll find a little pointer on how she’s fallen, albeit briefly, from her superior position, and so help me, I’ll crucify her.

‘Julia – I want to tell you something.’

‘Oh yes –’

I’m about to contravene the Official Secrets Act. It’s a criminal offence. I could end up in the Tower of London or Belmarsh Jail, serving time for treason. I’m a very foolish fellow.

‘It’s all a front,’ I tell her. ‘I’m working for the Government. You can, I’m sure, imagine a situation where, in order to deal with the enemy, you first have to speak their language.’

‘I don’t understand, Rudi …’

I’m not sure I do either. It’s out now though. I’m not a fascist. I’m on duty for the Queen. I’m spouting a load of right-wing nonsense in the hope that I may be able to lure a few punters away from my acquaintance Oscar Fuhrer Kerner. If it works, HMG will follow along with the same line. Our Prime Minister will get up and confirm that we’re all swinging to the right.

She’s speechless initially, and vulnerable. I’m edging around the coffee table to where she’s sitting on the sofa. She’s irresistible.

‘I love you, Julia!’ It gushes out, right from the heart. Her mouth opens and closes as I stare into her wounded, doe-like eyes.

‘Rudi … please. This is absurd,’ she says eventually.

‘I’m sorry,’ I blurt, flushing with embarrassment. ‘It’s unreasonable. I shouldn’t be unburdening myself to you like this.’

The phone’s ringing. She’s not sure about answering it, but when I look down, she reaches for the receiver. It’s a friend who wants to speak with her about political prisoners in Chile and Columbia.

‘Let me call you back, Carol,’ she says, considering me from the end of the sofa.

I’m ready to leave when she hangs up. I’ve made a mistake, but she comes back and takes my hand.

‘You don’t need to apologise for your feelings,’ she says, and I think I might pass out. ‘It’s just that we can’t always follow our impulses. Especially when they’re – well, passionate.’

It’s true. I can’t hold back any longer. I’m reaching out for Julia Stein, and she isn’t resisting. We embrace. I feel her breasts against my chest when we kiss. It’s incredible. I’m fantasising, but I imagine it’s what Catholics must experience when they die and an angel tells them they’ve arrived at the Lord’s place in the sky.

‘We shouldn’t do this,’ Julia says dreamily. ‘It’s not right …’

I know what she means. Just for a moment I hold her hand. I tell her how I think about her all the time. She’s the love of my life. I need to kiss her, and she reciprocates. There are tears flowing down over her perfect oval cheeks. We move, somehow effortlessly, onto an Arabian rug. Something else has taken over. The barriers are down. They’ve disappeared. I think we’re about to devour each other.

‘You are a bastard!’ she cries. ‘But yes … yes … now!’

It’s like a call to the colours. I never thought I’d hear it, but we’re there. The stripped pine boards are hard on my knees. The suffering is sweet. We’re together. It’s like an ecstatic symphony. We’re in the throes of our excitement, and the sheer pleasure of it all, when I hear a noise.

‘What the hell is this?’ an ogre screams.

‘Saulie!’

‘You cunt … you fucking fascist arsehole!’

He’s got an Irish blackthorn stick. Julia’s imploring him to be reasonable. He picks up two mugs, souvenirs from an animal sanctuary in Northumberland. One engraved with an otter misses me. It was close, but I get another with a seal on the back of my head.

‘OK, Saulie … look, I’m sorry.’ I shout, holding my bruised skull.  ‘It’s all a misunderstanding. We got carried away.’

I’m the guilty one, mate. I’ll hold my hand up … it’s nothing to do with Julia. It’s too late though. My former friend’s Gucci loafer is coming straight towards my uninsured crowns. I’m not super fit, but I duck. I then manage to grab the turn-up on Saulie’s chinos, which gets him crashing down onto the stripped pine floor.

‘Stop it, both of you … immediately!’ Julia commands.

She’s furious. There’s a steeliness there that’s a total turn-on. She’s holding a flowerpot with a geranium. It’s in bloom, and it shakes as Saulie and I adjust our clothing.

‘I know that anything I say will be inappropriate,’ I tell him … but I think …’

‘Get out of here before I kill you!’ he screams.

It’s scary and I’m worried because he’s just picked up a large pair of scissors.

‘Hey … cool it, man,’ I say reasonably.

‘Piss off, you bastard Nazi!’ he yells. ‘I don’t ever want to see you again!’

To read more or to buy WEIMAR VIBES please go to my home page above,  or directly to my Amazon Author Page on   which contains links to all of my stories. There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to these stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

 

Post 65 – An interview about my writing with fabulous Sasha Sleuth Jill Edmondson

below and on Jill’s blog  http://tinyurl.com/7j7s9m8

For Weimar Vibes on Amazon click here.

 Jill:  When I began research for this interview, I immediately came across the cover image for Weimar Vibes. Love it!  How and why was this image chosen for the book cover and what does the image say about the story?

Phil: This is a fabulous shot of Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 movie, The Blue Angel. I licensed it for the cover of Weimar Vibes because I think it gives a feeling for how it was in the final years of the Weimar Republic – decadent and crumbling, yes, but with a lot of enticing temptation in the night life! My Weimar Vibes story is a dark humour thriller that mirrors elements of 1930s German chaos in the UK and the rest of Europe tomorrow, and I think that Marlene in The Blue Angel gave a great snapshot of this period – as indeed did Lisa Minnelli in Cabaret.

Jill: If Rudi Flynn had a profile on one of those internet dating sites (i.e. Lavalife, Match.com, eHarmony, etc.) what would it say?

Phil:  Age: 39. Height 5’11”; flat(ish) stomach; good but occasionally nervous eyes. Empathetic with women, who frequently feel he needs their guidance. He enjoys occasional windsurfing, followed by lively discussions on the beach about politics – with intermittent gossip. Salsa in the evening with wine and emotional good humour (with maybe whisky later). Flynn is separated from his previous partner who’s now writing a novel about their relationship, which worries him a little. No kids yet – but he’s often had dreams about families. Well … it’s a lovely thought, of course … and he’s definitely trying to become more decisive about things generally …

Jill: Your novels are set in far-flung locals (Greek Islands, Cuba, Middle East, Ireland…) What are the challenges to you as a writer of using various settings?

Phil:  I guess it helps if you’ve been to wherever it is you’re writing about, but a brief trip to almost anywhere can offer exciting writing prospects for both fiction and journalism. I think the challenges are almost entirely emotional, in that you probably need to go with your feelings, so intuition and interpretation are important. It’s only in my third upcoming story ‘Under Cover’ that I’m writing about India, where I spent almost eighteen months. But Cuba, the Middle East, Greece, the US/UK and Ireland (where I was born) all offer marvellous possibilities, which I constantly want to return to.

Jill:  If Hollywood were to make a Rudi Flynn movie, who would be cast in the lead role?

Phil: For Flynn I’m thinking of a slightly wayward/uncertain Daniel Craig – with maybe an alcoholic weakness extension of his performance in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But if Craig wasn’t available, then a more flustered Dominic West from The Wire would be fine; with maybe Penelope Cruz or Rachel Weisz as Flynn’s illicit love interest, the gorgeous and almost saintly Julia Stein … and I’d want a star turn for the cool Glenn Close as Flynn’s ice cold and very focused US Homeland Security controller.

Jill: What was the best thing about your stint as a tabloid journalist?  What was the worst

Phil:  On the up side, I loved meeting a whole range of interesting people – from dodgy politicians, villains and often venal celebs to nice ordinary folk who had somehow become involved with difficult and occasionally quite worrying situations. On the downside, there was a constant pressure/expectation for one to deliver, and if one couldn’t do it legitimately (and I hate to admit it) then it was frequently seduction/inducements, temptation, provocation and outlandish fabrication.

Jill: Part two of the above question (and you had to have seen this coming!) What comments do you have on the Murdoch & News of the World scandal?

Phil:  Disgraceful, of course. But it’s been building over quite a while and the NoW practices are now rife with most tabloids + some quite prim broadsheets – all of whom would deny the charge. However, if you can bring in reasonably experienced phone hackers – and it’s not that difficult to find them – then you either do it or your competitors get the stories.

Jill:  You’ve written fiction and nonfiction.  Which one is easier to write?  Which is more fun to write? (These aren’t necessarily the same things.)

Phil:  I’ve always found it easier and more fun to write fiction – starting with little magazines when I was a student at Trinity College in Dublin. More recently (as Jack Jameson),  I was commissioned to write a serious story for the UK New Statesman about British National Party (far right) goings on near their leader’s farm in Wales. I called it Weimar in Wales, and I wrote it as an allegorical piece with factual elements. It caused a media furor, with the local Chief Constable and publicans demanding to know where exactly were the pubs and meeting places I was alluding to where British Nationalists were sieg heiling with Nazi salutes to Deutschland uber Alles? I couldn’t really say as the locations and characters were all composites and the piece was essentially allegorical – so on this occasion the journalist became a scandalous story, and my editor refused to pay me!

Jill:  What do you wish you had known about the publishing world before you became a novelist? 

Phil:  To know a little more about how difficult it was going to be might have helped (or diverted) me. Not long ago, I had a good agent who sent my Dark Clouds story to, I think, six publishers.They all liked the story and the writing, but didn’t feel they could publish it because I seemed to be dealing with a potentially very serious matter (al-Qaeda trying to nuke London) within a dark humour framework … and who knows what the jihadists might have lined up for such a cheeky publisher!

Jill:  Who are some of your mystery author influences?

Phil:  My big influences early on were Hemingway, Fitzgerald, James Joyce, JP Donleavy and Henry Miller (the latter three were all banned in Catholic Ireland for quite a few years!). The mystery/thriller writers I’ve enjoyed are Raymond Chandler, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver and Stieg Larsson.

Jill:  What are your thoughts on the rapid changes in the book world (that is, digital books a la Kindle and such)?

Phil: It’s exciting, but there are problems for authors trying to self-publish on Kindle + Nook etc. If a publisher takes your book, they will usually do a lot of editing and promotion for you. But if you go for self-publishing an e-book, there’s an incredible amount of work to do, first in formatting, picture design and uploading, and then in promotion via Twitter etc – for which one needs a huge amount of time. I rather envy John Locke who says he sold a million self-published e-books in five months, which certainly is a great achievement.

Jill:  What can you tell me about your upcoming releases?

Phil: ‘Dark Clouds’, out now on www.amazon.com/dp/B006RXHVTW  has al-Qaeda trying to nuke London, with Flynn doing what he can to thwart them. ‘Under Cover’, which is my next, has Flynn once again working for a US/UK intelligence alliance. Only now he also has links with Israeli intelligence and the rightist French Front National. His mission is to help foil a plot by Iranian agents who are intent on serious anti-Western provocation, which includes dirty bombs with nuclear ingredients. This will be followed by ‘Harps and Tears’, which features Bronkovsky, a loopy/disappointed in love Polish American nuclear scientist whose wife leaves him for a Jewish environmentalist. He is embittered and intent on revenge against the state of Israel. When Flynn meets him, he is making a nuclear bomb in Ireland’s rural West Cork for Islamic activists in the Middle East.

Jill:  Last question – and it’s a bit of a freebie: What question do you wish I had asked you?  Go ahead and ask & answer it.

Phil: What would I do if I were starting out again? Instead of mistakenly going for medicine and then switching to Economics & Politics, I would like to have tried for a scholarship to a London drama school. After which, I would have hugely enjoyed a bit of acting on stage and (possibly) screen. I would also have written a few more plays and tried to get screen-writing commissions.

For more on Phil Rowan (@WriterRowan on Twitter) check out my www.writerrowan.com  website. My Amazon link is on  and there are #FREE chapter excerpts from my DARK CLOUDS, WEIMAR VIBES, UNDER COVER and HARPS & TEARS stories on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 64 – ‘You men are all the f**king same!’ – try some tempestuous Irish passion in this chapter extract from HARPS & TEARS

I am daydreaming in Dublin’s Trinity College park when a smiling student walks by with an armful of books.

“It’s a grand day,” she says, and I agree. It’s an idyllic place where carefree youngsters hold hands and laugh about life.

Perhaps I should enrol somewhere on a course in philosophy, or maybe I could find a mantra and practise transcendental meditation. I need more meaning and substance in my life, and I’m looking longingly after the student with the books when my phone rings.

“Hi there!” a serious female voice exclaims.

“Claire”

Shouldn’t I have been calling her? Is she going to charge me a fee if we meet … and is there any future in our seeing each other again?

“How’s your friend?” I ask.

“She’s coping, I think … but the drugs she needs are expensive, and she doesn’t have the right sort of insurance.”

If she’s a pal of Claire’s in the professional sense, she might have AIDS, which would of course bring a lot of censure from mature elements in parts of Ireland. But I’m allowing myself far too many negative thoughts, and why am I deliberately trying to exclude someone I like?

“Do you fancy meeting?” she asks.

“Sure … yes –”

“You seem uncertain?”

“No – I want to see you … now!”

“OK … come up to Grady’s Bar in Cuff Street. I suppose you could say it’s my local … and we’ll take it from there.”

Almost everywhere in central Dublin is within easy walking distance. So I banish my doubts, and when I’ve consulted my pocked-sized street finder, I work out a way up to the Liberties. This part of town was once the red light district, where respectable Victorian and Edwardian guys would venture out for forbidden pleasures with fallen women.

I get lost at the back of Dublin Castle, and for a moment I’m thinking of the cop, MacInerney, emerging with a short truncheon and a pair of metal toed boots. But I then hurry on towards a street where a cook from Bangladesh once cut up a reluctant female companion. It was a gruesome story about an unhappy love affair, which ended as the chef put his victim into a cooking pot and then tried to flush her down a blocked drainage system.

These cuttings library snippets keep intruding as I approach Grady’s Bar. It’s a pretty basic sort of establishment, and unlike Docherty’s off Grafton Street it doesn’t look like it’s had a lick of paint – let alone a makeover – since the day it was built, just about the time that Queen Victoria would have passed on.

It’s got a lot of atmosphere though, which clearly appeals to the intellectuals and intense students who are mingling in with their books and literary periodicals amongst the locals: Pensioners and low paid working people, who still live in a few of the Georgian tenements that haven’t yet been taken up and made over by astute developers.

“Hi ye!” Claire exclaims when she arrives almost half-an-hour later.

She’s wearing a Gucci sweatshirt with jeans, no make up, and a New York Redsox baseball cap.

You look great, I’m thinking when she apologises for being late and I ask the ageing publican for an orange juice and a glass of stout.

“You know about this place … the Liberties?” she asks.

“Yes – I read about it in my guide book.”

“They’ve only recently converted the gas lamps to electricity, and it’s where the film people come if they want to get a feel of what sex and sin used to be like in old Dublin”

She arrived in the Liberties four years previously after an interlude with a Jewish furrier in Capel Street. He felt that Claire reminded him of his daughter, who had disappeared, and in return for her listening to him and ministering occasionally to his limp member he set her up in a flat with a generous lease.

“He’s gone now though, and the developers have made a few secure tenants – including myself – an offer we can’t refuse. I’ve got to be out though by the end of the month … and then I’m off to Australia.”

It seems like a place that’s very far away, and I’m wondering if I might take a sabbatical there when Claire leans across the rough wooden bar table to get hold of my eyes.

“Come … I’ll take you on a tour,” she says.

I’ve still got half a glass of Guinness on the table, but it’s not a time to wobble. So I give a wave towards the publican, who’s reading about horse racing at Leopardstown and the Curragh, and I then follow Claire as she walks confidently towards the door.

At High School there was an art teacher that my new friend reminds me of. Whenever she walked down a corridor in front of me, I used to tremble uncontrollably. It was, I think, the way her hips moved. I have the same feeling now, and I’m once again hooked by the metronomic oscillations across the coarse fabric of Claire’s 501s.

There are still cobblestones on some of the side streets, but the fine lines of the crumbling Georgian houses are diminished by the narrow spaces between the buildings, which means they don’t get a lot of light and all the time I’m feeling I’m on a film set: A place maybe that could suddenly throw up John Millington Synge or a Yeats brother, or one of Sean O’Casey’s gunmen might emerge at any moment from the shadows.

“Even to be seen here would be enough to destroy a girl’s reputation in those days,” Claire tells me while I take in a plaque on a house wall that says a doctor called Devane had once attended to the sick and needy of the surrounding neighbourhood. Perhaps he was an upright and selfless man. Or maybe, occasionally, he would succumb to the temptations of those girls who sauntered by with provocative bustles.

“And this is my place,” she announces when we’ve walked around the old Dublin red light district, which presently draws tourists with clicking cameras from around the world.

Claire’s building is an untouched Georgian tenement with the original fanlight over the door and dark common parts around a creaking staircase. Inside, her apartment isn’t much different, with years of grime on the outside of the windows and sparse furnishings. From the living room though, I glimpse an ugly plaster crucifix with a soulful god figure looking down on a large double bed with a bright Mexican counterpane.

“I can’t get away from my Catholic roots,” Claire explains with a wry smile while taking a bottle of white Bordeaux from a rumbling fridge in a space that passes for a kitchen.

Outside on the film set street with the recently converted gas lamps and the hundred year old paving slabs, I can see her sleek black Mazda sports car. It gives me a sort of reality check about where I am and who I’m with. I’m half expecting Miss Hanlan the working girl business woman to present me with a bill for hundreds of Euros. But she’s coming over with the wine and rolling her tongue invitingly along the edge of her seductively rounded bottom lip.

“Why don’t we just forget about the chat and go to bed,” she suggests. “Otherwise, I suspect you’re going to get confused and addled with thoughts – when all you really want to do is to get your cock out and to start fucking me all the way up to the stars.”

There isn’t time on this occasion to pause and admire her beautiful body, and in particular the breasts and hips that a painter or sculptor would die for. The plastercast Christ has family history associations however. It has me thinking of my own Irish relatives, and great uncle or grandpa whoever, who possibly sowed the conjugal seeds of life for their wives with thoughts of the Lord and his Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary.

Claire then kisses me unexpectedly, and when we reach the bed under the plaster cast feet of the holy Lord Jesus, she says she wants to squat across my torso.

“And when you’re inside of me, I’ll tell you about the part of my life that brought me here … only you mustn’t come until I’ve finished.”

It’s like saying to an expectant and excited kid how they can have this delicious lollipop or fruit in their mouth, only they’re not allowed to suck or swallow it – at least until the person who gave it to them has read out a story.

It doesn’t matter though, and she’s still smiling as she kneels astride my hips and then moves to enclose me with the lips between her thighs. I would like to have licked her clitoris or to have fondled her breasts for a while – but we have a deal: I can have seconds, without payment, if I do the business to her satisfaction on our first session.

“My father worked at the Guinness brewery,” she tells me, “and we all lived in a slum at the back of the Four Courts.”

It was a traditional working family set up, only the mother was out of it mentally, which meant the father was left to fend for himself. He was angry and frustrated about this and one night he came home in a drunken state that was worse than usual. He swore and urinated in the corridor, and he then came into the bedroom where Claire was and demanded that his sixteen-year-old daughter should pull down the sheet and open up her legs for Dada.

He apparently did the same with her only sister, who immediately left the house and went off to Australia. But when one of Claire’s brothers tried to follow in his father’s footsteps a few weeks after she was assaulted and raped, she hit him with a cast iron frying pan. It was a murderous but necessary reaction, and as an ambulance came to take her brother to the Jervis Street hospital, she walked out of her family home and never returned.

“Oh … oh – Jesus!” I yell involuntarily as her vaginal muscles contract around me and we set off on a tumultuous Irish roller coaster. It has Claire coming down eventually to lie on my chest, which gives me a chance to caress the cheeks of her ass until she starts to moan. A physical and emotional tsunami has started and it’s escalating. We’re away, and when a scream finally erupts in Claire’s throat, I feel I’m lifting off and being catapulted into orbit.

“I should maybe make you pay for your pleasure,” she says later. But I’m way past caring. I’ve ascended into another world, and I feel – as the Catholics would have it – in a state of grace as her head rests contentedly in the crook of my arm.

“This hasn’t happened for a while,” she tells me when I respond with a squeeze.

“What?”

“You know … just now … and the other day at the hotel.”

Does it mean I might get a discount? Only I’ve never been here before. Not even in the initial period with Angela, when love was blind and we thought Isla de Mujeres in Mexico was a piece of paradise. There is a thought lurking about what Claire got up to with all of the other guys over her five year stint as a working girl. But I don’t want to spoil any of what I’ve experienced with her by getting too heavy or righteous, or by over analysing my feelings.

“Would that get me another glass of wine do you think … or maybe even a cup of tea?”

It’s crass of course, and it probably came out the wrong way. For it’s got her leaning up unexpectedly on an elbow, and there’s fury in her eyes.

“Jeazus Christ … you men are all the fucking same!” she shouts. “You’re fucking heathens – the lot of you!”

With that she gives me a fierce wallop across the jaw with her open hand.

“Hey … ease up – chill out!” I shout while trying to protect myself from anymore of this volatile Irish anger.

It’s over now though, and when she’s taken my face in her hands, she brushes my lips with her own.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I’ve got a lot of anger inside of me … and we will have tea or wine, or whatever it is you’d like. Only I want you to do it for me again now … and if I come, I want you to kiss me on the mouth … and you won’t have to pay.”

To read more or to buy HARPS & TEARS  please go to my home page above,  or directly to Amazon on   – my other books are also available on this link.  There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to my other stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

 

Post 63 – Le Pen’s ultra-rightists ascend in France with a celebratory vengeance – so what’s next for French Muslim migrants & Jews?

Sarkozy poses on a neat blue Vespa scooter with his glam partner Carla Bruni, who is showing us a lot of her enticingly bare thighs. In contrast, poor old Hollande is still being ridiculed for sneaking off in disguise on a clumsy three-wheeler to visit his actress girlfriend, Julie Gayet.

I’m hoping for some light romantic insights when I meet my French Government contact at a literary cafe in Montparnasse. Jean Paul, however, squints nervously towards the cafe terrace as we shake hands and I order coffees con lait.

‘It’s not good here just now, Phil,’ he tells me in a low voice. ‘Our President is regarded as a figure of fun, and as our once vibrant economy declines the Front National are winning votes.’

I’m thinking of Marine Le Pen smiling provocatively as her far right party celebrates its soaring popularity with French voters.

‘This has happened before,’ Jean Paul confides. ‘We had a resistance of sorts in the last war, but the Waffen SS had a popular recruitment centre in Calais and many of our people collaborated with the Nazis.’

I think I need a large whiskey and maybe a cigar on the terrace. But my French Government contact has more depressing news. ‘You have seen what happened to the Jews here,’ he says. Of course, many were betrayed and exterminated during Hitler’s reign, but Jean Paul is referring to the bombs and ransacking of Jewish businesses by anti-Semitic mobs in Paris just a few weeks ago.

‘These people are now fleeing to Israel and London,’ he says, ‘and Hollande is keeping a very low profile on what is happening … for it seems that he does not wish to offend Marine Le Pen’s supporters in the neo-Nazi Front National.’

I enjoyed reading Albert Camus when I was a student, and I was impressed by the fact that he and his lover, Simone de Beauvoir, were both part of a courageous wartime resistance against the Germans. But now, 70 years after the Holocaust, the slogans in the Paris Jewish suburb of Sarcelles and elsewhere are worrying. ‘Death to the Jews,’ ‘slit their throats,’ and ‘Hitler was right’ are commonplace expressions.

‘And then there are our youngsters,’ Jean Paul adds. ‘They have no qualms about supporting Dieudonne and giving his neo-Nazi ‘quenelle’ salutes outside Auschwitz and other places where Jews were exterminated.’

I can’t take too much more of this, but my French Government contact isn’t finished. ‘You know we have banlieues outside Paris and in other French cities,’ he says.

Sure – for a while it was French Government policy to keep their city centres elegant and respectable, which meant less fortunate people on welfare benefits were forced to accept out of town social housing in the desolate banlieues.

‘These people are now mainly Muslims,’ Jean Paul confides, ‘and in many cases they come into our cities to deal in drugs and steal from our more affluent residents … well Madame Le Pen wants to send them all back to Africa and the Middle East … so if she comes to power there will be much acrimonious conflict.’

I’ve had it: ‘Deux grand whiskies, s’il vous plait, mademoiselle,’ I say to the waitress … ‘and if you don’t mind, Jean Paul, I’d like us to go out onto the terrace where I can have a cigar.’

We’re on the Boulevard Montparnasse, and as we relocate to an agreeably shaded table, I’m trying to forget the French fascists by losing myself in the Paris love feast experiences of my favourite writers, including: Beckett, Joyce, Donleavy, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Miller. It’s challenging… but the whiskey helps!!

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Post 62 – Flynn is seduced in rural Ireland by an assertive Viennese Euro-rightist – chapter excerpt from HARPS & TEARS

Chapter 25

Muldoon calls as I come down along the driveway from Doolan Hall.

‘We’ve got a result,’ he says.

‘From the accountant?’

‘Yes … but I can’t tell you any more until tomorrow.’

What does this mean? Is Halleran receiving large sums of money from the Middle East for a nuclear surprise? A lethal concoction that Bronkovski is putting together at Crushkeen House that might then be shipped from South West Ireland by a sympathetic collaborator – a rogue state with access to a submarine that can’t be tracked by satellites.

If it reached the Middle East intact, a portable nuclear device could be used in Israel by a suicide bomber from Gaza or the West Bank to make political statements: Grim scenarios to do with perceived wrongs and the accumulated bitterness of over half a century.

‘I met an interesting woman here,’ I say to Muldoon as a diversion.

‘Oh yes –’

‘I think you might like her.’

This gets a guffaw and words about how Josephine would stalk him with a meat cleaver if she suspected he was thinking of anyone else – even if it was only a fantasy or innocent dreams with exotic what ifs.

But I talk about Claudine Fauvet and her boats, and how she has this great capacity for absorbing grief, while smiling empathetically and generating powerful passions.

‘So you’re going to introduce me?’ Muldoon asks.

‘Of course … although it might mean you’ll have to go for a sail in a boat.’

He’s not sure about this, but says he’ll think about it as he drives down to West Cork.

Puzzling pieces are slotting into place, and on the cobbled pub terrace at Hagen’s Point I spot the blonde Australian girl, Kelly Bowman. She is sending a text message on her mobile, and she looks up and grins as I approach with a cold beer.

‘May I join you?’ I ask.

‘Sure … I’m just reassuring my folks in Brisbane – so they know I’m all right.’

‘I saw you in a Wayfarer at Claudine’s.’

‘Ah, hell – it’s great out on that water!’

There’s no hint of recognition here. So if Kelly helped to carry me in an unconscious state from outside Bronkovski’s courtesy office at the University in Dublin, she either doesn’t recognise me or she’s pretty smart.

‘You seemed to really know what you were doing – especially on the turns.’

She laughs at this and flushes a little.

‘I’m trying to get Ali – the guy I’m with – into it, but he’s not a natural sailor.’

That is a generous understatement from what I saw. But it’s a pleasant evening with the sun dappling against the waves as it sinks down behind hills on the west side of RoaringwaterBay.

‘Are you passing through or do you have family here?’ I ask.

‘Oh we’re touring around,’ Kelly tells me. ‘We don’t have any connections in Ireland, but someone we met in London said this was a good place to check out … and we’ve met lots of interesting people since we arrived last week.’

So why did they tell the cop, MacInerney, that Kelly had family links in West Cork? And if this isn’t the case, are they hanging around because they like the scenery, or is there another agenda?

At that point, Kelly’s older friend Ali appears. He’s carrying two glasses of orange juice and beaming like everyone is his friend. His jaw drops a little though when he sees me.

Kelly then chips in with how I’ve spotted them sailing over at Claudine Fauvet’s, and when we’ve introduced ourselves, Ali retreats into an ‘I love Ireland and the Irish’ position.

He explains how he’s a small businessman taking a break and that Kelly is someone special he met in London – quite by chance in Covent Garden, where she was a waitress.

‘I understand you’re pretty hot on the rebel songs,’ I say while we enjoy the last of the evening sun.

‘Who told you that?’ Ali asks with surprise.

‘Oh, it was Frances up at Doolan Hall … you know – she and John Joe are getting married.’

‘Yes – of course. They’re a fine couple.’

I’m sure there was small colour change in the brown skin around Ali’s neck that rises up to take in his face. He just got a little darker, and he seems to be struggling for words as he takes on the fact that I know Frances Halleran and have met John Joe Horan.

‘So you’re going to the party tomorrow?’

‘Oh yes … we have been invited, and this evening I am going to sing rebel songs for the celebration.’

Why is an Indian Muslim with an Australian girlfriend suddenly embracing the Irish Republican cause via The Croppy Boy, Boolavogue, Kevin Barry and Brennan on the Moor?

‘Now though I think we must go back for our supper with Mrs Fionnucan. She is our landlady, and she gets agitated if we’re not there to eat her fine Irish food.’

Bacon and cabbage perhaps with loads of home-made soda bread and salty butter.

‘I’ll see you later,’ I say as they finish off their orange juice and Ali makes a fuss about shaking hands, while Kelly just smiles like she’s a friendly, carefree Ozzie.

They could be innocent tourists who just pitched up at Hagen’s Point. Their presence in the College Park on the day I got assaulted might be a coincidence. Someone else could have dragged me down from the first floor corridor in the science block, after which, Ali and Kelly might just have found me and called the authorities. It’s possible, but I feel they have some tie-in with Bronkovski, and possibly also with Cornelius Halleran.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m still thinking about it when I have a meditation session in my room over the bar. I then fell asleep for a couple of hours, and when I open my eyes I can hear the sounds of fiddlers warming up downstairs.

There is no sign of either Ali or Kelly in the bar, but as soon as I sit at the only free table and order a plate of prawns, I see Heidi from Vienna and Paval from Prague.

‘May we impose again and join you?’ she asks as they sit down.

‘Of course –’

‘There are so many people here already … but you know it is a celebration for the Republican Horan and his bride-to-be?’

A sort of combined stag and hen night with solid local lads and their girls: Big fellahs who, in other circumstances, might go with John Joe on a mission to the North that could end with blood and body parts on the road.

‘This man has charisma,’ Heidi explains. ‘People would follow him regardless of the consequences … which is interesting – no?’

‘I don’t believe these traits are so important now,’ I say dismissively.

I mean, we live in democracies – at least in the Western World – where decisions are arrived at by consensus. We don’t need demagogues and Platonists to tell us what to do and how we should be thinking.

Only Heidi feels she’s got me backed up against a wall and she’s reaching down to squeeze my nuts.

‘You’re wrong!’ she exclaims emphatically – and as she speaks, her eyes are targeting and holding me.

‘If you were familiar with history, you would know that we have started to rot and fall apart in our society.’

Just like those crazy Romans with their bacchanalian orgies. They got so sated and carried away with excessive indulgence that they missed the barbarian hoards at the gates.

‘Oh, come on,’ I say reasonably. ‘Don’t you think that’s going a little over the top?’

Paval’s nodding seriously as Heidi pauses. This isn’t the first time she’s come up against wet liberal responses to what’s happening in Europe. It’s symptomatic of the malaise, she feels. But so long as there are sufficient people who can open their eyes and see clearly what’s happening, it will be all right.

‘Do you know why Hitler came to power in 1933?’ she asks.

‘No – not really.’

Well, I do – vaguely. It was all a bit disorganised and there was a vacuum politically, but the circumstances were quite different from what they are now.

‘You believe so?’ Heidi asks incredulously.

‘Sure –’

She gives me a serious one-to one about how people are feeling in mainland Europe on crime and security issues – most of which, in her view, are linked in with immigrants from Eastern Europe, Turkey and North Africa.

‘We are weak,’ she confides, ‘and now we are paying the price.’

There’s fresh sea bass and French fries to divert my attention from the political clouds that Heidi’s whipping up with Paval’s silent assent.

Is she an undercover National Socialist from another era?  A terrifying Valkyrie who would put non Aryans on sealed trains bound for the Baltic States or to conquered but deserted territories in Siberia and Mongolia.

I’m saved from having to defend politically correct liberal and socialist positions, however, by the arrival of Ali and Kelly, followed almost immediately by John Joe Horan and Frances Halleran.

The Republican is eager to press the flesh amongst his supporters, while Frances follows along with kisses for the girls and handshakes for the lads.

When he gets to me he claps his hands and as I get up he slaps my shoulders.

‘We’ll have some good craic here tonight,’ he says. ‘And I hope you’ll help us celebrate with a song.’

I grin inanely while Horan kisses each of Heidi’s cheeks and gives Paval a wink. Frances then comes in discreetly to squeeze my hand.

‘I had a call from Briege,’ she tells me in a low voice, ‘and she’s distraught … would you talk to her, Rudi. Tell her she’s got it all ahead of her … try to reassure her – please!’

I hardly know the woman… but for you, Frances – of course I’ll straighten her out. We’ll have a consoling chat tomorrow. I’ll empathise and tell her about my great uncle, who knew Henry Miller in Paris before he got famous with the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

There’s a part of Horan’s bride-to-be that would like to stop and talk about the mental and emotional state of her childhood friend. She might also like to refer to her father, who’s not best pleased with the idea of her marriage. She might even confide with me, in the absence of Briege, about how her Da could –if the situation got out of hand – harm his prospective son-in-law. But John Joe’s oblivious to all of this, and he needs his woman by his side as his guys queue up to pay court to the happy couple.

Heidi wants to talk some more about the situation in Europe, and how confused liberals and mendacious socialists have combined to destroy traditional family structures.

‘All of these laws and attitudes that they encourage favour criminals and anti-social elements who have no roots in our society … they are taking us down to the lowest level.’

I nod like I understand, but Ali Talibe is about to launch the evening’s entertainment with his version of an Irish rebel song about the patriot, Kevin Barry.

It’s an item that an astute documentary filmmaker might have used for a whole TV series. It summons up an emotive segment of English colonial history as the Indian Muslim clears his throat and pays homage with a fine voice to the martyred Irish hero.

‘I need fresh air,’ Heidi says when Ali finishes his ballad and Paval squeezes out from behind their table to ‘go for the washroom’ as he puts it. A group of fiddlers are tuning up their instruments and getting ready for a proper ceidhli dance.

‘It’s hot,’ I say without thinking.

‘So … do you want to come out with me onto the quay?’

OK – but what about Paval? Only Heidi’s ready for this.

‘We are not lovers – just friends,’ she explains.

‘Right –’

And it would of course be churlish not to take a short stroll with her. It’s a lovely evening with a full moon, and the RoaringwaterBay is unusually calm as it laps up against the quay at Hagen’s Point.

‘You haf a woman now?’ Heidi asks when we slip out of the bar and walk slowly along the cobbled terrace.

‘Not quite,’ I tell her.

‘And what does that mean?’

My marital partner and I have decided on a separation, Fraulein – and although we’re not divorced, it’s unlikely we’ll be getting back together again in meaningful way. Meanwhile, however – I have in Dublin, just the other day…

‘You want to go over there by that pile of turf?’ she asks.

Freshly cut sods built up with sloping sides and a tarpaulin over the top to keep the rain off.

‘Sure – but what for?’ I ask naively.

‘Come … I’ll show you,’ Heidi suggests.

Years back, on Long Island Sound, there was the older sister of a school friend who made a similar suggestion. Only she was ravishing and Jewish, which seemed OK. Whereas Heidi Bannerman reminds me of a Gulf War Sergeant in the Special Forces, who has no time for outsiders of any description – but especially coloured people and Jews.

‘I don’t  …’

‘You want to fuck me now – here?’

We’ve reached a mini-mountain of peaty brown turf, and I find myself in an impossible situation. I should of course protest. Maybe make a polite excuse about non-specific urethritis – or the fact that I’m on a debilitating medication that precludes sex.

It’s pointless though, because Heidi from Vienna has undone my zip and now has a hold on my member. I’m opening my mouth to say something – anything that might make a difference, but she’s drawing me in eagerly with a salivating tongue.

To read more or to buy HARPS & TEARS please go to my home page above,  or directly to Amazon on    which includes all of my books.  There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to my other stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 61 – Smiley robber boys by the Potomac in Washington – chapter excerpt from WEIMAR VIBES

Chapter 27

            Outside the White House, there are children with miniature American flags. They’re being marshalled together by a strict, no nonsense teacher. She’s got horn-rimmed spectacles and her grey hair is tied up in a tight bun.

            ‘Come on now, you all,’ she commands. ‘I want you standing in line, waving, when the President comes out onto the lawn with the Chinese Premier. It’s an historical occasion.’

            I’m walking towards the Potomac River when I call Levinia. We agree to meet by the Washington Monument. The sun’s out and I’m feeling good when I notice the veterans. Some are in wheelchairs, and they’re trying to sell souvenirs to embarrassed tourists.

            ‘You want to buy a painting, bud?’ one of them asks, holding up a postcard-sized impression of the Grand Canyon.

            It’s nicely done, and I’m hooked. ‘How much?’

            ‘Whatever you like … you decide,’ the veteran says.

            I’ve got tens and twenties in my wallet, so I give him a couple of each.

            ‘You’re English – right?’

            Not quite … right now, I’m like an honorary adopted citizen.

            ‘Hey – but you got problems over there,’ the vet says and I agree. I suddenly feel I’m very fortunate. Well – I’ve got all of my limbs, and I’m on the point of giving the Iraqi war vet the rest of my money when Levinia pulls up in a battered Buick.

            ‘You really are a soft touch,’ she says when I show her my $60 oil daub. ‘And I’m in trouble.’

            ‘Why?’

            ‘Because I got my timings wrong on your meeting with the President. Bill McKay from the Home Office wanted you to bring something up. I only spoke with him after you had gone into the White house … and now I’m being blamed for a missed opportunity. ‘

            ‘Ah – ‘

            ‘Fucking politicians! They’re all useless wankers!

            She’s furious, but I don’t expect this sort of language. I see Levinia as a cool toff and I have to wait until she’s calmed down before I get the story. We’re apparently in serious financial difficulties back in the UK. The Government urgently needs an IMF bail-out loan, and McKay thought I might be able to get some US support. I would of course have been delighted to bring it up with the President. It’s too late now though. Levinia’s going on about how hopeless it all is at present across the pond. I’m admiring her knees when several gym-toned black youngsters appear.

            ‘Hi guys … you look like you’re lost,’ one of them says with a big grin.

            It’s the sort of thing you might read about in The Post or any of the other lurid tabloids I’ve worked on. Three big black boys, solicitous for our well being. Would they settle for whatever we had in our wallets, along with our watches, Levinia’s necklace and maybe the cheap Camden Passage ring I’ve got on my little finger?

            My controller freezes for a moment. The grinning black spokesboy relaxes. It’s a mistake, because she’s slamming the car door hard into his knees. One of his pals grabs a windscreen wiper on the Buick. He’s clinging on, so Levinia accelerates to dislodge him.

            ‘I think we’ll keep this to ourselves,’ she says. Two of the black youths are screaming obscenities, while the third clutches at his fractured kneecaps. ‘And now we’re going to party.’

            I’m gearing up for paunchy Congressmen and cosmetically altered women. But we’re approaching the more bohemian part of Georgetown and Levinia’s singing an operatic aria. She’s become unnervingly energised by our altercation with the Washington bad boys.

            ‘It may not be quite your thing,’ she says teasingly when we stop outside an up-market residence. ‘But if you don’t get lucky, I might cook you a meal later.’

            I’m slavering at the thought of Levinia with an apron around her svelte hips. For now though, we’re guests of a British publisher. He’s made a lot of money from tawdry mass market magazine titles, and there are a few familiar faces when we enter the mini mansion.

            ‘Yerra, Jezus, Flynn … I thought I’d find some cunt like youse here!’ a drink-addled Irish poet calls out.

            Levinia disappears in disgust. She doesn’t approve of drunks, especially Irish ones. This guy seems to be vaguely aware of what’s happening back across the pond. The remnants of a once great empire are now collapsing in England he claims with pleasure. Others want to come in and add their views.

            ‘We started out all right after the last war,’ a pornographic video maker suggests. ‘There were plenty of houses in a land fit for heroes. Harold Macmillan was right when he said we’d never had it so good … what’s happening now though … why has it all gone pear-shaped?’

            ‘I think we went overboard with a lot of liberal tosh,’ the editor of a UK broadsheet says. ‘We’d have been better off kicking ass and coming down hard on the low-lifes … I’m thinking about the birch here and three strikes and you’re out on the Isle of Wight for the rest of your life …we certainly need to bring back the death penalty.’

            They’re a mixed bunch, and there’s a lot of polite English understatement. But as the drink flows, politically correct inhibitions fade away.

            ‘Hitler would have been all right if he hadn’t gone AWOL on the Jews,’ a magazine columnist announces baldly. ‘And I’m in favour of rapists and child molesters having their balls lopped off …but what are we to do with Oscar Kerner and the Nationalists in Britain?’

            ‘I’d say they’re on a roll for the election – whenever it’s held,’ a scarred smackhead declares, ‘an you can see why.’

            ‘That’s all very well, darling, if you like chaps dressed up with uniforms and marching to Souza bands,’ a celebrity commentator chips in. ‘But what do you do if they actually come to power … because, frankly, I think we’d all be candidates for the gas chambers!’

            I’m thinking with increasing enthusiasm about Levinia’s offer of a meal. I need some decent conversation, but a vaguely familiar woman is approaching. She’s a punkette Newcastle novelist called Tracey, and it’s not looking good.

            ‘You’re a fuckin’ Nazi!’ she yells.

            ‘I beg your pardon – ‘

            ‘You ‘eard, you fuckin’ arsehole … an’ I bet your dick’s not up to much either!’

            I’m edging away, trying to give the impression I’ve never seen this person before in my life. I’m her target though. There’s froth oozing from her furiously twitching mouth.

            ‘You need a good kickin!’ she screams.

            ‘Excuse me – ‘

            ‘Fuck you – cunt … you’re late!’

            Her eyes are bulging and the wine’s leaving her glass. There’s good quality Sauvignon all over our host’s carpet and Levinia’s intervened. She’s knocked the punkette novelist’s ankles together and she’s steering me towards the front door.

            ‘Are you accident prone or just jinxed?’ she wants to know when we get to the street. ‘First there’s the McCutcheon woman assaulting you in a Greek lavatory. Now this crazed creature … what is it, Rudi, that has you bringing out the angry beast in us girls?’

            I’m trying to breath in deeply to four and out on eight. I think it’s working, but I don’t have any answers for my controller. I’ll have to check with McVeigh. My feeling though is that I’m not particularly unpleasant or disagreeable. I just seem to keep drifting inexorably into lethal target zones for crazy people.

            ‘I’m sorry about that,’ I say weakly while Levinia shakes her head.

            We’re driving into a tree-lined cul-de-sac when she suddenly smiles.

            ‘I’m just camping here,’ she explains pulling up outside a modest, rather ordinary house. ‘It’s rented by one of our Embassy staff, who is presently on leave.’

            Inside, the living room is strewn with newspapers and computer printouts. ‘It’s a mess,’ she says apologetically, ‘and I’m not really into cooking. Would you like spaghetti?’

             ‘Yes – but not with prawns, please. I’m allergic to fish.’

            I’m thinking of Tracey, the punkette novelist who attacked me. I’ve never experienced such furious vitriol. It’s worrying. I couldn’t cope with a repeat assault.

            ‘Would you open these,’ Levinia asks.

            There’s a can of Bolognese sauce and a bottle of Californian red. I’m trying to insert the bottle opener into the can when she takes my arm.

            ‘Sit!’ she commands, pointing to a sofa. She then joins me with the wine.

            ‘You’re not really with us today, are you?’ she asks.

            ‘No –’

           I’m falling off Beachy Head or the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Our knees are touching on the sofa. At any other time, I’d be trembling with anticipation, but my libido’s asleep.

            ‘Cheers,’ she says, raising her glass.

            I swallow half the wine. I’m vaguely aware of her fingers on my thigh muscle.

            ‘You know we’re fucked, Rudi.’

            ‘Sorry – ‘

            What is she on about?

            ‘You saw those people earlier. Our English expats,’ she says with a dismissive flick through her flawless hair. ‘And it’s not just that ridiculous Tracey creature. We’ve all been affected. We’ve descended into decadence and despair. I believe that as a society in the UK, we’re finished. Our only hope is to be re-born and start again with new leadership.

            I’m thinking Mormons maybe, or Jehovah Witnesses. She’s been got at; no question. It could be mind-altering drugs slipped into her elevenses by dubious political moles posing as colleagues. Anything’s possible, and it’s dispiriting. Could a little romance turn her around? I put my hand on the one that’s on my leg. I’ll try an emotionally stimulating dialogue. It get’s me a smile, but Levinia’s on her own track. She’s describing a world where transvestites sing in sleazy clubs and bars. Adults are almost beyond redemption while our youths are corrupted by cynical degenerates. Sodom and Gomorrah is the watchword and we’re all going south.

            ‘Come on,’ I say recklessly. ‘We may have slipped a bit, but there’s got to be a way forward.’

            ‘Oh there is … and I think your friend Oscar Kerner is taking us there.’

            This is worrying. Kerner’s not my friend any more, and Levinia works for Her Majesty’s Department of Defence Intelligence. Unless I’ve misinterpreted what she’s saying, we could be looking at treason and complicity charges from the Crown Prosecution Service.

            ‘I think it’s probably best if I ignore that,’ I say primly.

I don’t want to even fleetingly think that my Controller could be batting for the other side. She’s having a laugh by being outrageous. It makes people sit up and take notice. Only she’s moved in closer. Her toned thigh is nestling up against mine and her eyes are coming on to me.

          ‘Are you shocked by my frankness?’ she asks playfully.

          I most certainly am. It’s disgraceful, but I’m also taking in the fullness of her lips.

          ‘I feel such views are inconsistent with your job,’ I tell her. A pompous observation might do the trick.

          ‘So you think I should resign?’

          ‘If you’re supporting Kerner, yes – I do.’

         She refills our glasses. Her fingers then run through my hair to the back of my neck.

         ‘I think you’re a prig,’ she says cuttingly. ‘You may also be a coward.’

         ‘Why?’

         ‘Because in your heart you know our political system is in terminal decline. We’re fucked, Rudi. Not just in the UK, but throughout Europe. Everyone acknowledges it. Democracy isn’t working; it’s a sham. We have too much unemployment and too many immigrants. People are angry. They want their countries back … the Nationalists know this. That’s why they’ll win.’

         ‘I think you’re exaggerating,’ I splutter when her fingers stop tickling the back of my neck and move inside the buttons of my shirt.

        ‘You said so yourself,’ she insists. In The Post … it’s time for a change … remember?

        ‘Yes – but …’

        ‘So the Nationalists are offering a way forward.’  There’s mischief in her eyes and her left breast is brushing up against my ribs. ‘You’re au fait with the Greeks … you’ve had a basic education, yes?

       ‘Of course – ‘

      ‘Well … all Kerner’s saying is that Aristotle’s got a terminal illness. He’s collapsing. Democracy, as we know it, is dead. It will soon be forgotten … while Plato, after a long sleep, is finally waking up and getting out of bed again.’

To read more or to buy WEIMAR VIBES please go to my home page above,  or directly to my Amazon Author Page on   which includes all of my books. There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to my other stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 60 – My President requests that I come to the White House – excerpts from WEIMAR VIBES

Chapter 25

            Twenty-four hours later, the moon’s up over Kent, or maybe it’s Surrey. We’ve had a blissful idyll. It’s over though. A car with a police driver has arrived to take Julia back to London.

            ‘Next stop New York,’ Battersby tells me when he calls from Whitehall. It’s payback time for a rural break. I try not to think about what’s to follow. Would Julia spend the rest of her life with me? Will Saulie have a second family with Mairead? Will Oscar Kerner’s Nationalist Alliance win enough seats to form a Government at Westminster?

            Fidgety dreams turn to nightmares. I’m in the dreaded Danzig Corridor: A depressing place where reason is sidelined. Unemployed Hitler Youth Brownshirts chant aggressively. They’re up against Communist teenagers who are waving pictures of Lenin.

            In the morning, Mrs Beamish brings me tea and toast. ‘Your driver’s waiting downstairs,’ she tells me. ‘Mr Battersby says you need to check in by nine.’

            No time to lounge in the bath, although I do manage a shave. My driver talks about footballers WAGs all the way to Heathrow. He wants to open a bar in Palma with the girlfriend of a disgraced Middlesborough player.

            ‘I’ve had it with the UK,’ he says. ‘There’s no common sense any more. It’s all going South, believe me, I was brought up in Streatham … it was just white families then.’

            At Heathrow, a female newscaster smiles sweetly from a TV monitor. ‘During the night, in Uzbeckistan,’ she says, ‘the Russian Army rounded up more dissidents and there were missile attacks across the border with Chechnya …there have also been riots in several European cities, and this morning Oscar Kerner addressed supporters of the French National Front …’

            There’s a shot of the Bois de Bologne in Paris. I can see acres of militant rightists, and then a close-up of Oscar.

            ‘The right is on the march all over Europe,’ he declares confidently. He’s definitely speaking from the diaphragm. ‘Our cause is just, and we will win,’ he adds. ‘For we want full employment in Europe – for Europeans …the Turks may return to Anatolia …the Bosnians to Yugoslavia …the Africans to Africa …the Chinese to China …and the Asians to India and Pakistan …we want Europe for the Europeans!’

            The TV film cuts off after the first cheers. It’s worrying, and I’m aware of a little old lady sitting opposite me in the departure lounge.

            ‘Are you concerned about this?’ she asks.

            ‘Yes … I am.’

            ‘My aunt was taken from Bratislava by the Germans,’ she says after a while. ‘She taught mathematics to children at a Czech concentration camp. It was quite civilised for a while. Then, gradually, they started to eliminate the detainees … I saw some of the children’s drawings recently at a Jewish museum in Prague. They were very evocative.’

            We’re separated when we get on board the British Airways flight to New York. The little old lady goes up to First Class while I stay somewhere between business and economy. We meet again briefly when we land, and she puts a hand on my arm.

            ‘Take care,’ she says, ‘and try not to forget some of what has happened in the past.’

            A discreet and respectful New England type of chauffeur meets her. He puts her bags into a limousine, and we’re waving goodbye to each other when Levinia Howarth arrives.

            ‘Rudi,’ she says, taking my hand. ‘It’s good to see you.’

            Likewise, ma’am. He cheekbones are incredible and she’s uber cool. I’m getting stress in her eyes though. I’m also sensing a little distance between us on the cab ride to Manhattan.

            ‘You’re articulating a legitimate conservative position,’ she tells me when our Lebanese driver goes through a red light. ‘You’re already up and running as an acceptable right wing brand figure in the UK. Appearing on the Rad Budley show will give you serious international credibility … are you ready for this?’

            I don’t think so. I’m not sure where Levinia’s going. When I first met her in Whitehall, I was knocked out. I thought she was awesome. Cool, in control and tantalising. I was an outsider coming from nowhere’sville. I slavered over her ankles, the possibility of her breasts, the silkiness of her hair and all sorts of other stuff. Now, I don’t know. She’s going through the motions. But I’m not sure if her heart’s still thrusting along with whatever it is she’s meant to be doing.

            I can cope with Rad Budley though, I hope. I’ve already jumped into the pool. At times I think I’m drowning. I need a new therapist; a proper analyst. McVeigh’s been OK. Up to now, he’s reassured me in times of crisis. Only I feel he’s just been telling me whatever it is he thinks I want to hear. Which is fine; it keeps me going. But I need more challenging goals.

            ‘There are just two things to remember,’ Levinia says when we get to the downtown TV studios. ‘Don’t accept any alcohol and … no one wants to encourage extremists – ‘

            ‘Right – ‘

            ‘But the view in Whitehall now is that red fascists on the streets are more of a problem than the other sort.’

            I’m confused by this. What she seems to be saying is that libs, lefties and PC persons are – once they start demonstrating – more of a threat to stability than Kerner’s Nationalists. I thought it was the other way around, but I’m in the hands of a production assistant who’s offering me a drink.

            ‘We’ve got spirits or soft drinks,’ she says.

            ‘Whisky would be great, thanks … maybe Scotch if you have any.’

            I can see Levinia in the front row of the auditorium. There are several hundred guests and many of them are black. I’m trying to imagine an intimate moment with my controller. It’s out of the question now, of course, but I’m fantasising around her physical and mental assets, which are considerable and tempting, when I get a hearty thump on the back.

            ‘Hi ye, Rudi … it’s good to meet you, sir,’ Rad Budley says. ‘I’ve seen a tape of your show in London on the BBC. It sure as hell was scary… we’re ready for you here now though … we’re on when you see the red light. You got that, my man?’

            I nod and follow my seriously overweight talk show host out a stage. There’s a bit of hand clapping from the audience when we sit grinning at each around a curved desk.

            ‘Hello …good day …and welcome,’ Rad says to a camera. He then waves at the audience who clap back with enthusiasm. ‘We got a visitor from London, England, folks … and I’d like you to give a genuine, all American, Big Apple hand for our first guest today … ladies and gentlemen …it’s Rudi Flynn!’

            I remember to grin and open my hands in welcoming acknowledgement as the audience shows their appreciation.

            ‘Rudi …you’ve got problems in England right now …’

            ‘We certainly have, Rad … in fact, I’d say this is the most challenging period British people have had to face since the end of the Second World War.’

            ‘Gee – that’s kinda awesome – ‘

            ‘It certainly is … but there’s a similar situation in the rest of Europe. I think it’s true to say that the problems we’re facing are now fanning out around the world.’

            ‘We have indications of that,’ Rad says, gesturing up at the studio TV monitors, ‘and it’s kinda unbelievable!’

            The pictures show noisy left and right-wing activists rioting around Europe. There’s also a report on violent eruptions in Australia. Workers in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide are unhappy about losing their jobs. What’s really getting to them, however, is that their Government can’t afford to reimburse them for being unemployed, so they’re totally broke.

            ‘Rudi – you’re a pretty outspoken guy back in England …can you tell us what’s causing all of this mayhem and disorder?’

            ‘Unemployment, Rad. People are loosing their jobs because of a downturn in the international economy. There just isn’t the cash any more to give us the sort of welfare cushion most of us have come to expect … and it’s starting to hurt.’

            Rad’s grinning and nodding. What he really wants to talk about are the Nationalists in the UK. How come some of these guys recently had poster pictures of Adolf Hitler, which they were waving enthusiastically on demonstrations?

            ‘And my researchers tell me, Rudi, that you once hung out with the Nazi, Oscar Kerner …now correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t he happy to call himself a fascist …he’s certainly on record as saying that Hitler, Mussolini and Franco were all on the right track.’

            Budley’s clearly an outrageous egomaniac, whose only concern is for his ratings. So I ignore the stuff about Kerner. I go instead for the main scapegoat issues, like how the socialists and liberals are blaming governments, free markets and their Nationalist opponents for what’s going wrong. While the Nationalists, I suggest, see immigration, crime, asylum seekers, guest workers, poor education and lax moral standards as the main problem areas.

            ‘On the moral standards issue, Rudi, I guess you mean that European Nationalists are not too keen on the idea of abortion?’

            ‘Right – ‘

            ‘And I assume they also have reservations about homosexuals and lesbians getting together for sexual relations …am I right on this?’

            ‘Absolutely – ‘

            ‘And why is that?’

            ‘Well – I suppose they feel that these are corrupting influences.’

            ‘Would you agree with this?’

            ‘No – not at all. I believe we should be tolerant and understanding on these matters … so long as they don’t involve youngsters or impinge unnecessarily on other people.’

            ‘But your buddy, Oscar Kerner, wants to imprison homosexuals and ban abortion … I’ve also heard he wants to deport coloured folk from Europe and the United Kingdom.’

            ‘Kerner’s not my buddy,’ I say firmly. ‘I think he’s seriously misguided on a whole range of issues. OK – we were due to share a platform in Athens last week at the International Policy Studies Forum. I feel, however, that my views are altogether more in tune with reasonable people than Herr Führer Doktor Oscar’s are …’

            ‘But …’

            ‘And the fact that we were acquaintances once, briefly at college, is simply a coincidence. Adolf Hitler went to school in Vienna with the Jewish philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein … I don’t think it was an association that was particularly relevant.’

            I’m on guard here. It’s like fencing with rapiers. My adversaries in London have blown me up. Budley’s waiting for me to take a fall. Up to now I’ve ignored the audience. They’re there in the background, but as clips from my session with Bill Hitchcock and the BBC’s wrecked analysis studio come up on the monitors, I’m sensing empathy. I have a feeling the people out there in the semi-darkness are with me.

            ‘Rudi – why did these guys try to kill you?’ Rad Budley wants to know. ‘Was it because of what you think …I mean, your political views and stuff?’

             This is the sort of opportunity I’m being paid to reach out for and embrace. Her Majesty has high expectations, although my Controller seems to be looking up at the ceiling.

            ‘I believe it’s pretty straightforward, Rad,’ I say while trying to embrace my audience with friendly eye contact and positive body language. ‘Many of us have allowed ourselves to drift away from fundamental values in recent years. In Britain … and I suspect in other places, we’ve come to rely far too much on the provision of welfare benefits by the state … and frequently, these benefits are for people who don’t really need them …

            ‘This causes problems when you get unemployment on the scale we have it today around the world. We have also allowed our educational standards to slip – quite seriously, I believe in numeracy and literacy …

            ‘But at the very heart of so many of our difficulties today, there’s a sort of moral bankruptcy. We seem to have lost our way. In many instances, we have quite simply forgotten what is right and what is wrong … this is where the changes have to start from, Rad … we need serious moral regeneration!’

            The audience is already on their feet. They’re led by a core group of Afro-American Christian fundamentalists, who are clapping, whooping and yelling with approval.

            ‘Thank you …thank you, Rudi Flynn!’ Rad Budley shouts with all of the sincerity and enthusiasm he can manage. He’s got a hit on his show today. He needs to stay with the vibe. His studio audience is all fired up. The guys leading the show from the floor frequently have network viewers across the United States and beyond. Right now, the cameras and Rad Budley’s producers are picking up on a storm of spontaneous applause.

            ‘Hey – shit! This Rudi Flynn’s hot … no one’s heard of him, but our lines are    all blocked. We’ve got thousands calling in. Who is this guy? We need to talk, man!’

Chapter 26

          There are photographers and TV people waiting outside. ‘Did you assault Fiona McCutcheon in a Greek lavatory?’ is the main question. Followed by: ‘Are you a fascist, Rudi?’ and ‘Is Europe now like Germany was in the thirties?’ I don’t think Levinia’s doing a brilliant job as my PR fixer/minder. I mean, I’m meant to be edging Oscar Kerner out of the frame as a silent majority hero. My message is clear: I’m heading up a crusade for decent people. I’m a standard bearer for those who want a return to good old fashioned moral values.

         ‘I’m sorry about all of this,’ she says when we get to a hotel overlooking Central Park. ‘I’ve got a few problems, Rudi. You were wonderful on the Rad Budley show. It’s all going the right way, but there’s stuff I have to sort out.’

         Fine. I’ll watch TV. I might go down to the Village. We could meet later. But please, could she get it together and tell me what else, if anything, I’m meant to be doing in here.

         ‘Of course – ‘

         She’s giving me some of the awesome Levinia now. Focused, in control and looking pretty incredible.

         ‘I’ll call you,’ she assures me.

         I hope so. There’s a promising smile in her eyes. We’ll maybe salsa a little later. I’m in love with Julia Stein, but there’s something about Levinia that intrigues me. I want to see the way her hips move with the music. Her Majesty is well served by such bright and dedicated people. They’re the back bone of England’s green and pleasant land.

        ‘Rudi – ‘ I’ve fallen asleep in my clothes. The TV’s still on and the sun’s coming in.

       ‘Yes –’

       ‘Are you all right?’ my controller asks when I open the hotel room door.

       We’re on the twenty second floor and it’s time for breakfast.

       ‘I called you several times last night,’ she tells me, ‘but your mobile was switched off.’

       I’m losing it. I can’t cope with urban living. Something rural is what I need: Milking cows, ploughing fields and drinking with locals at the harvest festival. I’m still in a daze. Is Levinia wearing a purple basque? Or is that a very together business suit, with maybe suspenders holding up her stockings underneath the skirt?

       A boy has arrived with coffee, doughnuts, cheese, bagels and salt beef. I feel ill in the bathroom. There are three miniature whisky bottles in a bin under the sink. Are they mine?

        ‘I’m sorry,’ I say when I come out. ‘It’s the jet lag.’ I’m totally confused. I’m not sure what I’m meant to be doing any more, and with all due deference to Her Majesty, I’d just as soon take my chances as an unemployed hack with no home and a drink problem.

        ‘Something’s happened,’ Levinia says when I’ve tried a doughnut dunked in coffee.

        ‘Right – ‘

        ‘We’ve got to go to Washington.’

        ‘What for?’

        She’s standing in front of a huge window looking out on Central Park.

        ‘Apparently, the President liked the way you came across on the Rad Budley show. He wants to meet you.’

        Fuck me! Stand tall; straight back and feet together. Salute the Stars and Stripes as the Commander-in-Chief approaches to shake my hand in the Oval Office. I need to talk with Ray McVeigh. Suddenly, I’ve got Neuro-Linguistic Programming anchors fighting for space in my head. Sailing boats in a storm, Princess Diana, Julia Stein and my transcendental meditation mantra are all competing and my hands are shaking.

        ‘What shall I say?’ I ask.

        ‘Just be yourself, Rudi. Tell him how you feel about what’s happening in the UK.’

        ‘We’re falling apart, sir. Our moral fibre’s collapsing. We need strong leadership. Only I don’t think Oscar’s the one. A local person would be better: a Churchill figure, perhaps. But political talent’s in short supply just now at Westminster.’

            ‘No time to dawdle,’ she says when I’ve showered and shaved. ‘We’ve got a helicopter to take us to Washington … and if you’re free later, there’s a do in Georgetown.’

            That would be great, provided I don’t fall asleep again. I’d like to take in the Ground Zero site here in New York, and maybe the Empire State building. If there’s a day free before I go back to London, maybe I could also make a short trip out to the Hamptons.

            ‘Come on,’ Levinia says, steering me towards the door. ‘Duty calls.’

            The cab driver shrugs and shakes his head when I ask if he can make a detour to take in the Ground Zero site. There’s a traffic jam, he says. He can’t be arsed, so it’s not possible. I’m looking forward to the helicopter ride, but I’m feeling ill. I think it’s the doughnut I dunked in the coffee at breakfast.

            ‘Are you up for this?’ Levinia asks when we stop at a Government building in Lower Manhattan.  Our Chinook’s on the roof, and when we’ve shaken hands with the Marine Corps pilot, he offers us each a can of coke.

            I daren’t touch the stuff. Levinia’s looking at me like I’m a wimp. ‘You can’t cut it,’ she’s thinking, but I’m busy fighting an urge to vomit. I miss out on what I’m sure are great views and I’m trying to meditate when we come in over Capitol Hill. Levinia’s on the phone as we land and she sounds agitated.

            ‘I can’t go with you,’ she says. ‘Someone in Whitehall’s trying to contact me. I’ll be waiting when you’re finished at the White House though … so call me – and good luck.’

           I’ve got a British Embassy driver for my short run to the White House. He’s a discreet but friendly Essex man, who tells me he’s hoping buy a house and settle in the States.

          ‘I just can’t see where we’re going in England no more, guv … It’s a foreign country.’

          It would be helpful if I could get him to expand on this. I need something solid to bat and ball with the President. We’re at the gates now though. I’ve got a Marine escort and my Essex driver’s giving me a subtle sort of ‘good luck, guv, and take care’ farewell wave.

          ‘It’s a pleasure to meet with you, sir,’ a guy with a buttoned down shirt collar and a thin veneer of charm says when I’ve been checked by security. ‘I’m Harvey Wallenstein … and this is Gloria Gilhooly.’

          She’s got big feet in flat shoes, and her eyes are wandering all over the place.

          ‘Miss Gilhooly is our President’s Special Advisor on Northern Ireland,’ Harvey says. ‘So I’ll leave you two together, Mr Flynn.’

          This is a mistake, surely. I’ve only ever done human interest in the Province: Sex, drugs and repressed perversions amongst the warring factions who are now in bed together.

          ‘It’s so difficult for the Brits at the moment,’ Miss Gilhooly says as we start walking. ‘I’m wondering though … do you have any Irish connections?’

         Boatloads, ma’am – although I’m presently working for Her Majesty.

         ‘Only – we’re concerned about the effects of nationalism at the moment in England,’ she confides. ‘We feel events in Northern Ireland may have impacted to some extent on what you guys are going through just now.’

         ‘Really?’

        ‘Well – I guess I’m thinking about linkages between Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland and National Socialist rallies in Nuremberg during the nineteen thirties. The connections may be tenuous historically … but I’m sure you know what I mean.’

        I don’t. But another aide has arrived and I’m being led towards the Oval Office. It’s smaller than I expected and I’m feeling nauseous again.

        ‘It’s good to meet you, Rudi,’ the President says. I immediately recognise his strong, media friendly face. There’s also a firm, welcoming handshake. ‘And you got my sympathy!’

        ‘I do appreciate that, sir.’ I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but …

        ‘Oh yes … I’ve had my own run-ins with that McCutcheon woman … and boy, she sure as hell doesn’t take any prisoners!’

        There’s immediate bonding between the two of us. The President’s a great guy. We could easily spend time discussing the likes of Fiona McCutcheon and what we have to do just to avoid summary castration. There are other even more pressing issues, however, and what’s happening in Europe is top of the list.

       ‘I’m wondering, Rudi,’ the great man asks, ‘what it might take for one of the major players to go all the way and elect an unashamedly right-wing nationalist government?’

       ‘It’s difficult to say, sir,’ I answer respectfully. ‘The French are possibly closer to that outcome than the British, but that’s because of their electoral system.’

       ‘So we’re talkin’ proportional representation here, Rudi?’

       ‘Yes sir – it gives the smaller, more extreme parties, such as the National Front, a disproportionate influence in French politics. They’ve got a winner takes all situation in the UK. However, a lot of traditional Labour and Conservative voters are swinging decisively towards the Nationalists.

        ‘So these Kerner people could actually win in England?’

        ‘Yes, sir – it’s quite possible.’

        The President’s thinking about this. If America’s main ally in Europe suddenly swings over to the extreme right, it could have implications for the Special Relationship – especially amongst liberals in the US Congress. It’s taxing stuff, but the President’s keen to move on.

        ‘I watched you last night with that asshole, Budley,’ he says, and there’s a big, down home grin spreading across his rugged, sun-burned face. ‘I was impressed, Rudi. He didn’t phase you at all … not one bit, man! Only I guess I got to ask … what is it that drives this guy, Kerner? I mean, you do actually know him, right?

        ‘Yes, sir.’ I’ve got to put my hand up to that. We shared squalid student lodgings for a year in California. I wish now I’d never met the fucker, but in answer to your question, sir. ‘I think he’s quite idealistic. He sort of latched onto the whole Plato versus Aristotle thing a while back. He’s not into democracy. I don’t believe he ever has been.’

       ‘So he’s really into all of this philosophy stuff?’

       ‘Exactly – and he can be very persuasive, Mr President. He’s got a lot of crowd appeal. He’s got a way of tapping into the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people, especially indigenous white workers and middle class families.’

       ‘The guys a racist though,’ the US Commander-in-Chief says bluntly. ‘I mean, hell, Rudi … all that stuff about shippin’ back asylum seekers an’ immigrants – an’ people of colour … good lord God almighty, that could be Adolf Hitler, Bennet Mussolini or Spanish Franco!’

       I understand where the most powerful man in the world is coming from. Kerner is popular, however. His appeal is growing each day, especially in the UK. He may well secretly prefer boys to girls – in fact, I’m sure he does. At the moment though, he’s coming across as a celibate ascetic. Battersby’s attempt to smear him in Athens as a sexual deviant failed. So much so, that Oscar is now branding homosexual promiscuity as criminally offensive. A wayward proclivity that makes decent folk feel threatened and uneasy.

        ‘Mind – I’ll tell you, Rudi,’ the President says when an aide comes in to let him know that the Chinese Prime Minister has arrived. ‘Whatever about this guy Kerner, I like the way you’re addressing all the big issues we’re facing at the moment. You’re a credit to your country, man. I hope you’ll come back to us soon … if you ever decide you want to do some public speaking here I’d like you to know you’ll have my personal endorsement.’

        I’m flattered. It could well be an option if Her Majesty feels I’ve done my bit in England. The President’s got a busy schedule though, and when we’ve swopped a few thoughts on Stratford-upon-Avon and the Scottish Highlands, Harvey Wallenstein reappears. It’s time for us to shake hands and wish each other well. There’s a certain protocol for US Presidential visitors. It’s subtle but straightforward. I’ve had my fifteen or twenty minutes with the great man, and that’s it, buddy. I’m on my way out of the Oval Office through an anonymous side door. It’s a speedy exit, and it has to be, for as I leave, the Chinese President is being welcomed in with smiles, salutes and firm flesh-pressing at the main entrance.

To read more or to buy WEIMAR VIBES please go to my home page above,  or directly to my Amazon Author Page on   which has links to all of  my books.  There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to my other stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 59 – Carla suggests a water-boarding session – excerpts from DARK CLOUDS

Chapter 14

I’m moving quickly; shuffling and speed-walking towards the door. Downstairs, in the Claridges lobby, my Valkyrie princess is waiting.

‘I hope you don’t mind my not coming up to join you,’ she says. ‘It’s just that Fiona was a little strange when we spoke on the phone … I think she has this idea that we might spend intimate time together.’

I’m very disappointed in my neighbour, Fiona Adler, and I shall say so when I next see her.

‘Let’s go and eat or have a drink,’ I suggest and Ingrid responds with a promising kiss on my cheek.

I think I’m in love. It hasn’t been like this since Faria held my face in her hands on the Lower East Side and smiled silently.

‘I want to tell you about my secret life, Rudi,’ Ingrid says.

I’m intrigued but a little concerned. Is she involved with a Scandinavian billionaire? If she is, I can’t compete. But it’s a long and fascinating story that starts over a cocktail in a small French restaurant and ends blissfully in the Islington house where I’m staying.

‘I’ve had this dream for several years,’ she says. ‘I’m living in a Montparnasse attic when, one evening, I meet someone in a café on the Boulevard St Germain. He’s a little older than I am but he’s very confident, and I like him.’

I’m worried about the competition, but Ingrid wants to involve me. ‘He’s a painter,’ she says, ‘and his work is popular … I think I’m falling in love with him, Rudi, so we go back to his studio in Montmartre.’

OK – it’s all bliss with Fabio whoever or Pablo ‘I’m the hottest thing in town!’

 ‘Right – ‘

‘And I think it’s the same for artists everywhere. We all need our eureka moments – and that’s what I got from Claude.’

I need a sense of perspective here. ‘Stay cool, fellah. Go with the flow. Ingrid Cesaro is an artist. These people think outside the box all the time.’ I must try not to see Claude from a hundred and thirty years ago as a rival. He’s more of an inspiration, I guess: A role model whose jacket I might try on and walk around in for a while.

‘You’ve completely bowled me over,’ I tell Ingrid when we’ve sipped at some cocoa in Islington and finally made it to my bedroom at the top of the house.’

‘So you will come to Newcastle to see my exhibition?’

Of course. I’ve already Googled the gallery, but Ingrid wants to probe a little.

We’re down to our most basic underwear and I’m overly excited by the incredible proximity of a Norwegian goddess.

‘Your great grandmother, Róisín,’ she says as our chests come together. ‘What drove her to become a Fenian rebel?’

It’s difficult to concentrate. Ingrid’s aura is overwhelming as she caresses my back and buttocks. We need to embrace and go through a physical and emotional tsunami.

‘But first I want to know about Róisín, Rudy.’

Titanium controls. That’s what I need as I try to shift my brain back a hundred years while ignoring the incredible carnality of Ingrid’s almost naked presence.

‘She loved this Protestant,’ I stammer. ‘And I imagine that it was an intensely physical and mutually agreeable relationship.’

I can see it happening as I speak. Róisín and Piers embracing by the lake at Ballyalla. They’re in love and they don’t care about what other people think. Protestant Piers’ land-owning father, Sir Robert, has other ideas however. He’ll not have his son and heir canoodling with a Catholic.

The boy is packed off to oversee sheep-farming interests in Australia and Róisín is distraught. She falls into the welcoming arms of Fenian nationalists, and while she’s preparing for a rising against His Majesty, a vibrant rebel leader appears. He’s handsome and courageous. They fall in love, but her man is then ambushed and shot. Róisín’s ailing husband, Pat, has died and now her emotional star has disappeared. What is she to do? Well, the civil war is over in Ireland. The rebels have to rebuild their country. They’ll need strong men and women like Róisín … only that’s another story.

‘The thing is though,’ I say to Ingrid. ‘I see Róisín’s daughter, Joanie, as a follow-up heroine. ‘She’s with SOE in France during World War 2. She’s got all of her mother’s passion. She saves lives and thwarts the Germans. It could go either way. But she survives the war and is decorated by the King in London on VE day.’

‘Oh my god!’ Ingrid’s pulling me in close and I’m thinking passionate mermaids with a cheeky fin locked around my throbbing calves.’

‘I love these stories, Rudi … is there another?’

Maybe – possibly; if I can get my head into it. I can’t concentrate though. I’m totally overwhelmed. Ingrid’s taking me to another planet. The journey’s exciting beyond my wildest dreams, and when we finally arrive, I’m waiting for the good lord and mother Mary to step down from a celestial cloud.

_______________________________

I’m thinking log cabins and loveable Nordic children when the dawn comes up, followed by a hint of sunshine. It’s perfect, but my mobile’s ringing on the bedroom floor.

‘Rudi?’

Holy Jesus – it’s Carla Hirsch!

‘What do you want?’

‘We’re outside your house, and we want you to join us.’

But it’s six in the morning. The birds have only just woken up.

‘Now – please … immediately!’

Did something go wrong with Fiona Adler? Am I about to get an indignant earful from a spurned and disappointed lover? I write a note for Ingrid and leave it on the pillow beside her fragrant blonde hair. ‘I’ve been called away, honey …but see you soonest.’

Earl’s people carrier with the smoked glass windows is parked under a drooping robinia tree just outside my front door. Robson’s beside him in the front and Carla Hirsch is on her mobile in the back.

‘We’re going to see Jeremy Wagstaff,’ she tells me as Earl leaves Crowndale Square. She’s wearing an expensive looking scarf around her slender neck, and as she turns, I think I’m catching what looks like a small bruise: The remains perhaps of a passionate bite. We’re heading into unfamiliar territory. There are Turkish stores on the Green Lanes, and it’s a little edgy until we cut off towards Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace. Someone I know lives here and he says he’s got psychiatric analysts on either side of his Edwardian home.

Carla’s preoccupied with text messages and voice mails while Earl and Robson concentrate on the built in sat nav screen. We’re entering a quiet tree-lined street when I’m aware of anonymous vans parked at intervals outside the houses.

‘Surprise is crucial here,’ Earl explains. ‘We’ve had surveillance vehicles in place during the night and it seems that Wagstaff’s wife, Annalise, has just left the house.’

‘She was wearing slippers and a cardigan,’ one of the observers reports. ‘So she could just have popped out to get something.’

‘Very good,’ Carla says, snapping the lid shut on her mobile. ‘We’ll go straight in and see what happens.’

So – what about me? I ask. Shall I wait here? That would be my preference. I could maybe listen to the radio or experiment with the sat nav. Carla’s not amused by my flippancy, however.

‘Listen,’ she says, homing in for a moment like I’m a pathetically inadequate encumbrance. ‘We need to go in hard with this asshole – and we don’t leave until we have a result. So try to keep your wits about you, Rudi. Maybe think of it as the assignment that makes or breaks your career. Only the stakes are higher … because if we don’t get lucky with this guy, a lot of people could die.’

I’m suitably chastened. We’ve got a D-Day situation and Commander Hirsch is in the lead landing-craft. A few curtains twitch as we disembark and Earl presses a bell on the door of a fading villa that was built – according to a plaque on the gatepost – in 1911. There’s no one else out on the street, but Robson’s fondling the holster under his left arm when we hear footsteps in the hallway.

‘Jeremy Wagstaff?’ Earl asks formally when the glass-panelled front door opens.

‘Yes – ‘

‘We’re police officers, and we have a warrant to search your house, sir.’

‘But you’re a …’ He stumbles, pointing at me as Earl waves his ID card and a warrant. Three more plain clothes officers have now slipped out of a surveillance vehicle and Wagstaff, who’s only wearing a dressing gown, is being backed down the hallway.

‘We’ll start in the attic,’ Earl tells the anonymous officers while Carla Hirsch disconnects a house phone and beckons Wagstaff into a large living area that leads through an open plan kitchen to a sad, rather abandoned garden.

The place has potential, I’m thinking. But I don’t see too many signs of a happy family live as Wagstaff protests.

‘You can’t just come barging in here for no apparent reason … England’s not a police state yet you know. And just what precisely might I ask are you hoping to find in our house? We don’t smoke or drink or take drugs.’

‘Sit down and shut up!’ Carla commands, pushing him towards a sofa.

There’s a shocked look in Wagstaff’s righteous eyes. He’s never been spoken to like this before. It’s outrageous, and he’s gearing up for a second objection when there’s a commotion in the hallway.

‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ Annalise Wagstaff cries. ‘You’re welcome to the television, but I can assure you we don’t have anything else of any value!’

She calms down when she sees the police ID cards and two Anti-Terrorist officers escort her into the sitting room. She’s a dowdy, listless woman with spectacles and she clearly stopped thinking seriously about her appearance a while back.

‘Come in, honey,’ Carla says cheerily.

‘This is preposterous … we’re not criminals!’ Annalise shouts when she’s taken in her husband’s dressing gown on the sofa.

‘No, of course not,’ Carla concedes. ‘But I think your guy’s been playing away from home, babe.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well – this is kind of personal, ma’am … but can you honestly say that Jeremy here has really satisfied you in every way … and I mean emotionally as well as physically?’

This seems to be a subject that Annalise Wagstaff could talk about with the right person for some time. As it is though, she’s feeling both hard done by and furious.

‘Who are you?’ she screams, advancing on Carla. ‘You’re not British … you’re an intruder in my home … and I know someone who works for a national newspaper.’

My controller is quite enjoying being upbraided in this way, but as Wagstaff attempts to get up from the sofa she pushes him back down into the cushions. His wife then intervenes with flaying fists. It’s a brave gesture, but as she advances, Carla slaps her hard across the face, twice.

‘Sit down – and shut the fuck up, lady!’

‘But – ‘

‘Believe me. By the time we’re finished with you this morning, you’re not going to want to talk to anyone … and you know why?’

Annalise shakes her bedraggled hair and bites her lower lip. She has definitely misjudged Miss Hirsch’s capacity for assertiveness. Her hands are shaking and she’s glancing anxiously at her husband’s ankles when Earl appears with two Anti-Terrorist officers.

‘Jeez – there’s so much fucking junk in that attic,’ he says to Carla, ‘but I think we’ve found something interesting.’

His colleagues are carrying large boxes. One has a label that says, Sociology – pre- Thatcher while the other has a Recent Russian Politics sticker. Each box is filled with postcard-sized photographs, most of which have been stuffed into unlabelled envelopes. Wagstaff has suddenly become very pale and his dressing gown has slipped to reveal an unflattering view of definitely untoned thighs. His wife, Annalise, is staring fixedly at an ugly pattern on her stained slippers. Carla Hirsch smiles at both of them as she spreads photographs from the Sociology – pre-Thatcher box across a glass-topped IKEA coffee table.

‘Well … hot dickety, Jeremy!’ she exclaims. ‘And I think we could be speaking almost literally here, because you do seem to be unusually well endowed. Although, to be honest, if I had just met you socially for the first time, I’d probably have put you in the not too interesting – possibly under five inches category.’

Wagstaff is embarrassed and concerned. The situation is serious, and as his wife looks at him with a puzzled expression, he’s doing his best to avoid eye contact with her.

‘What are you talking about?’ she asks apprehensively. ‘And what are these photographs?’

‘I hate to break it to you this way,’ Carla says when she’s fanned out a few graphic images on the coffee table. ‘But your husband’s been a very naughty boy. In fact, I think he’s been a real prick, Annalise, because he doesn’t seem to have included you in any of the fun he’s been having.’

The guy in the dock is cornered, irrational and foolhardy when he gets up and charges towards me. ‘You fucking cunt!’ he yells.

I’m retreating, but I get kicked hard between my legs before Wagstaff is manhandled back into the sofa by Earl’s Anti-Terrorist officers. His wife, Annalise, is meanwhile gazing in horror at the photographs of her husband’s organ being sucked, licked and accommodated anally by three different Thai boys, who in turn are satisfied by Jeremy.

‘You absolute fucking shit!’ she exclaims, kicking her husband mercilessly on his unprotected shins. ‘And presumably this all happened while you were representing the University?’

For it seems that the King’s Cross Academy had a reciprocal arrangement with a Bangkok polytechnic, which meant that Jeremy Wagstaff got to visit Thailand a couple of times a year to facilitate the transfer of UK degree schemes in sociology and political studies.

My testicles are numb, but Wagstaff has been fired up by the assault.

‘All right …big deal!’ he shouts. ‘So what the fuck do you want?’

‘I think we’ve got quite a little treasure trove here, Jeremy,’ Carla says. ‘And that’s without even opening the second box or going through the rest of your house, which of course we will.’

‘What do you mean?’ Wagstaff asks nonchalantly. ‘They’re just photographs. It was all a bit of fun … it’s not a big deal.’

‘Oh, but it is, honey,’ Carla says. ‘First off – you could … no – would lose your job if your Principal saw what you’ve been up to. They couldn’t afford to keep you on, sugar … and I don’t think anyone else would want to employ you, which could be tricky. Because my understanding is that you have a large mortgage on this house … and I don’t think your wife works, do you babe?’

Their marriage may be on the rocks. But whether they stay together or split up, their income requirements are important.

‘All right …what do you want?’ Wagstaff asks. His tone is petulant, but Carla’s cool.

‘There is an al-Qaeda cell operating here in London,’ she says matter-of-factly, almost like it’s no big deal. ‘We think they’re going to do something really silly, which could have a nuclear dimension … and we’d like you to help us stop them, Jeremy.’

Suddenly, it’s gone from sex with minors to conspiracy, treason and radiation. It’s big time stuff, and it could be jail for life.

‘I don’t know anything about these people,’ Wagstaff protests and there’s a red flush creeping up from his neck to his face.

‘But you are friendly with some fundamentalists,’ Carla says.

OK – he might put his hand up to this. He is after all a liberal, lefty academic in a multicultural institution. Talking to people with pro-Muslim views is part of his job.

‘It is a free country you know,’ he answers snootily. ‘People are permitted to have views and opinions … we’re not all die-hard neo-con supporters.’

I’m impressed by the way he’s standing up to my Controller even though my fragile nuts are still numb from the bastard’s kick. I think their marriage has had it. I can’t see Annalise ever forgiving her hubby for the way he romped around with the Thai boys. Only the plates are moving. Miss Hirsch has had enough fooling around. Her expression has hardened, and she wants results. I can sense it in the way her eyes and mouth are moving. It’s Guantanamo time for the Wagstaffs. Earl’s standing well back towards the door. He and his wife have just put down a sizeable deposit on a holiday home in Jamaica. He doesn’t want to jeopardise anything, but his mouth opens when Carla takes a Glock pistol and a small camera from her calf skin designer bag.

‘Fill that basin,’ she tells one of the Anti-Terrorist officers. He hesitates for a moment, but then goes to turn on a tap in the kitchen sink.

‘Now, Annalise – come here!’ she commands.

‘No … what do you want?’

‘Move your fucking ass, bitch!’

The cops are all up against the back wall and I’m feeling uneasy when my controller slips the safety catch on the Glock.

‘Take off your shirt,’ she says to Annalise.

‘No – I won’t!’

A single shot from the Glock goes through a Cuban lampshade in the ceiling. And as Annalise screams, Agent Hirsch rips her blouse apart. I can’t collude with any more of this. Wagstaff’s just soiled his pants, but it’s the sink full of water I’m worried about. It looks like water-boarding with extraordinary rendition in Muswell Hill. I’m moving forward when my controller glowers and fires her Glock again. A shot goes over my head; another shatters the remains of the Cuban lampshade and she’s pointing the pistol at Wagstaff’s slavering wife when the polyversity tutor vomits onto their Persian carpet.

‘No – please!’ he cries. ‘I’ll do whatever I can to help you …but no more of this … it’s not necessary!’

‘OK – ‘ my controller says as her suspects kneel and shake amidst the debris in their sitting room. ‘But if you fuck with me any more, I’ll take some photographs of you, Annalise, pleasuring your asshole husband. We’ll then enhance the shots and incorporate them with that stuff on the table.’

I can see the results selling around the world. Any tabloid editor with a flair for leverage would find Wagstaff’s errant youths in Thailand. They would of course be suitably pampered and rewarded. After which, they would deliver graphic accounts of how they had been maltreated and abused by the visiting tutor from the King’s Cross Academy.

None of that will now be necessary, however. Agent Hirsch has made her point. A woman police constable has been called in to take care of Annalise while an Anti-Terrorist officer escorts Wagstaff to the bathroom. We’re having a break before the interrogation begins and Earl has volunteered to make tea.

Chapter 15

 I’m still concerned about the sink full of water in the kitchen. It’s quite big and I can see a suspect’s head and neck being submerged. ‘This may not be Guantanamo in South Cuba, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq … but we can get whatever you have, fellah, simply by holding your head down under until you deliver for us.’

Wagstaff is subdued and respectful when he returns with clean trousers and underwear. Carla’s sitting at a large table in the kitchen. She motions her target to sit opposite her and Earl pulls out a chair between the two of them.

‘I think we’d better start with Mohammed Sharif, Jeremy … he has sent you some money, right?’

For most of the past twenty years, Wagstaff has hated the Americans and everything they stand for. He feels we are responsible for most of the world’s problems, and have been for almost a hundred years. It’s therefore difficult for him to sit down with US Homeland Security Agent Hirsch and to start negating everything he believes in. The kitchen sink full of water, however, and the Glock pistol in my controller’s bag are scary reminders of what lies in store for him if he doesn’t co-operate.

‘There is a lot of anger in Muslim communities just now,’ he says and Carla Hirsch nods. ‘Of course …we know all about that, babe. We’ve been taking serious stick from you Brits and liberals everywhere since the war in Vietnam …we’re used to it.’

 His wife, Annalise, has now returned with her female police escort. Her face is pale. She’s been crying and the future with her husband is uncertain. ‘He’s a pederast who enjoys having his cock sucked by under aged Thai boys. So what does that say about my relationship with Jeremy …does he seriously think I’ll ever be prepared to stay in the same room with him again after what he’s done … I don’t think so.’

 ‘Come and join us, honey,’ Carla Hirsch says, beckoning her over to the table. Annalise sits reluctantly facing Earl with Carla and her husband on either side of her.

‘So – the money, Jeremy. How much did you get?’ My Controller asks.

He doesn’t know exactly. The cash came with a courier and he then passed it on.

‘OK – so are we talking tens or hundreds of thousands … or millions?’

‘I’m not sure,’ Wagstaff mumbles. ‘Maybe five hundred thousand US dollars … I only counted one bundle of notes.’

‘So you were the go-between … who got the money?’

He’s holding his head in his hands and looking down at the table when Carla gets up. She stands behind Annalise with her hands around the unfortunate woman’s neck.

‘You like swimming, honey?’

‘No – ‘

‘Well we got a basin full of water over there … how would you feel if we put your head in it … maybe for fifteen seconds to start with? Then we can extend the time – OK?’  

Annalise sobs uncontrollably. I’m opening my mouth to protest, which gets me a kick in the shins from my controller’s pointy stiletto. Wagstaff jumps up and there’s a shriek in his throat when Carla takes out her Glock pistol and shatters a huge Victorian mirror.

‘There is a cleric called Mustapha!’ Wagstaff shouts. ‘He’s presently in Afghanistan … and there are some mentor figures who come to the UK.’

I’m feeling for him. There’s an increasingly large damp patch on the front of his trousers and his spirit is broken when he sinks back into the chair.

‘So – the mentors?’ Carla asks. ‘You’ve met them?’

‘Just one … he was a scientist.’

I think my shin’s bleeding. I’m not prepared to tolerate any more violence. I’m disappointed in Earl. He’s just sitting there taking notes and behaving himself. I guess it’s down to the second home he’s buying with his lawyer wife in Jamaica. ‘Put one foot out of line, Connors, and you’ll be joining an unemployment queue, or worse. There won’t be any rum to sip by the Caribbean, and your wife will probably want to divorce you.’

‘Well, Jeremy – we’ve got Mustapha the cleric, who’s with the Taliban and a

mysterious scientist … you know his name?’

‘No!’ Wagstaff blurts and this time he’s shaking.

‘That’s not good enough, sugar … is he an Arab or an Asian?’

‘I believe he’s from Pakistan,’ Wagstaff answers, and there’s perspiration on his forehead.

Carla’s examining her nails. Her two tone hair spikes are neatly gelled. I think she knows that I don’t approve of her intimidatory tactics with defenceless people. One has to draw a line somewhere, and if she gets physically frisky again, I’ll make a strong complaint.

‘We have a couple of options here,’ she says. ‘We can take you and your wife into custody. We can charge you here in the UK with funding terrorists … and I guess you could go down for ten to fifteen years – maybe longer.’

‘But you have no evidence.’

‘Oh, we do,’ Carla says passing Wagstaff and Annalise copies of the e-mail I had photographed in Sharif’s Geneva study. ‘Alternatively, we can get you both to a US Air Force base here in the UK. A transport plane would then take you to a holding facility, which could be anywhere … and I guess we’d keep you there for as long as it takes. Either way, your academic career would be finished. No one would ever employ you again, and you wouldn’t be able to keep up the mortgage payments on this nice house … you’d be on the street.’

The sweat from Wagstaff’s forehead is trickling down along his cheeks. His totally disoriented wife is staring blankly through the kitchen window to her once loved but now discarded garden. Her whole life has been rudely disrupted. She doesn’t work and hasn’t had a job for years. Her prospects are bleak.

‘The scientist I met has a niece who writes as a fashion journalist,’ Wagstaff mutters.

‘Ah … here in London?’

‘I think so … it was just something that came up.’

One of the Anti-Terrorist guys at the door is already on his mobile as Earl gets up and leads Wagstaff to a computer in the corner of the room.

‘There is an alternative for you,’ Carla says to Annalise, who is confused.

‘What do you mean?’

‘We are going to take you into custody now. But if your husband co-operates with us and continues to do so, we could relocate you here in the UK, or elsewhere. You could start again, honey, with a new garden … either on your own or with your husband.’

There aren’t too many Pakistani fashion journalists working in London. But within an hour, there are photographs with details of four on Wagstaff’s computer. Bright youngsters in UK security service offices are presently checking out various family connections. By lunchtime, the search has been narrowed down to two serious possibilities and Carla points to a computer printout picture of a woman known as Sunita Malawi.

‘We’ll check her out,’ she says as Wagstaff and his wife are taken from their sitting room.

‘You don’t need me for this,’ I say, doing my best to give it an assertive pitch.

‘Oh, but we do, Rudi … you’re working for us now, and we’re only just starting.’

I’m shaking my head when my controller motions me towards the dining room table, where she considers me for a while in silence.

‘In the days, weeks and months after 9/11 … how did you feel?’ she asks.

Angry, embittered and frustrated. I had lost my first true love. Faria Bailey was mixed up with a massive pile of rubble and I wanted to avenge her death. My problem, however, was that half of her family were Muslims. So I ended up trying desperately to opt out from the whole conflict that followed. It was futile, of course. London is my home of choice. I have friendly feelings for the people, and I can’t stand aside if someone I know is putting up money to nuke those who have almost become my adopted family.

_____________________________

‘We need results,’ Carla Hirsch says.

Robson is driving the people carrier and Earl is on his BlackBerry. He keeps showing Carla e-mails he’s getting on Sunita Malawi and as we enter Manchester Square in Central London, I recognise the former Duke’s residence that now houses the Wallace Collection. This is a classy part of town, and Earl’s talking to two of his guys who are parked in a surveillance vehicle outside a house with a fine Georgian doorway.

‘We think the lady is at home,’ Earl says. ‘They’ve picked up a mobile signal from the house and a couple of calls have gone out on a landline.’

It could be a maid or a friend, but Carla’s confident.

‘We’re marauding intruders,’ she tells me. ‘And we’re going to scare the shit out of this woman. Maybe even literally – like in the Clockwork Orange. Do you remember the Movie?’

Vaguely – yes. I hated the mindless violence, and especially the guy in a bowler hat. I don’t want to terrify a defenceless fashionista. But we’re looking at potentially huge casualties here, and no one in their right mind wants radiation particles floating over Oxford Circus.

‘Hello – Royal Mail Special Delivery,’ Earl says when he’s pressed an intercom button and someone answers.

‘Oh, all right – I’ll come down,’ a woman’s voice answers. It’s deep and cultivated with just the hint of an Asian inflection.

‘Hi there … Miss Malawi?’ Carla asks with a friendly grin when the door opens.

‘Yes – but …’

She’s gorgeous and I’m sure her family have carried some weight in Pakistan since the days of the British Raj. I think she’s in her thirties, although her rich black hair has been pinned back in a businesslike bun and she’s holding a pen.

‘We need to talk with you,’ Carla says with a greasy smile, ‘and I think it would be best if we come in.’

She’s taken her Glock from a Stella McCartney bag and Sunita recoils when she sees the pistol. ‘Oh my God …it’s like some rough insurgent from the hills of Kashmir suddenly exposing his organ as a weapon to intimidate her.’

‘But I’m expecting a colleague,’ she stammers.

‘That’s all right, honey,’ Carla says as her target backs off into a fine Georgian hallway with all of the original features. ‘You can call and say you’ve had to go out. But if they come round anyway, you can let them ring on the bell … and when they don’t get a reply, I guess they’ll go away.’

Upstairs, the sitting room is not too different from what it might have looked like in the 1770s or 80s. It’s pretty opulent in a discreet sort of way. The only things slightly out of place are an Apple Mac computer on an antique desk and copies of Vogue and Harpers on a pretty pricey Kashmir carpet.

‘Sit down, sugar,’ Carla commands, pointing towards a Sheraton chaise longue that has recently been re-upholstered. ‘This is Biff,’ she says, pointing at me, ‘and that’s Boff,’ which is Earl. ‘And we’ve got more people downstairs. I’m Charlene, babe, and we’re here to ask you some questions. If you’re nice and co-operative, we’ll probably just leave you to get on with your stuff. But if you give us any grief, honey, we’ll get so heavy you’ll wish you’d never left your mother’s womb … do you hear what I’m saying?’

Sunita may be writing mainly about social gossip and sexual speculation for the world of fashion and popular culture, but she has harsh memories of rough and undisciplined soldiers mistreating her family in Pakistan; usually when one set of ruthless opportunists replaced another in Government.

‘Yes – of course.’ Her eye contact is cautious and she’s nodding respectfully. ‘But what do you want?’

‘We’ll start with your family,’ Carla says with an encouraging smile. She’s sitting in an expensive winged armchair while I perch on a piano stool and Earl folds his arms by the door.

‘You have, I think, an uncle who is a scientist – right?’

‘I have two actually … Mukhtar and Pandit.’

‘OK … so who does what?’

This wasn’t at all what Sunita Malawi expected when she saw the obscene Glock pistol coming out of the Beatle girl’s handbag. She had assumed that we were the worst sort of opportunist thieves: Educated people perhaps who had been diverted into heroin or crack and needed money to pay for it. Only the accents are out of line, and what’s an apparently respectable Afro-Caribbean doing with a couple of American hoodlums.

‘I’m sorry – I don’t understand … what do you mean?’

‘Oh, honey – please … don’t get all cutesy with me!’

‘But … ‘

Only Carla’s already on her feet and moving to sit beside the fashionable columnist on her Georgian chaise longue.

‘You’re a very attractive woman, Sunita,’ she says, running an excited hand down along her shocked target’s short Prada skirt and along the slightly shiny silk of her stockinged lower thigh. ‘I would really love to take your clothes off and explore the delights of your beautiful body. I think Biff and Boff might also like to do something similar, albeit a little more forcefully … you hear me, honey. I mean, these guys have agitated dicks, which I think they’d really like to stick all the way into your lovely soft, silky cunt and fuck you to hell and back, babe … and maybe they’d follow on with some anal penetration.’

Earl’s looking pointedly out through a window, while I try hard to think up the sound of my meditation mantra. It’s outrageous and embarrassing. I’m appalled by Carla Hirsch’s crude intimidatory techniques. But Sunita has the message and she’s struggling to speak.

‘Pandit’s a horticulturalist, and Mukhtar’s a physicist,’ she exclaims.

‘So Pandit’s into flowers, crops and seeds?’

‘Yes … he’s presently working for the World Food Programme.’

‘In Pakistan?’

‘No … he’s based in Switzerland. He’s essentially a strategist who does occasional field trips.’

‘OK – so Mukhtar’s a physicist … tell me more, sugar.’

Agent Hirsch now has a hand under Sunita Malawi’s left breast and she’s running her fingers up towards an extended nipple.

‘No – please, don’t!’ the Muslim columnist pleads.

‘So – ‘

‘He has worked mainly on the Pakistan Government’s nuclear programme … but more recently he has been travelling and lecturing.’

‘Where?’

‘In the Middle East, I think … and in London.’

Carla has reluctantly joined her hands between her legs and I’m confused. This is not a part of my country that I can identify with. OK – I’ve heard about water-boarding and rendition. I’ve seen pictures of the Muslim victims from Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and I’ve heard pretty unsettling stories coming out from Guantanamo. A part of me, however, still stands to attention when I hear our national anthem. I’m proud of the Stars and Stripes and what it represents. And Mukhtar Ali is a nuclear scientist, which is worrying.

‘I’d like some iced water, ‘ my controller says. She needs a break and I’m happy to oblige. Earl’s grinning reassuringly like we’re in it together when he opens the door. ‘I’m not a bad guy, Rudi – don’t worry.’ And I’m reassured by thoughts of him singing hymns on Sundays in Jamaica, so I wink back. He’s OK, and we all have to deal with people like Carla occasionally. She’s the support structure for our ostensibly laid back reality. The kitchen’s mainly Smeg and Neff and there’s some chilled French water in the fridge.

When I return to the sitting room overlooking Manchester Square, Carla’s back on her target’s magnificently toned thigh, and Sunita’s perfectly sculpted forehead is covered in a thin film of nervous sweat. What did her uncle lecture about, Agent Hirsch wants to know.  Who were the students he mentored, and what sort of relationship did he have with them?

A part of the lovely Sunita Malawi is genuinely puzzled by the queries. She’s also becoming a little impatient as her interrogator sighs, removes a lingering hand from her target and stares pensively for a moment at the pointed toes of her elegant Manolo Blahnik heels.

‘You’re fucking with my head, sugar,’ she says eventually. ‘And it’s making me feel mean.’

‘I’m sorry … I don’t understand.’

‘Come here – ‘

‘What … why?’

‘Stand up – ‘

Reluctantly, the Pakistani fashion journalist gets to her feet. She is followed by Agent Hirsch, who stands in front of her with her eyes lingering on her target’s inviting chest.

‘I think I’m going to take your clothes off – ‘

‘No!’

‘But first, I want to kiss you … nice and slow, on your mouth. Then I want you to bring me off, slowly, with a nice build up … can you do that, honey?’

I want to intervene to try and save the vulnerable Sunita from my insatiable controller. Only I’m thinking about the columnist’s Uncle Mukhtar, so I hold back on any coughing as Carla fondles the fashionista’s breasts.

‘No – please … stop now!’

‘OK – but we are going to talk seriously … because I don’t need any more footsie crap, babe. I want the goods … right!’

‘Yes – I know. I understand … but please – ‘

There is a little chilled water left in the bottle I’ve brought out from the kitchen. Sunita gulps a mouthful. She’s been defiled by a gross infidel. But she eventually sits back down on the chaise longue as Carla faces her from the period wing chair.

‘Mukhtar’s a committed Muslim,’ she says quietly, with her eyes averted like she’s ashamed of what she’s about to reveal. ‘He has become a mentor figure for some people recently.’

‘What sort of people are we talking about, honey?’

There is a pause, but as Carla gets up from the winged chair, Sunita breaks down and weeps.

‘Activists, I think,’ she concedes amidst the sobs.

Her carefully applied eye makeup is dripping down along her photogenic cheeks. She’s ready to talk and Earl records the details. Uncle Mukhtar is not presently in the UK. But he has an apartment in Knightsbridge, which is close to Harrods. There is an address book in Sunita’s antique desk. It has a gilt line around the edge of the pages which Carla is now flicking through. I want to tell the vulnerable beauty from Pakistan that this really isn’t my scene at all, and if I could, I’d get up and walk out, period. Biff and Boff are unsavoury characters from Agent Hirsch’s lurid imagination, as indeed is the seamy Charlene. I’m getting a small flicker of recognition for my thoughts in Sunita Malawi’s pleading eyes. ‘I so need your help, kind sir … please; anything you can do to end my ordeal would secure my everlasting and most meaningful gratitude.’ I’d really like to step in. ‘Your knight in shining armour has arrived, dear lady – so fear not.’ But Carla Hirsch’s probe is just beginning.

‘We’re going to have to take you into custody, sugar,’ she tells her beautiful target. ‘I think you’ve been helpful so far, and if this continues, you should be OK.’

Sunita’s raising and lowering her head like Agent Hirsch is an oracle who’s just appeared with a helpful revelation. She’s still sitting obediently with her head going up and down when two uniformed female cops arrive to escort her to a secure facility.

‘Honey, you’re gorgeous.’ Carla tells her with what I suspect is genuine admiration. ‘And in any other circumstances, I’d really like to get something going with you. But I don’t want you to tell anyone about our little get-together here today … that’s just between us. OK?’

‘Yes, of course,’ Sunita agrees with a truly sincere nod.

‘And if you’d like some useful advice, I would suggest that when this is all wrapped up, you should maybe take off for a month or so. Go somewhere nice and quiet where you don’t know anyone and just get in touch with your spiritual side. The world’s a very fraught place just now, babe. So you shouldn’t trouble yourself too much about politics and strife and all of the heavy stuff that might exercise your Uncle Mukhtar.’

I think the elegant fashion columnist’s world is slowly falling apart. All of the clothes, sex and trendy gossip stuff will have to be left on hold for a while, maybe forever. It’s not looking good for Sunita, but in a strange sort of way I think she appreciates the small consideration that Carla Hirsch has just shown her.

To read more or to buy DARK CLOUDS the Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on  

Post 58 – Islamic Activists at a London College – excerpt from DARK CLOUDS

Chapter 11

Marvin Malugo is fading fast at St Thomas’ Hospital in South London. His family have arrived from Trinidad and there are reports of shops and houses being boarded up in Brixton. ‘If he die,’ a Farrakhan Muslim says. ‘We set dis place alight …you hear me, boy?’ he tells a nervous TV interviewer. ‘Cos de police dey murder ‘im – right?’

I haven’t covered any riots for a while, but my commissioning editors in New York are keen for copy. ‘So is there something wrong with the Brits, Rudi? I mean – riots for Christ’s sake, involving blacks and the police … hey, that’s so last century, man!

They’re right of course. Race relations are generally pretty good in the UK. Although some people feel it was excessive for the cops to shoot Marvin, even if he was defending himself with an AK 47. He’s a bit of an icon figure in South London. At least that’s how he’s coming across on media shots with his tweed cap, grey beard and a winning, folksy smile. He could be Bob Marley as a pensioner. The fact that he dealt in weed, smack and coke is seen by many as a side issue. ‘Him was a good man, you hear! He got a wife an’ family to support …an’ the police …well – they should no ‘ave shoot ‘im you know. Is wicked!’

If I had a choice, I’d stick with Marvin. He’s got a nice down home feel about him. Strong human interest for the readers, and there are a lot of people batting for him. Carla Hirsch however, is insistent. ‘You will check out this guy, Wagstaff, at the King’s Cross Academy,’ she commands. ‘And that’s your priority.’

Not long afterwards, I get a call from Grant Stevenson, an executive editor on the New York Courier. ‘Rudi – hi …we haven’t met, but I gather you’re going to interview this guy Wagstaff for us at the King’s College in London.’

Not quite, my man. The King’s Cross Academy isn’t really in the same league as His Majesty’s College, which is part of London University.

‘My impression,’ Grant says, ‘is that Wagstaff is a mentor for radical elements, most of whom seem to be Muslim immigrants.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I tell him, it’s all in hand. My Controller, Carla Hirsch, has arranged the interview. Only she’s not expecting me to write the story. Grant and the Courier are, I assume, in league with Homeland Security in Washington. They do whatever my President feels is appropriate. I’m almost there, but I call Fiona in the morning.

‘I’ve got to go to the King’s Cross Academy,’ I tell her.

‘Oh gawd,’ she sighs.

‘You’re not impressed?’

‘No – it’s a frightful aberration, Rudi: A ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money. It produces an endless stream of agitators – most of whom are probably illiterate and innumerate.’

Gosh – it sounds like an interesting place. I could almost walk there, but Fiona suggests I take a cab.

‘And try to disguise your accent.’

‘Why?’

‘Because if any of the students discover that you’re American, they might want to put you on trial.’

This is serious. I didn’t support my President’s occupation or his surge in Iraq. I’ve always been a pacifist, but Fiona’s got to go.

‘I’ll see you later in Claridges,’ she trills. ‘Your friend Carla’s coming and Ingrid would be welcome if you two are still an item.’

‘Right – ‘

I get a Greek at the cab office on the Upper Street. ‘I lova England,’ he tells me, ‘an’ especially the rain. ‘You know it ees so good jus to stan’ outside here an’ get wet.’

I think the whole world’s losing it, and my man’s tapping his fingers to Zorba dance tunes when we get around to the back of the Euro Star terminal at King’s Cross. ‘This is academy,’ he says. ‘They all crazy here!’

It’s a modern building that looks unfinished.

‘They run outa money,’ my driver says. ‘An’ if a you ask me, I think a it best if they close it down.’

It’s busy outside and all around a vast internal foyer. I think most of the students are from overseas, but a porter at the kiosk inside the main door is an obese, white Londoner, and he’s been drinking.

‘I’m here to see Mr Wagstaff,’ I tell him, holding up my press card.

‘Oh yeah – all right.’

I’m early, but everyone seems to be heading down towards a basement area, so I follow the crowd to a student canteen. There are posters all over the walls protesting about corrupt governments in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The emphasis seems to be on Muslim affairs, with particular reference to the way the West is propping up puppet tyrants in most of the Islamic world. The students are waiting for a radical Iranian Imam, whose photograph is hanging behind an improvised stage.

‘We have a similar speaker every week now,’ Assad tells me.

He’s a shy but friendly guy from Lebanon. We sit together, and while he’s filling me in on life in Beirut, I’m checking out the students. Many have revolutionary guard type headbands with Arabic letters, but I’m more interested in what the girls are wearing. A few have the full burqa that covers everything except the eyes. Others have chadors or niqabs that cover the nose, mouth and hair. There are also some body cloak jilbabs that leave the face free. But mostly, the females are wearing hijabs that simply cover the hair and ears. I’m intrigued by the furtive glances from the eye slits on the burqas, chadors and niqabs, and I’m fantasising about covert emotions in deserts when a young woman with Armani jeans and a black hijab veil climbs onto the makeshift stage. She’s grinning down at us while testing the microphone.

‘We are privileged today,’ she says, ‘to have as our guest speaker the honourable Mustapha from Tehran. I think what he has to say is particularly relevant for the Islamic world. But I’m sure it will be of interest also for our visitors … all of whom are most welcome.’

She’s grinning respectfully towards a group of older, mainly white guys in a corner of the cafeteria.

‘They are members of staff,’ Assad whispers.

Of course. And I think I recognise my target, Jeremy Wagstaff, from a photograph Carla e-mailed me earlier. He has bad acne and an unpleasant tendency to pick at his nose and then rub the contents off on the sleeve of his jacket. He’s presently acknowledging the hijab woman’s welcome like he’s the local caliph and the people he’s sitting with are his lower-ranked assistants.

The young woman in the hijab veil is reversing off the stage, and as a curtain opens beside her, there are whoops of welcome and energetic hand-clapping. The honourable Mustapha from Tehran makes a dramatic entrance in flowing white robes and a turban type Osama headdress with gold braid embroidered around the edges. His beard goes down to his chest, and when the applause trails off, he opens his arms to embrace the audience.

‘It is good to see so many devout brothers and sisters here today,’ he says from the diaphragm. ‘Our cause is just, but we will only ever claim what is rightfully ours if we have the support of good people like yourselves …you are here now today in England, but tomorrow the cause of Islam may require your presence in other parts of the world. The prophet may ask you to lay down your life … but let me assure you that this would be the ultimate privilege. For in the process of dying for Allah, you would acquire eternal salvation.’

I’m thinking of virgins waiting on clouds. But there are tears in the eyes of the audience, who shout out that ‘god is good!’ I’m clapping along with everyone else while exchanging fraternal grins with Assad. It is a little worrying though, for the honourable Mustapha is quite provocative, and a judge might argue that he was inciting criminal behaviour. But the audience loves him and they want more.

‘You must express your feelings on the streets here when there are injustices,’ he cries. ‘And this applies particularly when our brothers and sisters are the victims.’

‘I think he means the Muslims in Oldham,’ Assad explains after a burst of clapping. ‘Many of these people were arrested last week after clashes with British Nationalists.’

There is no direct reference to Osama or al-Qaeda, but the message from Mustapha is pretty clear. ‘We’re relying on you guys to go out there and engage with the infidel,’ he’s saying. ‘In particular, we want you to destabilise those tyrants and puppets who are doing the devil’s work in the Middle East and Africa, and in those parts of Asia where Allah is worshipped by the people.’ There isn’t anything specifically about blowing up the Brits or nuking the White House, but it’s all there by implication. We’re the bad guys and the prophet requires that we should be punished, and some.

The honourable Mustapha gets a standing ovation when he’s finished, and after I’ve shaken hands with Assad, I edge over towards my target.

‘Doctor Wagstaff …’

‘Yes?’

‘You’ve kindly agreed to see me, sir – ‘

‘Flynn – is it?’

‘That’s right … Rudi – ‘

‘I’m busy now,’ he says dismissively. ‘I need to speak with the Imam.’

‘But – ‘

‘Perhaps you could find your way up to the third floor and wait outside my office.’

Fuck you, professor. You’re an arrogant bastard. In other circumstances, I’d be baiting honey traps and luring you into an ignominious descent. Now, however, I’ve got Carla Hirsch waiting off stage. ‘I want you to check this out, Rudi,’ she’s saying. ‘And whatever happens, don’t antagonise him.’

        ‘Very good, sir … I’ll see you when you’re ready.’

The lifts are out of action, but when I get to the third floor, I can hear what assume are Islamic prayer chants. The door is open outside a large lecture theatre and there are neat rows of male shoes in the corridor. I pass by respectfully as Muslim students bow towards the floor to follow the spiritual invocations of a bearded elder.

Outside Wagstaff’s office, a large window overlooks waste ground that was to have been the site for some luxury hotels. According to Fiona, the developers pulled out as the UK economy faltered, and there are now travellers’ caravans clustered around rusting gas storage tanks. I’m clicking my heels impatiently on the shiny floor covering when my target appears.

‘Ah – Flynn … sorry about the delay,’ he says with an annoying leer.

His office door is secured with two locks, but once we’re inside I’m aware of large

photographs of Thailand all around the walls. In a couple of them, there’s a rather knowing Thai boy, who seems to be challenging the photographer.

‘So … you’re interested in our institution,’ my guy says. He’s sitting behind a cluttered

desk and he rolls his thumbs around each other as I pull up a chair opposite him.

‘Yes, sir – you seem to have a very cosmopolitan group of students.’

‘You mean, I take it, that many come from foreign countries and that they’re mostly Muslims.’

‘Eh, yes – ‘

‘And I suppose your newspaper thinks that we are a hotbed for Islamic activists.’

‘Well … ‘

He’s looking out on the travellers’ campsite, where scruffy boys and a few girls are kicking a ball around sacks of garbage.

‘I don’t know how close you are to the realities of life in Britain just now, Flynn.’

I suppose that Crowndale Square in Islington isn’t exactly at the sharp end of life in the UK, and most of my neighbours seem to be quite well protected from economic hardship.

‘You are, I assume, a wine-drinking member of the privileged class?’

I’m half expecting him to pull out a picture of Lenin or Stalin, but he just smiles and reveals several blackened teeth.

‘Our society is disintegrating,’ he tells me and I’d appreciate it if you would please switch off your tape recorder.’

I’ve got a microphone strapped to my chest, but a part of the wire has edged out through a gap between my shirt buttons. It’s embarrassing to be fingered so early on in an interview. I’m flushing with embarrassment while disconnecting my covert tool.

‘I’d just like to see where you’re coming from, sir,’ I say apologetically. ‘And maybe you could give me some indication about where you think it’s all going.’

He’s sitting back with his legs apart and he pushes out each cheek with his tongue before running it along the top of his lower lip.

‘I suppose your intention in coming here today is to concoct some sort of exposé for your paymasters in the United States.’

Not quite – but close, sir. I’m checking you out for my President.

‘I would rather like to get your view on our current situation, Mr Wagstaff.’

‘And why not? I’m a socialist, Flynn, and proud of it. I think our society here is decadent and destined to collapse.

Right – so what I want to know is the purpose of the King’s Cross Academy. And why does it have so many Muslim students?

‘Guilt and greed,’ he tells me. ‘The Academy provides cheap education. We’re technically a university, but we don’t get the same funding as some of the more established institutions. Also, we provide more vocational qualifications.’

‘And the students?’

He’s scratching his crotch and grinning.

‘That’s down to greed,’ he says. ‘We needed immigrant labour for our cotton mills after the war. Most of the workers came from Pakistan and Bangladesh. They were docile and obedient slaves. Their children and grandchildren, however, were not quite so malleable. The first generation born here had an education of sorts, but their youngsters have for the most part been drawn to places like our Academy, where they feel secure with the company of their co-religionists.’

‘And the future, sir?’ Where is it all going, I’m wondering?

‘Revolution,’ he says, rubbing his tongue under his upper lip. ‘What happened in New York and Washington on 9/11 was the beginning. It radicalised young Muslims. I don’t think they’ll stop now until they’ve won.’

There’s a bit more crotch scratching until he gets up and goes to switch on a kettle.

‘Tea?’

‘Yes – please … but you see a conflict developing here in England?’

‘Absolutely. It’s already under way. You’ve got plenty of fascists out there on the streets, but the young Islamists are more driven. They feel they have a god on their side and they will do whatever it takes to win … sugar?’

‘No thanks – and just a little milk … but when you say whatever it takes?’

The mug’s chipped and I’m not sure if it’s been washed, or even rinsed. I’m also disconcerted by the way Wagstaff rests his hand on my shoulder. It lingers and brushes down along my arm as he returns to the battered chair behind his desk.

‘I suppose you were pretty shaken by what happened on 9/11,’ he says and I agree. I still choke occasionally on the dust that seeped in through my apartment windows on the Lower East Side in New York. It’s the stuff of nightmares and madness.

‘If I were a younger man now,’ he says, ‘in North Africa or the Middle East. Or indeed if I were a Muslim anywhere, I’d be watching out for cracks in the West’s edifice.’

‘Really – ‘

‘Yes – and as the splits get bigger, I’d become very excited.’

Holy Jesus! Maybe I should just hit him over the head with his corroded kettle. I could then call Earl Connors and tell him I was making a citizen’s arrest, initially for Her Majesty, but ultimately for my President.

‘Do you see a repeat of 9/11 in other parts of the world?’ I ask when I’ve sipped the tea and brushed away some powdered milk from my chin.

‘Of course, Rudi … that is your forename?’

‘Yes … and I guess London could be a target?’

He’s confident, but he’s not going to implicate himself unnecessarily. There’s a message in the crotch scratching however, and I’m sensing a cruder sexual advance with maybe a stained member when there’s a tentative knock on the office door.

‘Who is it?’ my target asks.

There’s silence as the door opens. A bald-headed guy in his late twenties appears. He’s got studs in his lips, ears and nose and I can see a tattooed image of another bald guy on his neck.

‘Marvin’s dead, sir,’ he tells Wagstaff.

‘Ah – ‘

‘Yeah, it’s just bin announced on the BBC, an’ they reckon tha’ it’ll be mayhem an’ murder down in Brixton an’ beyond.’

‘Excellent, Hugh. Thank you,’ the tutor answers formally. The bald-headed apparition grins and then withdraws. It’s like he’s just delivered a crucial message about how the good guys have had a breakthrough.

‘This will be an important battle against the establishment,’ Wagstaff tells me. ‘And in answer to your earlier point, I think London could indeed be a target for a bigger bang in the ongoing hostilities.’

I’m holding back on the N word while banking on my target’s hubris to all but incriminate him, albeit without any record of evidence.

‘What the revolutionaries need,’ he says confidently, ‘is a powerful blow: Something that will completely knock out the jaded oppressors. And once they’re down, there will be spontaneous uprisings around the world.’

‘Right – ‘

‘And if I were you, Rudi, I’d get a copy of the Koran. Because I think we’ll all be expected to support the revolution.’

I want to nail this guy and I suspect his weak spot is probably between the legs of his doubtless soiled pants.

‘These pictures of Thailand,’ I say, pointing up at the enlarged photographs covering his office walls. ‘They’re great … did you take them yourself?’

‘Oh yes, and lots of others,’ Wagstaff says with an unashamed longing in his voice. He’s also clearly pleased that I should be showing appreciation for his artistic side.

‘I particularly like those ones with the kid. He seems a real handful … quite an individual, I’d say.’

‘Oh, he was such a cheeky fellow,’ my target concedes wistfully. ‘They all were … but at the end of the day, we’re human, Rudi. That’s a fact of life, isn’t it?’

I’m pushing dangerously close to the wire here. My man is, I think, getting excited. He’s rubbing his crotch again, and his trousers are bulging out noticeably when he gets up and comes around from behind his desk.

I’m saved from any untoward predatory gropings by another knock on the door. This time, it’s a longhaired white student type with a socialist society banner.

‘It’s Dr Rodwell, the principal, sir. He’s just closed the main lecture theatre. He says it’s not appropriate to have Muslim prayers there.’

Wagstaff’s licking his lips and clenching his fists. There’s clearly a contest in the offing. ‘We should get together again in a more relaxed social setting, Rudi,’ he says, clutching at my hand.

I’m nodding, but getting ready to back out into the corridor.

To read more or to buy DARK CLOUDS the Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on