It was well over a year ago that I began writing the third ‘Causality Merchant’ science-fiction mystery novel. And almost that long since I stuffed the synopsis beneath my bed and tried to forget it. Actually I did rather well on that front: I succeeded: I completely forgot about it. Then recently I pulled it out again in order to vacuum up the dust that always seems to accumulate unseen in dark places. So, merely out of a writer’s curiosity, I had a quick read of the portion I’d completed, which wasn’t very much, I might add. I was pleasantly surprised: it wasn’t half as bad as I remembered. In fact it was so ‘half as bad’ that I thought I might ask you a favour. Could you read a snippet from it, and tell me (via the comment section) if you think I should return to the tale? It would certainly make a change from the Earplug Adventures. You would? Fabulous. It’s entitled Broker Me No Future. Here you go…
No one living in the rural town of Crampton could honestly say they really knew Arthur Cronin. And if anyone had bothered to wonder where the heavily built, but obviously mentally retarded giant of a man had sprung from they could have done no better than to have guessed. Should anyone have conversed with another upon the subject of Arthur Cronin, it would most probably have been in jest; because Arthur was – if he was anything at all – the metaphorical village idiot. An object of ridicule – though not to his face of course: his fists could pack a wallop when he grew angry. As a result of this he became virtually invisible: a corpulent wraith no less. He expected nothing of anyone, and was generally allowed to go about his fathomless, but apparently harmless business uninterrupted. And so it was that cool morning as he sat upon his haunches on a steep, grassy, wind-swept hillside situated a few miles outside of Crampton – mindlessly munching upon a thick ‘door step’ cheese sandwich, and seemingly staring into space. Or so it might have appeared to any passer-by on the narrow road where Arthur had parked his bicycle against the bank some fifteen metres below.
The incessant wind buffeted Arthur’s long, thin, straggly hair – often tossing it into his eyes and making him blink repeatedly. But he wouldn’t allow the discomfort to dissuade him from his task. His apparent stare into infinity was actually an intent study of a sprawling industrial complex that lay at the foot of the hill. Clean and modern, the complex consisted mostly of single or two storey buildings made from glass and steel. No chimneys stood erect, no warehouses blotted the landscape; and every vehicle in the vast car park was top-of-the-range, which told even the most casual observer that it was a facility that specialised in higher-than-average technology. And the seamless, unbroken double-banked chain link fence that surrounded it could be interpreted in only one way: keep out.
A thermos flask sat forgotten beside the seated Arthur. But a movement at the front gate had Arthur fumbling for the pair of binoculars that lay beside it – knocking it over so that it tumbled away down the hillside. Not that Arthur noticed, or would have cared if he had. Already a shudder of anticipation ran the length of his spine as he clapped the binoculars to his eyes. Then, making clumsy adjustments to the focussing wheel with his sausage-like fingers, the gatehouse resolved to show a small town-car making its way up the long driveway and approaching a sign that read: General-Elite. Private Property. No admittance to the public without prior arrangement.
Arthur released the hint of a whimper as he watched two gate guards step from the gatehouse; then stand directly in front of the barrier that barred the way into the facility.
“No.” Arthur whispered. “Please no.”
Sandra Carter had been a freelance reporter for more years that she cared to remember; and every one of those years looked back at her as she adjusted her hair in the rear view mirror of her high-mileage Toyota – a car that had carried her hither and thither for the last ten years of her twenty-five year excuse of a career. As she approached the main gate she looked sideways at the passenger seat, upon which her equipment waited. It consisted of four items: a note pad, voice recorder, digital camera, and a cell ‘phone that could double-up as a camera should some irate subject of her intrusion smash her best one. Running a quick eye over them, she smiled briefly: there was surely no way that anyone would think of her as anything less than a bona fide reporter.
Pulling her car to a halt, she watched as the guards approached both sides of her car. She smiled secretly. Both suffered from a degree of corpulence, due probably to the many hours of physical inactivity and a proclivity towards pies, pizzas, and the like. Indeed the plumper of the two was wiping pastry crumbs from his chin as Sandra lowered both side windows simultaneously.
This was not Sandra’s first visit to General-Elite. In between her first encounter with the less than dynamic duo and this she’d made the effort to discover their names. So as the younger, slightly fitter guard swaggered towards her with a surfeit of self-importance, she was able to lean out of the driver’s side window and say: “Hi, Roger; remember me?”
It appeared to Sandra that Roger had also put aside a little time: “Kind of hard to forget.” He replied without the trace of a smile. “Especially with all that kerfuffle you caused last time – Mizz Carter.”
“Call me Sandra.” She shot back with a broadening smile that she hoped looked cherubic.
It was wasted upon Roger. “No, I don’t think so. Appointment?”
Sandra forced her smile to hang in there a little longer. “Surprise-surprise.” She answered. “I do, actually.”
The second guard, whom Sandra recalled was named Bertram – but never Bert (or worse – Bertie) – looked dubious.
“Sorry, Bertie,” Sandra said innocently, whilst turning the metaphysical knife, “but someone has seen sense and invited me inside for a chat. I think they call it an interview.”
Roger checked the clipboard in his free hand. For a moment Sandra saw his eyes narrow before he shifted his gaze in the direction of his workmate. “Well bugger me, Bertram.” He exclaimed. “The little mare really does have an appointment. It’s down here in black and white!”
Bertram lowered his head so that his face appeared at the passenger side window. “How’d you wangle that then?” He demanded. “You been tickling someone’s balls or something?”
Sandra tried to avoid an audible gulp. She was only half-way successful. “Never heard of the power of the press?” She said with a cheeky grin. “Now open up, boys; Lord Cavisbury awaits the company of You-Know-Who.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017