Friday, 29 June 2007
Hope it makes some sense! The punctuation is rather shaky......
Eddie didn’t recognise Phillip.
“I’m sorry, I really can’t remember meeting you before.”
“Well, think about it, Eddie.”
Eddie shook his head. “Nope, sorry. You’ve obviously taken me for someone else.”
He turned away, and busied himself with the in-flight magazine. The article on geysers suddenly looked very interesting. There was enough going on without renewing old acquaintances. So far, it was all going according to plan – the last thing he needed was some character from the past to confuse things.
Phillip sighed. Even without knowing who he was, Eddie had just treated him with the same old dismissive contempt. So on to plan B, what to do if Eddie didn’t recognise him. Actually, there wasn’t a plan B, although if he had been honest with himself, Phillip would have realised that with his bland nondescript features there was a very good chance that Eddie wouldn’t recognise him. Might as well enjoy the in flight catering and entertainment and think about what to do next.
Two rows up, Phile was flicking though the in flight magazine and had just come upon the geyser article. “Hmm!” She thought, “This could come in handy!”
The Iceland air staff trundled down the aisle with the drinks trolley. Phile chose a coffee and a small snack – no drinking now, she thought – I need to keep sharp and ready to go.
She was not quite sure what was going to happen, but she needed to be ready for it. Her employers had been plotting this moment for quite some time now, and with Ryan following behind, and Caro already installed in the hotel, it was all finally coming together. But coming together for what? After so many twists and turns, she was getting quite confused. The various machinations involved in getting to this point had had really become quite tiresome. Phile was all for direct action; so all this sneaky sneaky stuff was not what she was used to.
She was beginning to think that Uncle Stavros had been right all along. “Stay with us, girl” he had pleaded “ We need someone bright like you to run the bakery with us. Don’t leave me with your cousin Yannis – he’s my boy, I love him, but he’s useless. He’ll eat us out of business!”
Yet her Aunty Sophia had egged her on, encouraged her to set her sights higher than a small suburban bakery in San Diego. “Go on, Phile, follow your dreams. Yannis will just have to learn to run the business himself. He certainly can’t do that with his father relying on you so much. Sure, it’s up to you, I know you’d expand and make us all very rich, but you can do that anywhere, doing anything you like. And it would do Yannis good to take some more responsibility.”
So she had left San Diego and followed her dreams to head a successful business in Los Angeles and make millions. Unfortunately, what had counted for drive, ambition and business sense in the bakery in San Diego had not quite measured up to the talent that flowed through the veins of her competitors. Over the past few years, she had had to set her sights lower and lower until she ended up in the PR department of a minor telecommunications company.
There was no going back to San Diego. As soon as she had left for Los Angeles, having been bought out by the other members of the family, the business had been sold for an eye wateringly huge amount of money to a local developer who had wanted the land for a new mall. The relatives had then returned to Greece with no forwarding address. She had only discovered this when Yannis’ distraught in-laws had contacted her to find out where their daughter had disappeared to.
Despite an extensive search, with relatives and friends using all their contacts around the world, no trace of them was ever found. For a while, Phile had suspected the developers of disposing of them, but there was no evidence at all. Deep down, Phile suspected that her relatives were ashamed of what they had done. Friends and neighbours had told her so. Her initial indignation and sense of betrayal settled down to deflated resignation after a couple of years. One good thing had come out of the experience – she had discovered a new passion – searching for the lost. She had mentioned this one day to the managing director of Helltel over Christmas drinks in the boardroom. He had nodded and smiled and joked that perhaps she should put it on her CV. This time she suspected something. “They’re going to fire me!” She gasped. In anticipation of a fat redundancy payout, she decided to set herself up as a private detective.
Yet the fat redundancy payment never arrived. Instead she was invited to work on a special assignment. The past few months had been spent laying a trail of plausible contracts, contacts, press releases, all as a set up. At least her employers had been clear about that. It was not for real. It was legal, she had made sure of that, but not for real.
She settled back in her seat. Today would be the culmination of all those months of planning and scheming. The magazine slipped from her lap and whilst leaning down to retrieve it, Phile spotted a nondescript sweaty accountant type sitting next to Eddie.
“Good” Thought Phile “Great. Eddie won’t suspect a thing”
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
We know what Ryan has told us about wanting to find Eddie but what is his ulterior motive?
Why does Phile want to find Eddie?
Why does Phillip want to find Eddie?
What is Eddie planning to do in Iceland?
Will he and the other characters stay in Iceland? He could just be going there for a meeting with his 'client' before going back to the UK or US.
What does Caro want out of life?
As you can no doubt tell, I'm supposed to be working...
Monday, 25 June 2007
Who's next? Someone other than me and dh I think, please.
The smell of sulphur was becoming overwhelming, the heat stifling, the sound of glutinous eructations unbearable. Eddie could no longer feel the restraints around his ankles. He started to thrash in panic.
And awoke abruptly to another eggy, painful and prolonged belch and the elbow of his revolted neighbour thrust into his ribs. Airline food, peanuts and bourbon – never again, he thought, as he reached for the top of his head. Hair all present and correct – what the hell had that toupee nightmare been about? In fact, what the hell had the dream as a whole been about?
He looked at the seatback monitor. They were about 15 minutes out of JFK and the seatbelt lights were already on, the descent underway. A three hour layover in one of the world’s most boring airports beckoned before the connecting Icelandair flight to Keflavik.
Jesus. Phillip. And Ryan. All in one nightmare. He’d dreamt about Ryan a lot while he was in prison, mostly in connection with him, Ryan and a machete, a large number of black refuse sacks and not much else, but he’d moved on from that since starting his life afresh, hadn’t he? And that little creep Phillip, always blethering on about non-trivial zeros and pronouncing his hypotheses incorrectly. Admittedly, he should have just got through the placement at the BBC without trying to do anything clever. But he’d had a bit of thing for his probation officer Violet at the time and he wanted to make sure that she spent as much time thinking about him as he did about her. It was only a trivial fraud anyhow, not like dweeby Phillip and his fucking zeros. Phillip knew and he knew that if Eddie had wanted to, he could have solved the Riemann hypothesis standing on his head with one fist wedged up his arse. But he wasn’t going to tell Phillip how to do it. Anyhow, he had better things to do – like earn a bit of extra money from the BBC before heading off to take Hollywood by storm. They clearly loved mathematicians over there. Look at that Russell Crowe film.
Eddie stretched, scratched his still gurgling stomach and glared meanly at the woman in the seat next to him. She glared back, her dark eyes flashing in her olive complexion, her frankly notable rack making him think of a set of torpedoes. The elbow jabbed again. He belched again. Fuck her. He’d never see her again in about twenty minutes’ time. Shame about those tits though – better even than Carmen’s.
Stupid dream though. Anyone would think he had a guilty conscience. As if. He’d tried his best to go straight in Hollywood, bar the odd bit of small time drug dealing. Turned out the mathematician movie fad had been a red herring. Or a bit of a poisson distribution if you will. Eddie sniggered to himself. Maths jokes rock. Shame his writing career hadn’t but there comes a point that you have to accept that you have a particular set of talents, he thought, and in the last few months in LA he had reconciled himself to returning to what he did best. Of course, he’d fought it (M’lud), he thought to himself. That Larry David thing. That could have worked, if it hadn’t been for the GreatSheElephant interfering.
Eddie shook himself mentally. Must stop blaming things on figments of his imagination. One of his therapists had made it very clear to him that if he insisted on passing the buck to imaginary elephants, or deceased African ruler’s mothers (depending on which brand of bourbon he was drinking at the time), then he would be looking at the wrong end of a prescription for schizophrenia drugs. Or at the very least a complete ban on bourbon. The other had merely pointed out mildly that if he wanted an imaginary elephant friend that was his business. However the fact that her texts mysteriously self destructed the moment he read them and her phone messages wiped themselves within seconds suggested that the elephant, which was in fact a soft toy he had kept since childhood, was not actually running his life, as he liked to make out.
Better hope he’d stop burping before he got to Iceland. And saw Caro for the first time in over 15 years. Iceland. Caro. Back to life as it ought to be. It hadn’t taken so long to get back in touch with his most significant client, a man living an apparently respectable life as an Icelandic corporate raider, his business successes disguising his real life as a proper raider. And Jóhannesson, delighted that one of his most reliable contractors was back in the game, hadn’t found it that hard to track down Caro for him by way of a thank you either.
Trudging through JFK, Eddie wondered about the wisdom of trying to cram a Cinnabon down on top of the still fermenting peanuts. It might make for better smelling gas, and he wasn’t expecting much in the way of catering on the Icelandair flight which after all was a mere 4 hours long. What the hell? Better grab a Starbucks too. Last chance – Icelandic coffee sucked puffin bollocks, if he remembered correctly.
And so it was with minutes to spare that he got to the gate. He wasn’t the last to board and once onboard, he realised that the person in the seat next to him appeared to be even later than he was. Or maybe, please God, he’d get two seats to himself. It was only when he was trying to cram his hand luggage into the last available overhead locker that he noticed the pointy elbowed, pointy titted Greek looking bitch sitting two rows ahead of him. Weird. With that in mind and with the Cinnabon lying like a syrupy pool of lava in his stomach, he shut his eyes and tried to focus on the job to come.
The seat next to him heaved slightly as the plane door slammed shut. Someone was even later than he was and the jerk was sitting next to him. Fan fucking tastic. He opened his eyes and looked at his neighbour.
“Hello Eddie,” said Phillip.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Eddie watches his toupee drift slowly out of sight and thinks about his predicament. He has a rope around his ankles. Ryan and Phile have hold of the other end. Eddie is dangling in space. He has never been this close to an active volcano before. The view is spectacular. Unfortunately it will soon be hurtling towards him at the rate of 32 feet per second per second (whatever that means) unless he is lucky enough to get one hand on a rocky projection. It could only be a precarious hold but just enough to turn this whole thing into a cliffhanger. It would also allow a bit of leeway for some flashbacks.
It is said that at such moments ones whole life flashes in front of one. Eddie’s mind was more selective. Carefully edited portions of his rich and varied past did in fact present themselves, but not for close scrutiny. Childhood days, playing in the long English summer grass, the distant clack of willow bats against cricket balls, watching ‘Tiswas’ with his brother Charlie, those were the bits he enjoyed most. Popping down to the Co-op, later Tesco’s, with Mum for some PG Tips and a packet of Jaffa Cakes, office pranks in the BBC accounts department and life in L.A. with Carmen were nice too of course. He can see Carmen now for instance, in his mind’s eye, relaxing with ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ after a hard day dispensing sexual services to total strangers. Had he shown her the understanding she deserved?
If one overlooks his immediate problem, going to Iceland had been a good move for Eddie. He hadn’t been there long before he fell in with a group of Nigerian entrepreneurs lead by an IT expert called Prince Rupert N’inebobnote. Somebody with Eddies experience in identity transformation was just what Prince Rupert was looking for. After a brief discussion, mostly involving salary and employee benefits, Eddie was soon part of a team on Prince Rupert’s cruise ship anchored in a remote fjord. There, Eddie was well rewarded for turning out badly written email letters, which were then sent to addresses gleaned from the internet by his co-workers. The idea was to raise much-needed funds for various worthy projects in West Africa. Things were going well. The projects were proceeding nicely. Until Ryan and Phile showed up and spoiled everything.
They’d tracked Eddie down, drugged him, trussed him up and stuffed him in the back of a 4x4. Then they’d driven to a remote part of rural Iceland and dangled him over an active volcano. Why? Good question. Do they have something personal against Eddie? Have they been hired by the BBC to track down missing funds? Even Ryan and Phile aren’t sure. Listen to them now as they decide whether to let him go or not. It has been some time since they heard from GreatSheElephant and they are trying hard to conceal their anxiety from each other.
‘Don’t you get fed up with all this post modernism?’ Ryan asks, apropos of something to say. ‘A bit of irony is fine but aren’t we flogging a dead horse?’
‘Oh it gets tedious,’ says Phile, ‘I admit it. But what can I do? We don’t have a plot. We don’t even have a proper narrator.’
‘What about GSE?’
‘She’s a protagonist. Don’t get me started on literary niceties.’
‘Sometimes I feel like I’m going mad.’ Says Ryan,
‘Well complaining won’t get us anywhere. We have to take the matter into our own hands.’
‘It was your idea to come to Iceland.’
‘No it wasn’t...’
‘You said you had the hots for Bjork.’
‘Don’t bring her into it. Would it be OK if we get back to the story? People will be wondering. Somebody has to make a decision.’
‘Be my guest.’ And so on. Nothing more than idle banter really while they wait for Eddie’s fate to be decided.
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Sorry, I had to introduce a new character. He does relate to the existing ones though...
Phillip swore to himself and took a long slug of coffee. Coffee that is, topped up with whisky. Whisky smuggled in by one of his lackeys. It was so difficult to get the whisky he wanted out here. Yet it was essential to be out here, for his plans to come together.
His plans, he reflected bitterly. All his best laid plans, gone to waste, all due to the meddling of the mysterious “Great She Elephant”. What was she up to? he thought. Who was she? Was she the one pulling the strings behind this whole operation? Or was she a decoy?
Ever since the incident in the BBC accounts department all those years ago, Phillip had swore revenge on Eddie. Sure, it was only an accident, he’d said. But Phillip knew the score. Nothing was an accident as far as Eddie was concerned. Phillip had been spoken to, he knew he’d been spoken to and he knew there was nothing he could do about it. Until now that is.
On their first day working together, Phillip had mentioned the pumping lemma. He often mentioned the pumping lemma. He regarded it as a shibboleth as to how he would react to people. Few knew what he was talking about of course, but it how they dealt with this fact that interested Phillip. Conversations with Phillip were like a war even back them.
The Pumping Lemma was something Phillip recalled fondly from his undergraduate days. Well, something from his studies that he remembered fondly from his undergraduate days, as he would often add, lest people think he actually had been concerned with his studies in a significant degree. After adding that disclaimer, Phillip often permitted himself a raise of a sardonic eyebrow at the recollection. He rarely permitted himself such outwardly clichéd reactions, but as far as he was concerned there was a time and a place for such things, and the time and the place was now.
Imagine his surprise when Eddie hadn’t adopted the blank expression Phillip knew so well but had instead replied, “Are you referring to regular or context-free languages?”
Phillip was dumbstruck. He resolved to share with Eddie his thoughts on the Reimann hypothesis at the earliest opportunity. It wasn’t something Phillip had ever been able to bring up in conversation before, even amongst his fellow undergraduates.,
He and Eddie became fast friends, often to be discovered at the canteen engaging in incomprehensible conversations. Incomprehensible to all who attempted to listen in, sure, but many people held the opinion that what they were discussing was not mathematics at all.
They thought Phillip and Eddie were talking in code.
Of course all this initial camaraderie made what happened later on so much of a surprise and so unexpected and horrible for Phillip.
He’d turned the events of that day over and over again many times but he still failed to understand why Eddie had done it. Eddie had had his reasons, Phillip knew that, but he’d always thought he was on Eddie’s side of the divide.
Eddie talked about the divide a lot. He wasn’t talking about some projection-slice theorem. He meant the divide between “them” and “us”. Phillip had always assumed he was a “us”, Imagine his surprise, when he discovered that he was, and always had been a “them”. Well if he was a “them” he was going to be the greatest “them” there was.
Now, after all this years, he had a chance to rectify the situation a bit in his favour. But his plan to lure Eddie to a final showdown in La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula had been thwarted at least for a few more chapters. Chapters? he thought. Did I really think that? I meant days of course.
Obviously the heat was getting to him. Phillip often saw himself as merely a character in an imaginary world, an idealized author substitute in a world gone mad, a caricature of what he’d become.
All because of Eddie.
And what was he to do know. He’d been working on Ryan for quite some time, reasoning that he would make an excellent go-between for his purposes. One of his thugs had suggested working on Caro. Phillip checked his watch. Good. She would be here very soon. Then the second phase of the plan could begin.
Phillip started down at the pad on his desk, endorsed by the Hotel Borg and giving details of all of their sister hotels all over the world. They even had one in
He then looked down at what he’d written:-
Ryan tried to ignore the two men leaning on his car and focus on his map. Somehow he'd taken a wrong turn — missed the turnoff for Interstate 10, as best he could tell. Which meant he had driven a lot further south than he had intended. The man nearest his passenger window was laughing. This couldn't be a good thing. The one to his right was digging around in a worn backpack and shaking his head.
He’d have to change the names, he thought. That would be far too obvious. Just then his laptop computer, currently sprawled on his bed, emanated a loud beeping noise. He had mail, he thought. I wonder who it’s from?
But he froze when after the screensaver had been switched off the sender of the email’s name sat there: “The Great She Elephant”.
Just at that moment, the phone on the bedside table started to ring.
Phillip, leapt up as if he’d been stung by a bee. Compose yourself, he thought and reached for the receiver. Phillip was like he had been all that time ago at the BBC. Not Phillip as he was now, Phillip as he was then. Phillip liked being who he was now, and didn’t like being reminded of who he’d once been. He wanted to be the new Phillip again, not this old version.
Monday, 18 June 2007
By the way, I hate self editing and proofing my own stuff so be prepared for dangling clauses, spelling mistakes and God knows what.
Who's next then?
It had so nearly been a pointless day. Driving aimlessly round the freeway system, Ryan had half expected to see Eddie on every street corner. But of course he hadn’t. Getting his bearings is what he’d been doing, he told himself. Getting his bearings.
On the other hand, the conversation with the Mexican whore on Hollywood Boulevard had been illuminating. She’d been carrying a big box of chocolates and an even bigger grudge and when she’d heard Ryan’s English accent as he was talking to the meter maid, she had strutted over and had told him a few very interesting facts indeed. It was pure serendipity of course that he’d known which bastard fucking perro Englishman she was shrieking about, but he hadn’t let on.
“Goddam Godiva,” she’d screamed through his car window. “Cheap hijo de puta! Twenty fucking dollars on a box of low grade candy and he spends twelve hundred dollars on an airfare for himself and doesn’t even say goodbye! Can I come to your hotel room?”
He could see planes taking off from LAX from his hotel window. He’d said no of course, given her a couple of hundreds, apologised on behalf of the UK. He watched for a while as the sun set into the LA smog. Who was on those planes? People fleeing the shards of their dreams, shattered by the reality of life in the City of Angels? Tourists, their carbon footprint as big as their fat asses in their chinos? Eddie?
Philé had been as good as her word – meetings previously billed as urgent had been suddenly postponed for three days, with no explanation. It was hardly worth Ryan flying back to the UK for the sake of a three day hiatus – the time was his. Or rather Eddie’s, he reflected bitterly. What was new?
He’d last seen Eddie 20 years ago. Then, it had been the three of them: Ryan, Eddie, Caro. Fresh out of university, all their lives before them. Brilliant, funny Eddie. Sexy, kittenish Caro. Ryan had been half in love with both of them.
But even then there had been signs of the trouble to come. Eddie, the maths genius with a bag full of comedy one-liners, already using his abilities in small time scams. Fleecing casinos, what was the harm in that? It had seemed so much more exciting than the accountancy traineeship, which Eddie had stuck with for precisely three weeks. Then someone, who had witnessed, if not entirely appreciated, the game that netted Eddie £500,000 in one evening from a Mayfair casino, made him a career change proposal he was frankly too flattered to turn down. It was round about then that Eddie had started to make the regular weekend trips to Iceland that he refused to discuss.
Caro – it was sticky cocktails in those days, with those tacky little Chinese umbrellas in them that used to leach their dye into the alcohol infused sweat on her face. She would go through eight, ten of them an evening, sitting in bars in those ridiculous strapless ballgowns she wore all the time, even to lectures. She was young – she wore the drinking well in those days and it was to be another few years before she developed a taste for straight spirits without the coloured cream liqueurs and sickly cordials. They had both been sleeping with her in those days – and God knows who else too. Ryan had never told her how he felt. It was clear to him that she loved Eddie and Eddie loved her and that was the way it was. Yet then she’d gone off with one of their tutors, married him, bore him a child. It was at that point that Eddie had gone off the deep end.
Initially Ryan had got a kick out of knowing Eddie. By day, trainee IT sales manager. By night, friends with criminals. Live in Epsom, drink in Mayfair. It was like a scarlet silk lining in a grey pinstripe suit – it made the mundane bearable.
But then it started getting stupid. By then Ryan was starting to work with banks as customers and Eddie was starting to work with banks as jobs. He knew that Eddie was beginning to view him as a source of information about potential targets and that made him uncomfortable. So Ryan became a good citizen and turned Eddie in.
Ryan sighed, swigged at his minibar vodka and 7Up and watched the setting sun glint of the wings of another jet, heading east out of LAX. It hadn’t been like that at all.
Caro had come back. Baby safely stowed with her soon to ex-husband, she wanted her old life back and Eddie, with his air of glamour, his wads of 1980s cash, his mysterious trips to Iceland, looked like he could supply it and more. Ryan, boring Ryan with his late model Granada, his sales conferences in Birmingham, his bungalow in Epsom was very clearly second choice. And he would have stayed that way, if Eddie’s luck hadn’t run out.
Fair’s fair really. Ryan might have let on about a certain bank’s security systems being down one weekend for upgrades. Eddie might have accidentally let slip, after a beer or ten, that that piece of news meshed in nicely with a projected job in Oldham. Ryan, not drinking that night, might have later made a muffled call from a phone box to the police.
All that might have happened. What did happen was that Eddie was arrested just south of Sheffield in a Porsche with Icelandic number plates, carrying a sawn off shotgun. And that was the end of Eddie for ten years or so.
After a reasonable interval, say three weeks, Ryan just happened to invite Caro out to dinner to a place that had an amazing selection of Scotches and not that long after, when her first divorce came through, they married.
And he had regretted it ever since, he thought, as dusk filled the hotel room.
Of course Eddie got out eventually and by some miracle he did not immediately get in touch with Ryan with a view to revenge. No, he pursued new career options and what he wanted, according to all the interviews in the red-tops, was to make it big in Hollywood as a writer.
If a Glaswegian murderer could be rehabilitated as a sculptor and arts pundit, there was no reason at all why ex-gangster and maths genius Eddie Roberts could not make it as a comedy scriptwriter in Hollywood. Stranger things had happened. God knows, the latter half of Eddie’s crime career had been a comedy in its own right. Of course there had been that post release rehabilitation stint at the BBC – typical middle class wankery – you employ an ex-con and mathematician in the accounts department, what do you expect to have happen? Eddie was lucky to have escaped fresh imprisonment on that one.
But the projects he had boasted about to Variety with Seinfeld, Ellen, Robin Williams had come to nothing, or not as far as Ryan could tell (and Ryan had been keeping a very close eye on what Eddie was up to). And the stress of failure was beginning to tell on Eddie, if Carmen was to be believed - a return to gambling, late night phone calls in Icelandic, delusions that the late Queen Regent of Swaziland was controlling his actions via his mobile phone. "Loco," Carmen had said.
It was time for Eddie to come home, if only, thought Ryan, to take Caro off his hands. Although that wasn’t the only reason, not by any means.
So it was ironic, to say the very least, and a very unwelcome complication that at the very moment Ryan had arrived in LA, Eddie had packed his Icelandic dictionary, his electronic plane ticket and had left the US.
The loud rumbling of a diesel engine jolted Caro out of a deep slumber. For a moment she felt profoundly disoriented: where was she? What time was it? And what was she doing on this bus?
A wave of nausea swept through her as the memories surfaced. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the glass pane. The previous twelve hours were a wretched, alcohol-infused nightmare. That cocktail party at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Leaving there and heading for the Tube; getting off at Notting Hill Gate, somehow ending up inside a pub she’d never been to before. Someone offering to light her cigarette … Joseph? James? Waking up in a strange bed … sneaking out in the wee hours, her heels clicking far too loudly on the pavement, holding her head up with an air of defiant dignity while her stomach churned and her mind raced: This time she would stop. This time she would. Whatever it took. Even if it meant being committed to the psych ward. It had cost her so much already – how far did she have to go before she lost it all?
In the cold corridor of her walk-up she had hesitated a moment before putting the key in the door – a premonition, perhaps; a hunch. The moment she stepped inside he pinned her arms behind her back and covered her mouth – his hand was calloused and smelled of stale cigarettes. A moment later there was cold steel against the base of her skull, and a hoarse voice: “Don’t try anything or you’re dead.” Clear and concise.
He shoved her forward so that she stumbled and fell against the opposite wall. Slowly she turned her head, terrified. He was holding a pistol down by his side and the cold look in his small, beady eyes sent shivers through her. He wore a baseball cap and ill-fitting jeans. She’d never seen him before.
“Pack your bag,” he said, “you’re going on a little trip.”
“Where …” she began, and swallowed; her mouth was dry as sandpaper. She tried again. “Where am I going?”
“An old friend wants to see you – in Iceland.” He paused and sneered. “You might want to pack your woollies.”
Caro’s teeth began to clatter uncontrollably. Ten years ago he’d disappeared – the word on the street being that he’d finally got his comeuppance. But lately there had been a vague rumour, whispered through the grapevine: He’d resurfaced in Iceland – a country so innocuous that nobody suspected anything untoward. Evidently it was a perfect place from which Eddie could run his various scams – a global racket run from the shores of a peaceful fjord.
A steel-toed boot in her ribs obliterated all thought. “MOVE IT!”
Less than half an hour later she was sitting in the back of a car speeding towards Heathrow. Her assailant sat next to her, the gun carefully placed on the seat beside him; up front the driver wore a baseball cap and glanced at her frequently in the rear-view mirror. As they neared the terminal, the man next to her placed an envelope on the seat between them, then began speaking in a low voice, staring straight ahead. “Listen, and listen carefully. I’m going to walk you to the security gate. You’ll act like you’re going on holiday – like you’re having fun. You get an open ticket and you get on that plane. When you land you’ll get the airport shuttle to Reykjavík. There’s a room at Hotel Borg that has your name on it. You stay in there until someone contacts you.” He paused, still staring straight ahead. “Don’t do anything stupid or our mutual friend will be very upset. He already knows that dumbfuck Ryan is on his trail.” He paused, then turned his head to look at her, speaking in a low, menacing voice. “We also know where your ex-husband lives. And your little boy.”
Caro began to tremble. She nodded.
The bus was filling up. The air was thick with the smell of sweat and diesel fumes. An American tourist sat down heavily in the seat next to Caro, her hip pressing into Caro’s seat, the excess flesh on her upper arm dangling as she gripped the seat in front of her. Minutes later the bus was travelling through the most bizarre landscape Caro had ever seen. It was like the moon; endless fields of lava, devoid of vegetation save for green-grey moss, with crevices and hollows as far as the eye could see.
An excellent place to hide a body.
The thought flashed through Caro’s mind involuntarily. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the window again, struggling against the nausea that accosted her like the black plague. She was desperate for a drink. Desperate. She would give her right arm, sell her own …
She retched. The American woman jumped out of her seat like she’d been stung in the buttocks and stared down at Caro, who was heaving into the first thing available – a plastic bag containing a bottle of water and some chewing gum.
Stunned silence. Caro regained some semblance of composure.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, “Not feeling well …”
The American snatched her belongings from the floor and turned, finding a seat two rows back. Caro could hear snippets of her whispered outrage: ‘Booze on her breath!’, ‘Gross!”
At last, the bus reached some sort of terminal, and the passengers filed out. Caro waited until the last person had gone, then made her way to the ladies’ and rinsed her mouth, splashed water on her face. She stared at her reflection in the mirror; her hair matted and uncombed, her makeup smudged, the remnants of lipstick bleeding into the hairline wrinkles around her mouth. She looked haggard and jaded. And lost.
Outside, she hailed a cab and requested a fare to the Hotel Borg.
Friday, 15 June 2007
* * *
La Cienega Boulevard. Manicured palms. Lots of cars but not many people walking. Eddie is one of the few. He feels better out in the open air but he doesn’t feel good about the fight he just had with Carmen. He shouldn’t have talked to her like that. They’re practically married and she deserves better. It’s not her fault he can’t stay off the bottle. Poor old Carmen, she’s a good woman in her way, not unlike Eddie’s old mum back in Epsom, bless her heart, the old-fashioned type, caring and kind. Not one of those Hollywood ball-breakers or the Pamela Anderson wannabes down on the beach with their beach-balls and their supersize tits who like kicking sand in his face. He was lucky to meet Carmen when he did. At his age it would not be easy to find a replacement.
Hollywood, shit. The world of entertainment. It isn’t very entertaining when you don’t have a stake in it. And Eddie has been wondering for some time why he bothers. It’s killing him. He’s pushing fifty. Five years selling jokes and pitching ideas for half-arsed reality shows has engendered a certain world-weariness in Eddie which no amount of suntan can conceal. And what does he have to show for it? It had been exciting at first. He’d enjoyed the hustle, even sold a few things. He’d actually become quite adept at projecting phony enthusiasm for idiotic projects without faking it too much. But lately it has become something of an effort to even make a phone call. Marketing his talents? Forget it. Think positive? Yeah right. Get a good agent? Ha-ha.
Perhaps he should just quit. Move back to England and forget about trying to make it here. It’s something to consider. There comes a point where you just have to face reality. But what about Carmen? Where would a forty year old, unemployed, half-Mexican porn star fit into suburban England? And what would he find to talk about in the local? But right now there are more immediate problems to think about. Paying next months rent for instance. An empty fridge.
Rather than deal with all these problems Eddie decides to get something to eat. When he’s feeling confident he doesn’t mind paying ridiculous prices at places like Spago’s or The Ivy. Today it will probably be Nate ’n Als. Soon, if things get any worse it will be back to McMuffins and styrofoam cups.
Nate ’n Als is packed as usual, mostly with tourists, dreamers like himself and sundry supporting actors. The menu is overwhelming. Eddie decides not to create his own omelet. He is sorely tempted by the corn-beef hash but he goes for the bagel and cream cheese tray with a salad side order... Ho-lee!!…it can’t be…Larry David just walked in!…and he’s taking the next table! Can Eddie manage one last pitch? What does he have to lose? Jump in Eddie boy…no point in being formal…
‘Hi Mr. David er… Larry, sorry to bother you. Are you looking for any jokes?’
Larry David looks up as if he’s just seen a joke. Not a very funny one.
‘Sure. What have you got?’
‘There’s this orthodox Jewish girl. Kosher. Can’t stay out after dark. She gets trapped in a ski lift with you. She's hungry and you offer her a packet of edible underwear.’
‘We did it already.’
‘It’s OK. Sit down for a while. There is something contagious about your lack of enthusiasm. We can discuss the fragile state of the popular entertainment industry. Coffee?’
‘Don’t mind if I do.’ Suddenly Eddie is feeling a little better. He even feels better about the fight with Carmen. No real harm has been done. She isn’t going to walk out on him any time soon. But he really should do something nice for her…buy her some flowers may be, take her somewhere nice for supper. Perhaps he should buy her a book. Chicklit or chocklit or whatever they call the stuff. She’d like that.
So here’s Eddie having a chat over coffee with Larry David. Let’s run with that for a while. It’s always fun to fantasize. And it’s a sneaky way of explaining Eddie’s presence in L.A. Which actually came about after a messy divorce and subsequent failure to make child support payments followed by getting fired from the accounts department at the BBC and various minor embezzlement charges. But that’s another story.
‘You’re English right?’ Larry asks. ‘What brings you to the fount of Western culture?’
‘I’m the next Ricky Gervais.’ Says Eddie. Not very convincingly.
‘Oh good. We’ve been waiting for you. Everybody’s staying up nights trying to figure out what comes after ‘The Office’.’
‘Well I do have a few ideas,’ says Eddie, rapidly trying to come up with some, ‘excuse me a sec.’ His cell phone is making funny noises.
‘Of course.’ Says Larry brazenly slapping cream cheese on one of Eddie’s bagels.
‘Oh dear.’ Says Eddie after putting the phone back into his pocket.
‘Well yes and no. That was a text message from GreatSheElephant.’
‘SheElephant. I’ve somehow got myself involved in writing a novel on a blog. Different people send in chapters, you know the kind of thing…anyway it seems I’m not a down-and-out writer in Hollywood after all. There’s been a change of plan. I’m an English gangster being sought by some mysterious people. I have to get my arse…er…ass over to Iceland.’
‘Iceland. Population 309,699. Capital city Reykjavik. First settled by Vikings in 874.’
‘Do they have cable?’
‘Oh yes. And a lot of volcanoes and geysers. Today Iceland is a modern developed country with a high gross domestic product. It is based upon a free market economy where service, finance, fishing and various industries are the main sectors. Tourism is also popular as many people are attracted to Iceland's exotic scenery.’
‘Well good luck with that,’ says Larry, ‘I guess that means we won’t be working together after all.’
‘Unfortunately not. In fact I shouldn’t even be here.’
‘Let me give you my number. If things don’t work out with the blovel perhaps we can do something together some other time. Nice talking to you anyway. Mind if I finish that bagel?’
Back on the street Eddie wonders if he has time to pick up a book for Carmen before leaving for Reykjavik. ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ would be nice. Perhaps he can find a Spanish edition. It’s only a short walk to the Beverly Center where Eddie soon discovers there are five levels of parking, numerous boutiques and restaurants, security guards everywhere, and not a single bookstore. So much for that idea. No travel agent either. He buys an expensive box of chocolates in lieu of Bridget Jones, grabs a cab back to his apartment, and checks the flights to Reykjavik on his laptop. Bingo! Priceline quickly produces a flight via New York. $1286 round trip. And he can pay with his VISA card. There’s just time to leave a note for Carmen, pack a bag and he’s on his way to the airport. But why? Sitting in the cab to LAX, Eddie Roberts feels as if he has surrendered all control over his life.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
Hope you like it or I'm not playing any more.
The lift doors opened and Ryan made his way across the lobby to the hotel bar. Since he had left his room, his mind had not let up. Question after brooding question flashed through it. What was he doing? Didn't he have enough problems with this Eddie thing, and especially with Caro, without adding further complications? He had done no more than leave his room and walk to the bar and already he felt more guilty than usual. Did even an intention to have a drink with another woman constitute something about which he should feel guilty? It's not like anything was going to happen? Caro couldn't have a problem with his having a drink with a work colleague, could she? After all, that other thing was over. It was in the past. It was just Caro now.
If Ryan had expected the hotel bar to be something other than hotel bars always are, he would have been wrong. It was too tacky to call bland but the bar had that soulless quality in common with any he'd seen. A sort of characterless character.
Ryan paused inside the door, scanning for the woman. His eyes took in the tasteful purple walls - mauve, he corrected himself, it's probably called mauve - and the bamboo bar stools and furniture. What is it with bamboo, he wondered.
There. Beyond a wall of palms or ferns or something he saw her. She was seated by a table and she was not alone. A man sat opposite her. He seemed very intent on whatever she was saying and, whereas she seemed relaxed and at ease, the man was sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning towards her as she spoke.
Ryan was considering whether he should forget it and just go back to his room when the pair appeared to finish their conversation. The man stood and walked towards the exit. Towards Ryan. Ryan watched him close the short distance between them and wondered whether he should offer some casual greeting. Most likely this man knew Phyllo or Feelo far better than he - should he say hello? The etiquette of situations like these had never been Ryan's strong point. The man solved Ryan's social problem by making no eye contact with him as he passed.
Phyllo, who had been watching her companion leave, caught Ryan's eye and waved. Ryan waved back and walked towards her.
Jesus she was beautiful. Ryan would be lying if he said that he hadn't noticed her figure as she left the meeting earlier that day. She was certainly no skinny, size zero catwalk model. Christ, what a body. As he approached, Ryan sneaked a glance at the curve of her crossed legs, her skirt above her knee. A cartoon image of himself, tugging at his shirt collar as steam escaped, popped into his head and he grinned.
"Hi," he said.
"Hey," she replied, "have a seat."
Ryan sat in the seat vacated by the man that had just left. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything" he said, pointing alternately to the seat and the door.
"No. That's all taken care of. Would you like a drink?"
Ryan looked at her glass, which was almost empty. It had an inch of something clear and fizzy remaining. He nodded: "that'd be great. Thanks a lot."
In the impossibly easy fashion of the beautiful, she immediately caught the attention of a waiter. He appeared by their table far more quickly, Ryan thought, than he would have if he'd been called by a man. Phyllo indicated that Ryan should order.
"Vodka and 7UP," he ordered, taking a punt.
"And I'll have another gin and tonic," she said. Gin, shit, thought Ryan.
"Certainly madam," said the waiter, smiling for just a little too long at Phyllo before leaving.
"So," said Phyllo, "how are you liking it so far?"
"It's fine," Ryan replied, recognising that the small-talk section of the night had commenced, "it's a bit of a culture-shock."
"I'm sure it is. What have to gotten up to so far?"
"Not too much." said Ryan, "Had a bit of a drive around. See the sights, you know?"
Phyllo laughed. "Seeing the sights, eh? What sights have you seen in
Ryan paused, slightly taken aback. He hadn't really expected to have to come up with a cover story so soon. "Yeah, well, not too many. I know that now," he conceded, grinning and hoping she'd buy it.
She smiled and nodded slowly.
"I'm sorry," said Ryan. "I'm not sure I caught your name properly in the meeting today."
"It's Philé," she replied.
Ryan, who had met his share of people with unusual names since he arrived in
"I think that it's Greek originally, but it's been bastardised along the way I suspect," she offered.
It was Ryan's turn to nod. He felt awkward. Small-talk had never interested him greatly and this sort of forced conversation always made him a little uncomfortable. The waiter arrived back with the drinks, bringing a welcome distraction. Philé signed a stub with her room number and left five dollars on the tray as a tip. The waiter thanked her and, as he moved away, Ryan noticed him making a valiant effort not to look at her chest.
Philé sat forward and leaned towards Ryan, who began to feel some empathy with the waiter's dilemma.
"Okay," she said, "You don't seem very comfortable with the small-talk. I had hoped to ease you into this, but I'm just going for it."
"Eh?" Ryan was confused.
"Ryan. I know why you're in
Ryan started. What the hell?
"I know that you're looking for someone. That you're looking for Eddie Roberts."
"It doesn't matter how, Ryan. It just matters what you do now."
Ryan felt like he'd been slapped in the face. He felt himself blushing furiously and he could feel the blood rushing in his ears. What was going on?
"Listen Ryan," Philé said, "I, and some associates, also have a very pressing need to find Eddie Roberts and we believe that you may be able to help with that."
"What do you mean," asked Ryan, still trying to figure out what was going on, "I'm not a detective."
Philé took a sip from her drink. "Detectives have already failed to find Mr. Roberts, Ryan. You, however, have something that they do not." She took another sip as Ryan stared at her blankly. She looked into his eyes briefly before standing.
"It is now in both our interests that you find Eddie Roberts, Ryan." She began to walk away. "I can make an excuse for you in tomorrow's meeting. We'll talk soon."
Monday, 11 June 2007
Eddie J Roberts. I last saw you about 20 years ago. I am in Los Angeles now and I want to catch up with you. You were born in Epsom and have a brother Charlie.
As this is a mostly-U.K.-based effort, and I assume we're going to pick the UK Epsom (there are two in the US) as the protaganist's origination point, I've made an attempt to translate terms when I know there are US/UK differences. Please do not hesitate to correct me where I've messed up, and I'll edit this post plus try to get it right on my next turn.
Ryan tried to ignore the two men leaning on his car and focus on his map. Somehow he'd taken a wrong turn — missed the turnoff for Interstate 10, as best he could tell. Which meant he had driven a lot further south than he had intended. The man nearest his passenger window was laughing. This couldn't be a good thing. The one to his right was digging around in a worn backpack and shaking his head.
And Ryan realized his focus had drifted. Where was he again? He traced the line on the map, looked up at a street sign. Crap. If his assessment was right, he was somewhere between Watts and Inglewood, and he had no idea what the rules were down here. He was only sure that he was breaking them somehow.
The windows were steaming up on the inside. He had to reverse his steps — how many times had he turned, again? — and get back on the freeway heading north. And he had to do it soon.
The man nearest him lifted his hand from Ryan's window to scratch his head, leaving a faint handprint on the glass. Ryan took advantage of the moment to pull away from the kerb, trying hard to read the map, make a U-turn and avoid possibly being shot at at the same time.
It was just one more in a series of events that had made it clear that Los Angeles was an alien place, and that Ryan didn't speak the language. In fact L.A. felt like a conglomerate of foreign countries; he would drive into a neighbourhood and see all signs suddenly in an unfamiliar alphabet, open his window and hear nothing resembling English. Mobs of people sometimes appeared out of nowhere and directed his car away from a certain street, or blocked a driveway. The weather was oppressively sunny and cheerful. People he met for business lunches told him about their divorces or their most recent operations before he had learned their last names.
He had a month or two here at least, enough time to find Eddie if he could, and enough leeway in his job to wangle the time longer or shorter as needed. It wasn't going to feel like home, but damned if he was going to keep on feeling like a target. So what if half the population had a gun?
Ryan hadn't mentioned Eddie when he'd volunteered to come out to the Los Angeles office for what were being called Contract Negotiations and what were really Preparations for Cutting You Off at the Knees. But Eddie had to be out here somewhere — really there was nowhere else in the U.S. that made sense — and Ryan felt he owed it to him to catch up. Not that he could make up for what had happened, but that perhaps he could provide some explanation, offer some long-delayed help — hell, buy the man a beer at the very least. He'd run a hundred Internet searches, put an ad in the personals section of the L.A. Times, and found a few tantalising leads, but it was increasingly clear that a little detective work was needed. And that said detective work might take him right back to the type of neighbourhood where strangers used your car for a back support.
It seemed very much to Ryan like detective work in a minefield.
He righted himself on the freeway and sped northwards, ignoring the insistent ring of his mobile. It was probably Caro, and he didn't want to listen to another of her alcoholic late-night rants, the endless guilt trips, the vague sense of shame they left behind. He was overdue at the downtown office for yet another meeting, and he'd missed lunch — he hoped they had something other than doughnuts on the table at this one.
Steak was what he really wanted, but Ryan settled for a cheese-filled pastry and a cup of weak coffee and tried to turn his mind to corporate problems. An attractive olive-skinned woman named Feelo? Phyllo? appeared to be trying to catch his eye throughout the meeting, while handing out an endless stream of historical press releases that were utterly useless to real discussion. Across the table from him a thick-necked bloke called Rod wiped sweat from his forehead and doodled in a black notebook. Two thin fellows in grey suits, Dave and Sid, were the objects of the meeting, but they left the talking to an expansive and red-faced young man whose name Ryan instantly forgot and whose voice he would recommend to nail file manufacturers.
It was past five when he finally escaped. Knowing better than to risk the hotel minibar, Ryan had come prepared with a bottle of Duty Free, but after pouring a finger put the bottle back in his luggage. He took the glass out on the balcony and looked south over the city, trying to reason out of himself the sense of discomfort and displacement. For now, at least, he had to pursue what he could to find Eddie. Maybe he would get lucky and the trail would take him home again.
But home meant Caro and all the attendant implications. Irritated by the turn of his thoughts, Ryan tossed back his drink, came in off the balcony and shut the door, noticing for the first time that the message light was blinking on his room phone.
Of course the voice mail instructions on the phone weren't correct, and Ryan had to call down to the desk for advice. When he finally picked up the message he was surprised to hear an unfamiliar woman inviting him down to the bar for a drink. He listened to the message again, and realized the voice was not unfamiliar; it was Phyllo. Feelo. Whatever. Ryan looked at his empty glass and tried to decide what he wanted to do.
If no-one objects, I'm going to delete the comments with email addresses showing shortly, to avoid you getting spam from anyone but me.
Who wants to go second?
First of all though, what's the damn thing going to be about?
The random word exercise generated the following:
izard, bromide, Scot, gunfire, bellicose, fluorescence, mulberry, falconer, slavonic, sex, pot, lemming, cheese, gravel, leaf, defluous, pedicab, marathon, inattention, spoof, notebook, shameful, illiterate, philistine.
Well that's obvious, innit? We're going to be writing about KITTENS.
Seriously though, does this list inspire anything in anyone? It could be a war novel I guess. A spoof war novel?