As he started to type on the page, Martin had a eureka moment. It suddenly dawned on him that he didn’t actually have to write a novel at all. All that was needed was to write about him writing novels, and given the events of the last few days, they would surely appear. It had to be worth a try. He liked the buzz, the tingle of excitement as his mind explored the possibilities. As he pressed the shift key, and placed a finger over the letter R, he muttered quietly to himself. “Careful now”.
‘Readers are eagerly anticipating the new novel from Martin Harwood. This will be the seventh book in the best-selling series about Sam Logan, the tough-talking money man who finds himself getting into all kinds of situations in some of the most exotic locations in the world. Catching the mood of the literary world at just the right moment, Harwood’s old-school misogynist hero has been compared by some critics to Fleming’s early James Bond, without the gadgets and spying of course. Like Bond, Logan travels around, lives the high life, and gets the girls. But his speciality is financial trading, wheeling and dealing of the most dubious kind. And he is definitely not On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Harwood arrived on the scene from out of the blue, with his first book, ‘Sam Logan: The Reckoning’. That novel topped the best seller charts in every English-speaking country for weeks, and led to a lucrative film franchise deal for the rather mysterious Harwood. With the first motion picture blockbuster in production, the book was translated into twelve other languages, and ranked number one on Amazon everywhere. Martin is a reclusive man, reluctant to give interviews, and little is known about his past. He lives in a converted warehouse in an unfashionable part of the capital, an area favoured by aspiring poets, and trendy sculptors. Avoiding public events like book-signings and TV interviews, it is said that he just works alone in his home, typing his manuscripts on an old portable typewriter. I for one would like to know more about him, but as long as the great novels keep coming, I will be happy with that’.
Martin sat back, and read over the page. Would this format work? Was he allowed to write about himself, as if some newspaper book critic was discussing him? It occurred to him that this might be breaking the rules of the old Remington, but he had no idea what those rules were. If any even existed. He was sure about one thing, nothing would happen until he woke up tomorrow, that seemed to be one rule at least. And if what he had just typed didn’t happen, he had nothing to lose, after all. He decided that he would watch an old film on TV, drink a few glasses of Scotch, and have an early night. As he lay down in bed, he felt no fear. A lesser man might be full of trepidation about the next morning. But he wasn’t a lesser man.
It was the smell that woke him. Expensive after-shave, fresh linen, and what appeared to be barbecued meat, drifting in from an open window. Something felt strange on his left wrist. He opened his eyes to discover that he was wearing an Omega Seamaster watch, with its metal bracelet. He smiled and shook his head. Nice detail. As worn by James Bond, in the Fleming books. Waiting until his eyes were fully focused, he looked around the unfamiliar room. It was huge, as was the gigantic bed he was lying in. A vintage clock dominated the wall opposite, telling him it was almost ten. In front of one of the massive windows stood an antique bath, its claw feet resting on the polished boards of the wooden floor. Decoration was sparse; masculine, minimal. The bedding was grey and black, and there was just one chair in the room, a Bauhaus Wassily, in black leather.
He needed to pee, so went off in search of a toilet, wondering why anyone would have designed a bathroom in a bedroom, without considering an en-suite toilet. The open-plan living area made him catch his breath. It was enormous, with no less than eight huge windows allowing light to flood in. The trendy modern kitchen ran along the far wall, and a desk almost the size of his former flat dominated the area under four of the windows. Behind the kitchen, he found a corridor leading along to what was obviously the front door of the flat, and off that corridor, various doors led into a utility room, an enormous family-size bathroom, and what appeared to be a guest room, with a small window overlooking a side alley. The last door opened into a walk-in storage cupboard, with all the usual household appliances and cleaning materials neatly stacked in place. He went back to the bathroom and emptied his bladder, chuckling at his good fortune.
Back in the church-like living room, he smiled at the huge posters on the walls. Press cuttings, mostly rave reviews, and prints of his book covers, all in matching art frames. Next to the desk, a low bookcase bulged with copies of his books. Hardback and paperback, and in all the numerous translations too. It suddenly occurred to him that he might have to set to and read them all, as he had no idea what was in them. That thought made him laugh out loud. On the desk was the I-pad, the mobile phone, and a huge Apple PC, with the biggest screen he had ever seen on a computer. A cool-looking printer sat next to that, along with a row of awards, bestowed by various publishers and book prize organisations. Pride of place at the front, resting on an antique red leather blotter, sat the old Remington, looking as good as new.
The green leather-covered Captain’s chair looked as if it had seen some use. He flopped down in it, and twirled it around, listening to the mechanism creak with age. Opening some of the drawers below the top of the desk, he found one full of quality typing paper, and he pulled out a single sheet. But before he typed anything on it, something made him pause. He needed a recap, some time to put everything into context. And he had to familiarise himself with all the rooms, and the cupboards too.
He had woken up in the luxury apartment, with everything even better than he had imagined. Designer clothes filled the wardrobes and drawers. One door led to a shoe cupboard, stacked with every type of shoe anyone could ever need. All in his size, of course. Everything in the kitchen was high-end and expensive, and a drinks cupboard under the sixty-inch TV was full of all his preferred brands of wines and spirits. A satellite box was connected to the TV too, as well as a market-leading Blu-Ray player. On the desk was a fax machine, and a landline phone with lots of buttons that he didn’t have a clue about. Three large sofas provided the main seating, all in soft black leather, with chrome frames. Further down, before the kitchen counter, a see-though perspex dining table provided seating for eight, according to the number of matching chairs placed around it. This was exactly as he would have wanted it, given the choice. But he might have included blinds or curtains, and he was left wondering why none of the rooms didn’t have any.
There was no sign of a woman anywhere in the place. No cosmetics in the bathroom, shoes by the bed, or a dressing gown hanging behind the bathroom door. That was a relief, at least he wouldn’t have to remember someone’s name.
He sat back down and thought hard. The old crappy flat was gone. The two-bed he had signed the lease on had never existed, and he wasn’t renting it, obviously. He still had the same phone and the I-pad, but the rest was new, including the expensive watch, the computer, and everything else. But what was his starting point? How had he arrived in this designer loft? Had he ever lived in the flat near the street market? If not, how had it been possible for him to buy the typewriter? That was still there. He was sitting looking at it now. The one constant, the one thing that travelled with him. He thought of the line from Shakespeare, surprised he even knew it. “That way, madness lies”.
His head started to hurt again, and he felt like he might be sick.
Even though he had just got up, he went back to bed.