Just been watching…(94)

Anthropoid (2016)

In 1942, the Nazi SS ruler of Czechoslovakia, Reynard Heydrich, was killed in Prague, after an assassination by Czech soldiers who had been trained in Britain, and dropped back into the country by parachute. The outcome is a matter of historical record, so no spoilers apply here.

This is not the first film made about that event, (there have already been seven made) and I doubt it will be the last.

Heydrich had been in charge of the occupied country for some time, and his ruthless actions had earned him the name ‘The Butcher of Prague’. He had all but wiped out any resistance to German occupation by 1941, and the government in Britain was concerned that this potential ally would be removed from the equation. They came up with the plan to have him assassinated, hoping that the event, and the expected reprisals that followed, would turn the Czechs against Germany once and for all. They named the plan ‘Operation Anthropoid’, and dropped teams of soldiers close to Prague, with orders to contact the Resistance, and work out a plan to kill Heydrich.

This film is not only written and produced by Sean Ellis, but also filmed and directed by him too. So his mark is over the complete film, in every way. Added to that, the locations are completely authentic, not only shot in Prague, but also in the actual streets and corners where every incident actually took place. This gives the film an undeniably convincing feel, with period details complementing this too. That extends to the cast members, costume, and all the vehicles and street furniture.

The story plays out in real time on screen, with no need for flashbacks. (Or flash-forwards) Starting from the time the men parachute out of the plane, we follow them through tense encounters with collaborators, and fraught meetings with reluctant members of the Czech Resistance. They are aided and sheltered by sympathisers, two of whom provide some love interest for the leading male stars. Everyone looks and feels right, from the main protagonists, to the numerous German soldiers encountered throughout the film. The build up to the assassination is covered in satisfying detail, and the day of the event is incredibly tense, and handled with total realism.

Cast members include the ever reliable Cillian Murphy, and the solid Jamie Dornan. Toby Jones is as good as ever, as a weary resistance leader, and many of the other roles are wisely cast to be played by Czech actors. The German soldiers and Gestapo officers are suitably ruthless and brutal, and even crowd scenes and those in bars and cafes are well done, without the need to ‘over-stuff’ the screen. My one gripe might be that the Irish and British actors playing Czechs adopt a strange accent, but that was presumably necessary to fit in with the actors who had real ones. The Germans speak German, and where necessary, use a translator. That was a nice touch.

The film builds to the well-known climax as the team of agents are trapped inside a large church. And although I already knew what happened, it managed to keep the tension wound until those final moments. A good-looking, WW2-set film, that is much better than most of the other seven versions.

The Old Remington: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1570 words.

Later that night, Martin sat in the study staring at the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter. The previous attempt to change things had backfired. Vanessa hadn’t remembered anything, and he had chosen not to remind her. By physically changing Melanie, he had apparently created a mother who was also like that, and he had no idea why or how that happened. Other than the physical changes, there were few differences. The Fiat 500 had gone, as Melanie could no longer drive. Vanessa was very much the same, as he had found out when she had led him off to the bedroom for her required siesta session. Although her physical changes might normally have repulsed him, he was very surprised just how much he had enjoyed it. Perhaps the constant alteration of events was also affecting his outlook, and innate prejudices? Could it be that he was managing to write himself into being a better person?

With both the women sleeping soundly, he thought long and hard before hitting a single key on the machine. He still had the money. The house and lifestyle were no less enviable, and so what if Vanessa was twice the size? Trying to change her back was likely to set something unexpected in motion once again, something he was gradually losing control of. Maybe leave well enough alone, and try to make a life for himself as it was. There was a great deal to be said for having a loving partner, lots of money, and a beautiful house in the sun. He leaned forward, beginning to type, knowing exactly what to write.

“Martin was finally settled. He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure.
Life was very comfortable indeed, and no man could really have asked for more”.

He was happy with that, at least for now. Just confirming his thoughts, and hopefully sealing his life in Spain as it was. Leaving the page in the roller, he went into the chilly bedroom and climbed in next to the gently snoring Vanessa. He wrapped his arms around her new cuddly figure, and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

It was something bouncing on the bed that woke him. The mattress was leaping under his body, and he just knew he wouldn’t sleep through that disturbance. When he opened his eyes, he saw a young girl jumping up and down, using the bed like a trampoline. Her hair was in bunches to the sides, and she was wearing what looked like a school uniform. She gave him a toothy grin, and stopped bouncing. “Daddy, get up. You have to take me to school”. He stared at her, trying to find some recognition in his brain. The room was cold, outside of the warm duvet, and the light coming through a window to his left was dull, the sky a battleship grey. Another voice came from the doorway. “No shoes on the bed, Daisy. How many times do I have to tell you?” He looked in the direction of the voice, and a woman walked into the room. She stopped and leaned against the door frame, holding a shoe in her hand that she slipped onto her left foot.

She was smartly dressed in a business suit, a shoulder bag dangling precariously as she leaned forward. Her hair was cut in a short bob, with attractive streaks in several colours. He was still staring at her when she spoke again, her voice sounding stressed. “Come on, Martin love. I told you I have that interview this morning. You have to take Daisy to school in your van before you go to work. You can’t have forgotten. Please get up, it’s getting late”. He knew her immediately, as if he had only just see her recently. But of course he had. It was Pamela Murray, and the girl was Daisy, the one she had shown him in the photograph, claiming that he was the father. Daisy started jumping again. “Get up Daddy. Get up, get up”. Pamela turned, talking as she walked. “I have to go. Wish me luck, I will see you tonight love”.

If only to stop Daisy’s jumping and shouting, Martin rolled out of bed. He opened a fitted wardrobe, and found some folded jeans and t-shirts on a shelf. He pulled on one of each, and some thick socks. No time to even think about washing, or more importantly, orientating himself to yet another day one. Daisy was off, running down the stairs shouting, “Come on Daddy. Come on!” By the front door, he spotted trainers in his size, and shoved his feet into them. Daisy pushed a padded coat into his hands, and he found some keys and a mobile phone in the right-hand pocket. On the short driveway outside the small house, a new-looking van was parked. It was sign-written, and he took in the words all along the side.
M. Harwood Plasterer
Mouldings Cornices Detail Work
07703 222 6677

In the front of the van, Daisy pulled her seat-belt across, and tapped the back of her shoes against the seat frame. “We’re going to be late, Daddy. Turn the van on”. As he turned the ignition key, he looked around at her and smiled. “Tell you what, Daisy. Let’s play a game. Pretend I don’t know where your school is, and you tell me exactly how to get there from here. How does that sound?” She grinned, liking the idea. “What, like a Satnav?” He nodded. “Exactly, just like a Satnav”. She thought for a second, and asked, “Shall I do a funny voice then?” He took off the handbrake, and slipped the van into first gear. “You do that, any voice you like honey”. She tried to sound like a robot as she spoke again. “Turn right, at the end of your driveway”. They both laughed as Martin turned the wheel.

After dropping the girl at the school, Martin drove into the car park of a big supermarket at the end of the road. He found a quiet place right at the far end, away from the shop. In an inside pocket of the warm coat, he found a wallet. It contained a driving licence with his name and photograph on it. Two bank cards still from his old bank, and a credit card in the name of the business painted on the van. There were numerous paper business cards, and a photo of him with Pamela and Daisy in front of a huge model dinosaur. In the note section, he saw just eighty pounds. Three twenties, and two tens. In the coat pocket was a handful of change, and a packet of mints. Taking the keys out, he walked around to the back, and opened the large doors.

Bags of plaster in different grades were piled on the floor. Various tools were scattered around, some hanging from racks bolted to the sides. A collapsible telescopic platform was neatly folded against the bulkhead, and a petrol-driven stirrer sat in its mounting next to that. The thing that amazed him most was that he knew what everything was for, and how to use them. In his mind, he saw himself repairing ceiling roses, and skimming fresh plaster over the newly-built walls in flat conversions. But as far as he knew, he had never mixed plaster in his life. He closed up the back, and returned to sit in the driving seat. A thought struck him, and he leaned across to see his reflection in the wing mirror. Much the same as before. The same age, same hair, and same lines on his face. But no suntan. That had changed to the pasty white of an English winter. There were no cigarettes anywhere, and he felt no desire to smoke. On the ring finger of his left hand was a wide gold ring. Nothing fancy, just a band.

He was married to Pamela, and bringing up their daughter, that was obvious. According to the sign outside Daisy’s school, he was living in Basildon, in Essex. He had heard of the town of course, but had never been there before. He smiled, thinking about the line he had typed the night before, in the house in Spain. ‘Martin was finally settled. ‘He had a woman who loved him, and a daughter who looked on him as a father figure’. Well, that had come true, but not at all in the way that he had expected.

After staring out through the window for what seemed like a long time, the musical note of his mobile phone made him jump. He answered the call with a simple “Hello”. The voice at the other end was raised, and tetchy. “You were supposed to be here by nine, you said. I have other tradesmen waiting for you to do your bit, and we need to get on. How long will you be?” The man obviously knew him, and had presumably employed him to do a plastering job. Martin was short in his reply. “Sorry, something came up with my little girl. I won’t be able to make it today after all”. As the man started shouting, Martin hung up.

He turned the engine on, and drove out of the car park.

He had to get back to the house, and do some digging around, before Pamela got home.

The Old Remington: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1615 words.

That night, Martin did his best to placate Ness. She was royally fed up about his treatment of her daughter, and acting miffed. He shut the typewriter away in one of the drawers in what he had been told was ‘the study’. Then he went back out onto the terrace to smooth things over with his fiance. After some nice smooching, and a few passionate kisses, Ness calmed down. But she hadn’t let it go completely. “What is it with that old portable, Martin? Why the hell is it such a big deal, when you can afford to get the latest and best computer money can buy? I just don’t get it. You never mentioned it before”.

He poured her another glass of red wine, and smiled to himself. Tell her the truth. She will never believe it, and it might make her laugh. Once they are laughing, the worst is over. “The thing is, Ness, and you will think I am crazy, but that typewriter changes my future. Whatever I type on it one day, comes true the next. Once I have gone to bed, and woken up again. How do you think I got all this money?” As expected, she laughed. “Yeah, right. Pull the other one, Martin. A magic typewriter? Do you think I am some sort of impressionable kid?” Martin took his time. He told her the whole story. Pablo, Chloe, changing his life on a daily basis, and how he had been a famous novelist. For a while.

She listened, drinking her wine, and shaking her head. She had laughed, but the worst wasn’t over. “Honestly, Martin. I thought you gave me more credit. You tell me a fairy story, and expect me to believe it. I am very disappointed in you. I thought we had trust. I thought we had something special, I really did”. She grabbed the bottle, and filled her glass to the brim. He could see she was past tipsy, and feared that it would all turn nasty. “I will prove it you, honey”. We will type something on the machine tonight, and it will come true tomorrow. Whatever you want. You can tell me. Dictate it, if you want”. She waved a dismissive hand at him, and continued to swallow the wine. They sat like that for some time, both smoking heavily, and staring at the starry sky.

It was getting late when she finally slammed down her empty glass, and turned with a spiteful look on her face. “Right. Let’s go into the study, type something on that bloody thing, and we will see if that happens tomorrow. And when it doesn’t, I will have some choice things to say to you, believe me. I absolutely hate being treated as if I’m stupid. I had enough of that with Richard. You know that already”. He followed her into the room that was close to the size of his old flat. She marched over to the desk, and yelled, “I’m waiting!” He retrieved the Remington from the drawer, unzipped the case, and carefully inserted a piece of paper, taken from the printer next the the desk lamp. He turned to her. “What shall I type? You say”. She shrugged, suddenly less confident. “Something stupid. Something that could never happen. Surprise me”.

Martin hesitated for a moment, and a vision of Melanie came into his mind. He typed the sentence quickly, then slid the machine sideways, so that Ness could read what he had written.

‘Vanessa decided to go to Spain, and to live with Martin. Not long after that, her daughter Melanie abandoned her university degree, and left home to join them. She was nothing like her mother. Her fair hair was lank and greasy, she was very spotty, and considerably overweight. Martin estimated she must tip the scales at close to three hundred and fifty pounds. which for a woman of her height made her seriously obese. She cared little about her appearance, had no ambition, and had not even bothered to learn how to drive. Living in the sunshine of Spain was torture for her, as she was too shy to swim in the pool or the sea, and was too self-conscious to ever wear anything other than jeans, and an over-sized t-shirt’.

Ness read the paragraph, and looked over to Martin. “So you have written about my daughter being the total opposite of what she is, and you’re telling me that when we wake up tomorrow, that’s what she will be like?” He nodded. “But if you want, I can write something else. I could write that you are a natural blonde, or that Consuelo is only twenty-five, or that you have a Rolls-Royce limousine. It’s up to you, Ness”. Her eyes flickered. A moment of alarm, overwhelmed by disbelief. Martin kept her gaze, his mind turning over the fact that he had finally revealed his secret to someone else, and wondering if that was going to affect the outcome. Ness sat back, and folded her arms. “No, leave that in. Because that is never going to happen, not in a million years”.

Before they went to sleep that night, the atmosphere in the bedroom was strained. Ness was going through everything in her head, and firing random questions at him. “So you typed about winning the lottery, and it just happened? He nodded. “Yes, I never even bought a ticket”. After she let that sink in, something else occurred to her. “Did you type me into it too, into your bed, and being in love with you?” He reached for her hand, but she pulled it away. “I promise you I didn’t. I only met you that one time in the bank, but when I typed about the money and moving abroad, I woke up the next morning with you in bed next to me. I didn’t even know I was in Spain, did I?”

It was too much for her to take in, he knew that. She turned over, showing her back to him. As she reached to turn out the light, she spoke again, and her voice sounded different. “Honestly, Martin, I think you must either be going insane, or thinking you can treat me like a complete idiot. To come up with all that crap just to explain why that bloody typewriter is so important, instead of just telling me the truth. I have to tell you I am disappointed in you. Really.” As the light went out, he spoke softly to her. “You will see. Wait until tomorrow love”.

He woke up feeling extremely cold. He was alone in the bed, and it was almost nine. He checked the control for the air-conditioning, and saw it was on its lowest temperature setting. The room was like a fridge. Martin put some shorts on, and walked through to the terrace. The morning heat took the chill off his body immediately, and he continued in the direction of the pool. Ness was nowhere to be seen, but as he drew level with the dining room, movement inside attracted his attention.

A large woman was sitting at the table, eating pancakes and syrup from a plate in front of her. Another plate loaded with the same things stood next to her elbow, waiting to be consumed. He opened the door, and walked in. She looked up at him, swallowed the mouthful, and smiled. “Morning, Martin. Do you want some pancakes? There are more on the way, when Mum’s finished doing them”. Behind the swollen cheeks, and a double chin that looked like a medical collar, Melanie’s voice was still recognisable. “No that’s alright, Mel. I’m not hungry”. She shrugged, and continued to eat, slopping syrup down the front of the massive t-shirt, that was displaying the logo of ZZ Top, of all things.

Martin headed straight for the kitchen, keen to hear what Ness had to say about her daughter’s transformation. He guessed she would be angry, but she had to be convinced now. He would calm her down, and write Melanie back to her old self later. She was standing at the cooker, and smiled warmly as he came in. “Morning love. Do you want some pancakes? I’m just doing some extra for Melanie. She’s hungry, poor thing. Plenty for us too, if you fancy some”. Martin didn’t reply, and he felt his mouth drop open. Leaning on the counter for support, he looked her up and down.

Her hair was unwashed, and tied back in a pony tail that hung over one shoulder. She wore no make-up, and her huge arms wobbled as she flipped the pancakes around in the pan. She was wearing an unsuitable bikini. Unsuitable for a woman of her size, anyway. Between the two halves of the garment, rolls of fat cascaded down, like lava flowing from a volcano. Hips and thighs merged, hanging out to the sides like overstuffed weekend bags. Her swollen feet were jammed into some flip flops that were almost invisible under the painfully tight skin. She looked away from the hob, raising her eyebrows. “Did you hear me love? Want some of these or not?”

Pulling himself together, Martin gave her a weak smile. “No thanks, Ness. I’m not feeling hungry this morning”. She flapped her eyelids at him. “Well I’m feeling hungry for you, lovely man. Wait until I have had these pancakes, then I’m having you”. She mouthed a pouting kiss at him. Without replying, he turned to head for the study. He had to get to the Remington, and fast.

As he walked away, she called after him. “And what’s with the Ness’? You know I hate anyone shortening my name”.

The Old Remington: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1420 words.

It had been almost a week since he had encountered Pablo in that restaurant. Martin had been distracted since, unsettled by the appearance of someone from what he now thought of as another life. He hadn’t let on to Ness, deciding to settle into life with her for now, and go with the flow. And the flow was pretty good, he had to admit. She liked to have what she called her Siesta Sessions, most afternoons, and he couldn’t remember when sex had been better for him. The evenings were good too. Early drinks on the patio, Ness cooking some great food, and Melanie spending her time either down in the town, or in her room. It was peaceful, and relaxing in every way. But he still hadn’t found the old Remington anywhere around the house.

Consuelo walked past, giving him a respectful nod. He watched as she carried on through to the kitchen. Her tiny body looked like a medical sculpture, one of those designed to show anatomy. There was no spare flesh on the woman at all. Her legs looked like those of a racehorse, pure muscle. She looked to be around sixty, and Martin reckoned she would live to one hundred. At least. He got up from the sun lounger and followed her. As she noticed him, she stopped and smiled. “Señor?” He gave her his best friendly face. “Consuelo, necesito las llaves para los viejos garajes. Hay cajas allí que necesito mirar”. Martin was amazed. When had he learned how to speak Spanish? He certainly hadn’t written that on the Remington. Consuelo had clearly understood that he needed the keys for the old garages to look through his boxes, as she opened a cupboard door, and took a full bunch of keys from a hook. “Aquí está señor, los dos pequeños, al final”. He understood her perfectly. The two smallest keys, on the end of the bunch. He nodded his thanks, and left.

As he walked past Ness, he stopped. She was sprawled out on a sun lounger, between the terrace and the pool. As Luis was not expected that day, she was naked, enjoying the freedom of the hot sun on her body. She shone like oil on water, covered in factor thirty. “Ness, can I speak Spanish?” She opened her eyes slowly, and gave him a slanted smile. “Is that a joke?” He smiled back. “No, not at all. But I just spoke Spanish to Consuelo, and she understood me. And I knew what she said in reply”. Ness shook her head. She thought he was teasing. “Well, Martin, it must be a miracle, because you couldn’t speak it yesterday”. With that, she closed her eyes again, and returned to baking her body in the sunshine.

The first of the garages was half-empty. Some old sun umbrellas, a kettle barbecue, and two patio heaters dominated the space. He wondered when anyone would ever need patio heaters, in these temperatures. No boxes though. He went on to the second one, and whistled as he opened the door. It was at least half full of sturdy boxes, all marked with the address of the villa, and with arrows pointing which way up they should be transported. He tore the tape from the closest one, and found it was full of his old shoes. Deciding to create two piles, which he named ‘keep’ and ‘chuck’ in his head, he slid that one over to the ‘chuck’ pile. Almost two hours later, and the ‘chuck’ pile contained almost all the boxes. On the other side, he had stacked two boxes of DVD films, and books. None of the boxes had contained the typewriter, though three of them had already been opened, so he feared that someone might have taken it.

He arrived back at the house, dirty, hot, and pissed off. Sure, things were great here. He kept admitting that to himself. But without that Remington, he felt incomplete, never having the chance to change anything, ever again. Ness was on the terrace, enjoying a cold drink. She had a piece of colourful flimsy gauze wrapped around her waist, to spare Consuelo the embarrassment of seeing her employer naked. She looked up at Martin, shaking her head. “Look at the state of you! What the hell have you been up to over there?”

He wasn’t feeling very happy, and was about to launch into a rant about the Remington, when they heard a shout from inside the house. “Mum, MUM! Come quick!” It was Melanie of course, and she sounded hysterical about something. Ness jumped up, the gauze slipping off and wrapping around the chair. She walked quickly into the house, with Martin following close behind. At the end of the corridor, Melanie was standing in the doorway of her room, holding a phone, and smiling. Just like her mother, she didn’t have a stitch on. As he caught up, Martin respectfully averted his eyes from the young woman’s naked body. “Am I the only one who ever wears any clothes in this house! For Christ’s sake, Mel, put something on”. She ignored him, showing no embarrassment whatsoever. Ness raised a hand to stop him talking. “What is it love?” Her concern had been diminished by her daughter’s smile.

“I was just talking to Dad. You’ll never guess. Never!” Ness had no chance to reply, before she continued. “He has sent the divorce papers. He asked me to tell you not to delay them, as he wants to get married again. Can you believe it? All that fuss when we left, and now he’s getting married again, already”. Martin turned and started to walk away. Their family business wasn’t anything to do with him, and he would give Ness some privacy, to take in the news. He hadn’t managed three steps, before Mel spoke again, her voice rising excitedly. “Her name is Chloe Harris. She lives in Totteridge, and she’s really rich!” Martin thought he might either pass out, or vomit. His ex-wife was going to marry the deserted husband of his current fiance? How could that have happened? How could all that even exist in the same time scale? He heard Ness reply. “Well good for him. He might stop pestering me now, and get on with his life. Did you hear that, Martin?”

He turned slowly, and nodded. He was unable to manage a smile. Still trying not to look at the naked young woman in the doorway, he allowed his gaze to wander over her shoulder, into the large room beyond. There, in the middle of an antique desk, stood the old Remington, the case open. That made him forget about Chloe for a moment. “What the hell are you doing with my typewriter, Melanie? I have been looking everywhere for that”. He turned to Ness. “Did you know the bitch had it? You know I was trying to find it”. Melanie looked shocked, and Ness hardened her face. “There’s no need for that, Martin. Of course I didn’t know she had it, or I would have told you”. She turned to her daughter. “Give him the bloody thing, love. I don’t know why you even took it. You already have the latest Apple thing”. Melanie was furious, but mainly because her eyes were tearing up. She stomped over and grabbed the Remington, not bothering to zip up the case. Martin flinched. “Careful with it!”

As she handed it over, she raised the watery eyes to Martin. “I never took it. It was here when I arrived, sitting right there on the desk. I didn’t know it was yours, it’s just as it was when I moved in. I have never used it, but I thought it looked nice. You know, retro, like a designer item”. She sounded convincing. Martin zipped up the case. “OK, I apologise then. It’s just that this is very precious to me, for sentimental reasons. I didn’t mean to upset you, Mel. But like I said, I have been looking everywhere for it”. She sniffed her runny nose, and shrugged. “Well, nobody told me”. He tore his eyes away from her body once again. “All over now. Put some clothes on. Please.” She went back inside, and banged the door shut.

As they walked back along the corridor, Ness was eyeing him from the side, and shaking her head. He turned to her, smiling.

“All right. I know I was over the top. I will buy her something nice to say sorry”.

Book Review: Look Behind You

This is not a book by another blogger. I bought this one from Amazon for just 99 p, based on good reviews, and the usual Amazon recommendation that I might like it.

It is described as a ‘psychological thriller’, though I would probably say it is more of an old-fashioned ‘whodunnit?’. It has a crime, a victim, a few suspects, and the ubiquitous disinterested police investigator. That leaves the terrified victim having to resort to doing her own detective work, with the help of one close friend, as everyone around her refuses to believe her version of events. It builds to the usual page-turning climax, as we the reader rush to discover who is the real culprit. So, nothing new there.

The story begins with a woman waking up, trapped in a cellar. She has no idea how she got there, and no recent memory of what happened. After she manages to escape, her confusing world tumbles around her, as nobody, including her loving husband, believes a word she tells them. Slowly but surely, we get the back story, from the perspective of the heroine. A controlling relationship in an unhappy marriage. Past arguments and incidents are still there for her to recall, and it becomes clear that there was a catalyst, an event that has clouded her memories of what happened after that.

As she searches for clues, turning to friends and colleagues for sympathy and advice, it is left up to us whether to believe her, or agree with the others that everything is a figment of her imagination, and her way of dealing with grief, and stress.

Despite numerous necessary flashbacks, including memory ‘revelations’ that drive the plot, it is easy to follow, and I always knew where I was supposed to be in the story. The description of a loving relationship slowly turning to control is well done, and believable. But the appearance of a loyal friend who is devoted to the heroine felt clumsy and predictable, and despite joining those ‘page-turners’ close to the finale, I was not at all surprised by the ‘big reveal’, sadly.

Most of all, I am left frustrated that the characters in such books are always in the upper echelons of society. Chemists, Teachers, Doctors, university-educated, wealthy people who have dinner parties, and few money worries. Don’t women who work in supermarkets ever find themselves in peril? Is an unemployed person never stalked and terrified? For me, the outwardly cosy world of the upper middle classes seems to be the only ground considered to be fertile, for so many writers.

That said, for under £1, it’s a decent read, and I managed the 280 pages in just three sittings.

But I would have liked a much better twist.

Here’s an Amazon link.

Goodreads

Many of you will be familiar with this company. I know that some of you take the book-reading challenges, and write about them on your blogs. I checked it out, and found that I could leave book reviews, choose my favourite type of genres, and receive suggestions for books I might like to read.

That sounded pretty good, as it is also free of charge. Since I have been determined to read more, after buying the Amazon Kindle Fire, I concluded that joining Goodreads might be worthwhile. So I created an account, using the app on my Kindle Fire. I soon received confirmation, along with some suggested titles, and an invitation to participate in a challenge. (Which I declined)

Early days, but it looked like something I would come back to in the future, and might make some use of. Either way, I didn’t see how it could do any harm. Two days later, and I have started to receive emails from them, advising me of new followers to my profile, others wanting to read my reviews. I thought this was strange, as I haven’t posted any reviews, but I checked one out anyway, by clicking on the email sent by Goodreads.

I was surprised to discover that the woman in question claimed to be a ‘Chef’, and was looking for ‘good sex’. There was a link to her private contact page, which of course I didn’t click on. A few more arrived, all with nice profile pictures, and a variety of ‘occupations’. Each offered something different, from ‘Private contact’, to ‘Hook-ups’, or access to ‘More photos’. I know better than to click on any of their links, but I wonder if others might be fooled?

After all, it comes from a literary site with a solid reputation, (owned by Amazon) and on the surface may seem innocent, if you don’t read the ‘small print’. I am not suggesting Goodreads encourages or facilitates this. It would appear to be outsiders using the ‘follow’ option to facilitate contact with genuine members.

But sadly, it seems like the scammers have found yet another way through, making me ever more convinced that this stuff will never end.

The Old Remington: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 1600 words.

Vanessa picked up a silky dressing gown from the floor, and wrapped it around her body. Walking to the glass doors, she pulled them open, and pointed outside. Martin felt the blast of heat enter the room, overwhelming the still-running air conditioning. “Look over there, Martin, next to the pool house. Those old garages”. He stood up and joined her at the window, looking over in the direction indicated by her hand. “You had all your stuff boxed up and sent over by courier. It all went in there”. Across a covered terrace, he could see a huge swimming pool, and beyond that a row of white buildings. “If you had a typewriter, and had it packed away, it will be in one of the boxes inside there. I have certainly never seen it since we came here”.

There was a splashing sound in the pool, and he turned to see what had made it. A young woman was pulling herself from the water, long dark hair, soaking wet. Her slim body was tanned, and she was topless, wearing only the briefest bikini bottoms. As she saw the couple in the opening, she grinned and looked away, apparently embarrassed by Martin’s naked body. Grabbing a towel, she turned to her left, and walked off quickly. Vanessa spotted the vacant look on his face. “I suppose you don’t remember Melanie either? My daughter? She decided to come with us”. He shook his head. She couldn’t stifle a chuckle. “I tell you, Martin, if you’re taking the piss out of me, you are going to be in so much trouble. Put some clothes on, for Christ’s sake”.

Much of the rest of the day was spent acquainting himself with the house and grounds. And Melanie, who turned out to be alright, for a twenty year-old. Martin considered that he had been remarkably restrained, considering the huge sum he had won. The house had five other bedrooms, in addition to the master suite he had woken up in. Each one had it’s own bathroom, and there were numerous separate toilets dotted around the house too. The kitchen was huge, decked out with everything needed, and there was a separate dining room, looking over the terrace at the back. The main living room took up most of the front of the house, but was rarely used, according to Vanessa. “We spend most of our time outside, on the terrace or around the pool. And the rest in the bedroom.” That last was delivered with a knowing wink.

Most of the housework was done by Consuelo, a local woman who came in every day, dropped off by her husband. His name was Luis, and he also did occasional jobs, such as trimming the trees, and sorting out the landscaped gardens. When Consuelo had some big job on, like changing all the beds on the same day, or cleaning the windows inside and out, she brought a young girl with her from town, Elena. The house was three miles from El Palo, almost ten from Malaga. If there were any neighbours, Vanessa had never seen any. Melanie didn’t work. She had dropped out of University to go to Spain with them, and had some vague idea about starting up her own make-up brand. Outside the front of the house was a curved driveway, with a nearly-new Range Rover parked on it. It was brilliant white, with tinted glass all round. Not far behind it was a bright pink Fiat 500. Vanessa told him he had bought that for Melanie.

Once he knew where everything was, and who was who, Martin sat on the terrace, drinking a cold beer. He couldn’t believe how hot it was, and Vanessa had told him it would be much hotter next month. He had also not failed to notice that he was very tanned, so that left him wondering why he wasn’t used to the heat. No point keep going over it, just accept it. Save more brain ache. Sipping the beer, and enjoying his tenth cigarette of the day, he had to conclude that it was a pretty good deal. Vanessa was curvy and attractive, and exactly his type. It was as if he had designed her with the help of a sketch artist. She was neither stupidly dull, nor annoyingly intellectual, and she really seemed to like him. Mind you, for two hundred million euros, she could probably like anyone.

The house was great, the woman was sexy, and even her leech of a daughter was pleasant enough. She spent most of the day in her room, doing stuff online. According to Vanessa, they wouldn’t see much of her. And from checking his online financial statements, he discovered that he had spent less than six million euros for the lot. Nobody was hassling him with deadlines, or pretending they knew him. He could just chill out, enjoy the new life, the money, and Vanessa. Especially her. But despite the reality check, he just knew he wouldn’t settle, not until he found that old typewriter.

Vanessa joined him on the terrace. “What do you say we drive down into town tonight. Perhaps have a nice paella? We could go to that place you like, the one away from the front. You know, the quiet street.” He turned and smiled at her. She lit a cigarette, and drank some of her iced tea. When he didn’t reply, she grinned. “You didn’t fall for it then? You didn’t say, oh that place, I like that place”. He wagged a finger at her. “I thought you believed me? You know I won’t remember any restaurants, or which way to drive to town. Trying to trip me up like that just makes me think you really don’t trust me”. She shrugged, puffing on the cigarette. “Well you must agree it is all sounding a bit far-fetched, Martin? I mean, I appreciate you didn’t seem to know where anything was, and you did look surprised to see Melanie. But it’s been a year. You must remember something?” He rubbed his hand over his eyes. “The thing is, Vanessa, I genuinely don’t. All I know is what you tell me. You could tell me anything, and I would have to believe it. Imagine how frustrating that is for me”.

Her tone softened. “So you don’t remember telling me that I was your ideal woman, and the sexiest most beautiful person you had ever been with? Or that you will stay with me for the rest of your life, and be the happiest man in the world. Or that you promised me I could have one million euros for new clothes?” She started laughing at that last one, and Martin had to laugh too. He chuckled, and finished the beer. “I may not remember saying it, but I do believe it’s true. Well, except not a whole one million”. She smiled sweetly at him. “Flatterer. And by the way, you call me Ness. You have done, ever since that night at The Ritz.

The quiet part of town was busy enough. He would hate to see the busy part. Ness showed him where to drive under an arch, and that led to a spot behind the restaurant where they could park the car. According to her, he was such a big spender, they had insisted he could always park there. They walked back to the entrance, holding hands. The baking heat of earlier had been replaced by that nice evening heat that made you feel you could go on all night, even sleep under the stars. As they walked through the front door into the chill of air-conditioning, a middle-aged man dashed over, a beaming smile on his face. “Mister Martin! How lovely to see you again. And the lovely lady. Good evening sir, good evening madam. I will show you to one of our best tables. Please to follow me”. He sat them at a table in a dimly-lit area at the back, and handed them two menus the size of billboards. “I will send someone to take your drinks order”.

A couple of minutes later, Martin’s perusal of the menu was interrupted by a friendly voice. “Sir, Madam, what would you like to drink, please?” He looked over the top of his menu, and Ness was already replying. “Gin and tonic for me, I think”. She turned to Martin. “Do you want to share some Sangria instead, or will you be sticking with red wine?” He didn’t reply. He was looking at the slender young man with the nice teeth. A man who looked like he should be riding a Vespa. The waiter turned, awaiting his decision on the drinks. Martin’s face was like stone. “I know you. It’s Pablo, isn’t it? Do you remember me?” The younger man looked puzzled. “Of course sir. You and the lady come here a lot. I serve you many times before. Pablo. Yes, Pablo.”

Martin’s expression didn’t change. “No, not here. In London, a Tapas Bar, in Stoke Newington. I used to leave you a big tip. You knew all my favourite Tapas dishes. You were open from eleven until eleven”. Pablo grinned. “London sir? No, never London. I have not been to England. I live all my life here, in Malaga”. He pointed in the direction of the larger city to the west. “You must make a mistake about me”. Martin shrugged. Oh well, obviously my mistake, as you say. Make it a bottle of Rioja, a Gran Reserva”. The waiter nodded, and walked away to get the drinks.

Something about his eyes told Martin it was the same Pablo.