pressed down the clutch and eased the truck into a lower gear. It
slowed momentarily, then its speed increased as it started to descend
the steep slope. He gritted his teeth. His steel-capped work boot
stomped futilely at the brake pedal, which, as before, sank to the
floor. He swore to himself. This was his sixth trip from the quarry.
He was fully laden. On the previous trip, he thought the brakes felt
a bit spongy, but he was behind schedule, as Garry had sharply
reminded him just an hour before. Garry, the works foreman, sitting
safely in his office, who had assured him that Big Bertha, the
unimaginatively named truck was good to go, and in fact, had just
been serviced. So much for that assurance. He glanced across at his
companion, eyes closed, fast asleep. Just as well. He didn’t want her
to confront what was inevitably going to happen.
poured down his face. His tee shirt and shorts were drenched. He
wiped his face with his hand, and then brought total concentration to
bear on the road. A speck appeared ahead, growing rapidly larger. It
looked like an old ute, just tootling along. He sounded the klaxon,
the harsh sound reverberating through the cabin. Rosie didn’t stir,
she was used to the sound. The ute kept up its pace, probably
oblivious to the behemoth rapidly approaching behind it. The distance
between them dwindled. Desperately, Mark sounded the horn again. He
couldn’t overtake. There was a continuous stream of traffic coming at
him. At the last minute, the ute driver must have seen him. He
swerved off the road onto the gravel. Mark flashed past him. In his
rear view mirror, he watched the old vehicle fishtail, his heart in
his mouth. Dust and gravel flew everywhere. To his relief, it got
back on the road, its occupants no doubt crapping themselves, and
counting their lucky stars they had survived. They would also likely
be on the blower, informing all and sundry that a maniac in a truck
was running amuck on the highway. That was the least of his worries.
knew the road ahead. It descended for another ten kilometres then
curved to the right and inclined upwards. There was a lay by just
beyond. If he could make it that far, he might be able to stop Big
Bertha by pulling her off the road. A big if. He tried to down shift
once more. No go. So he hung onto the steering wheel. A blue dot
appeared. It soon turned into a BMW sedan.
he thought fleetingly. Not so nice if he rammed it up the backside at
one hundred and twenty klicks an hour. Desperately, he sounded the
horn again. The car stayed at the same speed. Once again.he couldn’t
overtake. Too much oncoming traffic. He squeezed the steering wheel
with an iron grip. As if that would help. As he reached the car, and
he felt his bowels constrict, the driver’s window slid down. A hand
emerged, with a red nailed finger raised at him. He watched in
stupefaction as the car shot away. The damned woman had played
chicken with him! He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with relief.
He was a man. He opted to laugh.
now, he had reached the curve in the road. Big Bertha started to slow
as the road inclined upwards. He shifted down, this time, it worked!
There was nothing ahead of him. He reached the lay by and carefully
steered the rapidly slowing vehicle off the road. He down shifted
again and slowed down even more. He gently applied the handbrake and
Big Bertha came to a halt, inches from a huge boulder at the end of
the lay by. He breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Rosie chose that
moment to wake up. She gave a prodigious yawn and shook herself. Her
reached over and patted her on the head.
missed all the fun, girl,” he said. She barked, as if in
agreement. He released his seatbelt but didn’t trust himself to move.
If he got out of the truck, his legs probably wouldn’t hold him up.
He had driven trucks in Iraq, even got blown up once, but nobody got
hurt. Nothing as scary as this, or maybe, he was just getting old.
But regardless, this was it. No more. He would find something else
to do. Garry could stick his job with its punishing schedules and
blue lights appeared in his rear view mirror. The long arm of the law
had finally arrived, no doubt, summoned by the occupants of the old
ute or anyone else who had seen him careering down the highway. He
reached over and grabbed all his paperwork. They would want that.
opened the door and climbed down. He was right. His legs didn’t want
to hold him up. He clung to the grab rail and turned to look into the
suspicious eyes of two unsmiling police officers.
took over a hour of explanations and mandatory drug and alcohol
testing before they were satisfied. He would stay with the truck
until someone could come and pick him up or the truck could be hauled
away. He found a rock to sit on and let Rosie out to do her business
he expected, Garry was none too pleased at the turn of events. He
would organise for Bertha to be hauled away, and send someone to stay
with the vehicle. Mark didn’t tell him of his own plans. He would
reserve that pleasure for later. He closed his eyes, and then opened
them with a start as a car pulled up behind Bertha. His eyes widened
in recognition. It was the BMW that had played chicken with him. He
watched appreciatively as a long legged figure in skinny blue jeans,
with a skimpy top and huge dark sunglasses under a mop of dark red
hair came striding towards him. He idly wondered if she had green
eyes with gold flecks.
would go with her red hair,’ he thought. He sat back and waited.
She stopped, hands on her hips, and said, “You the driver of
that?” pointing to Bertha.
who wants to know?”
do,” she said.
almost killed me!” she exclaimed.
didn’t though, did I?”
I took off!”
were playing chicken,” he said mildly.
was not!” she said hotly.
what was the finger all about?”
letting you know how I felt!”
why are you here now?”
was on my way home and just saw your truck, so I thought I’d give you
a piece of my mind!”
piece?” he said slyly.
I don’t think you realize how serious this is!”
I assure you I do. Would you like me to explain what happened?”
“Apart from you driving dangerously, what’s to explain?”
I lost my brakes,”‘he explained.
I lost them coming down the hill.”
shrugged. “It’s ok, nothing bad happened.”
I’m sorry, I did jump to conclusions a bit, didn’t I?” she
said,” You weren’t to know.”
what happens now?”
wait for them to pick up the truck. I guess the powers that be will
deal with the company. I’m just a driver.”
good one if you were able to avoid a really bad accident like you
grinned.”Thanks, but I think I was lucky. I’m Mark”
raised his eyebrows.
know,” she said. ” My mother just loved Gina Lollabrigida.
Dad was Irish. Mum’s in Europe somewhere with husband number three,”
she said with a trace of bitterness.
well, my mum’s at home. Sometimes, I wish she was off overseas
phone rang. He glanced at it.
of the devil.”
pulled a face. “Hi Mum, how are you?”
walked away and left him to it. Rosie chose that moment to appear,
and ran up to her.
girl,” she greeted her. ” You belong to him, do you?”
and patted her on the head.
finished his call and walked over. Rosie promptly left the girl and
ran to him. He absently scratched her on the head, and said, “Mum’s
invited me to lunch next Sunday. Want to come?”
I don’t even know you!”
will tell you all about me,” he grinned.
hesitated, then said,”Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got something on.”
said cheerfully, “Oh well, next time maybe.”
station wagon pulled up next to her car.
my transport. Nice to have met you, Gina. Come on Rosie.”
driver got out, gave her a curious look, then got in the truck. Lee
and his dog got in the car, and drove slowly away. He regretted he
hadn’t seen her eyes. He’d always wonder what colour they were.
made a mental note of the name of the construction company on the
side of the car as it went by, without quite knowing why. Just in
case, perhaps. But Dylan was waiting. Dylan who was becoming
increasingly impatient with her lack of enthusiasm for taking their
relationship to the next level. He had already bought the ring, so he
told her. All she had to do was say yes. So why hadn’t she? Deep
down, she knew why. It had taken a close encounter with a runaway
truck to bring it to the surface, and confront it. Which she would do
when she got home. Decisively, she strode back to her car, and with a
spray of gravel, took off. The name of the construction company was
still fresh in her mind. She should be able to track him down without
too much trouble. Lunch with a mother who loved her son and didn’t
live on the other side of the world sounded very appealing.
his vantage point on the mezzanine floor of the night club, behind
the one way glass window of his office, Robert looked down moodily.
He sipped his Bloody Mary, but it did nothing for him.
blue are we, Bro?”his friend Bruno said sympathetically.
didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. Bruno knew him better than
anyone else in the world. They had known each other a long time. A
very long time. Bruno too had a Bloody Mary. He took a swig.
like piss,” he observed.
nudging his friend, said, “You need to get laid, Bro. Your dick’s
every bit as big as mine. Go find some hot chick to stick it into.”
be so vulgar,” Robert chided him.
it’s not the size. It’s what you do with it.”
never had any complaints,” Bruno said slyly.
everyone is impressed by size.”
looked up at his friend, all six foot four of blackness, only broken
by the whiteness of his teeth, which Bruno now showed in a grin.
was still early. The dance floor which they overlooked, was not as
crowded as it would be later than night. Still, he had his undercover
staff circulating. He had a very strict no drugs policy in his club.
His people were the equivalent of sniffer dogs. Anyone caught
peddling any illicit substances was discreetly removed. He grimaced
as he remembered an incident just a few months ago. An evictee had
returned after the nightclub had closed, with some associates to try
and talk Robert into changing his policy. He and Bruno had
‘persuaded‘ them to take them to their boss, to whom they
explained their policy in a more forceful way. When you were three
hundred years old, and immortal to boot, there weren’t too many
incidents that hadn’t previously been encountered and dealt with.
Being vampires helped as well. So the drug lord had been convinced in
a rather permanent way of the error of his ways, and they had not
been troubled since.
sighed. He was lonely. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a companion with
whom to share his life. Thus far, he hadn’t found anyone he cared
enough for, to ask. And they would have to be willing. He would never
force anyone to share the kind of existence he and Bruno endured.
Although the latter appeared quite untroubled by it all. He literally
had thousands of liaisons over the last three centuries and happily
moved from one to another.
now exclaimed,” Hey, hot chick just walked in. I’m off, Bro.”
and he was gone.
didn’t bother to watch him go.
finished his drink. It wasn’t really a Bloody Mary. It was
synthetic blood, and it had taken years of research to develop. It
contained all the nutrients of real blood, and it meant they didn’t
need to go searching for unwilling human donors. Although he and
Bruno had made an exception when they had that encounter with the
drug lord and his associates. For some reason, reports of the
discovery of any exsanguinated bodies had not made the news. He
wondered why. The other members of the gang who found them may have
had something to do with it.
walked to his desk, and sat down. A bank of monitors on the wall
showed every part of the dance floor which now revealed a heaving
mass of gyrating bodies. The loud music was mercifully muted in the
office. He grimaced. It was just noise as far as he was concerned. A
far cry from the music of the century into which he had been born.
was a knock on the door.
in,” he called out.
young woman entered. He did not know her. She was as blonde as he was
dark, wearing a simple black dress that showed off an attractive
curved figure, but what caught his attention were her unusual green
eyes. He found them mesmerising, and came to his feet.
I’m Robert,” he said, reaching out to shake her hand.
am Katarina,” she responded in a soft, accented voice.
hand felt soft and warm in his. He reluctantly released it and guided
her to a chair.
sit,” and seated himself in another next to her.
can I do for you, Katarina?”
am not sure,” she said hesitantly, “But I just met your
associate, Bruno, a little while ago. I have only recently arrived in
your country, on holidays to visit my cousin Lydia, and she brought
me to the club. Bruno welcomed us and when he heard where I was from,
he insisted I come up to meet you.”
light went on in Robert’s head.
from Transylvania!” he exclaimed.
am I,” Robert said.
smile lit up her face.
is so wonderful,” she exclaimed.
long have you been here?”she asked.
a long time.” he said evasively.
are you going to be visiting for a while?” he asked
will be here for four weeks,” she replied.
of time to get to know her. Maybe this was the one. He felt
enormously attracted to her.
you like me to show you the sights?”
would like that. Lydia works during the day. She could not get time
off, so we have only gone out at night, and this weekend.”
leave it to me. Where is Lydia now?”
is with Bruno. He insisted on buying her a drink. She likes him, I
reached out and took her hand.
will take good care of her.”
resolutely pushed Bruno’s big dick comment out of his head.
may sound strange, but I don’t like what passes for music in my
club. Would you like to go somewhere quieter for a drink and a snack,
smiled and said, “I would like that.”
pulled her gently to her feet. He caught a whiff of some exotic
perfume as they stood close together. He looked into her green eyes.
They seemed to have gold flecks in them. He was entranced. She looked
back at him, a slight smile curving her lips. Lips he badly wanted to
kiss. A long white neck he wanted to sink his teeth into. If they was
the one, he would owe Bruno a debt of gratitude he could never repay.
Still holding her hand, he led her out of the office, and to what he
profoundly hoped, was an eternal relationship.
was annoyed. Seriously annoyed. Someone had been in his room and
touched his stuff. He hated anyone touching his stuff. He had
everything in its place, and he had a place for everything, so he
knew when something had been touched. And something had, he just knew
it. The problem was, he didn’t know what it was, and that annoyed
him even more. Part of that annoyance was directed at himself for not
knowing what it was. It was a strong, yet strange feeling. How could
he be so sure, and not know what it was?
stood in the middle of the room and slowly looked around. It was a
large room with its own en-suite bathroom. Bethany’s room was the
same, but there the comparison ended. She was disgustingly untidy.
Mum had given up trying to get her to do anything about it. He didn’t
know how she ever found anything in that mess. The fact that they
were twins made it even harder to understand. They were so different.
Their mother had bought the house when she and their Dad had
divorced. She was a corporate lawyer. Dad hadn’t stood much of a
chance. Right now, he was in Monaco with his girlfriend who used to
be his PA. So cliched, Mum had told him. He hadn’t disagreed.
decided to start again and slowly rotated on his heel and once more
examined everything in the room. Nothing. He blew out an exasperated
breath. Maybe, just this once, it was his imagination. After all, he
had made it very clear, no one was ever to go into his room.
had rolled her eyes, and said sarcastically, “Yes, we wouldn’t
want to come in and find you doing something you shouldn’t, would
had ignored her. Coral, their mother, had suppressed a smile and told
him his wishes would be respected. Both the twins were responsible
for cleaning their own rooms and doing their own washing. Which was
why Bethany often looked like something the cat dragged in, in his
opinion. He washed and ironed all his own clothes. He was happy to do
hers as well, for a fee of course. Quite an excessive one. But being
as lazy as she was, she was willing to pay, and he had no qualms
about taking her money.
sat down at his desk and turned on his recently acquired new laptop,
bought almost entirely from the money Bethany had paid him. The
screensaver usually depicted Mount Vesuvius erupting. He liked the
visual. It looked startlingly real. This time however, a man’s face
looked out at him, a man who looked remarkably like him, except about
twenty years older.
Ollie,” a voice said.
office chair skittered backwards as he reacted in shock. He
instinctively pushed back from the desk, toppled over and fell with a
thump on the floor.
didn’t mean to startle you,” the voice said apologetically.
his prone position, Ollie looked up at the screen.
are you?” he asked, his voice quivering.
you, of course,” came the reply.
struggled to his feet and picked up the overturned chair, then sat
can you be me?”
you in about forty years time,” the voice continued. The mouth
moved in sync with the voice, he was being spoken to in real time.
Joe, is that you? Are you FaceTiming me? It’s not funny you know.”
please. Do I really look like Joe? I’m much better looking for one
thing and a lot younger,” the face on the screen said in an
you can’t be me either. It’s not possible!”
in your time, but I’m speaking to you from forty years in the
future. You have no idea how much technology has advanced, and you,
who is also me, play a big part in it.”
can’t tell you that, just trust me. It happens.”
you’re actually talking to me from the future,” Ollie’s voice
was high pitched with incredulity.
am. I’m Oliver Johansson, inventor and entrepreneur. To be honest,
this is my first trial of my invention. What better way to test it
than with myself, which is you.”
that’s awesome! So how’s this invention of ours work?”
given a lot of thought about how much to tell you, and the way it
happened was almost by accident, so I think I need to let events take
their course. I don’t want to interfere with the natural order of
said Ollie disappointedly.
you at seventeen are an essential part of it,” Oliver told him.
being able to talk to you is proof that it works. We’ve found a way
to refract the time space continuum.”
sounds like something out of Star Trek,” Ollie exclaimed.
me, you have no idea how much of science fiction will become reality
in the next few decades,” Oliver told him.
fantastic!” Ollie exclaimed.
but that’s all I’m going to tell you. There’s no need to remind
you not to reveal this to anyone?”
pulled a face.
going to believe me?”
nodded with a smile.
This transmission is about to terminate. I won’t be in touch again.
So goodbye Ollie and thanks.”
Ollie cried, but the image faded and Mount Vesuvius commenced
sat unmoving and stared at the screen for a long time. Had he dreamt
it? Not unless he’d fallen asleep in front of the computer,
something that had never happened before. So, he had just been
talking to his fifty seven year old self, who looked only twenty
years older. Or at least, how he imagined he’d look like in twenty
years time. He’d certainly aged well. Or it was the result of
medical and surgical advances. No reason why that couldn’t have
occurred along with the technological ones, he supposed. Would he
really be that vain?
that as it may, it certainly gave him a lot of food for thought. An
inventor and an entrepreneur. That apparently was his future. A
feeling of excitement ran through him. But who was he going to tell?
Nobody, that’s who. Nobody would believe that his future self had
contacted him from forty years in the future. He could scarcely
believe it himself. There was so much he wanted to know, but perhaps
older Oliver was right not to tell him. He knew all about ‘the
butterfly effect.’ Would it apply in this case? Why take the risk.
sense that something in his room had been touched. Was that the
effect of the time space continuum when his older self was in the
process of contacting him? Perhaps.
would go for a bike ride. That might help to organise his thoughts.
he walked through the kitchen, his mother, sitting at the bench,
looked up and said, “I thought I heard voices. Were you taking to
smiled involuntarily and as he walked out of the back door, he said,
bombs fell out of a clear blue sky. Within minutes, a city of six
thousand souls was obliterated, buildings reduced to rubble. Schools,
the hospital, shops, houses, everything levelled. Very few survived.
There had been no warning. No one had been given an opportunity to
escape. The dictator was teaching his people a lesson. Defy me and
word went out to surrounding cities. Resistance crumbled like the
buildings. The last of the rebels fled, their lesson learnt. The toll
in the city, added to the thousands who had already perished, brought
the people to their knees. The dictator reigned supreme.
the darkness, far from the cities, a young man sat on top of a hill.
Dressed in ragged clothes, carrying a water bottle he had filled from
the last river he had crossed, he stared up at the night sky. Denied
any real education in a country where all places of learning had been
purged, he gazed in wonder at the myriad of twinkling lights in the
sky. He had only a rudimentary knowledge of stars and galaxies, yet
wondered if any life existed around any of them and whether there
were people like himself, forced to suffer as he and his people were.
He sent his thoughts soaring up and up, reaching out, and hoping with
all his heart that they did not and that they were living in peace
and harmony. It seemed to him the lights twinkled in response.
made his way down the hill till he came to a small clearing, lay down
on a carpet of leaves and fell asleep.
awoke as dawn was breaking. The rays of the sun filtered through the
branches of the tree under which he had slept. He gazed in awe and
wonderment at a shimmering blue lit sphere that hovered at the edge
of the clearing. He felt no sense of fear as, with an audible hiss,
an opening appeared and a figure emerged. It looked like a man and he
got to his feet as the figure approached. It stopped and thoughts and
images crowded into his head. He felt completely at peace. No harm
was intended, in fact, the presence had arrived in response to his
wish for peace and harmony for others, despite the suffering of his
own people. They wished to reciprocate but in a more tangible way. In
order to do that, they needed to merge with him. He did not question
how they could possibly have known his thoughts, but acceded gladly.
dictator’s personal bodyguard knocked discreetly on the door of his
expansive office in the palace.
voice barked, “Enter!”
behind his elaborate ornate desk, the dictator glowered at the man,
and said, “Yes? I gave strict instructions I was not to be
bodyguard squirmed and said, “It’s a representative of the
him shot. I will not tolerate any rebels in the palace.”
he has an important message for you.”
dictator screamed, “I told you! I want him shot! You are relieved
of your position effective immediately for daring to question my
instruction. Now get out!”
the bodyguard walked back to the reception hall where six guards
stood at attention around a tall, serene faced young man in
nondescript clothing. The bodyguard instructed them to take him into
the courtyard and execute him, as they had done to so many others
before him. They showed no emotion and did as they had been ordered.
They marched the young man out, and he stood quietly with his back to
the bullet ridden, pockmarked wall.
bodyguard looked on, his mind on his own probable fate. He didn’t
understand how the young man had gotten as far as he had, nor why he
had felt compelled to disobey his leader’s express order not to be
disturbed. The guards raised their weapons, aimed at their target,
and their leader barked, “Fire!”
the bodyguard’s utter astonishment, the six men crumpled to the
ground on top of their weapons. The young man walked over to him and
said quietly, “Please take me back to your leader.”
are you?” he cried.
was no response, the man merely waited.
without knowing why, he led him back through the hall, and with great
trepidation, knocked on the office door. There was a roar from inside
and the door was flung open. The dictator stood, there, gun in hand.
The bodyguard backed away as he pointed it at them both.
said I did not want to be disturbed,” he snarled, then looked for
the first time at the young man, who stood quietly.
name is not important, but you may call me Jamal. I have a request.
If you would be so kind as to summon all twelve leaders of your
cadres to an important meeting.”
the dictator, gun now back in its holster, much to the bodyguard’s
relief, said, “Why would I do that?”
I request it.”
opened his mouth to respond, looked into Jamal’s eyes, and said, “
bodyguard goggled. His leader, the ruthless dictator, responsible for
the deaths of thousands, acquiescing to the request of this quietly
spoken, nondescript man. Why? Hypnosis. That was it. When he looked
into his eyes, he must have hypnotised him. He had a duty to act.
Surreptitiously, he reached for his sidearm. Then froze when Jamal
glanced at him. He couldn’t move his hand any further. They walked
into the office and the dictator placed calls to his underlings,
summonsing them to an urgent meeting. None would dare to refuse. They
waited quietly. No one spoke.
by one, the men arrived, and went straight to the conference room.
When everyone was assembled, all universally uneasy and suspicious,
the dictator, accompanied by Jamal and the bodyguard, entered the
room. Despite their fear of their leader, the animosity towards Jamal
was palpable. That increased when he sat down next to him at the head
of the table.
is Jamal,” the dictator announced.
wishes to speak to you.”
is a rebel!”someone shouted.
should we listen to him?”
I command it,” their leader said, in the quietist tone anyone had
ever heard from him.
gazed at him in astonishment. Jamal looked at each man in turn. They
quietened till there was absolute silence in the room. Jamal did not
speak. Instead, he closed his eyes. A small blue sphere shaped light
appeared above the head of each man. The varying expressions of fear,
distrust, anger and bewilderment disappeared, to be replaced by ones
of calm and peacefulness. For several more minutes, the silence
continued, then the lights gradually faded. As one, they all turned
to Jamal. For the first time, he spoke.
have all been vested with the desire to govern your country for the
good of all its people. You will go out and implement measures that
will allow all to participate in its governance. You will make
recompense to all who have been grievously affected by your past
behaviours and accept any punishments meted out to you as a
consequence. Any aggressive behaviours on your part will be channeled
purely for the defence of your people and your country. All your
activities will be monitored from now until it is determined that
such monitoring is no longer required. You may leave now and begin
by one, the men filed out of the room. Jamal spoke to the dictator.
are responsible for a great many of your country’s ills. It is
fitting that you accept any punishment determined as appropriate for
turned to the bodyguard.
will see that this is done.”
bodyguard nodded assent.
rose and walked out of the room, and out of the front hall of the
palace. The front gates, previously locked, barred and heavily
guarded, were wide open. The guards were gone. People were cautiously
walking past, but some stopped and even ventured inside. The streets
started filling, the word had spread. There had been no coup, but
something had changed. The limited social media outlets suddenly
found their restrictions gone and speculation was rife, but no one
quite knew what had happened. That would soon change.
continued his walk out of the city which was coming alive around him.
He made his way to the outskirts and to a small wooded area where he
wended his way through the trees to a small clearing where the sphere
had brought him. He stood quietly in front of it and waited. A small
shiver went through him as the alien entity left his body. He felt a
sense of loss, but was immediately reassured. They were not going
anywhere. They would stay for as long as they were needed. He owed
them an enormous debt of gratitude. They had saved his country and
his people. It might well be, in fact, it was highly probable, that
at some time, someone else on this beleaguered planet would require
gunned the motor and guided the Ferrari skilfully through the evening
traffic. That advanced driving course had certainly paid off. He saw
the lights of his destination, the Grand Hotel in the distance, then
cursed as he saw the long line of cars at the entrance, disgorging
their occupants. He drove as close as he could, but there was no way
he’d get upstairs in time. He spotted a flunky dressed in smart
blue blazer and black pants standing near the entrance.
pulled up behind a Lexus, hopped out and with an imperious wave,
summoned the flunky. He seemed in no hurry, ambling over with an
said, “I need to be up in the penthouse in five minutes. Park this
in my usual spot. I’ll come down when I’m ready.”
gave him a ferocious look.
be damned sure there’s not a scratch on it or it will be much more
than your job’s worth. Got it?”
the man replied, then slid into the driver’s seat.
raced into the hotel lobby, then headed for the lift. It only went as
far as the thirtieth floor. He had to get out and take another lift
to the penthouse where the game was being held. The two security
guards knew him well and let him in without hesitation. He’d made
it, they hadn’t started. He slipped into his usual chair,
exchanging greetings with everyone he knew. It was high stakes, fifty
thousand a hand. And also quite illegal. That was part of the
attraction. But in the time that he had been playing, he had pretty
much summed up the opposition. He reckoned he was a pretty good judge
of character. He knew their weaknesses, picked out when individuals
were holding good or bad hands. He had a damned good chance of
walking away with a very handy sum of money. The game started, the
first hand was dealt.
was three hours later. Mason realised he’d been suckered. It took a
while, he’d won a few hands, small pots just to draw him in. Then
it started. Now he was left owing five hundred thousand dollars. Of
course, his credit was good, but he knew without a doubt what would
happen if he didn’t cough up.
left, conscious of sly conspiratorial glances as he exited the room.
Down in the lobby, he wandered disconsolately over to the concierge
and asked for his car to brought round.
man looked at him in puzzlement.
sorry sir, but we don’t have your car.”
spluttered, “But I gave it to one of your people to park when I
again, the man repeated,”I’m sorry sir, but there’s no record
of your car in the carpark.”
dawned. He had given his precious expensive Ferrari to a complete
stranger, someone who wasn’t even an employee of the hotel. His
father was going to kill him.
hundred kilometres away, the sleek red Ferrari was being loaded into
the back of a specially fitted out truck. It was lead lined to block
out emissions of the tracking device that was bound to have been
built into the car. No longer dressed in the hotel uniform, the
opportunistic thief climbed into the passenger side of the truck. He
gave his mate the thumbs up, who put it into gear and moved off.
that was a great ride. Would love to own one of them,” the thief
wouldn’t. You never know when some bugger like you might come along
and flog it!”
both laughed uproariously, as the truck trundled off into the night.
peered over her glasses at Enid who was busy knitting what looked
like the longest scarf in the world.
verisimilitude?” she asked.
appearance or semblance of the truth. Also called truth likeness,”
Enid said promptly.
the hell do you know that?” Gertrude asked in astonishment.
know stuff,” Enid said smugly.“Why do you want to know?”
in this book, “ Gertrude said, waving it in the air.
a Mills & Boon. Big word for that sort of romantic tosh,” Enid
got other big words too. Like ‘exemplify.”
not a big word. Antidisestablishmentarianism is a big word,” Enid
just showing off,” Gertrude declared. “What on earth are you
can’t be. It’s ten miles long!”
17600 meters,” Enid said immediately.”And It’s not. You’re
bickering you two,” a voice intruded.
stood at the gate just meters from the front veranda of Gertrude’s
little timber cottage where the two were sitting in comfortable
chairs with their morning cuppa. Iris was almost as wide as she was
tall, which wasn’t very tall at all. They often wondered how she
got around. Gertrude had a walker and Enid a cane. Both with problem
hips and bad knees. And they were all the same ages, in their
seventies. Iris opened the gate and waddled up the short path and
heaved herself up on to the porch. She plopped into a chair which
creaked in protest.
chance of a cuppa?” she asked.
it yourself, you know where everything is,” Gertrude told her.
humphed, then heaved herself up and waddled off.
as long you like,” Enid called out. “Give us a chance to talk
made an obscene gesture as she left.
there to talk about?” Gertrude asked.
Her new man.”
got a man?”
has. Three months now. I hear they’re at it like rabbits.”
couldn’t help herself. She spluttered with laughter.
God’s sake, how?”
me. He’s taller but as wide as she is. And he’s a few years
think she might be exaggerating a bit?”
shrugged. “ Don’t know.”
don’t you know?” Iris reappeared with a mug in her hand, and
said you’ve got a man,” Enid informed her. “I was saying I
don’t know if it’s true or not.”
said coyly, “What if it is?”
I’d say you’re a lucky bitch, but we were wondering how the two
of you do it,” Gertrude said forthrightly.
spat out a mouthful of tea.
none of your damn business! And you’ve made me spit tea all over my
come on, Iris. You can tell us, we’re friends aren’t we?” Enid
said in a wheedling tone.
we’re not getting any, that’s for sure,” Gertrude added.
wiped ineffectually at the expansive front of her dress. Then she
said, “I’m all wet and sticky. I need to go and get changed. But
I’ll tell you if you promise not to laugh.”
promise,” they chorused.
do it doggy style,” she almost whispered.
two women exchanged glances.
asked, “Do you enjoy it?”
reddened then said, “Oh yes.” heaved herself up and waddled off.
They watched her go. When she disappeared, they dissolved into spasms
God, the mind boggles,” Enid cried.
you think she’s telling the truth?” Enid asked.
say so,” Gertrude said thoughtfully, “Though,”she paused and
gave a little laugh, “It could be a case of verisimilitude.”
again, the two women collapsed into peals of laughter.
looked up absently, as he placed some documents in his briefcase.
sure,” he answered.
partners are meeting with a new client later this afternoon. Why?”
wondered,” his wife Alyssa said.
“I’ll probably not be home until late. Going to see Bronwyn after tennis. We might go out to dinner, so don’t wait up.”
I’ll just make myself something if you’re not here.”
Kylie be at the meeting?”
wondered. She’s the newest junior partner. I hear she’s very
I don’t remember. Craig maybe.”
was one of the senior partners. Alex wondered idly just when they had
had this particular conversation.
know if she’ll be there or not. I haven’t had much to do with
her. Anyway, got to go. Enjoy your day.”
kissed her briefly on the cheek and walked to the front door, and
down the front steps to his car which he had left in the driveway the
he drove through the early morning traffic, he replayed the
conversation he had just had in his head. Alyssa, as he learnt from
the many years they had been married, never made idle conversation.
There was a reason Kylie’s name came up. He wondered what it was.
It was true he had not had much to do with her. He remembered being
impressed at her interview, but had been sidetracked by another
matter and left the decision of her appointment to others. She was
certainly a very attractive, competent young woman, at least, so she
appeared. The others on the panel must have agreed. But when had
Alyssa obtained that information from Craig?
had an idea that he knew. Of course. He was a bit slow this morning.
Too many hours at work. He needed to take a break. He had long held a
suspicion Alyssa and Craig were having an affair. After all, he was a
good looking man, several years younger than he was, and, truth be
told, sex between Alyssa and himself had become infrequent and
Strangely, the thought didn’t upset him anywhere near as much as he expected it to. He was quite fond of Alyssa, but really, his interest in her had waned considerably over the years. She was vain and quite self-centred. Never wanted children. Enjoyed the status being his wife gave her, the tennis and golf at the best clubs with her coterie of snobby friends and the charity work that apparently consumed much of her time.
she announced, shortly after he made senior partner, that she had
been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, necessitating in her
having to stop work, he had not questioned her. On reflection, her
condition did not seem to have affected her other activities, which
probably now included bonking Craig, he thought sourly.
back to Kylie, was Alyssa a little concerned that she might have a
rival for Craig’s affection? He resolved to keep a closer eye on
things at work. A little bit of awareness might not go amiss.
That idea went out the window when a mini-crisis with an influential client raised its ugly head soon after he arrived in the office. The rest of the day was spent working on various strategies to minimise the fallout from the obdurate and quite frankly, the bizarre behaviour of said client who had a meltdown when he discovered his boyfriend in bed with a despised enemy. As they owned considerable assets in joint names, he turned up demanding that they find a way to strip the cheating boyfriend of his share, after admitting he had chased both men out of his luxury penthouse with a large and very sharp butchers knife.
Craig had rung in sick earlier. According to his PA, he sounded
Alex was skeptical. Craig and the PA had history until both had been informed, discreetly but forcefully, that if they did not desist, both would be dismissed. That had been a few years ago, but still.
crisis was eventually averted, just in time for the meeting with a
new client. By that time, Alex was worn out. By mutual consent, Kylie
was invited to join the meeting, and given all the briefing notes.
Considering the short notice, he was impressed with her quiet
efficiency, and competency, as were the other senior partners. It
didn’t hurt that she was an extremely attractive woman, elegantly
dressed, with flawless features, short black hair and dark eyes. He
noted what he assumed was an engagement ring on her finger. ‘Lucky
man, or woman,’ he silently reflected.
client left satisfied, Alex escorting him out. He wearily made his
way to his office, then detoured to the staff room. He needed coffee.
To his surprise, Kylie was sitting at a table, also sipping a coffee.
He smiled warmly at her.
did very well in there. and at such short notice too.”
you,” she said quietly.
you like me to get you a coffee?”
no, I’ll get it.”
programmed the machine, and soon joined her at the table.
day?” she asked sympathetically.
thinking of taking a break.”
now I know the place will be in good hands.”
coloured her cheeks.
you have a very efficient and professional team of people working
looked at him for a minute, then said abruptly, “May I be honest
he said,”Of course.”
only applied to work here because of you.”
his raised eyebrows, she hurried on.
“You have a reputation in the business world as a person of honesty and integrity. And you demand the same of the company. This is one of the few companies in the city that has such an unblemished record. You must be very proud of that.”
only one of a very good team,” he pointed out.
know, and I’m sure everyone is deserving of the same respect that
buts. I just thought I’d tell you. But also, I want you to know
that I don’t want to work here for very long.”
not?” he said in a puzzled voice.
said slowly, “Alex, we service some of the richest people in the
country. Our clients are mostly millionaires, businessmen and people
with inherited wealth. There are many people who need the same kind
of services we provide here, but obviously can’t afford our fees.”
stopped, took a breath, then said, “Those are the kind of people I
want to work with.”
put down his mug, and looked at her thoughtfully.
how do you propose to do that?” he asked in a neutral voice.
said defensively, “I want to get as much experience as I can, then
start up my own business.”
very admirable, but do you realise how much that would cost?”
I’ve done all the costings. I would have to work for a few years at
my current salary, but I think I can do it.”
see. Well, it’s good to have a goal. Thank you for telling me.”
you think I’m being foolish and naive?”
at all. As I said, I think it’s very admirable to have a goal,
especially such an altruistic one. I may even be able to be of some
eyes lit up.
me think about it. I’ve been around a while. I know people.”
got to his feet.
call it a day shall we?”
rinsing their mugs, they left the building. A few of the staff and
one of the partners were still finishing off some work. He bade Kylie
farewell and watched her walk to her car, then slowly made his way to
his. As he drove out of the car park, a thought occurred to him.
Craig had called in sick. Maybe he should call in to see how he was
faring. At least, that was what he told himself.
thirty minutes later, he drove down the quiet suburban street where
Craig lived in an expensive townhouse. He drew up outside and noted,
without surprise, that Alyssa’s car was parked in a side street
just around the corner. He sat for a minute, then slowly continued on
his way. He had some thinking to do. Some serious thinking.
Basically, what to do with the rest of his life.
needed to extricate himself from Alyssa, it would be discreet,
without fanfare. His suspicions now confirmed, he would simply
activate the plans he had previously made in the event of just such
an occurrence. Alyssa would be amply compensated. But now, he had
something else to think about. Perhaps a complete change. He wondered
if Kylie would be interested in a partner in her venture. A venture
that might come to fruition sooner than she expected. The company
would survive. After all, it employed a team of very competent
there was only one thing left to do. He stopped the car at the side
of the road and pulled out his phone. Luckily, he had programmed her
number into it before he left the office. As he listened to it ring,
he thought with a slight smile, when Alyssa had told him not to wait
up, neither had realised that it might equally have applied to her.