2029 by Michael Fitzalan A story set in 2029

Book No 8 – 2029 by Michael Fitzalan – A thriller

Momentarily, I was the happiest person on the planet; I even joined in their splashing of each other and swam around a bit. Their bay etiquette was spasmodic splashing followed by swimming around in circles and starting the splashing again; mine was flicking water and floundering around in a circle.

They swam like professionals, performing the Australian crawl in slow languid movements, I could only do breaststroke. When particularly high waves lifted me up, I resorted to the safety of doggy paddle but only if I was sure they were too immersed in their swimming to notice me.

When I finally thought about clowns, I remembered my mother’s music. One song’s lyrics said: ‘the tears of a clown when no one’s around’.

My emotions were up and down like a yoyo. If this was love, I did not think much of it. I was ecstatic one minute, morose the next. I shook off all negative thoughts, determined to spend the last few hours in Cornwall enjoying myself with my new friends. I would deal with my heart another time.

Thankfully, splashing each other lasted only a few minutes. Adel was the first to leave the water. I tried to watch as she emerged from the sea, but Freddie was talking to me and it would have been rude to turn my head around.

‘Are you having fun?’ he asked, swimming towards me.

‘Yeah, but the water is so very cold,’ I replied, treading water.

‘I’ll do a few more minutes, you go in.’

‘I’ll do a few strokes with you if you like.’

‘I think I might go in myself; I’m feeling a bit woozy all of a sudden.’

‘So am I. I thought it was the cold.’

‘You make me laugh.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Have your legs gone numb?’

‘No, I just feel a bit sleepy.’

‘Let’s go back, I feel like I’ve been drugged.’

‘Ha, your body’s closing down with hypothermia. I told you it was cold.’

‘No, I’ve been drugged before.’

‘You’re kidding.’

‘No, I’m not, help me get to shore.’


‘Please, just do it. My arms are going numb, now!’


‘Help me, I’m going under.’

I swam towards him, confused.

It was incredible.

A strong athletic youth was losing consciousness. He was not fighting to stay on the surface. He was letting the water swallow him up. I snapped out of my daze.

His head had slipped under the water.

I had to do something. I grabbed for him – his arms were slippery. I tried to get a grip on his shoulders, but he sank further; I dived under the water and grabbed his biceps, lifting him up as best I could. Kicking wildly, we broke the surface.

‘Help me,’ he whispered.

I had a chance; he had not swallowed any water.

He was so heavy, and I was feeling weaker and weaker.

‘Help me, Freddie!’ I begged, ‘Kick your legs.’

‘I can’t,’ he sighed, ‘Adel?’

‘She’s on shore!’

He was lucid for the time being, but he was falling in and out of consciousness.

‘Adel,’ I shouted, turning around, I could not see her on the beach.

Freddie’s head lolled forward into the water.

I pulled his face out of the water pulling his head up by his hair. He did not so much as wince.

‘Freddie, you’re too heavy, wake up, I need you to help me!’ I screamed in his ear.

No response.

I pushed my nails into his arms.

No response.

I kneed his leg.

No response.

Willing myself to be stronger, I pulled Freddie towards the beach; we were too far out for me to touch the bottom.

He was under the water. I had to get his head above the surface.

Why had we followed Adel so far out?

I was not a strong swimmer at the best of times, I should have told her; I thought I had in conversations before the meeting.

‘Come on, Freddie,’ I hissed, impatiently, as I brought his head above water again. I supported the back of his head, keeping his nose and mouth above the surface.

A huge wave lifted us up, I lost my grip and water gushed over Freddie’s head. He choked and came around. Shaking his head slightly, trying to get the sea out of his ears.

I thought we could make it, but his eyes were still closed. It was like he was asleep. I held his head and kicked for shore. Now I was feeling weak. His head was heavy, and kicking was exhausting. I turned my face to shore; no sign of Adel but there were people on the shore.

‘Help, help!’ I shouted as loudly as I could.

No response.

Luckily a wave came and pushed us towards the shore.

I let go of Freddie’s head and started waving both arms while I was treading water.

No response.

I grabbed Freddie’s head. Another wave came and pushed us towards the shore.

‘Hey,’ I screamed at the top of my lungs reaching out for Freddie’s head as the third wave came.

No response.

No Freddie.

He was gone.

The undercurrent in the last wave must have taken him under. I swam around in a circle, dived under the water and searched around.

Nothing: no head, no body, no arms and no legs. I was feeling weaker and weaker; I had to get myself to shore; I had to get help.

Swimming as fast as my breaststroke allowed, I saw a crowd gathered on the shore.

As I neared them, I heard raised voices.

‘I heard cries for help, are you okay?’ asked a man dressed in a wet suit, standing next to a surfboard.

‘It’s not Freddie,’ the woman announced.

She was similarly dressed and similarly equipped.

‘Where’s Freddie?’ Adel asked, her voice slipping between the shoulders of the surfers as she arrived.

They parted to allow her to slide between them so that I was facing her; she was searching my face for answers.

‘I lost him.’

‘No,’ she cried, stepping around me, she ran into the water; she had dressed, and the water lapped over her fresh pair of beige tailored trousers, but she pushed on through the waves.

As she waded in her white shirt became transparent, clinging to her back and then she was under the water and swimming out to sea. The surfers followed her. When they had reached a suitable depth, they crawled onto their surfboards and paddled out behind Adel.

Adel duck-dived twice, and then swam on.

She arrived at the exact position where I lost Freddie; it was uncanny that she had the sense to go to that spot. Was it female intuition? Diving down again, she surfaced and spoke to the surfers. I distinctly heard her asking for help. Yet, they seemed not to have had heard me. Like a magician, she pulled Freddie’s head from the water, her hand resting under his chin.

In a flurry of activity, the surfers slipped Freddie’s body on to the nearest surfboard, kicking for shore. Adel took the far surfboard and slipped on to it, paddling behind. I was standing in the warm breeze, still frozen like an ice cube, helpless but relieved. I loved Adel even more at that moment; she was a heroine. I had missed the first aid course at school, but I felt sure she could perform mouth to mouth or CPR.

She could bring Freddie back to life. As they neared the beach, I braved the frozen water again and tried to help but they ignored me all three of them; they had gone into rescue mode.

The three of them manhandled him off the board and on to the soft sand of the beach above the waterline. Freddie looked white like marble; his eyes were closed he looked like he was asleep. Adel knelt down next to him and felt for a pulse, she bent down and put her ear to his chest. Then, she shook her head.

That was that.

‘You killed him,’ the woman said.

‘No, I was trying to save him,’ I argued.

‘I heard him crying for help,’ she protested.

‘That was me,’ I explained.

‘You deliberately drowned him, we saw you,’ she insisted.

‘Adel, you don’t believe, that do you?’ I appealed to Adel.

‘Freddie’s dead,’ she sighed.

Those were the last words I heard from her that day; the day Freddie died.

‘Murderer,’ cried the man, taking up his girlfriend’s chant.

He lunged at me but even in my drowsy state, I was able to step back and out of his grasp. Adel was on her haunches hunched over the body; the woman was trying to comfort her while looking at me with daggers. The man was floundering in the sand. He would be on his feet beating me to a pulp in a few seconds.

Adrenaline kicked in and I was off.

I have never run so fast in my life. I could feel the man running after me, hearing his panting as he gained on me.

Everyone was so damn fit; it was sickening. I pumped my arms and kicked my heels up, heading for the car. I was going to be accused of murder and, running around the country in swimming shorts I was going to alert the police to my presence in any area. The boot was still open, the man was still gaining, he wasn’t as tall as me and I had longer legs, but he was far fitter.

Just as I reached the car, he put his hand on my shoulder. I slipped from his grasp, but he came at me again, gripping my shoulder so that I almost passed out with the pain. I looked down into the boot, grabbed the bottle of champagne and twisted my body.

The swine did not let go but I biffed him on the head with the bottle, which sent him flying and magically made him release his grip. He was lying right in my path, if I was going to reverse the Maserati out, I would have to run him over. So, as he staggered to his feet, I lured him away from the car.

As I fully expected, he grabbed for the bottle. He did not want to get another bruise on his noggin. I could see the bump already forming on his temple. He had expected me to struggle but I just let him take and as he did so, I planted my knee in his crotch.

I felt a squidgy contact, heard a groan and watched as the poor man dropped to the ground and curled into a ball. The pain was obviously agonising; he wriggled like a worm that had salt poured on it.

I raced to the car, threw open the door, jumped in and pushed the starter button. Nothing, the fob was missing. I had no idea how the man broke through the pain barrier, but he was at my shoulder again and he grabbed the sore flesh and bruised muscle once more. I winced in pain and roared in frustration. I threw the door open, knocking him off balance, and stepped on his toes, jabbing down hard.

As he hopped on one leg, I opened the door fully, knocking him to the ground. If he could worry my shoulder, I could worry his crotch.

As he tried to clamber to his feet, I planted another kick between his legs with the arch of my bare foot this time. I think it had more power this time and was more effective because I felt a spherical mass on the end of my foot. My assailant went down again, curled into a foetal ball, moaning in pain.

At the back of the car, I scoured the boot; the fob was lying in the hamper. Why, I could not tell. Returning to the driver’s door, I checked that my assailant was still down; he had got to his knees but was still doubled in pain. I had time.

I slipped into the driver’s seat, started the car; reversed out of the parking space, avoiding their black car-club rental Jaguar F-Pace and headed for the border.

I was leaving Poseidon Bay forever.

As I turned on to the main road, I saw a Toyota Hi-Lux pick-up in the distance. I knew it was packed with Lawless’s security men, armed to the teeth, speeding up the hill towards the point.

They were coming for me.

Chapter One – Falling in Love

The first memory I have of Poseidon Bay was the bar called The Captain Benbow. It was a maze of rectangular rooms with cream matt paint smeared over roughly plastered walls. Ceiling fans were spinning overhead, wobbling on their black metal stalks, wafting the smell of steam perfume and Lebanese Red about the place. All the tables were small and round.

Couples dressed in Parisian designer clothes that had been bought from containers standing in the docks sat drinking strong English craft ale in pint jugs and staring into each other’s eyes. Their dresses were black, their suits were black, and my mood was black.

Women wearing elegant, figure-hugging, dresses smoked from long elegant cigarette holders, the roaches stuffed deep into the stem and the liquorice black, Rizla papers sizzling quietly. Wisps of thick cannabis smoke snaked to the ceiling.

What else would you expect?

Every single person there was a smuggler. They either drove the boat, or they processed the manifests, or took stock or lugged the gear themselves. Like any other business there were a myriad of disciplines. Despite this, all of them looked the same.

The women had all crossed their elegant, long legs, leaning forward on an elbow to get closer to their men. Their loyal men, mirroring their women, were leaning forward on crossed arms, casually lifting the top arm to drink or smoke.

Not one of the women was under five foot nine and not one of the men under six feet. It was the land of the giants. Giants in well-fitting and expensive designer gear but giants nonetheless. These were obviously the ones in charge, the organisers.

I surveyed my pint. I was alone, a stranger in town. I dared not stare at any of the pretty women, a grockle eyeing up a local girl was likely to be dealt with severely; a glance at a man would be seen as an invitation to fight. I looked at my shiny shoes.

I hated drinking beer from a glass with a handle and dimples. It reminded me of my father – not a pleasant man, he had been all anger and fists before he left; he always drank his beer out of a jug.

He was also the genius who chose my name, claiming it came from the Germanic name Alberic who was king of the elves in German mythology; he looked that up. I wished he had called me Alberic. The truth is he had a crush on Audrey Hepburn after seeing her in a rerun of Breakfast at Tiffany’s on television and he wanted a daughter. That was how I got a boy’s name that could be turned into a girl’s name with the flick of a pen, a reversal of one letter.

My school years were miserable especially as my mum let my hair grow and I was considered a bit of a pretty boy. I became a lonely boffin and only got to be a salesman after a steel mill took me on as an apprentice; they sent me on the road when times got hard and the sales team dwindled. I had to pretend to be confident. They called me Biddy at the works. Get it? ‘B’, ‘D’; they were not sure if I was male or female or ‘trans’. Nor was I by the time they had finished bullying me.

I sipped the cool beer; the bitter hops from Kent could not hide the inferior malt. They had added rice and sugar to the mix; that never worked, but it did not stop them from trying. I felt depressed by that. Smugglers even adulterated their own beer. I heard that you could get good craft ales in the big cities, but I doubted it.

If you could it would be the preserve of the rich; they got all the good stuff but at a price. Banks and financial companies and institutions held normal people’s pensions. These quaint gentlemen’s clubs packed full of the brightest and best graduates believed that the casino, which was the stock market at that time, would provide such riches that all the problems of shortfalls would be solved in no time.

Everyone waited while the bankers paid themselves three-figure bonuses and the shortfalls in profits grew and grew as the economy plummeted like a pigeon shot from the sky.

I could do nothing about the financial situation in the country so I went out to work. I was young, single and careworn; it should have been carefree but two out of three was a result in those days. I should have been chatting to girls; I looked handsome and smart in my grey flannel trousers, blue blazer and white open-necked shirt. Shiny shoes in black leather with laces completed the suave look.

I looked sophisticated and clearly my conversation would match my clothes. When I spoke to the gorgeous, young, lovely ladies of Poseidon Bay, they would all fall for my easy charm, my knowledge of books and of science and my great sense of humour. I have an uncanny ability to remember every joke I have heard.

Unfortunately, there were no lovely ladies in that rat hole of a pub, just Amazonian giants with bottle blonde hair and eyebrows plucked within an inch of their lives who looked into the eyes of their thug ugly boyfriends.

I hated my boss, too, Mr Campbell-Lamerton, also known as ‘The Silver Ingot Merchant’. Why had he sent me to this godforsaken place? He had call it a ‘den of iniquity’ and then laughed like an evil genius before driving me to the railway and buying me a ticket to St. German’s station. Why was I so desperate for commission that I would mix with smugglers?

I needed to go to the men’s room. Annoyingly, I realised after buying my pint. I walked out of my oblong into another rectangle, slightly narrower and slightly longer and slightly shabbier this time.

The clientele were slightly rougher, too. This was where the younger crowd were, mostly men. They wore white suits made from Irish linen with open-neck Britannia blue silk shirts under the jacket. Each breast pocket was festooned with a red silk handkerchief spilling out in a defiant celebration of all things British. It was the uniform of the successful smuggler set.

Finding the ‘gents’, a huge green neon sign above yet another doorway alerted me to its existence, I pushed the door open. I was surprised at how cavernous and clean the place was.

You can guess the shape of the room by now but there were floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a bank of cubicles on the far wall and, on another wall, a row of huge butler’s sinks in heavy white ceramic.

After using the almost completely clean cubical, I dared to approach the sinks. Above them, gold taps protruded from under a shelf laden with fluffy white flannels, which were used for drying hands; it was like an international hotel, not a high street bar.

The soap on the shelf, slotted between each pile of flannels, had a warrant from the king; he still maintained his Duchy of Cornwall Estates brand even if most of his land had been purloined or been squatted on by the fine citizens of that wonderful county.

The soap smelt like camomile and lavender; the camomile reminded me of the shampoo my mother used to wash my hair with when I was a small child and the lavender reminded me of the scent of her wardrobe.

I missed my mother desperately and the thought of her, then, made a lump rise in my throat but I was not about to cry into a mirror in a pub. If someone had come into the privy and found me blubbing, they would have me kicked out of Portwrinkle.

The Lawless family had annexed the whole of Whitsand Bay and renamed it Poseidon Bay.

It was the most lawless and dangerous fiefdom in England and Lawless had given new names to everywhere; the pub had been the Finnygook Inn – less Treasure Island and more proper Cornwall.

There was a little wicker basket for the used towels. I tossed two into the bottom of the empty basket; clearly I was the only one who bothered to wash his hands in this place. I made a mental note to wash my hands back at the hotel; there must be faecal matter on every surface here, I reckoned. thriller

I only trusted the beer glass because I had seen it come out of the dishwasher; although I could not vouch for the barman who touched the handle, at least the matter would be on the outside of the glass rather than on the inside.

On reflection, I decided that it might help to add a bit of flavour; the watered-down beer was insipid, it needed all the help it could get.

Returning to the table, I found that there were two dockers in blue overalls standing next to my empty glass. They had their Union Jack hard hats in their hands and were approached by a tall woman in a black dress, followed obediently by her shorter minder or boyfriend, dressed in the red, white and blue uniform like the drinkers next door. thriller

She handed each of them a wad of plasticised twenty-pound notes, which they openly counted and checked for authenticity. No one trusted anyone in this place. She smiled and they nodded, then she wafted past them leaving a trail of steam perfume behind her.

The two men looked at each other without expression but I could tell what they were thinking about and it did not involve the man who followed the local beauty from the room.

I knew she would have been horrified if she had known what their plans might be. Appreciative but discreet glances from men whose partners were looking into their glasses or ashtrays led me to believe she was considered a beauty in Poseidon Bay. She left the room. She left me cold. It was time for action.

‘Which one of you drank my beer?’ I asked bravely, rolling my shoulders so they could see how broad they were under my navy blazer. thriller

I wished that I had packed my leather biker jacket and black jeans that I normally wore to look hard in places like this. I breathed in so my grey flannel trousers actually looked like they fitted me; a paunch is never very threatening.

‘Not us, guv’, we wouldn’t drink beer ‘Fam’; lager depth charge, that’s our tipple isn’t that right, Roy?’ the taller said, smiling at me.

He was big and broad like a bear. He could crush me without any effort. His partner was short and squat and smiled at me only once his friend had. He wore a very beery moustache; the froth on it smelt of my pint, I was sure, but I let it go. It was not a good idea to antagonise two beefy locals.

It was true, I had been to the gym yesterday but that had been the first time in three months; they were shifting smuggled goods on a daily basis: barrels of cognac, boxes of perfume bottles, which they unloaded by hand; the forklift trucks used too much electricity, so everything was shifted by hand and pure muscle power. The blue overall men did the hard graft of generators. thriller

The tidal boom power station, which was being built for this part of the English coast, was three years behind schedule as well as three times over budget. The regular power-cuts would have brought all the smuggling activities to a halt if it weren’t for grafters like these two men. Their tattoos and their bulging muscles put the odds firmly in their favour.

They would get their tips, what they called ‘bunts’, anywhere they could. Normally it was a percentage of what they were unloading; in my case it was my drink. It had been stupid of me to leave my pint unattended. thriller

They left sharpish; I looked around the room. If anyone had witnessed the altercation, they were doing a very good impression of carrying on as if nothing had happened.

Everyone was used to looking the other way now. I was down to my last tenner, enough for a pint. There was no way I would visit the cash machine at dark around this place; I would get some more money out in daylight hours.

I had been given a company cash card; all the expenditure would have to be accounted for and all drinks would be docked from my wages at the end of the week whether or not I secured the silver deal. My boss was tough. thriller

No one within a seventy-mile radius of the bay accepted anything except for cash. I could use the card to get money out of the hole in the wall at exorbitant rates, twenty per cent of the withdrawal. The only institutions that made money were banks. thriller

I could not use contactless anywhere outside the main cities, Bristol or Southampton, but even then the outlets charged a fifteen per cent administration fee. Cash really was king, a far cry from the early years of Brexit where no one used folding money or change.

Smugglers only ever took cash. thriller

They were experts at liberating and unloading stolen goods as well; currency changed hands at alarming rates, quicker than a rat across a railway track.

Striding up to the bar, I waited my turn. thriller

There was one barman and only three customers sitting at the bar. You never had to wait long; people nursed their pints these days.

‘Another pint of your Pope’s Toe, please, someone snaffled my pint,’ I complained, hoping he would replace my drink. If I was looking for sympathy, the barman’s raised eyebrows did not instil me with confidence. thriller

‘Hardly surprising is it? You are in the biggest smuggling harbour in the world, work it out, Einstein,’ the barman breathed dismissively. thriller

‘How did you know my name?’

‘Is that really your name?’ he asked flabbergasted, he obviously had no sense of humour and not much common sense either. I had thought my remark might raise a smile.

‘No, just kidding. I’m new in town, I heard Poseidon Bay was a tough place, but I thought my pint would be safe.’

The barman looked at me as if I were mad. I stood my ground; I was going to get another pint, even if I had to pay for it.

‘No chance. If you’ve got a complaint, have a word with the manager. Here he comes,’ the barman assured me. thriller

‘You are over twenty-five, aren’t you?’

‘Of course,’ I lied.

‘Good,’ he said, obviously not believing me.

The irony in in his voice rang out like a monastery bell. We both knew half the people in the place were underage. He set the three-quarter filled glass jug on the counter and pretended that the froth on top that brought the level to the brim was part of the drink. thriller

I stared at him willing him to top up my drink, we both knew it was a short measure; he stared back at me willing for me to pay up.

I caved.

‘How much is that?’ I asked.

‘Nine pounds fifty, please.’

‘Thanks,’ I hissed. thriller

I knew arguing in Poseidon Bay was useless.

I was not going to ask for change – he knew it, everyone knew it; fifty pence coins had gone out of circulation six years after Brexit. That was why they set the price like that: ‘look after the pennies’ so they say. That was their motto. They made a five per cent profit for each pint, not bad for just pouring it into a glass. Add that to the short measures and you had a recipe for a smugglers pub. thriller

No one would argue over fifty pence; I was not going to be the first. They knew that I knew that. The rules of ‘The Bay’, as the locals called the area; they were tough and had to be obeyed. thriller

Besides, I had spotted the manager wending his way towards me; he slipped past the barman and opened the flap on the bar, walking through the gate, bolting it behind him and deftly putting the flap back. He was safely behind the bar.

He turned to face the throng standing in front of him waiting to be served. There were just four of us and one of them was being served by my friend, the barman. It was my chance.

‘Excuse me, landlord, but my pint was just stolen,’ I exclaimed angrily; my acting abilities were second to none. I had played Puck like a professional actor; well, that was what Miss Thwaites, my drama teacher, said after my role in the school production. thriller

‘Happens all the time here. We sell beer but we don’t provide security for it,’ he noted as he lifted the hinged bar counter, stepped through the wooden gate and closed the bar flap behind him. ‘The police won’t come here after one of their squad cars was pushed into the harbour. Those electric cars don’t like water; it was a shocking waste of life.’ thriller

He walked towards me; he did not look aggressive but four years of being in sales had taught me to expect the unexpected. I put my pint on the cigarette machine in order to talk to him without a pint as a prop. thriller

Even though he was moving through the bar, I was determined to stick with him. I was his shadow; I followed him that closely, talking at his shoulder.

‘I appreciate that but what exactly are you doing to keep everyone safe here?’ I asked indignantly. thriller

He would no doubt buy me a replacement pint just to get me off his back and out of his hair.

‘Come with me and I’ll show you,’ he replied tersely, surprising me by his reply and by the fact that as he spoke, he was rolling up his shirtsleeves like a street fighter.

I briefly wondered if he were going to have a pop at me. I could see us sparring in the beer garden. I turned around to grab my pint and follow; it was already gone, yet there was no one there. thriller

The Captain Benbow had originally been a fifteenth-century inn; I would have genuinely believed that there was a dipsomaniac ghost haunting the place if anyone had told me.

Hurriedly, following the landlord, I caught up with him at a large rectangular table with bentwood chairs on either side. I noticed a pile of cans and glasses piled up in front of two lovely looking local girls. They were nursing their beer, seemingly oblivious to the mess; everyone nursed their drinks in those days.

Next to them were six smugglers, you could tell. They had their white suit jackets on the back of their chairs, Britannia blue shirts undone so much that wisps of chest hair peeped out from the open neck; royal red braces and Union Jack cuff links. thriller

‘Right boys,’ the landlord announced with a friendly manner; he was, obviously, used to dealing with characters. ‘We can’t allow cans brought in and the glasses you’ve piled up in front of the ladies need to be put back on your side or taken to the bar.’

His instructions were met with incredulity. On the far end was a freckly, fresh-faced teenager who seemed to be the ringleader. He swung back and forth on his chair defiantly. The landlord promptly produced a Phase Three Taser gun from his trouser pocket, no bigger than a pack of cards, and hit the closest of the white suits with a jolt of a few hundred volts of electricity. It was like he had seventeen piranha fish in his white suit trousers. The poor boy went into spasm for thirty seconds, screamed in agony and collapsed back in his chair unconscious. thriller

The silence that followed was palpable. It lasted for a few seconds, no sound.

Gradually, voices began to rise above a whisper and the hubbub of the pub returned. There was a flurry of activity while the other four cleared away, taking the detritus up to the bar. The ringleader still swung on his chair, unfazed by the Taser. Or the plight of his friend. thriller

It was my chance to make a name for myself. He was sullen and uncooperative, obviously a troublemaker and the manager would be grateful for my intervention and impressed enough to replace my beer – in theory.

He was the archetypal pretty boy, tall, dark and handsome. The landlord had shock value; I just had to be brave. A tough reputation as a salesman was always needed in those days.

‘Yeah, those cans need to be recycled and you shouldn’t be swinging on your chair,’ I thundered like Thor with a headache. thriller

As I passed the corner of the table, I pushed the ringleader’s shoulder forcing all four legs on to the floor. He looked up into my eyes, a sneer on his face and a death stare, his lips twitched as though he were going to speak.

I noticed that he was the typical leader: good-looking, tall and charismatic, everything I was not. I was taking on Alexander the Great.

Only, in my rush to make a name for myself, I had neglected to notice exactly ‘to whom I was talking and exactly with whom I was tangling’ as my teachers frequently warned me.

I am fairly tall, fairly good-looking and fairly good fun to be with. He was the Adonis above all others, the epitome of all three. The presence of the landlord and his electric pacifier may have been the main reason why he did not rip my head from my body. thriller

Perhaps he was polite and kind to strangers, or he was biding his time because he felt revenge was a dish best enjoyed cold, or maybe he was waiting for there to be fewer witnesses around. thriller

‘Now, lads, you leave these girls be if you want to avoid a bolt from heaven,’ the landlord warned.

He stood, shaking his Taser in the air, like Zeus holding a thunderbolt above his head and deciding which target to hit. The other smugglers meekly sat down, having cleared away, ignoring their unconscious colleague.

He was still out cold; his eyes were still closed, his chin still rested on his chest and his body still slumped in his chair. It was as if he were an old man having an afternoon nap. The girls were talking animatedly, pretending nothing was going on. thriller

That was the way in Poseidon Bay.

‘Yeah,’ I growled, ‘my name is Aubrey East. I’ll be in town for a while, so I’ll get to know all of you sooner or later.’ thriller

I surveyed the faces, looking to see if I had impressed anyone. I got another deadly look from the ringleader. I think one of the girls secretly glanced over at me, sighing with admiration, but she could have been rolling her eyes and groaning, it was difficult to tell. It was time to leave; I was not sure how much charge was left in the landlord’s pocket-size electric cattle prod. thriller

I walked out on to the fire escape, my leather shoes tapping out a tune on the metal grid beneath my feet. I trotted noisily down the steps and into the beer garden. To the left I spotted a lane. If the six smugglers were coming after me, they must have completed Ninja training.t hriller

I could not hear footsteps on steel. I was assured by the silence behind me but the walk to my hotel was going to be dangerous. I dared not look back.

Far ahead in the lane, within calling distance, was a group of rugby players coming for an evening pint, still dressed in their sports’ clothes. I had noticed another team sitting in the beer garden, in rugby shirts, shorts and socks, their filthy boots piled up at the end of the benches. thriller

If I was attacked from behind, it was likely both teams would save me. I was confident of that. I felt sure that a single person attacked by half a dozen wimpy-looking teenagers would be rescued. Rugby players are tough and hate injustice, I know that much.

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A well respected author

Michael Fitzalan was born in Clapham, South London where his mother had established a doctor’s surgery in a house which she filled with children.

With three sisters, two brothers and a library full of books, a love of literature was imbued in him from an early age.

Michael Fitzalan comes from Irish parents were doctors and they settled on the West Side of Clapham Common and had six children in quick succession.

A story by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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