Friday 19 September 2008

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Scotland the Rave

© John Sawyer – July/August 2007 *

Chapter 1 – A Wild Night Indeed

“Golly Paul, you have to help me. I think I’ve killed Squid.”

“Shit Skyye. What do you mean you think you’ve killed him?” I’d do anything for Skyye. I have the hots for her and I’ve been dreaming of getting her into my bedroom since day one.

“Gosh Paul, I thought that you at least would try to help me. I just pushed him out of bed and he fell heavily on the floor and he hasn’t said a word since.”

I lead Skyye back to Squid’s bedroom. When I turn on the light, Squid is lying on the floor next to the bed. He has a battleaxe buried into his skull just between the eyes. There is a dagger poking out of his chest and the froth at his mouth has a strange smell of almonds. He is clearly dead.

“It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t die from falling from his bed Skyye. It’s probably foul play.” But who and why?

Lady Hillary is an obvious suspect. She is Squid’s ex lover and the break-up was a pretty horrible and public affair. She is also holding the dagger buried in Squid’s chest. She looks pretty dead herself with her eyes focused on the ceiling and the same almond scented froth on her mouth.

I remember Squid and Hillary meeting on a talk show about 15-16 years ago now. Parkinson I think it was. Hillary was promoting her new isolated recording studio in the wilds of Northern Scotland. Just the thing for a band needing a concentrated effort to finish an album. Squid was just being Squid, stories about his sexual conquests, his substance abuse problems and his self confessed talent as a hit maker. Squid was heard yelling “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” as the credits rolled. They went to dinner after the show and the subsequent affair was pretty torrid. There was even a rumour about a love child. I never really believed it because Hillary was almost 50 at that stage.

“It looks like a suicide pact, Skyye. I think they may have taken poison together. I’ve read that arsenic smells of almonds, but the battleaxe is a bit out of place.” At this stage everyone is a suspect.

I wonder if Skyye had been taught bludgeoning and stabbing at her Swiss finishing school. I know they still coach fencing, but this is taking traditional Martial Arts a bit far. Skyye’s pretty slight, how could she hold them down and what about her motives for doing them in?

“What was all that yelling and screaming you’ve been going on with the last few nights, Skyye?”

“Gosh Paul, Squid said he liked it a bit rough when we were, you know, doing it. I was only just acting out his fantasies. I wondered why he was so quiet tonight. I just took it as an opportunity to get a good night’s sleep. Daddy was right. I should have had nothing to do with him.”

Daddy was the former Lord Chamberlain in Thatcher’s first government. While Maggie was stealing school kids’ milk, Daddy banned a number of songs. The most notable song was our big hit “Lay with me sailor.” We released it just as the Falklands War started. The general hype and civil rights court case turned us from a struggling pub band into a must see, must buy sensation.

Squid has been living pretty well on the notoriety ever since. Every couple of years he managed to do something outrageous to whip up the talk show invitations.

Getting himself killed is a pretty spectacular but ultimately unproductive stunt.

“I say Paul, what’s happened with Her Ladyship?” Angus McTasty is the Gilley, responsible for cooking and all the other jobs around the castle. 

"I’d just come to tell you all that the causeway to the mainland has been washed away. It’s taken the power and phone lines with it. I’ve turned on the generator so we have heat and power for a couple of weeks. This storm should blow itself out within 3 days.” Angus is a massive, hairy Scot who wears a kilt in the traditional manner. His equally massive and hairy collection of genitalia is not troubled by underwear and keeps poking itself out as he goes about his duties.

“Murder is not something a chap is really prepared for, but as my old CO always says: ‘It’s not something to get into a flap over.’” Angus’s time as a Scots guardsman prepared him for all sorts of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing and other killing. He is also a pretty dab hand at indoor pursuits if the manoeuvres around his bedroom over the past week are any indication. Angus’ sexual preferences are confused to say the least.

“What the hell’s going on here Paul?” Stella is our new manager.

“Squid’s dead Stella.”

“He could have waited until we’d finished the album.” Stella is pretty driven.

“Ring that stupid sound engineer and find out exactly how many tracks we can dig out of what we have. The bastard’s not dying on me and getting away with it.” Stella is also pretty single minded.

Stella intimidates me. After a week’s isolation in our remote Scottish castle and at 7 in the morning, Stella remains the highly charged corporate lawyer, power dressed in a black suit with low cut creamy blouse. Even without the six inch stiletto heels she towers over everyone except Angus McTasty. She starts to explore the bodies.

“Did that old upper class tart kill him? Well this is an obvious breach of our contract. Clause 73a clearly states that the owners and managers of the studio will do everything possible to ensure a successful session.

“I’m sure a judge would agree that killing the lead singer violates her fiduciary duty for care of her guests. I’m not paying her a penny.”

“Hillary is dead Stella.”

“What do I care about that? The law is the law.” Stella is just what a band needs really. She has absolutely no morals and absolutely no compassion. She does everything to maximise the bottom line although I sometimes wonder whose bottom line she is looking after. If she is prepared to steal the rent from Lady Hillary, maybe she’d steal off the band members if she got the chance. She certainly hated Hillary with her old money but I wonder about her motives for killing Squid.

There is a knock at the bedroom door.

“Would cha' be wanting cha'r usual now Mr. Squid?” Wee Fiona, a local lass from the village helps out in the kitchen during recording sessions. She brought Squid his morning cup of tea each day, just before we were all due in the studio. She’d obviously made it on her bike before the causeway was washed away.

“Dear dear, look at dem two lying dere. Do cha' t'ink they’d been mudded Mr. Paul?” Wee Fiona has just turned 16 and has never been more that 10 miles from her cottage. [ED: Why do you have her speaking with an Irish inflection – perhaps you should move the castle to Galway]. She is even more naive than Skyye. I don’t really think either of them would come at murder. Fiona certainly has no motive.

“Heck Paul, I’m so confused. Squid and Hillary both dead and no one seems at all upset or anything. What are we going to do?”

“I’m not sure either Skyye, but I’m off to find out where the other three are right now.”

I think we have a problem and it’s not just because I can’t get my latest riff to work properly.

Chapter 2 – The Sound Studio

The other three are already in the sound studio. Kit the 19 year old drummer is at my keyboard picking out a surprisingly good 12-bar blues variation. MastaBlasta our producer is sitting on a stool listening to something from his headphones. I decide to talk to Lucky Phil the sound engineer first.

“That’s really awful man. Hillary was a real lady, I owe her a lot. She picked me out of the gutter and gave me this job after everyone else wrote me off.”

“What happened Phil?”

“After my ‘Vicious Vipers’ punk band folded, I had trouble getting any action. All I could find was a regular Celebratory Karaoke session at an East London pub. My agent also lined up the occasional Macarena gig.

“It all went a bit pear shaped during the big Mexican festival at the Hammersmith Odeon. There was a riot when I smashed my guitar over our bongo drummer and pissed over the lead singer. The fans just weren’t ready for a Punk-Macarena cross over. The whole thing spins me out now.

"The numbers at the Celebratory Karaoke gig built up for a while, but the management got a bit tired of me smashing the sound equipment into the giant plasma screen. As soon as the nightly gate money fell below the nightly cost of equipment replacements I was history, man.

“Hillary got me up here and dried me out. It’s a bit hard when some of the older groups come up but I’ve managed to stay off the gear for 19 months now, Paul. It feels extra cool to wake up in the morning and still remember what went on the night before.” Phil has turned himself into a pretty handy sound engineer and his transformation is legendary amongst working musos. He’s managed the impossible and hence the new handle “Lucky Phil”.

“What can you tell me about Angus McTasty Phil?”

“I think you’ve heard something about his time in the Scots Guards. He spent a few years driving armoured cars with the main regiment at their barracks in Germany and then transferred to the ceremonial unit in London . He sang with their show band and gained quite a reputation as a ladies man around Belgravia. They say he had a lead to all sorts of gear from Germany and Turkey. He was into all that sort of stuff man.”

“Do you think Angus had any reason to kill Squid or Hillary Phil?”

“I think he met Squid at the Royal Tournament at Earls Court one year. Squid was a celebrity judge. When Angus left the army he went to work for Squid as a driver bodyguard. People used to say they were lovers but you know what they say. Live and let live Dude.

“Hillary and Angus are, err I mean were pretty good together man. Sometimes when there were no guests, they might share a room, but nothing much really. I have this vibe that Angus might secretly love Hillary. Who knows?”

Angus may have a motive for killing either or both of the victims, but somehow I doubt that he has done the poisonings. Lucky Phil might resent Hillary’s patronage, but somehow I thing he’s genuine.

“Watcha saying there Bro? The jimmy and the jenny have got themselves iced? Smack me if I can believe it, this ain’t no Philly. Crackers jest don’t go dead in the frozen North. Dat’s for us homies.” I find MastaBlasta difficult to talk to. OK talking and listening is easy, especially the rhythmic cadence. My trouble is guessing exactly what that mother is actually saying.

“How’d you get into this music business MastaBlasta?” The Masta has a mean reputation he started as a street rapper in LA and progressed to producing emerging rap groups. It was pretty hard to get consistency in the product when the artists are shooting each other. The Masta is said to have wasted enemies in his time, but poison, daggers and battleaxes were not his scene. An AK47 or an ivory handled magnum were his weapons of choice.

“Well I’m actually an English Lit major Paul. I was born in Carmel CA , both my parents are doctors. I went to the streets to do some research and found that I had a talent and passion for the art form. I wanted to give the rap kids a chance and I think I’ve worked out what will sell in the mass market. [ED: I sighed with relief. There’s no way you could run a dialogue where most of the information is delivered as rap chat. The punters wouldn’t understand anyway.].

“When Stella offered me this gig, I jumped at it. It’s a chance to earn some real money for a change. As part of the deal, I’m supposed to stay in character. You wont give me away will you Paul?” More surprises, I asked about Stella.

“I’ve only known Stella for a couple of months. Just before she started to get the band together, she approached me to produce the album. I know she’s a flyer. She has a comer office on the top floor of one of the bigger LA law firms. She wants bigger things and this is very much a development project. She’s set herself the challenge of getting your group back in the charts within six months. She thinks the big entertainment law firms will jump at her if she can pull it off.

“You haven’t asked, but I don’t think Stella can afford to kill Squid or Hillary. She certainly has the capacity to kill to meet her objectives, but she has too much money tied up. She needs Squid to front the band and she can hold her middle class hatred of Lady Hillary in check for a while.

“Yo der kaboodle. Yall fit to rap?” Kit has joined us and MastaBlasta is back in character.

Oh big black fucker! … I’m fine Masta and I’m sure ready to lay down that next track? Where’s the Squid-man?” Kit suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s really no hardship for a drummer.

“Squid’s dead Kit.” I should have made a tape and played it each time I was asked. It’s too late now anyway. The next people to talk to are the cops when they finally get here. “So is Lady Hillary.”

Foulest bastardry! … Well that’s not right Paul. I saw them both around 10 last night. They can’t be dead. What happened? This is shit man.”

Kit is young and new enough to the business for death to be remarkable. Kit is replacing our original drummer Stewie. Stewie died in mysterious circumstances at his country estate just south of London . The coroner is still trying to decipher the toxicology report. He can’t believe anyone could have ingested so many foreign substances. The brand name products include Drano, Listerine, Marmite, Persil and Pledge to identify just a few.

I like Kit, he is certainly enthusiastic and keen to learn. We’ve actually written a couple of songs and formed a bit of a quartet with Skyye and the Masta to fill in the hours while we waited for Squid to deal with his inadequacies and conquer his artistic bypass.

“I don’t see us doing much work today. Let’s just go to the kitchen and see what Angus has for Brunch.” I want to talk with the group again and try to work out exactly what happened last night.

Chapter 3 – The Kitchen

[Ed: This is pathetic - you've had 14 months and you still can't finish the thing - what could be so hard?]

[JS: Sure, easy. I'd like to see how you'd go for a change...]

Chapter 4 – The Workshop

Chapter 5 – Back in Squid’s Bedroom

Oh Joy. At last I’m in bed with Skyye. I feel her champagne glass breasts against my chest as I listen to her breathing. Am I in heaven? Is it all a dream?

“I say old chap, would you mind keeping still? There’s a good man.” Angus McTasty has joined us in Squid’s bed. I was a bit disturbed at first. I know that Angus is not particular about who he plays with and where he places his appendages. I’m just glad that the cold has made him finally opt for the less traditional ski trousers under his kilt.

“Yo Bro, get your motherfuka feet out of my ass or I’ll need to lose you, permanently.” I’m strangely relieved that MastaBlasta is protecting my rear. He’s not really my idea of a sexy bed companion. Even with one of Lady Hillary’s feather boas around his neck, he still looks mean. He is certainly preferable to Angus.

The heating has finally broken down and we’re in bed together trying to get warm. We’re fully clothed and more. We have on every item of clothing we can lay our hands on.

“I’m so glad you came all the way to our little village Kit. Just imagine that we might have gone through life without meeting. Promise you’ll take me with you when we finally get out of here.” Wee Fiona and Kit the drummer have made up for lost time while we’ve been locked away here without power or contact with the outside world. They're now rolled in their private bundle of blankets on one corner of the bed oblivious to the rest of us.

In the other corner Stella, Angus and Lucky Phil are entwined in a confused and confusing muddle of arms, legs, assorted clothing and bits of bedding rolled into a massive ball. Stella had finally calmed down and now has this serene smile on her face.

Squid and Lady Hillary are still in their deadly embrace on the floor. They are colder than the rest of us but they're feeling no pain now.

We’ve chosen Squid’s bedroom because it's in the centre of the castle away from the wind. It also has the biggest bed. I also want to protect the evidence for the local police when they finally arrive. I’d warned everyone individually that they must not interfere with the crime scene but someone has already wiped the arsenic laced foam from the victim’s faces. It may have been to make them look better, but I suspect that the murderer was trying to remove the evidence.

Now is my chance to confront the suspects as a group.

“I think I know what’s happened here.

“Squid and Lady Hillary have not died in a suicide pact and despite the evidence there is only one murderer. “

“Golly you’re smart Paul. How did you work that out?”

“I noticed that the vodka bottle on the bedside table also had a smell of almonds and vodka is not supposed to smell. That’s why all the record company execs drink it. By the time you pushed Squid out of bed he was already dead, poisoned with arsenic in his vodka. “

“But who would have done that man? I know Squid was a bit of an arsehole but we were working here in the spirit of peace man. I’m really spun out at the idea that hate can consume the world.”

“Shut up Phil. Stick to what you know. Just let Paul finish his revelations and let me get back to my err, negotiations with you and Angus. I’ll bloody sue anyone who interrupts again.”

[Ed: You can’t put it on the WWW like this. You’ve broken all the bloody rules of crime fiction. The contract with the reader is that you’ll reveal all in the last chapter. You’ll be flamed big time.
[JS: Well after 3000 words, I’ve run out of steam. I’ve had it with this plot-less mess.
[ED: Well forget about the unfinished chapters, just tell me who did it then…
I'll put it out on my publisher's BLOG.

OK Here goes –

Wee Fiona is the love child of Squid and Hilary.

She found out that Squid was the father who neglected her and consumed with mad revenge she poisoned Squid's champagne.

She wasn't to know that her poor mother, Lady Hilary would spend the night with squid and drink the champagne and be poisoned as well

[ED: What do you mean champagne? It was vodka earlier?
[JS: Whatever...
[ED: So it was Fiona then. Yeah, but what about the dagger and the battleaxe? She's surely too small to have done that.

That was Angus McTasty in a fit of jealousy. He tried to kill Squid when he was lying on the floor, but Fiona's poison had already done him in.

[ED: So Fiona must have killed her Mother; guilty of matricide!

No, Lady Hilary died of a massive heart failure, trying to pull the dagger out of Squid's chest.

A wasted effort considering the battle axe in his cranium.

Fiona was sent to prison for three years and then lived out her life in the castle with Lucky Phil the sound engineer. A rich woman with the inheritance from her parents, Squid and Lady Hilary.

[ED: Well what's so hard about that?
Go back and finish the other two chapters and we've got a nice little pot-boiler for the Christmas sales.

It's a great title!
[JS: Gee thanks!

This was started as part of a weekend crime writing workshop with further episodes devised in the following 2 weeks. I did some final editing and published it on my blog - Fri 19 Sep 2008.
The setting and characters were developed as part of a group effort.
The plot and words are the author's.


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