Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Gerald Lynch Short Story In Time Out Dubai Shock Horror

Would I like to write a 1,000 word short story for Time Out Dubai as part of their Emirates Airline Festival of Literature coverage? Sure, no problem. The story idea was in my head as I pressed 'end call'. 1,000 words (and a lot of slicing and dicing) later it was done and shared with the shadowy and feared 'Grey Havens Gang' of globally based writers I hang out with, for their comments. And a bunch of my favourite beta readers pitched in. And some Tagalog speakers were recruited from Twitter (I love Twitter) to help with one small, but important piece of dialogue. It's more like flash fiction than a 'short' - just 1,000 words to play with means you have to make pretty much every word count. Edited, polished and angsted over, 1,000 words of prose was popped off to the PRs to share with the TOD team.

And then word came back. It's 'too racy' to run in the magazine because it contains references to sex and adultery. Have they READ my books? Anyway, by now the magazine was at deadline and I had an hour to deliver that thousand words so I resorted to an old friend. If, by any chance, you've been living in the International Space Station over the past three years, Gerald Lynch is the evil Northern Irish spy in Olives - A Violent Romance and a slightly less evil spy in Beirut - An Explosive Thriller and the positively benign spy with a heart of gold who's nice to small furry animals in Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy.

Of course he just tumbled off the keyboard into Dubai. And of course he didn't approve of the place one jot... The story's below, or you can go here to Time Out Dubai to read it. Or you can hand over Dhs9 to any newsagent or Spinneys and have your very own 'curl up on the sofa' hardcopy!

                                  Death In Dubai                                   

Gerald Lynch strode through the Park Hyatt’s cool Arabesque reception, ignoring the ‘good morning’ offered up by the doorman, the girl in the long beige kandoura, the receptionist and the dark-uniformed staffer who passed him in the glass corridor. Blue-eyed, his dark hair a widow’s peak, Lynch hefted his leather jacket over his shoulder, his other hand in the pocket of his jeans.

He caught the glint of a camera, a tiny dome of smoked glass nestled up in the corner and added it to his mental audit of the devices he’d already encountered in his short stay in Dubai.

Brian Channing was spread out on a sofa in the coffee shop. He had a silver tray in front of him bearing coffee in a porcelain cup and a decorative little selection of Lebanese sweets in paper wrappers. He had chosen Wealthy Tourist In White Linen, his artfully rumpled two-piece offset by a pastel blue shirt.

Channing waved Lynch to a chair. ‘Gerald. Good to see you. Must be years since you last saw this place. Changed a bit, has it? Isn’t this an exquisite little hotel?’

‘If you like this sort of thing.’ Lynch took no pains to mask his distaste. ‘What’s the big emergency, Brian? The embassy people made so much fuss trying to pick me up the barman ended up smacking one of them because he thought they were trying to kidnap me. Half of Hamra nearly got involved.’

‘I heard. Unfortunate, but then you’re supposed to carry your secure bloody mobile at all times. Even out on the lash in Beirut.’ Channing bit off a chunk of nut brittle and finished his coffee with a flourish. ‘Come on. Walkies.’

A waitress rushed to push open the double doors out into the patio overlooking Dubai’s creek. Little boats bobbed. On the opposite shore was parkland, cable cars swinging against the vast blue sky, a creekside ride. Channing shouldered his jacket and led the way down the warm stone steps towards the decking and sounds of rope slapping against masts. Only when they were standing in the marina did Channing halt. Leaning on the railing, he addressed the creek.

‘In the hotel behind us, at noon, a high-ranking Russian intelligence official called Sergei Anasenko is going to hand you the complete technical specification and blueprint of a new technology they have developed for jamming ultra-fast, frequency-hopping radio signals. If it works, clearly it has the potential to render every drone programme NATO has redundant.’

‘I don’t get it. Why me?’

‘He asked for you by name. We have been very careful indeed with our Sergei and gone to great lengths to establish he’s as pure as snow. He checks out at every level. But we’re damned if we can work out why he’s so in love with you, to be honest Gerald. I rather thought you might have an idea.’

‘None at all. Anasenko? He ever work the Middle East? Come to Beirut?’

‘Never. No connection with Dmitri or Jaan Kallas, no relationship with The General and no time served in the region. Desk boy, Moscow-bound all his life. More a politician than a field man, an espiocrat. Technology is his thing. Hardly your type, is he? Yet after two years’ work bringing him in, we get to the end game and, right at the last minute, he insists on a handover in Dubai and to Lynch and nothing but the Lynch, so help him God.’

‘So a handover in the most surveillance rich city in the world to a man he doesn’t know from Adam. That makes no sense whatsoever, Brian.’

Channing squinted and rooted in his pockets for a pair of Ray Bans, which he settled onto his fleshy nose. ‘You can ask him why yourself, you’re due to knock on the door of room 211 in,’ Channing peered at his watch, ‘one hour, twenty minutes.’

* * * 

Lynch waited for the door to open, playing with the key card in his pocket. He’d taken a room himself, ensuring his camera tracks were linked to the fake ID he’d flown in on. He also took the precaution of waiting a while after checking in then returning to a different receptionist and having his key card re-swiped, claiming it wasn’t working properly. ‘No problem, it happens,’ he told her. ‘Room 211.’

He knocked again and then used the key card. Pulling the door closed behind him, Lynch swore softly. Anasenko was lying on the floor in a bathrobe. There were signs of a struggle, a chair pushed over, a table lamp on the floor beside the sprawled body. Lynch crossed the room and pulled a paper tissue from the box on the desk. He knelt, feeling for a pulse, pushed back the curly brown hair from the corpse’s ear, checking the pale skin for any needle marks. The lamp was close to Anasenko’s right hand. Lynch noted the hand was still wet, the switch on the wall set on but the lamp off.

He pulled the robe up from each wrist, but the cause of death looked obvious. Lynch scanned the room. On the bed was a manila envelope. Lynch untucked the flap and slid the documents out. Blueprints, a slide-bound sheaf of papers. A memory key. He tucked the envelope into the small of his back and left the room without a backward glance.

* * * 

Channing was peevish. ‘Electrocuted himself? Balderdash. Don’t believe it. A waste of bloody time. With Anasenko dead, we can’t tell if this was supposed to land in our hands or if it was just a stupid accident.’

‘Forensics, surely—’

‘You really think we’re going to declare an interest in this to the Emiratis? Come on, Gerald. No, we’ll just have to proceed on the assumption this is all bunkum until proven otherwise by the analysts. You can go home, Gerald. Go back to your bar in Hamra and drown yourself. Take your mobile.’

For which small mercy Lynch was, at least, profoundly grateful.


Meanwhile, I spent this morning horrifying everyone over at The American School of Dubai. Only they refused to be horrified and were very lovely indeed. Even when I started hurling myself at the walls, speaking in tongues, throwing things at the kids and generally terrorising the class. I love the LitFest. Love it.

Don't forget Saturday's session on Spies, Conspiracy and Censorship! We're going for Martinis at Vista afterwards and you're more than welcome to join us!!!

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1 comment:

BQLS said...

Obnoxious wank!

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