Here’s a sample chapter of one of my non thriller novels.
The Trick Of Levitation
Chris Mead is dead and no one seems to care at all. They don’t seem concerned that he dived off one of London’s tallest buildings even though he had all that he could want out of life. Chris had married his school boy crush and had a five million quid lottery win to keep them both happy. It had seemed to fall into his lap and now his body lies in some hygienic room in some official building somewhere. Maybe I’m the only one who cares. Yes, there is his over familiar mother and the serious faced Policeman who came round to impart the bad news. The detective Sergeant asked all those questions about him and his life, but he was only doing his job. And so was his distraught mother, I suppose. The Detective said that he would get to the bottom of it and left my house.
They wanted to put it down to a plain old suicide, and by the way, I knew pretty much that it was, but I wanted to know why. Why does a man who has just about everything he wanted jump off the top of a tall building in the city of London?
A couple of months ago, Chris Mead had bumped into the woman he had worshipped at school. She had never noticed him back then he told me, Terry Smith. This happened over the phone. I was hardly listening, as I had a young woman standing in my kitchen screaming at me. I built a barrier to her demands by placing one finger in my ear and pressed the other ear tight to the phone. She carried on accusing me in a high pitch that I had been ignoring her lately. It didn’t seem to matter to her that I had been trying to rebuild my career as a stand up comic, trying to get myself appearances on panel shows, gigs at London clubs or any shit b- list celebrity party. All the crawling, all the mind numbing, nose browning to my sexually frustrated agent, even though I hated all kinds of ‘celebs’, and Ruby kept on demanding my attention. I should have known better than to get involved with a twenty one year old when I was thirty six.
Chris told me that the unobtainable girl at school, who was sitting opposite some desperately sad man, had looked up and smiled. Apparently, this had all taken place at a speeding date night. He had gone to some local bar near his flat and popped into see if speed dating really worked. He told me he happened to look up and see his first proper school boy crush looking up at him. She smiled. She seemed to hang around until he had talked nervously to fifteen women in various degrees of desperation, all trembling on the edge of the abyss of spinster-hood.
He walked over to the bar and ordered a drink. She joined him. He told her his name and they laughed about how they had been at school together all those years ago and she had never noticed him. It would be like saying she never noticed a giant stick insect on her face. Nadine Wallis, he said her name was, or had been at school, but since then she had been married to some violent ape of a man, who had gone to prison, leaving her with one little girl to bring up.
I had to finish the phone call and try and calm the crazed young woman in my kitchen. All the time he talked over the phone, I had this feeling that he’s hiding something, picking out the relevant facts, as if he was teaching from one of the dull history books they used at his school. This was just like Chris, disappearing for weeks, months on end and then reappearing as if nothing had happened. Usually he invited me round to listen to music, usually The Rolling Stones. He had no time for The Beatles or even Elvis, and he didn’t watch TV. When people inform me that they don’t own a television set, it always makes me admire them in a strange sort of way, but then again, as I am one of the goggle box’s ‘people’, it haunts me too. Chris sometimes seemed wise like some ancient philosopher. He knew so many dull facts that no one had use for, but he also knew very little about real life. If normal life had been placed before him in a box, he would shake it, scratch his head and look perplexed.
Anyway, the next time I got a phone call from Chris he told me they had got married. I asked why he didn’t bother to invite me. Quick thing, he assured me, no time to tell anyone. Okay, I said and accepted his story, and then a month later I heard he won all that money on the lottery. About Five million quid, and then he called me and invited me out. We drank bucket loads of champagne at the West End Hotel where he was staying. All the time there was this huge grin on his long thin face. His usually lank blonde hair was styled and seemed to have some semblance of life in it. He wore an expensive jacket and equally expensive designer jeans. I told him I was happy for him and we drank some more champagne, and so much so I couldn’t remember getting home. The next day I find a note from the mad kitchen woman telling me she’s left me.
Jump to a few weeks later and the Policeman knocked on my door. He stood right in front of the door as I opened it and gave this calm, yet solemn smile. He must have been in his mid thirties. He was tall, but broad with it and had a square, pale face. There was laughter always edging out of his eyes that were underlined by dark purple trenches.
‘Mr. Terry Smith?’ He asked and lifted one eyebrow. ‘Detective Sergeant Mayhead.’
‘Yes,’ I said and stood back a little. ‘This can’t be good. I’m not going to be nicked again, am I?’
He looked surprised, but continued. ‘No, I wonder if I could come in?’
I let him in and directed him through to my kitchen. He looked about and complimented me on a very clean and tidy place. He seemed to ignore the pile of pizza boxes next to the spotless cooker, while he rested his back against it. He moved slightly and there came a flicker of light and a clicking sound. We both ignored it.
‘What did you want to talk to me about?’
He nodded seriously and stood up. ‘I’m afraid… well, your friend… Mr. Chris Mead was found dead this morning. I’m very sorry.’
I laughed. He stared at me, waiting, his head tilted to one side.
‘Chris? How? What happened?’ I stumbled. It was as if was being told the world was flat after all.
‘Well,’ He began and leant back on the cooker again, sending a spark into the air. ‘It seems he left his home three days ago, not telling anyone where he was heading, and then yesterday morning he somehow entered the Wright Jones Building in London and walked to the roof and… well, threw himself off. I’m very sorry.’
I walked over to the window and looked out into the wild grassland jungle. I saw two birds land on the grass and pick at some object invisible to me, perhaps a worm or some kind of unfortunate insect. How could anyone be eating at a time like this? I tried to picture Chris’s face. I ignored the clean cut, suit wearing figure I had last witnessed and went far back to the skinny, jumper and shirt wearing friend he had been. Chris and I had grown up three streets away from one another in Enfield, North London, but we never knew it, not until we met in New York City seven years earlier. I had been walking through central Park looking for the zoo. I had been cursing the zoo people for not putting any proper signs up before I spotted his long, tree like figure sauntering towards me. His hair was longer and wilder back then. He looked almost like a seventies hippy, except for his bookish dress sense, his beige corduroy jacket and grey baggy trousers. He was the third person I had asked for directions that morning. The first was a Chinese girl who did not speak English, the second was actually a couple from Yorkshire, and then Chris ambled towards me, his eyes seeming to search the trees that hung over our heads. His eyes leapt from branch to branch with the agility of Tarzan. I took him to be bird watching, although I saw no binoculars around his neck.
‘You’re English?’ I asked as he looked about for the zoo for me.
‘Oh, yes, from London.’ He said and stuck out his hand.
‘So am I. I’m from London.’ I said, grasping his thin, clammy hand. ‘Where abouts in London are you from? You look familiar.’
And as we found out all the things we had in common, and all the things we nearly had in common, we walked on towards the zoo and automatically fell into a strange sort of patterned banter that carried on for the next seven years.
‘Excuse me,’ the Detective Sergeant said quickly. ‘I can’t help feel that I know you from somewhere.’
I turned and faced him. ‘I used to be on telly.’
His eyes half closed, his mouth crunched up tight with concentration. ‘On telly? What programme?’
‘A comedy show called The Theatre Boys. It only lasted one series.’
He gave a burst of laughter and his hand slapped the kitchen work surface. ‘That’s right. You’re a stand up comic. Oh, now I know why you thought I was going to nick you. You had that trouble in that club with that Footballer.’
I nodded with pain and picked up the shiny silver kettle that my ex- had bought me. I suddenly realised that I had never actually filled it up before. I poured water into it and raised my eyebrows at the Policeman.
‘Thanks. Milk one sugar, sugar,’ He laughed to himself. ‘Yeah, I can’t say I wasn’t on your side in that. If I could smack one of those footballing tossers, I would. Did you see the world cup? What a shambles! And they get all that money and sponsorship and those blonde birds with huge tits.’
‘That’s not why I punched him,’ I said and searched the cupboard for mugs.
‘What was it about?’
That week of my life had been monumentally draining. I had made endless calls to my agent and been round to his office every couple of days, and all I had to show for it was one appearance of a pop quiz show where some spotty, curly haired kid took the piss out of my one TV series. Thing was, he was justified. I just had to sit there and take it. But it blistered under my skin, a thin layer of acid coating my body and poisoning my soul. If you listened carefully enough you would have heard the pain and hurt crackle and sizzle like fat in a frying pan. I took it all, walked out of the studio and settled down in a greasy spoon. I sat and read a newspaper, looked round the place at the hulking frames of the local builders, and thanked God that I didn’t have to work hard for a living like my father had.
Then I read it. On page two there was a picture of England’s favourite footballer, captain of the England squad, Paul Bentley. He had his tanned, stick of a wife leaning against him, her strange twisted face pulled tight into a sultry look. Or what was meant to be sultry. She looked constipated. It was bad enough that he was being paid nearly a hundred grand a week for kicking a ball around, but now he was being given a Booker Prize for his autobiography- My Right Foot And Me. It was his bad luck that I managed to get on the list of the Blue Square Club, near Leicester Square. My agent thought it would be good for me to be seen out and about with celebrities. Against my better nature I went along, dragging Chris with me. He soaked it all up and collected far too many autographs of people he had never watched and didn’t even know that names of. I looked over my glass of free champagne at the teenage stars of all Britain’s crappiest soaps.
Paul Bentley arrived in the doorway, his black suit flickering with a million flashes from a horde of cameras, which made him seem to flicker and move as if he was constantly jumping around the entrance, like dancers moving to strobe lights. His wife was attached to him, almost crawling over his body like a pet spider, her face still twisted into that gruesome pout. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on her bones, and you could see the beginning and end of every muscle, all brown and shiny like polished wood. It wasn’t just me. Everyone seemed to look at her with disdain.
I stood nearby, listening to all the idle questions being thrown at him, watching him smile and duck his way through all the bollocks being thrown through the air. Then one journalist being pushed out the door shouted, ‘Well done on your book!’
‘You’ve written a book?’ A very young, curly blonde haired girl asked Paul Bentley. I recognised her from the soap called Dirty Mouths.
‘Yeah, and I won some prize for it.’ He beamed and adjusted his sunglasses.
‘Wow,’ She almost yelped. ‘Wish I could write a book.’
‘It’s easy,’ He said and beamed.
My whole body buckled for a moment, vibrated, and then I seemed to be moving towards him. My hands were tightening. I knew for a fact that he had not written one word. There was a ghost writer somewhere filling up with bile, drowning in his own self loathing. Who could possibly believe that Paul Bentley had written a book and one that he had actually won an award for?
‘Take you long to write, did it?’ I asked through my teeth that were biting into my lips.
His black glasses took me in with the smile firmly in place underneath the frames. I could see two versions of my burning face. He nodded. ‘Er..well… about a month or so. It’s a long process.’
‘You fucking lying c… ,’ My whole body whipped forward. I looked along my arm, like a sight, heading towards his tanned square head which had a neatly mowed lawn of brown grass sitting on it. My knuckled cracked against his jaw, sending his head twisting and his sunglasses spiralling through the air. Then two huge black shapes came through the air. They came down on me, crushing my bones, blocking out the crimson lights that beamed high above the dance floor. I could smell thick aftershaves and feel two sets of meaty hands tearing at me, pushing me down until my cheek collided with the plastic flooring. My face rested in a puddle of sweet, fruit flavoured alcohol.
‘You can’t really slag him off for writing his autobiography can you?’ The Detective Sergeant asked as I passed him his tea. I had to refrain from throwing it in his face.
‘No, I suppose not,’ I said with difficulty. ‘They say that if you put eleven footballers in a room with eleven typewriters for a very long time indeed, eventually they’ll type Shakespeare’s entire shopping list.’
The Policeman gave an unconvincing laugh. ‘Sorry, I was supposed to be talking about your friend, Mr. Chris Mead, wasn’t I?’
‘What happened to his wife?’
‘Seems that she had been off on a New York shopping trip with him, but no one has been able to get in contact with her. He came back, but she didn’t, not right then. She has been back and forth to see her daughter though. They contacted the hotel where she’s supposed to be staying, but she left there and vanished. She’s officially missing. Any idea why he would kill himself?’
‘No, I haven’t,’ I said and sipped my tea. Chris would never have killed himself, with or without the love of his life on his arm and five million pounds in the bank. He just wasn’t the type. At least that’s what I believed at that time. I suppose people are always saying that about a loved one that has stepped in front of a train or taken an overdose, but I knew it was true of Chris. There was not a depressed bone in his body. I was the moody bastard, the sad one that buried all his angst under a mask of funny banter and one liners. Chris was an optimist, always amazed at the glories of life. He had nothing in his life until the dream woman and the five million landed in his lap, but he never showed one single sign of regret, or envy. When I landed my series on TV, when the legs of the celebrity world seemed to open wide and beg me to enter, he patted me on the back and told me how pleased he was. He was happy enough to watch me copulate with fame across a crowded room and then he went back to work as a lecturer.
On the night my TV series had its pilot episode we grabbed a bottle of champagne, left the launch party and walked over the bridge towards the South Bank. We watched a misty steam seem to stroke the dark brown waters, while the hazy lights did their best to burn for us in the maroon sky.
‘It looks so foggy and hazy,’ I said.
‘Try these,’ He said and gave me his glasses that he had recently been prescribed.
I put them on and suddenly the view became sharper, every light reflecting on the Thames sparkling that much brighter. ‘Ah, that’s better.’
‘You need your eyes tested.’ He said and passed me the bottle of champagne.
‘Na, then I’d have to wear and glasses and I’d look stupid. And I could never poke those contact things in my eyes.’
‘You worry too much about what people think of you,’ He said and took the spectacles from my hand. He cleaned the lenses and put them back on his face. ‘You should just do whatever you’re going to do and get on with it. You’ve got the taste of success now, so enjoy it.’
‘I am enjoying it,’ I said and gave him the bottle of champagne.
He leaned against the railings of the bridge, looking over to where we had come from. The sound of laughter and party music drifted up towards us. He pointed his finger towards the party and said, ‘You’re not over there with all the other celebrities enjoying your success. You don’t know how long this going to last. Grab it and don’t let it go.’
‘Give me that champagne back. You’ve had enough.’
On any other night I might have wandered home, that little voice calling out to me, begging me to find food and crawl into bed, along side some young woman if I could find one, but Chris persuaded me to join the others. The dark red carpeted room that had been sectioned off for the party. It was already crammed with famous faces sipping at beer bottles and wine glasses. You could see the young hopefuls crawling up to the veteran actors and producers. It was embarrassing to behold; I recognised too much of my self in them. It was too much like watching an old VHS tape of yourself when you were just a stupid kid play acting to the camera. I grabbed another drink from the bar and looked round to see where Chris was. He had slipped away.
I shook my head and looked to one corner to see a young woman standing talking to an equally young man wearing a long Parker with the hood up. It was boiling hot in the room by this point. I could not help let my surprise and my remorseless piss take of her companion being seen clearly in my eyes. She looked from me to her friend and then laughed into my eyes. I walked over, stood next to her and looked into the dark tunnel of his hood.
‘Warm enough?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, thanks,’ He said. He was not amused.
‘I could get them to crank the heating up, or send out for one of those little electric fires, if you want.’ I said and smiled at the girl.
‘Oh… Fuck off… wanker,’ He said and stormed off across the room.
‘I’m sorry if I upset your boyfriend.’
She gave a shriek of laughter, while holding her bottle of alcopop tightly to her chest. She had long, straight blonde hair with streaks of red and gold in it. Her face seemed very square and milky, while her lips were full and very pink. Her nose was a dot in the middle of her face, overshadowed by the large brown eyes of a Manga cartoon character. She wore a light blue t-shirt that had the words Don’t Send Me back printed across her small breasts. She wore the baggy jeans that most teenagers wear, with the customary worn threads dragging long the floor.
‘So, he’s not your fella?’ I asked, waiting for her to stop laughing.
‘Oh no, of course not. Can you imagine me with him?’ She flicked her eyebrows in the direction he had sulked off in.
‘No, not really.’ Although she was young and very pretty, almost sexy, there was something I did not like about her. Maybe it was her seemingly self assuredness. Perhaps I thought she might be hard work. Whatever I thought, and whatever my brain was telling me to do, like run and find Chris, I kept standing there, making her laugh, trying to impress her by telling her that this party was for me. Her eyes grew even bigger. The realisation of who I was seemed to wash over her and brighten her whole manner. Suddenly I was a king. Anyway, this is how I met the mad young woman that was screaming at me in my kitchen, but I really should say more about the death of my friend.