The Lady With The Diamond-Patterned Tights
The Lady With The Diamond-Patterned Tights
It is 1992 and Staff Sergeant Nick Orchard, almost 30, is leaving the Army after twelve years' service. Most of this time was in Germany but for the past two years he has been stationed in the North of England which has enabled him to obtain a job ready for his discharge; but first he has five weeks' leave.
Nick is quite well off. Six years ago his wife died, leaving him a considerable sum from their insurers. Together with the recent award for compensation after a long, drawn out court battle, and his gratuity from the Army, he recently calculated that he will be worth a six-figure sum. More than anything though, he would like to meet another woman and settle down, and is quite confident that his new civilian life will provide this opportunity.
Nick's mother moved to Croydon six months ago when his father died and he planned to stay with her until he found something suitable to buy, but upon arrival at her house receives notification that the job he thought that he had has disappeared to Wales. For all his good points, Nick is a bit of a 'Jonah'; bad luck follows him around. The next day he met Jane...
Jane Wilde is 28, the daughter of an Army Captain who 'came up through the ranks'. She too spent many years abroad, and has still not settled down to a steady job. Recently she decided to attend college in the autumn to study beauty therapy, but in the meantime - through a friend of a friend - found herself running an ice-cream stall near Picadilly Circus. However, in collision with a skateboarder during a chase of some punks who ran off without paying (for their ice-creams) she breaks (or so she thought) a leg and an arm. End of ice-cream career.
Her father - having come through the ranks - is very down-to-earth and proud of his background but Mrs Wilde is the epitome of snobbishness and tries exceedingly hard to make her husband forget the past. In her company, he is not allowed to even think about the times before he was commissioned. Four years previously, Jane was viciously raped and has since found it extremely difficult to trust other men. She would desperately like to find someone to settle down with, but despite her attractiveness she sub-consciously emits an air of self-protection and introversion that puts off any man that gets close. She is at present 'flat-sitting' for a friend, Janice. By coincidence, it is just 'up' from where she meets Nick...
Love at first sight? You would hardly think so, but it doesn't take them long to sort out their misunderstandings. Nick is convinced that, even before he has become a civilian, he has met the woman that he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Jane, too, is convinced that she has finally met a man that she can trust. All they have to do is find a job and somewhere to live... not easy with Nick's luck.
If they are the (sterotypical) goodies, what about the (sterotypical) baddies?
Ziyad Ali Nashnush moved to the UK in 1969 after a jumped-up Moammar Gaddafi had overthrown King Idris of Libya where Ziyad had enjoyed a cushy governmental job. Eventually he arrived in Brighton, and from a petty crook dealing in drugs and benefit fraud, had risen to become... a petty crook dealing in drugs and benefit fraud; witness his new venture which incorporates both. His brother Ahmed was among half a dozen or so compatriots who worked for him, but Ziyad is always looking for an opportunity to elevate his position of authority.
Recently, he had been approached by an East European of dubious descent, Yuriy Borzow, to assist with "logistical support" for his assignment: to assassinate Stephi Graf, the German tennis star, during the indoor championships held in the town. Borzow's Russian partner, Nadezha Vladkina, had an impressive CV. No-one meeting her could ever imagine how such a beauty could be so heartless, but if you remembered anything about Ms Vladkina it was her legs. Although she was considered to 'wear the trousers' in her partnership with Borzow, this was definitely metaphorically speaking.
Nick and Jane are in town too: flat hunting. She also realises (if she hadn't already) that Nick is a jinx, wherever they are. What starts as 'boy meets girl' then, becomes 'stereotypical goodies mistakenly get mixed up with stereotypical baddies' and (maybe) save the day. As it happens, Vladkina and Borzow are not the only ones intent on serving Ms Graf a back-hander. From the squalour of the "Crystal Business Centre", the functionality of the Brighton Centre, to the majesty of the Grand Hotel, a catalogue of mistaken identities and misunderstandings take Nick and Jane to the edge of danger (note the small 'd'). Nick the hero? Just don't remind Mrs Wilde.
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The 9th of November 1989. Undoubtedly one of the most dramatic days of the 20th Century: the fall of the Berlin Wall. This story starts a few weeks earlier...
During the unrest of the previous few months, and faced with the inevitability of a mass exodus of its people – and a threat to its Communist Idealogy - hard-line Communists from the Soviet Union and East Germany hatched a plan that would take twenty five years to implement: the conquest not just of Eastern Europe, but also the West.
The plan was simplicity itself. Eager to influence the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the Communist regime, Western Governments first encouraged, then welcomed, this mass exodus of East Europeans. It was not difficult, therefore, for the Communists to 'send' hundreds – later thousands – of highly trained personnel to infiltrate positions of authority and power in Western Countries. The Military, Utility Companies, power producers and suppliers, media, communications, financial institutions, transport providers by land, sea and air and even Government themselves; no sector was immune to this silent invasion which over the next twenty five years would lead to virtually every vital cog of every Country's day-to-day machinery being managed – or at the very least influenced – by a voderlaufer (forerunner).
Add to these the tens of thousands of infantrie – ordinary citizens doing ordinary jobs – and the silent invasion could be accomplished with the flick of a switch, or two. Or several. Or dozens. Or hundreds. And on the 9th November 2014, the twenty fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 90% of the population would go to bed because of a supposed 'power cut', only to wake up the next morning to discover that Europe had become a Communist Continent.
Not by chance during this period did Russia become one of the major forces of economic revolution, at the same time increasing its stranglehold on the supply of oil and gas to its Western neighbours, and becoming shareholders in countless “foreign investment companies” owning everything from high street shops in the UK to French power stations and German chemical companies. Not by chance did Western Governments waste much time, manpower, effort and money fighting the alleged “dark threat of Islam, the Taliban and al Qaeda” in faraway places, leaving the back door ajar. Not by chance did Western Countries increasingly face power blackouts, communication breakdowns, air traffic 'glitches', strikes and catastrophic financial woes. And not by chance were seven of the Western Leaders slaughtered in a mass suicide attack (by supposed Muslims) during an EU Summit in the spring of 2014.
At the time of the fall of the Iron Curtain, Major Chris Newton had been passing Secrets to the East for several years. Caught between his Western countrymen and his Eastern paymasters, Newton fled to Spain and established a new, comfortable life as Senor Roger Cortes. At least until he learned – almost too late – of Operation Black Start1. Faced with the dilemma of breaking his own cover, he nonetheless elected to try and warn the British Government, but slipped at the first hurdle: his old (Army) friend, the Home Secretary. Whose side was he on???
And so, as the 9th November 2014 dawned, and Dieter Littmann – the first vorderlaufer – prepared to start the largest, smartest, quickest invasion in history, Roger had more than a race against time. He was also racing to stay alive.
1Black Start is the procedure of restarting a nuclear power station after a complete shut-down.
Strand Insurance Company was rife with fraud; by its own directors! The main perpetrator was the Managing Director - Christopher Banks - who from his Brighton office controlled almost everything that the company did, be it in London, Brighton or in the Caribbean where the company enjoyed tax free benefits from its two subsidiaries. Total control of the other directors' work made this possible, and this worked fine until Bob Hodges came to work for Strand. Although - like all Strand's new staff - Bob knew little or nothing about reinsurance he quickly identified something amiss.
Christopher realised that, with the right technical assistance, Bob could do for him something he had been unable to do for himself: find out what was going on in the Barbados office of Wenton Re, Strand's subsidiary. Using the delectable Jackie, his latest mistress, as the supervisor, Christopher established an 'in-house' team to investigate other, trivial concerns which the company had with it's multi-million pound reinsurance treaties.
From London, the trail led to New York and the offices of RHP McEnny and Eagle Reinsurance Underwriters Inc, brokers and underwriters respectively - both co-owned by Strand, and where Jackie and Bob found themselves in possession of what appeared (to Bob) to be a hefty bonus. Not until they reached Barbados, however, did things begin to make sense, and two plus two made five. Too late, Bob realised that Jackie had misled him but, seconds away from a bullet in his head, luck was on his side. Too late, Christopher and Jackie realised that someone had misled them; luck was not on their side. That left Bob with a different problem: how to get the evidence back to England into the (apparently) safe hands of Strand's deputy chairman.
From the beginning it also becomes apparent that Bob has another problem: women. Initially estranged from his wife, he found himself besotted with Christopher's secretary. Having extracted himself from that situation and returned to his suicidal wife determined to make things work, Bob was presented with another challenge: Jackie!
He quickly learned that keeping several women satisfied - not even sexually - was no mean feat! Unfortunately, his wife could not cope; not just with Bob and Jackie but her own business failure and death of her brother. This served to bring Bob and Jackie closer, particularly with a harrowing experience they faced in New York, but Bob was determined to make her wait until his conscience allowed him to sufficiently put his wife to the back of his mind; something he never quite managed...
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