Monday, 4 May 2015

A Legacy From Mary

A Legacy From Mary, a thriller by Eddie Gubbins

Ken Flood vowed he would never again have anything to do with Commander Sturgess or help his brother as he had done before. Then his friend, collaborator on research and a few times lover Mary is killed in a car crash. His research assistant is killed in a mugging or so it appears. Helping her parents clear her flat of her academic work suspicion grows in his mind that her death was not accidental. He realises the connection of the two events is a country called Mengmbwi. Mary has been there to run short courses and Joshua is Mengambwian. When he tells his brother Norman of his suspicions, he is drawn back into the murky world Commander Sturgess inhabits. Once more his life is in danger and he gets the feeling he is being manipulated like a puppet. 

Following are the first few pages of A Legacy From Mary

Chapter 1

" And so my country is in crisis," the speaker said to the listeners sitting on the rows of sloping benches in the lecture theatre.
  They were silent, their attention focused on the speaker as he came to the final passionate ending to his lecture. The eyes of the thirty odd people in the room hardly noticed the drab concrete pillars, the grey painted steel beams criss crossing the ceiling or the dusty curtains over the windows. Through the floating dust particles in the beam of the slide projector, they had witnessed second hand the scenes of pollution and the poverty in Mengambi as the speaker flashed images onto the white screen. Mostly in stillness, they had sat through the talk of the evident contrast in the lives and the riches of those who had the power to the poverty all around of most of the people. The speaker had shown them in images on the screen, the  strutting  confidence of the army and the British style uniforms of the officers.  He pointed out the soldiers in their smart uniforms pushing people out of their way and mixing with the rich and powerful. This was the Mengambi he was trying to convince them was a reality. Not the propaganda put out by the Government of his country which appeared to show happy and prosperous people living in ideal conditions.. 
Now the audiences whole attention was on the speaker.  A hush filled the room as the speaker  paused to gather his final thoughts. The overhead light now focused on the speaker at the front of the lecture theatre as the projector was turned off. 
" The wealth brought to our country by the oil is shared between the leaders and the oil companies. Water flings itself at the sky in the arid north where they have set up a capital while my people cannot get clean water to drink. The roads in the north  are pathed and smooth while in the south they are pot holed and dangerous. The questions we have to ask ourselves are ' When are my country men to have justice, to have a fair share of the wealth of the country? When will my people be able to live without  fear of the knock on the door at night if they speak out against their injustice?  When will the corruption  which favours the few, end so that the many can live proper lives? ' "
" The answer to these questions is obvious to me and my fellow countrymen who oppose the Government. All the things  we crave will only come about, and proper democracy be put in place in Mengambi, with the help of the rest of the world. Therefore I would like to end my talk by appealing to you all to raise your voices against the gangsters who control my country, to protest to your government if they support the regime, to not co-operate if asked to participate in any activities which are controlled by the government or by the oil companies. Please, even if the money is attractive, stay at home. One day we will be free, we will all be able to participate in the running of our country and we will be able to say what we like without fear of being gunned down if somebody does not like what we have  said."
" Thank you all for coming and I hope I have at least opened your eyes to what is happening in my country."
The speaker smiled at the audience in acknowledgement of the applause from the lecture room as he gathered his papers together. Most of the people here, he thought wryly to himself, are on my side anyway but maybe they can help by spreading the word. The crowd in the room stood and stretched to ease aching muscles, speaking quietly to their neighbour before leaving for the bar as was traditional after meetings of the international affairs society.
Ken Flood, one of the speaker Joshua Bengsali's Ph.D supervisors, walked down the steps to the front from his seat in the lecture theatre and waited patiently for the few people who wanted to talk to speaker to have their say and  leave. When Joshua was alone, Ken shook his hand, smiling in greeting.
" Thanks Josh. You have given me something to think about even though from what we have talked about before, I was well aware of what was happening in Mengambi. What I can do to help as one individual, I have no idea at the moment but I expect I will think of something in due course. My problem is that Mengambwi is not a place I have ever had an offer of consultancy, so I can't refuse to go. That to me is the most powerful objection we academics can make. If we refuse to take students from your country, it would stop people like you coming to the U.K. to study. That is our problem which we have to overcome somehow."
" At the least you can tell everybody you meet what you heard from me tonight,"  Josh smiled back, as though sending light beaming into the gloomy room. " Some of your friends might listen to you even if they don't take any notice of what I say."
" Come on mate, lets go to the bar," Ken said, as Josh finished stuffing his papers and slides into a briefcase. " I'll buy you a drink before you go home. It will do us good to talk about Mengambwi, no matter how depressing, rather than your research for once. You never told me before tonight that your father had been jailed for criticising the regime. How does your family cope with him in jail and no money coming in?"
" They get some financial help from other Mengambwians who feel the same way they do about the government. There are some foreign charities who help as well so, in fact, they are not too badly off." Joshua replied as they walked out of the lecture hall. " Its my sister I feel sorry for and worry about. She is under house arrest because she protested outside the State Governor's house about my father. All she did was stand there with a placard but they said it was subversion. Like with my father, the judges are on the side of the government, hence her house arrest." 
The bar was crowded, noisy and smelt strongly of beer. They found a relatively quiet corner after negotiating the rather sticky floor. Soon after Josh and Ken arrived, they were joined by a number of their friends and colleagues soon forming a little discussion group. The conversation was at first of Mengambi and what Josh had told them but it soon drifted to research, lecturing and university gossip. 
On his way back from the bar with some drinks after they had been there a while, Ken almost bumped into two black men standing trying to hear what Joshua was saying. The two glared at Ken as he brushed by, making an obvious gesture of displeasure in the way they smoothed down their jackets as though Ken had creased the cloth. Both men were broad shouldered and big built as though they worked out in a gym to keep fit. One had a round face with big ears beside his tight curly hair. He showed large teeth when his mouth pulled back in a hard smile he aimed at Ken. The other was slimmer with a longer face, close together eyes, a small moustache and longer hair. His eyes did not smile but gazed at Ken in a blank unfriendly way. The two men were dressed in suits and ties which was rather out of place in the bar surrounded as they were by mostly students and lecturers dressed very casually.
After a few drinks, Joshua picked up his documents case and said goodnight to his friends and colleagues. As he turned to say goodnight to Ken, his eyes focused on something behind Ken's back. A look of fear which he  quickly tried to hide, crossed his face. As he was looking directly at Joshua ready to say goodbye, Ken could not miss that look of fear even though Joshua was quick to hide it. Curious, Ken turned his head and glance back over his shoulder. The two black men were standing right behind him looking directly at Joshua with narrowed cold eyes. A shiver of apprehension rolled down Ken’s spine.
" Who are those men?" Ken asked as he turned back to Joshua." I have never seen them in the University before."
" They look like Mengambians to me but I have not seen them before either. Talks like mine tend to attract many of my fellow countrymen who are living in third country and have nothing to do with the University. " Joshua said this with a guarded expression on his face.Seeing that look, Ken suspected Joshua knew the men or had at least seen them before. If Joshua wanted to ignore the men, Ken decided it was none of his business.
" Do you want me to give you a lift back to your house?" Ken asked impulsively. " It is not too far out of my way and it would save you walking home in the dark."
Joshua smiled but declined." No thank you Ken. I will walk. It is not very far and the fresh air will do me good. I usually like to have a little time on my own after giving a speech because it helps me clear my mind."
" Please yourself," Ken said with a shrug. " I expect I will see you sometime tomorrow."
" Yes about eleven after your lecture. You promised you would go over my last attempt at my analysis of the surveys I undertook," Joshua said.
" OK, eleven in the morning then." Ken waved as Joshua left. 
The two men who had been staring at Joshua had disappeared when Ken looked round the bar.  He joined a heated debate about whether it was right for students to have to pay some of their fees and forgot they had been there.
Outside the building where the lecture had been held, it was dark, and rather cold. In the spring air, flurries of drizzle blew on the wind and the pavement was wet and slippery. Joshua pulled up the collar of his coat as he left the relative warmth of the building, put one hand in his coat pocket, gripped the documents case tightly under the other arm and set out walking in the direction of his home. Close to the college, he passed quite a few people hurrying through the night to get inside and out of the drizzle. After a while he turned off the main road, entering a street with a park on one side and very few widely spaced street lights, making the pavement along which he was walking rather dark. In this street there were no passersby, just the occasional cat or night bird to keep him company.
Joshua was very familiar with this route, taking it as he did almost every day to get to the university from his room. As he walked, his thoughts strayed over the time he had been in Plymouth. It was now  two years and he had watched the seasons pass twice in that time. Winter so cold at first to him in contrast to what he had been used to in Mengambi though there had been hardly any snow. Then spring with its flowers and a hint, or so everybody told him, of the warmth of summer. The two spring times he had been in Plymouth had, to him, seemed still really cold. Summer had come and he had at last been a little warmer though it was only on a few days when it had felt like home. Finally autumn and the shock that it would soon be cold again. Tonight as he walked  with his collar pulled up round his ears to ward of the cold and damp, he next thought about his home land, about the images his talk had conjured in his mind. He reminded himself of his family so far away, wondering how his mother was faring without him to help now that he was in England and his father in jail. In his mind he could see his home, the few rooms crowded with his family, his mother, his brother and his three sisters. 
Once more he imagined the street outside his Port Claymore home, full of pot holes which ruined the cars which a few people had managed to obtain.  Down these streets there was running unclean water because the sewers were inadequate for the number of people using them. He remembered back to the struggle he had had as he tried to study in that house and the joy, not only for him but for all the street, when he had gained a scholarship to go to a better school. Because of his background and the advantages he had gained from his education, he had always thought he owed it to his parents, his brother and sisters to spread the word of what it was like to live in Mengambi. This is why, despite the seeming indifference of the vast majority of the British population, he continued to give his talks in the hope that something would spark a response.
As he walked past the park entrance lost in thought, he heard footsteps following him along the road but did not take any notice. The attack came unexpectedly as a man  rushed him from out of the gloom of the park gate and the footsteps which had been following were suddenly very close as they hurried towards him. For a moment Joshua thought that somebody was coming to help but this thought was quickly stifled. As he turned to face his attacker, Joshua felt the back of his legs hit with something hard, like a baseball bat. Turning quickly, he grabbed at his attacker but the pain exploded in his head as one of the men hit him on the forehead. Despite his efforts to stay upright, Joshua was falling towards the pavement as a red mist started to fill his eyes. Hitting the pavement hard which knocked the breath out of his body, Joshua tried to get out of the way but there were two of them and no matter which way he turned there was always one of them confronting him. He desperately tried to rise but each time he almost got to is knees one of the men pushed him to the ground once more. As loud has he could manage, he called out for help but there was only silence surrounding his struggle. All the time he struggled to rise, the men were hitting him, kicking him and pushing him around in the dirt.
Then  an overwhelming pain exploded in his chest and he could not breath. He was sinking into a dark hole with no light and try as he might he could not escape. All went dark as he lapsed into unconsciousness and the pain was gone.
Joshua's two attackers bent over the body, pulled out his wallet, scattering the papers over the road but putting the money in their pocket. They lifted his fingers and pulled off his rings. Finally they took his watch and his coat leaving him lying in a pool of blood as they disappeared down the road abandoning him to the mercy of the cold and damp.
Later that evening, he was found by a woman and man returning from the pub around the corner and they called for an ambulance. When he was examined in the hospital, he was dead.

A Legacy From Mary by Eddie Gubbins is available as a paperback from Amazon and and as an ebook for downloading to e-readers from Amazon or Kindle.