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From Nemesis Island

From Nemesis Island

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From Nemesis Island

Länge:
359 Seiten
4 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Aug 2, 2010
ISBN:
9781848769007
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

“No one seems to refer to it by name.” While London journalist, Richard, prepares to visit an anonymous Adriatic island, a girl on the island bides her time to escape its clutches as she is groomed for a sophisticated prostitution and human trafficking racket. When Richard’s suspicions about the island are aroused he decides to investigate.  
Used to sharing professional success with girlfriend Trish and to enjoying the ups and downs of their sexually charged relationship, his investigations uncover a very different and merciless world of violence and cruelty and one girl’s attempts at freedom. As he and Trish become caught up in the intrigues of this world, the disturbing consequences force Richard to face up to his laddish preconceptions and take a stand against the devastating effects of female exploitation. 
From Nemesis Island is a dark tale of relationships and intrigue, which propels chick lit into the world of the thriller. It tells of love, loyalty, corruption and revenge, and is suitable for those concerned with the effects on women of a sexualised society.
Freigegeben:
Aug 2, 2010
ISBN:
9781848769007
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Christine Mustchin has worked as a GP in Cumbria and as a doctor in Sexual and Reproductive Health. Prior to this she studied languages, literature and cultural studies at university and has written a doctoral thesis on Samuel Beckett. Christine currently lives in Sussex and near Lake Como in Italy. This is her first published work of fiction.

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From Nemesis Island - Christine Mustchin

wounds.

PART ONE

1

Richard threw the brochure onto the table. The café terrace was deserted. There was no one to see his irritation. He squinted into the sun and then frowned. He might have escaped the grey cloak of London weather but he was bored. Ennui. Things usually sounded better in a foreign language. It even came with the pedigree of French Existentialism. He let out a sigh. He’d given up all that university philosophy a long time ago. No, he was just plain bored. Reporting on an organised trip to some foreign island or other – the assignment was hardly stimulating. He hadn’t wanted to take it on, but his editor had insisted. What’s more, he had told Richard to make his own travel arrangements and to decline the hospitality offered. ‘Under less of an obligation that way,’ he had said, and refused to elaborate. Odd really: Don was usually very direct. And now there was a delay. He would just have to put up with it. It had been his own idea to stay put and write a travel piece on the place. After all, it was a beautiful, undiscovered part of the Adriatic coast. He was at a loss, though. Apart from the scenery, there was nothing much to say.

He drank his coffee. It was very good: strong and sweet. Not like the muck they served up at head office. Shameful really but it didn’t seem to matter back there. He picked up the brochure and read it for the tenth time. The philanthropic tone was all hype no doubt, but only to be expected. He couldn’t see the point of the trip. He would go to the island, file his report with the others in the group and go home. The exercise had been repeated many times before. No one had ever found fault with the island and the education it provided. He couldn’t imagine it was anything but a tedious rubber stamp job.

He wondered what was happening back at base. He would email Dougie later. At least you could tell things straight to an Aussie. He could text Trish too. She never answered her phone. ‘Too busy, Dick, you know how it is.’ Pity she wasn’t here now. He could do with the company, and with some sex too, for that matter. He looked up. The café terrace overlooked the harbour. The small fishing boats were idle now. Beyond them the island could clearly be seen. Dominated by an extinct volcano, it lay across the sea not much further than the Isle of Wight from the mainland back home. It was all very picturesque but of little comfort to him. He watched a man striding with purpose along the harbour wall. His dark robes flapped a little as he walked. His steps were clearly headed for the café. Richard watched his approach with idle curiosity.

Father Piontius approached Richard’s table bringing his measured gait to a gentle halt and introduced himself. Richard replied politely, wary of his new companion.

‘You are English?’ The priest’s words were heavily accented.

‘Yes, Father.’ Richard winced at the unfamiliar form of address. ‘Accent’s a give away, I know.’

‘May I join you?’

‘No problem.’

A waiter appeared with a coffee.

‘It is my usual,’ he said by way of explanation.

Richard smiled as the priest took a long sip, only then allowing himself to relax his posture as though off duty.

‘You too like to reflect?’ he asked, waving a wrinkled hand across the view from the terrace.

‘I’m afraid I’m idle by force rather than design. There’s been a delay to my schedule.’

‘Though the body may rest, our mind should never be still.’ The priest spoke quietly.

The familiar dualism: another debate that time had consigned to the dustbin of Richard’s thoughts. He doubted he could even recall the arguments. His Ph.D. thesis was a vague memory now. He took a slug of coffee and shrugged, uncomfortable and ungraciously silent.

‘Forgive me,’ continued the cleric, ‘I forget myself. There is so little opportunity for discussion in this place. Your face had promise.’

The words were well composed, like a textbook, and Richard felt a flush of sympathy for the man, an intellectual prisoner in such a small town.

‘You are to visit the island?’

‘That’s right,’ said Richard. No one seemed to refer to it by name. ‘It seems that the rest of them can’t get here till next week. Not sure why. I’ve really got plenty of time to go off on another assignment but I’ve decided to have a few days here.’

‘You have the brochure?’ The priest lowered his eyes.

‘Yeah. That’s it on the table.’

‘I should very much like to see it.’

‘Sure.’ Richard handed it over. It was all PR-speak and in American English. Father Piontius read slowly and with concentration.

‘I thank you,’ he said at last, returning the brochure. ‘The visits are always the same; at regular intervals but with different people.’

‘What sort of people get invited?’ Richard asked more out of politeness than curiosity.

‘That I could not say.’ He got up abruptly. ‘And now I must go. We shall meet again.’ He seemed certain. He took Richard’s hand in his, with a gesture that was half a shake and half a blessing, and said goodbye.

Richard was grateful for his departure but not for the frustration of the solitude that he left behind. The wait stretched ahead endlessly. He’d had an idea that he would enjoy a few days alone, away from the pace of his usual existence. What a mistake. His thoughts fell to Trish. He saw her body against the sparkling waves, its nakedness a teasing mirage. What a time they could have here. Days of freedom: primed by the heat. He saw their bodies together in a tangle of sweat, moving and groaning with pleasure. He pulled out his mobile then changed his mind. It could wait till later. For now anticipation was the only joy he had.

2

Trish cupped the brandy glass in her hand and let the soft leather of the armchair mould itself around her. The others were settling themselves variously around her as she took up the dinner table discussion.

‘We were talking about power as a political concept, but what about the power of the individual?’

‘In what sense?’ David came and sat next to her.

‘I was thinking about women actually.’

‘Picking up the feminist torch, are you?’

‘Not if you mean all that twentieth century feminist ideology.’

‘No I don’t see you as one of the burning bras brigade.’

‘Hardly the main point of feminism, was it? In any case it simply highlighted a belief that women had to free themselves from female stereotypes before they could start realising their potential.’

‘What’s wrong with that?’

‘As an idea it hasn’t achieved anything. Just look what’s happening in the twenty first century.’

‘Meaning…….’

‘WAGS, for example. How come they’re such role models now?’

‘WAGS?’ Geraldine had just come into the room from the kitchen. Trish was not surprised by her question. Geraldine was renowned for being out of touch, strange for someone who was so good at throwing parties.

‘Wives and girlfriends of celebrity footballers.’ David was often the one to gently update her.

‘What’s your theory?’ he continued, looking directly at Trish.

‘Well, these are girls who are spend their time shopping, thinking about the latest fashions, all those so-called girlie pursuits, until one day they find they have landed lucrative publishing deals or modelling contracts simply because they married Mr Celebrity. They get their independence simply by capitalising on a female stereotype.’

‘Doesn’t that beg the question that personal autonomy and financial independence are one and the same?’

‘Perhaps, but I don’t see any signs of the revolution that the twentieth century feminists promised. What the twenty first century gives us is girl power instead, based on the premise that we can exploit our sexuality rather than ignore it.’

‘Isn’t that a step backwards?’

‘Not if you think that the WAGS are showing up the great flaw of feminism – pretending that sexual differences don’t exist and don’t matter.’

‘OK, but what sort of power are we talking about here? The power to go shopping whenever you want to?’ Fi joined the discussion. Fi’s shopping trips were legendary.

Trish opened her eyes wide at the irony but Fi cut short any comment.

‘I know, I know,’ she said. ‘But that’s not the sum total of my life. It’s just a bit of fun.’

‘Well what’s a Hedge Fund Manager supposed to do in her spare time?’ Trish could not resist a bit of teasing.

‘Keeps our consumer based economy afloat, I suppose, but that’s not the point is it?’ David put the discussion back on track.

‘No. My point is that these girls show how you can use your sexuality to achieve independence and autonomy. These girls are not being exploited, they are totally in control.’

‘Well if that’s the case, they’re lucky. There are vast numbers of girls who would disagree, even in our so-called free society.’

‘Who for example?’

‘Prostitutes.’

‘That’s their choice.’

‘Come on Trish, you know that’s just not true for most of them. Think of all the illegal immigrants tricked into it by promises of a better life. It’s all right for you in a top job, earning good money and protected by law against sexual discrimination. You can talk of power and choice because your education and upbringing has allowed you to, but there are many women in the world, including the UK, whose gender has turned them into slaves.’

Trish looked up from her glass.

‘Okay, that’s not right. But there’s always going to be two sides to a coin.’

‘Not always. I see young girls who have no choice at all. They end up physically abused because that’s what their culture requires.’

‘Time for after dinner treats, I think,’ said Geraldine, directing attention to the coffee table where rows of white powder had been carefully set out.

Trish held back and manoeuvred David into a corner.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Do you really want to know? I think Geraldine would prefer me to shut up.’

‘No doubt, but I want to know what you’re getting at; you look quite angry.’

‘Have you heard about female circumcision?’

‘Of course I have, but I don’t know much about it.’

‘Most people find they’d rather not go into detail, and it’s happening here in England. I work in a special clinic once a month so I’ve seen quite a few cases. Some people think it’s to do with religion but, in fact, it’s the mothers-in-law that ensure the practice is passed from generation to generation. No one seems to know why it’s done. It’s illegal but that doesn’t stop it happening.’

‘So what do they do?’

‘It depends. Sometimes they just cut off the labia and sew up what’s left. Sometimes they do a complete job and remove the clitoris as well.’

‘That’s gross. How do you pee afterwards?’

‘They leave a hole for that. It can cause problems if it’s too small.’

‘And what happens if you want to have sex? No, don’t tell me, I’ve heard quite enough.’

‘Well you asked.’

‘I know.’

‘It’s not like you. You usually shut me up in no uncertain terms when I try to go on about anything medical.’

‘I guess it’s because I’ve got things medical on my mind at the moment.’

‘Nothing serious I hope.’

‘It’s not personal. It’s work.’

‘Oh I see.’

‘I’ve been approached by a cosmetic surgeon who practises abroad, Dr Zachion. Have you heard of him?’

‘No, no reason to have.’

‘Anyway, he’s looking for someone to handle his PR and marketing in England.’

‘Well that’s a new one for you I imagine.’

‘Too right. Looks like it could be quite complicated.’

‘That’s the way it is with medicine these days, especially if he’s from overseas. What sort of cosmetic surgery does he do?’

‘Don’t know yet.’

‘Well, good luck. If you need any advice just let me know.’

‘Thanks. Now let’s get back to the fun. Shouldn’t mix business and pleasure.’

They joined the others. People were now taking turns at the coffee table where rows of white powder had been carefully laid out. Several lines of the coke had already disappeared. Fi was bending over the coffee table, ready to snort a line. Trish watched the charade. Their voices had become loud and shrill with the overconfidence of the drugs and alcohol.

‘Come on Trish – next line is yours. No one to stop you tonight.’

‘Dick would be furious,’ she countered with a smile.

She usually abstained when he was around, or at least seemed to. She knew he didn’t approve. He’d smoked a bit of pot at university, but now he’d even given up tobacco. It was one of his quirks not to take drugs in any form: something he had in common with David.

‘Out of sight out of mind,’ thought Trish, as the drug hit her nostrils. An odd indulgence never hurt anyone, she rationalised. She never used more than one line.

‘Dick not here to keep you away from the stuff?’ David peered over Trish’s shoulder as yet more lines of powder were laid out. It was a rhetorical question.

‘You’ll ruin your nasal septum, Trish.’

‘Oh come on, I don’t use it that much.’

‘If you can’t give it up then go easy. I’d hate to see a pretty nose ruined.’

‘Don’t be a bore, David.’

‘Can’t help it. Abstinence is an occupational hazard you know.’

Trish flashed him one of her inviting smiles and touched his arm lightly. ‘Now give me a kiss, medicine man.’

She never could resist flirting with him. It was always the same on coke, and not just for his good looks; there was something about his being a GP that she found attractive. Their exchanges never amounted to anything. Trish was a serial monogamist and faithful to Dick. Her mobile bleeped. She flicked it open and after a moment let out a short laugh.

‘Dick’s bored. There’s been a delay. He’s got nothing to do and he’s hating it. An easy assignment in the Adriatic sun and he’s still not happy.’

‘Who’d be a journalist?’ said David, planting a platonic kiss on her cheek and leaving her to tap out a rapid reply to the text.

She sent the message, a meagre consolation for both of them. Dick was bored; she needed sex. She would bet that he did too. It was the lynch pin of their relationship; the excitement that kept the irritations of monogamy at bay and made it possible for her to tolerate what had become Dick’s constant untidy presence within the order of her personal space. Somehow he had moved in with her without a word being said. His own flat was rarely used now. For a moment she saw him as he climbed into bed, turning on his back, waiting for her. She could almost feel him enter her. She stifled the need that swept through her. That would have to wait. An involuntary moistness betrayed her self-control. She would book a flight on-line that night. Sorted.

3

Richard picked up his mobile and sent a text to Trish: an edited lament. The small screen shone into the dimness of the room. The single bedside lamp gave out only a meagre light and the overhead bulb was equally weak. Facilities were basic. Air conditioning would have been good. The air in the room was thick and close. The ceiling fan whirred ineffectively and the window was closed against mosquitoes. Pity there were no other hotels in the town. He waited a few moments but there was no reply from Trish. He opened up his email account and called up his buddie list. Dougie was on-line. Well done, mate. Words tripped across the small screen.

‘Hi, Doug. What’s doing? Hot and bored here.’

A reply came back instantly.

‘Hey yer old Pom. ISQ with me. No promo yet. Still stuck at desk. Warm and wet here. Weather’s sticky too!’

‘Least you’re busy. It’s pretty dead here.’

‘Thought it was going to be a quick trip?’

‘Me too. Been a delay though.’

‘Bad luck.’

‘Thought I could use the time to write a travel article on the place. You know the sort of thing – undiscovered spot, ripe for the picking. Standard supplement stuff.’

‘Not working out then?’

‘You’re not kidding.’

‘Not got an angle yet?’

‘Not a hope. It’s a beautiful place but that’s about it really. Difficult when you don’t speak the lingo too.’

‘You need a distraction. What about a chick? That should take your mind off things.’

‘Not a hope.’

‘No joy then?’

‘Got the girl back home remember?’

‘And….?’

‘Leave it out, mate.’

‘Well, I’m off for a toss. See yer.’

Richard left Dougie’s last words flickering at him for a while then signed off. Trish would have hated it. Ghastly bloke-speak she called it. He shrugged, suddenly aware of the sweat that was making his clothes unpleasantly damp. The heat in the room was becoming unbearable. Richard ran cold water into the basin in the small en-suite and plunged in his arms. He lent his face forward and clumsily splashed water about his head. Better but not enough. It made the rest of his body feel hotter. He stripped off his clothes. A cold shower would do the trick. His phone bleeped and he picked it up standing naked and oppressed by the heat while he scanned Trish’s text message. As he read, he saw her image, could almost feel her breath, the touch of her skin, the wetness when he slid inside her. He made no effort to stop his response and followed Dougie’s example: two reasons to have a shower now. The cool water dribbled feebly over him, slowly washing away his semen and sweat. He let the air dry his skin and felt the heat returning. He was restless. He opened the windows. The shutters were still barred. He pushed them open, too hot to care about insects. The air was still and expectant. The faint scent of ozone drifted in. He dressed and left the hotel. At least you could breathe a little in the streets. A dog barked. Behind shutters little could be heard from the houses; a raised voice at an open door, a TV turned up loud, but in the streets nothing. The port was not far. He walked along the small harbour wall. It reached into the sea. A soft breeze played once or twice across his forehead. There was barely a sound. Nothing could be seen of the island at night, only the increasing blackness of the water stretching towards it. He wanted his skin to feel that water. He stood, eyes fixed on the dark ripples. A hand gripped his shoulder. He shuddered, his throat tight with fear. He turned ready to fight.

‘Forgive me if I startled you but few contemplate the sea like that without desperate motive. It is dangerous at this point.’ The priest released his hold.

Richard smiled. ‘I needed to cool down, Father. My hotel room is unbearable. The water did look inviting but not in that way.’

The priest smiled in turn. ‘I am always looking for distress. The sea is a great escape from the woes of the world. It has taken quite a number in the past. ‘

Richard saw his error. No one walks alone at night in a town like this. Nothing good would follow. Only a priest could pass unremarked.

‘Sorry to alarm you, but I’m quite happy with life. No intention of bowing out just yet. Waiting around’s not easy in this heat though.’

‘It’s unseasonal, but a storm will clear it soon. God’s cycle, you know. Be patient. He has answers beyond the limits of man.’

The priest smiled again. Together they walked back in silence along the harbour wall towards the quayside. A stronger, cooler wind began to rock the fishing boats at their moorings and the sea began to stir behind them.

4

Joseph lit another of the many Turkish cigarettes he’d smoked that day and inhaled deeply. He felt the familiar pain in his lungs. He ignored it and restrained a cough. He detested weakness. It was time to decide. He looked at the girl. She lay prone across the bed. Her naked body was unharmed. She appeared to sleep. Her serenity angered him. He reached for his belt to show his wrath then lowered his hand. What good would it do? The failure and rancour were his alone. Punishing her wouldn’t erase it. Instead he seized her long red hair and sharply lifted up her head. She would at least know his displeasure. She turned to face him. The velvet choker around her neck moved rapidly with her breathing.

‘Chief,’ she murmured submissively.

His eyes narrowed in spite at hearing the word. He hadn’t taken her well. The last should always be the best, especially for a chief. He stood up. She came to him and brushed her fingers lightly through his silver grey hair.

‘Joseph,’ she whispered.

The word fuelled his anger. The reminder of his foreign name, and a Biblical one at that, was ill timed. He felt suffocated.

He pushed her away.

‘Didn’t I please you today?’ There was no point in replying.

‘Go and get ready,’ he ordered and suppressed another cough. ‘I’ve finished with you.’

She had been his for three months. It was time for her to join the other girls for their final night. Tomorrow he would welcome the next group and chose a new girl for himself. He watched her leave the room and poured a glass of champagne. The vintage was good; restorative. The memory of his mediocrity was a risk he couldn’t take. He had a reputation to preserve. Once gone, she could talk. He had no choice. She must not leave the island. He knew her fate. He left the details to others.

Through the window the sky was still clear. Across the gardens a slim and solitary figure appeared. Her long dark hair was damp. It framed a delicate face. Lit from behind by the dipping sun, he could see the outline of her body beneath her sarong. She moved gently and gracefully. She appeared unconcerned to be alone and unafraid of apprehension. Was she breaking a rule? Perhaps. For once he didn’t care. She looked exquisite. Even from a distance she aroused him. She was exceptional. He willed her not to reach the building but the entrance swallowed her, and she was gone. He had no doubts. He needed to possess her. Tomorrow she would be his.

The reception was underway when the chief entered. It held no joys for him. He picked up a glass of champagne and watched the girls. They were, without exception, attractive and elegant in their evening dresses. They were his investment. They had been well groomed for this. Men were circling the girls, drinking, smoking, talking. More girls than men. Drugs were banned. The guys were young and, without exception, of muscular build – his clients usually sent their bodyguards. A perk of the job no doubt, but it was mainly for discretion. He never knew the names of the wealthy, powerful men who bought the girls. He only dealt with their representatives.

He coughed loudly, despite himself, and waived away his own bodyguard. He swallowed hard and tasted blood. He sat down with his drink and picked at the canapés. Through the door, conversations buzzed across the dining tables reaching his ears as a gentle hum. Its constancy was a good sign. He never joined them. He watched, as was his custom, until the girls withdrew to change. He saw, for the last time, the girl he had dismissed: her figure unmistakable in a silver dress. His gaze lingered a moment on her long red hair and then she was gone. She wouldn’t be back. The others returned, ready for the night ahead. The chief took up his place in front of the two-way mirrors of the side rooms for the regular ritual: the men trying out the girls before making their choice. He watched now with little of the vicarious pleasure of the past. He moved from mirror to mirror, following the dumb sex shows and scrutinising each coupling. For just an instant he felt a pang of envy, and then he turned away. The girl in the garden promised more. He knew her name now, Kia. Tomorrow he would have her. For the moment, though, he had business to attend to.

5

It was a room they rarely entered. Kia had seen it once before on the day of her arrival. Today it was different. Only

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