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Double Take

PROLOGUE

She vaguely remembered walking out of her flat but couldn't remember why or where she was supposed to be going. Maybe she had been going out to buy food or to meet somebody? If the latter was the case she had no idea who, if the former she had no idea what. Thinking hurt, no... more than that, her head hurtfull stop. In fact her head hurt like it had never hurt had before; like no other pain shed experienced before, even when shed broken her leg in two places falling off the wall when she was 14. Normal headache? Far worse than that! She'd never had a migraine before so why now? The pain was everywhere or was it? Was it migraine? She thought shed read somewhere that migraine pain was above the eyes, she ruled that out as she determined that most of the pain seemed to be on the right had side of her head, just above her ear. OK, thats where the pain was but why? What had happened? Something to do with being outside her flatwhy? Shadow....shadow? Yes, she remembered now; a shadow moving had caused her to turn her head, but where was that shadow? The fog of her memory cleared a little.. that's it! It really was in the hallway outside her flat, thats where the shadow had been. She had been going out and was checking the lock; sometimes it was stiff and she had to make sure it caught properly when she pulled the door closed. Thats when she had caught a glimpse of a moving shadow on the hallway wall behind her to her right; she had started to turn towards it. Had someone been there? Waiting for her? Yes! She was sure now that somebody had been there in the hallway, their movement had caused her eye to catch the shadow. But what movement? Her mind suggested something moving in her direction, an arm swinging towards her? Something in the hand that caught the hallway light? Realisation and understanding made her body shudder and this in turn caused new spasms of pain in her head. Unbelievably the movement had been somebody planning to hit her over the head. But why the hell would they want to do that? Was it worse; had someone tried to kill her? Who would possibly do that? Why would somebody do that her? It seemed so preposterous that she tried to find another reason for the pain, to make all this seem just a bad dream. She must have shaken her head in denial of the thoughts that filled her brain and the pain forced her again into accepting the reality of the attack. She once more thought about the shadow and the moving of her head, it seemed important. What if I hadn't moved it? Maybe the blow would have then been on the back of my head and would have killed me? She was clearly coming round from the blow but would she have done if she hadn't moved?

Graham Schofield

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All these jumbled thoughts tumbled through her mind as she began to regain consciousness. She knew she was not being entirely rational in her thinking but she explained that to herself as never having been hit her over the head before. She was still puzzling about whether there had been an intention to kill her or not but there was no answer to that at the moment. As clarity about her situation grew her thinking turned to trying to work out where she was. She determined she was lying on a bed so perhaps she was in hospital. Relief flooded through her. I am not dead and I am safe from crazy idiots whacking me over the head. Her last thought seemed to reverse itself, tumbling backwards to where it could be analysed some more. It had struck her that the thought about hospital included the word 'perhaps'. Why wasn't she sure? Her brain responded with the command that she should look around and then she understood. She must have naturally opened her eyes as she came round but her the message back to her brain was confused. Her vision was blurred and she could not see properly. Concentrate she told herself and as she fought to make out the shapes around her someone leaned over her. Relief. Ah that was good; a doctor or a nurse was there to make sure she was OK. Pause and consider again. Or was it good? This figure wore dark clothing and didn't doctors wear white coats and nurses light coloured uniforms? Confused she decided she really needed to know more about her surroundings. She was lying on her back but she could feel a pillow beneath her head, that meant her head was slightly raised. Slowly she turned her head, still wincing at the pain the movement caused her and, with her eyes looking to the left, she managed to make out the shape of a chest of drawers. It looked familiar so what else was there in this room. Her eyes went forward and there was what appeared to be a wardrobe opposite the end of the bed. There was something square on the wall, a large picture? More relief which she could accept, she understood she was back in her own flat and so it was OK for the doctor not to be wearing a white coat. Relaxing a little she realized he was lifting up her tee-shirt but that was OK, he would want to listen to her heart. But she felt no stethoscopeinstead she felt a hand slip inside the cup of her bra and then fingers brushed her nipple. Why would a doctor do that? The hand squeezed her breast. The feelings of relief left her as quickly as they had come. Her mind now registered panic but with it some anger. This was no doctor but just some bastard who was groping her tits. So who was it? More realisation and understanding and the sense of relaxation left her in an instant. This must be the man who had hit her. The anger receded as the levels of panic rose but with that came defiance. Battling with the pain in her head, which told her to lie still, instinct for not being harmed and survival took control and she tried to sit up. She seemed to move her body only a few inches and then came to an abrupt halt. More panic. Had the blow to her head paralyzed her? More confusion was added to the panic but she tried again to move and the man's hand abruptly stopped its groping around inside her bra. Oh good, perhaps if he
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knew she was awake again he might panic himself and leave her. OK. Think. She needed help but could not move. Only one thing for it; she opened her mouth to scream. But in fact she had not opened her mouth and all that was played back to her ears was a muffled sound. She tried to scream again and then attempted to speak. Now feeling some despair as her situation had worsened further, she had determined that in fact she could not open her mouth at all. Some even more horrendous paralysis was what her brain first suggested but then her tongue sensed the same taste you got when you used your teeth to tear off a piece of sticky tape. The taste was a reminder of normal things and with that she seemed to become a little more practical and realistic in her thinking. It helped her understanding of her situation but it filled her mind with even more horror. She had been gagged with something that she presumed to be packing tape. Her immediate and natural reaction to this latest piece of understanding was to attempt to rid herself of this disgusting barrier to speaking and breathing properly and she did two things. She thrashed her head and lifted her right arm. The former simply brought the incredible pain back to her head and the latter took the panic to even greater levels. Her brain's message to raise her arm had not been acted upon; she could not move her arm at all. Where was her arm? It was not by her side. She forced a look to her right over her and she could just about make out the shape of her hand next to the bed post. Her arm was flung out to her side. She tried to move it again and failed completely. Could she move it at all? She twisted it from side to side and felt something slightly rough against her skin. Oh my God! Her arm was tied to the post. Despite all this thinking probably less than a minute had elapsed since she had started to come round and she was still confused. Another weird thought entered her head for just one moment; if she had bought modern instead of the old-fashioned brass bed he would wouldn't have been able to do this to her. Banishing the stupid idea she forced herself to concentrate; she had to understand her situation so that she knew in what way she could fight. She tried to lift her head from the pillow enough to look down towards the end of the bed but she could not see her feet. Where were her legs? She tried to look again and she realised her legs were not together was they would normally be spread wide apart; she could just make out her feet in each corner. Fearing the worst, she tried to lift her legs and buck her hips up and down but it was no good. Her ankles were firmly tied. What of her arms? Could she still fight that way? She knew one was tied but what of the other? Another sharp pain crashed through her head as she flicked her head too quickly to her left. Again squinting through her damaged vision, she could see her arm but now also she could feel strong hands clamped around her wrist and her arm being pulled out straight. She tried to fight with all the strength she could muster but he was too powerful for her and she was still weakened from the blow to her head. She felt something rough on her skin again and despite the fact it did not help her in the least she decided he must have used her tights. He
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eyes sensed rapid movements in his hands as he tied off the knots and she knew she was well and truly helpless. She sank further into despair and wondered if perhaps she would have been better off had she remained unconscious? This thought made her now consider her attacker and the burning question now in her mind was would she live or would she die? She knew from the position she was in and the groping hand that there was an obvious sexual motive to the attack but.....it now occurred to her that if something truly terrible was going to happen that she may not want to live. Once more she struggled to see properly and as she squinted again there was a flash of clarity to her vision. A memory. The bathroom mirror in a morning. She now realised that she had lost one of her contact lenses; perhaps it had been knocked out when he hit her. Using both eyes together had been a natural thing to do but she could not see. She closed first one eye and then the other and at that moment she thought she might live. Just about able to see properly now through one eye she looked at the man. He had his back to her as his hands lifted to face and then he was now standing over her again. He was simply dressed in a plain navy blue sweatshirt and black jeans, but he was also wearing a clown mask to hide his identity. It was hot in the room, she always had the heating turned up in her bedroom, and as she tried to see his face beyond the mask she could make out beads of sweat on his forehead. He now turned a little to his right again and reached into a nondescript plastic bag he had put on her chest of drawers. She almost passed out again but this time with pure fear. She saw the knife in his hand. As he stood over her, not seeming to move, she tried to plead with him but it just came out as series of incoherent mumbles. Almost as if in control of itself as it ignored the pain the caused in her head, her body thrashed on the bed in a final attempt to free herself. She had no idea what ordeal she was about to face and the thought that that she might live was now challenged again with one which asked her if she really wanted to. He took a few steps backwards and then, with a turn of his body, bent over her with the knife pointing downwards. It was at this moment that, after a desperate struggle to lift her head from the pillow to try and see what was happening, her brain decided that the blow to her head, combined with the shock of her predicament was too much and she seemed to move back into a state of semiconsciousness. She was vaguely aware that he had used the knife to first cut away her skirt and teeshirt and then her bra and knickers had followed. One bit of her brain started to wonder where he had put the coat she had been wearing to go out but the thought was never finished. She was returned to a more awake state as she felt the tip of the knife scratch as it moved over one of her breasts and then start to travel downwards over her stomach. As she closed one eye again to restore her vision and she saw the knife upright and resting on her skin near to the top of her legs her instinct for survival made her try and cry out again, but her mind made her body stay still. She knew that if she struggled she might only cause the knife to pierce her skin
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herself. The panic was now so bad she really struggled to breath properly and then, as she once more looked towards his face, she knew with great certainty that she was in fact going to die. He took the knife away, stood upright and then lifted his left hand to slowly raise the mask to the uncover has face. As his features were revealed to her she her lost the vision once more as both her eyes naturally opened wide with the last, and perhaps greatest, shock she would have in her life. If it had not been taped shut her bottom jaw would dropped and her mouth would have gaped open. Her reaction or expression did not really change that much as he let the mask fall to the floor and lowered the knife once more towards her body.

Graham Schofield

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FIRST TAKE October 2008

Graham Schofield

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CHAPTER ONE My elbows on the chipped wooden desk, I leaned into his space: So what can a visitor do in Birmingham on a foggy day in October? I addressed this question to the concierge of my hotel; I knew he was the concierge because my hands rested on either side of the faded sign that said so, a triangle of wood with what had once been gold lettering but now was more aged bronze that said so. He took a step back, his face puzzled as he tried to work out whether he had spoken to me before... hello, anyone there? He was a scrawny man of around forty with an ill-fitting uniform, there was a large gap around his neck where his shirt collar was too big and his food-stained tie was slightly askew as if he was a gawky bean-pole school boy not grown up. His problem was that, just after Id checked in the day before, he'd not been helpful as his job required but in fact had been somewhat patronising to me. As I left the reception desk and walked past him I had to go up a single step and the wheel had fallen off my old and well abused suitcase. He had delivered a comment which was, to give him his dues, perhaps designed to humourous, but it annoyed me when I was tired from a long drive. At the time I had simply scowled at him, picked up the offending wheel and my suitcase and moved on to the lift lobby. But this morning I was in a better mood and sensed an opportunity for some mild retaliation. And I'd rather you didn't simply thrust brochures in my hand, I added as his cogs still whirled slowly, my face still doing my best imitation of an interested tourist. I'd like to get the views of a local on what's best in this city of yours. I knew from his comments the day before that he was very much a local; no one can misplace that thick Brummie accent. His acne scarred face continued to stare as he struggled to place me; then he did. It was like watching time lapse photography speeded up to a video format. Well Sir, yo cud.... he began nasally, now trying to smile sweetly. Yes? I interrupted. yo cud go he really was struggling, looking like a stick insect crossed with a gold fish. And I don't want to be told I could go to the Bullring Shopping Centre where, amongst other things, I could buy a new suitcase, I interrupted again, endeavoring to keep my
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face a passive blank. In turn, the gold fish now had its mouth firmly on the side of its glass bowl. Oh.....err....well.....yo cud.....err.... Oh doesn't matter, I said, now changing my face to feign irritation, you clearly didn't want to help yesterday and if you cannot help now I will go and ask that manager over there. I sensed him staring daggers at my back and clearly crossing me off his Christmas card list as I walked over to a younger man in a suit, standing in the centre of the reception area. From his position and the way his head moved quickly in all directions he did not need the hotel name badge to suggest that he was there to check all was well. I asked him for directions to a chemist and as he pointed and talked I glanced at the concierge. He had no idea what I had said and his sour face said it all. Petty I know, but it brightened up a very grey morning. I hate to feel people have got '1 up' on me; my mother always likened me a to a terrier that won't let go. My teachers had different words on the occasions such behaviour got me into fights at school. I walked out of the hotel, perfectly happy about where I was going, which was in fact nothing to do with being a tourist or being in need of a chemist, I was in fact in Birmingham to work. The week before I had picked up a contract to provide the photographs for an article to be published in one of the Sunday paper magazines; the subject was the year's Conservative Party annual conference. One of the broadsheet Sundays of course, this was not Sunday Mirror material. This annual event in the party conference season was due to start the next day and last for four days. Once proceedings got underway I would need photos of the politicians in mid speech of course, but the article was to be about the conference as an overall event and its impact on the City as well as about the delegates and speakers. Therefore, I needed location background and behind the scenes shots as well as those of people sleeping in the back row at the same time as some party big-wig ranted on stage. I knew the guy who was writing the piece very well, we had worked together on and off for a long time so I knew what his main themes were likely to be. Later on he would take me with him when he went to do snippets like interviewing the Starbucks barista who had served coffee to the MPs who left the building for a smoke. The fact that he'd got me to do the photos for this article instead of using a staff photographer from the paper who gave him the contract had apparently not gone down well, but that was not something I cared about. The editor wanted this guy as the writer, were both freelance, and he wanted me. I got my back-pack with my cameras and accessories in it more comfortable position on my shoulder and set off into the fog. This same weather had been around the day before and crashes on the motorway in the worst of driving weathers had doubled my journey time up to Birmingham from the expected two hours to four; hence my bad mood upon my arrival. There
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was a hotel next to where the conference was to start in two days time but that was well out of my price range, even with expenses slapped onto the fee I was charging, but also it was of course full of the great and good anyway. I describe them that way in terms of how the hotel would treat all those right leaning folks but to me all politicians are tossers, left right or something in the middle. So that meant that I was staying in a run-down 1970's place a couple of miles out of the city centre and, with only parking for a few cars, I had needed to stick my battered old Volvo estate on side street nearly five minutes away. I did occasionally think about changing the car and often got the piss taken about it but it was reliable, comfortable on long journeys and great when I needed to carry around a lot of gear like back-drops and lights for modeling work. I could have done with some artificial light that day. The fog had brought with it a chill and I shrunk my neck down and turned up the collar of my Barbour, dodging puddles on the pavement from overnight rain before the return of the fog with dawn. The five minutes the walk had taken last night seemed more like ten this morning. I eventually arrived at my car and unlocked the passenger door first; the central locking had long since given up the ghost, and put my bag on the floor, pushing it towards the front under the dashboard. Another photographer I knew had once had all his gear nicked from the passenger seat when some cheeky bastard sneak thief had grabbed it when he was stuck at a red light. Making sure it was safely stowed and would not roll about as I drove; I then relocked the car door as well. All my cameras and lenses and associated equipment are insured separately from my car and house insurance and they could of course be replaced; what couldn't usually be replaced would be any work I might have stored away on a camera at the time. I unlocked the other side of the car, took my phone out of my Barbour pocket, threw the coat onto the back seat and got in behind the wheel. Time to call Charlie. He always published his stuff under the name of Charles Bentley but that name made him sound too posh when you knew him; everyone called him Charlie. We had first worked together on a local paper in Brighton when we were both new to world of journalism and publishing. He was fresh from university and I was trying my hand at making a living from what had been my hobby during my school years. Being young meant we thought we knew everything but in fact knew the square root of bugger all. Now, with both of us approaching the big four-oh, we had both gone independent and were doing OK. He picked up work for many of the main papers plus the more news focused magazines; my remit was usually broader. I had dallied with the idea of going into journalism myself at one time and after a few years of working I had in fact spread what I did beyond just the pictures to the writing of articles as well. But photos were still my bread and butter. As well as working for papers and magazines, once I had taken the big step and gone into self-employment almost ten years previously, I had done contracts for books, commercial work for brochures and the like and sometimes, sold my own
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unsolicited photo journalism. It was this type of uncommissioned picture which had led me to write articles that went with the photos. I will never be in Charlie's league with words but, with editorial help, I have done OK when the main thing is the picture. The whole thing with photo journalism or any piece work where the unknown might make a best-selling picture has been made easier with advent of digital photography replacing film. Some of the best pictures with the most impact on front cover of a paper or magazine are those snapped in a moment of unexpected opportunity. In the old days, to get decent printable picture you needed a decent camera and this usually meant big and therefore, not always at hand. These days, the small digital camera used by most families and kept in Mum's handbag or Dad's pocket for the kids sports day successes can produce top quality photos. No longer does the photographer need to fumble in his bag to capture that moment before its gone, all of us professionals these days probably carry a small compact in our pockets at all times. Mine was in my jeans pocket but at that moment it was my phone I needed. I looked up his name in my contacts list and hit the call button. He answered after a few rings. Yeah mate? He was great with words in print but used the minimum in speech. People who heard him speak for the first time would often not believe he was the same guy whose name you often saw on front pages of magazines. Well bleedin' articulate he is I heard from one London cabbie. I'm in the great city and just going to do some background. It's foggy as hell so I am not going to do any outdoors stuff today. I thought of going for a mooch round the ICC where theyre going to be setting stuff up, get some of the local workers, chair shifters, sound technicians, you know, whoever's around. Sounds good mate, if you get anything you like of some good characters try and get their names and a number will you and I might follow up with 'em later, what the conference means to them and all that. We can pop out when there's some boring git on stage. Mind you they're all bleedin' boring! He was silent for a moment as he thought and then he gave a quick laugh: Try as well to see if you can get me something on the catering side in the hotel, must be like feeding an army but I'd be more interested if you can get shit loads of extra booze being delivered, right load of piss 'eads this lot are! Gotcha, I could be short with words too. You here tonight? Yeah mate, same hotel as you, see you in the bar 'bout half seven and you can buy me that beer you owe me. Only one? Not like you Charlie! I'm expecting you to keep your dues at one with some good stuff from that camera of yours today, give me some crap and it'll cost you enough to get me pissed! I laughed and we
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rang off. I turned the engine on, hit the wipers and lights and set off into the gloom. It was now just after ten. Following the shit journey yesterday I had given myself a lazy start since the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in Birmingham's early morning rush hour traffic. As I drove I stuck a Stereophonics CD in the player and as I tapped my fingers to the music on the steering wheel I went through a mental check of the things I wanted to try and get today. The paper we were working for had pre-agreed our ICC access with security for prior to the conference and during it. ICC is Birmingham's International Convention Centre, where the conference would be held. We also had requested press or special access to the bar areas in the hotel across the street where, as I said before, all the MPs and many other creeps and hangers on, sorry conference delegates, would be staying. Today I had planned to do the ICC and now, following Charlie's request, hoped to check out what was being done for the available bars. I was just finalising my thinking when I pulled into the car park at the corner of Bridge Street and Holliday Street. I paid for a couple of hours parking, got my bag, put my coat back on and went down the car park stairs onto Bridge Street. I had been here before a few years ago when I had done some stuff on an exhibition at the ICC and now the car park looked more like Colditz. There was white wire fencing everywhere to stop people breaking in for the first three levels and the top of all that was finished off with razor wire. Lovely, I thought. People liked to live in cities for the convenience but it was not for me. I have a small cottage in a village just off the M3. I can be in central London in under an hour or on the motorway network in 10 minutes; Heathrow was 30 minutes away if I was going overseas. But when I was home I was in a village in the country with local boozer and a few shops to keep me in essential provisions. I have lived there for eight years after managing to get my first mortgage and could see no reason for leaving. I've had a few girlfriends in the past and one had lived with me for two years but then, she was air hostess and was often away anyway, she went off with a pilot and to honest I was not exactly heartbroken. I was now quite happy to be on my own. I walked up the right hand side of Bridge Street and then, near the top at the junction with Broad Street. I stopped to look at the hotel across the street to my left. The fog was still there so it was no good for any outdoor pictures today but the forecast for tomorrow and the next few days was better. I looked up as far as I could see through the mist and low cloud towards the top of the all glass-looking structure and knew I could probably get some good reflection shots of Birmingham's 'Wheel'. This was a sixty metre Ferris wheel moved from Paris which, for at least the first year it was there, still played passengers a recorded commentary in French about the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower! You never know what will finally be used from all the shots taken but you have to be able to present different options so that there is likely to be something that will meet final
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demand. This is another huge benefit of digital photography, the ability to so easily take hundreds of pictures without having to change or develop films and then get pictures printed from the negatives. The other major plus is the opportunity to 'mess' with the pictures on a computer before they are used. Just try and find a model in a magazine today that does not have perfectly white eyes and teeth, let alone perfect skin. I framed a few shots in my mind for the coming days and then crossed Broad Street to the ICC. Despite the need for huge caution after the Brighton affair of 1984, once my bag had been painstakingly searched, my NUJ press pass and the pre-arranged security clearance got me quite easily through into where the conference would take place. Inside the huge gathering and lobby area where, with the high ceilings and criss-crossed girders, there would be good opportunities to get some more 'arty' stuff but it would probably not be what Charlie wanted. I wandered into the main auditorium where a couple of guys were putting finishing touches to the main stage backdrop and I got some decent shots of them working. I walked over and chatted briefly about what I was doing and I got some names and mobile numbers for Charlie. They were actually from a company in London that had produced the backdrops so were not the local colour he was looking for but there was no harm in noting them down. I then decided I needed to go to the loo, found the nearest one and there I met Doris. I was just zipping up again at the urinal when, after a perfunctory knock on the door she walked in. I guess she was about sixty and only about five feet tall, with a thick body where, in her tight house-coat type of uniform, her large breasts seemed to join straight into her wellfed stomach. With short, grey curly hair she looked like bowling pin. She had a reddish complexion and blue eyes that still sparkled and her teeth gleamed in a way that only dentures can. Oooh sorry said, pronouncing it more like sor-oi. Oh don't worry, I said, stepping back, I didn't want to lose her. I'm done. Awroit then, ah jus need to luke at the torlit poyper, you guon 'n wesh yer donnies. I got the first part about checking the toilet paper but I was half-way through washing my hands when I realised they must be donnies. I was pretty sure Charlie would love this one. I waited until she came out of the last stall and then asked about getting her picture. Wot yow want moi picher for? she asked defensively. I explained about Charlie and the Sunday paper and she was sold. I was not sure how he would deal with her accent, both understanding it and translating it, but she said she'd been doing the ICC toilets since it opened and had already seen a few party conferences. I took some pictures of her, inside and outside the toilets, standing with her mop and bucket, using them and so on and then got her phone number as well. I also asked her where she lived so I could maybe do something there. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and she called me a saucy bugger. Trarabit she finally replied as I said goodbye. Magic!
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I planned to make my way back outside then but as I walked back past the security desk the staff there had changed and there were two older guys talking to each other and both sounding like Doris only worse. I could not understand a word they were saying. I approached them and told them my story and I had two more characters for Charlie in the bag. They were both from the area outside Birmingham that was generally known as the Black Country and their accents were even stronger. They both made me laugh when they talked in more plain English as they were required to do for their job, they sounded like a bad posh actor trying to talk to like a Brummie! I took their pictures in various poses and then bid them goodbye. I got the same 'trarabit'. I now finally left the ICC and made my way over the hotel where I managed to find a barman who was supervising a major delivery of wine. Then, after wandering a few corridors, found a room cleaner that didn't sound as if she came from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Both agreed they would have 'stories to tell' when I explained why I wanted their pictures and phone numbers. I had one last idea to progress before I needed to get back to the car and my two hours ran out and that was based on Charlie's comment about catering. I managed to find my way into the kitchens without being stopped but once there, people soon wanted me to leave. I persisted and the third person I spoke to was an older guy, not a local, but he finally listened to my story and nodded. I had asked about previous conferences and any particular food stories; he said to me he needed a fag anyway and that I should follow him outside. His name was Pierre but he had last seen France over 20 years ago and had worked at the hotel as the pastry chef since it opened. I followed him back inside and got some shots of him, a synopsis of his story for Charlie and then, with his agreement, left the hotel again through the back door. I was crossed the loading bay, came out into a staff car park and walked straight into one of those truly critical times that drives me to always have the small digital in my pocket. I was busy thinking about my morning's work when a movement on my left caught my eye. Partially hidden behind a van, two people, a man and a woman, seemed to be a having some kind of heated discussion. I could not hear what they were saying and was about to ignore them and turn my head back to watch where I was going when, as I got more level with them and was able to see them more clearly, the man turned his head slightly. Perhaps he had sensed someone was there as I had but even though I only saw his face for a moment I realised who it was. He turned back to the woman and I didn't think he'd seen me. I almost dropped my gear bag on the ground as I grappled with my coat to pull the camera out of my jeans pocket and then I turned it on. I stepped quickly around the back of a large 4x4, rested my bag on the ground at my feet and lifted the camera. I was now in a position where they were almost facing me and he had his hands on her arms as if trying to placate her or even stop her from raising her hands to him. I took one quick picture and that was all I was to get, but it was more than enough. In my haste to get the shot I had forgotten I had left the flash
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setting on automatic and with this camera a bright light shone to illuminate the subject a fraction of a second before the actual flash itself goes off. In the gloom of the fog this initial light was enough to attract the attention of both them so, when the flash went, they had both turned their faces to the camera. Bingo! Their reactions were interesting too. I was expecting to have to leg it like some paparazzi caught in Madonna's garden but it was not needed. The woman pulled her arms from his grasp hurried off in the direction of Bridge Street and for a second it looked as if the man wanted to follow her, then that he would come towards me. Then he swore, turned and opened a plain door in the wall of the hotel and it slammed shut behind him. Oh fuck! was what he had said. Not very becoming language for the shadow foreign secretary and one of the top candidates to be the new leader of the Conservatives and of the government's opposition party.

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CHAPTER TWO I checked the photo had come out OK and grinned to myself before I turned the camera back off and stuffed it in my coat pocket. I picked up my bag and walked over to the door he had gone through and realised it was an emergency exit for the hotel. He must have come out that way especially to meet the woman and left it open with every intention of that being his way back into the hotel. I tried to get my fingernails into the crack between the two doors but they were firmly shut. Thinking about the car park I glanced again at my watch, just enough time. I hurried back to the door to the kitchens and looked for Pierre, it was hard when they were all dressed in white and the chefs hats meant you could not even look for a hair colour or style. I was moving my head back and forth when someone approached; it was one of the others I had spoken to initially. A broad Scot: You looking for Pierre again pal? he asked, the name sounding odd where he split it into two clear syllables. Yeah I was but maybe you can help mate. Just a quick question, might sound daft but are the emergency exits in this place alarmed? He looked puzzled for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders as if deciding he could not know the reason for my question but could see no harm in it. Sure are pal, guests set 'em off sometimes trying to nip out through one of 'em for a ciggie. Fuckin' great sign on the door tells 'em its alarmed but the daft bastards ignore it. Cheers mate, thanks a lot, I replied and headed back outside leaving him with a still puzzled look on his face. So it wasn't even an impromptu meeting I decided as I now hurried back down Bridge Street. He had to have arranged to meet her there and guessed he must have used his pull with the management got them to turn off the alarm on that door for a bit while he nipped out. I went back up the stairs to the car park and was just putting my bag in the back as I saw the parking attendant start his round of ticket checking on the floor where I'd left the Volvo. I chucked my coat in there as well, pulled down the tail gate and got in the car. I grinned to myself as I drove off. For the picture I had I wouldn't have minded getting a parking fine but they are a pet hate and only just avoiding one is always good feeling. I guess the grin though was about the photo as well.
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I drove out of the car park and realised that the fog had just about lifted, I hadn't really been thinking about it as I walked from the conference hotel. I looked upwards through the windscreen and the sky was still grey but was not all one colour and it looked like it might break up later. Maybe I could go for a wander this afternoon, where Doris lived was only about a mile from my hotel. I was soon back there and whilst not confident, I did think I'd see about getting in one of the spaces at the front. As I came round the corner an but beautifully maintained Jag was just backing out of one of them. An old boy with a hat on was behind the wheel, first sign of a crap driver is a hat on in the car and he was really slow. I wasn't impatient though and I let him pull away and then swung into the slot he'd vacated. Time for another grin, my bad mood of the previous day now completely gone. I got my stuff from the car, locked up and walked into the hotel, nodding to the manager I had spoken earlier who was still prowling his territory. Watch ya Dennis! I said cheerily to the concierge, remembering his name from the ubiquitous hotel badge. He did me another goldfish impression leaving me grinning again as I waited for the lift and got the credit card sized room key from my wallet. Back in my room I stuck the kettle on for a coffee and then realised it was lunch time and I was hungry. I called room service and ordered a beer and some sandwiches and then got out my laptop. I wanted to look properly at the work I'd done that morning but of course I also wanted to look at 'that' picture. I had no idea what I could do with it and I couldn't of course use it for Charlie's article but there must be something? It would probably need some heavy duty research to try and find out who the woman was before anything could be done with it. I would also need to know what the relationship was between the two of them. I did not know that much about him but I did know that Alan McDonald was married with two young kids. I shook my head as if to rid myself of thoughts about that picture and told myself to concentrate on the ones I'd taken for Charlie. I took the memory cards out of the cameras I had used and put them on the desk next to my laptop and turned it on. It had just finished booting itself when there was a knock on the door. The room service guy put the tray down next to the laptop as instructed, I gave him a quid and settled down to eat and work. Two hours later there were only crumbs on my plate, my bottle of Stella was empty and I had a memory stick of photo files for Charlie to look at. I had copied all the hundred or more shots from the memory cards onto the laptop hard-drive and then been through them one by one to sort out the ones which might be usable into groups. I had them grouped for the sign erectors, Doris, the security guys etc and then used my Adobe Photoshop software to tighten up a few perspectives, do some cropping and correct some red-eye on the close ups. I needed Doris to look like a catwalk model! In actual fact she had a great smile and looking beyond the years and the excess weight you could see she would have been a stunner when she was young. She deserved to get the Kate Moss treatment! Once I was happy with the selections for each
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group I created a clearly labeled file structure on the memory stick and copied the photos across. The final thing though before I did that was to watermark each draft image with my name. This is something all pros are likely to do to protect their work until its properly sold; it's a common feature of serious software packages like the Lightshop version of Adobe that I use that the watermark can be added. Its not that I didn't trust Charlie its just a habit I had got into and never dropped. I turned the laptop off, leaving his memory stick in the USB port and picked up the memory cards to put back in the cameras. I checked my watch, it was almost three. I was itching to mess about with the Alan McDonald shot and do some research but a glance out the window told me the weather had changed for the better and I should go to work. I sorted the cameras out, checked all was in place in my bag and after grabbing my coat, the small camera still in the pocket, I made sure the room was locked and headed out. I could sit and 'play' with Google and the car park photo later before I met Charlie in the bar. *** In less than two hours I was back in my room having tramped the streets for about a dozen shots, none of which I would probably give to Charlie as drafts, let alone him want them as finals for his piece. The weather and therefore the lighting was OK but even stuff around where Doris lived was going to be a lot better if she was in it. I put my stuff away in the wardrobe, taking out the small camera and my iPod from my Barbour before I put it on an old hanger that bore the name of a local dry cleaners. No hotel branded wooden hangers for me like Mr. McDonald would have. Righto mate, time to learn more about you but I doubt I am going to find your lady friend on Google. Whilst the time out earlier had not been fruitful in terms of pictures as I wandered the streets with my earphones stuck in it had given me time to think about the car park picture. Earlier on I had been thinking I would show it to Charlie and see what he could come up with in terms of how to play it but now I'd changed my mind. Yeah we were mates but only really when it came to working together, then we'd have a drink and a laugh but we never really met up at other times. Most of my regular drinking buddies were in my local at home, none of them anything to do with my work. I sat down at the desk and as I waited for the laptop to boot I checked my watch. I would need half an hour for a shower and a shave, I hadn't bothered this morning, before I went downstairs to meet Charlie so I would have to stop what I was doing by seven. I took my watch off and set an alarm. I was not going to sleep but when I get into something I can get carried away and lose all track of time. The question was: photo first or Google first? I decided on photo. I took the memory card out, shoved it into the side of the laptop and opened Windows Explorer. The card had loaded itself into a spare drive and I clicked the mouse til I got the folder with all the pics on it. I sorted them all by date and there it was, sitting nicely at the top of the list. I double-clicked and there it was.
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Even without the girl or the fact that his hands were on her arms it was never going to be used as a publicity shot for him. People often talk about 'deer in the headlights' as a means to describe a startled expression and this was pure text book. Her head had turned towards me as well but her expression hadn't really changed. I tried to recall what it looked like that she was thinking when I first saw them but her face wasn't that clear then. It looked now as if basically she was exceedingly pissed off but when I zoomed in on her face I could see something in her eyes that looked like defiance. Her eyebrows were slightly lowered and if you could have exaggerated the look a bit you could imagine her as a child with her hands on her hips and stamping her foot. I scrolled left to look at him more closely but could not really read anything else from his expression. I would check it properly later but at the time I seem to have remembered reading that he was in early forties. He was around 6' tall, medium build but with real sign of a thickening waist from lots of power lunches and had a narrow face and nose. He had green eyes and mid-brown hair he parted on the right in a casual kind of way. When he was seen on TV making speeches or getting out of car he had a habit of running his hand through his hair to flick it back from his forehead and restore the parting. He did not look as if his hair was receding at all nor that it would. He would probably start going grey soon; like I was only my hair was black and it showed even more! I scrolled back to the girl. I had been calling her that since she looked at first to be around her mid-twenties but with an even greater zoom I could start to see the odd line around her eyes. I now put her in her early thirties but she had certainly worn well. She had shoulder length hair that, judging by the colour of her eyebrows was probably similar to his but she had pretty hefty blonde highlights. She was wearing a beige raincoat which hid most of her figure but generally I would have said she was slim and about 5' 6 to 5' 7. The chauvinistic side of my male brain said that she was in fact probably quite tasty; this picture was just not flattering. I tinkered around some with the photo and sharpened a few bits, clearing up their eyes and taking away some of the 'noise'. On a foggy day they were standing next to a grey concrete wall and this tended to mean that I lost some of the natural sharpness. I improved the luminance and colour scales and that made a difference; their skin tones and their clothes had much greater clarity. Mmm, I thought to myself, I can just imagine that on the front pages of the papers and magazines! I saved a few copies with different zooms and then turned to the web. I opened up my browser, Googled 'Alan McDonald' and of course got millions of hits. Need it narrower I thought. I added the word 'bio' to the end and now started to get what I wanted. What I learnt up to the time that the alarm I had set went off was that he was 42 and had been married for twelve years to a woman called Carol who had worked on his campaign when he first got elected as an MP; that was ten years ago. They had two girls aged 8 and 6 and
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Carol was 37. He had grown up and gone to school around High Wycombe and then become the MP for the Wycombe constituency. This has produced two Prime Ministers in the past, one of which was Benjamin Disraeli. McDonald of course had plans to be the third. He had won all sorts of scholarships and prizes at school and had studied History at Cambridge. He had been tipped for the top pretty much as soon as he entered politics and had been shadow foreign secretary for the past eighteen months. When the current Tory leader announced his retirement to take place after the upcoming conference, one of the first names to come up to replace him had been one Alan McDonald. What I wondered now as I shut the laptop down was would he still be there in the running when I found out what was behind the picture. If I could that was. It was with that intriguing thought that I went to get a shower. From what I had seen and heard I neither liked nor disliked the man, as much as anyone can like a politician, but he was a husband and a father and I did not want to wreck things for his family if it wasn't warranted. However, as a very public servant and one who wanted to be even bigger in that role, he had to be whiter than white......and if he wasn't? I put thoughts of him away at that point and as I finished my shower and started to shave I focused on my meeting with Charlie. I just walked out of the bathroom and when my phone buzzed with text; Charlie. In bar now get your arse down I sent back: Five. One word to seven; I won! I opened a drawer for a pair of boxers and some socks. I put on a pair of clean Levis and grabbed a shirt and then went back into the bathroom to use the dryer to get the worst out of my wet hair. I flicked a brush through it, went back to the room to put my boots on and was out of the door a minute later with my laptop and Charlie's memory stick. Two minutes later I was in the bar with Charlie. Essentially he was happy with the pictures I'd taken thus far; he loved Doris and the security guys and was pleased I'd got a foot in the door with the hotel via Pierre. With that good start the next two days went well and I was pretty busy shooting new stuff and fine tuning it on the laptop. After the conference finished in four days time Charlie had only six days to get his article finished and ready for the editor's first review. It was on the third day of the conference that my life suddenly got somewhat more complicated. Understatementbig understatement.

Graham Schofield

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