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Black Ice: Chapter 4

...The editor didn't bother to introduce himself because he assumed everyone knew him. He was right. Throughout the newspaper business, he was known as Grimm, on account of the fact that his paper consisted almost entirely of fairy tales. He was a frenzied young northerner who'd found that the streets of London were paved with gold, so long as you didn't mind wading through the sewers first...

Sam Craven, a freelance journalist who has agreed to go on a spying mission to Iceland, gets the perfect cover to account for his visit.

To read earlier chapters of Colin Dunne’s sparkling novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/black_ice/

Shurring shurring shurring shurring shurring. Shurring shurring. Shurring shurring shurring shurring shurring shurring.

Am I doing this properly? It seems so stupid sitting bolt upright in the office saying one word over and over again to myself. Anyway, here goes. In threes this time.

Shurring shurring shurring. Shurring shurring shurring. Shurring shurring shurring.

Am I meditating yet? I don't feel as though I am. On the other hand, the night I fell down three flights of stairs I didn't feel as though I was drunk. A few more. In pairs this time.

Shurring shurring. Shurring shurring. Shurring shurring.

Just keep saying the mantrap — sorry, mantra — so the teacher said at the class, and my system would sink into the resting state and my mind would be empty of thoughts. Right. Is the mind empty? Whoops, no, there's a sneaky little thought appertaining to an unpaid gas bill. And another about picking up my laundry. I chase those two off and in slips another thought about that bendy-looking blonde in the office down¬stairs.

Oh, hell, shurring, shurr-bloody-ing, and my mind is wriggling like an ant hill with unauthorised thoughts. The astral plane of selflessness which lies beyond the void didn't seem to have any membership vacancies at the moment.

Shurring shurring . . . I'm not doing all that again. Then I realised. It was the phone.

'Craven?'

'Speaking.'

"Ere. I like this idea you've put up for a feature piece in Iceland.'

Suddenly I knew who it was. Batty hadn't been kidding when he said one of the pop papers. The editor didn't bother to introduce himself because he assumed everyone knew him. He was right. Throughout the newspaper business, he was known as Grimm, on account of the fact that his paper consisted almost entirely of fairy tales. He was a frenzied young northerner who'd found that the streets of London were paved with gold, so long as you didn't mind wading through the sewers first.

'Idea?'

'Yeah, this memo you sent. Secrets of the Sexy Eskies. Brilliant. You're on.'

'Good. I mean, great. Secrets of the what?'

'Sexy Eskies. That's my headline. So you work to that, right?'

I was relieved to hear the headline was his. Even the Foreign Office, with its fathomless resources, couldn't have counterfeited such a classic as that. Even as I was listening to him, I could see the problems of actually putting this into operation.

'So, you get your interview with this Miss Iceland lass — what she does, who with, every pant and wriggle — and we're there. Like I say, Secrets of the Sexy Eskies.'

'Right. Terrific. Just one thing.'

'What?' He sounded irritated. Just one thing sounded one too many for him.

'Strictly speaking, Icelanders aren't Eskimoes. Very, very strictly speaking, of course.'

His sigh burned up a few hundred yards of telephone wire.

'Listen. I shouldn't have to explain this to you,' he said, in the tones of one who bears a heavy burden through life. 'How it works is this. Maybe they are Eskimoes. Maybe they're not Eskimoes. Who can say? But if I think they're Eskimoes then our readers will think they're Eskimoes, and if our readers think they're Eskimoes, then bloody Eskimoes they are. Got it?'

'Got it.'

'Thank God. Tell you what,' he began, in a more generous tone, 'I've seen your stuff around. It's not all crap, you know.'

'I'm glad to hear that.'

'No, fair does, it's not. What I don't understand is why you haven't been on to me before.'

'I was waiting,' I said, marvelling as I heard the unplanned words slip through my lips, 'for a really big one.'

'Love it!' he enthused. 'That's what this business wants -commitment, heart, guts. There's big bucks in this, Craven. Get on your way. Today. Secrets of the Sexy Eskies, eh? Ring in. Ciao.'

I sat there for a couple of minutes looking at the phone and wondering if my attempts at meditation had somehow flung this nightmare figure into my imagination. But no, I knew it wasn't. That was Grimm all right.

It was my only experience of him first-hand, and I must say my immediate reaction was to start a new life in Paraguay
under a false name. Still, I wasn't really working for him, was I?
I don't know why I bothered dragging my conscience in for an overhaul like that. All I needed to do was to concentrate on the prospect of seeing Solrun again and I could've rationalised the Crucifixion.

One phone call to Icelandair did the lot. They put me on the evening flight, promised to book me a room with Hulda Gudmundsdottir — my, we were back in opera-land, weren't we? — and they also promised to notify the information office where Solrun worked that I was on my way. After that, of course, it was up to her.

Then I rang Sally's convent school near Guildford where eventually I battered my way past the nuns' chorus and got to speak to my daughter. Speak? Did I say speak? Got to listen to her. In no time at all I was apprised of the facts that Natasha had quarrelled with Fiona and she and Henrietta weren't going to bother with them any more, not if they were going to have a pash on that hateful Rowena.

Of course, it all sounded like birdsong to me.

My ex-wife sent her to the convent because they wore boaters in the summer. I think she believed that straw had miracle properties when placed in close proximity to the brain. I made a note to buy myself a straw hat sometime.

I thought of trying the old shurring shurring again, but decided against. It didn't seem to be taking with me. Every time I emptied my mind of the stresses and worries that were poisoning my system (so the book said), someone sneaked up with another lorry-load.

Instead, I sauntered up to the Cheshire Cheese where — gurus please note — I reached astral planes of pure thoughtless serenity on exactly three pints of Marston's best bitter.

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