More Deaths Than One
Chapter One The thin line of the causeway curved out from Al-Khobar across the turquoise waters of the Gulf. The old Indian leaned across him in order to see out of the window. ‘I think this is a very long bridge,’ he said, ‘Yes it is, but actually it’s a causeway,’ Thomas said. ‘A causeway? What is this please?’ He thought for a moment. ‘A causeway? Well, it’s a solid, man-made connection between an island like Bahrain over there and another island or a mainland. This is a long one; twenty six kilometres.’ “Then a go-between it is, I think. Perhaps the peoples of all the countries should have such connections, sir, to join them up with the peoples of other countries?’ The old man smiled, nodded, sat back in his seat. The plane’s engines dropped another decibel, lowering them gently out of the sky and down on to the washed out browns and yellows of Arabia. Looking for the shortest immigration queue he dodged his way through the crowd. Fajr prayers were sounding out, the marble floors and high pillared walls of the airport building echoing with the dawn chorus of Islam; half chant, half song, one cohesive whole stepping easily up and down the scales. He attached himself to the end of a line, imagining the thousands of other Qu’aranic chantings relaying their way across the sun-burned sands of Arabia as the darkness rolled away this one more time. There were just sixteen ahead of him. Five minutes at the desk for each one if you were lucky, then it's a limo to the compound. The bigger the beard the more Islamic the wearer, or so they said, and this particular immigration officer's was really impressive and untrimmed in the way of the Wahabbi. The man glanced up at him, jet-stone eyes without expression, then down to his keyboard. He tapped some more into his computer, looked up again. ‘Your name?’ Thomas’ passport was on the desk, wide open. ‘Thornton. Thomas John Thornton.’ He tried another smile. No good. The man tapped some more on his keyboard then picked up the telephone, muttering the rhythmic syllables so quietly that Thomas couldn’t make out any of the Arabic. Not that he would reveal his knowledge of it, he’d had much practice at that. Now the double thump of official stampings and he had once again been permitted to enter into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His suitcase was already through and off the carousel and he'd picked it up and moved off towards the queue for Customs inspection when the uniformed policeman stopped him in his tracks, gesturing off to one side, the bearded face also without expression. ‘You come,’ the man instructed. Some of Thomas' fellow passengers stopped to observe the scenario, brown faces anxious to know as much as possible about a stranger’s possible predicament, especially when the stranger was a Westerner. ‘Come? What for?’ Thomas asked. ‘You will come with me,’ repeated the policeman. He shrugged, followed on into an office off the main concourse. Some kind of random check? A green overalled worker had come in, a tiny man but able to pick up his case with surprising ease. ‘You will come with me,’ repeated the policeman, adding, to the worker, ‘And this other, also.’ Thomas handed over his shoulder bag with it's laptop. Alone now, he thought over the possibilities. Something wrong down at the yard? Some irregularity with his visa? He shook his head, took out his mobile, watched as it picked up the familiar Al Jawwad server. He dialled the compound then pressed in his extension number, glanced at his watch: six thirty. The answer message kicked in: 'This is Mrs Consuela Thornton. There’s nobody …' He pressed the off button; Connie would most likely be in the shower and the boys wouldn’t hear anything much quieter than a nuclear explosion on a sleep-in Friday. ‘Your passport, Mr Thornton?’ There were two of them, one standing respectfully just behind the other, both of them wearing pristine white thobes with the familiar red and white checked, black banded head gutras. The speaker’s face was unfurnished by beard, only the mandatory moustache, this one small and neatly tended. Fortyish? Around his own age anyway; light-skinned, nice looking in that classic, hawk-nosed way. ‘My passport? Sure, but can you tell me why?’ His questions hung unanswered in the air. The hand was still outstretched. Reluctantly he took out his passport and handed it over, vaguely reassured by the glint of its gold embossed royal coat of arms. ‘Thank you Mr Thornton, please sit.’ He did as he had been told. His mouth had dried up. He knew himself not to be looking his best. Last night's beer in London, red wine and little sleep on the plane. The lead guy slipped the passport into his breast pocket. ‘You are Thomas Thornton, resident here at AlMhoubi compound, villa two six three?’

Thomas did his best to irrigate his mouth and throat. ‘Yes, that is correct. Might I ask who you are? And again, why I’m here?’ The second Saudi said, ‘We are police officers, Mister Thornton. Captain Mohammed Al-Muttawi is a senior police officer.’ Ignoring the exchange Al-Muttawi asked, ‘You are the general manager of the company Al-Sottar Marine?’ ‘Indeed I am,’ Thomas said, ‘So what’s the problem? Some kind of an accident?’ ‘I shall explain, Mr Thornton. But first you will understand that I have to be sure of the information in my possession. We have noted your degree in business studies and prior to that your career with the British Military. This is correct?’ ‘My … ? Well yes; but so what?’ What the hell was all this about - all this ancient history? Al-Muttawi waited in silence. Thomas shrugged, went on, ‘But in return I’m sure you’ll understand, Captain, that I cannot comment on my military background; especially as I haven’t had any contact with it for the past seven years.’ It was becoming ever more difficult to keep traces of sarcasm and anger out of his voice. The desk telephone rang. Al-Muttawi picked up, listened intently, saying nothing until the murmured ‘Shukhran’ and the replacement of the instrument. He stood. ‘I think it would be more comfortable, Captain Thornton, to pursue our discussions elsewhere. Please come with me. We shall bring your baggage.’ The original uniformed policeman had returned, had taken up station by Thomas’s side. Coming from nowhere it was there, in his head; training manual, Code X -010; Display no fear but do not denigrate nor attempt in any way to dominate your temporarily more powerful adversary, the book had instructed. He said, ‘Look, before I go anywhere I need to call my wife, is that OK?’ He took out his mobile. ‘I’m also going to speak with my sponsor.’ Pressing in the auto key for his home he murmured, ‘You will know of Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Al-Sottar?’ He glanced up but thee was nothing in the man’s face, no reaction. This was wrong. ‘Emergency call only’ had appeared in the mobile’s window. He tried once more with the same result. A coldness had enveloped him. He cleared his throat. ‘My mobile seems to be out of order. May I please use your telephone?’ The flat denial. ‘No, Mister Thornton, you may not.’ Inside the downtown police station they walked in single file to a room with an Arabic language ‘Interrogation’ plaque on its door. The room was badly furnished with worn leather armchairs, stained and ancient carpets, the inevitable out of date portraits of the ruling triumvirate. There was a background whiff of spiced foods and bad sewerage, so familiar to anyone who knew this, the oldest part of the city. A wall mounted air conditioning unit creaked, clattered and moaned. Two more uniformed men had joined the party. God, but he was so tired of all this, felt himself hugely disadvantaged; a dishevelled British so-called businessman and alien in every sense. From behind the desk the senior man said, ‘You are aware that I am Police Captain Mohammed Al-Muttawi. How do you wish me to address you, Captain?’ The emphasis was very much on the last word. It occurred to Thomas that the proceedings were being recorded. ‘Mister. Mister Thornton will do well enough for me, Captain Al-Muttawi.’ He tried to lighten things. ‘Perhaps it will save confusion, yes?’ Nothing. No reaction. ‘As I think I told you earlier, my service career is an irrelevant piece of history.’ Al-Muttawi gestured around the room. ‘We are here to conduct an investigation into certain allegations concerning your importation into the Kingdom of prohibited substances.’ The air conditioning had clanked to a temporary halt and now the silence was absolute. Thomas looked at the policeman, conscious that he’d opened his mouth but having not the words. What materials? Who the hell had ‘informed’ them about exactly what? He shook his head. ‘I do not know what on earth you're talking about but I do think we had better get in touch with my sponsor, and right now.’ ‘No, Mister Thornton, you may think this but I do not. Sheikh Abdul-Rahman is aware of these proceedings. You will please tell me how must we interpret your lack of response to the stated allegations.’ He glanced up at the ceiling. Thomas followed his eyes, noticed the CCTV camera. ‘As a total denial, Captain. You can interpret it as a total denial. I have done no such thing and I must formally demand to see the British Consul. I ask you again, may I please use your telephone?’ Prohibited substances? Drugs? He tensed up, suddenly recalling the line of red italics across the top of the standard Saudi landing card; 'Death to drugs dealers'. Plain and simple. ‘And I have told you once; you may ask or demand nothing,’ Al-Muttawi’s voice may have risen an octave. ‘You may make requests only after you have been charged. You are not yet charged.’ Unexpectedly the perfect lips below the perfect moustache twitched. ‘But we might find it not easy to locate anybody to talk with at your British Embassy. No doubt, this being the day to rest those in your Embassy who have by now left the comfort of their beds will at this hour be nursing their - what you say, their hangovers? But I am still wondering, Mister Thornton, why do you not ask me something of the stated allegations? This we must find surprising.’

Thomas felt the prickly break out of sweat from his forehead. More of it was trickling down his chest, down his sides. The air conditioning clanked and roared into a new bout of ineffectual action. He cleared his throat, ‘Because the allegations are absurd, officer. You are making a very serious mistake here.’ The voice was not quite his own. ‘Might I please have some water?’ ‘Later.’ Al Muttawi sighed heavily, consulted his notes, looked up again. ‘The allegations I have referred to are that you have arranged with your European business contacts for the illegal importation into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of substantial quantities of a prohibited substance, and that you have been selling this substance to citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for personal gain.’ Thomas stood up quickly, five of them at once following suit, only Al-Muttawi remaining seated. He spoke more loudly than he had intended. ‘This is absolutely ridiculous. Look, I am a businessman with no record here or anywhere else of anything such as that which you have indicated. I came to this country five years ago, contracted as General Manager of Al-Sottar Marine. Actually I can say that I detest drugs - prohibited substances as you call them. I’m well aware of just what they can do to some people, Captain.’ ‘Kindly be seated, Mister Thornton. My colleagues might interpret your attitude as threatening.’ The policeman sat forward. ‘I believe your wife’s family name was Carravaga, was it not?’ ‘Yes. So what?’ ‘So the connection between the family Carravaga and the drug, cocaine is evident to all the policemen of the world, Mister Thornton. You think us ignorant?’ He looked and sounded almost pleased, nodded to the side. One of the five men carefully placed a clear plastic bag on the desk. Visible inside was a package of a familiar brand of talcum powder. ‘This, I believe, belongs to you.’ He looked up at the camera, speaking in Arabic now. ‘This item which is one plastic container of perfumed talcum powder was removed from Mister Thornton's baggage, as signed and witnessed.’ Even after all this time out here Thomas remembered just in time: no Arabic. He shrugged. The talc was his brand for sure. Rivers of sweat had dried cold on his skin. He said, ‘It could be mine, I guess. But once again I have to ask you, Captain, so what?’ Al-Muttawi put on a pair of surgical gloves. ‘We must of course leave undisturbed your fingerprints.’ Opening the bag and removing the protective cap he unscrewed the sprinkle top and then inserted his forefinger inside the container. Carefully he pulled out a small square of tape that seemed to have been used to affix a cotton thread inside the neck. The thread now hung suspended from between his finger and thumb, at its end a bulbous screw of talc dusted plastic film. ‘Enough for several of what I think you would call ‘lines’, Mister Thornton, yes? A small sample, no doubt. Enough for your personal use and of course completely invisible to our X-rays; also undetectable by European sniffer dogs behind the perfume. Very smart but not entirely original I am afraid.’ Thomas shook his head. ‘Look, this is some kind of a nightmare. If what you say is true then I’ve been well and truly set up. I know absolutely nothing about any of it.’ Al-Muttawi stood up. ‘You please now rise.’ Thomas got to his feet, the fear and the anger now balled up in his stomach, his mind bursting with unanswerable questions. ‘Mister Thomas Thornton I am now formally arresting you. In accordance with the law you will be held pending the completion of my investigations. Materials will be provided for you to write a statement responding to the allegations that have been made.’ Thomas sensed the satisfaction of the silent group of watchers. ‘In your statement, if you are going to confess to the charge, as in the circumstances you would be advised to do, you will find it to your benefit to name your accomplices. And the names of those to whom you have been selling the prohibited material.’ He turned and made to leave the room. ‘That is all for this time.’ Desperately, Thomas said, ‘I need to call my wife and my sponsor and they will need to get me a lawyer. Right now, please.’ Al-Muttawi turned back to face him. ‘No Mr Thornton, this is not permitted. This, as a resident in The Kingdom I am sure you know.’ He was speaking with a kind of weary patience. ‘The law is that you will be allowed no outside contact until our investigation, it is finish. None at all may you talk with. Not any family or friend or employer and no consul. No lawyer. To an intelligent man the logic of this is surely clear. 'Covering tracks'. Is this not your expression? Of course I have taken the action to disconnect your mobile telephone service.’ Thomas said, ‘My God. And how long is this investigation of yours going to take?’ ‘I do not think very long. Already I have worked on your case for more than one week.’ He shook his head. ‘Mister Thornton, also please know that it may be usual in your country, but we here in The Kingdom find blasphemy greatly of offence. That is now all.’


The five guards with him in the van were totally uncommunicative; They moved slowly through downtown streets already crowded with cars ancient and modern, slow moving and double parked, and with men in Saudi thobes, white ranging through downright filthy, or with smaller men in all the colourful dresses of the sub-continent. This tide of humanity milled round, overflowing the pavements on this Friday, their Holy day and therefore free of work. The police van inched along, its horn adding to the general din. Near the Corniche the crowd had thickened. People completely blocked the roadway so that the police van needed to barge its way through before coming to a full stop, becoming a part of the now still and silent throng that surrounded a space kept open and clear by uniformed policemen. Standing alone in the space was just this one black-African Saudi and Thomas knew at once what this was, what was to go on. The driver switched off his engine, rolled down the windows, letting in a billow of superheated, super-humid, drainpipe air. Thomas was aware of the faces, the excitement in them. But then … Hector? Hector Comancho? The little Philipino foreman, shackled and held between two policemen, stared up at him through the van window, his face a tragedy of pale and helpless desperation. Still not properly able to accept what he was seeing, Thomas could only watch as Hector was led out towards the man with the curved sword, point down on the paving. Tears now mixed with the beaded sweat that coursed down Hector’s face. For a moment forgetting everything except this, Thomas shouted to no-one and to everyone, ‘What the hell’s going on here?’ but he knew, full well he knew. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ His shout reverberated as an obscenity within a silence disturbed only by the blares of distant motor horns. Those who had turned to look at the shouter returned quickly to their observation of the tableau in the square, anxious to miss nothing. In truth there was not much to see, not much to miss. Hector was forced down to kneel in front of his executioner. Just for a moment he looked again directly at Thomas, his face a mask with such a depth of hopelessness, and then a policeman’s stick between the shoulder blades had encouraged him to bend low and the expressionless black faced Saudi was a whirling blur, so graceful for a man of his size. His sword was a flash parabola and Hector’s head was gone. Gone, just gone, hitting the concrete open mouthed, terrified, rolling. The slight body had fallen forward, hinged at the knees. Then came the pulsing evacuation of its blood, a bright red pool gathering, spreading, dulled quickly by its eating up of sand and dust. The guards inside the van were taking a more direct interest, seeming eager to observe Thomas' reactions. He told himself, don’t lose it; if you lose it, Thornton, you lose yourself. But some of them had begun to giggle. For a moment he was immobile, paralysed by what had happened, by what would happen, by an upwelling fury and a spinning out of control. He stood up in the van. His fists, linked together by bright metal, closed hard and tight…

To buy your copy of More Deaths Than One direct from the author, go to: www.moredeathsthanone.com Or email the author direct at bryan@bryanislip.com

Or from any good bookshop or Amazon ISBN 978-0-9555193-2-1


"Bryan Islip … in More Deaths Than One, has crafted a good oldfashioned page turner of a yarn - the sort of book you might grab at an airport en route to a holiday in the sun … A novel touching on themes of revenge and injustice, and containing as much derring-do as the average James Bond thriller, More Deaths Than One is a pacey, satisfying and enjoyably diverting read which also manages to include a dash of romance and a drugs related conspiracy theory. Throw in a plot which resonates strongly in the war on terror era following the September 11 attacks on New York and you have a story that is potentially of interest to a very wide readership." Hector Mackenzie, Editor The Ross-Shire Journal

About the author:
Bryan Islip is a 75 years old writer/ poet/artist. He is the author of selfpublished novels Going with Gabriel and More Deaths Than One, under the Pictures and Poems banner. He says, “That it is possible to write, edit, design covers and interior, then publish and market a serious book is one of the wonders of our digital age. The result is the undiluted product entirely of one mind; my own. And that’s good, for a book can be read by only one mind at a time.” After a successful career in packaging, in 2001 Bryan ‘retired’ from his businesses in the UK and Middle East in order to paint and to write. A year later he migrated with his wife Delia from their Winchester home to Wester-Ross in the Highlands of Scotland. There he created the firm of Pictures and Poems. He paints landscapes mainly in pastels, and composes the associated verse, then produces and markets the results as cards, prints, calendars etc. He also self-published a booklet called An Incomers Views on Wester-Ross in 24 pictures, poems and narratives. It proved to be a significant success locally. However Bryan’s over-riding interest remains focussed on high quality, high impact literary fiction. Before the publication of More Deaths Than One and Going With Gabriel, he had several prize-winning short stories accepted for publication in the UK and USA. Contact Bryan: T: +44 (0)1445 731322 E: bryan@bryanislip.com Read Bryan’s blog at www.bryanislip.com

And, on Amazon: Fantastic Read
By Terry Garrod "Terry" (Portugal) - I must confess this is not the sort of book I would normally read but having said that it was a fantastic read and great first novel. A book where you can really lose yourself in and become one of the characters...Highly recommendable.

Doorway into a whole new world
By Denise (Scotland) - ...Once I started it could not put it down, fantastic detail and imagery, really superb. Read the intro as this really helps understand the main character. You will not be disappointed...

Read it!!
By J. M. Wheeler (Surrey) - This is an excellent first novel by Bryan Islip with something for everyone: action packed, explosive drama with simmering love interests to keep you wanting more. Let's hope there's a sequel to this book - you will find yourself caring about these characters!

Keep writing please
By Bernard Ledwith "bookworm" (Sutherland Scotland) - This is a real page turner and keeps you interested right to the very last paragraph. Well done Bryan, I am looking forward to the next book! Do read the introduction it gives you an insight straight away into the ethical motivation of the main characters. There could be another novel in this background of the Irish troubles.

To buy Bryan’s work:

What a debut!
By Gail Staddon (Scotland) - A refreshing and thoroughly gripping read. The author's detailed knowledge about the rich culture and intricacies of life in Saudi Arabia creates a fascinating setting for this fast-paced novel. Likeable and believable characters engage the reader and leave you wanting more...

Email: bryan@bryanislip.com Or via the book webpages at: www.moredeathsthanone.com www.goingwithgabriel.com

A compassionate action hero
By Marina Orsborn (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK) - What a fantastic read! ...More Deaths Than One includes well-informed detail as well as intrigue and tension. I like the sound of Thomas Thornton and wonder if he will be the hero of the author's second novel? Yes - highly recommended.

Pictures and Poems
Visit www.picturesandpoems.co.uk

©Bryan Islip 2010


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