Saturday, November 18, 2006

Does a scared reporter s**t in the woods (Part II)

Anybody who comes here after reading my main blog may be wondering what is going on. How can I be incognito at the same time as being un-incognito. Let me assure you, this isn't a weird quantum event scaled up to the level of whole organisms. It is simply that I did not finish the tale of my time in the woods before going home. Please read all previously unread entries in this blog to optimise your understanding of events.

-----

Having run out of chalk, I was immediately aware that if we ventured any further into the woods, we ran the risk of not being able to find our way back to the hut. I revealed my thoughts to Ravel, but he was totally unperturbed. In fact, he brushed away my cares with a sweeping gesture and pointed forwards. He then appeared to poke both his eyes with two fingers of his left hand before making a stabbing motion over to his left. I raised my hands, palm outwards to indicate that I didn't know what he was trying to say. Upon seeing this gesture, Ravel pointed at the ground before rolling his hands over each other. 'What are you doing?' I asked.

'Shh boss. They are near', whispered my research assistant. 'I am using Bulgarian army sign language for communication in forest. I thought you know it by your hand movements'

'No, Ravel, that is British sign language for 'what the hell are you talking about?'. So where are they?'

'I think they are just a few trees ahead. I will go alone and capture them if you stay here'

'I know you fancy yourself as a bit of a Rambo, Ravel, but I don't see the point of unneccesarily putting yourself at a disadvantage. For one, they might be in trouble and require our help. They might also fight if cornered. Journalists can be dangerous animals if cornered.'

'Journalists are animals boss? Is that English playing with words again?'

'No...look, let's just find them and make sure they are alright. You go first.'

As we moved onwards, I tried to make marks on the forest floor by scraping the heels of my shoes into the soil. There were quite a few leaves lying around, which gave off quite a loud rustling noise as I pawed away, and Ravel had to keep gesturing at me to be quiet. After a few minutes of somewhat non-linear wanderings without any more scraping I was beginning to seriously worry that we had lost our way. Then suddenly I heard a sneeze. Ravel put his hand up, which, despite my lack of training in Bulgarian semaphore, was pretty obviously a sign that we should stop walking. 'Was that a sneeze?' I asked.

'Yes boss. I can see them now. They are walking ahead. Twenty metres. Look, there they are...'

I moved forwards slightly so I could see where Ravel was pointing. Sure enough, two men dressed in army-style camouflaged boilers suits were walking just ahead. 'What now?' I asked quickly, unsure how to continue. I could already feel the adrenalin beginning to take hold.

'We go slowly, boss. Like in Bulgarian forest when we hunt deer, we keep downwind and behind line of vision. They smell us and they flee.'

'Er...sure. But don't you think we should just tell them to surrender?'

'We are taking them prisoner?'

'No'

'So we are silencing them like I thought'

'No we are not silencing them. Where do you get these ideas Ravel? We are not soldiers, and we are not hunting deer. We are trying to save two men from wandering aimlessly in the forest. Now stand down and let me take over. That's an order, Ravel.'

'Yes boss', said Ravel, lowering his eyes and taking a deliberately large step backwards

I took another few steps forward, raised my arms, started waving and shouted 'Hey, you two. Over here. It's me, McCrumble!'

The two men spun round on their heels the moment I started shouting. They looked at each other, communicated briefly and began running. Not, as Ravel had predicted, in the direction they had been facing. No. They were now heading at some pace towards us, looking, from what I could see of them between the trees, like they were rather intent on reaching us as quickly as possible.

'I think we go now boss. They are not pleased to see us...'

'Nonsense, Ravel,' I said cheerily, an instant before one of the men launched himself at me with a strangled cry of 'Crumble you f**cking jerk!'. He was quick, but not nearly as quick as Ravel, who grabbed hold of the flying journalist by his collar, swung him away from me and deposited him up against a tree (Pinus strobus). The second man sensibly halted his advance, but then rather stupidly decided he fancied his chances against the Bulgarian, and stood his ground, fists raised, fingers gesturing in a 'come and have a go' style.

He remained upright for 2.5 seconds. He took another 0.5 seconds to hit the ground after Ravel had crouched down and executed a (Bulgarian) textbook style manouevre that involved extending and swinging his right leg whilst supporting himself on his left leg and both hands. The motion of the camouflaged journalist falling over reminded me of how grass falls when cut by a scythe. The noise that followed was more like the sound of a journalist upon discovering he just incurred a fractured tibia.

'You've broken my leg you bastard!', shouted the journalist. 'And you've killed McJohnston!'

'Leg will mend', said Ravel, bending down to examine the state of his victim. 'Other man not dead. I used only medium pressure. He wake up in few minutes with head bruise and bad eyesight for two hours. He right as raindrops. This man correct to say he has broken leg. We carry them back to hut. We mend him there.'

'Christ Ravel. Where did you learn all that?' I asked. A mixture of fear and excitement had gripped hold of me, I was unable to stop speaking quickly and quite prepared to put the boot in myself if necessary.

'It is standard training. I cannot say more boss. Help me get them up. I cannot carry both.'

I lifted the unconscious man up and swung him over my shoulders in a firemans lift. He was quite a bit smaller than me, and would likely have come worse off in a fight if Ravel hadn't been to keen to show off. Ravel hoisted the other journalist into a piggy-back position and told him to hold on tight. Then my number one research assistant actually started jogging further into the forest. 'Where the hell are you going?' I shouted.

'Hut is just half mile this way,' shouted Ravel. 'We make circles. I navigate by trees. Follow me.'

I walked as quickly as I could with my load, wondering, as we made our way through the thick forest, whether the events that had just unfolded were a portent of worse things to come. The context in which I'd placed my research assistant had just been shattered. He was clearly now in charge - something I for which I was totally unprepared. Roles reversed, boundaries blurred. Could I trust him anymore? He'd been pretty keen to track these two men down. My mind went over recent events where Ravel's behaviour had verged on the dangerous or menacing. They were increasing in frequency. And now, here we were, carrying two broken journalists on our backs through a forest. Not towards civilisation, but to a place that no-one in the outside world knew about. What was Ravel planning?

Find out, in the next episode...

***********TO BE CONTINUED!!!!**********

Monday, October 30, 2006

Does a scared reporter s**t in the woods? (Part I)

Hello all

Sorry for the shortage of posts. Nothing much been going on round here. I've been in touch with the outside world, but something inside me keeps saying that I should stay hidden until assurance reaches me that all is well in the world. Fat chance of that, I reckon.

However, it may all be about to change. This is what happened a couple of days ago....

----

I awoke with a start. It was just 4:30am, but my mind was unusually active. I thought of Dolores alone in our matrimonial bed, suffering alone without her long-term companion by her side. I imagined the Institute staff standing around with no sense of direction, no tasks to complete, no reports to file. I sensed the mood amongst the local wildlife, wondering why the man in the white coat was not coming to reduce their numbers.

My mind jumped then to Ravel, my faithful companion, body-guard, cook, scout, research assistant. I owe him such a debt of gratitude that I am almost tempted to give him a pay rise if we ever get back to the Institute....

The hut where we have been staying was very cold. Sited on the edge of a large forest, shielded from sunlight for most of the day, nothing but a log-stove for heating. I pulled the duvet over my face and tried to go back to sleep, hoping that when I re-awoke that Ravel would have put some logs on the fire and prepared my first cup of tea.

I did manage to fall asleep, and dreamt that I was running a marathon dressed as a postbox. Halfway along the course I was forced to make a toilet stop, but the postbox was so tight that the only opening was the slit at the top. I try to jump up and aim out of the slit, but disaster strikes as I lose balance and fall over, causing a huge pile-up of tired runners behind and on top of my costume. Someone yanks the lid off my postbox. It is Ravel, pulling me to safety, firing at the crowd to warn them away....

I awoke at this point to feel Ravel tugging on my sleeve and the sound of logs cracking in the fire. He was unusually animated, and insisted that I wake up. Rubbing my eyes, I saw that he was not carrying the expected cup of tea, but instead was holding a hunters cap, complete with ear guards and a badge proclaiming that Celtic are the greatest football team in the world. He pushed the cap in my direction and told me that he had found it whilst jogging in the forest.

The reason for his animation was clear. You may recall that 2 reporters from a local newspaper had been dispatched some days earlier to find me. They had returned to their boss empty-handed, only to be told that they must widen their search. They set off in completely the wrong direction and eventually went missing (supposedly). The newspaper (which I have been reading occasionally) claimed first of all that I had abducted the reporters, then that they had been killed by a puma that had escaped from a private zoo, then that they had eloped, and finally that they had faked their own deaths to claim on their life insurance.

As a bona-fide scientist with objective rationalisation at the top of my agenda, I was immediately sceptical of the whole story. The two reporters in question were well known to me, having made up several stories concerning my work and lifestyle to help sell their newspaper. I suspected that they were still in the newspaper office, and had simply latched on to my disappearance as an excuse for a story.

Until, that was, Ravel showed me the hat. I recognised it from a photo of one of the reporters.

'Where did you find that', I asked my eager young companion.

'Boss, I was jogging in the woods like every morning. I go maybe four and three thirds miles and see hat lying on the ground. There were footprints all around, like someone running in circles. I don't see anyone, only their shit on the ground where they make toilet, and eventually lose footprints in forest. So I ran quick back here. I think the reporters are here, boss!'

'Here?', I shouted, flinging the duvet off my pyjama-clad body and pushing my way past Ravel.

'Yes boss, here in the wood.'

'Oh, right. That's OK. I thought you actually meant...'

'Yes boss. We go find them now?'

'Er. I'll have to think about that, Ravel.'

'Tell you what for, boss. You eat breakfast, I find reporters. I bring them back here and we trade them for your safety.'

'Huh? Are you actually suggesting that we kidnap some newspaper reporters? Have you any idea what would happen if we did that?'

'Yes boss. The police would agree to our demands and give you clock circle protection before we let reporters go safe.'

I patted the young Bulgarian on the shoulder and smiled, saying, 'I think, Ravel, that you should learn a few more things about how things work in the UK. Maybe in Bulgaria you can do this kind of thing but...'

'True Boss, in UK it works also. I was...'

'I don't want to know Ravel.'

We ate breakfast whilst I formulated a plan of action. Half of me wanted to stay put and leave the reporters to find their way out of the forest. But my conscience was also at work, and telling me to find them, make sure they were at least safe.

Twenty minutes later we were out of the door and heading into the forest. Ravel was behaving like a professional tracker, padding along slightly bent to avoid low hanging branches, stopping occasionally to pick up broken twigs or rub soil samples between his fingers. I could swear I even saw him sniff the air on occasion, as if picking up their scent.

We had spent almost two hours in the forest before I felt that maybe this was a fruitless exercise. I had kept marking trees with some chalk so that we could find our way back, but had miscalculated how long we would need, and was down to my last 5mm of chalk. I told Ravel that it was time to go home, but he brushed away my concerns and shouted that he had heard something. I told him it was probably a bird, but he insisted he had heard human voices. Reluctantly, I agreed that we could search for a few minutes, and we headed deeper into the forest. My chalk ran out three trees later...

************TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!!************

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Media attention

Hello all

The four walls of my little hideaway are starting to close in, and I fear I might be going a little stir crazy. This morning, I swore I heard a lark singing a Christmas carol outside my window, when in fact it was just Ravel whistling a Bulgarian folk tune as he performed his morning workout.

My strategy of hiding on the edge of a large forest to avoid elimination by forces unseen appears to have worked. Who-ever was calling the Institute to threaten me has not called since the day I ran away. What has happened? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm not planning to go back immediately though, just in case this is a ruse to lull me into a false sense of security.

You may have read on the main blog that the local paper released two reporters into the wilderness to find me. They returned empty handed, of course, for I am nowhere near the Insititute. Unfortunately for them, the editor was apparently dissatisfied with their efforts and sent them out again. I don't know where they are, and I don't care, so long as they don't stumble on my hiding place.

Ravel has been acting as lookout, guard, cook, cleaner and general companion. We have bonded during our time here. His English has improved considerably, as I insist on teaching him for at least two hours a day. Yesterday he recited the first three verses of Beowulf without dropping so much as a single consonant. I do feel, though, that my loyal research assistant is also beginning to feel a little isolated. He keeps asking me when we are going home. I tell him that we need to be patient. There are forces beyond my control operating outside my sphere of influence, or something like that.

J McC

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Are we chimps?

Hello all


There's not much happening here at the edge of the forest. The hideaway is doing its job of keeping me well away from civilisation, and Ravel is doing a sterling job of keeping us supplied with rations.

Some good news came in from Dolores recently. Apparently one of the charges against me has been dropped. The girl who unjustly accused me of sexual assault has withdrawn the charge after it emerged she has been enjoying the attention of many of the local village's male population. The embarassment is such, apparently, that she may have already left the village. At least I am vindicated on that one point, but I am still charged with asssault of Toby Hancock-Jones in Norfolk, and still hiding from one or more persons intent on extinguishing my life. My future life as a free and living man is still far from guaranteed.

I have a small television here, which helps keep me in touch with the modern world. One of the programmes I watched the other day was Horizon. Someone called Daniel Wallace had read that we share 99.4% of our genome with the chimpanzee. He wanted to know if, in fact, chimps were people too. I was so outraged by the programme that I have decided to write an open letter aimed at the producers.

--

Dear Horizon producers

Regarding last night's Horizon. I am afrida to say that after watching this programme I am so affected that I must write and tell you my thoughts. The hypothesis that 'chimps are people too' was preposterous to begin with, as there is a common notion that people=humans, and it was therefore very unlikely that anyone would agree with the presenter, Mr Daniel Wallace. In the end, he got so frustrated that he changed the question. Instead of asking the last scientist 'Do you think chimps are people too', he asked whether 'chimps are kinda like people? The response was still not what he wanted to hear and the programme ended with a wimp rather than a bang (although the bonobo-threesome was peculiarly entertaining).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for science programming on the BBC. But that programme hit rock bottom in terms of content, idea and presentation. It was basically a vehicle for Mr Wallace to use his brand of slightly irreverant humour and make scientists look frumpy. But the problem from the outset was that he had no scientific background whatsoever. He admitted as such, but this was no excuse. He came across like a slightly excited school boy in each encounter, and we learnt very little about chimp behaviour.

Horizon, you should be ashamed. I understand that you need to engage the audience, but that was turgid (to use your own scoring system).

Disappointed of somewhere secret.

---

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Big ideas

Hello all

This post is in response to being censored by the Chris Evans moderators. It is exactly the same as I submitted to the comments box. Please add your own comments below this entry.

-----

It is I, McCrumble, declaring his own INNOCENCE from a secret location.
Great ideas....well, this wasn't my idea originally, but I am now in the process (albeit indirectly, as I am currently indisposed) of publishing my blog entries as a book, with the proceeds of sale going towards a worthy cause - namely the Matangini Project

http://www.matangini.org.uk

How about this for another great idea...

Ask Gordon Brown (or John Prescott, or David Cameron) to take the average UK wage (on a 3 year fixed contract), assume that they have poor/absent/deceased parents, no inheritance to speak of, a student loan, and tell him to try and buy and run a home (with mortgage income protection, insurances etc). Imagine the number of viewers that would tune into this hard-hitting (and ultimately tragic) reality programme. Throw in a wife on below-average earnings and a child to make the whole thing a bit more fun. He must also rely on public transport, and recyle 90% of his waste. For each ten percent under this target, he gets fined £50. After the three years, make him redundant.

cheers

J McC

flight through the forest

Hello all

I'm currently sitting in front of a computer running an internet tracing anonymiser, which means, hopefully, that no-one can trace where I am. Suffice to say it is somewhere remote and not easily reached by car. In fact, the car is nowhere near at all. Let me fill you in on what happened after we turned off the main road to evade Miron, Ravel's sinister brother.

-----

Miron was still on our tail a couple of miles later, which wasn't surprising really as there had been no turn off. I wasn't giving up hope though, because I knew of a forest about 3 miles ahead with enough roads and dirt-tracks crossing it to lose an entire convoy of baddies. The adrenalin was surging as I directed Ravel to drive faster. He kept trying to protest, but I knew that I had to remain strong of purpose and straight of thought. I would cut him down with a curt 'keep concentrating on the road Ravel!' each time he began to protest. Eventually he gave up and focused more on avoiding the potholes.

A few minutes later I saw the entrance to the forest. I could see Miron's car behind us, gaining ground, and knew that he would follow us into the woods. This was part of my plan. Once we had trees to offer some cover we could easily lose him. The place I wanted to reach was on the other side of the forest, three miles away.

At the last moment I told Ravel to turn right. He yanked the wheel sharply, forcing the car to lurch to the left as we left the tarmac and hit the dirt road. Almost immediately we were in dense forest on a long straight track. As we accelerated away, I glanced behind and saw Miron was almost upon us.

So the chase continued. I barked orders for Ravel to turn left and right as we sped through the densely packed forest. Row upon row of pine trees, tall and stiff, zipped past the car. The track was narrow and bumpy, and it was only due to Ravels' excellent driving skills that we avoided a crash. Equally up to the task, however, was Miron. We just couldn't shake him, and my planned exit point was growing ever closer. 'Faster!' I shouted at Ravel, my blood pumping and heart pounding.

'I no go any faster boss. I tell you this waste of time. I like fast driving but why we run away?'

'I've told you a dozen times. He had a gun.'

'No gun boss! I tell you fifty times it was not a gun.!'

'Did you see it Ravel?'

'No but....'

'I clearly saw a gun - turn left - and he was clearly taking it out of his jacket - turn right.'

Ravel managed the manouvre easily, changing smoothly down then accelerating away. Not that quickly, I thought, not quite fast enough to lose his brother.....'You're not driving fast enough!I said loudly, suddenly pricked by the notion that Ravel was deliberately driving slowly.

'OK boss. I stop car now. No point driving more. Miron is better driver. He spend many years driving in Romanian forests. He is a better driver than me. We will not lose him. If you are scared you stay in the car. I speak to him.'

'Ravel NO!' I shouted as he started to slow down. For a moment I was tempted to try and wrestle control of the car, but the trees were too close. We came to a gentle halt instead, and Ravel immediately left the car. Fearing the worst I locked the doors and slid down the seat as far as possible. If Miron took a shot at the windows I might be spared.

I heard Miron's car stopping behind us. His door opened, and immediately the two men started shouting at each other. I couldn't see anything, nor could I understand a word of what they were saying, but I guessed they were, in all probability, having an argument.

The commotion carried on for a good ten minutes. I remained motionless in the passenger side well of the car all this time, straining to listen for any escalation of hostilities and wondering whether Ravel was bartering for my life, or helping plan its end. My research assistant scares me sometimes, and I'm not afraid to admit it. It was all very different a few months ago, but the first appearance of Miron appears to have changed things. Nowadays Ravel is more sullen, seems less happy and more than a little insubordinate (note to self: book Ravel in for a therapy session asap).

Eventually I heard footsteps approaching the car. Were they Ravel's or Miron's, I asked myself. Moments later the answer was revealed as Ravel's face appeared at the window. 'Let me in boss,' he said.

'Where's Miron' I squeaked from my not-so-secret hiding position.

'He's going. He knows this forest also and is leaving us now.' As Ravel spoke I heard Miron's car starting. Moments later a high-pitched engine sound indicated he was reversing.

'OK, get in and tell me what happened' I said, instantly relieved that my life was no longer in imminent danger. I unlocked the doors, sat up and waited for Ravel to enter. He sat down and stared ahead in silence. I watched him for a few moments, unsure of why we weren't proceeding. He seemed deeply concerned about something. Eventually I asked what was the problem.

'OK, he tell me not to tell you.'

'Huh?'

'He tell me not to tell you anything. I have to do some things for him, that is all. He was not after you.'

'But he drew a gun!'

'He draw....what he draw?'

'I told you a dozen times. The gun. He was going to shoot!'

'No boss. OK, you were right. It was a gun. He took it out out because his phone was in the same pocket and was ringing. I told him you were scared like a cat underneath a bucket of water and that is why we run away like hens'

'I told you it was gun! Why did you not believe me? Huh?'

'OK boss, I thought he did not carry a gun in this country. It is illegal.'

'Correct, Ravel. Well done for absorbing this finer point of Scottish law. But next time please do not assume that your brother has anything less than total contempt for local laws.'

'Huh?'

'Oh never mind. I assume from what you said that he is going to leave us alone?'

'Yes boss. I will do something for him later. He leaves us now. And he say he leave your family alone also'

My eyes widened. I hadn't thought for a second about anyone else's safety. 'Dolores!' I exclaimed, whilst looking forlornly at my dead phone. Here I was, stuck in a pine forest with no communication to the outside world. I suddenly felt miserable. The adrenalin had been re-absorbed, leaving nothing but a feeling of emptiness and self-pity.

'Boss' said Ravel.

'What is it?' I replied quietly.

'The car not start.'

'Huh?'

'I think driving it break something. I check engine.' With that, Ravel exited the car and lifted the bonnet. Steam rose from either side.' Things broken' he said, 'And oil leaking. Car not going anywhere boss.'

There was nothing to do except abandon the car and start walking. The place I wanted to hide was about 2 miles away, and we reached it within forty minutes. It was somewhere I knew and had access to for research purposes. What exactly goes on there I cannot say for fear of compromising my position. Nothing nefarious, I assure you. No-one at the Institute knows about this place, as it hasn't been used since any of them joined. Fortunately I still pay the electric bills, so we have power. I have been in touch with Dolores and I think she understands why I need to stay here for a while. When the police offer me some guaranteed protection then I'll go home.

Probably.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

McCrumble on the run!

McCrumble speaking. This blog entry is coming to you from an anonymous internet cafe, somewhere secret. No doubt Dolores has already filled you in on what happened when I was bailed on two trumped-up charges of assault. If you have come here and are feeling bemused then I suggest you catch up with activities over on mccrumble.blogspot.com

Let me bring you partially up to date.

Dolores had sent Ravel to fetch me from the courthouse after the bail hearing. He turned up on time, and I phoned home to say I was with Ravel and everything was OK. The court was about 25 miles away from the Institute, and I fully expected to be enjoying a home-cooked meal within the hour. Ravel was immensely pleased to see me, and promised to make sure that I never went to jail again. I did try to explain that this was only just the beginning of a long process to clear my name, but he didn't seem too interested in the fine details.

The first problem we encountered was a traffic jam due to some totally unnecesary roadworks about half way home. I tried to phone, but couldn't get a signal. Rain began to fall, as it often does in this part of the world at this time of year, then the radio signal failed. Ravel hit the radio a few times but, bizarrely, this didn't seem to help at all. I shrugged my shoulders and resigned myself to arriving at the dinner table half an hour late.

Or so I thought.

We eventually managed to squeeze through the roadworks. A very sullen looking man operating a stop-go sign waved us through and we were on our way. About ten minutes later Ravel received a phone call. Nothing suspicious about that, I thought, until after a few minutes of speaking in Bulgarian my research assistant turned to me with a serious face and said 'Miron is near. He wants to speak'

I felt myself visibly blanche at the sound of the name. For those of you who don't know, Miron is the somewhat mysterious (and frankly sinister) brother of Ravel. We had a brief encounter some time ago - check out the main blog. I wasn't expecting to come across him so soon - in fact he was somebody I never intented to purposefully meet ever again. 'What does he want - money?' I asked.

'He didn't say. He sounded....how you say....'

'Evil?' I suggested.

'Serious', said Ravel, his brow furrowing.

'I'd rather not go, actually', I said. 'Our last encounter didn't leave me with much confidence in our ability to interact in a mutually agreeable manner'

'Huh?'

'I don't like your brother very much Ravel, and don't want to meet him'

'Oh, that is a big shame boss'

'Why?'

'Because he stands in layby just there. I need to stop and talk with him'

'Oh, bollocks' I said, suddenly feeling a little uneasy. I could see a man standing not far ahead, leaning against an old black saloon car. His bulk suggested that it could be Miron, but his cropped blond hair drew a blank. I raised my camera-phone and zoomed in to take a picture for the record.
Miron
(blurred)

As we drew up to the layby Miron stepped away from the car. He walked a few steps towards our approaching vehicle and put his right hand inside his jacket. What he pulled out shocked me into immediate action. We were still a hundred metres or so away, but I could just make out what he was holding.

It was a gun.

'DON'T STOP!' I shouted at Ravel, who was already braking and pulling into the layby. 'He's got a gun Ravel. Keep driving!'

'He just want to talk boss. That isn't a gun, it's a....'

'Don't argue Ravel, just keep driving!'

'Boss.....'

'PULL OUT NOW!'

Ravel steered the car back out into the traffic as instructed. We sped past the waiting Miron who looked at us in disbelief. He put the gun back in his jacket pocket and got into his car. At that point I lost sight as we rounded a corner.

'Step on it Ravel. I don't want him catching us up'

'That wasn't a gun boss. He...'

'Don't try to cover for him Ravel. He's bad news. I don't want to be found strung up in the woods with a bullet in my head thanks. Get us out of here.'

'But Boss....'

'No buts Ravel. Take the next left.'

Ravel moaned and started saying something in Bulgarian. I was too busy looking for signs of Miron following us to take much notice of the level of vitriol or insolence in his tone. As we were turning left, Ravel's phone rang.

'Don't answer it!' I shouted, and pulled the phone out of Ravel's hand. I looked on the screen to see that the caller was indeed Miron. This was a good opportunity, I thought, to tell his brother where to go. But as I pressed the answer button, Miron must have ended the call. I looked at the screen, which had gone blank. A small battery sign was flashing.

'Your battery's dead' I said, passing the phone back to Ravel. I instinctively looked at my phone to make sure we still had communication with the outside world and noticed that it too had switched off. With an inward groan I remembered that it had been beeping when it was handed back to me at the police-station. Making one phone call and taking that picture had drained it completely.

I looked behind to see that Miron had also taken a left turning. He was clearly intent on catching us, which made me somewhat more determined to take evasive action. Fortunately I knew where I was, as I had used this area for testing an experimental drug on grouse parasites some years ago. If we could just lose our pursuer, I could lead us to safety in an empty croft. A plan started to form in my head as I gave Ravel instructions to drive faster......


***********TO BE CONTINUED!***************