A Lustful Gent
Today I am publishing Chapter XIV of my novel. I’m afraid it’s a little on the short side – only some 3.500 odd words, so it shouldn’t occupy too much of your valuable time.
I have also been plugging away at the next chapter – Chapter XV – and at this stage I am about half way through, so I am unsure whether it will be ready in time for publication next week. Maybe at the week’s end , but certainly not much before, if at all, as its a bit of a monster.
There is little point trying to put more pressure on myself by trying to set unrealsitic deadlines for the production of chapters. As it is, I am spending quite a few hours on most weekdays writing and I doubt if I can do much better. I write my general blog over the weekends, (usually on Saturday), as I do find it therapeutic to get my mind off ‘Toby and his adventures’ for a couple of days each week.
So it will get finished when it gets finished; certainly before the end of the year, and – God willing – much earlier.
So here’s Chapter XIV – I hope you enjoy it.
A Lustful Gent
PART THREE –TOBY
‘Toby! Toby! The police are on their way, you have to get out, now!’
‘OK Ahmed… I’m on my way,’ Toby answered through the house security intercom, before picking up his Samsonite briefcase and making his way to the rear of the large villa. He let himself out of the house and hurried to a small side gate at the back of the property. Locking the gate behind him, he jumped into his car, which had parked there a couple of hours earlier and drove quickly out of the residential suburb to the main highway. He put his foot down and headed off towards Tripoli airport.
He was starting to sweat, despite the fierce air-conditioning blasting out from the car vents. He knew that if the police stopped him, he would be in serious trouble and if that happened, only God would help him – for surely nobody else in this police-state would.Thank goodness Ahmed had come round earlier to warn him that one of his Arab customers had tipped off the police off about his illegal alcohol activities – and what a stroke of luck that he had the foresight, a couple of weeks ago to have his employer apply for an exit visa for his passport. Without the exit visa, he would be stuck in Libya, with no hope of escaping the clutches of the Libyan police.
He found a shady spot at a corner of Tripoli airport to park the car, and then took a large envelope out of his briefcase and placed it on the front passenger seat. Climbing out of the car onto the hot tarmac, he locked the doors and took a quick look around him to make sure that nobody was watching, and then quickly tucked a bunch of keys on the top of the front, nearside wheel. Satisfied that no one had seen him, he scurried off to the departure lounge, where he was hoping against hope that he would be able to purchase a ticket for the next flight out to Europe.
It was the most expensive air ticket he had ever bought, but he didn’t mind, as he was awash with spare Libyan dinars which were worthless outside of the country. The flight, which was scheduled to depart in two hours’ time, was a direct Alitalia flight to Rome, where he would have to stay for two days before he picked up his connecting flight to Bangkok. It wasn’t ideal, but the best that the airline office could come up with at a moment’s notice; and the main thing was that it would get him out of the country that afternoon – hopefully long before the police would think of looking for him at the airport.
He spent a nervous two hours in Tripoli’s departure lounge, before which, he experienced a particularly heart-stopping moment, when the immigration official glared at Toby’s passport for about thirty seconds, before passing it to a colleague for yet closer scrutiny. Finally, he scowled at the terrified Toby before stamping it and tossing it back to him across the immigration desk.
At long last, the call came to board the Alitalia flight to Rome and he breathed a huge sigh of relief. He would soon be out of this fucking Arab country forever. ‘Hmm…’he mumbled to himself with a smile, ‘now when have I said that before?’ But this time, he was sure that he really meant it. It had been a strange old journey that had led him back to the Arab world – this time in the shape of Libya, and for sure as hell, he wasn’t about to repeat the experience for a third time.
Toby’s trek back to his parents’ council flat in East London had proved a miserable journey. He was almost out of money and had to take the long journey from the airport to east London by underground train, then bus, with the last couple of miles on foot, dragging his heavy, wheel-less suitcases and hand luggage along with him. By the time he rang the bell of his parents’ second floor flat, he was starving and totally exhausted.
Carol Stark got the shock of her life when she opened her front door and saw her long, lost, severely emaciated, youngest son staring at her. For a moment she thought she would faint.
‘Toby! I don’t believe it! You’re home! We thought you were …were…dead!’
Tears ran unabashedly down her ageing cheeks as she embraced her son with a fierce hug.
‘Oh my Toby, I’ve missed you so much –where have you been all these years? Why didn’t you write?’
‘Never mind all that now, Mum. I’m home, that’s all that matters.’
‘What’s all that fucking noise?’ a man screamed from inside the flat, ‘who’s that at the door, Carol?’
Carol released her grip on her son and led him into the sitting room to greet his father, who was sitting, still reading a week old newspaper.
It was as though Toby had walked into a time warp. Nothing seemed to have changed – the same furniture, same smoke stained wallpaper, and same parents – maybe a bit older – but essentially the same as he had last seen them, some ten years ago. His father was now in his seventies, but he didn’t look his age and was still a big, intimidating figure of a man.
After an interminable silence, his father finally deigned to look up from his newspaper.
‘So, you decided give your parents a visit, have you – you selfish bastard! Your poor mother’s been going frantic, worrying about what might have happened to you. We haven’t heard a thing from you for years – we thought you were dead.’
‘I know Dad, I’m sorry.’
‘Sorry! Sorry! Is that all you’ve got to say – after all these years of silence?’ his father shouted.
‘Now, now David,’ his mother chimed in, never mind all that now. He’s home and he’s alive – that’s all that matters. Look at the poor boy – he looks exhausted and he must be starving. He told me that he’s just flown all the way from Bangkok.’
‘Bangkok! What the fuck were doing in Bangkok?’
‘I was working, Dad.’
Toby fully expected his father to escalate the discussion into a full scale row and was quite surprised when his father simply contented himself with an angry grunt and turned his attention back to his newspaper, indicating that the discussion was closed.
‘Maybe he is mellowing – about fucking time,’ Toby thought to himself.
Toby’s mother led her son into the kitchen where she hurriedly cooked him a large meal which he hungrily devoured – with barely a word passing between them. For a while, She continually pestered him to tell her what he had been up to all these years, but eventually gave up the uneven struggle when faced with either total silence or, at best, monosyllabic grunts.
The day after his arrival back in London, Toby ‘signed-on’ at the local unemployment office so that he could start to receive state benefit, and over the following days, he got into the routine of taking an early morning walk down to the local store to buy a collection of daily national newspapers. He would then spend the rest of the day alone, in his bed room, reading the newspapers from cover to cover and trawling through the ‘situations vacant’.
So, despite his misgivings to the contrary, there was an uneasy peace in the Stark household. He still had to endure family meal times when his parents – mainly his mother – kept pressing him for details of what he had been up to. But he was pleasantly surprised to discover that whatever his father may have thought of him and his behaviour over the past few years, he generally kept his thoughts to himself. He had remained mainly silent – even when Toby reluctantly recounted a ‘sanitised’ version of his life in Africa, the Middle East and Asia since he had last seen them.
It was apparent that father David Stark didn’t have much to say about his son’s jobless and impecunious state and Toby spent endless hours pondering over this unexpected turn of events. He had fully anticipated having major rows with his father and wouldn’t have been at all surprised if he had been thrown out. Toby wondered whether his father actually cared about his family after all, despite all appearances to the contrary. Maybe, deep down, his father really did have some feelings and concerns for his son and didn’t wish to make his situation any worse by ‘having a go’ at him. Or maybe it was simply that he didn’t find anything particularly unusual about his youngest son’s ‘misadventures’ – for after all – as far as Toby had been able to ascertain – his father had gone through a similar chequered history in his long life. Maybe he saw himself in Toby…
Whatever the reason, Toby was thankful that there weren’t any major confrontations during those first few, difficult weeks – before his unemployment money started to flow – as up to then, he was totally dependent on his parents’ hand-outs. For even after all these years, he was still very apprehensive of what his father may do – he knew that David Stark was still capable of erupting into a violent temper tantrum at any time, and if he did – anything could happen.
Once the dole money started to flow, he breathed a little easier and was soon able to repay the small loans that his mother had pressed on him. On top of this, he insisted in contributing towards his upkeep, but still had a bit of pocket money remaining which allowed him to expand his activities beyond the confines of his bedroom and the claustrophobic council flat in which he was obliged to reside.
Circumstances had forced him into a pretty sober state since his arrival back in England, but now that he had some spare cash to buy a few beers, the situation started to change. He soon got into the habit of ‘taking a walk’ after his evening meal and returning several hours later, somewhat the worse for wear, after having drunk as many pints of beer that his pocket would allow at one of the local pubs within walking distance of his home.
He couldn’t wait to get out of his parent’s cold, damp and depressing council flat, with the ever brooding presence of his father, and start his life afresh; so after sending off job dozens of job applications, he was considerably cheered a few weeks later when appointments for interviews started to trickle in. Despite the fact that Toby was still basically an unqualified – or, at best a ‘part qualified’ accountant, there seemed to be a quite a number of companies that were interested in somebody like Toby, with his long and varied work experience.
There were two potential offers that were at the top of Toby’s list. One was a well-paid job with a major British oil company at their head office in the West End of London. They needed someone with his experience to head up the financial section of their oil exploration department, and Toby’s experience on the ‘other side of the fence’ seemed to suit their requirements very well. But right at the top of his list – despite some obvious reservations – was the unexpected offer of a job as the financial controller of a drilling operation in Tripoli, Libya.
In the end, it boiled down to a choice between starting a new life in London with a promising career in a major British, ‘blue chip’ company, or spending a couple of years in Tripoli and doing what he was used to doing – and in the process – accumulating a nice little tax-free ‘nest egg’, which he could take with him back to Thailand.
In spite of all that had happened in his incident packed life, he was still only twenty nine years old. His head told him that he should call time on his craving for adventure and start a new career in London; but his lustful heart was telling him something completely different. After four, long, dreary weeks with his parents, he announced to them one evening at dinner that he had accepted the offer of a job in Tripoli and within days, he was on a plane, winging his way back to a world of Islam and Arabs – a world that he despised, but a world that would ultimately deliver what he wanted – a large sum of money.
In truth, Libya wasn’t such a bad place to live, despite being full of Arabs and ruled by the despotic, western-hating, Gaddafi. Unlike the Arabian Gulf, Tripoli had centuries of civilisation behind it, dating right back to the Roman times and even in more recent times, the occupying Italians, despite being universally hated, had left a lasting influence on the buildings and lifestyle of Tripoli’s large, sprawling, and in many ways, relatively civilised city. The climate was quite temperate, when compared to the extreme weather conditions Toby had to suffer in Abu Dhabi; it actually got so chilly in the winter that the houses had electric heaters fitted to keep the residents warm. There were also many western-style shopping centres, numerous food shops, restaurants and supermarkets, as well as well-tended public gardens, lovely sandy beaches and a very large expatriate community; all of which signalled to Toby that Tripoli was indeed a world apart from the miserable, hot and unbearably uncivilised world of Abu Dhabi.
He soon settled into his new position and within a short while he was left to run things his own way as his bosses realised that they had hired themselves a competent and diligent manager. He was given a large, sprawling villa in an upmarket residential suburb to live in and had his own company car. The only ‘fly’ in an otherwise perfect ‘ointment’ was the fact that Libya was a totally dry country – or was it?
All alcohol was illegal in Libya and the manufacture or drinking of it was punishable by long spells in jail, but these laws and harsh punishments seemed to have no noticeable deterrent on the drinking habits of the expatriate community. ‘White lightning’ – home produced alcohol – was readily available for a small price and there even a few enterprising residents who brewed their own beer.
By chance, Toby met up with one of the few other single men in town – a German engineer by the name of Norbert, who was considerably skilled in the arts of both brewing beer and, more importantly, manufacturing large quantities of white lightning. Together, they converted half of Toby’s villa into a brewery and bar, and the other half into a distillery. Before long, Toby and his partner had built up a thriving business, distilling some of the finest, purest alcohol in town. The beer was purely for their own and their friends’ consumption, but the liquor was a serious, money-making business.
By day, Toby would manage the finances of his employers’ drilling operations, and by night he and Norbert would run their stills, brew their beer and get drunk at their bar, drinking their home brewed lager. On most evenings, friends would drop by for few hours, joining their hosts to sup beer at the bar, and also to buy a few litres of the ‘hard stuff’ to take home with them.
He became a victim of his own success, and was accumulating so much money in local currency from the sales of his liquor that he had to sell it on the black market to obtain hard currency. But his particular ‘brand’ of liquor was becoming famous and it wasn’t long before his trusted work assistant – a westernised Libyan by the name of Ahmed – got to hear of his activities. There was little that went on in the oil drilling company – or with its employees – that escaped Ahmed’s attention, and one day, he asked Toby if he too could buy a few bottles of white lightning for his ‘friends’. Toby didn’t see the harm, as he trusted Ahmed absolutely – he had been his right hand man ever since he had arrived in the country – and had done him so many favours during his time there.
One thing led to another, and within a short while, several of Ahmed’s Libyan friends were calling at Toby’s house on a regular basis to buy his produce. Ahmed warned Toby that now he had Arab customers, he should be more careful, and persuaded him to install full security around the house and only allow people in, when they called through from the front gate to house intercom system and gave him the pre-agreed password.
He didn’t know whether to thank Ahmed or to curse him as he climbed up the stair gantry and entered the plane. If it hadn’t been for Ahmed’s warning, he would have been caught for sure. But also, if it hadn’t been for Ahmed, then he wouldn’t have been tumbled, for it was clearly one of Ahmed’s Arab friends who had tipped off the cops.
But as long as he got out of the country in one piece, and there now seemed little doubt that he was free and clear, he didn’t really mind too much. He had only been in Libya for ten months, but even though he had to admit that it wasn’t a bad place for a married man to live and work, the town had little to offer a single, frustrated young man such as Toby. Against all odds, he had succeeded in having his evil way with a few western female ‘waifs and strays’, but these rare experiences had been less than satisfactory, and for the most part he had been celibate. The lustful gent couldn’t wait to get out.
He had been thinking for some time about cutting his three year contract short . It was for this reason that he had recently asked Ahmed to obtain an exit visa for him, even though he had no immediate plans to travel and the visa was only valid for thirty days. He had been making good money – from both his day and night jobs – but he was yearning for Thailand and Yupin. In spite of the copious booze he had been pouring into his stomach every day, there was many a night when he had been unable to sleep, and he just lay there in an alcoholic stupor, dreaming of the day when he would be back in Bangkok with the lovely Yupin.
He hadn’t spent a penny of his salary since the day he had arrived and his entire Libya earnings were sitting in his US dollar account with Bank of America, tax free. In addition, he had accumulated a tidy sum of money from his booze sales, and most of that had been converted into foreign currency through the flourishing black market, and those funds were also sitting safely in his US bank account. It all added up to a sizeable little nest-egg, and although ideally, he would have stayed a few more months and accumulated an even bigger pot of money, he wasn’t at all sorry he was out. He was quite sure that his savings would be more than enough to set him up for quite a long stretch in the Thai capital; certainly long enough for him to find himself a decent, well-paid job, or to start his own business.
As soon as he landed in Rome, he would find a telephone and call Glen, his General Manager, and explain why he had to leave the country in such a hurry. He would tell him that the car was parked at the airport and where he could find the keys. The letter, which he had left on the front seat of the car, contained detailed accounting instructions to the head office waller – who would have to fly in and perform a care-taker role until a permanent replacement was found. He didn’t feel particularly guilty; he had left everything in perfect, ship shape fashion, and his instructions would make it very easy for someone to pick up the reigns. He had earned his money, and now it was time for him to spend some of it.
The Alitalia 707 taxied slowly out to the runway, and a few minutes later they were in the air and out of Libyan airspace. Toby breathed a massive sigh of relief, and no sooner had the seat belt sign gone off, than he hastily lit a Marlboro cigarette and called to the air stewardess to bring him a large whisky. He was on his way at long last.
‘Land of Smiles’ – here I come!’
© Mobi D’Ark, 2012