Archive for July, 2007

Kidnapped No 1 – Introduction

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

The papers have had a good run of stories about abductions just recently. There is the ongoing situation of the security people in Iraq, but the seizure of a three-year-old British girl in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago brought the issue of the kidnapping of ordinary expatriates abroad into the news. But you know there are so many kidnappings that just don’t make your papers. I often wonder why one case is such a big news thing and then others are ignored.

The vast majority of kidnaps are carried out purely for cash and even where there are political motives for the kidnap, money will often change hands at the end of the day. Its Ok for world leaders to talk bravely about not negotiating with terrorists or kidnappers but it is not them that is at risk, so paying up is often a very cheap resolution. Of course you can end a kidnapping by force but that can be costly in human terms as well as financial.
Kidnaps have increased by about 70% in the last eight years. About 40% of those are company employees, 28% are “wealthy people” and the rest are usually just good old family feuds, drugs wars or plain criminality. Not many world leaders feature among those figures!

Obtaining reliable figures on the number and type of kidnappings across the world is almost impossible. Kidnap resolution is a very skilled and specific task. Acquaintances of mine in the field tell me that they reckon that up to 90% of all abductions go unreported.

The top seven places for the threat of kidnap are:

1: Iraq

2: Nigeria

3: Haiti

4: Colombia/Mexico

5: Ecuador

6: Venezuela

7: Philippines

One security firm publishes a monthly kidnap monitor drawn from media reports. Their report for June 2007 runs to 26 pages and details kidnapping incidents and updates Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Australia, China, India, Russia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Italy, Turkey, Iraq, the US, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Peru.

As a result of the rising threat, firms are spending increasing amounts of money on insuring against kidnap and ransom plus they are giving some training and briefing when deploying staff to risky countries.

Whilst it is true to say that in many areas, such as Mexico, middle-class locals are more at risk than foreigners, many firms still don’t take the risks to expats seriously enough.

At the moment Nigeria is probably the biggest hot spot. The trouble is that the government has withdrawn troops from the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula because of its border dispute with Cameroon. This coupled with organised crime plus inter faith conflict means that the area is not as safe as it might be. In fact I read somewhere that 25% of Nigeria’s oil producing capacity is lost because of the problem at the moment.

However, just every now and then, the bandits fuck up big time and kidnap somebody with friends or uncles.

Coming Home

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

I am back home after a rather sudden and unexpected departure.

If it had been just another job I would not have gone, but this was more than just another Job.

A friend in need is not a friend indeed, but a bloody nuisance. BUT you cannot ignore friends in need ever, because one day you might be that friend in need.
It was a tough couple of weeks but worth it. Worth it because we got the job done and for the first time in five years I knew that home is where my heart is.

I got home last night having travelled back via France.

I opened the door and before I could say anything L was doing her Estonia bouncy bunny thing towards me, smiling and laughing. God she looked so wonderful. Then her arms were around my neck and she was sobbing big fat hot tears and kissing my face and stroking my hair. Actually, due to the lack of hair, she lovingly rubbed my shaven scalp.

I got the sneaking impression she was pleased to see me. I have to confess to being rather chuffed.
She kept kissing me and then looked into my eyes and became very serious and looked concerned. She reached up and touched the side on my head gently.
“Your ears are all frilly” she said.

Bollocks I forgot the bloody Nivea!

Job Done

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

I have a couple of loose ends to tidy up but hope to be home at the weekend.


Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Something serious has come up and I may be required to go away for a little while.

With a job like this  you can never tell how long but hopefully no more than two weeks but it maybe longer.

I will have some limited internet access this week, but after that I will be in a remote location.

I may get the chance to pop in and see Gorilla Bananas for a cuppa and some chest thumping.

French Life – Mr Allen 7

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

We spent a day or so with my good friend BF and his family before heading back to the UK. This gave me time to reflect on the whole Mr Allen & Amy saga and to talk it through with somebody. It was all very odd, but I was more inclined to believe Mr A partly because he was so matter of act and weary of the whole thing but more because of Jenny. She was normal and had been very frightened when I got their flat. I mean really frightened.
I then thought on why would Amy have been at his house in Egham and not announced herself when I arrived? what was going on there?

Then there was this business of flashing her bits and the barely keeping her clothes on. Mr Allens explanation of blackmailing blokes was pretty plausible.

I did not need any persuasion on the bit about mum being an alcoholic and having had electric shock therapy. That was explained by the odd behaviour.

If I am honest, the thing uppermost in in my concerns, was that I got paid the balance of what I was owed by Amy, before I discussed the possibility of doing a little job for Mr Allen. I had given him some basic advice on hiding himself, as I did feel he was in genuine fear, and as I said, I could see his part of the story added up.

However I could not rule out that having lived a life of deception, albeit well intentioned, that he was not adverse to the odd fib himself. But sometimes you just have to go with one side rather than the other or else you don’t get anywhere.
I arranged to meet Amy at her house in Ruislip but i made it afternoon rather than morning. When I got to the house there was a white van parked in the road andnd Amys Volvo 4×4 on the drive.

Yet again she was just shoe horned into her clothes. A skimpy white blouse with little leather waist coat and matching shortish skirt. Very Sally James, I think that was her name, she used to be on OTT and Tiswas with Chris Tarrant back in the late 70s early 80s.

Amy made me a cup of tea and asked me to sit on the settee. She sat opposite and made small talk and it was not long before she gave more than a little glimpse of her charms.

I told her the truth. I had contacted all the hospitals the police and everyone else. No hotel had a record of Mr Allen being there. His car was not at the airport and had disappeared. I had doubts that he had ever stayed in Lourdes and that there was no evidence to say he was still in France. It was my belief that he was in the South of Spain bearing in mind the proximity to the French Spanish border. This was also true because I had told him to go to Spain and to spend two weeks there and to do some extravagant shopping on his Credit Card. I may have forgotten to mention the last tiny detail.

She didn’t look too happy for a minute and then asked where we went from here.

“Well” I said “If he is in Spain he will need to use his cards and no doubt these will show up on his statement. In fact you might even get a phone call asking if these are correct transactions. The card companies do that from time to time. I could make some enquiries but I am not sure how much money you want to spend and whether it is worth it”

“I see your point” she said leaning back and opening her legs slightly. “Would you like paying in cash or cheque?”

“I prefer cash” I said

“Oh so you don’t have to pay tax?” she smiled

“No, its not that, its just that cash doesn’t bounce or get stopped” I smiled back

“Oh no I wouldn’t do that to you” She purred

“I wouldn’t let you” I smiled back again.

She went to her bag and got out the agreed sum in cash. That was all OK, so I put it in my pocket.

Now having been told of Amy and her old mans weird little set up, I was well on my guard and whilst sipping my tea had a good look around the room. Then I saw it, a little round plastic thing on a shelf pointing at the settee. Fuck me a little web cam or just a spy cam. I didn’t want to show out so didn’t pay it to much attention. But I reckon they were about to try to have one over on old Uncle Norman.

Amy slid off her chair so that the skirt barely covered her upper thighs. She helped it up a bit more and stood in front of me, I was looking at the top of her brown smooth thighs. I was aware of the blood rushing from my head to my brains. I tried think of old nuns. Its a bad habit I have to try to stay calm in these circumstances. Who am I kidding this was a weird.

“What do you think” she cooed

” Very strokeable” I said honestly

“You can touch if you like” she said sitting down on the settee and reclining slightly.

“I would love to, but I just need to go to the loo first if you don’t mind”

She pretended to be disappointed, gave me directions and told me not to be long. How did she know? On what Mr Allen had said then hubby must be somewhere watching. I went up stairs to the toilet. All the doors were open except one. I bet that’s where the old man is.  I went into the toilet to prepare myself for the two phone trick.  I have two mobiles, one for work and a personal one.  I brought my work number up on the screen of the private number so that all I had to do was press the call button.  Now to see if hubby was where I thought he was.
I tapped very gently on the door with my finger nail tap tap tap.

A hushed voise from the room said “What is it?”

tap tap tap 

“Quick come out here” I said in a hushed voice just loud enough to hear but to quiet to be distinct

Tap tap tap 

“Come here” A bit louder this time.

I heard movement and ducked back to the bathroom and pushed the door almost shut.  I hear the bedroom door open and hubby was now on the landing.  I heard him say in a louad whisper “Whats wrong?”

I opened the bathroom door a chink and saw hubby looking over the banister of the landing.  Hubby was well over 6foot 3 tall and must have weighed about 17 stone (110kg).  He shook his head and went back into the bedroom.

I went down stairs.

“You took your time don’t you like me?”

“Oh I like very much” which I did, apart from the little fact that she was a blackmailing slut.  Allegedly.

” What would you like me to do” she said

Time for the old two phone trick.  I pressed the ring button on my personal phone.  My work phone rang so quickly I almost jumped out of my skin. Ring ring ring.

“I’ll leave it and get the message” I said starting to undo my belt.

“Maybe it could be news of my father” she said quickly

“Maybe, I should get it I suppose”

I answered the phone and had a contrived conversation with  my other phone.  I concluded by saying I would be there in an hour and I was just leaving Ruislip.

I looked at this sexy woman and thought if only you weren’t barking mad.  But I suppose if she wasn’t a loon she wouldn’t be offering herself to me like this.  Although if you squint at me I am sure I look Like Mel Gibson.  OK if you squint at me after several beers I look like Mel.

“Sorry I said but I must go”  I leant and kissed her on the forehead. “Give me a ring if you want to carry on otherwise I’ll be in touch if I hear anything.”

I gathered up my bits and Amy looked just ever so slightly uncomfortable in her attire.

“Thanks for the tea” I said

“You’re welcome”

I know I am not getting any younger but I was bloody stiff as I walked out of that house I can tell you.

Cold shower for Norman Please Miss!

French Life – Mr Allen 6

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

I sipped my Earl Grey (No Russian EG I am afraid) and chomped on a rather tasty fig roll. I stopped eating fig rolls some time ago and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why.  Very moreish indeed.
“Well would somebody like to explain your side of the story?” I asked hopefully.

Mr Allen let out a big sigh and nodded

“Look” He said ” About the gun, I really am awfully sorry I was frightened, can you forgive me?”

“Of course I can you were frightened and felt you needed to defend yourself.  Better to be safe than sorry, no harm done” I said through gritted teeth.

“Well it is not a very complicated story really” continued Mr Allen

Hmmm we will see I thought

“My sister who you met in Egham has a personality disorder. Of course back when she was younger it was not diagnosed she was just considered a delinquent. Anyway she was very promiscuous and in fact was little more than a prostitute. In fact I think she probably was at one stage. It was sex, drink and violent behaviour. The long and the short of it was she got pregnant. Of course she had no idea who the father was. No abortions back then, well there were back street abortions of course but people in our circles didn’t know how to get them. The worst thing was the shame for our parents. My mother had stroke and stayed in a coma for some time before she died and my father had a heart attack and died before Amy was born.  She killed them”

He took a sip of his tea and ate a bit of biscuit.

“Well after the birth, my sister got worse. Post natal depression I suppose. She really hit the bottle and I had to do something for the baby.  So I moved us to Egham where nobody knew us. I just had to get away from where we were known. We had quite a bit of money because we sold our parents house so I was able to buy that bloody barn of a house. When we moved in everyone just assumed we were man and wife and that Amy was my daughter. Indeed I raised Amy like she was my daughter, except she wasn’t my daughter, but oh my God she was her mothers daughter sure enough”

“But surely people must have noticed and what about your friends and people in your social group” I asked

“Huh friends. I didn’t have any. When I moved from Muswell Hill I severed all ties with everyone I ever knew told them we were going to Australia. Then my sister was really bad and was committed to the mental hospital. She was a real danger to herself and others. She would start drinking at 10 in the morning and then would go out looking for sex with anyone. I came home one day and found her naked and doing all sorts of unnatural things with some Irish workmen. Thats when I split the house in two and moved up stairs and locked all my rooms.  Meanwhile her baby was abandoned in her bedroom all day, never fed dirty and scared. I don’t know why I hadn’t got a nanny sooner.  I was stupid, just didn’t think.  Then one day she went into London and she was arrested in Soho and as a result she was committed to the mental hospital for 3 years on and off”

He stopped talking for a while as if to get his strength back.

“Well when she got out it wasn’t out long before she was back to her old ways. Only this time she would just disappear for weeks sometimes months on end. Obviously I had engaged a nanny for Amy and gave her as normal a life as we could.”

“But how did you explain the disappearances of your sister?” I butted in.

“Ah yes well that was a bit of an accident. You see there were a number of government establishments in that part of the world at the time. All very hush hush, cold war and all that and people just assumed she was a working for the government. Nobody ever asked directly because people didn’t. Then one day one of our neighbours asked her where she had been and she told him C5 meaning ward C5 but he thought she meant sector C5 which apparently was East Berlin. It transpired he was with MI5 or some such department. Nobody and I mean nobody asked any more questions after that” He smiled and nodded to himself.

By this stage I was thinking that although Mr Allen had said it was not a complicated story he hadn’t said anything about it being short either.

“Then she was picked up for prostitution in Liverpool” he continued “She was committed again and this time they did the old electric shock therapy. It scrambled what brains she had left. The trouble was she was still an alcoholic and sex maniac but she didn’t have the normal functions left either. That was the beginning of the end for her”

“Ok so why would Amy want to kill you. You have raised her as your own daughter and done a lot for her she should be grateful.” I asked

“Ah well yes, I see your point. The thing is I never told Any she wasn’t my daughter and didn’t tell her that her mother was my sister. Amy went to boarding school when she was old enough and so she was not at home a lot of the times. She would often spend holidays with friends, you know the usual sort of stuff.  I explained long absences as illness and when her mother came back doolallie, I said she had had a car accident which had left her brain damaged. Somehow I never got round to telling Amy the truth about not being her father. Then I met Jenny and we fell in love. If I had been married it would have been an affair but I wasn’t married so did not try to conceal my relationship at work or whatever.  As I said Amy was away at school, so it didn’t matter to her. But one day she was on a school trip in the Cotswolds and she saw me with Jenny. She assumed I was cheating on her mother, my wife and that was apparently what made her personality disorder come to the surface. She is the same as her mother but worse, much much worse.”

“Hows that then, what does she do?”

“Well she is very good looking for a start and very very intelligent and well educated to boot. Plus she is well connected because of the school friends she made. Mind you half of them are as mad as March hares so they wouldn’t twig she was odd.” He snorted ” She made allegations that I beat her and mistreated her. Thank god it was before all this abuse and paedophile hysteria or she would have really gone to town on me. I was able to disprove her allegations but she became more and more aggressive and her promiscuous side became more and more developed. But not content with having sex with any Tom, Dick or Harry she went after Wealthy people. As a point of interest she would not have sex with any man who drove anything less than and Audi BMW or Volvo. Then she blackmailed them. As far as I am aware at least two men killed themselves because of her.”

“So how long have you been together then” I asked trying to get the dates and everything straight in my head.

“Jenny and I have been married 25 years and I love her more every day” They touched hands.  She looked good on it.  I would never have put her down as his wife.
“So where did you live?” I was bloody confused at the web of unnecessary deceit and lies but hey ho its not my life.

“Jenny lived in our house in Sunninghill, not too far from Egham and not too close either” I sort of commuted between the two. When I took over the engineering business I would travel a lot with work, but in reality I would go to our house in Sunninghill. We have two daughters. Our son was diagnosed with cancer and that’s when I got involved in Lourdes. We are not catholic but Graham got such comfort, support and strength from going that after he died I …….coul n” his words caught in his throat and he choked back his loss.

“I understand Mr Allen”

“How could you?” he sneered “Don’t patronise me…us”

“I’m not. My wife and two daughters were killed in a road accident her in France” I said as bluntly as I could.

“Oh…I see…I am sorry….I didn’t….” He stuttered

“Right” I said in a very firm and direct voice “So you were living this double life, which cannot have been easy, but why do you think Amy wants to kill you”.

“Well she has been weaselling money out of my sister, her mother, for years, but that source has dried up. She married that idiot of a husband and has been running him ragged, but that’s his problem.”

“He is a cuckold” Interjected Jenny “He found out that Amy was having sex with strangers and he watches”

“You’re having a laugh” I exclaimed. I had read about this sort of thing but good grief!
“Oh I wish we were” Mr Allen continued “But he is involved in the blackmailing bit as well”

“OK but that doesn’t answer the question as to why you think Amy would kill you or have you killed” I repeated

“Well she tried blackmailing me, but it didn’t work because there was nothing to blackmail me over. Then she broke into my office and found a letter from the oncologist addressed to me but was really for Graham. I hadn’t realised she has got keys to my rooms in the Egham house. Anyway , obviously she thought it was me that had cancer and so started badgering me about making a will and all that sort of stuff. I did make a will but obviously made provisions for my wife and family which did not include her. She then really quite weird and told me she would kill me and my family. She really went off the rails. I had an old car I used for my Egham life and she or someone disabled the brakes and I crashed one night on the way home. The police came and the Traffice sergeant found the brakes had been interfered with. Well at that point I thought I had better do something so we bought this place as a hideaway. Its in Jennys name so we would be hard to find and also for the French inheritance laws.” He sighed “Obviously we weren’t that hard to find were we? Anyway the reason I just left was she demanded money from me and threatened me with allegations of rape and sexual abuse, but when she knew that was ni not going to work she said she knew of a mercenary who would be able to find us and kill us and she and my sister would inherit what I left”
“Well I did have a couple of strokes of luck, but there are things you can do to conceal yourselves a little better” I said

“So what now?” Jenny asked

“I go back to the UK and say I didn’t find you and she pays me off it’s as simple as that” I said “One last question though Mr Allen. What’s with the bloody elephant gun rifle”

“Oh that” He smiled sheepishly “”ell I am part of the local hunt here. I did it to integrate. I didn’t think I would enjoy it but it gets me out and I have quite few friends here now. I shot a sanglier this winter.”

A Sanglier is a wild boar by the way.

“Impressive, but I suggest you don’t point it at people because accidents happen, as you know”

He nodded and looked ashamed.

“Mr Norman, Would you do a job for me?”

“It depends what it is” I replied.

“Hide us as well as you can and maybe push the police in Amy’s direction.” He said hesitantly. “You know expose what she is doing”

“I cannot say yes at the moment because I am under contract to Amy” I said

“Oh yes of course I see”

“What about next week” asked Jenny

“A different kettle of poison altogether”

What a bloody dogs dinner.We said our good byes and I went out to my car. The sky was really black and it was starting to rain.

The fig rolls had given me terrible indigestion.  I remembered now why I had stopped eating them.

French Life – Mr Allen 5

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

We left the hotel in Lourdes after our second night. I wanted to try to find the mysterious Jenny Allen and hopefully the missing Mr Allen. This was the point where I didn’t want L around. Fortunately there is a very good old friend of mine who lives in the vicinity. I gave him a ring and asked if they could baby sit L for the day.

I dropped L off at my mates place and then headed into the mountains. Although warm the sky was black and menacing and a storm threatened. The mountains were exactly that. Mountains. Stark, rocky, big and foreboding and full of menace. You don’t fuck about with mountains, they need to be treated with respect, even in early summer.
I went down the valley road heading south toward the very heart of the high Pyrenees. The green of the vegetation in the valleys in stark contrast to the naked rock piercing the sky above. They were formidable. After about an hour I got to within striking distance of the village where Jenny Allen was shown as living. I now need to decide whether I went straight to her house or spoke to the French bloke whose number I had.

As I got about 8km from the village the road splits and you can head up to the the Col de Peyrasourde past a ski resort and on to the town of Luchon or turn Right to Val Luron. I was at the junction when I saw a big advert for some apartments that were being built and the contact details were that of the French man I had found.

I drove towards Val Luron and the valley opened up and there was a big blue green lake on my left. It was perfectly still in the morning light and the mountains and clouds were reflected in the water like a big fuck off mirror. It was breathtaking.

Of course I still had to find this Jenny Allens gaff and there was a good chance I was barking right up the wrong tree and that she had nothing to do with it.
As I entered the Village I was looking for I thought I could do with a break or maybe just a little miracle. The next instant and fuck me I got it. Parked outside a small super market was a mini. Now minis are not that common in France, especially in the remote mountainous countryside of the Pyrenees. But this was just any mini, but a right hand drive mini although it was on local French plates. It was the same colour as Mr Allens but his had been registered in the UK. Was it the same one? Only one way to find out.

I parked up a bit down from where the mini was parked, facing the same way as said mini. a few moments later a women came out and got into the car and drove off. I followed her at a leisurely pace for about 2km when she pulled into the parking area for some new appartments. She got out carrying a couple of baguettes and went into the flats. I was able to see her walk along a balcony on the first floor and go into a flat at the end. I gave it a couple of minutes before going after her. I was fairly sure this was Jenny Allen.

The apartment the lady I had followed was the same number I had for JA. I rang the bell and it was opened by a very attractive woman I would have said aged about 45 to 50. She had shortish spikey hair with blond highlights just like the woamn at the car hire place said.

I said something like I am Uncle Norman and I am looking for Mr Allen. She took one look at me and started to cry. No cry is not the right word. She wailed and sobbed and then suddenly just sat down in the hall with her arms around her legs hugging herself.

She kept saying “Don’t Kill us, don’t kill us”

I kept telling her I wasn’t going to kill her but she kept going on and on. I walked into the hall way of a bright very modern apartment.
“I’m not going to bloody kill you but for gods sake shut the fuck up please!” I said foreceably. She shut up.
“Sssshhh now calm down I am not here to hurt you” I said as reassuringly as I could in the circumstances “What the hell was that all about, why should anyone want to kill you and where is Mr Allen?

“I’m here” said a soft, well spoken, mans voice behind me from the main room.

I turned around and there was a very trim casually dressed Mr Allen. What was not so casual was the hunting rifle he was pointing at me.

“Hello Mr Allen” I said as matter of factly as I could manage in the circumstances. “I am very glad to see you alive and in apparently good health”

He laughed a artificial forced laugh “I bet you are buster”

“The names Norman actually” I corrected him
“Don’t be witty with me, I am in no mood for bullshit” he snapped back. There was something in his manner and the whole situation that led me to believe he wasn’t joking.

“OK, look would you mind telling me what this is all about?” I thought it was a reasonable question. Clearly Mr Allen didn’t because he adjusted his grip on the gun and repositioned himself as if steadying him self to shoot.

“I said don’t give me any bullshit, youre the one being paid to kill us”

“Kill you, why the fuck would I want to kill you?”

“You’re a trained killer and Amy has paid you to kill us” His speech was rather rapid and his voice was loosing some of its control and was a little shrill.

This was not good. Bad enough having a gun pointed at you, but when the geezer holding it is scared and starting to loose the plot.

Deary me not good.

Best to try to stay calm, but I have to be honest inside I was anything but fucking calm. This is the sort of situation that can go seriously tits up.

“Lets get a couple of things straight shall we” I said very matter of factly “I am not here to kill you and I have not been paid to kill you. I am not even armed. Would you like me to remove my jacket and clothes so you can see I am not armed?”

“Yes do that please” he said a little calmer but still pointing the rifle at me.
I stripped down to my boxers very slowly and then with my hand up turned round slowly so he could see I had concealed nothing -well apart from my manhood and he was trying to make himself as small a target as possible. I kicked the clothes towards Jenny who sort of checked them.

“OK sit down on the chair there very slowly”

The room was very modern and furnished in a very similar way to his rooms back in Egham. I sat in a classic Ikea bouncy armchair. It was a sort of fake leather and bloody cold on my skin.
“Look Mr Allen I am not sure what is going on here but rest assured I am not here to harm you.”

“Why are you here at all?” yelled Jenny

“I was paid by your wife and daughter to find you” I said. “They were concerned about you as you failed to return home after your last trip to Lourdes”

Mr Allen snorted “Yes I bet Amy was concerned, the malignant bitch and as for my wife she is sitting here with you”

I looked at Jenny. What the fuck. My head hurts.

“Well who was that woman in Egham then if she isn’t your wife?”

“My sister” he said very flatly.

“your sister!” I repeated.

“Yes my senile alcoholic slut of a whore sister” He hissed.

I detected a hint of family friction.
“So who is Amy then?”

“A cancerous, scheming, blackmailing bitch” he rasped with even more malice.

“Oh I see” I said although I didn’t really.

“Look Mr Allen why don’t you put the gun down and put the kettle on a make us all a cup of tea and tell me the whole story. I have to be honest I am a bit nippy without my clothes so either let me get dressed or turn the heating up please” I said

“I told you before no bullshitting witticisms from you” he barked back

I had enough of this bollocks.

“Mr Allen I am being very nice in the circumstances, but I am starting to loose my patience here. Now look, I have been lied to, stripped and had a rifle pointed at me by someone I have no intention of hurting. I am starting to have fucking sense of humour failure here pal and if you don’t put that fucking gun down, I am going to come over there, take it off you, and shove it your mouth and blow you fucking brains out. I will then turn the gun on Doris here and blow her face off. The police will think it was a lovers suicide pact or something like that and I will be on my way. Do I make myself clear.” I gave him my fiercest uncle Norman gamma death stare.

“I think he means what he says darling, put the gun down” said Jenny very calmly

He wasn’t sure.

“Mr Allen Have you ever shot anyone”

“Yes” He said slowly “In Palestine, a little boy and his donkey. It was a terrible mistake”

“Yes I am sure it was but these things happen” I said with all sincerity knowing exactly what he meant and was feeling.

“If I put the gun down do you promise you wont kill us” He said more calmly.

“I give you my solemn word” I said and raised my right hand. Why do we do that, raise our right hand? Any way I did and he sat down in a chair and put the gun down.

“Thank you Mr Allen, that’s better, now how about that cup of tea while I put my clothes back on and then we can have a chat about all this cant we”

“I am afraid I don’t have any biscuits” said Jenny very apologetically.

“Oh darling we have some fig rolls” chipped in Mr Allen “Would fig rolls be alright?” he asked me.

“Fine with me”

How very English. Point a bloody gun at a bloke and then offer him fig rolls with his cuppa.

French Life – Mr Allen 4

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

The flight to Pau was a bit late leaving but we were in on time.

We got our bags and went to the car hire desk. The young girl had obviously been on a customer care course recently. She smiled maintained eye contact and was ever so helpful.

“Madame I wonder if you could help me. My uncle hired a car recently and has not had a bill yet could you make sure all the papers went through”

“Certainly what was his name.”

I gave it and the rough dates of the booking

“Ah yes he was taken ill and the car was returned by his daughter and she signed the documents. He had paid in advance, but he should have had a confirmation invoice. I will arrange for a copy to be sent”

“Did you see his daughter” I queried

“I am sorry sir I didn’t, it was my colleague who dealt with her, why?”

“Oh no reason I just haven’t seen her for a while I wondered if she still had her dyed red hair. That’s all”

“I will ask her if you like, she is in the office”

She stuck her round the door into the office and few seconds later an older woman came out. I went through the tosh about the red hair. The lady laughed and said no she is back to having short hair with blonde “flash” which is highlights to us Brits. Not that I have my highlights done very often, as I am pure platinum blonde – when I have enough hair for it to show!

So who was the mysterious daughter? Certainly not Amy, that’s for sure.

We picked up our car, which was a Ford Fiesta. It was small but more than adequate for moi and it had aircon, which was all that bothered me really as it can be bloody hot in the Pyrenees.

We set off for Lourdes, which is about a 30 minute drive from Pau. It was cracking day and the mountains looked good, with just the last remnants of snow on some peaks.

Scenery and weather aside now what? I had a few sketchy leads and ideas but nothing you would call a stone bonker. In fact after the car hire revelation I had more questions than answers. There was something not quite right going on I just couldn’t get feel for this job, I don’t know what it was.

Lourdes was packed, as I had expected, as the pilgrimage season was well under way. It is a funny place Lourdes, I don’t mean funny hahah but a weird combination of faith and commerce.

Apparently, Lourdes is visited by roughly 10 million people every year. It has more hotel accommodation per square metre than any other place in Europe (actually that may be the world but I am prepared to be corrected). The post office handles more out going mail (postcards I would imagine) than any other single post office in the world. Last and by no means least there are apparently more millionaires in Lourdes than anywhere else in Europe.

I had booked a hotel more or less in the centre of town for our first two nights and it turned out to be very plush and very reasonably priced. Sounds like I am practicing for a spot on a TV holiday destination programme!

In the absence of any better ideas, I decided to take the bull by the horns and go to the bank where Mr Allen may have had an account. It was in a small town called Lannemezan, which is East of Lourdes. We drove over there the next morning and I spoke to an accounts manager. I was fairly honest with her, and explained I had been asked by the family to come to France to see Mr Allen as there was some urgent business that required his attention. I struck gold, this lady knew Mr Allen well and his daughter. I asked which one and the Lady gave me a name Jenny. Daughter my fat arse I thought, the sly old dog has a bit on the side. The lady at the bank said that unfortunately she had not seen Mr Allen on his last visit, but she thought he was coming over again next week. He usually came into the back on Wednesday, which is market day. I left a card and asked her to get him to contact me should she see him.

So the lady in the bank was expecting him next week, but Amy said he didn’t have a trip to Lourdes planned until September. How odd.

I tried ringing the French man again but there was no reply but this time I did leave a message. I was in two minds about heading into the mountains but it was mid afternoon and I was supposed to be giving L a break. Besides which there didn’t seem much point driving all the way into the mountains to find nobody in.

I went to a café and sat in the sun and had a cafe crème and watched the world go by and reflected. By the time we headed back to Lourdes I had a plan. Go back to the hotel, get on the internet and search for a Jenny Allen in the Hautes Pyrenees. If I got a trace I would go and see her and the bloke in the mountains.

We got back to Lourdes for about 5pm and it was mobbed. I parked the jam jar at the hotel and then went up to the room to do my internet searches while L went for a walk around. I said I would meet her by the main entrance to the church in 90 minutes. I went on line and went to the France telecom site. The directory is in both French and English which is very helpful for all those Brits who chose to live in a foreign country and not learn the language. Funnily enough most have moved to France because of the immigrants flooding into Britain and who wont learn our language. I wonder how the French feel about these foreigners? I digress.

Any way I did some searches but drew a blank and then realised that I was searching for Lilly Allen not Jenny Allen. Silly sod. It made me smile. Actually it didn’t it. There she was Jenny Allen I had her telephone number and her address, which was the same village as the French bloke whose number I had found. Progress perchance?

I headed off to meet L. Now as I said before Lourdes is a melange of the religious and commercial. There is the Grotto and church, which is pure religion and faith if you like and then there is the town around the church which is hotels, bars and tacky souvenir shops. I have never seen so many flashing Madonna’s in my life. Not even Guy Ritchie would have seen as Madonna flash like this!

I wandered towards the Grotto and met up with L just as there was a procession coming towards us down the main avenue which is in front of the Basillica. As regular readers may have gathered I am not the most religious geezer on the face of the Earth. However despite my many faults, I am very tolerant of everyone else’s beliefs and feel that just because it aint for me that it shouldn’t be for some one else. Does that make sense? Live and let live, which sounds a bit odd from someone who is trained to kill people, but I think you know what I mean.

So anyway, there we were watching this procession coming towards us. People were singing hymns and carrying banners. The procession was made up of people in stretches and wheel chairs being pushed along and attended to by other people. It was only as they got closer that I realised that all the people who were sick were children. They ranged from small babies to teenagers. Some were singing away and others were barely alive from what I could see or so disabled or handicapped as to be almost vegetables. As I said I am a bit of religious sceptic, but it struck me how happy all these people looked and every man jack of them seemed to be having a bloody good time.

I know one thing it brought a lump to my throat seeing so many sick and handicapped children. It is easy to forget how lucky we are. I know my kids are dead but they did not suffer or live like this. I don’t know how people cope and I was humbled to see how they did cope and with such good humour.

It struck me, that irrespective of whether there is life after death or not, my little girls had lead healthy and had happy lives. Granted they were not as long as I would have liked, but they lived in an atmosphere of love happiness and security and they were healthy. They did not have to endure the pain and suffering of being ill or tortured. I then thought of poor old Joseph who at of 10 had had his teeth pulled out with a pliers, yet he is still a cheerful courageous happy lad.

I think what I am trying to say in a very clumsy way, is that it puts everyday problems into perspective.