Archive for February, 2009

Spain 7

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

HTML clipboardDespite the couple of beers and agreeable company, I still had no idea where to start looking for the wanderer in Milan.

A good nights kip and a hefty fat boys Italian breakfast didn’t help either, which is very rare.

The only event that Cyclops had come up with that was on in Milan was the final of some kind of  artistic glass competition.

“Why glass Cyclops?” I had asked a little confused

“Because it is sponsored by a gin company and in my experience all those expats in Spain drink gin” He explained

“A bit thin isn’t it?” I said

“No, but very different to Gordons” He replied

“What is?” I asked somewhat perplexed at his odd response

“Bombay Saphire”

“Whats Bombay Saphire got to do with the price of fish”

“They are sponsors of the glass competition”

“I didn’t mean the gin was thin you prawn I meant the theory was thin”

“OH I see, yes sorry, no indeed it’s thin as a whores panties, but there is sod all else that I can see going on there, in fact, having looked at the travel pattern, if you can call it that,  it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.  Why go to the beach resorts in winter for example?”

“Maybe he likes the peace and quiet” I suggested

“Hmmm maybe, but I aint so sure, if he liked that why move to southern Spain, he could have gone to Little Hampton of Skegness, no there is something not quite kosher here but I am buggered if I know what, but I am working on it and will come back to you asap”

In the absence of any better idea I decided to make enquiries at reception about the glass exhibition.  It was a total blow out.  get it glass blow, glass blowing, oh please yourself.  Anyway after a very dull and unproductive day I decided to eat at a pizzeria.  Its odd how the word Pizzeria  always makes me want to eat pizza and drink red wine.  I just have to see it and I imagine a dark little place with oak beams, candles, gingham table clothes and wicker covered wine bottles and Pizza.  Funny that.

So there I was minding my own business attacking my Pizza with moderate enthusiasm, when I had a thought about the hire car, why not either go back and see if somebody knew where he was going or failing that sit up on the hire car office at just before the time the car was due back.  God I dont believe how bloody thick I can be sometime, talk about an obvious thing to do, these detectives in books and on the telly make it look so easy.

Inspired by my slow genius I got stuck into my quarto staggioni and Chianti with gusto.  Genius is good for the appetite.

Next morning I went off to the airport to speak to the car hire people.  It was a lovely day and I felt good and really positive.

I presented myself and explained I was trying to find a friend and that he had a car booked.  I expected some resistance from what seemed an officious young man, but none came as he tapped away at his keyboard.

“Si he has de reservation, a small car a panda due to return…..” tap tap tap tap enter.

“No scuzie it is er not possible” he said

“What is not possible?”

“To tell you when he a bring a de car back”

“Why not?” I said feeling a little miffed

“Becasue your a friend he no collecata de car when he should, He not a cancell de booking so we charge im de cancellation, no show  noding else, I am sorry, bud I canna helper you furder”

“Ah you sure?”

“Si I am very sure look a here” and with some considerable effort he turned his screen round to show me.

“Do you think a your friend ok, can I help a you more?” He asked looking a bit upset.

“Well I dont know”

“I help a you if I can because my little brudder he live in Sicilia and he disappear, but I think it not an accident, he only twenty three but I still look a for im when ever I can.”

“I am sorry to hear that, maybe I could take some details and could ask questions on my travels”

He smiled “I don’t think you find him, but I av de papers and a good photos of im” He opened a drawer in his desk and gave me a very well produced A5 size flyer with a good photo of a serious looking young man.

“Now I search our system and see if he hire cars other places with us and I ask out central department to tell me same things.  Shall I ring you or I can email when I know”

“Which ever”

“I do both” he said emphatically.

I gave him my business card and left the airport and in the absence of anything better idea I headed back to the hotel to get decided what to do next.  My initial thought was to get my stuff and head for home asap, but it was that kind of knee jerk reaction that had got me here on a fools errand in the first place.

When I got to the hotel I ran a nice hot bath and had a good old soak in some fancy Italian bubble bath and read my book.  Despite the fancy bottle and name it reminded me of that kids bubble bath Matey my mum used to use on us when were kids. I don’t know if they still do it, probably full of E numbers that make you hyper and not enough fish oils to make you brainy.  Have emerged from my bath, very pink and looking like a lobster and with my paper back soggy around the edges I rang Cyclops to see if he had any bright ideas or Interpol buddies who might be able to throw some light on the missing brother, at least my conscience would be clear.

Cyclops said he would ask the questions and wait for the email from the car hire people and in the meantime we talked over what to do?  Did the fact that Tom did not pick up the car in Milan mean he had never arrived?  Had he ever been to or left Sofia? The client had forced the pace and insisted I come to Milan, but at the time I said there were a lot of unanswered questions and loose ends.

I decided that before I left Cyclops should ring the hotel in Sofia where Tom had stayed before allegedly leaving for Milan and that I would sit tight for now and would make a decision when he had any further info.

I didn’t sit tight for long, Cyclops rang back less than an hour later.

“Norm it was a little hard speaking to anyone who would commit themselves but it seems as if our man stayed an extra night in Sofia and did not take the flight to Milan after all, however he then left to go to some resort on the the black sea the hotel in Sofia made the reservation for him.”

“And…”

“Yeah well I rang the hotel they said he was going to, but they said he never showed up”

“So on the face of it he is still in Bulgaria some where but we dont know where”

“Well yes and no, an email has just come in confirming a flight from Sofia to London in about a months time and there is a car being hired in a place called hang on a mo I will try to get The name right Veileko Turnover or something like that, sorry, but Bulgarian is not my strongest language, but it looks as if it is sort of mid way between Sofia and the black Sea.”

“Ok well let see what the client wants shall we.”

I rang the client and told her we had found a big fat zero in Milan and about  the Bulgarian Saga.  It transpired that a man they sort of knew vaguely in Spain had moved there.  He was in the Bulgarian property business and had set up base not far from Velkro Turnover or whatever the place was called but that was the only connection and that was really tenuous.  After some badgering she said she thought his name was Arkins or Ardins but she couldn’t remember and in any case they didn’t know him at all.  Despite her not knowing why Tom was there she said she wanted me to go and follow this lead as soon as.  She also said that she was going back to Spain that evening as she had no further business in the UK and that something urgent that had cropped up.  She had sent payment for what we had done and extra to cover ongoing enquiries and asked that I keep on the case.

I can tell you, she was keener than I was for me to go to Bulgaria, but she was sure -again-that it was the right move.

I was not so sure- again.

I have never really cared for Bulgaria and all this talk of it being the new France or Spain is in my opinion a load of old bollocks.  True, you can get shed of a house that you wouldn’t want to live in for next to nothing and a mega size bottle of beer for about 60p.

However despite my fondness for beer it has never played a major part in me influencing where I should live.  However, I regret to say that it has on more than one occasion played a major part in influencing where I have slept.

Oh yes and with whom, hangs head in shame.

Spain 6

Monday, February 16th, 2009

“I’m in with the in crowd, I go where the in crowd go”

Having got my beer I sat in the bar where the lovely people met and thought about what had brought me here and the more I thought about it the more I had a but feeling that all was not as it should be, but I couldn’t say what it was.

My peace was being disturbed by the jawing of some English toss pots at the bar with a group of scantily clad wenches.  I realised I must be tired having not noticed them – the girls that is- sooner as they looked like bonne temps filles as the French would say.

One of the blokes who was in his late thirties maybe early forties was giving it what for and he clearly had the eyes and ears of the ladies and was making remarkable progress in capturing other parts of their anatomy.  The bloke was about 6 foot 2 heavily built but not what you would call fat, but not fit either.  He had fair hair which was unkempt in that Chelsea salon way.  He had a face that was pudgey and not yet fat, but was on that road from too many City lunches. He was wearing Ralph Lauren Chinos and blue and striped shirt with classic English brown brogues.

I tuned into his conversation and he was waxing lyrical about being in Bosnia and what it was like for him and his men.

My old lugs went to full scan as chummy was clearly relating a story of do or die.  His volume dropped decibel as he moved on to tell them about what it was like in Ireland and Iraq.

I as aware of somebody beside me at the bar and when I looked it was a bloke of about the same age as myself salt and pepper hair and beard.  He had a pleasant smiley face and was well dressed but understated.  He ordered a whiskey in a soft well spoken American accent.  His drink arrived and the American caught my eye and raised his glass.  I reciprocated.

“He kind of likes the music he makes doesn’t he” said my new buddy amicably

I half laughed and smiled “Yes he does”

“What do you reckon?” He asked me

“To what?” I replied a little puzzled

“Our hero over there” he said giving a very faint nod of the head and took a sip of his drink.  I was sure I didn’t know this man, but then again he looked familiar, but I could not place him.

“I don’t know what you mean” I said quite genuinely.

The strangers eyes twinkled with a sort of serious merriment.

“Oh I think you do, you were locked in to what he was saying for ages before I interrupted you”

I grinned “Was it that obvious?”

“No not really, its just I meet lots of people like him and a few people like you” He said affably

“Sorry I am not with you”

“The guy at the other end of the bar, the one making out to be a one man special forces unit, do you think he’s for real?”

I shrugged “I wouldn’t know”

“Excuse me” he said and leaned across and took hold of my left wrist and pulled it so it was in front of me and looked at my watch. “That’s the give away clue”

I knew what he was talking about and smiled.  We both looked at chummy and on his left fleshy wrist was a nice flashy watch or should I say Chronograph.

I signalled to the barman for another drink and asked my new mate if he would have one. He accepted with a smile and slight nod of the head.  He was man of few words and those words he did speak were said softly and with consideration.

“Have you ever noticed how many guys you bump into who claim to be ex special forces and they will tell you all about themselves and what they did.  Like that guy over there.  So do you think he’s for real?”

“No” I said without hesitation.

The American smiled “And I will tell you why not, because he is stood in a bar in a foreign city, talking to people he doesn’t know so loudly  that at least two total strangers can over hear every word and he has no idea whose side we are on and whether we are Military Intelligence, Special Investigations or The Red Brigade.”

“Maybe” I said

“Ah yes but the watch gives it away.  You see guys buy watches as a symbol to show people what they want to be not what they are.  Do you know anyone that has a watch like his that actually uses the timers”

I smiled

“Of course you don’t, all you guys have watches that tell the time, dont break and don’t draw attention to you”

“True” I agreed

I looked at his watch it was an expensive swiss watch, but understated a bit like the man who wore it.

Our man at the the bar was now telling the honeys about Afghanistan and how he had done this that and the other wearing little more than a cod piece and his Gucci shoes or some such bollocks.  The ladies for their part were wetter than Grimsby in December by the way they were squriming about.

“We both know that the only time guys use the timers is when they’re barbecuing a steak”He said only half joking.

I didn’t disagree.

He smiled and took another sip of his drink.  “I didn’t mean to intrude” he said

“No not at all” I said

“Its just I dont get a chance to have a quiet drink in a bar and make small talk” He said.

“Do you have a busy schedule or something” I asked

“Yeah you could say that and I don’t really get the opportunity too much, not that I am complaining”

I became aware that the gobby oaf at the bar had shut up and when I looked across his little group were hushed and staring at us and whispering.

“Oh great the end of my evening” said my companion.

I looked back at the group with my best gamma death stare.  They all blushed and looked away including the trained killer

“You know” Said the American “I have heard the expression if looks could kill, and nver really took it seriously, but you know I think I have just seen it in action properly for the first time” He finished his drink.

I said nowt.

“You here for long?” He continued

“Don’t know, it just depends”

“On what?”

“Oh lots of things, actually I am looking for somebody who is supposed to be here, its nothing really”

“I hope for his sake it isn’t, because you seem like a nice guy, but I don’t think I would want you looking for me if it was something” He stood up and extended his hand ” Nice to meet you…..”

“Norman” I filled in

“Norman” he said shaking my hand

“And…” I asked

He looked at me and smiled in a really pleased and friendly way.

“George” he said

“Well George if you’re in London look me up and we can get a beer chew the cud”

“I will, hey Norman do you have a card?”

“As a matter of fact I think I do”

I dug out a business card and gave it to him.

He looked at it and then looked at me and then at the group who were whispering again.

“Contractor?” He asked quizzicly

I shrugged “Its catchy don’t you think?”

“Well yeah I suppose, but what…..” He stopped short as one of the yuppie blokes started to walk over to us and there was something about the manner of his approach that gave me cause for concern, or was it that I sensed the man next to me tense and  did I detect he felt threatened.   The approaching yuppie didn’t look like an obvious threat, but nonetheless I moved slightly and effectively shielded the American and at the same time bladed my body left side on to the approaching man, hands and arms slightly across my abdomen

The approaching man stopped just short of me and I looked him in the eyes.

“Excuse me” He said slightly hesitantly and looking down at the floor “But erm er could I have your autograph?”

“My autograph” I said “Why would you want my autograph?”

He flushed and looked at the floor again and then reluctantly looked up at me “Actually” He said “I was talking to ….Oh he’s gone”

I turned to see George leaving the room.

“No you can’t” I said

And that was that, but I wonder if George Clooney dinned out on the story of how he first met Uncle Norman.

I knew I had seen him somewhere before.

Tired

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

I have been all over the bloody place since my last post.  Pannama, Colombia, France, Southern Spain and last but by no means least Stoke on Trent.

If it sounds glamorous and exciting let me put you straight now.  It isn’t.

I am bloody cream crackered and in need of a few beers a glass of vino and some decent grubafter which  no doubt my sense of humour will return.

Hope to post the next part to the Spain story tomorrow ot Tuesday before I head off again on Wednesday.  Only a short trip this time – allegedly.

I am getting to old for all this Alan Whicker stuff.

I would love to stay and chat but there is a cold beer with my name on it.  Actually it has Stella’s name on it.

Spain 5

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

HTML clipboardHaving made the initial discovery that Tom had gone off on a European jamboree I looked at the emails confirming his movements and activities.  From what I could see from the emails the first booking for a flight had been made roughly three weeks before he disappeared.

“It looks like his trip was not a spur of the moment thing” I said

“How do you know that?” Asked Mrs W

“Because it would seem he has a whole load of messages starting from about three weeks before he disappeared until yesterday confirming travel and hotel arrangements both in the UK and Europe.  In fact he has a message here confirming a hotel reservation for last night at the Sveta Sofia Hotel.”

“Where’s that”

“Sofia in Bulgaria by the looks of things”

She leaned over my shoulder and peered at the screen.

“What on Earth would he be doing in Bulgaria?” she asked almost under her breath

“I was about to ask you the same question, but clearly you are non the wiser”

“Well I’ll be” she said softly and then stood up “So he is in Bulgaria”

“No he was, by now he should be in Milan or so it would seem” I corrected her ” You see there is another email here for a flight from Sofia to Milan for today, plus there is another one from Hertz for a small car in Milan”

“Will you go to Milan and see if you can find him as soon as you can?” she asked urgently.

“I will if you want me to, but…”

“Want you to” she snorted with indignation “Of course I bloody want you to” she said almost shouting “that’s what I am bloody well paying you for, you tell me he has flown to Milan and hired a car today, its the best indication that he is alive and of his whereabouts” she said really angrily.

I held my hand up in front of me “I appreciate that you’re paying me, but it is for that very reason I am not sure of the wisdom of charging off to Milan just at the moment.  Look, I know you want to find out what has happened to your husband asap and if you want me to shoot over there and look for him then I will, but at the moment there is not much to go on.”

She looked at me sullenly but said nothing so I decided to persevere with my explanation

“Milan is a big place and at the moment all that we know is that he had a flight booked to there from Bulgaria and has hired a small car.  Now then we don’t have a hotel or even know if he was staying in Milan or moving on, In fact come to that we don’t even know he went there”

“Why wouldn’t he go there, he’s booked a flight and car for God sake” she exclaimed in frustration.

“Booked and take are not tht same thing are they and as for the car, well as I said he has booked a small car which will probably turn out to be a Fiat Panda and Milan is full of bloody Fiats, haven’t you seen the Italian Job?”

She looked as if this was working and she had calmed down a bit, but breathing heavily through her nostrils like a bull and till looked seriously pissed off with me.  “Now then if you want to pay for flights, hotel and other incidentals whilst I swan about looking for a needle in a haystack, then I am more than happy to do so.  You’re the one picking up the bills here, but what I am saying is I want to look at everything coldly and in my own good time and see if there is any kind of pattern to all of this.”

She walked away from me and looked out of  the window and brooded for a few minutes.  I for once kept my big mouth shut.

“I suppose you’re right, its jus thatt……Oh I don’t know what’s going on”

Whilst she was reflecting I opened up another browser window and called up Google and then went back to Yahoo and sent an email to Cyclops with the log in details of Toms  account and the message PRINT ALL.

The confirmation that the email had been sent appeared and I clicked OK and then went to the sent folder.  There was my message I selected it and then hit delete.  Then I went to the “Trash” which although was marked “No files” I hoped would have my email in it.  I was right, I selected that and then clicked delete again.  Did I want to permanently deleted this message? Oh yes.

“What are you doing?” She asked looking at me intently from by the window in what struck me as being a slightly suspicious, hard and aggressive tone.  I looked at her and saw for the first time a very tough looking woman behind a polished exterior and magnificent chest.

“Oh nothing much at the moment” I said casually making no effort to hide the fact I was still working the keyboard.  I pretended to be distracted by something on the screen and then continued slowly “ I am looking at some of these emails to see if I can get a picture of what’s what, but there’s a fair bit to go through.  I can come back to it later”.

She looked at me with hawk like eyes and a Dobermans ferocity and nodded her head.

My client was not a happy girl and I thought it might be an idea to take a break.  I logged out of the account and stood up and walked over to her and put my hand on her shoulder.

“Are you OK?” I asked – of course she wasn’t OK, but to be honest I couldn’t think of anything more profound to say.

She looked at it then at me and gave a very thin half hearted smile.  “I am sorry if I snapped at you, its not your fault, it upsetting not knowing what is going on.”

“No problem I understand, look I need to make a quick phone call and why don’t we go and have a coffee and a cake, my treat”

She nodded “Yes a change of scenery will do me good”

I rang Cyclops and talked to him about the job in Sunderland

“Norm what the fuck are you on about, that’s all done and dusted”

“No its all in the email I sent you” I said reassuringly

“What is”

“The details and names and accounts for the those people that we need to follow up on so we can get the ASBOs sorted.”

“ASBO’s am I missing something here?”

“Yes you are a bit, that’s right,  look just check the details and the clients instructions, but I need you to look at them asap.   Yeah yeah yeah no I am good, no , its going quite well here and I think we might be on to something.”

The penny had dropped with Cyclops and as I was talking I could hear him at the keyboard

“Ah right got it, are you logged in at the moment, because I think you will need to log out before I can get in”

“No that’s not a problem and in fact I am taking the client for a coffee and cake and I will take up in  a few minutes so if you could get those bits sorted I would be obliged.”

“Its done…. I’m in……and I have them in front of me I will forward to you but will print all just in case” Said Cyclops and I could hear the printer in the background

“Oh and I might well be off to Italy, but I will touch base with you about that.  We’ll speak later”

We had our coffee and a very average Danish Pastry and Mrs W seemed better, but a little distracted.  Went back to her room and I started to have another look through the emails and then decided to have a look at Toms bank account.  Mrs\Willis logged me in and I could see that there had been a fair bit of activity on the account over recent weeks.  Not massive amounts, but quite a few payments for flights, hotels and cars. However after only a few minutes Mrs Willis said she had a headache and could I come back some other time.  I said I could.

“Mr Norman I appreciate your comments about the cost, but I really would like you to go to Milan to see if you can find Tom”

I went to say something and she add “Immediately please.”

“Sure”

It was 11.30am  I rang Cyclops and brought him up to speed and I headed home to get some stuff sorted and to get my thoughts together.  I was not convinced at all about going to Milan, not that I have anything against Milan, just that I do have something about leaping in with both feet before you have had a chance to look at all the factors and weigh up all the considerations.

In short my overriding feeling was that this was going to be a bit of a waste of time.

Whilst I was enjoying the tube Cyclops set to looking for flights and hotels etc and also started going through the emails for a clue as to where Tom might be staying and by the time I was at home he had got me a flight out of Gatwick to Milan at about 6pm and found me a hotel in the centre of town and got me what he called “A right touch” on the price.

And so it was that I found myself once more suffering the indignities of airport security and the joys of the “Duty Free” shopping area.

Old habits die hard and grabbing sleep whenever you can is part and parcel of my life.  There have also been a lot of occasions when finally being airborne has been the first time we have been able to shut our eyes safely for days.  I cannot tell you how often I get on a commercial flight and am knocking out zeds before they have even done the safety demonstration.

On this flight I was marginally better and stayed awake through the demonstration and was doing well until the wheels left the ground.  I woke up ten minutes before we landed and my thoughts were the same as when I had got on the plane.

What the fuck am I supposed to do when I get there?

I got a taxi to my hotel which it turned out was a super swish 4star place in the centre of town and Cyclops was right, he had “had a touch” as he got my room for 114 Euros a night where as it would normally have been nearer 200 Euros.  I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but the place was a bit OTT for my liking, but it did have a lot of extra features and amenities but more importantly it had a bar.  Apparently it is a very trendy bar and all the best people are seen and meet there.  V Impressive.

Having freshened up I decided that I had been negative on the way here and that I knew exactly where I should go and what to say and in order to start my work in Milan.  It was obvious even to me.

Une Nastro per favore