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Friday, 19 August 2011

The Dream.

This is the dream sequence! It's not exactly how I planned it. In fact, it differs hugely to my plan. It finishes on a cliff hanger as I now intend the dream to be concluded on another occasion, which will hopefully tie up ends much better than it being a complete dream at this point in the story.
I'm not going to explain anything as after all, it is a dream, therefore open to interpretation. And, I'm sure things will become clearer with the next dream instalment. I hope it's a good read.

                 It was so dark I couldn’t see a thing. A vast expanse of nothingness was laid out before my eyes. I didn’t panic. I calmly turned my head from one side to the other. Nothing. Just impenetrable black. I closed my eyes and hung my head, massaging my temples with my hands, trying to think of something, anything, but nothing. It was useless. The black behind my eyelids wasn’t the best source of inspiration.
                With my head still hung low, I opened my eyes. There, before me, was a red line. Yet, on further inspection, it wasn’t just a line. It was a river. A river of red, foaming and frothing away from me. I was at its source. I knelt down, and with a deep breath pushed my hand into its liquid form. It tugged at me with an immense strength. It was as if it were alive. I pulled my hand out and brought it close to my face. Blood.
                I stood up. This river was literally all I could see. I was floating, stood on thin air, stood on nothing. I followed the river. I kept my head down. Its path steered straight on without change in course. My steps were slow, wary. I feared falling. I feared the nothing I was stood on would give way to an even worse nothing, one without a river to give me purpose, one where standing wasn’t possible, where I would fall and fall and never stop. Yet, I had purpose. There was no need for fear.
                My steps became more confident with every one that I took. The river never changed course. Onward it flowed and onward I followed.
                But, this all too suddenly changed. The river branched off. Three tributaries. Three options, three ways to go. Which was the right way? How was I to know? I took a hesitant step on each tributary. There was solid nothing beneath them all. I chose one at random, and carried on with my journey.
 The blood coursed along, saturating my feet as I walked. I didn’t feel a thing. The tributary didn’t lead in a straight line. It meandered from side to side, it twisted and turned. The blood slowly began to thicken. It thickened until I reached the end of the line, where the blood had solidified into a pulpy mass. There was nothing to do but turn back.
I turned on heel, but after just a few steps, a sound stopped me in my tracks. A gurgling, rising to a wail, finally to a blood curdling scream of agony. I cried out in surprise, fell to my knees and pushed my hands against my ears so hard that it hurt. It didn’t block out the sound. It persisted, it pierced, it rose in pitch. It was the scream of a baby.
After what seemed like eternity, the screaming eventually subsided into desperate whimpers. It wasn’t any more enjoyable to hear, but it was bearable. I rose to my feet, brushed myself off and continued on my return journey. Needless to say, this journey was far quicker than the last. I found myself back at the cross roads and hurried down the middle path. The river noticeably widened. There was blood either side of me now, instead of just in front and behind. Its course didn’t waver this time, its route was perfectly straight. I knew that this was the right way. The baby’s cries surrounded me still, but they were so soft that they almost soothed me.
And then, I saw something out of the corner my eye. I stopped still and looked to my right. There was a candlelight. Small, round, perfect. To my left, there was another. Candlelight formed two parallel lines either side of the river. I progressed on until I found myself at a wooden door. There was a small, rounded brass handle. I raised my hand, as if to knock, then thought better of it. I turned the handle and pushed it wide open.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bed and Breakfast.

As promised, this blog is nothing but story! Well, there is this, of course, but you can always skip forward and ignore my ramblings!
I started writing this section this morning and have just finished now. This was probably the quickest section to write so far, and I'm quite pleased with the result.
It was going to be longer and include a dream sequence, but I thought that'd make it too long. In addition, I think the dream sequence should stand alone as I'm hoping it will be a good, possibly shocking read. I'm looking forward to writing it.
Until then, there is this scene. I hope you enjoy it.

                We arrived at a bed and breakfast as the sun crept higher into the sky. It was early morning with the promise of a brilliant day ahead. Weather-wise, at least.
                The B&B wasn’t remarkable in any respect. Its walls were plain and off white. Its welcome sign hung noticeably crooked. There were no flowers, no signs of any effort being put into its presentation and first impression appeal. It was simply a B&B. This didn’t matter to me, of course. I’ve always preferred functionality over style.
                As if reading my thoughts, Kristian commented with,
                ‘It does its job well enough. Looks aren’t everything, and you won’t be here long enough to get fed up with the visual side of things. So, let’s go.’
                He opened the car door and slammed it shut. I followed suit. We made our way through the door and underneath the crooked sign to find ourselves in a hallway as unimpressive as the outside. The walls were the same off white, the carpet brown with an outdated pattern and the sparse amount of furniture had seen better days. Yet, despite this, the room was immaculately clean. This could all easily be explained by the owner, who presently walked in to greet us.
                ‘Why hello there my doves! And how may I be of service to you today? Would you like two rooms, or would you like to share? We do a traditional breakfast in the morning, or, if you have a particular fancy, I am sure we can cook you up a treat!’
                The woman, from all appearances, was a friendly motherly figure. She was mid height, with pleasantly rounded features. Her smile was broad and welcoming, and by her side she held both polish and a portable vacuum.
                Kristian grinned charmingly in return, and said,
                ‘Thank you very much for your offer of hospitality, yet I won’t be staying. You will only have this guest to burden you in the morning with particular fancies!’
                They both laughed meaninglessly. After she had recovered, the woman offered,
                ‘Oh, come now! Surely I can tempt you to stay for breakfast? I do the finest eggs in the area, and it feels wrong that your friend will only be able to tell you of how fine they are without your experiencing it too!’
                Kristian grinned again, saying that he’d be more than delighted. She smiled her motherly smile and led us through to a dining area. She set our places with cutlery that shone with cleanliness, then left the room without another word. Cooking sounds could be heard from what must have been the kitchen almost instantaneously.
                We weren’t alone. A couple sat a few tables away from our own, seemingly toying with what little remained of their breakfast whilst looking anywhere but at each other. The conversation must have run dry a long time ago. The young woman’s eyes met mine. She smiled a desperate smile before turning to her partner, saying something noncommittal and applying herself to her drink. I turned away from the pitiful scene and returned to my own. Maybe she was thinking the same of myself and Kristian. Neither of us had said a word since we’d sat down.
                The silence was broken by the swift return of our host. She swept in front of us, placing on our table a jug of orange juice and two glasses.
                ‘Here you go my doves. Everything that tastes wonderful must be washed down with something that does you good, that’s my motto!’
                ‘That’s a good motto to stand by, Miss...?’
                ‘Mrs Reid. But please, call me Barbara. Just give us a shout if you need anything and I’ll come running!’
                She scuttled away to attend to the couple, who, after awkwardly sharing pleasantries and having their plates cleared away, abruptly left the room. The young woman ignored my eye contact.
                After everyone had left, Kristian decided to make conversation:
                ‘She isn’t lying about her eggs. I’ve heard good things about this place. That’s not the only reason why I’ve decided to stay, of course, but it is the main one.’
                I grunted in acknowledgement and made an attempt at a smile. To hear him converse normally was, in one word, bizarre. I didn’t know how to respond.
                ‘That’s not to say they may not be lying. But, we’re the tasters now, so let’s make the most of it!’
                I nodded in agreement and further surveyed the room. Unlike the hall and outside, this room was painted in a clean white washed with a pale green. Leaf stencils were situated on the walls at equal intervals, and a complementing border ran its way around the room. The flooring was laminate wood, unsurprisingly immaculately clean. Although the room wasn’t necessarily modern, it was definitely far superior to what I had seen before. It was clear that all the money had gone into this room’s presentation to enhance the dining experience, giving the renowned eggs a befitting location to be eaten in.
                The smell of cooked foods wafted through into the room, greeting me pleasantly. It wasn’t long until the smell became reality. Barbara entered, carrying plates piled high until almost overfull with everything a proper breakfast should contain. When it was placed down in front of me, the aroma was invigorating. It was then I realised just how hungry I was.
                ‘Eat up my dears! I’ll be back when you’ve finished, so in the mean time, please do enjoy!’
                She left, we ate. Speaking for myself, there was simply no time to talk. I’m sure Kristian must have felt the same. Not a moment more was spent on idle chat. We greedily consumed all on our plates, drank the majority of the juice, then had our plates cleared away and were left to bask in full contentment.
                After this mutual laziness, Kristian made a move as if he was going to get up and go. But, before he did, he said,
                ‘Now, this is the deal. You stay here today, get a good sleep. You’re going to need it. I’ll be back at 11 p.m. sharp. The car will be parked up out back, find me.’
                He grabbed the back of my head, leaning in so that he was speaking directly into my ear,
                ‘And if you leave, you’ll live to regret it. Don’t think I’m kiddin’ ya, ‘cause I’m dead serious. I’ll pay the bill, but you gotta do right by me, understood? Otherwise, believe me, you’ll be sorry.’
                He let go, leaning back and stretching his arms in a relaxed manner.
                ‘So, I’ll see you later, okay? You take care now.’
                With this, he got up, patted me on the back in a show of camaraderie, then left. I heard him talking to Barbara: something about the eggs, before he left the building.
                When he’d left for good, I covered my face with my hands and laughed silently to myself. He hadn’t learnt a thing.
                But, he had left a wad of money on the table. It wasn’t as big an amount as the one I had received from Allan, but it was big enough. I took it from the table, paid my hostess for the food and the night, then made my way up to my room. It was under furnished and poorly decorated. I was greeted with outdated carpet once more and paint that had yellowed with age. I opened the dreary curtains. My window overlooked what I assumed was ‘out back’. It wasn’t much of a car park, but I didn’t doubt it’d do the job.
                I sat down on my bed. I had near enough a whole day to kill before I was to finally find out what Kristian needed me for. I sat, and I waited.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A bit of Dissertation Planning.

This post won't contain any story continuation. Instead, I am going to post up a paragraph I have just finished from my dissertation draft. As I said in my last post, my dissertation is going to be examining different cultures attitudes towards homosexuality during and after the War period. This paragraph is from the chapter focusing on Japan's cultural attitude, examining Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask as primary text. It is very much in the preliminary stages, so I apologise if it's not particularly brilliant. But, I would very much appreciate any comments. I need to know if it's any good!

The societal regulations of Japan govern the people’s behaviour and are imprinted into the Japanese culture. One of these regulations controls the individual on a personal level. Each individual must behave in a certain manner according to their age, sex and status. Yet, this behaviour isn’t fixed. A person must be able to ‘choos[e] the appropriate ‘face’ for a particular occasion [so] that one is able successfully to fulfil one’s social role in the world’ According to Hendry, this use of faces, which includes ‘different speech forms used on different occasions’, doesn’t mean that an individual will lose its individuality, rather that ‘[j]ust as tatemae is distinguished from honne, one’s real feelings or intention, behaviour in the group context may be distinguished from the individual who is acting out a role as member of the group’. However, in Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, the main character insinuates that this is not the case for himself on an individual level, rather the direct opposite. Instead of his individuality being identifiable from his face performance, Mishima clarifies ‘the mechanism of the fact that...precisely what people regarded as my true self...was a masquerade.’ (Mishima, 2007, p. 27). His self as an individual is swamped by his ‘inverted sense of social duty’ (p. 27), which requires him to switch between masquerades for different audiences: ‘I was still using the polite, feminine forms of speech at home, when at school I had begun speaking crudely like the other boys’ (p. 49). Living in such an environment and culture, where the revealing of one’s true nature or ‘honne views...incurred disapproval’ meant that there was no room for the discussion of his private thoughts, feelings or affairs. If he was to reveal his honne, it would  act as an open declaration of being different, ‘to break with the fabric of daily “normalcy” and aspire to an individualism that is totally foreign to traditional Japanese culture’. So, to ensure his acceptance within Japanese culture, Mishima was ‘firmly convinced...that I was to play my part on the stage without once ever revealing my true self’ (Mishima, 2007, p. 101). The system of faces causes the repression and closeting of his true self, preventing him from identifying himself as someone with homosexual desires, or indeed as a homosexual. So although homosexual desire is tolerated, it is only within its designated sphere. It cannot enter Japan's normal culture of repression and masquerade.

Thank you for reading! Please, do comment and judge. 
Also, the next post will be all story! Until then, enjoy these wonderful pictures:

Monday, 8 August 2011


Here is part four of my story. This section took a long time as I didn't follow my plan strictly. Well, if truth be told, I rewrote an awful lot as I just wasn't happy with it. I'm still not hugely happy with it, but it'll do. If anything, it gets us from four to five!
If you have any thoughts, please do comment!

                The door opened to a room as dimly lit as the seedy bar it had closed on. The room wasn’t huge, yet it was large enough to fit everything perfect for a male social gathering. In one corner was a dart board. Situated behind was a coffee table with two sofas either side. On the table was a chess board, next to it, a decanter of whiskey. Close to, but not directly in the middle of the room was a pool table. In the opposite corner, there was a round table surrounded by chairs. Bottles of alcohol and cigar boxes were strewn across its top. And, in the furthest corner, there was a desk. Behind it was a large leather chair. At its front: a simple wooden chair. This furthest corner added a serious touch to a room otherwise purely catering for man’s entertainment. Yet, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that the rooms main function was entertainment. After all, the door was marked ‘PRIVATE’.
                Allan further demonstrated the underlying seriousness of the room and situation by attempting to do the opposite, by attempting to make me feel comfortable: ‘Hey, make yourself at home. Sit with my fellows. Enjoy the quality cigars. Kristian and I, we shan’t be long, so make the most of this hospitality!’
                His fellows laughed at this as they took their places around the table. I acquiesced and joined them, none too awkwardly. I glanced over to the business corner, but there was nothing to see. Besides, I had my own business to attend to, in the form of a drink.
                A shot glass was slammed down in front of me and filled with a potent white tequila. I made my thanks whilst inwardly grimacing and necked it. The heat of the liquid burst through my throat and landed in my stomach. It was an unexpectedly pleasant feeling, and it brought a wicked grin to my face.
                On looking up, it came to my attention that all four pairs of eyes were staring at mine. No one else had downed their drinks. There was an awkward silence. I smiled, awkwardly, until one of the guys started to chuckle and said,
                ‘I can see now why young Kristi likes you! You down the drinks when the ladies ain’t lookin’, an’ he gets all the credit an’ lovin’!’
                The table resounded with mocking laughter. I smiled in return for this kindness and patiently waited out their mirth. After its passing, the same guy spoke again, addressing me with similar humour,
                ‘Just so you know, you don’t need to keep up none of these appearances for us! Though it does make me wonder: how the hell are you still standin’?’
                I was, by this point, beginning to feel somewhat more comfortable in this environment. I almost laughed at the guy’s jest. I almost laughed at the fact that he knew almost as little about what I did than myself. Or, should I say, what I was to do. Nothing was expected of me here. Instead, I was just the target of friendly seeming ridicule. I could handle this easily until Kristian’s return.
                Sadly, this feeling was short-lived.
                ‘Be of service...what an odd term...of service...tell me, what exactly can you do to be of service to our bosses’ little cous’? In fact, who the hell are you?’
                It was the nasal voiced character. I realised then that, of all the group, he was the only one who hadn’t laughed when the guy had cracked his jokes. He certainly wasn’t smiling now. He was staring at me with full blown suspicion and contempt. I had a hard time meeting his eye. He had every right to be suspicious. I started to question myself. Why exactly was I here? I couldn’t explain that nothing really mattered to me, that I had lost everything worth anything, that I was merely floating towards a future that I couldn’t care less about. That wasn’t his business, that wasn’t anyone’s but my own. Yet, I had to say something.
                ‘I wouldn’t use the words ‘be of service’ myself. I would like to think that I’m simply...’
                ‘What the fuck! Have you gone completely mad? Get the fuck outta here, and don’t come back until you’ve done me proud, you understand?’
                I turned to see Kristian stand up from the small, wooden chair, make his apologies, then head for the door. He motioned for me to join him. I looked around the group of faces. Every one of their eyes was now cold. I took my leave, but before I could make my exit, Allan called me over.
                I took my seat in the unimportant wooden chair. Allan nodded at the retreating Kristian. He left the room. The door closed. Despite the group at the table, it felt like it was just us two in this room. It was our private domain.
                ‘I’m sorry that I’m going to have to say this, but my cousin has been dragging you along for no good reason. He had no right to bring you here, let alone expect you to help in any of his business. It’s his to do, see. Your service won’t be required, but, take this,’
                He opened a draw in his desk and pulled out a wad of notes. He held the wad out to me. I didn’t take it.
                ‘Take it. You just keep your mouth shut, and leave him to do what he’s gotta do. You hear?’
                I took the wad and nodded my agreement. Allan smiled then. Our business was done. We shook hands, and it was over.
                Kristian was waiting outside. As soon as he saw me, he hurried through the bar without a word. I followed. I looked over at him, yet his face was unreadable. He didn’t look angry, not even hurt. If anything, he just looked purposeful.
                He pushed through the exit and out into the streets. He didn’t stop moving. We ploughed through dingy alleyways as the sky slowly lightened, revealing the promise of a new day. We eventually arrived at a derelict car park where only two cars stood: a BMW and a Honda. Kristian got into the driving seat of the BMW. I climbed into the passenger seat. We sat in silence.
                The silence lasted an amount of time. I can’t specify. It was however long Kristian decided to be absorbed in his own thoughts. Or, however long he decided to ignore his own thoughts.
                ‘I’m not gonna lie, that went pretty bad. I suppose I didn’t go about things the right way. I didn’t think about my wording. It’s always difficult to speak like someone I’m not. You see, that’s what Allan doesn’t understand, and it’s something he can’t know. He’s ashamed of me now, for what I suggested, for my suggesting you help me. But you’re going to help me, there’s simply no other way.’
                He looked across at me.
                ‘I know what Allan said to you. I know he told you to not get involved. But I’m telling you this, you have no choice.’
                With this, he whipped out a pistol from his trousers and held it against my head. He pushed it hard up against my skull, so hard I could feel the blood struggling through my veins.
                ‘So, what’s it gonna be?’
                Uncontrollably, I felt my body heave with laughter. I laughed with a gun pointed directly at my head, ready to blow my brains out. I laughed at the situation, I laughed at his gangster talk, but mostly, I laughed because he simply had no idea that I wasn’t even thinking about choice.
                ‘Kristian. In the short amount of time I’ve known you, or, should I say, that you’ve known me, you have seen what I can do. By getting off that boat with you, I agreed to help, to put into practise whatever it is that I can do. Money holds no power over me. In fact, neither does that gun. Shoot me now, that’s your choice.’
                Kristian didn’t relax his hold. The gun stayed firmly against the side of my head. But this was only brief. As quickly as he had pulled it out, the gun was tucked out of sight again. He then reached for my pocket, located the wad of money, and shoved it in the glove compartment. Without further ado, he started the engine, and we were on our way to our next destination.

Another reason why this took a while to update was because I'm currently struggling with a plan for my dissertation. When I have something worthy of sharing, I may add it to the blog. That is of course if anyone is interested in reading about Japanese cultural attitudes towards homosexuality during and after the Second World War. We shall see.

To finish with, here is a website recommendation:
It is Taka Hirose's (Feeder's bassist) website for sharing his cooking ideas. I love it. And, I hope you do too.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Furtherance.

This section uses the most spoken dialogue I think I have ever written. I've never been confident with writing dialogue, so I hope it's at least readable. At a further date I am sure I will return to this section and revise what I have written, as well as any other dialogue heavy sections. Any ideas as to how anything can be improved would be hugely appreciated.
Also, just for clarity, the writing between the two stars will be the story in each blog. If you want to avoid my ramblings, head for the stars (I'm sorry. That was terrible.)

We took a taxi through the city streets. The darkness of the night still dominated the sky, unbroken by light of either moon or stars.
Conversation between us was sparse at best. I felt that it was he that should be doing the talking. After all, it was he who needed ‘help’. And, besides, I wasn’t curious enough to delve into the matter: it was his physical self which intrigued me, not my role. We would either agree or disagree. If I agreed to help him, that’d do. My endeavours to help would undoubtedly result in our mutual gains. Yet, if I disagreed... this I wasn’t so sure about. I really didn’t know where I stood with him. All I knew was there was more than what met the eye. Should I have been worried by this? Well, maybe I should have been. But, like I’ve said before, it really didn’t matter to me.
Without learning any more about my role or his expectations, we arrived at our destination. We entered the building, which was all flashing neon lights on the outside. I didn’t notice its name; to be honest, I wasn’t  looking for one.
It was a bar. An unsophisticated, seedy bar. Serving the drinks were women of all shapes and sizes clad in barely anything. The punters surveyed their bodies from top to bottom as their drinks were poured, or more commonly stared at their breasts. The women smiled their stuck on smiles in return for being so objectified. But, saying that, it looked as if; even if only subconsciously, they enjoyed it. I suppose on some level you have to if you’re going to enter such a business.
We took a seat at the bar. He paid for both of our drinks and was quickly engaged in conversation by a bar lady. I say ‘lady’ in the loosest of terms. She was one of those remarkably skinny women, with a voice scathingly harsh and as seedy as the surrounding environment. Needless to say, I was glad to be on the fringe of the conversation.
‘Hey sugar, you’ve been ‘way long time now. Now, we all know what that means: You done somethin’ you ‘shamed of, or, you’ve gone off us pretty ladies. I can tempt you back, no?’
On finishing this speech, she stuck out her tongue and rolled her hands down her skeletal body. Some would say this was provocative. Yet, some people are wrong.
They both laughed at this, not as if it was funny, but as if it was just a normal part of their repertoire. I could believe it.
‘No, no, no such luck. I’ve been away a bit. Thinking. But I’m back for good now. I know where I’m at.’
‘Thinkin’? What you gotta think about? Nah, you lying to me. You’ve been hidin’, that’s what. Hidin’ ‘cause you gone and done somethin’ bad, real naughty bad. No need t’ tell me, I can see it all over ya face.’
She stuck her tongue out again through her garish grin and strutted away to another customer. He stared after her, his eyes sombre and reflective, then turned his attention to the drink before him. I watched him the whole time whilst keeping my own drink firmly to my lips. Why was it that he became so readable in front of her? Surely he didn’t see anything in this trash?
I didn’t have much time to muse over these thoughts. She returned after what must have been a hasty pouring of drinks. This time, he initiated their exchange.
‘I, I haven’t done anything bad. I haven’t. I just haven’t been sure if I can go through with, well, what I’m meant to do. But I know now. I’ve got to do this, so I’m going to.’
She stared directly into his eyes, almost as if she was reading his very thoughts. Reading between the lines. He looked back, wide eyed, open.
‘It’s alright, sugar. You gotta grow up now. Be a man. Do what you gotta do and you won’t look back. Then, maybe you can make a prop’r lady outta me.’
They both laughed their same laugh, only this time his was slightly tinged by bitterness. It was only then that she noticed my presence with a swift glance, maybe even a blink of the eye. And with that, she swiftly turned on heel and marched to the other side of the bar. I didn’t even begin to ponder why my presence would provoke such a reaction, and anyway, even if I was part of the reason for her leaving, I certainly wasn’t the majority.
‘Hey, if it isn’t my little cousin, Kristian! Now what brings you back here without a call or nothin’? Anyone’d think we’re not even related!’
My companion, Kristian, stood up to meet his cousin. The pair clasped each other in a manly embrace and laughed at the joviality of their meeting again, before Kristian replied with,
‘Ah, I’m sorry Allan. I just thought I’d surprise you! I’ve been thinking a long time, and I’m sorry for that too, but I’ve got good news. I’m ready.’
‘That’s terrific news, isn’t it lads?’ He turned to a group of men stood on the peripheral of the conversation, who smiled and nodded in agreement, ‘I wouldn’t have expected any less of you.’
It was at this point I realised that I had been staring at some business I evidently wasn’t part of. I turned back to the bar, pretending to be absorbed in my drink, yet this movement must have inadvertently drawn attention to myself, as a nasal voice aggressively piped up with,
‘Who’s that you’re drinkin’ with? I ain’t seen this one before .’
I was on the verge of turning back to explain myself, but fortunately Kristian got there first.
                ‘It’s someone cousin Allan should meet. ‘This one’ will be of service to me, of that I am sure.’
                I don’t know how the nasal voiced character responded to this abrupt retort, it was Allan who said,
                ‘Be of service to you? What exactly do you mean by that? Have you been talkin’ to that dumb broad again, gettin’ ideas into your head? Where is she?’
                ‘No, no you’ve gotten it all wrong cous’! We need to talk about this. Could we go out back for a minute? It’s important.’
                Allan looked at him sternly. He was a big man, powerful in more ways than one. Yet, Kristian didn’t flinch.
                ‘Yeah, sure, we can go out back. Let’s go.’
                Allan and his group of men led the way. Kristian, from near the back, motioned for me to follow. I trailed behind the others as we made our way through a door marked ‘PRIVATE’.