Twelve-Step Fandango

Twelve-Step Fandango

by Chris Haslam


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Martin Brock is living a wasted life. He wants to be happy. He wants to have a girlfriend who can stand to be near him. He wants his friends to respect him. Burned out and self-deluded, he takes each day as it comes, dealing low-quality cocaine to tourists, his head in a perpetual cloud of pot smoke. Martin knows he's in a rut, but he lacks the will to dig himself out. Incapable of changing his life, he hopes instead that one day something momentous will simply fall into his lap.

And, one day, it does. An old friend rides into town, unannounced and uninvited, needing a place to lie low for a couple of days. He says he's been in a motorcycle accident, and hides a badly infected leg beneath his expensive leathers. Martin almost cares, but he's far more interested in what's concealed beneath the seat of the bike: five kilos of high-grade cocaine. Suddenly Martin has the means to escape his miserable existence: all he needs is a little time and a lot of luck. But Martin Brock is not a lucky man. He's spent years dreaming of a life of ease, a life of plenty, and a life of unlimited narcotics. By the end of the week, he'll settle for any life at all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060585396
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/16/2004
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Chris Haslam has himself faced life-or-death scrapes on three continents and seen the world through the eyes of a firearms instructor, an ironworker, and a ski guide. His travels took him to southern Spain for a couple of years, although he now lives and works in London.

Read an Excerpt

Twelve-Step Fandango

By Haslam, Chris

Dark Alley

ISBN: 0060585390

Chapter One

Luisa was scratching mad, bouncing around the flaking kitchen like a tarnished pinball, lifting lids, sweeping stuff from shelves and seeping every surface for the legendary lost wrap, that mythical forgotten line. She cursed the Spanish in German, the Germans in Spanish, and everyone else in the most universally understood monosyllable after 'Coke'. She couldn't believe this place. She couldn't believe me, and she couldn't believe that there wasn't just one little rainy-day wrap stashed somewhere among our tattered belongings.

'Bastardos,' she spat, 'coños', shaking her scraped-back ponytail as she fumbled furiously through the pockets of a pair of my dirty jeans.

'Scheisse!' She hurled the ragged Wranglers against the crumbling wall and turned her desperation to me. I'd been trying to ignore her, head down in last June's Marie Claire, but now I realised that I'd have been better off nipping round to Dieter's Place as soon as she started pacing the room.

'You sure you have nothing?' she hissed, pushing her fringe back from her brown face and scaring me with her haunted eyes. If I had been keeping a little back, then I might even have given her half having seen the pain and frustration in those bloodshot eyes, but I had nothing, nada, so she would just have to wait. It wouldn't kill her. Not yet. Me, I could always scrounge a line or two from Theo, but Luisa didn't get along so well with people these days and would have been hard pushed to find anybody willing to cut her a share of their stash.

She sniffed. 'What about Theo?'

I stared at her like a lamped rabbit, deeply alarmed at my apparent inability to tell the difference between thought and expression.

'What?' I spluttered. 'Who?' I scratched my scalp to hide my eyes, but she had already seen the gleam of guilt.

'What about Theo?' she repeated slowly, almost patiently. 'He always saves a bit.'

'Not this time.' I shook my head emphatically and stared at the floor. 'I asked him last night. He's completely out.'

'Go and ask him again. Tell him you'll give him back double -- uncut -- and bring it straight back here.' Her eyes were alight now, burning with the optimism kindled when her quest began.

'Go now!' she urged, pushing me towards the blanket that hung across our doorway. I shuffled along with her -- I wasn't going to argue. I told her that I would try my luck elsewhere if Theo had nothing. That would give me more time.

Every time I stepped outside I wished I hadn't sold my shades. The late-afternoon sun was like the core of an arc welder's flame, scorching the whitewashed walls and searing the shiny tin cans we used as flowerpots. A sidewalk of shadow lay slowly widening across the strip of rocky dirt that ran between the houses and, blinking out my blindness, I stumbled along in its shade. A left turn down a Darrow alley took me past another row of tiny medieval hovels built more for security than comfort by a long-displaced people. Everyone should have a castle to run to in times of danger, and this one had provided shelter for the past eleven hundred years. Its position atop a plug of rock high above the farmland of coastal Andalusia assured its continuity as a sanctuary -- only the refugees had changed.

Out in the empty square there was no shade but for the slowly turning finger of shadow extending from the base of the tower. Once, this parched and dusty quadrangle was the centre of castle life, the place where the ambulantes, the wandering salesmen, would have knocked out their stuff to the honest occupants of the village within the walls. Out here in the square is where disputes would have been settled, taxes exacted, declarations made, beneath shades and awnings of Moorish design stretched from roofs and balconies, tributes paid, whatever -- all that El Cid stuff. I did some mandragora root one day a couple of years ago and wobbled up onto the walls, walking around like a stoned sentry, looking down into the square and across the campo. Mandragora can be risky stuff to put in your tea, but sometimes it's worth the stomach-tearing abdominal pains and the long, dark depressions that can follow a trip. This had been one of those times, for as I patrolled the perimeter, surveying the wide, sunburned fields of the Guadarranque Valley on the one side, and the narrow, bone-dry streets of the castle on the other, I saw it all in Hollywood Retrovision, and it wasn't so different. The people I had met in the thirteenth century were the same as those whom I encountered today in the streets and plazas of the villages at the foot of the mountain. Same faces, same language, same gossip, same goats and same burros. It was all a bit disappointing, especially since I had been looking forward to one of those Jim Morrison-type flashbacks in which I soared over Moorish Andalusia as the untamed eagle spirit of a warrior king.

The brown-eyed descendants of those busy ghosts would have been living here now had it not been for the lure of the cosy self-contained flats and maisonettes that had been built down there in the valley. I had once read that the diminishing population of goatherds and grandmothers still living in the castle in the fifties were evicted from their ancient homes and moved to the new town in the valley as punishment for their participation in acts of socialist-anarchist resistance during the war years. It was said that the castle proved to be such a thorn in the side of the railway track that runs through the valley that upon its bloody subjugation by a brutally superior nationalist force, it was declared a forbidden zone and forcibly depopulated. That was probably true of somewhere, but not here. Up here theres no running water ...


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