Thursday, 25 August 2011

Nadia Brooks; A little bit dead.

A little bit dead - The Nadia Brooks Story

Chapter 2

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and Nadia was negotiating a roundabout on her heavily laden Vespa scooter. It wasn't the most practical vehicle for carrying bulky bags of clothing, but it was all she had and, besides, she loved it. The 125cc engine in the old Italian scooter struggled on the Yorkshire hills, especially when Nadia was coming home after a good day in the charity shops, but by applying a little elementary planning and logistical thinking, she could usually ensure that she always avoided the worst of the hills on the return leg each day.

This afternoon she had finished with her shopping trip to the various shops that accepted donations of clothes from the general public. As always, she was thankful that most people still didn't realise the potential value of some of their old clothes, although she still had to sort through a lot of bags to find anything that was good enough to make much of a profit. She was now on her way to the recycling centre, hoping to have a successful fishing trip in the clothing recycling bins.

It was when she was just about to leave the roundabout that an oxide red plumber's van cut across in front of her, forcing her into the kerb. The old scooter wobbled, then fell on it's side, rapidly coming to a halt and then stalling. Fortunately, the huge bags of clothing acted like buffers, preventing too much damage to Nadia and the scooter but, with the long scratch on the engine cowling, and the large graze on her leg, Nadia had had it for the day. She tried to swing it backward onto it's kickstand so she could restart it but, what with the scooter still being heavily laden and with her leg now beginning to hurt, it was too much for her.

'It's at times like these, I wish I'd got a van, or a car, or even a wheel barrow,' she grumbled, cursing under her breath. 'There's never anyone to help when you need someone either', she continued, feeling uncharacteristically glum.
And then it began to rain.

When you're a soaking wet 5 foot 2 inch high Goth, not many cars stop for you when you're on the side of the road. When you're also wheeling a tatty old scooter with bags of clothes ballooning out from it in all directions, not many becomes none at all. Even if you're limping and you're a girl, you're going to have next to no chance of being helped. When a open-backed pick-up shot through a puddle directly beside her, spraying her with cold muddy water, Nadia was raising her hand to give the driver a one-finger salute, when it suddenly stopped twenty yards in front of her, as though the driver was waiting. She was almost up to to the rear of the truck, when the driver leapt out, pulling a bulky yellow waterproof around himself.

'Jeez! You certainly pick your days to break down, kid. You got far to go?' The driver was tall, standing well over six feet tall, and was swarthy skinned and sported a light covering of stubble. 'I'll help you in the back with your scooter and all your stuff, and then you can sit up front with me, son.'

'Miss', Nadia protested, weakly. 'It's Miss.'

'You what, Miss, you said? Really?' Nadia's lanky rescuer looked questioningly at her, as she stood getting steadily wetter and more depressed. 'No matter, you jump in now, and I'll take care of everything.' Nadia nodded, her mood starting to lift, giving him a warm genuine smile. 'Thank you so very much,' she said, opening the passenger door and pulling herself up onto the step and into the cab. 'You've no idea how glad I am that you've stopped to help me!'

'You shouldn't say things like that, my dear,' the driver answered, getting in beside her, having made short work of stowing Nadia's things in the back of the truck. 'Some people would be likely to try to take advantage of your gratitude, with you being so thankful and that. You really ought to just say 'thank you very much' and then let the other person make the conversation after that. I'm Harry, by the way,' he said holding out a large bony hand. 'Where do you want to go, my dear? I'm going to Buslinthwaite. Is that anywhere near where you want to be?'

'I was going to Buslinthwaite too. Grimshaw Way, near the tyre wholesalers. It's a small commercial unit just opposite the office supplies lock-up.'

'I know the area. I think I may have bought a set of radials from there, one time. They weren't very good, I seem to remember.' He paused, chewing his bottom lip. 'I can take you there,' he continued. 'Can I trouble you for your name, my dear? We've a way to go, and we might as well make conversation, rather than just sit together staring at the rain.'

A few minutes later, they were passing Buslinthwaite Mere, the local reservoir, when Nadia looked across the waters and saw a familiar building with an impressive looking balcony with a full width, full height set of glass windows and doors to the rear. She shivered, momentarily, remembering the last time she'd seen it. 'Hey.' she said, what's that house over there,' waving toward it as they slowed to round a bend and then thread their way across a narrow stone bridge. Her new companion glanced in the direction she'd indicated. 'That's the Dawson place,' he said. 'Some heap big bad ju-ju about that place,' he grinned, adopting a cod-injun accent. 'The lady of the house died a few months ago. Really sad story. Got mixed up with a rock star or something and it all went south very quickly after that. There was some talk of black magic and that sort of thing. All hushed up big time.' He looked across at Nadia and tapped his nose knowingly. 'I used to do the gardening there until the widower husband closed the place up and moved away. I was told to keep it stumm but, now it's all blown over and I no longer work there, I'm guessing no-one's too bothered now, not that I know much about what went on.'

Nadia just stared at him open-mouthed. 'Better close your mouth, my dear. You'll be catching flies, if you sit like that long.' Harry turned away, concentrating on the narrow bridge ahead. 'I understand the house is up for sale still, not that they'd let reprobates like us anywhere near it. I mean, it's a 'top-dollar' property and folk like us, excusing me my dear, cause you're hardly dressed for a society ball, and with me in my dirty and rather distressed denim jeans and jacket, we hardly look like the sort of potential customers the estate agents would expect to put in a bid.'

Nadia laughed. 'No, I suppose not,' she said, starting to have an idea. 'Although I would quite like to have a look round a place like that, just to see what it's like inside.'

'Me too,' Harry agreed. 'I never got past the inside of the kitchen, when I worked there. Mrs Dawson was a stickler for keeping everything clean and in order and with me being a gardener, you know, dirt and muck are pretty much where I'm at!'
They pulled up outside the industrial unit where Nadia lived. 'I'd invite you in for a cup of tea, but the place is a mess', she smiled, thanking Harry for helping her down with the scooter and all her bags of clothes.

'Nah! No worries, my dear. I gotta be moving on any ways. Got a job to go to. Been nice talking though. Maybe see you around, sometime.'

He walked back round to the driver's door of the truck then stopped. 'Here,' he said pushing his hand into the back pocket of his jeans. 'If you need any gardening doing, give me a call.' He handed Nadia a crumpled business card that looked like it had been buried and dug up at least a couple of times. 'Mind you,' he continued, looking around, 'there's little chance of that if you live here!'

'You never know,' Nadia grinned, glad of the chance to make a new friend. 'You never know.'

It was only a couple of days later that Nadia and Harry walked briskly down Merchant Street into the Buslinthwaite branch of the Everrett and Simons' estate agency. Harry was impressively pink, looking well scrubbed and wearing an expensive grey silk suit. Nadia was dressed in a summery strapless lilac chiffon dress and was carrying an immaculate matching beaded hand bag.

'You scrub up well, Mr Harold Barker,' she said, smirking at him.

'You don't look too bad yourself, Miss Nadia Brooks', Harry replied. 'Although, I'm not sure that you look like any cousin of mine! Who'd have thought that you'd have such a collection of clothes to hand!'

Nadia smiled archly at him. 'Just don't ask me how I got them!'

'Ahem! Sir. Madam. Can I help you, please?' 'The well manicured blonde at the reception desk tried to catch their attention. 'Can I interest you in buying a property, perhaps?'

Harry looked down his nose at her, looking at her in puzzlement like he'd just been spoken to by a dog. 'No. I'm afraid not.' He peered at her name badge, quizzically. 'I think that you, Ms Sophie Palmer, need to go into the back office and fetch out your most senior, most superior manager or partner, and ask them to ask me the same question. Then, and maybe then, I might be prepared to talk business with them.'

The blonde stood up, smiling sweetly but with ice in her eyes. 'I'll go fetch Mr Watkins. He's one of the senior business partners. I'll see if he can spare you a few minutes.' She clomped aggressively up the three steps into the back office, her stilettos punching dents into the beige carpet.

A couple of minutes later, a balding harassed-looking man strode confidently down the steps with Ms Palmer close at his heels. He massaged his hands together as though he was washing them then rubbed them down the sides of his trouser legs, as if he was smoothing creases out of the material. 'Good afternoon, Sir, Madam. I'm Senior Partner James Watkins. Ms Palmer tells me that you may be interested in looking at some properties that we have available. Have you anything particular in mind that you'd like to consider, or have you a particular price range or an area in which you'd like me to show you the range of properties that we have?

'We want to look at the Dawson property,' Nadia said bluntly, coming straight to the point. 'The one beside 'The Mere'.

A sudden but quickly suppressed moment of elation swept across Watkins' face, then he looked quickly back at his colleague, making brief eye contact, then nodding sharply twice. She got the hint and then disappeared back into the office to the rear, leaving them alone.

'An excellent property, well situated but in a most private and well secluded location. It's one of our more exclusive properties and demands a special kind of buyer more able to appreciate the finer things in life but, nonetheless, I'm sure that you'll find it more than worth the paltry sum that the owner would be prepared to let it go for.' He looked appealingly at Harry, trying to engage his enthusiasm.

'We'd obviously need to spend some time looking around the property,' Harry said, looking back at him blankly. 'We need to get an idea of the ambiance, more than anything. Any physical problems can obviously be sorted out, at a cost to be deducted from the asking price, of course!'

Watkins wasn't particularly bothered about details like that at that moment. He was already thinking about how he was going to invest the commission he'd get. 'I can drive you out there right now, if you'd like, then we can discuss matters further over lunch, if that would please you. Sir? Madam?'

He looked across at Harry, waited until he got an affirmative nod then picked up his jacket from the hat stand near the door. 'If you would just follow me, please...?' He led them to a maroon Jaguar saloon parked outside and popped the locks open using his remote. 'Would Sir prefer to sit beside me or in the back with the young Miss,' he asked.

'We'd prefer to sit together,' Nadia said, bristling. 'We can talk to one another better that way.'

The estate agent was a little nonplussed by Nadia's forcefulness. 'Sir?' he said, looking across and appealing to Harry for direction.

'As the lady said,' Harry nodded.

It only took a few minutes for Watkins to realise that he wasn't going to get much conversation from Nadia and Harry. He frowned disappointedly then turned the CD player on at a low volume, choosing an album of Bach solo organ music and then humming to himself self-comfortingly. However, it didn't take long for them to reach The Mere, so he tried again. 'Have you any particular interest in this property itself, or is it just that it happens to be that it's the right sort of property at the right price in the right location?

Harry took the lead this time. 'We're particularly keen to look at this property. It's got an incredible view and it's been specifically built to take advantage of that. Aside from that, it's in a good location where it's nicely secluded but also conveniently close to both a pleasant small town and also a thriving metropolitan city. I also understand that it's well appointed inside and has a lot of attractive novel features that make it quite unique.'

The car pulled up to the electric gate and Watkins pulled a remote out of his pocket, opening the gate, which then closed behind them. 'Here we are, folks. El Casa Dawson, or maybe something more appropriate to you two, perhaps?

The driveway twisted through the small hills beneath the house, rising upwards all the time. The house was always in sight, providing a focus for them as they grew closer and closer, until they rounded the last curve and it stood there in front of them. It was an Art Moderne structure with white walls, curved lines and lots of large glass windows. The door facing the driveway was huge; constructed from chromed steel and darkened glass and hung on three massive hinges. Watkins pulled the remote out from his pocket again, and there was a loud 'clunk' as, inside the door, large heavy bolts retreated back into their sockets.

The door arced inwards, welcoming them inside as, beyond, the lights in the hall came on dimly but gradually grew in intensity until the hallway was tastefully but not overly lit.

'Sir. Madam. After you, please?'

Inside, a deep pile white carpet pulled at their feet like a heavy accumulation of newly fallen snow and Nadia felt the sudden urge to take her shoes off so that she could walk barefoot through the hallway. The hallway was huge, nearly as wide as the industrial unit Nadia lived in, and she began to realise how large the gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' really was. The lilac coloured walls were spotted irregularly with large chromed mirrors and bright tastefully chosen landscape paintings and huge framed photos of people who all seemed strangely familiar in a way that people you regularly see in glossy society magazines usually do.

'Anything I could say to describe this incredible property would be such an understatement, so I think we'd be best just walking around and, if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them.'

The next room was dominated by a huge central crystal chandelier that was complimented by a number of wall-mounted smaller cloned versions of itself. There were three opulent circular couches arranged 'just-so' but, in the centre of the room, there was a huge low smoked glass and chrome table like Nadia had never seen before, the glass being almost two inches thick. 'Wow' she said. 'You could dance on that, I'd bet!'

Watkins looked at her disapprovingly, his lips tightening. 'If that was what Madam wanted to do, I sure that you could,' he replied, totally deadpan. He sniffed audibly and looked around to find Harry, hoping to find someone that he'd consider more becoming and agreeable.

Harry was walking around slowly, taking it all in. He'd never suspected what the rest of the house was like, having only seen the modern kitchen on the rare occasions he'd been permitted into the house. This room was an eye-opener to him with it's double height ceilings and elaborate highly polished parquet floor and, with the wall shared between that and the next room being made entirely out of solid glass bricks, it was nothing like anything he'd ever seen before. 'Hmm,' he said. 'It all looks quite in order. Would the furnishings be included in the asking price?'

The estate agent looked at him coolly. 'The majority of the furniture would be included, Sir. There may be a few of the Objets D’art that are personal to the family and might be retained by Mr Dawson but, since he has now left the country, there is little likelihood that he would wish to keep anything significant. I believe that he has now set up a new home in Europe in a more contemporary style and has refurnished it accordingly. Obviously the price of the property reflects the value of the property itself and all it's contents but, I've been assured, there is nothing here that wouldn't be extremely saleable, should you wish the individualise the property to something more to your taste.'

Harry shook his head. 'It's all been so very well and tastefully decorated and furnished. There's obviously been a lot of thought and, dare I say, professional experience used to produce a unified whole. It's just perfect.'

Watkins smiled, seeming to take a degree of satisfaction from the thought that his prize property on his portfolio wouldn't be tarnished by any ill-advised and rash alterations. 'Can I direct you upstairs, please, Sir, Madam?'

The doorway led through into what was obviously the main hallway of the building, since the huge chrome and glass windows that stood either side of an even larger polished silver-metalled door formed an elaborate archway that opened directly onto the front of the house, facing The Mere below. Beyond them, a breath-taking white marble and stainless steel staircase swept up from in front of them, spiralling clockwise in an angular but still graceful curve that flowed past more elaborate chromed windows and further rooms that all seemed to hold promise of further delights. Nadia took the lead, keen to see upstairs.

The moment she grasped the volute that terminated the square sectioned handrail she felt her stomach shift suddenly, as though she'd begun to fall through a hole in the floor that had just magically appeared beneath her.

'Oh no. Oh No! Oh No!'

Harry rushed over to her, seeing her already pale face blanch even further. 'Nadia? Are you alright, hon?'

Nadia saw him hurry across toward her. She saw his mouth move; calling her name, but she felt strangely dislocated from it all. She began to see other people appearing in the hallway, vague nebulous forms that grew in solidity as the light in the hallway dimmed around her. She saw her hand change in front of her eyes, her fingers lengthening and becoming more slender and more elegantly manicured with their nails now decorated in silver and gold. She felt the room shift again as her viewpoint rose so that she was standing taller than before, looking up the stairs toward a darkly clad man who was grinning roguishly down at her.

A man that she knew.

~Martin Green/Twothirdsrasta~©

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Nadia Brooks; A little bit dead

Chapter 1

'Urrgh! Urrgh! Urrgh!' The tiny kitten cornered the terrified mouse and fell upon it hungrily.

'Tomas! Don't! Tomas! Don't! Tomas! No! No! No! NO!...Ohhh!'

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Slurp. Gobble.

'Tomas...' Disappointed, Nadia sighed and turned back to sorting through the pile of clothes.

Tomas turned away from the tiny corpse, having eaten only it's brain. He began to stumble clumsily back toward his owner.

Tomas was no ordinary kitten, having been resurrected and dug up from the garden where he'd lain dead in a shoebox for three weeks. But then again, Nadia was not your run of the mill teenager either.

Nadia ran a small on-line shop called 'Nadia Brooks; Vintage Clothing' in a small commercial unit that doubled as her home. She'd had an eventful sixteen years of life up to now, but it hadn't entirely been a happy one. She'd become an orphan only 18 months ago, had become the ward of an aunt who'd she'd hated, had subsequently run away from the new home that had never ever felt like one, and had then 'officially' disappeared. She'd struggled for months but had then 'acquired' a new identity for the price of nearly everything that she'd run away with, and had then started a new life with the virtually nothing that she'd been left with.

But she was still happy. Mostly.

She looked up at the poster that covered a large part of the wall facing her bed; Baron Samedi and the Coffin Escapees. It was a reproduction of the cover of their d├ębut and, to date, only album; the best selling 'Transient Lives' album that she had never stopped playing since she had first downloaded the demo tracks six months ago. The Baron, looking striking as always, looked as though he was going to step right out of the poster; his rumpled black top hat, dark glasses and tuxedo a counterpoint to the stark white face, open rib cage and the Death's Head cane he held. The other band members were similarly dressed but the guitarist, standing slightly behind Baron Samedi, who was called Baron La Croix, was the embodiment of sophistication, sensuality and an overall desire to enjoy all that life and death could offer. He was somewhat more stylish and crisply dressed than the others and the knowing leer on his face promised that he knew how to give and take the ultimate pleasure from every situation. This was the man that Nadia loved with all her heart and would do anything to get close to.


It was La Croix who was the powerhouse within the group, the guitarist being the principal writer of the band's songs although, technically, Samedi was the leader on-stage.

'In life we are apart, But in death we'll be together, Forever', Nadia sang, reliving that night at the illegal gig held in the old cotton mill warehouse. La Croix had been everything that the album had promised, his guitar blazing like a beacon as it had wept and screamed and coaxed and finally assaulted the ears of everyone there, leaving everyone united in a common sensuality and lust for further experiences. However, on the stand-out track on the album was 'Death Wedding', La Croix took the microphone and raised the crowd up from being a high-spirited mass of humanity into something much more; to become a single pulsing entity driven by love and life and death and tragedy and triumph and … and...

And you really had to have been there to know what it was like.

Nadia sighed.

There were three other members of the group but, for Nadia, they were just incidental and filled in the spaces in the music left by Samedi and La Croix.

At the end of the night, the band had retreated to their coach and had been driven to their hotel but, instead of disappearing into the foyer, they had spent time with the ecstatic fans who had followed them there, playing an impromptu acoustic set in the car park, and where Nadia had somehow caught the eye of La Croix. Suddenly, he'd stopped playing his trademark matt black guitar and put it down on the ground. And then he had beckoned to her, his leer and wink drawing her closer. And then she had been pushed forward by the now silent crowd. And then he had reached out to her and pulled her onto the stage, his hands cold but welcoming. And then he had kissed her, his tongue writhing between her lips. And then... bliss! Bliss like she had never known before and had never known since.

But could never forget.

For a while, everything about her life since that night had been such an anticlimax. She'd briefly toyed with the idea of suicide but the band were still together, even though they had never returned to England since that night. There was talk of another album and another tour...very soon, according to the band's website. So there was still some chance that she and La Croix could meet again...

It had been five long months since that one singular glorious night. One hundred and fifty nights of wondering and wishing and dreaming and hoping that tomorrow would bring the news she wanted...

But every morning brought with it new hope and a renewed optimism. She was just like that.

The first bag of clothes seemed to hold nothing of significance. There were some nice items, which could be washed and then resold, but nothing that 'spoke' to Nadia so that she'd want to put it away especially for herself.

Maybe the next bag would hold something special.

Nadia crossed the room, looking briefly at herself in the mirror. The darkest black hair, the tight black cupid's bow for her lips, the dark eye-liner and the pale skin was as always, but the tired look around the eyes was new.

If only she had someone special to share her life with.

She sighed and picked up a second bag of clothes. Looking through it, there was very little that looked immediately interesting. There was a couple of old party dresses that were faded and obviously past their best, there was a gentleman's suit with some dubious looking stains under the arms, there was a nice taffeta ball gown with a layered tulle skirt that was going straight into her wardrobe, and there was...

Picking up the smart looking late 1980's turquoise power suit, there was something that brought an immediate chill to Nadia. Hesitating a moment, she started to go through the pockets, looking for anything out of the ordinary that could have caused the sudden frisson she'd felt. It was in one of the inside breast pockets she found it; a fancy gold coloured circular make-up compact case with a tooled finished lid which she absently flipped open to check for any contents.

It was then that she felt a sudden falling motion as though she had just stumbled while walking. The room swam around her and then suddenly she was somewhere else...

Nadia looked around her. She was in a another room; a room that she didn't recognise. There were pastel lilac walls and a large mirror made up from a tessellation of smaller hexagonal mirrors. There was a long grey leather sofa running along three of the four walls of the room, only broken in two places where doors came into the room. There was a huge window filling the fourth wall from floor to ceiling and from corner to corner with a pair of chrome edged doors opening onto a balcony. A balcony with such a view.

She walked across to one of the doors, ignoring the balcony, but wanting to go to it to look out over the reservoir that shone like a ridged grey mirror beyond it. It was then that she realised that she had no control over her body. She opened the smoked glass door and went through into the bathroom where she saw herself...

Nadia saw a tall blonde with long lightly curled hair cascading across her shoulders, wearing a turquoise suit with exaggerated shoulder pads and piped edgings. She – or rather the woman she'd seen - opened the cabinet over the avocado coloured sink, taking out a bottle of Aspirin and unscrewing the top. She closed the cabinet and looked long and hard at herself, at the smeared lipstick and the smudged eye-shadow and the ugly dark runs of mascara that ran all the way down from her eyes to her cheeks, and then over her jaw to her neck and beyond. She tossed away the bottle's cap, cupped her hand beneath the open top and then began to pour the tablets into her palm. She raised her hand to her mouth, taking a mouthful of the chalky tablets and then gagging as she tried to swallow them.

Determined, the woman began to chew and then, finding it even harder to swallow the lumpy paste that filled her mouth, she turned on the cold tap, filling the convenient glass with the icy water that gushed into it, raising this to her lips and taking a long drink.

The tablets started to go down slowly but the lining of her throat began to contract, starting to spasm. She took another big drink from the glass, swallowing forcefully and then coughing up a wad of plaster-like debris back into the sink.

She tried again. And again. And again, her head starting to swim as the cramps began and she slid to the floor limply.

And then Nadia was back in her own room again, throwing the compact hurriedly to the floor as though it was red-hot. The mirror inside it promptly cracked into three, the pieces falling out onto the thin carpet that covered the small piece of concrete floor next to her bed.

'Urrgh, urrgh,' Tomas began to shuffle across the floor toward the compact, his kittenish curiosity still intact.

'Tomas! No,' Nadia shouted sharply, 'Don't do that!'

Minutes later. Nadia was sitting upon her bed with Tomas struggling to escape from her lap, and with the pieces of mirror safely in the waste bin. 'Tomas, you bad cat,' Nadia continued. 'You really need to be more careful. You know that you don't stop bleeding when you get cut. You just leave blood stains everywhere until I can manage to plaster it over so it can begin to heal.' She stood up again and placed him back on the floor, where Tomas quickly found his way back under her bed to where he had decided to make his lair. 'You and me, Tomas,' Nadia sighed, 'we're such a pair aren't we? What are we going to do with ourselves?'

~Martin Green/Twothirdsrasta~©