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Songs Of Bliss



Songs of Bliss

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Just how far will a father go to protect his daughter, especially when his 'protection' is so fundamentally flawed?

Billy Whitlow, one time "Don of Doo Wop", has survived his days of drink, drugs and groupies, settling now into a more peaceful life centred on his blossoming seventeen year old daughter Bex. Revising for her 'A' Levels, Bex visits Billy one Easter but the longed-for simplicity of father-daughter happiness is shattered one night in a local nightclub.

Billy's world becomes one of questions; Why is his daughter in a drug induced coma? Who put her in that state? How in the name of Hell is he going to make them pay?


Why Was I Born?

Three men sit in silence. No conversation. The Lexus hums quietly. The only other audible sound is the rumble of rubber on tarmac. Ken McCoist, driving, manoeuvres the car to avoid potholes and sunken drain covers. White lining. Jock Cascarino sits in the back.
They pass a mock Gothic bus stop at Fairy Cross, heading out towards Hartland peninsula. Jock stares straight ahead, letting the soft digital glow from the dashboard wash through his thoughts. There's nothing worth looking at through the side windows. The North Devon Expressway is, for the most part, unlit. Trees line the road. The ghostly shapes of cream rendered houses flash by. Devon is a rural county, spread wide and thin. Jock hates the great outdoors.
The car speeds along the winding road, dipping down into a hard right at The Hoops Inn and on through Bucks Cross, ignoring the speed limit, lurching slightly on a tight left-hand bend. On the right, lit up and festooned in banners, Bideford Bay Holiday Park announces yet another sale of chalets and static caravans. Jock's meditation is broken.
"Have you phoned ahead?" he asks.
"Aye, he's ready", replies Davie from the front passenger seat.
"Good. Did you make the deliveries like he asked?"
"Oh, aye, picked up three on Friday night. They should be tucked up safely by now".
Jock moves to the centre of the rear bench seat, sitting forward so that he can look through the windscreen. The car takes a series of sharp curves. Ahead the lights of Clovelly Cross stand out in the darkness. A couple of miles to go.
"The good doctor seems to be settling in," he says, and chuckles. The brothers McCoist chuckle too.
Jock considers the workings of providence and finds that all is well with the world. The good Lord is in his heaven and the good doctor is on the farm. A perfect combination. Jock runs through the story again, scarcely able to believe his luck.
The good doctor is a refugee, but not of the political kind. True, thinks Jock, he'd qualify. There’s every likelihood he’d be tortured and killed by his own government, but then again, he's as likely to be tortured and killed by his old friends. And now he's mine, and, for the moment, I choose life.
Arbnor Jasari is on the run. Arbnor Jasari is valuable. Arbnor Jasari is known locally as the good Doctor Albania.
Ken McCoist sends the Lexus barrelling down a narrow lane, spraying loose chippings into the hedgerows. This spindle thin thoroughfare is the main route into the ancient market town of Hartland, now nothing more than a large village. Lundy can usually be seen from this road during the day if the mists and the rain keep away, but it's pitch black now.
Full beam on the headlights announces their arrival even though there's still half a mile to go. The farm sits on a gentle down slope that has been scoured by Atlantic squalls for centuries. The trees are twisted, pushing their branches out towards the south-west in the direction of the prevailing wind. The rain when it falls, which it does more often than not, is almost horizontal.
The farm. The old Sillick place. Built in the late nineteenth century by a fanatical gentleman farmer as a model of classical Victorian modernity, adorned with brick arches and eagle topped buttresses, the farm is a wreck. Jock bought the place six years ago, one of his first ventures in the property market, but the sheer cost and scale of the renovation work means it will stay derelict. It keeps the tourists away. Jock has other plans for the place now, anyway.
The site consists of a large, seven bed farmhouse, part of which has been made habitable again, and a range of huge, stone built barns, each one of which has walls three feet thick. The Sillicks raised pigs and the remains of sties decay in the winter gales. Abandoned machinery, seized solid with rust, litters the courtyard around which the barns are arranged. The house is in darkness. Doctor Jasari prefers to sleep where he works.
"I hate this place", says Jock as the car bumps down an unmade track, passes the old farmhouse and pulls into the courtyard. "Fucking albatross. A licence to burn money. Did I tell you about the Sillicks. Mad as hatters. The old man lost an arm in a combine. Could still knock seven shades of shit out of his boys and the wife, though. She, so they say, ran off with another woman. Can’t say I blame her. When the old man died the brothers took to drink. I bought the place for a hundred and forty grand, lock stock and barrel. Reminds me of Glasgow after the ships went to Korea. Fucked."
The walls, which should be rendered, show salt leached brickwork in huge, naked patches. Window frames rot. Doors hang loose. To the left of the car is the old dairy, a two-storey stone megalith just like the barns. At first glance, it too looks like a shell, like a skeletal memory, but the car headlights reveal solid metal doors and steel shutters on the windows. From the upper floor a thin sliver of electric light can be seen where one of the shutters has warped slightly. Doctor Albania is at home.

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