Authors: Michael J Gill
The Whisky Affair
Michael J. Gill
Copyright © 2014 Michael J. Gill
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or a portion thereof, in any form except for the use of brief quotations in articles or reviews. This book may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.
This is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, distilleries or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
Cover Art Design: Hot Damn Designs
E-book formatter: Lucinda Campbell
Editor: Pat Thomas
For all my friends and colleagues in the whisky industry. A big thank you. We are a special family indeed.
And, as always, for my wife, Debra.
SMITH AND CARRINGTON SERIES
Tight Spiral released in 2014
Double Option for release in 2015
RAYMOND ARMSTRONG SERIES
Mystery & Suspense
COMING IN OCTOBER 2015
The Shackleton Affair
Former MI6 operative Raymond Armstrong is approached by a colleague to help investigate a curious robbery. Only a rare scotch whisky, jewellery and one masonic item were taken.
A series of incidents leads Raymond back to his ex-employer, who strongly advise him to drop the inquiry. Raymond suspects the British government have a secret department within the national archives that is protecting sensitive historic facts. Raymond is convinced the masonic piece is a direct connection to Sir Ernest Shackleton, the heroic explorer and Queen Alexandra of Great Britain.
The discovery of more whisky from Shackleton’s
expedition, followed by two more thefts, brings the story to a climatic game of cat & mouse between Raymond and the thief. Meanwhile, MI6 are watching Raymond’s every move, as he gets closer to unravelling a cover up the government have kept secret for over one hundred years.
Isle of Bute – Western Scotland
Gordon Reid pulled up his jacket collar against the cold spring breeze blowing in from the east – typical for this time of year. The wind direction was a clear indication that the ocean winds would drop the temperature into single digits – a reminder to all on the Island that summer was still a way off. He approached the hotel, weighted down by troubles.
Today should have been one of the best in his life. Instead, it had been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Partly to blame was the chaos following the unexpected announcement by the press, the champagne lunch for all his staff, his daughter Louisa’s presence at his side and the absence of his son, James, who was nowhere to be found. Off somewhere sulking, more than likely. Today, Gordon should have been shouting his success from the rooftops instead of feeling this sense of impending doom. His dream had been fulfilled; all his hard work had paid off. The Isle of Bute Distillery was finally going global. Their 12-year-old single malt whisky would be enjoyed around the world.
If only his son would stop being such a twit. His latest escapade could be the last straw. After the champagne lunch, Gordon had argued with James behind closed doors. How could James have accumulated such debt and put the distillery’s future in jeopardy? All Gordon had ever wanted was a family run business with his daughter and son by his side. Now, he had no choice but to meet with the sleazy solicitor from the mainland. Tonight, face to face, Gordon would give the weasel his final answer. Then he would find an alternative solution to this problem.
They had arranged to meet at Ghillies, a small wine bar, part of the hotel that overlooked the high street. He paused at the entrance to the lobby and peered in. Though they’d never met, Gordon quickly located the solicitor in the corner of the bar, seated at a table for two. He knew almost everyone on the Island, and the man’s shabby suit gave him away as not local.
He entered the bar, ordered a beer and walked over to the corner table. Gordon had checked out the firm and uncovered its dubious reputation. He refused to meet them at their offices on the mainland as they requested. The short balding man stood and thanked him for coming. He offered his hand to Gordon…
Gordon ignored the gesture.
The disgruntled solicitor from the small Glasgow law firm came to the point quickly.
From a brown file, he produced documents with an accounting of the huge debt amassed by Gordon’s son. He explained each item in detail, making sure Gordon understood. “If my client cannot persuade you to do this their way, the alternatives will cause you and your distillery even more problems,” he warned, his fleshy chin jiggling.
“The legal ratifications, the bad press… You don’t want this, Mr. Reid. Your distillery does not need this PR nightmare, especially on the tails of your success today,” he repeated. Gordon was unfamiliar with the state laws in the USA, which were now being explained to him by the seedy solicitor from Glasgow.
Gordon stopped listening to the solicitor. He was frustrated beyond belief – his thoughts were scattered with images of his son and hard to tie down. He knew now that James had been given too much responsibility in the company, too soon. Gordon gazed around the pub, while the solicitor became more agitated, his words becoming just a distant mumble to Gordon. Gordon’s gaze slid to another stranger who entered the bar. He watched while the stranger sat on the nearest bar stool to their table. The man quietly ordered a scotch on the rocks. He wore a black turtleneck under a black leather jacket, top rack denim jeans and Italian shoes – not a local for sure with those shoes… Gordon dragged his attention back to the solicitor.
“Under state law, Mr. Reid, my clients have the right to demand the full payment and in the past have successfully recouped other losses, regardless of where the debtor resided. What I’m offering is a good deal that will prevent all the fuss, bad press and personal heartache – I urge you to sign these papers.”
“Over my dead body,” Gordon finally said, standing and buttoning up his jacket. His heart pounded in his chest yet he maintained a calm appearance. “Please do not call me again.” He turned his back on the sputtering solicitor and exited the bar.
Gordon walked outside into a stronger, colder wind than when he had entered the bar thirty minutes earlier. Damn weather is so unpredictable. I should have brought a warmer jacket. As he turned to head toward his home, a voice come out of nowhere.
“Mr. Reid, good evening.”
Gordon looked in the general direction of the voice. “Do I know you?” he asked staring into the shadows.
“You certainly do not want to know me,” said the stranger who reached out of the darkness and grabbed the lapels on Gordon’s jacket so tightly that Gordon couldn’t breathe. The man pulled Gordon into the alcove by the entrance to a large shop that closed hours earlier, leaving the small area dark and secluded. In fact, the entire high street was eerily quiet.
Gordon’s mouth went dry and his pulse started racing as he felt the menacing power of this muscular, much younger man.
“W-what do you w-want?”
The stranger came in closer, his sharp green eyes piercing Gordon. He moved a toothpick and a large mint from side to side in his mouth. Without warning, he crunched the mint, causing a cracking sound, followed by an evil smile – the smile, so sinister it put Gordon on edge.
Gordon knew, with a sinking heart, that this stranger was enjoying this encounter immensely and though Gordon wanted to put a bold face on things, he couldn’t stop shaking.
“I will give you fourteen days to sign the papers. If you don’t, I will return to your precious island and kill you. I’ll then go to work on your daughter.”
Gordon, appalled his daughter had been drawn in, stumbled against the wall as the stranger’s grip relaxed, before he could plead for his daughter, the man turned and moved away without so much as a backward glance.
Raymond Armstrong sat in his office, wondering what new assignment would come his way. His work was caught up and he found the peace and quiet quite odd. With a sense of restlessness, he picked up a file he’d closed the week before.
His last assignment was for Ben Shannon, his top client. A painting had been stolen from a very secure estate of one of Ben Shannon’s closet friends. Raymond was contacted after all normal methods of tracking and recovery had failed. The thieves had wanted to move on the painting quickly and Raymond posed as a buyer to recover it – involving some danger to himself, which he thoroughly enjoyed. The close calls brought back memories of another time in his life – one he’d given up, perhaps too early and too easily.
He started the company – Heritage & More, three years ago after retiring from the only employer he’d known his entire career – the British Government. He’d served Queen and country as an MI6 operative though they called him an ‘analyst’ in the London office. Some called him an unsung hero; he didn’t feel like a hero. Yes, it involved a bit of cloak and dagger, but mainly his job had been to break down the chatter on the networks. He had been sent on a few trips to exotic locations but usually he was sent to the armpits of the universe to do special recon and surveillance work. He’d been stuck in a small room with only a fan and a bank of computers to keep him company.
When he retired, a close friend asked him to complete a family tree research project. Raymond used his researching, computer, and writing skills to dig out the cold facts and then he set about embellishing their family story somewhat. He presented a 30,000-word novel-style book and, using a new software program, he developed an eye-catching cover especially for the book. Raymond loved to spice up any and all romance angles. He’d been pleased when the teenage twin daughters of the family exclaimed their family story was truly amazing – that they had no idea their great-granddad had been such a stud.
Although somewhat satisfied by the genealogy research, there were many times Raymond still craved that rush he experienced working with M16. Finally, a few of Raymond’s contacts from the past began to ask him to check out certain details in sensitive areas of their corporate dealings – everything from background checks, to internal security analysis, corporate espionage, and getting the dope on shady transactions.
Ben Shannon, an influential client, kept him busy, and referred to Raymond as his ‘corporate genie.’ Raymond worked discreetly to perform his magic. In effect, the genealogy company became a façade for the work that gave him more satisfaction.
Raymond used his many contacts and relationships from his previous career to achieve success. Thanks to all the industry friends he had gathered over the years; he was known as the best genie in the business. ‘Information is golden – the number one currency in the world’ was his motto and it worked for him. He provided clients with the best information possible to explore every angle in corporate negotiations – and to exploit competitors’ weaknesses. The more dirt Raymond provided, the quicker a potential merger became an acquisition for another satisfied client.
“So I need to call some contacts to scrounge up some work – or take a break… Maybe take a holiday,” he said to himself as he picked up a paperweight from his desk.
His office overlooked the train station and at that moment, a train was leaving Platform One. On time for a change, Raymond thought.
His offices and cottage were part of the renovated station buildings. He’d loved trains as a kid; an interest he shared with his best friend, Gordon. Even now, trains and visiting train yards gave Raymond comfort and with people milling around him, it provided a kind of break from isolation when he worked on the sensitive files that arrived on a regular basis.
He was surprised, and a little disappointed when he moved into the property, that the whole area was subdued and quiet. The electric commuter trains made very little noise these days and it was not a busy station. Luckily, it was only a five-minute walk from the office to the center of historic Stamford with its friendly restaurants and bars.
He paced around the office, thinking about how to keep himself busy. A competitive game of golf would do it, but golf was miserable this time of year and with all the rain… An alternative was his interest in whisky but they had already held their monthly whisky club tasting… What to do? Raymond went to his personal computer and browsed the daily news, clicked on his favorite sites. He scrolled through several and glanced at blogs of interest but things were uncommonly quiet in the world. He moved to his favorite whisky news website and as he read the first headline his mood lightened along with the day. He read the article with interest: