A peek at some passages from a novel I’m working on – for more check out my Patreon!

1.1 Supercar Sheikha

The tall statuesque girl stood majestically by the side of the road. A blowing shamal pressed the thin almost sheer black robe against her body, revealing her voluptuous contours, crevices and peaks and implanting a suggestion, in the minds of those that might already be predisposed to such illicit fantasies (in other words they have a dirty mind), that she was perhaps devoid of any additional garments beneath. The chiffon veil masking the lower part of her face tantalisingly stretched over a full pair of lips perfectly formed into just enough of a parted pout that it was sensual and not laughable. Between that and the billowing head scarf, all that was revealed of her face were dark jewel-like eyes shining fiercely and framed by perfectly contoured eyebrows.

Both the headscarf and the rest of her robe flapped behind her and snapped occasionally against the equally ebony bodywork of a beautiful low-slung projectile that seemed as alien in the desert environment as the woman would be in a Mormon Missionary. Rather, at this moment, she appeared to be a heavenly houri descended upon a mystical land.

The vehicle was outrageously low, sleek and bladed – sharp enough to slice through a sandstorm and rip asunder a mirage. It was of course a Lamborghini Aventador LP 770-4 SVJ. Both its scissor doors slanted up and standing open in an apparent metaphorical two-fingered salute, which could have been correctly interpreted as a singular suggestion to the world about what it could do with its rules and regulations.

The girl admirably resisted manifesting even the slightest reaction, be it of laughter, annoyance or concern (actually no, concern was never going to be enter this femme fatale’s mind) when the Toyota Yaris travelling on the other side of the dual carriageway nearly rammed into the central reservation. This occurrence, had it occurred, would have been the result of its driver momentarily losing control whilst gawping at the vision of the lady and the Lambo, but mostly the lady. Recovering from his near-miss, and even as he fought to calm a surging heart rate, he still wasn’t able to resist instantly reaching for the rear view mirror to try and realign it for one last look.

That was not to be, as the amazing recovery of his faculties was immediately rewarded with a smack in the face from a heavy fake Gucci handbag swung with remarkable force in such a small space by the amply endowed burkha-clad woman sitting beside him. Unfortunately, he was unable to execute another impressive recovery and this time the Yaris swerved in the opposite direction, ran off the road, straight into deep sand and duly embedded itself. The unrelenting onslaught of the spurious handbag continued, accompanied by distinctly fruity language.

Technically this was the first vehicular incident of this narrative (the precursor to a substantial number to ensue). Resolutely unmoved by the drama unfolding just on the periphery of her vision, the lady near the Lambo finally moved; elegantly, exquisitely, enticingly. She reached into the car, recovered a spray can and sashayed over to a road traffic sign that you, the man in the Toyota, the world wide web, and even this narrator, had not even noticed the existence of, until this moment. The woman reached up to the red-outlined roundel severely declaring the speed limit of 120kph, and with two efficient strokes, crossed it out. Instead she graffitied 350, smirked subtly to no one in particular, but the world at large, chucked away the can, slunk back into the SVJ, and slammed the door shut.

But she did not drive off. Partly because the steering wheel was on the other side of the car. Mostly because she had to get out again, retrieve the can and convene with a giggling but equally gorgeous woman, identically adorned, and focussing at this moment on her smart phone. Swiping up with her finger, she looked up at her friend and smiled in satisfaction. “Done and posted! Honey, we are going to break the internet today. Do a few more poses with the can, I’m going to get some more pictures.”

The first woman, a part-time racer and social media personality known as SupercarSheikha, reassumed her original pose, now standing closer to the road sign, spray can held aloft. Meanwhile the second girl, known online only as D-Lens, reached into the car for a DSLR. She proceeded to capture perfectly composed images of the Sheikha.

There were only unconfirmed rumours and speculation as to whether she really was a Sheikha- the female equivalent of a Sheikh, and thus identify her as being related to one of the Gulf’s numerous royal bloodlines. Most in the know agreed however that if she had been, her online persona and revealing antics would have got her exiled, if not hunted down and married off about 780,000 followers ago. The title was therefore probably fake, her reputed ability behind the wheel however was not (she’d achieved podium positions in several Porsche 911 Cup and Ferrari Challenge races at circuits across the world), and as for her beauty –was it authentic, cosmetically-created or heavily photoshopped? Who cared? She gave great Instagram.

And that was ensured by D-Lens, a film and photography graduate from Columbia of Lebanese descent, and the Sheikha’s constant companion, confidant and media guru over the last few years. She suddenly looked up from her camera, noticed an approaching vehicle and grinned so widely and cheekily her face veil nearly popped off. Her susceptibility to excitability is what usually stood her apart from the Sheikha. 

“Babe, right now I have easily got snaps that’ll secure us 100,000 likes. But you stay right there, and I promise the next shot will win the web outright!”

She raised her camera again, adjusted the settings instinctively and waited with her finger poised above the shutter. Suddenly she squeezed the button tight and let the camera’s drive fire away. It was only when she released the shutter, that the Sheikha looked across the road and noticed the Omani police Mercedes E-Class speeding along in the opposite direction.

D-Lens had just got images of her, looking sexy as hell, standing next to an Aventador, having defaced a speed sign, with a police car in the background and two gawping cops clearly visible. The picture would go on to become one of the defining images of the events about to unfold.

Meanwhile the police officers saw the women, the car, the road sign and yes, even the spray can, realised what was going on and decided that this situation demanded far more attention than the frantic man and his quarrelling wife that had called in for help having gone off the road. The two cops looked at one another and an unspoken thought was transmitted between them –“let quibbling couple dig the Yaris out by themselves”. With a gap in the central reservation coming up, the police driver slammed on the brakes, smoking up the front tyres of the Police Merc, and executed a 180 u-turn to the other side.

Far from being fearful at the patrol car now speeding towards them, the girls were laughing hysterically. They scrambled back into the Lambo, the Sheikha back at the wheel, slammed down the doors and deployed all 760bhp. Even with the momentum the police car already had, the Aventador SVJ made it look like it was going backwards as it ripped away in a cloud of dust.

The cops pursued vainly. The black Lamborghini stormed away and as the road wound up towards a mountain range, the girls encountered a lorry and immediately took advantage of the opportunity. A quick wind-down of the windows, a cheeky grin and a flash of what might or might not be beneath the abaya would get instance compliance from most men, the truck driver was no different and just grinned back inanely. The Sheikha then executed a well-practised manoeuvre. Tucking in front, she moved over onto the hard shoulder and matched speeds with the truck. The police car of course flashed right past and never saw them hiding on the other side of the truck.

Moments later, once over the mountain with a clear empty road stretching out towards an obviously vacant vanishing point, and under great duress of shame, the cops finally radioed in that they had lost the Lamborghini. It was just too fast and too far ahead. Barely had they over-and-outed, when a shockwave from the Aventador slicing past, millimetres away, at a ferocious velocity, caused the police driver to… well there’s no delicate way of putting this… soil his underwear.

He swerved frantically and the Mercedes ended up with two wheels on the sand, this sent it into a spin that finally ended with the E-Class lodged between the two legs of a large road sign. Now the officers were trapped in their own car and would have to radio in again, explain the situation and request a rescue.

Their biggest concern at that moment was that when their colleagues found them like this, they were never going to be allowed to forget this incident for the rest of their careers. Had they known better, they would have realised that this was not their biggest concern, as they were entirely unaware of the infamy they would be enduring as soon as the girls got a good data signal and posted that Million-Like picture.

The sign, incidentally, read ‘Salalah’.

……..

1.2 Boom Yaar!

The brand-new Audi RS7 snarled as it savaged the apex, as if trying to bite a section of the rumble strips right off the corner of the race track. It momentarily broke traction, some feat considering its normally unshakeable all-wheel drive grip, but the skilled driver was clearly calling upon every single one of the 591bhp available. Kicking up dust it barely lost any momentum and catapulted onto the next straight with a ferocity hard to comprehend. This all happened in slow-mo, to allow the assembled media to fully take it in. Audi’s PR director, June, was almost certain she’d detected a muffled gasp, from the normally cynical cabal of motoring journalists currently staring at the big TV monitor where this money shot of car pornography was being screened.

The assembled press was at the Dubai Autodrome for the Middle East launch event of the new beast from Audi. Claude Abelard, the regional MD stood up from the front row of chairs, turned and waved at the attendees – mostly familiar faces – and made his way to the podium on the small stage that had been set-up in one of the hospitality suites above the pit lane. As he did so the journalists, influencers, YouTubers and several advertising sales executives, who were there just to sidle up to Audi’s marketing executives (order forms in hand, hoping to secure this month’s bonus), prepared to take notes or turn on their live social media feeds.

Apart from, of course, the latter sales guys who pretended to quickly take vital phone calls about deals that would have to wait as they were ‘in a very important meeting right now,’ all in an attempt to psyche-out their rivals, who should have known that the calls were fake, but found themselves wondering who the client might be anyway.

As Claude gathered himself and looked out at the audience, with a wry smile he noticed how easy they were to tell apart. The journalists earnestly scribbled on the free Audi-branded notepads using the Audi-branded pens; the influencers frantically fiddled with their phones trying to pick the best face filters for their selfies; the YouTubers were setting up tripods and cameras; and the sales people tried to appear smarmily calm and confident as they sweated in their suits and ties and apologetically made a big show of hanging up their phones, whilst confused as to why an estate car was being launched at a race circuit.

Or rather they had been, until they had witnessed the footage on the screen. Now they were eager to have a go – after all it might be their next car if they hit their targets this year (in their dreams!), and anyway they had to show these waste-of-office-space journalists how it was done on track.

In fact, by the end of the day the tally would be journalists setting the pace in the fastest group; Influencers at the back with a couple having to be driven round as they didn’t actually have driving licences yet; one YouTuber having to be banned from the event after he turned off the traction control and kept trying to drift the four-wheel drive RS6 for his video but span out instead; and a sales guy having crashed after unintentionally confirming that no matter how stupendously effective the brakes were (even the optionally fitted carbon-ceramic brakes with huge 440mm front discs) it was fundamentally not possible to defy physics by ignoring the professional driver’s instructions and applying the anchors at the corner, rather than the braking marker.

That particular sales guy’s publishing house would not be seeing any advertising forthcoming from Audi for the foreseeable future, but the bollocking from his manager would have to wait till he’d gone home and had a lie-down to recover from his now frayed nerves.

Back to the present moment, Abelard had completed his welcoming preamble and quickly bloviated through the company’s last quarter sales performance arriving at his favourite bit – introducing the RS6.

“They say estate cars are passé, they claim V8s are outdated, they believe brutish performance is vulgar, and they insist no one is interested anymore. From your reactions just now, one thing I see is confirmed, ‘they’ are wrong!” and then the short dramatic pause just as June had instructed him – one-potato, two-potato… (Why were the British always so obsessed with potatoes? This question suddenly popped into the German executive’s head and he almost lost count, but quickly regained his composure) …three potato…

He started up again, allowing his voice to rise to a bellowing crescendo “Esteemed guests and members of the media, I introduce to you…” Just as June was about to give the nod for the curtains to be drawn back to reveal the car, Vikram Prithvi (Vicky to his friends… in fact to everyone really, as he didn’t like confrontation and never wanted to tell anyone that he didn’t actually like ‘Vicky’ as that’s what his abusive uncle used to call him) barged in and immediately knocked over the registration desk.

“Sorry, sorry! Oh so sorry about that!” He quickly reached down and blindly grabbed a lanyard and badged, slinging it around his neck – it read “Vanessa”. Being on the rotund side of mildly masculine, Vicky was already out of breath. He still managed to move with surprising alacrity though, causing several of the YouTubers to frantically recover their tripods and equipment from the aisle. He almost stopped dead for a moment when he noticed June’s stern stare and simultaneously realised that Claude was frozen mid-sentence, hand still up in the air, pointing to the still tightly drawn curtains behind him.

At last he spotted his best friend Jawad Jamshed Mukarram waving him over. JJ (as he insisted everyone call him – he absolutely hated his real name!) was in the second row, he was grinning broadly beneath his thick bushy moustache and pointing to the seat next to him, which he had reserved for Vicky with his satchel. Having located JJ, Vicky continued to gesture non-verbal apologies to, it seemed, every one of the Audi personnel present, and of course managed to trip up the last tripod before shuffling along the row. The owner of that tripod was relatively new to the game and not aware of the impending danger of a Vicky in full flight.

JJ couldn’t help suppressing a giggle, he loved Vicky like a brother, and just like a brother, boy could he be infuriating. But right now, Vicky’s ability to put a spanner in the works of the perfectly choreographed PR event and causing utter chaos, was a welcome respite from the seriousness of it all. And whilst he clearly detected the annoyance emanating from some of their esteemed media colleagues, JJ himself was loving it. And it was about to get even better.

Vicky plonked down on the chair so hard that it moved backwards. Being a little tightly packed, the journalist behind instantly regretted his decision to caress a cup of tea for the duration and was now frantically searching for a napkin or two or several. A few were located, but not a sufficient quantity by any means, and for the rest of the day he would be walking around with a brown patch on the front of his tan chinos, having to fake-laugh at the repeated jokes and jibes.

Vicky had turned to apologise again. “Sorry Nick, so sorry!” and then back the other way “Mr Claude, I am so very sorry to interrupt, please, please continue!”

Despite this acquiescence, as Vicky wiped the sweat from his brow, he proceeded to, rather too loudly, present his excuses for the tardiness to JJ: ‘Yar, Preeti couldn’t get off work, Deepti was throwing tantrums, and Vijay was trying to eat Dolman!’

JJ, along with most of the people in the hall, stared at Vicky in a variety of expressions ranging from surprise, to amusement to abject horror at the implied familial cannibalism. “Hang on,” interjected JJ, “I know all your children – which one is Dolman?”

“Dolman is the hamster!” A collective sigh of relief permeated the hall. “Sorry, sorry, WAS the hamster!” exclaimed Vicky helplessly. The momentary relief in the hall was now quickly followed up with a gasp – the second of the morning, which must have beensome kind of record thought June and made a note of it for her event report later. JJ looked appalled, so did Claude, but realising he was still holding his hand in the air, and beginning to feel a pang of pain ascending to his shoulder, the MD quickly recovered his composure and remembered that he had, in fact, been given permission to continue.

“Gentlemen, we are all very sorry to hear about Dolman, and perhaps we can have a moment’s silence for the poor animal at the end of this presentation, but if you don’t mind Vicky, may I proceed?”

“Oh sorry, sorry, please do Sir!” responded a bashful Vicky.

June quickly gave the nod, the music rose to a crescendo, the curtain parted and there was the new Audi. “I introduce to you,” continued Claude at last, “the new Audi RS6. A sensible executive estate car on steroids and then some. It hits 100kph from rest in 3.6 seconds and achieves up to 305kph without the limiter. It’s the supercar dressed as a family car, it is the ultimate Q-car! Oh and by the way, it’s a mild hybrid too!’

Suddenly JJ and Vicky swung around to face each other. “Ultimate Q Car!”exclaimed JJ. “305mph!” added Vicky. “Maybe the hybrid might give it a longer fuel range too,” pondered JJ. “Not with us driving it won’t,” replied Vicky laughing. JJ giggled back “true, but you’re thinking what I’m thinking right?”. “Oh yes JJ, this could be the one.” Vicky confirmed. By now completely caught up in the moment, and psyched enough to have become completely oblivious to their surroundings, they high-fived each other and shouted “Boom Yar!”.

Not for the first, or even last time that day, JJ and Vicky had become the centre of attention, not entirely wanted or courted, especially as it involved not only June’s sternest stare (measuring a full 10 on the annoyed PR Richter scale) and Claude shaking his head whilst tearing up his speech, but also the numerous live feeds now pointing in their direction.

JJ realised that this might not be entirely conducive to keeping their secret plan secret, so quickly fell quiet and put a finger to his lips, indicating to Vicky that it was time to shtum up. Vicky smiled back, winked like he was in a pantomime and they both sat down. Then Vicky sprang up again, his chair falling back against Nick again and spilling whatever was left his now tepid tea. “Hey don’t forget to tag us!” Vicky called out to everyone.

…….

1.3 Not Bond’s Todger

Four-Finger Freddy was named thus on account of the simple fact that he did indeed only have four fingers. The missing digit had not been lost in any kind of unfortunate accident but had been forcibly removed by a mob-boss he had worked for in the 90s. The gangster had felt he had been slighted by a perceived act of disobedience on Freddy’s part – something Freddy didn’t much like to talk about anymore…

To read more – head over to Patreon.com/ShahzadSheikh

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