She arrived early to survey the territory and to select the best seat; she needed an easy means of escape. Clearly, the proprietor’s staff had no idea what to expect: the booking had been made in an unusual name, something not easy to pronounce. Was it a code? What on earth could be happening in that private room?
She unpacked her things and started to set up the table at one end. As people arrived she heard voices and footsteps and looked up each time. But no one seen through the glass was one of her targets for that day; they were simply there, potential witnesses. She carefully hid the two-bladed (and not very sharp) metal implement between the pages of her Directory of Members within a plastic wallet and put it within easy reach. She checked for a mobile phone signal and discovered there wasn’t one. She smiled. There was no easy access to the emergency services underneath the arches of this railway station, one of London’s busiest.
Eventually her anticipated companions started to arrive in the small and air-limited room. First was the bigwig, the director of operations. They had things to discuss, other peripheral but important matters, and they got stuck in, oblivious to any other activity outside.
Then came the newbie, the one who has about to change the dynamics of the workings of this little group’s purpose-for-being. A warm welcome produced a small wave of relaxation in the room until the arrival of the independent, all-seeing, all-listening, evidence gatherer. Why was he pulling two suitcases? What could be in them? Cash for bribes?
But no, as soon as the last participant took his seat all became clear when Mr Indie explained to all that his two kids were to blame for all the baggage and that a budget was in fact in place for the next few hours’ activities.
Across the table, notes and notebooks were pulled out by all. But she had something bigger in place at her end and she continued with her specialist assembly now all the bodies were in place. On top of the books piled to create a visible platform stage she added her aide-mémoires to the surface in an organised and statistical fashion. This was pure Cowell-inspired, like X-Factor or BGT, but without the glitzy graphics and searing lights.
Then, she distributed plain paper to those who had not come fully prepared for the first task. (There’s always one and in this case there were two.) No one remarked that it was like Blue Peter for adults but with the potential for a sinister turn. But then, all were reviewing the menu and making decisions on the refreshments needed to fortify their essential activities.
Before any significant discussion commenced, orders were conveyed to the proprietor’s staff. In keeping with the occasion, that sinister turn started to materialise when it all went a bit Hannibal Lecter: offal was ordered by more than one at the table. Disappointingly, there were no fava beans available and the collected five proved to be wimps when they shunned a decent Chianti for a tongue-zinging Sancerre or simple soft drinks.
And then it was time.
Then, and only then, could the Really Big Decision start to be addressed.
To invoke a cliché (for the first phrase only, to be really clear here): the tension in the room was palpable until a bromance developed at the testosterone-fuelled end of the table. (Note to all: start a game of ‘Guess the Age’ and knock five years off your main opponent’s to create a ‘new best friend’ more instantly than you can say ‘Yay’.)
The discussions continued with no obvious sides taken and with Mr Indie having an easy ride and then…
*Now wait a mo, if you please.*
About two hours later, give or take about forty minutes each way – yes, it is a cheat but stick with it as these things are CONFIDENTIAL – the RBD had been achieved.
It did not disappoint, but on this occasion for unanticipated reasons. It was a profound session indeed. It produced heartfelt outpourings of pitching and tear-inducing backdowns for all the right reasons when challenges were met with logical counter-challenges. Forget bigwig’s official title as ‘director of operations’ and elevate to ‘smooth operator’. Mr Last’s last year was one with a cracking dénouement worthy of a Queen’s Honour for services rendered. Mr Newbie proved to be such an essential contribution of added value he is now firmly installed as the group’s spine, for they cannot stand without him. Mr Indie proved so popular someone had to declare ‘We have to let him go now; he has a train to catch!’ (That may be interpreted as a result of Mr Indie actually paying the bill, but the fly on the wall persuades us there was far more to it.)
And ‘she’, what of ‘she’?
Well, there had been no need in the end for the not-so-sharp blades; no need to see an arterial spray arc across the room to achieve her goals. It had all been rather amicable in debate. Slightly stunned, she packed away her treasured vintage scissors for another day and then joined Mr Newbie on a visit to Goldsboro Books. There, that terror of the publishing world, David Headley was embroiled in an online book auction. But he still gathered the smarts to ask, at least four times, ‘So who’s your winner then?’ He even tried the added saccharine option of ‘I’m a judge too’. ‘But not for this award, boyo,’ she replied in other uncertain terms, adding ‘We’ve been here before and I know your form. You’re getting nothing out of me. Or him.’
For the next episode of UK’s CWA Daggers 2012, keep your eyes peeled on twitter on July 5 for there is a ceremony in London for the awarding of quite a few of them. At this event the longlists will also be announced for the Gold, Steel (thriller) and John Creasey (New Blood) Daggers – these three will be awarded later in the year, October, at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards Ceremony and televised on ITV3.
And if you can’t wait for July 5 for your bit of crimefickery and you’re in London on July 3 do get yourself a ticket to Crime in the Court at Goldsboro Books – absolutely loads of crime authors in attendance, but no inside info on the Daggers.