David’s flash fiction response to our trigger ‘Air’. He is really moving into thriller mode.
STERLING STUFF by David R Graham 09.06.16
DI Walsh stood to one side and watched as Richard Sterling stepped from beneath the portal of the Old Bailey. Flanked by police officers, the multi-billionaire was immediately mobbed by a frenzied scrum of reports and cameramen. Head and shoulders above the hoard, Sterling had a broad grin on his overfed face.
‘HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE RESULTS OF YOUR CASE, RICH?’ A reporter shouted.
Sterling presented his pudgy palms to the babbling hoard, but his eyes were on DI Walsh when he said ‘I have always had the utmost admiration, confidence, and respect for the British justice system. Under its auspices, an innocent man can take comfort in the knowledge that he will be assured a fair hearing and a fair trial. My confidence in our system has been vindicated this morning. Having been presented with the Fraud Squad’s fabricated evidence; trumped up charges, and shoddy presentation. The jury had no hesitation in returning a not guilty verdict. I am an innocent man. The guilty, were my detractors.’
As tall as Sterling, Walsh was leaner and fitter. He was also seething with anger. His anger was not so much directed at Sterling as that of his own investigation team. Some of whom – without his knowledge – had tried to fabricate evidence against the crooked tycoon. The fact that he had no prior knowledge of the illegal methods his team had employed held no water for Walsh. He was in charge of the investigation.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW, RICH! ARE YOU GOING TO SUE!?’
‘No. I’m not going to sue! What I am going to do is have my chauffeur drive me to the airport. Then I’m going to get aboard my jet, and have my pilot fly me to Naples. Then I’m going to take a boat across the bay to Marina de Capri, go aboard my yacht, put to sea, and have one big, wild, celebratory party. I could be away for at least a week!’
On cue a bottle green Bentley drew to the kerb. A uniformed chauffeur unfolded his tall frame from behind the wheel, moved with catlike assurance round the vehicle, and opened the rear passenger door. Sterling gave Walsh a cold stare, then cut his way through the throng like an icebreaker and got into the vehicle. His aide, Charlie Haines, got in the other side. ‘Were you serious about the party?’ He asked when the vehicle had joined the light traffic.
‘I was. Organise it.’ Sterling said.
Sterling looked at him.
‘There were two contingencies, Rich.’ Haines said. ‘Prison. Or party.’
Sterling looked away. ‘And what if it had been prison?’ He said.
‘You wouldn’t have wanted for anything.’
‘I would have wanted for one thing,’ Sterling said looking back. ‘Freedom.’
‘You have that now. The yacht is ready and waiting. It’s loaded with beautiful food, beautiful wines, beautiful drugs, and beautiful people.’
You can keep the drugs, Sterling said to himself. ‘Good.’ He said aloud. ‘That court made me feel dirty. I need to get out to sea and let the wind blow all that dirt away.’
The yacht in question was an eighty metre, four deck, Blohm and Voss Golden Odyssey. Sterling had christened her Sterling Stuff. She had cost him two hundred million dollars. He had another one on order for his wife’s birthday. She and her idiot friends can stay out of my hair then, he thought as he boarded the white and green liveried vessel.
His arrival was greeted by loud cheering from scores of his acquaintances, friends, business partners, well-wishers, and useful hangers on. His enemies numbers as many. Sterling didn’t care. He liked to be surrounded by the mega rich. As soon as his feet had touch the deck, the crew cast off and the vessel put to sea.
They took with them six explosive charges.
The Sterling Stuff boasted two swimming pools: a twelve metre pool on the forward sun deck, and a six metre one on the lower stern deck. There were two charges place beneath this pool: close to the steel flange that secured the prop shaft housings to the stern bulkhead. Two more charges were concealed beneath the twin engines fuel feeds. The remaining two charges were concealed behind the bridgehouse navigation and steering controls console. Each charge consisted of a battery powered travel clock circuitry wired to one hundred grams of PETN.
Sixty minutes after the Sterling Stuff had motored out to sea, the two charges in the lower deck detonated and blew away the stern. Less than a second later, the remaining four charges blew in sequence; ignited the fuel system, and destroyed the communication and navigation systems.
In accordance with the explosive sequence, the stern of the crippled vessel sank rapidly beneath the waves.
The Sterling Stuff should have sunk like a stone. But a freak wave hit the rising hull and caused the vessel to turn turtle. Trapped air belched from the vessel in a series of ever decreasing geysers. Then the Sterling Stuff settled upside down on the water.
Those revellers who had been thrown into the sea, tried vainly to scramble onto the upturned hull. Those trapped inside the stricken vessel were doomed.
One of them was Richard Sterling.
Sterling was trapped naked inside a shower cubicle in absolute darkness.
The cubicle was rapidly filling with water.
He could feel the shower head beneath his thighs.
He was upside down.
He cried out in fear.
The water was rising.
The sound of his fear terrified him.
He scrambled to his feet.
The water reached his thighs and kept on rising.
He pushed hard against the cubicle door.
But the rapidly growing water pressure was too great.
The door did not budge.
The water reached his waist.
He pressed his back to the door and his hands on the wall and pushed back with all of his considerable weight.
The door did not budge.
The water level reached his chest.
Terror threatened to overwhelm him.
He stood up straight.
The water reached his chin.
He went up on his toes.
The water reached his mouth.
He pressed his nose against the granite shower tray. I’m going to drown.
But the water stopped rising.
The upturned vessel had settled on the surface of the water.
Maybe I can hold out.
He was unable to bear his own weight.
He took a deep breath and lowered his heels.
He braced his hands against the cubicle walls, went up on his toes, and exhaled slowly.
Time and again he did the same thing.
Could he hold out until rescue arrived?
Did anyone know?
He felt dizzy and light headed. His arms and leg shook with the strain of supporting his own weight.
I’m going to die.
He thought of all that he had: all that he was leaving behind. The island, the yacht, the plane, the mansions, the houses, the apartments; the global companies and businesses, the billions of dollars, the cars, the race horses, the fine clothes, the fine food, the fine wines, the fine woman.
In his final moment, Richard Sterling thought of all he had in the world. And he knew that he would gladly give it all away in exchange for just one more mouthful of air.