So. Here it is.

Let's call it, "Blog-Draft". I've blown the dust off my first drafts, and each week, I'm going to scrutinise a scene, fiddle with it a bit, and publish it in the Members section of the site. The scene will also be e-mailed to members.

Members have access to a Slack Group, as well as an audible version of these posts.

Feedback is welcomed, even encouraged. A huge part of publishing this way is to stop me being so precious about my work. If a reader finds a phrase clumsy or an emotion poorly communicated, I want to be told, so that I can improve the writing.

To misquote Eric Morecambe:

"I'm using all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order."

If you're not a member, this might be the perfect time to become one.

Below are the opening scenes - further ones will be published weekly - but only for Members.

# 1

15th December 1993

There is no application form for the Russian mafia, but if Sean signed the document on the desk, he was as good as in. If he didn’t, he was in even worse trouble.

Fiddling with the Montblanc ballpoint in his hands, he was oblivious to the painting on the wall. The pen, the furniture, the picture were not his choice, but he was already fond of them. The villa, and everything therein, was his to enjoy; as long as he played ball. He reached for the crystal tumbler, half-filled with single malt. Not even the scotch was his. Tasted good though.

# 2

6 Weeks earlier

Sean jolted awake as the wheels hit the runway. He stretched, interlocking his fingers and rolling stiff shoulders. After a nap, he felt refreshed. No ill effects from the wine at lunch, no trace of a hangover.

Passengers stood as the seatbelt signs flicked off. They pulled on sweaters, jackets or coats, bobbing and weaving, exchanging inadvertent jabs as they contorted arms into sleeves. Sean swayed clear as a student swung his backpack on. He helped an elderly man pull his carry-on from the locker. Frigid air rushed in through the opened doors, the cold banishing the musty recycled-air smell from the plane.

The fluorescent light in the arrivals hall was harsh on the tatty grey walls and floor. At the room’s end was a line of dark-stained wooden booths. Only two contained uniformed men, and each attracted a line of weary passengers, already sweating in the overheated terminal. Sean’s queue edged forward, as the border guard scrutinised each passport and its bearer. He studied the official. The man was grey. His hair, his moustache, his complexion and clothes; shades of grey. Only green epaulettes on the jacket provided any chromatic relief. Sean speculated whether the man had chosen the job because he matched the decor, or had been working there so long, he had grown to resemble the surroundings.

“Business or pleasure?”

“Both, I hope,” Sean grinned.

“Business or pleasure?” The guard repeated, annunciating each word.

“Um, business. I work with money.” Flustered.

With a final glance at Sean’s youthful photo, the guard sighed indifference and monotoned:

“Isten hozott Magyaroszágon, Mr Rutherford.”

“Ist den hot Magyar-what?”

“Welcome to Hungary.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

Sean pushed through the door, before the man changed his mind.