The Trouble with Paradise preview

book preview of The Trouble with Paradise


 


PAPERBACK
BOOKS
THE
TROUBLE WITH PARADISE 

the trouble with paradise

When a multi national company
infiltrates the idyllic island of Menia in the South Pacific, conflict with the
landowners brings murder, lust, greed and intrigue into this compelling novel.

The culture of the South Pacific
nations features heavily throughout the story as the Menian Government takes
deliberate and forceful steps to oust the invaders from their island nation.

This is a work of fiction that draws similarities
with other island groups today and is based on actual events that did occur.

Click on the cover for a larger picture.

In Store Price: $28.00 

Online Price:   $27.00

ISBN:

1-9208-8454-8

Format: A5 Paperback

Number of pages:
426


Genre: Fiction

 

Author: Geoff Brooke 

Imprint: Poseidon

Publisher: Poseidon Books
Cover design
: Christy O’Sullivan
First
Class in Graphic Design


Date Published: April 2004

Language: English

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About the
author

  

Geoff Brooke is an Australian-born international
businessman who has travelled extensively overseas. He has lived and worked in
the South Pacific region, including Fiji and Asia. 

His vast experience in the world of business has
introduced him to many aspects in the multi-national scene and he has observed
(and at times experienced) some of the diverse, complex and somewhat
“scurrilous” activities and financial dealings that can occur within  multi-national companies. 

His connections with the governments of many nations,
at many levels, has given him the experience and the inside knowledge of the
complexities involved and the money expended in many international financial
business dealings. 

Geoff currently lives and works in the Tweed Heads
area, having offices and clients in many parts of the world, where he travels
extensively representing his own Company.
 

CHAPTER 1

  

Inner city London on a cold grey morning was forbidding in itself, but to
add to its dreariness stood a monolith of a building called Castlereagh House. 
It wasn’t only that the building itself was ugly, rather it was the
spectre of the hideous gargoyles leering down over the dark grey marbled archway
leading to the front doors which were so daunting as to cause many a shiver to
run down the spines of those entering the building.

Inside was little different.  Polished
dark wood panels covered the walls, brass banisters rose everywhere from dark
corners of the front vestibule leading to various unnamed locations. 
Central to the vestibule was a bleak unwelcoming reception area with a
matronly figure perched on a high back chair giving one the feeling, when
approaching the box-shaped reception enclosure, of being the potential victim of
a ravenous vulture.  Behind the
reception ran a fifty metre length of dark burgundy carpet tread which ended at
a set of lifts.  Whilst two of the
lifts were of normal appearance, the third was lavish in its decoration, almost
garishly ornate with large Gothic carved letters looming over the entrance. 
The lettering read ‘Castlereagh Holdings – Executive Suite’.

Whilst Castlereagh House was not a tall building, it was huge in other
dimensions, covering almost one and a half city blocks. 
Not huge by international standards, but for London it was, the only
competitors being the houses of the Barons of Fleet Street. 
It was not that the building was extravagant in its size, quite the
reverse.  If one looked upwards at the building, a host of windows
indicated a substantial, if not overcrowded population.  
And it had to be substantial because Castlereagh Holdings was one of the
most diverse and powerful conglomerates in London, arguably even in most of
Europe.

In centuries past, the founder of the company, Castlereagh, had dabbled
in most of the commodity markets including sugar, copra, rice, fish, cotton,
grain, spices and the list went on.  As
the various commodity markets waxed and waned, others were exploited by
Castlereagh, the most notable being the huge spice trade of Asia, the East
Indies and the Pacific rim countries.  At
the end of the Dutch East Indies era, Castlereagh swooped and devoured most of
the outlets left because of incessant and damaging turmoil, including war, but
in the end, even that was too big for Castlereagh, so in the early 1930’s,
driven by the same family who had established it, it escaped from the spice
trade at just the right time and turned its focus on the growing mineral
markets.

The exit from the spice area was not without cost. 
Millions of dollars in buildings, plant, equipment, shipping and of
course forward payments cost the company millions and the move to the new
minerals market had to be successful as the company itself could be in severe
trouble.  Luckily it was not.

The enigmatic great grandson of the original founder, Patrick “Paddy”
McMaster, launched into a massive buying spree of more ships that were the prime
transporter of all types of minerals, precious or otherwise. 
Samuel McMaster soon became aware of the profitability of mining and
expanded the empire into mining itself as well as transportation. 
Through means both fair and foul, the company acquired vast tracts of
valuable mining leases extending from South Africa to South America. 
The ‘foul’ means in modern days would be described as illegal, and
directors could be jailed for the offences, but restrictive trade practices and
shipping boycotts and bans were part of accepted practice amongst unscrupulous
traders and shippers in the early Castlereagh days. 
Underhand and illegal methods were also employed to oust struggling
mining companies occupying valuable leases. 
Murder, espionage and open terrorism were all a part of the bargaining
tools of that era.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, gold became the special
interest of the Castlereagh regime.  It
was easily mined and abundant in little known far away places; easily stored too
and it soon became the invisible bank as the commercial world began to grapple
with the legislative control of companies.

As with other conglomerates, the first and second world wars including
the great depression had a marked effect on operations. 
Fortunes dwindled somewhat for many companies and activities had to be
halted because of hostilities, but Castlereagh Holdings did not allow this to
happen, they simply went off-shore and began to find that desperate nations,
whether at war or not, still wanted oil, coal, iron and the other building
blocks of commerce and industry.  Castlereagh
continued to prosper and grow but it soon became known amongst political circles
that the unscrupulous acts of Castlereagh were damaging England’s war efforts,
if not prolonging the war.  Although
the illicit trade still went on to some extent by clandestine third party
methods, the trade in essential commodities almost came to a complete stop.

The corporate world’s attention then turned to the money market. 
The old McMasters  had  prospered
and passed on leaving the current Chairman of Castlereagh Holdings – W.B.
“Bill” McMaster in control of the company. 
Castlereagh House still remained standing and had hardly changed in
appearance since the early days but the operations of the company had changed
dramatically.  The overall number of
staff had been pruned, but still numbered 1500 in Castlereagh House. 
Operations were still diverse but were mainly directed towards the
financial markets and exchange control, infrastructure development, and a
sizeable interest in tourism.  Even
though operations had changed, the corporate ethos had not and the company was
still involved in a host of shady if not unethical illegal deals.

The top floor of Castlereagh House was the 6th floor. 
It housed the Executive Staff of the company, the Chairman of the Board
and the huge boardroom as well as smaller conference rooms, amenities areas,
retreats and private executive ante-rooms.

It was 9.30am on the 14th January, another snow driven bleak day when W.B.
McMaster strode from his office along the corridor of the 6th floor.

W.B. McMaster, “Bill” to the most senior executives and to the other
1500 staff, and other people “Sir” or a very reverend “W.B.” 
“Mr McMaster” was left to other business clients and associates. 
He was an enigma and a tyrant of a man but with a touch of gentleness
which (on most days) seemed to give him a mellow look. 
He was sixty-five years old, a Scot by lineage and had once been rumoured
to have been offered a Knighthood by Maggie Thatcher. 
Instead, he was awarded an OBE and the rumour was that the dubious
background of his family had been raised  at
the “Honours Selection Committee”.  On
hearing of this, W.B. telephoned Prime Minister Thatcher immediately, saying,
“Well Prime Minister, unless the rumour pipeline is wrong, my name was listed
by the Privileges Committee or whatever you call it, and a knighthood was
rejected because of my forebears.  Is
that right?”

Mrs Thatcher denied the claims indignantly. 

“I really don’t know what you are talking about Mr McMaster.”

“You know quite well Prime Minister. 
I won’t have my family reputation or mine stained by some bloody
bureaucrat!”

“W.B., this tone of voice will get you nowhere. 
If you want to continue in this fashion, I will put you back to my
Private Secretary.  I will not stand
for your abuse,” thundered Thatcher.

“Mrs Thatcher, you are known as a person of iron. 
Well if that is the case, you can either get the bureaucrats to apologise
to me or I am shipping all my assets offshore – toot sweet Ma’am”.

Whilst McMaster was a powerful man and everyone knew of it, he could also
be melancholy and sometimes quite sad.  He
had been widowed once before, remarried at the age of 41 and had an only child
from his current wife – an ineffectual and weak son. 
Simon was 22 years old and now lived in Australia. 
He had been dispatched to Sydney because he had no interest in being
involved in the McMaster empire – his mother had influenced him in that
decision.  In fact his mother had begged him to study medicine and ‘get
out of the morbid and evil business world’. 

“If you follow your father’s footsteps you’ll end up where he will go –
and that is to jail,” she had said.  Simon,
much to his father’s displeasure sought to enrol in a prestigious medical
school, however, despite his mother’s pleas to the school, Simon’s scholarly
grades and attitude were not what the high standard of the school expected of,
and entry was refused.

The day after Simon was refused admission he approached his father and
told him in as forthright a manner as he could that he’d had enough of England
and Europe and wanted to travel and see the world.  In some strange kind of way his father seemed pleased, and
over a brandy told him that perhaps he was discovering the real McMaster spirit
– that of discovery and money, like his forbears.

It was therefore agreed that Simon would move to the University of
Queensland to undertake studies leading towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree. 
Simon prospered well at the University but rarely wrote to his father,
apart from the usual birthday cards and the odd postcard, however his mother
received frequent correspondence.  His
father knew nothing of this and his mother kept it a deep secret. 
At the end of his second year Simon rang his father at the office asking
if he could bring a friend over for the Australian summer vacation period. 
His father agreed.

Simon arrived with a tall athletic looking young man called Allan Brody. 
W.B. noted that Brody was incisive, keen and interested in all things,
particularly London, but more so in W.B. and Castlereagh Holdings. 
For the first few days Simon and Allan were out sightseeing, partying and
arriving home rather dishevelled showing obvious signs of inebriation combined
with the rank smell of stale perfume indicating nocturnal activities. 
W.B., for the first time, began to be proud of his son. 
This was the first sign of his being a man in his eyes, and for that he
silently thanked Allan Brody, warming to him even further.

Simon and Allan visited once again before their graduation. 
Much the same thing again – booze, women and other antics that W.B.
envied but had forgotten.  Soon after the second visit of the “Scoundrels of
Castlereagh” as W.B. had called them, Simon’s mother suffered a minor stroke,
quickly followed by another, a little more severe, but recovered nonetheless for
a few months until the last and final stroke. 
W.B. was in Kuwait at the time and uncontactable, therefore Simon was
called in Australia, but by the time he reached London it was too late. 
W.B. arrived four hours after her death.

The funeral was as would be expected from W.B.  It was planned to the last detail. Magnates of the United
Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and some Australians attended,
one of them being Allan Brody.

W.B.
McMaster sat in the front of the church with other members of the family and
close friends.  Simon chose to sit a
few rows back.  As the Reverend
intoned his final message, wailing began from the first few rows, then a hush. 
W.B.’s brother-in-law, an insurance broker from Kent stepped forward and
midst cider tears read his version of a eulogy.

“Bernice”
he began, but choked on her name “Bernie,
as you know her, was one of the kindest persons anyone could have met. 
She matched up to her responsibilities and did what she was told. 
After their son Simon was born, she was told one was enough – no more
children.  She loved children,
but…….   After Simon
departed England, her heart broke and I don’t blame her. 
You see, people didn’t see the invisible Bernice, Mrs McMaster – they
never have, but I can tell you that she had another side. 
She was supportive, loyal and loving. 
I can’t tell you how much I miss her and how many tears I have shed
knowing that for the last twenty-five years or more I have not once felt welcome
in the home of her husband – and oh yes! – it was always his house – not hers.
 
Yes, I was and still am a
fool, if not a wimp as other people call it. 
I will take that to my grave also.  My
sister was a fugitive in her own home and McMaster saw to that. 
I wish he was in that box and not my sister…….Oh God, forgive me, but
I mean it”.

He turned and hurriedly left the Church amidst a deathly silence. 
The next few seconds seemed like an eternity.

The Reverend rushed to the front of the congregation and looked solemnly
at the assembled.  Finally he said,
“Death takes it’s toll on us all.  I
apologise for what has been said to the family on such a sad occasion as this,
but grief can do terrible things to people and make them act in strange ways. 
May he be forgiven.”

There was a long pause in the proceedings.  Some cried, some still sat stunned whilst others whispered
amongst themselves.  One looked
straight ahead and peered very intently at W.B. McMaster.  Allan Brody stood up, shook the shoulders of Simon McMaster
who was in some kind of convulsing fit and said, “For Christ’s sake Simon, get
yourself together, someone has to protect your father. 
Go and put it right.”

“No” Simon said vehemently “He’s right, and in any event why do it
here.  It will destroy the sanctity
of my mother’s death when the whole world knows what went on anyway”.

“Someone has to do it.  Your
old man is not up to it and now is the right time and place. 
Unless you do it, it will hit the media and that’s not going to be so
great”.  Simon still refused. 
He said “You do it if you want to Allan.”

Allan rose to his 6’2” frame and walked slowly to where W.B. sat,
placing his hand on his shoulder.   “Mr
McMaster, I don’t like what has been said. 
I know this is not the right time, but someone has to put it right,
otherwise the press jackals will question your brother-in-law more carefully and
more poison will come out”.

“Where is my No. 1 son?” sobbed W.B.

“Too disturbed” said Brody.  “I
can’t go further than you want me to Mr McMaster, but something has to be
said.”

“Do what you like Allan,” McMaster said.

Brody stood facing the congregation and said, “I don’t feel comfortable
about being up here, but I believe that I must.  I may be from Australia but even we are not that rough. 
I don’t even know the person who stood here and spoke before me, but I do
know this, at a funeral, and being a relative and a close one at that, one does
not simply come in stand up and tell your brother-in-law that he was a ………
I will not use expletives in church, yet that’s what that man intimated, then he
just walked out and left like a coward.  Well,
more has to be said.”

“I was very privileged to stay in the McMaster household on two
occasions and I saw a family who were dedicated to each other, including Mr
McMaster.  I can’t grieve as much as
you can because I did not know Mrs McMaster as well as each of you, but I can
tell you that she was a lovely, happy lady and I will miss her. 
Simon is a few rows back and had he not been consumed by tears and total
distress, he would have been up here instead of me, and that’s a fact. 
I know that defending the living in front of the dead is somewhat
strange, if not macabre, but I know this is what Mrs McMaster would have wanted,
and if she had been alive she would have stood up for her loving husband.  God bless you Mrs McMaster”.

The Reverend came forward and gently indicated that Allan should resume
his seat.  The service continued and
ended with a standing hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”, selected by W.B.  
Allan Brody’s presence in the family home was confirmed for life.

During that night after a huge wake and condolences from all, not only
over the death of his wife but over what was revealed at the service, W.B. sat
with Allan Brody in the library next to a drink wagon containing many bottles of
alcohol of the finest quality.  W.B.
thanked Allan over and over again, and apologised for his having to come to his
rescue.  Simon had excused himself
early in the evening and was lying in bed unable to sleep, crying and thinking
about his mother.

At 3.00 o’clock in the morning, W.B. looked up from his glass. 
“You know Allan, I haven’t a real heir so to speak. 
There’s nothing more to say about that, except to take you back to the
funeral today.  I can’t change that
– there it is”.  He sighed deeply.  “If there’s a job in the future would you be interested? 
That is not to give you the impression this is a payoff for what you did
today, rather it’s a payoff for what my son did NOT do. 
There is a difference you know!”

Allan could hardly contain his pleasure. “Mr McMaster I have been and
will continue to be a good friend of Simon’s, but what will be will be”.

“I was hoping you would say that Allan,” W.B. replied quietly. 
He fell asleep, the glass falling from his hand.

Brody covered him, smiled and went to bed happy. 
In the morning he left well before anyone was awake leaving a note for
W.B. on his desk apologising for his early departure and saying he would defend
him any time it was required.

That was a long time ago, thought W.B. McMaster as he strolled to the
boardroom on the 6th floor.

 

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