Chapter 1

Chris and Marty

Saturday 17th June 2000

Knightswood, Glasgow

Scotland

I returned from my latest active-duty tour in Afghanistan, and I was stir crazy within two days. I’d arrived home on Thursday morning, and by breakfast on Saturday, I told my parents I wanted to get away for a few days. I had to get my head straight before I could decide what to do with my life—I couldn’t do so at the family home.

“Why don’t you take our camper-van, Chris?” My dad was fiercely proud of his ‘house on wheels’ as I used to call the thing. The present model was not only spacious but modern. It was a big deal for him to let me borrow the monster.

“It would solve accommodation problems,” I said, half-joking. “Don’t you think it’s a bit excessive for one guy on an unplanned road trip?”

“It’s there if you want it, mate and we don’t intend to go away with it until August.”

My mother said, “Why don’t you give Marty a call. Ask if he’d like to go with you if he can get the time off?” She was practical as ever. “You could catch up with each other’s lives since your both now out of the services.”

Five minutes later I was on the phone with my lifelong mate, Marty, and he jumped at the chance. He said he’d call me back within the hour. I took his return call forty-five minutes later.

“Great, Marty. I’ll see you on Monday morning, mate—and have your bike ready.”

I turned to my dad and gave him a thumbs-up.

He put down the newspaper. “Come on out, mate and I’ll give you the guided tour.” We got outside, and he turned. “Just in case you get any action while you’re away, you’ll need to know the different options for the seat-to-bed conversions.” He winked.

I felt better by the time I stepped inside the beast and saw how luxurious it was—and it was my means of escape. Marty had been owed holiday and was free for two weeks, so all I had to do now was work out where we should go.

* 

Monday 17th June

Dumbarton

14 miles west of Glasgow

I drove west along the A82, and within a few minutes, I was comfortable behind the wheel of the big camper-van. As I looked around me in the spacious cab, I anticipated a welcome break from the humdrum existence of drinking every night and going home to my parents’ house—as good company as they might be.

I needed a total break.

A few months previously, when my dad had first sent me pictures of his latest camper on a site, he said I could borrow it when next home on leave. I imagined Laura and me sprawled out on the big double bed at the back. Of course, that was before I finished my military service at short notice and returned to the UK.

Laura was six feet tall, with long blonde hair, and a body and legs for which some girls would kill. We’d met as pen-pals and wrote to each other for four months before meeting. I came home to the UK from Germany, and we were pleasuring each other on her bed on our first night together.

The day we met in the flesh was special, and we agreed to go for a meal and enjoy a few quiet drinks. We were too busy talking and staring into each other’s eyes to drink too much which turned out to be a good thing. Laura’s parents were away, and she suggested we go back to her place. She was only a couple of months younger than me.

Sex between us was incredible, and it was great to have an attractive girl with stamina and a high libido. We both loved oral and were never happier than when in a sixty-nine; me with a mouthful of her delicious pussy and her with a mouthful of my throbbing cock. We joked that we didn’t have to do any kinky stuff or get dressed-up because we were so active in every conceivable sexual position.

Sadly, Laura and our great times rolling around in bed had become history. She became a memory, and I accepted it was better for our relationship to be over. I wasn’t on the lookout for a new girl, but if a likely candidate came on the scene, I’d be careful. I’d have to be guarded and ensure any relationships were not likely to lean towards something long-term. I’d left behind a lifestyle and career I’d loved in many ways, but now I was a free agent in every respect—I wanted to experience life without restrictions.

All the way from my parent’s house in Knightswood, Glasgow, I continued to think about Laura. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I pulled up outside my best friend’s house in the camper. We hadn’t seen each other in person for over three years. I’d been in the army and Marty in the navy. In our most recent letters, I’d suggested that when my discharge from the military came through, we’d have to get together for a few drinks.

When I called and suggested that those same few drinks could be enjoyed on a few days away together on a camping tour, he’d been up for it without hesitation, and only had to clear his break from work.

It was a sunny day, and I’d opted for a T-shirt, sports shorts and trainers. I was mildly surprised to see Marty coming down the short driveway dressed in a T-shirt and jogging pants. He’d be warm once we got on the road.

As I got out of the camper, I saw my friend’s mum at the window of the house. I waved, and she returned the gesture, but I noted her smile was brief—almost a token gesture. Perhaps there was some domestic issue. It wasn’t my concern, but I’d be happy to listen if my mate wanted to explain.

We approached each other grinning and shook hands before giving each other a man-hug.

“Chris, I’m so pleased to see you, mate.”

I held him by the shoulders and stood back. “It’s great to see you again, Marty.” I raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got that lovely blond hair of yours pulled back severely. Have you got a ponytail going on there?”

“Yeah, having short hair was one of the many things that started to annoy me before I left the service.”

“Well, you can grow it as long as you like now, mate. You’re looking good.” I noted but didn’t mention the gold studs in his ears. Unlike soldiers, I thought it was probably still traditional for a sailor to wear an earring—or two.

“Thanks. You look amazing.” Marty squeezed my right biceps. “I know you said you’d been working out, but bloody hell.”

“Now that I’m out of the army I can’t afford to slacken off. I feel better being physically fit.” I opened the side door of the camper. “Right, mate, if you want to grab your bike, I’ll stow your bags away.” A few minutes later I showed my pal how to secure his racing bike in the large storage locker on the back of the camper.

We climbed aboard, and Marty turned to wave to his mum before we set off. Strange, I thought, that she smiled, but she appeared sad. Like me, Marty had just turned twenty-seven. His mum wasn’t worried about him being embarrassed when she blew a kiss, and he returned the gesture.

There was a problem, and of that, I was convinced. Marty could tell me in his own time.

*

Twenty minutes later, we were taking it easy on the tourist route north to the Scottish Highlands but we’d hardly spoken. My mate’s initial excitement seemed to have faded.

I glanced at Marty. “Are you okay, mate?”

“I’m sorry, Chris, I was miles away.”

“Are you sure you’re up for this trip?” I concentrated on the road, so I wasn’t able to see Marty’s expression.

“I think after keeping in touch by letter for such a long time, it seems surreal for us to be taking a break together.” At least his tone was cheerful.

“Can you remember the last time we went on a holiday?”

“Yeah.” He laughed. “We were sixteen and went off with your parents, caravanning in France. Less than a year later you were setting out to be a soldier, and within a few months I was in the navy.”

“I recall my dad asking me one time why you didn’t want to join the army as well, but I told him it would have been as likely as me wanting to join the Royal Navy.”

We both laughed at how our parents all thought we should join the same service.

“I know my career didn’t last as long as yours,” Marty said. “Sometimes it was your letters that kept me going.”

“You gave it three years, Marty, and that’s more than some guys do.” I turned to look at his face, and he met my gaze, briefly. “At least you saw a couple of other continents.” There was something wrong with my mate. To find out, I’d have to be subtle. For as long as we’d known each other, Marty had been an introvert. Patience would be the key.

“I only did three years, but at least I gained some catering qualifications. As I told you in my letters, I got a job in a big hotel within a month of leaving the navy—it’s been good.”

“You did well, and I hope I get something sorted out as quickly. I’ve only been out of uniform for a week, so it feels as if I’m on leave. I promised myself I’d get out as soon as our unit got back from Afghanistan. Right now, I need relaxation—a break from responsibilities and normality.”

“Your bosses must have been pissed off losing you. I really thought you’d have carried on.”

“I didn’t do badly, having made it to sergeant inside ten years, but my eyes were opened on several levels. There were death and destruction everywhere, and I was almost killed a couple of times. I enjoyed soldiering, but over there it was a bloody nightmare.”

“I know the bombings and shootings have been bad. What do you think affected you most?”

“Religious bigotry, mate. It doesn’t matter whether you look at Northern Ireland, Africa, the Middle East or Afghanistan, it’s all blamed on religion. Whatever the territory, some people have been neighbours for years, and they’re driving each other out of their homes. Apart from that, there are innocent folks on both sides being killed in the violence, both by terrorists and the military.”

“I suppose after three tours over there it must get to you.”

“It did, and on that final six-month stint I started to question doing the job.” I didn’t want to talk about the troubled region. “I think it will go on for years.”

“You said in your letters that you didn’t know what you’d do next, apart from spending some quality time with a nice girl, or two.”

“My situation is still the same, mate.” I laughed. “I’ve hardly been out of the house since I got back. My parents were worried that I had stress issues, but I told them I simply wanted to have a couple of beers and rest. When you agreed to join me to head to the Highlands for a week or two, they were relieved.”

Our conversation drifted back to how we’d been constant companions as teenagers, out cycling, swimming, or kicking a ball around with a few other guys. It seemed that many of the guys we’d known at school had grown up, got married and settled into a humdrum existence. At least we’d both left home and tried a life of adventure.

“I take it you don’t have a special girl?” I said. “I suppose with the shifts you’re doing in the hotel you’d be pushing it to keep a relationship together.”

“There hasn’t been anybody for quite a while,” Marty murmured, staring at the road ahead. “I don’t mind not being in a relationship right now. I have a few things to get my head around.”

“Hey, mate. If you ever needed the right circumstances and somebody to open up to, you’ve got them for this holiday.”

“Thanks, Chris.” Marty turned to me and smiled. “I might hold you to that.”

We travelled along in silence for a while, and I concentrated on the winding road which followed the coast of Loch Lomond. I glanced in the wing mirror when I saw headlights. It was broad daylight, so it had to be bikers.

The road was narrow, but I could see it clear for at least a mile. I flicked my nearside indicator and feathered the brake pedal. Six big motorbikes went roaring past, and each of the riders gave a low wave of appreciation before disappearing into the distance.

“Wow,” Marty said as the bikes zipped away from us. “Which country were they from?”

“They’re all German. I recognised plates from Cologne, Dortmund and Berlin, but I don’t know where the others are from.”

“I’d like to visit Germany sometime. Your letters made it sound like a great place.”

“Oh, it is, mate,” I nodded. “Maybe if we enjoy this break we could plan a trip to Germany.”

“I’d like that, as long as you’re not sick of me after our time away together.”

“I know I’ve got reasons to chill out, but it sounds like you need to relax too.” I glanced at him. “How about starting our holiday properly by having a few drinks tonight?”

“Will there be somewhere suitable at the first place we’re heading?”

“If there isn’t, Marty, we’re going farther until we bloody find somewhere suitable.”

He laughed, and unlike earlier, it was the laugh I recalled. My friend was loosening up a bit, and that made me happier.

We both fell silent. I was pleased to see my mate admiring the beautiful scenery. When I saw him sigh, I made up my mind—we would be parking in a campsite that had a pub attached or nearby. I had to get him talking.

I reached out and nudged the power button of the CD/radio combo. “If you look in that glovebox I’ve selected a few CDs to play while we travel.”

“Good heavens. You could park a car inside this glovebox.” Marty laughed. “This looks good. Hits by the Original Artists.” He slipped the disc into the machine, and it played automatically. The cab of the camper echoed to the sound of The Beatles singing ‘Hey Jude’. Marty decreased the volume.

“This is my favourite track by those guys,” I said. “I know it’s old now, but my parents must have played it a lot because I’ve always liked it.”

“When did this one come out?”

“It was released in 1968, so my parents wouldn’t have been long married.”

“The future back then would have been a job in shipyards or down in the mines—the big industries.”

I shook my head. “It’s strange now, to think that neither of those would have been a good career choice. They didn’t last for long after the sixties.”

We fell silent again and listened to Paul McCartney and the boys.

In my peripheral vision, I was pleased to see Marty mouthing the words to the song, and his head was moving slowly from side to side in time to the music. Thank God he was relaxing. Madonna was next up, and she was followed by Michael Jackson. We’d both have been quite young when this collection of songs were in the charts, but we enjoyed them, and both of us were singing along.

Aware that many motorists considered camper-vans to be mobile roadblocks, I concentrated on keeping up a steady speed. Due to the size of the machine, I was extra careful on the bends, but on the straight sections, I was able to gain a decent speed.

I glanced at the driver’s mirror and then the road ahead. “There are a couple of people in a red sports car coming up behind us, and they are not hanging around.”

 “They’re not doing the flashing headlight thing, are they?”

“No, mate, but they covered a fair distance in rapid time, and now the driver is trying to see past us. It looks like a blonde-haired girl. I can’t imagine a guy wearing shades that big.”

“She’s probably trying to give her boyfriend a scare, or she’s showing off her car’s performance.”

“Instead of being so close, she’d be better to drop back a little to allow her a better view of the road ahead. The next couple of bends are blind for us.”

“Sometimes people are too eager to get on with their immediate journey. Perhaps if she took it easier, she’d take in the bigger picture.”

“Whoa.” I turned to Marty. “That was a bit deep.”

We both laughed.

“If I’m honest, mate,” I said. “Up until you agreed to go with me, I might have stayed at my parents’ place and spent these few days on wine, women and song.” I shrugged. “No, if I’m honest, you could cut out the song and add beer.”

“You didn’t mention Laura in your last couple of letters. Wouldn’t she have considered heading off to the Highlands with you?”

“It’s all over with the lovely Laura. We finished six months ago because it was all getting serious and I didn’t want to be tied down.”

“I remember when you described her in a letter, you said she had the longest, shapeliest legs in Europe.”

“She was a real looker and in physical appearance had the whole thing going on, but she was up for us sharing a flat and that wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list. I was happy to have a casual relationship, but she was already planning a future.”

“Do you have any regrets about things ending between you?”

“Well, as I said, she was stunning, and we had some pretty amazing sex. As soon as I mentioned that I was contemplating leaving the military and looking for a flat, it was grasped as a stepping stone for our relationship.”

“I’m pleased for you both.”

“Most people would say it was sad.” I turned to him briefly, my brow furrowed.

“She would have been lulled into thinking her future was all planned, but you would have felt trapped because settling down wouldn’t have been your first choice.”

“Now that you put it that way, I suppose you’re right, mate.”

“You’d have been like the driver of that sports car behind us—eager to move on, but one decision could destroy your future.”

“Bloody hell, Marty, you’ve got your philosopher’s head on today.” I smiled at him and turned to concentrate on the road again. I was considering his comment when I started negotiating a series of bends. The hills on the left dropped to meet the road as sheer rock crags which contained a few small waterfalls. The water fed under the roadway in a continuous drainage system. On the right was the splendour of Loch Lomond, glistening in the sun.

We came out of the final bend in the series, and though narrow, the road straightened ahead of us. A flash of colour in the mirror caught my eye, and I saw the red, open-topped, two-seater pull out and go back in. Two seconds later, the small car pulled out again and shot forward.

I glanced down, and my gaze was drawn to not one, but two lovely pairs of thighs and two views of cleavage. I was grinning and fantasising when I looked up until I saw a petrol tanker heading towards us at speed. There wouldn’t be much in it for the female driver’s manoeuvre. I lightly applied my brakes.

The small car nipped in front of us. The tanker flashed past in the opposite direction—a loud air horn expressing the driver’s displeasure. The driver of the red Triumph held up her left hand to acknowledge my assistance. Her long, blonde hair was fluttering in the wind. I flashed my headlights, and the sports car disappeared into the distance.

“That was close,” Marty said. “If you hadn’t slowed-up, that sports car would have become a bumper sticker.”

“It could have ended badly, and it would have been such a waste. Sometimes you have to give people a break, even if what they’re doing isn’t what you might do.”

“Ha, now who’s getting deep?” He laughed and shook his head. “Was the passenger with the long dark hair a girl?”

“I didn’t have time to see either of their faces, but from what I did see, they were definitely girls. The car was a classic—Triumph TR6.”

“How do you know it’s not a TR3 or a TR4? There are a few models in the series.”

“The TR3 has rounded lines in the bodywork, which discounts that one. To the untrained eye, the TR4 and the TR6 are very similar, but the light configuration is different.”

“Do you mean the headlights or the tail lights?”

“Both. On the TR4, the headlights are a few inches in from the edge of the front wing, and the tail-light cluster is vertical. On the TR6, the headlights appear to the extreme ends of the radiator grille, and the tail-light cluster is horizontal.”

“Ah, so you don’t know much about them then?” Marty laughed.

“You might also recall the TR7, which was a wedge-shape?”

“I do, but I must confess I prefer the earlier models. How come you gained such a knowledge of Triumphs—did you have one?”

“There was a car dealership in Soest, Germany, not far from one of my units. I’d often walk around the forecourt. The place specialised in two-seater sports cars and always had a range of British models.”

“Those Triumph models are known as the Spitfire TR3 and so on, aren’t they?”

“Yes, and I know what you’re thinking.” I turned and grinned at him. “It must have felt a bit ironic for a German dealer to be selling Spitfires—even if they were cars.”

Mary laughed again. “When will we stop for a break?”

“How about a brief stop when we get close to Blair Atholl?” I was pleased to see my mate smile.

“Sounds good to me. I’ll buy the drinks and snacks.”

“You’ll do no such bloody thing, mate. I told you on the phone when I invited you along—this break is my treat, and I mean it. I have a healthy holiday account, and I’ve saved for this sort of thing. You’re not paying for anything.”

“I’ll feel guilty. I’ll do the cooking.”

“Okay, you can go on a mini-guilt trip if you like, but you can only do some of the cooking—that’s your bloody profession.”

“That’s very generous of you, Chris.”

“I’m a generous kind of guy—besides, what are best friends for?” I turned and winked.

We both laughed, and I was delighted to glance at him and see him looking happy.

***

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