In Deep

30 July 2007

I've been working on a short story, for no good reason other than the fact that I have a million other things to do, many of them urgent and because right now I have hardly any free time. These are the perfect circumstances under which to start something new.

I'm going to put the story here in three chunks, starting today. I wont make a new entry for it – it will just get longer over the next days, so to speak.

[Weds 23.03: The whole story is added now].

Also check the new navigation options, RSS feed and archive access in this notebook (to the right). Thanks Sam. Its still work in progress but the few glitches should be ironed out soon.

In Deep

Over three days one May five separate young women report violent sexual assaults to the police in a particular capital city. The attacks are evidently related, the modus operandi similar, the women (all of them young, foreign, living alone) subjected to knife-point ordeals of escalating brutality, the details of which are barely kept out of the press. The police quickly begin their investigations; gathering evidence against a backdrop of public and media frenzy, appealing for witnesses, building photo-fits and profiles of the killer based on cross-referenced interviews with the women.

Once questioned and released from hospital each of the women is offered shelter and protection by the police, but each declines, preferring to stay with friends. Two of them make emotional appeals at press-conferences, a third sells her story to a newspaper which prints it in an edition from which all profits go to a charity, the fourth and the fifth remain silent.

As the days go by and public terror builds, the team of detective assigned to the case continue their forensics and their searches and the press goes mad with speculation about who the attacker might be, about where and when and how the next assault is going to come. WHAT KIND OF MONSTER? says the Daily Trumpet (or whatever). STREETS OF FEAR says the Herald. WHOS NEXT IN LINE? says another one. UNDER THE KNIFE says yet another, with a clever computer graphic that takes up the whole front page, and which shows the country’s silhouette and a fuck-off big knife just above it. All over the capital women stay home, shops selling rape alarms and other security products do well whilst tv and radio pundits, along with half the internet, go tirelessly over the known aspects of the case, using diagrams, maps and soundbites, re-enactments, interviews with profilers, statements from public officials and representatives of campaigning groups. The nation – sat crapping itself under the best tabloid headline of all – MAY DAYS OF TERROR – is basically on tenterhooks, waiting for ‘the Maniac’ to strike again.

And then something odd happens. The girls all disappear, overnight and no matter how hard they look the police cannot find them. The victims are vanished without trace.


There follow a few days of constant speculation – print and electronic outlets wrapt in the hysteria that only 'no news' can produce. The stories, theories and general nonsense get wilder and wilder – especially as leaks from the cops spark stories that it’s not just the girls themselves who’ve disappeared, but that in some cases their families, friends, lovers, lives are also gone – turned into dust, slipped away into a night of mist and shadows. The cops have got nothing and the government (provisional, and tottering anyway) is also under pressure and still there’s an rumour machine concerning the attacker – if and when he’ll ‘get back to work’, if its him that’s snatched the girls or murdered them or worse, if he’s working with a team, if he’s fled the country disguised as a priest or as whatever, or if he’s somehow gone to ground. The chief of Police (Bob something or other) goes on TV and urges calm. The newscasters ask difficult questions and the Bob bloke gets angry, ripping off his microphone and storming out of the studio, leaving an eerie calm that seems to extend across the nation.

Two days after the girls’ disappearance an extraordinary announcement relevant to the case is promised by the media spokesperson of a TV production outfit based in some suburb that most people have heard of though few are certain if they’ve ever been there.

At midday on May 23rd, in a function room at a centrally located New Medallion/LeisureTime Hotel there’s a long table, some microphones, three jugs of water and six glasses. Above the table there’s a powerpoint image via laptop and projection showing two words – IN DEEP – emblazoned on black background in bold, lime green sans serif typeface. There are delays and hold ups and a lot of restless journalists make phone mobile phonecalls, killing time in what one of then quips is the no-mans land of noon. A smattering of curious cops look on, already recounting the story of what a joke this stupid assignment was. Sometime around 1pm the spokesperson (think sweating man in a suit and pink tie) enters, flanked by a couple of uneasy underlings, takes a leather-look plastic seat, clears his throat and reads from a pre-prepared statement in bullet-points, declaring to those assembled that the whole story from start to finish, the girls, the rapes, the whole of it – is a fake. The attacks are fictional, the cops, the press and the public have all been duped, the girls are actresses, their fraught accusations and outbursts in the interview rooms at police stations, their emotional pleas at press conferences and in media profiles have simply been scripted exercises in bravura style.

Before he’s done the guy makes it clear – with powerpoint showing scripts, rehearsals and production notes – that what we've all been witness to – spread across prime time already like a dog crushed by a juggernaut – in the preceding MAY DAYS OF TERROR, is simply a viral marketing stunt for a new TV show starting soon on Channel Z. In Deep, it transpires, is 10 part drama series about a cop called out of retirement to solve a series of brutal rapes and sexual assaults which are reported to the police in a particular capital city over a three day period by five separate young women. Broadcasts are scheduled for the following week.

The sweating bloke from the media firm is taken away for questioning by the police and his life like that of his miserable associates is soon buried in a welter of charges, claims, suits, counter claims and investigations concerning their role in the events, the time-wasting of the police, as well as broader questions about fraud, ethics, business acumen and general malpractice. The show in question – In Deep – is withdrawn but soon reinstated, beginning in the 9.30 post-watershed slot on a major network who've bought out the disgraced and bankrupted rival channel that initially would've shown it, the network premiere now framed by a series of panel-discussions, hand-wringing comment-pieces, and off-the-shelf documentaries about the History of Viralistic Marketing and Great Serial Sex-Offenders of the Past.

In Deep eventually, and somewhat against the odds, is a big success. Despite caution in the first instance the critics are swayed by its strong characterisation, by the vivid sense of dramatic development and by the sassy, self-mocking and ironic flavour to much of writer Slop Charlton’s script. Its classy post-modern TV with attitude, they say, not trash.

Director Jaunt Ishmael and lighting cameraman Ray Davies are feted at parties all over town while Slop Charlton is sought after for all kinds of projects, many prestigious, some ridiculous and others insane. Leading man Twat Poshman (who plays a journalist going it alone in an investigation of the rapes, against the wishes of his editor played by Pete Thownsend) is soon a regular on Parkinson, J. Leno, Totale’s Turns etc, constantly doorstepped by paparazzi and It girls.

Veteran star of other cop shows such as Crowbar & Zebra Head – Kurt Jaw – is widely praised for his role as the wise-cracking detective. The critics go wild in fact. Similar accolades are handed out to both Rand Holefall as Jaw’s brow-beaten assistant and to Clint Verbiage for his cameo as the capitals long-suffering Chief of Police. Newcomers Slit Cleavage, Hysteria Walton, Svelte Crush and Jade Agenda all bring subtle interpretations and nuances to the role of brutalised victims. The show is stolen though by the fifth victim – played with a verve and edgy commitment that will many think will bring her success when the awards season comes – the Iraqi actress Lauren Nadada.

Simply put, Nadada steals scene after scene, her optimism under torture seems boundless and inspiring and her eventual death at the hands of the Maniac (played by Keith Richards) remains what Hassan Blundell writing in the National Express arts column called "..a classic mix of CGI and Lee Strasberg." Indeed its not long before the cops own recordings of her original police-cell interviews are leaked to the internet and these reality-infused tapes are themselves widely heralded as an amazing performance under extraordinary circumstances. She’s a star and we will be hearing a lot more of her, when losers like Holly Finkton have been long forgotten. Hear me now – it wasn't for nothing that the Italian composer Varabese Sarabande – who scored In Deep for tv and will re-score it for next year’s cinema version – took the liberty of removing all music from Nadada's scenes. "She didn't need anything" he said, "Some girls bring their own soundtracks. There was no need to heighten the emotion, it was all already there."