It's a novel way to die

It's time to imagine you're a newspaper editor and someone wants to kill you

TODAY I am bringing you a complete novel - yes, a complete novel, ready for turning into a film and everything, yet short enough to read between Tube stations!

But it is also an interactive novel, which means YOU are involved as well. That's right! You, the reader, are the main character in this novel, because at various points in the story YOU will have to choose the vital correct option which plugs in to the next bit of the plot!

Understand? No? Well, you will once we start this gripping new thriller called "The Junk Fax Murders"

Your name is Stella Tallis. Recently fired as editor of a national newspaper, you are taking a little time off at home, waiting for the phone to ring and another national newspaper to offer you the position at its helm. ("At the helm" is the sort of expression which you, as an experienced newspaperwoman, like to use to mean "in charge of" something, even though the man in charge of a ship is the captain, who seldom deigns to take the helm. It is this sort of stylish inaccuracy which has lifted you, Stella Tallis, to the top of the newspaper tree.)

On your first morning at home, where you have a computer terminal, fax machine, etc in your workroom, you are sitting down pretending to start work, when you hear a noise downstairs. You go to investigate. There is a man in the kitchen! He has come in through the open door from the garden without ringing the bell! You are just about to give him the bum's rush when you realise he looks vaguely familiar.

Who is he?

a) Jeremy Beadle.

b) One of Murdoch's top lieutenants come to offer you a job at the helm of one of Murdoch's top newspapers.

c) The accountant from the paper you've just left, come to query a few missing hundred thousand pounds.

d) Your husband.

Of course! You recognise him now! It's your husband! You've been so busy editing this daily paper for two years that you have hardly been home, and had forgotten you had a husband and children. Or do you have children?

You decide to check up, cunningly and casually.

"Jonathan!" you say. "Isn't it lovely! I've got a few days at home! I can spend all that quality time with you and ... with you and ... "

"And do the housework for a change while I watch the World Cup," says your husband, rather coolly. He vanishes into the sitting-room while you retire to your workroom. And there you discover something which is going to change your life forever - a single sheet of paper which has just chattered from the fax machine.

What is this message?

a) A simple appeal from your old paper: "Come back - all is forgiven!"

b) A simple, anonymous farewell from the staff of your old paper: "Good riddance, you fat, talentless gorgon!"

c) A junk fax offering you a simple way of making a fortune without going to prison.

d) A death threat saying: "You will be dead by midday."

Yes, your first day back at home brings you a death threat. This is fairly unsettling, so you sit down with a strong cup of coffee to think of anyone in Fleet Street who might wish you dead. After a quarter of an hour, you can't think of anyone who might NOT wish to take revenge on you, so ruthlessly have you behaved towards everyone.

You decide to go for a walk at a time when you would normally be at an editorial meeting deciding whether to lead with the babysitter murder story ("Four-year-old watches `Simpsons' cartoon, then murders babysitter"), or the doctor horror story ("Doctor Struck Off After Refusing To Have Sex With Patient"), and you pop your head into the sitting-room to tell your husband you're going for a walk. He is sitting on the sofa with a small boy. Is it your son? Could be. They both nod without looking round.

So you stroll down to the local park and while you are foolishly taking a short cut through some bushes, you feel an arm come round your throat and a knife prod into your back. A voice says: "Did you get my fax? Then you'll know what happens at midday. Let's look at the time. My goodness, it IS midday ... !"

You manage to twist round and have a look at your assailant. Oh, my God! This is serious! It's the last man on earth you ever wanted to see again! It's ... !

I'm sorry. We seem to have run out of space. You're on your own now. I hope you manage to survive. Good luck!

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