An alarming encounter at the airport

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The Independent Online

Today I am bringing you a complete novel. Very short, but quite complete! And as if that weren't enough, it is an interactive novel! That means that you the reader have an input into the plot. At various points I shall bring you four options, and you have to choose the right one before we go on.

Get it? Well, it will all become easier when we start. And to make it even easier, you will be the hero of this novel, which is a thriller called "Death in the Arrivals Hall".

Yes, you are Simon Chambers, a young married man with an important job at a firm called IAN. IAN stands for the Institute of Alarm Noises. The firm specialises in installing all those annoying noises that you get in car alarms, pedestrian crossings, ambulances, reversing lorries etc. You are happily married to Susie, and have two children. Christmas was great fun. You are booked in for a skiing holiday in January. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. But only you know that one thing has gone terribly wrong. What is it?

a) Susie is changing sex.

b) You are not the father of your children.

c) You have unwittingly allowed the sound of a reversing lorry to be installed in 500 ambulances.

d) You have been fired.

Yes, I am afraid you have been fired. Your boss, Mr Prentiss, calls you in looking ashen-faced to reveal that the noise the firm has devised for a car alarm is exactly the same as the one used by ambulances in Portugal. You should have spotted that. You didn't. A disastrous law suit looms. Heads must roll. Yours, for a start.

Stunned, you realise that you can't really afford the skiing holiday, but you compromise and send the wife and children off by themselves. Desperate for money, you get a temporary job as a chauffeur in a firm run by an old friend.

Having seen your family off at the airport, pretending you have too much work at IAN to come with them, you get into your peaked cap and your friend's Bentley, and embark on an eventful fortnight's chauffeuring. Indeed, on your first day you distinguish yourself by:

a) Running over your first passenger

b) Losing yourself in the back streets of Acton

c) Forgetting where you parked the Bentley

d) Saving a child from certain death

Yes, your sharp ears hear the noise of a reversing lorry, and you react quicker than anyone else to rescue a child. Of course, you cannot stay on the scene because you do not want your new life as a chauffeur to be revealed. And for that reason you are rather doubtful when you are told to go to Heathrow and pick up a Mr Sassafras flying in from Beirut. What if someone recognises you?

But a job is a job and off you go to the Arrivals Hall. You stand there holding up a card saying "AWAITING MR SASSAFRAS", feeling a bit of an idiot. Then you suddenly get the shock of your life. What is it?

a) Your wife, Susie, is just coming out of the Green Customs channel

b) Your wife, Susie, is just coming out of the Green Customs channel arm in arm with your ex-boss, Mr Prentiss

b) Your wife, Susie, is just coming out of the Green Customs channel arm in arm with Jeffrey Archer

d) The chauffeur standing next to you has a gun.

Yes, you distinctly see his jacket fall open and a large pistol stuck in his belt, before he hastily closes it again.

But before you can think what to do or say, you see a large businessman heading your way, smiling and waving. It is clearly Mr Sassafras. The man with the gun sees him too. The man takes out the gun and aims it at Mr Sassafras. "No!" you shout. "Don't shoot!" You grab his arm. He shakes you off and turns, aiming the gun at you point-blank...

I'm sorry. We have run out of space. I can't help you any more. You're on your own now. Good luck!