Interactive novel for the brave exec

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The Independent Online
Today I bring you a complete novel, a mini-novel short enough for all businessman who simply don't have the time to read any novel longer than about six inches. It's what we call an interactive novel - in other words, you are the hero and whenever we come to an exciting bit, I give you four options for continuation and you must choose the right one before we go on.

Right! Let's go with today's complete novel, which is entitled Going Out Live. Your name is Roger Softleigh. You are a highly paid executive. You are also late for work. As the story starts, you are running out of your house down the garden path. You canfeel that it's going to be one of those days.

Actually, every day these days is one of those days. Your work as a financial adviser to a big City company just doesn't give you a chance to relax or take time off. This daily run down the garden path is about the only exercise you get, and you look forward to it - in some ways, it's the high spot of your day ... Suddenly, you hear a cry.

"Morning, Roger!"

Who is this, disturbing your early morning sprint: a) your neighbour, b) your wife, who you thought was safely away in Switzerland with her lover, skiing, c) your mother, who you have not seen for two years, d) the ghost of your late brother, who died ina car crash in which you were the driver ...?

Yes, it's your neighbour, Sir Basil Manning, who is walking up his front path and waving as you pass him. You return the greeting. You like to keep in with Sir Basil. Sir Basil is the £900,000-a-year head of British lnformation, the hi-tech communications firm which is supposed to take Britain into the 21st century.

Heaven knows what Sir Basil is doing coming home at 7.10am. Still, you, Roger Softleigh have more important things to worry about than your rich neighbour's movements. Your own movements, for instance, as you hurdle the garden gate, and then notice that your car door is open.

Why should your car door be open: a) you left it open last night, b) a car thief has ransacked it, c) the ghost of your late brother is trying to annoy you, d) a chauffeur is holding it open for you.

Yes, one of the perks of your high-flying job is a chauffeur-driven car to take you to work each day. You have never seen this chauffeur before, or the car either, but there is nothing odd about that, as they often send a different one from the agency.

You get into the back seat and ask the driver to stop at the next corner to buy a paper. He nods, and drives off. You are about to relax when suddenly a very loud voice says in your car: "So, how do you justify what seems to most people a vastly inflatedsalary?"

Where on earth is this voice coming from: a) the chauffeur, who is a skilled ventriloquist with a sense of humour, b) your conscience, which has taken to berating you for your essential worthlessness, c) the ghost of your ever-resentful late brother, d) a loudspeaker?

It comes of course, from a loudspeaker, for the very simple reason that you have stepped not into your own limousine (which is still 10 minutes away, held up by a burst water main in the Kings Road), but into a BBC radio car sent to interview Sir Basil Manning. When you saw Sir Basil a moment ago, he was not coming home, he was simply popping back into the house to record himself being interviewed on the Today programme.

And that question, you suddenly realise, is being asked live by a radio interviewer, and you are the only person who can answer it.

What do you do: a) faint, b) pretend to be Sir Basil Manning, and say that you have seen the light and now realise your salary is totally unjustified and that you are going to give it all back, c) play Radio 4 at their own game and say: " I'm afraid we seem to have lost contact with Sir Basil Manning, so here's Philippa Glanville to tell us about some of the highlights later today on Radio 4"

d) suddenly notice that the chauffeur has turned round and is pointing a gun at you.

Yes, I'm afraid the chauffeur is about to shoot you. This is because his family was made bankrupt by Sir Basil Manning's ruthless business dealings some years ago and he has been looking for revenge ever since. This is the first time he has got close to you. He thinks you are Sir Basil, so unless you can think of something clever very quickly, you are about to be shot live on Radio 4 ... I'm so sorry. We've run out of space. You're on your own now. Good luck!