Segments - 17 - The Connection

01 - Meeting Her

02 - The Services

03 - Exeter Hotel

04 - Christmas

05 - New Year

06 - The Old Man

07 - Why He Started

08 - Cambridge

09 - Norwich

10 - The Party

11 - Millau

12 - Heading East

13 - Nice in Nice

14 - Making Progress

15 - Revelations

16 - Doubts

17 - The Connection

18 - Levelling

19 - Space

20 - Finale

Clem spends the next few days constructively. She has created an account on her laptop so he can login and work on the blog on a proper computer rather than typing laboriously on the tablet. Her account remains out of his reach, secured by a password. He notices on his hits record, the log of visits to the website, that one computer has been slowly and methodically reading many of his posts. This is explained later that day by an ironic email. The email is from Janet McBain. She is a writer, when Clem reads this he laughs to himself. She is currently researching a vagrant character and has found Clem's blog most illuminating. He is offended! He is a traveller not a vagrant. However she'd like to meet him and talk to him. In return she'll put him up for a few nights, link to his blog from her fansite and give him a credit in her book. This sounds great! Even Clem realises this is a boost to his ego as well as a good opportunity. Tabitha, Clem makes sure to call her that in his head as well as out loud to avoid calling her Joanna, spends her time reading, putting the house straight and on phone calls that always seem to be about organising something or another. She always leaves the room on the premise of not disturbing him. One conversation is definitely about an "event" that she is to attend. Another is about nothing more complex than an unpaid gas bill at the house. David has been in touch to ask about a few final details for Milan and seems well pleased with Clem's efforts. He can't believe he pulled it off. He also recieves another £124 for the last of his expenses, although David is curious why there was no return flight. Clem excuses himself by saying he'd flown elsewhere on another task. David seems impressed that Clem is so busy, if only he knew the truth. The evenings are spent in a haze of hot meals on real plates, TV snuggled up with her and gnawingly joyful intimacy. He canes her again, he ties her up again. She even ties him up which worries him, when she blindfolds him he fears for his life. She just teases him by rubbing silky parts of her anatomy on his face, his chest, his penis and legs. By the time she's done he is getting cross with frustration, this seems to please her no end. She finally relieves him with what feels like a satin nightie on his cock and her bottom rubbed in his face. After 4 days he senses it's time to leave. He has thoroughly enjoyed this time with her and the doubts in his mind still nag but so quietly they are easily ignored. On that morning she sits at the laptop as he collects his gear. He leaves to find his tent poles, the tent has been drying in the spare room. As he comes back she's on the phone again, he stops outside the door. "Yes I'll be there...Saturday...I'll leave tomorrow, I think he's going to Scotland." She presumably is referring to him. "Oh it'll be great!...Yes....Yeah....it's been a lot of fun." Fun, that's positive. "Oh lots!...good stuff, juicy stuff, just what I've been looking for." What has she been looking for? "I have a confession Amanda" her voice drops to a whisper "I never thought it'd be this good. Yeah....yeah, he did!....no, no not yet...of course!" It's times like this he wishes he could hear the other half of the call. "Yeah, look sweetie I've got to go....Yes, yeah...wear your best frock...not that one...yeah...the Woburn Suite...Yeah...stop with me at Cambridge...yeah...train, I'll be drinking...ok....Bye!" He waits a moment, makes a deliberate noise then walks in. The laptop screen shows the website for the Montague Hotel's Woburn suite, he notes this in his mind. She is momentarily flustered by his return, she looks at the screen and she must decide that there's nothing wrong with Clem seeing this. "How are you getting to Scotland?" She drops him off at Lancaster Forton services. She seems sad that he is leaving and makes him promise to keep in touch and to keep the "fucking" tablet on. She climbs out of her seat and sits astride him in the passenger seat, hugging him tightly. "Please, please look after yourself. You've got money, if you need more just ask. PLEASE!" The parting was just a tad too intense for him. He's just a little thankful as he waves her off. Oh my goodness these last few days have been some of the best, and yet it is good to be outside in the cold damp air with the thought of travel back on the agenda. Time to find a lift north. One trucker is happy to share a brew with Clem but can't take passengers, company rules. Another is only going to Morecambe, he's had to stop due to his tacho rules. 3 of them will not even talk to him. It's getting dark and Clem is wondering where he can pitch the tent when finally a small, cocky little guy asks "Where do you want to get to?" After the introductions the journey to Edinburgh is spent in a comfortable silence. Clem buys another brew for the driver at Gretna Green services and gets a firm handshake as he parts company just oustide Edinburgh. It is beyond late now, it's almost morning and Clem had some sleep in the cab so he decides to carry on by foot. The cold air that has been his enemy all too often feels refreshing and welcome tonight. His best bet to get to Ullapool is to get to Inverness. Where's the best place to get a lift to Inverness? He stands in the darkness, looking out over the Fourth road bridge. His next lift is quite surreal. An old Mercedes from the 70's pulls over next to Clem. Inside are a male and female middle aged hippies wearing - suits! In the back seat is a young girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, hippy hair and pallor, dressed in a pretty flowing green dress. The scene fazes Clem, it's not the usual experience. His new alternative friends were in fact new age travellers in their youth, they are now proponents of environmental change and make a successful living lecturing and advising businesses on such matters. Mother has a doctorate in environmental studies, father is very proud of their daughter's home tutored education. They are envious of Clem's travels and freedom, although they got much further and did more in their youth. Clem ponders what he might do as and when he stops travelling. It is always an ongoing concern, that of the "end" of his travels. He doesn't want to stop, he doesn't want it to end, yet it must, he can't keep this up forever. This thought makes him sad. They are returning to Elgin but they insist on detouring to Inverness on the excuse they'll do some shopping. They also insist on getting him a brew and a meal, Clem tries to pay but they are having none of it. This can be embarrassing, he is only just getting used at accepting other's kindness. They also advise him on some good land to camp on a few miles outside of Inverness. He spends 2 nights outside Inverness. Although it's cold it's not bitter. He spends this time collecting his thoughts, looking around at the magnificence of the countryside and spoiling himself with a return bus ticket to Fort Augustus to see Loch Ness. The mountains, the loch, the towns. Even in the grey "dricht" as the Scots call it this area is moving in it's remote beauty. Janet McBain collects Clem from Inverness, she has to come to the city to go shopping. Janet is a very serious, dowdy lady of some age. She stands tall dressed in men's smart pants, a shooting jacket, wellingtons and shirt. If it wasn't for her face and shoulder length grey hair she could be a man. Her car is a Volvo estate of some age and her demeanour is stiff. Clem fears it could be an uncomfortable few days. What saves his mood is the countryside. Long, deep valleys, sinuous twisting road, vast, empty spaces and mountain after mountain after mountain capped with snow. Clem has seen some places but never has he been so moved as to feel a tear in his eye at what it beholds. Janet asks what Clem thinks of the area, his positive response seems to please her and she seems to relax a little. Ullapool is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Houses painted white, a large pier for the ferry to the Outer Hebrides, a cluster of shops and not much else. There is a campsite, if it all goes wrong with Janet at least he can stop here. Mind you, without a lift it would take a week if not more to walk back to Inverness. Janet's house is a large modern building set on the outskirts of the town. Inside it is crisp and modern except for her scruffy, hairy and large dog. This beast although well trained seems to slobber and malt everywhere, there is a thin layer of dog hairs across the kitchen floor and hallway, luckily he is not allowed in the living room. Clem's room, like the rest of the house is spartan yet effective. Clem connects into her wireless, she gives him the password with some reservation. It takes a while for him to remember the name of the hotel, The Montague. When he finds the website he recalls the Woburn suite. There is no list of forthcoming events. More googleing results in plenty of reviews and options to book the room but nothing useful. Finally he googles "Joanna Kemmet Woburn Suite Montague". He finds an event. Joanna is part of the list of attendees at a forthcoming Cancer Research charity event to be held this coming Saturday, tomorrow. That's not the first time she's been connected to Cancer Research. More google work. Joanna is a patron of the charity. OK, nothing wrong with that, a truly worthwhile thing to support. He looks, he trawls, he searches and he learns. She lost her father to Cancer. She attends events. She once did a sponsored walk. He switches to image searches. More events, more big cheques. One of her sat on a bed with a cancer patient. He feels his world spin, he puts his arm out onto the bed to steady himself. The patient is Mandy. She looks thin and poorly on the hospital bed. The caption simply reads "Joanna meets Mandy in Preston Hospital." The page gives nothing else away, it is information about various events and fund raising efforts in the north west. Seeing Mandy brings a cascade of emotions. She looks poorly, he starts to imagine her fading away. She didn't want him to see that, he feels guilt. He sees Joanna smiling. He feels lust and passion. He sees her next to Mandy. He wants to kill her. He wants Joanna to be in the bed and Mandy to be smiling. He wants to hug Mandy. He wants to hug Joanna. What the fuck! She only has met my fucking ex. Does she know? I mean - does she know that Mandy who I've occasionally mentioned in the blog is the same Mandy she's meeting in this image? Why would she? There are many Mandys out there. But what the fuck are the chances? Did Mandy ask her to find Clem? Did she talk of Clem? Some pennies start to drop. He has to accept that there is chance, but the slimmest of slim chance that he is wrong. How else could Joanna have known about his passion for cute dresses? How else could she have known about bondage? But then - where did the spanking and the cane come from? He racks and rattles his brain trying to think if he ever, ever asked Mandy about spanking or caning. Nothing comes to mind. It was definitely not Mandy's thing, Clem had never laid a hand upon her save for the odd cheeky slap of her bum in the bathroom, everyone does that don't they? Clem wasn't even into pain that much. He likes to look at bondage porn and a lot of that includes pain but that aspect is coincidental rather than his reason for looking. He liked the idea but never went with it. And yet, when he spanked and whipped her he felt aroused. It's an aspect of his sexuality he didn't even know existed. Is that her thing? He hopes so. It validates their intimacy as being more than just instructions from Mandy. Whoa! Why the hell would Mandy even know Joanna let alone divulge her sexual experiences with Clem? Some random D class celebrity comes to your death bed, takes an image with you for charity and you start to tell this stranger about your boyfriend and the fantasies and fetishes you shared? He feels sick and almost violated. Janet enters the room. "Are you OK Clem, you look ashen." "I....I....I've just seen a ghost." Clem shows her the picture. "Have you read all my blog, remember Mandy?" "Yes, she's the lady who died from cancer, you were a couple if I read your blog correctly." "Yeah...this is her." "Oh, sorry, that must be a shock. That's Joanna Kemmet isn't it." "Yeah" with a snap he's back and focused "You know her?" "Not personally. We have the same publisher, we've met a couple of times." Judging by her tones she is not too keen on Joanna. "Wow, small world." "Yes, now, what do you want to eat?" Clem emails his findings to the old man. The next couple of days Janet takes him to various places around the area, all the while quizzing him about how it feels to sleep in the cold, how he gets about, how he makes money and how he copes with the loneliness. At times she relishes his answers, at others he obviously doesn't give the right answer and she goes cold on him. She has her own conceptions of this character and when Clem doesn't fit in she doesn't like it. Clem couldn't care less. Janet's questions are a welcome distraction from his thoughts. The old man emails back "Keep on asking Janet about Joanna. Maybe there is more to learn. This is the connection, I am certain." This area is stunning but he can't fully appreciate it. Janet and Clem walk along the coast at Gairloch, she's wanting to know about Clem's campsite cooking. He's tired of talking about him. "Tell me about Joanna Kemmet" "Why, what's your interest in her?" Shit, he's not ready with a reason. "I, er, Well she knew Mandy. That picture shocked me. I'd like to ask her about Mandy." "I'm sure she didn't know her, that was a charity promotion picture, she wouldn't have spent a lot of time with her." "No, I guess not." "She's an annoying woman, Joanna. Bloody do-gooder. That mess with her husband and the money brought her down a peg or two." She goes on to explain what Clem already knows. "She's written nothing since then according to Bob." Bob is their publisher "Why do you need to speak with me about your character?" "I have no experience in your world. I need to understand it, put it into context. I've lived in Paraguay and Montenegro, I've had lovers, been married, loved, laughed, cried and had my heart broken. I've never camped, I've never slept in the cold or the rain, I've never seen the dirty streets of Manchester at 0400 on a wet morning. I've never ridden a motorcycle or walked more than 5 miles. I need your help." Writers, characters. Writers need characters. Is that what Joanna is doing? Is Clem a character in a book?