An Occupational Hazard is a fictional work set against the London casino scene of the 1970s, when newly rich Arabs were descending on the capital along with other affluent visitors for whom ‘Swinging London’ was the fashionable place to be. Such conditions provided enormous opportunity for many businesses, none more so than casinos.

But the restrictions of the Gaming Act of 1968 were soon to prove a major obstacle.

Too much for some corrupt bosses.

This is a story of how the ever-increasing corruption at the heart of one organisation leads to tragic consequences for a group of people who work there.

Patrick…a charismatic, happy-go-lucky Irishman whose charm wins him a job at the exclusive Ventura Club, and launches him unwittingly into a world of sleaze…

Penny…a stunning but naïve young woman, seduced by the excitement, glamour and glitz that surrounds the London casinos, and all-too-easy prey for those willing to take advantage of her innocence…

Elena…clever, gutsy and idealistic, she refuses to bow down to the powers that be. But will she be brave enough to face the terrible price she might have to pay…?

Ahmed…a man of dubious morals who has no friends but many contacts, and will stop at nothing to keep his paymasters happy…

As the cast of characters at Ventura take their place on-stage, they cannot foresee the chain of traumatic events that will shake them all, and whose repercussions will echo for years to come.


Excerpt from Chapter 10


Penny left the gaming floor and took the staff lift to the Chicas’ changing room. It was early evening and only a few girls were there. One of them was Katerina, a Chica who, it was said, had entered for the Miss Great Britain contest. She was certainly beautiful, but Penny felt a little intimidated by her aggressive character; her language was worse than some of the guys’ in the pub.

At that moment, while applying mascara, she was complaining about a customer. ‘Did you see that wanker at my station with the turban? He’s buying the cheapest wine on the list, hardly gave a tip all day and had the fuckin’ cheek to chat me up.’

The other two girls nearby laughed.

‘Hello darling, going to Morg’s do?’ Katerina addressed Penny patronisingly.
‘Er…yes. You going?’ Penny asked tentatively.

‘Sure. Me, Lisa and Mia. Wouldn’t miss one, would we?  It’s not just for sitting on, is it?’ She shook her bottom and her two friends laughed. Penny smiled self-consciously.

‘Is it right? We go like this? In our uniforms?’ Penny was conscious that Katerina was eyeing her up.

‘Yeh. You’re probably overdressed, but don’t worry, they’ll put that right.’

Penny smiled again, but wasn’t sure if the girl was serious or having a joke at her expense. They were about to leave and although she didn’t feel any particular affinity with them, she hurried, not wanting to go into the party on her own.

As the lift doors opened, music drifted down the passageway from the penthouse suite. People crowded round the entrance, including Harry Rye, who was supervising the delivery of a large package. Trist, dressed in turquoise shirt, white hipster jeans and a large gold buckled belt, greeted them boisterously

‘Hey, here’s the rest of my girls!’ He extended his arms. In one hand he held a drink and in the other a large cigar. Katerina, Mia and Lisa chorused ‘Hi Morg’ and wriggled up close to the Chairman. Penny held back shyly.   

‘Right. Hold it there!’ Rye pulled a photographer across to get a shot of ‘Morg with his Chicas’. Trist called to Penny to join them. After a couple of flashes of the camera the girls broke away but Trist took Penny’s arm.

 ‘Penny, where ya’going? First time you’ve joined us for one of these little get-togethers, not so?’
‘Yes Mr Trist, I’ve…’

‘Hey, none of this Mr Trist, It’s Morg. We’re all colleagues at this club, we just do different jobs. Didn’t they teach you our credo in the school?’

‘Oh yes. I’m sorry Mr…er…Morg, I really like the Ventura policies and I’m very happy here.’

‘And we’re happy such a beautiful and intelligent girl is with us,’ he said quietly in her ear. ‘Harry, a drink for this young lady. Something special!’ he shouted and winked.

Rye scurried off and Trist’s attention turned to another newcomer. Penny was momentarily left alone. She took stock of those around her. There were several Chicas mingling with the guests, not all of them in uniform.

Then she recognised someone. Could it be? Could it really be Steven Bates, the star of The Protectors? It was, and Katerina of all people was talking so charmingly to him. No swearing or gesticulating now. Penny almost laughed as she heard her say that she was ‘saving up to go back to her studies’.

‘There ya go. A Ventura cocktail for our new star!’  Morg snatched the long drink from the tray Rye carried and took Penny gently by the arm to lead her across the room through the noisy crowd.

‘Penny, I want you to meet some of my friends.’

Oh my God,’ she thought, as he led her to a group of people. Two of them were so familiar they needed no introduction. She’d seen them on Top Of The Pops often and owned their latest LP.

‘Hey, you guys, meet one of our top Chicas. This is Penny.  Penny, Dave and Rick of  Aces High.’

Penny could hardly contain her excitement. She’d never been this close to such famous people and they seemed so nice, not at all flashy or boastful. Dave, the lead singer, suggested they might write a song for her and joked that if her surname was Lane it had already been done.

The tinkle of a spoon on glass brought a momentary lowering of noise level. Rye stood by a linen-covered easel and offered the floor to a tall handsome gentleman with greying hair. Penny stared in disbelief. It was actually Tony Salinas, the film star. His familiar drawl filled the room.

‘Listen, you guys! Today - although he’s been trying to hide it - is Morg’s birthday, so a few of us got together to give him a little present. This work has been done by one of the most famous artists of our time!  Morg, come up here and pull this cord.’

The crowd cheered and clapped as Morgan moved his way from the back of the room. He grasped the movie star and whispered in his ear.

‘Morg says at his age he hasn’t got the strength to pull his own cord!’  Salinas laughed, as did the assembled audience. ‘Maybe one of his Chicas should pull it for him.’ This brought further laughter and a few catcalls. ‘Penny…Penny come up here and do this!’  The star held out his hand to her.

She was momentarily stunned. Almost feverish with excitement, she looked for somewhere to put her still half-full glass but, deciding she needed the drink, gulped it down. Now at the side of the famous film star, she tugged the cord and the sheet fell to an explosion of cheers and camera flashes.

The painting was Impressionist, of Morgan with two Chicas on either side. The applause subsided and Morgan once again called for a cocktail for Penny.

‘Penny, have you met Tony Salinas yet?’ he asked.

‘Hey, Morg, I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful. Not even in Hollywood!’ the actor beamed.

Penny, laughing shyly, wondered what her school friends would think if they could see her now with film and pop stars. Rye came with another drink, as someone produced a guitar for Dave of Aces High. Before she knew it, she was being drafted in with two other Chicas as backing group while he sang. They improvised a dance piece and Penny, normally reticent about public display, found a new confidence. The routine eventually dissolved in a fit of giggles as they got the steps all wrong. Dave called for drinks for his dance troupe. Penny didn’t usually drink much, but these tasted so good and she was having such fun.
Harry Rye and two Chicas now wheeled in a giant cake with candles, which Morg tried to blow out without success.

‘Hey, I need help here, girls!’

Penny rushed enthusiastically to help, as did several other girls.

‘Honey, you enjoying yourself?’ Trist slid his arm round Penny’s waist.
‘Oh yesss!’

‘You must have a big piece of my cake. This is a special recipe, isn’t it, Harry?’ Trist winked at Rye.

‘This is really special cake. One piece of this, another cocktail and you’ll be flying!’  Harry confided, giving her a large slice and another drink

‘I’m already flying!’ she giggled.

At that point Ahmed entered, to a chorus of greetings, with Pellzer and an Arab whom he immediately introduced to Trist. During a brief exchange between the men, none of which Penny understood, she interrupted to greet Ahmed effusively. Ahmed broke off to kiss her hand with his usual flamboyance.

‘I am sorry my sweet. We are rude talking of business in front of a beautiful lady. How are you, my dear? Having a good time I see.’ 

‘Ahmed, I’m having a great time. Dance with me!’ she demanded exuberantly, swaying from side to side.
‘I’m afraid I have no skill for dancing,’ he said a little coldly. She didn’t notice his annoyance as Tony Salinas swept her off to do a twist.

Ahmed, seeing Trist was well into the party mood, postponed talk of business and grabbed a passing Chica. ‘Hello, my darling. Please, meet my friend Mr Bin Assaid!’

Penny was drifting weightlessly and sounds were passing into the distance. She was just aware Morg and Tony were with her. Her legs wobbled a little, but it was a warm, carefree feeling. Morg was being so nice, so affectionate. She could feel him gently massaging her back as he held her. Tony was whispering something she couldn’t quite understand. Now the music seemed to be fading . She was being helped upstairs. Someone in a room who had no clothes on swore; was it Katerina? Then it was quiet again. She was now lying on a bed and giggled a little. It felt good. It felt good all over. The stroking started, shivery feelings inside her stomach. She felt her legs being lifted. There was a strange sensation, a quivering and now a weight on her body. She somehow felt pinned down, her body was jolted. Something was happening, something uncomfortable. She was being lifted again, felt pain inside her and then she was choking on something. She tried to struggle, to cry out, to scream- stop!- but had no power. Panic gripped her, the pain intensified before dizziness washed over her.


Excerpt from Chapter 50


The narrow cobbled street was illuminated by lamps suspended from the chipped and flaking walls of the buildings on either side, but they were spaced so far apart and with such low wattage as to be almost negligible. The residential quarters within the dingy buildings all seemed to be above the ground floor, as no lights shone from the few barred windows on street level. The only people he’d seen so far on this rather chill and drizzly night had been those crowded into the inevitable bar on the corner. Pat imagined not many locals would venture out on a night like this and if the noises escaping from the upstair’s windows and reverbating off the walls were anything to go by, the main activity in this region at night seemed to be arguing loudly above the din of the television.

The double-doors to number thirty-five where Linda had gone just two days before was one of the few front entrances which lay open, but depressingly, there were no lights on in the courtyard. He wished he’d kept up his PR habit of carrying a cigarette lighter for clients although he himself didn’t smoke; it would have served as a torch. Feeling around the wall on either side of the door for a light-switch, he succeeded only in collecting dust and cobwebs. The only glow he could see was coming from what he assumed was a fanlight above one of the doors on the first floor of the open balcony which surrounded the yard.

Using this as a reference point, he began to inch his way along the wall to the stair. His initial plan to look for Linda’s name on the door plates now had to be abandoned. So plan B, which involved knocking on any door and asking a neighbour where she lived, seemed the only logical, if unattractive, alternative. The one with the fanlight seemed as good a choice as any. Pat moved towards it, then froze: something scampered past him that he preferred to imagine was a cat. Heart racing, he arrived at his objective to find the fanlight was actually a fracture in the wall above the door. There seemed to be no bell so after several deep breaths, which gave him only a sharper awareness of his fetid surroundings, he knocked loudly several times.

No reply.

He waited for a brief reduction in the cacophony of sound emanating from within – adults shouting, music playing and gunshots; hopefully from a television programme – then tried again. Still no response.

Feeling his way along to the next door, he listened. No sound was coming from there as far as he could tell, nevertheless he knocked and was about to move on when a harsh female voice called out from behind the still locked door:

‘Que? Quien es?’

Pat imagined what the question was. ‘Hola, I’m sorry, por favor.Er…donde Linda Pardo?’ he used the only Spanish words he could remember.

The response was short and although he didn’t fully understand, it sounded far from promising or polite.
It was time to give up with this crazy idea. Here he was, in some seedy part of a foreign city in complete darkness without even the basic vocabulary to explain himself. Apart from the futility of the exercise, he’d never felt so vulnerable. Using as a new reference point the faint light from the street that could just be seen through building’s entrance, he gingerly made his way back towards the stairs.

Suddenly, the door he’d first knocked on opened, and in the shaft of light that shot from the apartment’s interior, the silhouette of a large man stood in Pat’s way. He was joined immediately by a second male. Monaghan’s pulse-rate moved into overdrive. For a few seconds all three of them remained silent and stock-still, like a stand-off in a Hollywood Western. Pat would have spoken first but his throat had dried up.

‘Que…?’ The man’s words were incomprehensible but again Pat guessed the question.

‘Er…hello. I look for Linda Pardo,’ he addressed the two dark outlines.

‘Aha…you Eengleesh. Come for puta….prost –toot, drogas!’ said one of the two men as they both moved threateningly closer. Pat took two steps back.

‘Ah well no, maybe she…she’s a friend with drug problem…’ he said, hoping they might recognise who he was talking about.

‘You want drugs…you want sell drugs?’ The men moved forward again, one mumbling menacingly.

‘No, no I want help my friend…she’s in trouble!’ Pat was alarmed by their aggressive tone. At that moment his mobile rang. Elena - he was sure.

He pulled it out quickly, startling them. ‘Yes, yes hello, I’m here. Ah, you’re outside!’ he shouted and looked down towards the door. He could see the two men were now in some doubt. ‘Yes, yes I’m coming down!’ He went to pass the two figures, who grudgingly parted to allow him access to the stairs. ‘No, no problem…gracias!’ he called back to the men, who looked on suspiciously.

Pat continued to talk all the way down the stairs and out through the door, although most of what he said was barely comprehensible to an increasingly alarmed Elena.

‘Sorry, love, I’m not mad,’ he muttered when he got to the street. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll call you back and explain in a few minutes.’ And he broke into a run.

He’d gone about fifty yards when he stopped, realising he was going in the wrong direction. No one was giving chase nor had they even been interested enough to come down to watch his hurried departure. His car was parked just off the other end of the street and he could see no simple way of returning to it without passing the place he’d just left in such haste. Slowly and reluctantly he retraced his steps, keeping an eye on the open door of number thirty-five. He was actually already two yards past when a figure caught his eye in the darkness of the doorway. Glancing back as he walked on, it took a second or two for him to register who it was: then it came to him. He didn’t run, but increased his stride. Palomino, Juan Palomino, Linda had called him. Could Pat dare hope he’d not recognised him? No. He was now following. Reaching the corner, Pat was tempted to seek assistance in the bar but, on seeing his car in the distance, broke into a run and could hear the footfalls of his pursuer.
All pretence now gone, he struggled to find the car key while maintaining speed.

Key in hand, he reached the car. Aiming, poking, fumbling - why hadn’t they given him an automatic lock! It was finally open. He slammed the door shut, again stabbing blindly at the ignition - once, twice, three times.

Palomino was at his rear door. The engine started, the door opened but Pat pulled away abruptly, leaving his attacker clawing air. As he reached the next corner, a car turned into the narrow street and blocked his path. In the rear view mirror he could see Palomino was gaining once again, this time with something in his hand. A knife, a gun?

Pat accelerated into what looked to be too narrow a space between the oncoming car and the building - and it was. A sickening grating sound as he planed along the wall on one side was matched by a crash and tinkle of glass as on the other he brought wing-mirror against wing mirror. He didn’t stop, not until he had driven at top speed for twenty minutes.
Finally, pulling in to a lay-by, he sat, shaking.

He’d been sitting there for several minutes before he could focus on what he should do next. Elena. He had to call Elena; she’d be worried sick. His phone was registering missed calls, no doubt she’d been ringing frantically and in his panic he hadn’t noticed. Not that he’d have taken time out to answer, in any case.

‘Oh my God, I’ve been going mad wondering what happened. Why didn’t you answer?’ she said in a rush of words.

‘Jesus, I don’t know where to begin,’ he said weakly.

‘Did you find Linda?’

‘No, I don’t know where she is. I’ll explain when I get back…be there shortly, don’t worry!’



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