Excerpt of Heliopolis by James Scudamore
(Page 3 of 4)
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The point is that its my real name, not an adopted one.
Zé, Melissas father, took me aside not long after the process
was finalised and explained why he wasnt giving me his:
It would give you more problems than advantages. And
we cant afford to take chances after what happened to
As he is chief executive of the MaxiMarket supermarket
chain, and also enjoyed a brief stint as Minister for Agriculture
before a change of government sent him back to commerce,
he and his family have always been prime targets for
kidnappers. Melissa was ten when she was taken, and she
only escaped because she had the presence of mind to fake
an epileptic seizure. Her kidnappers were so spooked by it
that they threw her out of a moving car and were never
heard from again.
Shes a little shaken, I heard Zé saying into the phone
that weekend. Its most unfortunate. But we still have her.
Unfortunate. I doubt hed pay any attention at all if someone
Melissas kidnapping occurred because she wandered off
into the streets after school when the chauffeur was late
picking her up, but it wasnt her fault in this city, youre
only marginally safer in a vehicle. They changed the traffic
laws not long ago to prevent carjacking: red no longer means
stop. Now, it means proceed with caution.
Unlike Melissa, I do not live in the clouds. Nor do I inhabit
a fortress, like her father. I have a studio apartment in a
reasonable area one of three candy-bar blocks in beige,
pink and white, clustered around a communal pool. My
apartment is on the first floor of the white one, nestled in
its base: its like living in a cave at the foot of a cliff. My sole
concession to deterrence is the balcony wall, into which I
have embedded shards of bottle glass in blue, green and red,
but these are obscured by the dense foliage of the plants I
grow to remind me of the farm where I grew up.
Zé lectures me on the subject. Youre naïve, Ludo. The
minute we adopted you, you became different. One day it
will happen someone will target you and there will be
no use regretting it after the fact.
He may have a point, but I have less to steal than he does,
and given the differences between our lifestyles I suspect an
element of paranoia. In his worldview there is no such thing
as a middle class, and no such thing as a non-criminal underclass.
The house that he flies home to every weeknight is a
fortified compound, buffered by terraced ponds and beds of
hostile, spiky shrubs. His self-watering lawns are patrolled
by two pure-bred fighting mastiffs, which roll over on demand
for Zé and his family, but would take the leg off an uninvited
guest. His palm trees contain motionsensitive cameras
connected to the hub of technology in the guardhouse: if
you disturbed so much as a blade of his grass, Zé would
know about it. And thats just the beginning. Before you
even get to the house you have to enter the compound itself,
which is defended by bundles of oiled razor wire and a tooledup
crew that resembles a private army rather than a team
of security guards. It would take a thief with Special Forces
training to get past the outer walls, let alone breach Zés last
line of defence, and even if you did, you wouldnt find him
hed be sealed in his tungsten panic room long before you
got in, along with every other member of his family, and
every object of value. Zé Fischer Carnicelli trusts nobody
but himself, however many people he employs to protect
For the very rich, like him, a pall of fear almost as heavy
as the pollution hangs over this unmappable metropolis
but if, like me, you have less to protect, you can get high on
the energy of the place, and allow it to fascinate and excite
you. Town planning never happened: there wasnt time. The
city ambushed its inhabitants, exploding in consecutive
booms of coffee, sugar and rubber, so quickly that nobody
could draw breath to say what should go where. It has been
expanding ever since, sustained by all that ferocious energy.
And here, just as in the universe, anything could happen.
Excerpted from Heliopolis
by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.