Character – TmTimur Zolotoy – Stripper with the Masters of Disguise

Timur is a silver tongued Russian athlete, a champion swimmer forced to find other sources of income while a shoulder injury heals. He is on a flight to Shanghai, China disguised as priest, when Jaq first meets him.

Extract from The Chemical Reaction

Good evening,’ he said.

‘Hi.’ Jaq put on her headphones.

The purser returned with the drinks trolley. Jaq was going to need something stronger than champagne to get through this flight without picking a fight. Subjects to avoid: transubstantiation, denying women rights over their own bodies, child abuse and the callous neglect of the world’s disenfranchised by their omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, non-existent deity.

She took off her headphones. ‘Gin and tonic, please.’

‘Same for me,’ the priest said.

So, alcohol wasn’t a problem for these men of the cloth. What happened to self-restraint and denial of earthly pleasures?

He clinked his crystal tumbler against hers. ‘Cheers!’

‘Cheers.’ A little devil rose inside her. ‘We may as well introduce ourselves, since we’ll be sleeping together.’ She extended a hand. ‘Jaq Silver.’

‘Timur Zolotoy.’ He took her hand in a firm grip. The sleeve of his cassock rolled back to reveal an intricate lattice of tattoos.

A priest with a past?

‘What takes you to Shanghai, Jaq Silver?’

None of your bloody business. The silence stretched into discomfort.

He spoke again. ‘I’m going to look for work.’

‘Oh, you count it as work, do you?’ She could remain silent no longer. ‘I assumed yours was more of a vocation.’

‘Well . . .’ He sipped his drink and wrinkled his brow, the dark eyebrows joining. ‘I enjoy the girls and the dancing, but I only strip for the money.’


Emperor Qianlong Jade Treasure –  water buffalo


Spinach-green jade figure of a recumbent buffalo, China, Qing dynasty, 18th century. 30 cm long.


Thulium metal – Atomic number 69, atomic mass 168.934


Thulium, named after Thule, the ancient Greek and Roman word for the far north, was first isolated in 1879 after Swedish chemist Per Teodor Cleve noticed a variation in the atomic weight of erbium depending on its source. He realised that the samples of erbium must contain another, similar element in varying amounts. He extracted thulium in 1879.

Thulium fluoresces with a blue colour in ultraviolet light and is used in euro banknotes (along with Europium for red and  Terbium for green) to protect against counterfeiting.

It’s also used in industrial radiography and portable X-ray devices as well as lasers.

Back to Erbium

Forward to Ytterbium

The Chemical Reaction by Fiona Erskine is published by the PointBlank imprint of Oneworld and is available here