In a word: Incline

When you first think of this word, it is with a slippery slope in mind.

I’ve been on a few of those in my time.

And while we’re on the subject, those inclines measured in degrees are very important if you want a train to get up and down the side of a mountain.

For the train, that’s an incline plane, the point where traction alone won’t get the iron horse up the hill.

Did I say ‘Iron Horse’?  Sorry, regressed there, back to the mid-1800s in the American West for a moment.

It’s not that important when it comes to trucks and cars, and less so if you like four-wheel driving; getting up near-vertical mountainsides often present a welcome challenge to the true enthusiast

But for the rest of us, not so much if you find yourself sliding in reverse uncontrollably into the bay.  I’m sure it’s happened more than once.


Are you inclined to go?

A very different sort of incline, ie to be disposed towards an attitude or desire.

An inclination, maybe, not to go four-wheel driving?

There is another, probably more obscure use of the word incline, and that relates to an elevated geological formation.  Not the sort of reference that crops up in everyday conversation at the coffee shop.

But, you never know.  Try it next time you have coffee and see what happens.


Writing about writing a book – Day 2

Hang about.  Didn’t I read somewhere you need to plan your novel, create an outline setting the plot points, and flesh out the characters?

I’m sure it didn’t say, sit down and start writing!

Time to find a writing pad, and put my thinking cap on.

I make a list, what’s the story going to be about? Who’s going to be in it, at least at the start?

Like a newspaper story, I need a who, what, when, where, and how.

Right now.


I pick up the pen.


Character number one:

Computer nerd, ok, that’s a little close to the bone, a computer manager who is trying to be everything at once, and failing.  Still me, but with a twist.  Now, add a little mystery to him, and give him a secret, one that will only be revealed after a specific set of circumstance.  Yes, I like that.

We’ll call him Bill, ex-regular army, a badly injured and repatriated soldier who was sent to fight a war in Vietnam, the result of which had made him, at times, unfit to live with.

He had a wife, which brings us to,

Character number two:

Ellen, Bill’s ex-wife, an army brat and a General’s daughter, and the result of one of those romances that met disapproval for so many reasons.  It worked until Bill came back from the war, and from there it slowly disintegrated.  There are two daughters, both by the time the novel begins, old enough to understand the ramifications of a divorce.

Character number three:

The man who is Bill’s immediate superior, the Services Department manager, a rather officious man who blindly follows orders, a man who takes pleasure in making others feel small and insignificant, and worst of all, takes the credit where none is due.

Oops, too much, that is my old boss.  He’ll know immediately I’m parodying him.  Tone it down, just a little, but more or less that’s him.  Last name Benton.  He will play a small role in the story.

Character number four:

Jennifer, the IT Department’s assistant manager, a woman who arrives in a shroud of mystery, and then, in time, to provide Bill with a shoulder to cry on when he and Ellen finally split, and perhaps something else later on.

More on her later as the story unfolds.

So far so good.

What’s the plot?

Huge corporation plotting to take over the world using computers?  No, that’s been done to death.

Huge corporation, OK, let’s stop blaming the corporate world for everything wrong in the world.  Corporations are not bad people, people are the bad people.  That’s a rip off cliché, from guns don’t kill people, people kill people!  There will be guns, and there will be dead people.

There will be people hiding behind a huge corporation, using a part of their computer network to move billions of illegally gained money around.  That’s better.

Now, having got that, our ‘hero’ has to ‘discover’ this network, and the people behind it.

All we need now is to set the ball rolling, a single event that ‘throws a cat among the pigeons’.

Yes, Bill is on holidays, a welcome relief from the problems of work.  He dreams of what he’s going to do for the next two weeks.  The phone rings.  Benton calling, the world is coming to an end, the network is down.  He’s needed.  A few terse words, but he relents.

Pen in hand I begin to write.


© Charles Heath 2016-2019

A life so ordinary – There was good stuff

I guess in a way, Bess Court was a turning point and a marker in the timeline of our lives.

It didn’t just affect me but to a greater extent my older brother and my mother.

Of course, it was the same time my cognitive memories kicked in, something I could have done without.

But …

It was a while before all our lives went to hell in a handbasket.

Of course, back then I didn’t know anything about my father’s service in the second world war and the effect it had on him, mentally and physically.

Perhaps it was the mental effects that crept up on him as it had left him with anxiety and I suspect it was undiagnosed and not recognised as it is today as PTSD. Nor did we realise the recurring nature of malaria, and how he had battled it off and on since 1944.

But as I said, we knew nothing of this at the time.

So, the good times?

Bess Court was a family area and there were lots of other kids to play with. That’s what you did then, after school and holidays. None of these computers and watching the television.

Working for General Motors, my father could get now box sides made out of timber and one year he arranged for a truckload of them to be delivered for the holidays.

That particular year the kids in the street came over to build the world’s largest cubby house with four sets of kids, so it was four stories tall, and of course, we were on the top floor

And notable for one reason only. An overzealous building inspector came and told us we had to pull it down. Yes, it must have been quite large.

It was also a time when there were no houses between our street and the creek where some years we re-enacted battles, other we went picking blackberries, growing wild on the banks of the creek.

Summers were good in one respect.

Sometimes during the holidays, we went camping, at Lakes Entrance, Wilsons Promontory, Queenscliff, and even as far away as Adelaide and places in between.

And Easter, nearly every year we’d paint the house, the paint provided by the same people who supplied the paint for the Holden cars. The worst colour I remember, is a shade called Mushroom.

Then there was a series of unfortunate events.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 1

We think of tropical Queensland having pristine white beaches and azure sparkling seas.

Not necessarily so.

This used to be a mangrove swamp.

Perhaps this is what happens when you mess with the natural environment, you’re left with something that’s not very nice.

There’s no beach, no sand, and sometimes not a very pleasant odor.

We can imagine what this might have looked like before man turned up to urbanize the area. In the background, there is an inlet and on either side lush vegetation.

It must have looked very inviting once upon a time. Now the shoreline is completely built on, the vegetation that was once there completely cleared, and the inlet leads to a marina.

Perhaps the story here might be about greedy destructive property developers who care not for anything but profits.  But in their quest to destroy, there is always someone else aiding and abetting, someone in government.

But what if there was an even darker secret hiding just below the surface, and about to be uncovered.  How far would someone go to preserve that secret?


Lost and Found, a short story

I had once said that Grand Central Station, in New York, was large enough you could get lost in it. Especially if you were from out of town.

I know, I was from out of town, and though I didn’t quite get lost, back then I had to ask directions to go where I needed to.

It was also an awe-inspiring place, and whenever I had a spare moment, usually at lunchtime, I would go there and just soak in the atmosphere. It was large enough to make a list of places to visit, or find, or get a photograph from some of the more obscure places.

Today, I was just there to work off a temper. Things had gone badly at work, and even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, I still felt bad about it.

I came in the 42nd street entrance and went up to the balcony that overlooked the main concourse. A steady stream of people was coming and going, most purposefully, a few were loitering, and several police officers were attempting to move on a vagrant. It was not the first time.

But one person caught my eye, a young woman who had made a circuit of the hall, looked at nearly every destination board, and appeared to be confused. It was the same as I had felt when I first arrived.

Perhaps I could help.

The problem was, a man approaching a woman from out of left field would have a very creepy vibe to it, so it was probably best left alone.

Another half-hour of watching the world go by, I had finally got past the bad mood and headed back to work. I did a wide sweep of the main concourse, perhaps more for the exercise than anything else, and had reached the clock in the centre of the concourse when someone turned suddenly, and I crashed into them.

Not badly, like ending up on the floor, but enough for a minor jolt. Of course, it was my fault because I was in another world at that particular moment.

“Oh, I am sorry.” A woman’s voice, very apologetic.

I was momentarily annoyed, then, when I saw who it was, it passed. It was the lost woman I’d seen earlier.

“No. Not your fault, but mine entirely. I have a habit of wandering around with my mind elsewhere.”

Was it fate that we should meet like this?

I noticed she was looking around, much the same as she had before.

“Can I help you?”

“Perhaps you can. There’s supposed to be a bar that dates back to the prohibition era here somewhere. Campbell’s Apartment, or something like that. I was going to ask…”

“Sure. It’s not that hard to find if you know where it is. I’ll take you.”

It made for a good story, especially when I related it to the grandchildren, because the punch line was, “and that’s how I met your grandmother.”


© Charles Heath 2020

Searching for locations: Brisbane botanical gardens, Australia

The flowers were out in full bloom the day we took the grandchildren for ‘a walk in the park’.


Of particular interest was the Japanese garden with a trail with rocks,and mini waterfalls


And as a fitting end to the day, a chance to feed a family of ducks


“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: The shopkeeper

It’s now time to look at the shopkeeper’s involvement, and there’s more to him and his activities than meets the eye.

With this event, it appears his luck is about to run out.


This wasn’t the shopkeeper’s first hold up.  In fact, over the years there had been a dozen.  But only one got reported to the police, and that was only because the robber was shot and killed.

He’d taken a bullet that night, too, which, from the police point of view, made him a concerned citizen simply defending himself.

The rest had been scared off by the double-barrel shotgun he kept under the counter for just such emergencies.

The young punk who came into the shop with his girlfriend had pulled out the pistol and told him if he reached for the shotgun he’d shoot him.  The kid looked unstable and he’d backed away.

When the kid collapsed, he should have gone for the shotgun, but instead, he thought he could get to the gun before the girl realized what was happened.  She wasn’t an addict and clearly looked like she was only along for the ride.  Her look when the kid pulled out the gun told him she’d known nothing about her partner’s true intentions.

But, he wasn’t fast enough, and she had the gun pointing at him before he’d got past the counter.

From one pair of unpredictable hands to another.

Like the girl, he was just as surprised when the customer burst in the door, just before closing time.

The situation might have been salvageable before the customer came in the door, getting the girl to go along with the robbery being about money, but there was no denying what the kid on the floor’s problem was.


He had to try and salvage the situation simply because there was a lot of money involved, and other people depending on him.  He looked at the boy, on the floor, then the girl.

“Listen to me, young lady, you would be well advised to let this man go as he suggests.  And, please put the gun down before someone gets hurt.  Your friend needs medical help and I can call an ambulance.”

The girl switched her attention back to him.  “No one’s going anywhere, so just shut the hell up and let me think.”

The storekeeper glanced over at the customer. 

He’d seen him come into the shop once or twice, probably lived in the neighborhood, the sort who’d make a reliable witness, either a lawyer or an accountant.  Not like most of the residents just beyond the fringe of respectability.

If only he hadn’t burst into the shop when he did.


© Charles Heath 2018-2020

“The Devil You Don’t”, she was the girl you would not take home to your mother!

Now only $0.99 at https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, and prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follow.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.


The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 22

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


I was a fool for thinking that I could help Nadia when the whole time she was playing me.  There didn’t look like any tension between them, and nothing that would convince me that he had any sort of hold over her.

I cursed myself for my own stupidity.

With a shake of the head, I went over to the bar attached to the beachside restaurant and order a cold beer, then another.   The bartender gave me a long measured look as if trying to gauge my age, but I was old enough and had the ID card to prove it.  

It was a curse to look so young for that reason, but I suppose, like more old men, I would eventually curse being old.  At least, that’s what my mother said, along with the warning I should not be so eager to start drinking booze.

At least I didn’t smoke, though that hadn’t always been the case, and, at times, it was hard not to reach for a cigarette in moments of anguish or anger, like now.

I was on my fourth bottle when I heard someone sit on the stool next to mine.  About the same time I recognised the perfume wafting my way.


“So, this is where you’re hiding?”

I looked sideways at her.  My first thought was to tell her exactly what I thought of her.  That passed quickly.  No telling how many of her friends were here, and the thought of facing Vince was not something I wanted to do, any time.

“What do you want?”

“I thought I saw you on the pier?”

“I like to see how the other half live.  What’s your excuse?”  OK, that didn’t come out exactly how I wanted it to.

I could feel her glaring at me.  She knew exactly what I was talking about.  At least she wasn’t going to dodge the issue.

“I do what I have to.  If it means I have to cosy up to a rattlesnake, then I will.”  Delivered barely above a whisper, but spat out with a great deal of venom.  “What happened out there?”

“Rico got busted for having a dead body on his boat.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“I didn’t put it there if that’s what you mean.”


“He hasn’t got the brains for something like that.  Not in plain sight.”

That was an odd thing to say, in plain sight.  Did that mean they were in full view of Rico’s boat the whole time he was not on it?

“Why do you say that?”  I looked sideways at her.  Slightly sunburned on the top of her cheeks.  No makeup, and surprisingly, she looked very different, not as grown-up.

“The yacht was parked three bays down.  Engines were not working again and Alex had to come back and just made it into the dock.  Sent down a couple of divers to check the propellers or something.”

“You see Rico on his boat?”

“Briefly.  He was with a couple of Benderby’s thugs.  They left the boat, and about ten minutes later we left the dock.  Alex said some fishing line had fouled the propeller.”

“What happened then?”

“We went down below to have lunch.  The Captain took it for a run, everything seemed to be working, and we came back.  That’s when I saw you and Rico on the dock and all the police. You in some sort of trouble?”

“No.  The FBI has taken over the investigation, and told Johnson to let us go.”

“I’m sure Johnson is absolutely thrilled the feds took over his ticket to becoming the next Sherriff.”

“Why?  Is he in the Cossatino’s back pocket?”

“You’re asking the wrong person.  This will put a dent in your plan to help me out with Alex.  I can’t pretend to like the bastard for much longer, and I swear if he touches me again, I’ll kill him.”

I guess it was easy, for a minute, to forget that her brother was exactly the same with other women, and, when we’d been at school, girls too frightened to say no.  Perhaps it was the Cossatino blood running through her veins, that it was alright in some cases, and not in others.  “That’s ironic after what Vince has done, and probably still does, don’t you think?”

The bartender stopped and put a half-full glass of straight bourbon in front of her.  A nod and the bill was paid.

She looked at me, picked it up and drunk the contents straight down, then said, “You’re a bastard smidge.  You know I could crush you like the insignificant bug you are, but I’m not going to.  You see, I like you, no matter what you think of me.  Just call me once you’ve got over your bout of smug superiority.”

A smile, or a grimace, I wasn’t sure what it was, she slid off the stool and left.


© Charles Heath 2019

An excerpt from “One Last Look”: Charlotte is no ordinary girl

This is currently available at Amazon herehttp://amzn.to/2CqUBcz

I’d read about out-of-body experiences, and like everyone else, thought it was nonsense.  Some people claimed to see themselves in the operating theatre, medical staff frantically trying to revive them, and being surrounded by white light.

I was definitely looking down, but it wasn’t me I was looking at.

It was two children, a boy and a girl, with their parents, in a park.

The boy was Alan.  He was about six or seven.  The girl was Louise, and she was five years old.  She had long red hair and looked the image of her mother.

I remember it now, it was Louise’s birthday and we went down to Bournemouth to visit our Grandmother, and it was the last time we were all together as a family.

We were flying homemade kites our father had made for us, and after we lay there looking up at the sky, making animals out of the clouds.  I saw an elephant, Louise saw a giraffe.

We were so happy then.

Before the tragedy.

When I looked again ten years had passed and we were living in hell.  Louise and I had become very adept at survival in a world we really didn’t understand, surrounded by people who wanted to crush our souls.

It was not a life a normal child had, our foster parents never quite the sort of people who were adequately equipped for two broken-hearted children.  They tried their best, but their best was not good enough.

Every day it was a battle, to avoid the Bannister’s and Archie in particular, every day he made advances towards Louise and every day she fended him off.

Until one day she couldn’t.

Now I was sitting in the hospital, holding Louise’s hand.  She was in a coma, and the doctors didn’t think she would wake from it.  The damage done to her was too severe.

The doctors were wrong.

She woke, briefly, to name her five assailants.  It was enough to have them arrested.  It was not enough to have them convicted.

Justice would have to be served by other means.

I was outside the Bannister’s home.

I’d made my way there without really thinking, after watching Louise die.  It was like being on autopilot, and I had no control over what I was doing.  I had murder in mind.  It was why I was holding an iron bar.

Skulking in the shadows.  It was not very different from the way the Bannister’s operated.

I waited till Archie came out.  I knew he eventually would.  The police had taken him to the station for questioning, and then let him go.  I didn’t understand why, nor did I care.

I followed him up the towpath, waiting till he stopped to light a cigarette, then came out of the shadows.

“Wotcha got there Alan?” he asked when he saw me.  He knew what it was, and what it was for.

It was the first time I’d seen the fear in his eyes.  He was alone.


“For that slut of a sister of yours.  I had nuffing to do with it.”

“She said otherwise, Archie.”

“She never said nuffing, you just made it up.”  An attempt at bluster, but there was no confidence in his voice.

I held up the pipe.  It had blood on it.  Willy’s blood.  “She may or may not have Archie, but Willy didn’t make it up.  He sang like a bird.  That’s his blood, probably brains on the pipe too, Archie, and yours will be there soon enough.”

“He dunnit, not me.  Lyin’ bastard would say anything to save his own skin.”  Definitely scared now, he was looking to run away.

“No, Archie.  He didn’t.  I’m coming for you.  All of you Bannisters.  And everyone who touched my sister.”

It was the recurring nightmare I had for years afterwards.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the thoughts, the images of Louise, the phone call, the visit to the hospital and being there when she succumbed to her injuries.  Those were the very worst few hours of my life.

She had asked me to come to the railway station and walk home with her, and I was running late.  If I had left when I was supposed to, it would never have happened and for years afterwards, I blamed myself for her death.

If only I’d not been late…

When the police finally caught the rapists, I’d known all along who they’d be; antagonists from school, the ring leader, Archie Bannister, a spurned boyfriend, a boy whose parents, ubiquitously known to all as ‘the Bannister’s, dealt in violence and crime and who owned the neighbourhood.  The sins of the father had been very definitely passed onto the son.

At school, I used to be the whipping boy, Archie, a few grades ahead of me, made a point of belting me and a few of the other boys, to make sure the rest did as they were told.  He liked Louise, but she had no time for a bully like him, even when he promised he would ‘protect’ me.

I knew the gang members, the boys who tow-kowed to save getting beaten up, and after the police couldn’t get enough information to prosecute them because everyone was too afraid to speak out, I went after Willy.  There was always a weak link in a group, and he was it.

He worked in a factory, did long hours on a Wednesday and came home after dark alone.  It was a half mile walk, through a park.  The night I approached him, I smashed the lights and left it in darkness.  He nearly changed his mind and went the long way home.

He didn’t.

It took an hour and a half to get the names.  At first, when he saw me, he laughed.  He said I would be next, and that was four words more than he knew he should have said.

When I found him alone the next morning I showed him the iron bar and told him he was on the list.  I didn’t kill him then, he could wait his turn, and worry about what was going to happen to him.

When the police came to visit me shortly after that encounter, no doubt at the behest of the Bannister’s, the neighbourhood closed ranks and gave me an ironclad alibi.  The Bannister’s then came to visit me and threatened me.  I told them their days were numbered and showed them the door.

At the trial, he and his friends got off on a technicality.  The police had failed to do their job properly, but it was not the police, but a single policeman, corrupted by the Bannisters.

Archie could help but rub it in my face.  He was invincible.

Joe Collins took 12 bullets and six hours to bleed out.  He apologized, he pleaded, he cried, he begged.  I didn’t care.

Barry Mills, a strong lad with a mind to hurting people, Archie’s enforcer, almost got the better of me.  I had to hit him more times than I wanted to, and in the end, I had to be satisfied that he died a short but agonizing death.

I revisited Willy in the hospital.  He’d recovered enough to recognize me, and why I’d come.  Suffocation was too good for him.

David Williams, second in command of the gang, was as tough and nasty as the Bannisters.  His family were forging a partnership with the Bannister’s to make them even more powerful.  Outwardly David was a pleasant sort of chap, affable, polite, and well mannered.  A lot of people didn’t believe he could be like, or working with, the Bannisters.

He and I met in the pub.  We got along like old friends.  He said Willy had just named anyone he could think of, and that he was innocent of any charges.  We shook hands and parted as friends.

Three hours later he was sitting in a chair in the middle of a disused factory, blindfolded and scared.  I sat and watched him, listened to him, first threatening me, and then finally pleading with me.  He’d guessed who it was that had kidnapped him.

When it was dark, I took the blindfold off and shone a very bright light in his eyes.  I asked him if the violence he had visited upon my sister was worth it.  He told me he was just a spectator.

I’d read the coroner’s report.  They all had a turn.  He was a liar.

He took nineteen bullets to die.

Then came Archie.

The same factory only this time there were four seats.  Anna Bannister, brothel owner, Spike Bannister, head of the family, Emily Bannister, sister, and who had nothing to do with their criminal activities.  She just had the misfortune of sharing their name.

Archie’s father told me how he was going to destroy me, and everyone I knew.

A well-placed bullet between the eyes shut him up.

Archie’s mother cursed me.  I let her suffer for an hour before I put her out of her misery.

Archie remained stony-faced until I came to Emily.  The death of his parents meant he would become head of the family.  I guess their deaths meant as little to him as they did me.

He was a little more worried about his sister.

I told him it was confession time.

He told her it was little more than a forced confession and he had done nothing to deserve my retribution.

I shrugged and shot her, and we both watched her fall to the ground screaming in agony.  I told him if he wanted her to live, he had to genuinely confess to his crimes.  This time he did, it all poured out of him.

I went over to Emily.  He watched in horror as I untied her bindings and pulled her up off the floor, suffering only from a small wound in her arm.  Without saying a word she took the gun and walked over to stand behind him.

“Louise was my friend, Archie.  My friend.”

Then she shot him.  Six times.

To me, after saying what looked like a prayer, she said, “Killing them all will not bring her back, Alan, and I doubt she would approve of any of this.  May God have mercy on your soul.”

Now I was in jail.  I’d spent three hours detailing the deaths of the five boys, everything I’d done; a full confession.  Without my sister, my life was nothing.  I didn’t want to go back to the foster parents; I doubt they’d take back a murderer.

They were not allowed to.

For a month I lived in a small cell, in solitary, no visitors.  I believed I was in the queue to be executed, and I had mentally prepared myself for the end.

Then I was told I had a visitor, and I was expecting a priest.

Instead, it was a man called McTavish. Short, wiry, and with an accent that I could barely understand.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Alan.”

When I saw it was not the priest I told the jailers not to let him in, I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  They ignored me.  I’d expected he was a psychiatrist, come to see whether I should be shipped off to the asylum.

I was beginning to think I was going mad.

I ignored him.

“I am the difference between you living or dying Alan, it’s as simple as that.  You’d be a wise man to listen to what I have to offer.”

Death sounded good.  I told him to go away.

He didn’t.  Persistent bugger.

I was handcuffed to the table.  The prison officers thought I was dangerous.  Five, plus two, murders, I guess they had a right to think that.  McTavish sat opposite me, ignoring my request to leave.

“Why’d you do it?”

“You know why.”  Maybe if I spoke he’d go away.

“Your sister.  By all accounts, the scum that did for her deserved what they got.”

“It was murder just the same.  No difference between scum and proper people.”

“You like killing?”

“No-one does.”

“No, I dare say you’re right.  But you’re different, Alan.  As clean and merciless killing I’ve ever seen.  We can use a man like you.”


“A group of individuals who clean up the scum.”

I looked up to see his expression, one of benevolence, totally out of character for a man like him.  It looked like I didn’t have a choice.

Trained, cleared, and ready to go.

I hadn’t realized there were so many people who were, for all intents and purposes, invisible.  People that came and went, in malls, in hotels, trains, buses, airports, everywhere, people no one gave a second glance.

People like me.

In a mall, I became a shopper.

In a hotel, I was just another guest heading to his room.

On a bus or a train, I was just another commuter.

At the airport, I became a pilot.  I didn’t need to know how to fly; everyone just accepted a pilot in a pilot suit was just what he looked like.

I had a passkey.

I had the correct documents to get me onto the plane.

That walk down the air bridge was the longest of my life.  Waiting for the call from the gate, waiting for one of the air bridge staff to challenge me, stepping onto the plane.

Two pilots and a steward.  A team.  On the plane early before the rest of the crew.  A group that was committing a crime, had committed a number of crimes and thought they’d got away with it.

Until the judge, the jury and their executioner arrived.


Quick, clean, merciless.  Done.

I was now an operational field agent.

I was older now, and I could see in the mirror I was starting to go grey at the sides.  It was far too early in my life for this, but I expect it had something to do with my employment.

I didn’t recognize the man who looked back at me.

It was certainly not Alan McKenzie, nor was there any part of that fifteen-year-old who had made the decision to exact revenge.

Given a choice; I would not have gone down this path.

Or so I kept telling myself each time a little more of my soul was sold to the devil.

I was Barry Gamble.

I was Lenny Buckman.

I was Jimmy Hosen.

I was anyone but the person I wanted to be.

That’s what I told Louise, standing in front of her grave, and trying to apologize for all the harm, all the people I’d killed for that one rash decision.  If she was still alive she would be horrified, and ashamed.

Head bowed, tears streamed down my face.

God had gone on holiday and wasn’t there to hand out any forgiveness.  Not that day.  Not any day.

New York, New Years Eve.

I was at the end of a long tour, dragged out of a holiday and back into the fray, chasing down another scumbag.  They were scumbags, and I’d become an automaton hunting them down and dispatching them to what McTavish called a better place.

This time I failed.

A few drinks to blot out the failure, a blonde woman who pushed my buttons, a room in a hotel, any hotel, it was like being on the merry-go-round, round and round and round…

Her name was Silvia or Sandra, or someone I’d met before, but couldn’t quite place her.  It could be an enemy agent for all I knew or all I cared right then.

I was done.

I’d had enough.

I gave her the gun.

I begged her to kill me.

She didn’t.

Instead, I simply cried, letting the pent up emotion loose after being suppressed for so long, and she stayed with me, holding me close, and saying I was safe, that she knew exactly how I felt.

How could she?  No one could know what I’d been through.

I remembered her name after she had gone.


I remembered she had an imperfection in her right eye.

Someone else had the same imperfection.

I couldn’t remember who that was.

Not then.

I had a dingy flat in Kensington, a place that I rarely stayed in if I could help it.  After five-star hotel rooms, it made me feel shabby.

The end of another mission, I was on my way home, the underground, a bus, and then a walk.

It was late.

People were spilling out of the pub after the last drinks.  Most in good spirits, others slightly more boisterous.

A loud-mouthed chap bumped into me, the sort who had one too many, and was ready to take on all comers.

He turned on me, “Watch where you’re going, you fool.”

Two of his friends dragged him away.  He shrugged them off, squared up.

I punched him hard, in the stomach, and he fell backwards onto the ground.  I looked at his two friends.  “Take him home before someone makes mincemeat out of him.”

They grabbed his arms, lifted him off the ground and took him away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a woman, early thirties, quite attractive, but very, very drunk.  She staggered from the bar, bumped into me, and finished up sitting on the side of the road.

I looked around to see where her friends were.  The exodus from the pub was over and the few nearby were leaving to go home.

She was alone, drunk, and by the look of her, unable to move.

I sat beside her.  “Where are your friends?”


“You need help?”

She looked up, and sideways at me.  She didn’t look the sort who would get in this state.  Or maybe she was, I was a terrible judge of women.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Nobody.”  I was exactly how I felt.

“Well Mr Nobody, I’m drunk, and I don’t care.  Just leave me here to rot.”

She put her head back between her knees, and it looked to me she was trying to stop the spinning sensation in her head.

Been there before, and it’s not a good feeling.

“Where are your friends?” I asked again.

“Got none.”

“Perhaps I should take you home.”

“I have no home.”

“You don’t look like a homeless person.  If I’m not mistaken, those shoes are worth more than my weekly salary.”  I’d seen them advertised, in the airline magazine, don’t ask me why the ad caught my attention.

She lifted her head and looked at me again.  “You a smart fucking arse are you?”

“I have my moments.”

“Have them somewhere else.”

She rested her head against my shoulder.  We were the only two left in the street, and suddenly in darkness when the proprietor turned off the outside lights.

“Take me home,” she said suddenly.

“Where is your place?”

“Don’t have one.  Take me to your place.”

“You won’t like it.”

“I’m drunk.  What’s not to like until tomorrow.”

I helped her to her feet.  “You have a name?”


The wedding was in a small church.  We had been away for a weekend in the country, somewhere in the Cotswolds, and found this idyllic spot.  Graves going back to the dawn of time, a beautiful garden tended by the vicar and his wife, an astonishing vista over hills and down dales.

On a spring afternoon with the sun, the flowers, and the peacefulness of the country.

I had two people at the wedding, the best man, Bradley, and my boss, Watkins.

Charlotte had her sisters Melissa and Isobel, and Isobel’s husband Giovanni, and their daughter Felicity.

And one more person who was as mysterious as she was attractive, a rather interesting combination as she was well over retirement age.  She arrived late and left early.

Aunt Agatha.

She looked me up and down with what I’d call a withering look.  “There’s more to you than meets the eye,” she said enigmatically.

“Likewise I’m sure,” I said.  It earned me an elbow in the ribs from Charlotte.  It was clear she feared this woman.

“Why did you come,” Charlotte asked.

“You know why.”

Agatha looked at me.  “I like you.  Take care of my granddaughter.  You do not want me for an enemy.”

OK, now she officially scared me.

She thrust a cheque into my hand, smiled, and left.

“Who is she,” I asked after we watched her depart.

“Certainly not my fairy godmother.”

Charlotte never mentioned her again.

Zurich in summer, not exactly my favourite place.

Instead of going to visit her sister Isobel, we stayed at a hotel in Beethovenstrasse and Isobel and Felicity came to us.  Her husband was not with her this time.

Felicity was three or four and looked very much like her mother.  She also looked very much like Charlotte, and I’d remarked on it once before and it received a sharp rebuke.

We’d been twice before, and rather than talk to her sister, Charlotte spent her time with Felicity, and they were, together, like old friends.  For so few visits they had a remarkable rapport.

I had not broached the subject of children with Charlotte, not after one such discussion where she had said she had no desire to be a mother.  It had not been a subject before and wasn’t once since.

Perhaps like all Aunts, she liked the idea of playing with a child for a while and then give it back.

Felicity was curious as to who I was, but never ventured too close.  I believed a child could sense the evil in adults and had seen through my facade of friendliness.  We were never close.


This time, when observing the two together, something quite out of left field popped into my head.  It was not possible, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought she looked like my mother.

And Charlotte had seen me looking in their direction.  “You seem distracted,” she said.

“I was just remembering my mother.  Odd moment, haven’t done so for a very long time.”

“Why now?”  I think she had a look of concern on her face.

“Her birthday, I guess,” I said, the first excuse I could think of.

Another look and I was wrong.  She looked like Isobel or Charlotte, or if I wanted to believe it possible, Melissa too.

I was crying, tears streaming down my face.

I was in pain, searing pain from my lower back stretching down into my legs, and I was barely able to breathe.

It was like coming up for air.

It was like Snow White bringing Prince Charming back to life.  I could feel what I thought was a gentle kiss and tears dropping on my cheeks, and when I opened my eyes, I saw Charlotte slowly lifting her head, a hand gently stroking the hair off my forehead.

And in a very soft voice, she said, “Hi.”

I could not speak, but I think I smiled.  It was the girl with the imperfection in her right eye.  Everything fell into place, and I knew, in that instant that we were irrevocably meant to be together.

“Welcome back.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2019


The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 25

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Chasing leads, maybe


Jan hailed a taxi and had it drop us off a block from her building.  It was agreed that we would not just arrive out the front and trust to luck that everything would be fine.

I had a feeling that Nobbin would have come to the same conclusion I had, that it was possible the USB might be in the neighbor’s flat.  I’m sure Josephine hadn’t thought of that possibility.  Severin had, but I suspect he might not know of the cat.

Nor would Nobbin.

We did a circuit of the building before going in.  There were no suspicious cars, nr anyone lurking in the shadows.  If we had surveillance, it was really good, or there was none.  I preferred to think the latter option was right.  After all, neither Nobbin nor Severin knew exactly where I was.

Jan unlicked the front door and we went into the brightly lit foyer.

During the day there was a concierge sitting at the desk.  At night, it was empty.  The building manager couldn’t afford 24-hour security, beyond the bright lights, and camera in each quadrant recording the comings and goings of residents.  I’m not sure how Josephine got in, but I would have like to have the time to go through the old footage to check on O’Connell in the past, and Josephine, if she came through the front door, recently.

I glanced at the monitor, at present on screen saver mode, then followed Jan to the elevator lobby.

She pressed the button to go up, and the doors to the left-hand elevator opened.  We stepped in, she pressed the floor button, the doors closed, and we slowly went up.

It hesitated at the floor, jerked up about an inch or two, then a click signified it was level and the doors opened.

I could see her door from the elevator.  As we got closer, I could see it was open, ajar by about half an inch.  There was no tell-tale strip of light behind the opening so it could mean someone was in her flat searching by torchlight, or there was no one there.

After a minute waiting to see if there was a moving light somewhere in the flat, it remained dark.

Standing behind me, I could see she had pulled a gun out of her handbag and had it in one hand ready to use.  She could have used it any time since we first met, but she hadn’t.  

I pushed the door open slowly, and thankfully it didn’t make a creaking sound.  Wide enough to walk in, I took a few tentative steps into the first room.  There was little light, and my eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness.  

I could feel her going past me, further into the room, and with the gun raised and in two hands to steady the shot.  She took more steps, slowly towards the passage leading to her bedroom, I assumed, as it was a reverse copy of that next door, O’Connell’s.

There was no one in this part of the flat, and she had disappeared up the corridor and into her room.  Nothing there either.

“Clear,” she called out.

I stepped back to close and lock the door.  At the same time, she switched on the main room light and for a second it was almost blinding.

When my sight cleared, I could see the signs of a search, furniture tipped over, books dragged from the shelves, other items tossed on the floor, one of which was a vase, now broken into a number of pieces.

“Looks like they were in a hurry,” she said.

“Or frustrated.”  I could see clear marks of an item that had been thrown against the wall and dented the plasterwork.  The broken shards of the ornament were on the ground beneath the indentation.

I heard her sigh when she saw the broken pieces.

“Not the best way to treat a genuine Wedgewood antique.”

She disappeared into the bedroom again, and I could hear her calling the cat, Tibbles.  Interesting name for a cat.

I didn’t hear it answer back.  It was probably traumatized after the breaking and the smashing of crockery.

I had a quick look in places I thought the cat might hide, but it was not in any of them.  And, oddly enough, no traces of cat hair.  Usually, cats left fur wherever they lay down.  At least one cat I knew did that.  

She came back empty-handed. 

“I think it’s done a runner,” she said.  “He’s not in the usual place he hides, nor under the bed, or under the covers, as he sometimes does, usually when I’m trying to sleep.”

“Well, it was a good idea.  We might have to search outside.  The cat was allowed to go outside?”

“He’d escape, yes, but no.  O’Connell thought if he got out, he’d get run over.  It’s a reasonably busy road outside.”

“Better out there than in here, though.  Open windows?”

She did a quick check, but none were open.

“Did O’Connell ever come in here?”

“Once or twice, but he only dropped in if he was going away to ask if I would look after the cat, or when he came back.  Never further than the front door.”

“Knowing who is was, now, do you think he might have come in and hidden the USB in here?”

“He might, but there isn’t anywhere I could think he could put it.”

“But that doesn’t mean he didn’t.”

Both of us heard the scratching sound at the front door, not the sort made by a cat trying to get in, but by someone using a tool to unlock the door.

Someone was trying to break in.

© Charles Heath 2019-2020

“Sunday in New York”, a romantic adventure that’s not a walk in the park!

“Sunday in New York” is ultimately a story about trust, and what happens when a marriage is stretched to its limits.

When Harry Steele attends a lunch with his manager, Barclay, to discuss a promotion that any junior executive would accept in a heartbeat, it is the fact his wife, Alison, who previously professed her reservations about Barclay, also agreed to attend, that casts a small element of doubt in his mind.

From that moment, his life, in the company, in deciding what to do, his marriage, his very life, spirals out of control.

There is no one big factor that can prove Harry’s worst fears, that his marriage is over, just a number of small, interconnecting events, when piled on top of each other, points to a cataclysmic end to everything he had believed in.

Trust is lost firstly in his best friend and mentor, Andy, who only hints of impending disaster, Sasha, a woman whom he saved, and who appears to have motives of her own, and then in his wife, Alison, as he discovered piece by piece damning evidence she is about to leave him for another man.

Can we trust what we see with our eyes or trust what we hear?

Haven’t we all jumped to conclusions at least once in our lives?

Can Alison, a woman whose self-belief and confidence is about to be put to the ultimate test, find a way of proving their relationship is as strong as it has ever been?

As they say in the classics, read on!