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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.

Then…

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.

Featured

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

NaNoWriMo – 2022 – Day 25

The plot thickens

David and Susan are planning and executing rendezvous, a rather odd thing to do since they are married, not illicit lovers, but Susan likes the idea of escaping her security team, something that is at odds with what Prendergast expects.

Of course, his security chief seems to think that Prendergast simply wants him to do a simple job in quid pro quo for a job Prendergast is supposed to do for him:  free his daughter from a despotic African terrorist that the man once worked for, and failed.

This is the story being peddled to David by the man who accompanied Susan’s agent to France and is backed up in part by Alisha’s investigative team.

David torments another of his team and then sets himself at odds with the man himself when Susan tries to have a discrete lunch with Prendergast.

That sets off alarm bells for David.

Prendergast is far too involved with Susan for David’s liking.

But, it seems if he is to get rid of the security at Susan’s he is going to have to find the daughter, and she is in Nigeria.

It seems that was one of Prendergast’s objectives, to get David to rescue her, but what happened to the notion that he just ask?

In the meantime, the security team’s England base is found, one of Susan’s newly acquired properties, and David has surveillance installed.

He also has new eyes on the castle, and the renovations, because he suspects something else is going on there.

And then there is Alisha at her most seductive best, injured or not.

Chess pieces being moved by various people across the globe, David sets off for Nigeria, to see a rather doubtful contact, of Prendergast’s recommendations.

/Just like the old days, wheels within wheels.  All he knows for sure is that he needs three people watching his back.

Words written today, 4.776, for a total of 60,292

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.

“Justice.”

“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.”

“We?”

“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.

Me.

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.

Amanda.

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?”

“Dunno.”

“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?”

“Charlotte.”

 

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.

But…

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

onelastlookcoverfinal2

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 96

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

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This is Chester

Once again, it’s Sunday night, and he’s looking for a philosophical discussion.   COVID 19 is off the topic list.

He’s suitably disappointed that the Trump Show is over, as far as we are aware, though he’s not surprised.

But he is worried that two cats have tested positive.

I try to tell him that it is in New York, about 18,000 miles away, where there are over 200,000 cases. We have just over 1,000 and they are all isolated so we cannot be harmed.

I guess it’s hard to convince a cat when his mind is made up.

We’ve also taken the grandchildren off the list of topics too,

They arrive a few hours ago, and studiously ignored him when they arrived. I tried to point out that he was in hiding when they arrived, but again, the stubbornness of opinion is amazing, or normal.

I should be used to this sort of contrariness.

So, what is on the discussion list?

Outlander, Season 5 Episode 10. Well, I say, we haven’t seen it yet, so don’t tell me what the plots is.

He looks at me as if I’m mad. I only get to see it when you do, he says. How should I know what the plot is?  In fact, what is the plot?

Time travel, I say.

Pity we can’t do some of that, he says.

Why I asked, and really, I should know better.

Because I could go back to the day you came to the pet shop and hide. I have given you 18 years to improve, and you’re still the same as you were then.

Discussion over.

Not his favorite food for dinner tonight.

“Echoes From The Past”, the past doesn’t necessarily stay there


What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.

https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

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NaNoWriMo – 2022 – Day25

The plot thickens

David and Susan are planning and executing rendezvous, a rather odd thing to do since they are married, not illicit lovers, but Susan likes the idea of escaping her security team, something that is at odds with what Prendergast expects.

Of course, his security chief seems to think that Prendergast simply wants him to do a simple job in quid pro quo for a job Prendergast is supposed to do for him:  free his daughter from a despotic African terrorist that the man once worked for, and failed.

This is the story being peddled to David by the man who accompanied Susan’s agent to France and is backed up in part by Alisha’s investigative team.

David torments another of his team and then sets himself at odds with the man himself when Susan tries to have a discrete lunch with Prendergast.

That sets off alarm bells for David.

Prendergast is far too involved with Susan for David’s liking.

But, it seems if he is to get rid of the security at Susan’s he is going to have to find the daughter, and she is in Nigeria.

It seems that was one of Prendergast’s objectives, to get David to rescue her, but what happened to the notion that he just ask?

In the meantime, the security team’s England base is found, one of Susan’s newly acquired properties, and David has surveillance installed.

He also has new eyes on the castle, and the renovations, because he suspects something else is going on there.

And then there is Alisha at her most seductive best, injured or not.

Chess pieces being moved by various people across the globe, David sets off for Nigeria, to see a rather doubtful contact, of Prendergast’s recommendations.

/Just like the old days, wheels within wheels.  All he knows for sure is that he needs three people watching his back.

Words written today, 4.776, for a total of 60,292

“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!

Purchase:

http://tinyurl.com/Amazon-SundayInNewYork

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 69

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 installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

With Nadia seeking gold at the beach at The Grove

I was waiting to be picked up at the bus depot by Nadia, trying to keep out of the public eye, knowing very few people I knew would be there at that hour.

It was early for me, not long after getting home from the night shift, with just enough time to change and get something to eat at the diner a block from the depot.

Nadia didn’t understand my obsession with anonymity, but being seen with her was just going to raise questions, and, if either my mother or Boggs found out, that would be two very interesting conversations.

I just didn’t need the aggravation.

I was not sure what to wear so I dug out the clothes I wore to a farm that a friend of my mothers owned and my mother had graciously offered my services.  It hadn’t been such a bad day, but it was hard work.

The clothes had the added advantage of making me almost invisible among the many seasonal workers currently in town.

I nearly missed her because I had been looking for her usual car, but when a large pickup truck pulled up at the curb where I was standing, it took a moment to recognize her behind the wheel.  A very unglamorous plain Jane, without make-up and her hair a mess, or so it looked to me.  I knew well enough not to make a comment.

The truck was battered and seen better days, but the engine sounded like that of a racing car.  A Cossatino’s getaway car.  Oddly, I could imagine her behind the wheel waiting for a team of bank robbers, fuelled no doubt by the many old movies I’d seen in my younger days.

I climbed up into the cabin and she had driven off before the car door was closed

“Are we in a hurry?”

“No parking zone.  Don’t need the sheriff’s deputies giving us a hard time.”

No, indeed.

“Where’s your car?”

“Too recognizable.  Where we’re going it’s better not to be recognized.”

That didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  I knew it was going to be somewhere along the coastline, her idea to see if any more of the gold coins had fallen out of the treasure chests as they were being brought ashore.

The question was, was there any part of the coastline that hadn’t been surveyed?  That was when it occurred to me she might be headed for that stretch of coastline that belonged to The Grove, split by the coast road, either side of the road fenced off and signs telling people they would be shot on sight if caught trespassing.

There had been rumors of shootings but nothing ever made it to the sheriff’s office.  I hoped she told someone where she was going if that’s where she was taking me.

“You’re quiet this morning?”

“Just got off shift, and a little tired.”

“You should have said something.  I didn’t think…”

“It’s fine.  You’re currently the one ray of light on a very dark horizon.”

She looked sideways at me.  “That is a compliment.”

“I hope you take it that way.  With Boggs on some sort of crusade, my mother giving me dating tips, and Benderby hanging around, being with you Breaks the gloom and doom.” 

I turned slightly to get a better look at her.  If it was anyone else, I could fall in love with her, but knowing a Cossatino was a dance with the devil, and dangerous for your health.

“Well, I’m glad I bring some light into someone’s life.  It seems I can’t do anything right at home.”

“Why did you come home.  It seems to me you were happier away from this place.”

“Reasons I now think were stupid.”  There was a finality in her tone that warned not to go any further with it.

Instead, we were passing the old mall and I saw the transformation.  Fort Knox would be easier to get into.

“Do you know what’s going on at the old mall?”

“The Benderby’s are demolishing it, mainly because they have to, and do a lot of remediation, whatever that is, before they build the new marina and condos. They’re going to tap into the retirement market.”

That premise, according to a financial market magazine left on my desk, and which made interesting reading, was the next gold mine for those who had the foresight, and the financial means.

Benderby had both, and in another article, which to me at the time seemed to be profiling Benderby, opining the fact some of the new rich had not all made their fortunes legitimately, harking back to the war days and profiteering.  Had Benderby’s father and his before him, plowed this path to success, and the son and grandson found other Illegitimate means like drugs and worse to perpetuate it?

Was it possible, in this day and age to make a fortune without crossing the line somewhere?  No one could link Benderby to anything crooked, but rumors, there were plenty, including the mall, and the fact it was a huge insurance write-off.

Lenny seemed to think so, but cleverly, never quite put what he thought into words.

“Lucky them,” I muttered.

Several miles past the mall, she turned off the main road onto a track that had not been used for some time, heading towards the ocean

I could see now why we were in the truck.  A car would not be able to make it without getting bogged.  It was wet and muddy, with pools of water forming in ruts. 

When we hit a couple and got soundly shaken up, she slowed down.  Then, suddenly, the ocean came into view, and the track headed for the cliff, veering at the last minute, and going down the side of the hill until at the bottom we stopped outside a weather-beaten shack about the size of a large room.

She switched off the engine and let the silence surround us until I could just hear the sound of waves breaking on the rocky shoreline.

“Welcome to my castle.”

There was a whimsical expression on her face.

I opened the door and climbed out, in an instant the temperature dropped 10 degrees, and the effect of the wind almost knocking me over.

She slammed the door shut and went to the door of the shack, unlocking, then opening the door, then switching on a light, giving the inside a gloomy yellowish aura.  She motioned me to go in, then followed behind closing the door, and immediately it was much quieter.

“Not much of a castle.”

“It is when you want to get away from the rest of the family.  It used to be a bathing shack, but the waters around here got too treacherous for swimming, and it fell into disrepair.  I had it fixed up and this is where I come when I want to disappear.”

It didn’t look like it had been used in a while, a thin film of dust settled in everything, and smudged footprints on the floor, showing recent signs of habitation.  Two metal detectors were sitting on the table.

“It’s like a different world to be in when you have the family I have.”

“They don’t know about this place?”

“They probably do, but it’s been a wreck for years, and no one ever comes here, not anymore.  I found it one day, wandering along the coastline, exploring the boundaries of The Grove.  This is the southernmost tip.  There’s one on the northernmost tip too, where the building is much larger and used for storage.”

Say no more, I thought.  The Cossatino’s were allegedly smugglers on top of everything else, and that’s probably where the smuggled good were stored.  This part of the coastline was treacherous at best, with underwater reefs and craggy rocks along the cliff line.  There were some sandy stretches, but it was hard work to reach them, and at a guess, Nadia knew how to get there without slipping and falling.

Boats could only get within 50 years of the shoreline before the possibility of being dashed on the rocks, and for that reason, Boggs told me, that whole beachfront could not have been used by the pirate to bring his treasure ashore.

The little I’d seen from where the truck was parked verified that, at least for this section.

“But we’re here to check for gold coins, see if there is a possibility the treasure cane ashore somewhere along the Grove’s shoreline.  I know the consensus of opinion said it’s not possible, but from my explorations, I reckon there are at least a dozen spots where a longboat could land, especially if you came on the tide.”

That, I was guessing, was high tide, and it may have been a coincidence when the pirate arrived on this shore.

“The reefs would be submerged and even more dangerous.”

“There are ways.  I’ve been out there in a canoe once or twice with Vince, looking for passageways.  And, before you jump to any conclusions, I’m not a smuggler, and we may have been once, but an accident ten years ago put paid to that.  We lost four of the family, and six others in a hair-brained night landing in rough weather.”

I remembered a piece in the paper, the coastguard had been trailing a large yacht with suspected drugs aboard, waited until the Cossatino’s had transferred to the longboat that had gone out to meet the yacht, then chased it to the reef where a navigation mistake saw the longboat hit the reef, sink with all the evidence, and all but Vince had drowned in the heavy surf.

“Vince was lucky.”

“Vince was an idiot then and a bigger idiot now.  It made him believe he was invincible.  He’s not.  But let’s not talk about him, or the rest of them, we’re not exactly on speaking terms at the moment.”

She went to the table and picked up one of the metal detectors and held it out.  “Yours.”

I came over and took it, and it was heavier than I expected.

She picked up the other.  “Ready?”

For anything, I thought, then nodded.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

“The Devil You Don’t” – A beta readers view

It could be said that of all the women one could meet, whether contrived or by sheer luck, what are the odds it would turn out to be the woman who was being paid a very large sum to kill you.

John Pennington is a man who may be lucky in business, but not so lucky in love. He has just broken up with Phillipa Sternhaven, the woman he thought was the one, but relatives and circumstances, and perhaps because she was a ‘princess’, may also have contributed to the end result.

So, what do you do when you are heartbroken?

That is a story that slowly unfolds, from the first meeting with his nemesis on Lake Geneva, all the way to a hotel room in Sorrento, where he learns the shattering truth.

What should have been a high turns out to be something else entirely, and from that point every thing goes to hell in a handbasket.

He suddenly realises his so-called friend Sebastian has not exactly told him the truth about a small job he asked him to do, the woman he is falling in love with is not quite who she says she is, and he is caught in the middle of a war between two men who consider people becoming collateral damage as part of their business.

The story paints the characters cleverly displaying all their flaws and weaknesses. The locations add to the story at times taking me back down memory lane, especially to Venice where in those back streets I confess it’s not all that hard to get lost.

All in all a thoroughly entertaining story with, for once, a satisfying end.

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

In a word: Mine

Well, that’s his, and this is mine.  Possession is 9 points of the law, or so they say.

What’s mine is mine and what’s his is mine.  Sound like a divorce settlement?  Sure is!

There are often a lot of arguments over the possession of goods, and who they belong to.  Perhaps it’s best to own nothing, then no one can take it from you.

Sound like a lawyer contesting his own divorce?  Probably.

But that’s not the only mine.  Take for instance a land mine or a sea mine.

Devilish things to walk on, or brush up against.  It spawned a new type of ship, a minesweeper, and I’ve read a few books about the exploits of those aboard, and how close they come to death when a ship hits one.

And land mines, the damage they can cause.

Then, of course, you can go underground, way underground, into a mine.

Gold in South Africa, coal in Wales, tin in Sumatra, copper in New Guinea.

And it doesn’t have to be underground.  You can have an open cut mine, which accounts for a lot of coal mines in Australia.

Oddly, you can mine data, the sort that’s stored in databases on computers.  I’ve done a bit of that in a former life.

You can mine talent,

Or you can mine bitcoin, but that’s a whole different ballgame, and everyone seems to be in on some sort of scam when it comes to bitcoin.  It seems to me the only way you would make money out of bitcoin was to buy units the very first day it was released.

It’s not, and never will be, something I’ll dabble in.

In a word: Saw or Sore or Soar

In the first or is the second instance of the word Sore, we all know this malady can sometimes fester into something a lot worse.

Or that a person could be a sore loser

Or after spending an hour on the obstacle course, they come off very sore and sorry.  I never quite understood why they should be sorry because no one ever apologises to inanimate object.  Or do they?

Or perhaps he was sore at his friend for not telling him the truth.

Then, there’s another meaning, saw, which can mean the past tense of seeing, that is, I saw them down by the pool.

I could also use a saw, you know, that thing that custs through wood, steel, plastic, almost anything.  And yes, it’s possible someone might actually saw through a loaf of bread.

There are hand saws, electric saws, band saws, coping saws, even a bread knife, all of these have one thing in common, a serrated edge with teeth of different sizes, designed to cut, smoothly or roughly depending on the size.

Add it to bones, and you have Captain Kirk’s description of his medical officer on the Enterprise.  I’m not sure any doctor would like to be addressed as saw-bones.

But then, confusingly in the way only English can do, there’s another word that sounds exactly the same, soar

This, of course, means hovering up there in the heavens, with or without propulsion or oxygen.

Yes, it’s difficult to soar with eagles when you work with turkeys.  I’ve always liked this expression though most of the time people don’t quite understand what it means.