A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 2

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy.  It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come.  Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.


I calculated the odds.  Thirty to one.  I wasn’t going to add Jack to the team, because he could never understand what was going on.  I was finding it hard myself.  

The man who sent me on this mission, the man whom I had given a detailed report on what I thought was happening at the castle, gleaned from soldiers passing through and the local resistance, had taken me aside in London, told me the mission he was sending me on was top secret and I could tell no one.

Only now did I realize the import of those words.  Someone I had trusted with my life, for a very long time, was not the person I thought they were.

That was in the second the message I’d received, read, and immediately destroyed.  I hadn’t believed it.  Not at first.  But it had one other piece of information as proof, one when I thought about, made sense of everything that had been happening.  The word coincidence had become overused in the last week.

But I didn’t have time to think about it now, I had to try and get away if only as far as the resistance, to get help and report on what had just happened.

But I couldn’t understand what the enemy would gain from retaking the castle.  Behind enemy lines, it would only be a matter of time before they were caught, or killed.

Enough.  I could hear the footsteps approaching.

Jack had found the passage when he and I had been doing some reconnaissance of the old castle.  I thought it odd that no one knew of any secret passages when all of these old places usually had at least a few.  The lord of the manor would want to be able to move about secretly, visiting mistresses, escaping from enemies, or just sneaking about checking up on staff and family

We’d found one that ran from the guard tower to the grand hall.  A lot of cobwebs, a musty odor, and signs it hadn’t been used for a long time, it was perfect for my soon to be unannounced arrival.

The passage ended at a large wooden cabinet which had a compartment that opened out into the hall.  From within, it was possible to hear conversations and see a veiled view of any activity.

Johansson and that man I’d been warned about, that man I had trusted, Lieutenant General Wallace.  I could only assume he had arrived with the stormtroopers, so for a moment, I was confused as to whether they were ours or the enemy.

I could see Wallace was angry. “I thought I told you I wanted Atherton neutralized before I got here.  Where is he?”

Just then Jackerby came in and looked flustered.  “He’s gone.”

“What the hell do you mean, he’s gone.  Gone where, for God’s sake.  There’s nowhere to go.”

I wondered what neutralized meant.  It didn’t sound very pleasant.  Jack was nudging my leg.  What was he trying to tell me?

“He was in the south tower with that mangy dog of his, where he usually hangs out.”

“Then he can’t be far.  Find him and bring him, to me.  Pity that bomb didn’t kill him or we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Why did it have to be Wallace?  I actually liked the man.  Until now.  I kneeled down, “Well, Jack,” I whispered.  “It looks like we are both in serious trouble.  What’s say we get out of here?”

A lick on the side of my face told me all I needed to know.


© Charles Heath 2019

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