It’s dark, it’s late, it’s raining…

Yes, it’s dark and late at night on this side of the world, and I’m guessing where you are, it’s probably summer, the sun’s out, the day is warm, even slightly hot, and you’ve got better things to do.

Here, in the so-called land down under, which surprisingly a lot of people from the other side of the world do not know about…

Now, hang on, that can’t be true, because we all know the world is round and there had to be something or somewhere opposite.  I know that north we have China, and Europe, and further away, the United States.

Been to China, and Europe and the United States, so I know you’re all there, somewhere.

And, as you can see, the rain and the cold has amped up the boredom factor and pushing me to do anything other than writing.  I have three jobs I’m supposed to be doing,

  1. Editing the next five chapters of Walthenson, a Private Detective novel
  2. Writing two episodes of a serial story about surveillance going wrong, and
  3. Finishing off the travelogue about our China trip

None of them is appealing to me at the moment.

Instead, I find myself looking at what is showing on Summer TV in the US, one of which is called Reef Break with Poppy Montgomery.  Interesting show, it is filmed in Australia at the Gold Coast, about 30 minutes south of where I live, and it’s a treat to see all those places we are so familiar with, on your TV.  I wondered why it was shot in Australia, then I discovered Poppy Montgomery is Australian.

Fascinating,

Then there’s one of my favourites, Elementary.  I’m a Sherlock Holmes nut, but what’s getting me is the fact Lucy Liu has blondish hair.  Sorry, it’s distracting.

There’s the InBetween, you know, that spooky place between life and death, much the same as saying I see dead people, hang on, didn’t Bruce Willis say that once upon a time?  It seems interesting, but time will tell.

But, my favourite at the moment, Blood and Treasure.  Indiana Jones without Indiana Jones, but I like the travelogue, an adversary that I last saw in Covert Affairs, and a good and bad guy, now a thoroughly bad guy.  I still think he works for Israeli Intelligence in some sort of cross-over.  Nazis though, why is it the Nazis keep raising their heads?

Maybe Grand Hotel will give me some light-hearted relief.  No, sorry, a suspicious death, a wicked stepmother trying to get rid of the hotel, a porter who’s investigating said susp[icious death, and the usual smattering of spoilt rich kids who don’t seem to learn anything, and mostly manners and humility, at those expensive finishing schools.

There’s more, but I better get back to work.

 

 

The attack of the dastardly distraction

If I get a headache I can take paracetamol

If I have a sore back I can take ipBrufen.

If I can’t put words on paper … what is there I can take?

Therein lies the writer’s dilemma.

I have been staring at the blank sheet on the computer screen for about an hour now.  I am in the middle of a re-write.  I know what direction I want the story to go.  Yet, for the life of me, I cannot find the words.

Is it writer’s block?

Here’s the thing.

Not four hours ago I had all the words in the world.  The new scene was all but writing itself, the words flowing, the characters were alive and almost bubbling over with enthusiasm.  I was almost as if I was in the same room with them and their mental sparring.

That scene is done.

And, usually the next is already forming in my mind as I’m getting to the end.  This time, an untimely interruption put a spoke in the works, diverted my attention to resolving a problem, and everything I’d been thinking about has gone.

Not a block then, but a dastardly distraction.

I guess I’m going on a long walk around the neighbourhood, looking but not seeing, thinking but trying not to think, stopping at the café and have a long hot coffee and a cake, perhaps this time a custard tart with whipped cream (OK, I know that can’t be good for me, but it is delicious) and by the time I get back …

Hopefully, the words will return.

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 7

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 prioritising.

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

A body and a whole bunch of questions.

 

A full minute passed, with only one car passing, the rest of the time there was a strange sort of silence.

The man on the ground didn’t move.  Whoever shot him had shot to kill.  I took the few steps to stand beside him and could see the hole and the bloodstain of the wound.  Shot in the heart, instant death.

Usually, if it was a sniper, it was a head shot.  Less chance of missing a vital organ and leaving the target alive.

Odd too that it was just before he told me where some ‘evidence’ was located.  And who the hell was this Alfred Nobbin?

I heard a car turn into the alley and come towards me.  Halfway, it stopped, the engine switched off, and the doors opened.

Two men.  Maury, my handler, and Severin, the instructor.  Neither was carrying a gun, so neither had shot him.  That meant someone else was still in play.

I said, “I had him, but someone shot him.”

Stating the obvious, Maury’s expression told me.

“You’re not dead.”

“Perhaps I wasn’t a target.”

“Today.  Did he say who he was?”

“No.”

No hesitation or they’ll think I’m lying, which I am.  I was not sure why, but was it because I detected a note of sincerity in the target’s tone?

“Checked for identification yet?”

“Just about to.”  I knelt down and went through his pockets.  Nothing.  I told Maury that.

“Pity.”  He hadn’t moved from where he stopped.  Severin had been looking back up the alley, no doubt looking for where the bullet came from.

Had he reached the same conclusion I had, a balcony on the third floor of the left-hand building?  The shooter would be long gone by now.

A white van pulled into the lane and pulled up behind Maury’s car.  The cleaners.

It raided questions.  How did Maury know we’d be here, and that the target would be shot dead?  Or had he assumed I’d all but kill him in revenge for what had happened to the others.

What had happened to the others?

“The rest of the team,” I asked.

“Two dead, one critical.  One safe.  Let’s go.  We need to have a debriefing.”

I took a last look at the body, the joined Maury and Severin in the car.  I had questions of my own.

“A bad day’s work,” Severin muttered, as he drove off.

“But conclusive proof we have a traitor, the last thing we need right now.”

I was surprised they were discussing high-level matters that I considered above my pay grade.  And, I had to say, it worried me.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Another day, another plot, another story…

Why is it ideas come at the least expected and most inconvenient time?

I thought I’d trained my thoughts to assemble when I was having a shower.  It seems that has not worked so well, and now the telephone rings instead.

Don’t you hate that?

I wasn’t considering a new idea for yet another book; I have so many on the go already.  But, the sad truth is, you have no control over it.

When I sit down, listening to Ravel, or some other classical music, I close my eyes and drift along to the music, waiting for the imagination to kick in.

Can’t force it, can you?

But, five minutes to three, after a frantic call announcing yet another storm in a teacup, I’m racing out the door, setting the alarm, locking the door, and …

… bing …

The idea is there, out of left field, in front of me.

 

Here’s the pitch:

Detroit, ghost town, a nightwatchman, formerly a high flyer on Wall Street, is doing the rounds.

Yep, different location, same story as a dozen others, you say.

Pitch on:

With him, his work partner, from Mexico, a woman with a checkered past, maybe an illegal, maybe not, but who would work for the kind of pay they got if there was not something they were either running or hiding from?

A man and a woman thrown together by fate.  Seriously?

Pitch on:

They’re guarding a large factory, looking exactly the same as it had the day the doors closed, only there are no people, no work, and no likelihood of it reopening.

It’s night.  It’s dark.  Only the security lighting casts a dim glow over everything, casting shadows.  The walls and roof creaks as the building moves, as all do in a wind.

From here it could go anywhere, ghosts, murder, mayhem, or …

Pitch on:

Every night is the same, go to point B, the extent of the guard’s run, and no further.  Punch a card to say you’ve done the check, then back to the office.

That’s it.

As for the rest of the factory, don’t worry.  They were told that beyond point B was taken care of by another team.  It was a large factory, and neither had questioned their orders.  A job was a job in a city where jobs were at a premium.

Six months, from the office to point B and back.

Of course, the story has to suddenly come alive, like when you’re sitting alone in a dark room watching a horror moving, and the music hypes the fear factor to 1000% and you nearly jump out of your skin.

Not so easy to do in writing, but we try.

Pitch on:

Six months and one day later, it was time to find out what was beyond point B.

What they found was to change the fabric and course of their lives.

 

Reads like blurb inside the cover of a bestseller, doesn’t it?

All it will take is somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 words, and the time to write them.

Conversations with my cat – 37

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This is Chester.  He’s miffed that I didn’t tell him about China.

Sorry, already had this discussion a month ago, and I’m beginning to think he’s losing his marbles.  Perhaps he didn’t remember me saying I hadn’t run into any of his relatives on the Chinese side.  Dodging cars and scooters, you know…

The blank look says it all.  Oh, well, if we must…

So…

This morning he decided to jump up on the desk and sit beside the keyboard.  He was going to sit on it, but a stern look from me deterred him.

Or am I deluding myself, and we’re playing a game.

But I get it.  China.  The gossip, now.

Well, Beijing airport is the same as anywhere else in the world, except I had to battle the fingerprint machines.

A look tells me that any fool can get a paw, well, fingers, on the glass plate.   Next time I go, I tell him, he’s coming and I’d like to see his efforts.  It’s not as easy as it looks, and I wasn’t the only one.

After exiting the airport, a train ride to the baggage belt then out to find our guide, it takes about an hour and a half just to get to the bus, then another hour in the bus to our hotel.

He looks at the cup of tea I’ve made, attention span coming to an end.  Tea leaves from China, I say.  Good for you.  Saw it dissolve iodine right before my eyes.

Of course, the retort is, what idiot drinks iodine?

Just in case, I say.  You can never be too prepared, can you?

He takes a sniff, turns up his nose, and jumps down.  Enough of ‘travels without my cat’ for today.

I just shake my head and get back to work.

 

Motive, means, and opportunity – Opportunity

I’m working on a novella which may boringly be called “Motive, Means and Opportunity” where I will present a chunk of information from which you if you want to, can become the armchair detective.

Here’s the third part, the Opportunity

 

Where was I last night between 9pm and 3am?

Not with my wife, Wendy. She had gone out before 6 pm, about the time is got home from work. No, she didn’t really say where she was going, or if she did, given the list of the past, I didn’t believe her.

Where was I?

Home, alone.

Could anyone corroborate that?

Sadly no.  Isn’t that always the way, though?

But, the car I was driving was a company car. It had a GPS and tracking system, part of so-called security measures put in by the company I worked for, but in reality there to check after hours use.

The GPS would show I never left home.  Using the car, that is.

The only other car had been taken by Wendy so the reality was, I hadn’t left home. The other car, the off-road vehicle was in the workshop, still waiting to be repaired. It was the car out son had been killed in, and neither of us had the heart to do anything with it.

But…

Apparently, I had a visitor.

James Burgman had been seen outside my house at 10:30 pm, his car had been found two blocks away in the car park, away from the street, and he was found dead, shot by a gun that used 9mm bullets, at 4:45 am the next morning.

No. I had not been seen leaving the house, but it had been ascertained that it was possible to leave and not be seen, if I tried hard enough.

I hadn’t and had no reason to, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Sitting in the interview room, purportedly to help the police in their enquiries, Detective John Sanderson had detailed quite succinctly how I had a motive, the means, and opportunity.

Little else mattered, and particularly the fact I didn’t do it. It was only a matter of time before the gun was found.

So, there I sat in the station, waiting for a series of test results to come back, mainly gunshot residue on me and on my clothes, not just those I was wearing, but everything I owned.

In the end, there was nothing. They couldn’t prove I left home, or that I shot him. Not then. I was advised not to leave the city, that I was a person of interest.

When I asked either my wife, Wendy, had been subjected to the same interrogation, the atmosphere changed, and Sanderson had rounded on me quite savagely.

“Her innocence is not in question. In fact, you would not be here if it wasn’t for her statement. She honestly believes you shot him out of pure jealousy, and, quite frankly Mr Winters, so do I, and it will only be a matter of time before I find the evidence to convict you.  Now, get out of my sight.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 15

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.

 

Five minutes past the appointed time, I sat on the end of the clean bed and waited.  The single chair didn’t look very comfortable.

It didn’t worry me she was late, she had not specifically stated how long she would be, but to be there in an hour.  If she had business with dark glasses, then she might be a while.  Giving me the key to her room suggested she was not bringing him back with her.

There was a light rapping on the door, hinting at a sense of urgency.  Without looking,. I opened the door, and she slid through and I closed it quickly and quietly.

“I thought you might not be coming?”

I went to switch on the light, but heard her say, “No lights.”

My eyes were already adjusted to the light, or lack of light, and I could see her standing by the door to the bathroom.  Everything about her manner suggested she was ill at ease, or perhaps frightened of something or someone.

Or waiting for Vince, and had to string me along until he arrived.

“Why?”

“No one knows I’m here.”

“Not even Vince?”

“No.  Especially him.”

“He was here about twenty minutes ago, went into the office and came out with a briefcase.”

“I suggest you forget you ever saw that.”

Drugs then, or protection money, or…  OK forgotten.  “Duly forgotten as requested.”

“Is this pace one of the Cossatino’s places?”

“If you saw Vince, then it is.  It never used to be.  The Benderby’s used to bring their clients here, back in the day.  Vince had some of the rooms wired, you know, blackmail, that kind of stuff.”

I could imagine.  I’m sure the ‘clients’ never brought their wives here to have a good time.

“Why are you staying here?”

“Can’t stay at home.  Things have changed.  I’m not interested in working with the family business.  It’s why I left in the first place.”

Imagination running wild, I think I began feeling sorry for her.  Beautiful girl, stupid men, caught in a seedy hotel.  My respect for old man Cossatino just took a dive.

“Why come back then?”

“Alex.  He’s a bastard, just like his father.  All those Benderby’s are the same.  You say you’ve got a plan that might help get him off my back?”

She took off her coat and threw it on the bed with the other clothes.  It wasn’t that dark I couldn’t see her outline and had to look away.

“A possible plan.  One that might kill two birds with one stone.  I have to look out for Boggs because he had got himself into a mess that he doesn’t realise the full potential of yet.”

“The treasure map?”

“I wish people would stop calling it that.  It’s just a piece of paper with a drawing on it.  I’m sure the whole myth was concocted by Boggs’ father as another one of his schemes.”

Everyone knew Boggs father was a touch crazy and had come up with a number of schemes, some even calling the ‘get rich quick’ schemes, and one had landed him in jail.  He never quite understood the nature of the schemes he’d bought off other people in the hope of getting rich himself.  The treasure map, that was a new one for him, but one of his previous customers had caught up with him, and he’d not lived long enough to play this one out.

Boggs unfortunately, was doing it for him.

“You don’t think it’s real?”

“What I think is irrelevant.”

She moved closer and sat on the side of the bed, not far from me.

“So what is this plan?”

“I get you a copy of the map, you give it to Alex, see what he says.  You know you can’t trust him, or anything he says.”

She was too close, so I moved, trying to look like I was not moving.  But at the same moment, I had no idea what it was about her that scared me.  It was apparent she hadn’t told Vince about this meeting.

“It’s a chance I have to take, and you are right, I don’t want to cosy up to Rico.  I have had previous dealings with him, and he is not nice.  But, if you are willing to do this for me, what do you want in return?”

The inevitable question and I think I could guess what she thought I might want.  And that thought did cross my mind.

“Nothing.”

“That is not possible.  All men want something.”

“I’m not all men.  I owe Alex a little payback and this will be a small cog in a big wheel.  If it helps you, good, but I know the Benderby’s and nothing is easy with them.”

“This plan…”

“The less you know the better.”  I stood, and then moved to the door.  “I’m only going to be able to see you in the early hours of the morning.  I’m working an afternoon shift till midnight, and I don’t want to come here in the daylight.”

She stood and came over to join me.

“You are going to have to do something about Rico because Alex will ask him.”

It was something that also occurred to me just before she raised it.  I knew there was going to be a problem, I just hadn’t realised it at the time.  Now, it seemed like another of those insurmountable things.

“I’ll think of something.”

“Then soon.”  She put a piece of paper in my hand.  “My cell number.  Send me a text before you come.”  

Our hands touched briefly and it sent a shiver down my spine.

“I will.”

There was a moment, looking into her eyes where I didn’t want to leave, but fortunately, common sense kicked in, I opened the door and slipped out in the cold night air.  As it shut behind me I shivered.

It had nothing to do with the cold.

 

© Charles Heath 2019