I once thought I had all the time in the world

There is always a feeling of relief when you finally finish the book, after all the editing (the latest book had been revised and edited 16 times – I know, I should stop fiddling), and accepting I’ve have done all I can.

It’s like watching another child leave the nest.  There’s that hollow feeling inside.

Of course, the answer to getting over that feeling is to get on with the next book.

This time I finished another two books together, so it has been equally as exhausting as it was the last time, especially with the two sets of characters and storylines.  I realize I should work on one, get that done, and then work on the other.  Sorry, I can’t do that.

Actually, I was working on another story at the same time, what was supposed to be a short story that oddly found its way into being a full-length novel.  More on that work later.

My editor, after being presented with, and finally reading through the so-called final draft, calls me in to discuss the works, simply closes her eyes and shakes her head, then tells me one character has crossed over to the other novel.

Perhaps working on two novels at the same time is not a good idea.

Both “Strangers We’ve Become” and “The Things we do for Love” are in the final stages of completion before being published on Amazon, and a third, “First Dig Two Graves”(second in the series of the ‘Zoe the Assassin’ series) is on its third revision.

The question is, now, what to do next?

Catch up on social media, which includes Twitter, where I do a little advertising, and Facebook, which I still don’t understand how it is going to work for me.

Perhaps not.

‘First Dig Two Graves’ is beckoning, and yes, that very loose statement, ‘only a few more modifications’ can be anything from a new chapter at the start or a whole rewrite.

Ah, the hectic life of a writer.

In between, there was a granddaughters 9th birthday, and an anniversary, so many now I’ve lost count.  Then I finally reached an age I never thought I’d get to, 66, almost the devil’s number.

It seems there really is so little time, and so much more to do.

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 10

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.

An interrogation continues

 

“So, take it from the top, give me a detailed rundown on the operation, from the briefing to coming here.”

That was an interesting request.  My usual report would not go into so much detail, and I had been compiling it on the go because if left until the end, crucial details were always omitted.

And, with the explosion, a lot of details had been mislaid in my mind, with more important or over-arching problems, getting a more prominent place in my memory.  It was a valuable lesson learned on reporting, we’d received from a man who most of my classmates thought odd, to the point of paranoid.

“I received the text message the night before to report to the midtown office for the briefing.  The code word was Chancellor and it was recognised at the security station.  If it was bogus I would not have made it in the building.”

“You go there for all your briefings?”

“Yes.”

“Same team?”

“For the previous five, yes.  This last one, a different team.  “One of us asked what happened to the previous team and we were told that it was none of our business.  We were given orders and sent out into the field to do a job.  That job, we were reminded, was not to ask irrelevant questions.”

“The leader told you that?”

“In no uncertain terms.”

“Go on.”

“We were given a photograph of the man that I have just given to you.  No mention was made of what he had done to warrant surveillance, only that we were to not lose him and to note everything he did.

“We were told where he might be found at a particular time, and a particular place, information that was correct.”

“Your team members?”

“Fiona Davis, Jack Venables, Walter Arbon, and me.”

“I take it you had the target under surveillance, ready to hand off to the next team member?”

“Before the explosion, yes, it was my leg.”

“You’re referring to the explosion in Church Street?”

“Yes.  I’d just past it when there was an explosion, and I was caught in the aftermath, and narrowly avoided the shrapnel raining down.  Others were not so lucky.”

“That’s where you lost him?”

“He was in front of me, thus avoiding the fallout.  It took a minute or so to get my bearings, and even then it was very hazy with the dust and carnage around me, but I did manage to see him in the distance heading towards the next person’s tag point.”

“You didn’t resume surveillance?”

“Couldn’t.  Too disoriented.  I put out an alert on the comms, but no one answered, not straight away.”

“You didn’t suspect anything?”

“Not then.,  I put it down to a malfunction from the blast.”

“You said ‘not straight away’?”

“About five minutes had passed when a voice came in my ear, asking for an update.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, because of the temporary disorientation, but it was about the time for the next team to take over.  There were two rolling teams of four.”

“Why did you think it odd?”

“Because they would know about the explosion.  Everyone within a mile radius would.  But at the time I simply said I was caught up in the aftermath and that the target was last seen heading towards the takeover point.  Then I was told the target was sighted.”

“I assume you then considered your role had ended?”

“Yes.  I’d been told to follow the advice of the medical staff on site.”

“Which was?”

“Go to the hospital for a check-up.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.  I was heading away from the blast site when I saw the target again.  I stopped, watched, got out of sight, and waited.  He was coming back in my direction.”

“Was that an expected scenario, that he might backtrack?”

“No.  In the briefing we were told it was possible he would be moving from the point where we found him, to another for a clandestine meeting, away from the blast site.”

What did you do then?”

“Checked the position of the next member of the surveillance team. C I found him, and he was dead.  I made an assumption that the other two may have suffered a similar fate, and resumed surveillance on the target.”

“Did you report it?”

“Over the comms, yes.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing, no one answered.”

“Not even the director?”

“No.”

She made a note, crossed it out and wrote another with an underline.  A thick black line repeatedly, expressing her anger.

“You maintained surveillance?”

“Yes.”

“Until?”

“I’d cornered him in an alley, near a railway station.  I suspected he might head for it.  He’s seen me, and nearly dispatched me in the same manner as the others.  Luckily it was only a scratch.”

It was more than that and required 12 stitches but they didn’t need to know that.

“Then, Severin arrived, and out of nowhere, he was shot dead.”

“Did you speak to him?”

“Only to ask what he had done with the other members of my team.  He never answered.”

“Did you report that you’d caught him?”

“No.  Didn’t have to.  Severin arrived just after I had.”

“And that’s all of it?”

“In my report.  Yes.  When I get to write it, but I’ll need my phone.  It has the relevant details, except for the last part where I’d found him.”

“No name?”

“No.”

“You didn’t know he was one of ours?”

“No.  That fact only came to my attention when he told me.  When you’re given a target, you don’t ask what the relevance is, or what he’s done.  I’m sure you’re fully aware of the current practices and procedures.”

That last sentence slipped out, and by the look on her face, wasn’t well received.  I’d forgotten the golden rule.  Stick to the facts.  No embellishment, no emotion.

She made another note, closed the book, and got up.  “I’d like you to stay, just for the time being while we sort through the details.”

Then she left.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 41

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This is Chester. He had been shocked by my transformation into someone he least likely expected to find in his domain.

After a chastisement, I told him he could expect more shocks in the days to follow.

Why he asks. All I want is a peaceful life lying in the sun by the window, and no pesky mice to chase.

Sorry, I say. I’m playing roles for my next book. Trying to get the feel for the character.

A drunk, a fool, and a man who does household chores. You’re failed in all three, just in case you want to know what I think.

I don’t.

The cat doesn’t have a sense of humour, or if he does, I’m not seeing it.

I think you’ve got it wrong. Not a drunk, a man with physical disabilities, not a fool but a clown who’s lost his will to perform, and yes, I am the one who does the cooking and cleaning,

And who’s in charge of feeding you?  Anything else you care to add?

Looking good, keep up the good work, but how about fresh fish rather than that packet stuff.

“One Last Look”, nothing is what it seems

A single event can have enormous consequences.

A single event driven by fate, after Ben told his wife Charlotte he would be late home one night, he left early, and by chance discovers his wife having dinner in their favourite restaurant with another man.

A single event where it could be said Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Who was this man?  Why was she having dinner with him?

A simple truth to explain the single event was all Ben required.  Instead, Charlotte told him a lie.

A single event that forces Ben to question everything he thought he knew about his wife, and the people who are around her.

After a near death experience and forced retirement into a world he is unfamiliar with, Ben finds himself once again drawn back into that life of lies, violence, and intrigue.

From London to a small village in Tuscany, little by little Ben discovers who the woman he married is, and the real reason why fate had brought them together.

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Past conversations with my cat – 3

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This is Chester.  Back on the bed.

Another argument lost, another smug ‘I’ve got the better of you, again’ look.

Time to move on, pick a battle I think I can win.

Food.  There’s the old wives tale, that cats love fish, and it’s true to a certain extent.

Chester doesn’t believe fish live in cans or plastic packets, despite how it’s dressed up.  Fresh fish, he’s into it, but there always seems to be a measured reluctance to eat something out of a can.

I think he regards us humans with disdain when our food comes out of a can or packet.

He refuses to eat the leftovers!

Then there’s chicken, or its more expensive neighbor, turkey.

He loves turkey.

I’m sure he’d eat quail and spatchcock too, but no, he’s a cat, and cats have to get used to eating chicken.  We’ve had this discussion, one too many times.

And just for good measure, I told him if he thinks he’s coming to Italy with us, he’d better get used to the idea of eating pasta.

Of course, always with the last word, he said, quite nonchalantly, ‘then you’d better call me Garfield’.

Grrrrrrr.

A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 12

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second worlds war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

I had walked quite fast in my attempt to distance myself from our pursuers if they were, in fact, chasing me.  In doing so I had tried to make my escape as quiet as possible.

Now, between Jack and I, hiding in the undergrowth, the only noise I could hear was our laboured breathing, and mine in particular.  I hadn’t been expecting to be doing this sort of exercise when I signed on for the job.

Now, I think, exercise was going to become a priority.

If I made it back alive.

A crack and I saw Jack go very still, ears cocked, and looking in what was the direction of the sound.  He’d know, better than me, where the noise came from.

Another minute before I could hear muffled voices, then as if they had stepped into a room, I could hear them.

“So, you’re telling me you let him hit you?”

“I had to, for the sake of making it look good.  I was told he was no fool.” 

The voice of the man who had orchestrated my departure.  I shook my head, very disappointed in myself for not seeing through what could have been a very cunning plan.  It also explained why they hadn’t summarily shot me.  I could see Jackerby gloating over the cleverness of his plan.

So perhaps for a few moments there, I was a fool.  Not anymore.

“What do we do if we find him?”

“We’re not supposed to find him, remember.  You were at the same meeting, or was that your ghost I saw with me?”

“Observe and report back.”

“Exactly.”

The voices were very close, and I could hear their boots of the rocky path until they stopped.

“Which way?”

The voice sounded very close, in fact, I thought they were just on the other side of the undergrowth, but that couldn’t be right, I could see through it in places, and no one was standing on the other side.

Sound must travel very good in this part of the forest.

“Follow the main river.  He won’t be looking to deviate from his objective, which by now would be to find the other members of the resistance and organise his departure.”

“And leave alone what he saw?”

“There isn’t much he could do about it.  By the time he’s reported back to London, we will have found the underground members and eliminated any threat.”

“Aha, so he’s leading us to the resistance?”

“That’s the plan.”

“And it was your idea?”

“I do have my moments, thank you.  Now, let’s get on, or he’ll get too much of a start on us, and I don’t want to be the one to explain how we lost him to Jackerby in particular.”

A minute passed, then two before I heard the sound of boots receding.  Johansson, or maybe Jackerby, had correctly guessed I might know where the other resistance members were, and, after escaping, go straight to them.

Pity, I was going to disappoint them.

 

© Charles Heath 2019