Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 12

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.

Was I working for a ghost?

 

I sat in that room for an hour.

I had no doubt someone was on the other side of the mirrored wall, watching me, analysing my body language.  I hoped I hadn’t given any indication that Nobbin was a name that I recognised, or knew, but I was still new to this game, and as much as I tried to perfect it, I still didn’t think I had a poker face.

More than likely I had a ‘tell’.

There was something else I had to worry about, and that was what approach this Dobbin would take.  For instance, did he know that I had met up with the man in the alley, and stretching that big if, did he know who the man in the alley was, and was he one of ours.

Of course, that was another problem I had, and that was recognising who ‘ours’ were.  It seems the people I knew, were not the same people who were really running the place.

Or, paradoxically, were these people, interlopers, trying to get intel on the group I was supposedly working for.  But they hadn’t disavowed me, so I must be working for someone they approved or knew of.

An hour and a half, and I was beginning to think this might be another game by my previous interrogators.  I was glad not to be on the other side of the mirror, trying to work out what I was ‘telling;’ them.  Once, I’d got up and stared directly into the mirror, thinking I might be able to see who was behind it.  I also thought of tapping it to see if I could get a reaction.

And, in fact, I was about to do that very thing when Nobbin walked through the door and closed it behind him.

I saw him do a quick check of the room, from the floor to the roof, and stopping briefly at the mirror, before sitting down.

“We probably have an audience for this discussion,” I said, inclining my head towards the mirror.

“You might be right, but I did ask for a clean slate, and if anyone is considering recording or viewing this interview, there will be dire consequences.”  Looking at the mirror, he added, “I made that very clear at the highest level.”

He then looked back at me.  “Your name, I believe, is Sam Jackson?”

“Yes.”  My current working name, that is.  Once deployed to the field we started using aliases, and my first and current alias was Sam Jackson.  But how they made the passport look old and used for that legend was interesting, yet not a question anyone would answer.

“You were recently assigned to a surveillance team, for this man.”

He’d brought a folder with him and pulled out a photograph of the man I’d cornered in the alley.

“Is that him?”

Was there a right or wrong answer here?

“Yes.”

“Who was leading this operation?”

“A man named Severin.”

“Describe him.

I did.

It evoked no reaction.  Nobbin had a poker face.  In fact, I was beginning to think it was etched in stone.

“Do you know who he is?” I asked.

“No.  But we will find out.  Thank you for your time.”

He stood, gave me one last look, and left the room.

I waited a minute, and then followed him out, where a security officer was waiting to escort me out of the building.

On the steps outside, security pass returned, I wondered if that was then end of my tenure with that organisation.  Or whether I actually had any tenure in the first place.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

“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.

http://amzn.to/2CqUBcz

onelastlookcoverfinal2

In a word: Fire

I have not yet had the privilege, or otherwise of being fired yet, but that meaning of the word fire is to get removed unceremoniously from your job.

Donald Trump used to use it a lot on the Apprentice, eg, “Your fired”.  And, believe it or not, I used to like that show.

But…

Fire can be quite hot, something you can sit in front of on those cold winter nights, whether it be a gas fire, or a wood fire, my preference.

Then there’s a phrase, set fire to, which can be good or bad depending on what eventually gets burned.

I have on the odd occasion had someone fire my imagination, probably a good thing being a writer.

To feel the fire of drinking neat whiskey, or in your heart driving patriotism, is something we have asked of us.

If you have a gun, then when you pull the trigger you fire it.  Just be sure not to be pointing it the wrong way or any anyone.

A good indication is when you hear the words, ready, aim, fire.  Especially if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You can,

fire off a message, hopefully, a nice one

fire questions rapidly at someone (but not a politician, they have to have time to answer anything but the question asked)

or accidentally fire someone up by saying the wrong thing.

Travel is part of the story, oh, the misery of a bad hotel!

Hotels can also be one of the major let downs of a holiday.

They can also be extensive fodder for writing material.  For the main stories I write, hotel stays feature prominently, and so each experience, no matter how insignificant, is another paragraph in my book of experiences.

So…

If you are going to use a travel agent to pick a hotel for you, make sure you check as much as you can before you see them, because no matter how it is described, seeing it, in reality, is always completely different than the pictures in a brochure and sometimes on the Internet.  It requires research and a good look at TripAdvisor.

Or word of mouth by someone you know and trust who have stayed there.

Take, for instance, staying in a five-star hotel, the usual stomping ground of the rich and famous.  It is always interesting to see how the less privileged fare.  Where hotel staff is supposed to treat each guest equally, it’s not always the case.  Certainly, if you’re flashing money around, the staff will be happy to take it, though you may not necessarily get what you’re expecting.

We were once lucky enough to be in the highest hotel loyalty level and this gives us a number of privileges; at times working in our favor, but it is not always the case.

Privilege can sometimes count for nothing.  It often depends on the humor of the front desk clerk and woe betide you if you get the receptionist from hell.

Been there, done that, more than once.

Then there is the room.

There is such a wide variety of rooms available, even if the hotel site or brochure has representative pictures, the odds are you can still get a room that is nothing like you’re expecting or were promised.

Believe me, there are rooms with a view, overlooking pigeon coops or air-conditioning vents.  And if you’re lucky, at Niagara Falls, it might be that six inches of window space that allows a very limited view of the falls.

Still, why should I complain, you can see the Falls … can you not?

A bone of contention often can be the location of the hotel and sometimes parking facilities, not the least of which is the cost Valet parking; given the extortionate cost sometimes it’s better to just forget a car.

It is nothing like the movies, you just do not drive up to the front entrance, get out, hand the keys to the concierge, and expect everything else to happen by magic.

It doesn’t.

One time we waited for over an hour for our luggage to be delivered, and that was after three phone calls to the concierge desk.

Sometimes you can be reasonably near transport, yes, if you could walk the distance (which feels like the length of a marathon) to the nearest bus or tram stop.

The problem is we both have trouble with knees and ankles and walking distances are difficult at the best of times, and for us, it is a long, long way when you can’t walk and that’s when the hotel starts to feel like a prison.  Taxis may be cheap but when you have to use them three or four times a day it all adds up.

Also, be wary when a hotel says it is close to public transport.  While that may be true in London, anywhere else and especially in Europe, you could find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

It’s when you discover your travel agent didn’t exactly lie but it is why that weekly rate was so cheap.  In the end, the sum of the taxi fares and the accommodation turns out to be dearer that if you stayed at the Savoy.

So, those front line experiences are fodder for the travel blogger, and people who are also known as road warriors, the true frequent flyers.

There is a very large gulf between five stars and three and sometimes three can be very generous.  And of course, l now have a list of hotels l would never stay in again, the names of which might surprise you.

 

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 20

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.

 

As we all stood either on or off the boat, two things were clear to me.  The first, Rico’s genuine surprise at finding the body on his boat, and the second, how quickly the authorities had circled in for the kill.

I know calling 911 was supposed to get a rapid response to dire situations, but to get from the police station to the pier would take at least five minutes longer than it had, and that was breaking all the speed limits.

I might be jumping to conclusions, but someone wanted Rico to be found with an unexplainable body.  His recently departed friend’s maybe?

Johnson waited until the officer off the boat had finished his call, and asked, “What are we doing here?”

It was now obvious the men on the boat was either state police, the coast guard, or some Federal branch-like FBI or, if Rico was suspected of dealing or trafficking drugs, the DEA.

“Take him into custody.  Some of our people will be along to sit in on the questioning.  This is an FBI crime scene and we’ll take it from here.”

“These two?”  Johnson nodded in our direction.

“They’ve just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Cut them loose, they have nothing to do with this, other than to contaminate our crime scene.”

And that was it, more men, this time in white overalls, came up from below the deck of the newly arrived boat and came over.  Crime scene investigators.

Johnson grabbed both of us by the scruff of the neck and shoved us in the direction of the shore.  “Get out of here before I find something to charge you with.”

Neither of us waited to be told a second time.  We were lucky, very lucky.

And Johnson was not happy his investigation had been pulled from under him.  He needed a case like this to enhance his prospects for the upcoming election for the new Sherriff.

On dry land again I stopped and turned to look back at the boat, and Rico, now handcuffed and guarded.

In the background something else caught my attention, slowly cruising past the unfolding scene aboard Rico’s boat.  A large ocean-going yacht, one that was owned by the Benderby’s.  With Alex standing at the back of the bridge looking at Rico’s boat, and two others at the stern, dressed in what looked like diving suits, putting equipment away.

Even from this far away I could see the smug expression on his face.

No prizes then, for guessing how the police got an early warning.

Equally so for guessing who it was most likely to dump a body on a boat and have someone else take the rap for it.  I had no doubt that a quantity of drugs would be found in some hidey-hole on Rico’s boat where he usually stashed the drugs he picked up from out in the sea lanes.  A win-win, for law enforcement on many levels, and Benderby.

The question then I needed an answer to was, who was the dead man, and what was his relationship with the Benderby’s.  I think I was now certain Rico had no idea who the man was, or why he was found on his boat, dead.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Travel is part of the story – Firenze (Florence), it’s been around a long, long time

For a writer, a place takes on a whole new meaning as we subconsciously look for locations in which parts of our stories will play out.  Of course, at the time, we have no idea what those parts of stories will be, but notes, mentally and physically, are taken for future reference.

And, unlike the usual tourist, we always see it differently.  I know I do.

Apologies now if I have misspelled any street, piazza or any other names.

The first time we arrived in Florence was by train, from Innsbruck in Austria.  We had been booked into the Hotel Brunelleschi, based on the fact it was built over part of a 12th-century monastery, it was conveniently located, and was a luxury hotel.

We took a taxi, not knowing how far it was, and found it tucked away in a street, via Sant’elisabetta, not far from Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo.  The taxi barely fitted through the streets.  First impressions, it was very old, second impression, the room we were given was amazing, with a view over the main street, and wafting up from a food shop below, the aroma of newly baked waffles.  We had to have one.

Words cannot describe how amazing it was to wake up that first morning and look out at the bright sunshine and blue sky.  We were in for a hot day, but that wasn’t going to deter the tourist in us.  Of course, after we had a great breakfast.  I particularly liked the crispy bacon.

The first place on the list to visit was the Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral is located, and the Porta del Paradiso.  We went into the church, and also did a side trip down into the crypt.  We did not climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola.  We tried the pizza, and hearing that the gelato was very expensive in the main part of the city, ventured further afield and found a gelato vendor that was inexpensive.  As the day was very hot it was a welcome relief.

The Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that crosses the Arno.  We walked to the bridge, taking in the views up and down the river before crossing to the other side, then back towards the Piazza Santa Croce.  On our most recent visit there was a football competition, Calcio Fiorentino, in progress that had taken over the whole Piazza, and during the day there was a parade where all the teams and others dressed in the historic clothing dating back to the 15th century.

The Galleria dell’Accademia was also high on the list of places to visit, and we left the hotel early as we had heard the queues are long to get in.  They were right.  We were at the end of a very, very long queue stretching back to Via delgi Alfani.  We were in the queue for about an hour and a half and it didn’t seem to move very quickly.

Then some people passing by said that we could go to the Museo Di San Marco, and purchase tickets to enter the gallery at a particular time.  We had also read or heard something similar, and, taking a risk we left the queue and went in search.  We found it at the Piazza San Marco, purchased tickets for 13:30 and had time to have lunch before turning up at the entrance for our timeslot, and sure enough, with others who had also purchased tickets, we went in.

Just out of curiosity I went back to the queue to see when the people in front of us were, and they still had an hour before gaining admission.

We saw everything that was recommended, including the famous statue of David, though I had a lot of trouble taking a photo when people kept walking in front.

The Piazza Della Signoria has a large number of statues, including another of David, the Marzocco, the symbol of Florence, Il Perseo, the fountain of Neptune, Poseidon, Perseus with the head of Medusa, and a hall of statues adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio.

Florence is old, the roads are cobbled and narrow, and there are many trails one can follow and discover something new at the end of every twist and turn.

I have to go back, other than the fact I need a new wallet and belt made from Italian leather.  My wife loves the purses and handbags, also leather, though the scarves have only recently been added to her list of most wanted items.  I want to simply soak up the atmosphere, relax, eat the pasta and drink the endless supply of Moretti’s.