Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 16

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?


O’Connor seemed to be more affluent than I because he was living in a flat located in an upmarket building.  Getting into the ground floor required a passkey, one I suspect might also be needed to get in the front door of his flat, but I’d worry about that later.

My first problem was that front door, and it was not until a tradesman exited that I took the opportunity to appear to arrive at exactly the same time, pretending to find my card, and brushing past him as he was exiting.  He ignored me, his hands full, being in a hurry.

It took a day and a half of watching the building, waiting for an opportunity.  His flat was on the third floor and although there was an elevator, I took the stairs, hoping that I wouldn’t run into anyone.

Quickly and quietly, and thankfully without seeing another resident, I came out into the passageway, and it was about ten steps to his front door.  Number 37.  Not far away, in one direction, the end of the passage, and numbers 38, 39, and 40.  In the other, four more flats and the end of the corridor.  Windows at either end, perhaps an escape route.  I would not use the elevator if I had to leave in a hurry.

There were two elevators and one staircase.  Both elevators were stationary on the ground floor.

I knocked lightly on the door to number 37.

No answer.

I knocked a little harder on the door.  It was quite solid, and I had to wonder of the knocking sound penetrated the solid wood.

I checked the lock.  Simple to open.  We’d been given instruction by a master locksmith, and I’d brought my tools.

I waited a minute, checked to see if the elevators were still on the ground floor, then picked the lock, and was inside within a minute.


I felt along the wall for a light switch, usually by the door, and found it, and flicked it on.  The sudden light was almost blinding, but then my eyes adjusted.

Trashed, much the same as my flat.

But, with a difference.

A woman was stretched out on the floor, unmoving.  I could see, from where I was standing, she had been hit on the back of the head and could see the wound, and a trickle of blood through her hair.

Five steps to reach her, I reached down to check for a pulse.

Yes, she was alive.

I shook her gently.  She didn’t react.  I shook her a little more roughly and she stirred, then, as expected, lashed out.

I caught her hands, saying, “I just found you.  I’m not your enemy.”

Of course, taking into account I was a stranger, in her flat without permission, ignoring that and continuing to struggle was an option.  Instead, she said, “Who are you?”

“A friend of O’Connor.  I worked with him.  Something happened to him at work and he said if that happened, I was to come here.  He didn’t say anything about you, though.”

“I live here, in the flat next door.  I heard a noise and came to investigate.  That’s all I remember.”

I helped her up into a sitting position, and, holding her head, looked around.  “Did you do this?”

“No.  Just got here.  But it’s the same at my place.  The people who did this are looking for something.  By the look of it, they didn’t find it here either.”

I let her go.  “I’ll get a damp cloth for your head.  It didn’t look serious.”

“It hurts though.”

I stood and went over to the kitchenette.  O’Connor was not much of a cook, the benches looked new, and there was nothing out.  I looked in a draw near the sink and found a cloth, still with the price tag on it.  I ran it under the water, then went back to her, now off the floor and sitting on one of the two chairs.  I handed her the wet cloth and she put it against the injured part of her head.

“Who are you again?”

“I worked with him.  My name is Sam.  It’s unlikely that he mentioned me to you, or anyone.  It’s the nature of our work.”

“You told me your name.”

“I’m trying to be helpful.”

“What do you do, what did Oliver do?”

“That, I’m afraid, I can’t say, except that we work for the government, what you might call supervisory work.  Usually, it’s very boring, but O’Connor’s latest assignment got him into trouble.  He was trying to find a USB with stolen documents on it.  We think it has information someone wanted to leak to the newspapers.  Oliver found it, and that’s what some people are looking for.”

“He didn’t give it to me.  And he never said exactly what he did, but it was as you said, something to do with the government.”

“Perhaps you should go back to your flat, and report this to the police.”

“And you?”

“I was never here.  I’m sorry that we couldn’t prevent this happening to you, but it might be a better idea to say nothing and keep well away from here.  It can only cause you trouble.”

“I think you’re right.”

She stood and started walking towards the door.  Me staying any longer would raise her suspicions about me, and any search I was going to do would have to wait.

I opened the door, she walked out, and I followed shutting the door after me.

“You’re done?”

“There’s nothing for me.  I found out what I needed to know, now it’s time to go.”

I left her standing outside the door, and headed for the stairs.  A last glance back showed her still outside the flat.  I went down to the first landing, then stopped.  It was part of the training, to treat everyone as suspicious.

Then I heard her voice, as she passed the top of the staircase, on her way back to her flat.  “He was here, looking for the files.  No, he’s gone.”  A minutes silence, then  “On my way.”

Another minute, I heard the elevator car arrive on the third floor.

I quickly ran down the stairs to the ground floor and waited at the door until she came out of the elevator, and heading for the door.

Then as she passed through the front door, I came out into the foyer just in time to see a car stop out the front, and a familiar face out through the rear window.



\© Charles Heath 2019

A case for Harry Walthenson PI, a new episode

How thrilled Harry Walthenson, Private Detective, had been to see his name painted on the translucent glass window in the door to his office.

Located in Gramercy Park, in an old building full of atmosphere, he had a space renovated to resemble that of Spade and Archer in a scene right out of the Maltese Falcon.

His desk had an antique phone like those used in the 1930s, and a lamp that cast eerie shadows at night.  Along one wall was a couch, his bed for more nights than he wanted to remember, and on the other a filing cabinet, waiting for the big case files.

Up till now it had been missing cats and dogs.

Then, everything changed…

Starts at episode 1 – The Wrong Place, The Wrong Time


Episode 108 – Sykes gets some answers



“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:


‘Tis almost September

Which, of course, means on this side of the world, that Spring is coming.

Perhaps not quite the news the hayfever sufferers want to hear, but it does mean everything in the garden will start to grow again, and, worst luck, also the weeds.

But, it is the end of the month, and it has been a reasonably good one.


My private detective, Harry Walthenson, has finally concluded his first case, and the final episode will be posted this week.

Then, he will be on a new case, yes, there’s no spare time for holidays and such, and, no, it will not be the search for a missing cat!

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2Zqrk23


My serialised stories are progressing, and I’m striving to upload a new episode for each at least once a week.

The other thing that I’ve been working on, basically in those five minutes or so from when my head hits the pillow, till the moment I’m asleep, titles for each of the stories.

For the first, currently labelled with ‘I’ve always wanted to go on a treasure hunt’, I’ve been toying with the word ‘map’ and something witty, like ‘A Map to Trouble’, but it’s not exactly attention-getting.  It needs more thought.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2YWuev1

For the second, currently labelled with ‘What happens after an action-packed start’, it starts in the desert, and will end in a dusty, desolate village in Africa, I’d like to have the word ‘Redemption’ in it.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2Ni2ABS

The others need more thought, as yet, and I know a title will pop out at me as I get further along with the story.

these stories are here:  http://bit.ly/2TTlKzl  and here:  http://bit.ly/2HtEa4K


There’s two new episodic stories coming, another one set during World War 2, involving a rescue, and one dealing with the investigation of a crime with a suspect that has all three criteria to be the number one suspect, and might be called, ‘Motive, Means, and Opportunity’.

Also the ‘Being Inspired, Maybe’ stories are continuing, the latest story, Number 65, published, and the next will be available in a day or so.  The stories are the fun part of my week, as they usually get written while I’m waiting to collect my youngest granddaughter from school.

As for the novels, one is at the editor, and one is in mid-re-write.

If only there were more hours in a day!!!

Past conversations with my cat – 11


This is Chester.  It has been a long, hard day.

Don’t be fooled into thinking he’s asleep.

He isn’t.

It’s late afternoon, and he’s done his rounds, sitting at the back door, the side door, and the front door.

We’re having a continual discussion about food, which, at the moment, he is being very fussy about.

I’ve sent him to bed without dinner.  I can see this is going to be another test of wills.


“The Price of Fame”, A Short Story

I’ve been toiling away and this is the result.  My stories are usually longer, but I thought I’d try my hand at writing a piece of short fiction.


The Price of Fame


I looked at the invitation, a feeling of dread coming over me.  It was not entirely unexpected but like a great many things that had suddenly come into my life it caused equal measures of fear and excitement.

The gold edging and the perfect script displaying my name in the exact centre of the envelope made it almost unique.  Very few people ever received such an invitation.

I held it in my hand for a longer than necessary, then put it down on the desk carefully, as if it would explode if I dropped it.

My first instinct, driven by fear, was not to accept.

But, fear or not, there was no question of me not attending.  Circumstances had painted me into a corner; I’d agreed to go a long time ago when I thought there was no chance it would come to pass.

Way back then, I had been compared to the aspiring painter in an attic having to die before I made any sort of impression.  In those days people thought it amusing.  I thought it was amusing.  Kirsty, in particular, had thought it was as impossible as I had.

Now it was not amusing.  Not even remotely.


My life was once quiet, peaceful, sedate, even boring.  That didn’t mean I lacked imagination, it was just not out on display for everyone to see.  Inspired by reading endless books, I had the capacity to transport myself into another world, divorced from reality, where my boring existence became whatever I wanted it to be.

It was also instrumental in bringing Kirsty into my life.  In reality, I thought she’d never take a second look at me, let alone a first.  So I pretended to be someone else.  Original, witty, charming, underneath more scared than I’d ever known.

And yet she knew, she’d always known, and didn’t care.

As we spent more time together, she discovered I liked to write, not finish anything, just start, write a hundred pages, then lose interest.  Like everything I did.  Start, and never finish.

Why not?  It would never be published.  It would never succeed.

So she bribed me.  If I didn’t finish my first book and send it away, I couldn’t marry her.  It didn’t matter if it was rejected, all I had to do was finish a book, and send it.

The thought of marrying her had not entered my mind, because I hadn’t thought she would.  Incentive enough, I picked out one of the unfinished manuscripts and humoured her.  She read bits of it, not saying a word.  Sometimes she’d put a note or two on the manuscript, her equivalent to sweet nothings, and with it I gained an inner confidence in my own ability, not only to write, but in many other aspects of my life.

When it was finished, it was Kirsty who sent it off.  She read it, packaged it, addressed it, and sent it, before I had a chance to change her mind.  Once gone, I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  It was done. That was, as far as I was concerned, the end of it.


It was not possible that one letter could change a person’s life so dramatically.  I came home to the all knowing smile, and mischievous whimsicality that had always suggested trouble.

Trouble indeed!

My book was accepted.  With a cheque called an advance.  For more money than I knew what to do with.

This was followed not long after by publication.  And a dramatic change to my life, one I didn’t want.  To become a public person, to face an enormous number of people, people I didn’t know.

I went back to being scared.


Kirsty smiled at me, and told me how wonderful I looked in my monkey suit.  Why couldn’t I go in jeans and a dress shirt?  All the best actors in Hollywood did it.

“This is not Hollywood.  You’re not an actor.”  It was a simple, practical, answer.

The hell I wasn’t.  I could act sick, dying, fake a heart attack, anything.  “What am I going to say?”

“You could talk about books.”  Quiet, efficient, oozing the confidence I didn’t feel.

She didn’t fuss.  She took it in her stride.  She dressed in her usual simple elegance, in a manner that made me love to be seen with her.  I couldn’t tie my tie, so she did it for me.  She straightened my jacket, because I couldn’t do that either.  Nerves.  Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  Or was that a reference to wives, or mistresses, or something else?

The palms of my hands were sweating.  Meatball hands, I thought, the sort of palms that betrayed the pretenders.  Me, I was the pretender.  My neck felt too large for the shirt.  Beads of sweat formed on my brow.  Where was a sponge when you needed one?

“I can’t do this.”

“You can.”

We hadn’t even left the hotel yet.

“How long before the execution.”

She looked at me with her whimsical smile.  “Long enough for me to give you a hard time.”


I lost count of the number of times I had to go to the bathroom, for one thing or another.  Nerves I said.  Perhaps a dozen Valium or something similar.  Did I have any?  Had she hidden them?  Why did she keep smiling?

In the car, I looked at my watch at least a dozen times.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was too hot, too cold.  She held my hand, and it served best to stop the trembling that had set in.  Why did I agree to this?  Why?

We were greeted by the Events Manager, who was polite and genuinely interested.  He took us inside where he introduced the interviewer, another woman who oozed confidence and charm, who went over the format, and generally tried to set me at ease.

I didn’t let Kirsty’s hand go.  Not yet.  She was my lifeline, the umbilical cord.  When it was severed, I knew I was going to die.

Bathroom?  Where was the bathroom?  Hell, five minutes to go, and I felt like passing out.  No, Kirsty couldn’t come in.  Comb my hair.  Straighten my tie, no it was straight.  Maybe I could hide in here?  I looked around.  No, maybe not.


The cue man was standing beside me, hand gently on my back.  He knew the score.  He knew I would turn and run the first chance I got.  Kirsty was on the other side, smiling.  Did she know too?

Then the announcement, my cue to walk on.

The gentle shove, the bright lights, the deafening applause, the seemingly endless walk to the chair, dear God, would I make it without tripping over?

How many times had I made this trip?  I stood, facing the audience, waved, then sat.  It was the fifteenth.  You’d think I’d learned by now.

There was nothing to it.


© Charles Heath 2016-2019


“Echoes From The Past”, buried, but not deep enough

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.




Conversations with my cat – 46


This is Chester.  I just told him it’s Dog Appreciation Day.

And it got the expected response, you don’t have a dog.


Then I tell him that a neighbour had a dog just like the one we’re thinking of getting, and they’re going to lend him to us for a few hours.

You can’t do that.  This is not a dog-friendly environment.  Remember the last time you had a dog.  Fleas in the carpet, stains on the wall, and as for toilet training…

Yes, he has a point.  The last dog we had was almost a disaster, besides the fact it was ten times larger than Chester.  Friendly though, when Chester didn’t hiss at him.

This dog, I say, is smaller, not much bigger than you.  A jovial chap who doesn’t bark much, just when recalcitrant cats annoy him, so I’m told.

Who are you calling recalcitrant?

No mistaking that distinct look of displeasure, almost recalcitrant I thought.

It’s going to happen, get over it.

Was that a cat shrug I saw?  Another icy stare just to chill the atmosphere in the room, and he leaves.

Yes, I do like stirring the pot.  You think he’d know by now.



Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 15

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?


The question that was foremost in my mind was whether I should call Nobbin, and let him know that I’d met Severin and that his ‘information’ was on a USB.

When I’d mentioned the fact O’Connor said the evidence was somewhere, I knew this evidence was on a USB and could be in one of the hiding places O’Connor had set up with Nobbin.  If not, then it had to be somewhere else, somewhere only O’Connor would know about.

Somehow, I got the impression O’Connor had not trusted either side.  Yes, he was about to tell me where the evidence was, but if that was the case, it meant it was not anywhere where anyone else would know about.

Severin should have curbed his desire for execution a little, and taken O’Connor into custody, and then interrogated him.  It made me wonder, briefly, why Severin would want him dead.  In cases like that, it was because Severin didn’t want O’Connor to talk to me, or anyone else.

Still, he could have tranquilized O’Connor.  I would not have known the difference.

That meant I had to find out more information on O’Connor.

Of course, in just saying that out loud, over a half-full glass of scotch, just to steady the nerves after seeing Severin again, made it sound almost like a running joke.

As if I would be able to find someone who was, for all intents and purposes, a ghost.  That was how we were supposed to be, ghosts, to everyone we knew, including family.  We could no longer talk to anyone because they might become a target used as leverage against us.

That part of my training had been the scariest.  I didn’t have any friends, not real friends anyway, and no family, other than a half-brother who hated me.  I had toyed with the idea of meeting him, after I’d completed the training, just to see if anyone would try to use him as leverage, and then tell them he meant nothing to me.

It was an idea, I doubt if I could do it in reality.  But the thought of it gave me some measure of revenge for all the bullying he had inflicted on me when I was young.  Perhaps that was why I took this job, to prove I was nothing like the person he considered me to be.

Enough of the delving into the shadowy past.

I had a problem that needed solving.  How to find O’Connor.

After a long night of fitful sleep, I woke the next morning with the shreds of a plan.  I’d go into the office and use their computer system to look for him.  Of course, I didn’t expect that there would be any information available to an agent with my security clearance, which was basically to get in and out of the front door and log on to the computer to fill out reports and a timesheet.

It was a surprise, after what Nobbin had said about my employment, that my pass got me in the door.  It did, but I had no doubt somewhere it had register my name in a log somewhere.  I figured I had about half an hour before someone came checking up on me.

The same went for the computer system.  There was a bank of about a dozen computers in a room where the agents could do information searches, and private work, such as reports.  Three others were occupied, and none of those using them looked up when I entered the room.

Not a surprise.  We were taught to keep to ourselves and say nothing about the missions we were attached to anyone else.  In our line of work, secrets were paramount.  We were to become consummate liars because we could never tell anyone the truth about what we did.  If we wanted a cover story, we were to say we were international confidential couriers of documents for legal institutions.

It sounded interesting, but it was quite boring, or at least that was how I described it if anyone asked.

So, ignoring the others, I logged in and found I was still on the employee list.  And, I still had the same level of access I had before.

I ran a search on the name O’Connor.

It came back with five documents, the first of which was his personnel record.  First name, Donald.  A date of birth that made him 27 years old, and an address, in Putney.  I wrote it down.  Marital status, single.  Status, deceased.  Section worked for:  Eight.

There were supposedly eight sections, and the one I worked for was Seven.  Out of interest, I brought up my records.  It was how Severin had found me because my address was on file.  But more interesting was my status, transferred, and my section, three.  Was Nobbin’s section three?

I would ask if I got an opportunity to.

The other four documents were reports, most of which were redacted, or marked restricted.  Or above my pay grade, whatever that was.

But, at least one thing was clear, I had not been fired, just transferred.  I guess I would have to call Nobbin after all.  After I visited O’Connor’s last known residence.

I wasn’t holding my breath expecting to find anything.


© Charles Heath 2019

So it’s the middle of the night, and I’m in a hospital

At what point does the journalist come out in a writer?

Quite often journalists become writers because of their vast experience in observing and writing about the news, sometimes in the category of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

I did journalism at University, and thought I would never get to use it.  I had to interview people, write articles, and act as an editor.  The hardest part was the headlines.

How much does that resemble the job of coming up with a title for your book?

Well, several opportunities arose over the last few months to dig out the journalist hat, put it on, and go to work.


Hospital.  I’ve had to go there a few times more in the last few months than I have in recent years.

And I’d forgotten just how hospitals are interesting places, especially the waiting room in Emergency.

After the second or third visit, I started to observe the people who were waiting, and ran through various scenarios as to the reason for their visit.  None may have been true, but it certainly was an exercise in creative writing, and would make an excellent article.

Similarly, once we got inside the inner sanctum, where the real work is done, there is any number of crises and operations going on, and plenty of material for when I might need to include a hospital scene in one of my stories.

Or I could write a volume in praise of the people who work there and what they have to endure.  Tending the sick, injured and badly injured is not a job for the faint hearted.

Research, if it could be called that, turns up in the unlikeliest of places.  Doctors who answer questions, not necessarily about the malady, nurses who tell you about what it’s like in Emergency on nights you really don’t want to be there, and other patients and their families, all of whom have a story to tell, or just wait patiently for a diagnoses and then treatment so they can go home.

We get to go this time about four in the morning.  Everyone is tired.  More people are waiting.  Outside it is cool and the first rays of light are coming over the horizon as dawn is about to break.

I ponder the question without an answer, a question one of the nurses asked a youngish doctor, tossed out in conversation, but was there a more intent to it; what he was doing on Saturday night.

He didn’t answer.  Another crisis, another patient.

I suspect he was on duty in Emergency.