Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 16 – Revised

As we all know, writing by the seat of your pants is almost the same as flying by the seat of your pants, a hazardous occupation.

As it happens, I like writing this way because like the reader, I don’t know what to expect next.

And equally, at times, you can write your self into a corner, much like painting, and then have to go back, make a few changes and//or repairs and then move forward.

It’s part of the writing process, only in this case, the changes occur before you’ve finished the novel if you finish.  Quite often a lot of writers get only so far, then the manuscript hits the bottom drawer, to be brought out on a distant rainy day.

Or your cat has mocked your writing ability one too many times.

Therefore, we’re winding back to Episode 16, and moving forward once again, from there.

 

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 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 if 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.

Silence.

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, considering I was a stranger in what could be her flat without permission, I was not surprised she continued to struggle until I tried being reassuring.  Then she stopped and asked, “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 in her hands, 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’ll get a damp cloth for your head.  It doesn’t look serious but there might be a slight concussion that might need attention.”

She felt the back of her head, and, when she touched the wound, gasped, “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.  So were several utensils in the drawer.  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.

I made a mental note, it didn’t look like O’Connor had been here long, if at all.  Something was not right here, and if that was the case, I should take care when saying anything to this woman.

“Who are you again?” she asked.

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

“Why should I believe you?  You could be my attacker.”

“If that were the case, why would I still be here trying to be helpful.”

A good question that elicited a curious expression.

“What do you do, what did Oliver do?”

Alarm bells were going off.  Oliver was not O’Connor’s first name.

“Nothing very interesting, I can assure you, and definitely nothing that would warrant this happening.  If it had only been me, I would have not thought any more of it, but since we worked together, and this has also happened to him, it seems we are mixed up in something bad.”

“Where is he, by the way?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.  If you live next door and know him well enough to be here, he might have told you.”

“No.  He never spoke about work.”

She was trying to stand so I helped her up and held on when it looked like she was about to collapse.  Last time I had a knock to the head, I had dizziness for a minute of two.  Her knock had been a lot harder.”

“Are you alright?”  She didn’t look it.

“I will be, I’m sure.”

I let her go, and she took several steps, then gave me a rather hard look.  “Why are you here again?”

“Trying to find my friend.”

“How did you get in here?”

Rather than make her disorientated, the knock must have sharpened her senses.  Time to test a theory. 

“I think we should call the police now, and report the break-in.”

I pulled out my phone.

“Look, I don’t want to get mixed up in this.  You go, and I report this when I get back home.  And, if you find him, tell him Josephine is looking for him.”

As I thought.  She was not able to explain to the authorities why she was in this flat, as I’m sure she believed I couldn’t either.

She started walking towards the door.  My 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.

I left her standing outside the door and headed for the stairs.  A last glance back showed her still where I left her.  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 minute’s 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, 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.

Nobbin.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 53

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This is Chester.  He’s feeling poorly today.

When I used this expression, he looked at me quizzically, which is not bad for a cat with a constant poker face.

Where did you get that from?

It’s a favourite expression of my mother’s when she wasn’t feeling very well.  She had another, ‘not feeling elegant’ today.

It stops and makes me wonder where these expressions come from, and I suspect, because my mother’s mother was of German descent, that it was one of those translation to English things.

Chester seems disinterested.  I’m beginning to think there may be something wrong with him because he’s not his usual sardonic self.

Perhaps, I say, it’s time to go to the vet, get checked out.  You’re not getting any younger.

His head pops up at the mention of the vet.  He knows what this means.  The cat basket.

He leaps up with newfound energy and heads for the door.

I get out of my chair to follow, and he’s gone, moving quickly up the passage to one of his hiding spots.

Maybe he’s not that bad.  I’ll monitor the situation.

“You’re safe,” I yell out.  “For now.”

Trying to pick up the pieces

I can see how it is that a writer’s life is one that, at times, has to be shut off from the outside world.

It’s a bit hard to keep a stream of thoughts going when in one ear is some banal detective show, and in the other, a conversation that you have to keep up with.  I know how hard it is because I’ve tried doing three things at once, and failed miserably in all three.

So, out I slink to the writing room and start by re-reading the previous chapters, to get back into the plot.  I should remember where I am, and get straight to it, but the devil is in the detail.

Going back, quite often I revise, and a plotline is tweaked, and a whole new window is opened.  God, I wish I didn’t do that!

Then I get to the blank page, ready to go, and…

The phone rings.

Damn.  Damn.  Damn.

Phone answered, back to the blank page, no, it’s gone, got yo go back, blast, another revision, and back to the blank page.

Half an hour shot to pieces.

The phone rings again.

Blast scam callers.  I nearly rip the cord out of the wall.

All through this the cat just watches, and, is that a knowing smile?

It can’t be, I’ve just learned that cats can’t smile, or make any sort of face.

I’m sure his thoughts are not a vague or scrambled, or wrestling with the ploys of several stories on the go, getting locations right, getting characters to think and do their thing with a fair degree of continuity.

The cat’s world is one of which chair to lie on, where is that elusive mouse be it real or otherwise, and is this fool going to feed me, and please, please, don’t let it be the lasagna.  I am not that cat!

Unlike other professions, it’s a steady, sometimes frustrating, slog where you can’t just walk away, have a great time, and come back and pick up where you left off.  Stories have to be written from beginning to end, not a bit here and a bit there.

It’s a bit like running a marathon.  You are in a zone, the first few miles are the hardest, the middle is just getting the rhythm and breathing under control, and then you hope you get to the end because it can seem that you’ve been going forever and the end is never in sight.

But, when you reach the end, oh, isn’t the feeling one of pure joy and relief.

Sorry, not there yet.

And no comment is required from the cat gallery, thankyou!

 

In a word: Not

You will not go outside, you will not go to the movies.

The word not, when used by your parents when you are a child is the key in the lock keeping you from having fun.

It is the very definition of everything negative, and much harsher than just a plain no.

That you will ‘not…’ has been the gateway for many an exploit or adventure, because anything you have done contrary to the ‘not’ is all that much sweeter.

Until you get into trouble, but, then, isn’t that how you learn life’s lessons?

But if you are a programmer like me, not takes on a whole new meaning in a language like,

‘If not like …. then’

meaning in layman’s terms if something isn’t like a specific value then do something else.

Hang on, isn’t that a bit like reality?

This is not to be confused with the work Knot which is,

A blemish in a piece of wood

The speed of a ship, winds, and sometimes a plane

But basically,

Something you tie to keep your shoes on, or around your finger to remind you to tie your shoes before getting on the 36-knot high-speed ferry made of knotty wood.

It is also something you find in tangled hair and is very painful trying to remove it.

It is also an unpleasant tightness in body muscles and you need a masseuse to get rid of them.

“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:

lovecoverfinal1

That notion that I could be organised…

Well, toss that baby out with the bathwater.

It’s something that I have never been able to get a handle on, and I seem to stagger from one day to the next without getting anything done.  I guess I’m one of those freeform sorts of people and I guess it goes with the star sign, Gemini.

Over the years many people tried, some with limited success, others completely failing.

I’ve created outlines and created chapters as sections, and scenes within chapters, as best I could.   Once upon a time, I used to teach Microsoft Project, and having this application on hand, I used this to create a timeline, using ‘slack’ time to make up for my inability to keep to a schedule.

This is like taking a sledgehammer to a tack.

Just the time to set it up took longer than it would to just sit down and write the blasted novel.

But, I’m a fly by the seat of my pants writer.  The book starts, often with a start and a finish, and the rest fills itself in, not necessarily in the order of final events.  Of course, this means some backwards revision from time to time, but I get there in the end.

Perhaps a little longer than it should but at least I don’t get halfway and suddenly decide on going in a different direction because I’ve suddenly got writers’ block.  That doesn’t happen.  It usually plays out as the start of another story, and then I mull over the changes necessary to get the original story back on track.

Yes, I’ve been to those time management courses with the books and diaries to seem to want you to time manage your life.  it works to a certain extent, but you live your like inside another type of book.

Nor do I work well with deadlines.

But oddly enough most of the jobs I’ve had over the years have involved time management of one sort or another and I have survived.

Now, in retirement, I really need something to organize my days so something gets done.  As a writer allocating 12 midnight to 2am for writing doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

Unfortunately, it is the best time for me to write.

Anyone else out there with the same problem, and if so what was your answer to the getting stuff done?