A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 26

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 with what happened during the second world 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…


Mayer realized something was terribly wrong when they reached the outskirts of Weimar and passed through the checkpoint on the outskirts of the city.

It was the sixth such checkpoint and each time the Standartenfuhrer told the sentries that they were escorting a valuable prisoner, and being mere German Army soldiers, most of the Obergefreiter rank, and not willing to argue with an SS Colonel.

Then he remembered there was a large Government building in the city and assumed that was where they were talking to him.

Except they were either lost or taking the long way to get there because they were taking back streets.  When he asked why, he was told to be quiet, or they would silence him.

When they reached the outskirts of the city on the other side, still heading south, he knew something else was going on.  It was then he started to think that these men might not necessarily be Nazi’s.  After all, there had to be other people who were sickened by the atrocities that were going on, particularly to the labor from the camps.

He understood the need for labor, just not the way his superiors went about getting it.

They passed through the next checkpoint without any questions and soon caught up to a convoy of trucks with what looked like prisoners in the back.

It was the first time he had seen either of the two officers look worried.

Then a soldier on a motorcycle turned around and came back to check on the vehicle and its occupants.  He flagged them to the side of the road, got off his bike and there was no mistaking the itchy trigger finger on the gun he was loosely holding.

In front of their car, the last truck in the convoy turned a corner and disappeared.

“Where are you going?” the motorcyclist asked.

Mayer noticed he was not army but SS of a lower rank Scharfuhrer, and though of a lower rank, there was still the superiority of just being SS.

The Standartenfuhrer looked the soldier up and down and then opened the door to the car and got out.  He took two steps towards the cyclist.

“Do you know who you are addressing Scharfuhrer, what is your name?  I will take this insubordination to your superior officer.”

Mayer had seen similar men in his unit back at Nordhausen, including one, when in a hotel having lunch heard one of a group of army soldiers being rowdy.  He singled the loudest of them, told him to be less noisy and the soldier laughed at him.

The next thing he remembered was the other solders carrying their dead leader out of the hotel.  The Standartenfuhrer had shot him, on the same charge, insubordination.  Would this Standartenfuhrer do the same?

He had learned that day the SS, especially the higher-ranked officers, didn’t tolerate anything, and as one, he was expected to do the same.

“Sir.  It is my job to ask questions, as you are fully aware.  I was given orders, and I obey those orders.”  Suddenly the man was less confident.

“I understand that.  It is of no concern to you where we are going, only that it is on urgent and classified Reich business.  It is of no concern to anyone but the Oberfuhrer I report to, and I will have to report to him on why I was delayed.  You name Scharfuhrer?”

“I have no wish to delay you, sir.”  He saluted, got back on his motorcycle and left, speeding up to catch up to the rest of the convoy.

The Standartenfuhrer got back in the car.

“That was close,” the driver said.  In English.

Mayer was proficient in English as his father had told him that it would stand him in good stead one day.  He just omitted to tell anyone he worked with, or when he was recruited.  They had asked, and he thought it wisest to say no.

Now, these two men were speaking English.  It was not unknown for SS officers to speak English, as well as several other languages like Dutch, French and Italian. He had a little French, and less Italian.

“Who are you?” Mayer asked again but sticking to German.

The Standartenfuhrer glared at his driver.

“This is the point where it depends on how you answer the next question whether we execute you here, or we continue.  Bear in mind that if you tell us a lie, you will be shot.”  The Standartenfuhrer also spoke in German.

The English Mayer decided was to correct to be from an Englishman, only a German who had learned it as a second language, and definitely as an SS officer.  Perhaps these two were charged with interrogating English prisoners, though that didn’t explain why they had taken him.

All of a sudden, he had a very bad feeling about this kidnapping.  It was a kidnapping, and these men were taking him to a different location, perhaps to torture him.  He had heard rumors, but since it came from a fellow SS officer, he considered it to be true.

“The question?” he stammered, nerves getting the better of him.

“Do you want to get out of Germany?”

What?  IT wasn’t [possible that anyone could know that.  He’d only admitted that sentiment to one person, and he knew he could trust them not to tell anyone.  OR could he?

And, was this a trick question.  If he answered no, it meant they could charge him with crimes against the Reich for having the blueprints of the V2 rocket?  And if he said yes, would they execute him here on the side of the road?

There was no answer that wouldn’t see him shot.

So better to say he was fed up with the conditions he’d been working under, get shot, and never return.

“Yes.”  Of course, there was a pertinent question to add to that reply, “How did you know?”

“You had the plans and specifications outside the bunker.  An executable offense.  I believe you do not like the idea of the German High Command using these rockets as weapons.”

“Most of us on the project do not, but we have to do as we are told.  For obvious reasons.”

“So far so good,” the Standartenfuhrer switched back to English.  “We know you speak English, in fact we know quite a lot about you.  As you’ve obviously guessed, we are not going to and interrogation site, but further south to Italy where there is an escape route set up by the resistance.”

“Who do you work for?”

“OSS.  We are probably worse off than you in that if we get caught, we will be shot as spies.  But, so far we’ve had good luck, except for that nosy motorcyclist.  I expect he will not keep his mouth shut and report us.”

“You won’t get that far.  With petrol rationing, this car is going to run out long before we get to the border.”

“Don’t you worry about the details.  That’s our job.  You just sit back, do as we ask, and everything should be alright.  Very few people question an SS officer of my rank.” 

He looked at his driver. 

“Now, let’s get the hell out of here before that nosy fool comes back with reinforcements.”


© Charles Heath 2020

Writing about writing a book – Day 23

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bill’s service, and the characters he meets along the way, some of whom shape the man he became, others he remained friends with after he was discharged, and those that were killed.

Several have a direct bearing in the main story, for instance, Brainless, a rather ubiquitous nickname, given to him because of his actions, that is to say, he acts without thinking, sometimes when in great peril, a man who never quite recovered, but is, for all intents and purposes Bill’s friend and someone he feels responsible to look after, perhaps because of how many times he saved Bill from death, or worse.

There is also Manilow, but we’ll save him for later.

So, this is where ‘Brainless’ get’s his introduction:


It was the first time I’d been hit by a bullet, and it hurt.  It was a steep learning curve, realizing you have been hit, and then the brain going into overdrive to tell you first it going to hurt like hell, and then begin to assess the damage, running every scenario from ‘it’s a flesh wound’ to ‘Oh God, I’m going to die’.

At least, that was what had happened to me for my first time.

Seconds, or minutes, or hours later, a man who doubled as a Medic came scrabbling over to me and looked at the wound.  A silly thought, how did he know I’d been shot?  Had I screamed?  He made a quick assessment, told me I’d live, and dressed it as good and as quickly as he could.

There were other casualties.

I lasted until I was brought into a clearing some miles further on, after the enemy had been killed, or had retreated, and loaded onto a helicopter.  There I was told everything would be OK and then the lights went out.


My first visit to a mobile army hospital, after being hit, was a novelty.  It was nothing like a real hospital.  Nor was the staff.  It took a different sort of medical personnel to man a front-line hospital where you were just as likely to become a casualty yourself.

The doctor was quite jovial about the whole matter saying I would be back out again in no time, not exactly a prospect I was looking forward to.  It was almost a mend job without anesthetic and the memory of it remained with me for some time.  Facilities were not primitive, but they just appeared that way.

I was one of the less needy casualties that day.  After being stitched up, a nurse took me to a bed in a ward with a mixture of serious and not so seriously wounded.

The nurse, whose name was Wendy, had the same sense of humor I had.  She insisted we be on first name terms from the start.  How she kept her humor was a mystery, for most noticeable was her tired look as if she had been doing the same thing for too long.

The bed was comfortable, the temperature bearable, and the food edible.  Being, and remaining, injured had its good points.

I slept well the first night.  I presumed the injection she’d given me was to ensure I had a restful sleep.  It was long overdue and much needed.

The next morning the numbers had thinned.  Two men had died, several others returned to duty.  To my left was a sad and distant private, who, from time to time, would start moaning.  He’d been in the middle of a mortar attack and was both deaf and had serious psychological problems.

To my right, there was a large man who barely fit in the bed.  He was a perpetually unhappy person, with only minor injuries, a bullet wound to his upper leg.  Nothing serious, he said, and just wanted to leave as soon as possible.  Brainless, the nurse called him.  Always wanted to get back to the war and kill some more of the enemy.  An obsession, she said.

He was staring morosely at the ceiling when I woke.  It took a few minutes to regain full consciousness, a sign I’d been in a drugged sleep.

“What are you in for?” he asked.

“Leg wound.  Nothing serious.”  You?”

“Leg.  Bastards snuck up on me.  And the useless rearguard didn’t do his job properly.”



I’d seen both.  Tread in the wrong place, and you didn’t do it again.  Sniper’s fire came from almost anywhere, taking out soldiers and civilians indiscriminately.  You could never hear the bullet, just feel it.

“Mongrel,” I said with feeling.


“Probably the same.  I didn’t see it coming.  I hate it when you can’t see the bastards.  There ought to be some law they send you a message first.  Give you a chance….”

“Chap other side killed himself.  Had enough.  It was written all over his face.  What kind of sooks are we bringing over here?”

“National service,” I said quietly.

“You?” he asked.

I could feel his contempt for ‘Nashos’ and to be glad I was not one.  “I believe I volunteered.”

He didn’t ask what I meant, and even if he had, I probably would have made up a lie.  I hardly thought if I said my father in law hated me that much he would send me here, would make any sense, particularly to this man beside me.

He snorted.  “More the fool you, then.”


We were both released on the same day.  His unit had suffered major casualties, and the story he gave me in the hospital was not quite true.  He’d gone down trying to save what men he could in an ambush.  Heroics came to mind, but his selfless actions were much more than that.  Without a unit, he joined ours.

Wendy remained in my mind for some time after that visit.  When I returned the next time, my injuries being more serious, I enquired as to her whereabouts, only to discover she was dead too, a victim of her own hand, simply because she could not cope with the death, mutilation, and waste.

There was no doubt it affected all of us in different ways.  Some didn’t like the idea of going back out into the jungle and found their own peace.  Others, like Wendy, needed something more, but all too often, no-one recognized what the solution was until it was too late.


Now that I have paved the way, I must get back to the main story and write the part where Brainless enters the picture.


© Charles Heath 2016-2020

“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:


In a word: Blue

We all know that blue is a colour.  in fact, it is my favourite colour, and I have owned so many blue cars over the years.

Odd then that I never painted any of my rooms blue, or the house, though one year my father painted our house a very nice shade of blue.

Enough with the memories…

We use blue to describe the sea or the sky, for instance, the deep blue sea, but if you look at it even n a good day, the sea generally looks green to me.

Blue could also be used to describe our mood when we are feeling melancholy or sad.

Then there’s the blues, a genre of music, usually in tandem with rhythm, so we have rhythm and blues

And when we’re angry we could scream blue murder, though that one seems to stretch the use of the word blue a little

Because I have red hair I get called bluey a lot, I’ll leave you to work that one out

You could be turning blue if you are very cold

It’s the second-lowest level of difficulty for a ski slope

And it could be used to describe a pornographic movie, i.e. a blue movie.

It is not to be confused with the word blew, where it is the action of expelling air through your mouth more forcefully than usual.

It blew a gale

He blew another man away (figuratively, not literally)

He blew .08 and lost his licence for drink driving

Inspiration, maybe

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:


And the story:


It was once said that a desperate man has everything to lose.

The man I was chasing was desperate, but I, on the other hand, was more desperate to catch him.

He’d left a trail of dead people from one end of the island to the other.

The team had put in a lot of effort to locate him, and now his capture was imminent.  We were following the car he was in, from a discrete distance, and, at the appropriate time, we would catch up, pull him over, and make the arrest.

There was nowhere for him to go.

The road led to a dead-end, and the only way off the mountain was back down the road were now on.  Which was why I was somewhat surprised when we discovered where he was.

Where was he going?


“Damn,” I heard Alan mutter.  He was driving, being careful not to get too close, but not far enough away to lose sight of him.


“I think he’s made us.”


“Dumb bad luck, I’m guessing.  Or he expected we’d follow him up the mountain.  He’s just sped up.”

“How far away?”

“A half-mile.  We should see him higher up when we turn the next corner.”

It took an eternity to get there, and when we did, Alan was right, only he was further on than we thought.”

“Step on it.  Let’s catch him up before he gets to the top.”

Easy to say, not so easy to do.  The road was treacherous, and in places just gravel, and there were no guard rails to stop a three thousand footfall down the mountainside.

Good thing then I had the foresight to have three agents on the hill for just such a scenario.


Ten minutes later, we were in sight of the car, still moving quickly, but we were going slightly faster.  We’d catch up just short of the summit car park.

Or so we thought.

Coming quickly around another corner we almost slammed into the car we’d been chasing.

“What the hell…” Aland muttered.

I was out of the car, and over to see if he was in it, but I knew that it was only a slender possibility.  The car was empty, and no indication where he went.

Certainly not up the road.  It was relatively straightforward for the next mile, at which we would have reached the summit.  Up the mountainside from here, or down.

I looked up.  Nothing.

Alan yelled out, “He’s not going down, not that I can see, but if he did, there’s hardly a foothold and that’s a long fall.”

Then where did he go?

Then a man looking very much like our quarry came out from behind a rock embedded just a short distance up the hill.

“Sorry,” he said quite calmly.  “Had to go if you know what I mean.”


I’d lost him.

It was as simple as that.

I had been led a merry chase up the hill, and all the time he was getting away in a different direction.

I’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book, letting my desperation blind me to the disguise that anyone else would see through in an instant.

It was a lonely sight, looking down that road, knowing that I had to go all that way down again, only this time, without having to throw caution to the wind.

“Maybe next time,” Alan said.

“We’ll get him.  It’s just a matter of time.”


© Charles Heath 2019

Find this and other stories in “Inspiration, maybe”  available soon.




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

On special, now only $0.99 for the next few weeks.


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.




Oh, what a war! A review of 1917

It is hard to comprehend the scale and the effect the war to end all wars had on the men and women who fought in it.

Certainly, in the European sector, it was a nightmare in the trenches.

We Australians are no strangers to wars and have answered the call, first from the mother country, England, from the Boar war, through to world war two, and latterly the USA as a post-war ally.

But this is not about us.

This is about two ordinary men, two soldiers who are given a job, some think impossible.

They have to go over the top, through no man’s land, through enemy-held territory, ie, behind enemy lines, to warn another group of soldiers not to attack the front line in their sector, as it is a well-disguised trap the Germans have set.  What was it called, a strategic withdrawal by the Germans?

From the moment they went over the top, and out into the bleakest of landscapes, we spend all of the time waiting for something bad to happen.

And it does.

And your heart is literally in your mouth the whole time, just waiting for the next setback.

There are moments where the unrelenting suspense is broken by poignancy, revealing the depth of comradeship needed just to survive, and in an instant, how quickly that can disappear.

Then there is the scenes of a French town in ruins, and some who are barely existing there.  How could they with endless bombardment by a merciless enemy?  It shows the difference between the British and the Germans, one merciful, but often paying a very dear price for being so, and the other merciless in the extreme.

And then we reach an almost surreal end, where it felt like I’d been holding my breath for nearly two hours, and, at the same time, it didn’t feel all that long since it started.

It was an uplifting end after fighting against insurmountable odds.  If only half of what we saw was true then it’s surprising any man or woman came back from that war sane.

I give it a well deserved 5 stars.


I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 34

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 installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


When I woke the next morning, it was to the sound of voices in the front of the house.  One of the voices was my mothers.  The other I had trouble placing, and I initially thought it was Benderby, calling in on the way to work.

When I threw on some clothes and came out, still a little bleary-eyed, I found it was the Sherriff.  It seemed, all of a sudden, my mother had become the most popular girl in town.

The thing is, I knew little of the history of what went on in my mother’s time in a city where she had been born, raised, and remained.  Married and divorced her high school sweetheart, there was talk of her being one of the popular girls at school, coincidentally the same school I went to, and there was evidence everywhere of her there.

I had not lived up to the family name.

Not that she expected me too, nor did she acknowledge those wild and hazy days where she had not been weighed down by a useless drunken husband, and struggle to pay the bills, hold onto the house, and both work and be a mother.  Life had not gone the way she had expected.

But curiously those times were also those of Sherriff Johnson, in the same grade, along with Benderby, a few years ahead, and both Boggs’ mother and father who were contemporaries along with others including Nadia and Vince’s mother.  They had been friends once until she married Cossatino and she ‘changed’.

Now they were an ocean apart on the social or any scale.

“Ah, Sam.  How are you now?”

“Better.  I’ll be more careful next time.  Got any leads on who it was?”

“Ghosts.  We have a few.  Some of them are Cossatino’s, the others Benderby.  Pity no one is willing to name names.”

“I didn’t see them, Sherriff.  They wore masks.”

“Of course.”

“Is there anything more about the Frobisher case?”

“You seem very interested in police matters Sam.”

“He was an antique dealer, according to the papers, and there’s a lot of talk going around about the infamous treasure maps and you can’t help but put two and two together.  Especially when Rico is related to Boggs whose father was the one responsible for creating those treasure maps.  You think Rico was trying to get some answers out of him?”

“Hardly the sort of thing that any sane man would kill for, don’t you think?”

I doubted he would tell me if he knew anything, but he had taken more interest in what I was saying.  It was stuff he’d know, or at least should know, since he had been the one to investigate Boggs’ father’s disappearance.

“Who said Rico was sane.  He was a terrifying sort of guy when he lost his temper which I’ve seen him do in front of Boggs.  But you have to agree, Rico had to know about Boggs’ father’s role in creating the maps for the Cossatino’s.”

The sheriff shook his head.

“Those are not the sort of rumors you want to be spreading around town, not unless you want an army of Cossatino’s layers on your doorstep.  They are just that, rumors.  Nothing was ever proven, and there was no evidence that the Cossatino’s had anything to do with Boggs’ father’s disappearance.”

“And Rico?”

“Rico is a harmless fool who talks big and that’s all.  He did his time for running a map scam that he claims was run by Boggs senior.  No one could prove it so he copped it sweet.  Now, he should know better.  But I will say this, Frobisher was not here to see Rico, but Benderby.  Benderby apparently had some old coins he’s scooped up off the ocean floor on a dive and thought they might be worth something.  Frobisher took them to be assessed and valued but got no further than Rico’s boat.  And the coins are now missing.”

“Sounds to me like there’s going to be another treasure hunt.”

There’d been another some years before fuelled by news an authentic treasure map had been found, showing the location of Captain Markaby’s plunder stashed away for another day somewhere on our shores.

It all ended with Boggs senior’s disappearance.

“It might, but we can only hope what happened to the father in the last one, doesn’t happen to the son in this one.  It’s why I called in.  Your mother tells me you have some influence on young Boggs.  Please tell him to stop stirring the pot with this notion he has the real map.  He doesn’t.  No one does.  The plain truth is, there isn’t one.  Someone needs to get through to him before something really bad happens to him.  He’s already had one close shave.  I’ll deal with the Cossatino’s and the Benderby’s.  I expect you to deal with Boggs.  Am I clear?”

Put to me in that authoritarian voice, it was very clear.  But to Boggs, it was going to be like a red rag to a bull.

I nodded and went back to my room.

How did I manage to get in the middle of this mess?

© Charles Heath 2019-2020

Past conversations with my cat – 44


This is Chester.  I’ve just dropped the bombshell we’re thinking of getting a dog.

So, the first response from him:  Well, the last dog didn’t turn out so well, did it?

We didn’t tell him what happened to the dog, but maybe he’s psychic.

Or is that psycho?

Anyway, the last dog we had moved to my son’s place when he moved, and shortly after, broke his hip and had to be put down.

So I say, that dog moved when my son left.  I don’t have any more sons living in, so that won’t be a problem.

It’s going to be a mistake.

Oh, how?

You know they all start out like soft furry balls, like cat’s I’ll admit, but then they grow up, and up, and up, and up.  And eat you out of house and home.  Not like us lovable cats, we stay small furry balls, and don’t eat all that much.

No, you’re just fussy, and it’s like hell on earth getting you to eat.

Then stop buying the cheap stuff.

Cheap?  Cheap?  That last lot of food cost an arm and a leg.  At least with a dog, it will eat anything, including scraps from the table.

He gives me that condescending look reserved for people who think they own or know cats.

As you wish, my Lord.

Then he walks off, head in the air and tail swishing in annoyance.

A Chapter from “Echoes from the Past”

Currently available from Amazon:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4


I looked down on 5th Avenue and could just see, in the distance, Saks, and opposite, the Rockefeller Center.  Recently I’d gone ice skating there with a woman I had begun to care for more than I should, and who liked spending time with me.

It was a relationship that had evolved slowly and was now moving into dangerous territory.  From the moment our eyes first met across the ice, I knew that outing had been a mistake.  Whatever I’d been thinking it couldn’t happen, but against better judgment, I had let it happen.

It was not her fault, it was mine.  I was not the person she thought I was, the person I wanted to be, and if the circumstances of my past were not as they were, the person she was most likely looking for.

It had happened before, and it would happen again, and the result would be the same.  I would move on, find a new city, a new job, a new life, and continue to hide in plain sight.

Waiting for an eventuality that may never happen, but if it did, it would happen to me alone, not the woman I loved.

I sighed inwardly, thinking of how unfair life could be.  And how much, this time, I wanted it to be different.

From my office window, high up in the sky, I could see several Fire Department vehicles going though yet another drill and could just hear the sound of the sirens floating up to the 32nd floor.  Darkness was closing in, and the fast-moving red strobing lights stood out against the neon signs, the street lighting, and the Christmas decorations.

It was that time of the year again, a time that brought back very sad memories.  For most people, it was when families came together to celebrate.  That was not possible for me.  I’d thought with the passing of time it would no longer hurt so much, but it did.  I felt a tear in my eye and pulled a tissue out of the box on my desk to wipe it away.

Enough with the sentimentality.

Behind me, I heard files being dropped on my desk.  It was Friday when Maria from Accounting brought me the latest customers who were overdue in paying their investment contributions.  The stack was getting bigger every week.

I turned to face her.  She was only three years younger than me but looked ten.  Italian parents, conservative dressed, reserved manner, but usually friendly and outgoing, she was well-liked by all.  What surprised me, out of all the people she could choose as a friend, and since our ice skating expedition something more than that, she chose me.

I was not exactly the easiest of people to get along with, for obvious reasons.

I soon discovered this was the only time she and I could meet in the office without the prying eyes of our workmates making more of it than it was.  Office romances, not that either of us would acknowledge we were having one, were frowned upon.  Worse, rumors were very easily started, and much harder to quash.

“To be honest, I’m glad I don’t have your job, Will.”

She looked at the stack and then gave me a special look, one I wanted to believe was reserved just for me.  Her smile always tugged at a heartstring or maybe two.  This night it did more than that.

I shrugged and tried to be casual.  “I was told I had a gift.”

“Ah, the statement of faith, just before the sucker punch.”

Everyone knew to call customers in distress was a difficult job at best.  It required tact and diplomacy, a trait I’d acquired over time because of my situation.  It had been a strange match of opportunity and unrealized talent when a disgruntled customer had come into the office and verbally attacked Mr. Bartleby, a senior partner.

I’d talked the customer down, and talked myself into the job.  I’d only agreed to do it because it came with the promise of a promotion.  Now I was considering an exit strategy, it probably didn’t matter.

“Doing anything for the weekend?”  She asked the same question every Friday.  The last time, I surprised her by asking if she skated on ice, not expecting she did.  She said yes.

It didn’t take long to realize she would have said yes to climbing Mount Everest.  It was her first time on skates, and we learned a lot about each other over the half-hour she managed to stay upright.

For her bravery, I took her to dinner and then took her home.  She asked me to stay for a while, to patch up her wounds, perhaps the modern-day equivalent of ‘would you like to come up and see my paintings’.

Whatever her intentions or my desires, we just talked over a bottle of wine and then coffee.  I didn’t have to leave, but it was better for both of us that I did.

I closed my eyes to break the connection.  I could feel it.  I was starting to fall in love with this girl, this woman, and I knew I had to be careful.  It would not be long before the questions started; questions I couldn’t answer.

“No.  I wasn’t intending to do much.”

“Then perhaps you might consider joining the rest of us monkeys for beer, wine and a lively discussion about anything but work.   Harry’s found a new bar, upon 6th Avenue.”

Harry was our social director, not a real one but self-appointed, and he organized most of the unofficial staff gatherings.  He was a bit too self-important for me, an ‘I am’ sort of guy, but he went to Harvard and had probably earned the right.  I wasn’t on his social radar so he rarely invited me to anything.  If he did, I generally declined.  Those gatherings were the hunting grounds of the go-getters, the rookies looking for an edge to climb the corporate ladder.  I was all about keeping a low profile.

“Is he asking, or you?”

A momentary frown settled on her face.  We’d had a similar discussion once before, and I’d realized then she tried only to see the good in people.  Perhaps that was why I was so lucky.

“Does it matter?”

I pretended to think about it for a minute, and then said, “No.”

Her smile returned.  “Do you want me to come to fetch you?”

“As appealing as that sounds, I have a couple of matters to tidy up.  You go, and I’ll drop in later.”

The expression on her face told me she didn’t believe me.  It was not without merit, because I had told her the same before and not followed through.  Then, it didn’t matter because I hadn’t known her all that well.  Now, it seemed everything had changed.

“You are not just saying that to get rid of me, are you?”  The tone matched the doubtful expression.

Blunt, but fairly accurate.  I didn’t want to underestimate this girl.  In normal circumstances, I might have considered something else, other than drinks.  Instead, I said, “I would have preferred a walk in Central Park, but I don’t think the weather is going to behave.”

Then I had a moment where I thought if I told her something closer to the truth, it might help me climb my way out of the deep hole I was digging for myself.  “To be honest, I’m not very good at these social gatherings.”

Another change in expression, she had many faces for many occasions.  This one was of surprise, or was it an agreement?

“Then you and I could go somewhere else if you like.”

Not exactly the result I was looking for.

“We could, but then you would miss out on being with your friends and most likely miss the next scandal to envelop us.”

The last one was about Bartleby junior and a certain socialite.  Everyone knew what he was like except one person, his current fiancée Katrina.

“True.”  She shrugged.  I had just become a lost cause.  “I will look out for you.  But remember, I will be disappointed if you don’t come.”

She gave me a last look, somewhat whimsical I thought, as I watched her walk across the floor to the elevator lobby.  It was like watching the love of my life leaving, without turning back.


I’d promised myself a long time ago that I would not get involved with a woman, but I soon learned how difficult a promise like that was to keep, especially when the woman’s name was Katrina.

I’d not known real love before, and it was not difficult to fall under her spell.  She was as beautiful as she was beguiling.

A long time ago, in what felt like another lifetime, Katrina Winslow and I worked together.  She taught me my first job at Bentley, Bowman and Bartleby, Accountants.  And, as with anyone with whom you work so closely, we became friends, and then something more than that.

By the time I realized what had happened, it was too late.  She was the daughter of parents who cared about their daughter, and the people with whom she associated.  They had me investigated.

I remember that Monday morning as if it was yesterday when she came into my office.  We had spent a perfect weekend together, and when I left her Sunday night, I was full of those starry-eyed dreams people in love had.

An hour later, all of those dreams had been shattered, not only for me but for her too.  I had no answers to her questions, answers the investigators could not find.  I knew from the first day I met her she was out of my league, but I honestly believed love could conquer all.

Her father didn’t.  It ended, and in time I realized it was for the best.  I had nothing to offer her, and I could never give answers to any of the questions she might ask.

Not long after, Maria told me about her engagement to Marcus Bartleby, son of the remaining live partner whose name graced the building, and signs throughout the city.  I told myself he would be the sort of man her father believed she deserved, but in my heart, I knew what sort of person Marcus was, and equally, there was nothing I could do about it.

I had a secret, one that I could never tell anyone.  And until I could find a way of reconciling my past I could never contemplate having a future, make any friends, or find any sort of peace or happiness.

With Katrina, with Maria, or anyone else.


The truth is my life was the equivalent of a metaphorical train wreck.  You wouldn’t know it, looking at me, but how I looked now, how I acted and reacted was a product of many years of practice.  From the moment I had seen my parents murdered at the age of fourteen, I’d been on the run.  Being that young, it was tough on the road, and I had to get street smart, and defensive, very quickly.  I’d learned the hard way, through the school of hard knocks.  By comparison, the Bartleby’s of this world had got it easy.

But, don’t get me wrong.  It was not something I was bitter about.  It was what it was.  I did what I had to do, and what I have to.  I accepted they had and always would have everything handed to them on a platter.  It was the way of the world.

On the upside, I had only myself to please.  I did not have to rely on anyone else, nor was I responsible for anyone but myself.  I had no family to speak of, or that I would acknowledge.

My father had been an orphan and had spent a relatively lonely life up to the point where he married my mother.

The family I had on my mother’s side was the reason I ran away and kept running, and fortunately, I had not seen any of them since the day I finally escaped.

On the downside, I’d never stayed in one place too long, and never had the time to get a good education, a prerequisite for a good job.  Instead, I had a lot of experience in jobs that didn’t have much of a career path.

I’d thought of night school, even tried it once, but it didn’t work out.  That was the catalyst for joining the army, the one place where people like me finished up.  It was a place to call home wherever they dumped you, and you made friends that didn’t care who or what you were, or cared too much about your past.

I was sent to Iraq, the first time around, with a great bunch of guys, until most of the platoon was killed in a suicide bombing, and the few that survived, including me, were physically repaired and discharged.

In the years since I’d stopped in ten cities.  New York was the most recent, and I’d been here the longest.  I’d carved a path across America from the Mid West, a place called Columbus, Nebraska, through to New York, with a lot of places in between.  It was an interesting way to see the country when in normal circumstances I would have little reason to leave my home town.

Now, after all the running, all the looking over my shoulder, there was a desire to stop.  The problem was I couldn’t.  I couldn’t afford to feel safe, because the moment I did, the moment I let down my guard, it would be when I’d make a mistake, a mistake that could have horrific consequences.  Not only for me but for others around me.

I’d learned that lesson well, soon after I had run away from home, but before I left my home town.  Escape was a relief, and when they had not caught up with me after a week, I started to feel safe.

I let down my guard.  I allowed my trust of the one person in that family I thought was my friend to influence my actions.  She had unwittingly led the family to me after being used as a decoy.  I hadn’t thought of that possibility.

They handed me to the man who murdered my parents.  He told me he’d been willing to track me to the ends of the earth, as long as it took.  He held me captive for a few hours until I escaped, and I had no intention of being caught again.

From that day, I never trusted anyone again.

I remembered the demonic look in his eyes when he told me he would never stop looking.  He was out there, somewhere, and I had to remain vigilant.  The passing of time, for this murderer, was irrelevant.

And, standing there, looking out the window and down 5th Avenue, I could feel the itch, the one I couldn’t scratch.  The one that told me my pursuer, a man who went by the name of Edward Jamieson, wasn’t very far away.


© Charles Heath 2015-2020