Briarpatch: Another of those quirky USA network shows

I’m still reeling from the car bomb that exploded across the screen in the first few minutes, leaving not only two rather lowly tenants but the viewers shocked.

It’s an event that brings the older sister of the victim, both apparently a rent collector and a policewoman, of the bombing.

Two points to note, only small planes land at the airport, the town is deep in the heart of Texas, and it is very, very hot, even at night. How do we know this, there is always a sign showing the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. As it the sweaty faces didn’t give it away.

This is a slow burner, and has, for now, a recurrent theme of zoo animals on the loose, and, in particular, a tiger.

There is also a plate of uneaten food outside the room next to said sister’s room. It’s significance, in one respect, is at the end.

But, as I said, it’s slow to play out the nuances.

The sister is a senatorial investigator, though she doesn’t elaborate. This means she will get to kick some butts, and the first, a visiting senator who is also, well, a friend of sorts.

The Chief of Detectives and a Captain in charge of the investigation don’t seem to know very much, especially as to who had killed her.

And no one can say how the dead sister came to be so wealthy, or where she really lived.

We meet a few old acquaintances, and there it sizzles in the late-night Texan heat till the end.

Yep, another running theme, someone getting blown up in a car bomb.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen every week, or by the end of the series, San Bonifacio, Texas will become just another ghost town.

Phryne Fisher and the Crypt of Tears: A review of sorts

So, what has all the adventure of an Indiana Jones movie, takes you through the back alleys of a Persian city, and gives you good old fashioned entertainment?

Yes, at one point I felt I had just been transplanted in Aladdin.

But this only served as the starting point of a daring prison break, a very Indiana motorbike ride, and a do or die jump onto a moving train.

Never have so many waited so long for…

Phryne the pilot, the swordswoman, the one woman rescue squad, who dabbles in a spot of investigating on the side.

Just how did she find Detective Inspector Jack Robinson in that seedy lodging-house?

Some of the reviews haven’t been quite as nice as they might be, but I think they missed the point.

No one in this movie takes themselves or their characters seriously, which, in a way, makes them more interesting.

Loved John Stanton’s creepy portrayal of Crippins, the butler, just the sort of man you could use around a mansion, always there insidiously insinuating himself.

And loved the ending where we finally get to see what was missing in three whole series of episodes. What is it, you’ll have to go and see it to find out.

For me, 5 stars, 101 minutes of pure Phryne joy!

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Editing becomes re-writing (1)

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section that involves Jack:

 

Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun.

He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.

He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp.  His momentum propelled him through the door, causing the customer warning bell to ring loudly as the door bashed into it, and before the sound had died away, he knew he was in trouble.

It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation. 

A young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, then Alphonse, and then Jack.  He recognized the gun, a Luger, German, relic of WW2, perhaps her father’s souvenir, or more likely a stolen weapon, now pointing at him then Alphonse, then back to him.

Jack took another second or two to consider if he could disarm her.  No, the distance was too great.  He put his hands out where she could see them.  No sudden movements, try to remain calm, his heart rate up to the point of cardiac arrest.  No point making a bad situation worse.

Pointing with the gun, she said, “Move closer to the counter where I can see you better.”

Everything but her hand steady as a rock.  Only telltale sign of stress, the bead of perspiration on her brow.  It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop.

Jack shivered and then did as he was told. 

A few seconds more for him to decide she was in an unpredictable category.

“What’s wrong with your friend?”  Jack tried the friendly approach after he’d taken the three steps sideways necessary to reach the counter.

The shopkeeper, Alphonse, who, Jack noted seemed to have aged another ten years in the last few months, spoke instead; “I suspect he’s an addict, looking for a score.  At the end of his tether, my guess, and her to get some money.”

A simple hold up that had gone wrong.  Wrong time, wrong place, in more ways than one Jack thought, now realizing he had walked into a very dangerous situation.  She didn’t look like a user.  The boy on the ground, he did, and he looked like he was going through the beginnings of withdrawal.

Oddly, though, Jack had noticed a look pass between the shopkeeper and the girl.

 “All you had to go was give us the money, and we wouldn’t be here, now.”  She was glaring back at Alphonse.  “You can still make this right.”

A flicker of memory jumped out of the depths on Jack’s mind, something discussed at the dinner table with their neighbors, something about the shop as a pick-up point for drugs.

The boy on the floor, he was not here for the money.

Jack thought he’d try another approach.  “Look, I don’t want trouble, and you don’t want trouble.  I’ll go, forget this ever happened.  You might want to do the same.”

The girl looked like she was thinking.  The gun, though, still moved between him and the shopkeeper.

Another assessment of the girl; this was not her real home.  She was from a better class of people, a different part of town.  Caught up in a downward spiral because of her friend on the floor.

Caught in a situation she was not equipped to deal with.

That didn’t bode well for his, or anyone else in that shop right then, health.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

In a word: Drink

Everyone loves a drink, and that interesting expression, ‘what’s your poison’ often resonates at a bar when among friends.

The thing is, we are supposed to know what our friends drink, me, for instance, I like beer, preferably in a bottle and not local mass-produced brew if I can avoid it.

But, some like white wine, no preference to type, some like cocktails like a Manhattan, or a Long Island Iced Tea, very dangerous if made correctly which quite often it isn’t, or champagne, the real thing not just leftover wine carbonated and given a name like ‘sparkling …’ something.

Every now and then we need to have more than one drink, and that desire is fuelled by our emotions.  A celebration, it’s two or three, just enough to allow the euphoria to seep in.  A tragedy of any sort means more than a few, usually prefixed with a statement like, ‘I need to get hammered’, but not literally.

Perhaps that’s why it’s called drowning our sorrows.

Of course, there are other meanings for the word ‘drink’ and often poets, and romance novelists will refer to a phrase such as ‘drink in…’ where it may refer to a loving gaze or a look of adulation.  You could also, at a stretch, drink in the sight of a magnificent landscape.

Then, at the end of that drinking session, good or bad, where you may have had the opportunity to drink in looks or locations, you might, if you didn’t play your cards right, get thrown in the drink.

Not in the glass, that’s a bit small, but it means a much larger body of water such as a pool, a lake, or the ocean.

And lastly, but probably not the only context for the word ‘drink’, it could be said you were ‘driven to drink’, and I don’t mean by another drinker to the hotel, bar, restaurant or party.

Driven to drink means you blame someone else for your recently acquired desire to drink as much as you can so that it blots out something or someone.

I’m officially blaming my dog for my drinking problem.  He drove me to drink.

And that’s all I have to say about it.

Pour me another drink, will you?

“Sunday in New York”, it’s a bumpy road to love

Sunday in New York” is ultimately a story about trust, and what happens when a marriage is stretched to its limits.

When Harry Steele attends a lunch with his manager, Barclay, to discuss a promotion that any junior executive would accept in a heartbeat, it is the fact his wife, Alison, who previously professed her reservations about Barclay, also agreed to attend, that casts a small element of doubt in his mind.

From that moment, his life, in the company, in deciding what to do, his marriage, his very life, spirals out of control.

There is no one big factor that can prove Harry’s worst fears, that his marriage is over, just a number of small, interconnecting events, when piled on top of each other, points to a cataclysmic end to everything he had believed in.

Trust is lost firstly in his best friend and mentor, Andy, who only hints of impending disaster, Sasha, a woman whom he saved, and who appears to have motives of her own, and then in his wife, Alison, as he discovered piece by piece damning evidence she is about to leave him for another man.

Can we trust what we see with our eyes or trust what we hear?

Haven’t we all jumped to conclusions at least once in our lives?

Can Alison, a woman whose self-belief and confidence is about to be put to the ultimate test, find a way of proving their relationship is as strong as it has ever been?

As they say in the classics, read on!

Purchase:

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A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 27

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…

Rolf Mayer had only ever wanted to design and build rockets for exploration of space.

Somewhere between the germination of that desire, and where he was right now, in the back of a black Mercedes SS staff car heading south towards Nuremberg something had gone horribly wrong.

Back at Nordhausen, he may have been terrified most of the time from the demands of the Reich, and the horrors of how the Reich was achieving its goals, he was, at least, safe.

Now he was a traitor, with stolen plans, with two Britisher spies, heading for Italy and from there to, well it hadn’t quite been specified where he might end up, but he assumed it would be England.

As yet they had not asked him whether he had the answer to stop this new weapon, and, if he really thought about it, there wasn’t an answer.  Perhaps, with a sense of irony, he could say that in kidnapping him, they might not fix the gyro guidance system which caused a lot of the rockets to go off course and miss their intended targets, but still, a large number would still reach their destination with devasting effect.

As for stopping it, he doubted it could be done.  They were fired from mobile positions, there were no static launching sites so the enemy couldn’t bomb those sites, not could they stop the production of them because it was underground.  A lot of lessons had been learned since Pennemunde.

And that brought another thought to mind.  Who was the enemy now, if he was willing to go with these spies?  He was German, and he loved his country, but seeing what he had seen, it was hard to balance that patriotism with the means to achieve their goals.  Perhaps the blame lay with the Fuhrer, but no one ever spoke of what they really thought, only of their undying allegiance to the mother country and its heroic leader.

No doubt, when he reached his final destination he was going to hear a lot of things that may or may not be true about Reich and its leadership.

Mayer noticed the Standartenfuhrer had a map and at various times they would stop the car and consult the map, an older touring map that predated the war.

Listening to their conversations he had learned that the car had a 50-liter tank that was full at the start of their journey.  From Nordhausen to Weimar had been 120 kilometers and had used about 18 liters of petrol.  From that, he deduced that the car would go about 300 kilometers per tankful.  This means they would need more petrol before they reached Nurnberg.

It was one thing to say they were going to take care of the details but getting one of the most heavily rationed commodities in Germany, or anywhere within the sphere of the Reich was nigh on impossible.  He knew this simply because his superiors at the Nordhausen site couldn’t get any petrol for their vehicles.

At this stage of the war, a war they were continually told they were winning, there seemed precious little of anything still available or not rationed, especially food.  Because they were SS they fared reasonably well, but the others not so much, making him feel guilty that he was not going hungry like everyone else.

In fact, he was feeling hungry now, and he didn’t remember seeing any food in the car.

Some distances from Bayreuth, after passing through another checkpoint, they stopped a further 10 kilometers up the rood, in a layby that sheltered them from any other traffic, not that there had been anything other than army convoys.  Several ties there had been airplanes overhead, either coming or going in small groups, perhaps training runs, so perhaps there was a Luftwaffe station nearby

Outside there was another consultation of the map and then the driver headed towards the rear of the car and opened the trunk.  The Standartenfuhrer opened the door.  “You can get out and stretch your legs.”

Mayer climbed out and found just how stiff and sore he was, and it hadn’t been a very long drive, but the roads were not as good as they once were, before the war.

Then he noticed the driver lugging a large can to the petrol cap, opened it, put a funnel in and with some assistance, started refilling the tank.  When he walked towards the rear of the car he saw six such cans in the trunk.  They had come prepared, and given the nature of how they had collected him, he realized that he had been targeted, which meant someone inside the Nordhausen complex was an agent working for British Intelligence.

They emptied two of the tanks into the car, replaced the cans back in the trunk.

The Standartenfuhrer called him over to show him the map.

It had a line roughly drawn from Nordhausen down to Florence, and notes on the side in red, the most pertinent being the distance by road, if they could take the direct route, which now he knew the circumstances, they could not, was about 1,150 kilometers.

Even in the best of circumstances that would take about three days, maybe more.  And there was certainly not enough fuel in the rear truck to go the whole distance.

The Standartenfuhrer ran his finger down the line, “This is the intended route we decided on, though not exactly sticking to the main roads.  WE do not anticipate problems in Germany, but once we cross into Austria and onto Innsbruck there might be a few problems.  We’re not quite sure what to expect at the border.”

“There is no border, not as far as the Reich and the Fuehrer is concerned.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.  But I think it’s about time we had a talk about what happened if anything happens to the two of us.  We’re not planning to get captured, or killed if it’s possible but there’s a lot of risks involved in an operation like this.”

“You expect me to go on alone?”

“Yes.  With the plans and drawings.  You have to get to a town called Gaiole in Chianti which is about 70 kilometers south of Florence.  There you will need to find a man named Luigi Fosini, who will take care of the rest of your journey.  There is a code you will need to give him, but we’ll talk about that later.  All you need, for now, is the destination.”

Discussion over, the got back in the car and continued on their way.

Then he realized he’d forgotten to ask about food, but judging by the dark expressions they wore, he decided to wait a little longer.

© Charles Heath 2020

“One Last Look”, nothing is what it seems

A single event can have enormous consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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