NaNoWriMo 2021 – Day 29

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A score to settle

I’m not going to get this finished, but there is an upside.

After writing the latest parts to the story, it gave me a sense of how it is going to end.

This story is probably the first where I had the end written before it started, a novel idea to writing stories, and it’s good to realize that after neatly 80,000 words, the end ties up the story exactly the way I wanted it to end.

It’s just what happens between the beginning and the end changed a lot during the month.

I dropped out the revenge part, which became a short story in itself, so it will be told later in a novella, and it made sense to stick to the original plan, the main character starts out as the protector, and is slowly drawn into the revolution.

He doesn’t have an active role in it, just maintaining a presence in the background, until Teresa forces his hand.

The rest, well, you’ll have to read the story when it’s finished. Tomorrow I’m going to try and write a blurb, that will give the reader some idea of what the story is about.

Today’s word count: 2,088 words, for the running total of 81,393.

‘What Sets Us Apart’ – A beta readers view

There’s something to be said for a story that starts like a James Bond movie, throwing you straight in the deep end, a perfect way of getting to know the main character, David, or is that Alistair?

A retired spy, well not so much a spy as a retired errand boy, David’s rather wry description of his talents, and a woman that most men would give their left arm for, not exactly the ideal couple, but there is a spark in a meeting that may or may not have been a set up.

But as the story progressed, the question I kept asking myself was why he’d bother.

And, page after unrelenting page, you find out.

Susan is exactly the sort of woman the pique his interest. Then, inexplicably, she disappears. That might have been the end to it, but Prendergast, that shadowy enigma, David’s ex boss who loves playing games with real people, gives him an ultimatum, find her or come back to work.

Nothing like an offer that’s a double edged sword!

A dragon for a mother, a sister he didn’t know about, Susan’s BFF who is not what she seems or a friend indeed, and Susan’s father who, up till David meets her, couldn’t be less interested, his nemesis proves to be the impossible dream, and he’s always just that one step behind.

When the rollercoaster finally came to a halt, and I could start breathing again, it was an ending that was completely unexpected.

I’ve been told there’s a sequel in the works.

Bring it on!

The book can be purchased here: http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

What happens after the action packed start – Part 34

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.

I had hoped we’d land in daylight, but I could see the benefits of arriving at the landing strip after darkness had fallen, and a more primitive form of landing lights had been used.

Less interest from the local people and no bright lights lighting up the runway.

The only lights I could see from the air were the primitive landing lights, fires burning in used fuel drums, and a glimmer of light emanating from two of the buildings set back from the airstrip.

It did worry me, probably more than it should, that the pilots would be landing a plane of this size in virtually a paddock, flying by the seat of their pants, and all credit to them if they got the plane on the ground.  I guessed they’d flown into more than one hot spot around the world, and at least at this one, they were not being shot at.

Their turn around would be quick, just enough time to take on a small amount of fuel and then leave.  No one had said if it would be a fuel tanker or by drums and hand pumps.

The plane had a short distance to go from the end of the runway to what might be called terminal buildings.  The moment the engines were cut, there was a flurry of movement, and after the fuselage door was quickly opened by the co-pilot, then the rear access ramp lowered and standing at the end, once it hit the ground, I could see a tanker and a Land Rover heading towards the rear of the plane, with only small headlamps on.

Monroe had joined me.  Behind me was a hive of activity as the team moved the crates of camera equipment to the end of the ramp, and then the individual packs.  Jacobi was escorted down on the ground by his two-man guard.

“Is this necessary,” he asked as he passed by me

I ignored him.

The Range Rover stopped just by the bottom of the ramp, and two men got out, one I assumed was Colonel Chiswick, former British Army, came over to train the local soldiers, and didn’t go home, and the other a Ugandan soldier with Sergeant stripes.  Perhaps this was one of their airfields feeding supplies and troops for border patrol duties.

Monroe went down first, and I followed.

Chiswick came up to me, holding out a hand.  “James, I presume?”  I shook it.

I nodded towards Jill, “And Monroe.”

“Welcome to nowhere in particular.”

In the distance, another three Range Rovers were heading towards the plane and then stopped within easy distance of the ramp to easily facilitate the moving of the camera equipment into the rear.  Drivers of the cars ushered them, taking their packs and putting them in the back.

I saw a meaningful look pass between Jacobi and Chiswick.  They knew each other.  No surprises there.  If Chiswick was running this base, then he’d have to know about Jacobi whom we knew had friends in all the high places on every side of the fence.

Another car pulled up, a jeep.  “For your man to get to the base.  I gather he has his instructions?”

Mobley nodded, threw his pack in the back, and the jeep drove off.

“Nice night,” Chiswick said, finally, “Glad it’s not raining, or it would have been a rather sticky landing.”

“How long before the plane leave?”

“About an hour.  Don’t worry.  Planes come and go here all the time, so no one really cares much.”

The crates, packs and other men were loaded and taken away.  Monroe had a final word to the pilot, now down on the ground and supervising the fuel loading, then joined me in the Colonel’s car.

“You’ll be leaving just before first light.  Best to get away before the villagers stir.  There will be one or two curious souls, but they’re harmless.  The soldiers here have been informed that you are here for a training exercise, nothing unusual as we get squads from all over from time to time.  As I said, your arrival will have caused little interest.”

From the locals.  It was anyone else other than the locals I was worried about. 

“Excellent.”


There was not much else to talk about in the few minutes it took to get to the compound at the back of the so-called terminal buildings.  It consisted of about ten large barracks, an administration building, and what looked to be a mess.

Pale lights were showing from one of the barracks, and seeing the cars parked out the front, I assumed this was where we would stay until we departed.

The Colonel didn’t get out of the car.  “We’ll be leaving at 04:00 tomorrow morning.  Make sure you’re ready to go.”

“You’re coming too?”

“Bamfield asked me.  Wants to make sure you had someone who knows the lie of the land.”

“I thought you’d delegate that to a few of the soldiers.”

“No.  Can’t have them involved in an incursion or there will be trouble.  This is an off the book’s operation.  Looking forward to it, actually.  There are a few people over there I’d like to have a talk to if we get the time.”

I shrugged.  Just one more problem to deal with.  The Colonel didn’t strike me as being a talker, but a man who let actions define who he was.  And just because Bamfield vouched for him didn’t mean he might be not be working on his own retirement fund.

© Charles Heath 2019-2021

Inspiration, Maybe – Volume Two

50 photographs, 50 stories, of which there is one of the 50 below.

They all start with –

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

And, the story:

Have you ever watched your hopes and dreams simply just fly away?

Everything I thought I wanted and needed had just left in an aeroplane, and although I said I was not going to, i came to the airport to see the plane leave.  Not the person on it, that would have been far too difficult and emotional, but perhaps it was symbolic, the end of one life and the start of another.

But no matter what I thought or felt, we had both come to the right decision.  She needed the opportunity to spread her wings.  It was probably not the best idea for her to apply for the job without telling me, but I understood her reasons.

She was in a rut.  Though her job was a very good one, it was not as demanding as she had expected, particularly after the last promotion, but with it came resentment from others on her level, that she, the youngest of the group would get the position.

It was something that had been weighing down of her for the last three months, and if noticed it, the late nights, the moodiness, sometimes a flash of temper.  I knew she had one, no one could have such red hair and not, but she had always kept it in check.

And, then there was us, together, and after seven years, it felt like we were going nowhere.  Perhaps that was down to my lack of ambition, and though she never said it, lack of sophistication.  It hadn’t been an issue, well, not until her last promotion, and the fact she had to entertain more, and frankly I felt like an embarrassment to her.

So, there it was, three days ago, the beginning of the weekend, and we had planned to go away for a few days and take stock.  We both acknowledged we needed to talk, but it never seemed the right time.

It was then she said she had quit her job and found a new one.  Starting the following Monday.

Ok, that took me by surprise, not so much that it something I sort of guessed might happen, but that she would just blurt it out.

I think that right then, at that moment, I could feel her frustration with everything around her.

What surprised her was my reaction.  None.

I simply asked where who, and when.

A world-class newspaper, in New York, and she had to be there in a week.

A week.

It was all the time I had left with her.

I remember I just shrugged and asked if the planned weekend away was off.

She stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, hands around a cup of coffee she had just poured, and that one thing I remembered was the lone tear that ran down her cheek.

Is that all you want to know?

I did, yes, but we had lost that intimacy we used to have when she would have told me what was happening, and we would have brainstormed solutions. I might be a cabinet maker but I still had a brain, was what I overheard her tell a friend once.

There’s not much to ask, I said.  You’ve been desperately unhappy and haven’t been able to hide it all that well, you have been under a lot of pressure trying to deal with a group of troglodytes, and you’ve been leaning on Bentley’s shoulder instead of mine, and I get it, he’s got more experience in that place,  and the politics that go with it, and is still an ally.

Her immediate superior and instrumental in her getting the position, but unlike some men in his position he had not taken advantage of a situation like some men would.  And even if she had made a move, which I doubted, that was not the sort of woman she was, he would have politely declined.

One of the very few happily married men in that organisation, so I heard.

So, she said, you’re not just a pretty face.

Par for the course for a cabinet maker whose university degree is in psychology.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see what was happening to you.  I just didn’t think it was my place to jump in unless you asked me, and when you didn’t, well, that told me everything I needed to know.

Yes, our relationship had a use by date, and it was in the next few days.

I was thinking, she said, that you might come with me,  you can make cabinets anywhere.

I could, but I think the real problem wasn’t just the job.  It was everything around her and going with her, that would just be a constant reminder of what had been holding her back. I didn’t want that for her and said so.

Then the only question left was, what do we do now?

Go shopping for suitcases.  Bags to pack, and places to go.

Getting on the roller coaster is easy.  On the beginning, it’s a slow easy ride, followed by the slow climb to the top.  It’s much like some relationships, they start out easy, they require a little work to get to the next level, follows by the adrenaline rush when it all comes together.

What most people forget is that what comes down must go back up, and life is pretty much a roller coaster with highs and lows.

Our roller coaster had just come or of the final turn and we were braking so that it stops at the station.

There was no question of going with her to New York.  Yes, I promised I’d come over and visit her, but that was a promise with crossed fingers behind my back.  After a few months in t the new job the last thing shed want was a reminder of what she left behind.  New friends new life.

We packed her bags, three out everything she didn’t want, a free trips to the op shop with stiff she knew others would like to have, and basically, by the time she was ready to go, there was nothing left of her in the apartment, or anywhere.

Her friends would be seeing her off at the airport, and that’s when I told her I was not coming, that moment the taxi arrived to take her away forever.  I remember standing there, watching the taxi go.  It was going to be, and was, as hard as it was to watch the plane leave.

So, there I was, finally staring at the blank sky, around me a dozen other plane spotters, a rather motley crew of plane enthusiasts.

Already that morning there’s been 6 different types of plane depart, and I could hear another winding up its engines for take-off.

People coming, people going.

Maybe I would go to New York in a couple of months, not to see her, but just see what the attraction was.  Or maybe I would drop in, just to see how she was.

As one of my friends told me when I gave him the news, the future is never written in stone, and it’s about time you broadened your horizons.

Perhaps it was.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

Coming soon.  Find the above story and 49 others like it in:

In a word: Second

It would be very interesting if duelling was still allowed.  There are a few people I’d like to stand toe to toe with, take ten paces, then test my ability to shoot with an old style flint duelling pistol.

What’s this got to do with anything?

It’s where our word of the day comes in.  If I lose my nerve, or I know my opposite number is a better shot, my second would have to stand in my place.

It’s,  if anything, an older use of the word.

Of course, it mainly means, on one hand, coming second in a race or a competition, not exactly the place you really want to be, simply because no one really remembers who came second.

It plays host to a plethora of statements using second as part of the saying, such as,

Second rate, second hand, even if it had more than one owner, second best.

But then there’s a few more that mean something else like a second look, mainly because you didn’t trust your eyes, second nature, it’s been drilled into you (a rather painful idiom if it truly was) and second sight, though this might not necessarily be a verifiable attribute.

And, of lesser note, I’m not necessarily sure I’m second to none.

On the other hand, and pardon the pun using this definition, it also describes a length of time, very short in fact, and it takes 60 of them to make a minute.

Hang on, it’ll only take a second.  Yes, we often use the word in vain.  I doubt there is any one of us who could do anything useful in a second.

“For heaven’s sake…” – a short story

It was a combination of circumstances, not all related, but coming at me out of left field, circumstances that would prevent me from going home when I said I would.

I had every intention of getting there and as a testament to that, I had got to the airport with baggage two hours before departure time and had reached the departure gate with 20 minutes to spare, ready to board the plane.

I’d even got a business class ticket so I could travel in style.

What precipitated the set of circumstances? A simple phone call. I should have turned it off five minutes before boarding, but I didn’t but because I’d forgotten to, simply because I’d been distracted.

The call was from Penelope, my hard-working and self-sacrificing personal assistant. I had offered to take her with me so we could work on a business plan that had to be presented the day after I was scheduled to return, but she had declined, which when I thought about it, if she hadn’t it might have created problems for both of us.

With a huge restructure going on, I was running behind in getting it completed and had promised to finish it while at home.

The call: to tell me I had left a folder with vital research back on my desk, and she came to the airport to deliver it, and she was, in fact, was in the terminal building when the boarding call came.

When I met her at the gate, only a few passengers had to be loaded. Being business class had afforded me a few extra minutes. File delivered, I left her looking exasperated and headed down the boarding ramp.

I was last aboard, and seconds after being seated, the door was closed.

I quickly typed and sent a message to tell everyone I was on the plane, eliciting two responses. My mother was glad that I was finally coming, the other from my elder brother, saying he would believe it when he saw me.

It was not without reason; I’d been in this situation before; on the plane ready to go.

Last time the plane didn’t leave the gate, a small problem that caused a big delay, so much so, I couldn’t get home.

Not this time. There was a slight lurch as the push tractor started pushing the plane back from the gate. A minute or so later the pilot fired up the engines, a sure sign of a definite departure. Nothing could stop us now.

It was a reassuring vibration that ran through the plane before the engines settled into a steady whine, a sign of an older plane that had flown many miles in the past and would into the future.

We stopped while the push tractor was disengaged and then the engines picked up speed and we lurched forward, heading towards the runway for take-off. In some airports, this could take a long time, and tonight it seemed to take forever.

I looked out the window and saw a backdrop of lights against the darkness, but no indication of where we were. It didn’t look like the end of the runway because I could not see any other planes waiting to take off.

Then the engines revved louder and for a pronged period. We didn’t move but remained where we were until the engines returned to what might be called idling speed

It was followed by an announcement from the pilot, “This is the captain speaking. We have encountered an anomaly with one of the engines, so to be on the safe side, we are returning to the gate and will have the engineers have a look at it. I do not anticipate this should take longer than 30 minutes.”

A collective groan went through the airplane. Those savvy with these problems would know that the odds were we would not be leaving tonight. The airport curfew would see to that.

But a miracle could still occur.

The plane then started back to the terminal. Another message from the pilot told us we would not be going back to the gate, but to a holding area. Time to have a glass of champagne the steward was offering before going back to the terminal for what, an interminable wait.

It seemed the gods did not want me to go back home.

When we got back to the parking spot, three buses and four delays later, I headed for one of the several bars to get a drink, and perhaps something decent to eat.

Then I saw Penelope, sitting by herself, a glass of champagne sitting half drunk in front of her.

“What are you doing here?” I said as I slid onto the stool beside her.

She started, as if she had been somewhere else, and turned to see who it was. The faraway look turned into a smile when she recognized me. “Getting drunk.”

“I thought you were going home.” A nod in the direction of the bartender, followed by pointing to her glass and indicating I wanted two, got instant service.

“I saw an ex heading to a plane with his latest squeeze. Made me feel depressed. I heard your plane was returning so I decided to wait. Better to get drunk with someone you know than drink by yourself or someone you don’t. I’ve had three offers already.”

I wasn’t surprised. She was very attractive, the sort of woman who was the most popular at any of the work functions but was equally surprising was that she was not with any of those potential suitors. In fact, as far as I knew, she was not in a relationship.

“No one at home to amuse you?” It was not the sort of question I should be asking, because it was really none of my business.

It elicited a sideways glance as if I stepped over an invisible line.

“Sorry, none of my business.”

She finished off the glass in front of her, just as the new round arrived in front of her. I gave the bartender my credit card and asked him to start a tab. I’d just heard that the plane was going to be another two hours before we’d be leaving.

“I live with two other girls, but they are more interested in finding stray men and getting wasted, not necessarily in that order, and that’s not what I want to do.”

“Get wasted or find stray men?”

I was not sure how anyone had the time and inclination to do that, but a few weeks back I spent two evenings with a friend of mine whose marriage had fallen apart. The people there seemed either desperate or looking for a one-night stand. It had amused me to discover most of them were married, and not divorced, and that the girls knew what to expect.

“Both apparently.”

“How do you expect to find the man of your dreams if you don’t go looking.”

“I am, this place seems as good as any, but the man of my dreams doesn’t exist.”

The bemused expression and the tone of her voice told me she had had more than one drink before I got there. Even then, judging from several previous parties for work we had attended, she had a much greater capacity for alcohol than I had.

She finished off the glass just brought, and seconds later her eyes seemed glassy. Perhaps it was time for me to put her in a cab and send her home.

“Another,” she said, “and then you can be responsible for me.”

I had no idea what that meant, and I think, judging by the facial expressions, she didn’t really care.

“Perhaps…”

She didn’t let me finish. “Perhaps you should buy me another drink and lighten up.” And the look that came with it told me not to argue the point.

I got the bartender’s attention, and he responded by bringing two fresh glasses and a bottle. I told him to leave it. It gave me a minute or so to contemplate what she meant by ‘lighten up’. I was so used to seeing her work ethic and diligence, this was a different side to her.

I took a sip and could feel her looking at me. A glance took in the near permanent bemused expression.

“Are you going to be alright getting home?” It was probably not the question I should have asked, but in the back of my mind there was a recent briefing given to all of management on the subject of sexual harassment and intraoffice romances.

“I’m fine. It’s not as if I do this a lot, but the last week has been difficult. Not only for me, but for you too. But you have to admit you put yourself under a lot of pressure.”

She was starting to sound like my conscience. It was something I’d been thinking about on the way to the airport but decided it was part of the job, and I knew when I accepted the position what it would involve. My predecessor, much older than I was, had fallen on his sword, the pressure destroying his marriage and almost his life.

“So I said, lamely, It goes with the job, unfortunately.”

She shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. They might think it does, but they don’t care. They sit in their ivory tower and watch their minions crash and burn. There’s always someone else waiting in the wings to take your place, believe me.”

It was an interesting perspective, but where did it come from? I knew she had been at the corporation for a number of years, and I had been lucky enough to draw the long straw when having her assigned to me as my PA when I took the position. One of the other executives had lamented my good fortune, but he had also said she was one of the few who were there to guide that higher management considered were management prospects.

I just thought I was lucky.

“I might end up in that ivory tower one day.”

“Why?”

She turned to look directly at me. It made me uncomfortable now, as it had on other occasions, and I had begun to think it might have something to do with unspoken feelings. I liked her, but I doubted that was reciprocated. And, after the lecture on office romances, I promptly put those feelings in the bottom drawer and locked it.

“Doesn’t everyone aspire to be the best, and climb to the top of the corporate ladder?”

“For that, you have to be devious and ruthless, and from what I’ve seen, you’re neither. You’ve heard the expression ‘good guys come last’. It’s true.”

I was guessing from the people she had worked for, she had firsthand experience. My predecessor was a ‘good guy’ and some said he was eaten alive by the office predators. I knew who they were, and avoided them. Perhaps she knew something I didn’t, but when would she have told me? Not tonight, no one could have predicted the plane would break down.

“You’re telling me this now, why?”

“You’re smarter than all of those above you put together. You don’t need them, but they need you. But, you won’t get any concessions, not until you get near the top. By then you will have had to sell your soul to the devil.”

Good to know, on one hand, I was about to see my soul to the devil, and on the other that I was smart, just not smart enough to see the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I noticed she hadn’t touched the latest glass of champagne. Nor was she the languid barfly she’d pretended to be earlier.

“You’re advice, if I’m listening correctly, is that I should be looking for another job.”

“Actually, you shouldn’t be listening to me at all. Too many drinks and I pontificate. Some people become happy, I become,” she shrugged, “unhappy. Take no notice.” She swung around to the front and picked up the glass.

“OK.” I turned around to look at the departures board to see my flight had been canceled, and I should go to the check-in counter. “My plane is completely broken, so it looks like I’m staying home.”

“Or you could take me to dinner.” She looked sideways again, the bemused expression back.

“Wouldn’t that be inappropriate?”

“Only if you were in upper management, married, and asking me to have an affair. Last I looked you’re not in upper management, not married, so there’s no hint of an affair. For heaven’s sake, it’s only dinner.”

She was right on all counts, and it was only dinner.

“Why not?” I said, more to myself than to her.

“Good. And you’d better get me on the plane too. We need to get that report done, and it’ll be an excuse to stay at a hotel. I know you wouldn’t want to stay in your old room at your parents’ house.”

She was right about that too, I had long outgrown them, and staying at home would only lead to arguments. “How could you possibly know that?”

She smiled. “You talk in your sleep.”

© Charles Heath 2021

The fourth attempt, other factors, and people

There are two other characters that will be used in this rewrite, the second an addition to give the main character a means of letting the reader get to know a bit about him.

His name is Milt, an African American that’s always been on the fringe.  Another who is a victim of his circumstances but not letting it get the better of him, the sort of man who makes the best of a bad situation.

He’s seen active service in the army, honourably discharged, but still affected though not as bad as some of those he served with.  He is in fact the ideal man for the job, with combat experience, so he’s not likely to get flustered in a shit storm.

And probably not the man you want on this site.  Being in desperate circumstances doesn’t mean you do desperate things.

He is one of a team of four and our main character drew the straw to partner him.  There are two others, based on the other side of the park, neither of whom are trustworthy, Smithy, the overall leader, to whom they all report at shift start and end, and Carruthers, an Englishman reputed to be ex SAS, but no one is inclined to believe him. 

The scars on his neck tell a story, but it was left to the other’s imagination, as he doesn’t talk about it.  Milt was of the opinion he was captured in Afghanistan and tortured, but that could be just be canteen scuttlebutt.

Whatever the circumstances, Graham kept away from him as much as possible, and was glad when he didn’t have to partner him for the shift.

The other character. Penelope has featured in the earlier versions of the story.  Over the changes her background has changed, but I’ve settled on a medical surgeon career, renown for doing tricky procedures with a high success rate, and in doing so gained a reputation, some not always good.

Wealth and ego don’t always make a good pair, and marrying wealth brings its own rewards and pitfalls, particularly when you discover the man you married isn’t exactly whom you thought he was.

It is of course a typical scenario, but I’m going to try and weave it differently.  There will be no more teasers until the story starts.

But she will be introduced earlier than in the previous iterations because she needs some backstory too, otherwise just arriving at Graham’s work and getting shot, while provoking a volatile situation that drags the reader in, out of left field is not exactly the best start.

So, let’s begin.

© Charles Heath 2020

Writing about writing a book – Day 18

It’s time to go back to working on Bill’s backstory now that we’ve filled in some of the gaps.

Like some TV shows and books, some of the action sometimes takes the form of flashbacks.

In Starburst, Bill has a complete backstory, of a time that he had mainly forced into the deep dark part of his memory, waiting for something or someone to trigger it.

This whole back story, from the moment he entered the war zone, to the moment his war ended, and those that participated throughout that time, will be in the form of flashbacks, the first of which is triggered by the painkiller Bill is given after being shot in the Aitcheson incident.

These flashbacks will not necessarily be in any sort of order, but I have been thinking about this part of the story and produced an outline of the sequences I will require, give or take.  There may be more, or less, depending on how the story progresses.

Part 1 – From arrival in the war zone to being assigned to Davenport’s squad

Being sent to, and the first patrol in Vietnam

Death and mayhem some months after sent to Vietnam

First meeting Barry in army mobile hospital

R and R in Saigon, with the first of the Vietnamese girls

Psychiatric help, time in the stockade

No soldier who trains for war, nor can they have a real idea what war is like, and certainly a war in the jungle, on the enemy’s terms.  Bill is like any other soldier, happy to go into service, but soon the reality, and death becomes apparent.

Endless rain, endless heat, endless and sometimes needless death, and a deep mistrust of those whom you are supposed to protect, start to work on the mind of a person young enough not to understand what is going on.

Then, when trying to blot out the memories of death, enemy and friend alike, something has to give.  Of course, the last place you want to end up in the stockade.

Part 2 – A lifeline, and a pass into the so-called Davenport Operation

Training as a spy?

Colonel, calling Bill into a briefing on the Davenport operation

Talking to the Commanding officer in Stockade, as a preliminary to Davenport service

Was Bill sent to the stockade because he committed an act of folly, or his incarceration a part of a much larger plan, a plan to have an inside man to report on Davenport?

It’s not the first time someone higher up the chain of command has had ideas of trying to find out what Davenport is doing, and where only rumors abound of his ‘interests’.  Agents had been sent in before, and those agents had disappeared.

Was Bill about to be the next, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

There is more, but I’m still working on it.

© Charles Heath 2015-2021

“The Devil You Don’t”, she was the girl you would not take home to your mother!

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John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favor for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favor’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follow.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

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Searching for locations: The Erqi Memorial Tower, Zhengzhou, China

A convoluted explanation on the reasons for this memorial came down to it being about the deaths of those involved in the 1923 Erqi strike, though we’re not really sure what the strike was about.

So, after a little research, this is what I found:

The current Erqi Tower was built in 1971 and was, historically, the tallest building in the city. It is a memorial to the Erqi strike and in memory of Lin Xiangqian and other railway workers who went on strike for their rights, which happened on February 7, 1923.

It has 14 floors and is 63 meters high. One of the features of this building is the view from the top, accessed by a spiral staircase, or an elevator, when it’s working (it was not at the time of our visit).

There seems to be an affinity with the number 27 with this building, in that

  • It’s the 27th memorial to be built
  • to commemorate the 27th workers’ strike
  • located in the 27th plaza of Zhengzhou City.

We drive to the middle of the city where we once again find traveling in kamikaze traffic more entertaining than the tourist points

When we get to the drop-off spot, it’s a 10-minute walk to the center square where the tower is located on one side. Getting there we had to pass a choke point of blaring music and people hawking goods, each echoing off the opposite wall to the point where it was deafening. Too much of it would be torture.

But, back to the tower…

It has 14 levels, but no one seemed interested in climbing the 14 or 16 levels to get to the top. The elevator was broken, and after the great wall episode, most of us are heartily sick of stairs.

The center square was quite large but paved in places with white tiles that oddly reflected the heat rather than absorb it. In the sun it was very warm.

Around the outside of two-thirds of the square, and crossing the roads, was an elevated walkway, which if you go from the first shops and around to the other end, you finish up, on the ground level, at Starbucks.

This is the Chinese version and once you get past the language barrier, the mixology range of cold fruity drinks are to die for, especially after all that walking. Mine was a predominantly peach flavor, with some jelly and apricot at the bottom. I was expecting sliced peaches but I prefer and liked the apricot half.

A drink and fruit together was a surprise.

Then it was the walk back to the meeting point and then into the hotel to use the happy house before rejoining the kamikaze traffic.

We are taken then to the train station for the 2:29 to our next destination, Suzhou, the Venice of the East.