The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 34

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Chasing leads, maybe

She had brought a file.  It looked the same as the last one she brought with her, the one with my name on it.

This time it was thicker.

Intelligence gathering at its finest.  There’d be stuff in there that even I didn’t know about me.

She didn’t open it, just looked at me.

“What have you been doing?”


“For whom?”

“Nobbin, of course.  I am now assigned to his section.  Did you do that?”

“He did.  He tells me you’re working on the O’Connell investigation.”

“Is that what it’s called.  He never told me that.  And I had to find out where I’d been assigned by logging onto a computer.  An email or a letter would have made my life a little easier.”

“You’re just lucky you’re still working here.  Now, tell me more about this Severin character.”

“I told you everything I knew the last time you spoke to me.  Apparently, you seemed to know who it was.  Perhaps you might tell me, too.”


“And,” I interrupted, “don’t tell me it’s above my pay grade.  I was potentially working for traitors and could have finished up in jail for treason.”

“You might still get there.”

Then why hadn’t she had me arrested and thrown in a dungeon the last time we met?  There was an easy answer to that question.  She needed me out in the field.  Nobbin needed me in the field.  They presumably needed me to remain available to Severin for whatever reason.

“What do you want?”

She opened the file, turned a few pages, and stopped at a yellow sheet of paper.  I wasn’t able to read it upside down, but it had very small spidery writing on it.

Then she looked at me again.

“Some secret documents appear to have gone missing.  We believe that is to say Director Dobbin thinks these may have been on a USB drive that was in the possession of O’Connell at the time of his death.  You were there at the time of his death.  You can see where this is going…”

No matter which answers I gave it was the wrong one, which led to do not pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars, or pounds as the case may be.

“I haven’t got it, and he didn’t tell me where it was, and I saw him die.”

“If you say so.”  She went back to the file and turned some more pagers.

“What do you mean?”

She looked up.  “So far, there’s no body been recovered, or any evidence there was a shooting where you said it was.”

“Are you trying to tell me he’s alive, because if you are, then I must be a very poor judge of people who have no pulse.  He was not about to get up and walk away.”

“Did you see the body removed?”

Now there’s an interesting point.  I had done as I was told and left when told to.  I assumed Severin would sort the problem out, in fact, hadn’t he called in the cleaners?  I saw a white van.

Actually, when I thought about it, I had no idea what happened after I left.  And, now that I remember, I didn’t see anyone get out of the white van.

Could bodies get up and walk?

I was beginning to think they could.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Short Story Writing – Don’t try this at home! – Part 6

This is not a treatise, but a tongue in cheek, discussion on how to write short stories.   Suffice to say this is not the definitive way of doing it, just mine.  It works for me – it might not work for you.

Now, there’s this thing called continuity, but it covers a whole range of writing sins, most of which I eventually get caught out.  Films sometimes miss a few items, like back in the roman days, there are plane trails in the sky, in a 1920’s period piece, there’s a mobile phone sitting on a desk.

Like one minute the hero has a gun, and the next he’s fighting for his life with a knife, and, hey presto, there’s that gun again.  The error might not be that big but you can’t pull out a weapon you don’t have or wasn’t there in the first place.

Similarly, the hero pulls out a mobile phone, but there’s only one problem, it’s 1980, and there are no mobile phones.  Our problem might be that we are so used to doing and using certain things that we might forget, for a minute or two, that were not available in the past.

Then there’s places like hotels and restaurants, both of which change hands and close and reopen with a different owner like someone changes their socks.  There’s no substitute for checking, on the internet of course, whether a Hilton Hotel was in 6th Avenue, New York, in 1920.

The answer is no.  The first Hilton Hotel was in Waco in 1927.  The New York Hilton opened in 1963.

The same goes for the fashion of the day.

I’m no fashion guru, but I have to rely on Google once again to fill in the gaps.

And my all-time favourite, getting the right make and model of car.

Oh, and just for good measure, back in the old days they used acoustic couplers to attach to phones via a serial port to dial-up not a server, but a BBS, Bulletin Board Service, at a rate of 300 baud, or a little while later, 1,200 baud.

There was no internet in general use.  If you wanted to call the office when out, use a telephone box.  Or carrier pigeon.

And the use of language, there’s a lot of stuff relevant today that was not used back then, and there was a lot of stuff back then that isn’t tolerated now.  Some of it might be hard to get your head around. 

It isn’t for me, because I can remember the 1970s and 1980s, but I’m not too sure about allowing some of what happened then to creep into my work.

So, you get the picture.  Try to use the past as the past, or leave it in the past.

Unless it’s a book about time travel, then all bets are off.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 58

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…


This is Chester. He’s decided to watch the ice hockey with us.

It’s hockey night in Canada, and the Bruins are playing the Maple Leafs, our team. Chester seems unimpressed.

After several minutes he says, it’s a lot of going back and forth with not much happening, and, where’s the ball?

This is ice hockey not football on ice, I tell him. It’s called a puck and it’s a disk, and you hit it with a hockey stick.

I can see this is going to be a long difficult night.

After a few minutes, the Bruins scored and the horn sounds. It nearly scares him out of his skin.

What just happened.

I explain.

Then your team is not very good are they, letting the other team score. Wouldn’t it be better if they all stood in a line across the front of the goal?

Then nothing would happen.

At least the other team wouldn’t score.

I shake my head. I don’t think cats quite understand the nuances of the game.

Another few minutes Chester shakes his head and walks off muttering, let me know when the mouse catching championship is on.

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

What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.


Searching for locations: The remnants of the wall that surrounded Beijing, China

The fortification walls, both an inner wall and an outer wall, surrounding Beijing city were built from the early 1400s to 1553.

The dimensions of the Inner city wall are:
          Length: 24 kilometers or 15 miles
          Height: 25 meters or 49 feet high
          Thickness, at ground level: 20 meters or 66 feet
                            at the top: 12 meters or 29 feet

It had nine gates.  The fortifications included gate towers, archways, watchtowers, barbicans, barbican towers, sluice gates, sluice gate towers, enemy sighting towers, corner guard towers, and a moat system.

The outer city wall had a length of 28 kilometers or 17 miles.

From 1911, after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the dismantling of the fortifications began.

In 1965, major deconstruction of the fortifications was commenced to allow for the construction of the 2nd wrong road, and Line 2 or the Beijing underground railway.

 In 1979, the government called off the demolition of the remaining city walls and named them cultural heritage sites. By this time, the only intact sections were the gate tower and watchtower at Zhengyangmen, the watchtower at Deshengmen, the guard tower at the southeast corner, the northern moats of the Inner city, the section of the Inner city wall south of the Beijing railway station, and a small section of Inner-city wall near Xibianmen.

For more reading, go to:

As for our guide’s explanation of the fortifications: Leaving the Square to go to the Golden Mask Dynasty Show, we pass remnants of the wall that used to surround Beijing.

This wall was built in the early 15th century and was about 24 km long, up to 15 meters high and about 20 meters thick, and had nine gates, one of which still exists today.  In 1965 most of it was removed so that the second ring road and an underground railway line could be built.

“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.

Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.

They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?

When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.

When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.

Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.


You learn something new every day (3)

It is almost a year since my mother died and I’m still coming to grips with it.

The thing is, it all happened so fast, a message from the aged care home advising she had been sent to the hospital with breathing difficulties at 6:15, a call from the nurse and then doctor at 7:45 ti tell me that her death was imminent, and then the call at 8:45 to say she passed at 8:30.

Those are the facts

It was not as if we didn’t know this was going to happen, and it came out of left field.

It didn’t.

She had been suffering from dementia for about the last ten years, and it only got worse where five years ago she was no longer able to remember any of us, and then a few months ago, she was confined to bed. The writing, as they say, was on the wall. I know she is in a better place now

Another fact; we didn’t get along in those last few years before I was erased from her memory, and by the time we could have made amends it was too late. It’s a recurrent theme in so many broken relationships; words spoken in anger, an unhealthy rift, and then it’s too late.

But, I did get to see her, after she died, before she took that second to last journey to the morgue, and although it was not a pretty sight, she was as I remembered her, even though in the last stages of her life she had withered away.

After I left, it wasn’t until I got home that the truth of the matter sunk in. My mother had died, aged 94. And in all of that time, I couldn’t say I knew her. I was thinking about writing a eulogy, but realised when it came down to it, what could I say?

If was not until several years ago when my brother started delving deeply in our ancestry did we discover all those relatives we knew nothing about

Prior to that my knowledge of her family extended to a mother, whom she treated badly, a brother we only saw when we stayed with her mother on Christmas holidays, a large and forbidding man, and a system of whom she was insanely jealous, and never met other than two times in my life.

For all intents and purposes she shunned them.

What were the reasons for this?

It was the same on my father’s side, but he’s a different story, and, for the time being still alive.

So my own memories of growing up were that of someone believing she had no other relatives because we never saw them. It is odd to grow up in a sort of bubble like that. No family gatherings for Christmas, or any other events.

It seemed also that she never kept track of her sister, or her brother, and rarely visited her mother. We were, my brother and I, privileged to stay with her over two weeks of the end of year holidays

And the difference between staying with her and living at home was as dark as day and night. She actually cared about us, and made that stay memorable. It provided, very early on, a reason to start asking questions. Clearly her parents had money, but instead of accepting who she was and where she came from, it seemed to me that she resented her, and had rebelled.

Until I left home, to be married, and start a family of my own, where I met a girl with three bothers, and a mother to die for one who could actually cook, and showed genuine interest in her family. Only then did I understand the nuances of families, and what I had been missing for the first 21 years of my life.

But it was not until my parents had to move into a nursing home because the onset of her dementia made living independently impossible. Left to clean up the residue of 80 plus years of their lives we found a treasure trove of letters my mother had kept.

At first it was disjointed, until someone realised that she had a previous boyfriend to my father, a boy who lived in the same country town, a boy we could imagine had been to school with her, and they had been friends for a very long line, a boy called Eric

Like a great many young men, he signed up to go to war, and while he was there, the war was made more bearable knowing she was at home waiting for him to return

We didn’t have her letters, but she kept all of his, and they spoke of undying love, plans for the future, together. In 1944 should have been 18. She went to Dandenong High School, and then got work in the city (Melbourne), staying during the week at a ladies only boarding house and going home for the weekends.

She had friends at school, and got up to mischief like any other teenagers, but this we only discovered when my mother thought mt wife was one of her old school friends. Dementia wrecks recent memories we discovered, but the older memories they were still there.

There was also some notes in the pile of letters of her own, that spoke of a loneliness while in the city, when friends were away, and of a temper, but I was not quite sure what that meant. This was disjointed information, the sort that doesn’t make sense at time time, but later when a series of events happen, the pieces begin to fit together.

The first question: what happened to Eric.

I’m still trying to get some history on him. There’s a letter, he was back home, they met, and then…
A note, a draft of an apology, to him for losing her temper. Over what? And if their love was all conquering, what was it sge said that had him disappear they way he had?

Stay tuned, there’s more to this story.

So, those letters end in 1946 when he was about to be discharged.

Nothing started again until October 1947.

That’s when my father got an introduction card from a lady who specialised in introducing young women to prospective husbands.

Wow. A dolly Levi event.

He writes the first letter, after going to visit her and she had gone back home for the weekend. This friendship was going to be fought with absence as her was a projectionist working at the Snowy River Hydroelectric scheme, and not able to visit Melbourne as often as he would like.

It was like ships passing in the night.

And the letters of his, not hers, were completely different in tone and substance. The word love was never used or expressed. It explained a lot.

He spoke of domestication, heaven knows what she wrote about, but it was abundantly clear this to her was completely different from her first love. In fact, if we fast forward 30 odd years, it seems to me, now that I know all this, that she had given up on the idea of a marriage built on love, that her first love had drained the life out of her, and what was left was a woman going through the motions.

“Sunday in New York”, a romantic adventure that’s not a walk in the park!

“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!


The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 41

Nothing is ever what it seems

I didn’t have the luxury of taking a moment to consider what I was going to do, other than to draw the inevitable conclusion that whatever I did, there would be consequences.

One thought did cross my mind, in relation to the alien ship and her Captain, why hadn’t they exercised their superior capability, stopped the Russian ship, and taken the offenders away themselves.  And, given the captain was prepared to destroy my ship, why had he let the Russians go?

“The Russian ship is hailing us, sir.”

“Very good, I’ll be there in a moment.”

They had waited a long time before asking our intentions, so what had they been waiting for?  The fact they appeared to be immobilized was, to me, a little too convenient.  Also, they had to know the alien ship was nearby, but even that raised the question of why they were standing off, and not alongside us.

Something was not right about this whole scenario.

I came on to the bridge, Number One standing in front of the Captain’s chair, the bridge crew waiting expectantly.

“Get the Russian ship’s Captain on screen.”

A moment later he appeared, with a depleted bridge crew, different from the last time we spoke.

“What can I do for you?”

“Why is the alien vessel here?”

“I think you know the answer to that question.”

“What did he tell you?”

“How about you tell me why you think he’s here?”

Why was his concern more about the alien vessel than the state of their propulsion unit?  Unless there was nothing wrong with it.


I motioned to the comms officer to cut our side of the conversation.


He had taken up a position behind the defense team.


“If they try to move or power weapons, stop them.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Russian ship powering up propulsion, sir.”


“Just say the word.”


A gesture told me the artesian ship was back online.

“Do not try to leave or we will disable your ship.”

A tense few seconds before the navigator said, “powering down.”

“Good choice.  Now, prepare to be boarded.  Any resistance will be met with force.  Am I understood, Captain?”

A measured reluctance in his tone when he said, “Yes.”

“Number one, boarding team assembled?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.  Any resistance is to be dealt with severely.  If the Captain or a representative of the ship wants to come with their crew members, let them.   Bring those on the list back here.”

“Understood.  Sir.”

The Russian captain was still on the screen.

“You have no right or jurisdiction to do what you are doing, and I will be recording this as an act of piracy.”

“Will that be with the international space agency?”

“My superiors, we have already alerted them to the situation.”

“As far as I am aware, your superiors did not register your flight plan as per the treaty that they are signatories to.  Also, you are on a ship that no one knows about.  All of that could be forgiven though, but you had to cause what can I call it, an Intergalactic incident which may yet setback relations with an alien race for a long time.  You would be well advised to tell me now what the hell happened so I can at least try and save you from very severe consequences.”

On a secondary channel that number one had switched to after arriving at the Russian vessel, I heard, “what do you mean you cannot dock?”

The pilot replied, “They haven’t initiated the docking sequence.”

“Is it an incompatible system?”

“No, it’s exactly the same as ours.  It’s like they’ve ripped everything off.  They’re stalling.”

To the captain of the Russian ship, I said, “I get it.  No Captain likes to have his ship boarded.  But this is not the time.”  To the General, “Target their propulsion unit.  On my mark…”

“You are making a mistake,” the Russian captain said.

“Docking initiated.  It is exactly like our system, right down to the override authorization code.”  Number one had the same thought that just come to mind.  Then, “Lieutenant, don’t hesitate to use force if you have to. We have to assume anyone on the other side of the door is a potential hostile.  Counting down, three, two, one…”

I heard the whoosh of the door, and then utter silence, broken only by Number One, “What the hell…”

© Charles Heath 2021-2022

“The Devil You Don’t” – A beta readers view

It could be said that of all the women one could meet, whether contrived or by sheer luck, what are the odds it would turn out to be the woman who was being paid a very large sum to kill you.

John Pennington is a man who may be lucky in business, but not so lucky in love. He has just broken up with Phillipa Sternhaven, the woman he thought was the one, but relatives and circumstances, and perhaps because she was a ‘princess’, may also have contributed to the end result.

So, what do you do when you are heartbroken?

That is a story that slowly unfolds, from the first meeting with his nemesis on Lake Geneva, all the way to a hotel room in Sorrento, where he learns the shattering truth.

What should have been a high turns out to be something else entirely, and from that point every thing goes to hell in a handbasket.

He suddenly realises his so-called friend Sebastian has not exactly told him the truth about a small job he asked him to do, the woman he is falling in love with is not quite who she says she is, and he is caught in the middle of a war between two men who consider people becoming collateral damage as part of their business.

The story paints the characters cleverly displaying all their flaws and weaknesses. The locations add to the story at times taking me back down memory lane, especially to Venice where in those back streets I confess it’s not all that hard to get lost.

All in all a thoroughly entertaining story with, for once, a satisfying end.

Available on Amazon here: