The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 3

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…
And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.


There were eleven stormtroopers and Wallace, eighteen in Johansson and Jackerby’s group. One of those would be in the communications center, leaving, at worst, twenty-nine men out looking for me.

I also assumed that Jackerby would approach the search in much the same manner as I would, the men in pairs, as singly, he knew that I would have an advantage.

Eight pairs would be inside, doing a room to room search, from the top down.

Five pairs would be outside, one group in the center, one group at each of the corners, all working the perimeter, all in constant communication with each other.

In normal circumstances, I would be caught.

These were not normal circumstances.


Jack padded his way just ahead of me, stopping every few yards and both sniffing and listening.  At a junction he would stop, waiting, then make a decision which way to go.

I had to trust his instincts.

Just ahead of me there was a cracking sound followed by falling rocks and a shaft of light.

An opening in the roof where it was too close to the surface.

Jack went quite still.  Voices.

“Be careful.”  German.

Followed immediately by “Speak in English you fool.  You were saying,”

The man switched to careful English, “Be careful, or you’ll fall down that hole.  They should have told us the ground around here is on top of an old mineshaft.”

“Better, Corporal.  Remember. English at all times.”

“Could be where they buried the bodies hastily before they left.”

The man was referring to the story the previous custodians of the castle had killed about a hundred of the nearby villagers and buried them in a mass grave near the castle.  No one had been able to verify the account, nor had anyone found any skeletal evidence.


“Let’s get out of here.  The last thing I want to see is a ghost.”


© Charles Heath 2019

“Uncanny good luck shines upon me…” – a short story

I never did take advice very seriously.  Especially when they were issued by old man Taggard, a man of some mystery that we all, adults and children alike wanted to know about.

Everyone in the street knew him as he had lived in the almost derelict mansion at the end of the cul-de-sac forever, way longer than anyone else in the neighborhood had.  In fact, it was rumored he had owned all the land around and sold it off bit by bit over time, the reason why there were so many houses of varying age in the estate.

Ours was one of the older houses, a few doors up from it.  We were close enough to observe Taggard’s habit, like sitting gon the porch on an old swing chair in the afternoons, to the late-night wanderings in the street.  Some said he was accompanied by the ghost of his long-dead wife, which led to stories being told of the house he lived in being haunted.

As children, we had been brought up on a diet of TV shows such as ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Addams Family’, and had invented our own make-believe show called ‘The Taggard Mansion’, the house with ghosts, and the neighborhood center for strange goings-on.

And as children were wont to do, we had to ‘investigate’.

There was a ‘gang’ even though we didn’t refer to it as such, about seven of us who lived in nearby houses, and all of whom had very active imaginations.  We also met in the cubby house out the back of our house to plan forays to find out whether the rumors were true.  The thing is we never got very far as he seemed to know when we were sneaking in and scared us off, so for years, the rumors remained just that, rumors.

But as grown-ups, and by that I mean, middle teens, our plans became bolder and more sophisticated, based on a whole new breed of TV shows, where the seemingly impossible was no longer that.  And Andy Boswell, my older brother’s best friend, his father was a private detective, or so he told us, and he had managed to ‘secure’ some of his father’s tools of the trade; a camera on the end of a wire that could connect to a cell phone, a listening device that could hear through walls, and in-ear communicators.  We could now, if we were close enough, see under doors, and hear if anyone was in.  We could all keep in touch, though I couldn’t see how this would help.

But a plan was formulated.  All seven of us had a role to play.  My brother Ron and Delilah, his girlfriend, were taking point, whatever that meant, Andy and I were going to take point, while Jack, Jill, and Kim were going to run distraction.  The theory was, they’d make enough noise to keep the old man occupied chasing them.  No one had been inside the house, ever.  Andy and I were going to be the first.

Andy had drawn up a plan and it was up on the wall.  He had charted the house, and had a very accurate picture of the house’s footprint, where doors and windows were, likely entrance points, including a hatchway down into what he assumed was a basement, though he preferred to call it the dungeon, and a layout of the grounds.  Apparently under the undergrowth were paths and gardens, even a large fountain that once graced the grounds of the three-story mansion made of sandstone, and built sometime during the middle of the 1800s.

Andy had done some research, mostly from old newspapers, and also discovered that the old man had once been married, they had a half dozen children, three of whom had died, the others scattered around the world.  It explained why no one ever visited the place.

The distraction team would be going in through the front gate, easy enough because it had come off its hinges and just needed a shove to open.  The old man usually emerged from the house via the driveway, or what was once a drive that cars could enter one side of the property, stop under a huge canopy, and emerge onto the road further along.  But it’s overgrown stare, the width of the pathway was now about six feet.  The fact it was once an amazing feature was the roadside lights, now all but disappearing behind the undergrowth.

Andy had found a photograph in the paper of it, and it had looked magnificent, as had the gardens, the overhanging canopy, and all the lights.  To think such magnificence was now lost.  And having seen it for what it once was, it was not hard to imagine any number of scenarios, my favorite, rescuing a damsel in distress from the tower.  Yes, it even had a tower, two, in fact, at each end of the house.  My brother always said I had an overactive imagination.

Andy and I would be going in by the less used car exit, and heading for the left side of the building where Andy said was several floor-to-ceiling windows that looked to him like French doors.  Of course, none of us knew what French doors were, and my brother cut Andy short when he tried to explain.

Failing that, there was a door at the rear that seemed to be open, and we’d try that next.  We would get into position, advise the distraction team, and the operation would be a go.  The only debate was what time of the day were we going to do it.  My brother preferred late in the afternoon.  Andy said it was better at dawn, or soon after if we were looking for maximum confusion of the target.

Dawn, confusion, tactics, target, Andy was in his element.  He was going to be a spy when he grew up.  My brother said he would never grow up, but then, my brother said I was a dreamer and would never amount to anything.  We ignored his advice, well, we pretty much ignored everything he said.

We were going in at dawn.

At 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, we gathered at the cubby house ready for action.  We all took a communicator and put it in our ears, and then had fun saying stupid stuff, and hearing it through the earpieces.  It was weird but added an exciting element to the adventure.  I know my heart was beating faster in anticipation.  Andy was pretending to be cool and failing.  I suspected my brother and Delilah had other plans when we left them alone in the cubby house.  The distraction team was ready to go.

Shortly after the sun came up, it was cool and the air still.  It was going to be a hot day, and that first hour, everything was almost perfect.  It seemed a waste to do anything but let the early morning serenity settle over us.  Not today.  Andy and I went to our position, slowly feeling our way through the bushes, taking bearings from the light poles, and every now and then seeing the guttering and what looked to be a concrete path.  Beyond that was once a garden, and I tried, more than once, to imagine what it was like.

In my ear I could hear the others in the distraction team setting up at the start of the driveway, ready to go.  We reached our position, about twenty feet from the so-called French windows, the view into the house blocked by curtains, but beyond that, what we could see was darkness inside the house.  Taking in the whole side of the house, there were no lights on behind any of the windows.  If we didn’t know better, we could have assumed the house was empty.

I heard Andy say, “Ready.  Start making noise.”

A minute later we could both hear the distraction team in the distance and through the communicators.  It took two minutes before we heard the old man, yelling, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”  Their job done, getting him out of the house, all they had to do was retreat.

Time for Andy and I to go.

Working on the basis that no one else was at the house, and the fact we had no evidence there was, we were not overly worried about making a stealthy approach.  I could hear in my earpiece, the gasping of those in the distraction team having just made it outside the gate, and to tell us the old man had stopped at the gate.  I doubt he had been running, but his yelling was just as effective.

That had stopped, and a sort of silence fell over the area.

We were now at the French doors, and Andy produced another tool that he’d forgotten to tell us about, a lock pick.  The fact it didn’t take long to unlock the door told me he was either very talented, or the lock was old and presented no problems.  Either way, he opened the door and ushered me in.

I brushed the curtains aside for him to follow, then moved in as he followed, closing the door behind him.

I’d taken five steps before I heard a woman’s voice say.  “Uncanny good luck shines upon me.  My knights in shining armor.  You’ve come to rescue me, no?”

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

The second attempt looks a little better, but not much

The process of writing is rewriting editing and more rewriting.

The other day l wrote some words.  I didn’t like them.  But it had laid the groundwork for a second draft.

Here it is:


Growing up I did not believe l had one of those lovable faces.

My brother, known in school as the best looking boy of his graduating class, said it was a face only a mother could love.

He was mean.

Simone, a girl who was a friend, not a girlfriend, said my face had character.

She was charming and polite.

Looking now, in the mirror, l decided I’d aged gracefully.

I could truthfully say my brother had not, but that was as far as the comparison went.

My overachieving brother was the epitome of success in business, a veritable god zillionaire.  Everything he touched turned to gold.

My ultra successful sister, Penelope, had married into the right family perhaps by chance, but she was also a very learned scholar whose life was divided between her chair and the university and her social life with the rich and famous.

Then there was me.

I gave up on my chance at university because l was not the scholarly sort and didn’t last long.  Sadly l was the first of my family to be sent down from Oxford.

Instead, l took on a series of professions such as seasonal laborer, farmhand, factory worker, and lastly, night watchman.  At least now I had a uniform and looked like I’d made something of myself.

It would not be enough for my parents who every year didn’t say it out loud but the disappointment was always there in their expressions.

My brother in his usual blunt manner said l was a loser and would never change.

My sister was not quite so blunt.  She simply said it was disappointing so much potential was going to waste.  I only asked her once what she meant and lost me after the first four-syllable word.

Finally, I’d taken their comments to heart and decided l would not be going home to the family Christmas holiday reunion.

I told my boss l was available to work the night shift over the holidays, the shift no one else wanted.

It was he said the time for reflection.  He hated his family as much as I did so we would be able to lament our bad luck though the long cold hours from dusk till dawn.

It was 3 a.m. and it was like standing on the exact epicenter of the North Pole.  I’d just stepped from the warehouse into the car park.

The car was covered in snow.  The weather was clear now, but more snow was coming.

It was going to be a white Christmas, all I needed.  I hoped I remembered to put the antifreeze in my radiator this time.

As I approached my car, the light went on in an SUV parked next to my car.  The door opened and what looked to be a woman was climbing down from the driver’s seat.

She closed the door and leaned against the side of the car.  “Graham?”

It was a voice I was familiar with, though I hadn’t heard it for a long time, my ultra-successful sister, Penelope.  From what I could see, she didn’t look too well.

“What do you want?”


My help, I was the last person to help her or anyone for that matter.  But curiosity got the better of me.  “Why?”

“Because my husband is trying to kill me.”

The instant the last word left her lips I saw her jerk back into the car, and then start sliding down to the ground.  There was no mistaking the red streak following her as she fell.

She’d been shot from what could be a sniper rifle, which meant …


It still needs work but I’ve got the gist of where I want to go.

The idea is not to make a character so loathsome no one would want to read about him.

This will evolve and you can if you like come along for the ride!


© Charles Heath 2020

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

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I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

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An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

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The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

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St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

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The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

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Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

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And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

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Any faces peering out through the windows?

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 11

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 instalment of an old feature, and back on the treasure hunt.

“Do you remember Nadia?”

Boggs was out the back on the veranda, sitting in an old lounge chair that had seen better days, eating tacos, or at least I think they were tacos.  He offered me one but I didn’t like the look of it.  Aside from the fact I wasn’t a fan of Mexican food.

“One of the Cossatino’s, Vince’s sister, tall, shorts skirts and big, well you know what I mean.”

Statuesque, Amazonian, yes I did.  We all coveted what we couldn’t have.

“The same.  She’s back in town.”

“And this means what to us if anything.  As I recall, the one time we tried talking to her, Vince had his friends rough us up.”

“I saw her with Alex today, in the warehouse.”

I had his attention.  I knew what he was thinking.

“Doing what, as if I couldn’t guess?”

“Alex wouldn’t be that stupid.”

“And we also said that when he fucked Annie in front of the class in the sports hall, not that we knew then what he was doing.”

Good point.  “No.  He told her to get the map from Rico.  Has Rico and her…”

“Dated?  Like Rico would be in her league.  He’d be little more than trash in her eyes.  But, no, not that I’m aware of.  But, if she was to throw herself at him, I’m sure he would react like any other dumb bastard who thinks with his dick and not his head.  But he hasn’t got the map.”


“I still think I should try to sell it to Alex.”

“And I think if you are looking for a reason for a long hospital stay, that would be it.  You need to be careful where Rico is concerned.  Maybe we should check him out tomorrow.”

“I thought you had a job, and couldn’t get away.”

“My shift has changed to the afternoon, so I’ll be available in the mornings.  Do you know where Rico lives?”

“On his boat.  He has a small cruiser at the docks.  Uses if for, he says, fishing trips for businessmen, but I think he does the drug run from the shipping lanes to a quiet cove.”

“For the Benderby’s?”

“No idea, and don’t care.  But you’re right.  We should check him out.  Tomorrow morning.  I’ll meet you at Al’s fishing shop at about 9:00.”

He’d finished the tacos, and clearly had something else to do, something that didn’t involve me.  I felt a little disappointed.

© Charles Heath 2019-2021

An excerpt from “One Last Look”: Charlotte is no ordinary girl

This is currently available at Amazon here


I’d read about out of body experiences, and like everyone else, thought it was nonsense.  Some people claimed to see themselves in the operating theatre, medical staff frantically trying to revive them, and being surrounded by white light.

I was definitely looking down, but it wasn’t me I was looking at.

It was two children, a boy and a girl, with their parents, in a park.

The boy was Alan.  He was about six or seven.  The girl was Louise, and she was five years old.  She had long red hair and looked the image of her mother.

I remember it now, it was Louise’s birthday and we went down to Bournemouth to visit our Grandmother, and it was the last time we were all together as a family.

We were flying homemade kites our father had made for us, and after we lay there looking up at the sky, making animals out of the clouds.  I saw an elephant, Louise saw a giraffe.

We were so happy then.

Before the tragedy.


When I looked again ten years had passed and we were living in hell.  Louise and I had become very adept at survival in a world we really didn’t understand, surrounded by people who wanted to crush our souls.

It was not a life a normal child had, our foster parents never quite the sort of people who were adequately equipped for two broken-hearted children.  They tried their best, but their best was not good enough.

Every day it was a battle, to avoid the Bannister’s and Archie in particular, every day he made advances towards Louise and every day she fended him off.

Until one day she couldn’t.

Now I was sitting in the hospital, holding Louise’s hand.  She was in a coma, and the doctors didn’t think she would wake from it.  The damage done to her was too severe.

The doctors were wrong.

She woke, briefly, to name her five assailants.  It was enough to have them arrested.  It was not enough to have them convicted.

Justice would have to be served by other means.


I was outside the Bannister’s home.

I’d made my way there without really thinking, after watching Louise die.  It was like being on autopilot, and I had no control over what I was doing.  I had murder in mind.  It was why I was holding an iron bar.

Skulking in the shadows.  It was not very different from the way the Bannister’s operated.

I waited till Archie came out.  I knew he eventually would.  The police had taken him to the station for questioning, and then let him go.  I didn’t understand why, nor did I care.

I followed him up the towpath, waiting till he stopped to light a cigarette, then came out of the shadows.

“Wotcha got there Alan?” he asked when he saw me.  He knew what it was, and what it was for.

It was the first time I’d seen the fear in his eyes.  He was alone.


“For that slut of a sister of yours.  I had nuffing to do with it.”

“She said otherwise, Archie.”

“She never said nuffing, you just made it up.”  An attempt at bluster, but there was no confidence in his voice.

I held up the pipe.  It had blood on it.  Willy’s blood.  “She may or may not have Archie, but Willy didn’t make it up.  He sang like a bird.  That’s his blood, probably brains on the pipe too, Archie, and yours will be there soon enough.”

“He dunnit, not me.  Lyin’ bastard would say anything to save his own skin.”  Definitely scared now, he was looking to run away.

“No, Archie.  He didn’t.  I’m coming for you.  All of you Bannisters.  And everyone who touched my sister.”


It was the recurring nightmare I had for years afterwards.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the thoughts, the images of Louise, the phone call, the visit to the hospital and being there when she succumbed to her injuries.  Those were the very worst few hours of my life.

She had asked me to come to the railway station and walk home with her, and I was running late.  If I had left when I was supposed to, it would never have happened and for years afterwards, I blamed myself for her death.

If only I’d not been late…

When the police finally caught the rapists, I’d known all along who they’d be; antagonists from school, the ring leader, Archie Bannister, a spurned boyfriend, a boy whose parents, ubiquitously known to all as ‘the Bannister’s, dealt in violence and crime and who owned the neighbourhood.  The sins of the father had been very definitely passed onto the son.

At school, I used to be the whipping boy, Archie, a few grades ahead of me, made a point of belting me and a few of the other boys, to make sure the rest did as they were told.  He liked Louise, but she had no time for a bully like him, even when he promised he would ‘protect’ me.

I knew the gang members, the boys who tow-kowed to save getting beaten up, and after the police couldn’t get enough information to prosecute them because everyone was too afraid to speak out, I went after Willy.  There was always a weak link in a group, and he was it.

He worked in a factory, did long hours on a Wednesday and came home after dark alone.  It was a half mile walk, through a park.  The night I approached him, I smashed the lights and left it in darkness.  He nearly changed his mind and went the long way home.

He didn’t.

It took an hour and a half to get the names.  At first, when he saw me, he laughed.  He said I would be next, and that was four words more than he knew he should have said.

When I found him alone the next morning I showed him the iron bar and told him he was on the list.  I didn’t kill him then, he could wait his turn, and worry about what was going to happen to him.

When the police came to visit me shortly after that encounter, no doubt at the behest of the Bannister’s, the neighbourhood closed ranks and gave me an ironclad alibi.  The Bannister’s then came to visit me and threatened me.  I told them their days were numbered and showed them the door.

At the trial, he and his friends got off on a technicality.  The police had failed to do their job properly, but it was not the police, but a single policeman, corrupted by the Bannisters.

Archie could help but rub it in my face.  He was invincible.

Joe Collins took 12 bullets and six hours to bleed out.  He apologized, he pleaded, he cried, he begged.  I didn’t care.

Barry Mills, a strong lad with a mind to hurting people, Archie’s enforcer, almost got the better of me.  I had to hit him more times than I wanted to, and in the end, I had to be satisfied that he died a short but agonizing death.

I revisited Willy in the hospital.  He’d recovered enough to recognize me, and why I’d come.  Suffocation was too good for him.

David Williams, second in command of the gang, was as tough and nasty as the Bannisters.  His family were forging a partnership with the Bannister’s to make them even more powerful.  Outwardly David was a pleasant sort of chap, affable, polite, and well mannered.  A lot of people didn’t believe he could be like, or working with, the Bannisters.

He and I met in the pub.  We got along like old friends.  He said Willy had just named anyone he could think of, and that he was innocent of any charges.  We shook hands and parted as friends.

Three hours later he was sitting in a chair in the middle of a disused factory, blindfolded and scared.  I sat and watched him, listened to him, first threatening me, and then finally pleading with me.  He’d guessed who it was that had kidnapped him.

When it was dark, I took the blindfold off and shone a very bright light in his eyes.  I asked him if the violence he had visited upon my sister was worth it.  He told me he was just a spectator.

I’d read the coroner’s report.  They all had a turn.  He was a liar.

He took nineteen bullets to die.

Then came Archie.

The same factory only this time there were four seats.  Anna Bannister, brothel owner, Spike Bannister, head of the family, Emily Bannister, sister, and who had nothing to do with their criminal activities.  She just had the misfortune of sharing their name.

Archie’s father told me how he was going to destroy me, and everyone I knew.

A well-placed bullet between the eyes shut him up.

Archie’s mother cursed me.  I let her suffer for an hour before I put her out of her misery.

Archie remained stony-faced until I came to Emily.  The death of his parents meant he would become head of the family.  I guess their deaths meant as little to him as they did me.

He was a little more worried about his sister.

I told him it was confession time.

He told her it was little more than a forced confession and he had done nothing to deserve my retribution.

I shrugged and shot her, and we both watched her fall to the ground screaming in agony.  I told him if he wanted her to live, he had to genuinely confess to his crimes.  This time he did, it all poured out of him.

I went over to Emily.  He watched in horror as I untied her bindings and pulled her up off the floor, suffering only from a small wound in her arm.  Without saying a word she took the gun and walked over to stand behind him.

“Louise was my friend, Archie.  My friend.”

Then she shot him.  Six times.

To me, after saying what looked like a prayer, she said, “Killing them all will not bring her back, Alan, and I doubt she would approve of any of this.  May God have mercy on your soul.”


Now I was in jail.  I’d spent three hours detailing the deaths of the five boys, everything I’d done; a full confession.  Without my sister, my life was nothing.  I didn’t want to go back to the foster parents; I doubt they’d take back a murderer.

They were not allowed to.

For a month I lived in a small cell, in solitary, no visitors.  I believed I was in the queue to be executed, and I had mentally prepared myself for the end.

Then I was told I had a visitor, and I was expecting a priest.

Instead, it was a man called McTavish. Short, wiry, and with an accent that I could barely understand.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Alan.”

When I saw it was not the priest I told the jailers not to let him in, I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  They ignored me.  I’d expected he was a psychiatrist, come to see whether I should be shipped off to the asylum.

I was beginning to think I was going mad.

I ignored him.

“I am the difference between you living or dying Alan, it’s as simple as that.  You’d be a wise man to listen to what I have to offer.”

Death sounded good.  I told him to go away.

He didn’t.  Persistent bugger.

I was handcuffed to the table.  The prison officers thought I was dangerous.  Five, plus two, murders, I guess they had a right to think that.  McTavish sat opposite me, ignoring my request to leave.

“Why’d you do it?”

“You know why.”  Maybe if I spoke he’d go away.

“Your sister.  By all accounts, the scum that did for her deserved what they got.”

“It was murder just the same.  No difference between scum and proper people.”

“You like killing?”

“No-one does.”

“No, I dare say you’re right.  But you’re different, Alan.  As clean and merciless killing I’ve ever seen.  We can use a man like you.”


“A group of individuals who clean up the scum.”

I looked up to see his expression, one of benevolence, totally out of character for a man like him.  It looked like I didn’t have a choice.


Trained, cleared, and ready to go.

I hadn’t realized there were so many people who were, for all intents and purposes, invisible.  People that came and went, in malls, in hotels, trains, buses, airports, everywhere, people no one gave a second glance.

People like me.

In a mall, I became a shopper.

In a hotel, I was just another guest heading to his room.

On a bus or a train, I was just another commuter.

At the airport, I became a pilot.  I didn’t need to know how to fly; everyone just accepted a pilot in a pilot suit was just what he looked like.

I had a passkey.

I had the correct documents to get me onto the plane.

That walk down the air bridge was the longest of my life.  Waiting for the call from the gate, waiting for one of the air bridge staff to challenge me, stepping onto the plane.

Two pilots and a steward.  A team.  On the plane early before the rest of the crew.  A group that was committing a crime, had committed a number of crimes and thought they’d got away with it.

Until the judge, the jury and their executioner arrived.


Quick, clean, merciless.  Done.

I was now an operational field agent.


I was older now, and I could see in the mirror I was starting to go grey at the sides.  It was far too early in my life for this, but I expect it had something to do with my employment.

I didn’t recognize the man who looked back at me.

It was certainly not Alan McKenzie, nor was there any part of that fifteen-year-old who had made the decision to exact revenge.

Given a choice; I would not have gone down this path.

Or so I kept telling myself each time a little more of my soul was sold to the devil.

I was Barry Gamble.

I was Lenny Buckman.

I was Jimmy Hosen.

I was anyone but the person I wanted to be.

That’s what I told Louise, standing in front of her grave, and trying to apologize for all the harm, all the people I’d killed for that one rash decision.  If she was still alive she would be horrified, and ashamed.

Head bowed, tears streamed down my face.

God had gone on holiday and wasn’t there to hand out any forgiveness.  Not that day.  Not any day.


New York, New Years Eve.

I was at the end of a long tour, dragged out of a holiday and back into the fray, chasing down another scumbag.  They were scumbags, and I’d become an automaton hunting them down and dispatching them to what McTavish called a better place.

This time I failed.

A few drinks to blot out the failure, a blonde woman who pushed my buttons, a room in a hotel, any hotel, it was like being on the merry-go-round, round and round and round…

Her name was Silvia or Sandra, or someone I’d met before, but couldn’t quite place her.  It could be an enemy agent for all I knew or all I cared right then.

I was done.

I’d had enough.

I gave her the gun.

I begged her to kill me.

She didn’t.

Instead, I simply cried, letting the pent up emotion loose after being suppressed for so long, and she stayed with me, holding me close, and saying I was safe, that she knew exactly how I felt.

How could she?  No one could know what I’d been through.

I remembered her name after she had gone.


I remembered she had an imperfection in her right eye.

Someone else had the same imperfection.

I couldn’t remember who that was.

Not then.


I had a dingy flat in Kensington, a place that I rarely stayed in if I could help it.  After five-star hotel rooms, it made me feel shabby.

The end of another mission, I was on my way home, the underground, a bus, and then a walk.

It was late.

People were spilling out of the pub after the last drinks.  Most in good spirits, others slightly more boisterous.

A loud-mouthed chap bumped into me, the sort who had one too many, and was ready to take on all comers.

He turned on me, “Watch where you’re going, you fool.”

Two of his friends dragged him away.  He shrugged them off, squared up.

I punched him hard, in the stomach, and he fell backwards onto the ground.  I looked at his two friends.  “Take him home before someone makes mincemeat out of him.”

They grabbed his arms, lifted him off the ground and took him away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a woman, early thirties, quite attractive, but very, very drunk.  She staggered from the bar, bumped into me, and finished up sitting on the side of the road.

I looked around to see where her friends were.  The exodus from the pub was over and the few nearby were leaving to go home.

She was alone, drunk, and by the look of her, unable to move.

I sat beside her.  “Where are your friends?”


“You need help?”

She looked up, and sideways at me.  She didn’t look the sort who would get in this state.  Or maybe she was, I was a terrible judge of women.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Nobody.”  I was exactly how I felt.

“Well Mr Nobody, I’m drunk, and I don’t care.  Just leave me here to rot.”

She put her head back between her knees, and it looked to me she was trying to stop the spinning sensation in her head.

Been there before, and it’s not a good feeling.

“Where are your friends?” I asked again.

“Got none.”

“Perhaps I should take you home.”

“I have no home.”

“You don’t look like a homeless person.  If I’m not mistaken, those shoes are worth more than my weekly salary.”  I’d seen them advertised, in the airline magazine, don’t ask me why the ad caught my attention.

She lifted her head and looked at me again.  “You a smart fucking arse are you?”

“I have my moments.”

“Have them somewhere else.”

She rested her head against my shoulder.  We were the only two left in the street, and suddenly in darkness when the proprietor turned off the outside lights.

“Take me home,” she said suddenly.

“Where is your place?”

“Don’t have one.  Take me to your place.”

“You won’t like it.”

“I’m drunk.  What’s not to like until tomorrow.”

I helped her to her feet.  “You have a name?”



The wedding was in a small church.  We had been away for a weekend in the country, somewhere in the Cotswolds, and found this idyllic spot.  Graves going back to the dawn of time, a beautiful garden tended by the vicar and his wife, an astonishing vista over hills and down dales.

On a spring afternoon with the sun, the flowers, and the peacefulness of the country.

I had two people at the wedding, the best man, Bradley, and my boss, Watkins.

Charlotte had her sisters Melissa and Isobel, and Isobel’s husband Giovanni, and their daughter Felicity.

And one more person who was as mysterious as she was attractive, a rather interesting combination as she was well over retirement age.  She arrived late and left early.

Aunt Agatha.

She looked me up and down with what I’d call a withering look.  “There’s more to you than meets the eye,” she said enigmatically.

“Likewise I’m sure,” I said.  It earned me an elbow in the ribs from Charlotte.  It was clear she feared this woman.

“Why did you come,” Charlotte asked.

“You know why.”

Agatha looked at me.  “I like you.  Take care of my granddaughter.  You do not want me for an enemy.”

OK, now she officially scared me.

She thrust a cheque into my hand, smiled, and left.

“Who is she,” I asked after we watched her depart.

“Certainly not my fairy godmother.”

Charlotte never mentioned her again.


Zurich in summer, not exactly my favourite place.

Instead of going to visit her sister Isobel, we stayed at a hotel in Beethovenstrasse and Isobel and Felicity came to us.  Her husband was not with her this time.

Felicity was three or four and looked very much like her mother.  She also looked very much like Charlotte, and I’d remarked on it once before and it received a sharp rebuke.

We’d been twice before, and rather than talk to her sister, Charlotte spent her time with Felicity, and they were, together, like old friends.  For so few visits they had a remarkable rapport.

I had not broached the subject of children with Charlotte, not after one such discussion where she had said she had no desire to be a mother.  It had not been a subject before and wasn’t once since.

Perhaps like all Aunts, she liked the idea of playing with a child for a while and then give it back.

Felicity was curious as to who I was, but never ventured too close.  I believed a child could sense the evil in adults and had seen through my facade of friendliness.  We were never close.


This time, when observing the two together, something quite out of left field popped into my head.  It was not possible, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought she looked like my mother.

And Charlotte had seen me looking in their direction.  “You seem distracted,” she said.

“I was just remembering my mother.  Odd moment, haven’t done so for a very long time.”

“Why now?”  I think she had a look of concern on her face.

“Her birthday, I guess,” I said, the first excuse I could think of.

Another look and I was wrong.  She looked like Isobel or Charlotte, or if I wanted to believe it possible, Melissa too.


I was crying, tears streaming down my face.

I was in pain, searing pain from my lower back stretching down into my legs, and I was barely able to breathe.

It was like coming up for air.

It was like Snow White bringing Prince Charming back to life.  I could feel what I thought was a gentle kiss and tears dropping on my cheeks, and when I opened my eyes, I saw Charlotte slowly lifting her head, a hand gently stroking the hair off my forehead.

And in a very soft voice, she said, “Hi.”

I could not speak, but I think I smiled.  It was the girl with the imperfection in her right eye.  Everything fell into place, and I knew, in that instant that we were irrevocably meant to be together.

“Welcome back.”


© Charles Heath 2016-2019


The A to Z Challenge – X is for, well, you figure it out

There was an X marked on a star map, a place where someone said was a liveable planet, designated M.  None of us knew why it was designated M when on the map it was an X, maybe we’d find out when we got there.

But that was a part of the confusion that surrounded this mission.  What kicked it off was an imminent threat of an ELE, otherwise known as an extinction life event, when an approaching meteor was on track to collide with our planet in eighteen months’ time.

Of course, none of these predictions ever came true, but this time someone had pressed the panic button, and the mission, which had been slated for two years’ time, was brought forward.

I was just one of 10 astronauts pressed into service ahead of time, brought together in haste, of different temperaments, attitudes, and ideals.  It was not the most cohesive group, but the thinking was, in a crisis we would all pull together.

I had my doubts.

But I wasn’t in charge of anything, just an engineer that essential was there to keep everything running, one of three who were specifically there to keep everything running.

The rest all had designated roles, from mission commander down, but everyone had to know everyone else’s job, just in case.  Mission commander or 2IC were the two jobs I never wanted, so long as there was someone in front of me in the pecking order.

And, having the role I had, I was there, every hour of every day, working with the scientists and engineers and constructors, so I could know every nut and bolt on the ship.

Then, our time on earth was up, and we were blasted into space, on our way to the moon base where the spacecraft we were to make the voyage to X, or M, in.  It had been built on earth, deconstructed, sent into space, and rebuilt at the moon base, as had others before it, with varying degrees of success.

That record, one out of four a success weighed on our minds heavily.  Well, on the record, it didn’t bother me all that much because I’d seen it put back together, and the team had done a brilliant job

We had a final inspection, the moon base commander signed the clear for take-off form, and without any formal acknowledgment or ceremony, we launched.


The voyage to M, or X, was to take the better part of five months, and there was no need for all of the crew to be available all the time.

It had been decided that only one crew member was needed at any one time to look after the systems, that were designed to run themselves.

That one person was also assisted by the mission robot, or Android, a very life-like almost person who was for all intents and purposes a human.  Except it could hold in storage every schematic, every piece of data about the ship, the mission, if not everything we knew about space and the galaxy.

There had been a debate about whether to build a computer or an Android, and the Android won.  Personally, I liked the Android, whose name was official David, reputedly an acronym, but while he and I were alone on the final shift before arriving at the X on the map, I shortened it to Davy

One of David’s principal jobs was to monitor the crew while in stasis, to bring them out, and put them in.  Soon he would have to bring them all out, once we arrived.  Once there, individual missions were organized, and it would be left to David and me to maintain the main ship, so we could get back home to report on the feasibility of life being preserved elsewhere in the galaxy if we lost earth.

It would be terrible if M was not viable.

How are our sleepyheads,” I asked, the start of the new day’s routine?


They could have programmed a dozen different responses than just nominal.

“You could say fine, Davy.”

“My name is David.  Do you need me to explain the significance of my name again?”

“No.  You’ve already told me.  You need to lighten up, Davy.  Everything is not about exactness or correctness.  There is more than just black and white, there are various shades of grey.  Do you know what grey is Davy?”

“A color of paint once used to cover the hulls of sea-going naval ships, hence the term battleship grey.  It’s one of many examples.  Would you like more?”

“No, Davy.  How are the ship’s systems?”

“Nominal.”  Then a few seconds later, he added, “except for a power glitch in the stasis room.”

“Is it serious?”

“No.  But it could lead to…”

A red light started blinking on the panel in front of me, indicating a problem with the connection of life support to one of the stasis pods, that of the mission commander.

“On my way, Davy.  You have the bridge.”

The stasis room was at the end of the living quarters and crew recreation and dining area.  It was, with no one in it a largely empty, very quiet space.

The ship was designed to have nearly five hundred people on board, the deck below, completely given over to passenger quarters, and it was envisaged that this ship and a dozen or so others would form the first fleet of colonists bound for a new world.

Below that deck was the cargo hold where all the materials to build a space station, or rather, the infrastructure in the new world.  It was a huge leap for mankind, like the pilgrims going to America, or the convicts to Australia.

Except, for now, there were ten of us in a large empty cavernous ship.  Just imagine if there were five hundred stasis pods.

I crossed quickly to the pod and checked all the systems.  On the parent in front, there was no alarm, and nothing other than, as Davy would say system nominal.

That means we had a glitch on the bridge. 

I started on my way back, heard a noise, then stopped.

Had the pod just opened and was the Commander awake.

I turned to see a boy, about ten or twelve years of age standing by the pod, peering in.  His hand was touching the Perspex window, and the panel was going crazy.

“Who are you,” I asked, somewhere between shock and surprise.

“I come from the planet where your ship is heading towards.”

“That’s not possible.”

“I assure you it is.  You see me as a boy, not unlike your people, actually a rendition of the person inside this capsule.  This is not my true form.  I have been sent to ascertain your intentions.”

“My intention at this moment is to prevent this person from dying.  It might help if you didn’t touch the pod.  I suspect you are generating some electrical charge…” or he was pure electrical or other energy.

OK, now I was beyond shock and curiosity.  It was pure fear.

“You always wanted to travel in space.”  A statement, not a question.  The exact thought I had at that exact moment.

Oh, God, he could read minds.

“That is rather remarkable sir, how do you create a child version of the commander?”

Davy had come down to check on me, standing orders if we didn’t report back in an emergency.

“A robot.  You are indeed more civilized than we expected.”

“You know about us?”

“Of you, not by experience.  Your world is about to suffer a catastrophic event, but, then if it wasn’t going to be a meteor, you were managing to destroy it yourselves.  You come to see if this was a place you could send people if or when your planet became uninhabitable.”

I had to stop thinking.  Too late to ease my way into the conversation.

To the robot, the boy said, “I’m borrowing this person.  I assume you can run this ship?”

“Better than the humans can, yes.”

“Then we’ll be back soon.”

With that, one second I was standing on the deck of the ship, hurtling through space, then next I was standing in a field with trees, grass, blue sky, a gentle breeze, and sunshine, and yet none of it felt real.

“It is a world created to make you feel at ease. Now, tell me.  What is the real reason you people are coming here?”

© Charles Heath 2022

“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.


NaNoWriMo – April 2022 – Day 28

First Dig Two Graves, the second Zoe thriller.

So, what happened really happened to Worthington?

Did John get reunited with his mother in the hospital?

What of Rupert and Isobel?  Did she get to meet the elusive and enigmatic Tsar?

These are all questions that will be answered in due course.

There is also the matter of what happens when John and Zoe/Irina finally meet up after he learns that she regarded him as expendable, and knowing her as he did, didn’t doubt for a minute she meant it.

Is it the folly of falling in love with an assassin?

Once again we end up at the grandmother’s residence in Sorrento, languishing sans Zoe, contemplating the future, a future that might not have Zoe in it.

His idea of setting up an investigation bureau is alive and well, run by Rupert, staffed by people who have the skills but not the confidence of others who had employed them.  Rupert is the master of picking lame ducks and turning them into swans.

Isobel, on the other hand, does not improve with age or being in a somewhat iffy, long-range, possible romance, thing.

Does Zoe return, does she call, can she drag herself away from her recently rediscovered father?

Again, you’ll have to read the book.

There’s no word count at the moment because everything is in outline awaiting writing. That will happen, I hope, tomorrow.

“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!