In a word: bark

Yes, this is exactly what a dog does, sometimes annoyingly all night, that sharp explosive cry of a dog or, believe it or not, a seal

Much better if the dog is a guard dog, because then you need it to bark when there is intruders

Then there’s another form of bark, that which grows on a tree, and makes excelled burning material, if not a little smoky, for a BBQ.

Ot that the bark of some trees can be used as material for carving, and of others, like the paperbark, to make was seems like paper to write on.

Then there are expressions that start to make you think, concerning this word, such as:

He was a boss that liked to bark orders.  I had one like that, almost looked like a dog too.  Never could ask someone kindly.

He was barking up the wrong tree.  Never seen a dog do this, but many people gave so the literal meaning is to waste your time looking in the wrong place

Then there’s bark or barque, the name of a certain type of boat or masted ship with three or more masts, dating back to sailing days

And then, just top it all off, someone goes and says your barking mad.  Probably just after you were barking up the wrong tree, looking for the barking dog on a barque.

Searching for locations: Aratiatia Dam, Taupo, New Zealand

Aratiatia Dam water release, Taupo

The Aratiatia Dam, rapids, and hydroelectric power station are located on the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river.  It is about 16km from Taupo, and 6km from Huka falls, and there is a walking track, for the fit, of course, between the two water attractions.

This happens three or four times every day, depending on the season, and lasts about 15 minutes.  Water is released at the rate of about 80,000 liters a second, so it is quite a lot of water being sent through the rapids.

There are a number of viewing points, the most popular being from the bridge, where I took these photos, and 5 minutes down the walking track to the ridgeline where you can get an overview of the river.

This is looking towards the rapids, as the catchment leading to the rapids starts to fill

The pool is almost full and the excess is starting its journey towards the rapids

Now full, the rapids are at capacity as up to 80,000 liters a second are heading down a 28-meter drop heading towards the hydroelectric power station.

And once full at the bottom, there is a jet boat ride available for a closer view of the water, and a few thrills to go with it.

The cinema of my dreams – I never wanted to go to Africa – Episode 45

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.


We flew north at low altitude, crossing the border into the Sudan, then ran along the border, heading back to the landing field we’d arrived on in Uganda.

It was basically a two-hour flight that in the end was eventless.  After everything that had happened over the past 24 hours, it wasn’t hard to doze off, leaving Davies to get us back.

I was woken suddenly by a thump on my arm.

“Need your help landing this crate,” a squeaky voice in my ear said.

I could feel the plane losing altitude, and the engines not making the same noise as they had just before I’d dropped off to sleep.  It seemed like it was only a few minutes ago we were taking off.

She leveled the plane at 1000 feet, and flew over the airfield, the landing lights on, and I could see the strip from start to end.  It looked a lot longer than the one we’d taken off from.

Turning sharply, I could hear the landing gear being activated and saw green lights come on one the dashboard.  Down and locked I assumed.

She then went through a series of landing checks and told me what she wanted me to do to assists, and then everything seemingly OK, we came in to land.

This landing was a lot bumpier than that in the C130 earlier, but she got us there, throttled back, and slowed the speed before heading for the terminal buildings.

Once there, she let the engines run for about a minute or so before switching them off.

Once the propellers stopped turning, the silence in the cockpit was strange.  At the rear, the door was opened, and everyone was getting off, the Colonel first to make sure none of his men shot anyone by mistake, and then the rest of the team.

Davies and I were the last to leave.  I got the impression she would have stayed, just a little longer, and it was telling that she patted the dashboard in what I would call a loving manner, thanking the aircraft for its service.

“I can see you like flying these old planes,” I said, still seated and taking in the moment.

“There’s something about them.  You have to fly them, they don’t fly you, not like the F15’s or any of those other jets that have autopilots.  No, this comes from the days of real flying.”

“You said your Dad has one?”


“Then the art of flying is not lost on you.  Perhaps one day when I get lost, somewhere where this plane lives, you can take me up.”

“Any time.”

She dragged herself out of the left seat and headed towards the rear of the plane.  I took a moment longer, then followed her.

Maybe she could teach me how to fly.

Or maybe not.

I keep forgetting I hate flying in planes.

As I stepped off the plane onto terra firma again, I could see just inside the range of my peripheral vision, some activity by the terminal building.

Suddenly, a man was running towards us.  He was also yelling out, words to the effect, ‘they’re coming’.


The Colonel looked up just as the man, almost hunched over out of breath, reached him.

“They’re coming.  A helicopter, heading towards us.”  Several more huge breaths, then, “An hour at best.”  He looked at me.  “You have to go.”

Then he handed the Colonel a sheet of paper, and he quickly scanned it.

Then he said, “Your friendly militia decided the ransom wasn’t enough and they’re coming to take them back.”

“How is that possible?  Can they just cross borders like that?”

“This is Africa.  Anything can happen.  By the time their mission is done, it’ll be too late for us to scramble anything to attack them.  You need to go.”

Davies had come back, assuming it had something to do with the plane, and after taking in what the Colonel had to say, said, “We need more fuel.  Not much, but it’ll take time.”

The fuel truck had already come out and begun the refueling.

“Go tell the driver how much you need.  You’ve probably got a half-hour, a little more before you take off and go before, they get here.”

She headed towards the fuel truck, muttering under her breath.

I yelled out to Monroe, “Round up everyone and get them back on the plane.  Wheels up in half an hour.”

I could see her mouth the word why.

“Seems we’re about to get a visit from some very unfriendly people.”

Enough said.


© Charles Heath 2020

It all started in Venice – Episode 22

A very interesting dinner party

Larry saw them first, and from his stance, and expression, it looked to me like he had seen a ghost.

It was not a ghost, but two women, one easily identified as Cecilia in a khaki soldier uniform, with the sniper rifle over her shoulder, and another, and perhaps the more interesting of the two, Jaime.

I heard Larry mutter under his breath, “What the fuck is she doing here.”

Whilst I would not have used the same words, I did wonder why she was here.

They both stopped at the threshold of the patio.  Curiously, the only two people not fazed by either presence seemed to be Brenda and Larry’s mother.

“I see the gang’s all here.”  Jaime had a smile on her face like it was a party and she was late.  She looked at me.  “You can still surprise me.  It was a good thing I turned up late otherwise you’re friend here might have had a problem.”

“I had them covered,” Cecilia said, a little defiant.

A close inspection showed Cecilia was rather disheveled and sporting a few abrasions.  The question was who she had been scrapping with.

As I swiveled towards Larry, Jaime said, “the rest of your crew are feeling somewhat sorry for themselves, and, last I saw, are being taken away by the local police.”

Cecilia came over to stand next to me.

Larry asked, “What were you going to do with that weapon?”

“Shoot you if all else failed.  I had the shot.”

“Let me guess.  Jaime convinced you not to.”

“Only because she wants to do it herself.  Fine with me, because I hate shooting people.  Even scum like you.”

I was not sure if Larry was upset over being labeled scum, or if she had been prepared to shoot him.  I was still trying to understand what was happening.

Brenda looked in the mother’s direction, “Can you take the children into the other room.  We need some grownup time.”

Whilst none of them wanted to leave the room, curious at the turn of events, especially the son, they reluctantly joined the mother and went out of the room.

It took a minute, maybe a little longer to finally figure out the dynamic in the room.  There had been several, I wouldn’t call them furtive but knowing, looks between Brenda and Jaime, not as if they were foes, but friends.  The same could be said for Larry’s mother, and putting the pieces together I realized I had been used as a pawn in a plan to isolate Larry.

Although I didn’t think it was likely, it seemed to me that Jaime had made overtures to Larry rather than the other way around, gained his trust, got him to put his stuff in her warehouse, informed on him, and gotten herself raided so she had a degree of plausible deniability.  That would give her the opportunity to shift the blame to Larry, earning him a place on the most wanted list, and being out of the country at the time was a bonus.  Before all this, either Brenda or his mother had arranged for him to come and see her, thus effectively isolating him from his organization, and coincidentally more guilty.

So, what was the reason for me attending the interview, other than to reinforce Larry’s criminality, and use Rodby to fire up the local police?  How could she know about Rodby … unless, of course, she had been speaking to Larry’s mother to whom I let slip was interested in her son.

Then the timing of all this happening was of interest because they could all have moved on this ten years ago right after Trevor’s untimely death, but, I guess, they had to wait until the inheritance came due.  The death of Larry’s brother, and the upcoming distribution of his father’s assets, seemed to be the catalyst for what now appeared to be a bloodless coup.

And with Larry out of the way, it would all go the Brenda, or perhaps the mother.  The terms of the will would make very interesting reading.

The next question was whether Jaime was taking over, with the consent of both the mother and daughter-in-law?  Or was the daughter-in-law taking over from the incompetent son?  Or would they all be running the operation together?

The questions were piling up.

“I can see this situation is somewhat perplexing for both you and Larry,” Brenda said to me.

“I’ve just been reading between the lines, and if it is what I think it is, then it’s well played.”

“You have nothing to fear from us,” Jaime said.  “You, too, had a problem, and Christina wanted to do something for you after you helped her out of a tricky situation.  Things will be different from now on, and you might be interested to know I made arrangements with the Detective Inspector as you suggested.”

I was watching Larry the whole time and he was definitely at a loss, not quite comprehending what was happening simply because to him it would be incomprehensible that women were capable of doing anything.

Brenda added, “Larry has been staggering from disaster to disaster, but there is only so much one can put up with before something had to be done.  Jaime came to see me about a year ago and proposed a mutually advantageous merger, and that she would take care of Larry.  We let him think he was running things but really, he hasn’t had a say in the business for about six months now.   The old ways are no longer useful, violence only brings attention to our business, the attention we don’t need or want.  Sorry Larry, but you are surplus to requirements.”

Larry had, over the course of the last few minutes looked both astonished, angry, about to unleash a torrent of abuse, and appearing to think twice about it.  To be honest, I could not imagine what he was thinking.

But it did make his obsession of wanting to wreak vengeance on me a rather sorry footnote to a long and useless career in crime.  I could almost want to believe his wife had sidelined him out of pity, but a practical person would say it was out of self-preservation.  How he managed to keep out of jail was a minor miracle.

But it was true, he had been leading them down a very dangerous path, bringing unwanted attention to his own organization, and now, in the case of Jaime Meyers, others too.  What I saw now was a new brand of criminality, and it was going to be a lot harder to deal with.

“This is a joke, of course,” he finally said.  “Who put you up to it, tell me who it is, and I make him regret the day he was born.”

It was still inconceivable to him that Brenda could be smarter than him.

“And that, Larry, is exactly the reason you have to go.”  It was a statement delivered by Jaime in a manner that sent shivers down my spine.

To me, she said, “as much as I would like you to stay and get to know you better, I think it’s time you and your friend left.  The less you know about what happens next, the better for you.  Just be happy in the knowledge that your problem will be dealt with, swiftly and permanently.”

“Then I can go back to retirement?”

“Definitely.  I am sorry to hear about your recent loss.  You can tell Juliet when you see her that her brother has been released, and she is no longer obligated to Larry.  Tell her very few people get a second chance.”

“Indeed.” I looked at Cecilia.

“Let’s go.  I’ve got an audition for that mercenary role tomorrow, and I think I know exactly how I’m going to play it.”

“Then until we meet again,” I said to Jaime.

“That is not very likely.”

“In my experience, never say never.”

© Charles Heath 2022

From typewriters to computers to distraction

I first started writing by longhand, still do, in fact, then graduated to my mother’s portable typewriter, right down to the sticking keys and overused ribbon, then moved upwards into the electric world having a pair of IBM electric typewriters I bought from one of the places I worked as second-hand cast-offs.

Just remembering those days gives me the shudders, from the tangled ribbons and messy hands to using carbon paper, how many times before they were useless?

Then the age of the electric typewriter went the same way as the manual ones, simply because I could no longer buy ribbons for my IBM Selectric, so it, too, had to go the way of the dinosaurs.

It was a good thing, then, that computers and word processing software started at about the same time.   Word Perfect, to begin with, and then, in the early days of Windows, Word, and others.  Sometimes it was easier just to use the text editor, and for convenience, it’s often by choice to get ideas down, quick and dirty.

This was before the days of the internet, where you physically had to do something about finding inspiration.  And that, sometimes, was more difficult that it seems.  I do not have a writing room with large windows looking out on a rural or urban panorama.  The window looks onto a fence, and the house next door.

So much for my dream of owning a castle and having a writing room on the second or third level, with astonishing views.

Which leads me to today.  Enough with the reminiscing.  I have all the tools I need to get on with the job, but that isn’t enough to switch on the brain and start typing perfect prose.  I have to go in search of some inspiration.

It’s just that in that short distance, from, say, the couch where you were reading the latest blog posts in the WordPress reader, and the writer’s chair, your preparation for writing ends up getting confused at some of the blogger’s points because it’s hard to find anything relevant that backs up their assertions, or how things work for them.

I guess success form anyone’s standpoint, is what worked for them.  In relaying that to others, two things come to mind.  It worked for them, but in telling a million others, and they all take the same approach, no, sorry, it ain’t going to work no how.  The other, there’s usually a fee attached to gain the knowledge, and, yes, the same proviso applies.  If everyone does it, it ain’t going to work no how.

But, there you are, my attention has been distracted, and unless I’m about to indulge in writing a version of how to achieve success myself, which I haven’t so I’m not, I’m off track, with an out of balance mindset, and therefore unable to write.

Perhaps I should not read blog posts, but the newspapers.

Or not, because they all have an editorial policy that leans either and one way or another, which means their views are not necessarily unbiased.

I was a journalist once and hated the idea of having to toe the editorial line.  Or as luck would have it, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It lends to the theory that you can never quite believe anything the media tells you, which is a very sorry place to be when there are no external influences you can trust.

I’m coming around to thinking that it’s probably best left to the dark hours of the night when you would think all the distractions are behind you.  After all, isn’t that what daytime is for?

Except that’s when the ghosts come out to play.

I think.

Was that the lounge room door opening?

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


Memories of the conversations with my cat – 70

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 checking the outside temperature.

And the heat goes on with no relief in sight.

Chester has taken to spreading out on the cool tiles floor, trying to get some sleep.

He tells me its too hot for the mice to come out.

I believe him.

I was going to chat about the so-called climate emergency, but here’s the thing. It’s been this hot before, endless days of relentless heat, days where the temperature hits 40 degrees centigrade in the shade.

It happened when we came to Queensland for a holiday 30 odd years ago, and long before Chester was thought of.

The first day it rained. After that it was nearly two weeks of very hot days.

We live in the tropics. You could expect more rain, but rain is a fickle thing.

We have bushfires everywhere, and Chester can’t sit at the doorways because of the pervading smoke permeating in the atmosphere.

I should be writing he says, but instead I’m on a settee in the living room, under a slowly rotating fan.

He jumps up and joins me, the sitting on my lap, not exactly the coolest spot to be. He’s getting the effects of the fan, I’m not and I’m guessing that’s the point.

I tell him he can go for a run outside, something I’ve never let him do.

He sees it for the gesture it is and climbs down, back to the cool floor. I get a long cold stare, and then he leaves me in peace.

No work today, for either of us. I can do without the verbal sparring.

Perhaps there will be a cool change tomorrow.

“Echoes From The Past”, the past doesn’t necessarily stay there

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: Innsbruck, Austria

On this occasion, we drove from Florence to Innsbruck, a journey of about 500 kilometers and via the E45, a trip that would take us about five and a half hours.

We drove conservatively, stopped once for lunch and took about seven hours, arriving in Innsbruck late in the afternoon

The main reason for this stay was to go to Swarovski in Wattens for the second time, to see if anything had changed, and to buy some pieces.  We were still members of the club, and looking forward to a visit to the exclusive lounge and some Austrian champagne.

Sadly, there were no new surprises waiting, and we came away a little disappointed.

We were staying at the Innsbruck Hilton, where we stayed the last time, and it only a short walk to the old town.

From the highest level of the hotel, it is possible to get a look at the mountains that surround the city.  This view is in the direction we had driven earlier, from Florence.

The change in the weather was noticeable the moment we entered the mountain ranges.

This view looks towards the old town and overlooks a public square.

This view shows some signs of the cold, but in summer, I doubted we were going to see any snow.

We have been here in winter, and it is quite cold, and there is a lot of snow.  The ski resorts are not very far away, and the airport is on the way to Salzburg.

There is a host of restaurants in the old town, and we tried a few during our stay.  The food, beer, and service were excellent.

On a previous visit, we did get Swiss Army Knives, literally, from a small store called Victorinox.

And, yes, we did see the golden roof.

“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!