The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 42

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 installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


Life for me returned to something like normal when I was back in the warehouse, surrounded by endless shelves filled with all manner of items.

It was the central repository for all the spare parts that were needed for the factory’s machinery in one section, a large variety of stationery, and office, items in another, and groceries for the cafeteria in another.

My in-tray was filled with requisition form received from the previous day, that hadn’t been processed by Roger, the morning shift clerk who inhabited my desk when I wasn’t there. 

As usual, he had managed to idle away most of his shift by doing absolutely nothing, which I guess was acceptable because Roger was one of Alex’s cronies, as were many others scattered about the factory.

One of the managers from another department knocked on the open door, perhaps to wake me before he walked in, something he had told me once before he was used to doing, and after a few seconds came in.

“The afternoon shift doesn’t sleep on the job,” I said.  He was one of the good managers, so he knew I was not admonishing him.

He saw the pile of requisitions, a good indication of why his order for stores had not been processed.  

“Busy day?”

“It will be.”  I shuffled through the pile and pulled out his requisition.  Only one item.

“Is it possible I could get it today?”

“Better still.  Take a seat, I’ll get it myself.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say”

He sat in one of the plastic chairs designed to keep people moving and picked up an old National Geographic.  I was fascinated to find there were issues going back as far as the 1920s.  I wondered if Benderby knew they were collectors’ items and worth a lot of money.

I headed towards the door.  “Make yourself comfortable, I won’t be long.”

The only other time I had seen a building as big as the warehouse was indoor basketball courts.  It was a hundred yards across, and half a mile long, and sometimes it was easier to hitch a ride with the forklift driver to get the other end quickly.

The fork life driver had gone missing, so it was a walk.  The shelf I was looking for was somewhere near the middle.

Something else about the building, it had remarkably interesting acoustics, and sometimes I could hear conversations between the supervisor and the forklift driver when they were some distance away, and out of sight.

About 100 yards from the shelf, I heard voices.  They were indistinguishable, but as I got closer, broken sentences became more understandable.  I used one of the cross paths so see if I could locate the source of the voices and found them in the third aisle.

Alex and the man I’d seen earlier at the mall.

They had pulled two seats and a carton of the shelves and were sitting, feet on the carton, smoking cigarettes, right underneath a ‘No Smoking’ sign.

Typical.  Not much further along was the ‘Inflammable Goods’ sign, but something like that for Alex would be an invitation to press his luck.

“You sure it was them?”

“Course. I’d recognize that kid you call Smidge anywhere.  And his crazy offside, Bloggs or something.  What do you think they’re doing out there?”

“Must be something to do with the treasure.  That kid’s holding back on us.  We’ve been searching the coastline for those two rivers.  Nothing but drains now.  I got Dad to lean on one of the councilors to get us some old maps of the coastline, and one had five rivers.  Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

“Perhaps we’re trying too hard.  One of those old maps showed the Navy Yard, and the cove they’d dredged.  One of the maps she showed me has evidence there was a once a river running into that cove, and according to the old biddy in the library, that area was once owned by a chap called Orminson.  She also thought his descendants didn’t move too far away from here after they sold the property to the Navy.  I’ve got a copy of the map, so we can check if it lines up with some of the other maps we have, and, of course, the treasure map.”

“We should find these descendants.  Perhaps they have more information.”

“Already on it.”

“What we also need, but probably won’t be able to get, is the architectural plans of the Naval site, before, during, and after the works.”

“I’ll get Brains onto it.  He’ll have some way of getting the documents.”

“Good.  Sooner rather later OK.”

“I reckon that Boggs must have some knowledge of this.  You want me and the boys to go and rough Boggs up a bit more, see what he knows about this?”

“No.  Not a good idea, as much as I would like it to happen, just to wipe the smug look off his face, but the last time the old man came down on me for being, as he calls it, un-subtle, whatever that means.  It’s not as if he hasn’t beaten the crap of people for information before.  The same goes for Smidge.  Just watch and report.  That’s all.  For the moment.”

“You got anything else you want me to do?”

“Yes.  Get some of the boys to follow them.  And try not to get seen.  Boggs might be a fool, but Smidge isn’t.  He’s a lot smarter than I gave him credit for.”

“He’s just a kid, Alex.”

“Well, you keep thinking that, and when he outsmarts you, you know what will happen.”  

Alex stood.  “And clean up this mess before you go.”


© Charles Heath 2020

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

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

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

So, what do you do when you are heartbroken?

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon here:

In a word: Rabbit

Have you ever heard of someone rabbiting on, you know, endlessly rattling on about nothing?

That’s just one use of the word rabbit.

The most obvious is the animal, a rabbit.  You know, that burrowing, plant-eating, long-eared, short-tailed animal that goes by the name of Bugs Bunny, maybe.

Nearly every child has a stuffed, cuddly one.

Of course, it’s of some significance at the moment because it’s Easter, and there are countless chocolate versions of the so-called Easter bunny.

Then there is that 6-foot-high invisible rabbit called Harvey, or not necessarily a rabbit, but a pookah.

We use the expression rabbit ears to describe those old interior television antennas.

There’s rabbit stew, rabbit pie, and white rabbit beer.

But my favorite is when the magician pulls the proverbial rabbit out of a hat.  It’s an expression we also use for someone who pulls off an impossible task.

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 “Strangers We’ve Become” – Coming Soon

I wandered back to my villa.

It was in darkness.  I was sure I had left several lights on, especially over the door so I could see to unlock it.

I looked up and saw the globe was broken.

Instant alert.

I went to the first hiding spot for the gun, and it wasn’t there.  I went to the backup and it wasn’t there either.  Someone had found my carefully hidden stash of weapons and removed them.


There were four hiding spots and all were empty.  Someone had removed the weapons.  That could only mean one possibility.

I had a visitor, not necessarily here for a social call.

But, of course, being the well-trained agent I’d once been and not one to be caught unawares, I crossed over to my neighbor and relieved him of a weapon that, if found, would require a lot of explaining.

Suitably armed, it was time to return the surprise.

There were three entrances to the villa, the front door, the back door, and a rather strange escape hatch.  One of the more interesting attractions of the villa I’d rented was its heritage.  It was built in the late 1700s, by a man who was, by all accounts, a thief.  It had a hidden underground room which had been in the past a vault but was now a wine cellar, and it had an escape hatch by which the man could come and go undetected, particularly if there was a mob outside the door baying for his blood.

It now gave me the means to enter the villa without my visitors being alerted, unless, of course, they were near the vicinity of the doorway inside the villa, but that possibility was unlikely.  It was not where anyone could anticipate or expect a doorway to be.

The secret entrance was at the rear of the villa behind a large copse, two camouflaged wooden doors built into the ground.  I move aside some of the branches that covered them and lifted one side.  After I’d discovered the doors and rusty hinges, I’d oiled and cleaned them, and cleared the passageway of cobwebs and fallen rocks.  It had a mildew smell, but nothing would get rid of that.  I’d left torches at either end so I could see.

I closed the door after me, and went quietly down the steps, enveloped in darkness till I switched on the torch.  I traversed the short passage which turned ninety degrees about halfway to the door at the other end.  I carried the key to this door on the keyring, found it and opened the door.  It too had been oiled and swung open soundlessly.

I stepped in the darkness and closed the door.

I was on the lower level under the kitchen, now the wine cellar, the ‘door’ doubling as a set of shelves which had very little on them, less to fall and alert anyone in the villa.

Silence, an eerie silence.

I took the steps up to the kitchen, stopping when my head was level with the floor, checking to see if anyone was waiting.  There wasn’t.  It seemed to me to be an unlikely spot for an ambush.

I’d already considered the possibility of someone coming after me, especially because it had been Bespalov I’d killed, and I was sure he had friends, all equally as mad as he was.  Equally, I’d also considered it nigh on impossible for anyone to find out it was me who killed him because the only people who knew that were Prendergast, Alisha, a few others in the Department, and Susan.

That raised the question of who told them where I was.

If I was the man I used to be, my first suspect would be Susan.  The departure this morning, and now this was too coincidental.  But I was not that man.

Or was I?

I reached the start of the passageway that led from the kitchen to the front door and peered into the semi-darkness.  My eyes had got used to the dark, and it was no longer an inky void.  Fragments of light leaked in around the door from outside and through the edge of the window curtains where they didn’t fit properly.  A bone of contention upstairs in the morning, when first light shone and invariably woke me up hours before I wanted to.

Still nothing.

I took a moment to consider how I would approach the visitor’s job.  I would get a plan of the villa in my head, all entrances, where a target could be led to or attacked where there would be no escape.

Coming in the front door.  If I was not expecting anything, I’d just open the door and walk-in.  One shot would be all that was required.

Contract complete.

I sidled quietly up the passage staying close to the wall, edging closer to the front door.  There was an alcove where the shooter could be waiting.  It was an ideal spot to wait.


I stepped on some nutshells.

Not my nutshells.

I felt it before I heard it.  The bullet with my name on it.

And how the shooter missed, from point-blank range, and hit me in the arm, I had no idea.  I fired off two shots before a second shot from the shooter went wide and hit the door with a loud thwack.

I saw a red dot wavering as it honed in on me and I fell to the floor, stretching out, looking up where the origin of the light was coming and pulled the trigger three times, evenly spaced, and a second later I heard the sound of a body falling down the stairs and stopping at the bottom, not very far from me.

Two assassins.

I’d not expected that.

The assassin by the door was dead, a lucky shot on my part.  The second was still breathing.

I checked the body for any weapons and found a second gun and two knives.  Armed to the teeth!

I pulled off the balaclava; a man, early thirties, definitely Italian.  I was expecting a Russian.

I slapped his face, waking him up.  Blood was leaking from several slashes on his face when his head had hit the stairs on the way down.  The awkward angle of his arms and legs told me there were broken bones, probably a lot worse internally.  He was not long for this earth.

“Who employed you?”

He looked at me with dead eyes, a pursed mouth, perhaps a smile.  “Not today my friend.  You have made a very bad enemy.”  He coughed and blood poured out of his mouth.  “There will be more …”

Friends of Bespalov, no doubt.

I would have to leave.  Two unexplainable bodies, I’d have a hard time explaining my way out of this mess.  I dragged the two bodies into the lounge, clearing the passageway just in case someone had heard anything.

Just in case anyone was outside at the time, I sat in the dark, at the foot of the stairs, and tried to breathe normally.  I was trying not to connect dots that led back to Susan, but the coincidence was worrying me.

A half-hour passed and I hadn’t moved.  Deep in thought, I’d forgotten about being shot, unaware that blood was running down my arm and dripping onto the floor.

Until I heard a knock on my front door.

Two thoughts, it was either the police, alerted by the neighbors, or it was the second wave, though why would they be knocking on the door?

I stood, and immediately felt a stabbing pain in my arm.  I took out a handkerchief and turned it into a makeshift tourniquet, then wrapped a kitchen towel around the wound.

If it was the police, this was going to be a difficult situation.  Holding the gun behind my back, I opened the door a fraction and looked out.

No police, just Maria.  I hoped she was not part of the next ‘wave’.

“You left your phone behind on the table.  I thought you might be looking for it.”  She held it out in front of her.

When I didn’t open the door any further, she looked at me quizzically, and then asked, “Is anything wrong?”

I was going to thank her for returning the phone, but I heard her breathe in sharply, and add, breathlessly, “You’re bleeding.”

I looked at my arm and realized it was visible through the door, and not only that, the towel was soaked in blood.

“You need to go away now.”

Should I tell her the truth?  It was probably too late, and if she was any sort of law-abiding citizen she would go straight to the police.

She showed no signs of leaving, just an unnerving curiosity.  “What happened?”

I ran through several explanations, but none seemed plausible.  I went with the truth.  “My past caught up with me.”

“You need someone to fix that before you pass out from blood loss.  It doesn’t look good.”

“I can fix it.  You need to leave.  It is not safe to be here with me.”

The pain in my arm was not getting any better, and the blood was starting to run down my arm again as the tourniquet loosened.  She was right, I needed it fixed sooner rather than later.

I opened the door and let her in.  It was a mistake, a huge mistake, and I would have to deal with the consequences.  Once inside, she turned on the light and saw the pool of blood just inside the door and the trail leading to the lounge.  She followed the trail and turned into the lounge, turned on the light, and no doubt saw the two dead men.

I expected her to scream.  She didn’t.

She gave me a good hard look, perhaps trying to see if I was dangerous.  Killing people wasn’t something you looked the other way about.  She would have to go to the police.

“What happened here?”

“I came home from the cafe and two men were waiting for me.  I used to work for the Government, but no longer.  I suspect these men were here to repay a debt.  I was lucky.”

“Not so much, looking at your arm.”

She came closer and inspected it.

“Sit down.”

She found another towel and wrapped it around the wound, retightening the tourniquet to stem the bleeding.

“Do you have medical supplies?”

I nodded.  “Upstairs.”  I had a medical kit, and on the road, I usually made my own running repairs.  Another old habit I hadn’t quite shaken off yet.

She went upstairs, rummaged, and then came back.  I wondered briefly what she would think of the unmade bed though I was not sure why it might interest her.

She helped me remove my shirt, and then cleaned the wound.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to remove a bullet.  It was a clean wound but it would require stitches.

When she’d finished she said, “Your friend said one day this might happen.”

No prizes for guessing who that friend was, and it didn’t please me that she had involved Maria.


“She didn’t tell me her name, but I think she cares a lot about you.  She said trouble has a way of finding you, gave me a phone and said to call her if something like this happened.”

“That was wrong of her to do that.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not.  Will you call her?”

“Yes.  I can’t stay here now.  You should go now.  Hopefully, by the time I leave in the morning, no one will ever know what happened here, especially you.”

She smiled.  “As you say, I was never here.”

© Charles Heath 2018-2022


Memories of the conversations with my cat – 71

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.

When I come down to the writing room he’s sitting on the table next to the keyboard.

I take this gesture to mean that he’s not trying to be confrontational.

He’d be sitting on the keyboard if that was his intention.

Or, perhaps he’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security.

I try to read his expression, forgetting that cats down have expressions, just a single look.


I sit down and we’re now eye to eye. Could it be that he is doesn’t like the idea of looking up at me? Might that almost suggest that I am the master and he is the cat?

Perhaps I’m just tired and writing too much into it. Maybe he just saw a mouse and wanted to get an overview of where it might have gone.

Plenty of hiding places in this office. Chester knows some off them himself because there are times when I can’t find him.

Then he deigns to speak. “I think it’s time you cleaned this room up.”

It seems it’s a universal request from everyone, grandchildren included.

“Sorry. Not sorry. I’m going for the grumpy grandfather’s study children are forbidden to enter look. Piles of books, shelves overloaded with more books, messy tables, and papers scattered everywhere. And nowhere to sit because seats are places to pile more stuff.”

He looks around.

“Done a good job of it then. How do you find anything?”

“I found you.”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Oh, I thought you were.”

I’m sure there was that imperceptible shake of the head in disdain, before he jumps down and leaves.

Dodged a bullet there. I was sure he was going to complain about his food … again!