The first case of PI Walthenson – “A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers”

This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!


An excerpt from the book:

When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.

Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.

It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.

Doug what? Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.

But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake. A very big. and costly, mistake. Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.

His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.

At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place. The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.

For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go. Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime. Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.

Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.

Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it. The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament. He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence. It was to no avail.

Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.

It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.

It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.

Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer. Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.

So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.

There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.

So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.

There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.

She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.

Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.

Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.

Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.

Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.

Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.

© Charles Heath 2019

Searching for locations: Kaikoura, New Zealand, and, of course, the whales

I’m sure a lot of people have considered the prospect of whale watching.  I’m not sure how the subject came up on one of our visits to New Zealand, but I suspect it was one of those tourist activity leaflets you find in the foyer of motels, hotels, and guesthouses.

Needless to say, it was only a short detour to go to Kaikoura and check out the prospect.

Yes, the ocean at the time seemed manageable.  My wife has a bad time with sea sickness, but she was prepared to make the trip, after some necessary preparations.  Seasickness tablets and special bands to wear on her wrist were recommended and used.

The boat was large and had two decks, and mostly enclosed.  There were a lot of people on board, and we sat inside for the beginning of the voyage.  The sea wasn’t rough, but there was about a meter and a half swell, easily managed by the boat while it was moving.

It took about a half hour or so to reach the spot where the boat stopped and a member of the crew used a listening device to see if there were any whales.

That led to the first wave of sickness.

We stopped for about ten minutes, and the boat moved up and down on the waves.  It was enough to start the queasy stomachs of a number of passengers.  Myself, it was a matter of going out on deck and taking in the sea air.  Fortunately, I don’t get seasick.

Another longish journey to the next prospective site settled a number of the queasy stomachs, but when we stopped again, the swell had increased, along with the boat’s motion.  Seasick bags were made available for the few that had succumbed.

By the time we reached the site where there was a whale, over half the passengers had been sick, and I was hoping they had enough seasick bags, and then enough bin space for them.

The whale, of course, put on a show for us, and those that could went out on deck to get their photos.


By the end of the voyage, nearly everyone on board was sick, and I was helping to hand out seasick bags.

Despite the anti sickness preparations, my wife had also succumbed.  When we returned and she was asked if the device had worked, she said no.

But perhaps it had because within half an hour we were at a cafe eating lunch, fish and chips of course.

This activity has been crossed off the bucket list, and there’s no more whale watching in our traveling future.  Nor, it seems, will we be going of ocean liners.

Perhaps a cruise down the Rhine might be on the cards.  I don’t think that river, wide as it is in places, will ever have any sort of swell.

‘Sunday in New York’ – A beta reader’s view

I’m not a fan of romance novels but …

There was something about this one that resonated with me.

This is a novel about a world generally ruled by perception, and how people perceive what they see, what they are told, and what they want to believe.

I’ve been guilty of it myself as I’m sure we all have at one time or another.

For the main characters Harry and Alison there are other issues driving their relationship.

For Alison, it is a loss of self-worth through losing her job and from losing her mother and, in a sense, her sister.

For Harry, it is the fact he has a beautiful and desirable wife, and his belief she is the object of other men’s desires, and one in particular, his immediate superior.

Between observation, the less than honest motives of his friends, a lot of jumping to conclusions based on very little fact, and you have the basis of one very interesting story.

When it all comes to a head, Alison finds herself in a desperate situation, she realises only the truth will save their marriage.

But is it all the truth?

What would we do in similar circumstances?

Rarely does a book have me so enthralled that I could not put it down until I knew the result. They might be considered two people who should have known better, but as is often the case, they had to get past what they both thought was the truth.

And the moral of this story, if it could be said there is one, nothing is ever what it seems.

Available on Amazon here:

A score to settle – The Editor’s draft – Day 7

I have the story, the editor is asking for it, and I’m putting the final touches to it

Starting a project with half the plan and a sense of where the story is going to go sometimes leaves you in much the same position as painting yourself into a corner.

I’ve been there a few times, which is why I prefer to start the story with no firm ending in sight, and ad-lib.

Yes, at the end of this story, I want the revulsion to succeed, but like all good intentions, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way.

Taking on a military dictatorship no matter how benevolent its leader tries to portray it, and themselves, you may discover the intelligence you’re working with is not quite the case.

So, I need to invent a little background, more for me, so that I can get my head around what will be needed.

For instance, this country, in northern Africa, was once one of several old French colonies, among those that were once British, or German. These countries were poor, and had leaders backed by their colonial masters and as Colonialism became a yolk rather than a benefit, the country’s citizens found themselves inducted into the military as a means of giving the country employment and stability.

That in turn emboldened the military leaders to eventually oust the government propped up by the colonial masters and run the country themselves, usually because vested interests need a ‘friendly and corrupt regime to continue exploiting the country and its people.

Until the people fight back. Sometimes that ’cause’ centres itself on one person, or a group of people, and quite often these people can disappear, or be assassinated.

In this case, the county’s most outspoken critic has disappeared, and his deputy finds himself in a rather invidious position of working in the shadows and using suspect means to get a message across.

That means is going to be a human rights conference. There is a plan of sorts, but it’s not known whose involved among the delegates attending from many counties, or who the various intelligence services have on the ground.

Our main character and his assistant are but two of many, and their mission, like others, is overtly one thing, but why they’re really there, that’s for Delacrat to find out, because he knows he’s right in the middle of what could only be described as a nest of vipers.

More on this tomorrow

Today’s word count: 2,678 words, for a running total of 16,091.

An excerpt from “Echoes from the Past”

Available on Amazon Kindle here:

With my attention elsewhere, I walked into a man who was hurrying in the opposite direction.  He was a big man with a scar running down the left side of his face from eye socket to mouth, and who was also wearing a black shirt with a red tie.

That was all I remembered as my heart almost stopped.

He apologized as he stepped to one side, the same way I stepped, as I also muttered an apology.

I kept my eyes down.  He was not the sort of man I wanted to recognize later in a lineup.  I stepped to the other side and so did he.  It was one of those situations.  Finally getting out of sync, he kept going in his direction, and I towards the bus, which was now pulling away from the curb.

Getting my breath back, I just stood riveted to the spot watching it join the traffic.  I looked back over my shoulder, but the man I’d run into had gone.  I shrugged and looked at my watch.  It would be a few minutes before the next bus arrived.

Wait, or walk?  I could also go by subway, but it was a long walk to the station.  What the hell, I needed the exercise.

At the first intersection, the ‘Walk’ sign had just flashed to ‘Don’t Walk’.  I thought I’d save a few minutes by not waiting for the next green light.  As I stepped onto the road, I heard the screeching of tires.

A yellow car stopped inches from me.

It was a high powered sports car, perhaps a Lamborghini.  I knew what they looked like because Marcus Bartleby owned one, as did every other junior executive in the city with a rich father.

Everyone stopped to look at me, then the car.  It was that sort of car.  I could see the driver through the windscreen shaking his fist, and I could see he was yelling too, but I couldn’t hear him.  I stepped back onto the sidewalk, and he drove on.  The moment had passed and everyone went back to their business.

My heart rate hadn’t come down from the last encounter.   Now it was approaching cardiac arrest, so I took a few minutes and several sets of lights to regain composure.

At the next intersection, I waited for the green light, and then a few seconds more, just to be sure.  I was no longer in a hurry.

At the next, I heard what sounded like a gunshot.  A few people looked around, worried expressions on their faces, but when it happened again, I saw it was an old car backfiring.  I also saw another yellow car, much the same as the one before, stopped on the side of the road.  I thought nothing of it, other than it was the second yellow car I’d seen.

At the next intersection, I realized I was subconsciously heading towards Harry’s new bar.   It was somewhere on 6th Avenue, so I continued walking in what I thought was the right direction.

I don’t know why I looked behind me at the next intersection, but I did.  There was another yellow car on the side of the road, not far from me.  It, too, looked the same as the original Lamborghini, and I was starting to think it was not a coincidence.

Moments after crossing the road, I heard the roar of a sports car engine and saw the yellow car accelerate past me.  As it passed by, I saw there were two people in it, and the blurry image of the passenger; a large man with a red tie.

Now my imagination was playing tricks.

It could not be the same man.  He was going in a different direction.

In the few minutes I’d been standing on the pavement, it had started to snow; early for this time of year, and marking the start of what could be a long cold winter.  I shuddered, and it was not necessarily because of the temperature.

I looked up and saw a neon light advertising a bar, coincidentally the one Harry had ‘found’ and, looking once in the direction of the departing yellow car, I decided to go in.  I would have a few drinks and then leave by the back door if it had one.

Just in case.

© Charles Heath 2015-2020


In a word: Dog

Yes, it’s that little or big furry thing that’s also known as man’s best friend, a dog.

But the word has a number of other meanings, like a lot of three-letter words.

It can also mean to follow someone closely.

If you are going to the greyhound racing, you could say you’re going to the dogs, or it could mean something entirely different, like deteriorating in manner and ethics.

Then there are those employers who make their workers work very hard, and therefore could be described as making them work like a dog.

Some might even say that it is a dog of a thing, i.e. of poor quality.

There’s a dogleg, which could aptly name some of those monstrous golf course holes that sometimes present the challenge of going through the wood rather than around it.

Tried that and failed many times!

A dog man used to ride the crane load from the ground to the top, an occupation that would not stand the test of occupational health and safety anymore.

And of course, in a battle to the death, it’s really dog eat dog, isn’t it?

Inspiration, maybe – Volume 1

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

They all start with –

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


And the story:

It was once said that a desperate man has everything to lose.

The man I was chasing was desperate, but I, on the other hand, was more desperate to catch him.

He’d left a trail of dead people from one end of the island to the other.

The team had put in a lot of effort to locate him, and now his capture was imminent.  We were following the car he was in, from a discrete distance, and, at the appropriate time, we would catch up, pull him over, and make the arrest.

There was nowhere for him to go.

The road led to a dead-end, and the only way off the mountain was back down the road were now on.  Which was why I was somewhat surprised when we discovered where he was.

Where was he going?

“Damn,” I heard Alan mutter.  He was driving, being careful not to get too close, but not far enough away to lose sight of him.


“I think he’s made us.”


“Dumb bad luck, I’m guessing.  Or he expected we’d follow him up the mountain.  He’s just sped up.”

“How far away?”

“A half-mile.  We should see him higher up when we turn the next corner.”

It took an eternity to get there, and when we did, Alan was right, only he was further on than we thought.”

“Step on it.  Let’s catch him up before he gets to the top.”

Easy to say, not so easy to do.  The road was treacherous, and in places just gravel, and there were no guard rails to stop a three thousand footfall down the mountainside.

Good thing then I had the foresight to have three agents on the hill for just such a scenario.

Ten minutes later, we were in sight of the car, still moving quickly, but we were going slightly faster.  We’d catch up just short of the summit car park.

Or so we thought.

Coming quickly around another corner we almost slammed into the car we’d been chasing.

“What the hell…” Aland muttered.

I was out of the car, and over to see if he was in it, but I knew that it was only a slender possibility.  The car was empty, and no indication where he went.

Certainly not up the road.  It was relatively straightforward for the next mile, at which we would have reached the summit.  Up the mountainside from here, or down.

I looked up.  Nothing.

Alan yelled out, “He’s not going down, not that I can see, but if he did, there’s hardly a foothold and that’s a long fall.”

Then where did he go?

Then a man looking very much like our quarry came out from behind a rock embedded just a short distance up the hill.

“Sorry,” he said quite calmly.  “Had to go if you know what I mean.”

I’d lost him.

It was as simple as that.

I had been led a merry chase up the hill, and all the time he was getting away in a different direction.

I’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book, letting my desperation blind me to the disguise that anyone else would see through in an instant.

It was a lonely sight, looking down that road, knowing that I had to go all that way down again, only this time, without having to throw caution to the wind.

“Maybe next time,” Alan said.

“We’ll get him.  It’s just a matter of time.”

© Charles Heath 2019-2021

Find this and other stories in “Inspiration, maybe”  available soon.


“Oh, my God!” – a short story

I was one of six people who answered a house-sitting ad.  What stood out was the money, as was intended.

When I arrived at the interview, held in an accountant’s office downtown, there was no suggestion that it was a trick, or there were ulterior motives.

Just $5,000 for a week’s work.  Move-in, act as a security guard, and check all entrances and exits, and all rooms that had windows to the outside every four or so hours, particularly at night.

The reason?

The owner had to maintain residence in the house for the week, as he was going away, under a clause in the sale contract.  The reason for hiring civilians, that it was too expensive to get live-in people from a security company.

The owner freely admitted he was a cheapskate.

But for someone like me, the $5,000 was a lot of money and would help pay beck everyone I owed money to.

I earnestly pleaded my case, submitted myself to a background check, and then waited to hear back.

When I didn’t hear anything by the due date I figured some other lucky person had pleaded a better case, then, exactly a week later I got the call.

The next day a courier delivered the keys to the house and the address.  My week started at exactly 9am the next morning.

The cab dropped Mr off at the front gate of the house, only it wasn’t a house so much as a mansion, and one that had seen better days.

It was at the end of the street, behind two large gates, and a high brick fence.  I could see the driveway on the other side, and just make out the house behind the unkempt shrubbery.

I had a bunch of keys, and it took a few attempts to find the one that fitted the lock and chain preventing the gates from opening.

I just unlocked it when another car pulled up in the same place my can had, and a young woman got out.  She rescued her sports bag from the trunk and paid the cabbie.

“Who are you,” she said.

“The caretaker for the next week.  I might ask the same question.”

“The ex-wife with nowhere to go.”

No one mentioned an ex-wife that was part of the deal.

“I wasn’t told anyone else would be here, so it would be best you left.”

I slipped the lock back in place and stood my ground.  She could be anyone.

She pulled out her phone and rang a number.

A heard the voice on the other end say hello.

“You can tell your deadhead caretaker that I’m staying for a few days.”

Then I watched her expression turn very dark, and then the words, “I have nowhere else to go, and it will only be a few days.”  Then silence and an accompanying ground, ending with, “You don’t want me to come after you because you know how that will end”.

She listened, then handed the phone to me.


“I’m the owner requesting the service.  You are not responsible for her, but if she becomes a problem, lock her in the basement.”

Then he hung up. It was not the best of answers to the problem.

“Are you going to open the gate?”

I shook my head and then pretended to fumble through the keys looking for the right one.  “You know this place,” I asked without turning around.

“No.  The bastard didn’t tell me about a lot of the stuff he owns.”  Her tone bristled with resentment.

I ‘found’ the key and opened the lock and started pulling the chain through the fence.  I could feel her eyes burning into my back.

When I swung open the gate, she barged past and kept walking.  I stepped through, and immediately felt the change in the temperature.  It was cold, even though the sun was out and I could feel an unnatural chill go through me.

By the time I closed and relocked the gate she had gone as far as, and round a slight bend in the driveway.  I thought about hurrying to catch up, but I didn’t think it mattered, she didn’t have a key.  Or perhaps I hoped she didn’t have one.

I headed towards the house at a leisurely pace.  I didn’t have to be there in the next instant, and I wanted to do a little survey of the grounds.  If I was checking windows, then I needed to know what the access might be like through any of them.

As I got closer to the house, the overgrowth was worse, but that might have been because no one could see it from the roadside, or through the iron gate.

Accessibility via the gardens would-be problematic for anyone who attempted it because there was no easy access.  It was one less immediate problem to deal with.

The driveway widened out into a large gravel-covered square outside the front of the house.  It had an archway under which cars could stop and let out passengers undercover, ideal for ball goers, which meant the house had been built somewhere during the last century.

There were aspects that would warrant me taking a look on the internet about its history.

She was waiting outside the door, showing some exertion, and the mad dash had been for nothing.

“I take it you have a key?”

I decided to ignore that.  I hoped she would disappear to another part of the house and leave me alone.  I had too much to do without having to worry about where she was, or what she was doing.  It seemed, base on the short time I spoke to him, that the owner had a mistake marrying her if they were in fact married.  Ex could mean almost anything these days.

Again, I made a show of trying to find the right key, though in the end it was hit and miss, and it took the fourth of fifth attempt to find it.

The door was solid oak, but it swung open easily and silently.  I had expected it to make a squeaking sound, one associated with rusty hinges.  This time she was a little more circumspect when she passed by me.  I followed and closed and locked the door behind me.

Inside was nothing like I expected.  Whilst the outside looked like the building hadn’t been tended to for years, inside had been recently renovated, and had that new house smell of new carpets and painted walls.

There was a high vaulted roof, and a mezzanine that was accessed by a beautifully restored wooden staircase and ran around the whole upper floor so that anyone could stand anywhere near the balustrading and look down into the living space, and, towards the back, the kitchen and entertaining area.

The walls had strategically placed paintings, real paintings, that looked old, but I doubted were originals, because if they were similar to those I’d seen in a lot of English country estates they would be priceless, but not left in an empty building.

I had also kept her in the corner of my eye, watching her look around almost in awe.

“What do you think these paintings are worth?”

Was she going to suddenly take an inventory?

“Not a lot.  You don’t leave masterpieces in an abandoned house.  I suspect nothing in here would be worth much, and really only for decorative purposes so the owner can have a better chance of selling the place.  Empty cavernous buildings do not sell well.”

“What are you again?”

“No one of any particular note.  I’ve been asked to look after the place for the next week until it is handed over to the new owners.  Aside from that, I know nothing about the place, nor do I want to.  According to the note I got with the key, there are bedrooms off that mezzanine you can see up there.”  I pointed to the balustrading.  The kitchen has food, enough for the few days I’ll be here, but I’m sure there’s enough to share.”

“Good.  You won’t see me again if I can help it.”

I watched her walk to the staircase and go upstairs.  The mud map told me there were bedrooms up of the mezzanine, and also across from this area.  There was another large room adjacent to this, a games area or room big enough to hold a ball, a part of the original house, and which led out onto the side lawns.  I’d check later to see what the access was like because I suspected there would be a few doors that led out from the hall to the garden.

When she disappeared along the upstairs passageway, I headed towards the next room.  IT was large, larger than that next door, and had another grand staircase leading down to the dance floor.  I guess the people used to stay in rooms upstairs, get dressed, then make a grand entrance down those stairs.

I hadn’t expected this house to be anything like the old country estates, and it was a little like icing of the cake.  I would have to explore, and transport myself back to the old days, and imagine what it was like.

She was true to her word, and I didn’t see her the next morning.  I was staying a world away from her.  I was in the refurbished old section and she was staying in the newly renovated and modernized part of the house.

I did discover, on the first day of getting my bearings and checking all of the entrances and windows ready for my rounds, that above the bedrooms on the second floor of the old section, there was a third floor with a number of smaller rooms which I assumed were where the servants lived.

I stayed in one of those rooms.  The other main bedrooms, with ornate fireplaces and large shuttered windows, smelled a little too musty for me, and I wasn’t about to present someone with an open window.  The views from the balconies were remarkable too or would have been in the garden had been kept in its original state.

In the distance, I could see what might have once been a summerhouse and promised myself a look at it later.  A long day had come to a tiring end, and I was only destined for a few hours’ sleep before embarking on my first-midnight run.   I was going to do one at eight, after eating, another at midnight, and another at six in the morning.  I’d make adjustments to the schedule after running the first full night’s program.

I brought my special alarm with me, the one that didn’t make a sound but was very effective in waking me.  It was fortuitous, because I had not been expected someone else to come along for the ride, and didn’t want them to know where and when I would be doing the rounds.

It had taken longer than I expected to get to sleep, the sounds of the housekeeping me awake.  Usually a sound sleeper, perhaps it was the first night in different, and unusual surroundings.

I shuddered as I got out of bed, a cold air surrounding me, a feeling like that when I walked through the gate.  I had the sensation that someone was in the room with me, but in the harsh light after putting the bedside light on, it was clearly my imagination playing tricks.

I dressed quickly and headed out.

The inside of the house was very dark, and the light from my torch stabbed a beam of light through what might have been an inky void.  The circle of light on the walls was never still, and I realized that my hand had acquired a touch of the shakes.

Creaking sounds as I walked across the flooring had not been discernible the previous night, and it was odd they only happened at night.  A thought that the house may be haunted when through my mind, but I didn’t believe in ghosts or anything like that.

The creaking sounds followed me as I started my inspection.  I headed downstairs, and once I reached the back end of what I was going to call the ballroom.  Before I went to bed the previous evening, I drew up a rough map of the places I would be going, ticking them off as I went.

The first inspection was of the doors that led out onto the lawns.  The floor-to-ceiling windows were not curtained, and outside the undergrowth was partially illuminated by moonlight.  The day had been warm, that period in autumn leading into winter where the days were clear but getting colder.  Outside I could see a clear starry night.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the flash of a torchlight in the gardens.  I stopped and looked more carefully, but there was nothing.  I waited for about ten minutes, but there was still no movement.

I was going to have to park my imagination before starting rounds or I’d never get the job done.

I went out of the room and into the living area.  There seemed to be lights all around me, those small pilot lights that told you appliances were on standby.

I was heading towards the stairs when suddenly there was a blood-curdling scream, followed by what sounded like a gunshot, a sharp loud bang that, on top of the scream, made me jump.

The woman.

I raced as fast as I could up the stairs.  The sounds had come from there, but when I reached the top of the stairs, I realized I had no idea in which direction it came from.  Pointing the torch in both directions, there was nothing to see.

I could see a passage that might lead to the bedrooms on this level, and headed towards it, moving slowly, keeping as quiet as I could, listening for anything, or if someone else was lurking.

I heard a door slam, the echo coming down the passage.  I flashed the light up the passage, but it didn’t seem to penetrate the darkness.  I moved quickly towards the end, half expecting to see someone.

Then I tripped over, and as I tried to get to my feet, realized it was a body.  I flashed the torch on it, and it was the woman.

Dead, a gunshot wound in the chest, and blood everywhere.

I scrambled to my feet, and ran towards the end of the passage, and stopped at what appeared to be a dead end.  With nowhere to go, I turned.

I wasn’t alone, just hearing before seeing the presence of another person, but it was too late to react.  I felt an object hitting me on the back of the head, and after that, nothing.

I could feel a hand shaking me, and a voice coming out of the fog.  I opened my eyes and found myself in completely different surroundings.

A large ornate bedroom, and a four-poster bed, like I had been transported back to another age.  Then I remembered I had been in a large house that had been renovated, and this was probably one of the other bedrooms on the floor where the woman had been staying.

Then I remembered the body, being hit, and sat up.

A voice beside me was saying, “You’re having that nightmare again, aren’t you?”

It was a familiar voice.

I turned to see the woman who I had just moments before had seen dead, the body on the floor of the passage.

“You’re dead,” I said, in a strangely detached tone.

“I know.  I’m supposed to be.  You helped me set it up so I could escape that lunatic ex-husband of mine.”

I must have looked puzzled.

“Don’t worry.  The doctor says your memory will return, one day.  But, for now, all you need to do is rest.  All you need to know is that we’re safe, thanks to you.”

© Charles Heath 2021

Let’s talk history

What happened yesterday is history, but that’s not necessarily how we view what is history and what isn’t.

Similarly what is and what isn’t history is usually decided on by academics, because history texts that are used in schools are not written by ‘the man in the street’ authors. They’re usually university types who specialise in a particular field, or specialise section of history.

Even then one doubts that what is written is not a consensus of a panel.

So, when we talk about re-writing history, that takes a very brave bunch of people who want to buck the norm.

Our history, that which was taught when I went to school,. about our own country, Australia, started in 1770. Some brave soul tried to say it began earlier than that, before Captain Cook and the British arrived, out up a flag pole, and declared it belonged to Britain, like in 1606 when the Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon landed on the Cape York peninsula, only it wasn’t called that then.

And he might have been as surprised as Captain Cook that there were people here to observe their arrival. Yes, people had been living in this country for tens of thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.

But that was not what we were taught. No, Captain Cook, 1770, the a fleet of ships in 1788, and off we run as a new country, and a dumping ground for Britain’s convicts. Our history starts there, and then meanders through time, dividing the country up into states, having famous explorers like Burke and Wills, and Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson, Hume and Hovell.

And we commemorate all these people and those who were in charge over the years, with names of states, cities, rivers, mountains, everything under the sun. You’ve only got to glance at the list of hundreds of these forefathers and explorers to see just how many places in this country were named after them.

No heed was taken of what they may have been called before because no one really understood the languages of the first people who lived here. And they never seem to rate as a matter of study for us children back then.

Now, as people have begun to realise our history goes way, way back, and that there should be a nod to those inhabitants, they are considering re-writing some of our history to incorporate these people. And change the names of places to their original. A famous instance of recent renaming is of Ayers Rock, now called Uluru.

Even then, Australian History didn’t rate very highly, and I have to say, as a child at school 50 odd years ago, I learned more about the British Empire/Commonwealth, and about the English kings and queens, than we did about our own Governor Generals, Prime Ministers and State Premiers.

Could I tell you the name of our first Prime Minister? No. I can say when Australia became Australia, yes. 1901. Can I tell you the first King of England? Yes, William the Conqueror in 1066. There were kings before that but they only ruled of parts of England.

But over the years since I have read the odd book of Australian History but for some reason it never quite seems as colourful or as interesting as that of England or Scotland, or even some of the European countries.

Now, since I’ve been reading about what’s happening in the United States I have begin to take an interest in American history, and it, too, seems to suffer the same problems we have with ours, a bunch of academics decided what it was, and what it would not include, and then there is this thing called the 1619 project.

Wow, that seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

The cinema of my dreams – It all started in Venice – Episode 8

Cecilia and Juliet – trouble

How do you run into someone by accident, or randomly when it is neither an accident or random?

There was that problem of looking obvious, that it was staged, that, well you get the idea.

O was hoping staying at the same hotel on the same floor would solve the problem, but when I thought about it, living in Venice, why would I be staying in a hotel?

There was that unofficial reason I’d told Cecilia, that I was renovating, just in case of prying ears, but I was a bit slow in picking up on the new surveillance team Larry had out on Juliet, do he’d know what  I was up to, and if he informed Juliet, then it would ruin the surprise.

It all depended on whether or not the surveillance team was aware of who I was, which could be unlikely, given Giuseppe’s lack of recognition of my identity.  Larry’s mistrust of her might yet work to my advantage.

Then there was the name Juliet knew me by which was not the one Cecilia knew me, so I had to make sure that story was straight between us just in case she was with me when I ran into Juliet.

The trouble was, it was becoming a logistical nightmare.

So, it was rather a surprise when we finally did run into each other, in the restaurant the following morning after Cecilia arrived, and we were just sitting down.

I hadn’t seen Juliet, tucked away in a corner, not until she called out.  And I was with Cecilia, who was the consummate actor.

I heard my name and turned.  Cecilia looked over then sat.  I went over.

“What are you doing here, of all places?”

Was there a note of suspicion or surprise in her tone?

“I’m with an old friend, Cecilia, she’s in Venice for the film festival.  She’s an actor you know.  I didn’t until she called me.”

Juliet gave Cecilia the once over, then looked back at me.  I could see the unspoken question, ‘you still haven’t answered the question’.

“She needed a place to stay and my place is a renovator’s nightmare, so I decided to stay here with her for the duration.”


Not the first thing I expected from her.

“No, separate rooms.  She’s a bit above my pay grade.”


“We’re off to the festival, she’s agreed to show me around, but if you’re free tonight perhaps we could meet up?  Dumb question, but what are you doing here?”

“I’m staying here.”

“Are you.  No surprise, of course, it’s a good hotel.  I guess we have the same taste in hotels.  Good to see you again, but I’d better go.”

I’d looked around a few times and Cecilia was making to sort of gestures an impatient movie star, ex-girlfriend type might make.

“You’d better go.  I’ll think about it.”

I could see her, ‘this is not a coincidence, look in her eyes and thought it oddly amusing.

Back at the table where Cecilia was waiting, she had been looking covertly in Juliet’s direction.  I sat down.

“She an old girlfriend, or something?”

“Or something.”

“You can tell.  I could feel the death stare.”

“That train left the station a long time ago.”

“Then someone forgot to tell her.  That whole encounter seemed very odd from where I’m sitting.”

“It was.  I asked her for dinner, but I’m not expecting a reply.  It caught me off guard.”

“Then a small suggestion, get your head back in the game.”

She was right.  Catching me by surprise put me on the back foot, and being so meant that the distraction could cause trouble.  I could remember back to the old days, and the training instructor’s words, ‘it only takes a fraction of a second, and you’re dead’.

He was right, it had happened once and I barely survived, coincidentally just before the first time I met Juliet.  That incident kept me vulnerable, a feeling I had hated at the time.

I glanced over at Cecilia, submersed in a text exchange on her cell phone, the conversation playing out in expressions, one of which was quite dark.

But, nevertheless, at least one of us was prepared.  I wondered if Rodby had spoken to her.  He knew of my association with Juliet, before Violetta, and the effect it had on me, especially after the mission that had almost left me broken.

And that, I thought, was another reason for my momentary loss of control; the effect she had on me when I was not prepared, not like the last encounter.  Taking me by surprise, she could still bring those old feelings to the surface, feelings I didn’t want to deal with.  I was still getting over the loss of Violetta which until this moment I had thought I was in a good place.

The text exchange ended.

“Trouble in paradise?” I asked.

“Men can be such idiots sometimes.”

“I know.  Who is he and do you want me to deal with him?”

“A pleasant thought, but no.  I can do that, but you might have to deal with Juliet by yourself.  Oh, she’s coming over.”

By the time I looked up, she was next to me.  “Tonight, here.  Bring your friend if you like.”  Juliet gave her a meaningful glare.

“Sorry, got to attend to man troubles.”

“Sorry to hear that.”  Back to me.

“Eight OK?”

“Fine.  See you then “

I watched her leave the restaurant, not sure what she hoped to gain other than once again to put me on the back foot.

“She has surveillance, the girl who looks like a librarian on holiday, by the door.”

I’d seen her before.  “There’ll be another.  Larry seriously doesn’t trust Juliet.”

“Of course.  French guy, pink shirt, so obvious you’d not think it was him.  Watch yourself.  I have to go for a while but don’t worry, I can find you later.  We need to talk about tonight.”

“Yes.  Later, then.”

© Charles Heath 2022