“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1

NaNoWriMo Day 30 + 14

Yes, this project is still moving through the water, albeit very slowly, but progress is being made.

For the moment we are out of the snow storms and freezing cold, and meandering through a much more temperate part of the realm.

It’s a time to discover that people fear the unknown. My father once told me of soldiers in the second world war, their orders were to shoot first and ask questions later.

Has that changed much in any war? Or street battle between rival organisations or gangs?

These days it’s guns wreaking the damage, but back in the past, the old, old, old, old days it was swords, lances, bows and arrows, maces, and a few other interesting but painful implements.

To save the realm, these disaffected people need to be brought back into the fold, but decades, even centuries had festered the ill feelings between the others makes it nigh on impossible.

Sound like something going on right under our noses?

For those keeping an eye on the word count, this session, 3,842 words for a running total of 129,742.

“Strangers We’ve Become”, a sequel to “What Sets Us Apart”

Stranger’s We’ve Become, a sequel to What Sets Us Apart.

The blurb:

Is she or isn’t she, that is the question!

Susan has returned to David, but he is having difficulty dealing with the changes. Her time in captivity has changed her markedly, so much so that David decides to give her some time and space to re-adjust back into normal life.

But doubts about whether he chose the real Susan remain.

In the meantime, David has to deal with Susan’s new security chief, the discovery of her rebuilding a palace in Russia, evidence of an affair, and several attempts on his life. And, once again, David is drawn into another of Predergast’s games, one that could ultimately prove fatal.

From being reunited with the enigmatic Alisha, a strange visit to Susan’s country estate, to Russia and back, to a rescue mission in Nigeria, David soon discovers those whom he thought he could trust each has their own agenda, one that apparently doesn’t include him.

The Cover:

strangerscover9

Coming soon

 

“Do you believe in g..g..ghosts…?”, a short story

Inside the old building, it was very quiet and almost cold.

Strange, perhaps, because outside the temperature was bordering on the record hottest day ever, nearly 45 degrees centigrade.

The people who’d built this building nearly a hundred years before must have known how to keep that heat at bay, using sandstone.

Back then, the sandstone would have looked very impressive, but now after many years of being closed off and left abandoned, the outside was stained by modern-day pollutants giving it a black streaky look, and inside layers of dust, easily stirred up as we walked slowly into the main foyer.

It was huge, the roof, ornate, with four huge chandelier lights hanging down, and wood paneling, giving way to a long counter with brass serving cages highlighting its former use; a bank.

In its day it would have conveyed the power and wealth so that its customers could trust the money to. Of course, that was before the global economy, online banking, and a raft of the new and different institutions all vying for that same money.

Then it was a simple choice of a few, now it was a few thousand.

“How many years had this been closed up?” I asked.

“Close to twenty, maybe twenty-five. It was supposed to be pulled down, but someone got it on the heritage list, and that put an end to it. “

Phil was the history nut. He’s spent a month looking into the building, finding construction plans, and correspondence dating back to before and during the construction.

Building methods, he said, that didn’t exist today and were far in advance of anything of its type for the period. It was the reason we were standing in the foyer now.

We were budding civil engineers, and the university had managed to organize a visit, at our own risk. The owner of the building had made sure we’d signed a health and safety waiver before granting access.

And the caretaker only took us as far as the front door. He gave us his cell number to call when we were finished. When we asked him why he didn’t want to come in with us, he didn’t say but it was clear to me he was afraid of something.

But neither of us believed in ghosts.

“You can see aspects of cathedrals in the design,” Phil said. ” You could quite easily turn this space into a church.”

“Or a very large wine cellar.” I brought a thermometer with me, and inside where we were standing it was the ideal temperature to store wine.

Behind the teller cages were four large iron doors to the vaults. They were huge, and once contained a large amount of cash, gold, and whatever else was deemed valuable.

They were all empty now, the shelves and floor had scattered pieces of bank stationery, and in a corner, several cardboard boxes, covered in even more dust.

Behind the vaults were offices, half-height with glass dividers, the desks and chairs still in place, and some with wooden filing cabinets drawers half-open.

Others had benches, and one, set in the corner, very large, and looked like the manager’s office. Unlike the other office which had linoleum tiles, this one had carpet. In a corner was a large mirror backed cabinet, with several half-empty bottles on it.

“Adds a whole new meaning to aged whiskey, don’t you think.” Phil looked at it but didn’t pick it up.

“I wonder why they left it,” I muttered. The place had the feel of having been left in a hurry, not taking everything with them.

I shivered, but it was not from the cold.

We went back to the foyer and the elevator lobby. They were fine examples of the sort of caged elevators that belonged in that time, and which there were very few working examples these days.

The elevators would have a driver, he would pull back an inner and outer door when the car arrived on a floor, and close both again when everyone was aboard.

Both cars were on the ground floor, with the shutter doors closed, and when I tried to open one, I found it had been welded shut. The other car was not sitting level with the floor and the reason for that, the cable that raised and lowered it was broken.

Restoring them would be a huge job and would not be in their original condition due to occupational health and safety issues.

The staircase wound around the elevator cage, going up to the mezzanine floor or down to the basement.

“Up or down?” He asked.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Down. There’s supposed to be a large vault, probably where the safety deposit boxes are.”

And the restrooms I thought. Not that I was thinking of going.

As we descended the stairs it was like going down into a mine shaft, getting darker, and the rising odor of damp, and mustiness. I suspect it would have been the same back when it was first built being so close to the shoreline of the bay, not more than half a mile away.

The land this building and a number of others in a similar style, was built on was originally a swamp, and it was thought that the seawater still found its way this far inshore. But the foundations were incredibly strong and extensive which was why there’d been no shifting or cracking anywhere in the ten-story structure.

At the bottom, there was a huge arch, with built-in brass caging with two huge gates, both open. It was like the entrance to a mythical Aladdin’s cave.

There was also an indefinable aura coming from the depths of that room. That, and a movement of cold air. Curiously, the air down there was not musty but had a tinge of saltiness to it.

Was there a natural air freshener effect coming from somewhere within that vault.

“Are we going in?”

I checked my torch beam, still very bright. I pointed it into the blackness and after a minute checking, I said, “We’re here, so why not.”

We had to walk down a dozen steps then pass under through the open gates into the room. There was a second set of gates, the same as the first, about thirty feet from the first, and, in between, a number of cubicles where customers collected their boxes.

Beyond the second set of gates was a large circular reinforced safe door high enough for us to walk through.

This cavernous space stretched back quite a distance, and along the walls, rows, and rows of safety deposit boxes, some half hanging out of their housing, and a lot more stacked haphazardly on the floor.

I checked a few but they were all empty.

I shivered again. It felt like there was a presence in the room. I turned to ask Phil, but he wasn’t there. I hadn’t heard him walk away, and there were only two sets of footprints on the floor, his and mine, and both ended where I was standing.

It was as if he had disappeared into thin air.

I called out his name, and it echoed off the walls in the confined space. No answer from him.

I went further into the room, thinking he might have ventured towards the end while my back was turned, but he hadn’t. Nor had he left because there were only footprints coming in, not going out.

I turned to retrace my steps and stopped suddenly. An old man, in clothes that didn’t belong to this era, was standing where Phil had last been.

He was looking at me, but not inclined to talk.

“Hello. I didn’t see you come down.”

Seconds later the figure dissolved in front of me and there was no one but me standing in the room.

“Joe.”

Phil, from behind me. I turned and there he was large as life.

“Where were you?”

“I’ve been here all the time. Who were you just talking to?”

“There was an old man, standing just over there,” I said pointing to somewhere between Phil and the entrance.

“I didn’t see anyone. Are you sure you’re not having me on?”

“No. He’s right behind you.” The old man had reappeared.

Phil shook his head, believing I was trying to fool him.

That changed when the man touched his shoulder, and Phil shrieked.

And almost ran out of the room. It took a few minutes for him to catch his breath and steady the palpitating heart.

“Are you real?” I asked, not quite sure what to say.

“To me, I am. To anyone else, let’s just say you are the first not got faint, or run away.”

“Are you a ghost?” Phil wasn’t exactly sure what he was saying.

“Apparently I am and will be until you find out who killed me “

Ok, so what was it called, stuck in the afterlife or limbo until closure?

“When?”

“25 years ago, just before the bank closed. It’s the reason why it’s empty now.”

“And you’re saying we find the killer and you get to leave?”

“Exactly. Now shoo. Go and find him.”

We looked at each other in surprise, or more like shock, then back to the man. Only he was no longer there.

“What the…” Phil sail. “It’s time to go.”

“What about the man and finding his killer?”

“What man? We saw nothing. We’re done here.”

I shrugged. Phil turned to leave, but only managed to take three steps before the gates at the entrance closed with a loud clang.

When he crossed the room to stand in front, he tried pulling them open.

“Locked,” he said. Flat, and without panic, he added, “I guess it looks like we have a murder to solve.”

© Charles Heath 2019-2020

The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

The novel ‘Echoes from the past’ started out as a short story I wrote about 30 years ago, titled ‘The birthday’.

My idea was to take a normal person out of their comfort zone and led on a short but very frightening journey to a place where a surprise birthday party had been arranged.

Thus the very large man with a scar and a red tie was created.

So was the friend with the limousine who worked as a pilot.

So were the two women, Wendy and Angelina, who were Flight Attendants that the pilot friend asked to join the conspiracy.

I was going to rework the short story, then about ten pages long, into something a little more.

And like all re-writes, especially those I have anything to do with, it turned into a novel.

There was motivation.  I had told some colleagues at the place where I worked at the time that I liked writing, and they wanted a sample.  I was going to give them the re-worked short story.  Instead, I gave them ‘Echoes from the past’

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

But when considering a location, I had, at the time, recently been to New York in December, and visited Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a lot of New York itself.  We were there for New Years, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One evening we were out late, and finished up in Brooklyn Heights, near the waterfront, and there was rain and snow, it was cold and wet, and there were apartment buildings shimmering in the street light, and I thought, this is the place where my main character will live.

It had a very spooky atmosphere, the sort where ghosts would not be unexpected.  I felt more than one shiver go up and down my spine in the few minutes I was there.

I had taken notes, as I always do, of everywhere we went so I had a ready supply of locations I could use, changing the names in some cases.

Fifth Avenue near the Rockefeller center is amazing at first light, and late at night with the Seasonal decorations and lights.

The original main character was a shy and man of few friends, hence not expecting the surprise party.  I enhanced that shyness into purposely lonely because of an issue from his past that leaves him always looking over his shoulder and ready to move on at the slightest hint of trouble.  No friends, no relationships, just a very low profile.

Then I thought, what if he breaks the cardinal rule, and begins a relationship?

But it is also as much an exploration of a damaged soul, as it is the search for a normal life, without having any idea what normal was, and how the understanding of one person can sometimes make all the difference in what we may think or feel.

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

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!

PIWalthJones1

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

“I was minding my own business when…”, a short story

What do you say, when everything that could be had been said, and then some.

What did marriage counselors know, other than they are right, and you are wrong?

I don’t think either of us, with the same belief, could be wrong.  The marriage was over, and there was no use prolonging the agony.

Except we had to try to at least put some of the pieces back together, if only for the sake of walking away with a sense of closure and peace.

But, peace was the last thing in the atmosphere inside the car, and it had been like that since leaving Vancouver.

There had been a momentary truce in Kamloops where we had to stay, in separate rooms, and polite conversation over breakfast, until I put my foot in my mouth.

Again.

I’m not sure if I knew what to say to her anymore.  To her, everything I said was laced with an agenda or a subliminal plot.  I got it, I’d lied to her once too often, and once she proved one right, and, from there, it didn’t take long for the whole charade to unravel.

I’d been advised against marrying her, that I would not be able to do my job and have some sort of life with Eloise, but I wanted it.

And, fifteen months down the track, my employers had been proved right.
Eloise was driving.  Her parents lived in Banff, and we had made the trip in all of the four seasons, and now winter, she was more used to the icy conditions than I.

It gave me a chance to look at her from my side of the mid-sized SUV.  We were going to take her car, a rather small sedan, but it had broken down, so I hired a Ford Flex.

If you’re going to take on the elements, I wanted a car that could handle the conditions.

In that, I think I’d managed to surprise her, and not in a bad way.

For the first time in a long time.

Then, of course, she had to look sideways, and that ruined it.  The frown followed by the pursed lips.  Something caustic was about to come my way.

Except a very loud bang took us both by surprise, and skewing the car sideways, catching the edge of the ice on the road, and we started spinning.

As good as she was, there would be no containing this calamity.

I looked behind to see what the hell had hit us.

An F350 or RAM 2500, definitely larger than us, definitely deliberate, and definitely with intent to hurt us.

Or me.

My work had finally come home.

There was a scream just on the edge of her terror as the car had spun sideways and the car behind us slammed into it us again, arresting the spin and pushing us towards the edge of the road.

I could see what the pursuer’s intent was.  Down the side, a roll if possible, then pick off the survivors as they scrambled from the wreckage.

Or not have to worry, the roll may do the job for them.
We hit the edge as the other car braked, and we continued on, that stifled scream from Eloise now erupting.

She could see what was going to happen, just as our car tipped.

Six seconds.

Seat belt or not, totally unprepared for what was about to happen, she was not going to walk away from this.

Unless I did something about it.

Seatbelt unhitched I dragged her to me and protected her as best I could.  She didn’t resist, but the look in her eyes, terror laced with something else, no time to think about it now, told me she would do whatever I wanted.

Over on the roof, upside down, I prayed it stayed there, and slide,  The ice, snow, and slush was going to help.

Seconds passed, taking what seemed forever, till we reached the bottom of the hill and hit a rock, arresting the movement with a loud bang and a crunch of bending metal.

Stopped.

Engine still running.

No movement from her.  Yet.

And relief.  No bones were broken, or none that I noticed.

Under me, she stirred.

Just as a bullet smashed the rear passenger window, and the shattered glass splattered the interior.  A moment later, the side window, above my head did the same.
I lifted myself, whispering in her ear, “Slide towards the front window.”  It was buried in the snow and dirt kicked up in the final run to the bottom.  The shooter would not be able to see it, or her.

Above me, I reached up to feel under the seat and found the package.

A gun.  Always be prepared.

Ten seconds since the last shot.  From up top, the shooter would not be able to see us, or any movement.  He was going to have to come down and finish the job.

And hope we were would not be able to fight back.

That was the purpose of running us off the road.

Pity then that he had not been given my file.  If he had he would have driven off and tried again later.

That he was halfway down the hill when I saw him told me this operation had been cobbled together quickly, with no time to find a professional.

And now I knew why Barnes had told me to be careful.

A lone wolf looking to make a name for himself.

And failing.
Ten minutes, the police arrived.

Long enough to bury the body and the weapons under a lot of snow, in a ravine that no one would discover until the thaw.

The car that rammed us had gone.  Soon as he saw his partner go down, he left.  A wise man, he had stayed at the top of the hill, having more sense than his friend.

Live to fight another day,

The policeman asked the questions, and Eloise answered.  Not one mention of being rammed, run off the road, being shot at, or that there was anyone else involved.

As cool as a cucumber.

It took her a minute after I shot our attacker to ask the questions I’d expected a week ago when she finally discovered my other life, prefaced by, “No more lies, just tell me the truth.  What the hell is it you do for a living?”

“Make the world safe for people like you, and in my case right now, for you in particular.  Sorry, I was sworn to secrecy.”

“Even from your wife?”

“Especially from you.  You now know why.”

“Bit late for that now, do you think?”

“Just a little.”

And then I saw the look, the one I had fallen in love with 15 months ago.  The one that made my heart miss a few beats.

“You do realize you are the biggest idiot on the planet, don’t you?”

“Does this mean I can stay?”

She punched me on the arm.,  OK, no broken bones, but there was going to be bruising, major bruising.

“If you promise to tell me only the truth from now on.”

What harm could it do?  She knew enough.

“Good.  We should probably do something with that man out there.  I’m assuming the police do not take too kindly to you working in their jurisdiction.”

Too many thrillers, too much TV, or an educated guess, she was right.  This would be impossible to explain, and Barnes was already angry at me.

I held out my hand and she took it as I helped her out of the wreckage.  Out in the fresh, cold air, she took in a huge breath and let out a slow sigh.

“Is it always this exciting?”

“This is the Sunday in the park stroll.  Wait till you have a hand held rocket boring down on you.”

 

© Charles Heath 2019-2020

“Chance Encounter”, A short story

The afternoon rush hour jammed the exit roads, particularly those to the beach.  Nearly everyone was heading for relief from the heat wave, now in its tenth consecutive day.  What had started out a novelty was now just tiresome, with no forecast respite.

A light breeze tried to fan away the afternoon heat, but it had little impact.  The temperature was still hovering in the high 30’s when Bill left the office at 6:30 that evening.

On the road it was little better, and hotter in the car than out.  There was no point running the air conditioner in those conditions, as both he and many others had discovered.  The stop-start traffic made it worse, and people who had already suffered enough were close to breaking point.

Once again, the traffic stopped, and tempers frayed to the point of blowing horns and yelling forlorn abuse at some unseen driver or cause.  It was a no-win situation, and to Bill, a waste of time and energy.  His time and energy, he thought, was best directed at analysis.  Yet how different had the afternoon been to what was currently happening?

In charge of the Customer Service centre for the area’s electricity supplier, it had been difficult to say the least.  That afternoon had seen the highest consumption of electricity since the heat wave began, since time immemorial for that matter, and had started to affect the functionality of the grid, with the first failures occurring. 

It had been predicted, but was not expected quite this early, and as parts of the city were beginning to feel the effect of temporary blackouts, his, and his staff’s work had begun to receive the full effect of the community’s contempt and hatred. 

The traffic disaster was not a patch on the abuse both he and members of his staff had received that afternoon, and he instinctively knew it was not going to improve.

Normally he would stay on and help the incoming supervisor.  This time, someone else could handle the problems.  Doing the usual Friday afternoon desk clean up, he’d found the invitation to Wally’s stag party and as best man, he was obligated to go.  One of the other and more compelling reasons was to see which of his colleagues would make a fool of themselves.

It didn’t take long to get home and change into what he considered proper party attire.  He smiled at the thought of being an anachronism from a bygone age, and of what others thought of him.  He was too old to change.

Before leaving, he lingered over several glasses of champagne, and strawberries, trying to get into the mood.  At the same time, he surveyed the ravages of middle management pressures.  Just a year in the job had aged him five, and a tinges of grey beginning to appear at the sides.

A wave of tiredness came over him.  The thought of staying home and immersing himself in classical music and another bottle of champagne crossed his mind, but he said he would go.  Wally was one of the few he could call a true friend.  He would go, but not stay long.

As usual, he was late.

Groups had spilled out onto the front veranda, and onto the front lawn.  He knew most of the partygoers by sight, if not by name.  Acquaintances, not friends.  Not the sort of people he usually mingled with.  He exchanged greetings, accepted drinks, and tried to maintain appearances.

It didn’t take long to realise it was a mistake.  The carnival atmosphere and good cheer all around him made him feel melancholier, as a wave of loneliness closed around him like the night air.

He knew only too well what the problem was but had no idea how to deal with it.  Neither his upbringing, nor experience was of any use.  It would require outside help; the sort Wally had already offered.  Just when would he do something about it, if at all?  If the truth were known, Bill was too frightened of the consequences, of getting hurt.  Perhaps a few more drinks…

Making his way through the crowded rooms towards the back of the house, he felt the deadening effect of the alcohol beginning to fight off the empty feeling within.

He made desultory conversation with a secretary he knew was high on the dating list for most junior executives, deriving some pleasure in the thought she talked to him, then to another young lady who worked his shift, whom he thought both intelligent and charming, and whose behaviour didn’t shatter his assumptions as some others had.

As the night wore on. it became evident few had noticed his arrival, even fewer his sudden disappearance to the back veranda, overlooking the ocean.  He had seen Wally on one occasion when he was trying to drink about 10 gallons of beer in one attempt and thought it wise not to interrupt.

It was, he thought, all part of the game, to drink so much he would forget how it was when he was single, though Bill doubted he could do it in a single night.  Bill could hardly wait till the wedding the next afternoon.

He looked back momentarily at the apparent abandon of the other guests, hearing the muted murmur of endless conversations, and loud music.  Everyone was having a good time, as it should be.

The gentle, soothing, lapping of the tide on the beach beckoned him.  He put his empty glass on a ledge and went quietly down the stairs onto the sand.  A refreshing, cool breeze rolled in with the tide, immediately improving his mood.

At the water’s edge, he paused momentarily to soak in the calming atmosphere, then put his hands in his pockets and headed for the pier.  A leisurely stroll there and back would be sufficient break to enable him to endure the rest of the evening.  Yes, he would stay, if only to see that Wally didn’t overindulge.  After all, some duties did fall on the incumbent best man.

Occasionally he kicked the sand with the toe of his shoe, once for a thoroughly detestable human relations consultant, and another for a particularly annoying assistant.  It scuffed the high polish, but he didn’t care.  This was a time where near impeccable would be good enough.

He was alone, and in more ways than one, he thought, but it was more by design than by accident.  He had recently been involved in a relationship that was doomed before it began.  Work had always pushed that side of his life into second place because he let it.

Now, having thought about it rationally for the first time, he realised it was time to place less importance on work, and more to giving any sort of relationship a chance.

Wally had offered to find him someone, but knowing Wally as he did, Bill had declined.  Of course, to Wally ‘no’ really meant go ahead anyway.  While at the party, he had surveyed those he thought Wally might have invited as potential matches, some voluptuous, some half-naked, some painted, some all three.

There was no doubting their intent, and he had seen the same in the singles bars when on the town with Wally when they had nothing better to do with a Friday night.  Yet, none of those he’d seen, then or now, matched his criteria.  Were his standards set too high?  Wally never said it, but the fact he didn’t said more than if he had said it out loud.

Bill sighed.  Perhaps he was too set in his ways and unable to change.

Adjoining the pier was the old amusement centre, burnt down several years before.  It was the reason for the closing of the beach, and its recent exclusivity to those nearby backing onto the beach.  All that remained was the scorched concrete floor and parts of the walls.  It was these remains he had just gone under.

Beneath them, the sounds of the sea and the night were more pronounced, creating an eerie, sinister feeling.  The smell of the burnt timber still hung in the air, despite the intervening years.

“Hi!”  A feminine voice came out from the shadows, behind one of the pylons nearby.

He started violently, not expecting anyone else.  It took a moment to collect his thoughts, then turn to see who she was. 

“Oh,” was all he could say to the now visible girl’s outline etched against the distant city lights.

Both came out the other side together into the half-light, leaving the gloom behind.  She began, “I hope I didn’t scare you back there?”

“Only half to death.”  He brushed the non-existent wrinkles out of his dinner suit, more a reflex action, then put his hands back in his pockets, composure regained.

“I’m awfully sorry.  I didn’t mean to.”

He was a little angry, and turning to her, said quietly, “Then what was….” He stopped suddenly, surprised at what he saw.  Tall, well proportioned, dressed in expensive eveningwear, much the same as he was.  He instantly realised she could almost pass as an exact replica of Venus except for the untidyish, waist length hair.

“I don’t know.  I guess I wanted to talk to someone, you were handy, so I just said ‘hi’.”  Her tone was apprehensive, with a slight tremor in it. 

She smiled nervously, yet in a way, he noticed it totally changed her appearance, and his heart missed a beat.

“Oh,” he said again, subconsciously feeling she had put him in his place.  He shook his head and looked again, disbelieving what he saw.

“I hope you don’t mind?”

“Don’t mind what?”  He’d lost track of the conversation, and realised he was quickly moving towards looking and sounding like a gibbering idiot.  It was, he realised, just like every other time when faced with a beautiful woman.

“Me talking to you.”

He took a deep breath and tried to remain calm.  He could feel a runnel of sweat slide down the side of his face, “No.  Not really.  It’s just the diversion I need”.  He looked at the sand, the sea, then her.  “I have a feeling I’ve seen you before.” 

He moved on, and so did she, both in unison.

“Staring at you from the pages of magazines?”

“I guess so.  What did you do?  Rob a bank?  Divorce a Prince, or millionaire?”

“As if.  Nothing quite as exotic, or exciting, I’m afraid.  Just draped in clothes or plastered in make-up.  Boring huh?”

“No.  Not really.”

“You’re a bit hard up for new lines?”

He shrugged.  It was difficult talking to this woman, and, lacking in confidence, he was starting to feel a little embarrassed.

She changed the subject.  “Do you live here?”

“No….”

“Don’t say it, not really!” she interrupted.

He sighed, trying to regain composure.  “OK.  I was at a party.”

“Aha.  Now we’re getting somewhere.”  Then she gave him a curious look.  “Was?”  Then, after he didn’t answer, “How come you’re not with the others, having a good time?”

“Perhaps I’m not cut out to ‘have a good time’.  Actually, I thought I’d take a time out from the frenetic pace and get some fresh air.”

“And now the fresh air had lost its appeal?”

“I didn’t say that.”  Did that come out sounding flustered?  It was how he felt inside.  He was going to have to try harder if he was to keep her interest.  “It’s beginning to get interesting.  And I still can’t place where I’ve seen you before.”  He shook his head.  “No matter.  What brings you here?”

“Someone told me about this place a long time ago.  I thought I’d come and check it out.”

He turned and headed back, deciding the diversion had exceeded the time limit he’d set, and it had now become an elongated absence.  She did the same.

“And what do you think?” he asked.

“About what?”

This conversation would sound very strange if anyone else was nearby listening to them.  Luckily, there wasn’t.  “This place.”

“Very peaceful, secluded, interesting, as you said.”

“Interesting in what way?”  Damn, had he asked that already?

“Well …”  She shrugged, then asked, “Do you always walk around with your hands in your pockets?”

Simple answer, yes.  “Can’t think of where else to put them.” 

What did it have to do with her anyway?  And, in that instant, he realised that it he who was the problem here, not her.

“What if you were to hold a girl’s hand?”

“I don’t know of any who would want me to.”

“Would you like to hold mine?”

“Why?  Is it going to run away?”

She smiled.  “More than likely.”

He stopped.  She stopped.  He surveyed her with a critical eye.

“Aha.  The eye that asks, ‘Who is the disreputable and outrageous person who dares to ask such a thing?’

He smiled and took her hand in his.  It was soft and warm, and sent a slight tingle up his spine.

“I talk too much. Don’t I?” she asked suddenly, after they started walking again.

“No.”

She sighed.  “Here we go again.”

On the other side of the pier there was an old car park, no longer used.  Along the beach front was a long, low stone wall, and they headed towards it.  Once there, they sat down to watch darkness finally settle in, the last of the sun’s rays melting in a glorious display of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Without speaking, they were content to listen to the waves, feel the cooling breeze, and watch the sea glisten in the moonlight. 

Nothing happened for an indeterminable length of time, during which he nearly forgot she was there.  He suddenly snapped out of it when he heard a match rasping.

He turned to see her trying to light a cigarette, but her hand was shaking so much, the match went out.  She tried again, but the same thing happened.  She savagely threw the cigarette away and pounded her hand on the cement as though it was something she hated.

He took a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of his coat pocket and offered her one.

“No.  It’s reason enough to try to give it up,” she said quietly.

He returned the items to his pocket and took her hand in his, looked carefully at it, then kissed it.  “Trying to dent cement is not wise unless you are superman or Supergirl.  I know.  I tried once and broke three fingers.  Fortunately, nothing is broken.”

She moved closer.  “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Making me feel silly.”

“But … I didn’t mean to … I mean …”

She leaned towards him and kissed his lips.  “Hush.”

He held her hand up and looked at it, rather than her, trying to get a grip on his emotions, and saying, a good dead steadier than he felt, “I need a third hand.  Do you think I could have it?”

“With pleasure.  It’s apparently no good to me anymore.”

“Why?”

“Shakes too much.”

“Perhaps I could use it to massage my face.”  He gently moved her hand down the side of his face and again felt a tingle up his spine.  Again, he kissed it gently where she had hit it, not knowing why, just that it seemed like the right thing to do.

“Perhaps not.  Seems to me you have a case of bad nerves.  These are familiar symptoms.  You need a rest, perhaps a holiday, and complete relaxation.  That will be a five-dollar consultation fee.”

She smiled.  “Will you stop it.”

“Why?  It makes you smile.”

“Your right, of course.  I need a rest.  The last six months have been horrible, working day and night, and a failed relationship on top of it.”  She sighed.  “I feel sleepy.”  She leaned against him, putting her arms around him for balance.

“Hey, no.  You can’t do that.”  He fended her off gently.  “I’ve got a party to get back to, and by now I think I should be missed.  God knows what Wally will think.”

He stood and she rolled sideways.  “Oh, come on.”  He looked up towards the sky.  “Why did you make some women like this for,” he muttered.  Then he put his arms around her and lifted her to her feet.  She leaned back against him and he could feel how warm and soft she was.  It was a battle just to make sure he kept his hands in the right places, and she wasn’t making it easy for him.

He held her up then moved around to the front and caught her just as she began to fall forward.  It was exasperating, and yet amusing.  He let her go and she began to fall down, so he caught her again.

She was smiling.

“Beware the smile on the face of the tiger,” he muttered.  His face was level with hers and just then an idea came to him.  He kissed her forehead, nose, chin, then finally her lips, and she came to life.

It was just what she was hoping would happen.  Instead of surprising her, she surprised him by responding in kind; leaving him with a feeling he’d never experienced before.  And a heart rate that was off the chart.

“Now, if only you’d tried that earlier,” she said.

He looked her straight in the eye.  “Just who are you?”

“Me.”

“Does ‘me’ have a name?”

“Do you want ‘me’ to have name?”

“Yes.”

“Claire.”

“Then you may call me Bill.  Do you often pick up strange lonely men on secluded beaches?”

“No.”

“Infuse life into otherwise dead souls?”

“No.”

“Just happened to be the one thing I needed right now?”

She smiled; a smile that made his heart do double somersaults.

“Perhaps a yes.”

“Can I see you again?  I have to see you again.”

“Have to?”

“Like to, then.”

“Perhaps.”

“When?”

“Soon, perhaps sooner than you think.  Do you have to go back?”

“Yes.  If I don’t, Wally will be mad at me.”  He pulled out a notebook and pencil he always carried with him.  “Where do you live?”

She told him.

“If I come by Sunday may I take you out, a drive, somewhere up the coast.  Fresh sea air, total relaxation.”

“Part of the therapy I’m paying five dollars for?”

He brushed a few strands of hair out of her eyes, feeling her warm soft skin under his hand, then kissed her.  “Until the next time.” 

She smiled again. “Until the next time.”

He turned and headed back to the party, not looking back.

No one noticed his absence; despite the fact over an hour had lapsed.  He resumed his place on the veranda, new drink in hand looking vacantly towards the pier, wondering if he would see her again, if she were just a figment of his imagination.  It was just too good to be true.

“Ah, Bill.  I thought I would find you here.  Thinking about a walk.  No, I see you’ve already been.”  Wally sounded sober and looked it.  Perhaps this was all just a dream.

He looked down.  His shoes still had sand on them.  He looked at Wally and smiled.  “Fresh air.  Contemplating the human condition.  You know what I’m like at parties.”

“Better than you think.  What did you think of her?”

“Her?”

“The so-called blind date.  I didn’t think a formal introduction would work.”

Bill shrugged.  “Very nice, but a little…”

Wally smiled the same unique smile of hers.

“Your sister?”

Wally nodded.  “Take exceptionally good care of her my friend.  She’s very vulnerable at the moment, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to look after her.”  He held up his glass.  “Cheers.”

© Charles Heath 2020

The story behind the story: A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers

To write a private detective serial has always been one of the items at the top of my to-do list, though trying to write novels and a serial, as well as a blog, and maintain a social media presence, well, you get the idea.

But I made it happen, from a bunch of episodes I wrote a long, long time ago, used these to start it, and then continue on, then as now, never having much of an idea where it was going to end up, or how long it would take to tell the story.

That, I think is the joy of ad hoc writing, even you, as the author, have as much idea of where it’s going as the reader does.

It’s basically been in the mill since 1990, and although I finished it last year, it looks like the beginning to end will have taken exactly 30 years.  Had you asked me 30 years ago if I’d ever get it finished, the answer would be maybe?

My private detective, Harry Walthenson

I’d like to say he’s from that great literary mold of Sam Spade, or Mickey Spillane, or Phillip Marlow, but he’s not.

But, I’ve watched Humphrey Bogart play Sam Spade with much interest, and modeled Harry and his office on it.  Similarly, I’ve watched Robert Micham play Phillip Marlow with great panache, if not detachment, and added a bit of him to the mix.

Other characters come into play, and all of them, no matter what period they’re from, always seem larger than life.  I’m not above stealing a little of Mary Astor, Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet, to breathe life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.

Then there’s the title, like

The Case of the Unintentional Mummy – this has so many meanings in so many contexts, though I image back in Hollywood in the ’30s and ’40s, this would be excellent fodder for Abbott and Costello

The Case of the Three-Legged Dog – Yes, I suspect there may be a few real-life dogs with three legs, but this plot would involve something more sinister.  And if made out of plaster, yes, they’re always something else inside.

But for mine, to begin with, it was “The Case of the …”, because I had no idea what the case was going to be about, well, I did, but not specifically.

Then I liked the idea of calling it “The Case of the Brother’s Revenge” because I began to have a notion there was a brother no one knew about, but that’s stuff for other stories, not mine, so then went the way of the others.

Now it’s called ‘A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers’, finished the first three drafts, and at the editor for the last.

I have high hopes of publishing it in early 2021.  It even has a cover.

PIWalthJones1

An excerpt from “Sunday in New York”

Now available on Amazon at:  https://amzn.to/2H7ALs8

 

Williams’ Restaurant, East 65th Street, New York, Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

 

We met the Blaine’s at Williams’, a rather upmarket restaurant that the Blaine’s frequently visited, and had recommended.

Of course, during the taxi ride there, Alison reminded me that with my new job, we would be able to go to many more places like Williams’.  It was, at worst, more emotional blackmail, because as far as Alison was concerned, we were well on our way to posh restaurants, the Trump Tower Apartments, and the trappings of the ‘executive set’.

It would be a miracle if I didn’t strangle Elaine before the night was over.  It was she who had filled Alison’s head with all this stuff and nonsense.

Aside from the half frown half-smile, Alison was looking stunning.  It was months since she had last dressed up, and she was especially wearing the dress I’d bought her for our 5th anniversary that cost a month’s salary.  On her, it was worth it, and I would have paid more if I had to.  She had adored it, and me, for a week or so after.

For tonight, I think I was close to getting back on that pedestal.

She had the looks and figure to draw attention, the sort movie stars got on the red carpet, and when we walked into the restaurant, I swear there were at least five seconds silence, and many more gasps.

Even I had a sudden loss of breath earlier in the evening when she came out of the dressing room.  Once more I was reminded of how lucky I was that she had agreed to marry me.  Amid all those self-doubts, I couldn’t believe she had loved me when there were so many others ‘out there’ who were more appealing.

Elaine was out of her seat and came over just as the Head Waiter hovered into sight.  She personally escorted Alison to the table, allowing me to follow like the Queen’s consort, while she and Alison basked in the admiring glances of the other patrons.

More than once I heard the muted question, “Who is she?”

Jimmy stood, we shook hands, and then we sat together.  It was not the usual boy, girl, boy, girl seating arrangement.  Jimmy and I on one side and Elaine and Alison on the other.

The battle lines were drawn.

Jimmy was looking fashionable, with the permanent blade one beard, unkempt hair, and designer dinner suit that looked like he’d slept in it.  Alison insisted I wear a tuxedo, and I looked like the proverbial penguin or just a thinner version of Alfred Hitchcock.

The bow tie had been slightly crooked, but just before we stepped out she had straightened it.  And took the moment to look deeply into my soul.  It was one of those moments when words were not necessary.

Then it was gone.

I relived it briefly as I sat and she looked at me.  A penetrating look that told me to ‘behave’.

When we were settled, Elaine said, in that breathless, enthusiastic manner of hers when she was excited, “So, Harry, you are finally moving up.”  It was not a question, but a statement.

I was not sure what she meant by ‘finally’ but I accepted it with good grace.  Sometimes Elaine was prone to using figures of speech I didn’t understand.  I guessed she was talking about the new job.  “It was supposed to be a secret.”

She smiled widely.  “There are no secrets between Al and I, are there Al?”

I looked at ‘Al’ and saw a brief look of consternation.

I was not sure Alison liked the idea of being called Al.  I tried it once and was admonished.  But it was interesting her ‘best friend forever’ was allowed that distinction when I was not.  It was, perhaps, another indicator of how far I’d slipped in her estimation.

Perhaps, I thought, it was a necessary evil.  As I understood it, the Blaine’s were our mentors at the Trump Tower, because they didn’t just let ‘anyone’ in.  I didn’t ask if the Blaine’s thought we were just ‘anyone’ before I got the job offer.

And then there was that look between Alison and Elaine, quickly stolen before Alison realized I was looking at both of them.  I was out of my depth, in a place I didn’t belong, with people I didn’t understand.  And yet, apparently, Alison did.  I must have missed the memo.

“No,” Alison said softly, stealing a glance in my direction, “No secrets between friends.”

No secrets.  Her look conveyed something else entirely.

The waiter brought champagne, Krug, and poured glasses for each of us.  It was not the cheap stuff, and I was glad I brought a couple of thousand dollars with me.  We were going to need it.

Then, a toast.

To a new job and a new life.

“When did you decide?”  Elaine was effusive at the best of times, but with the champagne, it was worse.

Alison had a strange expression on her face.  It was obvious she had told Elaine it was a done deal, even before I’d made up my mind.  Perhaps she’d assumed I might be ‘refreshingly honest’ in front of Elaine, but it could also mean she didn’t really care what I might say or do.

Instead of consternation, she looked happy, and I realized it would be churlish, even silly if I made a scene.  I knew what I wanted to say.  I also knew that it would serve little purpose provoking Elaine, or upsetting Alison.  This was not the time or the place.  Alison had been looking forward to coming here, and I was not going to spoil it.

Instead, I said, smiling, “When I woke up this morning and found Alison missing.  If she had been there, I would not have noticed the water stain on the roof above our bed, and decide there and then how much I hated the place.” I used my reassuring smile, the one I used with the customers when all hell was breaking loose, and the forest fire was out of control.  “It’s the little things.  They all add up until one day …”  I shrugged.  “I guess that one day was today.”

I saw an incredulous look pass between Elaine and Alison, a non-verbal question; perhaps, is he for real?  Or; I told you he’d come around.

I had no idea the two were so close.

“How quaint,” Elaine said, which just about summed up her feelings towards me.  I think, at that moment, I lost some brownie points.  It was all I could come up with at short notice.

“Yes,” I added, with a little more emphasis than I wanted.  “Alison was off to get some study in with one of her friends.”

“Weren’t the two of you off to the Hamptons, a weekend with some friends?” Jimmy piped up, and immediately got the ‘shut up you fool’ look, that cut that line of conversation dead.  Someone forgot to feed Jimmy his lines.

It was followed by the condescending smile from Elaine, and “I need to powder my nose.  Care to join me, Al?”

A frown, then a forced smile for her new best friend.  “Yes.”

I watched them leave the table and head in the direction of the restroom, looking like they were in earnest conversation.  I thought ‘Al’ looked annoyed, but I could be wrong.

I had to say Jimmy looked more surprised than I did.

There was that odd moment of silence between us, Jimmy still smarting from his death stare, and for me, the Alison and Elaine show.  I was quite literally gob-smacked.

I drained my champagne glass gathering some courage and turned to him.  “By the way, we were going to have a weekend away, but this legal tutorial thing came up.  You know Alison is doing her law degree.”

He looked startled when he realized I had spoken.  He was looking intently at a woman several tables over from us, one who’d obviously forgotten some basic garments when getting dressed.  Or perhaps it was deliberate.  She’d definitely had some enhancements done.

He dragged his eyes back to me.  “Yes.  Elaine said something or other about it.  But I thought she said the tutor was out of town and it had been postponed until next week.  Perhaps I got it wrong.  I usually do.”

“Perhaps I’ve got it wrong.”  I shrugged, as the dark thoughts started swirling in my head again.  “This week or next, what does it matter?”

Of course, it mattered to me, and I digested what he said with a sinking heart.  It showed there was another problem between Alison and me; it was possible she was now telling me lies.  If what he said was true and I had no reason to doubt him, where was she going tomorrow morning, and had she really been with a friend studying today?

We poured some more champagne, had a drink, then he asked, “This promotion thing, what’s it worth?”

“Trouble, I suspect.  Definitely more money, but less time at home.”

“Oh,” raised eyebrows.  Obviously, the women had not talked about the job in front of him, or, at least, not all the details.  “You sure you want to do that?”

At last the voice of reason.  “Me?  No.”

“Yet you accepted the job.”

I sucked in a breath or two while I considered whether I could trust him.  Even if I couldn’t, I could see my ship was sinking, so it wouldn’t matter what I told him, or what Elaine might find out from him.  “Jimmy, between you and me I haven’t as yet decided one way or another.  To be honest, I won’t know until I go up to Barclay’s office and he asks me the question.”

“Barclay?”

“My boss.”

“Elaine’s doing a job for a Barclay that recently moved in the tower a block down from us.  I thought I recognized the name.”

“How did Elaine get the job?”

“Oh, Alison put him onto her.”

“When?”

“A couple of months ago.  Why?”

I shrugged and tried to keep a straight face, while my insides were churning up like the wake of a supertanker.  I felt sick, faint, and wanting to die all at the same moment.  “Perhaps she said something about it, but it didn’t connect at the time.  Too busy with work I expect.  I think I seriously need to get away for a while.”

I could hardly breathe, my throat was constricted and I knew I had to keep it together.  I could see Elaine and Alison coming back, so I had to calm down.  I sucked in some deep breaths, and put my ‘manage a complete and utter disaster’ look on my face.

And I had to change the subject, quickly, so I said, “Jimmy, Elaine told Alison, who told me, you were something of a guru of the cause and effects of the global economic meltdown.  Now, I have a couple of friends who have been expounding this theory …”

Like flicking a switch, I launched into the well-worn practice of ‘running a distraction’, like at work when we needed to keep the customer from discovering the truth.  It was one of the things I was good at, taking over a conversation and pushing it in a different direction.  It was salvaging a good result from an utter disaster, and if ever there was a time that it was required, it was right here, right now.

When Alison sat down and looked at me, she knew something had happened between Jimmy and I.  I might have looked pale or red-faced, or angry or disappointed, it didn’t matter.  If that didn’t seal the deal for her, the fact I took over the dining engagement did.  She knew well enough the only time I did that was when everything was about to go to hell in a handbasket.  She’d seen me in action before and had been suitably astonished.

But I got into gear, kept the champagne flowing and steered the conversation, as much as one could from a seasoned professional like Elaine, and, I think, in Jimmy’s eyes, he saw the battle lines and knew who took the crown on points.  Neither Elaine nor Jimmy suspected anything, and if the truth be told, I had improved my stocks with Elaine.  She was at times both surprised and interested, even willing to take a back seat.

Alison, on the other hand, tried poking around the edges, and, once when Elaine and Jimmy had got up to have a cigarette outside, questioned me directly.  I chose to ignore her, and pretend nothing had happened, instead of telling her how much I was enjoying the evening.

She had her ‘secrets’.  I had mine.

At the end of the evening, when I got up to go to the bathroom, I was physically sick from the pent up tension and the implications of what Jimmy had told me.  It took a while for me to pull myself together; so long, in fact, Jimmy came looking for me.  I told him I’d drunk too much champagne, and he seemed satisfied with that excuse.  When I returned, both Alison and Elaine noticed how pale I was but neither made any comment.

It was a sad way to end what was supposed to be a delightful evening, which to a large degree it was for the other three.  But I had achieved what I set out to do, and that was to play them at their own game, watching the deception, once I knew there was a deception, as warily as a cat watches its prey.

I had also discovered Jimmy’s real calling; a professor of economics at the same University Alison was doing her law degree.  It was no surprise in the end, on a night where surprises abounded, that the world could really be that small.

We parted in the early hours of the morning, a taxi whisking us back to the Lower East Side, another taking the Blaine’s back to the Upper West Side.  But, in our case, as Alison reminded me, it would not be for much longer.  She showed concern for my health, asked me what was wrong.  It took all the courage I could muster to tell her it was most likely something I ate and the champagne, and that I would be fine in the morning.

She could see quite plainly it was anything other than what I told her, but she didn’t pursue it.  Perhaps she just didn’t care what I was playing at.

And yet, after everything that had happened, once inside our ‘palace’, the events of the evening were discarded, like her clothing, and she again reminded me of what we had together in the early years before the problems had set in.

It left me confused and lost.

I couldn’t sleep because my mind had now gone down that irreversible path that told me I was losing her, that she had found someone else, and that our marriage was in its last death throes.

And now I knew it had something to do with Barclay.

 

© Charles Heath 2015-2020

Sunday In New York