Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 26

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Maury drops in for a search

 

I moved to the doorway and switched off the light, sending the room back into inky darkness.  Not good for the eyes, going bright light to instant dark.  We stood together behind the door as it opened inwards, Jan ready with her gun.

The door opened slowly, at the same time letting light in from the corridor, making it easier to see.

Opened fully, the visitor tentatively stepped into the room, and once the shape moved past the door, I slammed it shut and Jan lunged with the gun.  

I was not sure what result she was expecting but the person fought back, and as they turned to wrench the gun out of her hand, I let loose a punch, aiming for the head, and as hard as I could.  I head a cracking sound followed by a thump as the body hit the ground.

When I turned the light back on, there were two surprises.  The first, that I’d managed to knock someone out, and the second, Maury was back for a second look.

Why?

It didn’t matter.  He wasn’t going to be unconscious for very long.  Jan had some twine in her room, I wasn’t going to ask why, and she tied his hands and legs together, trussed almost like a turkey.

We left him on the floor when he’d fallen.  Unconscious, he was too heavy to move, or lift.

“Is this man Severin, Maury or Nobbin?” she asked.  She’d saved the questions until after he’d been neutralized, and we’d taken his gun off him.  Also, a knife.  She’d also look through his pockets to see if he carried any identification.  He didn’t, and I wouldn’t expect to find anything.  At the moment I was the same, and since I threw the phone’s sim card, I was now completely anonymous.

“Maury,” I said.

“The attack dog?”

“Not able to attack us at the moment, but yes.  I wonder why he came back?”

“We should ask him,” she said, “when he wakes up.”

We were sitting in the chairs, turned around to face Maury lying on the ground.  He had wriggled, and realizing he was tied up, tried harder to escape the bonds, and then relaxed when he realized he couldn’t.

His eyes turned to us, and it felt like a death stare.  

“This is a mistake,” he said.  “untie these ropes and I might make an exception for you.

“Why are you here?” I asked him.

“That’s none of your business.”

“But it is mine.  This is my flat, and you’re trespassing,” Jan said.

He switched his death gaze to her.

“I’m not here to cause trouble.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To ask you if your next-door neighbor left anything here with you to collect at a later date.”

No doubt with a menacing attitude, which would end in violence because Maury was not the sort to take no for an answer.

“Most people would knock on the door, and politely wait until it was answered.”

Most people.

“I was told there would be no one at home.”

“And it couldn’t wait until I returned?  I’m sorry, but you have broken into my flat and I’m going to call the police.”

He looked at me.

“That’s not a good idea.  Tell her, Jackson.”

“I don’t work for you, or Severin, anymore.  In fact, when I went back into the office, I got dragged aside and interrogated.  No one seems to know who you and Severin are.”

“That’s because our operation was on a need to know basis.  How do you think our business works?  Not by telling everyone what you’re doing.  Now untie me, and I’ll be on my way.”

“No,” Jan said.  “Not until you tell us exactly who you are and who you work for, and why you deemed it necessary to murder O’Connell.”

Maury looked at me again, and there was no mistaking the anger.

“You do understand what the Official Secrets Act means, don’t you Jackson?”

“More or less.  But it depends on who it is you speak to whether that’s relevant or not.”

Back to Jan.  

“Who are you, then?”

“As you keep pulling out of your hat, it’s on a need to know basis, and, of course, we just tell everyone what we’re doing either.  But one thing I’m sure of, we do not go around killing agents.  As far as I can tell, O’Connell was working for an agency, possibly yours but I don’t think so, and in the course of his investigation, he came across some valuable information.  Information, I’m told, you want.  What is it and why?”

“Are you serious?”

He shifted his glare back to me.

“Seriously Jackson, who is this person?”

“Someone, I fear, who is going to cause you a great deal of grief if you don’t answer her questions.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  I don’t have to tall you or anyone else the nature of my business.”

I saw her shake her head.  “I take it, that’s a no.”  She shrugged and pulled out her phone and dialed a number.  “Always the hard way with you people.”

“Sir,” she said when the call was answered.  “I’ve got a character named Maury tied up in my flat.  Breaking and entering for starters.  Yes, I’ll be here.”

She put the phone back in her bag.  “They’ll be here in ten minutes.”

All we had to do was hope that Maury didn’t have a backup.

© Charles Heath 2020

“Echoes From The Past”, buried, but not deep enough

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What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

Christmas is just around the corner, a time to be with family. For Will Mason, an orphan since he was fourteen, it is a time for reflection on what his life could have been, and what it could be.

Until a chance encounter brings back to life the reasons for his twenty years of self-imposed exile from a life only normal people could have. From that moment Will’s life slowly starts to unravel and it’s obvious to him it’s time to move on.

This time, however, there is more at stake.

Will has broken his number one rule, don’t get involved.

With his nemesis, Eddie Jamieson, suddenly within reach, and a blossoming relationship with an office colleague, Maria, about to change everything, Will has to make a choice. Quietly leave, or finally, make a stand.

But as Will soon discovers, when other people are involved there is going to be terrible consequences no matter what choice he makes.

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“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Adding a catalyst

Just when there’s enough complication in the story, we could leave it there with the current three protagonists and see what happens.

But I like mayhem.

So rather than another customer, it’s time to add a complication; an off duty policeman, or more to the point, policewoman.  A beat cop, if they still exist.

Her back story in a sentence or so:

It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them the bad news.

That was her day.  So far.

What is she doing near the shop?  She lives around the corner.  Perhaps she knows the reputation of the shopkeeper or perhaps not.  It’s not relevant, then, as it is a place she avoids.

Now, she may not have the option.  She sees the shop is still open, past the usual closing time.

Let’s continue:

She came around the corner into the street where she lived and saw the lights were on in the corner store.

She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight.  Long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.

Meanwhile, back in the shop how are the others faring?

The shopkeeper is in an invidious position, he can’t supply the kids with the drugs and get them out, not in front of the customer.

The fact the girl has a gun makes the situation almost impossible.  What would happen if he suggests the customer leave?  Without him, the situation would be simpler.

Alphonse had only a few moments to sum up the situation, and the sum of those deliberations was the remove the only problem, the customer.

He could still salvage this:

The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact, this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.

What happens next?

 

And the story for this section, with a few minor changes:

 

It had been another long day at the office for Officer Margaret O’Donnell, or, out in the streets, coping with people who either didn’t know or didn’t care about the law.

People who couldn’t cross the road where there were crossings and lights to protect them, silly girls shoplifting on a dare, and boys who thought they were men and could walk on water.

The one they scraped of the road would never get to grow up, and his mother, well, she was not doing another call on a family to give them the bad news.

That was her day.  So far.  For now, she was glad to be getting home, putting her feet up, and forgetting about everything until the next morning when it would start all over again.

Coming around that last corner, the home stretch she called it, she was directly opposite the corner shop, usually closed at this hour of the night.  It was not.  The lights were still on.

She looked at her watch and saw it was ten minutes to midnight, and long past closing time.  She looked through the window but from the other side of the road and could only see three heads and little else.

Damn, she thought, I’m going to have to check it out.  There were rumors, and she hoped they were not true.

 

The shopkeeper changed his expression to one more placatory, and said quietly to the girl, ‘Look, this is not this chap’s problem.’  He nodded in the direction of the customer.  ‘I’m sure he’d rather not be here, and you would glad of one less distraction.’

He could see she was wavering, she was not holding the gun so steadily, and the longer this dragged on, the more nervous and unpredictable she would become.

And in the longer game, the customer would sing his praises no matter what happened after he left.

The girl looked at Jack.  The shopkeeper was right.  If he wasn’t here this could be over.  But there was another problem.  It didn’t look like Simmo was in any shape to get away.  In fact, this was looking more like a suicide mission.

She waved the gun in his direction.  ‘Get out now, before I change my mind.’

As the gun turned to the shopkeeper, Jack wasn’t going to wait to be asked twice and started sidling towards the door.

 

Next:  Actions have consequences

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Writing about writing a book – Day 26

Now, Bill makes an attempt to recruit Barry, following on from yesterday’s narrative.

 

A groan emanated from the table, and Barry moved his head slightly.

I shifted the drink in front of him, and then a hand went out and moved it back.  He lifted his head to look at me, and then lowered it again.

“I thought it was you.” A croak.

“Mate.  Not looking too good this afternoon?”

He groaned again, and then struggled to sit up, trying to smooth his hair back into place, and failing.  He rubbed his face and realized he had a week’s stubble, giving him the look of a deranged sanatorium inmate.

“Someone’s gotta try and get me off the gut rot Ogilvy calls booze.”  He nodded in Ogilvy’s direction, but typically, Ogilvy ignored him.

“You don’t have to drink it.”

“That’s what I keep telling myself.  Only it doesn’t work.”

“Perhaps you should try harder.”

He looked me over, looking for the changes since the last time he saw me, about four months ago.

“Where you been?”

“Hospital.”

“Not surprising.  Work too hard, no fun.”  He looked at the drink on the table, took it in his hand, then holding it up to the light.  Perhaps he thought it was the magic elixir that would fix him.

“Someone shot at me.  I nearly didn’t make it.  One thing it did, though.  Brought back all those memories I’d shut away.  Now I know why I did.”

“Shot at you?  Why?”

“I don’t know.  You should see the other guy.  He’s dead.”

“What other guy?”  He put the drink down, untouched.  He was beginning to look a little more alert.

I had not expected it would make much of a difference telling him about my problems, but it had.

“Take it from the top.”  Then, over towards Ogilvy, “Bring me some coffee.  Black.”

I started, a little hesitantly, not quite sure how much or little I should say.

Ogilvy came over with coffee for him and my orange juice.  He glared at me, then Barry.

“Your account is a little overdue,” Ogilvy said, standing over him.

“It’ll get paid.”

By little, I assumed it was more than Ogilvy was willing to stand.  He was kind, but kindness had its limits.

I pulled out two hundred dollar notes and gave them to him.  “Will this settle it?”

“I don’t want your money.  You should throw him in a detox center.  That would make more sense.”

“It’s only money.  If he wants to drink himself to death, who am I to argue?”

Ogilvy shrugged and took the money.  As he turned to leave, Barry said, “And take the scotch back.  I’ve had enough.”

He looked at Barry with surprise, no, I think it was more shock, but did as he was asked.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ogilvy drink the scotch himself, and another for good measure.

I picked up the story where Aitchison and I were shot in the street and related what I knew from there.  He asked only two questions, who was Jennifer, and what had happened to Ellen.  He’d absorbed the rest, and judging by his reaction, probably not understood any of it.

“You have a friend?  Does Ellen know about this friend?”

“Ellen and I are divorced.  Don’t you remember me telling you several years ago?”

“Has it been that long?”

He’d been like this off and on over the last twenty years.  It had been getting worse in the last few years, his health failing, and, at times, his memory.  I watched him pick up the coffee cup, his hand shaking so badly, he needed to hold it was two.  It took a minute or so before he could drink it, and then, his face was of a child, taking medicine.

He looked over towards the bar.  “More coffee.”  He set the cup down carefully, and then looked back at me.

“What can I do?”

“I need someone to watch my back.  I have the odd feeling I’ve got myself into a situation.  The people I work for, well, I can’t put my finger on it, but they’re probably doing something they shouldn’t.  I have some evidence, and I think they know I’ve got it, and they’ve attacked me, like I said, at least once since I got out of the hospital.”

“You want me to get this Kowalski character and beat it out of him?

I smiled at the thought.  I had no doubt if I asked him, he would do exactly that.

“Not yet.  We have to get a better case against them first.”

“So, just watch your back?”

“For the moment.  And for Jennifer.”

“But you are not sure about her.  I get the impression you think she might be involved in more ways than one.”

“Did I give that impression?”  I had no idea he would pick up on my doubts.  But he was right.  I did.

“Yes.  But it doesn’t matter.  If she is we’ll find out soon enough.”

In the space of five minutes and the arrival of the second cup of coffee, to be followed by a third, his whole manner had changed.  There was still the pained look from the hangover, but the eyes were brighter, and he had a purpose.

“Then you’re in?”

“Might as well.  It’ll be better than the last bodyguard gig I had.  Had to thump the little turd.  Smart arse needed it.”

 

To be honest, I didn’t expect Barry to take up the challenge.  Perhaps I’d become used to seeing him down and out, and not expecting anything else.  It was the look in his eyes that changed my opinion.  The same look I’d seen all those years ago, in the jungle.

It was another good sign when he asked for an hour to clean up so he could become inconspicuous.  I told him he could take over my place, gave him the key, gave him some money, and then told him where he could find me in an hour.

It was exactly what I needed.  The Barry of old.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

“The Devil You Don’t”, be careful what you wish for

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John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, prevaricating about getting married, the only joy on the horizon was an upcoming visit to his grandmother in Sorrento, Italy.

Suddenly he is left at the check-in counter with a message on his phone telling him the marriage is off, and the relationship is over.

If only he hadn’t promised a friend he would do a favour for him in Rome.

At the first stop, Geneva, he has a chance encounter with Zoe, an intriguing woman who captures his imagination from the moment she boards the Savoire, and his life ventures into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

That ‘favour’ for his friend suddenly becomes a life-changing event, and when Zoe, the woman who he knows is too good to be true, reappears, danger and death follows.

Shot at, lied to, seduced, and drawn into a world where nothing is what it seems, John is dragged into an adrenaline-charged undertaking, where he may have been wiser to stay with the ‘devil you know’ rather than opt for the ‘devil you don’t’.

newdevilcvr3

Inspiration, maybe

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

lookingdownfromcoronetpeak

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.

“What?”

“I think he’s made us.”

“How?”

“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

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

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“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