I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 52

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


“So, how do you know your way around this place?”

We walked slowly and carefully because there was a lot of rubbish in the alleyway, mostly from cracks in the walls where the concrete lining had broken away. At times there were mounds of rubble, and we had to carefully walk over these.

The ground was dusty and signs of footprints from past visitors, but it had been a long time, they had almost disappeared. There was also a dank, musty aroma, just short of being nauseating.

“The result of a misspent youth. Not many people know there’s a passageway around the whole perimeter of the mall, with only four entry points from outside, and two inside. This was how we escaped when we came along for some shoplifting.”

“Did you ever think of going straight?”

“Wasn’t much chance of that. There were expectations, and when I did try to give it up, I got ostracised, and ended up having to commit bigger follies to regain acceptance.”

We reached the end of the passage, where it turned right. At a guess, I would say we were in one of the corners of the mall, near the front entrance.

She turned left and then stopped. I could see the bottom of the steps leading up.

A stopped next to her and we shone both torches up the stairs. The light only went as far as a landing.

“What’s up there,” I asked.

“Offices. A holding cell. It’s where the security team used to be. It was separate from everything else. The security guys used to shake down the teenage girls up there, and not in a nice way.”

“You?”

“Once, but I told Vince and he sorted the bastard out. Didn’t happen again.”

A small sidebar to life in a mall.

She started up the steps. “If anything is going to be anywhere, this will be the place. The front of the mall was the safest part, built properly on solid foundations. As work continued, heading sideways and back, corners were cut. It’s not the only shoddy building there is in this area.”

The Benderby’s construction company had built most of the buildings in the county, always coming in at the lowest price. The only place not cracking or falling to pieces was the town hall.

At the top of the stairs, there was another wide passage with rooms branching off it.

It was a little less dusty and musty up here, but the rooms were quite messy, with papers scattered everywhere. It looked like someone had been looking for something. The first room didn’t look like it had been used since everyone left, nor the second.

The third was a different story. It was reasonably clean, a large desk in the middle of the room, and several boxes on the side with rolled-up papers, probably blueprints or plans.

I went in. Nadia kept going up the passage to check the other rooms.

I pulled out one of the rolls and laid it on the table.

It was a map, one that stretched a hundred miles in each direction and giving a very clear view of all the river systems, lakes, mountains, and coastline. Our town was almost in the middle of the chart.

I pulled out another and it was almost the same.

I looked at the writing at the bottom. One was dated 1972, the other dated 1956.

I kept rummaging through the rolls until I found one that was dated 1935. Our town wasn’t a town back then, nor did Patterson’s Reach exist.

And carefully examining the inlets, bays, and coves, given the parameters of what remembered from Boggs’s map, it could be any one of a dozen locations. I didn’t take that much notice when I’d been looking at Boggs’ collection.

“Hey, Smidge,” Nadia yelled out.

I wished she wouldn’t call me that.

I went out of the room and down the passage, past about four other offices, until the second to last. She was standing outside an office with a shut door. I tried it, and it was locked.

“A locked door in an abandoned Mall. What are the odds?”

“That there’s something in there that someone wants to keep secret. This has to be Alex’s lair. What was in that other room?”

“Maps.”

“Any use?”

“Perhaps. Boggs probably had the same, but I never took much notice of his. Trouble is, I was having difficulty believing there is a treasure buried out there somewhere.”

“A lot of people seem to be looking for this non-existent treasure, so there must be something in it.”

“Any of your keys fit?”

She tried the first, no, the second, the same one she had used to get in, and it worked. A skeleton key perhaps, that oped every lock in the place.

The door swung open and we shone the torch lights inside.

“What the hell happened in here?” she muttered.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

An excerpt from “Strangers We’ve Become” – Coming Soon

I wandered back to my villa.

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

I looked up and saw the globe was broken.

Instant alert.

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

Who?

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

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

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

Suitably armed, it was time to return the surprise.

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

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

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

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

I stepped in the darkness and closed the door.

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

Silence, an eerie silence.

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

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

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

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

Or was I?

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

Still nothing.

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

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

Contract complete.

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

Crunch.

I stepped on some nutshells.

Not my nutshells.

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

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

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

Two assassins.

I’d not expected that.

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

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

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

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

“Who employed you?”

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

Friends of Bespalov, no doubt.

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

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

 

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

Until I heard a knock on my front door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You need to go away now.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expected her to scream.  She didn’t.

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

“What happened here?”

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

“Not so much, looking at your arm.”

She came closer and inspected it.

“Sit down.”

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

“Do you have medical supplies?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Alisha?”

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

“That was wrong of her to do that.”

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

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

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

 

© Charles Heath 2018-2020

Searching For Locations: Disneyland, Paris, France

Whilst I found this tree house to be interesting, it seems to be far from practical because there was little to keep the wind and rain out, though I suppose, in the book, that might not be such a problem.

Be that as it may, and if it was relatively waterproof, then the furnishings would probably survive, and one had to also assume that much of the furnishings, such as the writing desk below, would have washed up as debris from the shipwreck.

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The stove and oven would have to be built by hand, and it is ‘remarkable’ such well-fitting stones were available.  It doesn’t look like it’s been used for a while judging by the amount of gree on it.  Perhaps it is not in a waterproof area.

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The dining table and the shelf in the background have that rough-hewn look about them

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A bit of man-made equipment here for drawing water from the stream

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And though not made in the era of electricity, there is an opportunity to use the water wheel to do more than it appears to be doing

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And tucked away in a corner the all-important study where one can read, or play a little music on the organ.  One could say, for the period, one had all the comforts of home.

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I am the most disorganized person on the planet

It’s something that I have never been able to get a handle on, and I seem to stagger from one day to the next without getting anything done.

Over the years many people tried, some with limited success, others completely failing.

I guess I’m one of those freeform sorts of people and I guess it goes with the star sign, Gemini.

Yes, I’ve been to those time management courses with the books and diaries to seem to want you to time manage your life.  I considered it bit like micromanagement where your supervisor had access to the diary and put in the work, the estimated time and when it was expected to be finished.

I didn’t work well with deadlines.

But oddly enough most of the jobs I’ve had over the years have involved time management of one sort or another and I have survived.

Now, in semi-retirement, I really need something to organize my days so something gets done.  As a writer allocating 12 midnight to 2am for writing doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

Unfortunately it is the best time for me to write.

Anyone else out there with the same problem, and if so what was your answer to the time management problem?

An excerpt from “Echoes from the Past”

Available on Amazon Kindle here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

 

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

newechocover5rs

My disdain for some reporters, and reporting these days

It is sometimes quite trashy and that’s saying something!

Having been a journalist in a previous lifetime, and one that always believed that the truth mattered, it didn’t take long to realise that journalists should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Newspapers, and all other forms of media, will only write what they believe will sell, or what they think the public wants to read. The truth, sadly, is not the first thing on the readers mind, only that someone is to blame for something they have no control over, and it doesn’t matter who.

And the more outlandish the situation, the more the public will buy into it.

This, I guess, is why we like reading about celebrities and royalty, not for the good they might do, but the fact they stumble and make mistakes, and that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.

Similarly, if the media can beat up a subject, like the corona-virus, and make it worse that it is, then people will lap up the continuing saga, as it relates to them, and will take one of two stances, that they believe the horror of it, and do as they’re asked, or disbelieve it because nothing can be that bad, and ignore it and the consequences of disobedience. knowing the government will not press too hard against the non compliers simply because of domocracy issues it will stir up.

That is, then the media will get a hold of this angle and push it, and people will start to think disobedience is a good thing not a bad.

So, our problems of trying to get a fair and balanced look at what the coronavirus is all about is nigh on impossible. We are continuously bombarded with both right and wrong information, and the trouble is, both sides are very plausibly supported by facts.

And that’s the next problem we have in reporting. We can get facts to prove anything we want. It;s called the use and abuse of statistics, and was an interest part of the journalism degree I studied for. We were told all about statistics, good and bad, and using them to prove the veracity of our piece.

I remember writing a piece for the tutor extolling the virtues of a particular person who was probably the worst human since Vlad the Impaler, using only the facts that suited my narrative. I also remember the bollocking he gave me for doing so, but had to acknowledge that sometimes that would happen.

Integrity of reporting only went as far as the editor, and if the editor hated something, you had to hate it too. This is infamously covered in various texts where newspaper publishers pick sides, and can influence elections, and governments. It still happens.

So, the bottom line is, when I;m reading an article in the media, I always take it with a grain of salt, and do my own fact checking, remembering, of course, not just to fact check to prove the bias one way of the other, but the get a sense of balance.

We have state elections coming up where I live, but it does not sink to the personal sniping level as it does in the US, we haven’t sunk that low yet, but we haven;t got past the sniping about all the wrongs and failed promises of the govern,ment of the day, or the endless tirade against the opposition and how bad a job they did whenb they were previously in government.

You can see, no one is talking about what they’re going to do for us, no one is telling us what their policies are. It’s simply schoolyard tit for tat garbage speak. What happened to the town hall meeting, a long and winding speech encompassing the policies, what the government plans to do for its people in the next three years, and then genuinely answer questions?

Perhaps we should ban campaigning, and just get each party to write a book about what they intend to do, and keep them away from the papers, the TV, and any other form of media, in other words, don’t let them speak!

And don’t get me started about the drivel they speak in the parliament. Five year olds could do a better job.

OK, rant over.

In a word: Cell

For those who break the law, they will be very familiar with the eaning of the word cell.  It’s a room a jail, not very big, with an uncomfortable bed, and no sharp edges.

And I’m sure the prisoners are not supplied with knives so they can dig through the mortar and remove bricks on their way to the great escape.  That, I’m sure only happens at the movies.

A cell can also be a building block in the creation of humans, animals, fish, and plants.  No doubt there are a million other things that require cells.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this cellular activity is whether or not there is life, and therefore cells, on Mars.  I’m guessing we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.

We can have a cell phone, which in some parts of the world is also the name of a mobile phone.

Don’t get me started on what I think of cell phones, or how intrusive they are on our everyday lives, the number of people who seem to be continually glued to the screen, or how many near misses there are in the street and crossing the road.

On the other hand cell phones in the hands of a writer are very useful because when we get flashes of story or plotlines in one of those once awkward moments, we can now jot it down on a cell phone scribbling pad.

A cell can also be used to describe a smaller unit within a larger organisation, or, if you are a thriller writer who dabbles in espionage, you will be very familiar with the concept of a sleeper cell.

Who knows, in reality, there might be some living next door to us and we would never know.  Oops, been watching too much television again.

Digging deeper into the more obscure definitions of the word cell, we come up with a single transparent sheet that has a single drawing on it, one of many that make up an animated film, or film.  If a film runs at 32 frames per second, that means there are 32 cells.

There are fuel cells

There are dry cell batteries

And as a general warning, don’t go too near cell towers or you will be a victim of radiation that might be extremely harmful to your health.

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 43

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on the 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.

Chasing leads, maybe

—–

“You left a paper trail, a car registration form at the flat in Bromley.”

I saw him shake his head. “I thought I’d removed any evidence.”

“Good thing then, that I found it, and not Severin who was next through the door.”

He nodded towards Jennifer. “What’s she doing here, she was one of your surveillance team.”

“She came with me. The department threw her out, I found her and asked her if she wanted to find out what was going on. Apparently, she did. Everyone can put their guns down now. We are, believe it or not, all friends here.”

Jennifer put her gun back in a pocket I hadn’t seen before.

Adam lowered his, but it was still ready to shoot if either of us made the wrong move. The old woman’s aim hadn’t changed; she was still intent on shooting me if I moved.

“Mother, give it up.”

A few seconds later she lowered the weapon, but it was still ready. To fire if I moved.

“Can we sit,” I asked. Having a gun aimed at you tended to make you feel week in the knees. I was.

There were three chairs in front of the fireplace, this room also having a fire ready but not lit, and one chair by the writing-table. We sat in the three chairs, the old woman over by the table. She put the rifle down on the desktop, within easy reach.

“My first question,” I said, “has to be, how are you still alive?”

“You left when Severin’s crew arrived to clean up. He left at the same time. Luckily. Then two of Dobbin’s agents arrived and cleaned up the cleaners, as it were, and took me to a safe place where it was discovered my injuries were not fatal.”

“You were hit by a sniper, that’s hard to believe he, or she, aimed to miss.”

“They didn’t. I think I moved slightly because of you, so I have you to thank for my life. Something else to remember, Dobbin doesn’t know I’m here, and I think the only link was that registration certificate. No one actually knows me by Adam Quigley, except, of course, my mother.

“And the USB everyone is after?”

A few seconds of silence, then, “It’s missing.”

“Were you the only one who knew where it was?”

“No, but as far as I’m aware, that person is dead, killed by the explosion you witnessed. We were due to meet there, just before the explosion which is why I was heading there.”

“You walked past it, as I recall.”

“Standard procedure. I walk past, check to see if the contact is there, then come back a few minutes later. I was running late, just got past when it went up. We would have both been in there, and dead.”

“And the USB gone with it?”

“Yes. My friend had it with him at the time. I was going there to pick it up.”

“No copies?” It was too much to expect there would be, even if it was worth more than life itself.

“No. That sort of information needs to be in as few places as possible.”

“You knew what it was about?”

“Yes.”

“And…”

“It’s above all our pay grades. But something I can tell you; I know why your Severin and Maury wanted it back.”

“It was theirs?”

“Yes. They originally stole it. I stole it from them and trying to return it to whom it belonged.”

“Nobbin?”

“God, no. I’ve since discovered he’s as crooked as all the rest. But now that it’s gone, it doesn’t matter who the owner of the information is. Just staying one step ahead of the jackals, that’s the job in hand.”

——-

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 52

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


“So, how do you know your way around this place?”

We walked slowly and carefully because there was a lot of rubbish in the alleyway, mostly from cracks in the walls where the concrete lining had broken away. At times there were mounds of rubble, and we had to carefully walk over these.

The ground was dusty and signs of footprints from past visitors, but it had been a long time, they had almost disappeared. There was also a dank, musty aroma, just short of being nauseating.

“The result of a misspent youth. Not many people know there’s a passageway around the whole perimeter of the mall, with only four entry points from outside, and two inside. This was how we escaped when we came along for some shoplifting.”

“Did you ever think of going straight?”

“Wasn’t much chance of that. There were expectations, and when I did try to give it up, I got ostracised, and ended up having to commit bigger follies to regain acceptance.”

We reached the end of the passage, where it turned right. At a guess, I would say we were in one of the corners of the mall, near the front entrance.

She turned left and then stopped. I could see the bottom of the steps leading up.

A stopped next to her and we shone both torches up the stairs. The light only went as far as a landing.

“What’s up there,” I asked.

“Offices. A holding cell. It’s where the security team used to be. It was separate from everything else. The security guys used to shake down the teenage girls up there, and not in a nice way.”

“You?”

“Once, but I told Vince and he sorted the bastard out. Didn’t happen again.”

A small sidebar to life in a mall.

She started up the steps. “If anything is going to be anywhere, this will be the place. The front of the mall was the safest part, built properly on solid foundations. As work continued, heading sideways and back, corners were cut. It’s not the only shoddy building there is in this area.”

The Benderby’s construction company had built most of the buildings in the county, always coming in at the lowest price. The only place not cracking or falling to pieces was the town hall.

At the top of the stairs, there was another wide passage with rooms branching off it.

It was a little less dusty and musty up here, but the rooms were quite messy, with papers scattered everywhere. It looked like someone had been looking for something. The first room didn’t look like it had been used since everyone left, nor the second.

The third was a different story. It was reasonably clean, a large desk in the middle of the room, and several boxes on the side with rolled-up papers, probably blueprints or plans.

I went in. Nadia kept going up the passage to check the other rooms.

I pulled out one of the rolls and laid it on the table.

It was a map, one that stretched a hundred miles in each direction and giving a very clear view of all the river systems, lakes, mountains, and coastline. Our town was almost in the middle of the chart.

I pulled out another and it was almost the same.

I looked at the writing at the bottom. One was dated 1972, the other dated 1956.

I kept rummaging through the rolls until I found one that was dated 1935. Our town wasn’t a town back then, nor did Patterson’s Reach exist.

And carefully examining the inlets, bays, and coves, given the parameters of what remembered from Boggs’s map, it could be any one of a dozen locations. I didn’t take that much notice when I’d been looking at Boggs’ collection.

“Hey, Smidge,” Nadia yelled out.

I wished she wouldn’t call me that.

I went out of the room and down the passage, past about four other offices, until the second to last. She was standing outside an office with a shut door. I tried it, and it was locked.

“A locked door in an abandoned Mall. What are the odds?”

“That there’s something in there that someone wants to keep secret. This has to be Alex’s lair. What was in that other room?”

“Maps.”

“Any use?”

“Perhaps. Boggs probably had the same, but I never took much notice of his. Trouble is, I was having difficulty believing there is a treasure buried out there somewhere.”

“A lot of people seem to be looking for this non-existent treasure, so there must be something in it.”

“Any of your keys fit?”

She tried the first, no, the second, the same one she had used to get in, and it worked. A skeleton key perhaps, that oped every lock in the place.

The door swung open and we shone the torch lights inside.

“What the hell happened in here?” she muttered.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

A story inspired by Castello di Briolio – Episode 41

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination with what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

——

Jackerby trusted no one.  He had been given orders by someone further up the ranks than Wallace and his people, someone who suspected that some or all of the Englishmen turned German turned Englishmen were traitors. 

The only men he could trust fully were those who had come with him in the glider, a dozen at most.  It’s why he had just completed a secret briefing with his second in command who would take over the operation if anything happened to him.

Not that it would, but he liked the idea of being prepared, and humoring the others into believing they were essential to the operation.  Eckhardt would be a good man in a crisis, battle scarred from the Russian front, and glad to be on this operation for obvious reasons.

He would do anything Jackerby asked, even kill Wallace and Johannsen if he was required to.

That might yet be necessary because Wallace didn’t seem interested in going after Atherton which made him think that Wallace wasn’t all that he appeared to be.  Atherton was a thorn in their operation and had to be eliminated.  The fact Wallace and Johannsen didn’t agree with him raised suspicions as to their motives.

Was there ultimately going to be a triple cross?

He had been lurking in the shadows when Wallace gave the drunken fool Leonardo his orders to go down to the village.  More defectors.  Jackerby couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the Reich, especially when they were winning the war, and, if it were up to him, he’d executer the lot of them not send them back.

But, orders were orders.

He went back to Eckhardt and told him he was going down to the village to observe Leonardo and his team in action, and that he was in charge of the men in his absence.

Eckhardt, on the other hand, knew that Jackerby, if he could find a way that would not cause them trouble, was going to eliminate Leonardo because they were a liability.  The plan was once Leonardo and his men were gone, Jackerby would take over rounding up the defectors.  Or, more to the point, they would go missing before reaching the castle.  There was only one that mattered, the rest were dead weight.  And once the prize had been captured, Jackerby would escort him home and collect the kudos for himself and his men.

The ultimate prize; leave to reunite briefly with their families and a cushy job in Berlin, away from the horrors of war in the trenches.

Leonardo and the five others that made up the resistance left the castle by one of the underground tunnels.  Leonardo knew of two, both of them shown to him by Carlo.  He knew that Carlo knew where more were, but Carlo was not particularly helpful at the best of times.

He also knew Carlo might be stupid enough to storm the castle, especially after what Leonardo had done to Martina, and, when it hadn’t happened, he suspected Atherton had appealed to him to wait.

Atherton, too, he knew had some idea of the layout of the castle, have been told to keep an eye on Atherton when he first arrived because he was reportedly an archaeologist.  Leonardo had, and reported back to Wallace that it appeared Atherton had been surveying the castle.  He had simply been told to keep Atherton under surveillance, and make notes of any discoveries, and particularly what Atherton was doing.

He had, not that it amounted to much.  Not when he realized Leonardo was following him.  Leonardo decided not to tell Wallace Atherton had rumbled him, just that he was roaming the passages looking for something.

It had worked so far and kept Wallace off his back, but it wasn’t going to last.

Bottom line, Leonardo had to find and kill Atherton before any trouble started, otherwise, it would be his neck on the block.

Jackerby followed.

It wasn’t hard to follow Leonardo because he and his man were the last people to know what stealth was.  He could hear them crashing through the forest between the castle and the village up to 250 meters away, he was making so much noise.

But, Jackerby thought, perhaps Leonardo didn’t need to worry about alerting his presence to Atherton, not if he was already working with him.

To Jackerby and his paranoia, it made sense.  Maybe he was going to meet with Atherton right now and do a deal with the defectors.  How many others had turned up at the village in the last week or so, and never made it to the castle?

He was right, Jackerby told himself, not to trust them.  Everyone, in the end, was an enemy of the Reich.

It took 20 minutes to reach the outskirts of the village, and when Jackerby could see the edge of the woods, and the barn and remains of the farmhouse just the other side of the tree line, he dropped back, found a suitable observation point, and waited.

Leonardo and his men had stopped at the back of the barn, and one of his men was about to go find the defectors.  The rest of Leonardo’s men would wait with him, and surprise their guests, before taking them back to the castle.

As far as “Jackerby was concerned, they would never reach the castle, and this time, he would take care of Leonardo, and the others.

It would be easy to say that Atherton had killed all the members of the resistance, and then got killed himself in a shootout with Jackerby.  It was a plausible reason for all the deaths, though he would have to come up with a suitable excuse for leaving the castle and following Leonardo and his men when Wallace had expressly forbidden it.

Wallace.

Perhaps if he got his hands on Atherton he’d ask him if Wallace was a traitor.

——-

© Charles Heath 2020-2021