The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 13

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 prioritising.

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

Am I working for anyone now?

 

So, there I was, walking along the street, hands in pockets, trying to look like my whole world hadn’t come crashing down on me when a car pulled over to the side of the road.

I may have been down in the dumps but not that far that I wasn’t still aware of what was going on around me, the training had been that good, so I hung back a little from the curb and waited to see if was me they were after, or just some lucky rich person being dropped off.

And ready to disappear into the crowd, not that there was one, but there were three exits available and within momentary reach if necessary.

I watched the rear window go down slowly then saw a familiar face.

Nobbin.

“Get in Mr Jackson.  We have more to talk about.”

I hesitated like anyone with the training I had would, as any person with common sense would too, I guess.

“It’s perfectly safe, I assure you.”  He sounded reassuring.

A glance into the car showed only him and the driver, who was getting out of the car.  I watched him come around to the curbside and put his hand on the door handle.

“Sir,” he said.

He opened the door.  Nobbin had moved to the other side.

I shrugged, then got in.  A thought: how many people had got into cars such as this, and were never seen again?”

It was not a statistic that reached any of the newspapers.  Only the end result, a body washed down the Thames, with no indication of who it was, or where they came from, and no identification, or means of identification available.

The door closed, the driver went back to the front of the car, and then gently eased the car out into the traffic.

“I’m sorry for the theatrics surrounding this meeting, but it is necessary.  I’m sure you were told of the need for secrecy in this matter, and I’m just reinforcing that.”

“Just who are you?  And, for that matter, those people back in that building?  Or, if it’s not too hard to wrap your head around, who the hell have I been working for?”

“Good questions, all.  At least now I can speak freely.  As you can, Mr Jackson.”

“Except I have no idea who’s side you’re on, I’m on, or anyone for that matter.  This is not what I signed up for.”

“Well, to put some perspective on your situation, Mr Jackson, you were not supposed to live to tell about it.  It was an operation that was created with one purpose in mind, to find an agent named

William O’Connor, and kill him.  And everyone in the team assigned to the task.”

“By Severin and Maury?  If so, why didn’t they kill me in the alley along with this O’Connor?”

“That is a mystery to all of us.”

“And those people back in the room.  Who the hell were they?”

“Operations.  Trying to find out how a sub-section could be created and function within their purview and not be detected.  That’s what it was, run by two agents who had been expelled a few months back, but who were clever enough to work around all of the safeguards, recruit four agents, and then go after the man who caused the end of their careers.”

“Simple, it seems.”

“Very.  And, if it had not been for you, we would never have known who or why.”

“Perhaps we should be thankful there was an explosion then, otherwise we’d all be dead.”

“Or not, because as far as I know, that was part of the operation, designed to take the target, you and the surveillance member behind you.  It only did a third the job.  It didn’t go off at the critical moment.  No one was seriously hurt, by the way.”

“The policeman?”

“Critical but stable.  He’ll survive.”

“The police who were accusing me of being the bomber?”

“Our people trying to delay you, so our man could get away.  Seems they trained you better than we expected.  Did O’Connor say anything to you?”

“There wasn’t much time before I found him, and Severin shot him.”

“Anything at all?”

“He knew who I was.”

“Then he knew the whole team, and who was running it.”

“He killed two of them.”

“In self-defence.  They were not only surveillance but also assassins.  Different training before they joined your group.”

I had thought there was something odd about them.

“Anything else,” he asked again.

“Yes.  He said to tell you he found something he should, and that the evidence is…  And that’s when he was shot.  He didn’t tell me where it was.”

“He didn’t have to.  We had set up three prearranged drop sites, so it must be in one of those.  Here’s my card.”

He handed me a white card with a name and a phone number.  The name was not Nobbin.

“If this Severin contacts you again, call me.  I am available any hour of the day or night on that number.”

“If he doesn’t?”

“Then you will hear from me in the not too distant future.  The fact you’re a survivor tells me you are resourceful and have the makings of a good agent, one I can use in my department.”

“And those others back at the office?”

“You won’t hear from them again.”

The car stopped outside an underground staircase.

“This is your stop, Mr Jackson.  Thank you for your co-operation.”

Perhaps my career wasn’t in tatters.  I got out of the car, and watched it leave before heading for the underground, his card safely tucked away in my pocket.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

‘What Sets Us Apart’ – A beta readers view

There’s something to be said for a story that starts like a James Bond movie, throwing you straight in the deep end, a perfect way of getting to know the main character, David, or is that Alistair?

A retired spy, well not so much a spy as a retired errand boy, David’s rather wry description of his talents, and a woman that most men would give their left arm for, not exactly the ideal couple, but there is a spark in a meeting that may or may not have been a set up.

But as the story progressed, the question I kept asking myself was why he’d bother.

And, page after unrelenting page, you find out.

Susan is exactly the sort of woman the pique his interest. Then, inexplicably, she disappears. That might have been the end to it, but Prendergast, that shadowy enigma, David’s ex boss who loves playing games with real people, gives him an ultimatum, find her or come back to work.

Nothing like an offer that’s a double edged sword!

A dragon for a mother, a sister he didn’t know about, Susan’s BFF who is not what she seems or a friend indeed, and Susan’s father who, up till David meets her, couldn’t be less interested, his nemesis proves to be the impossible dream, and he’s always just that one step behind.

When the rollercoaster finally came to a halt, and I could start breathing again, it was an ending that was completely unexpected.

I’ve been told there’s a sequel in the works.

Bring it on!

The book can be purchased here: http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 72

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.

Back at the hospital with Boggs

Nadia dropped me off at the hospital where Boggs had been taken.  She offered to come in with me, but I said Boggs might not be too receptive to any Cossatinos given the circumstances of where we found him, adding I was not trying to be disrespectful until I found out what happened.

It was still possible he had ended up on the beach after being dealt with by her father, brother, or some of their gang.  I could have expressed myself better because there was no mistaking that look she gave me.

Coming on top of the admission she almost forced out of me, about trust, I got the impression that the rapport we had built up was slipping away, much like sand through fingers.

Watching her drive off, I wondered if that might be the last time we spoke.  It was, I had come to the conclusion on the way back from the beach, a relationship fraught with many problems, in my case, being with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and in hers, well, I was not sure what her expectations were.

If only she wasn’t a Cossatino.

I went in the main entrance, asked at the admissions counter where Boggs was, giving my name, and stated the fact I was his best friend.  I was expecting to be told the only visitors could be direct relatives.

It elicited a phone call which on any other occasion I might have dismissed as hospital protocol, but in this instance, and the grave expression on the admission clerk’s face told me this was different.

When she hung up the phone she told me to sit, someone would come to get me.  Several minutes later the Sheriff came out of the doors leading into the emergency department.

It looked serious if the sheriff was involved.  I was hoping Boggs had not succumbed to his injuries, even after the medics has said his survival prospects were good.

“Sam.  I was hoping you would come to see Boggs.”

“How is he?”

“Uncooperative to the extent of truculent.”

“He’s awake then.”

“Aside from exposure, and a thorough shaking up, there’s little wrong with him a night or two won’t fix.  But, there’s a small problem with the Cossatinos.  They claim he stole a document from their residence, and they want to charge him with trespassing and theft.  He had nothing with him when they brought him here.”

“Maybe they were chasing him and he hid it somewhere.”

“Maybe, but he’s not talking.  Perhaps you could persuade him to tell you because we need a statement, or I’ll have to charge him, pending an investigation.”

“I’m not exactly his best friend at the moment.”

“Because of Nadia?”

News traveled fast in this town, or was it like the sheriff once told me another time I’d got into trouble, nothing happened in his town that he didn’t know about.  Or my mother told him to tell me she was bad news, which was the most likely scenario.

“She is not the sort of girl you want to be with.  You know as well as I do what the Cossatinos are like, and that’s all of them, Sam, without exception.”

My mother had spoken to him because those were her words.  The sheriff had to be more diplomatic.

“What happened to cutting people some slack?  Have you considered she might be different?”

“She has a file, Sam.”

It was all he needed to say.  I wanted to believe her, but discounting all the rumors and stories I’d heard about her was not going to justify overlooking the obvious.

“Message received and understood.  Is Boggs up to taking visitors?”

“Yes.  Follow me.”

We went through the doors leading to the emergency department, down a corridor where ambulance patients in various stages of distress were lined up waiting to be processed, it was a busy night.  At the end, we turned right where there were several rooms, one of which had a policeman standing outside.

A nod from the sheriff and the policeman opened the door and I went in.  The sheriff didn’t follow me.

Boggs was almost sitting up, staring out the window, until the door closed when he turned to see who had come into the room.  When he saw me, he turned back to the window.

Then I noticed a girl sitting in the chair beside the bed, almost obscured from view.  It took a moment to recognize her, Charlene, the sheriff’s daughter.

What was she doing here?

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

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

The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 12

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 prioritising.

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

Was I working for a ghost?

 

I sat in that room for an hour.

I had no doubt someone was on the other side of the mirrored wall, watching me, analysing my body language.  I hoped I hadn’t given any indication that Nobbin was a name that I recognised, or knew, but I was still new to this game, and as much as I tried to perfect it, I still didn’t think I had a poker face.

More than likely I had a ‘tell’.

There was something else I had to worry about, and that was what approach this Dobbin would take.  For instance, did he know that I had met up with the man in the alley, and stretching that big if, did he know who the man in the alley was, and was he one of ours.

Of course, that was another problem I had, and that was recognising who ‘ours’ were.  It seems the people I knew, were not the same people who were really running the place.

Or, paradoxically, were these people, interlopers, trying to get intel on the group I was supposedly working for.  But they hadn’t disavowed me, so I must be working for someone they approved or knew of.

An hour and a half, and I was beginning to think this might be another game by my previous interrogators.  I was glad not to be on the other side of the mirror, trying to work out what I was ‘telling;’ them.  Once, I’d got up and stared directly into the mirror, thinking I might be able to see who was behind it.  I also thought of tapping it to see if I could get a reaction.

And, in fact, I was about to do that very thing when Nobbin walked through the door and closed it behind him.

I saw him do a quick check of the room, from the floor to the roof, and stopping briefly at the mirror, before sitting down.

“We probably have an audience for this discussion,” I said, inclining my head towards the mirror.

“You might be right, but I did ask for a clean slate, and if anyone is considering recording or viewing this interview, there will be dire consequences.”  Looking at the mirror, he added, “I made that very clear at the highest level.”

He then looked back at me.  “Your name, I believe, is Sam Jackson?”

“Yes.”  My current working name, that is.  Once deployed to the field we started using aliases, and my first and current alias was Sam Jackson.  But how they made the passport look old and used for that legend was interesting, yet not a question anyone would answer.

“You were recently assigned to a surveillance team, for this man.”

He’d brought a folder with him and pulled out a photograph of the man I’d cornered in the alley.

“Is that him?”

Was there a right or wrong answer here?

“Yes.”

“Who was leading this operation?”

“A man named Severin.”

“Describe him.

I did.

It evoked no reaction.  Nobbin had a poker face.  In fact, I was beginning to think it was etched in stone.

“Do you know who he is?” I asked.

“No.  But we will find out.  Thank you for your time.”

He stood, gave me one last look, and left the room.

I waited a minute, and then followed him out, where a security officer was waiting to escort me out of the building.

On the steps outside, security pass returned, I wondered if that was then end of my tenure with that organisation.  Or whether I actually had any tenure in the first place.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

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 2018-2022

strangerscover9

Skeletons in the closet, and doppelgangers

A story called “Mistaken Identity”

How many of us have skeletons in the closet that we know nothing about? The skeletons we know about generally stay there, but those we do not, well, they have a habit of coming out of left field when we least expect it.

In this case, when you see your photo on a TV screen with the accompanying text that says you are wanted by every law enforcement agency in Europe, you’re in a state of shock, only to be compounded by those same police, armed and menacing, kicking the door down.

I’d been thinking about this premise for a while after I discovered my mother had a boyfriend before she married my father, a boyfriend who was, by all accounts, the man who was the love of her life.

Then, in terms of coming up with an idea for a story, what if she had a child by him that we didn’t know about, which might mean I had a half brother or sister I knew nothing about. It’s not an uncommon occurrence from what I’ve been researching.

There are many ways of putting a spin on this story.

Then, in the back of my mind, I remembered a story an acquaintance at work was once telling us over morning tea, that a friend of a friend had a mother who had a twin sister and that each of the sisters had a son by the same father, without each knowing of the father’s actions, both growing up without the other having any knowledge of their half brother, only to meet by accident on the other side of the world.

It was an encounter that in the scheme of things might never have happened, and each would have remained oblivious of the other.

For one sister, the relationship was over before she discovered she was pregnant, and therefore had not told the man he was a father. It was no surprise the relationship foundered when she discovered he was also having a relationship with her sister, a discovery that caused her to cut all ties with both of them and never speak to either from that day.

It’s a story with more twists and turns than a country lane!

And a great idea for a story.

That story is called ‘Mistaken Identity’.

Read an extract tomorrow.

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 70

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.

The beach, and a body

I had expected to find the rocks we were slowly and carefully chambering over to be smooth, worn down by the constant washing over by the waves.

They were, to a certain extent, but there were places where the jagged edges were as sharp as a knife, and I had more than one cut on my hand.

Even with the stiff breeze coming in off the water, it was still hot, laborious work and it took over an hour to reach the first part of Sandy Beach, a thin strip below the rock line, and soaring behind it, a rocky cliff face that would required rock climb training to scale, and then notwithstanding a lot of safety gear.

It didn’t surprise me that Nadia was an expert rock climber.  She was built like a finely tuned cat, as lithe and graceful moving across the hazards.

At times she held my hand, keeping me from falling off, or worse, into danger, and certain injury.  At times, I didn’t want to let go.

Then on the windswept beach, she looked every bit the conqueror, hair blowing in the breeze, completely ignoring the conditions.  She belonged here, I didn’t.

The beach stretched for 200 yards or so and was, at times, up to 50 feet wide. Nothing had walked on this beach since the last tide, but more than likely, not for a long time because it was inaccessible from the shoreline unless you were a rock climber

But it was private land, and a fading sign, with Ormistons fading name at the bottom, told anyone who came ashore that trespassers would be prosecuted.

And, I thought. If they survived the reefs, at this tide semi-exposed and covered the whole of the distance.  No boat could get through. 

That also meant it was highly unlikely that the pirate had landed here, but we did a sweep with the metal detectors.  I had my hopes built up where my detector started making a lot of noise, but it was only a cupboard door with a metal hinge that had set it off, a bit of flotsam washed ashore.

We were both disappointed, then lamenting our luck or lack of it, we started heading towards the neck stretch of sand, barely discernable in the distance, but not before another hazardous trek across the rocks.

It took half an hour carefully picking our across the rocks before it was good to be on the sand again.  I helped her down from the rock perch and took a moment to rest.

“Did you see something further up the beach, just before you jumped?”

I had, but I thought it was the carcass of a beached fish. Perhaps a dolphin that had been savaged by sharks.  Or just a lump of kelp, of which some was scattered along the Highgate line.

“It might be just kelp.  Or more flotsam.  I’m sure we’ll soon find out.”

We also had to keep an eye on the tide, having started out just ashore or so before low tide, giving ourselves sufficient time to search and get back.

This part of the shoreline was longer, and closer to the edge of the property line, accessible only by climbing the rocks that jutted out into the sea, not exactly the easiest of tasks.  In fact, it served as a deterrent, and as far as Nadia was aware, no one had ever scaled that cliff face.

The object on the ground was no closer to being identified from a distance, but now, closer, it looked to me like it might be a body, my first thought, another of the Cossatino’s hit jobs, the shore being so remote it would never be discovered.

“That’s a body,” I heard the panic in her tone, right behind me.

We both dropped the detectors and ran, discovering as we came up to it, that we were both right.

It was covered from head to toe in black, including a balaclava covering the face.  It was impossible to tell what sex it was, lying front down with the head tilted to one side as if the ocean had washed it ashore.

The fact there were no tears in the clothing told me, I’d there were reefs out there, the body had not been washed ashore.  Just how did it get there.

These were all momentary thoughts because there was a more urgent thing to be done

“Help me roll it over,” I said.

She took the bottom half and I the top and gently lifted it just enough to turn it over onto the back, then I slowly pulled the balaclava off.

As soon as I saw the face, bruised and swollen, I knew who it was.

Nadia shrieked, then said, “What the hell is he doing here?”

The missing Boggs.

I could tell by the look on her face she was assuming her family had something to do with him being here.

But, all that aside, I tried not to panic, or let my surprise or shock take over, letting the medical training I’d received during a stint with the local fire station take over, first checking to see if he had a pulse.

It was faint, but there.  That meant we needed medical help. And fast.  I pulled my phone out and checked for a signal.  Then, with maps, got our location.  There was something familiar about the numbers, but their significance eluded me.  There were bigger problems to worry about.

Then I dialed 911, and when they answered, described the situation, gave them the location, and with a few other instructions to me from the dispatcher, I went back to Boggs.

By this time Nadia was beside him, wiping his face gently with tissues she must have had in her pocket.  I tried not to give her the impression I blamed her family for his situation, simply because that might not be the case.

The last time I saw him he had a rope and his mother had said he was an experienced climber.  And with his proximity to the cliff face, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.

I checked his pulse again and listened closely to his breathing, shallow with a slight rattle.  I unzipped his jacket and lifted his shirt, and could see the discoloration from bruising.  It was possible he slipped, or lost his footing, and crashed against an outcrop, knocking himself out, or falling to the ground with the same effect.  A closer inspection showed the bare minimum of climbing equipment set up, and now, looking closer at the cliff face, I could see the rope dangling, but stopping short by about 20 feet.

Nadia didn’t speak, but I could see she was scared.

I touched her on the shoulder and she jumped.

“It’s not your fault,” I said.

“But it could be…”

“I don’t think so.  He looks like he tried coming down the side of the cliff and slipped or fell.  I think he may have collapsed here, but the tide has removed any foot or drag marks so it’s hard to tell what happened.”

“Why not go the way we did?”

“He might not know about it or considered it too far.  Or the climbing fanatic in him took over.  I have to say, I never knew he was a climber, in fact, there’s probably a lot I don’t know.  Maybe if I’d spent more time with him this mightn’t have happened.”

While waiting I called Boggs mother and relayed what had happened, where he’d been taken and the prognosis, which was good.  He was in no danger of dying, though had he not been found, that would have been a different story.  Then I called the sheriff’s office to let them know, but he had already had the news passed on, and I said I would drip in and answer any questions they might have.  I guess Boggs might have to explain why he was trespassing. 

Not long after that, I turned to look back towards the way we’d just come in response to the sound of a helicopter.  If it was, that was a remarkably quick response time.  When it came closer I could see it was one of the Coast Guards’ distinctive red Sikorski’s, which was surprising.

The helicopter veered inland and the sound of the approach was somewhat muffled.  I had thought they might come on on a sea approach, but then it occurred to me it might be an opportunity to fly over the Cossatino kingdom, having a legitimate excuse to do so.  Then it crossed the cliff line with a roar, and hovered while the pilot assessed a landing spot.

I could see several people at the side door making preparations as the pilot brought it down, gently landing on the sand.  As soon as it touched down two men jumped out, one, I assumed, a medic.

“You were quick.”

It had been less than a half-hour since I called.

“We just wrapped up at another accident.  What do we have here?”

I went through all the things I’d done and ended by showing him the chest bruising.

His was a more thorough check and confirmed what I’d discovered, no broken bones, possible cracked ribs, or sprains to both ankles, indicating he had fallen a short distance.

A stretcher was brought over, and they carefully put Boggs on it, then took him to the helicopter, the whole operation taking no more than ten minutes.  I declined the offer of going back with him, there being space only for one other passenger.  He gave me the name of the hospital they would be taking him to, and I watched the helicopter leave.

The whole time Nadia had kept her distance, and, I’d noticed, glanced up the cliff.  Did she think the arrival of a helicopter on their beach would summon a posse of Cossatinos?  That thought had also occurred to me, especially where there were signs, now somewhat faded, that said trespassers would be shot on sight.

I looked too.

And saw something I had not expected to see.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

“The Devil You Don’t”, she was the girl you would not take home to your mother!

Now only $0.99 at https://amzn.to/2Xyh1ow

John Pennington’s life is in the doldrums. Looking for new opportunities, and 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 follow.

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’.

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The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 12

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 prioritising.

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

Was I working for a ghost?

 

I sat in that room for an hour.

I had no doubt someone was on the other side of the mirrored wall, watching me, analysing my body language.  I hoped I hadn’t given any indication that Nobbin was a name that I recognised, or knew, but I was still new to this game, and as much as I tried to perfect it, I still didn’t think I had a poker face.

More than likely I had a ‘tell’.

There was something else I had to worry about, and that was what approach this Dobbin would take.  For instance, did he know that I had met up with the man in the alley, and stretching that big if, did he know who the man in the alley was, and was he one of ours.

Of course, that was another problem I had, and that was recognising who ‘ours’ were.  It seems the people I knew, were not the same people who were really running the place.

Or, paradoxically, were these people, interlopers, trying to get intel on the group I was supposedly working for.  But they hadn’t disavowed me, so I must be working for someone they approved or knew of.

An hour and a half, and I was beginning to think this might be another game by my previous interrogators.  I was glad not to be on the other side of the mirror, trying to work out what I was ‘telling;’ them.  Once, I’d got up and stared directly into the mirror, thinking I might be able to see who was behind it.  I also thought of tapping it to see if I could get a reaction.

And, in fact, I was about to do that very thing when Nobbin walked through the door and closed it behind him.

I saw him do a quick check of the room, from the floor to the roof, and stopping briefly at the mirror, before sitting down.

“We probably have an audience for this discussion,” I said, inclining my head towards the mirror.

“You might be right, but I did ask for a clean slate, and if anyone is considering recording or viewing this interview, there will be dire consequences.”  Looking at the mirror, he added, “I made that very clear at the highest level.”

He then looked back at me.  “Your name, I believe, is Sam Jackson?”

“Yes.”  My current working name, that is.  Once deployed to the field we started using aliases, and my first and current alias was Sam Jackson.  But how they made the passport look old and used for that legend was interesting, yet not a question anyone would answer.

“You were recently assigned to a surveillance team, for this man.”

He’d brought a folder with him and pulled out a photograph of the man I’d cornered in the alley.

“Is that him?”

Was there a right or wrong answer here?

“Yes.”

“Who was leading this operation?”

“A man named Severin.”

“Describe him.

I did.

It evoked no reaction.  Nobbin had a poker face.  In fact, I was beginning to think it was etched in stone.

“Do you know who he is?” I asked.

“No.  But we will find out.  Thank you for your time.”

He stood, gave me one last look, and left the room.

I waited a minute, and then followed him out, where a security officer was waiting to escort me out of the building.

On the steps outside, security pass returned, I wondered if that was then end of my tenure with that organisation.  Or whether I actually had any tenure in the first place.

 

© Charles Heath 2019