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


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.

https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

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Is it a problem to get lost in your make-believe world for a while?

It seems that we can be completely focussed on a single task to the detriment of all else, and, when that task is complete, suddenly we feel totally drained.

That’s how I feel right now.

And it’s only the start of the year, and I should be invigorated.  Perhaps COVID has something to do with it, because since about March last year, it’s been head down, tail up, with nowhere to go, no travel to plan, and not able to go anywhere other than the shops, the doctor or the chemist.

For computer programmers who never leave their semi darkened lair, ordering in pizza and Coke, it must had been a Godsend.

Given that I prefer to be at home, working on any number of stories, it usually is for me.

But, have I been working too hard, and it’s finally got to me.  I mean, you can only write so much before the brain starts to fry?

But, at the very least. I have been working on two novels that needed to be completed, not that they are exactly there yet, and other that NaNoWriMo kicked along, and I’m still writing a few pages a night, and two others that are now ready for the final edit.

This has all happened to the detriment of my episodic stories, which have lain idle since October, and then I picked up one, and wrote two or three more episodes, just to keep it ticking over.  The other two still have five spare to publish soon.

And I know it might show signs of panic but April is coming rapidly into focus, and there will be the A to Z Challenge, 26 more stories in 30 days.  I’d like to get a head start on this, but time….

Something else that pleases me, and is entirely unexpected, is that I have sold a number of copies of my books in the last month or so.  I know I’m not about to be vying for the top of the bestseller list, but it’s satisfying.

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

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

The blurb:

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

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

But doubts about whether he chose the real Susan remain.

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

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

The Cover:

strangerscover9

Coming soon

 

The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

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

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

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

An excerpt from the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Charles Heath 2019

NaNoWriMo Day 30 + 12

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

Today’s efforts are directed towards completing several chapters that have most of the text written, but waiting on previous events to play out.

In other words, the story later on depends on something happening earlier on, so I have to go back and re-write certain parts, or in one case write a whole new chapter.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen too often.

And, I’ve been discussing Ophelia’s contribution to the story with my second eldest granddaughter (who is providing the inspiration for this role) and she has decided that she needs so mystical (magic is banned you know, she tells me with a dead straight face) powers.

Yes, well, I’m working on it. At least I didn’t tell her there’s a major family calamity coming up, not ours, but her mythical family. She can wait until she reads the first draft to find out.

For those keeping an eye on the word count, this session, 4,254 words for a running total of 122,274.

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

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

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

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

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

My private detective, Harry Walthenson

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

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

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

Then there’s the title, like

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

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

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

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

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

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

PIWalthJones1

Another photograph from the inspirational pile…

I remeber once being told that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land in the clouds, if you shoot for the tree tops, you’ll finish up back where you started from.

It was a silly analogy, but I always remembered it when I looked up at the sky and saw clouds.

That was back in those hazy carefree days just after you were finished with school and you had your whole life in front of you. Your parents were there as the safety net, and were still proud of your scholastic achievements, and were not in too much of a hurry to hustle you out of the house.

But what happened when there’s a recession that came upon everyone without any warning.

Stocks plummeted, people lost their life’s savings, those with mortgages and loans suddenly finding that along with unemployment came no income, no ability to pay the bills, and therefore lost everything.

Although I never said it, I was thinking what good was an education when the whole world had gone to hell in a handbasket.

Two things I remember from back then, which in the context of disaster, wasn’t all that long ago. Firstly, my father making us children go camping from before we could walk, and with it, to survive with nothing but the clothes on our backs, and our wits.

It had happened to him, as a member of am expedition in Africa in his younger days, thinking that he might become the next great explorer, or archeologist, and finishing up getting lost, even though he asserted the other members had deliberately left him behind.

And secondly, that it was essential that we forge working relationships with any and all those who were like minded, such as those who wanted to be saved, not those who expected everyone else to so the work. It was obvious he had met a lot of those type of people too.

It served us well.

When nations began turning on each other, when essential resources like electricity and fuel stopped being distributed and rationed, when food suddenly became scarce, that’s when the real trouble started. My father said, at the outset, what would happen, and was glad our mother was not there to see it.

Then, when neighbours attacked neighbours once food became scarce, it was time to leave. The pity of it was, he died defending us, even after offering up some of the food we had stored away, but that had not appeased a hungry or angry mob.

His last words, “Go to where we said we would go, and remember everything I’ve taught you” were etched in my brain, and my brother and I did as he asked.

But, even knowing where we had to go, and how to get there, a plan of action made many years before, and trialled in recent years with success, nothing in the past could have prepared us for the journey.

It was, literally, time to shoot for the moon.

© Charles Heath 2021

Inspiration, maybe

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

They all start with –

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

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.

InspirationMaybe1v1

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 41

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

I gave it about five minutes before I think I started breathing again and then headed back to Jennifer.

Or where I thought I had left her.

She wasn’t there. I think, in the end, it didn’t surprise me. She had been reluctant from the start so if I had to guess, she had done a bunk. This was not her fight, nor mine, but she had a ticket out. Why would you want to come back after being betrayed by the likes of Severin and Maury?

I hope she left the car behind.

Now that I was here there was no point leaving, so I took a few minutes to search the surrounding area, just in case she was still here, just someplace else, and when she wasn’t, I quickly and silently made my way back to the side of the house with the open door from a different direction.

There was another set of French doors, these curtained, and with an overhead light above the doorway, so I kept my distance in case there was a movement activator, another which looked to be a servant’s entrance at the back. Neither door looked to be an easy viable entrance.

The original side door was still unlocked, with no lights or movement inside.

I waited, then opened the door wide enough to slip through. Again, I waited in case there was a silent alarm, then when nothing stirred, slipped through and closed the door behind me.

On the other side of the door, it was quite dark, except now I could see, on one wall, the dying embers of a fire. Someone had been in the room earlier and most likely gone to bed.

It meant the house was occupied.

It also meant I had to be careful.

On the other side of the doors, it was a lot warmer. Again I waited a few minutes, just in case someone came, and, when they didn’t, I pulled out a small torch and turned it on.

In front of me were two chairs and a table, one I would have walked into without a light. The walls had shelves and those shelves were filled with books. Some behind glass doors, others not. There was another chair by the fire, and beside it, a stack of cooks, and a table with had an empty glass and a bottle, and a pair of reading glasses.

The downstairs reading room.

I cross the room slowly, hoping there were no squeaky floorboards, to be expected in an old house like this one. The timber flooring was exposed only at the edges of the room, the rest of the floor covered in a large, discolored, and fraying carpet square.

It was old, like everything else in the room.

I was tempted to have a look at how far the books dated back to but resisted the urge. I was looking for information on the owner.

At the doorway to what looked like a passage, I turned off the torch and peered out. It was not exactly dark, my eyes had adjusted to the low-level light from low wattage lights about a foot above the floor.

Lights to help guide the way at night.

Left, rooms, right, rooms, at the end of the passage a wide doorway leading towards the other side of the house. Larger rooms perhaps.

I turned right and headed towards the front, and they stopped at the doorway to the next room. I’d deliberately walked on the carpet runner in the middle of the passage, and just managed to catch my foot when one part of the floor creaked softly.

The room next door was almost the same as the one I’d entered by, with chairs and shelves but only on two sides. This room had a long window and no French doors.

On one side there was a writing desk, open, with papers scatted on the writing surface. I quickly crossed the room to it, switched on the light, and checked.

Bills. In the name of Mrs. Marianne Quigley. This had to be Adam Quigley’s mother, and by deduction, O’Connell’s mother.

Proof I was in the right place.

Then I heard the squeak of a floorboard followed by the clicking sound of a gun being cocked.

“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot. Hands in the air. And don’t make me ask twice.”

Hands up it was.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021