It all started in Venice – Episode 12

Let’s talk about Larry.

Over the main, and desert, I told her about Siena and the Palio, painting a vivid picture of horsemanship and rivalry over the course of several hundred years, making it sound so much better than it was.

It the heat, the tight confines of the square, and the large number of people crammed in, it could be quite oppressive.

It wasn’t until after coffee arrived I decided to take a different tack and surprise her.

“You know, back in the old days, when I was working a desk, I used to do research on criminals for task forces.  I longed to get out in the field, but back then you had to be a particular sort of bastard to get those jobs.  I just didn’t have that mean streak.”

“Any I might know of?”

“One that springs to mind, Larry Pomisor, head of the so-called Waterville gang, though as an organization, is went downhill quickly after Larry’s father died and he took over.”

I’d been watching her carefully, and, yes, no matter how hard people tried to mask their surprise, it never works.  I got the hit I was looking for.

“You’re saying he’s not a crime boss?”

“Exactly.  He’s little better than a complete moron.  Blames me for the death of his brother, failing to understand that he is ultimately responsible.  If he hadn’t dragged him into the business, he’d still be alive today.”

“Why would he blame you?”

“He thinks I was at the scene of his brother’s death but whoever told him got their dates mixed up.  But Larry is nothing if not pathological in his beliefs no matter how wrong they are.”

I could see she was processing how to deal with this turn of events.  Being handed to her on a plate, exactly what Larry wanted me to talk about, I could see she was mid-way between confused and surprised.  In other words, off guard.

She now had to come up with questions that were not obvious.

“Not exactly the sort of enemy you want, then.”

“No more than any of the others I’m sure are waiting in line.  I was there, yes, but not when his brother was killed, he was alive when I left.  It was a meeting his brother called, and we believe he was going to inform on Larry, and Larry had him killed, then pinning the blame on us, and me in particular.  His brother never wanted anything to do with Waterville, but Larry never gave him the option.”

“I can’t believe that he would do that, not to his brother.  No one would do that to family.”

“Like I said, everything I learned about Larry pointed to the fact he was a moron.  His father hated him, and his mother moved to be as far from him as possible.  She lives in Sorrento you know.  His father was a piece of work, and I first met him on a domestic call-out when their neighbors reported gunshots.  She had taken a beating, not the first, and not the last, and I had to say, I’d never seen anyone more relieved when the old man died.”

I wondered what Larry was making of this if he was listening in.  He had once told me, in passing, in one of many visits to the parent’s house to intervene, that he would kill his father if he didn’t stop.

But, Larry was all talk and no action and did nothing to stop it.  In the end, it was his wife Gabrielle, who finally ended the violence. 

When it happened she called me, the most familiar face, and told me what happened.  I then told her what to do, and it eventually kept her out of jail.  Over the years since our paths rarely crossed, but significantly I was on her Christmas card list.

She had, when she learned I was living in Venice incited Violetta and I over for tea, and we went a few times, but the last was a long time ago.

“He doesn’t blame you for that too foes he?”

“Probably, but Gabrielle can put him straight on that.  I should go and see her, it’s been a while.”

 “What do you mean?  Go see Larry’s mother?”

“Why not?  The chances of Larry being there are remote.  It’ll have to be after Cecilia goes back home.  You want to come, see a bit more of Italy?”

“What?”

The shock of the conversation direction had finally caught up with her.  I’d seen her glancing more than one at her phone, and equally wondering what Larry was making of it.

“Go see Larry’s mother.  We’re old friends.  I’m sure she’d give him a stern talking-to if she knew he wanted me dead, don’t you?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll have to see.”

“Of course.  Too short notice.”

I gave her one of my winning smiles, just as Cecilia loomed out of the darkness and came over, dropping heavily into the seat next to me, and complaining, “Well, that was a spectacular waste of time and effort.”

© Charles Heath 2022

An excerpt from “Mistaken Identity” – a work in progress

The odds of any one of us having a doppelganger are quite high. Whether or not you got to meet him or her, or be confronted by them was significantly lower. Except of course, unless you are a celebrity.

It was a phenomenon remarkable only for the fact, at times, certain high profile people, notorious or not, had doubles if only to put off enemies or the general public. Sometimes we see people in the street, people who look like someone we knew, and made the mistake of approaching them like a long lost friend, only to discover an embarrassed individual desperately trying to get away for what they perceive is a stalker or worse.

And then sometimes in is a picture that looms up on a TV screen, an almost exact likeness of you. At first you are fascinated, and then according to the circumstances, and narrative that is attached to that picture, either flattered or horrified.

For me one turned to the other when I saw an almost likeness of me flash up on the screen when I turned the TV on in my room. What looked to be my photo, with only minor differences, was in the corner of the screen, the news reader speaking in rapid Italian, so fast I could only translate every second or third word.

But the one word I did recognize was murder. The photo of the man up on the screen was the subject of an extensive manhunt. The crime, murder of woman in the very same hotel I was staying, and it was being played out live several floors above me. The gist of the story, the woman had been seen with, and staying with the man who was my double, and, less than an hour ago, the body had been discovered by a chambermaid.

The killer, the announcer said, was believed to be still in the hotel because the woman had died shortly before she had been discovered.

I watched, at first fascinated at that I was seeing. I guess I should have been horrified, but at that moment it didn’t register that I might be mistaken for that man.

Not until an another five minutes had passed, and I was watching the police in full riot gear, with a camera crew following behind, coming up a passage towards a room. Live action of the arrest of the suspected killer the breathless commentator said.

Then, suddenly, there was a pounding on the door. On the TV screen, plain to see, was the number of my room.
I looked through the peep hole and saw an army of police officers. It didn’t take much to realize what had happened. The hotel staff had identified me as the man in the photograph on the TV and called the police.

Horrified wasn’t what I was feeling right then.

It was fear.

My last memory was the door crashing open, the wood splintering, and men rushing into the room, screaming at me, waving guns, and when I put my hands up to defend myself, I heard a gunshot.

And in one very confused and probably near death experience, I thought I saw my mother, and thinking what was she doing in Rome?

I was the archetypal nobody.

I lived in a small flat, I drove a nondescript car, had an average job in a low profile travel agency, was single, and currently not involved in a relationship, no children, and according to my workmates, no life.

They were wrong. I was one of those people who preferred their own company, I had a cat, and travelled whenever I could. And I did have a ‘thing’ for Rosalie, one of the reasons why I stayed at the travel agency. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but one could always hope.

I was both pleased and excited to be going to the conference. It was my first, and the glimpse I had seen of it had whetted my appetite for more information about the nuances of my profession.

Some would say that a travel agent wasn’t much of a job, but to me, it was every bit as demanding as being an accountant or a lawyer. You were providing a customer with a service, and arguably more people needed a travel agent than a lawyer. At least that was what I told myself, as I watched more and more people start using the internet, and our relevance slowly dissipating.

This conference was about countering that trend.

The trip over had been uneventful. I was met at the airport and taken to the hotel where the conference was being held with a number of other delegates who had arrived on the same plane. I had mingled with a number of other delegates at the pre conference get together, including one whose name was Maryanne.

She was an unusual young woman, not the sort that I usually met, because she was the one who was usually surrounded by all the boys, the life of the party. In normal circumstances, I would not have introduced myself to her, but she had approached me. Why did I think that may have been significant? All of this ran through my mind, culminating in the last event on the highlight reel, the door bursting open, men rushing into my room, and then one of the policemen opened fire.

I replayed that last scene again, trying to see the face of my assailant, but it was just a sea of men in battle dress, bullet proof vests and helmets, accompanied by screaming and yelling, some of which I identified as “Get on the floor”.

Then came the shot.

Why ask me to get on the floor if all they were going to do was shoot me. I was putting my hands up at the time, in surrender, not reaching for a weapon.

Then I saw the face again, hovering in the background like a ghost. My mother. Only the hair was different, and her clothes, and then the image was going, perhaps a figment of my imagination brought on by pain killing drugs. I tried to imagine the scene again, but this time it played out, without the image of my mother.

I opened my eyes took stock of my surroundings. What I felt in that exact moment couldn’t be described. I should most likely be dead, the result of a gunshot wound. I guess I should be thankful the shooter hadn’t aimed at anything vital, but that was the only item on the plus side.

I was in a hospital room with a policeman by the door. He was reading a newspaper, and sitting uncomfortably on a small chair. He gave me a quick glance when he heard me move slightly, but didn’t acknowledge me with either a nod, or a greeting, just went back to the paper.

If I still had a police guard, then I was still considered a suspect. What was interesting was that I was not handcuffed to the bed. Perhaps that only happened in TV shows. Or maybe they knew I couldn’t run because my injuries were too serious. Or the guard would shoot me long before my feet hit the floor. I knew the police well enough now to know they would shoot first and ask questions later.

On the physical side, I had a large bandage over the top left corner of my chest, extending over my shoulder. A little poking and prodding determined the bullet had hit somewhere between the top of my rib cage and my shoulder. Nothing vital there, but my arm might be somewhat useless for a while, depending on what the bullet hit on the way in, or through.

It didn’t feel like there were any broken or damaged bones.

That was the good news.

On the other side of the ledger, my mental state, there was only one word that could describe it. Terrified. I was looking at a murder charge and jail time, a lot of it. Murder usually had a long time in jail attached to it.

Whatever had happened, I didn’t do it. I know I didn’t do it, but I had to try and explain this to people who had already made up their minds. I searched my mind for evidence. It was there, but in the confused state brought on by the medication, all I could think about was jail, and the sort of company I was going to have.

I think death would have been preferable.

Half an hour later, maybe longer, I was drifting in an out of consciousness, a nurse, or what I thought was a nurse, came into the room. The guard stood, checked her ID card, and then stood by the door.

She came over and stood beside the bed. “How are you?” she asked, first in Italian, and when I pretended I didn’t understand, she asked the same question in accented English.

“Alive, I guess,” I said. “No one has come and told what my condition is yet. You are my first visitor. Can you tell me?”

“Of course. You are very lucky to be alive. You will be fine and make a full recovery. The doctors here are excellent at their work.”

“What happens now?”

“I check you, and then you have a another visitor. He is from the British Embassy I think. But he will have to wait until I have finished my examination.”

I realized then she was a doctor, not a nurse.

My second visitor was a man, dressed in a suit the sort of which I associated with the British Civil Service.  He was not very old which told me he was probably a recent graduate on his first posting, the junior officer who drew the short straw.

The guard checked his ID but again did not leave the room, sitting back down and going back to his newspaper.

My visitor introduced himself as Alex Jordan from the British Embassy in Rome and that he had been asked by the Ambassador to sort out what he labelled a tricky mess.

For starters, it was good to see that someone cared about what happened to me.  But, equally, I knew the mantra, get into trouble overseas, and there is not much we can do to help you.  So, after that lengthy introduction, I had to wonder why he was here.

I said, “They think I am an international criminal by the name of Jacob Westerbury, whose picture looks just like me, and apparently for them it is an open and shut case.”  I could still hear the fragments of the yelling as the police burst through the door, at the same time telling me to get on the floor with my hands over my head.

“It’s not.  They know they’ve got the wrong man, which is why I’m here.  There is the issue of what had been described as excessive force, and the fact you were shot had made it an all-round embarrassment for them.”

“Then why are you here?  Shouldn’t they be here apologizing?”

“That is why you have another visitor.  I only took precedence because I insisted I speak with you first.  I have come, basically to ask you for a favour.  This situation has afforded us with an opportunity.  We would like you to sign the official document which basically indemnifies them against any legal proceedings.”

Curious.  What sort of opportunity was he talking about?  Was this a matter than could get difficult and I could be charged by the Italian Government, even if I wasn’t guilty, or was it one of those hush hush type deals, you do this for us, we’ll help you out with that.  “What sort of opportunity?”

“We want to get our hands on Jacob Westerbury as much as they do.  They’ve made a mistake, and we’d like to use that to get custody of him if or when he is arrested in this country.  I’m sure you would also like this man brought into custody as soon as possible so you will stop being confused with him.  I can only imagine what it was like to be arrested in the manner you were.  And I would not blame you if you wanted to get some compensation for what they’ve done.  But.  There are bigger issues in play here, and you would be doing this for your country.”

I wondered what would happen if I didn’t agree to his proposal.  I had to ask, “What if I don’t?”

His expression didn’t change.  “I’m sure you are a sensible man Mr Pargeter, who is more than willing to help his country whenever he can.  They have agreed to take care of all your hospital expenses, and refund the cost of the Conference, and travel.  I’m sure I could also get them to pay for a few days at Capri, or Sorrento if you like, before you go home.  What do you say?”

There was only one thing I could say.  Wasn’t it treason if you went against your country’s wishes?

“I’m not an unreasonable man, Alex.  Go do your deal, and I’ll sign the papers.”

“Good man.”

After Alex left, the doctor came back to announce the arrival of a woman, by the way she had announced herself, the publicity officer from the Italian police. When she came into the room, she was not dressed in a uniform.

The doctor left after giving a brief report to the civilian at the door. I understood the gist of it, “The patient has recovered excellently and the wounds are healing as expected. There is no cause for concern.”

That was a relief.

While the doctor was speaking to the civilian, I speculated on who she might be. She was young, not more than thirty, conservatively dressed so an official of some kind, but not necessarily with the police. Did they have prosecutors? I was unfamiliar with the Italian legal system.

She had long wavy black hair and the sort of sultry looks of an Italian movie star, and her presence made me more curious than fearful though I couldn’t say why.

The woman then spoke to the guard, and he reluctantly got up and left the room, closing the door behind him.
She checked the door, and then came back towards me, standing at the end of the bed. Now alone, she said, “A few questions before we begin.” Her English was only slightly accented. “Your name is Jack Pargeter?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“You are in Rome to attend the Travel Agents Conference at the Hilton Hotel?”

“Yes.”

“You attended a preconference introduction on the evening of the 25th, after arriving from London at approximately 4:25 pm.”

“About that time, yes. I know it was about five when the bus came to collect me, and several others, to take us to the hotel.”

She smiled. It was then I noticed she was reading from a small notepad.

“It was ten past five to be precise. The driver had been held up in traffic. We have a number of witnesses who saw you on the plane, on the bus, at the hotel, and with the aid of closed circuit TV we have established you are not the criminal Jacob Westerbury.”

She put her note book back in her bag and then said, “My name is Vicenza Andretti and I am with the prosecutor’s office. I am here to formally apologize for the situation that can only be described as a case of mistaken identity. I assure you it is not the habit of our police officers to shoot people unless they have a very strong reason for doing so. I understand that in the confusion of the arrest one of our officers accidentally discharged his weapon. We are undergoing a very thorough investigation into the circumstances of this event.”

I was not sure why, but between the time I had spoken to the embassy official and now, something about letting them off so easily was bugging me. I could see why they had sent her. It would be difficult to be angry or annoyed with her.

But I was annoyed.

“Do you often send a whole squad of trigger happy riot police to arrest a single man?” It came out harsher than I intended.

“My men believed they were dealing with a dangerous criminal.”

“Do I look like a dangerous criminal?” And then I realized if it was mistaken identity, the answer would be yes.

She saw the look on my face, and said quietly, “I think you know the answer to that question, Mr. Pargeter.”

“Well, it was overkill.”

“As I said, we are very sorry for the circumstances you now find yourself in. You must understand that we honestly believed we were dealing with an armed and dangerous murderer, and we were acting within our mandate. My department will cover your medical expenses, and any other amounts for the inconvenience this has caused you. I believe you were attending a conference at your hotel. I am very sorry but given the medical circumstances you have, you will have to remain here for a few more days.”

“I guess, then, I should thank you for not killing me.”

Her expression told me that was not the best thing I could have said in the circumstances.

“I mean, I should thank you for the hospital and the care. But a question or two of my own. May I?”

She nodded.

“Did you catch this Jacob Westerbury character?”

“No. In the confusion created by your arrest he escaped. Once we realized we had made a mistake and reviewed the close circuit TV, we tracked him leaving by a rear exit.”

“Are you sure it was one of your men who shot me?”

I watched as her expression changed, to one of surprise.

“You don’t think it was one of my men?”

“Oddly enough no. But don’t ask me why.”

“It is very interesting that you should say that, because in our initial investigation, it appeared none of our officer’s weapons had been discharged. A forensic investigation into the bullet tells us it was one that is used in our weapons, but…”

I could see their dilemma.

“Have you any enemies that would want to shoot you Mr Pargeter?”

That was absurd because I had no enemies, at least none that I knew of, much less anyone who would want me dead.

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Then it is strange, and will perhaps remain a mystery. I will let you know if anything more is revealed in our investigation.”

She took an envelope out of her briefcase and opened it, pulling out several sheets of paper.

I knew what it was. A verbal apology was one thing, but a signed waiver would cover them legally. They had sent a pretty girl to charm me. Perhaps using anyone else it would not have worked. There was potential for a huge litigation payout here, and someone more ruthless would jump at the chance of making a few million out of the Italian Government.

“We need a signature on this document,” she said.

“Absolving you of any wrong doing?”

“I have apologized. We will take whatever measures are required for your comfort after this event. We are accepting responsibility for our actions, and are being reasonable.”

They were. I took the pen from her and signed the documents.

“You couldn’t add dinner with you on that list of benefits?” No harm in asking.

“I am unfortunately unavailable.”

I smiled. “It wasn’t a request for a date, just dinner. You can tell me about Rome, as only a resident can. Please.”

She looked me up and down, searching for the ulterior motive. When she couldn’t find one, she said, “We shall see once the hospital discharges you in a few days.”

“Then I’ll pencil you in?”

She looked at me quizzically. “What is this pencil me in?”

“It’s an English colloquialism. It means maybe. As when you write something in pencil, it is easy to erase it.”

A momentary frown, then recognition and a smile. “I shall remember that. Thank-you for your time and co-operation Mr. Pargeter. Good morning.”

© Charles Heath 2015-2021

Searching for locations: Salzburg, Austria

Along with My Fair Lady, another of my favorite musicals was Sound of Music and having seen it a number of times over the years, it had conjured up a number of images of Salzburg in my mind, and with them a desire to go there.  We had been to Salzburg once before, an overnight train stop between Vienna and Innsbruck, an afterthought, but what we saw then was reason enough to come back later and spend several days.

A pity then the day we arrived, and for much of our stay, it rained.  But, like hardened travelers, very little stops us from doing anything, and particularly sightseeing.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza – The Pitter in a very well-appointed room.  Breakfast included, it was a great way to start the day.  The afternoon we arrived we went for a short walk to the old city passing through the Mirabelle gardens with the Pegasus Fountain, Rose Garden, and Dwarves Garden.  Later we discovered that the archway had been used in part of the filming of Sound of Music.

We took the Festungsbahn funicular railway up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg, dating back to 1077, and the largest fortress still standing in Europe.  We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering through the rooms and exhibits and then had lunch at a café, the Salzburg Fortress Café, that overlooked the countryside.  This was where we were introduced to Mozart Gold Chocolate Cream added to our coffee.

It led us to search for the product which we eventually found in a confectionary store, Holzemayr in the Alter Markt.  Not only sis we find the Gold liqueur there was also a dark chocolate variety as well.  We bought a whole box to bring back with us, as well as a number of other chocolates including Victor Schmidt Austrian Mozart Balls, a delicious chocolate and marzipan combination.

With another afternoon to spare we visited the Salzburg Residence which previously housed Salzburg’s ruling prince-archbishops.  We visited the reception rooms and living quarters, as well as the Gallery.  It is as ornate as any of the palaces in Austria, resplendent with furnishings and paintings.  After that, the visit to Mozart’s birthplace was something of an anticlimax.

But, what we were in Salzburg for, the Sound of Music tour, and the places we visited:

The Mirabelle gardens, where Maria sang Do Re Mi in front of the gates to the gardens.  We spent some time here before and after the tour, and also has a look inside the Mirabelle Palace, which is not open to the public as it is the city administrative offices.

Leopoldskron Palace where the boating scene was filmed as well as exteriors.  They were not allowed to film inside the place and were only allowed to use the exterior.  An interesting tidbit of information, one of the children nearly drowned.

Heilbrunn palace is now home to the gazebo where Rolf and Leisl sang their song, ‘16 going on 17’.  The interesting part of this was the fact the Gazebo used to film the scene was much larger than the actual Gazebo on display.

The walkway from the fortress back to the old city passes Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a novice, and where the opening scenes were filmed.  A number of scenes were filmed here, including the song ‘Maria’ in the courtyard.  The tour only showed the exterior of the Abbey.

Salzburg lake district where panorama and picnic scenes were filmed.  Even on the dullest of days, during which throughout our tour in continually rained, the scenery was still magnificent.

Mondsee church, where the wedding scenes were filmed.  It was surprising just how small the church really is.  It was also a stop to have afternoon tea or some ‘famous’ apple strudel.

Needless to say, we watched Sound of Music straight after the tour and managed to pick out all of the places we had been to.  The only downside to the tour, singing along to the songs.  I’m sorry, but I do not sing, and some of those that were, well, I say no more.

Travelling after a pandemic: Destination Hobart

Hobart in June – Winter – Day 4 – Tuesday

Day 4 – Tuesday

We’re up early because there’s an informal breakfast put on by the resort at 9, with waffles, ice cream, and berries.

It also meant that we will be able to embark on an adventure a lot earlier than we have been previously, somewhere about 10:30.

Breakfast ends at about 10 and we take a few minutes to decide what we’re going to do.  The best option is the go-to Port Arthur, nearly 100km away, about an hour and a half drive.

The weather is great considering so far we’ve had rain and more rain, insidious cold, and snow, so for the day to be sunny with blue skies is as if the planets have lined up.

Nearly 100 km driving in rain to visit a penal colony 8n the rain was not a good prospect.

Along the way, there are a number of scenic points and intermittent views of the water which in places gives views out to sea, but it seems mostly over estuaries because the water is quite calm.

Only as we approach Port Arthur do we get to see the ocean stretch out to the horizon, and there are lookout points over rocks that display the end result of the ocean’s fury with land.

There are several viewing points for landmarks such as the Blowhole. These we will stop at on the way back

Along with a lavender factory and cafe.

Not far from that lavender factory is a Tasmanian Devil union, which seems to be an odd name for scything, but we don’t stop to see exactly what it is

Just at noon, we arrive at the Port Arthur site to be greeted by two overflow carparks, then a three-tiered carpark.  We try for the first, and closest, and get a park, more by good luck than anything else.

Good luck getting into the settlement other than through the edifice built across the whole front.  This is how you make people feel secure.  Not even an ant could get past it.

There us a restaurant, a Cafe, a gift shop, and entrance.  The cost is $45 for an adult, $20 for children, and $36 for us.

And from what I can see if the settlement, and the activities included in the admission price, we could not do any of it, so coming was not exactly a waste of time, we had to come to at least see it.

Maybe when Rosemary can walk again.

We spend time in the gift shop, I get a book that had photos of what we’re missing, sad then we head back.

Lunch at a seafood restaurant beckons.

On the way back we visit the Lavender farm, and, of course, pick up a few lavender items.

Hotel Dunally Seafood Restaurant, or so the sign outside says.

We saw this place on the way to Poet Arthur and if time allowed, we would check it out for lunch.

About 1 30 pm we go in.

Sadly, the locally caught Flounder is unavailable, no one had been able to go out and get it, so there is no fresh fish at all, not even the flathead.

Asked about the flathead, but it’s frozen seafood out of a bag and fried.  For a seafood restaurant, it’s very disappointing that it lacks fresh seafood.

We opt for the seafood bake, with chips and salad.  It’s not going to be fresh seafood, but maybe the closest thing to it, with prawns, scallops, and calamari, as well as fish pieces.

WE then decided to go back to Daci and Daci again, for another cake.

And got a look at some of the other cakes

It all started in Venice – Episode

Cecilia changes the subject

Being an up-and-coming movie start was not all beer and skittles, as the saying goes.

Juliet gave her a look that I thought was her death stare, annoyed by her arrival at what might have been a critical point in the conversation.

Cecilia saw her and shook her head.  “Oops, I’m intruding.  Sorry.”  She stood

“You’re not,” I said, which earned me a harsh look too, “We’re just having coffee, but you might want something stronger.”

“No, I’d better go.”  She was looking directly at Juliet, putting the onus directly on her.

“Stay.  We’re just having coffee.”

Cecilia waved to a waitress and sat down again.  “Great, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to an empty room.”

For effect, she touched me on my arm, her seat being closer, and I could see what she was doing. 

We opted for more coffee, Cecilia ordered a bottle of champagne, and three glasses, an attempt to smooth the rocky waters.

Juliet was definitely annoyed.  Another death stare in Cecilia’s direction, then, “would I have seen anything you’ve starred in?”

“Me?  I’m not a star, not a big name, just bit parts in series like Midsommer Murders, and Silent Witness.  I get to play dead bodies and murder victims.  My last role was a little better, I got a half dozen lines.  But I’m just one of the hundreds of hopefuls out there.”

“Do you have a day job, then, if parts are so few and far apart?”

Interesting question, Juliet was thinking on her feet.

If she was trying to catch Cecilia out, but she was ahead of Juliet.  “I do.  I’d like to say that it’s being a high-class escort, but they make more money than I’d know what to do with, so I toil away as a supermarket checkout girl.  Gives me the most flexibility regarding time off, and I get to meet so many different people, who become part of my repertoire of characters.  What do you do?”

“Pathology.”

“A doctor.”

“A disgraced doctor that can’t practice medicine.  Perhaps that might be material enough for another of your characters.”

Cecilia had one glass of champagne the moment it came, and then refilled for a second.  She offered it to us, and I nodded, taking half a glass.  Juliet declined.

“Played a hospital patient, a bomb victim, swathed in bloody bandages, been a doctor in the background once, got to spill coffee over another doctor.”

“What is the best part you’ve had?”

 “A fallen nun.”

The best said about that the better, but not before my mind went to places it shouldn’t.  I changed the subject.  “What will you be doing after the festival is over?”

“Going home.  I have an audition for a part in a film about mercenaries, they want me to be a mercenary would you believe?”

Apparently Juliet didn’t think so.

“But I have a spare few days if you want to show me more of Italy.  I’d like to see a little of Tuscany, try some wine.”

Another touch and a smile.

“I thought you were going to Sorrento.”  Not unexpected from Juliet.

“It can wait.  I’ve been thinking of going home, and can take Cecilia to Tuscany, send her on her way, and go visit Larry’s mother at Sorrento “

“And if I take up your tour offer to come with you?”

Cecilia gave me a Juliet look.

“Then I’ll send you a text saying where and when I’ll meet you.”

Change bottle empty, Cecilia gave me one last look, one that would no doubt get a reaction from Juliet, and sauntered away.

Juliet watched her leave, and after she disappeared out of sight, said, “it seems to me she’s more than just a friend.”

“That’s just her, no doubt playing a role.  She asked me if you were a girlfriend, and I said, once maybe, but not now.  Seems she didn’t quite believe me.”

“I think we both know where that ship is headed.”

The rocks, perhaps.  “It’s too soon after Violetta to contemplate anything like that.  But, that doesn’t mean I can’t be friends for now, and see what the future brings.”

“Not much if what you say about this Larry character is true.”

“That said, you might also want to be careful.  Larry’s not averse to using or killing close contacts of only to send a message.  So, if feel unsafe, or he makes an overture, tell me and I’ll pass it on to my minders.”

“If he does, I’ll definitely let you know.”

“Good.  It’s getting later.  We should get back to the hotel.”

© Charles Heath 2022

Searching for locations: O’Reilly’s Vineyard, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards located on Lamington National Park Road, Canungra, Queensland, is a 15-acre vineyard with the 163-year-old historic homestead ‘Killowen’ set up with dining rooms and long verandahs, and extensive grounds that are next to the Canungra creek where it is possible to find Platypus and turtles while partaking in a picnic.

There are about 6,000 vines of the (white) Semillon, Verdelho and (red) Chambourcin, Shiraz and Petit Vedot varieties.

We visited there in December when the vines were just starting to produce fruit. 

That fruit is usually harvested in February and then turned into wine.
The setting for picnics is, on a warm Summer’s day is idyllic, where you can wade in the creek, or go looking for a platypus.  We did not see one there the day we visited but did spend some time sitting beside the creek.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 25

This is an old chateau at the foot of a skiing area on the north island of New Zealand. It was once predominately advertised as a guest house for hikers in the summer months.

chateautongoriro

However, with fertile imaginations, we can come up with a whole different scenario.

Like, for instance, a haunted house, owned by an old and some might say creepy family, a place where few are invited, and those that are, approach the front door with trepidation.

It could be the family estate, the sort of place grandparents live, and their children consider themselves lucky to have escaped and their children, in turn, hate going there.

Of course, the opposite to that is that everyone loves going there for the holidays when the whole family gets together.

Then, a murder occurs…

It might also be a hotel in an unusual backdrop, where fugitives come to hide, or just one person from the city, trying to get away from a bad partner, or someone working there seeking a fresh start.

The truth is, there are any number of possibilities.

Travelling after a pandemic: Destination Hobart

Hobart in June – Winter – Day 2 – Sunday

It is not raining when we woke, but it had been most of the night.  After a cold start, the weather, seems to have improved, if only for the time being.

Today’s expedition is the Cascade Brewery, which doesn’t have tours at the moment because of staff issues with Covid, but does have a bar and restaurant.  There is also a historic site, an old women’s prison, and botanical gardens.  I’m not sure how far we’ll get in the gardens, but the bar and restaurant is looking good.

We get there and decide on lunch first then a visit to the women’s prison.

Fail.  The bar and restaurant are packed and there are no tables left.  Time for a photograph of the old brewery, and move on.

Instead of going to the prison, just down the road, we go off in a different direction, to Mt Wellington, thinking it might give excellent views of Hobart.

Only a sign says the road is supposed to be closed, but it is not, so we and a dozen others are venturing up the road towards the summit.

The road was probably opened temporarily, but it is getting more treacherous as the snow appears and the road is wet.  We make it about 2km before deciding it’s unsafe.

The adventure continues because at the bottom of the hill we decided to go to Huonville, hoping to chance upon the apple orchards and all things apple.

It was an immense letdown.  There was nothing, except for one innocuous building with a sign out front saying it was open, but for all intents and purposes looked like it was completely empty.

Until you drove around the back to the carpark where there were hundreds of cars, and inside, totally packed.

It’s where everyone in Huonville had gone.

And not where we were going to get a distinctly Tasmanian meal.

We had to settle for another pie from Banjo’s in Sandy Bay.

It all started in Venice – Episode 11

Verbal sparring with Juliet

I had expected Juliet would try and maneuver the conversation in the direction Larry wanted, and I thought about whether I would be obtuse in simply ignoring her and talking about anything else, or just have fun with Larry who, no doubt, would be listening in.

Her first question was hardly surprising, an effort to see if I would tell her what my work was.  I couldn’t even if I wanted to, but I could intimate certain things.  But not straight away, Juliet was going to give to ask the right questions.

“Since retirement, I spent most of my time looking after Violetta.”

“Was she unwell?”

A natural assumption that everyone made, but nothing could be further from the truth.   She had given me purpose after so long in a trade that traded in endless lies and deception.

And it had been on one of those missions she had been caught in the crossfire, as I pretended to be, and got her out.  We found each other again, by accident, literally, and it developed from there.

I was done with that job and wandering aimlessly around Europe at the time.  She knew something was wrong with me, but never pushed, just accepted that everything would be better in time.

And it was.

It was a while before I answered, several vivid memories of her rising to the surface as they did, unexpectedly at times.

“No.  I often think she was exactly what she thought I needed to be for her.  She had come from a family that had servants all their lives, and there were certain expectations.”

I could see it in her expression, that Violetta treated me like a servant.   Good, let her.

“I had always wondered what it was you did, that you could end up I’m my hospital in such bad shape.  I never bought that car accident excuse we were given, because the injuries were inconsistent.”

“You were an expert on car injuries?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I had made it a hobby if you like, to treat as many as possible, cataloging the injuries so that other doctors might treat patients with such injuries more efficiently.”

“So, having said that, what in your humble opinion was the cause of my injuries?”

“Being tossed out of a moving car, but more likely the result of a bar fight, the sort they had in the old wild west.”

And she’d be right.  It was six against two, and at a disadvantage, and, yes, I had been thrown a short distance, but not by the enemy.  It was a gesture to save me from a worse beating.  I had been lucky that night, my partner had not.

“Well, always an interesting topic for doctors sitting around a campfire talking shop.  But I will say this, I was a policeman once, with a blue uniform too.  I did spend time on the streets, but mostly doing paperwork, as I keep telling everyone.”

“And what caused your injuries?”

She was persistent, I’ll give her that.

“Getting involved in a domestic argument.  It’s not the sort of work anyone wants to get in the middle of, and my partner at the time was killed.  You saw what happened to me.  We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She gave me a measured look, one that seemed to say she didn’t believe a word of it, and I was fine with that.  In any other circumstance, we would not be talking about it, and I had tried to put the real events of that day behind me.

It wasn’t easy.  Not when you lose someone.  It becomes that situation where at first you blame yourself for the death, and then after enough people tell you it wasn’t your fault, you begin to wonder what you could have done better to prevent it.

A lot, perhaps, but I’d been younger then, and not as wise.  That came layer with experience.

“Tell me about you,” I said, changing the focus.

“Nothing to tell.”

“I read newspapers Juliet, and I know what happened.  It might have been on page 16, but it leaped off the page.  I wanted to believe it wasn’t true.”

If she thought she was going to escape the inquisition, she was wrong.

I had been surprised to see her name, more surprised at the circumstances, a dalliance with drugs, a bad call, an avoidable death, and the downward spiral from there.

The photo of her in the paper after her arrest was not pretty.  She went to jail for a short period, lost her license to practice medicine, and lost a whole lot more.

“If you read the news, then there’s nothing left to tell.  I’m clean now, have been for a few years.”

The admission came almost reluctantly, for someone in her situation, it was like an evening ender when the truth was out.

“You were a good doctor.  What happened?”

“Too many hours, not enough sleep.  A husband who was too consumed in his own career, I took the easy way out.  Life is a series of choices, and I made a few bad ones.  Shit happens.”

“So, what do you do now?”

“Forensic medicine, assisting coroners.  I work with the dead.  I figure I can’t hurt them anymore.  I try to see the people who don’t survive car crashes, and continue my work in the hope some of the death and mayhem can be prevented.”

As well as doing Larry’s dirty work.  Had she done this before?

Sparring suspended, the main courses arrived.

© Charles Heath 2022

Searching for locations: O’Reilly’s Vineyard, Canungra, Queensland, Australia

O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards located on Lamington National Park Road, Canungra, Queensland, is a 15-acre vineyard with the 163-year-old historic homestead ‘Killowen’ set up with dining rooms and long verandahs, and extensive grounds that are next to the Canungra creek where it is possible to find Platypus and turtles while partaking in a picnic.

There are about 6,000 vines of the (white) Semillon, Verdelho and (red) Chambourcin, Shiraz and Petit Vedot varieties.

We visited there in December when the vines were just starting to produce fruit. 

That fruit is usually harvested in February and then turned into wine.
The setting for picnics is, on a warm Summer’s day is idyllic, where you can wade in the creek, or go looking for a platypus.  We did not see one there the day we visited but did spend some time sitting beside the creek.