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

“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.

Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.

They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?

When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.

When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.

Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.

http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

whatsetscover

Writing about writing a book – Day 8

I am painfully reminded that I need to have Social Media presence.

Marilyn told me that if I was on ‘Facebook’ I would have been able to follow her ‘adventures’.  If I was on Twitter I could acquire reading followers, and Instagram, to share photos of book covers and my travels.

I drag out the dusty laptop computer, the one that had an email account that goes back to the early days of the internet, and used a VT52 mainframe interface, or at least that was what I think it was called, and fire it up.  The operating system is out of date, error messages on top of error messages.  Thankfully the desktop works, but it too, is out of date, running Windows 97.

Even my mobile phone is more powerful and sophisticated than both my boat anchors.

Time to get into the ‘real’ world!

My writing is now on hold.  Shopping for a new computer, and updating operating system software, is a priority.

 

I am pleasantly surprised at just how inexpensive reasonable good laptop computers cost.  I looked at tablets from Apple, Samsung, and the Surface.  All very nice, but a computer, as big and cumbersome as it is, is still the cheapest option.

My afternoon is taken up with installing windows 10, setting up a Gmail email account, investigating, and signing up for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  I also take out a cheap subscription to Microsoft Office.  I need Word for manuscripts, and Excel to budget, Powerpoint to dazzle.

I take to reading the information about ‘creating an author presence on the internet’ and see that perhaps I need to have a ‘blog’, whatever that is, and a website.

There’s free and there’s not so free.

Damn.  A day wasted in computer and social media land.  They even had something called the ‘cloud’.  I think I have been out of the computer world too long, having transferred into middle management just as the next phase of the computer technology started making an impact.

Tomorrow I tackle blogging.

 

I can’t sleep, not without writing something for the day.  My thoughts have been swirling around Bill and Jennifer, and it’s time to bring them together, and by, guess what, a calamity!

 

I start scribbling:

 

Hospitals were places I rarely visited.  Like others who shared my fear, it would take a rather compelling reason to get me there.  On this occasion, it had been a compelling reason.  If I hadn’t got to the hospital when I did, I would now be dead.

When I woke, it was to disorientation and confusion.  I didn’t remember much of anything that had happened after having lunch with Jennifer, and running into Aitchison.

When I finally came from the depths of unconsciousness and returned to whatever version of reality that was running at the time, I found myself in a position where any movement, including breathing, was painful.

It was dark, the shapes were blurry, and some moved.  As objects slowly came into focus, activity increased, and more people arrived.  My major concern at that time was the sensation of immobility, and of how difficult it was to breathe, or, more to the point, how painful.  Muffled voices spoke in a strange language.  After a short time, consciousness slipped away, as, mercifully, did the pain.

It was another week, though it seemed like a month before I realized where I was.  It had taken a while, but it was definitely a hospital.  One of the shadowy figures also became recognizable.

Jennifer.

She, too, had a number of bandages, and the black and blue look of a person who’d just survived a hit and run.

Then I remembered.

Aitchison.

Outside the restaurant.

When my eyes finally came into focus I looked at her and saw her smile.  Another realization, though it became clearer sometime later, was that my hand was in hers, and as she squeezed it gently, I felt it give me strength.

“Welcome back.”  She was quite close, close enough for her perfume to overpower the clinical disinfectant.

“Where did I go?”  My voice was barely above a whisper, my throat dry.

“We’re not sure.  You died once.  Now you only have eight lives left.”

It was odd that I’d heard it before, somewhere in the distant past, so I believed I had fewer lives to spare.  I looked at her.  “Aitchison?”

“He didn’t make it.”

“You?”

“I got caught in the crossfire.  So did you.  The police said Aitchison was the target.  We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I’d heard that before, too.  I think that was Richardson’s problem, and he’d suffered the same fate, but his end result was terminal.

The conversation had exhausted me, and the pain returned.  It was still difficult to breathe, and I dared not look where most of the tubes were going.  Tears ran down my cheeks as the pain became unbearable.  I heard her call a nurse, and not long after the pain receded.  So did my consciousness.

 

Enough, it’s time for sleep.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

An excerpt from “One Last Look”: Charlotte is no ordinary girl

This is currently available at Amazon herehttp://amzn.to/2CqUBcz

 

I’d read about out of body experiences, and like everyone else, thought it was nonsense.  Some people claimed to see themselves in the operating theatre, medical staff frantically trying to revive them, and being surrounded by white light.

I was definitely looking down, but it wasn’t me I was looking at.

It was two children, a boy and a girl, with their parents, in a park.

The boy was Alan.  He was about six or seven.  The girl was Louise, and she was five years old.  She had long red hair and looked the image of her mother.

I remember it now, it was Louise’s birthday and we went down to Bournemouth to visit our Grandmother, and it was the last time we were all together as a family.

We were flying homemade kites our father had made for us, and after we lay there looking up at the sky, making animals out of the clouds.  I saw an elephant, Louise saw a giraffe.

We were so happy then.

Before the tragedy.

 

When I looked again ten years had passed and we were living in hell.  Louise and I had become very adept at survival in a world we really didn’t understand, surrounded by people who wanted to crush our souls.

It was not a life a normal child had, our foster parents never quite the sort of people who were adequately equipped for two broken-hearted children.  They tried their best, but their best was not good enough.

Every day it was a battle, to avoid the Bannister’s and Archie in particular, every day he made advances towards Louise and every day she fended him off.

Until one day she couldn’t.

Now I was sitting in the hospital, holding Louise’s hand.  She was in a coma, and the doctors didn’t think she would wake from it.  The damage done to her was too severe.

The doctors were wrong.

She woke, briefly, to name her five assailants.  It was enough to have them arrested.  It was not enough to have them convicted.

Justice would have to be served by other means.

 

I was outside the Bannister’s home.

I’d made my way there without really thinking, after watching Louise die.  It was like being on autopilot, and I had no control over what I was doing.  I had murder in mind.  It was why I was holding an iron bar.

Skulking in the shadows.  It was not very different from the way the Bannister’s operated.

I waited till Archie came out.  I knew he eventually would.  The police had taken him to the station for questioning, and then let him go.  I didn’t understand why, nor did I care.

I followed him up the towpath, waiting till he stopped to light a cigarette, then came out of the shadows.

“Wotcha got there Alan?” he asked when he saw me.  He knew what it was, and what it was for.

It was the first time I’d seen the fear in his eyes.  He was alone.

“Justice.”

“For that slut of a sister of yours.  I had nuffing to do with it.”

“She said otherwise, Archie.”

“She never said nuffing, you just made it up.”  An attempt at bluster, but there was no confidence in his voice.

I held up the pipe.  It had blood on it.  Willy’s blood.  “She may or may not have Archie, but Willy didn’t make it up.  He sang like a bird.  That’s his blood, probably brains on the pipe too, Archie, and yours will be there soon enough.”

“He dunnit, not me.  Lyin’ bastard would say anything to save his own skin.”  Definitely scared now, he was looking to run away.

“No, Archie.  He didn’t.  I’m coming for you.  All of you Bannisters.  And everyone who touched my sister.”

 

It was the recurring nightmare I had for years afterwards.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the thoughts, the images of Louise, the phone call, the visit to the hospital and being there when she succumbed to her injuries.  Those were the very worst few hours of my life.

She had asked me to come to the railway station and walk home with her, and I was running late.  If I had left when I was supposed to, it would never have happened and for years afterwards, I blamed myself for her death.

If only I’d not been late…

When the police finally caught the rapists, I’d known all along who they’d be; antagonists from school, the ring leader, Archie Bannister, a spurned boyfriend, a boy whose parents, ubiquitously known to all as ‘the Bannister’s, dealt in violence and crime and who owned the neighbourhood.  The sins of the father had been very definitely passed onto the son.

At school, I used to be the whipping boy, Archie, a few grades ahead of me, made a point of belting me and a few of the other boys, to make sure the rest did as they were told.  He liked Louise, but she had no time for a bully like him, even when he promised he would ‘protect’ me.

I knew the gang members, the boys who tow-kowed to save getting beaten up, and after the police couldn’t get enough information to prosecute them because everyone was too afraid to speak out, I went after Willy.  There was always a weak link in a group, and he was it.

He worked in a factory, did long hours on a Wednesday and came home after dark alone.  It was a half mile walk, through a park.  The night I approached him, I smashed the lights and left it in darkness.  He nearly changed his mind and went the long way home.

He didn’t.

It took an hour and a half to get the names.  At first, when he saw me, he laughed.  He said I would be next, and that was four words more than he knew he should have said.

When I found him alone the next morning I showed him the iron bar and told him he was on the list.  I didn’t kill him then, he could wait his turn, and worry about what was going to happen to him.

When the police came to visit me shortly after that encounter, no doubt at the behest of the Bannister’s, the neighbourhood closed ranks and gave me an ironclad alibi.  The Bannister’s then came to visit me and threatened me.  I told them their days were numbered and showed them the door.

At the trial, he and his friends got off on a technicality.  The police had failed to do their job properly, but it was not the police, but a single policeman, corrupted by the Bannisters.

Archie could help but rub it in my face.  He was invincible.

Joe Collins took 12 bullets and six hours to bleed out.  He apologized, he pleaded, he cried, he begged.  I didn’t care.

Barry Mills, a strong lad with a mind to hurting people, Archie’s enforcer, almost got the better of me.  I had to hit him more times than I wanted to, and in the end, I had to be satisfied that he died a short but agonizing death.

I revisited Willy in the hospital.  He’d recovered enough to recognize me, and why I’d come.  Suffocation was too good for him.

David Williams, second in command of the gang, was as tough and nasty as the Bannisters.  His family were forging a partnership with the Bannister’s to make them even more powerful.  Outwardly David was a pleasant sort of chap, affable, polite, and well mannered.  A lot of people didn’t believe he could be like, or working with, the Bannisters.

He and I met in the pub.  We got along like old friends.  He said Willy had just named anyone he could think of, and that he was innocent of any charges.  We shook hands and parted as friends.

Three hours later he was sitting in a chair in the middle of a disused factory, blindfolded and scared.  I sat and watched him, listened to him, first threatening me, and then finally pleading with me.  He’d guessed who it was that had kidnapped him.

When it was dark, I took the blindfold off and shone a very bright light in his eyes.  I asked him if the violence he had visited upon my sister was worth it.  He told me he was just a spectator.

I’d read the coroner’s report.  They all had a turn.  He was a liar.

He took nineteen bullets to die.

Then came Archie.

The same factory only this time there were four seats.  Anna Bannister, brothel owner, Spike Bannister, head of the family, Emily Bannister, sister, and who had nothing to do with their criminal activities.  She just had the misfortune of sharing their name.

Archie’s father told me how he was going to destroy me, and everyone I knew.

A well-placed bullet between the eyes shut him up.

Archie’s mother cursed me.  I let her suffer for an hour before I put her out of her misery.

Archie remained stony-faced until I came to Emily.  The death of his parents meant he would become head of the family.  I guess their deaths meant as little to him as they did me.

He was a little more worried about his sister.

I told him it was confession time.

He told her it was little more than a forced confession and he had done nothing to deserve my retribution.

I shrugged and shot her, and we both watched her fall to the ground screaming in agony.  I told him if he wanted her to live, he had to genuinely confess to his crimes.  This time he did, it all poured out of him.

I went over to Emily.  He watched in horror as I untied her bindings and pulled her up off the floor, suffering only from a small wound in her arm.  Without saying a word she took the gun and walked over to stand behind him.

“Louise was my friend, Archie.  My friend.”

Then she shot him.  Six times.

To me, after saying what looked like a prayer, she said, “Killing them all will not bring her back, Alan, and I doubt she would approve of any of this.  May God have mercy on your soul.”

 

Now I was in jail.  I’d spent three hours detailing the deaths of the five boys, everything I’d done; a full confession.  Without my sister, my life was nothing.  I didn’t want to go back to the foster parents; I doubt they’d take back a murderer.

They were not allowed to.

For a month I lived in a small cell, in solitary, no visitors.  I believed I was in the queue to be executed, and I had mentally prepared myself for the end.

Then I was told I had a visitor, and I was expecting a priest.

Instead, it was a man called McTavish. Short, wiry, and with an accent that I could barely understand.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Alan.”

When I saw it was not the priest I told the jailers not to let him in, I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  They ignored me.  I’d expected he was a psychiatrist, come to see whether I should be shipped off to the asylum.

I was beginning to think I was going mad.

I ignored him.

“I am the difference between you living or dying Alan, it’s as simple as that.  You’d be a wise man to listen to what I have to offer.”

Death sounded good.  I told him to go away.

He didn’t.  Persistent bugger.

I was handcuffed to the table.  The prison officers thought I was dangerous.  Five, plus two, murders, I guess they had a right to think that.  McTavish sat opposite me, ignoring my request to leave.

“Why’d you do it?”

“You know why.”  Maybe if I spoke he’d go away.

“Your sister.  By all accounts, the scum that did for her deserved what they got.”

“It was murder just the same.  No difference between scum and proper people.”

“You like killing?”

“No-one does.”

“No, I dare say you’re right.  But you’re different, Alan.  As clean and merciless killing I’ve ever seen.  We can use a man like you.”

“We?”

“A group of individuals who clean up the scum.”

I looked up to see his expression, one of benevolence, totally out of character for a man like him.  It looked like I didn’t have a choice.

 

Trained, cleared, and ready to go.

I hadn’t realized there were so many people who were, for all intents and purposes, invisible.  People that came and went, in malls, in hotels, trains, buses, airports, everywhere, people no one gave a second glance.

People like me.

In a mall, I became a shopper.

In a hotel, I was just another guest heading to his room.

On a bus or a train, I was just another commuter.

At the airport, I became a pilot.  I didn’t need to know how to fly; everyone just accepted a pilot in a pilot suit was just what he looked like.

I had a passkey.

I had the correct documents to get me onto the plane.

That walk down the air bridge was the longest of my life.  Waiting for the call from the gate, waiting for one of the air bridge staff to challenge me, stepping onto the plane.

Two pilots and a steward.  A team.  On the plane early before the rest of the crew.  A group that was committing a crime, had committed a number of crimes and thought they’d got away with it.

Until the judge, the jury and their executioner arrived.

Me.

Quick, clean, merciless.  Done.

I was now an operational field agent.

 

I was older now, and I could see in the mirror I was starting to go grey at the sides.  It was far too early in my life for this, but I expect it had something to do with my employment.

I didn’t recognize the man who looked back at me.

It was certainly not Alan McKenzie, nor was there any part of that fifteen-year-old who had made the decision to exact revenge.

Given a choice; I would not have gone down this path.

Or so I kept telling myself each time a little more of my soul was sold to the devil.

I was Barry Gamble.

I was Lenny Buckman.

I was Jimmy Hosen.

I was anyone but the person I wanted to be.

That’s what I told Louise, standing in front of her grave, and trying to apologize for all the harm, all the people I’d killed for that one rash decision.  If she was still alive she would be horrified, and ashamed.

Head bowed, tears streamed down my face.

God had gone on holiday and wasn’t there to hand out any forgiveness.  Not that day.  Not any day.

 

New York, New Years Eve.

I was at the end of a long tour, dragged out of a holiday and back into the fray, chasing down another scumbag.  They were scumbags, and I’d become an automaton hunting them down and dispatching them to what McTavish called a better place.

This time I failed.

A few drinks to blot out the failure, a blonde woman who pushed my buttons, a room in a hotel, any hotel, it was like being on the merry-go-round, round and round and round…

Her name was Silvia or Sandra, or someone I’d met before, but couldn’t quite place her.  It could be an enemy agent for all I knew or all I cared right then.

I was done.

I’d had enough.

I gave her the gun.

I begged her to kill me.

She didn’t.

Instead, I simply cried, letting the pent up emotion loose after being suppressed for so long, and she stayed with me, holding me close, and saying I was safe, that she knew exactly how I felt.

How could she?  No one could know what I’d been through.

I remembered her name after she had gone.

Amanda.

I remembered she had an imperfection in her right eye.

Someone else had the same imperfection.

I couldn’t remember who that was.

Not then.

 

I had a dingy flat in Kensington, a place that I rarely stayed in if I could help it.  After five-star hotel rooms, it made me feel shabby.

The end of another mission, I was on my way home, the underground, a bus, and then a walk.

It was late.

People were spilling out of the pub after the last drinks.  Most in good spirits, others slightly more boisterous.

A loud-mouthed chap bumped into me, the sort who had one too many, and was ready to take on all comers.

He turned on me, “Watch where you’re going, you fool.”

Two of his friends dragged him away.  He shrugged them off, squared up.

I punched him hard, in the stomach, and he fell backwards onto the ground.  I looked at his two friends.  “Take him home before someone makes mincemeat out of him.”

They grabbed his arms, lifted him off the ground and took him away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a woman, early thirties, quite attractive, but very, very drunk.  She staggered from the bar, bumped into me, and finished up sitting on the side of the road.

I looked around to see where her friends were.  The exodus from the pub was over and the few nearby were leaving to go home.

She was alone, drunk, and by the look of her, unable to move.

I sat beside her.  “Where are your friends?”

“Dunno.”

“You need help?”

She looked up, and sideways at me.  She didn’t look the sort who would get in this state.  Or maybe she was, I was a terrible judge of women.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Nobody.”  I was exactly how I felt.

“Well Mr Nobody, I’m drunk, and I don’t care.  Just leave me here to rot.”

She put her head back between her knees, and it looked to me she was trying to stop the spinning sensation in her head.

Been there before, and it’s not a good feeling.

“Where are your friends?” I asked again.

“Got none.”

“Perhaps I should take you home.”

“I have no home.”

“You don’t look like a homeless person.  If I’m not mistaken, those shoes are worth more than my weekly salary.”  I’d seen them advertised, in the airline magazine, don’t ask me why the ad caught my attention.

She lifted her head and looked at me again.  “You a smart fucking arse are you?”

“I have my moments.”

“Have them somewhere else.”

She rested her head against my shoulder.  We were the only two left in the street, and suddenly in darkness when the proprietor turned off the outside lights.

“Take me home,” she said suddenly.

“Where is your place?”

“Don’t have one.  Take me to your place.”

“You won’t like it.”

“I’m drunk.  What’s not to like until tomorrow.”

I helped her to her feet.  “You have a name?”

“Charlotte.”

 

The wedding was in a small church.  We had been away for a weekend in the country, somewhere in the Cotswolds, and found this idyllic spot.  Graves going back to the dawn of time, a beautiful garden tended by the vicar and his wife, an astonishing vista over hills and down dales.

On a spring afternoon with the sun, the flowers, and the peacefulness of the country.

I had two people at the wedding, the best man, Bradley, and my boss, Watkins.

Charlotte had her sisters Melissa and Isobel, and Isobel’s husband Giovanni, and their daughter Felicity.

And one more person who was as mysterious as she was attractive, a rather interesting combination as she was well over retirement age.  She arrived late and left early.

Aunt Agatha.

She looked me up and down with what I’d call a withering look.  “There’s more to you than meets the eye,” she said enigmatically.

“Likewise I’m sure,” I said.  It earned me an elbow in the ribs from Charlotte.  It was clear she feared this woman.

“Why did you come,” Charlotte asked.

“You know why.”

Agatha looked at me.  “I like you.  Take care of my granddaughter.  You do not want me for an enemy.”

OK, now she officially scared me.

She thrust a cheque into my hand, smiled, and left.

“Who is she,” I asked after we watched her depart.

“Certainly not my fairy godmother.”

Charlotte never mentioned her again.

 

Zurich in summer, not exactly my favourite place.

Instead of going to visit her sister Isobel, we stayed at a hotel in Beethovenstrasse and Isobel and Felicity came to us.  Her husband was not with her this time.

Felicity was three or four and looked very much like her mother.  She also looked very much like Charlotte, and I’d remarked on it once before and it received a sharp rebuke.

We’d been twice before, and rather than talk to her sister, Charlotte spent her time with Felicity, and they were, together, like old friends.  For so few visits they had a remarkable rapport.

I had not broached the subject of children with Charlotte, not after one such discussion where she had said she had no desire to be a mother.  It had not been a subject before and wasn’t once since.

Perhaps like all Aunts, she liked the idea of playing with a child for a while and then give it back.

Felicity was curious as to who I was, but never ventured too close.  I believed a child could sense the evil in adults and had seen through my facade of friendliness.  We were never close.

But…

This time, when observing the two together, something quite out of left field popped into my head.  It was not possible, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought she looked like my mother.

And Charlotte had seen me looking in their direction.  “You seem distracted,” she said.

“I was just remembering my mother.  Odd moment, haven’t done so for a very long time.”

“Why now?”  I think she had a look of concern on her face.

“Her birthday, I guess,” I said, the first excuse I could think of.

Another look and I was wrong.  She looked like Isobel or Charlotte, or if I wanted to believe it possible, Melissa too.

 

I was crying, tears streaming down my face.

I was in pain, searing pain from my lower back stretching down into my legs, and I was barely able to breathe.

It was like coming up for air.

It was like Snow White bringing Prince Charming back to life.  I could feel what I thought was a gentle kiss and tears dropping on my cheeks, and when I opened my eyes, I saw Charlotte slowly lifting her head, a hand gently stroking the hair off my forehead.

And in a very soft voice, she said, “Hi.”

I could not speak, but I think I smiled.  It was the girl with the imperfection in her right eye.  Everything fell into place, and I knew, in that instant that we were irrevocably meant to be together.

“Welcome back.”

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

onelastlookcoverfinal2

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

“Echoes From The Past”, the past doesn’t necessarily stay there


What happens when your past finally catches up with you?

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

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

This time, however, there is more at stake.

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

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

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

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In a word: Zip

Which, unfortunately, I do not have a lot of in my step.

At last, we have reached the end of the alphabet because I’m running out of zip to write these blogs.

So…

Zip is the sing, the energy, the spring we have in our step, that usually gets us from a to b quickly.  Without this zest, we would need to take a bus, train, or cab.

Then comes the variations like …

Zip code, we all have one of these, though in some countries it is called a postcode.

Zip it up, meaning do not speak, especially if you’re about to spill a secret.

A zip, which is a part of some types of clothing, usually in trousers, jeans, and skirts to name a few.  Some dresses have long zips, some short, all seem to get tangled at one time or another, or, in the most embarrassing of situations, split.

Then there is a colloquial use of the word zip, meaning nothing, zilch, zero, in other words, a basis for of z words.

And that’s about as much zeal I’m going to show for writing this blog, and I’m going to close the book on it.

Thank you, and goodnight.

The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 19

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.

Nothing good ever comes of snooping

 

I jumped down from the first level of the fire escape, halfway down an alley which was empty.  Keeping close to the wall so I couldn’t be seen, I headed back towards the main street, and then to a café not far from the front of the building.

Would Fred call in the police?  Surely at the very least, he would have to call an ambulance, finding an unconscious woman on the floor of a trashed flat.  He would also have to report the break-in, so I waited.

And waited.

No ambulance came.  If she had been unconscious and he’d reported it, there would be an almost instant response.  Unconscious bodies were given high priority.

After an hour passed, and no sign of a police car, or any police on foot, I thought there might be a crime wave going on, and it was taking time for the police to get there.

The fact no ambulance had turned up told me she must have regained consciousness, obviating the need for medical help.

Two hours, still nothing.

Three hours, I was left with the assumption, Jan didn’t want Fred to call the police.  It would be interesting to know what those reasons were.

My plan was to wait until she came out and follow her.  Beyond that, I would be making it up as I went.  After three hours, I had to switch cafes because of the looks the girl who made the coffee was giving me.

Apparently, people didn’t spend three hours drinking four cups of coffee unless they were working on their computer or reading a book, or paper, none of which I had.

It forced a move to another café further away and with an indistinct view of the front door, so I had to be extra vigilant.

As dusk was falling, a man nearer the doorway accidentally dropped his cup, and, when I looked up to see what the commotion was about, I saw what looked like Jan leaving, and, lucky for me, heading my way on the opposite side of the street.

Time to go back into surveillance mode.

She had changed into different clothes, and something else, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was that made her look different.  It almost made me think I’d got it wrong, and it was someone else.

Then, when she walked past me, not 20 feet away, I knew it was her.

What was different, she had suddenly become a brunette with long hair than the original shoulder-length blonde hair.  A change in persona.  Not the sort of thing a normal person did.  Unless, of course, she had a night job, one which she didn’t want anyone to recognise her.

I followed from the other side of the street.

Around a corner, past an underground station entrance, which was a huge bonus because she wasn’t going anywhere by train, not that it would matter to me.  It would if she caught a taxi.

Once or twice she looked behind her, on the same side of the street.  She looked over the other side too, in a careless sort of manner, but I was well hidden in plain sight because she wouldn’t recognise me as her assailant.

Around the corner, down another street, then stopped at a bus stop.  Still not a problem because there was no bus in sight.  On the way, I’d bought a copy of the evening paper and strolled up to the stop and sat down.  She gave me a once over and then ignored me.

The bus came and we got on.  She went upstairs I stayed downstairs, easier to get off at the same stop without raising her suspicions.

It was heading into the city, via Putney.  I had time to read the news, nothing of which was interesting, and keep one eye out for her.  She got off the bus without glancing in my direction at Putney and walked to the railway station.

After she headed for the platform, I checked where she might be going, and the service ended at Waterloo station if she went that far.  I waited a few minutes, then went down to the platform just as a train arrived.

She got on about halfway along, and I remained at the end.  I resisted the urge to move closer to her carriage where I could maintain visual contact, but since there was only one in this surveillance team, I had to be careful she didn’t see me.

The train terminated at Waterloo, and everyone had to get off.  For a few minutes, I thought I’d lost her among the other passengers.  Then I just managed to catch a glimpse of her going through the platform exit gate out into the station.

By the time I had got there, she was gone.

When you lost sight of the target, don’t panic.  And don’t act like someone who just lost a target because that will bring attention to yourself.  Take a long careful look in every direction, then move in the last direction you saw the target heading.

I did everything in accordance with my training.

The problem with Waterloo station?  There are several exits, and an entrance to the underground in the direction she had been heading.

Anyone could lead me in the wrong direction.

I went upstairs to a café, and looked down on the station floor, taking advantage of the height.

Until I felt something prodding me in the back, and a voice behind me saying, “Who are you, and why are you following me?”

Jan.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

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.