“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Character refinement

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section is the one that involves Annalisa, and her boyfriend, Simmo:

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Driving in suburbia

It was one of those beautiful Autumn mornings, blue sky with a smattering of clouds but a sunny day all the same.  It’s Sunday so there is not as much traffic on the road.

Anyone with any sense would be going to their favorite coffee place and settling down to your choice of coffee and perhaps a toaster or muffin to accompany the conversation.

This is what’s happening at the cafe we go for coffee.  9:00 in the morning it is packed.  But great coffee is hard to find, and this is apparently great coffee.

It’s that in-between time before it gets windy, cold and wet, with the sort of chill you can feel in your bones, rather it’s the time when you have a barbeque in the mid-afternoon and get home before the cold sets in, or take the kids to the park for some healthy exercise.

Today I have to take a drive from one side of suburbia to the other, taking a network of main roads with rather anonymous names such as North and South

We travel through the older suburbs, those with a collection of red or white bricks and timber dating back to the fifties and sixties.  They are not, for the most part, in a good state of repair, and rather than looking ramshackle, it’s more like they are slowly decaying.

Fences are rotting or falling over, extensions like they have been glued on rather than added by an architect, and paint either fading or missing.  For the most part, people are struggling to keep up with the cost of living, and too busy to worry about maintenance.

Some have been bulldozed and replaced, blocks are cleared awaiting new development, others are being renovated.  Any way you look at them they are still worth a great deal of money being relatively close to the city.  Nut it’s a double-edged sword, worth a lot, but costing more to keep.

It’s a location we could never afford.  Because we were not affluent we were pushed out to the less expensive outer suburbs.  This was of course 50 years ago, and now those outer suburbs are now the new inner suburbs and people are buying up to 50 km further out in the new estates.  When I was young these suburbs were farms and open land.

It also surprises me that people would want to live on the main road because with traffic as it is heading into the city, it would be difficult to leave or return by car.  At least for these people, public transport is better than in the outer suburbs.

Because it’s Sunday my trip takes a lot less time, except for those unpredictable traffic lights, some of which I missed and took a while to cycle through the other traffic before it was our time to move.  It’s the only disappointment of the modern era, the fact roads were never made to handle the traffic, and the fact they now have to bulldoze homes to make way for roads.

Pity they didn’t lay down the foundations of a proper transport system, much like they have in major European cities.

“Trouble in Store” – Short Stories my way: Annalisa’s story

 It’s time to look at what’s been written for the unfortunate Annalisa, who had been caught up in a situation that is rapidly getting out of her control, not that she had it under control in the first place.  Perhaps it’s time to start reassessing her bad boy phase and think about a new lifestyle. 

Drugs, for her, were fun to begin with, but she can now see the effect they have on long term users, and the question will be, can she learn from this and move on?

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2018-2020

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 8

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while travelling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.

 

A voice with a German accent, a male, middle-aged.  A scientist?  He sounded very frightened.

“Apparently I’m on the wrong side.”

“Englander?”  The voice sounded very close, perhaps the cell next to mine.

“Yes.  Seems the men upstairs are not, even though they look like my fellow soldiers, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered they were German.  Did you come here looking for a better life away from the Reich?”

“I heard rumours of such a place in Italy where if you had certain information, they, the British and Americans would help you escape.  I thought it was another SS ruse, but a friend told me he believed it was true, and we came together.”

“Is he still here?”

“No.  He was granted safe passage with another group who left a week ago, or so I was told.”

“And why are you still here?”

“Waiting to be sent in the next group.”

I arrived a week ago, probably just after the last group had been dispatched, more than likely to their deaths, or back to the Reich.  No more had been processed since I’d arrived.  No one had come or gone.

“How did you specifically get here?”

“The Resistance.  We had a name to contact in the town not far from here.  He then arranged for us to be brought here.”

Not the resistance that may have originally been involved, but a collaborator.  I’d been having problems communicating with the resistance cells in this area, and now I think I knew why.  They’d been informed on by one of their own.  Because of the problems, we’d decided not to use the normal channels to get, and because they didn’t know I was coming it was the reason why there ‘d been the last minute botched attempt on my life in transit.

The problem was far worse than any of us had imagined.

And there was a lot less hope for a rescue by the local resistance.

“How many others are here?”

“Three.  There have been no new arrivals for several days.  And I think there are a few prisoners who are being tortured by the sound of it.”

And if Jackerby gets his way, I might be added to the list of suspects to be questioned.  I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before they realised I had usable information, especially about the resistance cells.  It certainly gave credence as to why Jackerby hadn’t been so rough with me.

It looked like it wasn’t going to be long before being asked a few sticky questions.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Just when you think you’ve found the right wordprocessor

It was as if Microsoft Word was sent down from that place in the universe where a group of torturers sit around a table to find new ways of making our lives just that little bit more difficult.

I mean, most of the time it works really well and behaves itself.

But…

Then there are the times, usually when you are stressed about a deadline, or you are nearly at the end of what you believe to be the most brilliant writing you have ever put on paper.

Then…

Disaster strikes.

It could be the power goes off, even for just a few seconds, but it’s enough to kill the computer.  It could be that you have reached the end and closed Word down, thinking that it had autosaved, all the while ignoring that little pop up that says, ‘do you want to save your work’?

It’s been a long day, night, or session.  You’re tired and your mind is elsewhere, as it always is at the end.

You always assume that autosave is on.  It was the last time, it has been since the day you installed it however long ago that was.

So…

When the power comes back on, you start the computer, go into Word, and it brings back all the windows you had open when the power failed, and the one with the brilliant piece you just wrote, it’s just a blank sheet.

Or up to where it last autosaved, which is nowhere near the end.

Or it didn’t save at all.

You forget the software updated recently and that always brings changes.  Usually unwanted changes.

By which time you have that sinking feeling that all is lost, deadline missed, brilliant work lost, it’s the end of the world.

You promise yourself you’re going to get Scrivener, or something else, where this doesn’t happen.

Or if you’re like me, you put the cat on the keyboard and tell him to sort the mess out.

OMG, it’s Friday again

Someone, many years ago, told me that once you turned 65 the weeks just flew, you know, like when a day was a long time, days will seem like hours, weeks like days, and years, well, it’s like watching the time clock on a time machine.

That last week went really fast.

But…

I finally knuckled down and got some work done on the multitude of writing projects I’ve got going on.

I’ve recently been working on a story I’ve been calling ‘The helicopter story that’s been keeping me awake’, that got to the fifteenth episode, the end of what I now call part one, and as of the sixteenth episode is now under the ubiquitous title of ‘What happens after an action-packed start’.

Now written through to episode thirty, it starts on the third part and the climax of the story, and I may call it ‘What happens when you’re sent on a fool’s errand’.

The story will have three parts and will become a novella.  The title, “Under the Cover of Darkness”, and Part 1 is called “Crash Landing”.  More news on the other parts soon.

It has also become part of my “Cineman of my dreams” series, under the subtitle of ‘I never wanted to go to Africa.”

Another that I have been calling ‘I Always Wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt” was a whimsical idea that cropped up because I was stuck on an aeroplane, where the initial idea was formed, then home where it was a hot afternoon, and it reminded me of a desert island, just where you’d expect to find treasure.

Of course, the treasure isn’t on an island, it’s somewhere on the Florida coast, and there’s an intrepid adventurer who had the ‘real’ map, sought after by a variety of bad people.

It’s now rounded out into ninety one episodes, and nothing like what I originally envisaged.

It too is one of the ‘Cinema of my dreams’ series, subtitled, naturally, ‘I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt.

Last week I even began drawing up the treasure map, after all, you can’t have a treasure hunt without a map, can you?

Then there’s my war story, without a title.  That might not happen until it is finished.  It has forty-seven episodes so far, but we’re heading towards the end quite quickly.

It’s in WW2, and the Germans are about to discover all is not going their way.

Another of the ‘Cinema of my dreams’ series, it is subtitled ‘I always wanted to write a war story’.

There is a fourth story, under the title “Was it just another surveillance job’ that has surprisingly found a new life, and I’m having fun trying to work out the lies from the truth, except in the spy business, no one ever really knows which is which, do they?

It has fifty-two episodes and is also heading towards a conclusion.

There’s a fifth, a story that started out being fuelled by screenshots of planets in Skymap, that blossomed into my take on space travel and meeting alien races out on the edge of the galaxy.  Fifty-one episodes on, it’s a miracle they haven’t been blasted out of the sky.

Stay tuned for another progress report.

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to write a war story – Episode 5

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while traveling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.
But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.

I knelt down to Jack’s level and whispered in his ear, “Time to go mate. Things are about to get a little sticky here, and one of us should get away.”

I’m not sure he understood what I was saying.

I pointed towards the trees that ran along the wall. “Go, now.”He walked slowing in the pointed direction, then turned to look at me.

“Go.”

Another hesitation, he headed towards, and then disappeared into the trees.

Behind me I could hear the sound of boots on the rock floor of the tunnel. The men had broken through and cut off my escape. I didn’t believe for a minute that Jackerby was there to help me.

Well, out of the frying pan, I thought.

I walked through the gap between the trees, getting a scrape on the side of my face from a prickly branch, then burst into the open. Jackerby had taken about twenty steps down from where he had called to me, and hearing the trees, turned and took a few steps back towards me.

Seconds later the two men from the tunnel came through the same gap, and took up positions so I couldn’t escape. Guns not drawn but ready in case they were needed.

“Where’s the dog?” Jackerby asked.

“Rats desert a sinking ship, why should dogs be any different. Guess he knew I was for the high jump.”

“Didn’t have to be that way.”

I don’t remember getting an offer to betray my country and decline. Significantly, he had made no more mention of his offer to help. But, I had to ask, “Which side are you on?”

“The right side, of course.”

It was hard to tell what version of the truth that was. He had one of those faces I associated with a professional poker player.

A nod of his head, and we headed back towards the castle. Jackerby walked beside me, the two guards about three yards behind. Running wasn’t an option, I’d get two bullets in the back before I got ten yards. There was little cover to hide in, so that was out as well.

I wondered what fate awaited me back at the castle.

© Charles Heath 2019

“Trouble in Store” – Short stories my way: Character refinement

I have reworked the first part of the story with a few new elements about the characters and changed a few of the details of how the characters finish up in the shop before the policewoman makes her entrance.

This is part of the new first section is the one that involves Annalisa, and her boyfriend, Simmo:

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2020

Writing about writing a book – Day 30

I’m having fun with chapter one.

Can you reach a point where you are never satisfied with what you’ve written?

What more can I say?

Looking at the mess constituting my room and my life, slob may have been an appropriate description.  I considered myself old, overweight though not necessarily fat, hair graying at the edges, and few wrinkles around the eyes, there were no real pluses in my description.

Some said I had a kindly face, but perhaps I had the look of a paternalistic grandfather.  There were several men in the office who were the same age and had grandchildren.  And some who had children at a time when they should be planning for retirement, not parenthood.

World-weary and perpetually tired, I’d passed the mid-life crisis, wondering what it was that affected other men my age.  Twenty-odd years later, I was still wondering.

I used to think I’d missed a lot in half a lifetime.

Now, I didn’t know what to think.

Did I deserve pity?  No.

Did I deserve sympathy?  No!

The only person who could get me out of the rut was myself.  For years I’d traded on Ellen’s good nature.  She deserved better, left me, and was now happier in the arms of a man who I wanted to believe treated her far better than I.  She had told me so herself, and judging by her manner, it had to be true.  Only recently had she got her smile back, the one that lit her face up, one that infectiously spread happiness to anyone near her.

There were reasons why I became the person I was now.  Some might say they were valid.  In the cold, hard light of dawn, I could see it was time I stopped using my past as a crutch and got on with the business of living.

Perhaps today would be the first day of the rest of my life.

I took the bus rather than drove.  At that hour of the morning, the traffic would be bad, and there would be no parking spaces left.  And I was using public transport more and more, have become accustomed to the convenience.  Time to read the paper, or a good book, or just dream about a different life.

This morning I thought about Ellen.  I hadn’t for a while, but that might have been fueled by the arrival of the divorce papers she wanted me to sign.  I’d had my time to be angry, and disappointed, she’d said, and she was right.  It was time to move on.

And she had stuck by me through thick and thin, coming back from overseas service a basket case after nine months in a POW camp, after a war that was more horrible than anyone could imagine.  Two mental breakdowns, periods of indolence and lassitude, leaving her to bring up the girls on her own.  I had not been a great father, and much less a husband.

I remembered that argument word for word.

I could see the looks of pain in the girl’s faces.

I remembered the hug, the kiss on the cheek, the tears.  It had not been out of hate, but a necessity.  For her and the children.  Until I found some lasting peace, they were better off at arm’s length.  Away from the arguing, the silences, the absences.

And disappointment.

After she left I tried to get my life in order.  Drugs, professional help, alcohol, meditation, then work.

Over ten years ago, it took a year, perhaps a little more before sanity returned.

She did not.

By then I knew she had found someone else, a mystery man, whom neither she would tell me who, and the girls honestly didn’t know.  She’d promised that much, any new man in her life would not get to meet the girls.  And she would tell me, and then when she was ready.

Then, suddenly, the children were no longer children but young adults and out in the world on their own, and I had become more a banker than a father, an observer rather than a participant, and it was as if we were more like ships passing in the night.  And overnight, the ships had sailed to the other side of the world.

My own fault, of course, and a bit late now to change history.  I could see Ellen’s influence over them, her prejudices and dislikes, and their contempt, like their mother, for me, simmering beneath the surface, but in fairness to them, I really hadn’t been much of a help as a parent should be.

And now I was getting my life back in order, perhaps I could try and make it up to them, and that first meeting, with them and Ellen, nearly a month ago, had been a step in the right direction.  They’d agreed to see me again, without her, during the holidays, which had now arrived.  All I had to do was make the call, and get on a plane.

This mess I was heading into, it would not take long.  I pulled out my phone and after searching for a travel agent near where I worked, I made an appointment to see about going overseas.

She had spoken to me about the divorce papers several days ago, alternately pleading with, and then abusing, me.  There had been some very strong language in the conversation, words I’d thought her incapable of using, but I confess, finally, I didn’t really know her all that well anymore.

Since then I had been calling her to arrange a meeting.  She had not yet replied.  With some distance to go before I reached the office, I tried calling her again.  I was almost glad when she didn’t answer.

I never realized just how hard it was to revise and re-write, and how much time it takes.

Perhaps that’s why first novels take so long to write!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021

Writing about writing a book – Day 29

It is hard sometimes to keep the lid on what might be called justification of your position in a company where there are many naysayers, and little support from those who are supposed to be working together towards a single conclusion.

Not work against you, or to have their own agenda, not only in furthering their career on the back of your mistakes but take the credit for all your hard work.

Every company has them.

I’ve worked in a few where this has happened, but the deciding factor of whether they’re successful or not is when they have to stand on their own two feet when the source of their reputed good work suddenly is unavailable, and the shit hits the proverbial fan.

What is it called?  Art imitates life.

Benton is the proverbial leader who takes credit, but when it comes to the crunch, can’t pull the rabbit out of the hat.

I guess in writing this little piece, I was subconsciously getting back at someone from a real, but now distant, past.

Perhaps there might be a little more about one of the places I worked cropping up from time to time.

It’s not so much writing about what you know, but writing about what happened, and what you might have wanted to happen.  Invariably it never did, because these credit takers are a cunning lot, and sometimes lay the foundations for getting out from under when there is a disaster.

Unfortunately, I’ve been there too.

It’s called cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Be that as it may, I let this little vent run and see where it goes.

It was my responsibility since I’d recommended it and then won the support of management over his objections, and following that it had become a point of continual contention, a petty war neither of us was going to win.

I tried to keep the joy out of my voice.  He’d also vetoed my recommendation for a full-time network engineer as my alternative, making my job become single point sensitive.  There was no one to replace me if anything went wrong.

“Sounds like you’re having fun.”  I had to work hard to keep the amusement out of my tone.

“Fun nothing.”  His tone was reaching that exasperation point.  “There is no one else.”

“Why did you approve my holiday if I can’t have one?” I’d stretch his patience just a little more.

“You promised me the network was stable.”

“It is, and has been for the last six months.  I’ve said so in my last six-monthly reports.  You have been reading them, haven’t you?”

Silence.  It said all I needed to know.

I had a choice sentence to deliver, but an ignominious thought popped into my head.  He could probably use this against me, and would if I gave him the opportunity.  Perhaps I should shelve my differences with him for this morning.

Aside from that, there was a shooting, and we didn’t get one of those every day.  Not that it would probably amount to very much.  During the previous week, the office grapevine had been working overtime on the rumor Richardson was having a relationship with one of the ladies in the Accounts department.  It was just the sort of scandal the data entry staff thrived on.

A shooting and a network failure.  I didn’t know which was worse.  Perhaps if it was Benton they’d shot, there might be some justice…

I decided not to argue with him.  “Give me an hour.”

“Half.  Aitchison wants to see you.”

Werner Aitchison was head of Internal Security and a man who took his job seriously.  Enough, that is, to annoy my staff, and me.  He was ex-military intelligence, so ‘they’ said, but he appeared to me like a man out of his depth in this new age of communications.  Computers had proliferated in our company over the last few years, and the technology to go with them spiraling out of control.

We dealt in billions via financial transactions processed on computers, computers which, we were told often enough, was insecure, and easily taken control of outside their environment.  Aitchison was paranoid, and rightly so, but he had a strange way of going about his business.  He and I had butted heads on many occasions, and we may have had our disagreements, but we were good friends and colleagues outside work.

Just in case Benton was accusing me, I said, as sincerely as I could, “I didn’t do it.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.  He has requested a meeting with you at 10 am.  You will be there.”

“I said I would come in to look at the problem.  I didn’t say I was staying.”

“Let me know when you get in.”  That was it.  No ifs.  No buts.  Just a simple, ‘Let me know…’

I seriously considered ignoring him, but somewhere within me, there was that odd sense of loyalty.  Not to Benton, not to the Company, but to someone else, the man who had given me the job in the first place, who had given me every opportunity.

I was doing it for him and would tell him.

When I found out who it was!

© Charles Heath 2016-2021