I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 44

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


There was a clock tower not far from the hotel, and I heard it strike 12 midnight. It was time to go home before I turned into a pumpkin. Or perhaps I didn’t quite have it right. It didn’t matter. I needed sleep and it wasn’t going to happen here.

Nadia was being a temptress and not even realizing it.

“You need me on your team. I know the inside of the mall like the back of my hand.”

It didn’t surprise me. She used to run with a group of girls who could give Alex and Vince a run for their money in being cruel. I was positive now that she was in the mall at the same time we were, and quite possibly following us. After what Alex said earlier, there were going to be a lot of people following each other.

“You know where the bodies are?”

A slight hesitation before she said, “I might.”

The question was whose bodies. Missing girls, Benderby’s enemies. Certainly not the archaeologist, but if there was a torture chamber down there, maybe some clues that would point the police in the right direction.

“Well, tempting as that sounds, but no.”

“What if I told you I think I know where they tortured that archaeologist guy.”

“Why would they, in fact, it’s the one thing in all of this that puzzles me. Rico might have had a reason simply because he’s little more than a blunt instrument, not an extractor of information, that required a little more refinement than he’s, and the Benderby’s, what on earth could he know that they needed it from him.”

“Try the exact contents of this so-called treasure.”

“No one could possibly know what that pirate, whatever his name was, actually had?”

Not unless he was with the captain when he buried it, which, of course, unless he was a time traveler, he wasn’t and therefore couldn’t know.

“No one could possibly know that.”

“I beg to differ.”

She knew something we didn’t. This was turning out to be a very interesting day.


“Say for instance the pirate had a journal, a ship log I think it’s called, and in that journal, he noted everything he pillaged from all of the ships they attacked.”

“You’ve seen it?” I asked, slightly incredulously. This was the first I’d heard of one, and I doubted Boggs had either unless it was something he was not telling me.


“How do you know about it?”


“He’s pulling your leg. There’s no such journal or log in existence.”

“Oh, there is. That’s what the archaeologist had. And that’s what both Alex and Vince were trying to buy. And when he wouldn’t sell it to Alex, his men went a little too far with their persuasion tactics.”

“I bet Vince wasn’t happy.”

“No. He thinks Alex does know where it is, so they’re playing their games of cat and mouse. But it’s a waste of time. My source tells me the archaeologist never gave up the location of the journal. Both the Benderby’s and the Cossatino’s have been to his house but it was nowhere to be found.”

And if that was the case, then there would be no interior to the house left, one of the other would have stripped the walls in their search. But, if it was true and there was such a journal, two questions came to mind. The obvious was, where was it? The less obvious was why didn’t the archaeologist go looking for the treasure himself?

There was an answer, that he didn’t have the right map.

I cast my mind back to the only time Boggs showed me what he called the real map. It had been folded, and you could see the fold marks that had been there for a long, long time. Was it possible at some point the map was separated from the journal?

Had someone known about the map, and stolen it and rather than the journal?

“I can see the cogs ticking over in your head Smidge. You are going to need me, in the end. Especially if you find the treasure. You’ll want to know what both Vince and Alex are up to, and little old me with be right there between them.”

“You think that Alex doesn’t know what you’re up to?”

“You already know more than you did when you walked in the door. Either of them finds the treasure, I get nothing. You and Boggs find it, maybe I’ll get something. I don’t care what they think.”

She was dangerous, deceptive, and beguiling sometimes all at the same time. This was one of those moments.

“I think Boggs doesn’t entirely trust you, or anyone,” she said.

“That couldn’t possibly surprise you. Look what’s happened to him over the years. No one knows what happened to his father.”

“Maybe we can find out. How about you and I pay the mall a visit. I guarantee it will be a lot more interesting than finding a mannequin.”

Put like that, how could I say no.


© Charles Heath 2020

“Because it’s not me” – a short story

If the was one fault I had, it was prevarication.

For a long time, I had always been afraid of making a mistake, after I had done exactly that.  They said our mistakes didn’t define us, but that one had.  I had lost the trust of everyone, from my parents to friends.

It was only a small lie, or so I told myself, but it had far-reaching ramifications, and almost cost someone their life.  But whilst I believed it was not all that bad, and the police had agreed that anyone who had been put in the same position would have done the same, there were those who didn’t agree.

It was a moment in time I often relived in my mind, over and over, and eventually led to several outcomes.

The first, I left home, the town where up till then I’d lived all of my life, walking away from family and those who used to be friends, knowing that what they said and what they felt were two entirely different things.  For all concerned, it was better that I left, cutting all ties, and make a fresh start, away from those whom I knew would never forget, even though they forgave me.

The second, and most dire, I changed my name, and my history, even how I looked.  Today, I was a very different person to that of thirty years ago.

The third, I moved to another country and vowed never to return, always looking constantly over my shoulder, expecting someone from the past to find me.  I instinctively knew that I would never escape, that one day a stark reminder would come back and destroy everything.

I picked the one occupation that would keep me both occupied and invisible.


I had started at the bottom, literally writing death notices, and worked my way up to what is ubiquitously known as ‘foreign correspondent’, going to places where no one else would go, those hotbeds of unrest, and war zones, reporting from both sides.

Perhaps it could say I had a death wish, a statement my editor had once said when he came to see me in hospital back in London after I’d been caught up in a rocket attack and repatriated.  He had come to offer me a job back home, to tell me my tour was over.

I declined the opportunity, and he left, shaking his head.

But that was not the only visitor that came to the hospital that day.  The other visitor was an elderly man, immaculately dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat.  It screamed public servant, and the moment I saw him wandering up the passage, a chill ran down my spine.

Although he looked like he was looking for someone else, I knew he would eventually finish up in my doorway.

Five minutes after I first saw him.

When he appeared at the door, I thought about ignoring him, but realized that wasn’t going to change anything.  Besides that, I guess I wanted to know why he would want to see me.

“James Wilson?”

“Would it make any difference if I said no?”  Well, it didn’t mean I couldn’t spar with him, just a little.  “Who are you.”

“Do you mind if I come in?”

I got the impression he would do it anyway, irrespective of what I said.  I said no, and as I suspected he came in anyway, closing the door behind him, then took a minute or two to make himself comfortable in the visitor’s chair, which was an impossible task.

Then, settled, he said, “I understand you have just been repatriated from Syria.”

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

It wasn’t common knowledge where I’d come from, so this person knew something about me, which was immediate cause for concern.

“The bane of a reporter trying to cover a dangerous situation,” he said, with just the right amount of levity in his tone.  “I get it, by the way.  I once had that devil may care attitude you need to get the story.  I was chasing a Pulitzer, believe it or not, and used a few of those nine lives in the process.  Which one are you up to?”

I was going to say that awards didn’t matter but among those who made up the press pack in those God-forsaken places, there was an unwritten desire to be rewarded other than by pay.  For me, though, it was not a defining factor.

“Lost count.  But why would that interest you, or whoever it is you represent?  By the way, just who do you represent?”

Second attempt at finding out who this man was.  If he was dodging and weaving, it would suggest a clandestine organization.

“People who would like to use your unique talent in getting into trouble spots around the world.  We’re not asking you to come work for us exclusively, rather piggyback on the job that you already do so well.”

An unnamed man from an unnamed organization.  What he was offering wasn’t unheard of, and I had been warned, more than once, that jobs, like he was suggesting, were more often than not offered to people like me.  With that came one line of advice, turn around and run like hell.

But, with nothing to amuse me in hospital, I was curious.  “Doing what exactly?”

The fact his expression changed indicated my response had taken him by surprise.  Perhaps he was used to being told where to go.  Not yet.  I had this fanciful notion in the back of my mind that what he might offer might get me closer to the story.

“Keeping your eyes and ears open.  We’ll tell you what to look for, all you’ll be doing is looking for evidence.  There will be no need to go looking for trouble, if there’s evidence we ask you to report it, if not, no harm done.”

Not so hard.  If that was all it was.  The trouble was, if something sounds simple, which that did, but inevitably, it was going to be anything but.  I’d heard stories and the consequences.

“You’re presuming that my editor will send me back.  He just offered me a job at home.”

“I think both of us know you’re not interested in domesticity.  If he isn’t willing to adhere to your wishes, I’m sure we could find someone else who would be willing to take you on.  You have had several offers recently, have you not?”

So, without a doubt, he knew a lot about me, especially if he asked around.  I had had several offers, but I was happy where I was.  I liked the no questions about your past that my current employer had promised.

Yes, looking at the determination on this man’s face, I had no doubt they or he could do what he said.  No one comes to a meeting like this without holding all the cards.  Also, not that I wanted it to be so, It told me that my agreement was not necessarily going to be optional.

But I was happy to dither and find out.  “Since I’m not sure when the hospital is going to discharge me, and the fact I’m not exactly very mobile at the moment, can I consider the proposal.  Right now, as you can imagine, getting back to work is not exactly a priority.”

“Of course.”  He took a card out of his coat pocket and put it on the bedside table.  “By all means.  Call me on that number when you’ve decided.”

He stood.  “It will be a great opportunity.  Thank you for your time.”

Of course, the two impressions I was left with were, one, he had me mixed up with someone else, and two, that I would never see him again.

It was an impossible task, for me at least, because I did not have a poker face, and could barely carry a lie.  I would be the last person they’d want for the job.

And thinking that, I rolled over, put it out of my mind, and went back to sleep.

© Charles Heath 2021

Memories of the Conversations with my cat – 32

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…


This is Chester.  I’ve just told him we will be going away for a few days.

What, again?  You do nothing but go away these days!  That look of disdain is meant to move me, but, sorry, it doesn’t.

It is retirement, you know, I say.  I’ve waited for 65 years so that I can do what I want.

Poor you!  Any idea how old you think I am?

15, mate, and lucky to have lived that long, despite the fact you’ve tried to escape.

That’s a matter of opinion, but not cat years, fool, human years.

I’d never quite worked that out.  We had a dog once, and I know that for every dog year it’s seven human years, so it was, in human terms, rather old.

But cats?

I’ll look it up on the internet.

Interesting.  The first two years are worth 24 human years and 4 years for each successive year.  That makes you, wow, 76.

A smug expression takes over.  Old, he says, you don’t know what it is to be old.

Except at your age, you’re too old to be travelling.

He wanders off, the tail indicating his annoyance.  I don’t think it was what he wanted to hear.


The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 43

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


For a thug like Alex to actually have something that resembled a good idea, perhaps it was more the people he surrounded himself with that made him look clever.

Boggs had not mentioned anything about the people who owned the land before the Naval yard had been constructed. Perhaps he had maps dating back to then, or maybe he didn’t. Boggs didn’t exactly confide in me everything he knew.

Maybe he didn’t trust me.

But there was a new lead now, courtesy of Alex, and it was one that I was going to chase down and bring it to Boggs at the appropriate time.

I need to find information about the Ormiston family, and whether or not there were any descendants in the area. But first, I would have to go to the library and talk to the ‘old biddy’, Gwendoline Frobisher, Gwen to her friends. Fortunately, I knew her well from the days of studying in the library.

And on some of my free days, helped her out with cataloging and returning books to their shelf positions. She only had one helper then, and she was older the Gwen, and not a lot of help putting books back on the higher shelves.

The rest of my shift was uneventful, and I closed and locked the door at precisely 11 pm. On the way to where I left my bicycle, my cell phone rang. Boggs? He knew when I finished, and how punctual I was when leaving.

I looked at the screen. Private Number.

I was going to ignore it, but, in the end, curiosity got the better of me.



Nadia. What was she calling me for at this hour of the night?

“I told you not to call me Smidge.”

“Sorry, a force of habit. It sort of suits you though.”

“Then I’m hanging up.”

I went to press the disconnect button, but I could hear her saying, ‘don’t do that, I have some news.”

I waited a few seconds before I answered, “What news.”

“Not the sort you talk of over the phone.”

But it is the sort of hook someone would use to lure you to a place where Vince could beat you up. She had done it before.

“Not if it’s a trap. Sorry, but too many bad memories of your treachery, Nadia.”

“It’s not like that, now. You know what I think of Vince these days.”

“I know how you’d like me to think you think of Vince, but that could be all show. You are, after all, a Cossatino, and you can’t change those spots.”

“I can, and I have. Promise. Meet me at the hotel.”


“It’s not as if anyone’s going to notice, and, if they do, you can guess what they’ll be thinking.”

I sighed. It was giving me a headache. “Half an hour,” I said, and disconnected the call.

Half of me was saying not to go, the other half was intrigued, not so much for the news, but visiting Nadia in the middle of the night. Many years ago, I used have dreams about Nadia, not ones that were spoken of out loud. Now I had the chance to fulfill one; not so sure.

Near to midnight, everyone should be in bed, everyone except those staying at the hotel. Lights we on in several of the rooms, and a customer was in the office.

I parked the bike near the office and walked quickly to her room, knocked on the door lightly, and braced myself for the ‘surprise’, Vince waiting for me.

She opened the door and I looked over her shoulder. It looked empty but there was a lot of space I couldn’t see from that position.

“There’s no one here.” She grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me in, looked up and down the corridor, then closed the door.

I quickly checked the bathroom. Clothes hanging from the shower rail, a very messy room. My impression of her was shattered.

“You see anything interesting in there?”

I assumed she was referring to the underwear. There might have been a momentary stray thought, but it was not one I’d admit to.

And in her dressing gown, it was hard to suppress the shive down my spine.

I sat on the end of the unmade bed. An odd thought, didn’t she let the housemaids in to tidy up, or, had she spent all day in bed? Scrub those thoughts.

“What is this news?”

“What were you doing at the mall?”

Was that Nadia in the yellow? I glanced around her room and then my eyes rested for a second on a yellow jacked tossed in a corner on the floor. Damn.

“What mall? I tried to sound convincingly surprised.

“You know what mall. You were with Boggs. What were you two up to?”

“I thought you had news for me?”

“I have. Stay away from that place. Otherwise, you might get buried there. That’s the Benderby’s torture chamber, and where they bury the evidence of their crimes.”

“Those are only rumors.”

“Not according to Vince. He reckons he’s seen a body there.”

“Perhaps he was mistaking it for a dressed mannequin. Even I’ve seen that.”

“You’re a fool. Don’t keep following that Boggs around like his little lap dog. He’s eventually going to get you into a mess you can’t get out of. There’s a lot of his father in him. Doesn’t know when to let it go.”

“This coming from Vince or you, because it sure sounds like Vince trying to put us of the scent.”

“What do you think happened to that archaeologist they found on Rico’s boat?”

“Well, my first thought was the Benderby’s did for him. As far as I can tell, the Benderby’s got him to verify the provenance of the gold coins they found on the ocean bed.”

“You mean the two surfers?”

“The Benderby’s bought them off them.”

“You mean the Benderby’s paid them, then two days later they turn up in a dive hotel having overdosed on heroin and not a cent to their names? That event was not widely known because Benderby bought off the reporter for the local paper.

“If you know about it, why did the Cossatino’s make some noise?”

“Because it was their heroin.”

This was terrifying, to be caught between a turf war with either side willing to stitch up the other, for points, or for their silence. Boggs and I were two small fish in a very smelly pond, with no chance at outwitting these two.

“Life’s complicated,” I said.

“It doesn’t have to be.”
© Charles Heath 2020

I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 33

Space is the ultimate getaway…

Our mission, to explore other galaxies and find, if there was, new life forms, was one that we knew might be a life long mission. It was one of the reasons I signed on; put simply there was nothing back on earth to keep me there.

Everyone had signed on, knowing that it was possible they might never return home, and, indeed, at the start of the voyage, that had been a distinct possibility.

We had not known about the upscaled propulsion, nor the weaponry the ship had, but that, I worked out in the end, was more deliberate on the part of space command. The less people back home who knew of our capabilities, the better.

Having got past the attack, and the discovery of a base on Oberon, one of Uranus’s moons, we were free to go back to our primary mission.

To be honest, I was happy we’d been told to resume our mission. There was a lot of items on the ship that needed fixing, modifying, or upgrading, and it would take time, that time it would take us to get to the first stopover on a long voyage.

And perhaps a little relieved that the Admiral had confirmed my appointment as Captain, not his first choice, but that given experience and time in space, I was certainly the most qualified.

There was something else he was going to say, you know when people stop short, and I though about asking him, but in the end, decided it couldn’t be anything that was a deal breaker.

That first day after leaving Uranus, I gave the speech that the former captain was going to give, and whether he wrote it or not, it seemed fitting, and poignant.

Ftom the outset, it was going to be a voyage measured in years, and it still would be, though not quite as long as first thought.

At the speed of light, it was a four year journey from our planet, to the next known earth like planet in the next galaxy, a planet named Proxima b.

By all accounts it was unliveable, but making observations from 4 and a half light years away was hardly what I would call a thorough review.

Perhaps closer up it might have more redeeming features. It might even support life. We’d find out when we got there.

In that, there was a debate about the true speed of this vessel, and over the ensuing weeks, the subject of a guessing game that all crew members could participate in went from a rumour to reality, except the engineers.

As we approached what might be Pluto’s orbit, it was a strange feeling being so far out from home, and I had expected to see more than just the inky darkness outside the ship, but any impression we might have assumed we would see from watching old Scy Fy episodes of interstellar travel was far from the reality.

In fact, there were times when it hardly felt like we were moving. There were times when it felt like just like being back on earth, except the city was within the confines of a very large ship with no roads out of town.

A holiday was a trip to the virtual reality centre, where it was possible to go anywhere or do anything without leaving your armchair. There were theatres, restaurants, sporting facilities, even a mall. There was a library, a school, and a group of crew representatives who were there to work on issues any member of the crew had.

I played squash and tennis and the occasional game of basketball, and the rest of the time, meetings, inspections, and the watch. My favourite was the night shift, not that there was any distinction between day and night, but one of the crews concerns was that lack of a boundary that designated days, so we instituted a version of day and night, and Engineering marvel at creating a world based on New York’s standard time.

All that took three months before everyone had settled into a routine.

Of course, it couldn’t last.

© Charles Heath 2021

“Anyone can have a bad day” – a short story

It had been one of those days, you know, the sort where you hoped, when you woke up again, it would be a distant memory if not gone altogether. Everything had gone wrong, the handover from my shift to the next, longer than usual, I got home late to find the building’s security system malfunctioning, and after everything that could go wrong had, I was late getting to bed, which meant I was going to be tired and cranky even before my shift started.

But what topped it all off was that the alarm didn’t go off. It was not as if I hadn’t set it, I remembered doing it. There was something else in play.

I rolled over and instantly noticed how dark it was. It was never this dark. It was why I chose an apartment as high up as I could, there would always be light coming from the advertising sign on the roof of the building over the road at night, or direct sunlight not blotted out by surrounding buildings.

I also left the curtains open, deliberately. I liked the notion of being able to see out, sometimes looking at the stars, other times watching the rain, but mostly to see that I was not in a dark place.

Not like now.

I got out of bed and went over to the window. Yes, there were lights, but they were all the way down on the street level. Everywhere else, nothing. It had to be a power blackout. Our first in a long time. I should have noticed the air conditioning was not on, and it was almost silent inside the room.

The apartment had windows that opened, not very far, but enough to allow some airflow, and the room feeling stuffy, I opened one in the bedroom. Instantly, sounds drifted up from street level, and looking down I could see the flashing lights of police cars and fire trucks, as well as the sounds of sirens.

The cold air was refreshing.

It took a few minutes before I realized the elevators would not be working, and I remembered the only pitfall of having a high-up apartment, it was a long way down by the stairs, and even longer going back up.

In the distance, I could see other buildings, about ten blocks away, with their lights on. It had to be a localized blackout, or perhaps a brownout. We had been having problems across the city with power supply caused by an unexplained explosion at several power stations on the grid.

Some were saying it was a terrorist attack, others were saying the antiquated infrastructure had finally given out.

My attention was diverted from the activity below by the vibration of my cell phone on the bedside table. I looked over at the clock and saw it was 3:10 in the morning, not a time I usually got a phone call.

I crossed the room and looked at the screen, just as the vibrating stopped. Louis Bernard. Who was Louis Bernard? It was not a name I was familiar with, so I ignored it. It wasn’t the first wrong number to call me, though I was beginning to think I had been given a recycled phone number when I bought the phone. Perhaps the fact it was a burner may have had something to do with it.

About the go back to the window, the phone started ringing again. The same caller, Louis Bernard.

Curiosity got the better of me.

“Yes?” I wasn’t going to answer with my name.

“Get out of that room now.”

“Who….” It was as far as I got before the phone went dead.

The phone displayed the logo as it powered off, a sign the battery was depleted. I noticed then though I’d plugged the phone in to recharge, I’d forgotten to turn the power on.


Get out of that room now? Who could possibly know firstly who I was, and where I was living, to the point they could know I was in any sort of danger?

It took another minute of internal debate before I threw on some clothes and headed for the door.

Just in case.

As I went to open the door, someone started pounding on it, and my heart almost stopped.

“Who is it?” I yelled out. First thought; don’t open it.

“Floor warden, you need to evacuate. There’s a small fire on one of the floors below.”

“OK. Give me a minute or so and I’ll be right out.”

“Don’t take too long. Take the rear stairs on the left.”

A few seconds later I heard him pounding on the door next to mine. I waited until he’d moved on, and went out into the passage.

It was almost dark, the security lighting just above floor level giving off a strange and eerie orange glow. I thought there was a hint of smoke in the air, but that might have been the power of suggestion taking over my mind.

There were two sets of stairs down, both at the rear, one on the left and one on the right, designed to aid quick evacuation in the event of a calamity like a fire. He had told me to take the left. I deliberately ignored that and went to the right side, passing several other tenants who were going towards where they’d been told. I didn’t recognize them, but, then, I didn’t try to find out who my fellow tenants were.

A quick look back up the passage, noting everyone heading to the left side stairs, I ducked into the right stairwell and stopped for a moment. Was that smoke I could smell. From above I could hear a door slam shut, and voices. Above me, people had entered the stairwell and were coming down.

I started heading down myself.

I was on the 39th floor, and it was going to be a long way down. In a recent fire drill, the building had been evacuated from the top floor down, and it proceeded in an orderly manner. The idea was that starting at the top, there would not be a logjam if the lower floors were spilling into the stairwell and creating a bottleneck. Were those above stragglers?

I descended ten floors and still hadn’t run into anyone, but the smell of smoke was stronger. I stopped for a moment and listened for those who had been above me. Nothing. Not a sound. Surely there had to be someone above me, coming down.

A door slammed, but I couldn’t tell if it was above or below.

Once again, I descended, one floor, two, three, five, all the way down to ten. The smoke was thicker here, and I could see a cloud on the other side of the door leading out of the stairwell into the passage. The door was slightly ajar, odd, I thought, for what was supposed to be a fire door. I could see smoke being sucked into the fire escape through the door opening.

Then I saw several firemen running past, axes in hand. Was the fire on the tenth floor?

Another door slammed shut, and then above me, I could hear voices. Or were they below? I couldn’t tell. My eyes were starting to tear up from the smoke, and it was getting thicker.

I headed down.

I reached the ground floor and tried to open the door leading out of the fire escape. It wouldn’t open. A dozen other people came down the stairs and stopped when they saw me.

One asked, “Can we get out here?”

I tried the door again with the same result. “No. It seems to be jammed.”

Several of the people rushed past me, going down further, yelling out, “there should be a fire door leading out into the underground garage.”

Then, after another door slamming shut, silence. Another person said, “they must have found a way out,” and started running down the stairs, the others following. For some odd reason I couldn’t explain, I didn’t follow, a mental note popping up in my head telling me that there was only an exit into the carport from the other stairs, on this side, the exit led out onto an alley at the back of the building.

If the door would open. It should push outwards, and there should also be a bar on it, so when pushed, it allowed the door to open.

The smoke was worse now, and I could barely see, or breathe, overcome with a coughing fit. I banged on the door, yelling out that I was stuck in the stairwell, but there was no reply, nor could I hear movement on the other side of the door.

Just as I started to lose consciousness, I thought I could hear a banging sound on the door, then a minute later what seemed like wood splintering. A few seconds after that I saw a large black object hovering over me, then nothing.

It was the culmination of a bad night, a bad day, and another bad night. Was it karma trying to tell me something?

When I woke, I was in a hospital, a room to myself which seemed strange since my insurance didn’t really cover such luxuries. I looked around the room and stopped when I reached the window and the person who was standing in front of it, looking out.

“Who are you?” I asked, and realized the moment the words came out, they made me sound angry.

“No one of particular importance. I came to see if you were alright. You were very lucky by the way. Had you not stayed by that door you would have died like all the rest.”

Good to know, but not so good for the others. Did he know that the fire door was jammed? I told him what happened.

“Someone suspected that might be the case which is why you were told to take the other stairs. Why did you not do as you were told?”

“Why did the others also ignore the advice.” It was not a question I would deign to answer.

They didn’t know any better, but you did, and it begs the question, why did you take those stairs.”

Persistent, and beginning to bother me. He sounded like someone else I once knew in another lifetime, one who never asked a question unless he knew the answer.

The man still hadn’t turned around to show me his face, and it was not likely I’d be getting out of bed very soon.

“You tell me?”

He turned slightly and I could see his reflection in the window. I thought, for a moment, that was a familiar face. But I couldn’t remember it from where.

“The simple truth, you suspected the fire was lit to flush you out of the building and you thought taking those stairs would keep you away from trouble. We both know you’ve been hiding here.”

Then he did turn. Hiding, yes. A spot of trouble a year or so before had made leaving Florida a necessity, and I’d only just begun to believe I was finally safe.

I was not.

They had found me.

And it only took a few seconds, to pull the silenced gun out of his coat pocket, point it directly at me, and pull the trigger.

Two stabbing pains in the chest, and for a moment it was as if nothing happened, and then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe.

The last thing I saw and heard, several rounds from at least two guns, voices yelling out on the passage, and people running.

As I lay dying, my last thought was, it had been a good run, but no one can run forever.

© Charles Heath 2021

Memories of the Conversations with my cat – 23

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…


This is Chester.   He had asked the question; why doesn’t he get to go on holidays

I think we both know the answer to that.

It’s not the first time he’s asked, but this ‘simply forgetting he’s asked before’ is a ruse.

If he asks enough times, maybe…


A few questions first,

Do you often find the sunniest spot, lie down and have a nap?

Hmmm, thinking

Do you only turn up in the dining room at meal times expecting the food to be ready?

Hmmm, thinking

Do you sleep in every morning?

Hmmm, thinking

Do you find your self thinking more about relaxing and less about working?

Same questions as the last time, and same no answer.

I think we both know you’re already and have been for a while, on holiday!



Searching for locations: New York, again

After arriving latish from Toronto, and perhaps marginally disappointed that while in Toronto, the ice hockey didn’t go our way, we slept in.

Of course, the arrival was not without its own problems. The room we were allocated was on the 22nd floor and was quite smallish. Not a surprise, but we needed space for three, and with the fold-out bed, it was tight but livable.


We needed the internet to watch the Maple Leafs ice hockey game. We’d arrive just in time to stream it to the tv.


There was no internet. It was everywhere else in the hotel except our floor.

First, I went to the front desk and they directed me to call tech support.

Second, we called tech support and they told us that the 22nd-floor router had failed and would get someone to look at it.


It turns out it didn’t seem to be a priority. Maybe no one else on the floor had complained

Third, I went downstairs and discussed the lack of progress with the night duty manager, expressing disappointment with the lack of progress.

I also asked if they could not provide the full service that I would like a room rate reduction or a privilege in its place as compensation.

He said he would check it himself.

Fourth, after no further progress, we called the front desk to advise there was still no internet. This time we were asked if we wanted a room on another floor, where the internet is working. We accepted the offer.

The end result, a slightly larger, less cramped room, and the ability to watch the last third of the Maple Leaf’s game. I can’t remember if we won.

We all went to bed reasonably happy.

After all, we didn’t have to get up early to go up or down to breakfast because it was not included in the room rate, a bone of contention considering the cost.

I’ll be booking with them directly next time, at a somewhat cheaper rate, a thing I find after using a travel wholesaler to book it for me.

As always every morning while Rosemary gets ready, I go out for a walk and check out where we are.

It seems we are practically in the heart of theaterland New York. Walk one way or the other you arrive at 7th Avenue or Broadway.

Walk uptown and you reach 42nd Street and Times Square, little more than a 10-minute leisurely stroll. On the way down Broadway, you pass a number of theatres, some recognizable, some not.

Times Square is still a huge collection of giant television screens advertising everything from confectionary to TV shows on the cable networks.

A short walk along 42nd street takes you to the Avenue of the Americas and tucked away, The Rockefeller center and its winter ice rink.

A few more steps take you to 5th Avenue and the shops like Saks of Fifth Avenue, shops you could one day hope to afford to buy something.

In the opposite direction, over Broadway and crossing 8th Avenue is an entrance to Central Park. The approach is not far from what is called the Upper West Side, home to the rich and powerful.

Walk one way in the park, which we did in the afternoon, takes you towards the gift shop and back along a labyrinth of laneways to 5th Avenue. It was a cold, but pleasant, stroll looking for the rich and famous, but, discovering, they were not foolish enough to venture out into the cold.

Before going back to the room, we looked for somewhere to have dinner and ended up in Cassidy’s Irish pub. There was a dining room down the back and we were one of the first to arrive for dinner service.

The first surprise, our waitress was from New Zealand.

The second, the quality of the food.

I had a dish called Steak Lyonnaise which was, in plain words, a form of mince steak in an elongated patty. It was cooked rare as I like my steak and was perfect. It came with a baked potato.

As an entree, we had shrimp, which in our part of the world are prawns, and hot chicken wings, the sauce is hot and served on the side.

The beer wasn’t bad either. Overall given atmosphere, service, and food, it’s a nine out of ten.

It was an excellent way to end the day.

An excerpt from “Strangers We’ve Become” – Coming Soon

I wandered back to my villa.

It was in darkness.  I was sure I had left several lights on, especially over the door so I could see to unlock it.

I looked up and saw the globe was broken.

Instant alert.

I went to the first hiding spot for the gun, and it wasn’t there.  I went to the backup and it wasn’t there either.  Someone had found my carefully hidden stash of weapons and removed them.


There were four hiding spots and all were empty.  Someone had removed the weapons.  That could only mean one possibility.

I had a visitor, not necessarily here for a social call.

But, of course, being the well-trained agent I’d once been and not one to be caught unawares, I crossed over to my neighbor and relieved him of a weapon that, if found, would require a lot of explaining.

Suitably armed, it was time to return the surprise.

There were three entrances to the villa, the front door, the back door, and a rather strange escape hatch.  One of the more interesting attractions of the villa I’d rented was its heritage.  It was built in the late 1700s, by a man who was, by all accounts, a thief.  It had a hidden underground room which had been in the past a vault but was now a wine cellar, and it had an escape hatch by which the man could come and go undetected, particularly if there was a mob outside the door baying for his blood.

It now gave me the means to enter the villa without my visitors being alerted, unless, of course, they were near the vicinity of the doorway inside the villa, but that possibility was unlikely.  It was not where anyone could anticipate or expect a doorway to be.

The secret entrance was at the rear of the villa behind a large copse, two camouflaged wooden doors built into the ground.  I move aside some of the branches that covered them and lifted one side.  After I’d discovered the doors and rusty hinges, I’d oiled and cleaned them, and cleared the passageway of cobwebs and fallen rocks.  It had a mildew smell, but nothing would get rid of that.  I’d left torches at either end so I could see.

I closed the door after me, and went quietly down the steps, enveloped in darkness till I switched on the torch.  I traversed the short passage which turned ninety degrees about halfway to the door at the other end.  I carried the key to this door on the keyring, found it and opened the door.  It too had been oiled and swung open soundlessly.

I stepped in the darkness and closed the door.

I was on the lower level under the kitchen, now the wine cellar, the ‘door’ doubling as a set of shelves which had very little on them, less to fall and alert anyone in the villa.

Silence, an eerie silence.

I took the steps up to the kitchen, stopping when my head was level with the floor, checking to see if anyone was waiting.  There wasn’t.  It seemed to me to be an unlikely spot for an ambush.

I’d already considered the possibility of someone coming after me, especially because it had been Bespalov I’d killed, and I was sure he had friends, all equally as mad as he was.  Equally, I’d also considered it nigh on impossible for anyone to find out it was me who killed him because the only people who knew that were Prendergast, Alisha, a few others in the Department, and Susan.

That raised the question of who told them where I was.

If I was the man I used to be, my first suspect would be Susan.  The departure this morning, and now this was too coincidental.  But I was not that man.

Or was I?

I reached the start of the passageway that led from the kitchen to the front door and peered into the semi-darkness.  My eyes had got used to the dark, and it was no longer an inky void.  Fragments of light leaked in around the door from outside and through the edge of the window curtains where they didn’t fit properly.  A bone of contention upstairs in the morning, when first light shone and invariably woke me up hours before I wanted to.

Still nothing.

I took a moment to consider how I would approach the visitor’s job.  I would get a plan of the villa in my head, all entrances, where a target could be led to or attacked where there would be no escape.

Coming in the front door.  If I was not expecting anything, I’d just open the door and walk-in.  One shot would be all that was required.

Contract complete.

I sidled quietly up the passage staying close to the wall, edging closer to the front door.  There was an alcove where the shooter could be waiting.  It was an ideal spot to wait.


I stepped on some nutshells.

Not my nutshells.

I felt it before I heard it.  The bullet with my name on it.

And how the shooter missed, from point-blank range, and hit me in the arm, I had no idea.  I fired off two shots before a second shot from the shooter went wide and hit the door with a loud thwack.

I saw a red dot wavering as it honed in on me and I fell to the floor, stretching out, looking up where the origin of the light was coming and pulled the trigger three times, evenly spaced, and a second later I heard the sound of a body falling down the stairs and stopping at the bottom, not very far from me.

Two assassins.

I’d not expected that.

The assassin by the door was dead, a lucky shot on my part.  The second was still breathing.

I checked the body for any weapons and found a second gun and two knives.  Armed to the teeth!

I pulled off the balaclava; a man, early thirties, definitely Italian.  I was expecting a Russian.

I slapped his face, waking him up.  Blood was leaking from several slashes on his face when his head had hit the stairs on the way down.  The awkward angle of his arms and legs told me there were broken bones, probably a lot worse internally.  He was not long for this earth.

“Who employed you?”

He looked at me with dead eyes, a pursed mouth, perhaps a smile.  “Not today my friend.  You have made a very bad enemy.”  He coughed and blood poured out of his mouth.  “There will be more …”

Friends of Bespalov, no doubt.

I would have to leave.  Two unexplainable bodies, I’d have a hard time explaining my way out of this mess.  I dragged the two bodies into the lounge, clearing the passageway just in case someone had heard anything.

Just in case anyone was outside at the time, I sat in the dark, at the foot of the stairs, and tried to breathe normally.  I was trying not to connect dots that led back to Susan, but the coincidence was worrying me.


A half-hour passed and I hadn’t moved.  Deep in thought, I’d forgotten about being shot, unaware that blood was running down my arm and dripping onto the floor.

Until I heard a knock on my front door.

Two thoughts, it was either the police, alerted by the neighbors, or it was the second wave, though why would they be knocking on the door?

I stood, and immediately felt a stabbing pain in my arm.  I took out a handkerchief and turned it into a makeshift tourniquet, then wrapped a kitchen towel around the wound.

If it was the police, this was going to be a difficult situation.  Holding the gun behind my back, I opened the door a fraction and looked out.

No police, just Maria.  I hoped she was not part of the next ‘wave’.

“You left your phone behind on the table.  I thought you might be looking for it.”  She held it out in front of her.

When I didn’t open the door any further, she looked at me quizzically, and then asked, “Is anything wrong?”

I was going to thank her for returning the phone, but I heard her breathe in sharply, and add, breathlessly, “You’re bleeding.”

I looked at my arm and realized it was visible through the door, and not only that, the towel was soaked in blood.

“You need to go away now.”

Should I tell her the truth?  It was probably too late, and if she was any sort of law-abiding citizen she would go straight to the police.

She showed no signs of leaving, just an unnerving curiosity.  “What happened?”

I ran through several explanations, but none seemed plausible.  I went with the truth.  “My past caught up with me.”

“You need someone to fix that before you pass out from blood loss.  It doesn’t look good.”

“I can fix it.  You need to leave.  It is not safe to be here with me.”

The pain in my arm was not getting any better, and the blood was starting to run down my arm again as the tourniquet loosened.  She was right, I needed it fixed sooner rather than later.

I opened the door and let her in.  It was a mistake, a huge mistake, and I would have to deal with the consequences.  Once inside, she turned on the light and saw the pool of blood just inside the door and the trail leading to the lounge.  She followed the trail and turned into the lounge, turned on the light, and no doubt saw the two dead men.

I expected her to scream.  She didn’t.

She gave me a good hard look, perhaps trying to see if I was dangerous.  Killing people wasn’t something you looked the other way about.  She would have to go to the police.

“What happened here?”

“I came home from the cafe and two men were waiting for me.  I used to work for the Government, but no longer.  I suspect these men were here to repay a debt.  I was lucky.”

“Not so much, looking at your arm.”

She came closer and inspected it.

“Sit down.”

She found another towel and wrapped it around the wound, retightening the tourniquet to stem the bleeding.

“Do you have medical supplies?”

I nodded.  “Upstairs.”  I had a medical kit, and on the road, I usually made my own running repairs.  Another old habit I hadn’t quite shaken off yet.

She went upstairs, rummaged, and then came back.  I wondered briefly what she would think of the unmade bed though I was not sure why it might interest her.

She helped me remove my shirt, and then cleaned the wound.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to remove a bullet.  It was a clean wound but it would require stitches.

When she’d finished she said, “Your friend said one day this might happen.”

No prizes for guessing who that friend was, and it didn’t please me that she had involved Maria.


“She didn’t tell me her name, but I think she cares a lot about you.  She said trouble has a way of finding you, gave me a phone and said to call her if something like this happened.”

“That was wrong of her to do that.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not.  Will you call her?”

“Yes.  I can’t stay here now.  You should go now.  Hopefully, by the time I leave in the morning, no one will ever know what happened here, especially you.”

She smiled.  “As you say, I was never here.”


© Charles Heath 2018-2020

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 42

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.


Life for me returned to something like normal when I was back in the warehouse, surrounded by endless shelves filled with all manner of items.

It was the central repository for all the spare parts that were needed for the factory’s machinery in one section, a large variety of stationery, and office, items in another, and groceries for the cafeteria in another.

My in-tray was filled with requisition form received from the previous day, that hadn’t been processed by Roger, the morning shift clerk who inhabited my desk when I wasn’t there. 

As usual, he had managed to idle away most of his shift by doing absolutely nothing, which I guess was acceptable because Roger was one of Alex’s cronies, as were many others scattered about the factory.

One of the managers from another department knocked on the open door, perhaps to wake me before he walked in, something he had told me once before he was used to doing, and after a few seconds came in.

“The afternoon shift doesn’t sleep on the job,” I said.  He was one of the good managers, so he knew I was not admonishing him.

He saw the pile of requisitions, a good indication of why his order for stores had not been processed.  

“Busy day?”

“It will be.”  I shuffled through the pile and pulled out his requisition.  Only one item.

“Is it possible I could get it today?”

“Better still.  Take a seat, I’ll get it myself.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say”

He sat in one of the plastic chairs designed to keep people moving and picked up an old National Geographic.  I was fascinated to find there were issues going back as far as the 1920s.  I wondered if Benderby knew they were collectors’ items and worth a lot of money.

I headed towards the door.  “Make yourself comfortable, I won’t be long.”

The only other time I had seen a building as big as the warehouse was indoor basketball courts.  It was a hundred yards across, and half a mile long, and sometimes it was easier to hitch a ride with the forklift driver to get the other end quickly.

The fork life driver had gone missing, so it was a walk.  The shelf I was looking for was somewhere near the middle.

Something else about the building, it had remarkably interesting acoustics, and sometimes I could hear conversations between the supervisor and the forklift driver when they were some distance away, and out of sight.

About 100 yards from the shelf, I heard voices.  They were indistinguishable, but as I got closer, broken sentences became more understandable.  I used one of the cross paths so see if I could locate the source of the voices and found them in the third aisle.

Alex and the man I’d seen earlier at the mall.

They had pulled two seats and a carton of the shelves and were sitting, feet on the carton, smoking cigarettes, right underneath a ‘No Smoking’ sign.

Typical.  Not much further along was the ‘Inflammable Goods’ sign, but something like that for Alex would be an invitation to press his luck.

“You sure it was them?”

“Course. I’d recognize that kid you call Smidge anywhere.  And his crazy offside, Bloggs or something.  What do you think they’re doing out there?”

“Must be something to do with the treasure.  That kid’s holding back on us.  We’ve been searching the coastline for those two rivers.  Nothing but drains now.  I got Dad to lean on one of the councilors to get us some old maps of the coastline, and one had five rivers.  Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

“Perhaps we’re trying too hard.  One of those old maps showed the Navy Yard, and the cove they’d dredged.  One of the maps she showed me has evidence there was a once a river running into that cove, and according to the old biddy in the library, that area was once owned by a chap called Orminson.  She also thought his descendants didn’t move too far away from here after they sold the property to the Navy.  I’ve got a copy of the map, so we can check if it lines up with some of the other maps we have, and, of course, the treasure map.”

“We should find these descendants.  Perhaps they have more information.”

“Already on it.”

“What we also need, but probably won’t be able to get, is the architectural plans of the Naval site, before, during, and after the works.”

“I’ll get Brains onto it.  He’ll have some way of getting the documents.”

“Good.  Sooner rather later OK.”

“I reckon that Boggs must have some knowledge of this.  You want me and the boys to go and rough Boggs up a bit more, see what he knows about this?”

“No.  Not a good idea, as much as I would like it to happen, just to wipe the smug look off his face, but the last time the old man came down on me for being, as he calls it, un-subtle, whatever that means.  It’s not as if he hasn’t beaten the crap of people for information before.  The same goes for Smidge.  Just watch and report.  That’s all.  For the moment.”

“You got anything else you want me to do?”

“Yes.  Get some of the boys to follow them.  And try not to get seen.  Boggs might be a fool, but Smidge isn’t.  He’s a lot smarter than I gave him credit for.”

“He’s just a kid, Alex.”

“Well, you keep thinking that, and when he outsmarts you, you know what will happen.”  

Alex stood.  “And clean up this mess before you go.”


© Charles Heath 2020