Harry Walthenson, Private Detective

Harry is embarking on his second case, this time with Felicity as his investigative partner.  This time it’s closer to home when his father goes missing leaving a cryptic note behind.  Harry’s mother becomes the client, giving Harry the job of finding him.

But, all is not what it appears.

His father’s colleagues are sure he’s just taken off with a new mistress, something he apparently does from time to time.  His associates seem unworried about his departure.

And when Harry and Felicity discover a connection between his father and a major crime family, people who are possibly responsible for the near-death experience Harry had during his last investigation, things start to heat up in more ways than one.

Who is Emil Florenz, a golf partner, psychiatrist, and property developer?

Who is Augustus Shawville, the proverbial international man of mystery?

Who is Orville Argeter, an accountant who has numerous clients who often find themselves on the wrong side of the legal ledger?

Then there’s a host of family connections,

The forever looming specter of Harry’s grandfather, Jeremiah Walthenson, deceased

His first wife, Giselle White, divorced, who works in the practice’s archive, disillusioned and disappointed in the way her marriage ended

Alicia Wentworth an alleged gold digger and the woman who stole Jeremiah away from Giselle, and is suspected by the family of murdering Jeremiah for his fortune

Harry’s mother, Elsie Wilkinson, one of the Boston Wilkinson’s who are wealthy beyond imagining, and who once had a relationship with Florenz.

Who, of these, knows the truth?

Well, it’s time to find out.

Short Story writing: don’t try this at home!

This is not a treatise on how to write short stories.  Everyone has one in them, possibly more, and me, well, it’s how I keep the wolves from the door.

Yes, I read my stories to them and they fall asleep.

Or maybe not, I’m never quite sure what effect anything I write has on anyone.  And, reading a lot of the posts on how to handle bad reviews and rejection, such a recurrent theme, I don’t think I want to.

Ignorance is bliss, is it not?

Well, one day I’m sure something will happen.  It’s probably in the seven stages of writing:

 

Euphoria

Planning

Research

Writing

Failure

Search for the guilty

Distinction for the uninvolved

 

I guess you don’t fail if you don’t put it out there.  Searching for the guilty, well, there’s only one person to blame, the editor, and distinction for the uninvolved, didn’t your friend, relation, confidente, significant other, say it wasn’t going to work?

But, despite everything, I like writing short stories and try to produce one in a single sitting.  I try to keep the word count down, but the stories, somehow they just evolve in my head and don’t want to end the main character’s story.

In reality, there is no end to the story unless they die, and then, of course, the story branches off, just like a family tree,

Some stories are so intricate, they need another story to fill in the gaps, and then another because the plot is running through your head at a thousand miles an hour and your fingers won’t stop typing, because if you do, it will all dissipate into thin air like smoke.

Stories can, you know, dissipate like smoke, one minute your mining a rich vein the next, you’ve hit a ton of worthless quartz.

Then all the constraints come into play, nagging at the back of your mind, and you find yourself waking up in a bath of sweat crying out, I didn’t do it, the crime that is, not lose the best 2,000 words you’ve ever written.

But that’s all of those words you write, isn’t it?

But I digress, and I’ll write some more on the subject, what was it again?

 

 

In a word: Dog

Yes, it’s that little or big furry thing that’s also known as man’s best friend, a dog.

But the word has a number of other meanings, like a lot of three-letter words.

It can also mean to follow someone closely.

If you are going to the greyhound racing, you could say you’re going to the dogs, or it could mean something entirely different, like deteriorating in manner and ethics.

Then there are those employers who make their workers work very hard, and therefore could be described as making them work like a dog.

Some might even say that it is a dog of a thing, i.e. of poor quality.

There’s a dogleg, which could aptly name some of those monstrous golf course holes that sometimes present the challenge of going through the wood rather than around it.

Tried that and failed many times!

A dog man used to ride the crane load from the ground to the top, an occupation that would not stand the test of occupational health and safety anymore.

And of course, in a battle to the death, it’s really dog eat dog, isn’t it?

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

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

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

 

An excerpt from the book:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Charles Heath 2019

 

Another way to spend a day

Tomorrow is one of a few hospital visits this year, with another to follow.  Both of us are at that age when things start breaking down.

This one will take about three or so hours, and I will be alternately in the waiting room or going for a walk and take in the ‘fresh’ air.  It is lucky the day hospital is in the inner suburban area, namely, South Brisbane, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the Southbank parkland, or in the other direction over the Victoria Bridge and into the Brisbane city centre via the Queen Street Mall.

The sojourn will most likely take my mind off the operation, minor as it is, and provide a new perspective and background for my storytelling.  Like all writers, I’m constantly searching for new locations.

Or I could just take up residence in the waiting room and make notes, write episodes for any of five stories I have on the go, and drink coffee out of a coffee machine, rather than a sachet and hot water in a polystyrene cup as it is in the larger hospitals.

Or take the time to observe others who may be sweating on a somewhat more agonising result.  I’m guessing the eyes are one of the most important parts of our body, and anything to do with them can be very, very serious.

Hence the need to be somewhere else as a distraction.  But, this procedure I’m told is not a serious operation and little can go wrong.  Of course, the hospital, and the doctor are legally obliged to give you the worst-case scenario, and that is you have a small chance of dying.

Define small…

To be honest, it would be interesting if I could be an observer, watching the surgeon go about his business.  I know that is impossible because there would be nothing worse than having a relative in the groom, especially if something went wrong.

I mean, fathers are quite often allowed into the delivery room when a baby is being born, more often dressed to look exactly like a brain surgeon about to operate, but that too is dependent on how the delivery is going.  Been there and done that a few times.

Been to my own operations too, but sadly I usually get the anesthetic before I go into theatre.  I make it quite clear that the last thing I want is to wake up in the middle of the operation, simply because I don’t want to be asking questions on how it’s going.

So, I’ll be on the outside looking in, worrying, or walking, or working.

Come to think of it, I need a few more photo’s of Brisbane for my Instagram site, and maybe I can do that.

But, whatever I do, I’m hoping it will be enough of a distraction until I get the call to come and pick her up.

It’s probably one of the few calls these days I will answer

 

An excerpt from “What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

See excerpt from the story below, just a taste of what’s in store…

http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

whatsetscover

 

McCallister was old school, a man who would most likely fit in perfectly campaigning on the battlefields of Europe during the Second World War.  He’d been like a fish out of water in the army, post-Falklands, and while he retired a hero, he still felt he’d more to give.

He’d applied and was accepted as head of a SWAT team, and, watching him now as he and his men disembarked from the truck in almost military precision, a look passed between Annette, the police liaison officer, and I that said she’d seen it all before.  I know I had.

There was a one in four chance his team would be selected for this operation, and she had been hoping it would be one of the other three.  While waiting for them to arrive she filled me in on the various teams.  His was the least co-operative, and the more likely to make ad-hoc decisions rather than adhere to the plan, or any orders that may come from the officer in charge.

This, she said quite bluntly, was going to end badly.

I still had no idea why Prendergast instructed me to attend the scene of what looked to be a normal domestic operation, but as the nominated expert in the field in these types of situations, it was fairly clear he wasn’t taking any chances.  It was always a matter of opinion between us, and generally I lost.

In this case, it was an anonymous report identifying what the authorities believed were explosives in one of the dockside sheds where explosives were not supposed to be.  The only reason why the report was given any credence was the man, while not identifying himself by name, said he’d been an explosive expert once and recognized the boxes.  That could mean anything, but the Chief Constable was a cautious man.

With his men settled and preparing their weapons, McCallister came over to the command post, not much more than the SUV my liaison and I arrived in, with weapons, bulletproof vests, and rolls of tape to cordon off the area afterward.  We both had coffee, steaming in the cold early morning air.  Dawn was slowly approaching and although rain had been forecast it had yet to arrive.

A man by the name of Benson was in charge.  He too had groaned when he saw McCallister.

“A fine morning for it.”  McCallister was the only enthusiastic one here.

He didn’t say what ‘it’ was, but I thought it might eventually be mayhem.

“Let’s hope the rain stays away.  It’s going to be difficult enough without it,” Benson said, rubbing his hands together.  We had been waiting for the SWAT team to arrive, and another team to take up their position under the wharf, and who was in the final stages of securing their position.

While we were waiting we drew up the plan.  I’d go in first to check on what we were dealing with, and what type of explosives.  The SWAT team, in the meantime, were to ensure all the exits to the shed were covered.  When I gave the signal, they were to enter and secure the building.  We were not expecting anyone inside or out, and no movement had been detected in the last hour since our arrival and deployment.

“What’s the current situation?”

“I’ve got eyes on the building, and a team coming in from the waterside, underneath.  Its slow progress, but they’re nearly there.  Once they’re in place, we’re sending McKenzie in.”

He looked in my direction.

“With due respect sir, shouldn’t it be one of us?”  McCallister glared at me with the contempt that only a decorated military officer could.

“No.  I have orders from above, much higher than I care to argue with, so, McCallister, no gung-ho heroics for the moment.  Just be ready to move on my command, and make sure you have three teams at the exit points, ready to secure the building.”

McCallister opened his mouth, no doubt to question those orders, but instead closed it again.  “Yes sir,” he muttered and turned away heading back to his men.

“You’re not going to have much time before he storms the battlements,” Benson quietly said to me, a hint of exasperation in his tone.  “I’m dreading the paperwork.”

It was exactly what my liaison officer said when she saw McCallister arriving.

 

The water team sent their ‘in position’ signal, and we were ready to go.

In the hour or so we’d been on site nothing had stirred, no arrivals, no departures, and no sign anyone was inside, but that didn’t mean we were alone.  Nor did it mean I was going to walk in and see immediately what was going on.  If it was a cache of explosives then it was possible the building was booby-trapped in any number of ways, there could be sentries or guards, and they had eyes on us, or it might be a false alarm.

I was hoping for the latter.

I put on the bulletproof vest, thinking it was a poor substitute for full battle armor against an exploding bomb, but we were still treating this as a ‘suspected’ case.  I noticed my liaison officer was pulling on her bulletproof vest too.

“You don’t have to go.  This is my party, not yours,” I said.

“The Chief Constable told me to stick to you like glue, sir.”

I looked at Benson.  “Talk some sense into her please, this is not a kindergarten outing.”

He shrugged.  Seeing McCallister had taken all the fight out of him.  “Orders are orders.  If that’s what the Chief Constable requested …”

Madness.  I glared at her, and she gave me a wan smile.  “Stay behind me then, and don’t do anything stupid.”

“Believe me, I won’t be.”  She pulled out and checked her weapon, chambering the first round.  It made a reassuring sound.

Suited up, weapons readied, a last sip of the coffee in a stomach that was already churning from nerves and tension, I looked at the target, one hundred yards distant and thought it was going to be the longest hundred yards I’d ever traversed.  At least for this week.

 

A swirling mist rolled in and caused a slight change in plans.

Because the front of the buildings was constantly illuminated by large overhead arc lamps, my intention had been to approach the building from the rear where there was less light and more cover.  Despite the lack of movement, if there were explosives in that building, there’d be ‘enemy’ surveillance somewhere, and, after making that assumption, I believed it was going to be easier and less noticeable to use the darkness as a cover.

It was a result of the consultation, and studying the plans of the warehouse, plans that showed three entrances, the main front hangar type doors, a side entrance for truck entry and exit and a small door in the rear, at the end of an internal passage leading to several offices.  I also assumed it was the exit used when smokers needed a break.  Our entry would be by the rear door or failing that, the side entrance where a door was built into the larger sliding doors.  In both cases, the locks would not present a problem.

The change in the weather made the approach shorter, and given the density of the mist now turning into a fog, we were able to approach by the front, hugging the walls, and moving quickly while there was cover.  I could feel the dampness of the mist and shivered more than once.

It was nerves more than the cold.

I could also feel rather than see the presence of Annette behind me, and once felt her breath on my neck when we stopped for a quick reconnaissance.

It was the same for McCallister’s men.  I could feel them following us, quickly and quietly, and expected, if I turned around, to see him breathing down my neck too.

It added to the tension.

My plan was still to enter by the back door.

We slipped up the alley between the two sheds to the rear corner and stopped.  I heard a noise coming from the rear of the building, and the light tap on the shoulder told me Annette had heard it too.  I put my hand up to signal her to wait, and as a swirl of mist rolled in, I slipped around the corner heading towards where I’d last seen the glow of a cigarette.

The mist cleared, and we saw each other at the same time.  He was a bearded man in battle fatigues, not the average dockside security guard.

He was quick, but my slight element of surprise was his undoing, and he was down and unconscious in less than a few seconds with barely a sound beyond the body hitting the ground.  Zip ties secured his hands and legs, and tape his mouth.  Annette joined me a minute after securing him.

A glance at the body then me, “I can see why they, whoever they are, sent you.”

She’d asked who I worked for, and I didn’t answer.  It was best she didn’t know.

“Stay behind me,” I said, more urgency in my tone.  If there was one, there’d be another.

Luck was with us so far.  A man outside smoking meant no booby traps on the back door, and quite possibly there’d be none inside.  But it indicated there were more men inside, and if so, it appeared they were very well trained.  If that were the case, they would be formidable opponents.

The fear factor increased exponentially.

I slowly opened the door and looked in.  A pale light shone from within the warehouse itself, one that was not bright enough to be detected from outside.  None of the offices had lights on, so it was possible they were vacant.  I realized then they had blacked out the windows.  Why hadn’t someone checked this?

Once inside, the door closed behind us, progress was slow and careful.  She remained directly behind me, gun ready to shoot anything that moved.  I had a momentary thought for McCallister and his men, securing the perimeter.

At the end of the corridor, the extent of the warehouse stretched before us.  The pale lighting made it seem like a vast empty cavern, except for a long trestle table along one side, and, behind it, stacks of wooden crates, some opened.  It looked like a production line.

To get to the table from where we were was a ten-yard walk in the open.  There was no cover.  If we stuck to the walls, there was equally no cover and a longer walk.

We needed a distraction.

As if on cue, the two main entrances disintegrated into flying shrapnel accompanied by a deafening explosion that momentarily disoriented both Annette and I.  Through the smoke and dust kicked up I saw three men appear from behind the wooden crates, each with what looked like machine guns, spraying bullets in the direction of the incoming SWAT members.

They never had a chance, cut down before they made ten steps into the building.

By the time I’d recovered, my head heavy, eyes watering and ears still ringing, I took several steps towards them, managing to take down two of the gunmen but not the third.

I heard a voice, Annette’s I think, yell out, “Oh, God, he’s got a trigger,” just before another explosion, though all I remember in that split second was a bright flash, the intense heat, something very heavy smashing into my chest knocking the wind out of me, and then the sensation of flying, just before I hit the wall.

 

I spent four weeks in an induced coma, three months being stitched back together and another six learning to do all those basic actions everyone took for granted.  It was twelve months almost to the day when I was released from the hospital, physically, except for a few alterations required after being hit by shrapnel, looking the same as I always had.

But mentally?  The document I’d signed on release said it all, ‘not fit for active duty; discharged’.

It was in the name of David Cheney.  For all intents and purposes, Alistair McKenzie was killed in that warehouse, and for the first time ever, an agent left the Department, the first to retire alive.

I was not sure I liked the idea of making history.

Going to the movies – not the apocalypse

What do you call going to the movies where the power goes out?

A complete disaster.

For starters, the first problem is living in a cashless society where not very many people carry cash.  When you fo to the movies, your mind is on the movie or elsewhere, so when they get to the box office and see the sign Cash Only. panic sets in.

Ugh. Now they have to go to the ATM and then get back in the queue.

By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the box office open.

Of course, no power means the pre-purchased ticket dispenser is out of action, all those people who pre-purchased tickets now have to join the long queue that’s getting longer by the minute, at the box office.

Those people who got their tickets ahead of time on the internet, namely us, have to join that long since there are no instructions to do anything else, that long queue only to discover they just had to show the e-receipt to the attendant at the entrance to the cinemas.

Ugh again.  Thanks for not telling us earlier.  We could have been in the snack bar queue.

As for snacks, the queue there is ten times longer than the box office, apparently without cash registers, so everything ordered has to be written down and manually added.

Let’s hip the juniors they employ can actually add up numbers in their heads. It’s a miracle these days to find anyone under the age of 18 able to do any mental arithmetic because it seems no schools teach it because everything is electronic.

Hello.

What do we do when there no power to drive the electronic devices.

Ugh yet again.

Ok, what’s the lesson here?

We’re in big trouble if or when the power goes down.

Electricity is one of those commodities we all take for granted because it’s one of those everyday essentials that drives every aspect of our lives.  We might endlessly complain about how much it costs us, but what would we do if there weren’t any at all?

Could we live without it?

No. Emphatically.

I suppose the bigger question is how long before society falls into anarchy?

I hope someone somewhere is working on the problem.