Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 10

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

In going forward I seem to be always going backward.  An oxymoron?  Maybe.

This is the problem of writing a book over a long period of time, things change.  It might be frustrating, but it is making me work harder on the synopsis, so I can get better continuity.

Today’s word count takes me to the end of Chapter 23 and adds another 2,064 words to a total of 31,938 so far.





A to Z Challenge – I is for: I don’t think so…


I think I drew the short straw.

The Superintendent came out of his office and cast an eye over the available detectives, stopping firstly at Plunkett, the current star, the Detective with the best resolution rate, then, after a shake of the head, looked at me.

I was trying to hide.


Obviously, it didn’t work.  Another dead-end case was beckoning.

When I stepped into his office he told me to shut the door.  I declined to sit.

He slid a file across the desk and sat back.  “This shouldn’t take long.  Open and shut.”

I knew what open and shut meant.  The last open and shut case cost a detective his job.  It was how the Superintendent got rid of what he called the ‘chaff’.

I picked up the file and opened it.  A man sprawled on the kitchen floor, a bullet between the eyes.  It certainly didn’t look spur of the moment or a lucky shot.

“The man had a history of domestic violence and the wife had enough, acquired a gun and when he pushed her too far.  All she’s guilty of is illegal weapons charges.”

And quite possibly murder.

“I want it wrapped up by the end of the week.”

Dismissed.  I felt like I was back in school.  “I’ll do my best.”

No surprise that Plunkett had noticed our byplay, and that he should comment, “What important work has the Super set you on, then?”

There was no doubting the sarcasm and the condescending tone.  It had also gained the attention of the other members of the squad.  I could feel all eyes on me.

Stage one, the Superintendent gives the ‘dismissal’ case.

Stage two, Plunkett starts the humiliation.

“I’m sure you’re well aware of which case it is.  After all, you have a hand in case allocation, being the senior detective.”

A small change in facial expression, definitely not the answer he was expecting. He opened his mouth to retort, then shut it again.

I simply walked past him, adding in a lower voice, “Thanks for the open and shut case, by the way.”

I had hoped that all but ignoring him would fire him up.  Mercifully it didn’t, he picked up a sheet of paper from his desk and walked out.  The others went back to work.  I had no friends there.

When quiet settled over the room, I opened the file.  There were a number of documents and witness statements.  The previous detective, Robert Jackson, now working in a distant police station where there was very little crime, had come to the conclusion that was a justifiable homicide.

It fitted the facts if you didn’t read between the lines.

I started with the autopsy and the death was straightforward.  A bullet in the head, shot at close range, not a lucky shot, but it was deliberate.

The forensic team had gone over the scene, and those people in the house at the time, the victim’s wife, Imelda Archer, two children Jennifer and Dale, and the wife’s mother, Wendy O’Donnell, all said the same thing, that he deserved to die, and no, they hadn’t seen who did it, but, on the other hand, none of the three had witnessed Imelda do it, only that she had been arguing with her husband, then a gunshot, and then silence.

There were the facts that the wife tested positive for gunshot residue, and the murder weapon had not been found.  It was, at best, circumstantial but compelling evidence.

The building’s residents had been canvassed, and aside from the usual, ‘It’s none of my business’, there was the odd, ‘don’t know them’ or ‘he got what he deserved’.   Most corroborated the time of the shot that fitted the time of the death.  Some offered the opinion that they’d often heard loud and heated arguments coming from the apartment, and later seeing Imelda with lacerations and bruising.

Outside the building, among those canvassed, only one said they heard another bang, one that was thought to be a car backfiring because it was half an hour earlier than the actual shot.  The previous detective discounted it as being relevant to the case.

As a matter of interest, Detective Jackson had run a background check on Archer, to see if he had any enemies, of which there were many but all had alibis, and friends who mostly had little good to say about his wife.  Not unexpected in such a situation.

He did the same for Imelda, and her friends corroborated the story about the brutal husband, and how it was in their opinion if she did it, it would be justifiable.

I read Jacksons notes, his final report and his recommendations, and they echoed the very words the Superintendent had told me.

Sticking points were the earlier bang, which corroborated Imelda’s statement when said she had not shot her husband but had threatened him with a gun she had got from a ‘friend’, whom she refused to name, about a half-hour before she found the body on the kitchen floor.  She didn’t admit to firing a bullet, but it was possible she had.

A gun in the hand of an inexperienced, and agitated shooter was a dangerous weapon, and a shot could go almost anywhere.  I doubted, given the distance she said she was standing away from the victim, she could have hit him.

She said the gun had gone missing when she put it in a drawer after the husband left.

That meant that there were possibly two weapons, or it could be the same one used on both occasions.

Forensics had looked for a bullet in the wall, considering there may have been a first shot, one fired by Imelda when she threatened her husband earlier, if that was, in fact, what happened, but none had been found.

Nor was there any testimony that anyone had seen the husband leaving the flat, or any other movement or sounds from the apartment in the half-hour leading up to the time of death.

This was not an open and shut case.

Then there was another forensic report, still in the envelope with the word ‘copy’ on it, still unopened.  It was dated the day after the last entry by the first investigating detective.

Why hadn’t it been opened?  Had Jackson believed it was just a copy of the first original report.  It didn’t feel like anything more than a single sheet, whereas the first was ten pages and evidently came in a larger envelope.

I opened the envelope and pulled out the single page.  It had a single paragraph and a note that said ‘just thought I’d check if there was a match between the gun residue on Imelda Archer’s hand and the gunshot wound on the victims head.  They do not match.’  The report concluded that there had been two shots fired, one by Imelda that wasn’t fired from the same gun that killed her husband.


I looked up to see the Superintendent standing in front of my desk.

“Is it an open and shut case?”

“I don’t think so.”  I handed him the sheet of paper from the previously unopened envelope and watched him read it.

“Sloppy.  Very, very sloppy.”  He glared at me.  “Find the killer.”


© Charles Heath 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 9

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

At last I can get back to the pure joy? of editing again, and looking at chapter 20 found that it needed a little more work than I thought, taking me through til the afternoon, longer than I thought.

It is easy to become immersed in something so much that you can lose track of time.

After chapter 20, chapter 21 was a breeze.

Today’s word count takes me to the end of Chapter 21 and adds another 3,876 words to a total of 29,874 so far.





A to Z Challenge – H is for: How could that possibly happen…


I had hoped by the time I was promoted to assistant manager it might mean something other than long hours and an increase in pay.

It didn’t.

But unlike others who had taken the job, and eventually become jaded and left, I stayed. Something I realized that others seemed to either ignore or just didn’t understand, this was a company that rewarded loyalty.

It was why there were quite a few who had served 30 years or more. They might not reach the top job, but they certainly well looked after.

I had a long way to go, having been there only 8 years, and according to some, on a fast track. I was not sure how I would describe this so-called ‘fast track’ other than being in the right place at the right time and making a judicial selection.

When it was my turn to be promoted, I had a choice of a plum department, or one most of my contemporaries had passed over. At the time, the words of my previous manager sprang to mind, that being a manager for the most sought after department or the least sought after, came with exactly the same privileges.

And, he was right. I took the least sought after, much to their disdain and disapproval. One year on, that disapproval had turned almost to envy; that was when the Assistant Managers were granted a new privilege, tea, and lunch in the executive dining room.

“So, what’s it like?” John asked, when our group met on a Friday night, this the first after the privilege was granted.

He had been one of the three, including me, who had the opportunity to take the role. Both he and Alistair had both declined, prepared to wait for a more prestigious department. It hadn’t happened to them yet.

“The same as the staff dining room, only smaller. Except, I guess, the waitstaff and butler. They come and serve you when you have to go to them in the staff room. They’re the same staff, by the way, except for the butler.”

I could see the awe, or was it envy, in their eyes. “but it’s not that great. The Assistant Managers all sit at one end of the table, and we’re not part of the main group, so no sharing of information I’m afraid. And the meals are the same, just served on fancier crockery.”

“Then nothing to write home about?” Will was one of those who they also thought to be on a ‘fast track’. I was still trying to see how my ‘fast track’ was actually that fast.

“Put it this way, the extra pay doesn’t offset the long hours because you get overtime, I don’t, so on a good week, you’d all be earning more than me. Without responsibility, if anything goes wrong. I think that’s why Assistant Managers were created, to take the blame when anything goes wrong.”

That had been the hardest pill to swallow. Until I got the role, I hadn’t realized what it really involved. Nor had the others, and it was not something we could whinge about. My first-day introductory speech from Tomkins, my Manager, was all about taking responsibility, and how I was there to make his life easier. It was a speech he made a few times because he’d been Manager for the last 16 years, much the same as the others, and promotion if ever, would come when they died.

And Manager’s rarely died, because of their Assistant Managers.

“How old is Tomkins now?” Bert, a relative newcomer to our group, asked. He was still in the ‘in awe’ phase.

“About the same as Father Time,” I said. “But the reality is, no one knows, except perhaps for the personnel manager.” O looked over at Wally, the Personnel Department’s Assistant Manager. “Any chance of you telling us?”

“No. You know I can’t.”

“But you know?” I asked.

“Of course, but you know the rules. That’s confidential information. Not like what you are the custodian of, information everyone needs.”

Which, of course, was true. Communication and Secretarial Services had no secrets, except for twice a year when the company Bord of Directors met, and we were responsible for all the documents used at their meetings. Then, and only then, was I privy to all the secrets, including promotions. And be asked ‘What’s happening?’.

“Just be content to know that he’s as old as the hills, as most of them. It seems to me that one of the pre-requisites for managership is that you have been employed here for 30 years.”

Not all, though, I’d noticed, but there wasn’t one under the age of fifty.

And so it would go, the Friday night lament, those ‘in’ the executive, and those who were not quite there yet.
It seemed prophetic, in a sense, that we had been talking about Mangers and their ages. By a quirk of fate, some weeks before, that I learned of Tomkins’s currents state of health via a call on his office phone. At the time he was out, where, he had not told me, but by his the I believed it was something serious, so serious he didn’t want me, or anyone else, to know about it.

That phone call was from his wife, Eleanor, whom I’d met on a number of occasions when she came to take him home from work. I liked her, and couldn’t help but notice she was his exact opposite, Tomkins, silent and at times morose, and Eleanor, the life of the party. I could imagine her being a handful in her younger days, and it was a stark reminder of that old saying ‘opposites attract’.

She was concerned and asked me if he had returned from the specialist. I simply said he had but was elsewhere, and promised to get him to call her when he returned. Then I made a quick call around to see where he was and found that he was in Personnel. I left an innocuous message on his desk, and then let my imagination run wild.

At least for a day or so, the time it took for me to realize that it was probably nothing, the lethargy he’d been showing, gone.

I’d put it out of my mind until my cell phone rang, and it was from the Personnel Manager. On a Sunday, no less. In the few seconds before I answered it, I’d made the assumption that Tomkins’s secretive visits to the specialist meant he needed time off for a routine operation.

Greetings over, O’Reilly, the Personnel Manager, cut straight to the chase, “For your personal information, and not to be repeated, Tomkins will be out of action for about two months, and as that is longer than the standard period, you will become Acting Manager. We’ll talk more about this Tuesday morning.” Monday was a holiday.

All Assistant Managers knew the rules. Any absence of a manager for longer than a month, promotion to Acting Manager. Anything less, you sat in the office, but no change in title. There was one more rule, that in the event of the death of a manager, the assistant manager was immediately promoted to Manager. This had only happened once before. 70 years ago. If a manager retired, then the position of Manager was thrown open to anyone in the organization.

It was an intriguing moment in time.

Tuesday came, and as usual, I went into the office, with only one thought in mind, let the staff in the department know what was happening, of course, the moment I was given the approval to do so by Personnel.

Not a minute after I sat down, the phone rang. I picked it up, gave my name and greeting. It was met with a rather excitable voice of the Assistant Manager, Personnel, “I just got word from on high, you’ve been promoted to manager. How could that possibly happen…”

Then a moment later, as realization set in, “Unless…”


© Charles Heath 2020

Past conversations with my cat – 55



This is Chester.  He’s supposed to be keeping an eye on the weather.

This is the second day of Spring where it has started warm, and by mid-afternoon, it has reached a high of over 30 degrees Celcius.

It’s the start of the heatwave that basically starts in October, and doesn’t go away until April the following year.

But it’s not the heat that’s the problem, it’s the humidity, and having a day that’s 35 degrees with 1000% humidity, is like being roasted in an oven.

I see the look on Chester’s face when he comes into the writing room, a sly glance up to the roof to see if the fan is going, and a slight shake of the head when he sees it is not.

Not that hot yet, I say.

What did we get the air conditioning for or the solar panels?\

He’s sharp and doesn’t miss a trick.  It’s now more a benefit to run the airconditioning during the day when solar power is being generated.

We’ll be using it soon, I say.  But, just as a matter of interest, don’t you cats like the heat?  After all, in winter, you’re just about sitting in the fire.

A glare, no an insolent stare.  That’s in winter.  This is Summer.

No, it’s Spring.  Let me know when it’s Summer and I’ll be happy to help.

He flops on the ground.

At least you put tiles in, it’s nice and cool down here on the floor, he mutters, feigning going to sleep.

And a wide yawn just to emphasize the fact the conversation’s over.

Why not.  I turn the fan on high.  Just to annoy him.

Yes,, I can feel his eyes burning into my back.



Camp NaNoWriMo – Day 8

The April version of the November write-a-thon is upon us, well, me actually.  I’m not sure hope many others are trying to resurrect an old piece of writing.

The truth is, I’ve been at this story off and on over the past three years, and every time I get a head of steam, something else comes along.

Now I’ve decided to use the April version of NANOWRIMO to get this thing finished, or at least in a first draft state.

I have spent a lot of the time reading back over the previous chapters to make sure continuity has been maintained, and alas, as happens with some stories written over a number of years, the main characters name changed from James to David, and his brother took over the name James.

I’m going forward through the rest to make sure the name is correct throughout.

There must be better things to do…

Today’s word count takes me to the end of Chapter 19 and adds another 1,734 words to a total of 25,998 so far.




A to Z Challenge – G is for: Going once, going twice…


It was the small town that we had visited once, some years ago, that had enticed me back.

Those had been happier times, times when the stench of money hadn’t overtaken sensibility, and who we really were.

Not that I had changed all that much, except for the upper west side apartment, and posh car to go with it, but what had disappointed me was the change in Liz, the woman I thought once as the love of my life.

Without the trappings of wealth, she was the kindest, most thoughtful and generous person I knew, but that had changed when I became the recipient of an inheritance that beggared belief.  We both made a promise from the outset that it would not change us, but unfortunately, it did.

And that was probably the main reason why I was standing outside an old fixer-upper house on several acres overlooking the ocean.

I’d asked Liz to come, but she was having a weekend away in Las Vegas with her new friends, or as one of the ladies rather salaciously said, a what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of weekend.

Charmaine had told me about the house, one that she had admired for a long time, but didn’t have the means to buy it.

Charmaine was a painter, a rather good one, and both Liz and I had met her on a weekend away upstate, and I’d bought one of her landscapes to hang in our new apartment.  Liz hated it, but I think that had more to do with the painter than the painting, and that was because Charmaine had flirted with me, and that, I had observed over time, was how she was with everyone.

She called it her sales technique.  After all, it had worked on me.

I listened to the auctioneer go through the rules of the action and then move on to a physical description of the property.  I’d been to several viewings and got a good idea of what was needed if I was to buy it.  It had good foundations and had suffered from a lack of TLC.  It was how the auctioneer summed up.

When he called for the first bid, I felt a hand slip into mine, and a glance sideways showed it to be Charmaine.  I had asked her along for support but she had something else to do, but it appeared now, she hadn’t.

“So,” she whispered next to my ear, “you were serious about this place?”

I had been dithering, not being able to make my mind up, but Liz, in the end, made the decision for me.  I’d overheard a snippet of conversation with one of her new friends, and, to be honest, I’d been surprised.

“Perhaps it was time to find a hideaway.”

“Things that bad?”

I shrugged.  “Maybe I’m writing too much into it.  At any rate, I needed an excuse to get out of town, and being here was as good as any.”

The first bid came in at 450,000.   I knew the reserved was about 700,000, and I was prepared to 850,000.  But I was hoping to spend less than that because the renovations would be about 250,000.

“We could go and have a picnic.  It’ll certainly cost less than buying this place.”

“I’m here now.”

Holding hands was just one of Charmaine’s ‘things’, and I had never written anything into what might have been called a relationship of sorts.  We were not lovers, and the conversation had never been steered in that direction, but I did find myself gravitated towards her when Liz was off doing her thing with her friends.  To be honest, I just liked the idea of a picnic and watching Charmaine paint her landscapes.

I raised the bid to 500,000.  Another from the previous bidder, 550,000.  Another at 600,000.  It seems there were three bidders for the property.  The other sixteen people attending were observers, probably locals interested in how this would help their property value.

I went 625,000 when the auctioneer changed the increment after a lack of bidding.  It was countered, moving to 650,000.  Another at 657,000, and then the first bidder went to 700,000, the reserve.

“You do realize the other bidders are friends of the owner and are there to push the price up?” Charmaine whispered in my ear.

I’d heard of it happening, but I’d not suspected it until she mentioned it.

“Going once, going twice at 700,000.”  The auctioneer looked at me.  “I’ll accept 10,000 increments.”

I nodded.  710,000.  It quickly moved to 800,000, after I bid 790,000.

The auctioneer looked at me expectantly.  “810,000, sir?”

That was more than I wanted to spend though an elbow in the ribs was the clincher, and when I declined, there was an air of disappointment.

“Going once, going twice, all done at 800,000?”  A look around the crowd confirmed we were all done, and the gavel came down.

“Looks like we’re going on a picnic,” she said.  “I’d expect a call in an hour or so.”

Two things happened that weekend, both of which surprised me.  The first, Charmaine was right, I did get a call, and finished up with a hideaway in the country, overlooking the ocean.  The second, Liz didn’t come back from Las Vegas.  She had apparently found someone new, someone more exciting, or so she said.

I guess I was disappointed but not overly concerned.  She had changed and I had not and if the truth be told, we were drifting apart.  We parted amicably, sold the apartment, and moved on, each in a different direction.

I had a new residence, and renovations to take my mind off the break-up, and when I told Charmaine, she was just said she didn’t believe we were that perfect match.  And in the light of my new status, I could now ask her to come and stay in the spare bedroom, a lot better, I said, than the one person tent she had been using, an offer she readily accepted.

Until, a year later, it became something more than that.


© Charles Heath 2020