Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 28

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Chasing leads, maybe

 

It was rather an anti-climax to see the cat, Herman, come slinking out of the bedroom, down the passage, and then stop just at the edge of the room to look at the visitors.

He must have been hiding in her room all this time, and when he’d heard the door close, he thought it was safe to come out.

Jan saw him and held out her hand, “Come on, Herman, you’re safe now.”

He didn’t seem to agree and sat down just back of that invisible line in the sand that he wasn’t, yet going to step over.

But he did meow a few times, just to let us know he wasn’t pleased.

“Now that you’ve seen the cat, what were you thinking might be of significance?”

“I don’t know.  The fact he considered the cat his might have been significant in some way.”

Herman was back on his paws and taking tentative steps towards Jan.  Each time he stopped, he looked sideways at me, waiting.  Perhaps he thought I might attack him.  It would be the other way around.

“Doesn’t trust me, does he?”

He took a step back at the sound of my voice.

“Don’t listen to him Herman, you’re safe here with me.”

He looked at her, the same expression on his face he gave me.  Talk about the original poker face.  I doubt anyone could guess what he was thinking.  

A few more steps, then about a yard away he stopped again and sat.  He then spent the next few minutes looking at me.  Was this a test to see who blinked first?  I knew who would win that contest.  Not me.

Jan moved slightly and he jumped, and moved back several steps, looking warily at us both now.

“We’re not going to win him over, are we?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  There are a bowl and some food in the other room.  Put some in the bowl and bring it to me.”

Ah, the way to a cat’s heart is through his stomach.  I think the only thing relevant to that statement was that he was male.  I did as she asked, and handed her the bowl, and resumed my position, far enough away for him not to consider me a threat.

He watched me leave the room and return again, and I think he recognized the bowl, and that we were about to trick him into submission.

She put the bowl down next to her and patted the floor.

“It’s your favorite, Herman.”

Yes, head movements, and was he sniffing to see if he could recognize what was in the bowl?  Maybe he was hungry after being hidden away.  Would starvation overcome a fear of strangers?

A minute later we had the answer.  He was hungry and tentatively came over before smelling what was in the bowl before starting to eat.

Jan patted him.

“Works every time,” she said.

Both of us realized at the same time that Herman had a collar, slightly lost in the fur.  And she had the same idea as I did, that the collar might be significant.

She removed it as gently as she could without startling him, and then looked at it, around the outside, and then on the inside, and a sudden change of expression told me she found something.

“VS P4 L324.  What do you think that means?” she asked?

“Whatever it is, it’s a reminder that’s significant to O’Connell, or it is a message to someone if anything happened to him.  I expect that might mean it was a message to you.  You shared the cat so, clearly, he thought at some point in time you would look.”

“If he was expecting me to decipher it, then he must have seen something in me that I can’t.”

“You would work it out in time.  The point is if he hid that in plain sight, believing that if anyone came, they would take no notice of the car, then what else might he have hidden.  Does the cat have a bed?

“Not at his place, he used to sleep at the end of his bed.  But I put out an old blanket.”

How did she know the cat slept on the end of O’Connell’s bed?  I wasn’t going to ask, but if they were more than just friends, perhaps he had confided some details of what he was doing.

“In your room?”

“In the spare room where you found the food.”

I went back to the room found the blanked tossed in a corner, put there by the person who searched her flat no doubt, because I couldn’t see the cat doing it, not unless he was extremely bad-tempered and had super cat powers to move objects multiple times heavier than he was.

I picked it up and immediately had cat hair on my clothes.  Good thing then I wasn’t allergic to cats.

Then, I had a feeling someone was watching me.  I was right, Herman had come back to see what I was doing.

“Just straightening it out for you,” I said.

The death stare didn’t change.  He just stood there looking at me.  Or was he looking through me at something else, like a ghost?  It was slightly un-nerving.

I felt around the edges and suddenly, in the middle of one side, where the manufacturer’s label was, it felt like something was under it.  On closer examination, I could see the stitching had been removed for several inches in length and then crudely sewn it back together.  Inside what would be a pouch, I could feel something under the material, and with a little more twisting I thought it might be a tag.

I’d seen a pair of scissors in the kitchen and came back to get them.  Jan was busy trying to position the wet part of the towel over her head.  After I’d finished with the blanket, I would fetch her some Panadol.

I gently cut the crude stitches and then wriggled the item out.  It was a card with a number on it, 324.  That was all that was printed on the card.  Not what it was, who it belonged to, or what it represented.  I went back into the room where the cat was now sitting on her leg.

“There was a card sewn into the blanket.  It has the number 324 on it.  That would make it…”

“… a check for a post box, or safety deposit box, or a storage locker.”

Not exactly what I was going to say, but close enough.

Then she said, “It’s the same number on the collar.  L324.  Locker 324.  Somewhere defined by VS and P4.”

“Do you have a computer?”

“Not here.  Do you?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll go into the office and use one of theirs.  I assume you can do the same?”

I could, but I wasn’t quite sure what or who would be waiting for me,, now that I knew I couldn’t trust Nobbin.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s safe for me.  It’s probably better if I don’t, not until I can find out who is who.”

Either of the two, Nobbin or Severin could be on the wrong side, maybe even both of them.  I was surprised that Severin didn’t drag me off when he came for Maury.  Perhaps I was still useful to him in the field as a second-string to finding the USB.

I helped her to stand.  

“No time like the present.  I’ll let you know what I find if anything.  Are you going to stay here?” she asked.  

“No.  Severin knows about this place and might come back.  We’re done here.  I’ll make sure the cat gets out.  I don’t think you should come back here unless you have to.”

“Then I’ll see you at the hotel.”

© Charles Heath 2020

In a word: Angle

We all know this to be an intersection of two lines like a crossroad is at a 90-degree angle

But…

It’s an angle bracket that keeps the shelf up, hopefully with books on it.

Did you know that it was something someone did in order to get something?

She began to angle for an invitation to a party that she would not normally be invited to, or he has angled his answers to the prospective employer in a bid to be more likely to be selected for the position.

It can also refer to a position, or judgement, so that someone might say, try and see it from my angle, or another angle.

Or that it refers to fishing, and the fisherman or woman is known as an angler.

It can be a position from which something is viewed, or in crime parlance, the CSI people will work out the angle of the bullet’s entry do they can locate the position of the shooter.

Angle can refer to people of Germanic origin, such as an Anglo Saxon

And, here’s something even I didn’t know, in Astrology, it is each of the four cardinal points of a chart, from which the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth houses extend anticlockwise respectively.

Searching for locations: Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

It was recently topical because of the Commonwealth Games, but we have been to the Gold Coast on many occasions and nearly always stayed at the Hilton.

Nearly all of the photos here are taken from floor 13 through to 45, some close to the ocean, others facing north, and west, towards the hinterland.

Below is one of the main beaches, where the typical sun, sand, and surf pretty well sums it up.  Been ion the water a few times myself, and it is amazing how warm it can be on some days, and how cold it can be on others.

And a surfer’s paradise it sure is!

2013-02-03 09.34.50

At the bottom, the start of the shopping centers and eateries.  The is more different types of food there that can be counted on the fingers and toes together.

2013-10-19 11.30.23

The beach just to the north, and where the market stalls set up at night.

2013-10-19 11.31.42

Further north, through the highrises, and far, far into the distance towards Brisbane.

2013-03-31 10.54.56

North, again, looking up Cavill Avenue.

2013-02-03 09.31.08

South, showing highrises and the Q Tower.

2013-10-19 11.44.04

South, taken from the Q Tower, the coastline to Coolangatta dotted with high rise apartment blocks.

2013-10-19 11.32.49

The two towers behind the Grand Chancellor, are the twin towers of the Hilton Hotel.

2013-10-19 11.52.33

From the Q Tower, looking towards the canal residential precinct.

2013-10-19 11.30.31

Yes, we were looking for whales, no we didn’t see any.  The ocean, though, was unusually calm.

In a word: Fourth

When you realize you are the fourth child, you are really hoping that the split is two boys and three girls.  Woe betide you if you are a boy and you have three sisters.  It could also be as interesting, notice I didn’t say intolerable) if you are a girl with three brothers.

Hang on, I know someone who was in that exact same situation.  Fortunately, being a girl and the youngest, she could do no wrong in the eyes of her father.

But I digress (as usual)

The meaning of fourth is self-evident, just count to four and it’s the fourth number, perhaps better explained by the fact it is one after the third in a series

Then we use it with other words like,

Fourth-gear, usually reserved for the highway where one expects to geta clear run.  Of course, with more and more cars on the road, sometimes it’s difficult to get out of second.

The fourth estate, no, not what a rich person owns, along with a lot more one guesses, but another name for the press.

One fourth, your share of an estate, if of course, you have three other siblings.  And, in murder mysteries, usually those fourths seem to die mysteriously, and your fourth becomes a third, a half, and then you go to jail.

in fourth place, where it seems all the horse I back run

And,

This is not to be confused with the word forth, which sounds the same but means something entirely different, like

I’m sure we’ve all been told to go forth and be something or other, which means to go forward or come out of hiding

It is also a Scottish river, one notably called the Firth of Forth, and if it sounds odd, so do a lot things in Scotland

You could also place back and forth, much the same as you would in a hospital waiting for the birth of your first child.

In a word: Stern

It’s what I’d always expected of my teachers, having to stand up the front of the classroom and look like they were in control.

These days, not so much, but back in my day, teachers, and particularly the men, were to be feared, and stern expressions were the features of an effective teacher.

So, in this context, it means a hardness or severity of manner.

Whilst in a sense that was frightening to us kids, another form of the word also can be used to express a forbidding or gloomy appearance.

Grandfathers also have that stern look, but it’s more forbidding, more authoritarian, more severe, more austere, well, you get the picture.  A six-year-old would be trembling in his or her boots.

There again, in facing up to either possibility above, you could stand firm with a stern resolve not to buckle under the pressure.

Of course, not a good idea if you’re facing a tank (with a stern-looking tank master)

Then…

If you’re standing at the end of the boat, not the front, but the rear, you would be standing at the stern of the boat, or ship.

Oddly, when issuing instructions to go in reverse, not something you would say if you were on the bridge, you would instead say, or possibly yell, full speed astern, because you’re about to hit an iceberg.

Or some idiot in a jet ski who likes to think he or she can beat the bullet (or 65,000 tonnes of a ship that has very little mobility).

The story behind the story: A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers

The write a private detective serial has always been one of the items at the top of my to-do list, though trying to write novels and a serial, as well as a blog, and maintain a social media presence, well, you get the idea.

But I made it happen, from a bunch of episodes I wrote a long, long time ago, used these to start it, and then continue on, then as now, never having much of an idea where it was going to end up, or how long it would take to tell the story.

That, I think is the joy of ad hoc writing, even you, as the author, have as much idea of where it’s going as the reader does.

It’s basically been in the mill since 1990, and although I finished it last year, it looks like the beginning to end will have taken exactly 30 years.  Had you asked me 30 years ago if I’d ever get it finished, the answer would be maybe?

 

My private detective, Harry Walthenson

I’d like to say he’s from that great literary mold of Sam Spade, or Mickey Spillane, or Phillip Marlow, but he’s not.

But, I’ve watched Humphrey Bogart play Sam Spade with much interest, and modeled Harry and his office on it.  Similarly, I’ve watched Robert Micham play Phillip Marlow with great panache, if not detachment, and added a bit of him to the mix.

Other characters come into play, and all of them, no matter what period they’re from, always seem larger than life.  I’m not above stealing a little of Mary Astor, Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet, to breathe life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.

 

Then there’s the title, like

The Case of the Unintentional Mummy – this has so many meanings in so many contexts, though I image back in Hollywood in the ’30s and ’40s, this would be excellent fodder for Abbott and Costello

The Case of the Three-Legged Dog – Yes, I suspect there may be a few real-life dogs with three legs, but this plot would involve something more sinister.  And if made out of plaster, yes, they’re always something else inside.

But for mine, to begin with, it was “The Case of the …”, because I had no idea what the case was going to be about, well, I did, but not specifically.

Then I liked the idea of calling it “The Case of the Brother’s Revenge” because I began to have a notion there was a brother no one knew about, but that’s stuff for other stories, not mine, so then went the way of the others.

 

Now it’s called ‘A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers’, finished the first three drafts, and at the editor for the last.

I have high hopes of publishing it in May 2020.  It even has a cover.

 

PIWalthJones1

In a word: Blank

Yes, I’m drawing a blank, which means I have no idea

It seems that I do this a lot these days, perhaps one of the perils of being a writer

But…

Using blank in a story doesn’t necessarily convey the antagonist is clueless, more likely he or she just used one in a gun, put there by a person who didn’t want to get shot.

No, still drawing a blank on this one.

A blank space means there’s nothing in it, and you see a lot of these in crosswords and sudoku, even when the user has been toiling for hours

I’m thinking anyone who met me might misinterpret my blank expression, well, it’s not too expressive in the first place

Perhaps before the coin becomes a coin; it is a piece of blank metal to begin with.  How good would it be to get a one-sided coin, that’d be worth a lot?

And the very worst description of blank; having a blank piece of paper in front of you, and you really are drawing a blank!