NaNoWriMo Day 30 + 12

Yes, this project is still moving through the water, albeit very slowly, but progress is being made.

Today’s efforts are directed towards completing several chapters that have most of the text written, but waiting on previous events to play out.

In other words, the story later on depends on something happening earlier on, so I have to go back and re-write certain parts, or in one case write a whole new chapter.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen too often.

And, I’ve been discussing Ophelia’s contribution to the story with my second eldest granddaughter (who is providing the inspiration for this role) and she has decided that she needs so mystical (magic is banned you know, she tells me with a dead straight face) powers.

Yes, well, I’m working on it. At least I didn’t tell her there’s a major family calamity coming up, not ours, but her mythical family. She can wait until she reads the first draft to find out.

For those keeping an eye on the word count, this session, 4,254 words for a running total of 122,274.

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

To 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 early 2021.  It even has a cover.

PIWalthJones1

Another photograph from the inspirational pile…

I remeber once being told that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land in the clouds, if you shoot for the tree tops, you’ll finish up back where you started from.

It was a silly analogy, but I always remembered it when I looked up at the sky and saw clouds.

That was back in those hazy carefree days just after you were finished with school and you had your whole life in front of you. Your parents were there as the safety net, and were still proud of your scholastic achievements, and were not in too much of a hurry to hustle you out of the house.

But what happened when there’s a recession that came upon everyone without any warning.

Stocks plummeted, people lost their life’s savings, those with mortgages and loans suddenly finding that along with unemployment came no income, no ability to pay the bills, and therefore lost everything.

Although I never said it, I was thinking what good was an education when the whole world had gone to hell in a handbasket.

Two things I remember from back then, which in the context of disaster, wasn’t all that long ago. Firstly, my father making us children go camping from before we could walk, and with it, to survive with nothing but the clothes on our backs, and our wits.

It had happened to him, as a member of am expedition in Africa in his younger days, thinking that he might become the next great explorer, or archeologist, and finishing up getting lost, even though he asserted the other members had deliberately left him behind.

And secondly, that it was essential that we forge working relationships with any and all those who were like minded, such as those who wanted to be saved, not those who expected everyone else to so the work. It was obvious he had met a lot of those type of people too.

It served us well.

When nations began turning on each other, when essential resources like electricity and fuel stopped being distributed and rationed, when food suddenly became scarce, that’s when the real trouble started. My father said, at the outset, what would happen, and was glad our mother was not there to see it.

Then, when neighbours attacked neighbours once food became scarce, it was time to leave. The pity of it was, he died defending us, even after offering up some of the food we had stored away, but that had not appeased a hungry or angry mob.

His last words, “Go to where we said we would go, and remember everything I’ve taught you” were etched in my brain, and my brother and I did as he asked.

But, even knowing where we had to go, and how to get there, a plan of action made many years before, and trialled in recent years with success, nothing in the past could have prepared us for the journey.

It was, literally, time to shoot for the moon.

© Charles Heath 2021

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 41

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on the 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

I gave it about five minutes before I think I started breathing again and then headed back to Jennifer.

Or where I thought I had left her.

She wasn’t there. I think, in the end, it didn’t surprise me. She had been reluctant from the start so if I had to guess, she had done a bunk. This was not her fight, nor mine, but she had a ticket out. Why would you want to come back after being betrayed by the likes of Severin and Maury?

I hope she left the car behind.

Now that I was here there was no point leaving, so I took a few minutes to search the surrounding area, just in case she was still here, just someplace else, and when she wasn’t, I quickly and silently made my way back to the side of the house with the open door from a different direction.

There was another set of French doors, these curtained, and with an overhead light above the doorway, so I kept my distance in case there was a movement activator, another which looked to be a servant’s entrance at the back. Neither door looked to be an easy viable entrance.

The original side door was still unlocked, with no lights or movement inside.

I waited, then opened the door wide enough to slip through. Again, I waited in case there was a silent alarm, then when nothing stirred, slipped through and closed the door behind me.

On the other side of the door, it was quite dark, except now I could see, on one wall, the dying embers of a fire. Someone had been in the room earlier and most likely gone to bed.

It meant the house was occupied.

It also meant I had to be careful.

On the other side of the doors, it was a lot warmer. Again I waited a few minutes, just in case someone came, and, when they didn’t, I pulled out a small torch and turned it on.

In front of me were two chairs and a table, one I would have walked into without a light. The walls had shelves and those shelves were filled with books. Some behind glass doors, others not. There was another chair by the fire, and beside it, a stack of cooks, and a table with had an empty glass and a bottle, and a pair of reading glasses.

The downstairs reading room.

I cross the room slowly, hoping there were no squeaky floorboards, to be expected in an old house like this one. The timber flooring was exposed only at the edges of the room, the rest of the floor covered in a large, discolored, and fraying carpet square.

It was old, like everything else in the room.

I was tempted to have a look at how far the books dated back to but resisted the urge. I was looking for information on the owner.

At the doorway to what looked like a passage, I turned off the torch and peered out. It was not exactly dark, my eyes had adjusted to the low-level light from low wattage lights about a foot above the floor.

Lights to help guide the way at night.

Left, rooms, right, rooms, at the end of the passage a wide doorway leading towards the other side of the house. Larger rooms perhaps.

I turned right and headed towards the front, and they stopped at the doorway to the next room. I’d deliberately walked on the carpet runner in the middle of the passage, and just managed to catch my foot when one part of the floor creaked softly.

The room next door was almost the same as the one I’d entered by, with chairs and shelves but only on two sides. This room had a long window and no French doors.

On one side there was a writing desk, open, with papers scatted on the writing surface. I quickly crossed the room to it, switched on the light, and checked.

Bills. In the name of Mrs. Marianne Quigley. This had to be Adam Quigley’s mother, and by deduction, O’Connell’s mother.

Proof I was in the right place.

Then I heard the squeak of a floorboard followed by the clicking sound of a gun being cocked.

“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot. Hands in the air. And don’t make me ask twice.”

Hands up it was.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

In a word: Good

There is a TV show that was on the TV called ‘The Good Place’.

It’s really the bad place which makes you wonder if there really is a ‘good place’.

This started me thinking.

How many people do you know, when you ask them how they are, they say ‘good’?

Can we see behind the facade that is their expression of how they really feel?

And how many of us reveal our true feelings?

It seems to me there is an acceptable level of understanding that we take people at their word and move on from there.

And how many times when we suspect there is something wrong, we tend to overlook it in what is regarded as respect for that person?

What if something awful happened?

What if we could have prevented it?

What if we could have tried to gently probe deeper?

The problem is we seem to be too polite and there is nothing wrong with that.

But maybe, just maybe, the next time …

It’s just a thought.

 

A private detective story lends itself to be written in episodes

** A new episode has just been published**

To 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 was finally completed as Walthenson’s first case, ‘A Case of Working with the Jones Brothers’.

He has now embarked on his second adventure, as yet untitled, but the latest episode can be found here:

https://www.walthensonpi.com/

The first is here, for those who wish to start with the first episode of his first case:

https://bit.ly/35I1Ddn

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 breath life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.

An excerpt from “Betrayal” – a work in progress

It could have been anywhere in the world, she thought, but it wasn’t.  It was in a city where if anything were to go wrong…

She sighed and came away from the window and looked around the room.  It was quite large and expensively furnished.  It was one of several she had been visiting in the last three months.

Quite elegant too, as the hotel had its origins dating back to before the revolution in 1917.  At least, currently, there would not be a team of KGB agents somewhere in the basement monitoring everything that happened in the room.

There was no such thing as the KGB anymore, though there was an FSB, but such organisations were of no interest to her.

She was here to meet with Vladimir.

She smiled to herself when she thought of him, such an interesting man whose command of English was as good as her command of Russian, though she had not told him of that ability.

All her knew of her was that she was American, worked in the Embassy as a clerk, nothing important, who life both at work and at home was boring.  Not that she had blurted that out the first tie she met, or even the second.

That first time, at a function in the Embassy, was a chance meeting, a catching of his eye as he looked around the room, looking, as he had told her later, for someone who might not be as boring as the function itself.

It was a celebration, honouring one of the Embassy officials on his service in Moscow, and the fact he was returning home after 10 years.  She had been there one, and still hadn’t met all the staff.

They had talked, Vladimir knew a great deal about England, having been stationed there for a year or two, and had politely asked questions about where she lived, her family, and of course what her role was, all questions she fended off with an air of disinterested interest.

It fascinated him, as she knew it would, a sort of mental sparring as one would do with swords, if this was a fencing match.

They had said they might or might not meet again when the party was over, but she suspected there would be another opportunity.  She knew the signs of a man who was interested in her, and Vladimir was interested.

The second time came in the form of an invitation to an art gallery, and a viewing of the works of a prominent Russian artist, an invitation she politely declined.  After all, invitations issued to Embassy staff held all sorts of connotations, or so she was told by the Security officer when she told him.

Then, it went quiet for a month.  There was a party at the American embassy and along with several other staff members, she was invited.  She had not expected to meet Vladimir, but it was a pleasant surprise when she saw him, on the other side of the room, talking to several military men.

A pleasant afternoon ensued.

And it was no surprise that they kept running into each other at the various events on the diplomatic schedule.

By the fifth meeting, they were like old friends.  She had broached the subject of being involved in a plutonic relationship with him with the head of security at the embassy.  Normally for a member of her rank it would not be allowed, but in this instance it was.

She did not work in any sensitive areas, and, as the security officer had said, she might just happen upon something that might be useful.  In that regard, she was to keep her eyes and ears open, and file a report each time she met him.

After that discussion she got the impression her superiors considered Vladimir more than just a casual visitor on the diplomatic circuit.  She also formed the impression the he might consider her an ‘asset’, a word that had been used at the meeting with security and the ambassador.

It was where the word ‘spy’ popped into her head and sent a tingle down her spine.  She was not a spy, but the thought of it, well, it would be fascinating to see what happened.

A Russian friend.  That’s what she would call him.

And over time, that relationship blossomed, until, after a visit to the ballet, late and snowing, he invited her to his apartment not far from the ballet venue.  It was like treading on thin ice, but after champagne and an introduction to caviar, she felt like a giddy schoolgirl.

Even so, she had made him promise that he remain on his best behaviour.  It could have been very easy to fall under the spell of a perfect evening, but he promised, showed her to a separate bedroom, and after a brief kiss, their first, she did not see him until the next morning.

So, it began.

It was an interesting report she filed after that encounter, one where she had expected to be reprimanded.

She wasn’t.

It wasn’t until six weeks had passed when he asked her if she would like to take a trip to the country.  It would involve staying in a hotel, that they would have separate rooms.  When she reported the invitation, no objection was raised, only a caution; keep her wits about her.

Perhaps, she had thought, they were looking forward to a more extensive report.  After all, her reports on the places, and the people, and the conversations she overheard, were no doubt entertaining reading for some.

But this visit was where the nature of the relationship changed, and it was one that she did not immediately report.  She had realised at some point before the weekend away, that she had feelings for him, and it was not that he was pushing her in that direction or manipulating her in any way.

It was just one of those moments where, after a grand dinner, a lot of champagne, and delightful company, things happen.  Standing at the door to her room, a lingering kiss, not intentional on her part, and it just happened.

And for not one moment did she believe she had been compromised, but for some reason she had not reported that subtle change in the relationship to the powers that be, and so far, no one had any inkling.

She took off her coat and placed it carefully of the back of one of the ornate chairs in the room.  She stopped for a moment to look at a framed photograph on the wall, one representing Red Square.

Then, after a minute or two, she went to the mini bar and took out the bottle of champagne that had been left there for them, a treat arranged by Vladimir for each encounter.

There were two champagne flutes set aside on the bar, next to a bowl of fruit.  She picked up the apple and thought how Eve must have felt in the garden of Eden, and the temptation.

Later perhaps, after…

She smiled at the thought and put the apple back.

A glance at her watch told her it was time for his arrival.  It was if anything, the one trait she didn’t like, and that was his punctuality.  A glance at the clock on the room wall was a minute slow.

The doorbell to the room rang, right on the appointed time.

She put the bottle down and walked over to the door.

A smile on her face, she opened the door.

It was not Vladimir.  It was her worst nightmare.

© Charles Heath 2020

In a word: Great

Or is it grate?

Is it possible to mix the two up?  I don’t think so.

Great usually means: everything is great, or good, or excellent, whatever degree of goodness you want to put to it.

It could also mean something else, like:  Well, you were a great help! when in fact you want to say how useless they were.

Large or little.

Like all creatures great and small,  Why not say big or small.  Big doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Of course, you could be a great person, well, what I really mean is distinguished.  Besides, great could mean way above average, too.  Or grand, or impressive, the list goes on.

And haven’t we all, at some time had a great-aunt.  No not the good one, the ‘great’ one, denoting her seniority, not necessarily how nice she is.

 

As for the other grate, we can build a fire in it.

Or add an ‘un’ in front and ‘ful’ at the end, to denote what parents sometimes think of their children

Or get a block of cheese and ‘grate’ it into small shreds.

Or speak in a voice that grates on your nerves, possibly by that great-aunt.

NaNoWriMo Day 30 + 11

Yes, this project is still moving through the water, albeit very slowly, but progress is being made.

When I woke up this morning I realised I had not changed the text of this post. It was the last update.

That’s now been corrected.

What has happened in the last session is based on two things, the first, the notion that a story can start out to be correct, but over time and retelling, it can change. That same story can have different versions, in different places, depending on who is telling the sotry.

This is how it is with the legend, and the quest it is based on.

It must come as a shock to realise that Marigold had been told a story that was basically not right. You might argue that a story is just that, a story, but in those times, a legend was what we call history these days.

And, like the bible, that history, when it finally gets to paper and print, can be substantially different depending on who is doing the translation.

The second, that a parent will tell a child, and others, what they want them to know, and not necessarily what it the whole truth. This is particularly relevant when it’s by those in charge. It is based on the fact you can say the same thing over and over again until you believe it yourself, and it becomes so powerful that others believe it too, because of the fervour and passion with which it is imparted.

For those keeping an eye on the word count, this session, 4,086 words for a running total of 118,020.

Now, that was unexpected…

Like everyone who was in that artificially silent environment that was the flight deck of a shuttle, unexpected sounds caused unexpected results.

The Engineer cursed.

The Pilot, Myrtle, hesitated for a moment, as if not quite sure what to do, highlighting the fact she had not been in such a situation before, but quickly recovered, and brought up the incoming object on screen.

Note to self: amend the training program to allow for random objects to come out of nowhere.

We all looked at the object. Myrtle should have been taking us into the freighter, but had got overawed by the not easily identifiable ship approaching.

“Our ship will take care of the problem,” I said. “Take us into the freighter.”

AS if surprised that she should be asked to do so, she realised it was not her job to be staring at the screen, and muttered, “Oh, yes,” before resuming our passage.

Another note to self: Proper command structures and language should be used at all times.

A minute or so later we were in the cargo bay and the cargo doors were closing. Once closed and the atmosphere adjusted, the deck would become a hive of activity.

There was still a static picture of the craft on the screen, and it was one I’d seen before, an old vessel that dated back over a hundred years. I’d seen it in a space museum on the moon.

I was tempted to ask the Captain what was happening, but knew that to interrupt would not be worth the reprimand.

The engineer had seen one before too. “You don’t see those craft very often, if at all. Or this far out in space. They only had a limited trave distance, didn’t they?”

“Unless someone had been tinkering.” Several had been built as exploration ships, but the majority were freighters, used to build the outer colonies on the nearest planets.

A new drive would enable it to travel to the outer rim of our galaxy, but not much further if there were no readily available fuel supplies. Those that were available were tightly regulated by space command.

Cargo doors closed, deck pressurised, suddenly the whole deck was alive with people and machinery, our people meeting with the freighter crew and arranging for the cargo for Venus to be loaded. Myrtle was to stay with the shuttle, monitoring the loading.

I went down the ramp and was greeted by the first officer of the freighter, a chap I’d once served with, Jacko Miles. Jacko loved being in space, but no longer interested in the machinations of Space Command. The simple life of a freighter first officer was all he desired.

Except his face, right now, had the visual lines of worry.

“What happened?” We were past the usual introductions, and general bonhomie.

“Stopped, boarded, and a crate removed.”

“What was in the crate?”

“No one is saying, but whatever it was, it must have been important to attack us for it.”

My private communicator vibrated in my pocket. The captain was calling, and didn’t want anyone else listening in.

“Just give me a moment,” I said taking the communicator out of my pocket and answering the call. “Yes sir?”

“We have a problem.”

And in that moment, I had to agree with him. Jacko now had his hands in the air, and behind him were two people with hand held weapons trained on him, and me.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021