I hate editing!

It seems that writing the novel is not the hard part.  I have no trouble getting the words on paper.

It’s the editing I hate.

For instance, the latest book on the chopping block was one that I wrote nearly 40 years ago, and it shows it’s age.  The location is nothing like it used to be, the working conditions were totally different, and it was in an age before computers and mobile phones.

So, editing is difficult because I want to leave it in the period it was written.

Do you know how hard it is not to get the MC to pick up a mobile phone and call, or, for that matter, send a text?

This was an age of telephone communication, where public phones were the mobile phone of the age, and telegrams were the text equivalent.

If you wanted to say something, you had to arrange a meeting, and then say it face to face.

How on earth did anyone get anything done, how did people meet, and then communicate?

Oh, yes, letters.

Ask a ten-year-old today what a letter is, and you might get an answer of ‘bills’, but only if their parents go to the letterbox and pull out those dreaded window-faced envelopes.

Was every relationship basically long-distance, even when you might, in reality, be only one or two suburbs away?

It’s being hard to cast my mind back to those old days, and try not to let the 2019 trappings creep in.

Of course, there are the other problems of writing from back then, it is a bit messy, but the core of the story doesn’t need tampering with.

It is also a reminder of how easy relationships are these days with the constant bombardment of calls and texts to keep the dream alive, and, sadly, how easy it is to break up.

Back then you would have to survive from meeting to meeting, perhaps once a week, or maybe, if you worked in a city, once a day, briefly.  The idea of telephone communication would sometimes be offputting because you dreaded the possibility of talking to a parent.

Perhaps we should go back to those days because it seems to me that more people of my generation are still together because back then it required a different kind of commitment to keep it going.

OK, time to climb back in the time capsule!

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 26

Here’s the thing…

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

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

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

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

 

When I woke, I was outside the warehouse near an ambulance, and when I opened my eyes, I could see my mother, looking close to hysterical.  Further back, behind her, was Benderby himself, looking concerned.

A voice was saying, on the other side, “Just take it easy.  You’ve had a nasty knock to your head.”  I tried, instinctively, to move my hand there, but it was not responsive.

That scared me.

I tried wiggling my toes, and it felt like something was happening.  That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

Then I realised there were more people around the gurney I was lying on and a lot of chatter about a break-in and possible casualties.  There was only one, wasn’t there?  Me.

I went to say something to that effect when I stopped.  Not a good idea to say two masked assailants came to interrogate me about a map.  Firstly, my mother would be annoyed I was wasting my time on frivolous matters with Boggs, and secondly, everyone would think the blow did more damage to my sanity.

If they were calling it a break-in…

“What happened?” I asked.

I moved my head sideways further and could see the Sheriff standing next to Benderby.  The sheriff moved closer.

“We think one or two unknown persons got past the perimeter security, disabled the alarm system, and broke into the warehouse where you were.  One of the night security guards was doing his rounds when he found you on the floor in the main office.  Can you tell us what happened to you?”

One of the paramedics answered for me, “We need to stabilise the wound, check for concussion and any other side effects before you can question him.  That might have to wait until we get him to the hospital.  Now, I need everyone to stand back.”

And he meant everyone, including my mother.  I guessed they would let her come to the hospital with me, but if not, I was sure Benderby would bring her.  He actually had his arm around her, talking to her.  I didn’t think she liked him that much or was I just delirious?

I was about to tell the paramedic to tell the sheriff to go check on Boggs, but that would only lead to uncomfortable questions, and since Boggs had been so cavalier in putting the assailants onto me, I wasn’t very happy with him.  But I did wonder if they had gone back to him about my lack of co-operation, and what they might do to him.

Or, I just remembered, maybe nothing, because they thought it might be an elaborate hoax.  I was beginning to think that myself, despite Boggs giving me a copy of the map.  When I looked at it, on the surface it seemed to be the same as the one Osborne was peddling.

Whilst getting my head bandaged, I saw one of the sheriff’s men come running up to him, speaking and gesturing wildly.  I thought I heard a name, but the paramedic chose that exact moment to accidentally wrap the bandage around my ear.

Then I heard it, sharp and clear, perhaps as an answer to a question by Benderby.

“It’s Boggs.  Looks like someone gave him a severe beating and left him outside his house.”

The result of an equally forceful interrogation, or had it been a warning not to waste people’s time?

It would have to wait.  I had problems of my own.

© Charles Heath 2019

Being Inspired – the book

Over the past year or so I have been selecting photographs I’ve taken on many travels, and put a story to them.

When I reached a milestone of 50 stories, I decided to make them into a book, and, in doing so, I have gone through each and revised them, making some longer and into short stories.

50 photographs, 50 stories.  I’ve called it, “Inspiration, Maybe”

It will be available soon.

InspirationMaybe1v1

I’ve always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt – Part 25

Here’s the thing…

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

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

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

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

 

I was in the middle of a large building, sitting on a chair, a single light on above me creating a weird shadow in a circle of light.  Beyond that circle was darkness.

But I was grateful there was no blindfold or gag.

It had to be one of the buildings on Benderby’s factory site.  There were a number of older warehouses on the perimeter of the site, boarded up and in disrepair.  I had heard rumours they were going to be refurbished or demolished, no one seemed to be able to decide what to do with them.

It was deathly quiet, but if I strained hard, I thought I could hear the sound of a generator not far away.  Benderby’s had their own mini power station in case the main power grid went down, and I remembered that it was round the time for the six-monthly testing of the generators.  I was definitely inside the Benderby complex.

So, did that make my captor one of Benderby’s men?  Or was it Alex himself, trying to make a bold statement.  I didn’t think he had that sort of aggressive behaviour in him, but he was a Benderby, and they all had violent streaks somewhere in their makeup.

“Good.  You’re awake.”  The distorted voice could be either male or female.  I’d know more when I saw my assailant, but it came from beside me and I tried to look in that direction.  It was difficult because whoever tied me up did a good job.

There was also an echo, brought on by the emptiness of the building.

“What do you want?  I’m not much good to you if you’re trying to break into the main building.  I don’t have night access.”

“I’m not interested in the main building.”

“What are you interested in?”

“You.”

I had expected to hear the word treasure, not me.

“Sadly, I’m not that interesting.”

“So you say.  But maybe it might have something to do with that friend of yours, Boggs.”

“Then it’s the treasure you’re after.”

“Me, personally, no.  The people I work for, I guess.  The word is that Boggs has a treasure map that his father left him.”

This person had to be acquainted with Rico, because only he could possibly know about that particular map, that is, if Boggs had told him, or told his mother, and Rico had overheard him.

Or Boggs had told this person, under duress, that I had the map, holding it for safekeeping.  My mind started conjuring up all sorts of terrifying scenarios, all of which ended badly.

“If Rico told you that, then he was only trying to save his own skin.  He’s been trying to barter a copy of something to the Benderby’s, a map he didn’t have and hadn’t been able to get off Boggs.  If there is such a map, then Boggs has it.”

“I’m sure he told you about it, didn’t he?”

“What are best friends for, but whether I believed him is a different matter.  He told me about a map he said his father had in his possession, and I know he’s been hunting high and low for it, but if he’s found it, then he hasn’t told me about it yet.”

I was trying to sound sincere, but fear has a way of making you sound, well, afraid.

My captor took a step forward into the fringe of the light.  Dressed in black, with a mask, the body shape looked more like a woman than a man, a figure that could be disguised by the bulky outer clothing.

“Who are you?”

“That’s irrelevant.  What I will do to you if you do not tell me the truth, is.  Boggs told me you had the map.  I believe he was telling the truth.”

So, this person had interrogated Boggs.  It would not have taken much.  Boggs was not the bravest soul I knew.  At school, Boggs had always been the first to capitulate in any confrontation.

I wondered if they had searched him.  Of course, they had, and he didn’t have the map on him, which made it easier to deflect the onus to me.

But I didn’t have the map on me either.  I took the precaution of hiding it away in a place no one would find except me.  Now it was a matter of withstanding whatever this person decided was needed to extract ‘the truth’.

The problem was, I didn’t handle confrontation any better than Boggs had.

“And I’m telling you the truth when I tell you I haven’t got the map.  But I do have one of those being peddled at Osborne’s bar.  You can have that one if you like.”

I saw my captor shake their head.  Disdain, or disappointment?

Two steps further into the circle of light, and the two slaps, either side of my face, very hard.  The paid was instant and stinging, bringing tears to my eyes.  It should have brought acquiescence, but deep down defiance was building.  It surprised me.

My captor took a step back and looked down on me.  “Don’t make me have to hurt you.  All I want is the map.”

“I can’t give you what I don’t have.”

Closed fist this time, and aside from the teeth jarring, possible jaw-breaking, nose bleeding effect, I was starting to consider how long I could withstand this sort of beating.

“The map?”  Patience was running thin, anger was building.

“I can’t…”

Several punches to the ribs and stomach, taking my breath away and making it very difficult to breathe.  Pains where I’d never had pain before.  I’d had beatings at school but never like this.

Once more a step back, I could now only see the black figure through blurry eyes.

Time to plead to deaf ears, “You can beat me to within an inch of my life, but I can’t give you what I don’t have.  It’s as simple as that.”

And then I waited for the next round of punches.

A minute.  Two.

Then a new voice, out in the void, said, “He doesn’t have it.  This is a nothing but an elaborate hoax.”

Not a recognisable voice though.

A final blow rendered me unconscious.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Being Inspired – the book

Over the past year or so I have been selecting photographs I’ve taken on many travels, and put a story to them.

When I reached a milestone of 50 stories, I decided to make them into a book, and, in doing so, I have gone through each and revised them, making some longer and into short stories.

50 photographs, 50 stories.  I’ve called it, “Inspiration, Maybe”

It will be available soon.

InspirationMaybe1v1

Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 17

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 prioritising.

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

Nothing good ever comes of snooping

 

Why didn’t it surprise me that he was playing all ends against the middle if that was the expression?  But it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was one step ahead of me.

But, he could have trusted me with more information so that I could help him find the files.  Perhaps that was because he feared Severin might track me down, as he had, and, if I had found them, run the list of losing them to his foe.

I was still on the fence about who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side, or whether they were both of questionable character.  What made it difficult to understand was how Severin could run an operation inside the organisation.  Surely someone knew about it, or from a high level, sanctioned it?

Knowing I would not be interrupted this time. I went back up to the third floor, and into O’Connell’s flat, a simple job since the front door was still unlocked.  The girl had assumed it was not of value to them which told me she had already searched the place before being attacked.

It also meant, if she was attacked, Severin, or someone like him, had paid the O’Connell residence a visit. 

Just in case anyone was likely to return, or there was another party interested in O’Connell, I locked the door from the inside.  At least no one had yet crashed through the door, smashing the lock and timber.

I stood in the middle of the main room, and did a slow 360-degree turn, looking at everything intently.  The thing with searches like this, it was more likely the object of any search was hidden in plain sight.  The usual places, such as freezer sections of fridges stashed in bottles or packets in the pantry, under beds, inside mattresses, pillows, or blankets, or with a form of glue on the inside of televisions or computers, would prove fruitless.

We were taught to hide things such as USB sticks where they would be least expected to be found, such as a toy on a keyring, tossed in a bowl of pens, pins, clips, or other small insignificant items that all looked uninteresting.

My first thought was in the pocket of a coat in the closet, but all of his clothes were strewn over the floor in the bedroom and showing signs of being turned out.  Perhaps they had thought like me.

There was no keyring in the kitchen or the bedroom, no was there any sort of stand inside the door, a place to put mail, and other items such as keys.  If there were any, they would have been on him when Severin had him killed.  I had found, not felt, any in his pockets.

Next I thought a hidden compartment.  I was not going to predict he had a safe in the flat, but just in case, I did search fairly thoroughly where one might be located.  The cheap watercolour on the wall hid nothing but some discoloured wallpaper.

I checked all of the skirting boards, and inside walls of the robes, but there was nothing.  I also checked the robes thoroughly for false backs, or sides, or compartments hidden in the roof.  The floor was made out of wood, so I checked to see if there were any loose boards, but in the end, considered that was a ruse used only in the movies and television.

An hour later, I was no wiser as to where it could be, if at all, in the flat, but, looking around, it was certainly now a little more organised because in checking everything in case the previous searchers had missed anything, I’d put everything neatly in stacks.

And, no, there was nothing under the bed.  The previous searchers had thought of that too.

In one corner of the main room there was a desk that had been completely turned out, papers were strewn everywhere.  There had been a computer, now missing, because there was a cable running from the printer, and a power cable in the wall, both running into thin air.

The papers yielded nothing of interest, other than he was researching a holiday to Russia and Poland. 

For two.

A break.  There was a significant other.  I made a more serious search of the papers that I’d gathered up off the floor and found another shred.  A name Jan scribbled on several sheets of paper.

Did she also live in this block?  Did she work at the same place?  There were a hundred variations of that theme, but it was a start.  He might have trusted the USB to her safekeeping without telling her what it was, and it was possible she didn’t know he was dead.

I’d noticed that O’Connell’s death had been reported as a John Doe on the wrong end of a mugging, and received a small dismissive paragraph on page seven where it was reported the body was missing when police went to investigate and only discovered a pool of blood, along with several other crimes of which police were seeking further information.  That alley hadn’t any CCTV cameras, so Severin knew he could easily shoot O’Connell without anyone knowing it was him.

There was nothing else of interest in the documents, other than the holiday, if it was a holiday, was to be in a month’s time.

My work was done.  I had a lead.  It was time to leave.

Except for one small problem.  Someone was knocking on the door.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

What happens after the action-packed start – Part 29

Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.

The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.

Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.

 

I had to wonder if Lallo had already called the number on the phone he had handed Jacobi, and then considered, if that was the case, there would be no need for Jacobi to call anyone.  Or Lallo had got an answer, just not the answer he was expecting.

Jacobi looked at the phone, and I got the impression he was weighing his options.  The first was how long Lallo would hold him in custody.  That I think we could both assumed to be forever if necessary.  There was, no doubt, a cell at a black site with his name on it already.  The second, if he did call his contact, would that contact co-operate, though it was hard what it was Lallo was expecting Jacobi’s co-operation for.

But there was no doubt Lallo had a plan.

Jacobi took a moment to consider any further options I hadn’t thought of, and then made the call.  We were only going to get one side of the call.

A raised eyebrow indicated Jacobi had an answer on the other end.

“It’s me.”

Why did everyone say it’s me when asked to identify themselves, or as in the case announce themselves?

“No.  An unfortunate set of circumstances, and a gross breach of our agreement.  I am supposed to have autonomy of operations at home.  These bumbling idiots may have blown my cover.”

Somehow, the fact he was sitting in a small room told me his cover was more than likely a myth.  If this was our supposed point man in the failed operation I’d been on, then I could see why it cost a lot of good men their lives.

He had been playing both sides of the fence and sold us out.

“You would have to ask them.”

A moment later he handed the phone to Lallo.  “Prepare to die,” was all Jacobi said.

It didn’t move Lallo in the slightest,

He took the phone and asked, “Whom am I speaking to?”

The expression change told me that it was most likely none of his business.

“This man is responsible for the deaths of a good many men.”  A minute’s silence, then, “I doubt that would be the case considering the number of phones and their credentials.  He had been playing you, and perhaps many others.”

The silence was a lot longer, but the expressions changing by the minute told me that Lallo was not going to get what he wanted.

“No, that is not going to happen, not in the circumstances you describe.  I will be sending him back, yes, but for another mission.  I think it’s time you realized he’s been feeding you false intel for some time.”  Silence again, then, “By the time you do, he will no longer be here, there.  I’m sorry.”

He disconnected the call and put the phone back in the plastic evidence bag.

Then he sat, and gave Jacobi a long, hard stare.

No effect.

“What is happening,” Jacobi finally asked.

“You’re going home.”

“Good.  I expect once I get back there you will leave me alone.”

“On the contrary, Mr Jacobi, you will not be going back alone.  In fact, I’m sending you back with my team, and we are going to extract the same people you were supposed to help us extract the last time.”

“I had nothing to do with that.  It was simply your incompetence.”

“Be that as it may, you will do as I ask.”

“You are a fool.  Why would I do anything for you, and especially since they are both probably dead now, or, if not, past the point of saving.”

“You will then want to hope that isn’t the case, simply because if they are, then three members of your family will be executed.  You can say goodbye to them before you leave, or tell them you will see them again, it’s your choice.”

Lallo, it seems, was no fool, and had ensured he had the necessary leverage.  There was no mistaking the shock on Jacobi’s face.

“You lie.”

Lallo got up from his seat and knocked on the door.  It opened and two men brought in a large screen connected to a computer on a trolley.  They moved it to the vacant wall and left.  Lallo pressed several keys and a picture came up on the screen.  A woman and two small children, and judging from the expression on Jacobi’s face, exactly who he was hoping he would not see.

There were two hooded soldiers either side with guns loosely pointing in their direction.

“One word from me, and they will be shot.  Considering the treachery you have perpetrated, it’s taking a great deal of restraint for me not to give the order to kill them.”

He took a few seconds to regain his composure.  “This serves no purpose,” Jacobi said in a rising pitch, “your people are most likely dead.  It has been a long time.”

“I don’t think so.  We have word from a different source, a more reliable source, that they are still alive.  Barely, but alive, serving a life sentence for treason.  And helping the General with information.  All you need to do is get a small team of mine in and assist them to effect an escape.  They come home alive and, well, your family lives.  They don’t come back alive, well, I don’t think that’s an option, is it?”

Jacobi was in an invidious position of being damned if he did help us, or damned if he didn’t.  Either way, it didn’t guarantee his co-operation or assistance.  Painted into a corner, sometimes people like Jacobi chose the easy road, sacrificing everything to stay alive.  No doubt, until this predicament, he was well in favour with Bahti, and from what I’d heard, Bahti was not a man to cross.  There was a graveyard in the prison that was full of the remains of his enemies.  And people who were once his friends.

I knew firsthand what it was like to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and unfortunately, there was no upside.  No doubt the team leader of this new folly would have orders to shoot Jacobi once his work was done.  Lallo would not be able to leave a man in his position alive because of what he knew.

And from my perspective, I felt sorry for the team Lallo had selected to go on what could quite possibly be another suicide mission.

 

© Charles Heath 2019