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

“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.

Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.

They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?

When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.

When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.

Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.

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A slight book addiction, perhaps

This is part of the library:

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Every now and then I add to it, but the rule is, since I’ve run out of shelf space, I have to give up some before I can buy more.

This is two of the shelves.  There are eight in all, and all are full.

Last week I found a $5 book shop, that is all the books are $5 and, if course, I can’t resist a rummage.

In the event, I turned up two books by a new author (for me) Mick Herron, who writes spy novel, another by James Rollins and Chris Ryan.

I don’t always limit my purchases to novels, and, found a non-fiction book about London in the time of King James.  Just in case I decide one day to write a novel during that period.  That’s in addition to James Naughtie, also spies, James Patterson, which is generally mandatory if I see one, and Peter James (crime).

My new comprehensive a-z crossword dictionary is a great help too.

What happens after the action-packed start – Part 30

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.

 

At the end of the discussion, which began to get quite heated, I was escorted from the room and taken to another interrogation room.


Fresh from his intimidatory success with Jacobi, Lallo was, no doubt, going to try and press on his advantage with me though I was not quite sure what it was he thought I could help him with, other than to dissuade him from his current plan.

I had to wait an hour in that small, stuffy room considering the possibilities.  Surely he wasn’t expecting me to join his band of merry men.

When he finally came, he arrived with a folder and two bottles of cold water, one of which he gave to me before he sat down.

I took a sip of water out of the bottle, after checking the seal hadn’t been broken.  I still didn’t trust him, and with good reason considering the trick he’d played on me.

“Now, I’m sure you saw and heard everything that happened with Jacobi.”

I nodded.

“He’s the reason your mission failed.  He met the other team on the ground and was supposed to lead them to the building where the targets were hiding.  Instead, he told the Government forces, Bahti, the plan for their rescue and their location.  It was a double-cross brought on by greed.”

“It always is.  But he’s more than likely right about the fate of the two prisoners.”

“Half dead, yes, pressed into working on a prison farm, but neither has been cracked yet.  After the last attempt at rescuing them, we cultivated new agents on the ground.  Their advice has led to us being able to formulate a new attempt to rescue them.”

Had they asked my opinion long before the first attempt, I would have told them to have more than one source, and particularly if they were paying handsomely for information.  It was always an opportunity for double-cross.

There still was, but I don’t think that eventuality was factored into Lallo’s thinking.

“Who’s the fool you have in mind to lead this disaster.”

“You.”

Good thing I’d braced myself for the bad news, and it came as no surprise.  In that hour of considering possibilities, they all seemed to come back to one person.  I was the only one left who’d been there, if only for a few hours.

It had also given me time to work on an excuse not to go.

“I don’t think so…”

Lallo put his hand up to stop me.  My protestations might have worked on a reasonable man, but Lallo wasn’t reasonable.

“Well, you, too, have a choice.  Stay and be court marshalled for your failure to follow orders in the last attempt or redeem yourself and volunteer to lead the next.”

“I did nothing wrong the last time.”

“Not according to the investigation I’ve just completed, the one that I intend to submit to the JAG if you are unwilling to follow orders.”

And there it was.  All the time I’d been in Lallo’s hands he had been compiling a feasible case against me, just so that I could be induced to do his bidding.  I was stupid not to connect the dots long before this and shut my mouth.  Everything I had denied, was the same evidence he could use against me.

n typical military-style, someone had to shoulder the blame for the previous mess.

And to be given a choice, one that made me as expendable as Jacobi, was, as far as Lallo was concerned, a masterstroke.

If I went and was killed in action, he would have a scapegoat he needed.  If I didn’t go, I would be court marshalled and thrown in a cell for the rest of my life.  And if I went, and succeeded, he would become the golden boy in the intelligence services, and the same fate as any other scenario would befall me.  It was lose-lose.

“You’re not throwing out any bones?”

“Don’t have to.  But you get to pick the team you want to go with you.”  He tossed a file across the table to me, and I opened it.  Several pages, with photos attached.

A who’s who of the military types that spent more time in the stockade than on the battlefield.  Men who would do anything to stay out, men who had nothing to lose.  Men who were expendable.

“You’re kidding?”  I looked up at him, but his expression told me he wasn’t.

“Are you sure any of these will obey orders?”

“You have my assurance they will.  We’re sending an observer, just to make sure everyone stays on mission.  You have three days to pick a team of four men, establish command, and prepare to leave.”

Something else I thought about in that hour, other than it was probably the last time I would have for reflection, was that it would have been better to die in the helicopter crash.

I waited until he left the room before I reopen the file.

© Charles Heath 2019

A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 18

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

It was clear, however, that Marina was familiar with the man and very annoyed with the woman.

When I took a longer look at the man, I realised he was not a man at all, but a boy in his teens, blessed by the fact he looked older than he was.  My guess, about 16.  I was surprised he had not been conscripted into the war, there seemed very few young men in the area.

Marina went straight over to him and snatched the elderly rifle he was holding away from him, the glared at Chiara

“Are you stark staring mad.  Enrico is not supposed to be out in the open, hell, it’s been a battle to keep him hidden away.  What will his parents think when they discover he’s here?”

“Pleased,” Enrico said.  “My father said it’s about time I did something to rid of the Germans, of the English too for that matter.  None of you has any right to be here.”

Fervently spoken, and to the wrong person, it would earn him a bullet to the back of the head.  But I agreed with him.

“All well and good,” Marina said to him, “but now there’s no easy way of doing that.  We must be careful, and you must stay put with your parents.  What we’re doing isn’t a game, you are neither trained or equipped to take anyone on, except perhaps rabbits.”

Back at Chiara.  “Take him home, and never bring him back here.  You don’t want to be the one who has to tell his mother if he gets killed.  Now, both of you go now, before I shoot both of you myself.”

“This is not the end of the matter,” Enrico said.

“And when you’ve taken him back, come back here.  We need to talk.”

Chiara said nothing, just nodded sullenly.  I think she believed the less said the better and did as she was asked, nodding her head in his direction, and adding a few choice phrases in Italian to him that I couldn’t understand.  It also just occurred to me that she had not asked Chiara the questions about the two men from the castle.  I guess that would have to wait until the safety of Enrico was settled, and she returned.

“Make sure they’re safe,” she said to Carlo, and he disappeared, leaving us alone.

“I thought all of the young men had been taken away by the Italian Army.”

“Not all.  We managed to hide a few away, but as you can see, despite our best efforts, they don’t seem to appreciate the trouble they could get into.  We used to have about a hundred young men from 14 through to 20 at the start of the war.  Two have found their way back, casualties of war, the rest, we may never see them again.  Enrico just doesn’t see the trouble he could get into.”

“It’s called youthful enthusiasm.  In the first world war, joining up, or going to war, was a lark.  It was a little less so this time because most of the parents knew from firsthand experience what it was like and tried to shield them.  And if you didn’t join up, questions were asked, and quite often jail, except for some who landed cushy jobs away from the fighting.”

“You were not so lucky?”

“No, I was one of those mad buggers who thought joining up to fight would be an adventure.  That quickly faded when the enemy started shooting at me.”

“And now you’re here, and a spy to boot.  That’s what they’ll hang on you if you get caught.”

“Then I shall try very hard not to get caught.  Again.”

 

Chiara came back about an hour later.  It seemed to me it was a lot safer to move around at night with the blackout, and I doubted Thompson would spare any men from the castle to check up on the local farmers.

And while I was at the castle, I didn’t hear anything raised about the local resistance, which I thought odd at the time, but now I knew why.  Most of them had joined him.  Better that than be hunted down and killed.

Chiara still looked sullen.  A closer look showed she was not very old herself, barely out of her twenties, and surprising that the Italian army, or Thomson for that matter, had not rounded her up for ‘duties’ at the castle.

There were a number of the local women working up at the castle, but they were mostly staff, or more likely forced labour, though I had thought we, when I believed it to be a British outpost, would be fairer to the locals than either the Germans or their own Italian military.  It’s odd how you tend to look at certain situations because of who you are, and the fact you would not do similar things at home.  The Germans, however, we would always treat differently, because they were the enemy, and because we expected the worst from them.  At that moment, though, wouldn’t the Germans think the same of us if the positions were reversed?

Best not to think about that.  My view of the war and the people in it was clouded enough.

Chiara, however, clearly thought the worst of me, and of those in the castle, and certainly didn’t think I was as neutral as I appeared.  A gun always in hand, I was sure she would shoot me again with the least provocation.

We sat, both Chiara and Marina with their weapons on the table in front of them.  I wasn’t trusted enough to be given a weapon.

Marina’s first question was directed at Chiara, “I’m told there were two men from the castle following Sam, and that he told you about them.”

“He did.  We did not see them.  We didn’t take the path, because, as you know, it’s not safe.”

It was a reasonable answer.  If the men at the castle were unfamiliar with the area, as I’m sure they would be, because they hadn’t been there for very long, and I doubt Thompson would want to advertise the nationality of those at the castle unless he had to, they would stick to the clearly-marked roads and paths.

I had on my way to the castle, from a different direction.  It didn’t explain why I had not been met by the leader of the resistance as arranged, but that was now explained, both by the former leader trying to kill me in a roadside explosion, and then what I learned at the castle in the last few days.

“Even so, there’s not that much distance between the two, and it is possible to shadow them.”

“I keep well away from them.  Perhaps Leonardo saw them.  He doesn’t have to worry about what they might do because they use him to supply food.  Maybe he knows more.”

“Perhaps I shall ask him next time I see him.  We need to know who from the castle is about and when so that we don’t get caught.”

“I’ll remember next time.  Is that all?”

“Yes.”

Chiara picked up her gun, gave me an extra-long sullen stare.  “I don’t trust this one, Marina.  You 

need to be careful.”

“I will.”

We waited a few minutes until after she had departed, and then Marina said, “We should be going too.  This place is a little eerie at night.  There are far too many ghosts for my liking.”

I shuddered, then followed her out.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

“One Last Look”, nothing is what it seems

A single event can have enormous consequences.

A single event driven by fate, after Ben told his wife Charlotte he would be late home one night, he left early, and by chance discovers his wife having dinner in their favourite restaurant with another man.

A single event where it could be said Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Who was this man?  Why was she having dinner with him?

A simple truth to explain the single event was all Ben required.  Instead, Charlotte told him a lie.

A single event that forces Ben to question everything he thought he knew about his wife, and the people who are around her.

After a near-death experience and forced retirement into a world he is unfamiliar with, Ben finds himself once again drawn back into that life of lies, violence, and intrigue.

From London to a small village in Tuscany, little by little Ben discovers who the woman he married is, and the real reason why fate had brought them together.

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Questions

These are what can dumfound the strongest man, and terrify the most resolute woman.

Simple sentences of words placed in a particular order that designed to elicit a response.

Of course, no one tells you that your life may depend upon the answer you give.

So, when a man is asked a simple question like, ‘do I look good in this dress’, there are so many wrong answers that no matter what he says, the marriage, relationship, romance is over.

Similarly, that simple question, ‘how do you feel’, can be like opening the floodgates, or met with stony silence, or, more than likely, met with a dismissive ‘I feel good’.

There are questions asked in examination papers, the sort that is based on the year’s work, or what was supposedly covered in study groups.  As children, these questions hold varying amounts of terror, if you have failed to study.

There are questions asked at job interviews, and sometimes these don’t quite make any sense. For instance, ‘If you were in a store serving a customer and a man came in brandishing a gun, what would you do.’  I’m not sure what answer they are looking for.

Then there is that terrifying question you hoped would never be asked, ‘what do think your weaknesses are?’  I was fine with strengths, that’s easy, but weaknesses, that’s where the job application ended.

There is one other that has a simple answer but it often met with silence, a witticism, but rarely the truth.  Asking a woman, ‘what is your age?’

That’s a romance killer right there.  Right up there with, ‘where were you on the night of the 14th between the hours of 6pm and 12 pm.  You can hardly say you were in bed with your best friends wife, can you?

Can you see the bare bones of a mystery coming on?

20 questions for each suspect and witness, if any, then plot the crime from these testimonies.

I need a few days away from my current book and it seems a good idea for a short story.

I think I might call it ‘motive, means and opportunity, the story of a wrongly convicted man’.