Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 4

I’ve had time to think about the next part of this opening sequence.

Long plane rides that leave in the dead of night are always conducive to working through plotlines because being on a plane in economy, the chances of getting any sleep is nigh on impossible.

And yet, this time the impossible is possible, which means that sleeping has overtaken the thinking process, and it will have to wait till I’ve woken up.

Of course, as usual, being in this interesting situation has provided another tangent, which is doing the impossible.  It reminds me of a saying I once heard, ‘if you want the impossible it will take some time if want a miracle, that will take a little longer’.  Temper that with ‘how long is a piece of string?’

When we last visited our intrepid wannabe hero, we were left with a cryptic ‘is anyone ever in the wrong place at the wrong time?’

Sometimes, but not for our particular hero.


It could be worse, I told myself, while the paramedic cleaned up my cuts and abrasions and gave me a concussion test, which, I suspect, might not quite discover if I was or not.  But, at that moment, it didn’t matter.

I’d lost the person I’d been assigned to keep under surveillance.

It was meant to be a doddle, but of course, no one could ever predict what the conditions might be in any exercise, and whilst I was one part of a team effort, it had been on my watch, and I only realized what it was that I’d been doing when a voice in my ear started asking for an update, because it was coming up to the changeover.

I was surprised the noise of the explosion hadn’t been transmitted to the others.  I waited till the paramedic had finished, a minute at most.

“I got caught up in an explosion, a couple of over-enthusiastic bank robbers, and taken down.  The target was ahead of me.”  I gave the team leader the exact location of where I’d last seen the target, then waited.

If the team was functioning properly, one of the other three should have been close enough to predict where the target would be at the change over point.

“Are you alright?”  It was a question I’d expected earlier.

“Got caught in the aftershock, got a few cut and abrasions, and a ringing in my ears, but otherwise ok.  The paramedics want me to go to the hospital to be checked over, mainly for a concussion, but I’m ok to resume if you want.”

A minute, two, of silence, then, “Do as they say.  We have the target still under surveillance.”

And that was it, what I regarded as a massive fail, despite the circumstances.

I watched the paramedics load the battered policeman onto a gurney and head towards the ambulance.  I went over to the cuffs and picked them up.  A souvenir of the event, if nothing else.

Lights flashing and siren wailing it left, heading for the hospital.

I took a last look at the scene and started walking away in the direction I was originally heading, and once past the perimeter, walked through the group of bystanders who’d gathered to watch the event unfold.  On the other side, I stopped, took another look back at the scene, and did the proverbial double take.

Standing not ten yards from me was the target.

And a quick look in every direction for the members of the surveillance team showed none of them was anywhere near the target.

I spoke quietly into the communication device.

“Target, I repeat, the target is in sight.  Is anyone nearby by?”



So we now have a dilemma, if there is no answer from the team, are they maintaining radio silence, or is something more sinister afoot?


©  Charles Heath 2019

Conversations with my cat – 35


Chester and the great escape.

It’s like watching that movie, you know the one, with Steve McQueen and the motorcycle?

I accidentally didn’t close the back screen door properly and Chester, a cat with many talents, managed to prise the door open wide enough for him to squeeze through.

And, then there’s that momentary elation of having escaped.

Out into the wide open space, where the air is fresher, the sky is blue, the sun is warmer.

And he is no longer restricted.


Why is he standing just three feet away from the door, on the concrete path?  Has he seen a creature he can chase, or worse, torment?  Is he savouring that first few moments of freedom, and soaking up the sun’s warm rays on his back?

Or is he waiting to see if I’ll follow, and try to either catch him or bring him back?

He turns, and looks at me, as if to say, well, what are you going to do?

There’s a certain sense of smugness in that look.

I shrug.  “Just remember there’s no one out there who will wait on you hand and foot like we do.”

I’m sure that was not what he was expecting.

I open the door wider, and add, “Make up your mind now, because once the door closes, that’s it.  You’re out.”

He turned to look back at the great outdoors.  I can see the wheels turning.  A life of luxury or a life on the run?

I almost caught his tail in the door as it closed.  Who said cats weren’t smart?

Waiting, perhaps, for the robots to come to life – maybe?

It seems that we spend nearly as much time waiting as some of us do sleeping.  In fact, I’ve been known to be sleeping while waiting.

What is it in this era of mechanization and computerization that we still have to wait.  Is it the human element that is still holding us back?

But, hang on, isn’t it the human element that creates the mechanization and computerization?  Perhaps we are building in redundancy so that we are not replaced by the very things we are creating to make our lives easier?

We don’t have robots who can perform the same tasks as a GP doctor because we still need the human factor, and since one size does not fit all, no consultation can ever be fit into a specific time frame so there will always be waiting especially as the day wears on.

We cannot completely automate phone call answering except for the part where you are put in a queue and told your call is important and then you sit there listening to some awful music, seemingly forgotten

There will always be hundreds of calls in a queue for the most important services. or when you need an answer in a hurry, because only a few people are available to answer the phone.  Robots will not be able to answer calls either, because once again, only a real person can respond to the randomness of callers questions.

Artificial intelligence only works in science fiction.

Then there is the time we spend waiting at traffic lights, and then, even when the lights are with us, in traffic jams.  We are still stumped by trying to find an all-conquering answer to moving masses of people, either by the roads or by public transport.

The latter is all too frequently suffering delays and congestion due to the number of services needed and decaying networks and infrastructure, all of which is only going to get worse, with, of course, longer delays and more waiting.

Maybe the answer is to work from home but sadly the internet, that so-called answer to all our off-site networking, is not going to cope, and in fact, in this country, our latest update is a retrograde step on speed and availability, ie more waiting and less work.

Waiting, it seems, we are stuck with it whether we like it or not.  Good thing then our lives are longer.  But, if we delve into the mystery of longer lives now against what they were back when there was less waiting, maybe we still have the same amount of life, and the fact we’re living longer is negated by all the waiting.

I’m sure we didn’t have to wait very long for anything a hundred years ago.

Just saying.

In a word: Tap

There is nothing worse than, when lying in bed unable to get to sleep, you hear every noise in the house and out, but none worse than a dripping tap.

Its often not because someone forgot to turn the tap off, but a washer is on its last legs.

There are taps for the fallen brave, but aside from the fact that is the name of a piece of music, I think it’s also the title of a film.  But taps itself is a bugle call at dusk, and also played at military funerals.

Then there’s that income stream that you can tap into, other than your next door neighbours power supply.

But what would be far more interesting than to tap into a phone line and listen in?  Despite the fact that eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves, you could learn something you didn’t want to know.

Then we can go back to the 1930s and a series of films that starred one of my favourite actors Fred Astaire, who was, of course, a tap dancer, along with Ginger Rogers.

In fact, my middle granddaughter is quite a good tap dancer.

And, lastly, was that a tap on the door, or a tap in the window?

What happens after the action-packed start – Part 18

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.


The debriefing team were not quite what I expected, a man and a woman, one a Major, the other a Lieutenant, and it was apparent they had just met before coming into the room.

He was Major Lallo, Army intelligence, and the woman, Lieutenant Jill Monroe, a familiar name as I’m sure I’d heard it before.

Lallo was not a fighting soldier, he was a paperwork man.  I suspect he was more at home with an order book, and filing communications though that didn’t explain the rank, which he would have to have front line experience to attain.

Monroe looked to me to be the sort of woman soldier that had to prove she was better than any man and had the muscular form to go with it.  Not the sort of a woman to get into a fight over or against.

She stood at the end of the bed, and I suspect by her posture that she was there to make sure I didn’t run, which, by the way, was physically impossible.

Lallo sat in the chair beside the bed, tried to make himself comfortable.  He was going to ask the questions.  He had a small notebook he took out of his pocket with a list of questions.  The small pencil that slotted into the binding was there to write down the answers if any.  I was not sure I was up to answer any questions.

Settled, he started with, “You don’t have to answer, but I suggest you do.  I think by now you are starting to realise that, no matter how strong you think you might be, you’re not.  If you decided to be unforthcoming, then you can be assured that we will be interrogating you with a lot more, shall we say, enthusiasm than in the past.”

By the way he said it, I got the impression he would be the one.  His tone had changed suddenly, to a man who enjoyed others discomfort, and he was looking forward to breaking me if it came to that.

“And if I don’t have the answers to your questions, or should I say, not the answers you are expecting, what then?”

“One step at a time.  We’ll start with the easy questions first.”

I’m not quite sure what he classified as easy.  I didn’t think there were any.

“How long have you been at this base?”

Maybe I was wrong.  “Two months, three days.”

“How did your transfer to this specific base come about?”

“I don’t know.  I was at a training base in Ohio one day, then being presented with orders to get the next transport out the next.”

“Did you, or someone else you know, request your transfer to a new base?”

I didn’t think that was possible.  Someone of my rank went where they were told to go.

“No.  I’m a Sergeant, not a General.”

But was it possible Colonel Bamfield arranged for me to be transferred.  Given the fact he was here, now, it was not beyond the realms of possibility.  But if so, why?

“What was your function at your last base?”

What had this to do with my current situation or anything else for that matter?


“In what?”

“Infiltration, covert operations.”

“And I’m assuming then you been involved in these, shall we say, covert operations?”

No use denying it.  It was obvious he had seen my file, which all of a sudden had some very disturbing possibilities.  Just how much information though.

“Yes, but they’re classified and I can’t tell you anything and that.”

“Normally that would be the case, but…”  He left the sentence hanging there for a few seconds before adding, “There was a problem with your last operation, the reason, it appears, you were transferred to the training base in Ohio.  Is that correct?”

A mission that I had been told never to mention, speak of to anyone, no matter how high their rank in the military or government, or even think about again.

A mission I was told had been buried so deep it would never see the light of day.

Until now.


© Charles Heath 2019

In a word: Brevity

Now, brevity is something that I have not been able to fully wrap my head around.

The dictionary explains Brevity as

‘concise and exact use of words in writing and speech’


I remember working with a writer a long time ago who explained certain authors styles, and for James A Michener of Hawaii fame, he said Michener wrote sentences instead of words, paragraphs instead of sentences, pages instead of paragraphs and chapters instead of pages.

It was a little harsh considering I’d just read the book and had liked it, despite its length and the time it took.

But some time later I realized he was not criticizing Michener, but trying to tell me, in his, what I came to discover, interesting way, that I should strive to write more compactly.

I then came across a book by Brian Callison which was exactly that, the concise version, a story that fitted into about 200 pages.

That too was a good book and it took me a day to read it, and by his use of that economy of words, it read quickly.

Of course, I have tried over the years to emulate both styles, and to a certain degree, failing, because I think I have created my own style which is somewhere in between.

Still, when editing, it is always in the back of my mind that I should be

Using words instead of sentences

Using sentences instead of paragraphs

Using paragraphs instead of pages, and

Using pages instead of chapters.

The chapters, he said, with an air of amusement, will always take care of themselves.


“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 favorite 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.