Saturday 30 March 2019

Episode 61 – Like a breath of fresh air

“How did you find me?”
A logical question since very few people knew where he was, let alone the fact he was still alive.
“I’m an investigator, and a good one.  When I called you and your phone told me it was disconnected from its service provider I guess something awful might have happened.  I thought about going to the police, but then I thought, why bother them when I could look for you myself.  It took a while, and I have to admit I was getting more and more apprehensive.  But, I finally tracked you down, and you have to tell me all about it.”
“I don’t know much myself.”
“Then what you do, save it.  Lunch is on me, something a lot better than hospital food.  I’m glad you’re not dead, Harry.  See you soon.”
Leaving him with a silent phone and a feeling that Felicity may have been more upset about his going missing than anyone else.
And perhaps his feelings towards her might be more than what he thought they might be.

It was not the fact Felicity had breezed into his room like a breath of fresh air, followed by rays of sunshine, nor the fact of just seeing her had stirred something within him, it was the kiss.  A light peck on the lips, not a cheek or forehead, not like one a sister or mother might.
Had he missed a nuance in their relationship before this moment, or had the near-death experience removed any memories of what they had.
Did they have something?
She brought a picnic basket with her, pulled the table over to the bed, and one of the chairs so that she could sit beside him.  The basket stayed on the table.
It would be the story for the food.
She took his hand in hers, leaned over and said, “Now spill.”

He told her the story, as much as he could remember of it, being in the office, everything going black, waking up in a small room with some very nasty men who wanted answers to questions he knew nothing about.
And, the more he pleaded ignorance, the harder they went at it.
“Torture, hey?”
When he thought about it, she was right.  Whether he’d endured it and won was a moot point because, in the end, he was to be killed.  Only a miracle had same him from it happening.
“I have no idea, but it was pretty intense, right up till they got the order to dispose of the body.”
He could see she was intrigued.  Nothing like that had happened to her, but when she said it, he told her that it was not something she would want to wish upon herself.
“So, what were they asking about?”
“A warehouse down at the docks, nothing special.  I had a look and there was nothing there.”
“Perhaps I should take a look.  Fresh eyes and all that?”
“You should not be so eager to get in on that case.  I’m not sure I want to.  The people we’re dealing with here are very, very nasty people who would not hesitate to kill an innocent person.  I’m leaving this one with Sykes.”
“You’re joking.  He doesn’t look like he could fight his way out of a wet paper bag.”
“Appearances can be deceptive.”
She rolled her eyes, then laid out the food.  Champagne, ham, cheese, and more champagne.  I managed to have one glass before the nurse came and admonished the both of us.
Before she left she stood beside the bed, a frown on her face, or perhaps she was trying to be serious.
“I’m going to look into this matter.  I seriously doubt the police will give it the time or the respect it deserves.”
“With all due respect, I don’t think you should.  Look what happened to me.”
“Granted it may have its dangers but they are not going to get away with what they did to you.”
A thought came to me, one that would solve my immediate problem, and make sure Corinne didn’t get any ideas.
“I’d rather you took over the Jones’ cases for the time being and talk to Sykes about progress.  And perhaps take care of another problem I seemed to have just acquired.  Keeping my little sister out of trouble.  She means well, but she can get herself into trouble very quickly.”
“So, you have a sister?”
“Corinne.  We get along, but not so well since I left home.  I suspect she’s at a loose end and is going to badger Sykes.  If anything, can you go save her from herself?   Oh, and can you call Ellen, my personal assistant, and let her know I'm still alive, she'll be wondering what happened to me.”

"You have a personal assistant, do you?  That sounds very interesting."

"The daughter of a friend of my mothers who doesn't have anything better to do.  You'll like her when you see her.  And, if you need to know anything about the Jones cases, it’ll be in my notes at the office."
“That replica set out of the Maltese Falcon?”
“You’ve been there?”
“Told you, I went looking for you.  Uncovered all your dirty secrets.  I’ll look into both, and talk to you on the phone.  Soon.”
Just before she left she gave him another kiss, this time it lingered, allowing the scent of her perfume to wash over him.
There was, he thought after she had disappeared up the passage, definitely something between them.  He just couldn’t remember what.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Episode 60 – A mysterious package

In all the confusion of visitors and trying to self assess his situation, Harry had missed something.
It had nothing to do with the case, or maybe it did, but what it meant could either be a good thing or a very, very bad one.
He was looking at a brown envelope sitting on his bedside table.  It hadn’t been there before he had nodded off to sleep, and had magically, if that was the word, appeared while he was asleep.
The nurses who had come in first thing to check everything, and give him some pain killers had no idea where it came from or who had brought it, but seemed totally unconcerned about it.
Perhaps he should be equally calm about it, but a single what-if was swirling around in the back of his mind.  What if it was from his kidnappers?  How could they have found him?  Would they finish the job?
Or was it something else.
The envelope had something thin an narrow in it, so it wasn’t just a letter, perhaps written in cut-out letters, a laborious attempt at delivering an anonymous threat.
He lay there for at least a half hour, staring at it, his mind creating scenario after scenario about what it meant, why it was there.
Perhaps there was a more simple explanation.
Perhaps if he opened it, and looked inside.
He reached up and pulled it down onto the bed.  It was relatively heavy, and it felt like a mobile phone, and, when he opened the envelope, it was just that, a phone and nothing else.
He could virtually see his blood pressure rising on the monitor.
He pushed the 'on' button and the screen lit up, displaying a message, ‘press the phone key and call me’
Who was me?
It took another ten minutes before curiosity defeated wariness.
The number rang for a minute, then another before it was answered by a familiar female voice.
“You took your time.”


© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Friday 29 March 2019

Episode 59 - The surprise visitor

Corinne had visited very few hospitals in her life, mainly because her father was a doctor and the few she had, when very young, had put her off ever going, even if she needed medical attention herself.
The one Harry had ended up in was big, bustling, and full of sick people.
It was also one her father would not go near, or so he had said once, one of the few conversations she had listened to over the table.  He had opinions about everything, particularly the medical profession, and how it never seemed to measure up to his standards/
Or, she realized one day, after Harry had left or was it banished, that it was Harry he was referring to.  She had tried to talk to her mother about it, but her mother was too wrapped up in her role as charity queen, or some such, she could never understand her compulsion to be a leader in everything rather than a drone.
That was what Corinne was, she thought to herself, a drone.
She didn’t want to be a doctor, she had tried her hand at nursing and hated it, she had tried being a charity queen, and couldn’t stand half the people she had to be nice to, and was now languishing in her father’s practice as a records clerk.
Of everyone in that house, she was the only one who ‘understood’ Harry.
“So,” she said, sitting in the seat beside the bed, “I leave you to your own devices for a few months and this is what happens to you?”
Harry had been surprised to see her, no, make that shocked.
And then immediately cursed Sykes under his breath.  He had gone and told his mother, and no doubt Corinne had also been there.
“Sykes tell you?”
“You mean the grubby policeman?”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.  I’m surprised he didn’t shoot you.”
“I think he was going to but changed his mind.”
“It would only be the paperwork that stopped him then.”
Banter.  Something she missed at home, something her mother and father detested, at the dinner table, or anywhere else.
“What happened?”
“I got hit by a bus.  You should see the bus.”
“Ask no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.  It’s none of your business, especially when you’ll go back and tell everyone and cause un-necessary anguish.”
“If I promise not to?”
“This from the girl who always crossed her fingers behind her back when pretending to make a promise?”
“If I put my hands on the bed where you can see them?”
He gave her a long hard look, trying to figure out what her angle was.  She always had an angle.  Getting out of that house and away from the schemes and lies of his fellow siblings was the best thing he ever did.
“Why?  What’s in it for you?”
“I’m looking for something better than being a filing clerk for the rest of my life.  It seems your life has progressed remarkably from finding lost cats, and given what’s happened to you, I think you need someone to watch your back.”
She would be the one looking to stab him in the back, not watch it.
“I’m going bonkers in that surgery.”
“If I promise to do everything you say?”
He snorted.  That would never happen.  “No.”
“What would it take?”
“What do you mean?”
“What would it take to prove I’m willing to be your right-hand woman?”
“Nothing.  Never.  This is no job for someone like you.  You’re far more suited to working with mother and her charities.”
And the fact that she had never stuck to one job for longer than a few days before the old habits returned, late nights partying with her indolent friends, hangovers the following morning, and any excuse not get a job, or having a job.  Records Clerk in her father’s practice was the best she was going to have.  At least their father was not going to dismiss her.
“Then give me an impossible task, and if I can’t complete it then I’ll abide by no.”
It was a game to her, Harry thought.  She didn’t understand it could be life and death, and that she could finish up like him, now, in hospital, lucky to be alive.
But there was an impossible task.
He smiled.
“You’ve got one, haven’t you?” she said.
“Yes.  Get all the case notes for the Jones’ murders off Detective Sykes, the so-called grubby policeman, and bring them to me here.  I’ll give you 48 hours.”
Her smile turned into a frown.  She’d asked for an impossible job, and he knew that Sykes would not share anything with him let alone give anything to her, particularly after what she had said about him.
She stood.  “OK.  Challenge accepted.  I hope he knows what you’re talking about.  Jones, you say?
“Two of them.  Murdered.  Case notes.  Go.”

 © Charles Heath 2016-2019

Thursday 28 March 2019

Harry's sister, Corinne - Trouble with a capital T

I'm not sure what prompted me to come up with the idea of giving Harry a sister, but it was borne out of a need perhaps to counter Angela having any influence over Harry if that's at all possible.

Whilst Harry may have these strange notions about being a Private Detective and the desire to help damsels in distress, thoughts provoked by his favorite book, The Maltese Falcon, and his efforts to bring them into real life, it seems his wish is almost granted on two fronts.

Jennifer Jones, the sophisticated wife of Al, and Angela Morrison, the enigmatic daughter of Edwina Jones, or now Morrison, having reverted back to her former name.

Angela, of course, is an unknown quantity who appears at a defining moment, seemingly to rescue him rather than the other way around, and uses this influence and rapport to guide Harry's investigation in a direction other than where he might want it to lead, having been beguiled by her to some extent.

That needed a foil, and in the original draft, Corinne had joined the cast for just that reason.

She is a rather interesting character in her own right, and battling parents with rather anachronistic beliefs, much the same as Harry had, but for different reasons. 

Harry left because he didn't want to follow in the family's footsteps and tradition and was cut off and cast out.  Since he didn't care about his so-called inheritance, it didn't bother him.  It's the reason why Sykes is rather astonished at his parent's cold-hearted attitude towards their son.

Corinne, as the only daughter, was seen by her parents as a means to consolidate the family's wealth and power, a tradition that everyone but them knew belonged in the 18th century, not in modern times.  She has no desire to marry for convenience, nor after spending so much time at University, did she want to waste that education on being a records clerk, or being a dutiful wife.

Cautiously, of course, because there is that small thing called inheritance, and she doesn't want to make her parents outright enemies just as Harry did, so everything she is about to do has to be kept on the down low.

But how long she stays in this latest draft remains to be seen.  She wants to become Harry's partner in the detecting business, where Harry would much prefer Felicity, but all that might be moot when Corinne makes the same mistake Harry made that led to him being left for dead in a wasteland.

Once again, even in the third draft of the story, I'm still flying by the seat of my pants, and almost anything can happen between now and the next few revised episodes. 

There's always a story behind the story

To be honest I didn't think I'd get this far.

Harry Walthenson was first thought of in the late 1990s when I was starting to dabble in serious writing.

I was telling one of the receptionists at the place where I worked I could write, and she asked me for an example of my work.

I came up with the idea of a serial, writing several paragraphs and leaving it with a sort of cliff hanger.

Each was about 500 to 1000 words long.

After abolishing it anonymously on the office email system, a new episode each morning.  It was quite amusing that after a few weeks there was a betting pool about who it was writing it.

It came to an abrupt end 52 episodes later when it was inadvertently sent to the GM and he ordered it stopped.

To this day no one knows it was me, but it received quite a few 'accolades'.

The manuscript with a dozen more episodes found it's way to the bottom of a drawer until about a year or so ago when I decided to resurrect it, with its own blog.

With the original version, I had sort of written myself into a corner. 

This, the second version, had given me more scope and freedom to write longer episodes and make some changes to the plot.

In this, the third, I've begun to see the plotline flaws and omissions and going through correcting them, as well as adding a few new characters.

It is the way of things when you write by the seat of your pants.

I will be bringing this the third draft to its conclusion soon, and then there will no doubt, after another short break, be another rewrite, and I'm thinking of writing some of it from different perspectives, not just from Harry's.

But, the story is still very much in the evolutionary stages, and we shall see what happens!

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Episode 58 – Sister, you have a sister?

Sykes was of a mind to turn around, pound on the door, and when Harry’s mother finally confronted him, he would give her a piece of his mind.
How could she not be interested in what had happened to her son, or go visit him?  She had not even asked where he was.
He shook his head and walked slowly towards the elevator lobby.  When he got there, a girl was waiting to go down.  He barely glanced at her, but he could feel her giving him a long studied look.
“You don’t look like a policeman,” she said, just as the elevator pinged for their floor.
Seconds later the door opened and she stepped in.  He followed.  She pressed the button for the ground floor, and then the doors closed.
In that time he gave her a second look.  There was no doubting she was a relative of Harry’s.
“How should a policeman look?”
“Not shabby.  Do you live in your suit?”
OK, so he hadn’t had it pressed in a day or so, and had just worked a forty-eight-hour shift, but she was bordering on rude.  The trappings of the so-called privileged?
She had to be a Walthenson, taking a leaf right out of the mother’s playbook.
“Are you Corinne Walthenson?”
“What gave me away?”
“Your snotty attitude.”  OK, he could have handled that better, but she was getting under his skin.
She looked more amused than annoyed at his inference.  “He tell you that?  It’s what he calls me when he’s angry, ‘a snotty little brat’.”
“No.  Until he told me in the hospital he had a family I thought he was an orphan, and, judging, by the way you lot treat him, he’d be better off without one.”
The elevator stopped.  They’d reached the ground floor.  He intended to say more, but he was annoyed enough, and it wouldn’t do to lose his temper with these people.  He still had a few outstanding complaints about his behavior sitting in the Chiefs in tray.
She stepped out after him.  “Which hospital is he in?”
Sykes stopped and turned around.  “Do you really care?”
“As much as you might want to believe we don’t, we do.  Especially me.  He is my brother, and I’m concerned for him.”
He scribbled the name of the hospital on a sheet of his note pad and ripped it out with anger.  As he handed it to her, he hoped she ended up with a paper cut.
He glared at her, then the doorman as he opened the door for him, and left the building without looking back.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Sunday 24 March 2019

Episode 57 - A visit with a twist

Sykes stood out the front of the apartment after running the gauntlet of the doorman who needed his badge and some stern words to let him pass.  But, not before the doorman called up to let them know he was coming.
Time enough for them to put on their game faces, or just disappear.
He sighed, lamenting the fact rich people like the Walthensen’s played by their own rules.
He pushed the button next to the door and heard a muffled sound coming from within the apartment, and a moment later the door was opened by a maid.
“May I help you, sir?”  Foreign, but not from Mexico.  Perhaps European?
“My name is Detective Sykes.”
“Yes.  You are expected.  Please come in.”
He walked past her and noticed she looked out the door, perhaps to see if he had left a squad of uniformed policemen in the passage to cut off any escape.
He waited till she rejoined him and then led the way to a small room which he assumed was an office.  It was more suited to a doctor, so he wondered if it was Harry’s fathers.  He was expecting to see the doctor, but instead, it was Harry’s mother.
He could see instantly where Harry’s looks came from.
She was sitting behind the desk, businesslike.  She had motioned to a chair for him to sit, but he didn’t feel comfortable sitting.  Not in this room and not with her in it.
“You have called about my son, Harold?”
“Is there a problem?”
“He’s in hospital, the result of being assaulted by some unknown assailants.”
“A rather vague description of events, don’t you think?  Is he alright?”
“Yes.  The doctors believe he will make a full recovery.”
“Good.”  She stood.  “Thank you, Detective?”
“Detective Sykes.  I’m sure the rest of the family will be glad to hear he is well.  Now, if there is nothing else?”
The maid was hovering at the door waiting to escort him out.
There were a dozen questions he wanted to ask her, at least one of which, ‘Aren’t you the least bit concerned?’, but didn’t.
He could see what Harry meant.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Saturday 23 March 2019

Episode 56 - Case colder

Sykes took the B line to 72nd street, right on the edge of Central Park, and took his lunch with him.  It wasn’t far from the lake, and a leisurely hour pondering what was right in the world rather than what was wrong seemed a good idea.
Besides that, he was still debating whether he would talk to Walthensen’s parents, who conveniently, now, lived just across Central Park West in W 71st Street.  He’d checked it out, an old apartment block refurbished, and expensive.
Slightly more upmarket than his brownstone in Queens.
The question was, did he really want to see these people.  He got the impression from Harry that he would be wasting his time.  Still, he had an obligation to tell the next of kin about what had happened to Harry.
He sat down and looked across the lake, took in the few people in boats, and the relative serenity even though the sounds of the city were encroaching, like a fire truck and several police cars, sirens blaring.  There seemed a lot more of them these days.
As he ate his sandwiches, ham and some sort of mustard, he pondered the case, that is, the case regarding the Jones brothers, and, now, the third partner, Brightwater  Until his body had been found, Sykes’ money was on Brightwater as the murderer.
It wouldn't be the first time a partner killed the other partners to get the money.
Either money or sex, the other great motivator for murder.
That Walthenson had been investigating adultery for one of the wives, and then counter accusations by the other brother, could it be possible that Brightwater was having an affair with both the wives and one or the other killed him when they discovered his perfidy?
Another good motive for murder, for sure.
The trouble was, the chief had shut the case down, reduced the manpower since all the leads had been worked and each time led to nothing.  As the days passed and the trail grew colder, more men were taken away, and now it was just him, and that was only at his insistence.
He’d convinced the chief what had happened to Walthenson was part of the case, and he wanted to get answers from Harry when he was better.
The chief had given him another week, two at the most.
Over a month had passed and he was still no closer to finding out who murdered the brothers, and the medical examiner's office was ready to sign off on Brightwater as a suicide.
Right now, the Jones cases were circling the drain.
He was certain the same person killed the two of them, and that was Brightwater, but he'd been silenced before Sykes could get him into the interview room.
But, by whom?
All of the potential suspects had an alibi, and on the slim evidence he had for one suspect, no DA would prosecute.
Yes, he thought, Walthenson knew something, and he needed to know what that was.
Lunch finished, he’d made up his mind.  He would visit Harry’s parents.
It was better than having to go back to the office.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Episode 55 -To tell, or not to tell

Harry had an active mind and a broken body.
The bullet wound repairs, as the doctor called them, needed time to heal, and that excluded any sort of physical activity.  He was young and strong so it wouldn’t take too long, but he was not to mistake the feeling of general wellbeing as a sign of recovery.
Even when discharged, an event that didn’t seem to be on the horizon, he was going to be severely restricted in what he could do.  Going back to the rigors of private detective would have to be postponed indefinitely, or. As the doctor said when his prognosis was met with a degree of disbelief, at least a month, possibly two.
But now that he was on the road, Sykes considered it a good idea to tell his family he was alive and well, even though they had not known he had disappeared or been injured.  The fact he hadn’t done so earlier, was simply because Harry had asked him not to.
It was the result of a conversation with Sykes, one that had left the detective very surprised.
“You mean to say your family has no idea what it is you do?”
Harry and Sykes had been discussing who needed to know about his condition.
“No.  They’ve never been interested.  Once we were of age, unless we followed in my father’s footsteps, it was out the door and not let it hit as you were leaving.”
“What profession is he?”
“And you didn’t want to be a doctor?  It’s a far safer occupation than going after lowlifes, as you can now appreciate.”
“And be bored to death, seeing sick people every day?”
He grunted, seeing the logic in that.
“Your brothers?”
“Both Doctor’s like Dad.  His favorites.  I’m the middle boy, left to my own devices.  I went to University, stuck it out for three years, and couldn’t stand the blood.  One night in Emergency was enough to put me off for life.”
“And your sister, Corinne?”
Harry gave Sykes a measured look, he had done his homework.
“The child who could do no wrong.”   There was no mistaking the resentment in Harry’s tone.  She didn’t have to become a doctor or be subjected to the same discipline as he and his brothers had.
Sykes sighed.  “Sibling issues, I might have guessed.  Shall I tell them or not?”
“I leave it in your hands.  When you meet them you’ll know what I mean.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Episode 54 - Follow the money

Harry closed his eyes and tried not to think about the case.  He was tired, and the last thing he needed was a problem he couldn’t deal with, for obvious reasons.
“I’m sorry,” Angela said.  “I thought you might want to know, even out of curiosity.  The police are no closer to catching the killer or killers of the other two partners.”
Money, Harry thought, it always came back to money.  He’d read that somewhere, perhaps the PI monthly magazine, which listed the ten most common reasons for murder.  Money was the first, spouses were the second.
Outtel must have a lot of money.  If one of the partners was embezzling and the others found out, reason enough.  That would account for one of the deaths.  But all three?  No, something else was going on, and they were killed for another reason.
These murders seemed, to Harry at least, like they were personal.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, still sitting, waiting.  She was the ‘femme fatale’ of this case, a woman of mystery, a woman that could not be trusted, a woman who could use her ‘talents’ to manipulate men.  He suspected she was trying to manipulate him; though why would be a very interesting answer, if he found one.
Shaking those thoughts out of his head, another came into his head, and after considering certain aspects of it, asked, “Who benefits from their deaths?  All three, that is?  What happens now there is no one to run Outtel?”
“To be honest, I don’t know.  But I doubt the company would cease trading simply because the directors were no longer available.”
Probably not.  He didn’t know much about company law.  What he did know was that on a person’s death there was also a beneficiary, and in each case, the Jones’ wives would inherit.  Isn’t that a motive, he thought.
“Perhaps you should talk to your mother.  I suspect she might inherit Josephs share of the company, and Jennifer Jones, if they ever find Al’s body, Al’s share.  Perhaps, at the same time, you should ask your mother what her relationship with Brightwater was.”
He closed his eyes again.  Too much, too soon.  Just that short conversation had exhausted him.
“How is that relevant?”  Slightly indignant.
Had he touched a nerve?  He looked at her, and, yes, there were tinges of temper there.
“I’m sorry.  Perhaps I should go and let you rest.”  She stood.  “We shall be temporary partners.  I’ll ask the questions, you can tell me what the answers mean.”
“You need to be careful.”
She took his hand in hers.  “I will.”
He heard the door open and close behind her, and he was once again alone.  It wasn’t a matter of being careful; it was a matter of not asking the wrong question to the wrong person.
Or she would join the ever-growing body count.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Episode 53 - The woman in blue

It was not the woman in red, it was the woman in blue.
The same woman, only different.
Angela Morrison.
She came into the room and let the door slowly close, shutting out the light from the corridors and surrounding them both in an eerie glow.
Harry was surprised, given the makeover that he could recognize her.  Different hair, different clothes, padded slightly to make her look more matronly, flat-heeled shoes, and almost channeling the suburban housewife look if there was such one.
“What happened to you?”  Harry had not noticed the lyrical tone to her voice before, or maybe he had focussed too much on other aspects of her.
“I hit a bus and it came off second best.”  Perhaps a joke might lighten the tension, certainly from Harry’s point of view.  His heart was still in his mouth, she still had that sort of an effect on him.
She walked slowly from the doorway to the chair beside the bed and sat after turning on the bedside light.  Instantly she was given a surreal glow.
“How did you find me?”
“A policeman named Sykes.  I was on my way back to your office to speak to you about the case when I saw two men dragging an unconscious body out of the building, and then put you in a car and drive off.  I didn’t see much else, but I reported what looked like a kidnapping to the police.  I said I was a friend, which seemed to surprise Sykes, and asked if he would let me know when you were found.  And, now, here I am.  I’m concerned about you, Harry, despite what you think of me; so, tell me, what really happened?”
“A case of mistaken identity.  Some chap thought I knew some information which I didn’t.  I tried to tell them, they didn’t believe me, and here I am.”
“What men?”
“Exactly.  I have no idea.  Perhaps I’ll ask them when I find them.”
“After what they did to you?  Surely you’d want to forget about it.”
“If and when Harry Walthenson comes back to life, I’m sure they will be back.  I saw their faces.  I’m sure Sykes has mug shots and if he does, I might be able to get the drop on them.”
She shook her.  “You’re mad.”
“I’ve been called worse.  Now, just out of curiosity, why are you really here?”
“As I said, I was concerned.”
“Were you here before?  The nurse said I had a mysterious female visitor.”
“I was going to tell you the latest about the Outtel case.  Brightwater was found dead in his apartment about a week ago.  The police think he committed suicide.”
It could be said that working for Outtel was toxic because everyone in a position of authority was now dead.  Except for Miriam.
“And you?”
“I think he was murdered, like the other partners.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Monday 18 March 2019

Episode 52 - Is there light ...

The road to recovery is paved with a lot of ups and downs.  
Well, perhaps more downs than ups.  Convulsions aside, caused by a certain type of medication Harry didn’t know he was allergic to, it was going to take time.
Time that he didn’t have because the Jones’ cases were still on the books.
Yes, the quirky details of the case he’d been working on came back to him, but without any answers as to what happened to the brothers or why.
And, now, he had another case, his own.  Who had kidnapped, tortured, and then tried to kill him?  If it was not for the incompetence of the shooter, whose marksmanship was appalling, and thankfully so, he would be dead.
Patchy memories of those missing days, though he was still not sure how many, had returned, and it seemed his mind was blocking out the really bad events, mostly the torture and what happened afterward.
 All he really knew about it was that he had overheard a conversation, a random one of hundreds within earshot, but unfortunately had the curiosity to go and visit the meeting site.  If he had not...
Sykes had put a press embargo on his hospitalization, the single request Harry made, and Sykes put into effect, to give the perpetrators no inkling he was still alive, and therefore give both himself and the police an opportunity to find who did it.
They would be expecting, as the doctor had said, that his body would never be found.  It was a rare opportunity and one he, personally, was going to find hard to capitalize on.
The doctor’s prognosis was not good.
Nothing strenuous beyond lying in a bed for at least a month, time for the broken bones in his legs to heal, a result of being thrown into the dump from a cliff top, and a ‘wait and see’ on the effects to his head after sustaining a cracked skull.
Lucky to be alive: yes.
Even luckier still he had his brain functions, memory, and no lasting paralysis: double yes.
But there were details that bothered him.
The first: he’d been in an induced coma for two weeks, give or take.  It didn’t seem like it, because he could remember voices talking about him.
The second, until he told them, they were referring to him as John Doe, not Harry Walthenson, which meant he had no ID, and they had only Sykes word he was who he said he was.
The third, he had a mysterious visitor who gave her name as Gwen, no last name, and by the description, he’d been given it was no one he recognized.  His first thought, until the nurse described his visitor, it might be Jennifer or Angela Morrison.
It was unlikely it was a representative from the kidnappers interested in what he might say, because they had no reason the think he was not still lying at the bottom of the dump, so that theory holds no water, and, so far, the mysterious female visitor had not returned.
The fourth, how did Sykes know he was in the hospital?  Especially if he was registered as John Doe and not by his real name.  Harry suspected Sykes kept an eye out for John Doe types, another mystery for him to solve.
These and other thoughts were swirling around in his head when he heard the door to his room creak, and then slowly open.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Episode 51 - Luck has everything to do with it

Harry just barely heard the softly spoken female voice, what appeared to belong to the surgeon, a woman dressed in theatre clothes.  She didn’t sound like a nurse.
Harry wanted to tell her that death was not all it was cracked up to be, now that she confirmed he was there, albeit briefly.  He didn’t remember any bright white light though, something others had seen when they were hovering on the edge of mortality and the what might be the next life.
“But, they got you here just in time.  You are a very lucky man.  From what they tell me you were in a dump where no one ever goes, that you could have been there for years before anyone found you.”
Harry noted he should thank the man who discovered him when he was released.
She put the folder back in the bin at the end of the bed, took another look into his eyes with her penlight, and checked what he took to be her handiwork, and then said, “I’ll be back in a few hours.  Got another gunshot victim to patch up.  Self-inflicted this one, and by all accounts, the man is a fool.”
It was interesting that she had such an opinion, but she might be in possession of the facts of the case. Still, he had to wonder what her candid opinion of him was.  He tried to nod, but nothing was working.
Perhaps when she returned later.

Harry’s memory was hazy.
He knew his name was Harry Walthenson, he knew he was a Private Detective, and he knew he had been working on a case.
But it was not that case that earned him a ticket to the ICU.
That was about something else, the details of which, at the moment, he couldn’t remember.  It would come back to him, eventually
He also knew he had been beaten, very savagely, by a man whose face he would never forget, and another man, less recognizable.
All because of an address, a place that was nothing more than a wasteland.
As he drifted off to sleep, he heard a commotion outside the door to his room, the raised voices of two men, perhaps a doctor, and someone else, a voice that sounded familiar.
Sykes, Detective.  Nemesis or friend, he couldn’t quite tell.
Who just then burst through the door with a doctor in tow, telling him, angrily, that Harry was not to be disturbed.
“There, see, he is awake.”
Both men looked down at Harry as he looked up blankly at them.
Awake yes, but not exactly in any sort of state to answer questions.
Because, the moment Harry opened his eyes, the equipment next to the bed started making loud alarm like sounds, and, for some reason, Harry started convulsing, struggling to breathe.
Perhaps his luck had just run out.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Friday 15 March 2019

A title for the first Walthenson Case

Even on the second time through a title doesn't seem to present itself.
Or if one comes to mind it seems to be too suggestive of the ending.
I guess I need to take lessons on the art of creating subtle mystery titles for a private detective, or perhaps any sort of detective, story.
I've got the easy bit, 'The Case of the...', now I need the rest, and not give anything away.
So, what are the elements
Jealous brothers, or apparently so, on the word of others.  Are they trying to sow the seeds of distraction from what's really going on?
It's like some murders, not only do you kill the extended victim but you kill a few more in a similar manner and a pattern that hides the true motive.
Unless you're Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot.  Seems they are the only two who can see through that little charade.
One brother is ostensibly having an affair with the office manager.  Apparently, he's not.
He says his brother is ostensibly having an affair with his wife.  Apparently, he's not.
One brother dies, the other apparently does.
Has Walthenson been selected for the job because he's only new at the job, and will easily be led by the nose? 
Then there are the red herrings. 
There are always red herrings and false leads, indicating that there are far too obvious suspects who on the surface have no alibis.
Perhaps, in a way, it’s like trying to keep up with the Jones, you know, that old saying?
Actually, it sort of works
The case of keeping up with the Jones’.
A case of keeping up with the Jones'

We'll see.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Episode 50 – Restart

Was it his imagination, or was it real.  It just felt like he had 20,000 volts sent through him.
In the periphery he could hear rather than see a loud noise, and them it seemed like an involuntary jerking movement.  It seemed like there were flashing lights all around him.
Was he in the middle of a UFO landing site?
“We’ve got a pulse.”  A strange distorted voice was nearby and Harry didn’t recognise it.
“Is he going to live, that’s the question,” a rasping voice, one that came from a man who’d probably smoked all his life.
Harry could smell cigarette smoke wafting on the gentle breeze, an odd sensation because his nose felt like it was blocked.
He blinked his eyes and in the time it took for his vision to clear, and see what looked to be a man in a dark blue jump suit or overalls, he heard the man say, “He’s waking.”
He heard another man, on the other side, breathe out heavily.  “Not a good idea right now.”  It was accompanied by a sharp prick in my arm, and then, words drifting on the breeze, “we have to get him to the hospital.  It’s a bloody miracle someone found him, and an even bigger miracle he’s still alive.”
A miracle, Harry thought.  That’s what his mother had said when he was born..  And, that was it.

It was cold.
It was bright in the room from an overhead light, and curtains covering the window.  There was a table beside the bed, on one side.  On the other, a tower of equipment, beeping and flashing.
Vital signs, an indication he was still alive.
Right then, he wasn’t feeling any pain.  Perhaps he was dead, and this was the first stage of his next journey.
He heard the boss tell his men to kill him, and that’s what they’d done.  He was sure of it.  An injection and then it was lights out.
The end.
Until someone started shaking him.  Some old man, shaggy hairdo and beard, smelly clothes, odd that, he thought, that he could smell, and a strange language, none of the words he could understand.
A foreign language.  Or had he been an alien off that UFO?
Not long after he heard a wailing sound, police, ambulance, air raid, something that he couldn’t quite comprehend.
But one thing he fairly sure about.
He was still just barely alive.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Episode 49 - There's pain and then there's pain

Harry couldn’t breathe, and yet there was a strange sound coming out of his mouth, like he was an asthma sufferer.  Every breath he took, when he could, hurt.
He wanted it to stop.
He thought about asking the smaller man to stop, but he knew what his answer would be.  Not in words, but in punishment.  He was being used as a human punching bag by a man who enjoyed his work.
After another short, sharp session, the smaller man stood back, also now a little breathless but from exertion, and Harry could see sweat forming on his brow.
The whole time the interrogator had been hitting him, Harry thought about all the times the same had happened to him a school, where the bullies always picked on the smaller weaker kids, of which he was one, and how they had tormented and hurt him with impunity.  It had been a school where its students were expected to ride the punches and toughen up.
Harry had survived, but only just.  He’d lost count how many times he ended up in sick bay or the hospital, where the staff had been convinced he was one of those hapless boys who continually fell over or walked into doors.
There was no point talking.

The taller man had pulled on his gloves and took up position to restart the festivities when the five thousand dollar suit man reappeared.
He walked over to the smaller man and asked, “Has he said anything yet?”
“No, boss.”
“It’s been half an hour, Fred.”
“He’s not talking, or he’s telling the truth.  Or we have stumbled upon someone who is not who he says he is.”
The boss shook his head.  “Don't be daft.  I checked him out.  A beginner, basically a fool who looks for lost cats and dogs.”
“You want us to keep going?”
The boss looked at Harry, then back at Fred.
“No.  Kill him and make sure the body isn’t found.”  A last glance in Harry’s direction and then the boss left the room.
“You heard the boss, Jim.  Go ahead and give him the injection.”
The taller man took off his gloves, went over to the case and took out a syringe.  He took the cap off and crossed the room to stand beside Harry.
“Luckily you won’t feel a thing.”
He jabbed it into Harry’s arm and Harry could feel the liquid being injected.  He’d expected an instant result.
It took longer than that.  Counting to ten, Harry reached nine, resisting to succumb as hard as he could, looking for those last few seconds of life.
Harry’s last thought:  He was too young to die.

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

Saturday 2 March 2019

Episode 48 - To break or not to break

Aside from a bleeding nose and a cut above his right eye, bleeding profusely as such wounds did, Harry thought he looked worse than he felt.
Five minutes had passed.  Was it only five minutes.  As a distraction, he had been counting the seconds.
He hadn’t cracked yet.
It was the same question, over and over, “What else did you overhear, other than time, date and a place?”
And Harry's answer was the same, without embellishment, “Nothing.”
The smaller man stood back to look at his handiwork.  The taller man had stood and watched, perhaps appreciating, or perhaps learning from his colleague.
A nod from the smaller man to the taller, and he moved to the wall and took what looked to be a hand control off the wall.   He pushed one of the buttons and Harry heard the rattling of metal chains.   He looked up.  It was chains and bindings coming down from the roof.
This session, Harry thought, was about to move to the next level.
The chains stopped just above his head.  Both men untied him from the chair and the taller put Harry’s hands in the restraints.  After checking they would not open unexpectedly, he went back to the control and the chains went up, pulling Harry's arms apart, then lifting him slightly off the floor.
Harry felt an agonizing pain as it traveled through both shoulders.
The smaller man went to the back of the room and came back with a bucket, then threw icy cold water over Harry.  Stretched out un-naturally, the water caused involuntary movement as it wrenched at his shoulder joints.
He tried to stifle a groan and failed.
The smaller man put the bucket down and looked up at him.  To Harry, the man was little more than a blur, the water mingled with the blood distorting his vision.
“Now, Harry, if you tell me the truth, this will be all over.”
A thought struck him.  Even if there was something else to tell him that might or might not be the truth, would they believe him?  Hadn’t he read somewhere that if you gave up the truth too quickly they would think he was lying just to save himself, and make the punishment worse.
It was not going to get any better.
“I told you the truth, all I heard was a time and a place.”
He shrugged.  “Don’t say you weren't given every opportunity.”
As Harry thought.  Truth or not, it was not going to stop.
Three punches later, the first two knocking the wind out of him and making it impossible to breathe, on the third Harry heard the cracking of a rib.
So had his assailant, bringing an evil smile to his face.
This was not going to end well.

© Charles Heath 2016- 2019