Friday, 24 April 2015

Guest Author Michael Smart - An Excerpt from Deadlight.


This is Michael's second visit to the Scribbler. He was featured in the 4Q Interview last month. His links are below.



I am a native New Yorker, inheriting a love of reading and travel from my adventurous mother, and inspired to write by the pioneering mystery and science fiction authors on whom I cut my reading teeth.

My restless urge to travel carried me around the United States and to distant corners of the globe after college, and eventually to Key West Florida, in search of a crew position on any cruising yacht heading for far horizons. In the interim, I completed flight lessons and acquired my private pilot’s license.

I did find a yacht, a home built fifty-five foot gaff rigged schooner, headed for the Caribbean, and embarked on my first ocean crossing under sail. A life changing epiphany. I spent the next eight years living and sailing around the eastern Caribbean. I share many of my sailing and flying adventures in my Logbook Tales blog series.

Little did I know, years later I’d embark on a new career as a novelist, my sailing adventures providing inspiration for the exotic setting and colorful characters in the Bequia Mysteries. I also endow my protagonists with my passion for the sea and sky.








                                        DEADLIGHT - CHAPTER 1

I awoke to the cackling cries of roosters, my mind clear and refreshed, the phantom ache of my wounds no longer a waking presence.

The fresh fruity scent of a brand new day greeted my short trudge up the steep road from Friendship Bay. The sky held the promise of a bright cloudless day, the last lingering lentils of puffy white fading, as the cerulean blue sky paled beneath the rising sun.

The day also promised another mind-numbing medley of meetings. The meetings my tedious daily routine since the recent scandals and their aftermath. I’d soon be immersed in the dread I’d fallen asleep to. No longer a nebulous worry, it had coalesced into solid form, whole and substantial. And as dangerous as a cobra poised to strike.

And I’d soon be unemployed. My second retirement. The first had occurred twelve years earlier, prior to relocating to the Grenadines from Florida. Unlike the first retirement, this one promised to be acrimonious, accompanied by a foreboding sense of a job left unfinished.

I feared for the future of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. Questioned if I’d achieved any real impact, contributed to a lasting difference. And beyond that, I feared for the future of these islands I now called home.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines remained under siege, though the public remained unaware of it. We’d barely dodged the last bullet, aimed at a takeover and control of the Island Nation by a foreign entity. But we hadn’t escaped unscathed.

The Attorney General had been forced to resign, and soon after Prime Minister DeFretas followed, the only viable option to prevent a complete collapse of the government. Arturo Bacchus, number two in the party leadership, had assumed the office of Prime Minister until an early general election could be called. The party held a scant one-seat majority in parliament, and the opposition appeared poised to win a landslide at the polls. I’d be out of a job sooner than I’d expected.

The threat, although exposed, remained. A foreign Bogeyman, Superintendent Jolene Johanssen’s description for the nameless, faceless enemy, was still out there. Still possessing designs on St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’d uncovered his operation, and his possible motive, given St. Vincent’s strategic geographic location. But not who.

At the main road I flagged a dollar van heading into Port Elizabeth. Drowsy smiles and “Mawnin Commisshunah” greeted me as I hopped into the back, one buttock on the edge of the wood seat. The van overloaded as usual to meet the first early morning ferry to Kingstown. The van’s passengers packed into the back, each hairpin turn squeezing the crush of bodies together.

Normally I’d have police transport, including a Coast Guard Cutter for the trip across to St. Vincent. Normally I returned home only on weekends, living at my rental residence in Kingstown during the week to avoid a daily commute. But sometimes I needed to get away. Needed the solace of my own space, the respite of personal time; the reason I’d returned home to Bequia the night before.

The van unloaded its passengers on the road facing the crowded, bustling wharf. Passengers and vehicles swarmed around a red and white ferry tied alongside, like bees around a hive. Cars, vans, small trucks, and motor bikes, mounted its stern ramp lowered onto the dock.

Gazing out across the tranquil harbor, brightening as the sun peeked above Bequia’s highland, I glimpsed the Coast Guard Vessel “Chatham Bay,” a twenty-four foot fiberglass Boston Whaler normally based on St. Vincent, accompanied by the sixteen-foot skiff, SVG 12, based in Bequia. They headed toward the dry dock at the Hamilton Marina, the rigid bottom inflatable Whaler towing a small fishing boat.

Returning to the van, I asked the driver to drop me in Hamilton instead. The road through the harbor passed the spot where I’d been found, shot and dying, a little over a year before. I’d crawled through the littered yard between the marina and supermarket to get to the road, my lifeblood flowing from three bullet wounds. An involuntary constriction squeezed my chest, and my pulse quickened, as the van drove past the spot.

A year and a half later, I still have no memory of the events immediately following being shot. Or how I’d made it to the road.

At the Hamilton Marina dock, I encountered an unexpected surprise. Superintendent Jolene Johanssen and two CID detectives disembarked from the Boston Whaler. Disheveled and preoccupied, she nevertheless projected a striking presence among the men on the dock. Tall, gorgeous in a natural, earthy manner, brilliant and determined, she evoked an intense familial pride. The kind I felt for my own daughter. In many ways I treated her like a daughter.

“An early morning I see,” I said in greeting.

“Morning Chief.” She and her contingent of police and Coast Guard personnel stamped to attention and saluted, Jolene’s less formal than her colleagues.

“As you were,” I said to the gathered group. “What’s this?” My question directed at her.

“Some fishermen spotted that fishing boat washed up on Petit Nevis. They went to check it out and found a body on board. Dead at least two days. I summoned the Coast Guard and Detectives Cato and DeSilva. We processed the scene. I had the Coast Guard tow the boat in for further processing and called Calliaqua for a cutter to transport the body”

“Any identification?”

“No ID on him,” she said. “Decomp is pronounced, and sea birds have been at the remains. Not a pretty sight Chief. Just this in his pocket.”

She held up a clear plastic evidence bag containing a few coins, some paper currency, and an odd shaped bronze medallion the size of a silver dollar.

The breath rushed from my body, like I’d been punched in the gut. My senses reeled. My knees turned weak and spongy. A vertiginous wooziness clouded my vision.

“Chief. You OK?” Jolene gripped my arm. Her voice reached me as though from a great distance. My eyes refocused on her face.

“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost or something.”

“I need to see the body,” I said.

Concern filled the hazel eyes staring back at me, and etched delicate lines across her mocha toned brow. The arm she’d placed around mine attempted to hold me back, or maybe hold me up. I moved toward the covered bundle lying in the Boston Whaler.

Her eyes, and the eyes of the detail, followed my movements as I knelt next to the body. I turned back a corner of the canvas tarp covering it. I stared down at the bloated, unrecognizable face. I lifted a side of the tarp, revealing the corpse’s right arm and hand.

“Will someone please hand me a pair of gloves.”

I didn’t see who the outstretched hand holding the blue nitrite gloves belonged to. My gaze fixed on the corpse before me. I lifted the corpse’s right hand. A ring embedded in the blackened swollen flesh of his fourth finger bore the same design as the medallion. The dizzying sensation returned, not due to the sight of the lifeless, decomposing body. I’d seen many, too many, and worse, in a long law enforcement career. But the body lying beneath the tarp had been one of my own.

I’d lost colleagues before too. Felled in the line of duty. A hard thing to witness. A terrible burden to bear. Especially when your decisions and orders had placed them in harm’s way.

I needed a plausible excuse for my initial reaction. I needed to resume a professional, detached demeanor. No other person knew of this constable’s existence. I needed it to remain so for a little while longer.

On the dock I drew Jolene aside. Her earlier concern dissipating, replaced by a knowing curiosity. She knew me too well, and possessed a keen perceptiveness. Another of her remarkable traits.

“I want you in charge of this case,” I said. The sharp edge in my voice only increased her curiosity.

“Inform the Coast Guard vessel coming for the body I’ll ride over with them. But I’ll be back home tonight. Let’s meet at my place around eight. I’ll want as much on this case as you can put together by then. So you need to get a move on.”
 

I perceived the questions forming, many of them, but turned away before she had a chance to voice them. Not the time or place.

“Oh,” I said turning back to face her. “Bring Gage.”
 





Thank you Michael for sharing an excerpt from your thriller. You can read more about Michael on these links.

Michael Smart



Mark the date of the upcoming 4Q Interview on your calendar -  next Friday, May 1st. Happy to have Tim Baker from Flagler Beach Florida answer four questions. Author, radio personality, creator of Ike, busy man.



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Honey Trap - Part 3

This Short Story is an idea for a novel that has been kicking around this old head for a bit. This is Part 3.
The previous 2 Parts from the past week are archived on the left side bar.

Now here's where YOU come in.  Please let me know what you think?




              The Honey Trap Part 3



Nelson Cartwright’s stance is severe like a steel beam, rigid and unbent even though he is 74. His six foot frame is clad in a cargo pants tucked into paratrooper boots, a white crisp t-shirt is covered by a dark gray fleece. His narrow waist and barrel chest are echoes of his military past.  He is the Defence Minister of Canada. The whole of the Canadian Armed Forces is at his command, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Services and all of its assets. Activating one of their deepest agents is the reason he is meeting his boss outside the office, very late at night. Off hours one might say.

Chief Warrant Officer T. Beers Jr. owns the house he waits in, on the outskirts of Ottawa. The man is Cartwright’s nephew. The couple and their two children went for dinner and movies, a night at the Sheraton on Parliament’s expense account. They left four hours ago running late for a 6:30 dinner reservation. The politician stands to the side of the picture window, shaded by the long drapes.  The roadway is slick from a brief spring rain. The sodium glow of the streetlights makes it shine like a skin. Cartwright’s bald head gleams in the low light as if just polished. Deep set eyes are impossible to read.  A jutted chin proclaims pride of an untainted past. The man he works for demanded an emergency rendezvous at a secure location where there is no possible chance of eavesdropping. The Prime Minister of Canada said he would meet him at 10:45.

Cartwright steps away from the window when an unfamiliar light colored cargo van wheels into the driveway, rocking from haste and inertia. Spray from the wet street swirls about the tires like pinwheels. The skidding of the heavy vehicle when it comes to an abrupt stop can be heard from the open side door of the house, the exit facing the driveway. Cartwright hastens through the living room glancing at his watch. 10:44. It has to be the PM, he is never late. Dropping to the next level with six steps, he moves in long hurried strides along the dim hallway that leads to the garage and egress. The van has stopped right at the short walkway outside the door. The side light has been left off so Cartwright doesn’t recognize the stooped over figure wearing torn jeans and a black hoodie when it opens the screen door. For a moment he is unnerved. Dropping his hands to his side, he steps back, his defenses are instinctive.

The person stands erect and slips off the hood. Robert Mahovlich is good hand taller than Cartwright, slighter. Normally slicked down hair is disheveled from the head covering, the eyes are red veined, the skin frightfully pale.  The Prime Minister says,

“The doctors committed my son today Nelson. They took my boy away.”

“I’m sorry Bob. Really I am. I know how much you love him. You’ve done all you can Bob.”

Mahovlich appears utterly defeated, chin sagging, slack lipped. There is no gleam in his eyes, only sorrow.  A spark ignites within his deepest psyche instilling him with a need for completion. He raises a fist to his advisor, grits his teeth and says,

“I haven’t done everything. We can destroy the man responsible for this.”

Cartwright takes the PM by the forearm, moving him inside to shut the main door.

“Follow me, we can talk safely here.”

Straightening his shoulders, the PM follows Cartwright into what looks like an open rec room. Toys, a large TV, pool table, stuffed couches, and brightly colored bean bags fill the room. The wall on the right has a simple bar area. Pointing at one of the chrome barstools for Mahovlich, Cartwright walks behind the pine counter to where a bottle of Lagavulin 16 year old scotch rests beside two glasses. When he begins to pour a measure for each he says,

“How did you get here?”

“Hunter is driving”

The hand that is not pouring golden booze is raised. Cartwright says,

“I don’t want to know anymore. Not when it comes to Hunter.”

Sliding the thick bottomed glass holding two inches of perfection towards the PM he says,

“I think I know why we’re here Bob but let’s cut to the chase. What’s going on?”

Mahovlich maintains a bit more grit in his demeanor. The politician is replaced by a father, a parent with a vast array of assets at his disposal. Swishing the liquid a bit, he gulps down a good swallow. The loving bite makes him draw in his breath.

“Hoooo!”

Looking Cartwright directly, he says with obvious distaste,

“What’s the latest on Hoch?”

“We knew where he was up until last Saturday, three days ago.  We had our sights on him when he returned from Turkey but lost him…”

The men argue, scheme and barter for over an hour, the bottle half gone. With a thump of his fist on the bar, the PM says with finality,

“I want that bastard behind bars or…or…”

Cartwright knows when to back down. He nods at the PM and says.

“I understand.”

Mahovlich reaches for his hood, satisfied that more aggressive action against Hoch will begin. He eyeballs the Defence Minister and says,

“You have absolute authority to do as you see fit to make this happen.”

Cartwright frowns.

“And the responsibility if this goes sour.”

The silence is answer enough. Cartwright watches the PM make to leave, the van still running outside. Only one last thing to authorize.

“You want Hunter on this?”

“No. Vartanian.”

“Vartanian? One armed Vartanian?”

“Definitely. She wants the bastard as bad as I do.”
 
 
 
 
 
Hope you enjoyed the short story. I'd be happy to know your thoughts. All comments welcome and thanks for stopping by.
 
 
 
 
Please visit again on Friday when The Scribbler welcomes Guest Author Michael Smart with an excerpt from his thriller - Deadlight!
 
 

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Honey Trap - Part 2 by Allan Hudson


The following short story is posted in three parts. Part 1 was last Friday (see it below) Part 2 today and Part 3 on Wednesday. It is about an idea for a novel that has been kicking around in this old head for a bit.

Now here's where YOU come in.  Please let me know what you think?

              The Honey Trap Part 2


Her inquiries led her into a pit of serpents. She had been captured by the same ruthless gang. Probing for information she did not have, it was Hoch himself that removed three of her fingers making the young man they kidnapped watch, terrorizing his very soul.  Prior to the fourth finger to go missing she and the son were rescued by Drake Alexander and his unruly cohorts.
He had been her sergeant when she was part of the Special Ops during her time with the Canadian Armed Forces as a member of their elite Task Force 2 Commandos. Now Alexander hunts criminals. Her career with the CSIS was put on hold during her rehabilitation when she lost her arm to infection and eventual gangrene.  Some consolation was that Alexander and his band of vigilantes killed or captured the entire terrorist cabal. Hoch, however, was not amongst them.

Now she’s a one-armed gardener, sun worshipper and a thirty seven year old retiree and always looking over her back. She is consulted occasionally but only as an advisor. She misses the espionage, the rush only danger can bestow. More desperately than that, she wants the man that took her fingers, her arm. She knows from her sources, usually reliable, that Hoch was seen in Istanbul less than ten days ago. CSIS have agents searching for him.  
                                                

In her training room upstairs over the garage, she studies her unclothed body in the mirrors on the gable end that has no windows.  One of the dormer windows to her left admits the first stream of early morning light to paint her upper body the color of butter. Being open, summer scents of pine sap and salt water drift in. Bright blue workout pants, white spandex top, red cotton panties are scattered around her feet like lost thoughts. After an intense workout every square inch of the smooth skin that covers her big boned frame is taut, normally dark as brown sugar and beaded with perspiration. The three limbs are rippled with girlish muscle, flexible as a whip. All 70 inches of her physique is sensuously proportioned. 

The only blemish is the missing arm. Turning to her right side, the faint scars around the flap of skin used to cover the amputation site causes her to yearn for her other hand. Not wanting to think of the ordeal that brought her here, she shakes her head, staring defiantly into her image’s bold eyes. The blue is the color of cold morning seas. Short curls, brown and loose, collapse on her wide forehead.  Her square-like face is Slavic, making her an ideal agent for most of Europe.  Again her thoughts turn to her former trade, the lure of intrigue.

Rosa kicks the panties away from her foot and strides towards the bathroom at the other end of the exercise room, bypassing the weight machine, the treadmill, a stair climber that is on the rim of “worn out”.  An antique teacher’s desk sits against the guard rail for the stairway that separates the large room. Bella’s laptop is in the center, open mouthed and always powered up. On the edge is one of her throwing knifes. A nine inch, double edged sticker made of 440 Stainless Steel.  Bella likes it because it’s easier to sharpen than the high carbon steel and it doesn’t rust.
 

She picks it up, caressing the sleek handle. Her index, middle and ring fingers grip the handle opposite the thumb. Arching her arm, she stares at the outline of a used dartboard on the far wall twenty feet away and throws. The knife spins perfectly vertical striking the pockmarked board an eyelash away from the center dot. She doesn’t check where it struck, its close enough. She’s thrown the knife a thousand times since she lost her other arm. She was right-handed. Turns out she’s even better with her left.

The shower is hot, steam filling the small bathroom. The shower stall is brightly tiled with whites and blues, the glass door runs with beads of soap when she rinses the shampoo from her short hair. She lets her mind go vacant while the water cascades over her. Her arm outstretched, hand against the tile, head directly under the stream. She’s feeling sorry for herself. She’s tried to make a life here, she wants for nothing financially. Her neighbors are kind and honest. She rarely locks her door. The waters where she lives are much like her temperament, at times calm and lazy as if on canvas and other times reckless and driven with passion. The owner of the gas bar in the village center expressed an interest. She likes his smile and silly jokes. Raising her face to the streaming water she can’t understand why she can’t be happy here.

She reaches down to close the taps, the shower head sputters and drips. Shaking her curls, she grabs a thick black and white stripped towel from the bar and begins drying herself off. While frisking her hair with the towel she vows not to give up. Not to give into the sense of being unfit. She’ll prove to her superiors that she deserves to work again.  Later this morning after she plants the root cuttings she has been cultivating, she will practice with her gun again.

 Slipping into a short purple robe decorated with silver dragons, she hastens downstairs to the mud room connecting the house and the garage. The walls are mostly glass and the warm sun glows, turning the water to the north a shimmering orange. Pausing only for a moment to admire her property, she thinks of how peaceful it is, how unlike her spirit. She trots off to get dressed before breakfast thinking about the adjustment needed on the front sights on her Beretta Tomcat.
 
 
 
 
Don't miss the ending of this short story. Drop by Wednesday for the finale. Please leave your comments! Especially those that like action stories!
 
 
International adventure with Drake Alexander and his band of cohorts.  Dark Side of a Promise is  novel you don't want to miss.
Available here 
 
 

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Honey Trap- an idea by Allan Hudson.

Hello Faithful Readers. I need your Help! Especially those that like action stories!

The following short story will be posted the coming week in three parts. Part 1 today. Part 2 on Monday and Part 3 on Wednesday. It is about an idea for a novel that has been kicking around in this old head for a bit.
Now here's where YOU come in. Would you read the novel? What would you do to improve the opening? Please let me know what you think? What do you think the title means?

                    

                    
                     The Honey Trap

Bella Maggs weighed 40 pounds when she was four years old. Her mother passed away from cervical cancer when Bella was eight and as big as a teenager. By the time she was twelve, she was full grown. Four days, two and a half hours after she was handed her high school diploma, her father was killed in a car accident. She was one day away from her eighteenth birthday. To suggest her childhood had not been propitious is akin to suggesting the Marianas Trench is under a lot of water.

The doctor’s diagnosed her immense girth as an eating disorder, prescribing exercise and a healthier diet. Her single parent father spoiled her and couldn’t say no.  School kids bullied her in elementary school but that stopped by the time she reached junior high. By then she’d stopped feeling sorry for herself and toughened up. Bella Maggs is not stupid. In fact, her Intelligence Quotient at 161 is considered exceptionally gifted or in everyday talk, she is a genius.

In high school she was not without friends; she had a beautiful round face of the fairest skin, ruddy checks like a fresh apple and a pleasing smile. She tried hard to be liked. Her friends were smaller than her. Standing at 5’10’, she weighed 225 pounds when she entered grade ten. Boys were scared of her and she was rarely asked out. The only boy that wanted to take her to the prom was Kelvin Van Grut, the only other genius in her school. At 6’4”, a 119 pounds, loose limbed and bony jointed he reminded people of a marionette.  Everybody called him Pinocchio.

June 25th, 1991, at 2:10 pm the senior graduating class of Victor Loerch Memorial High School received their diplomas. Bella and Kelvin arrived at the prom 20 minutes late at 7:20pm. The heckling began at 7:21. The snickers and whispers at the odd pair were not disguised. Mean spirited teenagers openly taunted them. At 7:42 pm, Bella Maggs ran tearfully from the gymnasium. No one that knew her then ever saw her again. Her father’s funeral had been handled by his only sibling, a younger sister. Bella managed the disposition of all her father’s assets in absentia. What couldn’t be sold was given to his sister to dispose of. Bella refused to surface. Nine months later she said goodbye to her aunt. 

* 

In 2010, Rosa Vartanian moves to Treasure Island near the picturesque seaside community of Cocagne. She buys a rundown cottage on the perimeter facing east. During the first twelve months of occupancy, she convinces her four closest neighbors to sell her their properties. Everybody has their price. She now owns one quarter of the football field sized landmass. All the buildings have been given away or razed, the properties graded, large majestic pines groomed, scrap trees cut down and others replanted. A modest story and a half occupies the center of her property. A separate three car garage holds her vehicles with the upstairs housing her training rooms. Picket fences, clever shrubs ensure her privacy without seeming a snob.  Multi-hued sunrises shimmer across the bay. The waters are capricious.

Vartanian can speak more than a dozen languages. She has been warmly welcomed by the curious Acadian population of the hamlet. When it was discovered she could speak French, she was invited into their homes. The fact that she only has one arm doesn’t faze them a bit.  The myth of her being wealthy seems unreal given her humbleness. When they politely inquire where she is from or any reference to her background she cleverly changes the subject.  Or they get the only-child- parents-deceased- outline. As far as the missing arm, she states that it is due to a car accident. No one needs to know that she lost it in the state of Lower Saxony in Germany. 


30 months ago she’d been tracking down a group of neo-fascists that fantasized of a renewed state, proclaiming for a separate slice of Northern Germany.  From universities groups chanting left wing slogans against immigrants, they grew to autonomous groups fashioned after Islamic jihadism with no one commander, no head to sever. The racists caused havoc and death mainly amongst black communities, Muslim neighborhoods and gay habitat. In their attempt to garner worldwide attention, they kidnapped the son of Canada’s Prime Minister who was attending the University of Cologne, demanding an exorbitant amount of money for his release.  Underneath all the law enforcement activity of both countries, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had agents in action throughout Europe.  None of them were more covert and better connected than Rosa Vartanian. She had been in Germany anyway.

Within twenty four hours, Vartanian uncovered a connection between the men in the security videos from the University that the Saxony State Police shared with Canada’s RCMP, and Rudolf Hoch, the slime she’d been sent here to shadow a month ago. Hoch was a skin head, a rich skin head. He was charged with the murder of his parents, owners of Hoch Shipping. Nine months later Rudolph walked out of the courtroom a free man. The prosecution could not prove he was guilty. His mother was Canadian, well connected to the business elite and present political hierarchy. It had been suggested to CSIS that Rudolph Hoch bore watching. They sent Rosa Vartanian.



Read Part 2 here on Monday, April 20.
          Part 3 on Wednesday, April 22.

Looking forward to your comments.


For a true adventure, try the Dark Side of a Promise.
The clues lead to crimes more diabolical than you can imagine. Available here
 
 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Guest Author Diana Stevan of Campbell River, British Columbia.

Originally from Winnipeg, Diana  now resides in Campbell River, British Columbia, and enjoys meeting with her fellow writers twice a month. She’s written a stage play, some short stories and many poems. She’s had a poem published in the UK journal Dreamcatcher. A short story was published in Escape, an anthology put out by Peregrin publishers in 2012. She self-published her debut novel, A Cry From The Deep in October, 2014, and also hopes to publish soon, her baba’s story, No Time For Tears, that takes place between 1915-1929 in what is now Ukraine, as well as another novel that takes place on a psych. ward in the 70s.   
Together with her husband, Robert, Diana has been fortunate to travel extensively throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. They have two children and three grandchildren.  Her links are below.                                                  





                  An excerpt - A Cry From The Deep.

                                                    

                                                         Chapter Two

Catherine’s view from the airplane, with its endless sky and ocean, triggered thoughts of God and purpose in life. As a child, she believed He was somewhere in heaven, and her guardian angel floated in His realm. That all changed when she learned about other religions. And then, with 9/11, there were more questions, but she still believed in something bigger than herself, something that guided people on some unknown path, for some unknown purpose. She wondered if what she was doing was part of a greater plan.

Three weeks earlier, Catherine had been a contented lavender grower. Well, not completely contented, but pretty good, considering. She frowned as she thought of how soon she’d be meeting Hennesey, a man she despised. From everything she’d read on the Internet, she knew it would take all her resources just to be civil. If these events were not directed by some divine being, then what was this all about?

Distracted by Alex’s fidgeting, she checked her daughter’s seat belt. They were about to land. Catherine hated take-offs and landings, and having a bouncy child by her side didn’t make flying any easier. It hadn’t bothered her when she was in her twenties, but after reading an article that cited the large number of crashes at airports, her body tightened minutes before take-off or landing.

Alex peered out the window. “Mama, I can see the boats.”

Catherine scanned the earth below as the plane flew over a marina. Somewhere down there was Hennesey’s boat.

Maybe he’ll give us a ride,” said Alex.

Catherine frowned. Why had she agreed to this? Everything pointed to disaster.

 

~~~

 

The Golden Eye, the ultimate in diving boats, was tied up at the far end of the dock. Alex was already running ahead.

“Alex, wait!”

 Catherine caught up with her. “Slow down. The dock might be slippery.”

Alex slowed to a turtle’s pace.

“Very funny. Would you just stop for a minute? I want to take some photos from this angle.”

They were still some distance, but Catherine could see a man hosing down the Golden Eye’s deck. She fastened her long lens onto her Nikon camera and zoomed in on him. She’d have recognized Hennesey anywhere from the press he’d received. He was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, worn loose over his creased khaki pants. The passing years had not been kind; his modest paunch and thinning hair reminded her of Jack Nicholson in his fifties. She snapped a few pictures—one of him with a water hose in his hand and another of him picking up some diving gear.

As they approached the Golden Eye, a woman with ebony skin and a mass of black, kinky hair pulled back in a pony-tail came up from the galley below. She looked about thirty and was dressed in a lime-green halter top and purple capris too tight for her broad hips. When she spotted Catherine, she said something to Hennesey.

Hennesey came forward from the aft and said gruffly, loud enough for Catherine to hear, “They sent a woman.” If he’d intended to be off-putting from the start, he was certainly successful.

The woman stuck her hand out over the side of the boat and said, “You must be Catherine. I’m Joy. We talked on the phone.”

Catherine smiled and shook her hand. Hennesey had been out the time she called or perhaps, pretending to be out. “He didn’t know I was coming?”

Joy smiled at her and then at Hennesey. “I didn’t tell 'im. He has this thing 'bout women on boats.”

“But you…?” asked Catherine.

“I live with 'im,” said Joy. “Besides, I’m a cook, not a diver. Climb aboard. I’ll show ya around.”

“This is my daughter, Alex.”

“Well, how d’you do, Alex?” Joy turned to Hennesey. “Are you just gonna stand there?” Grumbling, Hennesey reached over the side and swung Alex on board.

The boat’s port side was positioned about six inches from the dock and rocked with each passing boat. As Catherine was about to take Hennesey’s hand to climb over the gunwale, she glimpsed the water between the vessel and the dock. Suddenly dizzy, Catherine closed her eyes to calm her nerves.

When she opened them after a few moments, Hennesey said with a puzzled look, “Are you coming?”

Frowning, she took his hand and climbed over. As she crossed the water, the terror of falling in gripped her like a vise.

She must have blanched, because Hennesey said, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” She hated lying, but she hated exposing her fear more. “The meal on the flight wasn’t great, and we came straight from the airport.”

“Mama, you said the food was good.”

“I meant good for airplane food.” Catherine rolled her eyes, suggesting that Alex had got it all wrong.

Alex shook her head. “Whatever.”

Joy laughed. “Well, if you two want to get started, I’ll show this minx 'round.” Joy took Alex’s hand as if they’d been friends for life. “I may even have an ice cream for you.”

Alex’s eyes grew round. “You have ice cream on the boat?”

“You betcha. We love our sweets. Can’t ya tell by lookin’ at our bellies?”

Catherine took an immediate liking to Joy. With her on board, the assignment might not be so bad.

 

~~~

 

Hennesey’s office, a short walk from the marina, was on the second level of a small business mall. Piles of books on shipwrecks, navigation, and ocean climates sat on a couple of old wooden chairs, and near them, an ashtray full of cigarette butts revealed an addictive personality. Various papers were strewn on his oak desk and a black phone, a bygone of earlier days, rested on a dusty window ledge overlooking the marina. And on the wall, several photos of Hennesey on the Golden Eye vied for attention with a map of the world showing various diving sites marked by colored pins.

Hennesey pushed aside some papers on his desk and took out a metal box from a filing cabinet behind him. He used a key from the chain he wore under his shirt to open the box, revealing a package wrapped in green silk. He carefully unwrapped it to expose a gold mask about two hands wide, its features simply executed. It was small, but it reminded Catherine of pieces by Henry Moore, a British sculptor who’d used relics from ancient and primitive cultures as inspiration.

She bent down to have a closer look. “It’s exquisite.”

“Inca gold. Worth close to five hundred thousand dollars.”

“And you keep it in a filing cabinet?”

“Not usually. I’m expecting a customer later.”

She was surprised he was showing it to her. Perhaps, he wanted to impress her. “Where did you find this?”

He grinned. “If I tell you, will you cross your heart and spit you won’t tell anyone?”

“On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know.”

He shook his head as he polished the mask with the cloth. “You people have so much morality oozing from your pores, it’s a wonder you’re able to do any work at all.”

She could’ve told him he was an asshole, that she knew he blew a hole in the ocean and was taken to court for dredging a coral reef and killing sea grass, but she said none of this. She didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot.

Instead, she said, “We all have opinions. It’s what makes the world go round.”

“You can keep your fucking opinions. If someone isn’t screaming about the fucking cultural heritage, they’re screaming about the fucking environment. They scream about everything. The last time it was about sea grass, as if there wasn’t enough of it anyway. It’s like lawns, it keeps growing.”

“That’s not what I read.”

“See, the media twists everything.”

She looked him in the eye. “One reporter called you an arrogant son of a bitch, a diver who thinks he’s above the law.”

Hennesey guffawed. “I’ve been called worse. What do you believe?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I’m leaning toward the media.”

“At least you’re honest.”

“I try to be.”

He rewrapped the gold mask, put it back in its box and returned it to the filing cabinet. He locked it and returned the key to its hiding place under his shirt. “So, Frank tells me he wants you for this dive. I find that curious.”

“Why?”

“I did a little background checking of my own. I know about your break from diving and why. Want you to know, I’m no goddamned babysitter.”

She snorted. “You worry about your end, I’ll take care of mine.”

“Yes, sir!” He saluted as he said it.

She hadn’t meant to reply with such a bite, but his attitude, complete with mocking grin, got the best of her. Why was she even considering going? Her instincts were advising her to run. She hadn’t come on board the project yet, and already he was under her skin. The media had one thing right. He was an arrogant asshole.
 
 
 
 
Thank you Diana for sharing part of your intriguing story. I look forward to reading the entire novel. I'm sure she would appreciate your comments.
 
 
You can discover more about this talented writer by visiting her website - www.dianastevan.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Next week, you can help me with a new short story. I will be posting a first draft, unedited sample of a story I am considering  for a novel someday in the future. Let me know your thoughts.

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