UXO London

london bus line

© A Mixed Bag 2013

The American wasn’t used to public transport being colored red. He boarded the bus at the Kings Reach Building stop, paid his fare and took an available seat near the back. He was supposed to meet her at Tower Gateway Station. From there, they’d walk to Tower Hill tube station and continue their journey. The usual UXO team would be on hand, but the two “yanks,” who just happened to be visiting London as tourists, were specialists and had been asked to assist.

Christopher Faust stared out the window into the bright autumn sunlight which he understood to be unusual. His partner and lover Johnnie Albarran had come equipped with every form of rain gear known to man while he came prepared for almost nothing. It was why they worked so well together. She was the planner and he was the intuitive. He hoped they’d be enough.

The Blitz in 40 and 41 left an untold legacy of unexploded ordnance here in the city, but the police believed their current problem was delivered during the lesser known Operation Steinbock, probably in early 1944. Faust and Albarran normally wouldn’t be involved in such a thing but this UXO was different. It was radioactive.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for October 22nd 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Fortunately the original image was rather large, so I was able to read the bus’ marquee. From that, I found the photo was taken in London, discovered the vehicle’s route, and that it terminated at the Tower Gateway DLR station. While I was writing all this, I was still wondering why my two characters were going to meet. Crime? Romance? Then, when I started to think of the London Underground, the idea of unexploded ordnance or UXO entered my head. I looked up a London UXO map and there are scores of such devices left over from the Blitz.

I needed something more unusual though, which is why I had to find out when the last time was the Nazis bombed Southern England. From there, and recalling that at least in theory or rumor, the Nazis were also attempting to develop an atomic bomb, the conclusion of my wee tale became clear.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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The Bulgarian Falcon

sofia

© Google – June 2017 – Millennium Center- Sofia, Bulgaria

Zukovsky left Istanbul because of her. She would soon discover she’d stolen a fake. Then her employer would return using lethal means to get the item.

He entered Bulgaria posing as a Jewish refuge, settling in Sofia just as Tsar Boris III plunged his nation into World War Two.

“It would not be wise to leave Istanbul right now, Mr. Gutman.”

“Nonsense, Cairo. I’m convinced Zukovsky took the item into Bulgaria.”

“I insist we wait here. You are British. I am from Greece. Turkey is neutral but Bulgaria has joined the Axis. Do you really think we’ll be allowed across the border?”

“I will not allow the item to escape me again.”

“You’ve waited seventeen years to get it, you corpulent fool. You can wait a bit longer.”

maltese falcon

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart), Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), and Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) in the 1941 film “The Maltese Falcon”.

“Stay here with that boy you met at the cabaret if you’d like, but nothing shall prevent me from acquiring the Maltese Falcon.”

I wrote my wee tale for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take the presented location and a Google maps image and use them as the inspiration for crafting a story no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bulgaria and given its rich history, it was difficult for me to settle on a particular setting or story line. The Wikipedia page had too much information, and I couldn’t find a local news story that was compelling.

I did notice on the map that Bulgaria borders Turkey. I saw the city of Istanbul and suddenly remembered the 1941 film version of the Maltese Falcon. At the end of the movie, Kasper Gutman, played by Sydney Greenstreet, and Joel Cairo, played by Peter Lorre, realize they’ve been duped by a fake and that the real Maltese Falcon must still be with the exiled Russian Zukovsky. I had always wondered what happened to them and the Falcon after that.

I leveraged items both from the 1941 movie (there are at least two other cinematic adaptations) as well as Dashiell Hammett’s original 1929 serialized story (which later was collected into a novel) to craft my tale.

The novel quite clearly alluded to a gay attraction or affair between Cairo and Gutman’s “gunsel” Wilmer Cook (in the movie, played by Elisha Cook Jr.) but that was completely removed from the 1941 film version. I added that back to Cairo’s character here, thus blending the two versions of the history.

I still own a copy of the novel, purchased decades ago, and I’ve seen the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor many times and hopefully you have too. If not, please click on the links I’ve provided and at least read the summaries.

I also looked up the history of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Sofia, specifically just prior to and during World War Two for added context.

To view other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Mauritius Robbery Affair: The Woman is Deadly

Chapter Five: The Woman is Deadly

“Phillip is at football practice, but Marcie and Roger are right here, Ian.”

It was good to hear Evie’s voice again. They’d divorced not because they lost their love for each other, but because of the stresses of his career. Even if he’d have quit MI6, his history with the agency was such that he’d always attract the “interest” of certain parties. He’d never be completely safe, and as long as he lived with his family, they’d never be safe either.

“It’s okay, Evie. I’d love to talk with them.”

“Here. Let me put you on speaker.” Then in the background Ian heard her say, “It’s Daddy calling.” He could hear Marcie and Roger squeal.

“Daddy, Daddy, how are you? When are you coming to visit?” Little Roger was all of five and always full of enthusiasm. He didn’t recall a time when Ian actually lived at home or the family living in London at all.

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Time is the Longest Distance

timelines

Krenim timelines from the two part Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Year of Hell”.

The Present: Project Retrograde

“So, what’s going to happen when you throw the switch, Barnes?”

Colonel John Kellaries was facing Project Retrograde’s senior temporal physicist Antoine Barnes on the floor of the main personnel time gate chamber. Next to him was his Russian counterpart and recent defector Mineyev Duskin.

“Actually, it will be Mr. Lucius and Ms. Huỳnh who will be doing the switch throwing, Colonel. Dr. Duskin and I have devised a specialized start up and operating routine for the gate that will allow us to retrieve our agents, but it will be a dangerous thing.”

“Yes, I’m getting that impression. Just how dangerous?”

“Because of certain…well, quirks in the current nature of how the gates are working, we can only contact our agents by deliberately and simultaneously linking all gates operating in our present and perhaps even gates operating in other time periods.”

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What Are You Doing Tonight?

moonlighting

From the television series “Moonlighting.”

Laura and Simon were an unusual pair of private detectives. They were divorced last year after ten years of marriage but neither could bear to sell the detective agency they co-owned, nor was one willing to concede sole ownership to the other. So they continued to see each other day after day, night after night at “Marcus and Marcus Detectives.” Laura even used her former last name professionally though in her personal life, she’d reverted back to Rodriguez.

Unlike television or cinematic private detectives, their cases were far less glamorous or dangerous. Mostly one spouse hiring them to see if the other spouse was having an affair.

“Usual drill, Simon. I pose as a hooker to see if ‘Mr. Sleezebag’ will give me a tumble. You stand by with the camera and I’ll record the dialogue.”

They were sitting in their car outside an office building near downtown. She was in the driver’s seat, which she preferred, and he was sitting next to her checking the camera.

“Got it, but for the record, his name is Chester Albright.”

“Or ‘all dumb’ for cheating on his poor wife.”

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Patterns

Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius – Found at Mauritius Life

Chapter Four: Patterns

In spite of Ian Dennis’s determination to keep working, he found his brain too clouded to concentrate on even the idea of addressing Krista Bernham’s work. Krista was a brilliant researcher with the unique gift of taking data which seemed absolutely unrelated and finding patterns that even the most complex computer algorithm might not associate.

After her divorce from Malcolm Bernham, she moved with her son Ian from their home in Edinburgh to the island of Mauritius. Frankly, she could work from anywhere with internet access that could be secured by her employer, but her grandmother was originally from the island and she found she wanted to go “home.” Krista recalled visiting “old Gran” many times as a child and loving the beauty, the serenity, and even the profound loneliness of living on a tiny bit of land surrounded by thousands of kilometers of ocean.

She thought raising her only child here might give him a better life than in the UK. That might have been true for many other mothers of many other sons, but not for Krista Bernham. She had been set up on Mauritius with a cover identity by the British Secret Intelligence Service, provided with very expensive, highly secure hardware and software with which to work, and for the past five years, had broken some of the most profound and delicate intelligence cases for SIS.

Now she was dead. The only witness to the murder, her eleven-year-old autistic child Ian, a boy the MI6 agent had befriended and then further traumatized for the sake of his investigation.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Tattoo

assassin's tattoo

Assassin’s Creed tattoo

Chapter Three: Tattoo

In the hospital parking lot, MI6 agent Ian Dennis was standing by the undercover police car and rapidly thumbing through photos related to the Krista Bernham murder case. “I know I saw it. I know I…oh yes, here it is.” He looked up at Winston Permalloo, his liasion with the Mauritius police force. “Don’t you have a better photo of them than this?”

He held up a photo taken by a security camera on the street outside Ms. Bernham’s home that momentarily captured her four alleged assailants.

“Well, not on hand. We have the original stills taken from the security tape, plus the tape itself back at headquarters.”

Dennis immediately got into the passenger seat and shut his door, then called out the open driver’s side door. “Let’s go, Winston. I need to be sure of what I saw. This photo is too grainy.”

Lt. Permalloo got into the car and slammed the door. He liked Ian, but the agent was getting on his nerves. As he fired up the motor, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

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The Remembering Tree

old tree

© Sandra Crook

When Jake was seven, he and his brothers and sisters were taken away to strange lands, to forests and deserts, to where dragons and demons were found. He lived and lived and nearly died in those lands, fighting the war of restoration, of good vs. evil. But years had passed.

When Jake was seven, he found his way home again. Years had passed but he was still seven.

Mom said Dad would be out of the hospital soon. She had a lot to do to get ready for Dad to go home, so Jake and his siblings stayed with Grandpa for the past week.

When Jake was seven, he was at his Grandpa’s house. He used to like video games, the old ones Dad showed him, like Pac-Man and Mario Brothers. But that was before. This is now and now is different.

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Adventure’s Bitter Memories

old tree

© Sandra Crook

Nine-year-old Taylor jumped grabbing the tree’s largest branch and pulled himself up. He danced among the leaves this way and that like cinematic swashbuckler’s of old, wielding his sword.

“Taylor, Grandpa said it’s time for dinner.”

Darn. His twin sister Paris. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

“He said now.”

The boy stopped and looked down at her. He used to ignore Paris but they’d been through too much together. He remembered when the demons were real and she almost died.

“Okay. Coming.” With acrobatics honed on the battlefield of Dragonworld he deftly landed near his twin. “I’m here now.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

As you might have guessed, I’m again leveraging ideas I’ve presented in The Whisperer, Mr. Covingham’s Secret and other similar stories about a group of five siblings who are somehow spirited away to another realm, one of dragons and demons, of friendship and warfare.

In today’s tale, I showcase two of Zooey’s siblings, twins Taylor and Paris. I’m writing a novel with these children at the center. I’ve got four chapters in rough draft now and am continuing to write. Hopefully, these wee tales will whet your appetite.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

For a different point of view on the old tree, and a look at one of Taylor’s other siblings, read The Remembering Tree, an expanded tale based on today’s prompt.

The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Ian

boy in hospital

Found at BabyCenter.com

Chapter Two: Ian

“Good morning, lad.” Dennis peeked around the corner of the door so as not to startle the boy. He saw young Ian had been working on a sketch pad, probably the one that Winston mentioned. “Mind if I visit you for a bit?”

The eleven-year-old eyed him suspiciously. His sandy blond hair looked disheveled but his blue eyes were red but otherwise clear. He’d been crying. He was sitting up in the hospital bed, covered to the waist with blankets and dressed one of those awful patient gowns that opened in the back.

“You a doctor?”

The older Ian stepped into the room and let the door close behind him. “No. I used to know your Mum. Came to see how you were doing.”

The child seemed to brighten for a second that it was a friend and not a doctor or the police come to question him, but then he closed up again. “Don’t remember you. Who are you?”

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