There Are Worse Things Than Being A Tourist

versailles

The Palace of Versailles, France

“But I was just explaining the subtleties of the brass and tortoise shell…”

“It is forbidden, especially in English. We have paid guides and audioguides for that sort of thing, Mademoiselle. I must ask you and your party to leave.”

The museum guard then called reinforcements and escorted Julia-Sophie Dansen and her American friends out of Sun King’s grand apartments and the Palace of Versailles.

Once outside, the specialist in 18th century French art and curator of one of Amsterdam’s most prestigious art museums whirled back toward the Palace entrance and at the retreating guards. “You arrogant pricks. The French are worse than the American President!”

They could see the guard’s stiffen and momentarily slow their pace but then they re-entered the museum.

“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh, Julia-Sophie?” Henry gently tried to calm his host.

“They can’t do this to me. I’ll burn them alive on twitter!”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps street image and location and use it to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to The Palace of Versailles in France. This location has a very rich history making the selection of a specific topic very difficult. Of course I thought of some sort of historical piece, maybe involving time travel, but I’ve done that so many times before.

Then I looked up recent news articles about the location and hit the jackpot.

I decided to base my tale on a news story published on 31 October 2017 titled Versailles Palace accused of throwing out art historian for ‘commenting on works in English’ to friends .

It seems that Marie-Noëlle Grison, a specialist in 18th century French art and junior curator of graphic arts at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was visiting the Sun King’s grand apartments with three “American friends” and was explaining to them the subtleties of brass and tortoise shell marquetry by André-Charles Boulle, the King’s illustrious furniture maker. A guard stopped her saying it was “forbidden” for her to do so stating that there are “guides and audioguides for that” (Oh, and other museums and similar establishments in France are guilty of similar behavior according to the story).

He then called security and had Grison and her party ejected (I made up the part about her yelling at them afterward).

This whole thing seems pretty unreasonable from my rather limited American perspective but apparently on top of the general admission, the museum charges €7 (£6) per person for a group guide and a private guide costs €15 per person, so perhaps this is a matter of economics and not just whether or not Grison was disturbing other museum patrons.

That seems kind of greedy and certainly arrogant to me, so I thought I’d have a little fun teasing the French along with Donald Trump just a bit. The news article certainly did nothing to improve my perception of the French but then again, the average French person might be quite different from museum guards (I can only hope).

By the way, this did create a small social media storm on twitter and the museum eventually offered an apology, though from my point of view, a rather half-hearted one. Go figure.

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

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Five Years On

memorial japan

In Namie Seiko Yoshida and her husband Tsutoshi offer a prayer for their late daughter Miki, who was killed by the tsunami while at work at a post office, in Ukedo district, 5km north of the nuclear plant – Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Mikiko Jahn and Brigit Monroe stepped out of the ruins as the older couple drove away. They’d placed flowers on the foundation of what used to be their home across the street.

“I had dinner with them every weekend. I’d just introduced my fiance’ Ichioka the Sunday before the accident.”

Brigit, Mikiko’s psychologist, touched her forearm and felt it trembling. This visit was dangerous, but Mikiko insisted on going home for the anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Five years ago, the reactor 3 hydrogen explosion injured eleven and killed one, except Mikiko was only presumed dead. Her injuries were catastrophic. The government covered up the events around her reconstruction as the first synthetic organism. Cybernetic brain implants regulated all of her emotions until this morning when Brigit ordered the firmware upload.

Now Mikiko could feel…everything.

“Ochan. Otousan.”

Brigit put her arms around Mikiko and let her sob for hours.

I authored this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps image and location and use them to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Fukushima, Japan. I couldn’t believe it. For just over a month, I’ve been writing a science fiction/espionage series about a woman horribly mutilated in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster which began with a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 and set in this very location.

Mikiko’s latest published adventure is The Most Dangerous Predator but the events here occur after Woman Under Repair but before Woman in the Shadows.

It’s tough to compress everything that’s happening in this scene into 150 words and have it be a complete story. As readers of her series know, soon after the accident, her “designer” Dr. Daniel Hunt had several cybernetic chips implanted in various parts of her brain to regulate her emotions. Being horribly mutilated and then being the object of numerous, highly invasive surgeries, literally being rebuilt from scratch using synthetic materials based on artificial DNA would be emotionally intolerable to just about any human being. The chips regulate those emotions, allowing Mikiko to endure her state and her transformation with relative calm. Her emotions can be programmed to even allow feelings of well-being and happiness under the most horrible circumstances.

Brigit Monroe is Mikiko’s psychologist and in her opinion, sooner or later, Mikiko must learn to regain at least some control of her emotions and especially to be allowed to experience grief over her loss, not just of her original body, but of her former life. Even Mikiko’s parents don’t know she’s alive, and because she is regarded as most secret by both the Japanese and British governments, she can never tell anyone she survived.

So I wrote this. In a longer tale, perhaps a novel, I would expand upon these events quite a bit. For now, this is the best I can do. The photo at the top has a caption that tells the real story of the people depicted. At the bottom, I’m including another photo of a real person memorializing those lost in the tsunami, but one I hope will express how Mikiko eventually embraces her new life.

Oh, “Ochan and Otousan.” are the best I can do using Goggle to have Mikiko say “Mommy and Daddy” in Japanese. If anyone out there can offer a correction, I’d appreciate it.

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

flowers-memorial-fukanuma-beach-sendai

On Fukanuma beach, Sendai, a woman throws a bunch of flowers – Photograph: Ken Ishii/Getty Images

Death Visits Mexico

San José el Huayate, Chiapas

© Google 2017

“Seems your U-boat made the wrong turn.”

Figured German was the only language he and I had in common. Hate in his eyes confirmed it though he was also looking down the barrel of my Colt .38.

Heard about the Nazi sub sinking off Mexico’s west coast. He’d made it to San José el Huayate to board a tramp steamer headed for Chile, then get to Argentina.

Six years ago, Algimantas Dailide was a Lithuanian police officer who arrested 12 Jews. Gave them to the Nazis to execute. One was an old, kindly Rabbi who’d never hurt anyone. I’d caught Dailide hiding in this tacky shack. Bet he never thought he’d die here.

I pulled the trigger three times and he dropped like a sack of onions.

“That’s for you, Zayde.”

Los Angeles Private Detective Noah Katz replaced the Colt in his shoulder holster and walked back outside to face the dawn.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image and location and use it as the prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to San José el Huayate, Chiapas, Mexico.

I sometimes wake up with strange ideas. I don’t know if this was part of a dream or just my sleepy imagination at work, but I had an idea for a Jewish Private Detective named Noah Katz. He operates in Los Angeles in 1947 and is a typical “hard-boiled private eye” except that he’s Jewish and has to deal with a whole bunch of post-war anti-semitism.

Just about all of his clients are Jewish, of course. Most non-Jews who need a shamus go elsewhere. I pictured a scene where a voluptuous, cleavage revealing, (very non-Jewish) very curvy blonde enters his office to hire him, sending his hormones into overdrive as well as his suspicions.

That’s as far as I got because I finally woke up enough to get out of bed.

I looked up the Google maps location on the web and interestingly enough, the Wikipedia page came up in Swedish. Translating it into English didn’t yield much interesting. Images depicted a sleepy, rundown looking bunch of buildings near a beach.

I looked up Chiapas state with the idea of somehow inserting Katz and 1947 into a period piece set in Mexico. Still not much so I winged it.

Since it’s 1947 and Katz is Jewish and this is in Mexico, I decided he was after a Nazi war criminal on the run. I looked up 10 Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals hoping for one who had never been found but no such luck. The only one on the list who fit that profile was Adolf Hitler and I’d already covered that angle a few weeks back.

So I settled on Algimantas Dailide who, in real life, made it to the U.S. after the war and in the 1990s was a real estate agent in Florida. He was eventually deported and settled down to a quiet life in western Germany. Here’s the paragraph on him I got off of History.com:

As an officer in the Lithuanian Security Police, sponsored by the Nazis, Dailide allegedly arrested 12 Jews who were attempting to escape Vilna, a Jewish ghetto in the city of Vilnius, in the early 1940s. He is believed to have handed them over to the Nazis, who presumably executed them. Dailide immigrated to the United States after the war, and was working as a real estate agent in Florida by the 1990s, when the U.S. government discovered his Nazi past and stripped him of his citizenship. After being deported, he and his wife settled in the small town of Kirchberg, in western Germany. Though a Vilnius court convicted him of war crimes, the Lithuanian government made only half-hearted attempts to bring him home to stand trial, and in 2008 a high court in Lithuania ruled Dailide’s health was too poor for him to serve time in prison. Meanwhile, he sits at No. 4 on the SWC “most wanted” list.

I decided to re-write history so that Dailide hitched a ride on one of the last U-boats out of Europe only to have it become disabled and sink off the west coast of Mexico, far from his destination in Argentina.

Katz has an informant who passes along these details (this part would need a lot of work for an expansion of this tale) and the Detective tracks Dailide down in Mexico to settle a personal score.

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

Abandoning the Dead

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A gravestone in the cemetery of the brutal penal colony on Norfolk Island. Photograph: Lawrence Bartlett/AFP/Getty Images

Reverend Percy finally convinced the Church of England to relocate the Mission to the Solomons, ostensibly to be closer to the population of focus.

“Leaving our company now, Reverend?” A familiar voice chuckled from the darkness.

“I have no power here to dispel your kind, even in the name of Jesus Christ.”

“Your Savior won’t consort with us, Reverend. He’s already consigned us to the deepest pits of Hell. Best you pack and scurry off to that ship yonder.”

“Sir, I now abandon you to God’s mercy.”

“God abandoned us long ago with good reason. We all earned the gallows…would have perished except for Norfolk.”

Percy ran with his case to the open door. “I leave you and your sinful brethren, Mr. Robert Knowles.”

In 1920 the Melanesian Mission abandoned the former penal colony to the blacked souls of all the prisoners who lived and died there, and yet live on.

I composed this wee tale for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps street image and location and use them as the inspiration in crafting a story no more than 150 words long. My word count (after a lot of editing as the original was over 100 words longer) is exactly 150. Today, the Pegman takes us to Norfolk Island.

I did a bit of Wikipedia research and discovered that it was yet another penal colony back in the day. What made it unique is that prisoners who had been sent to the Australian penal colony and who continued to commit crimes that should have earned them the gallows were then sent to Norfolk, a place of unspeakable brutality and sin according to this report.

I also learned that the island had been the headquarters of the Church of England’s Melanesian Mission between 1867 and 1920. In 1920, the mission was moved from Norfolk to the Solomon islands to be closer to their “population of focus,” but in my story, I suggest that it really moved because the hordes of blackened souls of all the damned prisoners of the colony horribly haunted and tortured the good Reverend in charge.

The mission finally abandoned the island of Norfolk, which had become a Hell on Earth. Being so close to Halloween, I thought I should turn the prompt into a ghost story. Of course, all this is fiction as are the names of the two people in my tiny saga.

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

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.”

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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.

Mauritius Intrigue

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Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport – Mauritius

Everyone at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport supposed Ian Dennis was another British tourist on holiday. Only a few police officials knew the MI6 agent was there to investigate the murder of an accountant from Scotland and the brutalization of her child. The recent string of robberies was unusual for a small island, but this was no robbery.

“G’morning, Dennis. Good flight?” Winston Permalloo shook hands. Supposed casual chauffeur, he was actually a lieutenant on the Police Force, which handled security and military functions. Permalloo was the only covert agent native to Mauritius and an MI6 double-agent.

“Bloody didn’t sleep a wink. Thanks for the pick-up, Permalloo.”

Dennis’s bags retrieved, they arrived at the car.

“All secure. We’re free to talk, Dennis.”

“Just how the hell did enemy agents assassinate a top SIS data analyst who had the perfect cover?”

“That’s what you’re here to help me find out, Ian.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a location and Google street maps image and use them as the prompt for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to the island of Mauritius which is in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. The island has a fascinating history and culture and would certainly be worthy of a vacation visit someday.

Doing my research, I discovered that last July, the murder of a 47-year-old woman was reported. The act was supposedly to have been committed by robbers and witnessed by the victim’s ten-year-old autistic son.

I used that as the jumping off point for my small story. It does seem strange that on such a small piece of real estate, it would be possible to commit what amounts to a crime spree and not be detected after very long.

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

The mystery continues in The Lady is Murder.

I’ve expanded the original stories into a small series. The first chapter is called The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Arrival.

Waiting in Ancienne Medina

casablanca

© Google – July 2016

He was waiting on a side street in Ancienne Medina. He wanted to go to Rick’s Café but she had other ideas. Even Daniel had to admit that visiting the only Jewish Cemetery in the Arab world was a novelty. She wasn’t looking for novelty, though. She was looking for their older brother.

Joel had been killed in a string of suicide bombings here almost ten years ago. Leah went to visit his grave. He wanted to be buried here rather than at home. Daniel couldn’t bring himself to go. He wanted to visit Rick’s. First though, he was waiting for the only surviving member of the bomber’s family to come out of the door up ahead. Daniel had been planning to kill him but terrorism had enough victims. “Let it end with me.”

Abdul ignored the young Jew loitering in the alley as he left for work.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google street maps image of a specific location and use it to inspire a short story no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Casablanca, Morocco.

Yes, there were a string of suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2007 (the Google image was photographed in July 2016 so that’s when I set this story) and there is a Jewish Museum as well as a Jewish Cemetery there. There really is a Rick’s Cafe in the city styled to resemble the establishment featured in the 1942 film Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid.

Casablanca has such a colorful history that it was hard to decide which sort of story to write, but I focused on the Jewish history of the area and its possible consequences today. No, the fact that today is Yom Kippur hasn’t escaped my notice.

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

New Love

Sambor Prei Kuk Temple, Cambodia

© Google 2013

“My darling, it’s been so long.”

She approached her lover near the steps of the temple. He was as she remembered him and she was also unchanged and unchanging across the vast expanse of time.

“Beloved, we are finally alone, alone to love and be loved.”

“They have not loved. Their world, the one we gave them…”

“I know, Shakti. That’s why we are here.”

“Yes, Shiva. To make the world we gave them, to remake it.”

The nude couple, parted for centuries, approached each other slowly.

They came together and embraced with passion. Shiva the Supreme Being and Shakti the goddess of female creativity made desperate love on the steps of Sambor Prei Kuk Temple in what is now known as Cambodia. When Shakti gave birth again, humanity would have the gift of a brand new world and hopefully, they will take better care of this one.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take the Google street map image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, Pegman takes us to the Sambor Prei Kuk Temple in Cambodia. I Googled the location and Wikipedia told me all about the temple, Shiva, Shakti, and the meaning of the terms Lingam and Yoni. Since all that seems pretty sexy, I played fast and loose with mythology and decided to have a little fun as well as offer a bit of hope.

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

Shiva and Shakti

Shiva and Shakti

The Wrong Temple

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The Rostral Columns at Vasilyevsky Island, St. Petersburg

“This isn’t how I remembered it, husband.”

“I believe we’ve lost our way. Come.”

“No!” She shook off her brother’s hand. “Something’s familiar here, yet alien. This can’t be my temple.”

“It’s been thousands of years.”

“Take your hands off of me, philanderer. Which slut were you with last night? Artemis? Circe? That whore Aphrodite?”

“Sister…”

“Don’t you sister me, Zeus!”

“Olympus awaits, Hera. You shouldn’t have returned. We’re forgotten.”

Tears formed in the eyes of the goddess of women and marriage. “I suppose you’re right.”

Then she turned on him in anger. “I still think you want to get back to Olympus because you’re screwing another immortal harlot.”

“Please, wife.”

Hera consented allowing Zeus to escort her back to Olympus, missing the gleam in his eye as he gazed at the fetching St. Petersburg lass admiring one of the Rostral columns. After Hera was settled down, he’d be back.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to take a Google street view image of the location presented and use it as the inspiration for crafting a story of no more than 150 words. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Petersburg, Russia. I had to do quite a bit of searching and clicking around, and I even changed my story idea completely before settling on what you’ve read above. Go to Wikipedia to read about the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns. I drew my inspiration from the columns being styled after the Temple of Hera at Paestum. Hera was the Greek goddess of women and marriage who married her brother Zeus, and has always been jealous of Zeus’s other lovers. Here, I had Hera getting a little lost, mistaking these columns for her temple. On the other hand, Zeus seems to know exactly what he’s looking for.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com. Don’t be shy. If an image of St. Petersburg inspires you, contribute a wee story of your own.

On a C-130 Flying into Puerto Rico

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Evacuees leaving the destruction of Hurricane Irma board a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at St. Martin airport September 10, 2017. (Netherlands Ministry of Defense via REUTERS)

The Puerto Rico National Guard C-130 was approaching Luis Muñoz Marín Airport carrying evacuees from St. Maarten in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

“Guys with swords just popped up in the hotel lobby, like Pirates of the Caribbean only more raw.”

Gus Phillips had been vacationing in St. Maarten feeling lucky he was alive to talk to the young man beside him.

“Anyone get hurt, Gus?”

“No. They seemed confused like everyone else. Their swords looked real, though. Then it was like they vanished or something.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing.”

“Oh, we’re landing. Gotta phone my nephew…tell him I’m okay. What about you?”

“I’ll be home soon, Gus.”

Time Traveler Martin Fields was satisfied after he’d sent those ancient pirates back to 1665, that no one realized who they were. Hurricane Irma spawned a very real time storm which dumped those buccaneers into 2017 during the worst hurricane in recorded history.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw photo fiction challenge. The idea is to take a Google street image of a specific location and use it as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Given recent events, it was impossible for me to not write about the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. I learned that the Puetro Rico Air National Guard was helping evacuate people from nearby islands, and that on St. Maarten, there were numerous reports of lawlessness, including men with swords in a hotel lobby.

It’s been over six months since I wrote a time travel story featuring Martin Fields, but this seemed like the sort of situation that would be right up his alley. The “time storm” concept I took from my current set of tales I’m writing as a homage to the works of Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton).

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

The next Martin Fields and NaCumbea adventure is I’m Leaving You For 1966, Dear.