The Bristol Connection

hogarth

William Hogarth’s 1756 painting “Sealing of the Tomb” displayed at St Nicholas Church in Bristol – © BBC.com

Ian Dennis didn’t look like a spy, which worked to his advantage. Although the MI6 man fancied himself a “Sean Connery” type in his youth, he was now middle-aged with thinning blond hair and a bit of a belly paunch.

No one gave him a second glance as he walked into the newly reopened St Nicholas Church in Bristol, which had been closed since World war Two due to bomb damage. Ian absolutely loathed conspiracy theories, particularly the pseudo-religious type depicted in those Dan Brown books, but if his source was right, the renovated triptych “Sealing of the Tomb,” originally painted in 1756 by William Hogarth, contained both ancient and modern clues to the identities of the people behind human trafficking.

In the 18th century, Bristol was a center for the transport of slaves to America. If the triptych’s clues bore out, then it was today as well.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps place and street photo as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147 (and on the first draft, too).

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bristol in the UK.

After finding its location using Google Maps, I looked up the local news and found this item at BBC.com dated 23 January 2018: St Nicholas Church closed since World War Two to reopen.

The church had actually still been open as a museum since sometime in the 1950s and displays what I gather is a quite famous triptych (three paneled painting) called “Sealing of the Tomb” painted by William Hogarth in 1756.

In looking up Bristol, I discovered it was heavily involved in the slave trade in the 18th century. I looked up William Hogarth thinking I might tie all of this together somehow and for a moment thought I had something. He’s buried at St Nicholas Church but in Chiswick, London, not Bristol.

The most controversial thing I found about him was that he was a Freemason and often used Freemasonry symbolism in his paintings. There are all kinds of Masonic conspiracy theories, but for 150 words, I wasn’t going to do that much work, so I made up some stuff.

I decided to revive MI6 agent Ian Dennis, last seen in the eighth and final chapter of my Mauritius Robbery Affair series. Since part of the theme involves slavery, I invoked a human trafficking storyline pulled from my Mikiko Jahn series.

Although Ian views fictional works such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with distaste, I decided that’s exactly the sort of story I was going to write (I’ve never read the book nor seen the movie and after reading several reviews, have no intention of doing so).

One last thing. My work is purely fiction and yes, it does involve real people and places. However in no way am I suggesting that the actual William Hogarth was involved in slavery or any sort of criminal conspiracy, nor am I saying there’s anything sinister about the St Nicholas Church in Bristol or the painting “Sealing of the Tomb.” I made all that up just for giggles.

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

Advertisements

The Hawkhurst Gambit

church - dymchurch

St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Dymschurch as seen from the South.

“The lads play well together, Eileen.”

“Yes they do, Sean. I appreciate you taking us in while we’re in Dymchurch.”

“After all, what are family for?”

The two old friends sat in the Billingham living room by the fire as their two sons Timothy and Roger played with their collection of Pokemon cards at the kitchen table.

“You sure Suzanne doesn’t mind?”

“She’s not jealous if that’s what you’re thinking.” Sean picked up his glass of Port, sipped and then grimaced. “Got to speak to the Missus. This last bottle she brought home tastes like vinegar.”

“You do understand what I’m asking, Sean.”

“Aye. Richard must never find out though or it’ll mean both our lives.”

“He won’t find out if you hold up your end. I got a generous settlement from him and he doesn’t have to know about the rest. You’ll be well compensated as will your kin when the time comes.”

“You know it’s not the money, Eileen…”

“The families pay their way, we always have. I don’t expect you to take such risks, especially with your family at stake, all for love and loyalty.”

“I promise I’ll do my part. I see no trouble bringing Roger into the family business when the time comes.”

“Same with Timothy, Sean. Still, we have to be careful with the young ones. You don’t take the Hawkhurst oath without devoting your total allegiance to Mzimu.”

“Aye. T’would be death otherwise. When you leaving for Chicago then?”

“And you believed him.”

“Of course I believed him, Geoffrey. Yes, he could have been lying but I couldn’t take the chance.”

Continue reading

The Protector

iowa city fire

© J Hardy Carroll

The Present

“I’m gonna help you out Devon, but it’s the last time.”

Devon Willis was recovering from a compound fracture of his right arm at Rush University Medical Center. He’d told the police that he’d gotten into a fight with three other guys. Didn’t want to identify them and didn’t want to press charges. His doctor said he should stay for another day or two, but he had to get out of Chicago. His brother Cameron was going to drive him to the place he kept in Iowa City. Only Cameron knew about it, Devon’s hideaway.

“I know. I appreciate it. I swear I’ll pay you back.”

“The only thing I want from you is to never hear from you again. You broke poor Mama’s heart more times than I know. I haven’t told her you called me again. Figure she don’t need the grief.”

“I just need to get away from here. The other night…”

Continue reading

The Most Dangerous Predator

chicago

Chicago skyline – stock footage

Mikiko heard and smelled them coming. The contact wasn’t with them but she’d been told they would arrive about now. When the door was kicked open and half a dozen heavily armed agents burst into the room, Sienna jumped halfway off of Fleming just as his hand emerged from the underside of a chair holding a Glock 26. He’d already been rapidly reaching for the weapon before the agents abruptly entered but to Mikiko, he might as well be moving in slow motion.

Sienna was on her hands and knees staring at the door, the agents behind her were still running in, and Timothy Fleming was now swinging his arm up from under the chair in the process of attempting to aim at Mikiko.

She moved her arms slightly and fired. Although his head and chest were now exposed, Mikiko avoided those targets. She could have permanently crippled Fleming by firing into his shoulder joint, but instead shot his right deltoid. At nearly point-blank range, the impact was astonishing, sending searing waves of pain through his arm, neck, and chest. He immediately released the Glock and reflexively shielded his wound with his left hand. She could have crippled him for life or even killed him. Why mercy? For Sienna’s sake or her own?

Continue reading

The Vengeful

900 N Michigan

© Marie Gail Stratford

It was late when Mikiko Kojima checked into the Four Seasons Hotel at 900 N. Michigan in Chicago.

The building was known as Bloomingdale’s given the shopping establishment’s significant presence, including its name on the structure. It contained some of the most upscale stores in the nation and the rather luxurious hotel in which Mikiko had been booked occupied the 30th through the 46th floors of the building.

There had been a sudden mix up in reservations at the last-minute once unknown government agencies requested that a room be made available for Ms. Kojima’s stay. Accommodations for at least one guest had to be made elsewhere with certain financial incentives added in order for Mikiko to have room 3014 open to her at two hours notice.

Her suitcase had been sent ahead of her, although it wasn’t actually her luggage. A large Louis Vuitton case had been purchased and clothing in Mikiko’s size was bought, packed, and then sent to the Four Seasons and placed in her room. She would seem a more legitimate guest this way since she had left England only with a small handbag and a carry on.

Continue reading

Pursuit

thames

Body being pulled out of the Thames River – found at DailyMail.com

The body of a young woman has been found in the River Thames in Reading.

Thames Valley Police said the corpse was found shortly before 10:00 GMT on Tuesday morning, near the Thames Lido.

She has not yet been identified but officers believe she may have been a recently arrived undocumented immigrant.

Police are currently treating the woman's death as suspicious. According to Det Insp Robert Farming, an appeal for witnesses has been made.

Mikiko Jahn sat reading the BBC news story on the borrowed tablet over and over again, and then after a while stopped being conscious of the words. A photo was run with the story. She recognized the girl from Sebastian Wright’s security file.

The dead woman was a fourteen-year-old Syrian refugee who had been trying to escape to Europe when she and a group of twenty-one other young girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen had been captured by human traffickers. She and four others were routed to the UK, London, specifically to Wright to provide a night’s “entertainment” to a few select delegates at the symposium Mikiko had attended last week.

Continue reading

Hellspite

scarecrow

Scarecrow of Romney Marsh – from the Official Disney Fan page

“Why the bloody hell wasn’t I notified earlier? Never mind that. I want every available agent to comb Orly. Thomas might still be in the airport. And get people on her daughter’s disappearance. I don’t mean the local police, I mean our people. Tell them they don’t need warrants, they just need to produce results.”

Geoffrey Colins had been in bed fifteen minutes when the cell on his night stand rang. Amanda Thomas had abruptly left London by air over five hours ago, no explanation and certainly not on her schedule. Ever since Mikiko Jahn had discovered her identity and that she was tied to the Shadow Man, now revealed to be high-priced attorney Richard Singleton, his agency had been routinely monitoring her digital communications, but for some reason there was a foul up and the recording of her conversation with her daughter Sienna’s apparent kidnappers hadn’t been reviewed until less than an hour ago. By that time, Amanda’s flight had already touched down at Orly International Airport just outside of Paris. Agency staff reviewed Paris police computer records and discovered that her nineteen-year-old daughter hadn’t attended classes all day long. Presumably, she had been taken very early this morning by parties unknown.

Continue reading

The Man in the Dark

shadow man

Black soul – Foto Giovanni Dall’Orto – Wikimedia Commons

Autumn 2017 – London

“Here’s what we’ve got from your video and description of the suspect. Amanda Thomas, 48 years old, born Zuhal Amanda Clarke, Father George Sanford Clarke, British, a nationally syndicated columnist and novelist, Mother Aliya Fowler, moderately successful painter of mixed English-Arab descent.”

Mikiko expected to be debriefed or briefed or whatever in some official government office, like the British Secret Intelligence Service building where MI6 was headquartered, but she found herself sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair with several other people, none of whom she knew, listening to Geoffrey Colins speaking to them in a darkened room in what seemed to be an out-of-business clothing boutique, or rather the break room of said-business. A small, portable projector was throwing images on the blank wall behind him, showing a loop of the video she’d taken last night of the woman now called Amanda Thomas.

She didn’t get back to her hotel room at the Premier Inn Heathrow until after midnight this morning. She’d walked back to the nearest bus stop from the house she’d been watching and then, in her normal identity, got on board a bus traveling in the general direction she had come from. She’d received a text from Colins as to which stop she’d exit the vehicle. Once on the street and with the bus out of sight, she heard a car engine starting two blocks away and then drive toward her. At the same time she got a text from Colins stating “Get in the back.”

Continue reading