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.”

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Gardens of Peace

mi6

Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) building – London – Found at manchesterhistory.net

Chapter Nine: Gardens of Peace

December – MI6, London

“Glad to see you up and about, Dennis. I hear it was a near one this time.”

Ian was sitting in the office of Benjamin Cross, Director of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Although Cross’s name and background were a matter of public record, at the agency he was always referred to only as “The Director” or “Sir.”

“Yes, so I was told. Thank you for your concern, Director. Doctors said that if either shell had hit just a few centimeters one way or the other, I would have been killed instantly.”

The Director chalked up Ian’s stoicism to the attitude of a career agent, not knowing that during his recovery, the man had worked out the events of the night of Hall’s death in great detail.

“I’m sure you realize I didn’t call you in just to inquire about your health.”

“No, of course not, Sir.”

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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.

Meeting the Future Mrs. Shaw

London 1890

© London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images – Found at NPR.org

William Shaw was stepping out of the pub on Northumberland Street near the Charing Cross railway station when he quite literally collided with his next wife. He’d been looking at his pocket watch and calculating how much time he had left to catch his train, and she had been rearranging the parcels she was carrying as they had begun to slip from her hands.

“Oh, I am terribly sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to…”

“Think nothing of it.” He bent forward to retrieve the parcels that had fallen to the pavement when they ran into one another.

Handing them back, he executed a small bow. “Mr. William Shaw at your service.”

It was difficult for her to return the courtesy given she was once again laden with physical burdens. “Miss Julia Witherspoon, Sir. Thank you for returning my parcels to me.”

“Please, you seem to be having difficulty. May I assist you?”

The offer was generous, but she was hesitant to accept the help of an unknown gentleman, even one with such apparent good breeding. On the other hand, her employer wasn’t particularly forgiving and she was already late.

“Very kind of you sir. I’ve been purchasing provisions for my employer and must meet my train to return to his domicile.”

“I would be honored to carry your parcels to your train, Miss Witherspoon.”

Thus the immortal Mr. William Shaw, for that was the nom de voyage he used these days, accompanied his future wife to Charing Cross. She was unaware of this, of course, though she found him quite charming and amusing.

He, on the other hand, was absolutely sure they would wed before the year was out (and was satisfied he was missing his own train for the right reasons). He had buried twenty-one, or perhaps twenty-two brides since he began his long journey through the corridors of history, the last one a mere two decades ago.

The future Mrs. Shaw would make a comforting companion to share the next fifty or sixty years with. He had a feeling that the 20th century was about to begin on the right foot.

I’m leveraging characters I first introduced in the flash fiction piece Traveling the Road Back, a tale about an immortal named William Shaw who, a century prior, made the mistake of letting his wife and one true love Julia board the doomed HMS Titanic. It takes decades, but he finally invents a time machine so he can go back to the early 20th century and save her life.

I’ve gotten more than one request to expand their story, so I wrote this in an attempt to “try out” writing about turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is) London and the first meeting between William and Julia.

How did I do?