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I drove 1500km to sit on a balcony and get back to writing my book….

It’s truly beautiful here but somehow I’m still finding excuses.

So far today I’ve been food shopping, hung out my laundry, eaten breakfast and made a coffee. I’ve searched the web for performance upgrades for my car, read Facebook, browsed Instagram and now I’m about to make another coffee.

And after that I’ll start writing…Or maybe read what I’ve already written… Or something…

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Picnic in the Mountains

shortwrittenstories

The picnic had been a great success. It had been Ben’s idea to meet in the middle of nowhere at a quiet picnic spot he’d come across one Sunday last Summer while out for a drive. The venue was quite spectacular, located towards the bottom of a meandering valley it was part picnic spot and part viewpoint. The car park was large and only ever full in mid summer when the tourists were out in force. Today the roads were deserted, it was the first warm day of spring and few had ventured out into the wilderness yet.

Ben and Sarah lived miles apart but shared a love of driving fast cars. Meeting at this spot had allowed them to enjoy a superb drive, good food and each others company, all in the solitude of a beautiful, quiet corner of the world. They both felt relaxed in each others company…

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Chapter 1

The footsteps echoed in the corridor, getting closer. Louder. The light from the early morning sun was providing just enough light through the tiny window for Davis to see the room that had been his prison for the last few days. An empty grey room: just the chair he was tied to and another in the corner. The damp air made his arms ache. Before he could spend any more time thinking about the pain, the door opened.

It was the ‘nice’ guy; the second in command who offered words of encouragement and kept apologizing for the ‘other’ guy.

“Please answer the questions today” said ‘Nice’ Guy in his perfect Oxford English, “If you tell him what he wants to know I can get you moved to a nice room. Hot food and a shower.”

A good meal and a nice shower was a tempting offer, but he wasn’t about to sell out.

Before he could answer the question, ‘Other’ Guy entered the room. “Still not feeling talkative? That’s a shame”. He walked up to Davis and put his face a few inches away.

“Garlic for breakfast again?” quipped Davis. But before he could raise a sarcastic smile he felt the fist make contact with his chin. Quickly followed with three punches to the kidney. As the agony raced through his whole body, the thought entered Davis’ mind that “Other” Guy really seemed to be enjoying this.

“Nothing to say?” he asked, “You will answer my questions”. He paused and stood up tall, right in front of Davis. “I will find out what motivates you, one way or another. Maybe you don’t give in to pain, but we have other methods…. More creative methods”

Other Guy walked over to ‘Nice’ Guy and whispered into his ear. Nice Guy sighed. “I will make a call” he said and left the cell.

“Do you want to know who he’s calling? Or would you rather it was a surprise?”

Davis thought twice, but couldn’t resist the urge. “Is it your Wife? Tell her I said thanks for last week”

“Make as many jokes as you like. Tomorrow the doctor will be here and we will try out some of his special drugs. Tomorrow you will talk.”

Then, he threw another punch; this time strong enough to knock over Davis in his chair, sending him back into unconsciousness as his head hit the floor.

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Chapter 2

Raaaaawhhhhh

Raaaaawhhhhh

Davis rolled to the floor, grabbing his trusty Walther PPK from under the pillow.

Raaaaawhhhhh

His heart raced as he peered through the dark of his apartment. Had an enemy agent broken through the front door and triggered his security alarm? Was it an attack? Or maybe a drill? The Boss liked to spring attacks on him during down time just to check he was always alert, always ready to defend himself.

Raaaaawhhhhh

Davis stood up, lowered the gun to his side. His annoying neighbour had triggered the fire alarm… Again! Why that guy couldn’t learn to extinguish his cigar before he went to sleep Davis would never know.

4am. Annoyingly early, but the car would be arriving to collect him in just over an hour, so really not that bad.

He walked to the bathroom and started the shower, then to the kitchen to start the coffee machine. It was going to be a long day, an extra spoonful of coffee seemed like a good idea. He opened the fridge to find an empty milk carton. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a great day; what would happen next? A dull razor blade? No hot water?

In the grand scheme of things, an early wake up and black coffee really weren’t major problems. Just one week ago Davis had been fighting for his life in China and his captors had been kind enough to provide water, but coffee (with or without milk) was definitely not on offer on that occasion.

Today would be different.

He wrapped a towel around himself, grabbed his coffee and walked to the balcony. The sun was just starting to rise. He looked down at the boats floating on the Thames. There really is something special about early mornings in a city, thought Davis. The cool summer air and the muted echoes combine together in a way that you can only experience at the start of the day. Davis could see some early morning joggers out before work, a few crisply dressed men on their way to trade on the stock market.

What would it be like to have a regular life and a normal job he wondered? It would be a long time before he would know the answer to that question.

Davis finished his coffee, pulled on his suit and grabbed his packed bag. He always packed before sleeping; it was part of the routine of a man that was used to moving quickly.

As he reached the curb a black Bentley purred alongside. He slid in.

The car was taking him on his next mission. Stopping a new terror threat? Preventing the latest megalomaniac from taking over the world? No. Not quite.

For the next four weeks, Davis would be at school. Yes, school. The life of a spy isn’t all drinking vodka martinis, sitting in casinos and driving fast cars. Spies aren’t born fluent in Mandarin, Persian and Russian. They don’t just know that only 50 Imperial Faberge eggs were made. They have to learn that stuff, they have to work hard between missions to stay current.

Davis relaxed into the plush leather of the car and allowed his mind to drift. He thought about how he enjoyed this down time. Studying wasn’t his favourite way to spend time, he far preferred to be in the field thinking on his feet, reacting to whatever came his way and doing whatever was needed to help out his leaders. But training was necessary. He had cheated death on any number of occasions thanks to the things that he had learned at school so he knew it was worthwhile.

And it would be good to see Sarah again.

It really wasn’t a good idea to form a relationship with his teacher, but Sarah was special. She easily could have been in active service, but she had always been reluctant to make the personal sacrifice that was required. She wanted a personal life and a family, the two things that an agent could never have.

Davis wanted to keep things with Sarah simple. He had learned the hard way that being in love was treacherous with his job. He had been in love in the past despite knowing that the risks were high. He thought she was special, she was worth jeopardizing everything for and he could protect her.

He thought back to the day that they met.

He was sat in the comfortable rocking chair on his porch, just like he did every morning on holiday. The light breeze provided just about enough cooling to make the blazing sun and dripping humidity bearable. He flicked through the morning papers…. Death, politics and corruption… What was happening in the real world didn’t matter… just for a couple of days anyway, today it was someone else’s problem. So he folded the paper and placed it on the table.

He watched the dragonflies play just above the grass and the lizards sprinting after them, hoping that they would come close enough to catch. The smell of salt drifted through the air and his eyes drifted across the lawn, across the white sand to the still waters and up to the blue sky.  The only sounds to disturb his peace were the whooshing of the fan above his head and an occasional creak from the palm trees as they flexed in the wind.

His Bahaman paradise, this really was his favourite place to relax.

His gaze was drawn back to the beach…

There she stood, her tanned body contrasting with her white bikini. She was looking out to sea pulling her black hair back, tight against her head. She signaled to the waiter, who hurried over.

“What can I get for you ma’am?” He asked.

“Time for my morning cocktail, I’ll have the usual please” she replied with a smile “A Bahama Mama”

Davis decided he should remember that, it never hurts to know what a lady’s “usual” drink is… and some female company on his holiday was something that he always welcomed.

Of course he didn’t know at that moment that she would become more than a holiday fling.

He walked to the bar. “I’ll take that over Jeffery” he said to the waiter “and can you make another”

“Certainly” the waiter replied with a smile. He knew what was about to happen. The waiter he had seen Davis work his magic with beautiful women before.

Davis walked over to the beach where she was lying on her front. “Your Bahama Mama, ma’am”

“You’re not my usual waiter” she noted without looking up.

“I’m not you usual anything” Davis said with a smile on his face. “Mind if I join you? I really hate drinking cocktails on my own”

“Sure” she said sarcastically “I was tired of the tranquility”.

She stood up and wrapped her sarong around herself. If she was going to make small talk with a stranger, no matter how charming he seemed, she was going to look her best.

By the end of the summer it was time to get back to work. They agreed to meet here every six months. Both of them traveled for work so any more would have been difficult to manage. They agreed it was a good plan and enjoyed three glorious winters and three blissful summers.

It was perfect…

…until  a mission in South America where he was captured. They knew about her and how important she was to him. She had taken hostage because they thought that the risk of losing her would force him to talk.

It didn’t.

The lives of the many people, who would be killed if he revealed what he knew, outweighed the life of the one person he loved. Keeping quiet had been the toughest decision of his life. Pretending he didn’t know her hurt more than he could ever have imagined and her death still traumatized him.

Five years had passed, and the knowledge that they would have killed her anyway didn’t calm the stabbing pain. He still felt it in his heart whenever he thought of her. Whenever he was alone he thought about her.

Maybe that was why he worked so hard. In the field he had to be one hundred percent focused, completely in control, or things went wrong. When things went wrong people died. It was his job, his life, and had been for a long time.

He didn’t want to go through that again. He didn’t want to risk Sarah. It was better for her to remain his friend and his tutor, and not his lover.

Davis felt the change in pace of the car and his mind was brought back to the present. The car slowed and turned off the motorway. He looked out into the rolling green countryside and thought about all of the places he had visited. He had been to some of the most beautiful places in the world but there was something special about the English countryside.

As the car glided along Davis slumped back into the comfortable leather seat and closed his eyes to focus on the gentle purr of the engine.

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Chapter 3

He couldn’t hold it anymore; he had passed discomfort earlier and was now in agony. He had no choice.

As the warm flow trickled down his leg he felt a great sense of relief followed by shame, embarrassment and disgust. He’d had no choice. He was weak and tired and still tied to the chair.

He hadn’t wet himself since he was eight when his father had locked him in the cellar for stealing. He hadn’t actually stolen anything, but even then his strong sense of loyalty to pretty girls meant he’d refused to reveal her as the perpetrator of the crime.

His neighbour, Julie, was one of those girls. The kind you fell for the moment you met her. He remembered thinking that she wasn’t that pretty but the way her brown mid length hair moved around, the way her face lit up when she smiled just made you notice. And when she spoke, people listened. She told amazing tales of her day, full of passion and detail. It was if you had been there with her. A tough upbringing had made her learn how to influence people and to live just outside what most people view to be right and more importantly how to get away with it. Julie wasn’t a bad person or a real criminal, just getting by in the only way she knew how. Davis knew he would have done anything for her and when he had caught her, “just borrowing” she said, his Dad’s binoculars he trusted that they would be back. They weren’t back when his Dad looked for them. In fact they never came back. On the other hand, Julie’s little brother did come to school with a new school uniform and set of books.

Davis’ Dad had no evidence and Davis wasn’t offering an explanation, so he was the only suspect available and punishment was required so Davis was locked in the dark cold cellar and left to think about his actions.

Julie only found out about his imprisonment a week later when she saw the skinny pale Davis arrive at school. If she had known she would have come clean. Having someone else suffer because of her actions wasn’t what she wanted. She only broke the rules because she needed to and the risks were hers and so should be the consequences. Davis didn’t care he was loyal to his friends; it was clear to him why she had sold the binoculars that his Dad never used and didn’t need.

Julie rewarded him for his loyalty a few years later, shortly before she left for college. She told him that he shouldn’t wait for her, breaking his young heart for the first time.

At least his captors would have to deal with the stench when they came to question him, he thought, but that was a very small consolation.

Voices in the corridor. They were coming back.

Maybe he should offer up something so that they would allow him a small amount of comfort, some of his dignities back. Something small, something that really didn’t matter. But what?

Before he could finish the thought, a hard stream of cold water. The hose drenched him. It was cold and painful.

“You’re stinking up my cell” the guard laughed as he washed him down.

“I’m terribly sorry” snarled Davis. “Perhaps I could take a shower and put on some nice clean clothes before my next beating?”

“I would love to say yes, but my bosses will expect answers. What’s it worth to you? Answer my questions and I’m sure we can make you much more comfortable”.

“What are you after?”

“We want to know why you are here Mr Layne. Who helped you get into our organization?”

“You think I needed help? I just walked in through the front door” he said. Which was basically true. Davis had literally walked in to the headquarters.

The man shut off the hose and walked out.

Davis actually felt quite refreshed by the cold shower. His brain started racing. What could he say? What irrelevant piece of information could seem worthy of a shower to his captors? Maybe the address of that old safe house in the city? Or the double agent that had helped him infiltrate their organization? Yes that could work. He was of no real value and it might provide an opportunity to escape.

The door opened again. Other Guy was back.

“Good morning Mr Layne. I have a feeling that today you are ready to talk…. Or at least you will be shortly.” He smiled as he circled Davis’ chair.

“Why? Is your wife on her way? She can always get a few words out of me. Well sounds anyway”

Other Guy stopped behind Davis and lent in closer, placing his mouth close to Davis’ ear “You are very funny Mr Layne. But I have a friend who wants to meet you” He whispered, “And my friend thinks you will enjoy talking to him”

“You have a friend?” remarked Davis “That’s quite a shock”

“Laugh all you like Mr Layne. While you still can”

Davis felt a burning sensation in his arm. Only as passed into unconsciousness did he realise it was a needle.

 

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