Home About Six: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1075 words.

Once she was back at home and fully recovered, Anita thought more about the implications of what Nick Rossis had told her. For Mike to have done all that, he must have known something bad might happen. It was also possible that nothing would happen, which was probably why he had said nothing. But what could it possibly be? How could she have lived with and loved someone for eight years and never had an inkling of anything so huge going on in his life? As she had said to the solicitor, she was beginning to feel very stupid for being so accepting of anything she had been told.

Leaving a message on Claudia’s phone, she transferred the money back to her friend. No point taking cash from her, when she could manage for now on what Mike had arranged. After a snack and a hot drink, she went back out to go to the bank, and show them the paperwork that would allow her to access Mike’s account. The larger amount in the separate savings account could be left alone for now. That would be needed later, if her worst fears turned out to be correct.

The dark blue van was distinctive. Definitely not a work vehicle, it had alloy wheels, and tinted side windows. She didn’t normally pay much attention to other traffic, but something about the van behind her car jogged her memory. It had been in the Market Place car park yesterday when she had come out of the solicitor’s office. And now it had appeared from a side turning close to her house, and was driving slowly behind her, keeping a reasonable distance. For all she knew, it might belong to someone living nearby, and they might just be going shopping.

Given what she had been told, the van made her nervous, so she didn’t go into the car park behind the bank as planned. Cancelling the indicator, she carried on around the one-way system, appearing to head back the way she had come. Sure enough, the van was still in her rear-view mirror, although it had dropped back two places in the town centre traffic. When she got back to the entrance to the car park, she accelerated without indicating, and turned suddenly. Checking the mirror, she watched the van go past at the end of the street.

This time, she got to see the manager of the bank, after a ten-minute wait. He looked at the paperwork, and told her it would all be in place by the end of the day’s trading. She asked him to transfer whatever was in Mike’s account to hers, and he also said he would arrange the changes for the payments to the various companies for her. Anita was wondering if the solicitor had spoken to him. But she didn’t ask.

Back at her car, she stopped dead as she opened the driver’s door. The blue van was there, only fifty feet away. Finding courage from her anger and curiosity, she closed the door and marched across to it. Taking out her phone, she intended to take a photo of the number plate, and anyone who might be sitting in it. As she raised the phone to look at the screen, the van’s engine started, and it began to drive out of the car park. She switched the camera to zoom, and left her finger on the button as it took at least a dozen shots. Scrolling through the results, there were at least three clear photos of the rear number plate. She rang Jane Dawes, and got her answerphone message.

“Hi Jane, it’s Anita Hollis. Can you possibly come and see me at my house later? There have been some strange developments, and I think I am being followed too”.

When her house phone rang, it wasn’t Jane. It was her Mum. “Anita darling, I have some exciting news. David has proposed to me. What do you think about that? I said yes of course. My head’s in a whirl, and I feel like a teenager again. We are not going to wait, and he is arranging the wedding at The Grange, you know, that gorgeous country club hotel. It is on Saturday week, at two in the afternoon. I have let Jill know, and will of course be expecting you too. Please try to find a nice dress to wear”. Anita shook her head. Her Mum’s degree of selfishness was almost inconceivable. But rather than get stressed out by telling her what she thought of her, she just hung up.

The afternoon dragged a little. The thing with the blue van had unnerved her, and she couldn’t stop herself from going to the window to see if the van was anywhere outside. For the first time, she was also beginning to wonder if the crash that had killed her in-laws was really an accident. Only able to face eating a toasted cheese sandwich, she sat down on the sofa and switched on the TV to watch the news. Flicking around all four news channels, there was nothing on any of them about a missing person being found. And nothing about finding a body either. As it finished, and the regular nighly chat show started, her doorbell rang.

Anita made Jane a cup of tea as she listened to her apologies about being busy, and not calling her back. Then she told her everything that had happened at the solicitor’s , and about the blue van. When she showed her the phone photos, Jane rang her office, and asked for a check on the number plate. She didn’t seem to be surprised by the result. “It’s Ian Hope’s van, Anita. He was one of the contacts I mentioned. The police in Yorkshire went to talk to him at my request, but there was nobody at home. If he is in town following you around, that explains why he wasn’t there”. Anita raised her eyebrows. “But why would he be following me, Jane? Should I be scared? What do you know about him?” Jane put her mug down on the coffee table.

“He is a private security consultant, a fancy name for what they used to call a private detective. He served in the SAS for twenty years, then started working for himself once he left the Army. I think I need to talk to him as a matter of urgency”.

Just Been Watching…(115)

Alien Covenant (2017)

***No spoilers***

I loved the original ‘Alien’ (1979). Then along came ‘Aliens’, seven years later. Still good, more action, but in my opinion it wasn’t as breathtakingly original at the first film. Well it couldn’t be, I know that. We had already seen the ‘monster’.

‘Alien 3’ (1992), and ‘Alien Resurrection’ (1997) looked to be in danger of milking the franchise, proving that you can have too much of a good thing.
(They even mixed things up, with ‘Alien versus Predator’, in 2004)

Then along came ‘Prometheus’, in 2012. This had more story, less terror, and some interesting ideas. The critics panned it, and the fans didn’t much like it either.

But I LOVED it.

When they made a sequel to ‘Prometheus five years later, I was sniffy about it.
I didn’t go to see it, and thought they had started that ‘milking’ all over again.

This week it was on TV, and I thought ‘Why not? It won’t cost me anything’.

In the film, the huge spaceship ‘Covenant’ is on a mission to take settlers to a distant planet that will support human life. There are thousands of them in ‘hyper-sleep’ for the seven year journey, and the ship is being controlled by ‘Mother’, an artificial intelligence. Helped by ‘Walter, an android life form that stays awake to undertake routine duties. They are on a one-way trip to establish a new colony, far from Earth.

A radio signal disrupts the ship’s systems, and the crew have to wake up, and deal with it. They discover it is emanating from an unknown planet, much closer than their destination. A planet that can support human life. The inexperienced Captain decides to investigate, and thing begin to go very wrong once the landing team arrives.

This is very much a sequel to ‘Prometheus’, featuring answers to things that happened at the end of the previous film. Yet it also stands alone, if you haven’t seen that film. It’s an ‘Alien’ film, so you can expect to see the familiar acid-blooded monsters that always turn up. You also get to see a lot more about those very large ‘humanoids’ from ‘Prometheus’ too.

With no spoilers, that’s about it. Some people die, some live, and there are lots of ‘WTF?’ moments involving the terrifying Alien monsters. If you have seen any of the films, you more or less know what to expect, with not that much of a twist this time. And no Sigourney Weaver, either. Michael Fassbender does well, playing identical androids. One is evil, the other kind. He acts with enough nuance that we always know which one we are watching.

If you liked ‘Prometheus’, (or was that just me?) you might want to know what happened next.

I did, and I really enjoyed this sequel too.

Here’s a trailer.

Euthanasia does exist

Thinking about my Mum this morning, and her distressingly hard departure from this life. The Liverpool Care Pathway mentioned in this post has since been discredited.

Too late for her, unfortunately.

beetleypete

During the last quarter of her life, my Mum was often ill. Her breathing problems became so bad, there would be crisis after crisis, occasions where she was not expected to survive. After recovering from these, she would usually say the same things, and have an identical conversation with me. She lamented the fact that voluntary euthanasia was illegal in the UK. She could see a future where she would not want to go on, but be unable to end her life with dignity, at a time of her own choosing. A vocal supporter of the ‘right to die’ campaign, she would always tell me that she did not want to, in her words, ‘end up as a cabbage’.  There were numerous times, when she would ask me to reassure her that I would advise any medical authorities that she was not to be resuscitated, and that her life was…

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Home About Six: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 999 words.

The solicitor seemed to be expecting her, as he didn’t ask her why she had made the appointment. Offering her a comfortable chair, and after she had declined tea or coffee, Mr Rossis tapped a file that was already on his desk. Anita had only met him briefly on two occasions, when he had dealt with the legal conveyancing during the house purchase, but she was hoping he could give her some general advice on her situation. Before she could say anything, he started talking.

“When your husband came in to see me that day, I must confess I found his request rather strange. But it is not up to me to question the intentions of my clients, especially when they appear to be in good faith”. She raised her hand. “I have to stop you there, Nicholas. I don’t have a clue what you are talking about. I came in to ask your advice about finances. Mike has gone missing, you see, and I have no access to any money”.

Opening the file, he nodded. “Exactly. A little over six months ago, Mike came in to see me. He asked me to transfer the deeds of your house into your name, changing it from the usual joint ownership. I witnessed the change, and you also signed it. Do you remember signing anything?” Anita shrugged. “I had just found out I was pregnant, so I don’t remember any specific occasion. Mike always got me to sign things to do with accounts, bills, or the house. I never asked him why. Does that make me sound stupid? I suppose it does”. He shook his head. “Ordinarily, I would counsel you against signing anything that you haven’t read, but in this case I am happy to tell you it was a good decision”. She was confused. “Please spell it out, I have no idea what’s going on”.

The file was pushed to one side. “He told me that he might have to suddenly disappear. You were going to have a baby, and if anything happened, he wanted to make sure that you were provided for. I have letters giving you power of attorney to draw on his bank account, as well as lists of all your current suppliers and their bills, along with the payment information. In addition, there is a savings account in your name at a different bank that I have all the paperwork for. It currently has something around forty thousand pounds in it. I know that is not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but it will certainly tide you over for now. Bear in mind that with the house in your name now, you can always sell it if you need to, and release substantial equity if you downsize. House prices in this town have increased dramatically since you bought it”.

It was a lot to take in, and a huge shock. “So where is he? Why did he do all this? I can’t believe that he knew all about this and never told me, not even a hint. What more did he tell you?”

Nicholas leaned forward. “Please believe me, Mrs Hollis, that’s all I know. He didn’t tell me anymore, and it wasn’t my place to ask him. He paid me for a service, and I supplied it, simple as that. Oh, and there is also a life insurance policy, in addition to the one covering your mortgage. It is for five hundred thousand pounds, in the event of his death. I had wondered if that was the reason you were coming to see me today, that something bad had happened to him. But if he is just listed as missing, I do have to tell you that no insurance company will pay out for seven years, and then only once he has been declared dead, after missing for that long”.

Anita had a thought. “Surely he left a letter for me then? Something explaining why? He must have realised that I would need to know. The stuff about the house and money is all very well, and will obviously help when the baby comes. But I want to know where my husband is, and what has happened to him, Nicholas. He left the house as normal, and said he would be home about six. I don’t want to think that he knew he was never coming back that morning, and didn’t tell me. The police are dealing with this, and I am sure the sergeant will want to talk to you. I will have to give her your details”.

His tone was sympathetic. “I am more than happy to tell the police everything I have just told you. Mike told me that this might happen. He said that if his wife came to see me, I should tell her about the house, and the financial provision. Everything is completely legal, and will stand up to any scrutiny. By all means tell the sergeant to come and see me. Meanwhile, I will give you this file with copies of all the documents. In this time of trouble at least you can be reassured that you have a home, and are financially stable for now. Take the letter to the bank, and they will let you draw on his salary, as long as it is paid. Contact the companies on the list, and tell them too. They will change the name on the contracts so you can make the monthly payments. All the account numbers and contact details are on a sheet in the folder. If you need to talk to me, call anytime during business hours”.

Taking the file he held out, Anita thanked him, and walked out onto the street in a daze. So Mike knew he was going to disappear, and as long ago as the confirmation of the pregnancy?

She was too dizzy to walk across to the car, and supported herself on a lamp post.

Guest Post: Maria Holm

Good to see more guest posts arriving in my email!

Today I bring you a book review, from Danish blogger, Maria Holm. It is a book about a true story, a quest to find information about a family member who went missing during WW2.

A Book Memorial for a Lost Family Member

LOST

The Quest for Jan van Boeckel

During the first years of blogging, I came upon Mogromo’s Blog. The blog site was illustrated with the most fascinating photos that supported the mysterious disappearance of a dear family member during the last year of the war. The Dutch writer behind that blog was discreet about who he or she was and drew my attention to the purpose of the blog describing the Quest for Jan van Boeckel. Like the author, I grew up in the shadow of WWII having parents whose lives were heavily influenced by having their youth strained by the German occupiers. We in Denmark were not suffering so much as the Dutch people did.

Cover photo for the book on Jan’s last year of life. He had his 22nd birthday shortly before his death.

A book has come out as a result of the author Wendy van Eijnatten’s efforts through some years having searched intensively for traces of her uncle Jan who never came back to his family after the liberation. Uncle Jan was an older brother of Wendy’s mother. He was the sixth child of thirteen in this close-knit Dutch family. The loss of him never coming back from his confinement by the Nazis left a space in the whole family. His mother and his many siblings spent years in research and Wendy took up the baton many years later to find that Jan probably died on a death march to Dachau from a concentration camp in Saal near the Czech border. That last place was hell on earth guarded by the worst scumbags. The SS had delegated the dirty jobs to criminals so they could live a more comfortable life behind the scenes. You sense how in the end everything went from an organised terror regime to chaos as the Western Allied were closing in on the Nazis.

In her book, we follow Jan in his hiding from the Nazis, the harsh life in the cold forest with fellow young resist fighters until their sudden and brutal capture on a hot day in June in 1944. Reading about it, you feel the cold, the hunger and thirst and the dirt and insecurity of what the next moment would bring along. His last year in different prisons and concentration camps ended just before the liberation. Jan wanted to join the British Royal Air Force but was never able to escape Europe to get there. His older brother Gerhard was a pilot in the Far East and was shot down by the Japanese.

The last year of the war was extremely difficult for the Dutch population. Wendy describes in great details the hunger the Boeckel family endured while they never gave up but found ways to survive by sending the children out to friendly farmers for their survival. Before that, they had all taken part in the hunt for food and wood for heating. The Nazi occupiers made the population starve on purpose.

To lift the spirit for themselves and those around them both Jan on his journey to becoming a resistant fighter and his family talked about literature, sang choirs and exercised gymnastics.

The author herself keeps in the background in the book, but once in a while, she describes the two years of a challenging hunt for documenting Jan’s last year of his life. She succeeded in finding two living witnesses who know Jan in that critical time. Theo with whom Jan ran away with to become freedoms fighters and Jacob who sat with him on his last transport on their Death March.

In my opinion, they were a family of great character and good morals to be admired for posterity. The book is well written and so exciting that you read the 416 pages in a few days. The cover photo is descriptive for the content of a story hidden in forests and uncertainties.

To get hold of the book “Lost The Quest for Jan van Boeckel”, you can contact the author on her blog.
Jan van Boeckel Timeline


Here is a link to Maria’s own blog, where you can discover more about this very interesting and friendly l
ady.
https://mariaholm.blog/
And here is a link to the Goodreads page for the book, including buying links for those interested.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38588509-lost

Home About Six: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 935 words.

Anita let them in, and turned to the woman, who seemed to be in charge. “What are you searching for? You need to contact Sergeant Dawes, she’s dealing with this case. She has already looked at Mike’s laptop, taken some papers away, and checked his phone records. Do you want me to ring her?” The woman didn’t seem to be listening. “Please sit down, madam. This is nothing to do with the local police, or about the fact that your husband is missing. It is another matter entirely, and I am not at liberty to tell you what we are looking for. Just be calm. We won’t be long, and will try not to disrupt you unduly”.

That didn’t satisfy Anita. “What’s your name please? If you aren’t with missing persons, then what the hell is all this about?” As the two men rifled through units and drawers wearing plastic gloves, the woman turned. Her mouth twitched, in what appeared to be her idea of a reassuring smile. “My name is Susan Judd, Mrs Hollis. I am with the Security Service, nothing to do with the police. Please do as I ask, sit quietly, and do not use your phone”. Anita wanted to tell her that she had heard that name before, shout out something like ‘You called Mike’s phone, tell me why’. But a bad feeling made her keep silent. Besides, she didn’t want to get Jane into anymore trouble than she was in already.

Ten minutes later, one of the men came into the room carrying Mike’s laptop, still in the bag that Jane had returned it in. The other one was going through everything in the kitchen, making enough noise to wake the dead. The woman looked at the guy with the laptop and nodded. Turning back to Anita, she did her worrying smile again. “Do you have any outbuildings, Mrs Hollis? A garden shed, storage container, something similar? And we will need the key to the garage, as it appears to be locked”.

Anita didn’t feel very cooperative, but there was no point in lying. “There’s a plastic storage thing against the back fence. I don’t know what’s in it though. The key to the garage is on a hook in the hallway. It’s full of Mike’s junk though, as well as his tools, the lawn mower, and some of his work stuff”. The taller man put down the laptop and went into the hallway to get the key. There was the sound of the garage door creaking as it was opened. Then the other man came out from the kitchen, shook his head at the woman, then opened the French windows to go out into the garden. Moments later, he came back in holding a large can. It was a shiny metal, with a number or code of some sort stencilled on it. The woman seemed pleased. “Take that out to the car, get it bagged up”.

Sensing a change in mood, Anita tried her luck. “Isn’t there anything you can tell me about what’s going on? I’m so worried about my husband, as it’s been over a week now. And as you can see, I am heavily pregnant”. Before the woman could reply, the taller man came back in and said just one word. “Nothing”. The woman turned to face Anita. “We will be taking the container that you saw, as well as the laptop. My colleague will give you a receipt for both items. As I told you, this is nothing to do with your missing husband”. Anita scoffed. “Yeah right, like I believe that. Mike goes missing, and suddenly the house is full of spooks searching for stuff and I have no idea why. Please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me it is not related, I’m not just some stupid pregnant woman who can be fobbed off”.

The man handed the woman some paper, and she passed it to Anita. “Here is your receipt. I thank you for your cooperation. When we have finished with the laptop, it may be retained as evidence, same with the container. I cannot say at this time when or if they will be returned. I bid you good evening, Mrs Hollis”.

As soon as they had left, she was on the phone to Jane Dawes. She told her everything that had happened, and that one of them was the Susan Judd who had been mentioned. “I can tell you, Jane, she was a really cold fish, that one. Not a glimmer of concern for Mike, or for me”. There was a long pause before Jane replied. “They worked fast. I thought they might show up, but had no idea they would be so public about it, and arrive with an official warrant. My guess was that they would just break into the place while you were out and get what they wanted without leaving a trace of being there. They must have been desperate to show their hand like this, Anita”.

Worried now, Anita started to wonder if Jane knew more than she was saying. So far, she was the only person dealing with this, and the only one she thought she could trust. “But what did they want, Jane? You have already been over the laptop, and they took some weed-killer or something from Mike’s box in the garden. What the bloody hell could they want with that? What’s happening, Jane. What has all this got to do with Mike?”

Her voice sounded weary as she replied.

“In all honesty, Anita, I haven’t got a sodding clue”.

Guest Post: Darlene Foster

I am delighted to be able to bring you a guest post from the lovely Darlene Foster, a Canadian blogger and published author.

Here is her own short bio.

Brought up on a ranch in Canada, Darlene dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She has always loved to tell stories and was encouraged by her grade three teacher to write them down. She is the author of the exciting adventure series featuring 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain, England, Germany, Holland and her own country, Canada. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between the sunny Costa Blanca of Spain and the west coast of Canada.

And this is her unedited guest post.

How Travel Memories Became Books for Kids

By Darlene Foster

As a young girl living in rural Alberta, Canada, I always wanted to do two things, travel and write. My first time on an airplane was at age twenty-five when I flew to England to marry my British fellow. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I didn’t mind that London was fogged in and we had to land in Scotland first. It didn’t bother me that we missed our connection and had to sleep in Heathrow airport for a few hours until we could get a flight to Manchester. The only train to York stopped at every little town and hamlet along the way and we were almost a day late for the roast beef dinner his family made for us. For me it was all part of the amazing adventure, and I loved every minute. I never stopped travelling after that.

Years later I was invited to visit a friend who was working in the United Arab Emirates. An opportunity I would never get again, I didn’t hesitate to go. The moment I stepped off the plane, I was enthralled. I loved everything about the place; the people, the food, the culture, the geography, the history. I visited an archaeological dig, witnessed a camel race, spent a day in the desert at a Bedouin camp, rode a camel, took a drive into the mountains, walked in a wadi and shopped at a souk. I felt like I had stepped into a storybook. My friend commented that I acted as excited as a twelve-year-old.

I returned home and felt the urge to write about this remarkable experience. I started to write from an adult’s perspective but it wasn’t working for me. The story lacked the excitement I felt while encountering such unique experiences. One sleepless night I looked through my photographs which brought back vivid memories. I started to write, but this time from the point of view of a twelve-year-old. It felt right. I wrote about what I saw and felt, and I threw in an adventure. That night, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask was born.

After completing the book, I decided Amanda needed to do more travelling. My in-laws had retired to Spain from England and we had been to visit them there a number of times. Spain is another country I found fascinating. It wasn’t too difficult to incorporate my travels and experiences in Spain into Amanda in Spain – the Girl in the Painting. I had fun including the Gaudi buildings of Barcelona, The Prada Museum in Madrid and the hanging houses of Cuenca.

We returned to England a number of times since my inaugural flight to visit relatives, spending time in a different part of that historic country with every visit. It was natural that the third book would take place in England. But what to write about when there is so much to see and do? I narrowed it down to sites in London such as Hampton Court, The Tower of London, Harrods and the London Eye. I also had Amanda visit The Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle, two of my favourite places. Amanda in England – The Missing Novel is one of my most popular books.

Amanda has since travelled down the Danube on a river cruise, gone on a school trip to New Mexico and visited the delightful country of Holland, as well as entertained her British friend in her home province of Alberta. All these stories are based on my own travel experiences. I get great enjoyment out of reliving my trips through the eyes of Amanda. Of course, she has way more adventures than I did.

Although these books are written in a style that children can easily read and understand, to my delight I find many adults enjoy them as well. One adult reader commented, “Amanda in Spain is a book for the young and the young-at-heart. Vivid descriptions of the country and its customs, humorous details, and enough tension that keeps you turning the page, make this a very enjoyable reading. I look forward to Amanda’s next adventure!”

Another adult reader had this to say about Amanda in New Mexico: “Even though I am way beyond the age bracket market this series is intended to, the child in me truly enjoyed Amanda and her classmates’ adventures on their school trip to New Mexico, discovering enchanting villages and people along the way and getting into all kinds of scraps that may or may not involve spirits and otherworldly phenomena. I especially enjoyed learning about a part of the world I have never been to, in particular, the town of Taos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its History, as well as the Day of the Dead celebrations and Doña Sebastiana, the female saint of death.”

I have many more ideas for future Amanda travels books and am currently working on Amanda in Malta. Readers keep asking, “Where is Amanda going next?” My only rule is it has to be somewhere I’ve visited myself. This means I’ll have to keep travelling so Amanda can visit more places and I can write more books!

Here are some useful links where you can find out more, connect with Darlene, and even buy her books!
Please visit Darlene, and give her some encouragement. She is a very helpful and engaged blogger, as well as being a huge asset to our community.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA