John Fish B.Sc. Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)

ROWSE LITERARY AGENCY

DAVID'S TOWER

by

Ron A Sewell

e-mail: Ron A Sewell

SYNOPSIS

SAMPLE CHAPTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

All David Jenkins ever wanted was a good marriage, children and a comfortable life. His world collapses when he finds his wife in bed with a senior officer. From that moment, he knows his marriage and promising career in the Royal Navy is at an end. Disenchanted with the Service and following a damaging divorce, he becomes a deserter, a criminal and much more. His slide into an unfamiliar world is non-stop.

Journalist Janice Porter investigates a bank robbery and the disappearance of three sailors. On a gut feeling, she begins to suspect there could be a connection between these unrelated events.

Stealth, subterfuge and lies are a fugitiveís tools. Using the proceeds of a robbery to fund a different life, David moves on. His activities come to the attention of the Red Mafia with tragic consequences. He seeks revenge and embarks on a bloodthirsty reprisal. Escaping from his actions and hoping to start again, he sails in his yacht for Spain. A violent storm damages his craft and almost kills him.

HMS Blackbird, commanded by Adrian Viper, Janiceís husband, rescues a comatose David. When Adrian visits him in hospital, he finds he is alive and on the road to a full recovery. He recognises him from his wifeís previous investigations into the disappearance of three sailors. Knowing the very hint of a story would motivate his wife to the ends of the earth, she agrees to drive overnight to St Nazaire. They go to visit David and are informed that he died during the previous night and his body shipped back to England. Dissatisfied by the explanation given by the French authorities, Janice becomes obsessed with finding him.

A government-sponsored agency detains a very-much-alive David. Its operational task will not allow him to go free. He is given the choice of working deep cover or disappearing forever. Choosing life, he crosses over into the seedy world of drug trafficking. Along with the spirited, red-haired Angie Symes, another undercover agent, he becomes a trusted lieutenant in the Red Mafia by using a clever but simple scam to transport narcotics. Davidís life is constantly in danger as he works for but fights against the two opposing groups holding him hostage.

Forever determined and with some clever detective work, Janice discovers David is still alive. Unfortunately, her path crosses that of Ronald Harman-Smith, the senior government officer responsible for exploiting David. Harman-Smith threatens Janice and forces her to back off. As a result, she resigns from her job.

David puts together a plan to smuggle a vast quantity of drugs into England, to which the organisation gives a positive response. Angieís working relationship with David becomes complicated as they fall in love. Harman-Smith, her boss, advises her that when the job is over David will be surplus to requirements. Desperate, she confides in Janice and asks for her help. Having crossed swords with Harman-Smith, Janice seizes the opportunity for retribution. Pandoraís Box opens wide when she informs her police contacts what she knows. To prevent embarrassment to the government, a plan evolves to aid Davidís return to a normal life.

David battles against the world and all it throws at him. In the final scenes, he finds himself on a sinking Spanish trawler filled with drugs. The story continues to its tempestuous conclusion, with him defying the odds to win the ultimate prize: freedom.

Word Count 102,000

Ron A Sewell

PO Box 62895
8069 Paphos
Cyprus

Telephone: 26 652171

 

 

 

 

Sample Chapter

Prologue

Twenty years have elapsed since I picked up that damned card. Only my present wife is aware of the whole truth. Do not judge, ask me to apologise or explain my actions. I know in my own mind that I am right and will stand by them.

Like many, I have fixed attitudes about psychic powers. Although curious, I am sceptical. Tarot cards are, in my opinion, merely pretty pictures that people find entertaining. A friend became convinced they opened the door to enlightenment. Without asking, he spread his pack of cards face down on a table and told me to think of a question. I thought about the future and what it might hold. Pick one card, he said, and I did just that Ė The Tower. Without a word or comment, he returned it to the pack.

The Tower

This card brings in personal crisis or a period of upheaval. There is a danger of losing oneís temper or exploding Ė perhaps to the wrong person. Shocking and disturbing events are indicated, especially those of a nature which lead one to re-evaluate oneself, oneís lifestyle and relationships. Sometimes a physical accident can be signified. Truth may spring from the ruins. The old is destroyed to make way for the new. Healing can now occur. You will experience an extremely intensive process of transformation. Those things within you that will be shattered will help purify you. You may suffer redundancy or company collapse. It can also signify a career change that shocks others, for you could be inspired to retrain or earn your living in an unexpected fashion.

With my work finished for the day, I went home and, to my horror, found my wife in bed with her lover. This incident became the catalyst to the beginning of a long journey filled with challenges, problems to overcome, lessons to learn, things to be put right and honour to be protected.

To this day, I have never dared look at another tarot card as it taught me a valuable lesson: If you do not want to know the answer, do not ask the question .... David Jenkins.

Book One

The Necessary and Appropriate Action

1

Davidís whole body was drenched with sweat. The cold of the morning and the enveloping mist made him shiver. Turning, he looked at the boatís wake. Mirageís speed was in excess of twenty knots on a mirror-flat surface. Holding on tightly, he glanced forward, asking himself. "What the hell am I doing?"

His six foot frame towered over the others as he braced his feet against the boatís movement. With his left hand he brushed away the dark hair covering deep set blue eyes which strained to see the shore. He was a good looking man, well built and strong. In the crook of his right arm he held a sub-machine gun against his chest and felt his heart pounding. "Chris, Stop. Stop this boat," he screamed.

There was no response; the noise of the twin Johnson outboards at full power drowned out his cries. He noticed Jack was shaking and sensed an undercurrent of fear between them.

David knew that due to the mist, Chris had to rely on the boatís magnetic compass to steer the required course. Resigned to his lot, he remained silent as they sped into the white veil. The mist lifted for an instant, just enough for him to catch sight of the shore. A fleeting look at Chris and Jack confirmed they were committed. The point of no return was now a distant memory and he let his mind wander. Why had his wife cheated on him and then to rub salt into his wounds, taken him for every penny? Gambling had, for a time, appeared to be the answer but had merely created three desperate men. This stupid idea had been Jackís but the more hopeless his life had become the more rational it seemed. Sleepless nights had created a scenario that would eventually become fact. Only a few weeks had elapsed since they had visited South Queensferry, checked out the location and its surroundings. Hadnít anyone wondered why three men were timing themselves running up and down steps from the shore to the high street? Now, what had been a bad idea became plausible. Carried away by their naivety, it had been so easy to plan. The stealing of Mirage and obtaining weapons had been straightforward. The Royal Navy had trained these three non-commissioned officers well. The savage screeching of a gull returned him to reality.

Chris eased the throttle back, cruising parallel with the coast until the pebble beach came into view. Swinging Mirage to port, he closed the shore, veered to starboard then stopped, allowing the port side to nestle gently on the shingle.

"Right, Jack, in exactly three minutes I want to hear that Thunder-Flash erupt. Okay?"

Jack nodded.

Scared but fuelled with a wild energy, David sprang onto the beach with Chris following close behind. Pebbles crunched noisily under their feet as they ran towards the steps. In seconds they were on the ancient cobbled High Street of South Queensferry. He glanced left and right; the street was empty. To their left was the entrance to the Clydesdale Bank. Stopping for a moment, he said to Chris, "Letís do it."

He grinned, shrugged resignedly, accepting the decision.

He pushed the door open wide, allowing Chris to toss two smoke bombs inside. When they erupted, a woman screamed hysterically.

As one, they rushed in. Chris brandished his machine gun, fingers trembling on the trigger. He yelled at three middle-aged female customers. "Get down on the floor and shut the fuck up." His features altered, his mouth tightened and eyes became cruel. "I said, get fucking down, now, move yourselves."

With harshness in his voice, David, pointing his weapon, spoke to the staff, an older man and young girl. "Get your hands in the air, touch nothing and get out here." The man visibly shook, but the girl, a pretty little thing possibly straight out of school, in some way retained her self control. As they left their refuge, Chris shoved the girl to one side causing her to tumble to the floor.

She shook her head and shouted. "Bastard."

Chris gave her a glaring look which silenced her. Grabbing the man, he held him tightly. The barrel caught his face; split lips bled profusely down onto a pristine white shirt. Without compassion, he cruelly thrust the gun into the manís side. Looking wretched, he whimpered and pointed. "The moneyís over there under the counter. Take it, take it all. Donít shoot, please donít shoot. I have a wife and family."

Four women, mouths agape, edged their way into a far corner.

David moved fast, knowing the whole process relied on exact timing. There, neatly stacked, were boxes full of money. Quickly, he shoved all he could hold into black bin bags whilst Chris covered him. He had filled two when the roar of a Thunder-Flash grenade filled his ears.

Moving alongside Chris, David yelled, "Thatís Jackís signal. Timeís up; letís go."

He rushed out of the bank with Chris close on his heels, running recklessly down the steps, stumbling, almost falling, as feet struggled for a grip on the loose shingle. He felt there was a dream-like quality to everything, as if they were moving in slow motion.

Jack had Mirage ready, its engines running. In the distance, a police siren wailed its pitiful cry. Without waiting to see what happened, they clambered on board, flinging the bin bags and guns into the stern as they did so. There was a moment of sober realisation, theyíd done it. Then with a roar, Mirage surged forward.

"Letís get out of here," a relieved David shouted, knowing it had been one hell of a gamble. All their financial problems would now be resolved and they could get on with their lives. Strangely they had only known each other for less than a year but their worlds had overlapped in the frantic need for money.

Jack moved to one side, allowing Chris to slide into the driverís seat and take over the controls. Mirage raced at twenty-five knots across the flat calm water and the dense mist concealed them once more.

Suddenly, the engines began to screech and with an almighty bang, they stopped. The bow dived deep into the water and a deluge of spray covered them.

Chris continuously pressed the start button.

"Jesus Christ, Chris," shouted David, pushing him to one side. "If you press that any harder itíll be out the back of the panel. Let me look Ė after all, Iím the engineer. Raise the engines; I want to check the props."

"Shit," he exclaimed, as his eyes took in the mass of nylon fishing net entangling the propellers.

Using a pair of pliers, he began to hack away at the twisted mess. Only the sound of water lapping about the hull disturbed the silence. For a moment he became lost in his own thoughts until an unearthly sound filled the air.

"Whatís that?" asked Jack.

"Itís too bloody close for my liking," bellowed Jack.

"Itís a foghorn," answered David. "More than likely, Beamer Rock. The noise of the engines would have covered it up on the way across."

"Shut up," roared David.

"Oh my God!" shouted Chris. "Thatís not Beamer. I can hear a ship and itís a fucking big one!"

Christ, whatís next? David thought. He would have to work fast. Listening, as a large vessel crashed through the water, he instantly recognised the danger. Chris, as white as a sheet, sat in the stern and bawled like a child whilst Jack prayed loudly to any god who would listen. The mist darkened, defining the vesselís outline as it headed towards them. He was well aware that a ship underway was an awesome force, thousands of tons of steel guided by its crew. For such a defiant creature of the sea to stop would take miles. In sheer desperation, he tore savagely at the nylon, ripping yards of it away. The officers on the bridge of the approaching vessel would only see a small blip on their radar screen. Its fog horn continued to blast out a miserable cry.

He raised his head, peering into the mist; it was too late. Shrieking "Jump for it," he grabbed one of the bags, winding it tightly round his wrist and hurled himself into the water.

Swimming for all he was worth, as it moved closer, the huge steel hull began to shut out the light. David had covered no distance, when an unassailable wall of water, moving at speed, hit him with a force that drove the air from his lungs. Without flinching from its path, its huge bulbous bow swatted Mirage, smashing its delicate hull, lifting and tossing it uncaringly into the air. The tattered remains fell from the sky and hit the water, disappearing as if they had never existed.

Waves struck his body, lifting him high, only moments later to abandon him as a piece of debris into the depths. He held his breath, his lungs hurt and the pulsating throb of propellers filled his ears. He clawed at the water, frantically attempting to increase the distance between himself and the vessel. The undertow seized hold, dragging him down further. He lost all sense of direction. Blood starved of oxygen throbbed through his veins. His upper body was starting to pound and burn with the need to breathe. His mind spun as he gave one last effort and fought the pull of the water. He struggled, knowing his reserves were gone. His head ached and the thought of clean, fresh air made him delirious. Suddenly, like an express train, his body raced towards the surface. In that moment before blackness shut down his mind, he hit the cold mist-laden air. Life remained only a faint glimmer. The agonizing pain consuming him began to fade; vital bodily functions started to shut down. His battered body floated on the surface. What made him grab the bag with both hands did not matter. Manís earliest instinct forced his mouth to open and gulp life-saving air.

The ship had moved on but the ebb tide was now at its peak. It had taken a firm grip and he was drifting, half-blind from the salt, down river. Cold air and seawater entered his mouth and lungs, causing him to vomit violently. He retched again and his senses began to return. Knowing he was alive spurred him on and his eyes attempted to focus. He had to get to the shore or hypothermia would rob him of the chance fate had given him. All at once, his feet touched something; when it happened again he knew it was mud. He pushed himself towards the shore in spite of the excruciating pain wracking his body. His legs did not want to work but gradually he moved forward, step by painful step, until he was only able to crawl on his hands and knees. The soft sand of the beach was the best sensation he had felt in a long while. He could barely believe the Grim Reaper had lost his grip.

. In time, salt-encrusted eyes opened but he did not know how long he had been lying there. With a huge effort, he began to think and at once realised the open beach revealed him to the world. His chest hurt and his head throbbed. Slowly and stiffly, he made his way forward. Little by little, he crawled towards a tree-covered area. Every nerve end pulsed with pain. Out of view of anyone passing, he curled up and sank into unconsciousness. His right hand still gripped the bag.

In the labyrinth of his mind, memories played games as faceless black and white pictures came and went. Slowly, the silent images started to sharpen and gather colour. Snapshots of his thirty-three years gathered some semblance of order. Then the walls came tumbling down, revealing all that should remain hidden. Nameless creatures lurked in shadowy corners in the dark. Mentally he screamed for it to stop but it continued relentlessly. The orphanage in Portsmouth came and went. Fifteen years in the Royal Navy flashed by. Suddenly, at full volume, there was sound. His wife appeared and laughed at him as she made love to a naval officer in their bed. Then, mad with rage, he administered the punishment. The fact that he had poured boiling water over the manís balls seemed vicious now. The Royal Navy had hushed it all up and demoted him. Afterwards, they had banished him to the scrap heap of the service. The consequences of which had changed him into a bitter man. He tried desperately to shut out the nightmare. His brain was in automatic as it replayed his life. When Chris, Jack and he had begun to lose, they should have stopped gambling but they had become addicted. They were now gone and one evil casino owner would never get his money. The pictures began to fade as his mind let him return to sleep.

He woke with a start and gazed automatically at his wrist; his watch was gone. His blue eyes had a problem focusing. After a few minutes he stared up at the moon, realising midnight must have come and gone. He had to get his act together; this foolishness had been his fault. Regrets and recriminations were useless. There was no point in going back; he was up to his eyes in debt, in the middle of a protracted divorce and now, a man on the run. The robbery and the likely loss of two comrades would be impossible to explain. He wondered if theyíd survived. If so, where were they? Maybe theyíd been rescued or swam ashore further down the River Forth. Right now, he was in no condition to search for them.

His eyes saw the bag he had used as a pillow and he opened it. He could only feel bundles of notes still sealed in their wrappers. He wanted to count them but it was dark and there were far too many; it would have to wait. There must be hundreds, enough to get away and start a new life. He attempted to control his thinking through a confused mind. What did he need? Clothes Ė he couldnít go anywhere in a day-glow-orange dry suit. Where should he go? London would be a good place to hide; no one knew him and with this amount of money, he could disappear without trace.

He tried to get up. It took a supreme effort to move from sitting to kneeling and, with the help of a tree for support, to stand. Cautiously, still gripping the bag, he began to stagger along the beach, using the tree line to conceal his progress. After what felt like a mile, he came across a cottage. In there, he thought, would be clothes.

He had never broken into a house before. It seemed empty; he wasnít sure. An idea came to him; toss a stone through a window and wait. If the lights go on or the police arrive within half an hour, move on. He picked up a rock and hurled it. The noise of glass shattering resounded in the night air. Laying flat on his stomach, he remained watching and waiting in the darkness of the trees, immobile as a shop window manikin unlit in the moonlight. The time dragged by and nothing happened. He forced himself up and warily approached the cottage, grimacing like an old man but ready to flee if need be. In the light breeze, the curtains were moving in and out of the frame. This was it; he broke the remaining glass and entered.

Moving through the house, he came across the bathroom, turned on the light and stared at his reflection. Black mud caked his hair, face and hands. Stripping off his dry suit he had a cold shower. After drying himself, he soon discovered a pair of navy overalls, a jacket, both of which were on the big side and some ill-fitting shoes. Lastly, he found two suitcases, one large and one small. In the larger he placed his torn and tattered suit and in the other, the money. His eyes widened as bundles of five, ten, twenty and fifty used bank notes fell into the case. Taking out one packet of tens he began to count. On reaching a hundred he knew the case contained thousands. All he had needed to pay off his debts was fifteen thousand and now he had more than he had ever seen in his life. Removing a wad of fivers, he shoved them and the tens into his jacket pocket.

Leaving the cottage before it became light; he made his way along a narrow path. It took him half an hour to find the main road to Edinburgh. He stopped in the shadows of a lane, staring out at the empty thoroughfare before him. Fear made him cautious; in the open there would be no hiding place. If a passing police car stopped, that would be the end. Glancing both ways, he left the cover of the lane and walked out into the brightly lit road. To him the only sound was his heartbeat thundering in his ears. A hundred yards away was a bus shelter: sanctuary. He could wait there until a bus came along. His body ached and it was all he could do to maintain a steady pace. Someone had already smashed the light in the shelter. He sighed heavily as he sat on the only serviceable seat.

In the quiet of the early morning, the sound of a diesel engine could be heard a long way off. Carefully, he peeked out; the lit For Hire sign was a gift from the gods. He moved out and flagged it down. The cabbie swerved into the kerb and stopped. David clambered in, holding the cases tightly.

"Donít normally get many fares this time of the morning. Where to?"

He thought quickly. "Do you know anywhere cheap and cheerful that does food?"

The driver was young man, freshly shaven and reeked of Boss aftershave. "Ah, yes. The Greasy Spoon in Leith is where us cabbies go. Good nosh and a lovely brew of tea. Wonít cost you an arm and a leg either."

"Thanks, mate. Thatíll do. How far is it from Waverly Station?" He was aware of the mans eyes watching him through the rear view mirror.

"Itís a good walk but you can get a bus or cab."

Turning around in his seat, he gazed out of the rear window. Other than the morning milkman, the street remained deserted. Unhindered by any traffic and moving through streets unknown to him, the cab turned into Dock Street, braking to a halt outside the café. Thatís you. Seven quid, please."

Removing a roll of fivers fro his pocket, David peeled of two, telling him to keep the change.

Picking up his cases he walked slowly into the café. The smell of freshly cooked bacon made his mouth water. Only then did he realise he had not eaten for twenty-four hours. A full Scottish breakfast, along with several mugs of hot tea, soon disappeared. No one seemed to take any notice of the stranger who wore ill-fitting clothes.

When the shops opened, he purchased a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, a blazer, a pair of Hush Puppies and toiletry items to meet his immediate needs. Having changed into his new clothes, he made his way to Waverley Station and purchased a single ticket to London Kingís Cross.

***

Having slept fitfully, David got off the train half-asleep.

"From behind him a voice shouted, "Excuse me, sir."

Suddenly, his stomach went into freefall. Turning, he stared at a guard holding the suitcase he had deliberately left behind.

"Is this yours, sir?"

Swallowing hard, he shook his head. "No, itís not mine. Sorry."

The man rolled his eyes and walked past him muttering, "Thanks anyway. Iíll take it to lost property. God knows how anyone can forget a suitcase this size."

David remained where he was, breathing heavily for a few moments. Kingís Cross Station was very familiar. He had passed through it enough times, travelling from Portsmouth to Scotland. But something was wrong; there appeared to be police everywhere. As uncontrolled panic gripped him, he searched frantically for somewhere to hide. Refuge behind a slow-moving line of mail wagons seemed the thing to do, which, to his alarm, turned, leaving him standing in the middle of the concourse. They donít know me,

they canít know me, I could be anyone, he reasoned. Donít run, keep cool, act normally he told himself. Sweat began trickling down his spine as his heart raced. He felt the world could hear him breathing as he waited for a hand to rest on his shoulder. Why are they staring at me? His body shook as a policewoman started towards him, only to stop and help a young mother. Making his way to the nearest exit he stopped and leant against the wall. Breathing became difficult as bile flooded his throat, filled his mouth causing him to vomit. Jesus Christ, he thought, if I feel like this every time I see a copper, I might as well give myself up now. People passed unseeing, no one stopped or even glanced at him. It was what he wanted: anonymity. After taking several deep breaths, his senses returned. Leaving the station behind, he started to think logically. All of his life had been in a controlled environment. Now suddenly he was alone and felt vulnerable. There was no doubt in his mind, like it or not, he had to come to terms with this predicament or give himself up as a deserter and criminal. As a man with an undetermined future, the thought of ending up in a jail mortified him. He had to be strong or heí spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. The only solution that made any sense was, for the moment, to continue one day at a time. He needed somewhere to stay. Nothing over the top, a bed and breakfast would suit him fine until he decided where to go and what to do next. He began walking along York Way until he reached Agar Grove. Turning left, he wandered on; drab-looking terraced houses filled every street. Gardens that had once boasted cultivated flowers were now practical concrete slabs. He came across a corner shop that had cards in the window advertising rooms to let. There were no customers waiting. Behind the counter stood a bald Asian man, about five feet tall and very fat. He may have had the appearance of Buddha but his dark eyes were cautious and watchful.

"Can you recommend any of those rooms to let?"

The man smiled. "What do you want; a room to play, or a decent place to stay?"

David returned the smile. "Iím in town for a few weeks."

"Try Mrs Evans. Sheís a good sort. Keeps a clean house and her rates are reasonable."

"Sounds good to me. Where do I find her?"

The man moved from behind the counter to the shop entrance and pointed. "Itís in Camden Town, not far. Straight down there until you reach Camden Road. Turn left and keep walking until you find Mortimer Street and sheís number sixty-seven, on the right."

Thanking him, David bought the Daily Mail and left.

When he finally found the house, he looked for any sign that stated rooms to let but there wasnít one. It was not the prettiest of houses; the wall in front leant inwards and was crumbling from lack of repair and the front garden no bigger than a postage stamp full of weeds. The original wooden sash and case windows were now of modern plastic. However, this was the right place so he pressed the bell push on the royal blue painted door. After a minute or so a small, shapely brunette opened the door. "Can I help you?" she asked in a soft, pleasant voice. From inside a radio blared out its programme of music.

"Hi, Iím looking for a room to rent."

"Please come in. Iím Mrs Evans. My two rooms are empty at the moment."

As he followed her up the stairs his fear began to subside. It felt strange but there seemed to be an overwhelming sense that he had entered a safe haven. He noted she was an attractive woman for her age, which he gauged to be about forty. The house was about eighty years old and had at one time been a two up, two down railway terrace. Now after some extensive building works the upstairs contained a bathroom, a separate toilet and two bedrooms. There was a hint of attraction in her eyes as she showed him the rooms; one was a single at the back of the house and the other, at the front, a double. He thought for a moment and opted for the larger of the two. He went in and felt the firmness of the mattress. The décor was faded but the room was spotlessly clean and suited his needs. "Very nice. Just the job."

"Are you a traveller?" she asked.

Not ready, he merely nodded his head. Her lipstick was too bright a red and her blue blouse revealed more than it should. As they had moved from room to room, he was convinced at least two buttons had come undone and her ample breasts were now more out than in.

"Iím definitely travelling."

Her brown eyes sparkled as she spoke. "The roomís twenty-five quid a night, including breakfast. Cash only. I donít do credit or cards."

Removing a wad of notes from his pocket, he counted out three hundred and fifty pounds, and gave it to her. "There you are, fourteen daysí worth. I might even stay for a bit longer, but Iíll let you know. Okay?"

Her eyes lit up as she noticed there was much more.

"Oh, by the way, everyone calls me Emma. For five quid you can have an evening meal but I do need to know in advance. Breakfast is in my kitchen, which is down the stairs; turn right along the hall, and itís the second room on the left. When you come down, sign the visitorsí book and hereís your keys. While we're on the subject, whatís your name?"

Without a momentís hesitation he answered, "David Jones." And before she could ask any more questions he began to close the door. "Been a long day."

His body ached, his mind was in turmoil and he needed sleep. For the first time in many hours, he felt safe. Lying fully clothed on the bed, a moment later he was asleep.

Almost at once, the demons returned. Darkness and cold embraced him in a nightmare of imagination. Once more, he struggled against the pull of the water. Chris and Jack were there and he tried to grab them as they floated past but he could not reach. They seemed to be smiling and waving as they vanished into the depths of the river. He surfaced and looked for his friends. In desperation he dived deep into the dark water until, gasping for breath, he could search no more. A boat appeared and someone held out a hand. As he went to grab it, it was withdrawn. The vessel drifted away and he could see his wife and her lover laughing hysterically, then it disappeared.

He woke up and it was dark. Removing his clothes, he left them where they fell and slid under the sheets. Sleep recaptured him in seconds.

Incessant banging on the bedroom door brought him rapidly to his senses. Stiff and sore, it took him a few moments to remember where he was before getting out of bed.

"Whereís the fire?" he shouted, opening the door. On the small landing stood Emma, holding a breakfast tray.

"Seeing youíre having a lie-in, I thought you might like your breakfast in bed."

He was conscious that she was giving his body the once over. She could not fail to see the bruises covering his tall, lean muscular frame. These were now a variety of shades, varying from yellow to black. The broad grin on her face reminded him he was naked. Retrieving the tray, he thanked her and closed the door.

He ate his breakfast whilst attempting to read the Daily Mail he had bought the day before. With a fork in one hand, he turned the pages with the other. The pictures of three missing sailors made him choke. He read the article word for word but it merely stated that the three men were missing and a full-scale search was continuing throughout the day. Fortunately, the photographs were old and of poor quality. Stroking his chin, he found that several days of black stubble covered his face; now would be a good time to grow a beard.

With any luck he hoped that Chris and Jack had survived. He knew little about their backgrounds, being acutely aware that service life was different to what most considered normal. One lived with men for two years, maybe more, and then moved on. Acquaintances, you had hundreds, true friends very few.

 

***

Janice Porter, Assistant Editor of the Southampton Gazette, glanced at her watch as she entered her office. Pausing briefly, she checked her appearance in the full length mirror behind the door. From a black leather shoulder bag she removed a pale pink lipstick and skilfully applied it. The new blue dress, its colour matching her eyes, embraced her well proportioned five-foot-six figure. Today she wore her natural blonde hair up, revealing her entire face, the high cheekbones enhancing her appearance. Satisfied, she was ready to face the day, and moved self-assuredly to her desk. It was just passing ten oíclock as she sat back in her chair mentally prepared to examine the pile of national newspapers in front of her. Before starting, she kicked off her high heals, enjoying the comforting moment. Sliding her feet into a pair of sandals that were permanently there, she doggedly began her search, always looking for a new angle; making notes of the stories her paper had disregarded. In every one there was a mention of terrorist attacks. In the seventies there had been the Italian Red Brigade. Later, the drug barons of South America fought governments. Then the constant clash of the Arab nations against Israel. What was happening to the world? She asked herself. Long ago freedom fighters became politicians. Now political correctness in all things resulted in intractable problems; more than the world can solve. She felt it was time people woke up to the fact that they canít be tolerant of everyone. One day, she thought, terrorists will bring this country of ours to its knees and there will be nothing we will be able to do about it.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Anne, her secretary, entered balancing a cup of coffee on top of a full mail tray. Janice made a face. "Thanks." Returning to The Scotsman. The headline, Royal Navy Loses Three Sailors on River Forth caused her pulse to race. The pictures of the men were poor. Bitter memories flooded back when Adrian, her husband, a Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, was posted missing. Thankfully, it had all been a carefully planned deception and he had returned safely. It had happened a long time ago, but still the pain of not knowing haunted her. The next page had a few columns on a daring bank robbery in South Queensferry on the River Forth. The report mentioned two men having held the bank staff at gunpoint whilst a third waited in a boat.

"Is that so?" she asked herself, reading both reports again; I wonder? The plot thickens; were there six men on the river that morning in thick fog, or three?

She placed the pages of The Scotsman to one side. A few telephone calls, plus copies of the Dunfermline Press and Edinburgh Evening News might reveal something more.

Whilst studying her list of contacts, Janice did some hard thinking. One name stood out: Hamish McCaig, a freelance reporter. Lifting the telephone handset on her desk, she tapped in the Edinburgh number and waited. It began to ring at the other end.

"Hamish, how are you?"

"That sounds like me old haggis, Janice Porter. Iím fine. What can I do for you?"

"Could you do me a favour? It may be something or nothing but do you know about the robbery at the Clydesdale Bank, South Queensferry?"

For a moment, the line went silent. "Oh that, the police have no clues, no witnesses and no bloody idea."

"Can you send me copies of all the local papers for the next few days? C O D will do."

"What are you looking for?"

"Hamish, I promise if thereís anything, Iíll let you know."

"Okay, the papers are on their way. Talk soon. Bye."

Janice replaced the receiver, knowing he was a man of his word.