Excerpt for Things That Don't Rhyme by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

About the author

South African born Arno Le Roux is affiliated with a number of charities and he has a long history with and still has some affiliations with both the Finance, Banking & Insurance Industries; as well as his past career in the Safety and Security Sector, where his activities revolved around crime prevention, pathology, Serious Economic Offences investigations, intelligence gathering, Riot and Crowd Control Units, commercial and military firearm & ammunition identification, etc. As a part time consultant in an advisory capacity to his past and proud career, he also holds various impressive honours and awards within these sectors. Furthermore, he is a Certified Realtor dealing in both commercial and residential properties. His passion for the mechanics of corporates and commerce, religious history, pathology and psychology are interwoven in his fiction.

Copyright © Arno Le Roux 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Should you wish to contact the Author: arnoleroux1970@gmail.com

Things That Don't Rhyme



Synopsis

Inspired by "Rubicon" an American television series, briefly broadcasted on the AMC television network in 2010 - and some say, "got too close to current world events", and 'that' the underlying reason for its summery 'taken-off-air", away from public viewing and commentary. At the heart of it was a single initially seemingly naive intelligence analyst working for the American Policy Institute - who discovered that he may have been working alongside a group that manipulated world events on a grand scale.

Prologue

"What if unknowingly, 'we' were the caretakers of both the brave and the weak - rich and the poor - and believers and non-believers alike. Crafting their ever-evolving perception of reality from art and science to technology, finance and shipping to food, and advertising and religion to armament manufacturing and its delivery on an unsuspecting victim ?"

Chapter 1 - Upload

He went to sleep the previous night with more cares than he felt he deserved - having solved the last crossword he ever wanted to solve. Then again, rather him 'too', than only the other readers 'only'. A skewly stacked pile of newly received envelopes were neglected for the first time in his career. Identical addresses were calling to the full moon for divine help, as if the moon was going to intervene...

"To Eric Heyne, 33 Dahlia Street, South Broom, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa"

"...Sharing those patient echoing ticks of the clock down the dark hallway of progress with the known world, are a handful of autonomous, yet 'everyday-people' who do not know each other, but represent an ideal of harmony and balance". Michael couldn't help but recalling the last time those frozen words echoed in his curious mind. He was a fitter, non-smoking and much younger version of himself - dangling precariously from a fixed rope, used to reduce the bottleneck of overtaxed climbers who left the numbing cold Mount Everest's North Base Camp in Tibet, already 5,150 metres away from a kinder more comforting realty.



"Stop with that bloody camera Michael, you're going to lose your grip! Please put it away now and hand me the static rope and another 'jumar'! It's going to get colder than this, I need you to focus!". A six foot and lean, bodacious but never reckless, well tanned Eric loved the outdoors and had been a veteran experienced climber of many years. Taking his work seriously; as guide and owner or 'Peak-Up', the training-wing for aspiring mountaineers doing business with 'Base Camp Tourism', he always generously shared his endless patience and contagious wide smile 'off' the mountain while teaching. He was a master at parting knowledge with care and had a simple outlook on life - 'A time and a place for everything'.



"To answer your question... Yes!" Eric looked down at his almost lifeless friend, conjuring up ways to get Michael to focus on the only job that pleaded for his attention - staying alive. Michael was frozen and his leg- and arm muscles aching from the bitter cold, and the howling wind made it totally unbearable. He made his peace already 200 meters before, that there was no going further up or back down. Not alive anyway. At the peak where the troposphere would penetrate the stratosphere, it would be even worse - he knew that from before. He hated that Eric talked him into a repeat of 'almost' losing his life to the great monolith.



"Next time we climb, I'll give you an answer, then for the love of ... please don't ask me any more" . It was a coded message that would have meant absolutely nothing to anyone. As brave as they both had been including it in the foreword of a book they had each published. Sending hidden messages in plain sight at the time was all an innocent game in the beginning. Till there were only two left of the old group... them.



With his hands having turned blue inside his protective gloves and his eyelashes frozen together inside his mask, all he could think of was Eric's reference a week before to "fast and freezing winds of the jet stream - wind speeds of 260 kilometres per hour". Somehow, being dressed up warm, slowly caressing a mug of hot-chocolate in a classroom atmosphere - the mention of winds at those incomprehensible speeds at that altitude, still didn't sound quite so treacherous.



There must have been a good reason why Eric chose that day in that inaccessible environment to answer him.



"Yes!! There is a time and a place for everything, Michael, and this is it! Your answer's at the top - in the flag. If you want to know, go get it, or leave it alone and go back!!" Was the last advice Eric imparted.



"You just said yes?!" Michael tried to shout over the sound of the icy wind that tore right through both his doubled thermal underwear, padded clothes as well as his thickly padded hollow-fibre suit. He guessed his words instantly turned into ice and cracked like a cheap mirror - when Eric didn't answer immediately.



"I was keeping my promise... remember?!" In that instant Michael realised that Eric either lost the will to continue, or decided; after inspecting the rope and figuring it wouldn't carry them both for much longer, and give it up for his friend's life, and let go.



"Take care my old friend...!!" Down below; when Michael managed to pry his fatigued eyelids open, a muted thud followed the brush past his ice-covered back as Eric's free-falling body passed Michael.



Circumspectly, Michael looked down at the collection of daring reminders of a life-long friendship in the photo album and paged back to the ones where Eric and him had scaled the mighty mountain for a final time. He looked up from the glossy cellophane film covering their photo'd adventures and eyed the vast global map on his study-wall. Appreciating the cool ocean breeze for a long moment by closing his eyes, Michael walked over, closer to wall.



He opened his fist and picked up the chipped metallic memory stick that Eric had hidden inside the flagpole of the South African flag. Eric must have jammed it in hard - during a previous ascent - not having found any another place to hide what had probably been the secret that sent him plummeting. Michael thought how ironic, but fitting in a way, that Eric died doing what he loved.



"Well you couldn't hide it any further, no one would have ever found it." He closed his fist around it again.



'No, you're not Michael..." He hasn't used his own name for years and had to remind himself that he wasn't Michael.



He wasn't even Michael during the period he shared his valuable time, as renowned and much respected lecturer, years before the obscurity and peace of the quiet southern coastal town beckoned. Wondering whether there was a suitable title for his occupation - he shook his head from side to side.



'Surely, 'this' would be the last line of work ever advertised by the many vibrant personnel agencies.' The search engine transported his enquiry to a UK-based recruitment firm and he selected to close the Web browser altogether.



He was a 'never-spoken-of' 'by-product' of an invisible world. Unknowingly included by political analysts when a great many ideology-riddled depictions and predictions were made. Of course, he knew so well that their 'riddle-speak' were totally 'off' the mark.



'But that's where the riddle goes to the next level, doesn't it...?' Taking his time, he debated to work on his assignment, then declined and walked out to the windy balcony.



'It's a bit mad'. Michael thought. His memory tugged on the finest pencil line - that the government so kindly and perfectly erased. Even for 'him' to say that he worked for the government, would be grasping at straws... pure speculation - as there hadn't been a way to know for sure.

Turning away from the too strong but at the same time, welcome fast moving gust, he was back in his study. Pulling a red drawing-pin from the green filt-covered cork board, he wound the thin bright yellow string twice around the tip, and pushed it back into the map. He retreated two long steps, and then two more, crossed his arms and with his eyes, followed the yellow diagonal string. From Ghana, South to Johannesburg, East to Mauritius, then further East to Melbourne.



'The insurance companies are not going to be happy with this. Not in the least.' Aiming a long concerned look over his shoulder at the rising tide during the coming storm, it reminded him that he needed his sleep. After squinting at the fine red string he had linked from Tibet to Bangladesh, he rubbed he's tired eyes and stretched his arms overhead as he paced between the study and the balcony, overlooking the stormy sea from the top of the shrub-covered sand dunes, and flicked the light switch off.

32° Degrees during mid-December, in the middle of a heatwave, and the mental image of the red string, drew him all the way back and down to the podium of the lecture he once gave at the old Rand Afrikaans University. Young and oddly dressed minds had been staring down from the gallery of narrowly designed up-right seats. He often wondered whether those seats were purposely designed for maximum discomfort to keep the philosophy and political-analyst students awake, and he smiled.

"That a speech writer and poet should have so much to say, 'or maybe', should have so much power. To fully appreciate and understand the inescapable labyrinth of modern politics and mass psychology's evolving effect on society as a whole - it requires a touch of madness. No one knows the question anymore. There are many views, ideologies, and points to be made, that much is true." He felt he lost his once curious audience already when he introduced himself. At the time, even then, his name was a pseudonym.



"Everyone is wrong - wrong because they don't know the question. The question is so far-fetched for most, that if it was ever asked, it would top the list of even the most ridiculous of conspiracies." And just like that, he had their attention again.



"As far back as recorded history goes, there have been leaders. Or at least, the persistent illusion of who our leaders are... Whether we actually stretch our minds to make space to file what they promise, is a matter for another day. Whether they speak on behalf of business is probably, well, for the day after that." The students made notes again, this time almost as if he was sharing the biggest secret, never written down. And, despite being fully aware that the deliberate influence by other lecturers as well as their later careers, would wash away what he was sharing with them - he continued as a matter of formality.



"For today there is merely a single question. Just one... Who pays the Speech Writers...?" It was he last presentation he had prepared before he disappeared into the obscured world of unbreakable riddles and clandestine rhyming.



Michael stood with his arms folded, and looked over at the handful of pencils pointing up into the moonlit room overlooking the stormy coast.



'It's mostly a stormy coast, as the waves crash down hard and spits out sea plants and whatever lost their grip on reality. No one sees any of this at night and during a storm, but because there are never witnesses to the bellowing thick salty foam, hiding the ocean's destructiveness and relentless pursuit of balancing-order via seeming chaos, by no means mean that it doesn't happen. The ocean is too ancient and too indifferent to concern itself with proof of its very nature. It does what it does and always will.' The thought of it, and having it delivered loudly to his lifeless pencils, made him wonder if Michael and those like him, would still be needed in future.

Lifting the letters from his desk; weighing down on a vast and skewly stacked collection of colourfully-covered poetry books, he paged back to the last one of the letters, underlined the last sentence, then slipped all the papers into one of the books - which he decided to hide, by placing three heavy Shakespeare books on top of it.



"If there was peace, anywhere, even briefly, it meant you all were not working - but merely, just lazying about." His continued conversation with the pencils was followed by a sip from his favourite coffee mug as he looked over it, and out to the blueish lit braking waves in the moonlight.



By now, having escaped who he was in the big city years before, he was far more skilled in reading between the waves - ever crashing and crushing, foaming and spitting at everything in its wake - while serving to deliver an invisible measure, of balance and order - within the chaos.

His pencils were once again all patiently waiting, ready and sharpened, on call, in any weather, at any hour. Unlike the inked electronic fonts, pencils might on occasion snap sharply, but they don't leak and they don't need electrical currents. Old school. Like their master. Old music, old books, old languages, antique furniture, old houses, much like their master who breathes life into them. Or rather for 'this' master who purchased them, extinguishing life in an attempt to create order and balance.



It was 'the previous year' during December in South Africa. 'Previous year' should cover it. Any more than that would be specific. Too specific. Michael didn't use specifics in the art he represented. Metaphors yes, all the time. And his readers approved of it. The pencils however, were tasked to create very specific and to-the-mimute outcomes, but only in obscure masterly tailored rhythm and rhyming, meandering their way from an abyss if you like, to reality for the ones who care enough to read and re-read.



12am in South Africa, midnight. But that's irrelevant. It was 8:00am in Sydney, 3:50pm in Bangalore, 7:20pm in Tokyo, and 5:20pm in Toronto. And that mattered. In fact, that's all that mattered. Five different locations which seemingly, had very little in common.

Chapter 2 The Weight Of Lead

Alternating his survey of the busy study between the vast rows of books he collected and the peculiar arrangement of photos in the order of dates they were taken, he finally decided to permanently cast his teary eyes out of the open glass sliding doors, over to the hazy horizon.

"If the 'love for a thing of beauty', had been the sole motivation why people worked long, hard hours, it would have been a better world". He took a long purposeful blink and strode outside and drank as much fresh salty air as his lungs allowed.

Fifteen minutes later Michael slowly tugged at the top corner of a page he had been editing while absorbing the last line before turning the page to where he suddenly eyed an out-of-place metaphor. Thinking how he came to know the real world, where greed and fear alone were motivating people from the moment they were submerged in this blinding spotlight - not only because it's a constant transition from the one business morning to the next again - but because his gut again spoke to him of something that was nagging at him.



Back from the Post Office the next morning - he briefly scanned the newly arrived handwritten envelopes and filed the one behind the other as he read the postage stamps. Placing the paper tower of envelopes next to his coffee percolator; with his left palm, he tiredly slid a large coffee mug from the cupboard, into his right hand. He closed the cupboard door at exactly the same time as the percolator's loud beep announced that it completed its monotonous mission. Even if someone was in the next room, they would be totally unaware that he removed something from the cupboard.



'Totally unnecessary'. He thought to himself.



'Habits. It's ironic that in this infinite loop, of fear and greed with a multitude of authors who battle it out like gladiators in the modern online arena of recognition - and that publishing houses had become the 'backup' only, as a type of a last resort. This, as opposed to yesteryear's primary option of 'paperback printed' novels and poetry-bundles of writers. The new system allowed cutting out the middleman by forging an instantly rewarding direct line of commerce between authors and readers. Once downloaded, the full enjoyment of ideas and stories could be experienced from anywhere - from on a remote ship or island or mountain range, right down to villages, towns, in traffic on a bus or at school and university. And linking access to author's thoughts from completed proofreading to uploading into cyberspace and onto the thirsty electronic readers of waiting clientele - the weeks and sometimes months it used to take to deliver literature, has been reduced by sidestepping traditional publishing houses, to the bandwidth available - literally seconds and minutes. Oline-trading really has increased exponentially'. Michael shook his head at the strangeness of how technology deleted more and more occupations where middlemen were once building empires on the hard work of others. He sat down and leant over to slide the heavy wooden framed window open just a little bit more. A flood of salty, fresh coastal air rushed in and pushed the antique wood-and-leather smells to the far darker back of the book-shelved study. The south-eastern side of the house was always cooler and somehow the ocean just smelt fresher this morning.

'Even if, I remain just another 'faceless wordsmith' behind a pen name, life will still be so much rewarding. Come to think of the simplicity...' He thought as he glanced up at the neatly stacked pile of five handwritten envelopes. He looked away - back at the enormous waves breaking endlessly into pure white foam, spilling over the smooth beach sand. Thinking of how the ocean spat out what it had no use for, and drawing relentlessly back when it changed its mind, he put his coffee mug down on the antique coffee table in the living room, after walking inside.



'Lets see'. He fetched the envelopes and returned to his favourite corner in the living room - adjoining the busy study - and looked out over the horizon, appreciating the vastness and beauty, while purposely applying it as his preferred distraction - not to open the envelopes - he had allowed, for financial gain, the abuse of his talent. Most people in business would argue that it's all just survival, and how in the name of survival, almost anything... could be justified.



'Maybe they would be right..' He waited for eternity to somehow stretch its hand back and stop him from opening the envelopes... But eternity once again did not interfere. It seemed to daringly approve what he was about to do again.

Chapter 3 - Coffee Gone Cold



"Flight SA 375's crash just off the coast of Mozambique is confirmed!" Perplexed, he neglected to look for the remote to adjust the volume up, hurried over to the television. Once sitting down again at the dining room table, he caught himself staring over to the corner of the table where he previously sat - the remote within his reach - and pulled it closer and switched over to a different news channel, and another after that. News of the crash had been on every channel.

"The majority of the flight of 229 passengers; of which many had been holiday makers, had been taken up by a large block-booking done for Crimson Tide, we have learnt. We will give you more details as we receive them". Michael looked over to the newspaper from a week before, that he somehow never put in the paper recycling bin outside, then rubbed his face as he impatiently tried to poke at his memory, but nothing - and jerked the double folded paper closer. After rapidly paging; and accidentally tearing through a crossword puzzle he had unusual difficulty with a few days before - from the back to the front and then from there to the last page again, he put the now wrinkled version of the news down. Having paced in a flurried fashion and circumventing the large oak dining room table twice; his hands on his hips, as if he was about to act out a cowboy-like quick draw, he sat back down again and paged slower. After the second time he paged, his eyes fell on the entertainment page he had torn just moments before. Carefully he pushed the torn off top right corner of the crossword puzzle back to join the main body of it.



"Hunting calibre, rifle, large game - Three letters down. Ok, that's a '375' Magnum".

"Abbreviation, African country - Two letters down. South Africa, of course".

"Historically a Portuguese colony - Ten letters across. Yes! Mozambique!"

"Synonym for red - Seven letters down. That's Crimson!"



He had somehow completed the missing words from the untimely newsflash, the news still blaring in the background about clean energy and "science" or "scientists", he couldn't be sure. Then he darted his gaze up at the TV presenter. The man went on in detail, about the horrific incident and a meeting the employees were to attend. Michael missed the gist of the new information, but it seemed the scientists were to make public, something which would have totally revolutionise the way fuel had been derived from coal.



After a short few minutes had passed, Michael was staring at no less than thirteen separate world news events which haunted distraught families, multinational corporate businesses and large players in the insurance industry alike. Ranging from the largest of freight ships which sank in the South China Sea, the still rising death toll of two passenger trains who's fate was a freak head-on collision at full speed, the meltdown of yet another nuclear reactor in Japan and a panic stricken public in the Kongo, once again fighting off a newer strand of the Marburg Virus- a hemorrhagic fever virus of the Filoviridae family.

Six painstaking hours of scanning the Internet and global newspapers - later, he had collected thirteen completed crossword puzzles. Each had woven into it, startlingly clear clues of both recently past and imminent major international calamities.

'These are not calamities, but rather a holy mess...' The utter strangeness would have been mind-boggling for outsiders. Not that it didn't pull Michael off his chair and away from the dining room table, in fact it was even stranger for a pale faced Michael.



'As if they were already - and yet unfulfilled prophesies, these marked past locations and seemingly new ones, yet to grab the world by the collar'. He thought.



It can be argued that the pen is mightier than the sword. But the pencil, even more so, Michael would say. And he wasn't alone. He never met the others like him. But he knew they were out there, somewhere.

The fonts on the envelopes and the single paged letters they contained, were always the same - all uppercase, and in block letter arrangement. In a strange manner, it was as if they were standalone message, and he wondered if the others like him, were ever found out, how far someone would go to protect them, if at all. He knew by now that a letter mailed and stamped in Dublin, Tel Aviv or even much closer to home in Johannesburg - was no proof that the writer actually mailed it. The senders were paranoid and so were their employers. The contents had all passed over and seen some influential desks, but the manner of reaching him was of little significance to outside eyes. Old school. All the time.

If ever the letters were lost or accidentally opened, it would appear to be fan-mail in the form of unsolicited poems for Michael's comments or seem that of a hopeful fan wishing inclusion on one of the poetry community websites Michael had administered - it would seem like nothing more, at most, of communication of some hopeful soul, wanting to be discovered.

As far as Michael knew, the process had always been the same - on his side anyway, that was. Each of the poems that were handwritten were in different, evolving stages nearing completion. Once the receiver didn't receive it anymore, it was automatically taken for granted that it was either lost or intercepted by whoever deemed it final and a new title, with a fresh poem replaced it. Always thirteen poems, always thirteen different topics. Never more, never less, always the same. Code Poetry had long been used between lovers to say one thing but mean another. It was an obscure communication method that one would assume had died out at the dawn of password protected computer programs and e-mails, zip files, information hidden in images and a host of new age supposedly-safe vehicles. Every poet signed off with the name of a Novels author. Michael never knew why though, as the ISBN numbers of the books used as reference, were already hidden in the poems he received and again passed on. The total letter count per specific line, word count per specific line and a few other 'eccentric rituals' as Michael called it, indicated a source of reference - from which to work from - the next time around, as well as the address where the poem was to be mailed to. The term 'Poetic Justice' always came to mind, in that, this archaic way of communication, superseded the safety and privacy which the modern Tech-driven world had to offer. Even the underbelly of the Internet, commonly or-not-so, referred to as dark-net, hadn't come close to guarding what was happening every day in clear sight.

'It was irony at its best'. He thought.

The first word of each succeeding line, and the same in reverse at the end of it, added to this, the number of the day - were codes mailed and dictated the remainder of the process. Somewhere out there, on another timeline, was someone waiting for a message.

Savouring a taste of his strong black percolated coffee, he weighed the mug down on an even older newspaper he had retrieved from the recycling paper bin to try and establish a possible factual cross-referencing between what he believed were innocent crossword puzzles, and the tragic occurrences that had headlined so many different media outlets . The page morphed into a large dark-brown elliptical smudge, as he suddenly moved it further away when he put it down on the newspaper.

"Karma Ordered For Traffickers, In Missing Children Case". Anchored his attention and he pushed the mug further still to read while hovering over the paper - his index finger tracking the detailed ordeal as he read aloud - while at the same time refreshing his memory.

"Fear and disgust gripped the South African families of seven girls and three boys whose ages ranged between ten and thirteen this past weekend. Police's head of the Johannesburg Child Protection Unit, Brigadier Maggie Cross have confirmed that this past weekend a breakthrough was made, following a joint effort by South African and Australian police undercover-investigators. After one of the frightened little girls miraculously escaped from a Hillbrow block of flats' window on the first floor where the group had been cuffed and gagged, police were alerted. A six-month long perilously uphill international investigation had already been underway at the time. The sheer scale and sophistication of the cross-border child smuggling cartel was simply astounding, police reported. Much like the Australian arm of the cartel, unknowing teenagers were lured; via Internet chat rooms and fake Facebook profiles, where they were initially screened, and invited to prominent clubs. After being apparently drugged, the children were transported - mainly at night - probably to avoid suspicion, to sea ports, where other members of the cartel had pre-arranged make-shift rooms with limited food and water, inside looked storage containers. These were which subdivided away from furniture and in other cases, vehicle parts for exports - while under guard and constantly medicated into a semi-comstosed state. Although police initially excluded various Eastern destinations, as Italy and Dubai had solely been on police's radar, it emerged a few weeks ago that the demand for young teenagers had been on the increase as larger 'orders' were placed. From what investigators learnt from their counterparts abroad - a Hong Kong 'auction house' had been uncovered and twenty eight recently reported 'missing' children were discovered. Somehow the immense influence of a Ghana politician, had been central to the cartel's African operations. It was only recently, that he and his were linked to a family who operated the South China Sea-freigt industry." Michael recalled from paging through the previous months' envelopes - the fate that someone decided this politician should meet. At the time, the request for the 'type' of poem and geniusly-designed hidden message the person had demanded, was the height of peculiarity for Michael. He wondered if the clear although obscured instruction had been picked up by a single individual every time. But taking into account the immense scale and the precision it had been executed with, not to mention the money required, he was convinced that it had to have been a group who followed the hidden instructions. The latter half of the newspaper article his finger was still pause on, detailed the strange or rather 'freak-like' coincidence - in which both promiment couples had died in separate vehicle collisions in Hong Kong. The politician and his wife - in a head-on collision with truck carrying bricks between two across the road construction sites- and, during the other horrific event, the Chinese husband and his wife, presumably died on impact as their luxury vehicle was crushed by construction truck, of which it's brakes failed." Michael couldn't believe what he was reading.

'Unbeknown to the journalist who must have sacrificed a large portion of her sleep - not to mention newspaper recourses to cover the story in such comprehensive detail, in the pursuit of truth - would probably never even image that there was nothing coincidental about the vehicle collisions. That someone had a particular flair for the dramatic - would never be printed in the tabloids...' He knew.

And to Michael, it had just became apparent that there were three invisible as well as invincible forces at play. One, acting as judge and somehow researching the circumstances and placing the order - another, like Michael, who would obscure the order that was sent out - and the last person or group, would expertly see to the successful execution, on time, every time... He would maybe never know how long this dark system had been around for, but was confident that it was ripping the criminal underworld apart with impunity - deliberately removing unwanted elements from global society with utter defiance for the high position held by these once so-called untouchables.

For a moment, he confronted the gripping awe for the other-worldliness of this information, which he suddenly and for first time, questioned.

'Was if it was 'pure good' versus 'pure evil?'. These were matters that were dealt with decisively without local or international courts having any say in them. He thought of the frequency of seeming unexpected train and passenger plane mechanical malfunctions, construction accidents, and smaller off-course passenger planes losing bearing and somehow wrestling with hampered communications., a sudden heart attack suffered by a politician or a CEO, and as it happens, the vast sums of money made by some, while 'against all seeming odds', hedging colossal bets in favour of these 'unexpected' and most unthinkable of events - and how these events; while viewed by some - with loathing - and discussed in gory awe, made for another smoother turn of an unknowing world, as it went round once more.



'Welcome to a brave new world'. He moved the folded newspaper over to where he placed his mug and opened the previous day's morning edition, then summoned his weary eyes over to the crossword puzzle.

Many of the poems, were - as poetry have typically accompanied mankind's sometimes lonely and relentless search for sense of life, and themed around lovers, death and revenge - he noted - tied up with the untimely demise of high-level criminals. To match an exact poem, which he or the others had toiled with, with a crossword puzzle-like prediction seemed purely coincidental at the time and he decided to let it be for time being.



Finishing a lengthy and erotically descriptive poem on adultery; which in his many years had been 'a first' and an unusual request, was followed by a sinister request for one - on a silhouette-like figure melting into the shadows on a rooftop, and a presidential motorcade. It had to include 3pm, pure white snow and a full moon on the third day of the traditionally third Jewish month of Kislev.



He thought of how a few editors later, the dark and cryptic instruction would be let loose on the world, like a hungry wolf - eventually zoning in, on oblivious prey. All, as if an invisible meeting between an Emperor, through his loyal council, right down to the unquestioning hangman.

Michael often thought of the well-known verse in Ephesians 6:12: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness..." Michael asked himself every time when an event was painted in radiant colours 'all-over' the international news, and knowing what he did, whether he was he part of creating order or, contributing to increased chaos. His payment for his services rendered was whether he had been prepared to bet in favour of major market fluctuations weeks or sometimes mere days prior to these events.

Michael swapped his gaze out over the unpredictable ocean, over to a large colourful collection of differently shaped framed family photos from years before. The main motivating factor which allowed his mind total submersion into this strange reality he has come to find comfort in, was staring at his world with identical unforgiving blankness as what he stared back with.

'Can't turn back, and If I could, I'd probably be reluctant to even attempt'. Michael tried to wipe the intrusive chalked memories from his mind's slate by returning his attention to the two-hundred meter smooth stretch of beach sand eventually melting away under the repetitive drawback of the foamy waves. The new rising sun, had patiently heated up the glass-enclosed font-room which faced the ocean, for a few minutes already - and he closed his eyes, permitting the yellow rays to caringly warm up his face. On the opposite wall, a meeting with fate, reminded him that starting a new life where his love and efforts were both appreciated and rewarded, was indeed possible.

At the centre of a handmade bamboo-framed photo; and slowly fading by the patient new rising sun every morning, was he, and a priest and monk - whose good company he once had the pleasure to share. It was at a book auction, he recalled. At the time, the event he attended, pivoted around what was one of the most exclusive auctions of rare antiquities, he had heard of. As was customary, some very prominent attendees were served a variety of expensive refreshments from small silver trays, while others had to walk down a passage to join a lengthy queue next to flower-decorated tables, to select from a limited one-per-attendee of cherry or sparkling wines - in too small glasses. It was probably the closest he'd ever came to bidding on anything in his life - as he attended out of pure curiosity due to research he was doing for a novel on the 'colder' online - versus the hyped anticipation of 'real-life' auctions. Soon after the auction commenced with a matching set of exquisite porcelain vases, a fierce bidding-war ensued, mostly armed with rude stares and repeated double-blinks. Michael didn't fancy the pompous attitude nor the way the bidder had flashed his apparently newly acquired Rolex around and manage out-bidding him on the spot. It was little more to prove a point, rather than a wish to own the rare tattered and faded old manuscripts. After all ecstatic and proud new owners of an assortment of rarities left the establishment overlooking the calmness of the Mediterranean, he called the disappointed priest and monk back as they were walking 'empty-handed' down the steep staircase, to a run-down waiting bus. The funds they had collected with great effort during numerous fundraisers wasn't nearly sufficient to outbid the original collector before Michael stepped in. Presenting them the collection of old religious cracked and leather-bound manuscripts, they were perplexed. Both were shocked that this stranger placed any value on the fact that they needed the manuscripts back. It came out that it was stolen in a raid at the same time as the Strahov monastery raids the 1550's, in the thousand year old city of Prague. Upon asking what they could possibly do in return for his generosity, he replied.

"Only two small favours. The first is a tour of the monastery library which I realise is 'off-limits' to the public, followed by supper with the Brethren." Was all he really could think of. He wanted them to have what they travelled far for - after finding out why they were present. But amazed at this strangers' simple, almost humble request, the grateful men gladly obliged. The second was a more unusual request, that, if in future he needed a place to rest and there was nowhere he could be taken in, that they would be so kind.

"Not unusual at all". The old monk replied,

"Anytime!"

Michael remained in contact with the two over the years and thanks to his later generous donations, their library had enlarged significantly. The fact that they both seemingly loved poetry and he overheard them asking for the same book he was looking for a week before the meeting at the auction, had much to do with his generosity.

It was a well-known but dusty old bookshop that flourished in the 1800's. The same family still; who had kept the somewhat shabby looking place in the family, owned and operated it and Michael was a regular. It became apparent that the priest and aged monk were also regulars. The one question Michael had that could never be asked; there for the first and possibly only time ever, had presented an opportunity to investigate the possibility that these good men were somehow related to the unknown side of literature. He'd never ask, and they would never give him an answer to his question, he thought many times. Using the same code system, he had written a poem for them in later years on fasting and prayer. His enquiries as to how one separates good intentions from darker deeds were skillfully woven into the poem. A week later he received a 'thank you' poem. The message was designed 'as skillfully' as his own, and using the same code system said:

"We met for a reason, we MAY never know why. Thank you for your friendship". Attached to the poem was a letter of appreciation from the priest saying that his poem on fasting and prayer was framed and hung on the library wall on the southern cooler wall overlooking the entrance - where they also prefer to sit and meditate on their Opus before and at the end of each day. Michael almost fainted and had to sit down for a while. Needless to say he never referred to this at the next meetings with the men. He looked up at the poem he received back. Also framed, also hanging on the southern wall. The note that accompanied the return poem, he had set fire to long before and had scattered out the window for its ashes to become the ocean.

A flood of email notifications drew his attention from his banking site to indicate payment for downloads on one of the self-publishing sites for novels and poetry bundles. Normally the ones Michael knew were not great hits at all. And this - was his remuneration for services rendered. Handsomely remunerated to say the least. This was not needed however as his hedging against the Rand ensured a few more properties were often to be added, to his impressive property portfolio.

Michael lifted his coffee mug from the table, sat back deep into the firm leather recliner and stared out at the only object he was always searching for on the horizon - a freight ship. It was a mere spec in the distance. Almost as if he didn't want the waiting letters to be aware of where he casted his memory, since there were often times the letters were an intrusion to the privacy of his home. And this was one of those times where he just wanted to spend some time in the past, unhindered.

'It was a cold Johannesburg morning in June almost a decade ago, and the last while to sponge up the old peculiarities of 'city life' that seldom bothered him at the time. There was the drone of loud relentlessly hammering music at 2am from a block away at some party or rave-club, the too highly pitched police- and ambulance sirens, and then there was the odd shattering-glass-and-crumpeling-metal sound of a colliding car somewhere downstairs in the dark. And on occasion, all of those in one sitting - even twice round on the same night hadn't been unusual. Then, fate had swapped those sometimes sleepless nights for the calming quiet that the little secluded coastal town offered.

A colleague he hadn't seen in years at the time - was in a long queue to have her copy of his then first successfully paper-published novel signed. He rose to fame with a fictional best-seller about the way National Intelligence had laundered money by manipulating the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the eighties and how a basically bankrupt county was sold down the line under the pretense of Democracy. The book-signing had been arranged by Voltec - ironically a front company of the government, who made it worth his while to pull the original manuscript from the publishing house, and allow National Intelligence to make some changes and omit others from the story line. He suddenly found himself in a 'more comfortable' financial position and decided to leave the city behind. It was his last week in the big, but sometimes almost lifeless grey old city.

"Glad your mind isn't wasted after all...". He looked up at the smiling shopper as she opened the novel's cover and pointed to where she wished him to sign - beneath the foreword where he thanked his old colleagues.

"My word Hillary, of all the places". He stood up with a smile and gave her a sincere tight hug.

"What brings you back to South Africa?" Noticing the others in the queue staring up at them, he lowered his voice.

"Business mainly, and hoping for a cup of coffee tomorrow morning. I see you're going to have your hands full today. if that's possible?" And she returned a warm smile.

"Of course it is! And the message?" She smiled and he realized she hadn't removed her finger from where she pointed. He stopped himself just in time and kept it a thought.

'Yep, still bossy...' He thought and instead he smiled.

"For the greater good". She said, looked around if anyone heard and remained smiling back.

"Your wish in writing then..." With a few long and curly scratches of his pencil, he scribbled and finally signed.

"Still armed with a pencil then?" She jokingly commented and hinted with her eyes.

"Habit..." He forced a smile.

The next morning at eight he was driving in the direction of Bedfordview and took the Van Buuren off-ramp.

He later joined her at what he hoped would be a quiet-road coffee shop off the main artery through a busy Bedfordview. But the tiny establishment was humming with activity as the cold drove other shoppers into every coffee available place to warm up and snack on something.

"I have a contact at a UK publishing house if ever you are keen to spread your wings?" She tried speaking, but had to repeat herself - over the loud drone of the amalgamation of other voices gathered around busy tables, mugs and porcelain side-plates hurriedly clanging in competition with the constant electronic beeps of mobile phones and speed-point payment machines.

"You were saying?" But Michael heard perfectly well. He was merely trying to win time, while scanning the busy coffee shop for anything that may have appeared out of the ordinary. Paranoid at the best of times, something didn't feel right. He had always been a creature of habit with little eccentricities, it included his approach to meetings. 'Always early, and always find out more about the people to be met' - was one of his rules. He was exactly an hour early for their meeting that morning and had parked in front of the coffee shop. Having walked in he booked a table in the far corner to better face all the other tables as well as entrance door, and met and memorised the names of two of the young waitresses he asked to be served by, in an hour. They agreed to split a 'more than generous' tip that he paid in advance.

"Here's 100 Rand for each of you so long. I tip before-hand not after. I don't care how busy the other tables get, when I wink, one of you come over. Deal?" Michael knew the young waitresses would be 'over the moon', each having pocketed ten percent of 1000 Rand bill for two reasons. The chance of spending 1000 Rand on a coffee bill and a snack would never total that much - so they already got paid more and in advance, and secondly, he knew that tips were sometimes shared unfairly by management when they got paid from the proceeds at the end of their shifts - when waitresses couldn't convince patrons to change their mind on orders. It was almost an industry standard in some suburbs who faced stiff competition, to attempt promoting certain menue'd items with a far higher profit margin, compared to what the patrons actually initially had in mind. For the unfortunate young staff who have not reached the desired level of pushy-ness, they would sometimes not get paid their fair share. In a way, 'this' greedy manner of taking advantage of young people irked him. Youngsters, whose first job it was to make ends meet - was a close second to others who were desperate to get money having been fired or retrenched elsewhere. With forty-five minutes to kill, he wandered into a nearby second hand bookshop for look around, then down the road to enjoy his first cigarette for the morning - a habit he started during his then two-week visit to Turkey while unsuccessfully trying escaping the reality of the last time the great monolith called. A black 5-series BMW for a second circled the block in a slow fashion; he had noticed, after it had missed thee of the available open parkings in front the the rows of shops - which were busy opening their doors and moving advertising signs and tables and chairs out under large umbrellas - obviously hoping that later the weather would clear up - then the BMW pulled into a parking bay a block further. In the distance, he noticed Hilary walking towards the coffee shop that he'd already been to, with the two men from the BMW following her closely - Hilary cut diagonally across a garden of one of the office parks, then looked over her shoulder as she adjusted her handbag strap and pulled it closer to her waist. He wasn't sure why she had also parked a block away, as opposed to waiting to see if any parking would become available - over and above the fact that there had actually been a few open parkings.

While she repeated her earlier question, she poured milk into Michael's coffee - almost filling the mug to the brim - without asking. She then opened a sachet of sugar and poured it into the cup, and stirred it on his behalf. Michael wondered whether it was possible that this tiny but athletic woman - of all - forgot that he never had white coffee.

"You know I don't..." Michael's reminder that he still didn't take milk, was rudely paused.

"Quite right". She cancelled his sentence and lightly nudged his ankle with the tip of her boot twice.

"You have your Cape Town publisher taking care of your novel and a few to follow, I have read. I'm glad you follow your passion. Well actually, I'm jealous, but in a good way." She followed up without letting him get a word in.

Michael knew something was wrong and played along...

The mobile phone's ring pushed Michael forward by almost a decade and he looked at it lighting-up next to the bookshelf.

"Sandy..." Michael had habits. Old habits. Good habits. Eccentric ones. He baptized Hillary as "Sandy" as a reminder of where they first met. Cape Town during training and Simonstown after that at the Naval base. A long work relationship followed. The navy never made the news, and 'Navy Intelligence" even at the height of South African historical changes, even less.

"Weirdest thing just happened!" he fired off as he answered.

"Well you always were strange". He could hear the smile in her voice.

"Coffee it is then. No sugar and milk this time..." And she laughed.

"Well you know where I stay. If ever you're in the mood for coffee or a chat...?" He looked over at the blue horizon, and appreciated the possibility of a momentarily escape from his work.

"Ok six this evening it is then". She replied.

"You know, I never told you that you were bossy?". And he laughed.

"And because you are a gentleman, you probably never will". She returned with a giggle and ended the call.

Chapter 4 - The Good Host

Michael boiled the kettle and filled up the coffee percolator, allowing the freshly grounded aroma to escape and fill the large kitchen and dining room with its intoxication.

'Yes, your type have been replaced by modern ones which boil and add water to the ground coffee beans automatically - but, 'too-fast' has never been my thing'. Michael stuck to things that worked well and rarely replaced anything for fashion sake. Puffing up the scatter cushions for his guest, stacking a tiny pyramid with ginger biscuits, shortbread and choc chip biscuits on a silver tray, and a last look at his trimmed beard in the mirror; he eyed the kitchen clock. A going away present from the old team at the Naval office.

The quiet humming of a vehicle engine at gates was followed by her voice over the intercom. He opened the gates and listened for the tell-tale creaking gravel in the driveway, creeping closer and then went quiet. On his way out and off the low step onto the driveway to meet her, Michael heard two distinctly different thuds. One of them, he was confident, wasn't a door being closed as she walked away from her car - and he leaped then paused to scan the garden and up the driveway.

Hillary's wide wild eyes shot up at him and didn't leave him. She missed her next step and fell on her left side. A dark red stain grew fast in an outwardly fashion where a screaming Hilary had clasped her stomach with both her hands. With a single pull he had her arm around his neck, shifted her full weight over his shoulder and stood for just two seconds scouting the front garden. Not seeing anything out of place, scanning like the old days, always from the right to the left then turned on his heels and hurriedly made way to safety inside. A thundering vibration confirmed the massive teak-wood clad steel door was both closed and locked securely. A dozen freshly baked sweet-biscuits and miniature warm meaty pies flew in all directions as they copied the shattering mugs of coffee and glass milk jug that were swept from dining room table, as he prepared a clear working space to better attend to her wound. Suffering more painful stings than what Hillary thought humanly possible, her emotional state of severe shock and the reality of the consuming and burning pain was briefly interrupted as a loud slamming sound had her turn her head as far to the left as she could manage - from where she'd been curled up in a foetal position on the middle of the wide dining room table. It was one of the white towels in the large heap that Michael snapped out from the passage linen cupboard - which got snagged on the wooden protruding door handle, pulling the door in the opposite direction as what the piano hinges were designed for. The force with which he left the passage; towels in his gripping arms, had pulled the linen cupboard door that had been hooked, clean off the hinges and it landed behind Michael as he dumped the bundle of towels on the table next to her, and pulled his mobile phone from his pants pocket.

"Doc... Er... Michael here...! So sorry, I truly am. I need your help. Are you home?" Michael in the meantime fixed his attention in his wrist watch as he timing Hillary's pulse with his free hand. Hillary was in awe of his level-headed reporting during the call he made while offering solutions, and awaiting confirmation that it would be workable.

'Whoever is after her, or would that be me... I can't leave her, not like this. And I need to be outside. Unlikely that the shooter just left without knowing...' He played the little he could recall over in his mind.

'I pulled the door ajar and stepped out. I don't recall anything out of place. The garage doors were closed...'

"Pulse? I'd say about 85 Doc. It's a friend who came to visit. A shot rung out from the main road side. Not sure if it's a rifle or handgun calibre Doc. Yes please, and again, my apologies. Penetrating abdominal trauma Doc, I think secondary shock isn't far away. Doc, you're going to have a lot of questions now, and I promise to explain later... but, you're familiar with the XSTAT 30? In essence it's a syringe filled with tiny sponges the size of tablets. That'd be the one yes, it allows for expansion inside the wound cavity, upon release. I have one in my first-aid kitt... don't as Doc. Quite correct Doc, for now she's awake and responsive but in severe pain, some of it referred pain... as in, her shoulders and seems her neck. I'll do what I can to try and stabilise Doc... but surgical intervention..." While on the phone still he suddenly directed the conversation to her while ripping into a black canvas bag that she hadn't noticed before. Pulling out what seemed like a large test tube that he rapidly unscrewed while biting onto the opposite end - to keep it steady - he produced a massive syringe filled with tiny round and blueish objects. A large foil-sheet emergency blanket that had cracked open after a few fierce shakes - while he was on the phone - covered her and she felt how he tucked in under her calves, thighs, then her buttocks and small-of-back. He kept covering her after which she was weighed under by a heavy and thick blanket over the emergency foil blanket.

"You are ok, don't worry, you're safe here, you have what seems like a gunshot wound. You are alert, that's good, your pulse is strong, your blood pressure is high, and these are good signs..." Over and over and over she heard his voice, mesmerizing, hypnotizing, over and over. The same calm and comforting tone, repeated as she fought off the nagging drowsy feeling - although she thought she experienced was too much to sleep. She managed to wonder at some point whether Michael was 'asking' her how she felt, or 'telling' her or 'both', or were these merely his desperate attempts, trying to distract her while he was fixated on applying much needed pressure to limit the severe bleeding... His voice started to sound like an echo and he seemed to have been talking slower and slower...

It was like waking up from a severe hangover. Only she wasn't in 'her' bed, nor was she in 'her' house. Absent familiar hooting from the busy street, and the TV news in the background, alerted her to where she was. She battled for what seemed to be eternity to find herself. Of the two main out-of-place things which greeted her, the aroma of strong coffee that filled the air, was the most welcoming. The other had been a a highly disagreeable seagull, letting the world know it's upset with something. A tug-of-war was raging in her mind as she wasn't quite sure of her strange location, engulfed in what now seemed like salty ocean air. She surmised that the coolness meant it was early in the day. Then she heard something relaxing and for some reason a smile took over her face. A familiar voice. At least I don't try and poison my friends with sugar. and a warm hand covered hers reassuringly with a hint, very faintly of Fahrenheit. The only man other than her father who had a preference for Diors finest and it didn't come cheap.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-36 show above.)