Brief Encounters

Chapter 1
23rd June 2000

My nineteenth birthday tomorrow. And I have to work. As usual. Well, I suppose it’s better than being out of work, although I never intended to be a uni student here in London studying a combination of  Languages and History of Warfare and have a job as well. Although a part-time waitressing  isn’t really what I would call a job. It keeps me in beer money, and pays the rent. Most of the time anyway.

Only another year to go before I finally graduate. And then? Then… well, I simply don’t know. Although.. hopefully I will get that job I  want.

But the reason for writing this diary is to record my thoughts and  what I have done. Isn’t it? I could be like everyone else and have a blog, but my thoughts are private, and personal and after all, there’s a lot to be said for having a cathartic ceremonial burning of the diaries in a few years time. I like it when I can get round to ripping them into pieces and flinging  them  on the bonfire!

I burned all my high school diaries.. The shame of reading back over some of those entries! The crush I had on James, the snogging sessions with Bernard….Thank heavens no-one else ever read them. So if by any chance you have found this diary.. I mean you Jen, then don’t read any further. Or I’ll never speak to  you again. Oh yes, and it’s your turn to do the washing up.

Today. Another boring day, finished my essay on population expansion in the Middle ages and its effect on the Crusades.

A nice 20,000 word essay. Should keep old Pritchard happy. And I think it will get a decent mark. I’ll be gutted if I get less than 80%. I want that first, next year. I have plans. And they don’t include being a waitress.

I’ve got my uniform ready for the ‘do’ tomorrow. Getting paid double time which makes it worth while. Some Air Force Colonel getting married so I shall be the dutiful waitress handing out canapés and champagne to  all the big-wigs in their scrambled egg outfits. Probably all paunchy drunks and groping hands. Great.

24th June 2000

Bugger. Just my luck. Meet the man of my dreams. Tall, good –looking.. no, cancel that … drop dead gorgeous. Sooooooo handsome , and in uniform .. wonderful American accent,  and the eyes… I could have drowned in them. What more could a girl want.

And where exactly did I meet him? Yep You guessed it. Typical,  Leonie, you really got it right this time didn’t you. At his wedding. Shit. It’s not even as if she was beautiful. One of those tall blonde society ladies who will be running the local Ladies Luncheon club in ten years time. I know the type. Nannies for the kids.. two children of course, just to prove she can do it. He’ll be off running some theatre of operations in the Middle East probably and she’ll be at home worrying about a broken fingernail.

Still, he smiled at me when I gave him a drink.

I need to get really, really rat-arsed tonight. Dave wants to take me clubbing. Short smelly Dave, with the charisma of a warthog.

Piss off Dave. I want to cry.

24th June 2000

The American Air Force Lt Colonel held the glass of champagne almost as if it was a grenade with a loose pin. Furtively he searched for a place where he could dispose of the unwanted contents without being noticed, but large function room was bustling with the wedding guests and he couldn’t move, especially as his new wife had a firm hold on his arm.

It seemed like a dream, something that had not actually happened to him. He couldn’t really remember all the events of the  day, just that he was, now, married. And married to Mary. He had vague recollections of getting dressed and struggling with his tie which simply would not fasten properly, and then fumbling with his jacket. He’d been too nervous, too excited, too worried to eat breakfast, and the prospect  of having to drink a glass of champagne on an empty stomach was most definitely unwelcome.

His best man stepped closer to him, and poured even more champagne into the glass, so that the bubbles frothed over the top and down onto his hand. ‘Come on, drink up, ’ the older man joked before moving away into the crowd, gulping down his own drink before eagerly scooping another glass from one of the waitresses circuiting the room.

The groom pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his hand. He looked hesitantly at the pale golden liquid that now  filled the flute nearly to overflowing, the delicate bubbles appearing almost by magic at the bottom of the glass then rising up to the surface. He took a tentative sip, the bubbles tickling his lips and nose, and tried not to grimace at the unwelcome taste. Still wondering how to get out of the situation he was aware that the dark-haired waitress had approached him.

‘Excuse me sir,’ she held out an identical glass, identical pale golden liquid with identical bubbles rising  and whispered quietly, ‘you might prefer this.’ Smoothly, discreetly,  she took his champagne glass and, startled he accepted the replacement. He sipped it. Dry ginger.

He smiled at her. ‘Thankyou. How did you know?’ his voice was quiet and sincere, his smile genuine with thanks  and his  blue eyes looked at her with appreciation and gratitude.

‘Oh I was watching you. I notice these things.’ She nodded at him and moved gracefully away. He made a note of her features. Blue grey eyes, medium brown hair, nothing spectacular or even special. A dark voice, quiet and unassuming.

But she had the ability to see things, beyond the obvious.

A pity she was spending her time as a waitress. With that level of intuition she could probably do much better. Mary turned to him and he smiled, putting the concerns of an unknown waitress out of his mind.

 

Chapter 2
August 31st 2002
I can’t wait. Although secretly I’m terrified. I just hope I sleep reasonably well tonight. It won’t do to turn up for my first day at work and look haggard. Alarm set for 5.30 and mobile set for 5.45. Belt and braces as they used to say. That will give me enough time to get ready and be there early. It gets busy after 7 on the bus routes and although I don’t start  until 8.45, I’d rather be there and have to hang around than panic and get there late. This is too important. This is the job I wanted. Oh, not quite the job, not yet, that will take time, but it’s the first rung on the ladder.Receptionist. Doesn’t sound much really, but it’s the ‘where’ that’s so special. I have my name badge, with a decent photo for once. Leonie Elizabeth Oates. And my security level. Currently; Confidential.But let’s face it; I’ve had the Developed Vetting procedure, I can speak three languages, not including English and I am a computer whizz as well as . They want me. So in six months time, when they’ve finished their initial assessment, I’ll be transferred. With any luck to start training as a Targeting Officer. It’s what I’ve always wanted.I just hope I am good enough.

I wonder how many of the people I will be checking tomorrow will be real live spies, or ‘spooks’ as I think they are called now. That BBC programme had better be true. I’m expecting to meet loads of dishy young men, all highly trained and ready for action! Fat Chance. They’re probably all middle-aged fuddy-duddies all married and  boring. I bet they aren’t even armed any more.

I might just meet the  man of my dreams though? He’s going to magically appear, sweep me off my feet and then….. stop drooling.

15th Dec 2002

O.M.G.  O.M.G. My first real encounter. I don’t know even if I should be writing this up! But I don’t know his name and no-one will ever reads this. I must make sure this diary gets securely locked away now!

It was almost surreal. I thought at first it was a set-up, a practical joke or even a test to see how I would react. But
then I noticed that everyone else was reacting in the same way. A real live one. Not British either. American.  With some sort of clearance no-one had seen before….and we’ve seen most every levels. This was higher than the Big Boss’s status. I wasn’t even allowed to go near him. He just flashed his security pass at me and stood back as if knowing that we couldn’t do anything, as if he was just  waiting to be escorted to the Chief’s office.

He had higher clearance than anyone here was qualified to deal with and I had to call for assistance from the Acting Duty Officer. I looked it up later in our files. Aeacus Clearance. Whatever that was. He was definitely important. And armed. He showed them his gun, but didn’t offer to disarm and they didn’t ask him to, just nodded at him.

And I remembered him. How could I forget those blue eyes, that blond hair. A full Colonel by now. Quick work. And with that much influence, that much power.

I wonder why he was visiting SIS? What he was doing that was so ultra-special, so ultra-secret. He didn’t see me – well, he looked briefly at me, almost through me, really, before showing me his pass, but he was constantly alert, watching everything around him as if he was in danger, as if he was expecting an attack from somewhere.

They hustled him away pretty quickly, to the head office from the looks of things. At least they escorted him, very, very, politely,  to the lift that only stops at the ground floor and then the Penthouse level where the big chief has his office.

Intriguing.  Damn. I love a man in uniform. Sends me weak at the knees.

Drat. I forgot. He’s married.

And so am I.

15th Dec 2002

The staff car pulled up outside the headquarters of SIS and the man in uniform stepped out, holding his briefcase firmly.

He walked up the steps to  the entrance, noting the very obvious security personnel  on duty and the not so obvious intensive security measures that blanketed the area. Cameras, metal detectors, even a couple of unmarked vehicles with a couple of unmarked, but very observant men in each. He glanced at them, and saw them watching him closely. Good.

The automatic doors slid open as he approached, and he walked thorough to the inner security zone. He knew that somewhere, in a room  just off the entrance, an alarm had sounded. He wouldn’t have heard it, no-one in the entry area would have heard it, but the metal detector that was carefully  and cleverly concealed in the framework of the sliding door would have alerted them to the fact that he was carrying more than just a briefcase.

He almost expected them to apprehend him immediately, but no. He was gestured forward to the archway of the highly visible internal  metal detector, with armed  guards  waiting if necessary.

He stood there for  a moment, aware that the security in the  back room would still be searching their data base to find out exactly who he was. But it would not give them much, merely his name, rank and the fact that his security clearance was, as he had been informed by the President earlier, ‘second only to God.’

The receptionist asked him for his briefcase, and he looked at her, then shook his head and reached inside his pocket for his clearance documents. One of the guards moved as if unsure whether to stop the officer, but the Colonel looked at him with a wry smile and a small shake of his head, before opening   a small leather wallet that contained his documentation and showing it to the receptionist.

Then he stood there, waiting, looking around, seemingly  unconcerned at the quiet fuss that was ensuing, his eyes flickering over his surroundings, ready to move if necessary.  Although he appeared calm and relaxed there was a tenseness about him, not of fear or worry about his surroundings,  but of alertness, the need to be prepared for any eventuality.

The receptionist was making a discreet call, he noticed; probably to the back-room security guys. Excellent. She was obviously competent.  A door opened behind her, and one of the senior staff walked out, followed by further guards. The man in uniform held out his wallet again for scrutiny by the senior agent and smiled wearily at the silent receptionist who was now watching . Blue-grey eyes, brown hair, cut in a stylish shape that framed her face. He remembered her from somewhere.

Ah yes. The waitress. He had a good eye for faces and he was pleased that she had made something  of herself. Had achieved something. He noted her name. Obviously a university graduate, probably a first, most likely in something useful such as Languages, or perhaps communications or computing.

She recognised him as well, clearly from her reaction, but he did not acknowledge her presence just turned to the senior staff member and spoke in a soft voice.

They escorted him, not through the metal detector, but through the usually locked barrier beside it, and then up to the lift that went directly to the office of the Head of SIS.

It was a difficult meeting, full of contention and resentment on their side. After all , SIS were effectively being cut out of the loop when it came to the organisation that was currently being set up in England. And they didn’t like it. Didn’t like taking orders from an American, even one with his level of clearance.

Tough. He thought to himself as he left the building, escorted all the way by deferential security personnel. He had a job to do, and nothing, and no-one would be allowed to stop him.

He did, briefly, think about the receptionist. He would keep an eye on her from a distance.

She could be a potential recruit. He would run a G6 on her later.

Chapter 3
14 July 2004
I don’t need to be there, tomorrow. It’s just a formality isn’t it? I know how it works. I looked it up on Google. The judge simply says ‘I pronounce decree nisi in cases numbered…’  and  my marriage will be just one among many, one of those numbers.A grey, anonymous end to a grubby, short-lived relationship. I expected too much. I wanted romance and love and passion and excitement. I wanted flowers and kisses. I didn’t want what I ended  up with. And tomorrow it will end.
Rubber stamped and not even mentioned by name. Just a number.Perhaps that’s what marriage is really. One day of excitement, the dress, the flowers, the ceremony; all those special moments  that a girl dreams of for so many years. And then, afterwards, the disappointment, the rejection, the bruises, physical and mental.I was too young. That’s why it didn’t work. I was too young and he was too old. I was his trophy wife when all is said and done. The ‘little  woman’ holding down a very important job ‘protecting the world’  he would mockingly tell his friends, although I never  told him exactly how much protecting I really did. I think he might have changed his mind if he had seen me on the firing ranges.

But at least he stopped coming near me once I had finished my training, and knew just how to stop him. That was probably the reason he left so suddenly. Couldn’t face the fact that I was able to defend myself.
I can apply for the decree absolute in six weeks. And even that’s a pure formality. I just go along to the solicitors and collect it. Nothing to sign, no documents to produce, no flourish of a pen across the register. No photographs. One scrap of paper.

The certificate that sets me free, and him free, I suppose. Although where he is now, I have no idea.  Thank heavens we never got round to having a child.

Perhaps now I can focus on work. Perhaps now I can get that promotion that’s been promised.

29th August 2004

I picked it up today. The certificate.

It’s been waiting at the Solicitors since Monday but I simply couldn’t face going in and asking for it. I know it wasn’t my fault, I know I was the innocent party, but I still felt so ashamed, so rejected. For one horrible moment I wondered if he would be there, at the solicitors, waiting for me. Waiting to make one last snide comment, or even to reach out as if to grab me again. But he wasn’t.

I had almost looked forward to this day, to being a free woman at last. Unencumbered, I think the phrase would be. I’d even bought myself a bottle of expensive Grenache to drink tonight, by myself.

And I walked out of the solicitors, carrying the envelope and stupidly, stupidly burst into tears. I don’t know why.  I wanted to die with embarrassment. Crying. Me. And I couldn’t find a tissue. And I bumped into someone. Then there was a hand on my arm  and a voice and a handkerchief in my hand.

And I turned round and it was him.

The man. Him.

God, what must he have thought of me.

29th August 2004

He had debated whether to contest the divorce.  After all he hadn’t been unfaithful, hadn’t done anything wrong apart from work long, long hours and spend every spare moment setting up the studio and the other thing. That thing, the one that he couldn’t ever have told her about.

But he was too weary of fighting, to weary to try to patch things up. She had made it clear that he was no longer part of
her life, that she was not prepared to give him any chance to show her that he still loved her, loved her desperately, and loved his son.

But she would have none of it. So he drove to the solicitor’s office, picked up the final certificate, gave it one cursory glance to ensure that it was accurate, and slipped it into his inside pocket. He touched the gun in his holster, as if for comfort, as if to remind himself that at least one thing  was trustworthy, was reliable.

He nodded to the middle-aged receptionist and left,   pushing open the heavy door, anxious to get out into the sunshine and away from the close confines of the building which had just ended his hopes. Marriage. Perhaps she had expected too much. He had given her the romance and the passion,  but she had not been satisfied with that. She had wanted things that he could not give her, not without endangering her life.

And so it was over. One more thing to store away in his hidden mental file of ‘things  that are no longer.’ That file which included  his dreams of being an astronaut, his plans to, one day, walk on the moon, his marriage, his hopes of more children.

All ended.

And as he stood there, in the hot, late summer sun, thinking about his future, about his broken dreams, someone bumped into him, quite accidentally. He turned, swiftly, hand reaching for his holster, still, even on a day like today, aware of security and dangers.

She was silently sobbing, nose running, eyes blinded by tears,  her hand groping for a tissue, a handkerchief, something to wipe her face, to hide behind. His own worries faded as sympathy filled him, and he reached into  his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.

‘Here you are.’ He put it in her hand.

‘Thankyou.’ Her voice was muffled by her sobs. She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. ‘Thankyou,’ she said again, and he tilted his head slightly as if to appraise her.

‘You’re welcome,’ he said in a quiet, sympathetic voice. Then turned and headed to a  car parked nearby.

She stared after him, remembering  the voice, the eyes, the hair, longer but still recognisable. But he was not in uniform. His clothes, almost military in style were expensive, beautifully tailored, fitting perfectly, although she could see the slight looseness of the jacket’s cut where he was wearing a holster.

Armed still, even though he was no longer in uniform. In England. In public.

He got into the car and looked back at her, and then nodded, a sign of recognition? Of sympathy, or could it be, understanding?

And then she knew; he had been there for the same reason as she had.

And she held onto the handkerchief as if it was a life line as he drove away, out of sight.

 Chapter 4
April 3rd 2006
I have to get this written down quickly. I hope it won’t be necessary, and hope, if anything does happen to me, that someone finds it, before they do. Or rather he does.God I am scared. Really really scared. It’s no good reporting it to my boss. I know now what I am up against, what he,  the man, has been doing these past years. At least I think so. I can hear someone outside my flat right ………….April 4th 2006

Just how much did I have to drink last night? My head feels like it’s been walked on by an elephant and my stomach feels worse, if that’s possible.

I must have been completely wasted to have written such nonsense last night. It doesn’t make any sense at all. What on earth possessed me to write such drivel? I  don’t even remember writing it. Unless……. it could have been the  nightmare I suppose, Perhaps I got up and wrote  it all down  in the middle of the night?

I do remember a pretty gruesome nightmare after all. Involving the man, as usual. Not the usual satisfying,  and very enjoyable dreams that I occasionally have, where he sweeps me off my feet quite literally, and then….  ooops . enough detail. Somebody might, just might Jdiscover this diary and read it!!

No this was an utterly  horrendous nightmare. Blood and death and spinning lights and terrible noises. And he was there, not sweeping me off my feet,  but grabbing me, hard, hard enough to hurt my arms and then throwing me behind him into the darkness.  I could hear him shouting, hear people screaming, and guns firing and then something fell beside me and when I looked it was a body, bloodied and… and .. .

I couldn’t wake up either. It was one of those dreams that are so real, so vivid, that you can’t wake up, because you think you are already awake. And then I saw him shoot at someone and then run into the darkness away  from me  and  I got up and ran, ran to my car. I remember trying, in my nightmare, fumbling to turn the key and gasping for breath in sheer terror until the engine started and I drove off,  seeing the lights in the mirror. And the men with their guns. I must have woken up ….and  here I am now, writing down my nightmare as if it had actually happened.

But I have bruises on my  arms as if someone very strong has grabbed hold of me, grabbed me and squeezed my arms tightly, and bruises on my legs as if I had fallen to the floor.

What the hell happened in my nightmare last night? What the hell did I do?

April 3rd 2006

He had been driving home from the latest briefing meeting with the President when his alarm sounded. He pulled onto the hard shoulder to check the details. Too close for comfort and no back up in the immediate vicinity although it was on the way.

He had to assume that he was the primary target. He had to get off the Motorway.

He flicked his Sat Nav to the secure Emergency channel and it showed a concealed exit used only by works traffic, some eight miles ahead. He could exit there and then head for Denham Country Park. That would give him space to move, to try to outrun them. And it would be deserted at this time of night. Less chance of innocent civilians getting caught up in the skirmish. There would be room for the copter to land, for Sky to attack, if by any chance the invader reached a higher altitude.

The car powered down the motorway, weaving between other vehicles  where necessary, as he disregarded rules and codes in an attempt to put some distance between himself and his enemy.

There. Ahead. The road, hidden by trees and clever planting, was little more than a single tarmac track, but it was
enough. He braked viciously, tyres leaving parallel black lines etched on the smooth grey asphalt  of the main carriageway, then he swung the car onto the slip road, ignoring the warning signs and the cameras that flashed to record his transgression. It was just a couple of miles to the entrance to the Park and he pushed his driving skills to the limit on the narrow road, uncomfortably  aware of the encroaching danger.

He could hear a high-pitched whine and see the sparkle of lights as his enemy got closer. The entrance was just ahead, he could get out and hide, or run, at least stand and fight.

Then to his dismay he saw another car coming towards him. There  was no room to avoid it, not on such a narrow road. He swerved, his car just catching the other a glancing blow but it was enough to force him off the road. The other car slipped sideways, veered into the middle of the road, and stopped.

And the spinner appeared. Directly overhead.  Then, suddenly disappeared into the trees. He could hear it landing.

He struggled out of his car and ran towards the other vehicle, just as the driver was opening  the door. He pulled her, it was  a young  woman looking a little dazed and confused, out of the seat and dragged her swiftly into the cover of the trees, flinging her onto the soft earth.

‘Stay there. Be silent.’ He hissed at  her vehemently and pulled out his gun before turning to face the road, the lights, the sounds.  She was too stunned to do more than comply and she lay there, petrified, unable to move with the shock of the suddenness of the events.

There was a low rumble  on the road and the man, dressed in a pale suit, stepped cautiously out into the road, gun still in hand. A huge vehicle stopped, doors opened and armed men jumped down into the road and moved towards him, protectively. There was a faint rustling noise from the darkness behind, from the trees, the sound of gunfire, appallingly loud in the night  and someone screamed, sharply, agonisingly, briefly.

The man  turned swiftly, and without hesitation fired his gun.

The the body fell, one arm falling on the woman who still lay there, in the darkness, rigid with terror, with the fear of what was going to happen to her. The hand flopped across her face and it was the catalyst that spurred her into action.

Choking back her scream, she wriggled away, away from the body with its lifeless hand, its blood, its awfulness, away from the man in the pale suit standing there. Alert , watchful. Looking at her, at the awful body lying there, almost on top of her.

Then he turned and   ran to where one of the armed soldiers was lying, still and silent now, a pool of dark, glistening liquid gleaming on  the black tarmac. She hauled herself to her feet by sheer force of will,  and as silently as possible moved back into the darkness of the wood,  out of sight.

Another mobile  stopped in the middle of the road, bright lights illuminating the two cars,  cannons aimed into  the sky to attack the spinner should it decide to take off. The team moved out, weapons ready to fire, moving swiftly into the wood. He stood there for a moment,  talking briefly to an older man, pointing  with his gun at the body that lay there. He had forgotten the presence of the woman. There was the sound of gunfire deep in the wood. And a shout from someone. The man visibly relaxed, and slipped his gun back into its holster.

She moved  stealthily away, heading through the undergrowth  to the point on the  road where her car was. And then she ran.

The noise of her car driving away startled him somewhat and he turned, an exasperated expression on his face. He had remembered her face, her name. He could find out where she lived. It was easy really.

Someone would have to deal with her tonight.

He picked up his phone and made a call.

 

Chapter 5
6th July 2008

It’s her birthday tomorrow. My little sister. I have the flowers for her, and I’ve arranged to get away from work a little earlier so that I can take them round.

7th July 2008

A lovely sunny evening, just the perfect weather for a gentle stroll. And the flowers looked wonderful. She always liked freesias and roses so I got her a mixture of the two in her favourite colours, pink and cream. I stuck my nose in the bouquet to smell them, a rich heady smell of sunshine and perfume. Just right.

It’s actually a surprisingly pleasant walk through the graveyard, especially when it is sunny and the birds are singing. It doesn’t seem a place of death and despondency, just a quiet restful place where we can sit and remember those who we have lost. I like where she is, not too shady, but not out in the middle. She didn’t really like crowds, and this spot is probably one she would have chosen herself, if she’d had a choice.

The stone was a little grubby, so I scrubbed it with my handkerchief, well, actually his handkerchief, the one he gave me nearly four years ago. I keep it separate from the others. I sewed a little butterfly on one corner to remind me of him and that day.

I don’t know whether he liked butterflies, but I do, and it was in my pocket so I used it to rub away the dust and grime. Not a lot of dirt, I wouldn’t like to get that handkerchief too dirty, so  I was careful. Then I sat down and had a chat to her.. Oh..not like that. I’m not one of those sad old idiots who talks to the dead as if they were still alive, could still hear me. No. I told her that I missed her. But she would know that. And told her that I was still trying to find out what happened to her, but she would know that as well.

Then it was time to go. I don’t spend long there ever.

The dead are dead. And there is no going back.

The flowers looked nice though.

And then on the way out, past the newer part of the cemetery I saw him. A dark suit this time, but still the ashen hair, the instantly recognisable posture.

Standing there.  By a recent grave, fresh earth still piled up, flowers fading and dying now on top of the drying mud. No tombstone. That will come later, but a small marker and temporary nameplate.

He had a  lost expression, as if he simply didn’t know where he was, or who he was.

As if his world had ceased to exist.

And then I saw that the pile of earth was not very big, not very long. Dear lord. A child’s grave.

I remember that from my sister’s funeral. How short the grave was. Almost obscenely small, too small to hold such a lively, such an alive person. Even though she was eighteen when she died, she was still short, still wearing clothes that were designed for children much younger that she was. We used to laugh about it; my ‘little’ sister and I, out shopping, out at the pub. She would get asked for identification all the time. Me? I could pass as a twenty year old even when I was sixteen. She talked about having a growth  spurt when she reached twenty-one, but she never did, reach twenty-one that is.

I stood there, watching him, not really knowing what to say, what to do.

And then as if he realised that he was being watched, he glanced up at me with haunted eyes, eyes that were dead.

Eyes that had nothing in them, no hope, no future, nothing.

Then he spoke to me. His voice as soft, as expressive as when he had given me his handkerchief those long years ago.

And it nearly broke my heart.

7th July 2008

He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, he had just walked out, quietly, with the minimum of fuss, minimum of disruption. Everywhere was in order, nothing untoward was happening, no unexpected visitors, so…he left. His briefcase open  on his desk, unfinished paperwork still on the table, his mobile in the top drawer of the aforementioned desk.

He took nothing that could link him to this place, to this reminder of what had happened just  a few days before. Except for the ever present guilt that ate away at him, condemning him, for all eternity, for his actions on that day.

And today he would be able to say a final farewell. There would be no-one else there. Not today. No accusing faces staring at him no voices whispering in the background, no fingers pointing. As if he needed any  reminder of  who was to blame. He would carry that knowledge with him always.

To his own grave.

It was sunny when he got there. He parked the car on the rough driveway  that wound its way through the neatly landscaped grounds. The grave was not difficult to find. In a patch of ground among several other newly filled-in graves it was by far the smallest, well, shortest really. He didn’t suppose they bothered with digging a full seven foot grave when it was for a coffin that was so very very small.

But his son hadn’t been small, had he?

And as he stood there, staring at nothing, his mind filled with the memories of that last moment, that last sight of his son, alive and well and vital and full of energy, that moment before it all ended, he realised that he was not, as he had hoped, alone.

There was someone watching him. He could feel their gaze, burning into him, as if they knew the truth, knew that he had killed his son. Had allowed him to die.

He turned head down unable to look at whoever it was, waiting for the  torrent of accusations, the outpouring of hate to be directed at him.

Instead there was silence. He glanced up. And his mind recalled her. It was strange how she seemed to always  be there on those momentous occasions in his life. His wedding, his first meeting with the head of SIS in the week that he had been appointed Commander-in-Chief, the day of his decree absolute, that time a couple of years ago  when the aliens had made their first attempt to kill  him,  and now, at John’s grave.

She was watching him with more than interest, more than sympathy. Empathy?  As if she understood, knew what he was feeling.

‘My son.’ he said to her, his voice choked with unshed tears, ‘he was seven. I killed him.’

She tilted her head, regarding him seriously. ‘I very much doubt that. Tell me what really happened.’

‘I let him down. I could have saved him, could have helped him, but I had other priorities. Things I couldn’t avoid. And  he died.’  He started to walk away, his steps hesitant and slow as if he was too exhausted to walk any further. She stepped forward and held his arm, and, startled, he pulled away from her.

‘Come over here and sit down,’ she said, gently, and he shook his head, moving back away from her.

A sleek car pulled up nearby and a tall, heavy-set older man got out, hurrying towards  them.

He paused at the sight of the grave, quickly bent to read the label on the small post.

‘God.’ A heartfelt gasp of horror and sudden understanding. Then he turned and hugged the younger man desperately, holding him as if he was afraid that the blond haired man would fall and in doing so would shatter into pieces.

‘Alec, what are you doing here?’  The voice was  faint, weary, filled with resignation.

‘I tracked your car. Dear god, Ed, why didn’t you tell me?’

The woman, an intruder now, moved away, quietly, carefully, not wanting to disturb either man. She left them there, together. She looked back, once, but neither man had moved.

She wondered if she would ever see him again.

Chapter 6
19th Feb 2010

Well, after nearly six  years I think I am nearly there. It’s taken longer than I had thought, but, if the report comes back tomorrow, which it should do, considering how much time and money I have spent pursuing this, then I will finally have an answer. I hope.

Twenty-nine. I’ll be twenty-nine this year, and what  have I got to show for it? A wedding ring that I don’t wear, a divorce certificate somewhere in the house, not even in the safe, oh, well I suppose the job has to count for something.

And it’s the job that has finally given me the chance to get to the truth. To find out what really happened.

To her, to my little sister who never grew up, never celebrated her coming-of-age, never achieved her dreams of doing all those amazing things that she planned… to  meet Johnny Depp, ride a camel, study Art  and sell her paintings, to grow a little  bit taller.

All gone.

Dust to dust.

God I’m getting maudlin. She would hate that.

Okay, Laura Elise Grace Oates, just for you tonight I’ll play your  favourite Status Quo album ( I hope you appreciate how much anguish that is going to cause me!) and drink to your memory.

And pray that tomorrow brings closure. That tomorrow I will have a name.

The name of the  man who killed you.

20th Feb 2010

No.

No. I won’t accept it.

It must be wrong. It has to be.

Someone has made a mistake. Someone.

It can’t be true.

Not him.

Please.

20th Feb 2010

He’d been aware that someone had been making enquiries about him for some time now. It was a nuisance, and one that would have to be dealt with sooner rather than later, before it became troublesome, before things were uncovered. The head of his security department had been alerted and was making discreet enquiries about the  enquirer – a sort of circular investigation.

He would have found it amusing, but for the fact that it distracted him from his serious work.

And that was something that he could not afford to let happen.

Driving home late that night along deserted roads, he made the fatal error of stopping when he saw the car, its bonnet crumpled into the stone wall at the side of the road, a vague shape slumped over the wheel, airbags now deflated, driver’s door still closed.

He was out of his own vehicle and at the  side of the car trying the door before he had rationalised his actions, before he had realised the stupidity of his response, before he had seen the shapeless lumpy imitation of a body that drooped flabbily over the steering wheel.

And it was too late. He felt the barrel of the pistol against the back of his neck and froze, cursing fluently to himself.  There was no way he could extricate himself from this situation.  Not without either getting hit over his head by the person standing behind him , not a very desirable outcome, or possibly getting  a bullet in the back of his head, which was an even less desirable outcome.

He decided that it would be circumspect to await further instructions.

The voice was muffled, hoarse, muted. ‘Stand up very slowly,  SHADO Commander.’

So he stood there, straightening up slowly, very, very slowly, keeping his hands where they were, on the car door, until whoever it was standing there behind him, calmly holding a pistol against the base of his skull decided  to speak again.

There was silence.

‘May I at least ask your name?’ he said eventually, arms aching, head beginning to feel tight with the effort of not flinching away from the cold hardness of the mouth of the pistol as it pressed against him, the smooth metal digging into his skin, the pressure on the base of his skull painful and sharp.

Silence.

‘I’m not going to say that old cliché ‘you’ve made a mistake’. I suspect you know very well who I am, and what I do. You’ve been researching my career and my background for some time now, haven’t you. Suffice it to say that I am impressed you managed to get as far as you did. You must have contacts in high places, very high places indeed. Not many people get to find out what I do. It is considered polite however, for an executioner to at least say a few words of comfort to the person they are about to terminate. I would like  to know what I have done to merit this, though.’

He knew that his assailant might just get annoyed with him and decide to finish things right there and then, but the longer he could forestall the final moment, the better chance he had of someone from HQ getting out here in time. The movement sensor alarm  in his car would have gone off by now, and it was just a matter of time.

Silence.

No joy there then. Oh well, he could wait, as long as the person holding the gun could wait.

Probably only a matter of minutes now until … and then he heard the sound of the approaching jeeps in the distance. A couple of minutes more, at the very most.

‘Tell me your name at least. You don’t want to kill me without me knowing  who you are, surely. You must be doing this for a reason. I’d like to know what that reason is. Please?’ he spoke softly, calmly, as if accepting his fate.

The voice, though still muffled was somehow familiar now,  a voice that he had heard before.

‘Not my name, but hers. Laura Elise Grace Oates. December 2004. You killed her. My little sister. Laura. I’ve seen the evidence. The photographs. You. Kneeling there, holding her. The knife in your hand. I read the report, the cover-up. Your name on the instruction to the coroner. Accidental death you told him. That was what he had to declare. Your name, your signature at the bottom. My sister. And you killed her. We weren’t even allowed to see her body.’

He froze, thinking, listening as the jeeps came closer, aware that his next words could mean the end, for him, or for her. And he remembered her. Remembered every brief encounter over the last years.

‘So you have been following me all this time? No, that can’t be right. Your sister died in 2004, and I first saw you in…..’

‘That’s right, you first saw me at your wedding. And then in 2002 when you came to SIS. God, I saw you and thought you were gorgeous, my dream man….’ her voice faltered.

‘It’s Leonie, isn’t it? You’re a Targeting Office for SIS. That’s how you managed to trace me, to set this up. Now what? Are you really going to kill  me without letting me explain, without giving me a chance to tell you what really happened?’

‘I…. I .. I don’t know,’ she said hesitantly and he took his chance, swung around and grabbed her hand in one swift move.

Her hand clenched in surprise and the gun went off, unexpectedly.

He lurched against the car and fell, just as the first of the jeeps arrived on the scene.

 

Epilogue
7th March 2010

They’ve been very kind to me really, all things considered. One of them even brought me my diary so that I can keep it up-to-date, although I think that this will be the very last entry I will make. I understand that he has been looking through my diaries from previous years.

Embarrassing really, all those entries about him, all my dreams, all my hopes and aspirations. I hope he didn’t read the parts….. but I suppose he will have done. Drat.

And now.

Well I asked for it didn’t I.

Messing about in things that didn’t concern me.  I suppose it’s only fair and just. I’m glad that I finally found out what happened to Laura. How she was attacked by aliens, how he got there just  after they had shot her, in time to stop them cutting her open, but not in time to save her life. How he held her and whispered to her and kissed her as she lay there dying.

She would have liked that, liked being held and loved and cared for. I told him that. And he smiled, a faraway smile, as if remembering.

I’m glad that he wasn’t seriously hurt, that the bullet only grazed him. But it was bad enough and very frightening all the same. I never intended to hurt him, never thought that it would end like this. I think I wanted to scare him more than anything.

What a joke. Scare him. I don’t think there is much that he would be scared of, after the things he has seen. The horrors he has experienced.

I’m surprised that they didn’t shoot me straight away when they drove up and saw me there, holding him, the gun on the road next to me. And the blood. I couldn’t believe how much blood there was. But they didn’t. And he told them to show me SHADO, and what he did and what had happened to Laura.

It all fell into place then. Everything. What he was doing in SIS that day, why his marriage failed, why he felt responsible for his sons’ death. I even remember the night when I got mixed up in a UFO attack. The doctor told me about their amnesia drug. No wonder I had such a terrible nightmare. But it wasn’t  a nightmare was it? It was reality.

And I nearly ruined it all by my stupid assumptions.

But he’s fine now. Fully recovered, he told me.

And tomorrow?

Well, tomorrow I start my new job.

In SHADO. As their new Targeting Officer, liaising with SIS to report on suspicious (should that be suspiciously alien) activities across the world.

My last diary entry.(SHADO doesn’t allow its staff to keep diaries, so this one, with the others I have kept over the years, will be archived in their secure vaults)

It needs to be a hopeful entry. I hope that I can help him succeed, that I can play a small part in defeating the enemy, that we can free this world from the threat of alien attacks.

I hope so.

But, he is taking me out to dinner tonight. Ed Straker, the man of my dreams. The man I have followed, almost inadvertently for so many years, is taking me out.

And from the way he looked at me yesterday, I think that, whatever happens with the aliens, with SHADO, with the world, I think that we two, Ed and I, have a future.

Together.

LtCdr
June 2010

 

Okay. Author’s Notes.

Hmm. I really got stuck for an idea for the Writer’s Block Challenge. I kept having Postcards in my mind.. and that eventually led to Lines of Communication, but it was only  a few days ago that I thought about a diary.

I just started writing the first entry without much thought for the way it was going to work out, and initially it was a ‘one year’ diary then I changed it to a ten year one. However, I realised that this would cause problems later, when the story went over the ’ten year’ limit, and I wasn’t very happy with the title, so  I changed it back to one year diaries and changed the title as well.

Much happier with ‘Brief Encounters’

The initial meeting was easy.. I just based it on the episode ‘Confetti Check’ . I was a little unsure at first how to do the ‘non-diary’ parts, and in one or two places I think I have gone ‘off-track’ somewhat, but on the whole I feel they added the necessary detail to the diary.

The second meeting was harder to write as I needed to get Leonie somewhere where she could meet ‘him’ (she never call s him by name until the very last entry) at an important moment in his life. And the meeting at SIS in 2002 fitted in with the timeline I have for Ed Straker in my UFOverse. It was nice to have a decent job as well!

I wanted to get over the status of Ed, to set the scene as it were for any further meetings.

The next meeting, at the solicitors was originally going to be in court, but  then, having researched it, I discovered that Decree Absolutes are simply awarded. And in a way it gave me more opportunity to write about how each of them felt on that day.

The UFO attack encounter was written and re-written several times! I did Leonie’s diary entries then the account and realised that they didn’t really amch up.. she heard screams, people running, and in the account that didn’t happen. I could have put it down to her ‘nightmare’ but then I thought better and rewrote it so that it ties in better. There are still some ‘gaps’ though. When I print it off I can proof read and re-edit.

I was really pleased with the graveyard scene. I love writing stuff like this.. ‘angsty’ and emotional; although I would have liked them to have had a longer conversation before Alec interrupted them.

But then it would not have been a brief encounter! And I wanted their meetings to be  short, almost incidental.

I always had a plan that Leonie would discover what Ed did, through her job, and the death of her sister gave me the chance to use her job to research Ed. I liked the entry where she has found out about him!

And the account of her holding him at gunpoint? It was the chance I’d looked for to get them to talk. Not for long, but enough to give some background

I had NO idea how I was going to end this story.. I finished with the gun going off and Ed falling and then my mind was blank.

I could have had Leonie killed by the rescue party. I could have had her dosed up with the amnesia drug again.. but I woke up in the middle of the night with the following sentence in my head.

‘This will be my last entry in my diary’

and I knew exactly how it was going to end!

LtCdr June 2010

 

 

 

 

 

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