| Chapter 4
April 3rd 2006I 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.
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.
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.
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. I won’t accept it.
It must be wrong. It has to be.
Someone has made a mistake. Someone.
It can’t be true.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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