Crystal Clock

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Sam opened the hotel room door to see a rather large gentleman standing in the hall.

The big bloke mumbled something, and Sam was about to ask him to repeat it when he took a swing at Sam.
A roundhouse right which was an inappropriate punch under the circumstances.
Sam moved back slightly, and the punch landed on the door frame. The large gentleman hesitated for a moment, but the pain in his hand didn’t seem to worry him.
He mumbled something again, and this time Sam recognised the words, ‘Sam Bennett’.
Sam decided to hit the large gentleman as it seemed like the right thing to do under the circumstances.
He hit the large gentleman several times, but it didn’t have much effect.
Sam hit him in the mouth a couple of more times, but this only made it harder to understand what the large gentleman was trying to say.
Before Sam hit him again, he discerned the words ‘stay away from.’ ‘Stay away from ………. Sam Bennett?’
That didn’t make any sense.

It was at this point that Scarlett intervened.
Her first blow struck Sam on the shoulder, and it hurt quite a lot.
Sam wondered if Scarlett had found a hammer somewhere in the suite and he hoped that her aim would improve quickly because he was not sure how many of these mistimed hammer blows he could take.
Scarlett’s hammer was, in fact, a lovely little crystal travelling clock that her grandmother had given her when she started her nursing training, it even had an inscription, ‘To Scarlett on the commencement of your nursing journey.’ There was a date and a ‘love grandma.’
Scarlett’s mistimed blow momentarily distracted Sam and gave the large gentleman a chance to catch his breath. He was definitely mumbling through broken teeth, but Sam clearly heard, “Stay away from the Leveson case, or it’ll be too bad for you, Sam Bennett.”
Sam was just about to be pleased with finally deciphering the message when Scarlett regained her aim.
The reliable little crystal travelling clock came into violent contact with the large gentleman’s skull and after a moment of silence, the fight came to an end.
The large gentleman lay motionless on the rug, but there was a disturbing groan.
This soon stopped.
He wasn’t dead as it turned out, but he wasn’t going to be conscious for a long while either.
Scarlett stood looking at the crumpled man lying on her rug.
She wondered if her little crystal clock would need repairing.
She also wondered if this was a taste of the life that Sam had lived before he married her.
The blood that dripped off the clock and onto her shoes only added to her wondering.
Sam stared at Scarlett.
She was standing there, holding her weapon of choice, blood slowly dripping.
She looked beautiful and a little stunned.
Nurses tend to repair wounds rather than create them.
His Scarlett was a woman to be reckoned with.
He was very proud of her for coming to his rescue.
He had been doing quite well in the tussle, but he was not too proud to accept help when it was needed, but he did hope that her aim would improve should another occasion arise.
His shoulder, face and knuckles hurt a lot, but the rush that arrives at the end of a successful bout would keep him going for a while.
The apartment had sustained a deal of damage as the two men fought and there were bits and pieces of some expensive furniture strewn about the floor.
Housekeeping was not going to be happy.
Scarlett came out of her temporary trance and Sam smiled at her.
“Good job, slugger, you saved my bacon.”
“My pleasure, but I think I broke my clock. Did I kill him?”
Sam checked. “No, but he is going to need an aspirin.”
“Do we know him?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that he was sent to deliver a message.”
“I didn’t see any papers.”
“It wasn’t that kind of delivery. It was the kind where you definitely remember the words because they are pounded into your skull. It seems that someone doesn’t want me on the Leveson case. I do wish I could convince everyone that I don’t want to be on the Leveson case.”
“You know about these things, Sam, what are we going to do now?”
“First, we call the cops and get them to take this character away. Then we spend a lot of time answering annoying questions. Then we talk to Inspector Blank because I think I know where he should be looking.

A long hot bath would be nice, then I think we need to get out of this bomb site, and maybe a move to another room would be a good idea.”

~oOo~

The hotel was efficient and discreet.
They had Sam and Scarlett in a new suite within a matter of minutes. Sam soaked in the bath and took note of where the bruises would be by tomorrow morning.
Spending time with the detective who had been dispatched to take their statement had given Sam a headache.
It was painful watching him laboriously writing in his notebook.
Sam closed his eyes and slowly slipped under the water.
It felt good, and he could hold his breath for a long time, but eventually, he would have to surface.
His mind was racing.
He didn’t want to be involved in this case, but it seemed that it didn’t make any difference what he wanted, he was in it.
Some of his best ideas had come to him while soaking in a hot bath.
It was true that his injuries were a distraction, but nevertheless, the ideas started to flow.
By the time he was dry and dressed, he had a pretty good idea who the murderer was. Maybe not the name just yet, but he knew where he came from and what he wanted.
You didn’t need to be a member of Mensa to work out that Leveson had stumbled onto something that someone didn’t want to be discovered. Something important; something worth killing for.

The Smoking Man

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A collection of cigarette butts caught Sam’s eye when he walked out of his front gate to catch a tram to the city.

If he had been driving, he would have missed them.

A tight grouping directly under the tree. 

When they moved into their substantial residence — built by a rich bloke back in the 1970s, they decided to increase the width of their driveway. The aforementioned rich bloke had knocked down several houses and plonked his creation right in the middle of the now considerable grounds, all to impress his new bride.

It didn’t work, and he sold the house soon after.

Several owners later and Scarlett decided that this was to be their home.

Big houses were out of place in this neighbourhood, but it did have the benefit of being in the community where Sam grew up.

New electronic gates, with a pedestrian gate at the side (Sam was the only person who moved through it), were installed. The driveway brushed dangerously close to the sixty-year-old street tree. There was some discussion about whether the council would allow them to excavate so close to the tree.

These days the tree seemed happy enough, and if you stood under it — as someone obviously had, you would have a sweeping view up the paved driveway to the entrance of the house.

 

“What’s happening today, Sam?”

Scarlett was being considerate — showing some interest.

Since the accident, Sam’s world had become considerably smaller.

Blood, crushed metal, a rapid ride in an ambulance, followed by a frantic time in the emergency room.

“We have to relieve the pressure on his brain.”

What if we don’t, thought Scarlett.

A boring stay in a hospital room with an interesting view, followed by a stay in a rehabilitation facility. Sam made lifelong friends on that ward, but now he was home doing his best to regain lost memories.

“Your memories will come back slowly, or they may all come back at once, it’s hard to know,” said a kind face in a white lab coat.

 

“I have an appointment with Dr Doug at four, but not much till then,” said Sam.

“How’s it all going? The memory stuff, I mean?”

“Slowly. Dr Doug seems happy, but he would be, at five hundred dollars an hour.”

“Is that fair, Sam? Dr Doug has an excellent reputation for such a young psychiatrist. I liked him when I spoke to him. I think he has your best interests at heart. Give him a chance.”

Scarlett found Dr Doug and gently encouraged Sam to go and see him. Sam was prepared to be unimpressed, but the two of them got along. Dr Doug dealt in dreams and Sam had vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams, which he wrote down in great detail — a match made somewhere near heaven.

“I might go in early and wander around the city for a bit, or I might not and have a nap instead. I was up very early this morning. Which reminds me; you get up very early during the week. Have you noticed an older man standing outside our front gates?”

Scarlett ran her late father’s business empire, and she took it all seriously, arriving before anyone else.

“Not standing, but I have noticed an older man walking his dog. Between five-thirty and six each morning. Usually smoking a cigarette.”

“He could be the one,” said Sam.

“Why do you ask?” said Scarlett.

“I’m not sure. It just seems strange. I’ve seen him standing on the grass under the tree and staring at our house. He stands there looking like he is trying to make up his mind — ring the bell or not, then he walks off, dog in tow.”

“Do you think we need to be worried?” 

It was evident from the size of their property that the Bennett’s were wealthy. Big money attracts some who might want to lighten their load.

“No. No need to worry,” said Sam.

 

The next morning, Sam was staring out of their first-floor bedroom window when the older man drifted into view. His dog stopped as though he knew in advance that they would be there for a while. The older man dropped his cigarette on the ground, stepped on it and lit up a new one, all the while leaning on the trunk of the tree.

Despite the distance to their front gate, Sam could see the man clearly.

This routine went on for several weeks before stopping abruptly.

Sam missed seeing the man and his dog. There was something comforting about their appearance at the appointed time. They had been coming for so many days that the little dog now walked to the tree and lay down, making itself comfortable, knowing there was going to be a long wait.

“The old man and his dog have stopped standing out the front,” said Sam over toast and coffee.

“Did you ever find out who he was?” asked Scarlett.

“No, and now I miss him.”

Sam retired from detecting when he married Scarlett, but this seemed like a good time to come out of retirement.

On his next walk to the tram, Sam knocked on a few doors. Mostly his knocking was met by silence until the retired couple who lived a few doors down opened their door.

“I think you are referring to Judge Nardella. He’s been retired for a long time now, and I sometimes talk to him on his early morning walks,” said Mr Wilson,  (call me Ted).

“Neither of us sleeps very well, but Ted is worse than I am,” said Mrs Wilson, (call me Beryl).

“He was a big deal in his day. Sat in judgement on some high profile cases. Put Enselmo away for life. Lives in that big house up on Oakover Road. The red brick one with all the roses.”

“I know the woman who cleans his house, and she says that his house is full of boxes and filing cabinets. All his old court cases, apparently. Spent a fortune having them photocopied when he retired. She says he reads through his old cases looking for something,” said Mrs Wilson.

“Does she know what he’s looking for?” asked Sam.

“No. She doesn’t know, and she’s not game to ask.”

Sam finished his second cup of tea and wondered if he would make it into the city before he had to answer the call of nature — he didn’t. A stop at the Edinborough Garden was necessary.

His relief break made him slightly late for his session with Dr Doug, but he had a story to tell.

“So, what do you plan to do, Sam?” said Dr Doug.

“Investigate,” said Sam.

 

Another day went by before Sam walked the short distance to the judge’s house. Sam liked to let ideas percolate before taking action.

The front door was at the top of a few brick steps. Next to the door was an old pull handle doorbell. It was connected to a cable that rang a bell in the kitchen. The house was built at the same time as wealthy families had electricity installed, but some old building habits died hard.

The bell still worked. Sam could feel the resistance as he pulled on it and felt it settle back into position.

Sam was about to give it another pull when he heard the bolt on the front door unlock, and an elderly man opened the door.

The judge stood at Sam’s height. Grey thinning hair roughly combed and a gentle but determined face.

There was a moment’s silence after which the judge said, “Mr Bennett. I suppose you are wondering why I stand outside your house?”

“Good afternoon, judge. You come right to the point. Do you have a few moments?”

“No, I don’t, but if you are free tomorrow afternoon, about three, I would be delighted to serve you tea and cake. My housekeeper isn’t here today. She makes excellent teacake.”

“I’ll be here,” said Sam. He was disappointed, but he was also patient. His mentor had taught him that patience was essential. “Let the world come to you. Don’t push it away in your haste.”

 

Sam heard Scarlett’s car come up the long drive. He heard her thank her driver — she always did that, Scarlett treated everyone with respect.

The front door opened and Scarlett put her handbag on the hall table and her briefcase, a present from Sam, on the marble floor. She came into the old servant’s kitchen (Sam loved this room — a bit worn and very cosy — he wouldn’t let Scarlett redecorate it).

Sam had lit the fire, and a snack was waiting for her.

“Your coffee will be ready in just a moment.”

The coffee machine whirred happily on the bench.

“How did your day go?” said Sam, who desperately wanted to tell Scarlett about his adventure.

“Meetings all day. The glassworks expansion is going well, or so I’m told.”

“I love glass,” said Sam, for no particular reason.

“Are you okay, Sam. You’ve never professed a love for glass before, and it’s freaking me out.”

Sam laughed.

“I’m trying to be supportive. I read an article that said a wife should show interest in her husband’s work as soon as he gets home.”

“Now I’m really starting to worry.”

Sam laughed.

“I REALLY want you to ask me how my day went.”

It had been a long time since Sam had anything interesting to say when Scarlett came home.

“Okay. I’ll bite,” said Scarlett and Sam poured her coffee. The snacks looked good — she had skipped lunch again.

“Well,” said Sam making himself comfortable on a barstool.

 

“Don’t eat too much cake and no making eyes at his housekeeper,” said Scarlett before kissing Sam on the cheek. “I should be home on time. I can’t wait to hear about your meeting.”

The front door closed, and her car drove off. Now Sam was stuck with the task of filling in the hours till three.

He chopped some wood, mowed the back lawns — the front ones could wait a few days, walked the dogs and read the paper. Still three hours to go.

Sam’s physical condition was steadily improving, but an early afternoon nap was needed most days. This took him up to two-thirty. He showered and dressed and walked the distance to the judge’s house. His dogs were disappointed at not being invited.

“Maybe next time,” said Sam as he closed his front door.

 

The judge was waiting at the open door as Sam climbed the steps.

“Can I ring your doorbell, just for the fun of it?” asked Sam.

The judge nodded without expression.

With the door open, Sam could hear the bell ring deep within the house. It was satisfying.

The judge ushered Sam into the large front room. High ceilings, thick curtains, and lush furniture covered in boxes. Boxes covered most of the parquetry floor and oozed out through the connecting door into another room.

Two comfortable looking armchairs had been released from box covering duties, and Sam chose the one with its back to the window. The two men settled into their chairs as tea and cake magically appeared.

The judge’s housekeeper was modestly dressed, barely concealing her fifty-odd years. Sam tried to smile at her, but she avoided his gaze.

The judge poured from a china teapot. The tea was hot, and the cake left crumbs on Sam’s shirtfront. He tried to flick them onto his other hand and deposit them onto his plate with only moderate success.

Other than to compliment the judge on his teacake, Sam kept silent.

“In your career, have you ever caught someone who turned out to be innocent?” said former judge Nardella.

“Not that I know of,” said Sam.

“What would you do if you had?”

A moment of silence.

“Do my best to rectify the situation,” said Sam.

Another moment of silence.

“If you don’t mind me asking, are these, in the boxes, your old cases?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you have them here?”

“I’m reading through them — looking.”

“For what, judge?”

“My mistake. I know it’s in here — somewhere.”

“I’m sure, with your reputation, the courts would dig out any file you asked for. What is the name of the defendant?”

“I don’t know which defendant it was,” said the judge. He stared at the boxes, and for a moment, Sam thought he had lost his attention.

“You don’t have to answer judge, but are you a religious man?”

“Yes. Catholic. Devout.”

“I don’t want to sound rude judge, but I strongly suggest that you stop torturing yourself.”

“I stood outside your house because I wanted to ask you what you would do. You are known as an honest, brave and principled individual. I couldn’t get up the courage to ask you, but here you are, and you have given me your answer.”

The judge went back to staring at his boxes, piled so high that Sam feared for the judge’s safety.

The dusty smell that only librarians and archivists know filled Sam’s nostrils as he said his goodbyes. The housekeeper showed him to the door.

“Your employer is not a well man,” said Sam.

“I know, but he doesn’t listen to me. Thank you for coming Mr Bennett.”

Sam’s walk home was considerably slower than his journey to the judge’s residence.

 

Scarlett was home very late despite her assurance. She crept into the bedroom so as not to wake her Sam.

“There’s a plate in the fridge. I can heat it up for you,” said Sam in a muffled voice from under the covers.”

 “No need. I ate at the office. Someone Ubered Italian food. So how did your afternoon tea go?”

“I’ll tell you about it in the morning, but the headline reads, sad afternoon had by formerly famous detective.”

“Oh,” said Scarlett as she slipped into bed next to her Sam. She snuggled up to him feeling his warmth and smelling his aroma. She put her hand on his bottom.

“So, that’s how it is,” said Sam.

 

A little over three months later, a package arrived for Sam.

“Sign here please, sir,” said the thirty-something-year-old delivery driver. “Love your house. Felt like I needed a passport to get through the gate.”

Sam’s dogs were getting curious, trying to push past him to get at the delivery driver. In their experience, delivery drivers had a plethora of interesting scents to investigate.

Sam gave the young bloke a smile and carried the package into the small kitchen. It sat on the old bench like a suspicious package in the suspense movie.

The dogs looked at Sam for direction.

“I guess I should see what’s in it.” A thought crossed his mind, should I put it in a bucket of water first?

The thought passed quickly.

The package put up a bit of a fight. Finally open, there was a thick file with a person’s name on it. The folder was tattered and worn, and the name was written in an unsteady hand. Apart from the file, there was a letter.

Dear Mr Bennett.

I found what I was looking for.

After you have read the file, I give you my permission to do with it what you will. The man died in prison after his first three years of a life sentence, so I cannot put this right. Maybe, by shedding light on my foul deed, his family can have some peace. I am in no way defending myself, but at the time, I was distracted by domestic issues. I missed the clues because I was wrapped up in my own worries. I should have directed the jury to acquit, but I was selfish and self-absorbed. I hope my God will forgive me. My life will be over by the time you read this, and I’m wondering if my God will forgive my early arrival.

Thank you for listening to me. You are a good man.

Yours sincerely,

John Nardella

The obituaries listed the death of former Judge Nardella and you had to read very carefully, between the lines, to decern that the good judge had taken his own life. The article listed his considerable achievements.

The man deserved his rest.

When Scarlett had gone to work, Sam walked to the far corner of his backyard. The dogs followed him and sniffed as he dug a large hole.

He placed the unopened file in the hole and poured kerosene on it, lit it and added more fuel until it was reduced to ashes. The dogs watched as he pocked the ashes and added more fuel, lit it again and watched it burn.

The dogs got bored and fell asleep on the lush grass as finally satisfied that the file was destroyed, Sam filled in the hole and walked back to his house.

A Book Is Born — YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

You Must Remember This — February 20th 2019

To celebrate the arrival of YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS, I’m including a chapter from the audiobook. The completed audiobook is a week or two away. It is a long, slow process which comes to a sudden halt if my voice is affected.

The book will be available later today as an eBook.

LIFE AND DEATH 8:57

You Must Remember This – a novel

I loved her the first time I saw her, and that’s all you need to know.

She had hair the colour of rich Belgian chocolate, and recently cut it shorter only to grow it longer again, just for me. A short stay in hospital had left her looking a little pale, and her lack of makeup was not disguising her beautiful complexion. She smiled at me and spoke enthusiastically about different coloured foods. She didn’t see me, not really, and I was determined to change that. Nothing was more important in my life. She was wearing an exquisite gown that showed the curves of her petite body to perfection. She left early with her friends, and I sat in a daze, wondering what had just happened.

It was Scarlett Holmyard who triggered my fitful imagination. It was Scarlett Holmyard who gave my life meaning when things were at their darkest.

I still have the souvenirs. Random memories that, if you put them all together would look like the remnants of a shredded photo album. Fragments of photographs are floating on the water or stuffed down the side of a sofa. Each piece tells a story of adventure, close encounters, triumphs and pure excitement.

I cannot explain the feelings I have when recalling them — the frustration, the hope, the confusion, the anger. Scarlett is the most important person in my life, but I don’t know that yet. She’s that person that you catch sight of out of the corner of your eye. She’s the one whose name you struggle to remember, the torn photograph with not enough detail. She is my nameless champion, my never wavering hero, and I’m the one who is doggedly searching for her.

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Sam loves Scarlett, or at least that is what everyone keeps telling him. After the bloke in the stolen car slammed into Sam at a Tee intersection, everything changed. A head injury, a stay in hospital followed by a stint in rehab and Sam is no closer to regaining all his memories. His distant past is clearer than his recent present, and Scarlett belongs to now. Can Sam fall in love with Scarlett — all over again? And what of the bloke who ‘hit and ran’? Will Inspector Blank work it all out, or will Sam have to be his own detective? For many months, while Sam works on his recovery, there will be numerous tram journeys and frequent visits to Dr Doug, the therapist chosen by Scarlett to help to bring her Sam back to her. Who is the bloke in the brown shoes and why do Sam and Scarlett decide that blackberry jam is a good way to put closure to their uncomfortable adventure? Sam Bennett faces his biggest challenge to date — finding his Scarlett.

Publishing date: February 20th 2019

Now available for pre-order.

New Audiobook — BULLET TO THE HEART

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Yesterday, I uploaded the files for my eighth audiobook — BULLET TO THE HEART: Sam Bennett’s Case Files. ‘Bullet’ is the second book in the Sam and Scarlett series (The Long Weekend being the first — not yet on audiobook). It usually takes a week or two before it appears on audiobook sites, but for me, the job is done. Amazingly, I enjoy the experience of creating these audiobooks. It gives me an excuse to reread books I have written. Despite the steep learning curve and leap of faith it took to embark on this project, I find that I am slowly being rewarded with new readers. The books that have been popular in print are not necessarily the front runners as audiobooks. A standout example is SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES (one of my favourite anthologies). In print, it has found a few readers, but nowhere near as many as I thought it would. As an audiobook, it is my front runner even though it was released four months after the first two. Which goes to show that you just never know. It is coming up to a year since I published my first audiobook, KEEPER OF SECRETS (which has found quite a few readers) and I’m looking forward to celebrating with a few friends as the anniversary rolls around. It’s always important to celebrate — being a writer is full of disappointments, so always lift a glass when things go well. If you are one of the people who has supported this project and purchased one of my audiobooks, I thank you. Please remember to write a review on the site you purchased it from and on Goodreads. I promise to keep writing them and recording them for as long as you enjoy reading and listening to them. Terry.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/author/terry-r-barca/id894050947?mt=11

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Terry+R+Barca&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Terry+R+Barca&sort=relevancerank

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/araneus1

DOT, DOT, DOT … 4 days to release

January 31st, 2018 marks the release date for my latest book (number eleven). More than a year in the making (I know you are happy to wait as long as the end product is as good as it can be). Good erotic prose is difficult to achieve, so a lot of work went into making the stories about real people having meaningful encounters. This book includes two novellas (actually one novella and a novelette). Read all about it sees a newspaper columnist fall in love with a mysterious widow. His life will never be the same after he meets her at a glitzy reception — not his normal habitat. Will he make it out with his sanity intact? Unexpected sees a mature woman reaching for her chance at happiness. Her life had been comfortable and devoid of passion. Now, she must choose — a life of privilege or an adventure. Her lover shows her attention and reintroduces her to passion. Her lover has also to choose — will they end up together?

A string of short stories trace the awakening of a love affair between a newly married couple. Sam and Scarlett (the characters from my first novel The Long Weekend) are confronted with the difficulties of Sam’s recovery from a suspicious car accident. Sam’s head injury requires a long convalescence. His memories are returning slowly, but the most important memory is but a fog. Sam does not remember meeting and marrying Scarlett. Over a series of stories, they rediscover their intimate relationship.

In other stories, an old woman remembers an encounter with her lover and a particular piece of furniture — an adventurous modern woman uses her body to obtain secrets — a woman writes a letter to her lover — a gambler reflects on his lucky escape and his possibility of carnal delights.

The paperback version of DOT, DOT, DOT … and the eBook, and the AUDIOBOOK are all released on the same day. It took a bit of organising, but they all lined up nicely.

The paperback (Amazon and Blurb) the ebook (iTunes, Amazon and Smashwords) and the audiobook (Amazon, iTunes, Audiobooks.com and a bunch of others) are all available for preorder. Please take the time to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads — it really helps.

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