Thursday, 27 December 2012

Another peek at "A Dollar for The Ferryman."


 With "Bloodstone" in the bag; it's time to pick up "A Dollar For The Ferryman" again... so here's a little bit more of the emerging story.
Our two main characters, Stacey and Sandman have escaped unscathed from the airplane crash in the previous posted segment, and are now on foot in enemy territory...
       


          It was a strange noise in the early dawn that brought Stacey and Sandman out of their fitful sleep. It was a different sound from the sporadic sounds of the jungle around them. It was the grumble of heavy machinery.
          Stacey opened her eyes and looked cautiously out over the rim of the low ditch that surrounded the dry rice field where they had spent the night. Nothing was stirring out there. Remnants of the night fog were being dissipated by the rays of the early morning sun. She glanced at Sandman. His eyes were cautious. Should they investigate the sounds? Did any of the enemy… if they were indeed, enemy, even know that they were there? The wreck of the Beech had burned out during the night. It had to have been nothing less than pure luck that the conflagration hadn't been spotted by the enemy… if, in fact, there were any enemy about at the time.
          Under cover of the patchy mist, could they risk investigating the source of that noise? It sounded like trucks, the throaty diesel roar of heavy machinery. Were they friendly? If so their problems were over; but, if they were unfriendly, they had to radio it in. Cautiously they crept out over the parapet of the dry ditch, and moved off, creeping through the undergrowth in the direction of the noise. Carefully; so as not to reveal their presence, Stacey and Sandman crawled towards the edge of the tangled undergrowth, and furtively parted the thick hedgerow.
          Not ten feet away from their position they saw a road. It was choked with military vehicles of every description… mostly Russian equipment; all painted up in the strange hieroglyphics of the North Vietnamese Army… and all of it was heading south. There was another road coming down from the north, joining the first road at a busy intersection. Jesus H Christ! This must be a major branch-off route for the Communist armies heading south on one of the northernmost feeders to the Ho Chi Minh trail.
          He glanced at Stacey. Any radio transmission… even brief; would be a dead giveaway, using the Guard channel on their small survival radio. With the going price on a pilot's head in the Vietcong marketplace, the enemy would mount an all-out search to find them if the transmission was intercepted. The camouflaged tanks, trucks, heavy guns, truckloads of troops thundered by, churning a cloud of dust that mixed with the ground fog as Sandman and Stacey crouched in the undergrowth wondering what the hell they should do next. He motioned silently that they should get away from this road as quickly as possible. Carefully. They retraced their route to the relative safety of the ditch. Sandman glanced at Stacey.
          'We've gotta call this in. Be ready to move if they pick up the transmission. She nodded silently.
          He pulled out the survival radio and clicked it on.
          'Bird-dog from Sandman,'
          He whispered breathlessly.
          The reply came over almost instantly.
          "Come in, Sandman."
          Thank the Good Lord. Bird-dog was already in the air.
          'Gooks. Thousands of the little bastards; and heavy equipment… half a klick west of my location.'
          "Roger, Sandman. We'll drop some gravel. Blink your mirror."
          'Wilco. Stand by.'
          Sandman searched through the pockets of his survival vest until he found the small rectangular mirror with the hole in the centre. Searching the sky, he spotted the little plane circling high above and out to the west. He took a sighting on the airplane through the hole in the mirror, and flashed the reflection of the low sun at the high-flying airplane three times.
          In a couple of minutes that seemed like hours, the radio crackled again;
          "Roger, Sandman. Position marked. Bird-dog out."

          Five minutes later, they heard the unmistakable roar of a flight of Skyraiders approaching from the east. Nicknamed Sandy, the Douglas A-1E Skyraider was the oldest prop-driven combat airplane in the Air Force's inventory; but it carried one hell of a punch.
          The Sandy pilots came roaring in. Their arrival was never supposed to be a secret. If the enemy knew an area was seeded with gravel they went nowhere near it. And rightly so. Gravel was a nasty little touch introduced during the Vietnam War. It was a small, innocent-looking explosive mine contained in a small green or brown camouflage fabric pouch, and containing coarse ground glass. It was released in large numbers from low-flying aircraft. When dropped; no fuse was required because the explosive became shock-sensitive after dispersal… it was capable of being detonated without a fuse on contact. To allow them to be handled and dropped from the air, the mines were stored soaked in the chemical, Freon. Once released from their container, the Freon would evaporate in between three and eight minutes, thereby arming the mines. These devices sent out a web of feelers in all directions, very much like the tentacles of an octopus. Brushing one of the feelers was not necessarily fatal, but the explosion could neatly rip off an arm or leg. Further refinements to the tiny mine sometimes included its camouflage in the form of dog turds; a form employed with considerable success in keeping the NVA off the Ho Chi Minh trail.
          On the first pass they heard the menacing rattle of the little mines dumping nearby. Immediately the sound of small-arms fire opened up from the road. Completely ignoring the barrage, the Skyraiders roared in low, making pass after pass, and seeding the entire road area. They also dropped a thick line of Gravel across the hedgerow, thus protecting Sandman and Stacey from any advance by the NVA towards their hideout. This certainly protected them, but also limited the direction in which they could move.
          They could plainly hear the high-pitched, excited voices of the North Vietnamese rising above the growl of the traffic, but no figures appeared; they were far too busy trying to avoid being blown up by the Gravel. Sandman and Stacey crouched in the ditch and breathed a little more easily. Bird-dog had them zeroed in. The SAR guys knew where they were; but, as to whether they would risk a dust-off this close to the road was another matter. They would just have to wait and see what would be decided.
          As the morning progressed and the last of the early morning mist dispersed; "Just wait and see" was becoming untenable. The NVA were cautiously probing the undergrowth at the roadsides and scanning the surrounding open tracts of undergrowth for any clue as to why the Skyraiders had laid an area denial corridor between them and the countryside to the east. Several of them were cautiously moving through the scattering of Gravel, watchfully scanning the surrounding terrain. From their concealed position in the ditch, Stacey could make out at least six figures in tan uniforms... two of whom were wearing officers' green pith helmets bearing the red communist star shining brightly in the morning sunlight. She and Sandman crouched lower in the ditch. There was nowhere to run without being spotted. The NVA were casting around in a typical search pattern. They knew there was somebody there. Stacey glanced at Sandman.
          'Fuck this, Alex. We're not going to just roll over and let these little assholes give us a long vacation in the Hanoi Hilton.'
          She drew her sidearm, and cocked the hammer. Sandman was about to say something when the survival radio crackled softly.
          "Sandman from Sandy Three... Sandman from Sandy Three; Come in."

          Sandman snatched at the radio.
          'Sandy Three from Sandman. Go to Baker Channel,'
          The reply came fast.
          "Sandman from Sandy Three... Fuck that. You figger they don't already know y'all there?' Blink me three."
          Sandman scanned the skies. They could hear the distant, deep drone of Sandy Three... where the hell was he? Suddenly Stacey motioned out the west. There! A solitary black speck orbiting about five klicks out. Sighting through the hole in the mirror, he caught the sun and wiggled the mirror three times. The radio crackled again.
          "Gotcha, Sandman. You didn't think we'd leave y'all with your butts hangin' out did ya'? Stand by to haul ass outta there, toot-sweet. I'm packing nape and I'm comin' in hot."
          The radio went dead. Out to the west the black speck was turning on a short roll in and the engine roar was rising fast.
          The tan figures out in the field hesitated. Whistles shrieked out on the road...
          With its engine supercharger shrieking and its propeller screaming; Sandy Three came howling in as a cacophony of small-arms fire erupted from the road. At a thousand yards out, Sandy three came streaking across the road at full-throttle; almost brushing the treetops, with smoke streaming from the wings as he opened up with all four of his twenty-millimetre cannons. The tan figures in the field disappeared in a maelstrom of bursting HE shells, boiling dust clouds; splatterings of blood, and God knows what else. Sandman and Stacey broke cover from the relative safety of the ditch and ran as hard as they could for the tree line to the east as Sandy Three released his ordnance of four silver, M-47 napalm canisters. Sandman's gut tightened. He had glimpsed that the fins had been removed from the silver canisters. This would cause them to tumble unpredictably and create a wider dispersion pattern for the napalm component. He grabbed Stacey's arm and yelled.
          'C'mon! Run like fuck! He's gonna fry the whole goddamned strike zone!'
          A dull, rolling "Ka-boom" hit them at the same time as the shock wave and a great blast of almost unbearable heat. They were hurled to the ground by the visible shock waves undulating over the terrain, and stared back, appalled by the nightmarish sight of the rolling and tumbling wall of exploding fire burgeoning up from the road and tree-line like a massive, deep-red, orange and yellow chain of chrysanthemum blossoms that sucked the very air from their lungs, leaving them gasping for breath, with their eyes and throats stinging from the stench of petroleum mixed with what smelled like burning plastic bags, rubber, and something else... yes, that was it... Sunday roast.
          The flaming cloud rolling up into the blue skies turned black as the thick, stinking smoke billowing up from the roaring furnace that used to be a jungle blotted out the sun. Sandman dragged his body across Stacey and pressed her into the ground. The exploding ammo on the trucks was flying everywhere. They lay like that for perhaps, ten minutes feeling the wind whipping over them as it was sucked out of the surrounding jungle across the fields into the dead area of the road. They could breathe more easily now; the warm smells of the jungle was easing their discomfort. Sandy Three came blasting overhead so low its black shadow seemed to be snapping at its heels, then whipped up into a sweeping climb away through the stinking smoke cloud.
          The survival radio crackled into life.
          "Sandman from Sandy Three... Sandman from Sandy Three; Come in. Y'all OK down there?"
          Sandman pressed the transmit button.

          'Sandy Three from Sandman; That's a Rog. S-H strike, right on the button. Outstanding! Thanks a lot.'
          "Sandman from Sandy Three... No sweat. Pleased to assist. Jolly green outbound to your position. Have a nice day! Out."
          Stacey glanced at him.
          'S-H strike?'
          He grinned.
          'Yeah! S-H strike translates to Sierra-Hotel, which translates to shit-hot!'
          He peered towards the devastation that had once been the road and tree line. There was no sound and no movement other than the crackling flames and pall of black smoke that was stretching across the western horizon. The drone of Sandy Three was becoming fainter as he headed for home somewhere across the border. He rolled off her and brushed a smear of dirt from her cheek. He pulled a smoke flare from his survival vest pocket and laid it on the ground.
          'So now, I guess we just wait for the Jolly. Jeez, I could murder a beer!'

Sunday, 9 December 2012

"Bloodstone Regenesis" off to the printers

An ISBN has been allocated for "Bloodstone Regenesis" by the publishers.
It is:      9781782990574
Copies should be available within ten to fourteen days.

Paperback version of "Bloodstone Regenesis."

"Bloodstone Regenesis" is now at the printers and will be available as a trade paperback from various outlets in due course. The publisher's recommended price has been set at £7.95 ($12.75) which is not too bad for a 119,000 word novel.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Bloodstone Regenesis. Ebook.

"Bloodstone Regenesis" is now available as an Ebook to sample and/or purchase at:
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/calladhor

A purchased download will cost $1.50.
A print version trade paperback will also be available in due course.

Friday, 31 August 2012

The proposed final full cover...

And after an afternoon of Paint Shop Pro bashing... here's the completed full cover.
I much prefer to use PSP X over Photoshop as its learning curve is not quite so vertical, and producing print-ready graphics at the required 300+ dpi is actually a lot easier.




So all I have to do now is finish writing the story!

First stab at a cover...

OK... Change of direction!
Upon reflection; the emerging novel's tentative title is too damn close to the title of the previous novel. So, here's the first draft of the new title and cover...
So, now to the back cover blurb and spine...

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Tentative Title for the Novel.

Another segment of the emerging novel; now, tentatively titled:

Abaddon... A Gem to Die For.

(Taken from the continuing storyline that the gemstone invariably causes the demise of anyone whose hands it passes through.)

Thursday, 21st December, 1950. Chosin Valley; South Hamgyong Province. North Korea.

The malignant Garnet gemstone that Charlotte had been pursuing for the last thirteen years…...
from the frozen wastes of Siberia, through War-torn Europe, and on out to the Far East, was about to be re-discovered and unleashed upon Mankind once again.
Shang Shi... Senior NCO Huang Zheheng of the 89th Division, IX Army Group, Peoples Liberation Army cautiously made his way across the nightmare, frozen landscape of the destroyed US Marine positions on Hill 1403 northwest of Yudam-ni, and west of the Chosin Reservoir. The slaughter around here had been unimaginable. Frozen corpses lay thick upon the ground. Determined to break through the Marine lines at any cost, the Chinese attackers had advanced in waves, with unarmed soldiers in the rear ranks picking up weapons from the dead who had fallen in front of them and the fighting had descended into hand-to-hand savagery.
Casualties on both sides were crippling. The slopes of the hill were covered with the human wreckage; both American and Chinese. It was estimated that the Chinese forces alone, had lost in excess of twenty-five thousand men. As for the Americans; at least nine hundred had perished. Few American bodies remained on the hill and surrounding area. The Americans evacuated their dead and dying, whereas, the Chinese forces had left their dead where they had fallen. The Chinese had not been able to prevent the Americans' withdrawal, as ordered, and the main body of the Marine forces at Yudam-ni had fought their way south and east to Hagaru-ri.

Huang Zheheng was out foraging for American maps and documents... anything that would be of use to Chinese Intelligence who had set up a command post in the evacuated village of Yudam-ni. Moving up the slope of hill 1403, he came across a defensive position where the Marines had dug in and built machine-gun posts out of blocks of snow. A few bodies and parts of bodies remained, frozen solid. Depleted first-aid packs and broken weapons lay scattered about. These Marines had obviously fought hard, judging by the number of Chinese corpses strewn around the ramparts. He checked the scattered American bodies and equipment. There was nothing of any interest remaining in this lower defensive position. A little farther up the slope was what appeared to be a dug-out; perhaps it could be the Command post. Picking his way carefully amongst the debris, he reached the entrance and cautiously peered inside. He reached up and lit a blood-spattered hurricane lamp hanging precariously from the roof. By its flickering red-tinged light he saw that the interior of the bunker resembled a slaughterhouse in which the resident butchers had run amok.
The rough floor was a sticky mass of crushed bone, blood, and shredded flesh. Great patches of blood were splattered across the corrugated iron ceiling, and torn-off limbs, bloody chunks of human flesh, and shattered bodies were scattered everywhere. Huang Zheheng forced back a retch. He had seen this sort of thing before. Last time; it had been the result of a suicide attack by a PLA soldier who had rushed into a similar command post and detonated a satchel charge slung on his chest.
He glanced around. There were no map cases or documents. The place had been thoroughly stripped of all strategic material before it had been abandoned. His eyes fell upon the shattered body of a Marine propped up against the far wall in a large pool of frozen, congealed blood. Most of the man was still intact, except, that where his legs had once been, were no more than a few shards of bone and some long strings of flesh and sinew. Propped against the wall by his side was a Thompson submachine gun. Huang Zheheng smiled. He had always wanted one of those. A few of the higher-echelon ranking officers possessed one that had been captured from the Nationalist Chinese Military; but most line troops… if they had an automatic weapon at all… used the Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun. The Thompson was favoured over this weapon because of its capability to deliver large quantities of short-range automatic assault fire which had proved very useful in both defence and assault.

Huang Zheheng reached down and checked the dead Marine's pockets and equipment for spare ammunition, although the slopes outside were strewn with discarded ordnance. It was easier to check out the weapon's previous owner than go foraging out on the frozen ground. The corpse had a blood-spattered three-pouch rig for thirty round magazines attached to its webbing, as well as two smaller ammo pouches. Huang Zheheng popped the "Lift-the-Dot" fasteners of the three-pouch rig and withdrew the magazines. All three were fully loaded. He smiled with satisfaction and removed the pouch rig from the Marine's equipment belt suspenders. Then, he turned his attention to the smaller pouches. The first one contained loose, point forty-five rounds. The second contained personal effects… a Zippo lighter, a neat little metal can opener; a small crumpled pack of four "Camel" cigarettes, and two small bars of "Hershey's" sweet chocolate. His fingers touched something smooth at the bottom of the pouch. He pulled it out and his eyes widened in surprise. Resting in his palm was a deep red, pigeon-egg-sized Garnet gemstone.
As he stared; a tiny pinprick of light flickering briefly in the depths of its blood-red heart as it nestled in his hand. It was probably just a reflection from the hurricane lamp, but suddenly, and for no logical reason; Huang Zheheng shivered. Quickly, he pocketed the contents of the small pouch, gathered up the spare magazines and weapon and almost ran out of the dug-out.

Outside in the cold air, he stopped and looked at the gemstone again. It was a beautiful thing, and would most probably be much sought-after back home… if he ever managed to get back home. It would probably fetch enough to provide his family with a new plough. In China they called this gem a "Blood Stone." It was much prized for its magical properties. As well as being used for jewellery, it was used to alternatively cure severe melancholy and depression. Little pieces of Garnet were traditionally given to Chinese pregnant women to help them with their pregnancy. An ancient Chinese legend told that if you tied a piece of Garnet in your front door it would protect your house against thieves.
Huang Zheheng looked around. There was nothing of any strategic use on this forlorn hill that had cost so many lives over the past few days. Shouldering the Thompson, he began the arduous walk back down to Yudam-ni.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Simplifying the complexity.

Seeing as how "A Dollar for The Ferryman" is starting to get complicated with regard to the jumping back and forth in time; (and that's just for me... let alone anyone else reading it!)... I am splitting the novel into two separate ones.

The first (as yet untitled) concerns " The Ferryman" heroine's mother, Charlotte Mckenna (The heroine of the previous two novels.. "The Vanavara Protocol" and "The Abaddon Stone."); and continues her adventures as she leaves Korea and returns to the USA; only to be re-assigned by Langley to another deployment.

The second novel is the chopped version of "A Dollar for The Ferryman" and follows the specific adventures of Charlotte's daughter, Stacey, as she flies the skies of Laos during the Vietnam War.

Both novels stand at approx 50,000 words in their new form... which means lots more research and keyboard thumping pending.

(Damn good job I retire at the end of the year!)

Updates will follow as each novel progresses.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Update on "A Dollar for The Ferryman."

Update on "A Dollar for The Ferrymn."

Another segment from the emerging novel... this time, concerning our heroine who is flying back to base in a fixed-wing airplane; having left her damaged helicopter at Da Nang, Vietnam, for major repairs. She is accompanied by Air America pilot, Alex Shepard... code-name "Sandman"... the pilot she has rescued under enemy fire... which had caused severe damage to her helicopter...


    The approximate distance as the crow flies from Da Nang to Vientiane was almost four hundred miles. According to Sandman's calculations, that meant that there was ample fuel provided nothing untoward came up on the flight.
    Stacey nodded and began a gentle turn onto her course heading of two-eight-five degrees west, as the sparkling aquamarine blue of Da Nang bay slipped from view beneath the starboard wing. She glanced at her wristwatch, and then across at Sandman.
    'Two and a half hours flying, Alex. Home for lunch. What do you want to do then?'
    He grinned, and squeezed her knee.
    'I reckon we'll figure on something.'

    The old Lao farmer, Xaikeo Phong was leading his water buffalo along the Nam Khong Leng river valley when he heard the approaching drone of an airplane. Apathetically, he glanced up towards the direction from which the sound was coming. He unslung the old MAS-49 rifle; a French relic of the First Indochina war, and waited. A small, silver, twin-engined airplane came into view; flying at what he estimated was about a thousand metres height.
    Casually, he aimed the rifle in the general direction of the airplane and squeezed the trigger. He glanced up again as the airplane disappeared over the tree-line, then stoically re-slung the weapon over his shoulder and ambled after his water buffalo. He usually fired a round at the passing airplanes just to pass the time. He never imagined that he would ever actually hit one of them. This time though, it was different. Had his view not been obscured by the trees, he would have seen a thin trail of something begin to stream back from one of the little airplane's engines.
    In the cockpit of the Beech twin, Stacey and Sandman heard a bang, followed by the port engine oil pressure gauge spinning back to zero. Quickly, Stacey punched the prop feathering button, but nothing happened. The engine temperature gauge was going off the clock and the port wing suddenly dropped; yawing the airplane across the sky. Sandman grabbed the copilot's yoke and, together with Stacey, heaved the airplane level. The port engine was smoking badly… the gills wouldn't work, and hydraulic pressure was dropping fast. He swore volubly.
    'Fuck! We've caught a Golden BB.  Brace yourself, baby-girl we're going down!'
    Stacey didn't need telling. She was searching for somewhere to try to land. Without hydraulics, the flaps and landing gear had dropped; the stall warning horn was warbling its "Peeyo! Peeyo!... Peeyo!" And there was nothing below except for triple canopy as far as the eye could see. She glanced at him.
    'Well, honey; it looks as though our love-life was short and sweet…'
    Sandman gave a wry grin.
    'You don't blow me out that easily, baby-girl. I've got one trick left.'
    The triple canopy was coming up fast. As the first treetops brushed the belly of the airplane, he chopped power to the starboard engine and, with his feet braced on the instrument panel, hauled back on the yoke. The Beech's nose came up imperceptibly and they hit the treetops tail-first, at an angle of about fifteen degrees. It wasn't much; but it was just enough to prevent the nose and cockpit from taking the major impact. The world dissolved into a cacophony of splintering timber and tearing metal, with a kaleidoscope of light and shade whirling around them as the fuselage plummeted down through the triple canopy. With a bone-jarring impact, the battered fuselage finally hit the jungle floor.
    Momentarily stunned; Stacey wondered if this was what it was like being dead. No; it couldn't be. She was gazing up through the shattered windscreen at the dappled sunlight lancing down through the trees. What was that damned clicking noise? She slowly turned her head and saw Sandman mindlessly going through the shut-down procedure; flicking off all the switches… resetting the throttle and pitch levers… She reached across and touched his arm.
    'Alex… what the fuck are you doing? Let's get the hell out of here. Gasoline is pissing out of the tanks. She might go up at any moment.'
    He looked blankly at her; then seemed to gather his wits.
    'Damn right, baby-girl. Let's go!'

    The fuselage was buckled to hell from about the fifth frame bay back. There was no way they would be able to reach the door or the emergency escape hatch on the opposite side of the fuselage. Fortunately, the pilot's side-window was big enough for them to squeeze through; although it was quite a drop to the ground. Stacey jumped first, followed by Sandman. They lay amongst the tangled undergrowth, hardly daring to move in case they discovered that they couldn't.
    Sandman turned to Stacey slowly and gingerly.
    'Are you OK, baby-girl? Not hurt anywhere?
    She shook her head
    Apart from aching all over, I'm fine. How about you?'
    'I'm fine… but this has really screwed it. We'll never make it back in time for Thanksgiving Day! Now, let's get the hell outta here!'

*************
Oops!... now what? More to follow later.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Update on "A Dollar for The Ferryman."

Just popping in an update to the novel. In this one, there are two story lines developing. The first concerns the heroine, Stacey, and her adventures as a chopper pilot in Laos, circa 1968.
The second concerns her mother, Charlotte; and is set in Korea, eight years earlier. Charlotte is with the CIA and installed under deep cover as a Soviet Adviser in P'yǒngyang, North Korea, searching for her CIA lover, who was sent into North Korea under deep cover, and has been missing since the early 1950's.

A spin-off from this storyline concerns the whereabouts of the malignant Garnet gemstone named "The Abaddon Stone" that is said to be "A Destroyer of Worlds" and seems to invoke War. It was unleashed on the eve of the Second World War, and has travelled east  trailing death and destruction in its wake. Charlotte's ongoing quest is to seek out this gem and destroy it before it unleashes any further misfortune upon mankind. The two stories are interlaced, and the novel moves from one time frame to the other, and back again.

Here's a taster of Charlotte...

Friday, 16th September, 1960.
P'yǒngyang. North Korea.

    Stacey's mother, Charlotte was sitting at the desk in her office of the T17 sniper academy in P'yǒngyang, grading her latest batch of trainees, when the harsh jangle of the telephone disturbed her concentration. Pushing the thick file aside, she picked up the receiver and spoke.
    "Polkovnik"… Colonel Nadia Tolenkanovna. How may I help you?"
    Charlotte had been placed undercover in the Academy almost two and a half years ago, on the direct orders of Colby, the Chief of Station in Saigon, and Chief of the CIA's Far East Division, who had stipulated that an agent was to be placed in the very heart of North Korea's Military environment. She had accepted this assignment in the hope that she could discover what had happened to her lover, and father of her daughter, Colonel Max Segal, who had been sent into North Korea in the guise of a Soviet Officer in the early stages of the war.
    The voice on the other end of the telephone was apologetic.
    'Nadia? I'm so sorry to have to disturb you, but we have a situation on our hands.'
    It was Viktor Malinovskii, Second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Somun Street. He had established a relationship with Charlotte some time ago... and occasionally she allowed him to make love to her... but this was merely to manipulate him; and through him, the Embassy, in order to retain a cast-iron cover. He was, after all, fairly attractive; a placid and undemanding lover, and he suited her purpose perfectly.
    She lowered her voice a little.
    'Yes Viktor; how can I be of assistance?'
    His voice was anxious.
    'We have received a report that one of our North Korean associates' MiG fighters was discovered yesterday. It was shot down by the Americans to the south of Toksan on Highway One, almost ten years ago. It seems that the pilot was one of our covert Soviet pilots who were rotated in and out of Manchuria. As you are aware; there has always been a political denial of any such involvement in the Korean conflict.
    This has the potential to create a diplomatic embarrassment for Moscow if the truth ever comes out. The Embassy would like you to travel down there to establish that there is nothing remaining that might reveal this state of affairs to the U.S. government.'
    She paused.
    'Very well, Viktor. I will arrange to travel down to the site. Where exactly did the fighter crash?'
    The voice on the telephone lost its anxious tone.
    Our sources state that it crashed onto a little peasant village named Kwan-ni… about two kilometres south of Toksan… that's about twenty-two kilometres to the south. The village is about a kilometre west of the Highway One.'
    Charlotte replied.
    'Very well, Viktor; I have that. I'll leave directly and see if there is any evidence remaining that could be embarrassing; but ten years is an awfully long time for anything to be still there.'
    'Thank you, Nadia; I know, but we just can't take any chance that there might be. We have a reception at the Embassy this evening. It would be nice if you could come.'
    She smiled to herself. That was his way of hinting that he was hoping to have sex with her again.
    'Thank you, Viktor. I shall be there if I get back to P'yǒngyang in good time.'
    His voice was soft and hopeful
    'Oh, I do hope you can get back in time. Until then, Goodbye.'
    She smiled again
    'Goodbye Viktor.'
    And replaced the telephone receiver. She leaned back in her chair, and smiled to herself. He was so transparent… like a little boy peering into a sweetshop window. Oh, what the hell? Why not?

The novel is running at just under 56,000 words... about one third of the proposed finished length.
More updates to follow.