Chapter 1

Written by: Joe Labrum

Helen struggled to keep the young imposter in sight as the daylight failed. She hadn’t always been one to take notice of her surroundings, she simply went about her business and left others to their own. But things were different since the war.  Not the slightest occurrence or happenstance out of place escaped her acute awareness. And the tall blond haired man with a limp, then mysteriously without, raised flags. Helen puzzled over marks on the back of his leather jacket that looked as if some sort of patch had been ripped from it. Helen discreetly strode after him, dodging puddles in the road along the top of the Embankment. Was it an insignia of some organisation that he no longer endorsed, she wondered as she tried to make out the outline of a shape that seemed curiously familiar. Or perhaps one he remained, though secretly, affiliated with. The man’s disproportionately long legs gave him a stride that Helen was unable to match. As the mysterious stranger grew farther away she knew she could only wonder.

Helen remembered the rendezvous with her brother and abandoned the distraction. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the man.  The tall and muscular man she guessed to be in his thirties had a physique that was almost too perfectly proportioned. A fleeting memory, or was it a premonition, gnawed at her gut like a song that played repeatedly in her head.  So familiar but she couldn’t remember the words. She brushed it aside and turned back toward the meeting place. 

Ralph was always late. Helen remembered that well from their childhood. But this was well beyond late. It now qualified as not showing up and Helen grew more concerned with the fading daylight. The October downpour passed but a bruising wind drove the scattered raindrops into her exposed flesh like bird shot. The time was approaching half past one. Helen, soaking wet and chilled to the bone, gave up. The walk to her flat on Surrey Row, across the Waterloo Bridge, required only twenty minutes normally. But walking along bombed out streets in the blacked-out city, and because she was careful, took longer. 

Walking alone in the large deserted city played tricks with her mind. Helen, lost in thought, had walked only a few minutes when an almost indistinguishable sound sent a bolt of fear surging through her. She turned in a vain attempt to discover the source of what she was sure were footsteps matching hers stride for stride. Heavy storm clouds choked out the sun giving the illusion of dusk.  She quickened her pace and looked around again but saw nothing. Helen stopped for a moment and listened, still nothing.  Breathless, pulse pounding, she pawed through her bag and drew out a torch and sprayed the beam back along the road illuminating remains of bombed-out tenement buildings. In the shadows she saw movement. The young woman approached carrying an umbrella. In her other hand she held a gun.

Comments

The details really bring this to life. I love the direction you've taken us in, Joe. Great chapter!
Thanks Linda, I appreciate the feed-back very much. I'm glad you liked my chapter, your story started out so well.
I thought you continued almost seamlessly. The end was brilliant. Who expected a gun and an umbrella? Not me. Fantastic.
You are becoming a maser of deception and intrigue. From strength to strength, you are really at the point where you should be writing short stories without the limitation of 500 words. This is a chapter that is so good and one that cries out for more intrigue. I loved this. Great plotting and vision, Joe. Ten out of Ten from me.
Thank you Suraya and Ray for the wonderful encouragement. This story started out so good with the intrigue and historical content that I love that it made it easy. Ray, did the description of that area of London make sense? I've never been there but want too some day.
Hi Joe, your distance to Surrey Row walking wise is about right and the Blitz trashed most of the dock areas and warehousing up to and just beyond Southwark so your area would have a few bombed out buildings and the streets at night were mainly no-go areas patrolled by the ARW. Your description of the weather further creates the image of the dark days of war torn London. Like I said, I wish the chapter was filled out more with your excellent moody pen.