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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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Karla sat at the table and gazed around the restaurant at her colleagues from Tui Park School. She was actually enjoying Christmas end-of- year dinner more than she originally expected. The staff had lightened up after a few drinks and were laughing and giggling as stories were told and jokes made. She had been senior teacher at the school for term now and found her new position invigorating but demanding with the other senior staff members over a decade old than herself.

Murray was unusually talkative as he drifted around the tables reserved for their party and laughed at some joke one of the husbands was telling with a wave of hand movements. The meal was over, most of the wine bottles were empty and several of the partygoers had said their good nights and had left.

She had come by herself was about to leave also when Murray came up to her with two glasses of wine in his hand. He placed one down before her and sat himself down in the empty chair across from her,

“I noticed your bottle was empty,” he said. “Try this white. It’s one of those local wines. You might like it.”


“Well have a sip.”

She nodded but found the taste of the wine was almost tart and not to her liking at all. She turned, took a handkerchief out of a pocket and discretely spat the second mouthful out. She turned and noticed her principal was staring at her with an expression on his face that was different. Karla flushed in embarrassment for she realised the man was staring down her top at the cleavage of her breasts. If he wasn’t twice her age and the boss she would almost think he was trying to make a pass at her. She smiled faintly and coughed. Even though she had only swallowed one mouthful of the wine she found herself feeling dizzy.

“You drunk quite a bit this evening, Karla?” Murray said.

She stood up and attempted to walk away. However, her legs felt like rubber and the floor seemed to be rolling. “You could be right,” she muttered.

“No problem,” Murray cut in. “Can’t have you driving home in this condition, though. Is your car outside?”

Karla nodded.

Murray glanced around. “Damn, Sherrie my wife has already left. Tell, you what, I’ll drive your car home and take a bus back to my place.”

Karla was still feeling strangely detached from everything around. Sure, she had been drunk before, mainly back in her student days but this felt different. It was as if… Oh hell she was about to vomit.

“Excuse me!” she gulped, grabbed her purse and tore through an archway to where the toilets were. She made it just in time and was violently ill in the toilet. Afterwards she backed out and turned to the sink to splash water over her face.

She heard a cough and realised somebody else was there. It was Murray’s wife, Sherrie. “I saw you rush in here after I returned to the restaurant.” She looked almost sad. “I couldn’t let him do it again, now could I?”

“What do you mean, Sherrie?” Karla asked.

The woman stared at her and frowned. “My husband gets a bit carried away at the staff events I’m afraid, especially with young attractive women like yourself.” She opened her right hand out to show a small yellow pill. “Take this with a tumbler of water.”

Karla wasn’t sure what to do. Sherrie sounded sympathetic but there was something in her tone that she wasn’t sure about. “Why?” she asked.

“To counteract the drug that spiced your drink. You’re lucky that you vomited most of it up but I imagine there is still some in your system. This will make you feel better and quite quickly too.” She grimaced. “It happened to me many years ago now and I suspect the new so-called uppers are even more potent than in my day.” She sighed. “Please yourself though. I’m just trying to help.”

“You’re saying Murray spiked my wine?”

The woman nodded.

“But why?”

Sherrie shrugged. “A flaw in his character, I guess. You’re lucky I decided to return this time. Normally I turn a blind eye.” She blinked and Karla thought she saw tears in the woman’s eyes.

Karla nodded, filled a tumbler sitting on the sink top and swallowed the pill with the water. Almost immediately she felt ill again and rushed to the toilet. After vomiting again she shook her head and came out of the cubical.

Sherrie had gone!

Karla took another drink of water and found that she did feel better. Her head ached a little but the spinning had stopped and there was only a sweet taste in her mouth. She wiped her face with a tissue and walked back into the restaurant area to find everyone leaving. Murray or Sherrie were nowhere in sight.

Deep in thought, she said goodbye to the few staff members still there and walked out to her car. Perhaps she was foolish driving home but she took the risk. Anyhow, she felt normal now and not even slightly drunk. Perhaps that pill Sherrie had given her had neutralized the spiced drink. But what was Murray intending? She thought back and remembered the expression on his face as he stared quite openly at her breasts and decided to be wary of him in the future.

However, by the time she reached home she felt quite relaxed and shrugged. Often people got silly when they drank too much. Perhaps she was as bad as he was and Sherrie was just one of those neurotic wives who didn’t like her husband relaxing at a party.


Note:- Karla was wrong as later events in the novel prove.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ross's News

AzureFeb 13

Bern shouted but his words were unheard as they continued to rise. My God, the wave was cresting up.

It broke!

The water became raging froth everywhere. It was in the life-raft and Kristin felt herself being lifted. She could see only white surf but beneath the surface, the current wasn’t too strong. White water turned to green. Her left leg bumped something and a wrenching pain shot through her body. She was disorientated and appeared to be upside down.

She held her breath and kicked. Damn clothes clung to her and attempted to hold her down. She kicked again and saw lighter water above. The surface! With stinging lungs, she broke through and gasped in air. In front, a gigantic wave was about to crash over her. Kristin let herself drop and the breaker disappeared. She was again in relatively quiet water where she could control her movements.

But this was only for a second. The next wave crashed over her, she was picked up and dumped down with a thump that drove air from her lungs. Water replaced it and her lungs sent out a spasm of pain. This was worse than when they escaped from the U-boat.

Her head broke the surface again, she spat out water and found that, though she couldn’t touch the bottom, everything was calm and she could tread water.

Kristin gazed around. She was in rolling calm water. They were inside the reef.

“Over dere lady,” a voice called. “You’re fine.”

Relief was replaced by anxiety. The words were not in German but English, a language she’d learnt at grammar school and university. She had not, though, used it for years. Another shock greeted her as she turned.

A man, dressed only in swimming trunks, stood in a large canoe and held a long pole out to her. He was tall and was as slim as a pole. This wasn’t so unusual. What was different was that the man’s skin was black. She had never seen a black man before. Big brown eyes stared at her.

“Do you speak English, baby?” he asked.

“A little,” Kristin gasped. Even though her knowledge of English was quite good, the man’s accent was difficult to understand.

“Dat’s good. Grab the pole. Hurry… one of your friends is having difficulty.”

Seconds later she had her arm over the side of the canoe. She gasped and began to breath fresh air.

It was Johan in difficulty. He was awake, almost too awake. He thrashed around in a state of panic. The black man maneuvered the boat with skill and skimmed in beside him. He bent down and hauled the gasping sailor aboard with one mighty heave.

An arm grabbed Kristin and Petra’s face appeared centimeters away. Eyes linked on hers. Kristin reached out and held on until her friend managed to grip the side.

“Where’s Bern?” Kristin shouted.

“Here,” a male voice called. Bern had an arm over the other side of the canoe and was grinning at her.

“Hang on, baby,” the black man called. “I don’t think your friends understand.”

Kristin stared around. “He’s speaking English,” she said. “Do any of you understand?”

“A little,” Petra replied. “Only from high school.”

“Some,” Bern said.

“German?” the man interrupted and Kristin felt apprehensive. The tone was matter-of-fact but not antagonistic.

“Yes,” she replied.

The man shrugged and broke into a smile. His teeth looked pearly white against his dark lips. “I fought you guys in France,” he said, “The war’s almost over now, Baby.”

“Call me Kristin. “

“Hello Kristin. My name’s Danardo, Danardo Rolle.”

“Thank you, Danardo. How did you get here to…err… rescue us?” She spoke hesitant English as she searched her mind for the correct word.

“I was fishin’ in de lagoon and saw de raft. You did a bo-bo tryn’ to cross de reef here.”

Kristin frowned. Trying to translate English after all these years was difficult but Danardo’s accent made it almost impossible.

“He said he was fishing and we were foolish trying to cross the reef here,” Bern said in German.

“Okay,” Kristin replied with a laugh. “You understand English better than me.”

“Well, West Indian English. We used to monitor their broadcasts. They were pretty casual and often we learned things about convoys the BBC or Americans clamped a censorship on.”

“Sneaky,” Kristin said, turned to Danardo and switched to English. “We’re on a British island, I guess.”

“True, true. De Little Toe Cay is de place. Only me and de little ‘oman. We don’t have many visitor this far out.” He shrugged. “I’ll get you ashore. You look all in.”


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Friday, February 8, 2013

Ross's News


Dorothy knew that if she was to help the boy it had to be done soon. Though by now used to horrendous patient injuries from massive burns to rasping mustard gas victims, the sight of Tim and the sad story twisted something inside her. Perhaps it was because politics played so much in his fate and nobody was interested in him as a person. He was a number to be put to trial for nothing but propaganda reasons and his friend was going home. In her mind this was the opposite of everything they’d been told the war was being fought for. Dorothy hardly slept that day and returned at twenty-two hundred hours, tired but with an embryo of a plan.

When she walked in the nurses’ office, Nicky the nurse she was taking over from handed her, amongst other items, a notebook with “Deaths” written on the cover.

‘Six so far tonight,’ she muttered before continuing with her report on acute patients to watch, problems and so forth. Dorothy wasn’t listening. Six deaths in one evening were probably average. Surely out of those, there could be one that would fit her plan.

‘I’ll tend to them first,’ Dorothy replied and took the notebook. After the initial disgust at this job, it had now become a routine. The bodies were not men any more and if she thought of it that way it wasn’t too hard.

She wheeled the trolley into Ward 3 where three beds had the ominous white sheets over the deceased soldiers. She moved up beside the first body so the trolley was adjacent to the bed, then placed a wooden platter under it, lifted and pushed it up so the body slid across to the trolley. Like most corpses, this soldier had been extremely undernourished so the manoeuvre wasn’t too difficult. She ignored the jibe from the patient in the next bed, pulled a sheet over the head and wheeled the trolley down a zigzag ramp to the morgue.

There, she removed the dog tags from the body and recorded the details in her notebook as well as a cardboard tag tied to the body’s big toe. The dog tags were placed in a locked drawer she had the key for. Her job was complete.

In the morning a doctor would walk through issuing death certificates. The dog tags and personal items would be sent back to the regiment the soldier came from. If they were not claimed by relatives within three days the corpses were buried in a nearby military cemetery. A vicar or priest, depending on the decease’s religion recorded on the dog tag, would officiate. The funerals were held with military precision. Dorothy knew there would be ten Anglicans, three Catholics, a Presbyterian and a Methodist waiting to be buried the next morning. It was all recorded in the morgue’s records. Death in the Great War was a common occurrence.

Dorothy’s plan hinged on the fact that there appeared to be no follow up check made between the dog tags and actual corpses. Once the information was written on the toe tag, the doctor used this to write the death certificate. Her idea might just work but she needed a body similar to Tim in size.

The fifth one she wheeled in would do. According to the dog tag the soldier was Australian. That was even better. There would be no local parents wanting a body. With her heart beating furiously in her chest she placed this body near the door, slid the dog tags in her pocket and completed her collection of corpses. Next she headed for Tim’s room, nodded to the M.P, a different man from the previous night, and found Tim asleep inside.

‘Tim,’ she hissed. ‘Wake up.’

The boy opened his eyes and stared at her. ‘Hello, Dorothy.’ He gave a sad sort of smile. ‘It’s good to see you.’

‘I have a plan,’ she whispered. ‘Now listen…’

‘You can’t do that,’ Tim complained when she had finished explaining everything. ‘If anyone finds out they’ll shoot you.’

‘They don’t shoot nurses,’ retorted Dorothy. She knew discovery would mean immediate discharge and probably a jail sentence but the consequences of her action meant little to her at the moment.

‘When you hear me come back and talk to the guard, pull the sheet over your head and don’t move a muscle. I’ll do the rest.’

She smiled at Tim and stalked out of the room as if she was in a hurry. Dorothy depended on the guard not knowing the routines as she pushed the corpse she’d selected, still covered in a sheet, back along the corridor up to Tim’s room. Also placed on the trolley was a large first aid box painted with a red cross against a white background.

‘You won’t have much to guard, tonight, Corporal.’ She smiled at the M.P. and tried to sound frivolous. ‘I don’t think this poor boy will last the night.’

The young soldier smiled and ignored the trolley she was wheeling.

‘Is that so, Nurse?’ he said as his eyes strayed down to her figure.

Dorothy pushed the trolley into the door and shut it behind her. Tim immediately staggered up and, together, they rolled the body onto his bed. Tim took his dog tags and placed them around the corpse’s neck while Dorothy undid the tag tied to the toe and shoved it in her skirt pocket. She shuddered. If the morning nurse or doctor remembered Tim and recognised the body as someone different the consequences could be disastrous. This could happen but with so many patients and a changing duty roster, the changes were in her favour.

She hoped!

‘Up you get,’ she whispered and pulled the blankets up so the head was poking out. She nodded and Tim climbed onto the trolley and covered himself with the sheet. Dorothy swallowed and pushed the trolley out.

If they were challenged now everything would be ruined. She left the room with an enforced slow casual walk past the guard who watched her but didn’t say a word. It was one in the morning and he watched as Dorothy swayed her buttocks as she pushed the trolley away. If he was looking at her he wouldn’t worry about the man on the trolley.

Back in the morgue Dorothy sank onto a seat and gasped. ‘It’s okay. Nobody will come in here until the morning.’ She looked at Tim with concern. The boy looked quite ill but was grinning. ‘Stay here. I have to do my rounds but will be back as soon as I can.’

‘Thank you, Dorothy,’ Tim said. He sat on the bench with a grimace on his face.

‘Does it hurt a lot?’ Dorothy asked but her companion smiled and shook his head.

‘Hardly feel it.’ reached up to squeeze Dorothy’s hand. ‘I’ll be okay, really I will.’

‘See you soon,’ Dorothy whispered and disappeared out the door. So far the plan had worked but anything could still go wrong.

She returned an hour later to find Tim sitting almost exactly where she had left him. He looked quite ill.

‘How are you feeling?’ she asked.

‘Not too good,’ he admitted. ‘I think my wound is beginning to bleed.’

He went to stand up, gave a tiny moan and staggered back onto the seat. Dorothy watched in anguish, bent down and felt a racing pulse. Her original plan was to walk out of the hospital with him, go down to the railway station and buy him a ticket for London. She had not thought beyond that, but now he couldn’t even stand, let alone walk out of the hospital.

In almost a panic, she glanced around with her mind racing. Of course, the dead man had dog tags so why couldn’t Tim take the other man’s identity? It might work. She still had them in her pocket.

‘Look, put these on,’ she said and glanced at the dull metal plates. ‘You’re Corporal Adrian Campbell. Remember that!’

Tim shrugged doubtfully.

‘Listen,’ Dorothy persisted. ‘You’re too ill to leave the hospital. I’ll find you a bed in a different ward…’

‘But what if I’m recognised?’

‘Well what do you suggest?’ Dorothy retorted. Her plan seemed to be falling apart already.

Tim looked at her. ‘I’m sorry, Dorothy. You’ve really put yourself out for me. I don’t want you to be caught, that’s all.’

‘Thanks,’ she replied and her anger disappeared. ‘I’ll get a wheelchair and take you to Ward 7. We often make changes in the early morning to get ready for new patients who arrive from the boat after breakfast. Nobody will think anything about it.’

Even though the corridor was empty, Dorothy’s heart raced as she wheeled Tim along to the ward, found an empty bed near the door and helped him in.

‘There,’ she whispered. ‘Now everything is as it should be. I’ll dress your wounds.’

After she had completed helping as best she could, there was no more she could do so she completed her rounds. She handed over to the morning staff and walked across the quadrangle to the nurses’ home. She felt exhausted but strangely calm.

Tim seemed such a nice boy but was really just a bag of bones. She liked his accent, too. Dorothy gave a giggle at what she’d done. He was actually older than her but didn’t seem to be. Boys were like that.


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