Monthly Archives: May 2019

Worth Waiting For

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A Ray Stone Review

The Trojan Towers (CH2)

Harry didn’t look up from the newspaper. That was Harry. He knew, saw and felt things going on around him without showing any emotion. Raithe stood on the quay and looked down at him.“Am I going to stand here all day or are you going to invite me aboard?” He tried to sound a little jocular, but the tremble in his voice betrayed the nervousness.

Harry put the newspaper down on his lap and waved a hand. “Get your backside down here and don’t get cocky, dear boy. You and I have things to discuss.”
Their last face to face meeting had been two weeks before the robbery. Harry warned him not to attempt it. Banks were for idiots, not educated professional thieves like Raithe. The risks were too high. He should have listened.

He climbed down into the well and sat opposite Harry on one of the padded bench seats. Harry’s eyes narrowed behind the thick lens glasses. He pointed a chubby finger. “I waited nine years to tell you what I think of you, and now I can’t be bothered. Have you learned anything? Do you think about the little girl?”

Raithe looked out across the water. “Of course I do. I’ve thought about her every day.” He sighed and looked the other way toward the buildings, avoiding Harry’s stare. “I miss Natalie and Terri, God knows how I’ve missed them.”

“God also knows how much that little girl’s mother misses her too.”

The words stung Raithe’s conscience. His eyes began filling up. He wiped them with his fingers.

“Liberty is a wonderful thing, dear boy. You lost it through ignorance, nothing else.” Harry shifted in his seat and stared hard into Raithe’s eyes. “You didn’t listen to Terri. You didn’t listen to me. You thought you knew best. Ignorance, Raithe, is a terrible thing. Ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand, and you displayed plenty of both. If prison and the shit that is housed in it knocked some sense into you, then I’m glad. Whatever happened to you was nothing more than you deserved.”

Raithe stood up, rubbing his eyes. “I didn’t come here to listen to this, Harry. I’ve been punished enough for Christ’s sake.”

“Punished enough. Your punishment hasn’t even started yet, dear boy. It starts today and every day for the rest of your life. You’re still arrogant…now sit down!”

Raithe sat with bowed head, looking at his feet. “I’m sorry, but I can’t change anything.”

“No, you can’t.” The tone in Harry’s voice changed. “And now you are free, what do you plan to do?”

Raithe shook his head. “I don’t know, Harry. I keep thinking about that little bastard.”

“You mean Danny? I doubt he’s the man you want. He may have fired the gun, but you should be looking elsewhere. Anyway, is that more important than your daughter?”

“No, of course not. I need to find Natalie.”

“Silly boy, you should have known I’d look after Natalie.”

Raithe sighed and sobbed at the same time. “You know where she is? What about Terri? Is she with Terri? I got a card from Spain.” He got to his feet, smiling.

The big man got up and opened the door to the saloon. “Come and have a drink and don’t thank me.”

They moved inside, and Harry crossed to the bar. “Scotch?”

Raithe nodded. “Thanks.” He sat down in one of the armchairs next to the bar.

Harry pulled a bottle of Scotch from the cabinet. “You let Natalie and Terri down, not to mention me. They’re the ones who’ve suffered, not you. I’ve spent a long time trying to understand why you took that job on. It will take me even longer if ever, to completely forgive you.” He pouted. “After all, I taught you, dear boy.”

He placed two crystal tumblers on the table between them and sat down on a large brown leather sofa.

Harry seldom showed emotion, and when he did, Raithe kept quiet. It had nothing to do with intellectual or physical superiority but the respect the man commanded. He was larger than life, always understanding and fair, with a quiet but authoritative voice that one listened to.

“Now get that down you and listen to me.” Harry picked his glass up and took a sip. “You gave Terri my telephone number shortly after you were sent down, as I told you, in case she needed help. She didn’t call until a few months later. Perhaps she thought I was like you and couldn’t be trusted, eh?” He waved a hand through the air. “Anyway, we arranged to meet over lunch one day. She wanted to get rid of the money…your money…from its hiding place. It became a constant reminder to her of the child’s death, not that she needed reminding. That poor girl has lived every day with the memory of the tragedy. A neat and tidy girl, and good looking too. But very unhappy, Raithe, very unhappy. A boy like you shouldn’t do that to a lovely girl. And your daughter too.” He raised his eyebrows and shook his head slowly.

Raithe reached for the bottle and topped up Harry’s glass. “I know about the money,” he said. “She sent me a postcard a few days before my release.” He was silent for a moment, trying to find the right words to say as Harry stared at him, waiting. “I don’t suppose I’ll ever regret anything so much in my life. Believe me, if I could turn the clock back.” He gulped some Scotch. “I have nightmares about it. I miss Natalie and Terri. I’ve missed you all. God, I’m so sorry, Harry.” He rubbed his forehead. “My head hurts with all the worry. I don’t know what to say or do.”

“Well we can’t change the past, but we can make a fresh start.” Harry took a card out of his trouser pocket. “When I saw Terri, she was upset about being pestered by the police and press over the hiding place of the money. More than that, she was concerned about Natalie. The girl was nearly seven, and a couple of reporters took photos of her while she was at school. Then she was stopped on the way home.”


“Terri asked me to help her get Natalie into a private boarding school. I was happy to help. She told me they were going away on holiday and it would be nice to get Natalie away shortly after if I could arrange things. I pulled in a few favors and got a place for her at this school. Terri asked me not to tell you where Natalie was. It would have complicated matters, and I agreed. She’s there until her seventeenth birthday.”

Raithe took the card offered. “Switzerland? Harry, I don’t know what to say.”

“Nothing. You say nothing, dear boy. I did it for Natalie. She’s something extraordinary now, don’t you know. A beautiful little girl who calls me Uncle Harry.” His chest rose, and he smiled. “After she’s taken her final exams she’s going to Zurich University to study European Law.”

Raithe’s face creased into a broad grin.

“I’m glad you think it’s funny,” said Harry, lighting the end of a corona. He puffed at it until the end glowed.

“I’m sorry, Harry. It was the thought of her calling you, Uncle Harry.”

Harry ignored the remark. “I think you should go and see her on parents day. The details are on the back of the card. Natalie knows all about the robbery and what happened. Don’t go over it again with her. She doesn’t need reminding.”

Raithe nodded. He wondered what sort of reception he would get.

As if reading his mind, Harry said, “I won’t tell her you’re coming. That way if you get cold feet she won’t be disappointed. If you take my advice, you’ll go. At least give her the chance to make her mind up about you. And she will too, believe me. She’s just like you used to be, very sure of herself but without the arrogance, you had and still have. Here, take this.” He took a photograph from his pocket and held it out. “Beautiful, isn’t she?”

Raithe looked at a beautiful blonde teenager in school uniform and saw Terri. They were so alike. Harry was right. There was a hint of a smile, a look of self-assurance.

Cigar smoke whirled above their heads as he gazed at the picture. The strong aroma reminded him of the back room in the Stepney basement apartment. Peter smoked small cheap cigars all night. In the morning, Terri would throw all the windows open. The smell of stale cigars permeated the air throughout the apartment.

“Terri asked me to take Natalie to the school,” continued Harry. “She was being followed everywhere and scared someone would find out where the school was. We let it be known that Natalie was going to a boarding school in Scotland, and that did the trick. Since then, Terri and I have kept in touch regularly. She wrote to me about things in general and how she was looking forward to seeing Natalie. She visits Natalie twice yearly at half terms and stays for a week each time.”

“Does Natalie write to you?”

“Of course she does, like her mother. She sends letters to me, and I forward them on to Terri. Terri moved a couple of times and letters got lost so I suggested I could send them on to wherever she moved to.”

“I take it she’s living in Spain? That’s where she sent the card from,” said Raithe, thoughtfully.

“Yes, about three months ago, she moved there. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure something was bothering her. I didn’t want to ask, though. She knew she could count on me if she wanted help, so I assumed it might be personal.”

“You mean she was having an affair?” Raithe’s heart sank.

“You should worry about that. What do you think your wife should do, spend her life waiting, and for what? You?” Harry held both arms out dramatically. “She knows you are out and if she wants to see you, she will find you. Natalie is the most important woman in your life and don’t you forget it.” He blew a long stream of blue smoke into the air, then sighed. “You don’t know how lucky you are, dear boy.”

“I’d like to find her before she finds me, Harry. After I’ve seen Natalie, that is. I still love her, and I want her to know that. If she doesn’t want me then fine. At least I’d have shown her I still care.”

“I disagree. You lost the right to expect anything from Natalie, and going after her will only make matters worse. Remember what she’s been through. You must let her decide your future. In the meantime, I want you to do something for me.”

“What’s that?”

Harry rose from the sofa and peered through the saloon window at the quayside. Several little groups of sightseers were ambling along the marina, admiring the line of boats. He finished his Scotch and placed the tumbler back on the table before turning back to look outside.

“I want you to deliver around eighty million in jewelry and art to an old friend of ours in Amsterdam,” he said, casually. He watched the sightseers move past. “That’s after you’ve stolen them…of course.”

Raithe sat with his glass halfway to his lips and momentarily froze, then began to laugh. “No, Harry, I’ve learned my lesson. You don’t catch me out like that. Mind you, if you like I’ll look in my diary and see what I’m doing this weekend. I might just be able to squeeze you in. How do I get into the Tower of London?’ He was still laughing when Harry faced him.

“There’s one thing you should have learned by now, dear boy. Knowing whether I’m joking or not.” He lent across the table, a look of serious intent on his face. “You are going to get into a vault, but it’s not in the Tower of London.”

Confused, Raithe slumped back in the chair. “Wait a minute, Harry. You must be joking. I don’t find this very funny.”

“I’m not joking,” said Harry slowly. He sat down.

Raithe felt angry. “I’ve been here five minutes, and you’ve given me a lecture on what a shit I am. Now you want me to steal a fortune. The phrase, don’t do as I do, do as I say, comes to mind. What about my daughter? Does she know her Uncle Harry is getting daddy into trouble again? I bet she doesn’t. And what -”

“Of course she doesn’t, and you won’t be getting into trouble if you let me explain. As far as your family -”

“I won’t do it. Whatever it is, I won’t do it. Who the bloody hell do you think you are? You think one letter a month, a suit, and some school fees buy the rest of my life?”

“As far as your family is concerned,” repeated Harry, “they needn’t have suffered if you’d listened to me. You paid nine years for a paltry two hundred thousand. If you’d got nine years for eighty million, I could understand it. As it is, this time, you are not going to get caught. All you have to do is listen and work with me. The reward is enough money to last you for the rest of your life and give that daughter a life she deserves. More importantly, no one except those who deserve it is going to get hurt.”

Raithe looked up at the roof, trying to keep calm. “I’ll be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life, Harry. Every police force across the world will be looking for gems worth that much.” He shrugged. “No, Harry, I can’t do it. I’m not going back to prison.”

“Of course not. No-one will know who took the gems and what’s more they won’t know what’s missing. In fact, I can safely predict the police will find it hard to speak to anyone admitting they have something missing.”

“Okay,” sighed Raithe, slapping both hands on his knees. “Where is this Utopian place full of treasures and dumb idiots?”

“Now that is very funny, dear boy. In fact, that’s a pretty good description of my next door neighbor.” He grinned and flicked a large lump of ash. It missed the ashtray and landed on a beer mat.

“You mean the Excelsior Depository? That place is a fortress.”

Harry grunted and poured some more Scotch. “Of course, it is. If it weren’t, no one would deposit anything in there, would they?”

“I’m not with you. I don’t -”

“Think dear boy, think. What did you do before you broke into a property? What was the first thing you had to do?”

Raithe smiled, remembering the checklist Harry had insisted he go through mentally before each job. “Of course, find the Achilles Heel, the weak point.”

“Precisely. Every building has a weak point. Find the weak point and in you go. That’s the easy part, and this building is no different. The hard part, as always, is getting away.”

He drew on his cigar and brushed some ash from his knee. “Before we go any further, you are going to understand that there are a couple of things that are not negotiable.” Leaning forward, he placed a hand on Raithe’s shoulder. “There will be no guns or unnecessary violence. You will not take anything from the depository other than that which you are told to take. Break either rule, and I will personally make sure you spend the rest of your life in jail.”

Raithe knew he was serious.

“I’m sorry to say that to you, dear boy, but if you take anything not on my shopping list, you will hurt innocent people, perhaps friends of mine.”

Raithe looked puzzled but remained silent. When the man talked business, he expected his audience to listen, not ask questions.

Harry got up and stepped to the center of the saloon. He moved to the window again and for a moment remained silent as he looked across the water. “You’re going to steal eighty million in jewelry from the depository,” he said, eventually, “and then put the stuff back again. Later, after the robbery has been discovered, I am going to walk back into the depository and take it all out again. Within hours, the goods will be stored safely, and you will be on your way out of the country without anyone knowing.”

Raithe tried to understand. Whatever Harry’s plan, it would be meticulous down to the last detail, leaving nothing to chance. But what was the point in putting the goods back once they had been taken?

“My dear boy, don’t look so confused,” continued Harry. “We’ll discuss the details later. For now, let’s discuss the overall picture. You’re too tired to discuss details.” He started pacing up, and down the saloon, cigar held between ringed fingers and head bowed. “We’re going to rob from the robbers,” he said, excitedly, “just for a change. I’m going to teach them a lesson. They’re going to learn they can’t cheat Harry Cohen.”

Raithe sat impassive, glass in hand. Harry always took a long time to come to the point. Whatever it was, it was worth waiting for. It occurred to him that Harry trusted few people and had picked him to do the job. He didn’t doubt that the old man loved his daughter and looked after her out of the kindness of his heart. None the less, some gratitude would be expected in return. There would be no hard feelings if he turned the job down, but it would be the end of their business relationship. He would never be asked to work again.

“Who are ‘they,’ Harry?”

“Criminal scumbags who have cheated me in one way or another over the years, whether it is gems or money they owe or have stolen from my fellow dealers or me.”

Raithe remembered Harry telling him that a small group of international gem dealers was organized to receive and fence beautiful pieces of jewelry and art. They bought from recognized introduced sources and supplied to a select clientele. If a thief wanted to do business with any of them, he would have to be a known professional and come recommended by one of the others in the group. It was a worldwide trade and very profitable. Raithe had been a one-off exception but only because he’d shown he could be trusted. Harry’s reward for Raithe’s act of honesty towards a fellow dealer was to handshake him into the business.

“I want to retire, Raithe. I don’t need the money, but I do need to teach certain individuals in our trade that they don’t steal from their own. This little job will give me a great deal of satisfaction.” He rubbed the side of his nose and smiled broadly. “Now listen and learn. Some of our more unsavory colleagues in London have boxes in the Excelsior Depository. They store their valuable stones and other items of worth in there. I have kept an ongoing record of what jobs have been credited to them and what property has been taken. In most cases, the valuables are taken out of a box and brought to one of my colleagues or myself here in London. If there’s no deal, they go back into the box. At any one time, I estimate there to be around eighty million in their boxes collectively. We are not interested in the contents of any other box except these. I obviously don’t know who owns what box. I do, however, have a list of items that you will look for. When you come across an item listed, you will empty the entire contents of the box it is in. That box will belong to a ‘dumb idiot.’” He chuckled and held his glass up. “Cheers.”

“Cheers, Harry.” Raithe smiled.

“You’re not quite sure about this, are you?”

“I don’t know, Harry. I’ve got other things on my mind, Terri, Natalie and…”

Harry became serious again. Looking absently at the tumbler of Scotch in his hand, he said, “There is a way you can flush out the grass as well, don’t you know?”


“It could have only been one of five people, and we can rule out Terri and myself. Personally, I think you can rule out Danny too. There again it might have been someone who had it in for you and made a lucky guess, but I doubt it.”

“Peter or James?”

“That’s right. I guess that it was one of those two. Whoever it was may also have changed the blanks in that gun. How they did it without you knowing, I don’t know. Why they did it is also a mystery.”

“I still think it was Danny. He loved guns. That’s why he swapped with me when we were on our way to the job. I reckon he changed the blanks to live rounds outside the bank. He’s the grass, Harry. He got scared when he found out the girl was dead. The police arrested me the next day. There wasn’t time for a whisper to do the rounds.” Raithe downed the rest of the Scotch in one gulp.

Harry stepped across the saloon and opened the door. “Well, let’s reserve our judgment shall we until we know for sure.”

A thick cloud of smoke drifted out of the door into the sunshine. Harry stood in the well and threw his cigar butt overboard. “I could find out where the others are,” he said, in a disinterested voice.

“Of course you could, Harry. I’m surprised you haven’t already.”

“I didn’t know you’d be interested, dear boy.”

“Yes you did, Harry.”

Harry put his hands inside the pockets of the sou’wester and grinned. “Good, I’ll get to work, and you can get some sleep here.” He stepped back inside without shutting the door. “When you’ve got your head together you can ease yourself into the job by solving one or two little problems. You have to think of a way of balancing on a sloping roof while removing a few tiles. You’re the expert, you can sort that out.” He handed Raithe a piece of paper. “These are the details of the roof.” He scratched his head. “Oh yes, one other thing. There’s twenty thousand in the forward cabin. I didn’t think you’d want all the money at once.”

“Thanks, Harry, that’s fine.” Raithe watched as a sparrow landed in the well and pecked at the decking. “Nice boat.”

“It’s a friend’s. I don’t want us to meet at mine. We have to be careful. Now get some sleep, and we’ll speak again tomorrow.”

“I want to find Danny. I’ll go and see his sister.”

“All right, but be careful. Here, take this.” He handed Raithe a mobile phone. “I’ll call you in the morning.”

“What was the other thing you wanted me to sort out?” asked Raithe.

“The escape, dear boy. You know the City as well as I do, probably better. However you do it, make sure you’re clear of the City within thirty minutes. Your rendezvous is Benfleet Creek, a few miles downriver from here.”

“Thirty minutes to clear the job and the City?”

“Yes, I don’t care how you do it but make sure you are. By then, I shall be helping the police with their inquiries.”

Raithe frowned at him.

“Details, dear boy, details. Don’t worry yourself.”

Death of The Pickle King

4 out of 5 stars
A very entertaining read. Available on Amazon

“This is a very entertaining read. I became just as interested in Mary Malone’s personal problems as well as the who-dunnit mystery of the pickle king found floating in a pickle vat. The descriptive work is excellent, and the sometimes dry humor of Mary Malone lifts the narrative and gives it a sharp edge. I would certainly look for the next book by this author.” Death of the Pickle King (Mary Malone Mystery Book 3)Unemployed teacher Mary Malone faces a serious dilemma when her private investigator brother Matt, who has been overseas for seven months, announces he is returning to Minnesota in three weeks. How is this amateur sleuth going to explain to him about his missing dog? And what about the murder case.

A Ray Stone review

Making Sense Of Sensory Writing

Reading good writing is like visiting a new country.

You walk through a busy plaza with the characters. A vendor is shredding sugar cane. When the protagonist buys a glass of cloudy green juice, it’s your tongue that tingles at the raw sweetness.

The breathy tones of an amateur flautist drift through an archway towards you.

Further down, the scent of chargrilled onions reaches your nose.

The characters arrive at a souvenir shop. But it’s your fingers that feel the rough warmth of llama wool between them.

You can give your readers the same experience by appealing to different senses when you write.

When I first start writing, I mainly relied on sight. I knew it was important for readers to see the world through the eyes of the characters. I forgot that real people experience life through a range of senses.

You don’t need to bombard your readers with all five senses in every scene.

But moving beyond sight can strengthen and enrich your writing.

Why use sensory details?


Sensory details create a connection between the reader and the writer. When authors convey their characters’ emotions this way, we’re able to identify with their plights.

An example of this is the point of no return in the first half of The Kite Runner. 12-year-old Amir, hidden in a dark alley, witnesses the rape of his friend Hassan.

“I stopped watching, turned away from the alley. Something warm was running down my wrist. I blinked, saw I was still biting down on my fist, hard enough to draw blood from the knuckles.”

– Chapter 7, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini doesn’t need to tell us that Amir is horrified by what he’s seen. We feel his fear and shame at not intervening. It makes him human. Although we want him to jump out and stop the attackers, we understand why he doesn’t. We don’t give up on him. And we read on to see if he will find redemption.


Sensory details also play a part in establishing a sense of place in a reader’s mind. This is crucial if you’re writing about a time or a location that your audience is not familiar with.

Take Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for instance. Her protagonist Claire Randell visits a Scottish stone circle and is transported from 1946 to 1743. Gabaldon paints a vivid picture of eighteenth century life through small sensory details scattered throughout the novel. This helps us suspend belief and travel back in time with Claire.

In Chapter 8, Claire attends festivities in the great hall of Castle Leoch. She describes the large log fire burning on the hearth, the Laird’s carved chair and bell-shaped wine decanter. But it’s only when she combines these visual details with her other impressions that the scene really comes to life. We taste “each sip of nectar” when Claire tries Callum’s French wine. We listen to the minstrel plucking at his harp. And we hear the “pine torches crackling all along the walls.”


Finally, sensory details are vital for evoking a particular feeling or atmosphere in stories. Just look at the terrible sense of foreboding that’s built up throughout The Hound of the Baskervilles.

“As if in answer to his words there rose suddenly out of the vast gloom of the moor that strange cry which I had already heard upon the borders of the great Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a rising howl, and the sad moan in which it died away. Again and again it sounded, the whole air throbbing with it, strident, wild and menacing.”

– Chapter 9, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Imagine if Holmes and Watson had glimpsed the Hound in this scene instead of hearing it? The story would have lost its impact. As we read on, the Hound grows even more terrifying and mysterious, but only because we don’t get to see it.

So how can you include more sensory details in your writing?

It’s hardly surprising that we focus on visual details in our writing. We spend so much time looking at the world through a screen. Computers at work, selfies on holiday and smartphones on public transport.

Overuse of technology is numbing our senses.

If you want to include more sensory details in your writing, start growing your awareness of your other senses in everyday life. This is something I started doing after I missed my stop one day because I was too busy looking at my phone!

Instead of spending every train trip on your phone, use some of your journeys to observe what’s going on around you. What can you hear? Tinny music escaping earbuds? Rustling newspapers? A dry, scratchy cough from the guy in the seat behind? What about smells? Damp clothing? Burnt coffee beans? What can you feel? Scratchy polyamide seats rubbing against your thighs? The centre pole digging into your rib cage?

Go for a walk in your lunch break and try the same task. If you can’t get away from your workplace, do this activity in your staff kitchen or cafeteria.

Sharpening your senses is all about noticing your surroundings and being fully present in the activity that you’re doing. That could be anything from driving on the freeway to brushing your teeth. It’s something you can try at anytime. I’ve recently taken up pilates and here are a few sensory notes I made after one of my classes.

As we finish the last set, I feel the warmth in my scalp as the sweat trickles between my hair roots. My legs shake with the aftershock. The instructor passes us wet wipes to clean down the equipment for the next class. A passing odour of sweat mingled with disinfectant. Then I’m out in reception. Cheerful voices. The creaking and banging of locker doors. We cluster around the glass jugs of camomile tea resting on oil burners, stiff fingers clasping paper cups. I take a sip, savoring the flowery aftertaste that rolls over my parched tongue.

When I’m reading, I also try to pay attention to how writers incorporate different senses into their work.

Don’t restrict yourself to books. TV series are also great places for picking up sensory language. Watch cooking programmes, interior design series, talent shows and advertisements. What language do they use to describe the tastes, smells, sounds and textures they come across?


So many of us are drawn to writing because we feel like we’re only skimming the surface if we don’t pick up a pen and dive in. Creative writing gives us the medium to go deeper and really immerse ourselves in life.

Natalie Goldberg sums this up perfectly in her book, Writing Down the Bones.

“Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.

– Living Twice, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Listen to the world.

Smell it, taste it, touch it.

Engage your senses in everything you do.

That way you’ll get to live both your lives to their fullest potential.

by Linda Alley

Writer and teacher

The Trojan Towers

My first novel – published in 2005 and still going strong on

Chapter One

Raithe’s eyes focused on the face. He could feel a hand gently shaking his shoulder.
“Charring Cross, sir?”
“Thanks.” He yawned deeply and stretched. His body ached from the awkward position he’d slept in. The guard left him and walked on, whistling.
Raithe yawned again. Bad memories haunted him every time he fell asleep: every time he was reminded by the guards, and every time he was beaten by Frank Parson and his thugs. When the cell door banged shut at night he heard the shot, again and again, echoing through his head.
He wiped the window with the back of a sleeve and looked out with tired eyes. Most of the passengers had left the train and were walking down the platform. He focused on the reflection of black wavy hair graying at the sides. The face, once tanned and chiseled, was now lean with a sickly gray pallor to it. It was growing old prematurely. A fresh scar, a thin red line, ran across his chin at an angle. Hidden under his right eyebrow was a thin white line, another much older scar, and on his right jaw was a small scab. He stood up, shivered, and pulled the long woolen navy coat around him. The light gray suit underneath fitted like a glove.
Using the sparsely equipped gymnasium at the prison was a daily routine. Over six feet tall, his body had stayed lean. The workouts made him strong in the arms and chest. He had to be. The beatings became a regular test of his endurance. Asking for solitary, rule 43, became a necessity in the end and although he was not completely free from attack in the segregation unit, things did get better.
For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, he felt like a human being again. He adjusted his tie and reminded himself to thank Harry. It was Harry who’d bought him all his clothes and had them delivered in time for the appeal hearing. Smart in crisp white shirt and gray suit, he took Harry’s advice and looked their Lordships straight in the eye, never allowing his head to drop. His counsel clinically and systematically proved beyond doubt that the police evidence was at the very least, tainted.
Their Lordships didn’t need time to deliberate but agreed without retiring. In his summing up, Lord Fenwick was scathing in his criticism of the police investigation. No real forensic evidence was produced to show that Raithe Ravell had been the actual murderer of three-year-old Amanda Stevenson. It was also clear that the police had tampered with witness statements and ‘mislaid’ vital evidence since found, that proved the fatal shot came from the direction of the getaway car. There was a statement from a bank employee who’d been adamant that shots were fired inside the bank. No bullet holes were found, giving credence to Ravel’s statement that he only fired blanks in order to frighten people.
He concluded that whilst Ravell was guilty of a terrible crime, that of murder, planned or otherwise during the committing of a robbery, it was not his hand that had actually killed the child. His sentence should not have been life with a recommended minimum of fifteen years; it should have been life with a recommended minimum of eight years.
“The court recognizes that the defendant admitted his part in the robbery when arrested. It also takes into account his prison record that shows him to have co-operated in reform programs during the nine years that he has served. The Home Office is therefore satisfied that he does not represent a danger to the public.”
Raithe showed no emotion as the court released him, except a brief smile when it was announced that there would be an inquiry into the conduct of the police.
No one had believed him. Now they would. Soon he would settle the account. Harry warned him not to do anything stupid. There’d be plenty of time to sort the bastard out. Harry was always right.
Raithe stepped out of the carriage, his coat flapping in the stiff breeze. He looked up at the platform clock. It showed five past three. He fingered the postcard in his pocket and knew that Maggie, his mother in law, would have heard the verdict and passed it on to Terri. Maggie never liked him and spent no time at all in letting him know it. He was a no good petty crook. That’s what she’d called him at their first meeting.
Terri was a stunner. She never went anywhere without making up. Bright red lipstick, long red nails and a hint of Chanel, she was the long-haired blonde with deep blue eyes who featured in the ‘Mickey Spillane’ stories. The boys in the local club all agreed to that. Her tall hourglass figure turned heads. Everyone wanted her but she only had eyes for Raithe.
They were introduced by one of his friends. Within a couple of months, they were seeing each other several times a week. Maggie wouldn’t let him in the house but he didn’t care. Terri would marry him come what may. A year later, just after Maggie moved to Southampton, Terri married him in Stepney Registry Office.
It wasn’t until Natalie was born that he stepped inside Maggie’s house for the first time. By then Terri’s father was dead and Maggie lived alone. She doted on the child and despite her misgivings about his criminal activities, invited Raithe and the family down from London for long weekends.
Raithe never concealed anything about his business from Terri. He didn’t have to. She never asked him about it or interfered. A month before the robbery, however, she did.
In the back room of their basement apartment in Stepney, he and the boys met one night a week to play cards and discuss impending business. At one particularly long meeting, Terri had unexpectedly brought some tea and sandwiches into the room. He saw her face as Peter tried to hide the revolver. She looked accusingly at him but said nothing until they were alone. For days she tried to make him get rid of the gun but he wouldn’t listen. He tried to explain that the gun was going to fire blanks. They argued and in the end, he arranged with Maggie for Terri and the baby to go to Southampton. By then Natalie was five. He told them both he would see them after the weekend, back in Southampton. It was not to be. The next time he saw Terri he was on remand in Wormwood Scrubs.
Outside the main ticket hall, he hailed a cab and climbed in, glad to be out of the wind. “St. Katherine’s Dock, please.”
The cab sped off and Raithe closed his eyes. For the last week, since his release, he’d found it difficult to sleep in the hostel room the Social Services had found for him. For three days he sat looking out of the window, unable to venture out and walk down the street. It felt strange watching people shopping and walking nearby or seeing a dog pee up against a lamppost. It was as though he were in a prison without walls.
Harry hadn’t been able to meet him right away and they’d made arrangements to meet at St. Katherine’s a week later. He couldn’t go home. There was no home to go to. Terri was in Spain according to the postcard she’d sent.
A year after being transferred to HM Prison Strangeways, he told her not to keep making the train journey each week. It was best for her and Natalie if she stayed at home and they wrote. She could visit again when he was moved back south. In truth, it became more and more difficult to keep his injuries from her. His face always had some bruise on it and she remarked on one visit about a bandage that covered two fingers on one hand. Two cons had jumped him on the landing and held him down. The guards watched on as Parsons, the ‘A’ Wing capo, stamped on the outstretched hand. They’d even cheered.
Watching Terri leave broke his heart. That was the last time they saw each other. She said she would wait but in the years that followed her letters eventually stopped arriving. He missed seeing Natalie growing up but not hearing from her was worse. One letter after another was sent to Maggie’s address, in case Terri had moved. Nothing came back. In the end, he gave up. That was the most miserable time of his life.
He did get a letter once a month from Harry.
The two men had first met in Harry’s shop in Hatton Garden shortly after Raithe stole some highly valuable jewelry from a country house. The old Jew with a genial smile immediately impressed him. Around five feet six tall and dressed in a smart pinstripe suit, he was big physically with a balding shiny head and black bushy eyebrows. A large cigar was balanced precariously between his lips as he’d studied the jewelry through thick-rimmed glasses. Harry was Raithe’s idea of what a rich Jewish businessman looked like and it excited him to be associated with the man.
When he received the first letter from Harry he expected the old man to commiserate with him. Instead, he was surprised and a little annoyed to find that he was torn off a strip for being so stupid. Harry left him alone for two months before he wrote again. After that he wrote regularly. His letters meant so much for they were the only contact with the outside world. Although he never told Harry about his treatment, it was Harry who suggested that he take Rule 43. Harry knew. No one had to tell him.
“Main entrance, guv’?”
“Yes please.”
The cab crawled along East Smithfield and stopped in the middle of the road, opposite the dock entrance. After the traffic had cleared, the cab U-turned and pulled into the curb. Raithe gave the driver his last five-pound note, slammed the door behind him and walked across the cobblestones into the dock.
Lines of cruisers and yachts of all sizes swayed gently up and down at their moorings. The Seagull, a Thames Barge, lay moored at one end of the marina. Behind her the floating museum collection of marine craft lay lifeless and devoid of visitors.
On one of the larger cruisers, a well-built man sat in the aft deck-well reading a newspaper. Dressed in bright orange sou’wester and green cords, he looked oblivious to the chill air. The craft was bathed in bright sunlight from the autumn sun while most of the quayside next to it lay in deep shadow from the tall buildings and shops that skirted the marina. From outside the chandlers, Raithe watched the man.
Harry Cohen was everything expected of an upper-class Jewish gentleman. Respected businessman, pillar of society, successful and very rich, his reputation across Europe as a first-class dealer in fine art and rare stones was unsurpassable. His colleagues, including top executives and assessors from major insurance companies, trusted him both as a friend and business associate. He knew where most of the rarer pieces of jewelry and stones were and who owned them. More importantly, he knew who was fishing in the market and for what.
Now and then Harry would acquire certain items for the more discerning of his clientele, especially those with huge financial assets to invest. Americans, Japanese and royalty were reputed to be among those who enjoyed his special confidential services.
He did business with others too; people who supplied on demand or came into possession of items that he could place with ease. These were people who never attended any of his cocktail parties. None-the-less, he had total respect in both camps, something he had enjoyed for many years.
Raithe knew he was an exception to the rule. Educated in Grammar school, Harry told him he was impressed with his general knowledge of literature and fine art, in particular paintings and gemstones. Harry taught him a lot once he had earned the old man’s trust and it hadn’t taken long to do that.
On his second visit to the shop, he was asked to wait while Harry did business with a dealer upstairs. After several minutes a small foreign-looking man came downstairs into the showroom. In one hand he carried a briefcase and in the other a small leather bag. Stopping at the counter to place the small bag in the briefcase, the contents had spilled out. Raithe watched the man put the small stones back into the bag. After snapping the briefcase shut, the man had turned to leave.
Harry’s assistant was standing by the door, ready to see the dealer out and into a cab. As the dealer left, something dropped from the counter top to the floor. Raithe bent down and picked up a small diamond. The door closed behind the dealer and Raithe dashed out into the street after him. He handed the surprised dealer the diamond.
Back in the shop, Harry stood eyeing him, as though weighing him up. He said nothing about the incident until the next time they met when he informed Raithe that he would teach him a little about the business.
A little turned out to be a lot and a genuine friendship developed over the next three years. Harry became a father figure who could be relied on for sound advice, not only on business matters but on matters of the heart and family as well.
Peter and James never knew that Harry existed, not even Terri. It was a secret that Harry insisted he keep. It wasn’t just because of security, important as it was for only the select few to know of his hidden talents. He didn’t like what he’d heard about the men. Raithe and the two men were friends from the same school and Harry didn’t trust them. Peter was too devious and James liked talking about himself too much. He liked talking to other people too, especially women. Harry saw that as a bad flaw.
All this was before the robbery. Even though his friend still supported him, Raithe wondered if things would ever be the same again. He’d violated the trust they shared in each other and completely disregarded Harry’s advice. A child was dead and Harry would never forgive him for that.
He crossed from the shadow of the tall buildings into the sunlight and felt the breeze on his back. There were no other people around but he felt strangely conspicuous; the same feeling he’d experienced the first day in prison. No one was around as he crossed the landing ahead of the guards, their feet making the only audible sound on the grating, yet he felt a thousand eyes burning into his back.

Tomorrow is a Life Away

Tomorrow is a life away
Must I wait till then
Tomorrow sometimes never comes
For an author’s pen
I close my eyes to see you
Whenever I’m alone
I’m here for you my magic girl
My heart’s your secret home

Ride around the universe
Music fills the air
Find our rainbows end
Climb the coloured stair
Our love is getting stronger
The more we are apart
Waiting for the next time
Kisses melt my heart

Sitting in the darkness
Saying our goodbyes
Smile in close-up now
Flash those sparkling eyes
From girl next door to lover
I’ve fallen for your charm
Waiting for that next dream
When beauty holds my arm

Feelings change in seconds
Pulling us apart
Hold me closer now
The daydreaming’s gonna start
There are so many others
But none love you as much
Goddess of the widescreen
I’m yearning for your touch

Ray Stone 2003

Sitting in the back row on Saturday afternoon in the local picture house with nothing better to do. When I was twenty, I waved to Sophia Loren as I drove past her villa on the Amalfi Road, southern Italy. Sadly she did not wave back so I married someone else.