Sunday, 31 July 2016

Episode 20: Uncle Duong

After their initial meeting Mai and Anh had become inseparable, spending all of their free time together much to the chagrin of Mai’s uncle who she lived with.  Mai’s parents had been killed during an air raid on Hanoi in 1971 when Mai was nine, and now lived with Uncle Duong in a large villa in the Ba Đình district.  

At first Uncle Duong was wary of Anh, as an important member of the Revolutionary council he had to be very careful of his alliances, even with a young girl.  He had his bodyguards follow her, and then her parents and neighbours in the Chợ Đồng Xuân questioned at length but found nothing untoward.  Still sensing something unusual with Anh he decided to have one of his youngest but most reliable agents keep a close eye on the Thanh Van family.  

His agent became a fixture of the markets; day and night he kept tabs on the family and especially the daughter Anh reporting back everyday to his cadre leader what had transpired during the prior day.  He'd become an expert at surveillance and closely monitored the two beautiful girls and constantly looked for signs of subversive behavior. He definitely enjoyed his new assignment, watching the two girls gave him enormous pleasure, and in moments of solitude he would often fantasize about being with them, his kisses and touch reciprocated until he climaxed. 

Like most young girls they constantly held hands wherever they went, but observed on occasion, as Anh would whisper in Mai’s ear that she would linger just that a moment too long.  It was something about the way she looked at her that gave away her love for Mai.  

He was torn between his assignment and his obvious attraction for the two beautiful women; he loved Mai’s inexorable beauty but was surprisingly drawn to Anh’s physicality and edginess. There was just something about the way she demanded respect from those around her that excited him.  

Anh had grown up in the Chợ Đồng Xuân and knew both the Old Quarter and the shopkeepers exceedingly well.  He'd followed her day and night, and what struck him most was the unusual level of deference the shopkeepers provided her, noting that they often gave her a slight bow when they met. 

Why would a shopkeeper bow to a young girl he wondered... 

Episode 19: Restless

Mai seemed preoccupied, even a little more than normal but and Anh was low on patience for her lover. One moment Mai would want to kiss and caress Anh’s naked and quivering body, the next she’d be flitting out the door to meet another suitor. It always seemed to be a tale of extremes, which added to the level of frustration for Anh as she had never become accustomed to feeling second best.

Anh had fallen for Mai from the moment she saw her at the first Reunification day celebrations at their school.  There was something about Mai’s beauty and confidence even in those days that drew her in, and although their first furtive kiss had been pure ecstasy for Anh she could also sense Mai’s free spirit which drew her in even more.

Much had passed since those early days, but the unwavering love Anh had for Mai was evident in every gesture, glance and moment together.  

It was Anh who broke the silence as they sat watching the sunset, “Is everything okay, you seem distracted?” she asked hesitantly.  Mai turned to look at her, a serious look in her eyes.  “Yes, actually I need your advice” Mai faltered.  Remember I told you about the Australian journalist I met at the embassy ball, the one I challenged to find me.  “The dark and brooding one” Anh shot back.  “The same” Mai said smiling, before it slowly faded.  

There was a long pause before Mai went on, well, he was a better detective than I could have ever imagined. I invited him over to get better acquainted…  Anh now knew where this was going; she’d seen it all before.  “And…?” pressed Anh.  Well, that was almost a week ago and he hasn’t contacted me since.  Anh laughed, “but isn’t that what you wanted, a quick conquest with no strings?”

You could always tell when Mai was angry, her eyes flashed and her nostrils flared at Anh’s flippant remark.  “Fuck you” she spat as she got up and walked into the house. 

Now it was Anh’s turn to be angry, she quickly followed Mai into the house and grabbed her by the arm spinning her around, Anh’s anger dissipated immediately when she saw the tears spilling down Mai’s cheeks, her lower lip quivering as Anh reached to embrace her.  

“Mai, what’s going on?” she asked anxiously.

Episode 18: John's dilemma

John had been waiting for the telex for over an hour past the normal daily deadline, the morning cycle as always went city by city with each international correspondent reporting in with key stories that they were following, or if there was any late breaking news it was sent immediately.  

This time honored tradition had been around since time immemorial, so clearly something was terribly wrong.  He’d been concerned the previous day when his correspondent noted that a large storm had been tracking toward Bangladesh, with Dhaka firmly in its path and that the residents had been encouraged to find higher ground and storm shelters, but from what he knew of Bangladesh that would have been impossible given that the highest land form was well to the north-east of the capital.

As he fretted his phone jarred him awake with its loud ring.  He picked it up before its second ring expecting that it was the telex room with confirmation that Dhaka had now reported in. 

“So, did you talk her out of her hair brained idea to go to Hanoi to see that Australian? Glenda stormed.   “What?” John snapped as he realized it wasn’t one of his assistants in the telex room.  Glenda ignored his tone and pressed on “well, did you talk to Lea or not?”   John sighed heavily, “yes I spoke to her but you know what she’s like…”

There was a long pause before Glenda yelled “so, nothing, you did nothing”.  “Look Glenda I’m in the middle of something here, can I call you back? John asked distractedly.  He could sense her extreme agitation but what could he do.  The phone slammed down in his ear.  Jesus, she’s a pain in the ass he thought as he put down the receiver.

John was more than concerned, he felt personally responsible for his correspondent in Dhaka, as he’d assigned him to the post less than a month before but not without the correspondent’s protests and remonstrations.  “Fuck” he yelled to himself.

He next reached for the phone “get me the Hanoi desk” he barked down the line...

Episode 17: Reeling

Mai kissed him gently on the cheek and patted his ass as he left that afternoon, she felt completely satiated after their incredible day together.  Frankly she hadn’t been expecting Bill to be that good in bed.  None of the westerners that she’d been with had ever been able to bring her to orgasm let alone three times.

She lit a cigarette and walked out onto her back patio, which overlooked the water on West Lake.  Surprisingly her body still tingled with the touch of his hands on her skin, she shuddered slightly at the thought and smiled to herself.

As Bill sat in the taxi back to his apartment on Duong Cát Linh he had so many thoughts running through his head that he felt a little dizzy.  Mai was more incredible that he even imagined possible, not just her beauty but also the way she touched him.  He could still feel her slow and deliberate fingernails down his back, as he lay naked on her bed, her breath close as she whispered into his ear, and the hair on his body standing on end…

As the taxi slowed in front of his apartment the first thing he noticed was Phuong sitting astride his scooter out front.  Bill paid the driver and smiled at Phuong, but the smile was not reciprocated.  

"You must call John immediately” Phuong said as he walked toward him, “Sorry?” said Bill.  There’s been a typhoon in Bangladesh and they can’t find our correspondent.  John’s been calling all afternoon and wants you on the next plane to Dhaka.  

Phuong motioned for Bill to get on the scooter and they quickly headed for his office in the Old Quarter.  When he called John he told him that he had been researching a story all day and that he had forgotten to tell Phuong where he was going.  John sensed the lie, but let it pass.  

John got straight to the point, "Phuong has probably already given you the details but there's been a typhoon in Bangladesh and we can't seem to get hold of our correspondent there".  Bill could sense the concern in John's voice as he spoke.  "Any idea where he is?  Jeff, isn't it?" Bill asked.  The phone was silent for a moment, just a moment too long and Bill could sense that something wasn't quite right, but now it was his turn not to press too hard.  "Look, this is a massive story and I want more than one source on the ground, and given your proximity I want you it?".  Bill nodded to himself, "Sure, no worries" on my way he said self assuredly.  Once I get on the ground I'll contact you he said and hung up the phone.  

Bill was packed and at Noi Bai airport within an hour of the conversation with John.  He knew that the next 24 hours were going to be hell especially given that Dhaka airport was now closed to all air traffic.  Phuong had gotten him onto a flight to Kuala Lumpur with a connection to Delhi but then he would be on his own to get to Calcutta, which was the closest entry point to Bangladesh.  Then god only knew how he was going to get into Dhaka.  

The hot humid air hung heavily on him as he walked across the tarmac toward the waiting plane...he looked back as Phuong stood watching him cross the darkened apron.

What lay before him no one knew...

Episode 16: Magnetic Pull

As a boy Bill had been lonely, growing up in a large boisterous family in rural New South Wales. Being the second youngest he was often outshone by the more athletic, the more academically inclined and the more loving of his siblings.  He often felt overlooked and so craved attention from both his parents and anyone near enough to pay attention. 

He constantly dreamed of leaving his familial home and making a name for himself in the city, "the further away from this shit hole the better" he often thought.  

He was a dreamer! 

Although relatively bright University was tougher than he thought. He had always been somewhat gifted as a writer and had a wonderful turn of phrase, everyone had said so but at University he was just one of the many and so had to apply himself far more than he had imagined, but due to his strong work ethic had graduated with honors and on the Dean's list. 

What he'd always dreamed about was becoming a journalist and living a life close to the action.  He got his first job at the Sydney Morning Herald as a cub reporter, however the big break came for Bill on January 18, 1977 when he was the first reporter on the scene at the Granville train disaster in Sydney's western suburbs.  

As the "on the spot" reporter he reported live from the scene day and night during the rescue efforts and aftermath.  His insightful and compassionate style of reporting coupled with his perseverance and doggedness received significant accolades from his peers and indeed the editor of the SMH.

His star was on the rise!  However over the ensuing years he realized that he was a big fish in a little pond and decided that the best place to make a name for himself was London.  Everyone in the newspaper game knew London was the epicenter of journalism especially now the cold war was winding down.  

It was now or never he thought.  With a sterling reference from his editor at the Sydney Morning Herald it only took a cursory interview to land a job with the Times.  Bill wasn’t one to rest on his laurels and so set about making a name for himself much as he had in Australia.  In fact, no story was too large or too small, he could be relied upon for something last minute and he would have moved heaven and earth to make the front page of the Times.  His hunger was evident in everything that he did.

"I'm going to make them proud of me - one way or another" he often thought to himself.

Episode 15: No Way

Lea had been dreading lunch with John ever since he had called earlier in the week, she knew exactly what was going on and had been trying to steel herself against the inevitable conversation.

John was already at the table at the fashionable Egerton House in Knightsbridge when Lea entered.  A glass of scotch firmly set in front of him, when he saw her enter he stood, his smile was warm and genuine, she had always been his favorite he thought as she walked toward him.  “Gorgeous as ever” he exclaimed as they embraced. 

She ordered a glass of Chardonnay to help calm her nerves, and it was John who first broached the subject.  So, your mother tells me you’re heading out to Hanoi to see Bill, he said nonchalantly.

Yes, she said a little too defensively for her own liking.  “Well, I’ve got holidays and I thought why not," she went on.  John’s expression didn’t change but she knew it was coming, she could feel it.

Have you spoken to Bill about it?  I thought you two parted on bad terms he went on.  No, I thought I would surprise him she said breezily.  But if you parted badly what makes you think he wants to see you John persisted.  

Lea’s confident look belied her self-doubt as she sat there in silence.  Her emotions began to get the better of her as her lower lip began to tremble and her eyes began to fill with tears.  “I was a stubborn fool and I lost the best thing in my life,” she said through tearful sobs. It was more serious than he thought as he moved around the table to console her. 

“Ssshhh, it’s going to be okay” he said as he held her, her body trembling and tears moistening his collar.  

“Will you help me?” she begged.  John closed his eyes and nodded, “of course I will,” he said, but even as he said the words he knew that it was a mistake…

Episode 14: Contact

Mai answered in her normal sultry voice “chào”.  Up until this moment Bill had been feeling confident, but now his confidence eluded him momentarily as he stammered, “Ah, hi this is Bill”…

Mai smiled to herself knowing that her intuition had been correct, and that he worked fast.  “So nice of you to call me” she purred in perfect english.   Well, thanks he said almost apologetically.  Taking the initiative “So, Bill when am I going to see you again?”  she said matter of factly

Still off kilter he paused then said, “Ah, whenever you want”.   “Why don’t you come over to my place so we can get acquainted” she said breezily.  Bill’s heart began to race; “sure what’s the address?” he asked nervously   

Mai laughed, “I’m sure a journalist of your stature already has my address”, now it was his turn to smile although he blushed uncontrollably on the end of the phone as he heard the distinctive click on the other end of the line.

Phuong in his usual thorough manner had given him Mai’s phone number but Bill had also done a little investigative research of his own and after a few twists and turns had found her address in Tây Hồ which was about 20 minutes by taxi from the Old Quarter.  

Quickly exiting his office he hailed a passing taxi and gave the driver the slip of paper with the address neatly written on it.  The driver nodded, looked at Bill in the rear vision mirror and moved off.  Bill sat in silence as the taxi driver navigated the crowded and congested streets of the Old Quarter with its cacophony of horns ringing in his ears, not that he noticed.

Arriving at her address on the quiet street, he paid the driver and walked to the front door, his palms sweating profusely and butterflies dancing in his stomach as he knocked lightly.   Mai opened the door dressed in a bright blue sarong that was tied above her breasts.  In her hands she held a glass brimming with bubbles.  “Champagne?” she said with a mischievous look in her eye.  

He stepped across the threshold into the cool of the house and took the glass from her hand, her smile lighting the room…

Episode 13: Clear Warning

Bill was undeniably surprised with the speed with which Phuong had been able to secure the number for Mai or Hanoi Rose as he called her.

As they walked Phuong left nothing out as he provided Bill with a full briefing on Mai. Bill was far from put off, in fact he was excited by the danger element that meeting Mai represented, especially now that he knew that the famous female gang leader Anh Thanh Van was purportedly Mai’s lover.  

"Jesus christ" he thought to himself, Anh Thanh Van was supposed to be the gangland leader than controlled the Chợ Đồng Xuân and she was Mai's lover...  He had seen the elusive Anh on many occasions in and around the Old Quarter, always admiring her beauty and cold, hard persona as she sat astride her white Vespa.

He played the image of Mai and Anh naked over in his mind and was physically excited by the very thought of their bodies intertwined. Distractedly he stopped and turned to look at Phuong who had a quizzical look on his face, they had reached the closest point to Tháp Rùa or Turtle Tower on Hoan Kiếm Lake, which was their normal turning point. 

“What?” said Bill distractedly?  “In Vietnamese” demanded Phuong giving him a hard look.  “Những gì” Bill repeated.  

Surely you’re not going to contact Hanoi Rose?  After all I’ve told you about her Phuong asked.  

You have a lot to learn about me Phuong, Bill said.  Phuong lowered his eyes and shook his head, this man is such a fool he thought to himself.  “I have a little job to do” he said, smiled broadly, turned and strode off.  Phuong watched him as he crossed the busy street and disappeared into the sea of scooters back toward the office.

Episode 12: The Number

The slip of paper was literally burning a hole in his pocket, since following Phuong’s lead at the Star Coffee shop he’d tried to remain calm and speak as if nothing had changed.  I guess it was the look in Phuong’s eyes that told him to be careful and to keep whatever was on the slip of paper concealed.

Excusing himself to go to the toilet, he nonchalantly walked in and quickly checked the stalls to make sure he was by himself, although this wasn’t enough as it was common practice for the government to have hidden camera’s and listening devices set up in toilets especially where westerns congregated.  

As he unbuckled his pants and squatted he withdrew the slip from his trouser pocket and holding it in his hand kept the angle low, but noted there was a telephone number scrawled in Phuong’s neat handwriting.

As he exited he notice that Phuong wasn’t in his seat, but rather standing out front.  Joining him Phuong motioned for him to follow as they made their way along Hàng Bè Street toward Hoan Kiếm Lake, which they sometimes like to walk around after coffee at the Star.  

Walking in silence until they were well away from the coffee shop and immersed in the chaos that is Hanoi at this hour of the day. Bill drew even with Phuong and asked whose number was on the paper. “It is the one you seek” said Phuong.  

Bill was still a little confused with the entire cloak and dagger charade, but Phuong was stony faced as he stopped and turned to Bill.  “Do not trifle with Hanoi Rose, she is dangerous”. 

Who's Hanoi Rose Bill asked inquiringly?

Episode 11: Resolute

No, Lea’s mind was made up.   She was going to Hanoi and have it out with him once and for all and prove to Bill that his posting had been a folly from the beginning and that they belonged together.  Now that she had made the decision it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders.

When she’d told her mother, Glenda wasn’t so sure.  She’d never really thought that Bill was good enough for her little girl, “An Australian to boot” she lamented on more than one occasion much to Lea’s chagrin.

No sooner than Lea had left her mothers than Glenda was on the phone to John who she knew would be in the office, even though it was a Sunday afternoon.  “Did you know your niece is going to Hanoi to see that damn Australian?” she blasted down the phone.  

Well, hello to you to sis John retorted, trying to keep his cool.  Actually, that’s the first I’ve heard of it, he said trying to sound upbeat.  

Okay, so how can I help?  “Sit her down and tell her she’s a fool and that she shouldn’t go” Glenda spat.   There was a moment of silence as John endeavored to keep his emotions in check, after taking a deep breath he said “and what makes you think she’ll listen to me?” he sighed.  

“She always listens to you, you’ve been like a father to her, just make her understand”, Glenda wailed.  Since Bill left for his posting in Hanoi Lea hadn’t spoken to John about anything unless it was work related.  She had blamed him for ruining their relationship, which frustrated John no-end.  

“The meat in the bloody sandwich” he thought once again...

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Episode 10: Dangerous

Phuong dreaded the thought of Bill getting involved with Mai, and what worried him most was Mai’s relationship and dealings with the all-powerful Anh Giang Trung who was rumored to be Mai’s lover. Phuong had seen them together on more than one occasion, Mai on the back of Anh white Vespa as they zipped in and out of the traffic around Hoan Kiem Lake. 

Anh was beautiful, but dangerous.  She controlled much of the Chợ Đồng Xuân from the back of her scooter and had witnessed on more than one occasion the savage beating of a vendor for not paying his weekly protection money by her enforcers.

Phuong had been non-committal earlier that morning when Bill had excitedly told him about his encounter with Mai the night before.  He also was starting to get to know Bill and knew that his journalistic instincts would find Mai sooner or later. He had decided that the best thing would be to give Bill all the details, leaving nothing out and if he still wanted to pursue Mai then be it on his own head.

Next morning Phuong got to the Star a little earlier than normal, found a seat by the window and waited for Bill.  After ordering their coffees – a hot American coffee for Bill and the traditional cold Vietnamese coffee for himself, he reached into his pocket and grasped the slip of paper, positioning it carefully in the palm of his hand so that no one could see it.   

He reached across the table and stealthily palmed the slip to Bill, old habits die hard  and you never can be too careful with who was watching he thought to himself.  

There was a look of surprise on Bill’s face as he closed his fist around his friend’s hand and felt the paper in his palm.  He slowly withdrew his hand but held Phuong’s gaze and nodding almost imperceptibly, Phuong smiled and said “for your cause”.

Episode 9: Empty

Lea felt completely empty since Bill left for his new post in Hanoi.  She played out the argument at the restaurant over and over in her mind, she'd hoped deep down that he’d see how important she was to him and choose their relationship over his posting.  She chastised herself about the way she'd handled the whole situation and had missed any opportunity to talk before he'd left for Vietnam. 

Even though they’d fought she now realized that she had loved him deeply and that in all likelihood he had been the love of her life, not that it mattered now that he was half way around the world.   

To try and take her mind off Bill she'd jumped back into the fray and tried dating, but each time she found herself measuring the men against Bill and each time they came up wanting. There were just too many memories of him that lingered and played on her mind, and definitely no one even came close to being as interesting as Bill, nor as ruggedly handsome.    
She felt so guilty and ashamed of the way she’d handled that final conversation, and now the void in her heart was deep and more than painful - she ached for his warm embrace and the way he'd whisper in her ear as they made love early in the morning.  

If only I could have that moment back she thought to herself…if only…

Episode 8: Star Cafe

Bill prided himself in being a great investigative reporter, and after his encounter with Mai at the cocktail party the prior evening he was more than a little pre-occupied with finding her and was desperate to talk to Phuong about what had happened last night.  

Bill and Phuong had developed an early morning ritual of meeting at the Star Cafe on Nguyen Thien Thuat in the Old Quarter to begin each day, once together Bill would practice his basic Vietnamese and then they'd work out what newsworthy stories they would follow over the coming days.  

It had taken Bill some time to adjust to the heat and humidity of Hanoi, although most days Phuong still wore a light jacket as he reminded Bill that it was still the cool season.  To which Bill would shake his head and laugh as the beads of sweat rolled down his temple and onto the table in front of him.  "God its hot" he'd complain

Bill always arrived at the Star early but inevitably found Phuong at his usual spot perched in the back corner chatting amiably to the Star's owner.  The conversation ended as Bill strode toward them, Bin Dong, the Star's owner smiled and moved toward the counter to begin making the coffees.  Once the coffees had arrived Bill turned to Phuong and told him of his encounter with the beautiful woman and more importantly what she'd said to him before she walked away.

“If you saw her, you'd say she was the most beautiful woman in the world” bill cooed but couldn't give Phuong much more to go on.  Phuong's face was impervious to expression and knew who the mystery woman was without being given another clue.  Hanoi Rose was the most glamorous and beautiful woman in all of Hanoi and Phuong knew much more than what he was willing to tell Bill.  

She was trouble with a capital T...

Episode 7: Torturous

The look of desire in her eyes was mesmerizing; it had been some time since he had felt like the prey in an encounter but clearly she was a master in the art of seduction.  

Her hand lingered on his ass before she slowly ran her index finger up to his belt and deliberately traced her index finger toward the buckle, their eyes locked, the sounds of the room silent around them.  He watched transfixed as she seductively brought the cigarette to her lips and slowly drew on it as they continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.  She tilted her head slightly and blew the smoke away from him.

"Ah, so what’s your name?" he asked clumsily.  She smiled the most gorgeous smile of perfectly white, straight teeth and in impeccable English said I’m Mai, and you are…other than handsome?

He blushed as he held out his hand, she took it and felt his strong grip embrace her beautifully manicured hand.  Bill’s pulse quickened as she leaned into him and whispered into his ear — “find me”.

With that she withdrew her hand, smiled and took him in with one long seductive look, before turning and floating back into the sea of people that surrounded them.  

Bill stood there, not believing what had just happened.  He quickly scanned the room into which she had disappeared but couldn’t see her anywhere.

"Jesus" he muttered to himself as he downed the scotch in one large gulp.  

Slowly regaining his composure he leaned back against the bar and shook his head, "find me huh" and he knew just the guy that could help him...

Episode 6: Adrift

Lea had been feeling more than uneasy over dinner, the restaurant had been one of their favourite Asian fusion places but the conversation had been stilted from the start and she could tell that Bill had something on his mind.  She also knew him well enough to know that he didn’t quite know how to bring it up.

However, when Bill finally admitted to her that he had demanded the Hanoi posting from John earlier that day and that he had begrudgingly agreed she felt numb.  She knew about Hanoi as he’d been going on and on about it, but thought there was no way that John would give one of his junior reporters the desk in Hanoi, even if he was one of the best.

“So what does that mean?”   Well, Bill went on somewhat reluctantly, it means that I’m headed to Hanoi in three weeks once the visa and internal papers have been finalized he said smiling.  Clearly Bill had missed the subtly of the question, as it wasn’t about him or the posting but about them.

I meant, what does that mean about us? Lea said with tears starting to well in her eyes.  Well, I don’t know Bill stammered awkwardly, I never really thought past getting the job in Hanoi.  "Well, I suppose you could come with me" he said brightly.

“Fuck you!” she spat, and the look of hurt evident on her face.  She pushed her chair back threw down her napkin and said “I never want to see you again — got that?” and grabbing her handbag stormed out of the restaurant.  Bill sat there momentarily dumbfounded…wow, that hadn’t gone as expected he bemoaned to himself.

Lea wasn't at work the next morning, nor the morning after that.  In fact over the next couple of days Bill had left countless phone messages for her both at work and home, he’d even tried going around to her flat and ringing the doorbell expectantly but with no response.

Even Lea hadn’t realized it at the time but the fight with Bill and his subsequent posting to Hanoi had shattered her emotionally.  

She felt adrift…

Episode 5: The Look

Bill knew the one thing that could take the edge off and get him back on an even keel.  Her name was Mai, or "Hanoi Rose" as she was more commonly referred to by his newly acquired expat acquaintances.  

He smiled to himself as his mind drifted back to the cocktail party at the French embassy soon after he’d arrived.  He remembered how awkward he felt the first time he attended one of these rather formal functions and recalled how he’d been stuck in another mindless conversation with the wife of a Belgian diplomate when distractedly glancing around the room noticed the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen float through the arches into the grand ballroom.  All he could do was to drink in her image as she smiled and chatted amiably with the entourage of men that followed her into the room, there was something very special about her aura.   What a strange thing to think about someone he'd never even met.  

He couldn't take his eyes from her, she was bedecked in a magnificent long turquoise gown with high collar and was the epitome of the beauty and grace as she immediately drew in all those around her.  He was smitten from the moment he laid eyes on her.  Having to tear his gaze from her he now excused himself and went in search of another scotch and perhaps some fresh air.  

Holy shit he said to himself under his breath as he strode toward the bar

Minutes later finding himself leaning against the bar he felt a hand slide along his thigh and rest on the cheek of his ass.  He flung around only to find her standing there with a smile that could melt an iceberg.

Bill was dumbstruck, and for the first time in his life words failed him...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Episode 4: Promises

John had initially resisted his sisters request to hire Lea right out to University, nothing good comes from hiring family he’d thought at the time, but felt obligated to his big sister and so acquiesced.  She had always been there for him during his childhood, but as always felt a sense of guilt that was pervasive in their relationship.

Now he was kicking himself because he knew that Lea was in love with Bill, even if she didn’t know it yet.  He was completely conflicted with the situation, but yet again, stuck in the middle of it.  Too many times of late he'd felt like the meat in the sandwich and vowed to keep out of family politics from now on.  

As John reflected on Bills request he knew that if you wanted to make a name for yourself in the newspaper game you had to take risks, and to be honest John admired Bill for his ballsiness in demanding the post in Hanoi, he would have done exactly the same when he was younger.  Yes, there was something to be admired in Bill - no question!

But where was he going to stand with Lea and his sister Glenda he now thought…god only knows.  

He had a deep sense of foreboding as he considered his options around Bills proposal...

Episode 3: Best option

John reluctantly waved him into his office; he smiled but knew something was up by the look on Bill’s face.  Although he’d only been with the paper four years he was one of his best and his reputation was growing as a sound journalist.  

John’s apprehension grew, as Bill got straight to the point, after all it's not often a journalist drops by the Editor of the International desk for a cursory visit.  “Look, ah…I know about what happened in Hanoi and I want the posting.”

He was stunned…and frankly speechless, which was a first for John.  It had been three weeks since the police had found the body in the dingy alley near the Chợ Đồng Xuân in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.  So far they hadn’t been able to ascertain what had happened and John was fearing that they’d pretty much closed the case and put it down to just another foreigner being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time…poor bastard he thought to himself.

Clearly Bill had caught him a little off guard with his sudden proposal and now tried to elaborate further, but John held up his hand and motioned him to stop.  

"What makes you think that I would give you the posting to Hanoi", he said almost a little too loudly.  "Because I’m your best bet that’s why" Bill shot back, his gaze not wavering from John’s...

Friday, 22 July 2016

Episode 2: Obsessed

Now it was Lea’s turn to be pissed off.  Her day had gone from bad to worse after the awful row they’d earlier that morning before work.  She had always known deep down that she didn’t want an overseas post, but he seemed obsessed by it, constantly prattling on about “I just want to take it to the next level”.

Well, clearly taking it the next level was going to be without her!  She had finally found her groove and although her city beat and the mostly local stories were relatively mundane she enjoyed the freedom and felt that her writing was getting better.  Hell, even last week her editor commented on the human interest story she’d written about the family of the high speed accident victims from the recent crash on Pentonville Road in London's inner north.

Instead of looking forward to their anniversary dinner, she was engulfed by a sense of foreboding and dread...

Just breath she thought to herself...

Episode 1: Hanoi Dawn

It was very early and except for the ubiquitous scooters that still prowled these pre-dawn streets he was alone.  He stood on the step momentarily and as he surveyed the deserted street but all he could see was the reflection of streetlights in the gathering dawn and thick air that hung over the city like a wet blanket.  

Within seconds his shirt had begun to stick to the skin on his back, perspiration beads forming on his brow and tiny droplets of sweat appearing on the wrists, even at this hour it was stiflingly hot.  The humidity and pungent smells of Hanoi’s Cát Linh Đốg Đ assailed him as soon as he had stepped from the air-conditioned sanctuary that he now called home. 

The life of a foreign correspondent wasn't all what it was cracked up to be he thought to himself as his mind wandered back to that fateful day in John’s office, when he had begged to be posted to Hanoi.  Memories of that conversation still haunted him, but that was another lifetime ago and so disconnected with his current reality. 

It wasn't that he was a bad correspondent, no far from it.  He'd been a dogged overachiever in his work with the Sydney Morning Herald and later the Times in London and had always yearned for a posting like this.  However, soon after arriving in Hanoi he realized that it was far from the exotic location he'd expected or hoped for and that he’d literally thrust himself into a journalistic backwater with little hope of salvation. 

He closed his eyes momentarily and sighed deeply to himself, the lack of sleep and overall exhaustion weighing heavily on him. 

God, how could I have been so naïve he chided himself as he groggily made his way along the street toward the Old Quarter.  He felt the pre-dawn gloom wrap itself around him like the comfortable companion that it had become over these past six months.

If only I had that moment over again, he thought…