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An exciting first tale of a series in which a man from Earth travels to the Empire to help his Grandfather but encounters pirates, clones, and assassins en route. On the verge of old age and entering an old aged home Jason’s 80-year-old wife suicides after she is diagnosed with dementia and he faces murder charges. He is asked to travel to the Empire which is 65000 years ahead to help his sick great grandfather run his Duchy. He begins his travels on a battleship; enjoys new lovers fights new enemies but finally has to decide if he can face his nemesis.

Scifi / Adventure
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Chapter 1 - Suicide and a Heart Attack

“Bye, Jason, have a good lunch, and a happy birthday!” shouted Jeff, cheerfully waving through his car window as he started to drive off.

“Bye, see you next week, Jason!” shouted Tom from the back seat. “Have a great day!”

“That was quite a ride. He’s pretty good for an eighty-year-old. He seems to be pretty with it, as well,” said Charlie chattily. “The hills in Perth can be tough. When I was migrating here from the UK, I thought Australia was as flat as Holland. I brought my old heavy bike with me. I have battled to get used to the hills. Jason went up the hills like a bat out of hell and then chatted about a technical concept of exercise physiology and wasn’t even out of breath.”

“You don’t know half of it! He has been one of the strongest riders but is also very switched on. He has still been doing consulting work at a high level.”

“That’s interesting. What sort of consulting does he do?”Tom asked.

“He started an IT company in the earliest days of computers and says that he specialized in computer security. Later he was involved in ‘ethical hacking.’ He said that now his clients just want him present at meetings for reassurance. The real work is done by his daughter and the company. He says she’s a ‘mega-brain’ and runs a very tight ship,” said Jeff.

“Today is the first day I met him. He passed me as if I was stationary, going up that steep hill on the way back. When I caught up later and said how impressed I was, he asked me how old I thought he was. I looked at him and said, ‘maybe 65’. He laughed and said eighty. How long have you known him Jeff?”Tom asked.

“I’ve got to know him pretty well over the last four or five years. He has an iron will, and never gives up no matter how steep the road or how long we ride. He’s a fine man and generally a good guy. He’s the first to stop to help if you’ve a puncture or have a mechanical problem; but he’s got a very sharp tongue if you get on the wrong side of him. Andrew tried to pull a fast one a few years ago, on the committee, and had an unforgettable experience at the end of Jason’s sharp tongue. He avoids Jason now like the plague!

“Harry told me Jason was a Colonel in Special Forces in Vietnam, and had a distinguished career. Jason never mentions it, and Harry says he refuses to talk about his experiences, ever.

“He’s still pretty athletic and can climb hills with the best of the younger guys. That fall he had today really did shock him. He said his balance isn’t what it used to be. He said he would love to be young again with all his experience, rather than an old crock waiting for the end. So, would we all!

“He also told me at lunch his wife has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He seemed very upset about it. I’d feel the same. I don’t know how I would manage without my wife’s organizational skills,” said Jeff.

“He said it’s at times like this he feels his age, and can’t believe he’s eighty... except when he gets up in the morning, and feels all his aches and pains. I’m sixty-seven and some days I feel like I’m a hundred years old. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be that age. When he can’t ride anymore, I’ll miss him,” said Jeff as they stopped at Tom’s house helped him to take his bike off the rack.

Jason pressed the garage door controller and heard the two dogs frantically barking. ‘That’s unusual,’ he thought. He pushed his mountain bike quickly into the garage and lifted it onto its stand. He tiredly removed the bike’s computer and lights, put them into his bag, and put his helmet and gloves on the shelf. The dogs’ barking became even more urgent. He began to hurry. Their bark was not the usual bark of ‘hurry up, get inside, and rub my ears’. They sounded distressed.

The dogs were not in the house, which was disturbingly unusual. He opened the back door to let them in. That meant that the dog door in the laundry was locked, and his wife had deliberately locked the dogs outside. No tradesmen were expected on a Sunday, and he wondered why she had done it. The kitchen was dim, as was the rest of the downstairs area. None of the curtains had been opened. It gave the area a feel of foreboding.

Rather than greet him effusively, the dogs barked frantically while running around in circles, then dashing towards the stairs. It was unusual for the lights to not be on in the kitchen or on the stairs. The dogs were behaving very strangely, too, running to him, and then running up the stairs while barking insistently. He felt the hair rise at the back of his neck.

He followed them to the stairs. His knees creaked and his muscles felt weak. His hip was sore from his fall. He held onto the handrail to pull himself upstairs. Jason felt every year of his age. He was light-headed and had to sit on the landing for a moment or two to prevent himself from fainting. The dogs barked even more frantically. Rosie pulled on his sleeve. He hauled himself up and went up remainder of the stairs feeling quite disoriented and nauseated.

The master bedroom door was closed. The dogs scratched on the door whining plaintively. He opened the door. The dogs dashed into the room, and ran onto the balcony. They stood there and barked. Rosie began to howl.

The room was dark; the blinds were closed, with the only light coming in through the balcony door. He saw light flickering on the wall as the wind blew the balcony curtain. He heard the tap, tap, tapping as the wind blew the blinds away from the wall and they fell back. There was a desolate feel about the room, which was very cold. He shivered in the draft. He walked as quickly as he could to the balcony door and looked out. Sarah was hanging from a rope tied around a rafter. The chair she used was lying on its side near her. Her body was very slowly swinging and twisting with the wind gusts.

As quickly as he could, he went downstairs to retrieve a large kitchen knife. He nearly fainted climbing the stairs, and dry retched on the landing at the top of the stairs.

He moved the bedroom chair close to Sarah, but against the wall so that he could use the wall for support. He climbed up, feeling quite dizzy and disoriented for a few seconds as he did so. He was forced to pause, holding on to the back of the chair while leaning on the wall, before he felt secure enough to cut her down. He held onto the rope to let her down as gently as he could.

He unsteadily climbed down, grabbing the balcony rail to prevent himself from falling. He noticed the sudden silence as the dogs stopped barking and were sniffing Sarah’s face and then whining softly. He fumbled very briefly with the knot, trying fruitlessly to loosen the noose and then carefully cut the rope from her neck while holding it away from her skin, even though every instinct told him she was long since dead. Her skin was completely cold and he could feel her muscles were rigid. She had no pulse and her skin was white. Her face was suffused and looked swollen, her eyes bloodshot, wide open and unreactive. He gently closed them with his hand.

“Goodbye my darling wife, I’m so sad to see you leave like this. Fare you well. I’m sure I will be seeing you soon,” Jason said softly as he sobbed while the dogs rubbed against him. They felt warm and reassuring. He saw a flash of Sarah when he had first met her, then felt the wind blow and heard again the tapping of the blinds bring him back to the present.

Sarah was wearing her nightie, her feet were bare, and he noticed they were blotchy, blue, and swollen. He retched again over the balcony, before moving to the phone. He called for an ambulance, and then sadly called his daughter, Lauren.

“Lauren, I came back five minutes ago from my ride to find your mother hanging from the balcony. Emergency services are on the way. When I got back she was absolutely cold and I suspect she has been dead for some time.”

“I’ll be over in five minutes.”

He walked down the stairs, slowly and carefully, and went into the kitchen. He poured a cold glass of water from the front of the fridge and put in an electrolyte tablet. He absently watched it fizz. Before he’d finished it, the front doorbell rang and he slowly led the paramedics upstairs and showed them where Sarah was. As they were carrying her body down the stairs two young policemen arrived and he showed them where he found Sarah. Lauren came upstairs and hugged him tightly.

“Sir, did you have any indication that she was thinking of suicide or that she had any reason for suicide?”

Jason looked at the young policeman standing in front of him with a notebook and absently thought that he looked much too young to be a policeman but then everyone looked younger every year.

Lauren said, “Last week the doctor confirmed that she was developing dementia. She hated the idea, as she had watched her mother decline with dementia and Parkinson’s for over seven years. She has always said that she couldn’t live with dementia, but she seemed to be accepting it and we were all looking forward to my father’s eightieth birthday party, today. We were all going out for lunch and she went shopping with me yesterday for something for my father. I didn’t have the slightest idea that this is what she was thinking about. My parents were thinking about moving into an old-age, resort village that also had facilities for those needing more intensive care.

“I feel terrible about the rope, as she had asked me to put it up for her three weeks ago. She said she was going to be putting up that basket of ferns that you can see in the corner of the balcony,” Lauren added sadly.

“Lauren, please call an ambulance for me. I think I’m having a heart attack. Tell them I’ve a crushing chest pain, I feel nauseous, and I’ve just found my wife hanging, dead,” said Jason as he was sitting on the bed, then lost consciousness.

He briefly regained partial awareness in the ambulance before waking with a different pain in his chest to find Lauren, Chloe, and Chuck sitting next to his bed. His throat was parched. He looked up to see the drip, smelled the typical hospital smell and felt the plastic under the sheet as he tried to make himself a little more comfortable before trying to speak. His voice came out as a croak. Lauren immediately went out and returned with a nurse who carried a paper cup of water with a straw. Jason strained to drink it. The nurse raised the head of the bed making it a little easier. She put the cup on the tray in front of him and bustled around his bed making him more comfortable.

“The doctor will be here in half an hour, but you are doing well,” she said reassuringly.

“Dad, you seem to have had it lucky. You got the A-Team of cardiologists, they have prevented significant heart damage, and you are the proud owner of two stents. They said you can come home tomorrow, but you will need to stay with us for a week so we can keep an eye on you,” said Lauren.

“Hi, Chloe and Chuck, how are you guys, shouldn’t you be at school?”

“No, grandpa today is a Teacher’s Professional Development Day at the school, and we have the day off. We are very sad about Granny, and we’ll miss her very much. What are we going to do every afternoon now she isn’t here to fetch us?”

“Darlings, we’ll sort out something,” Lauren said.

“Mum, please tell Grandpa about the disgusting detective,” said Chloe wrinkling her nose.

“Grandpa, I think, has had enough excitement for one day,” said Lauren firmly.

“All right, I’ll bite,” said Jason. “Tell me about the disgusting detective and his nefarious intentions!”

“You know when you see on the movies how they portray a corrupt, obese cop?”Lauren asked wrinkling her nose exactly as her daughter had done. “Well, we have seen one of those. Detective Clarke, in all of his sleazy, slimy magnificence, showed up just before we were leaving for the hospital. We had gone to your place to pick up some pyjamas and clothes for tomorrow, and he showed up with a search warrant. He specifically wanted to look at your office.

“I called Dan at his office and he said that we had to let him do it. He asked where all your papers were and I said that you don’t keep papers, and everything was on your computer. He then confiscated the computer and took it away. The search warrant said something about you being ‘under suspicion for being complicit in the death of your wife,’ or some such garbage.

“I don’t think you’ve anything to worry about, but he strikes me as the kind of person who forms a view, and no facts will interfere with his opinion. I gave him a piece of my mind and he just sneered at me and said, ‘yes ma’am.’ He’s a loathsome piece of work, as is his partner Detective Gourley who is as different in appearance as chalk and cheese. He is impeccably groomed and looks well dressed. He is skinny and has an unctuous air about him like a character out of Dickens. He is thin where Clarke is obese. Clarke talks incessantly, but Gourley never speaks. He just stands and smirks from behind his boss. Clarke wants to see you as soon as possible. I have to call him when you are available,” said Lauren angrily as she explained her encounter.

“There’s no point in any delay. Let’s give him a call as soon as I get to your place, and I’ll talk to him. You had better ask Dan if he will sit in on the interview, as I don’t like the sound of the guy. I know the type, and I don’t want to take any chances and leave myself vulnerable,” said Jason pensively but sounding determined.

“I also want to be a lawyer! Please can I sit in on the interview?”Chuck asked.

“No, fat-head, you are too young, and it’s not appropriate for a child to sit on a police interview. Please, grandpa can I sit in on the interview?”Chloe asked batting her eyelashes, smiling at him and then looking at him beseechingly, then put out her tongue at her brother. Jason sat and thought for a few moments.

“I think that I’d like both of you in the interview, as I definitely need your help, but I suspect that my lawyer would advise against it in case one of you would say something that would lead you to be put in jail! Also, both of you need to go to school, tomorrow,” Jason replied seriously.

“Oh, grandpa you just don’t take anything seriously! Mum said that the detective was after your blood. I don’t want him to get your blood because I’m not sure that at your age you’ve got a lot of blood. Mum said when you stand up you get light-headed, and she said that you are not getting enough blood to your head, so you don’t have a lot of blood. I also don’t think you should be giving any to that horrible fat disgusting man. He stinks, and he kept pulling up his pants which are loose and dirty. He even had some egg on his tie. If mum says he wants blood he must be some sort of a vampire,” said Chuck with a catch in his voice. “I’m worried about you, Grandpa.”Chuck sat still for a moment thinking and then his face lit up.

“Grandpa, I don’t have a silver bullet for you, and I know you don’t have your pistol and rifle from the war; but Johnny’s dad is a carpenter. I’ll go there this afternoon and will ask him if he will help us make a few wooden stakes,” Chuck said looking very worried.

“Excellent idea, Chuck that would be really useful, we’ll watch him very carefully. Perhaps you can ask your dad if we can borrow one of his big hammers to knock in the stakes, if we need to use it on the detective. I also hope he has a bath before he comes to see us, as I hate stinky detectives. Maybe if he’s really stinky I’ll vomit all over him, Chuck,” said Jason smiling.

“Chuck, don’t be stupid! There’s no such thing as a vampire!”Chloe retorted.

“Is so! Mum said he’s after grandpa’s blood, so there! He’s a vampire! If mum said so that’s it and it’s true. Dad says Mum is always right, and I need to remember it,” Chuck replied convincingly.

“Come on, you two,” Lauren said, “we’ll find out tomorrow if Detective Clark is a vampire or not. I suspect that in his own way, he is. Chuck, you go ahead and make a couple of stakes and I’ll ask your dad for the large double headed hammer. We’ll sit at the dining room table and I’ll put the stakes on the serving table near me. I’m sure the interview will be held while you guys are at school. I’ll put on the air conditioning to help with the stink and spray the air ahead of time. We need to say goodbye to grandpa, for now. Chloe put the suitcase in the cupboard and we’ll make our way home. They are discharging grandpa tomorrow morning.”

Five minutes after they left Jason was visited by the cardiologist and his entourage.

“Mr. Kargo, you have had a major cardiac infarction due to a clot, which we were largely able to dissolve as we got to you so quickly. We also put in two stents. There is a good chance of recovery but you need to be careful and don’t exert yourself. We can’t yet predict the full extent of the recovery. Your blood pressure fell precipitously in theatre and you will need time for recuperation. There is a risk of residual cardiac failure,” he began to speak without introducing himself. “No exercise for the time being, other than a slow walk for fifteen minutes a day until I see you in three weeks in my rooms.”

He turned and left without another word.

‘Dr Alan Fellows-Jones won’t be seeing me again,’ decided Jason.

“Detectives, this is my father, Jason Kargo, and my husband Dan who is his lawyer. I’ll sit in on the interview as his support,” said Lauren assertively.

Jason looked over at the serving table and saw a large hammer and three very large wooden stakes. He laughed. Both detectives looked at him strangely. Lauren smiled, seeing where he was looking. Jason was feeling tired and upset about Sarah. The coroner wouldn’t release her body for cremation. Craig, his son, was due to fly in from Houston in two days for the funeral.

“Thank you very much for seeing us, Mr. Kargo. Are you sure that you need to have your lawyer and your daughter with you? If you’ve nothing to worry about are you sure you need your minders?”Clark gave a smarmy smile.

“Yes,” replied Jason.

“Do you have something to hide that you need your lawyer present?”Clark asked losing his smile.

“I want my lawyer and my daughter present.”

“Do you’ve something to hide?”Clark asked.

“Can you be more specific as I don’t know what you are referring to,” replied Jason.

“Your involvement in your wife’s death,” said Clark impatiently.

“What involvement exactly are you asking about?”

“You assisting and facilitating the death of your wife?”

“I had no role in assisting or facilitating the death of my wife,” said Jason softly.

“You had information on your computer about assisted suicide. Did you help or encourage your wife to commit suicide?”Clarke asked loudly and impatiently.

“I deliver a talk regularly at the old-age home around the corner from my house. The residents asked me to lead a discussion on the merits or otherwise of assisted suicide. You can clearly see the email with the request, and you can see my notes. I did some research. You will also see that I did discuss the models that are available elsewhere in the world of medically assisted suicide, which we did discuss at a second meeting. It was a lively discussion, but I didn’t express a personal opinion.

“As far as your second question is concerned I can only reiterate that I had no involvement in planning, assisting, or facilitating the death of my wife.”

“I see in your will and in your wife’s will that you both express the opinion that you are not to be resuscitated and no active measures are to be taken in the case of catastrophic illness or injury. Did you not view your wife’s condition as catastrophic and you knew she would take action and didn’t prevent it and you deliberately went out that morning to provide the opportunity for her. Did you not collude with her in her suicide? Did you not deliberately stay away from home yesterday to facilitate her suicide?”

“No,” said Jason.

“Is that all you have to say,” Detective Clarke asked sounding quite angry.

“I go out cycling with friends two or three times a week. I go to the gym at least another couple of times. I’m now eighty years of age, and I’ve had a similar exercise routine with small variations of exercise type, since my teens. I also walk the dogs, sometimes for hours at a time. There was nothing unusual about my going out yesterday morning. I’ve gone out on Sunday morning relentlessly, for many years.

“The family was then going out for lunch to celebrate my eightieth birthday. Despite the diagnosis of dementia - which incidentally was mild; though it was clearly progressing - my wife seemed happy the previous day. She went out shopping with my daughter. In the evening she chatted, as was usual. She had never previously talked of suicide, nor had she ever had a suicide attempt.

“She researched whatever she wished, as that was her nature, and was highly computer literate. I would suggest that you have a look on her computer to see if she was planning suicide ahead of time. I’d be very surprised if you don’t find something. She clearly was thinking about suicide weeks ago. Lauren tells me that she asked to have the rope put up on the balcony, three weeks ago. On the one hand, we may say that she simply decided that the rope was a good choice for suicide as it was already in place, but that’s improbable. She didn’t put up the basket for three weeks which is quite unlike her. She’s a very active gardener and never procrastinates. That indicates to me that she was thinking about it ahead of time, though we had no idea what she was thinking about. She was certainly worried about her memory for at least the last three to four months, and she was the one that initiated the visit to the doctor,” said Jason sadly.

“So you knew she was planning suicide?”Clark stated.

“No, I didn’t,” said Jason. “Did you find a suicide note while you were searching the house?”

“Yes, we did, and we are holding it as evidence,” said Clark smugly.

“Then I would like to have a copy,” said Dan, “what did it say?”

“Amongst other things she says that she thanks her husband for all his help over the years, and specially in this trying time. She talks about their good marriage their happy life and how she’s going to miss Lauren, your son and the grandchildren; but believed that it was better that they remembered her as she was, rather than what she would become. I believe, Mr. Kargo, that the help she refers to, is your role in assisting and facilitating her suicide, is that not true Mr. Kargo?”Clark said triumphantly as if he had approved his case unequivocally.

“No,” Jason said.

“Also I see, Mr. Kargo, that you’ve scratches on your arms, can you explain those to me as well?”

“Even I know that you are speaking utter rubbish,” said Lauren sounding very frustrated. “He helped edit papers that she wrote from the time they got together in their mid-twenties. He has a great sense of how to structure a document, and edits and proofreads well. She always appreciated his editing help. What kind of help could he give her to facilitate her suicide? There was nothing to it. She told me she bought the rope at the hardware store. The only person who gave her help was me! I put up the rope, for which I’ll feel irrationally but, I fear, inevitably guilty in the future. She was an active gardener, and had many baskets suspended on wires or ropes. I’ve done lots of related tasks for her over the last fifteen years, as she became frailer, and her balance and my father’s balance deteriorated. I had no idea of her intentions. I don’t even believe that she had decided at the time I put up the rope. My guess is she wanted to have a contingency plan in case she had dementia. What on earth is Dad supposed to have done, and what could he do to be a helper to her death, when she bought the rope and I put it up for her?”Lauren asked indignantly.

“As far as the scratches are concerned, I got them while cycling. I fell and scratched my arm; and yes, I have witnesses,” said Jason tiredly.

“There’s growing and persuasive circumstantial evidence that your father colluded with and assisted your mother in her suicide and I will assemble the necessary information to prove my case unequivocally.

Have you at any time had your wife’s life insured?”Clarke asked.

“Yes, I did have insurance for her life in the past. We cancelled those policies when we became financially independent.”

“Is there anything else that you can tell me, Mr. Kargo?”

“There’s nothing further for me to say, Detective. I await with interest your further conclusions,” said Jason.

The two detectives made their way to their car where they stood and talked animatedly for a few minutes before leaving.

“Jason, I don’t think you’ve anything to worry about, other than the aggravation that I think you are going to have to go through with this idiot. I suspect we won’t be able to sort it out quickly.

“I’m going to have a chat with one of my friends who is a senior prosecutor. That guy is completely off his rocker. There’s no case here, and he’s talking drivel,” said Dan.

“I suspect my friend will say that we need to let the investigation go on a little longer, and let the detective hang himself. I think his partner was far from happy.

“I’m amazed that he’s exactly as the children described him, and he does stink. I think he either has the same tie on as he had yesterday, or he has two ties with egg on them!”Dan remarked incredulously.

“I’m going to your house to pick up Sarah’s computer and I’ll go through it to see what’s on it,” said Dan. “I think I will take a hard drive along with me and copy everything from the drive-in case they take it away.”

“Dad that detective was a real disgusting piece of work. You seemed to take it all quite calmly but I must say I’m really worked up about this,” said Lauren as Dan reversed down their driveway.

“Lauren, at the end of the day, I don’t really care. I’ve had a good life, and that ass has nothing to threaten me with.

“Your mother and I were very close; we’ve had a good relationship since we married in our twenties. We were blessed with you and your brother, and now we have four grandchildren. I’ve enjoyed my work and my career, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my semi-retirement and my hobbies.

“I’ve been feeling very old in recent times. With the stress of what has been happening with your mother, I’ve put on a lot of weight, and I also have type II diabetes. I’ve the beginnings of osteoporosis, and almost no cartilage in my knees. Every morning I wake up and feel innumerable aches in my body. In recent times, I’ve felt that if I died it would be a relief. As you know I’ve had high cholesterol for years, as well as high blood pressure, which has been well controlled, but now fluctuates from normal to low, sometimes with no provocation. I am beginning to fall apart, despite all the medication.

“I relentlessly pursue my exercise, but it’s getting harder and harder. My balance isn’t as good as it used to be, and I’m starting to have some difficulties with climbing hills despite actively doing gym cycling classes. Going up the stairs at home, particularly after a ride, is very difficult; and, as Chuck said, you know I have low blood pressure when I stand or go upstairs. My biggest nightmare is fainting in the bathroom at three o’clock in the morning, and having a fall and breaking my neck or fracturing my skull. I also have terrible arthritis in my neck; probably precipitated by the auto crash I had years ago.

“I can tell you that aging sucks; and then you die. So, if I may get back to the essential point that I’m trying to make, I’m a progressing physical wreck, not far from the end of my life. It’s largely been a good life, and that irritating mass of lard doesn’t scare me at all. I just don’t feel like going through the whole roller coaster that he’s trying to put me on.

“I would like to spend some time on my own mourning your mother. I’m thinking about going down south to our house in Busselton for a few days. Yes, Lauren it may be a risk without you guys looking after me, but if I die so be it. Sarah and I had so many great memories there, together. I feel restless and want to drive. Craig has been delayed to Monday so there is no reason not to go and return Sunday night. I have all my medication and my bag packed,” said Jason.

“Dad, I don’t like the idea and think it’s an unwarranted risk, but please be careful,” Lauren replied.

Jason loved driving. The trip took him a little under three hours, with a brief stop for gas and a cup of coffee. The traffic was light, the weather idyllic and the farms were green and lush. As he neared his holiday home, he stopped briefly to buy some cheese and a bottle of wine from their favorite vineyard. He enjoyed the cool country air and recalled many a happy time visiting with Sarah, drinking wine, and eating a delicious meal at the restaurant. He remembered her sitting and laughing, the wind blowing her silk scarf and fluffing her hair as they sat in the open with a patio umbrella flapping above them. Thinking of the flapping noise brought on a flashback of Sarah gently swaying on the rope and the blind tapping on the window in the wind. He gazed over at the gentle hillside with vines laden with grapes extending as far as he could see them to the horizon and beyond to bring his mind back to pleasant memories.

He felt a sudden rush of tears, turned and stumbled back to the car. He sat with his thoughts, hands clenching the steering wheel tightly for several minutes, before driving off sobbing. The house looked desolate and empty, the sky gray. A faint misty rain began to fall as he carried his small bag to the door, fumbled with his keys, and opened it. He leaned on the door for a few moments as his light headed feeling dissipated and walked into the house. It had a familiar musty smell. He opened the windows and the door leading over the gardens to the sea. He began to sob as he saw the flowers Sarah had lovingly planted. The sea looked as troubled as his mind felt, grey and choppy. He heard the waves impatiently hitting the rocks and washing up the beach. He loved the salty air.

Jason uncovered the furniture on the deck, took out a plate for him and Sarah, the cheese the bottle and a corkscrew then returned for the glasses. He distractedly put Sarah’s plate and glass in front of her chair, realized what he had done and laughed, then cried.

He cut the oozy Camembert one piece for him and one for her. He half filled both their glasses. Jason raised his glass.

“To you my beloved wife, a toast to a great life together, may I join you on your journey sooner, rather than later. Let’s celebrate this last time together.”

He saw the red sun slowly setting, and fluffy clouds scudding quickly across the slowly dimming sky. He felt Sarah’s reassuring presence as clearly as if she was there. He heard the sound of her laughter, and saw the children when they were younger, playing on the lawn. There were so many wonderful memories.

Jason decided to walk along the beach for a few minutes before it got dark. He switched on the outside lights, leaving the wine and largely uneaten cheese on the table.

The sea looked angry with the waves thunderously attacking the nearby rocks. He was out of breath within a few minutes, and decided to return on the path, having to stop twice before getting back to the house. His cell phone rang, and he pulled it out of his pocket.

“Hi, Lauren?”

“Dad, sorry to disturb you. How was the trip?”

“Fine, so many memories.”

“How are you?”

“I’m all right. Sad, mourning; but I’m feeling the presence of your mother. Most of the memories are happy and joyful. Lauren is there a problem?”

“Clarke wants to see you tomorrow morning. Dan has put him off until Monday. He was insistent about how urgent it was. They got to the stage of shouting at each other. Gourley was standing, smirking, behind him. They both simply showed up unexpectedly to see you, and Clarke was furious you were not here. He said you needed to remain in town. Dan told him to screw himself, you were entitled to go where you chose.

“Clarke said you were ‘under suspicion’ and needed to stay in town. Dan is convinced that the man is insane and says there is no reasoning with him. Chuck and Chloe are worried. They heard the whole exchange. Chuck is convinced he is a vampire and almost has Chloe convinced. Chuck has been asking how bullets are made and where silver can be obtained. I heard him and his friend Charlie talking about it.

“I know the type, Lauren, in the end he will lose but it will waste a lot of effort and emotion to handle him. Have a good weekend, I will see all of you on Sunday,” Jason said as he sat pensively at the table picking at the cheese and drinking his wine. He unpacked his bag and charged the phone.

Jason returned before dinner on Sunday, feeling washed out. He went to shower before sitting down at the table.

“Where’s Chloe?”Jason asked.

“The diabetes attacked her, Grandpa. She’s in Princess Margaret. The doctor said she is breaking and all of what has gone on bent her out of shape,” said Chuck seriously.

“Her diabetes has been brittle for some time now, Dad, and they have been evaluating her for a pump. She has been in hospital six times in the last year and is quite unstable. The recent events triggered a bad hypo, and she had a seizure just as we got her to the hospital. They rushed her in, and she was in ICU, but is recovering and is now in a medical ward and appears quite cheerful. She can go to school tomorrow. I will fetch her early from the hospital and take her to school.

“The endocrinologist says that the pump he is waiting for will be out in six weeks and he thinks she should get it. He says she more than meets the criteria now. They are going to monitor her closely while the whole Clarke thing is going on.

Clarke re-appeared looking as obese and disheveled as Jason recalled him to be. The side table was loaded with a hammer and stakes as before. Jason smiled.

“How can we help you, detective?”Dan asked.

“Mr. Kargo you were in the army?”


“Mr. Kargo, you were investigated for seriously questionable conduct were you not?”

“Yes, and I was cleared.”

“Did it involve murder?”

“I can’t say.”

“Your record is heavily censored and redacted by the Army. Do you know why and what were you doing in the army?”Detective Clarke asked as Gourley smirked in the background.

“I was in the SAS. I was involved in covert operations.”

“So, you were involved with assassinating people?”

“Amongst other things,” said Jason impatiently.

“What other things?”

“Walking in the jungle, doing jumps, planning operations, doing surveillance, liaising with our allies, finding targets, setting ambushes, training; and so on. I did all the usual activities that are part of special forces operations. Later, I was primarily involved in operations planning, in Vietnam.”

“Mr. Kargo you first were in the Army?”

“Yes I was for nearly five years,” said Jason.

“I see you were selected to become a lieutenant soon after entry is that correct?”Detective Clarke asked.

“Yes, I entered the Army after University. I was selected to become an officer.”

“I see you were selected for Intelligence?”

“I was selected to join Army Intelligence after training.”

“You were an expert marksman?”


“Why did you join intelligence?”

“I was approached to join intelligence as the situation in Vietnam was deteriorating. I learn languages easily. I learned Vietnamese quickly.”

“You faced an investigation while in intelligence did you not?”

“My record is complete in that regard. Information was being leaked to the Soviets. The agent was found and arrested.”

“Why did you apply for the SAS?”

“I was approached to apply. I was getting tired of a desk-bound job, I was young, idealistic... and probably foolish, in retrospect, however I am proud of my service.”

“What do you mean?”

“Firstly the training is a nightmare, and that was followed by the even worse nightmare of jungle warfare. You could trust no one. The jungle was dangerous, and the enemy brutal and ruthless. Our allies were infiltrated by the enemy. Knowing friend or foe was nearly impossible. I was fortunate to be promoted quickly and was exposed to less direct face to face conflict.”

“How did you adjust after the war?”

“It was difficult. I still have nightmares about the war and some flashbacks. My wife and my family have been very supportive. It was a difficult time to be ex-military in Australia. I did postgraduate studies to get back into normal life, and then began work. Our children were also growing up.”

“Tell me about your marriage?”

“What do you want to know?”

“Was it a good marriage?”

“It was a good marriage and partnership. There were few downs, mostly it was level or good, often very good. Our families got on well, and had known each other before we married. We had similar backgrounds and views of the world. We largely agreed on most things. We had few financial pressures. Both families were very helpful and supportive. Our children were excellent students and sports mad. I enjoyed my work. Sarah enjoyed her work. I have no regrets, and I have never met anyone else that I regarded as a better prospect. Sarah was a fine wife and mother, and above all a good woman.”

“You were happy to help her?”

“We helped each other. She was an excellent judge of people and unraveled people problems for me. I liked to structure documents and edit them which I did for her.”

“You loved your wife?”

“I did. I wouldn’t describe our marriage as a grand passion. I don’t know that either of us believed there was a perfect person out there and we were it. We believed in making a marriage and a partnership work. It was a loving relationship, and we were very close.”

“Mr. Kargo, to what lengths would you go for your wife?”

“My wife never asked for anything that I wouldn’t do. Her requests of me were simple. She was an undemanding woman, who was fiercely independent. She would never have asked me to help her die. Our medical requests of each other and the family were carefully framed to not allow heroic attempts at medical intervention when there was to be no life quality.”

“You knew your wife well?”

“Yes, I did know her well with some notable exceptions. She could and did hide things from me. She planned celebrations secretly. My sixtieth and seventieth birthdays were examples of this. I had no idea she was planning either event.

“She knew if she told me about her suicide plans, I wouldn’t help her.”

“Mr. Kargo, I believe you knew, but chose not to be present to hinder her.”

“I have found hardware store receipts that indicated you have bought rope in the past.”

“In the case of my wife’s suicide, I didn’t buy the rope.”

“Three months ago you did buy rope?”

“Yes, I did. I built a swing for my grandchildren. It’s hanging from a tree near their tree house, now.”

“Did you use all the rope?”

“No. I had some left and brought it home.”

“Where did you put it?”

“It should be in the garage on a hook on the wall.”

“Mr. Kargo, the rope your wife bought is in your wife’s study on the floor and there is no rope in the garage. How do you explain this?”

“I would guess she forgot she had bought rope or couldn’t find it and she saw my rope as she was looking for her rope.”

“I put it to you that you put up your rope and she bought rope to hide your crime. You conveniently were not at home until too late to be of help.

“Did you try and resuscitate your wife?”

“No, her body was cold.”

“Mrs. Craddock, are you still going to insist that you put up the rope?”

“My mother bought the rope six weeks ago. My mother asked me to put up the basket at the time. I had to fetch Chuck from cricket and forgot. Three weeks ago she handed me the rope. She said dad was too unsteady on the ladder to put it up. His balance is not great, and he is not fit to climb a ladder. To cut my mother down he put the chair against the wall, and then cut her down. I noticed that as soon as I arrived. There is no way he could have carried the ladder and climbed it to put up the rope.”

“So, Mr. Kargo, how do you explain your cycling and maintaining your balance on a bicycle, but you apparently can’t climb a ladder?”

“My cycling friends will all tell you that I have been having balance problems, as will my doctor and neurologist. Both doctors advised me to stop cycling, but I was not quite ready to do so.”

“Mr. Kargo, I find your replies are not easily believable. You are a man used to killing from a distance and you have the ability to plan well ahead to achieve your aims. In this case you set your wife up to die.

“Did you arrange the chair for her and make the noose?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“So how does a woman with dementia set it all up. Somebody helped her. How could she plan to do it and remember to kill herself?”

“Have you looked at her computer,” Dan asked Clarke who ignored him, excused himself, and began to speak, before pausing at the door.

“Don’t go anywhere, Mr. Kargo, we’ll have more questions for you. Don’t leave Perth.”

“Detective, are you now arresting my father in law?”Dan asked.

“Not yet, Mr. Craddock but I expect it’s inevitable,” said Clarke, “I will show myself out. But no doubt we’ll speak again soon.”

“My client will go where he will, unless you decide to arrest him. He will remain in contact.”

They sat in silence as they watched them walk to the car and drive off.

“Jason, internal affairs is monitoring his behavior, and they are recording his interrogation here.

“I have been digging into his background. He has been a brilliant detective in his time and still does some exceptional work. This is not the first case that concerns them about him. There is nothing concrete they can say has gone wrong, but he has been described as been short, angry, and difficult for the last three to four years. He is getting preoccupied with some cases.

“They cut him a lot of slack because of his sad family story. His son got into meth-amphetamines in a big way and was jailed as a dealer, then shortly after he left prison, he was killed in a gangland shooting. Two years later his wife died. It’s generally believed it was suicide. He was very distressed as you might expect every time his son was in trouble, but hardly reacted after his wife’s death. It’s only in the last six months eighteen months after her death that he is changing. Because of all of this, they have given him significant amounts of leeway as he had a close to impeccable record. His weight has ballooned and his personal hygiene is questionable. They have referred him for counseling and he goes but pretends all is fine. No one knows what happened with his wife. I have not managed to find anything else so far. All of this won’t help us in the short term. His preoccupation with your guilt is quite disturbing. His attention to detail is impressive. Who would have guessed about the rope but its relevance is minimal to nonexistent.

“I find it hard to understand what he is going on about. What is his problem and why is it so important he finds you guilty of helping Sarah suicide? I’m not going to guess at how it’s linked to his life as it won’t help us. He is going to have to make an error or arrest you so this gets to court,” said Dan. “It’s a real mess and he is not going to let up; but there is not enough for us to take it further, yet.”

“How is Chloe?”Jason asked.

“She cheerfully went to school. Chuck was a bigger problem, as he resented getting up early to fetch her.

“Dad, what do you want to do today?”Lauren asked.

“I’m going to see my general practitioner, to get a referral to a human cardiologist. I can’t remember the person I saw before for coronary CT scans. The guy at the QE II Medical Centre that I saw may be a procedural genius, but he is a failure as a human being. I don’t appreciate being dehumanized as he so skillfully did it.

“I’m much more breathless than usual even with slow walking. That disturbs me. I can only walk twenty slow paces.

“I want to start giving away much of the clutter from home. I have a contact from riding with one of the charities, who will help me tidy up and take clothing and furniture. You can choose what you want before I dispose of anything,” Jason said.

“Dad, I will come and help you and get rid of mum’s stuff. There are some bits and pieces she left for me in the safe, and some bags that she said I could have. I’m much less of a hoarder than she was. Craig will be here at seven this evening. He is hiring a car at the airport and will drive here. Let me know what happens at the doctor’s, and we’ll plan what to do next.”


“Lauren, it has all taken longer than expected. I saw Leo fifteen minutes after I spoke to you, and he sent me immediately to see his son Fred, who is a newly qualified cardiologist. He is a very impressive young man, who is as charming as his father. I have been undergoing one investigation after the other this afternoon. Fred is a genius at getting things done efficiently. He says that I have congestive cardiac failure and I have significant cardiac damage. I may get some improvement but he suggests that it will be less than I might hope. He has given me some medication and I’m feeling better already, but he said my exercise tolerance is going to be much reduced. He can’t push me to test the impairments fully as my heart needs to repair itself over the next few months. When my heart stabilizes he will test me again. I can walk a little for the next three weeks then he sees me again and he will tell me what I can do next. This sucks, as Chloe would say. I can’t do anything more today. I feel exhausted,” said Jason frustratedly.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I sorted mum’s clothing, took two handbags, some jewelry and got rid of the rest of her stuff. I ordered a big bin and threw out all her books and bits of garbage she kept sentimentally. I kept her computer for the police, but sold her printer online and all the furniture in her study. Linda’s charity took all the furniture from our old bedrooms, the guest room and the dining room and great room. All the furniture that is too big for that place you bought, I have given to the same charity. All the older kitchen stuff will go as well. I kept the kitchenware I know you like. The table from the kitchen will fit in your new place.

“I went to Summerlife to measure the room. I will deliver the queen size bed and two single beds for the children to your new place tomorrow and the good linen along with your better clothes. Your outdoor work clothing won’t be needed and it’s all gone. Your space there is limited. I kept what fits the space. You can get rid of any clothing that you don’t want any longer. I will move your computer and printer myself and set it up for you. You obviously have already thrown out most of your books and knick knacks from your study. I have the photo-albums and four framed photos. Your bike will be moved, and will hang in your new garage. I had ten helpers today, and will have movers and twenty charity people, tomorrow. It will be done by tomorrow evening, come hell, or high water! All you need to do is to come with me for half an hour in the morning after we drop Chuck and Chloe at school, then I will take you back to our place.

“The charity has volunteers that I will pay to clear the garage tomorrow and they will take the tools. Gordon from next door asked for everything in the garden shed for his men’s group or men’s shed or such like. It will all be taken tomorrow including the shed. I arranged for painters to repaint the house, inside and out. Your car is parked at the new place. Incidentally you are not allowed to drive your beloved car for three weeks, according to Leo who called me while you were having some of your tests.

“We’ll see the estate agent together at nine tomorrow and she will put the house on the market at the end of next week. So, do I deserve my old title of Generallissima or not?”Lauren said laughing before she hiccupped.

“Well, you could have finished a bit faster, today. Taking one full day for all of that is a bit slow, but at a push I would say you deserve the title,” said Jason tiredly, “Few generals I knew would have done half of that little lot in a day. I’m grateful for all your help. Facing your mother’s clothing seemed an insurmountable task.”

“Grandpa, I’m really happy you are living with us for a few weeks, but I miss Granny a lot already. I really liked spending time with her every day after school. She was better than the doctor at guessing how much insulin I was going to need. I’m sicker, since she has died. I’m also scared about having the pump in me. I met a girl in the endocrine ward who got a terrible infection after she got a pump and she told me she nearly died,” Chloe said sadly.

“Chloe, I hope I will be here for you for a long time. I will help you all I can. I’m not as good at medical stuff as Granny was, but we’ll muddle through and you’ll be fine. I’m sure infections are not that common. I specialize in holding hands tight, and driving really fast in a scary way to terrify little children,” Jason said, grinning at her and reaching for her hand which he squeezed.

“I also miss Granny,” said Chuck, “I like fast cars, but Grandpa, you don’t drive fast enough to scare anyone. Granny told us to tell her or mum if you drive fast and you would be in deep doo-doo. I do like your car. I hope that I will have a car like that before I’m an old fart. Granny said no old fart should have a fast car like that, but she made an excepticle in your case, as she loved you. She said you were a specimen case, or special space, whatever that is. She told me you were allowed to do things because you were more than a bit wild and crazy. She said she couldn’t think how someone of your age could buy a red car. She said it was better than the yellow one you had before it. She said most people became hollow as they got older. She said that meant calmer. She said that even at my age I was better than when I was younger. She said you never got calmer and that made you dangerous, and for her even more lovable.

“I would also like to go to the Army like you did, Grandpa. But I would like to fight aliens or vampires or even zombies,” said Chuck enthusiastically as he passed the potatoes to Jason.

“Sorry, guys, to be so late. I got held up by our favorite detective who wants to talk to you again, Jason, tomorrow afternoon. I shudder to think what he will ask next. The good news is Sarah’s body has been released to the funeral people and the cremation can be arranged the day after tomorrow. Craig called from Sydney and was about to board the plane for Perth. He said the boys send their love and regret not being able leave college as it’s exam time. He is looking forward to seeing all of you.”

“Well, detective Clarke, you have my father in law in front of you. Please ask your questions, and leave him to his grief. The funeral is the day after tomorrow. I hope you can complete your questions, today.”

“All in good time Mr. Craddock. More information emerges daily. Mr. Kargo, you allege you had no involvement in helping your wife plan her death, is that true?”

“That is correct,” Jason said.

“You write stories and publish them on a pornographic website, is that true?”

“Yes, I write stories and publish them on many free sites. Some I sell online, through major online publishers. At least one or two of the sites can be called by some as being pornographic,” Jason replied.

“One of the stories was about a man whose wife had a progressing cancer?”

“I wrote two such stories after I did the talks at the old age home. I explored the dilemmas and issues such people faced,” Jason said.

“In the story he gives her progressively more pain medication until she dies prematurely. Is that true, Mr. Kargo,” Clarke asked.

“She begs for more pain medication as time goes by. The doctor warns them that too much narcotic suppresses respiration, and urges caution. I also show in the story that the doctor supplies them towards the end with sufficient medication to ensure she can be prematurely terminated, but warns of the risk of overdose. I showed her agony in detail and the knowledge she has that her husband loves her, and doesn’t want to hasten her death; but loves her enough to go against his beliefs. I showed his thoughts and fears and the pain he felt along with his wife’s, as she became weaker and the agony overwhelmed the medication. In the end, we are not sure whether he killed her or whether she died before the fatal dose of medication was reached. The doctor certifies the wife died from her illness, and takes away the medication.

“In the other story his wife is dying from a wasting muscular disease and she is too weak to kill herself, but begs her husband to kill her. He can’t do so. Some time later she chokes on her own sputum and dies a miserable death. Her husband is consumed by guilt and eventually kills himself three months after her death. He kills himself using a caustic compound so that he would suffer as she did before he died,” Jason explained carefully.

“In the first story, you admit he kills her and colludes with her while you blame the doctor,” said Clarke.

“I explained that the doctor advised against overdose and warned of the dangers of narcotics, but supplied enough to kill the patient. Her pain increased and the husband was forced to give her more medication to ease her suffering. We are not sure if he contributed to her death or not. The doctor tried to absolve him of guilt by saying he didn’t give his wife enough to kill her, but he didn’t believe it. His wife didn’t ask to die. He didn’t want to kill her. It was pain versus the lethal dose of enough medication to make the pain tolerable.

“The doctor explained that these are the dilemmas faced every day in palliative care situations. He explained that the borderline between euthanasia and pain relief was complicated by the nature of the narcotics. If an effective alternative was available in the future, it would be used and relieve many of the current burdens of guilt.

“In my wife’s situation, I was never asked to do anything to put her life at risk,” Jason said emphatically.

“So you say, Mr. Kargo. Where did your wife get the idea to commit suicide Mr. Kargo?”

“In short I don’t know. I have discussed suicide with her over many years. We have friends’ children that have died from suicide, and we have heard of others. I discussed my lectures about assisted suicide, euthanasia and my stories with her. We talked about suicide as we made our decisions about medical instructions in case of catastrophic injury or illness. I don’t recall talking with her about dementia and suicide other than talk about some discussions I had with my mother, twenty years ago. My mother developed dementia in her eighties. She had always said she would rather die than have dementia. I asked her when she was in the early stages of dementia if she felt the same way. She told me then she would rather live with dementia than die. My wife and I had no recent conversations about suicide in any context,” Jason said thoughtfully.

“Mr. Kargo, I think you are being evasive. Were there not other more recent issues that you talked about? Some issues with friends perhaps?”

“Not that I can recall.”

“What about Linda the cyclist?”

“I went to her funeral two weeks ago. She had some form of muscular dystrophy and her husband said she had a terrible time. I didn’t know her well, I only met her early in the illness, at a barbecue where she told me she was unable to cycle any longer. She was in palliative care for six weeks as her husband said he couldn’t manage with her at home. It was a very emotional funeral. I told Sarah about it and how it was a terrible way to go. I speculated about any conversations they may have had about death, dying and suicide.”

“You can accept that you may have suggested the idea of suicide to your wife?”

“I spoke to her about a miserable death from a nasty illness and speculated about discussions that may or may not have happened between the couple. I didn’t suggest suicide to my wife. You have her computer. She put down on computer her thoughts and plans. Look at what she said. You should see for yourself what were her thoughts,” said Jason peevishly.

“All in good time Mr. Kargo. I will have some more questions for you in two days. Mr. Craddock can we meet again the day after the funeral,” asked Detective Clarke.

Detectives Clarke and Gourley entered the dining room. Gourley was impeccable as usual, but in a new suit with a darker matching tie and clearly polished shoes, while Clarke seemed to be dressed in the same suit and tie as previously with a creased stained shirt and more egg on his tie. As he passed Jason the stench of vile body odor made Jason want to retch.

“Mr. Kargo, I have a few more questions to ask you. In one of your pornographic stories, narcotic analgesia features prominently. Did your wife use such analgesia?”

“My wife had much surgery over the years. I believe she used such analgesia briefly on several occasions,” Jason answered.

“What about recently, did she have any reason to use such medication?”Clarke asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Jason said after some thought. “She had some minor aches and pains and some arthritis in her foot. She used occasional anti-inflammatories or paracetamol,” Jason said

“The pathologist report said that she had a significant amount of narcotic in her system and we found a script and medication in your name at the house. Can you explain this Mr. Kargo if you please?”

“Nine months ago I had cartilage surgery in my knee. I was given a script for narcotic analgesia, which I didn’t use. I had some tablets given to me at the hospital and it was enough to deal with the pain. I don’t believe I used them all. All scripts are dealt with by Sarah. She must have filled it and used it.”

“We found more narcotic analgesia in your drawer in the bathroom. Can you explain that Mr. Kargo?”

“It may have been from the other knee surgery, or when I had a skin lesion removed from my head. If I could see the doctors’ names I could tell you.”

“Can you please explain why you have been collecting dangerous narcotic analgesia at your house, Mr. Kargo. Have you kept it to be prepared to kill your wife?”

“I received the medication for legitimate reasons. I didn’t dispose of it as I forgot to do so. I have not tidied up the bathroom cupboard for years.”

“So you say, Mr. Kargo, but all of this seems too convenient. Why would your wife take your narcotic analgesia and then hang herself?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why did she not simply overdose on the narcotic analgesia?”

“I can’t speculate, I don’t know.”

“Mr. Kargo, don’t go anywhere out of Perth. I can’t say I’m satisfied with your explanations.

“So how did it go, Dad,” Craig asked.

“He is a persistent relentless man. He is after me for reasons of his own, which I suspect, but will never know. I had a guy on my team who heard his wife was playing around on him, and his behavior reminds me somehow of Clarke.

In one way it’s disturbing, in another an intriguing joust, but at the end of the day I don’t care. My emotions feel numbed. I felt frozen at the funeral. I was literally icy cold much like I felt a day or two after some of our early missions. All my feelings are exhausted. I walk twenty paces and I have to rest. I see little purpose in life as it’s now so we watch how this game of his plays out. I’m ready to die and if I died in my sleep I wouldn’t be sorry. That is why the detective doesn’t really worry me. It’s the aggravation he is putting us all through, and the impact on Chloe in particular that worries me the most.

“I think Clarke has to arrest me. He is working himself up to do it. He is waiting to get his imaginary ducks in a row. What do you think, Dan?”

“Yes, he is relentless, but he has nothing. I have gone through Sarah’s computer in detail. He clearly has not and I hope it will be his undoing. We are going to have to go through this process to the bitter end. Police internal affairs work slowly, and I can’t see anything substantial to pin on him. Clarke is also an experienced careful man. He has a hypothesis in his mind, and is filling in the blanks; but his motivation remains opaque to me. I do think he will try and arrest you, but he is trying to drag it out and make you squirm. I think he wants to get you for murder. I can’t see a clear motivation that he will find you to have. Sarah was in the early stages of dementia. She had a good quality of life. Her memory was not great but it wasn’t terrible. She could still find her way around. There is no financial motivation.

“I can see how he is approaching this case. In his mind you cleverly murdered her or at the very least helped her. He is looking for everything to prove his hypothesis. I can’t see any reason for him to pursue you so avidly!” Dan remarked.

“I want to hypothesize wildly,” said Lauren. “What if his wife got depressed or hit the drugs after her son’s death. Let’s say she got into some serious trouble and he decides to kill her and make it look like suicide. If he has done it himself, he sees it everywhere. Alternately maybe she was so depressed she wanted to die and he helped her as he blamed her somehow for his son’s death. He is now consumed with guilt, and sees it everywhere. At the very least case she committed suicide, and he blamed himself for not seeing it, and is angry with himself. He sees it everywhere, with anyone in a similar situation. Dad should pay as he believes he should pay,” Lauren said thoughtfully.

“Even if all this is true, we can’t fight him on his motivation. We have to go through the courts. I think your ideas to explain his motivation are good, Lauren. They are certainly helpful to me, but your father is still going to have to go through the process.

“My investigator is still looking into his background. He says he saw a photograph of Clarke five years ago, and he was a smartly dressed well built man, nothing like the man we are seeing. Lauren you had a few things you wanted to tell your father. You wanted me to remind you.”

“Dad the painters have four days of work left to do. I have moved all your clothing and furniture to your new place. I also had a long chat with Leo, who says you are not fit to live on your own for another three weeks. He says the stress you are under is putting you at serious risk. We are all happy to have you here. Chloe is better when she can see you, and doesn’t need to worry about you. The two of you have always been close. For Chuck, you remain his model of a man’s man. He often boasts about you and I heard him proudly tell his friends how happy he is to have you here. He is firmly of the belief Clarke is a vampire who is after your blood. You are no trouble and we are happy to look after you.

“Dad the bank told me they are facing continuous attacks from overseas. They want you to join me in a meeting this afternoon. Craig is joining us. Are you able to come along?”Lauren asked.

“Excuse me, guys, I’m off to work. I will see you all this evening for a Thai feast I believe,” Dan said as he waved before walking out the door.

“Of course I’m happy to come along with the heavies. Sitting at home and ruminating is not good for anyone. I’ll enjoy watching my children in action, I’m so proud of both of you and your fine children.

Two days later:

Lauren led detectives Clarke and Gourley into the dining room. Jason saw nine wooden stakes and a larger hammer on the side table near him. He smiled.

“I’m surprised you find this all so amusing, Mr. Kargo,” said Clarke.

“I would like to ask you some further questions Mr. Kargo. Mr. Kargo, we have found a winch in your garage and it’s well oiled and maintained. What is its purpose?”

“Up until a few years ago, my wife and I enjoyed going on four-wheel drive desert trips. I purchased extensive equipment, including the winch, for emergency situations. I have not used the winch for years, but kept it in a bag in the garage.”

“Mr. Kargo it appears that it was recently used.”

“Sarah had a friend who used some of our equipment at times. They used the winch and a high lift jack a year or two ago. I was happy to lend it to them as they returned it in better condition than they received it,” said Jason.

“Why is your blood on the ladder in the garage, Mr. Kargo?”

“A few years ago I was trying to take out a globe which broke and cut my fingers. It was a bayonet fitting not a screw and it broke when I mistakenly turned it. There was a lot of blood on the ladder which I believe I cleaned off.”

“Why is blood on the outside balcony wall, Mr. Kargo,” asked Clarke as Gourley smirked.

“My balance is not great at present. I was light headed and giddy when I tried to get Lauren down. I used the wall for support as I climbed onto the chair and then climbed off. My cycling injuries started to bleed and I left some blood on the wall.”

“Mr. Kargo I find your explanations implausible and adventurous. We need to let the courts decide your fate. I’m arresting you on a charge of murder in the first degree. Please accompany us to our car.”

“Detective please be reasonable he is an old man. He has recently had a heart attack and is not fit to go to the jail,” said Dan heatedly.

“Mr. Craddock, I’m sure the judge will make the appropriate decision in the morning.”

“Dan, I will go with them. Get the doctors organized, and do what you need to do,” said Jason sadly.

In the cell at nine pm

“Hey mate whatcha in for?”said the large strongly built, mocha skinned man one of two similar men in the crowded stinking cell.

“Murder, and you?”

“Assault and battery, dealing in meth and three counts of murder. To me you look like one of the bastards that identified me in the lineup. You look like one of those rich bastards that screw us. I know it was you who identified me and now you are here to spy on us.

“What kinda work you do?”

“I’m retired.”

“Where do you live?”

“I live with my daughter and her family?”

“Watcha in for?”


“Who did you murder?”

“They allege I murdered my wife.”

“Yes, for you rich bastards it’s all alleged, this and alleged that bullshit. You pay to get off, you spy on us for a deal, you are a backstabbing snake, I know you. You fucking pussy get ready to die.”

He took a vicious swing at Jason who blocked with his forearm, ducked under the arm and struck him with his palm striking upwards to his nose. Jason tried to kick backwards to block the other man he saw coming up behind him. He missed as he lost his precarious balance. He felt a fist hit his face, and felt the bone crunch. He heard a shout and running feet, before he felt another blow to his head and passed out.

Jason woke to the familiar sounds of hospital heart monitors and pain throughout his body. He could open one eye, which he did with difficulty, and looked around. He was in a single room. He saw a policeman at the end of his bed seated in a chair, then Lauren walked in, looking tearful.

“Thank heavens you are awake, Dad. It’s chaos out there. The press sharks and their cohorts and paparazzi associates are running around everywhere, so gaining entry here is like going through an airport,” Lauren said breathlessly.

“What is going on, Lauren? It’s not like you to be so upset?”

“Chloe is back in hospital. She went into a coma last night, and is not doing well. Both kids are really upset. Craig is in a fury. He has gone for a meeting at the SAS barracks, to try and get some support from them. He met with some of the vets early this morning, and has them all riled up.

“Dan went to court this morning. Clarke somehow persuaded the prosecution to say you are a flight risk and have tried to escape previously. They wanted the judge to set bail at a million dollars.

“Dan was able to reason with the judge. Bail is set at thirty thousand dollars and Dan gave them your passport. Leo said you were not fit to drive or fly, anyway.

“The good news is there was video surveillance on the cell, but the bad news is the prison officers were slow to respond, and you got beaten up pretty badly. You’ve been unconscious for nearly twenty-six hours. You had a hematoma on your brain which was evacuated and you had another much smaller heart attack. Your left arm is broken and you have a skull fracture. You are bruised from head to foot. You were worked over by a professional. The guy you hit is dead. Clarke, of course, said you were a clear danger to the public and a killer, so you shouldn’t get bail. Dan heard him tell that to the prosecutor who was pretty junior.

“When you were arrested, Clarke leaked to the press that you murdered your wife, and had been captured after trying to hide your tracks. He did the formal announcement with the commissioner at a press conference,” said Lauren sounding very distressed.

“Hold up a second, Lauren. How is Chloe, now?”Jason asked, “She is much more important to me than the rest of this stuff.”

“Dad, she is so sick. It’s heartbreaking, she is such a darling of a child, intelligent and capable but has such an awful illness. The doctors have battled to manage it for years and it’s getting worse. The pump is now delayed for at least six more weeks due to issues we can’t find out about. She is so vulnerable to things that go wrong,” Lauren said wringing her hands.

“I have a good feeling about her. I’m sure she will be fine. This bad period is coming to an end. The pump will come sooner than you think, and Dan will sort me out faster than you would believe. I also don’t intend dying any time soon. Chloe has enough stress without that happening!”

“Dad, I’m sorry, but I must go. The hospital is calling me, I can feel my phone vibrate. We’ll visit as soon as we can. Chuck sends his love, and is as proud as punch. He wants to see you as soon as possible, and hear you describe the fight. I’m going to Princess Margaret, then I’m going to fetch Chuck at school. Tomorrow is Saturday, so we are under less pressure. I’m not sure we can be back to see you before tomorrow morning,” Lauren said, kissing Jason on his cheek then burst into tears, wiped her eyes and left.

The nurse walked in greeted Jason, chatted for a few minutes, and then injected some medication into the drip.

Jason slept restlessly until the next morning, waking each time the nurses visited and monitored his vital signs and changed his drip.

“Good morning Mr. Kargo, I’m Dr. Tom Ryan the consultant and this is my registrar Jeremy Pinkerton and resident George Safir. How are you feeling today?”

“Good morning, Dr. Ryan and colleagues, I’m sore all over and my chest feels the worst, followed by my face and inside my mouth. Otherwise I’m fine. The hotel bed is a bit hard, and the plastic cover tends to be a bit noisy, so I have not slept as well as usual. I have not sampled any of the restaurants and I have not had an opportunity to swim, but I’m looking forward to my stay in this fine establishment.

“I wouldn’t recommend swimming for a few months, but I hope you will be able to visit a real restaurant soon. The food here is not highly recommended. Let me tell you why you feel as you do. You were beaten up by an expert. He hit you from the side breaking a bone in your face which we repaired from the inside after we evacuated a clot compressing your brain. He hit your head breaking your skull and setting off bleeding around your brain made worse by your medication.

“You have four broken ribs on the right and three on the left. You have a drain into your chest to evacuate air that resulted from a lung collapse and you have some blood that is also coming out of that drain which is on the left. Your sternum has a hairline fracture. Your left arm is broken. You are bruised all over your chest and abdomen. You have bruising to both kidneys and probably your liver. You have passed some blood in your urine. Fortunately, your assailant was stopped before he worked on your pelvis and legs. He systematically beat his way down the front to your body then your back. He didn’t intend to kill you but to give you an unforgettable experience.

“You have made the headlines for three days. Today your side has presented your history and the military have presented you as a war hero. Your son has been on TV last night and presents as a very credible and impressive young man. He explained about your wife, and what happened and how bewildered the family has been by detective Clarke. Your daughter was interviewed this morning and is also an impressive young woman. She explained what impact all of this had on your granddaughter. The police commissioner was interviewed and didn’t come over well.

“Your son in law and lawyer, indicated the police didn’t do a thorough job and refused to look at your wife’s computer. He said the story is very clear, and your wife explained the situation graphically and would clarify all the issues. He said you don’t have a case to answer, and he is suing the police on your behalf for damages. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

“I will send the physiotherapist to see you. You will need to stay here at least another couple of days. Then, depending on progress and your mobility, you will be able to leave as long as you are supervised and get some home nursing.

“Hi Chloe, how is it all going?”Jason asked.

“Grandpa, Mum says it’s not a competition for who gets to go to hospital more often and for longer! You have been here for four whole days. That is a long time. They let me out after one day and a million needles. There were some really sick children in the ward. I hate that place, and I’m sick of it. Let’s us agree to stay out of hospital and for you to stay out of jail.”

“I agree, Chloe. How are you, Chuck?”

“Grandpa, someone muggled the video of you out of the prison. It was on TV. You were awesome, Grandpa. They said the guy who hit you from behind is a snake. His name is Cobra something or another, and he’s a paid inkforcer for a gang.”

“Idiot, it’s ‘smuggled;’ and I told you already twice, it’s enforcer not inkforcer. You need to speak like a person not a banana-brain.

“I am not a banana-brain, you are a fish face!

“You were awesome, Grandpa. Pity your kick missed the snake guy. We all saw you overbalance and miss. When are you escaping this place Grandpa?”Chloe asked.

“I can get out tomorrow. Hi, Lauren thanks for the flowers. Thanks for all you guys have done.”

Lauren kissed Jason on the cheek followed by Chloe. Chuck elected to hold his hand.

“Sorry I was delayed, the doctor wanted to make arrangements with me about tomorrow. He is such a sweet man. I remember him from school. He was academically good, socially adept and a fine sportsman. His sister was in my year and was a similar person. She is working here as a neurosurgeon and was the one who evacuated the clot.

“I will drop these two at school tomorrow then I will fetch you and take you home.”

“Mum tell Grandpa about that funny man, Stan. Stan! Stan the funny man,” said Chloe laughing and moving her head from side to side as she rhymed.

“Dad, yesterday a very strange guy called Stan arrived at the door. He wanted to talk to you, directly. I explained to him that you were not available in the short term and I didn’t know when you were leaving hospital.

“When I asked him what it was about, he said that he had an offer for you and wanted to talk to you about it. I didn’t know if it was some kind of a scam, so I pushed him to tell me what the offer was. When he told me I was more than somewhat surprised. Great Grandpa always told us the stories about the Empire and how the family was sent to Earth. Well, Stan is from the Empire; and apparently, Dad, your great-grandfather very much needs you to come back. Chuck and Chloe that is your great-great grandpa. He even sent a ship to fetch you! You could have knocked me down with a feather! Stan seems to be in a bit of a hurry, and has given me this weird communications device to contact him as soon as you are available. He will meet us at your convenience, and provide you with more details of the offer.

“When he heard that you were ill and pretty old, he suggested that we discuss what he had to say on the ship, and that he would arrange transportation. He said the reason for that, is that they have much more advanced medical technology and he said that it may help you with whatever decision you make,” said Lauren.

“Grandpa maybe they can fix you and make you young again,” said Chuck, “I know you are pretty fit for an ancient person, but I was reading this book on this planet near a huge star, and these evil ginormous bugs that want to invade and eat them. There was some good fighting with lasers and swords. The bugs had some nasty poison.

“They had all this interesting stuff about Rambo-bots that they inject into people, and they fix them from the inside when they get hurt fighting the bugs in space.

“I really want to see a spaceship! Can we go? Please, Grandpa?”Chuck asked plaintively.

“Yes, Grandpa I want to see the spaceship and can you ask them please to fix my diabetes? I’m tired of needles and I want to be well,” said Chloe as she turned to her brother. “Dummy, I read that book, too. It’s nano-bots not Rambo-bots. Rambo was this old dude with knobs on his muscles, who boxed too much and talks all blurry. Please, Grandpa? I want some advanced medical treatment, too! Can I come to the ship, pretty please?”Chloe asked plaintively.

“Sure you can sweetie. If they can, we’ll ask them to fix you,” replied Jason before turning to Lauren.

“Lauren, today has been a very strange day. In many ways I feel like I’m living in a dream, and all of this isn’t real except for the pain. It feels like I’ve been hit by a freight train. So, let’s get out of this dump as soon as we can. I hate hospitals and hospital beds. This one is harder than most or I’ve less padding than I used to have. Sign me out, and let’s hit the road and fly to the moon.

“Kids as far as I’m concerned I’m happy to visit this spaceship and have a meeting with Stan. I hope he can fix us all. I’d be happy to feel as young as sixty-three. Younger than that would be a blessing. As I am now, I feel like I’m a hundred and fifty! Anything they can do would be an improvement. Chuck, I’ll ask if they have those nano-bots to give you, in case the bugs attack us here. We should ask about armor, swords, and other weapons, too. They might give you a vicious beam weapon to fight them off. You would have to let your mum keep it safe for you until you are old enough to fight the bugs, though. Maybe they also would have a spare battle suit for fighting in space. Every boy should have one of those in case of invasions. I’ll ask if they have a small one when we get to the ship. Maybe one that is self-powered and has a cannon on the shoulders would be available for the asking?”Jason said before turning to Lauren again.

“But you do need to know that I’ve had quite a long life and I’ve been in reasonably good health until recently and I really can’t see much purpose at my age going on an adventure, interesting though it may be,” said Jason who turned to talk to Chloe. “If they can sort you out, Chloe that would be a blessing. For me, I’m headed for an old age home and feeling sixty-three and a half again. Maybe I can even hit a hundred in twenty years and only feel eighty. I can’t imagine they can sort out this wreck of a body, even if they are half a million years ahead. That defies my imagination, but we can but hope. Too bad, so often hope is an unrealized dream that remains tantalizingly out of reach.”

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