The morals behind the stories

THE MORALS BEHIND THE STORIES


Almost every story has a message or a lesson, some more obvious than others. Some are intentional while others are developed and created by the characters and their environment. Some are heart-warming and inspiring while others often leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

 

Eye of the Chameleon by KEN KLOPPER

 

De Waal stopped the car in front of Dewhurst’s apartment. He lived alone with an old cocker spaniel and an African Grey parrot called Oscar.

“Listen, old boy,” Dewhurst said, “I think you should come up for a nightcap. There’re a few things we need to discuss.”

“I don’t know, Gordon. I was thinking of having an early night . . . or at least earlier than usual.”

“Just a quick one. It concerns your case . . . and it’s important.”

It was the first time that Dewhurst had invited him in and he was just a little curious to see how the ex-professor lived. He was pleasantly surprised by the neatness of the place. He expected chaos: a minefield of dirty dishes, piles of unwashed clothes and rooms that had never seen the end of a feather duster or a vacuum cleaner. Instead, he stared at meticulous order despite the absence of a resident woman’s touch, comfortable furnishing, matching curtains and he even caught a hint of scented furniture polish and fabric cleaner.

“This is a nice place you have here, Gordon,” De Waal said.

“Thank you, old boy! Probably not what you expected from a washed-out academic midget who drinks too much.”

“I won’t lie—the thought did cross my mind.”

“Come through to the study. That’s where I keep the booze . . . or most of it anyway.”

They had driven the professor out of the university but not the university out of the professor. That was the first thought that De Waal had when the three walls of books seemed to close in on him as he stood in their midst. His eyes caught some of the titles but they inspired no thoughts of recognition . . . no prompt to say ‘that was a really good read, wasn’t it?’

Albert Einstein: Warum Krieg, The Principles of Quantum Mechanics: Paul Dirac, Ken Follett: The Pillars of the Earth, Summa Theologica: Thomas Aquinas . . . A handful of History: Gordon Dewhurst.

Dewhurst noticed the bewildered look on De Waal’s face. “A little worthless passion of mine,” Dewhurst said, smiling, “and I think I’ve taken it too far.”

“Very impressive . . . and you’ve actually read all this.”

“Everything except what I’ve written myself. What will it be?”

“Brandy . . . if you have any.”

Dewhurst handed De Waal a glass and pointed to a leather easy chair. “I’ve been doing a bit of reading on . . . medieval combination locks,” he said. “Seems I was right and they use letters instead of numbers.”

“You said something about the Latin alphabet.”

“Yes. It makes cracking the combination nigh impossible—so many variables.”

“But not impossible.”

“I’ve also been thinking about our little quest and the probabilities of finding anything else down there.”

“And?”

“Well, let’s deal with it from the viewpoint of detective chaps like you.”

“I’m listening.”

“You came here with the intention of finding out the origins of that strange, little creature you spoke of.”

“Uh-huh!”

“And you seem to have achieved that.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure she’s been to the convent.”

“Given what we heard from Harrison and what we saw tonight, it’s obvious that some of the girls use the place for their little games and . . . to party.”

“So far you’re spot on.”

“And I don’t blame them if one considers where they’re being kept . . . and the circumstances. It may not be a prison but it’s the nearest bloody thing to one, isn’t it?”

“It’s close.”

“The place we’ve been visiting so frequently is a fucking tomb and so far that’s what we’ve confirmed.”

“It’s a tomb with underground rooms that are locked.”

“That’s what old burial sites have. Lots of rooms and lots of dead people. That’s what you find in ancient Egypt and—”

“So what are you trying to tell me, Gordon?”

“That we’re wasting our time. That the odds are stacked against us . . . and there’s probably nothing down there except old bones and dust.”

“Everything that I was told, even though it was vague, seems to have panned out.”

“But your source is a loony girl who was most probably one of the students. It’s a spooky place and in her confused state, her imagination is running away with her, don’t you think? Let’s face it—she even has the ability to create some convincing characters.”

“Well, I still don’t know who she really is.”

“There you have it.”

“You said yourself that there were rumors of torture—”

“Rumors, old boy, fucking rumors.”

He was stretching himself beyond his scope but Dewhurst had taken on the odd demeanor of a university professor that seemed unconvinced by the paper that his student had presented. “Weren’t rumors responsible for some important historical events?”

“Well, they have changed the face of history in some instances . . . but they’re still just a bunch of unsubstantiated stories.”

“I’ve had to investigate quite a few cases where there has been no hard evidence . . . and I’ve had to follow all the leads even those that didn’t seem likely. And you know what? Many times they’ve led me to what I was looking for.”

“So . . . you’re determined to press on in the face of such appalling odds?”

“Yes! Until I have the answers.”

Dewhurst seemed pensive as he sat quietly nursing his drink and staring at the roof fan. De Waal didn’t interrupt his thoughts but waited instead for him to announce that he wouldn’t remain onboard.

Dewhurst gulped the contents of his glass down and broke the silence. “So . . . when do we return to the site of our little mystery?”

“You mean—”

The shape of a crescent appeared within the hairy depths of his beard. “Did you think I was going to call it a day?”

“Yes.”

“Fuck no! I’ve been fascinated by that place ever since I came here . . . and I haven’t had so much excitement since my visit to The Nana in Bangkok.”

“The what?”

“The Nana. It’s—never mind . . . some other time perhaps. If we find what we looking for it means that the Order of the Silver Crucifix actually practiced torture . . .  and maybe the historians will sit up and take me seriously again.”

“So what the hell was this all about?”

“Ha-ha! I’ve wanted to get you to have a drink at my place ever since we became friends. This seemed the easiest way to get you here.”

“All you had to do was ask.”

“And you would have said yes?”

“No . . . not tonight anyway.”

“But I’m serious about the combination.”

“We’ll give it a try.”

“And if it doesn’t work, that’s it?”

“No, then I’ll think of another way of getting it.”

“Indomitable bugger, aren’t you?”

“I’m not sure I know the word, but it sounds like me. We’ll take tomorrow off and go back the next day.”

“Suits me just fine. Now that you’re here we might as well make the most of it . . . and drink to our looming success.”

“Shit! I was afraid you were going to say something like that.”

 

 

A simple quest to establish the identity of a strange, confused girl leads Colonel Robert De Waal to a place that seems to be frozen in the horrors and terrors of its past. Armed with the scanty information that the girl has given him and with the assistance of disgraced historian, Gordon Dewhurst, De Waal must unravel the mysteries that lie hidden in the darkness below the surface of an ancient builder’s tomb.

Who is the strange girl who calls herself, Carrie Martins? Is she just a runaway schoolgirl or is she a young nun with a reason to be bitter? Or do they both hold the key to a series of sinister events and brutal murders?

 


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Little Soot by KEN KLOPPER

 

 

It was raining lightly when they reached Port Dredge and said goodbye to Maurice. They sat huddled under a shelter on the ferry as it made its way back to Pelican Point while tiny droplets of rain washed the salt off the decks and formed a flimsy curtain above a green-colored sea.

It was good to be back on familiar ground but the musty and shabby interior of Watt’s apartment offered little respite from his feelings of gloom and disappointment. There was no one there to greet them, no one to share their adventures with, and no one to offer advice or words of comfort. Nothing had changed in his little world at Pelican Point.

 “There’s a passenger train that travels to Headwich from here. Then you can cross over to a train that goes straight to Ashville,” Watts explained. “Maybe I should—”

“No, you’s got your own things to do,” Soot said. “You been like a good papa to me but it’s your time now.”

“A few more days away from work won’t make much difference.”

“No, there’s nothing more wot you can do.”

“Are you going to be alright?”

“Yes, I’ll hold Mama’s hand if she needs me, but who’s gonna hold your hand?”

“Oh, I’m big and ugly enough to take—”

“You gonna stay here all alone where there’s no one . . . and no one to love?”

He felt a little embarrassed by the bluntness of her observation. The walls were grey and needed a coat of paint and the curtains didn’t exactly match the old furniture, but he never imagined that it was that bleak—that loveless.

“I’ll get a bird  . . . Teach it to talk.”

Soot gave an uncharacteristic giggle. “Naw! You gonna be telling it to speak proper all the time.”

He laughed and turned a little red. “Yes, I guess you’re right . . . maybe a dog is better.”

“Nah! Dog just gonna wiggle his tail and say nothing.”

“Look, I’m going to work tomorrow morning. I can try again to get some money for your mother.”

“Train people ain’t gonna help no strange woman.”

“But at least I can try . . . and it’ll make me feel a lot better.”

“Ain’t no reason to feel bad. You did all you could when you didn’t have to do nothing. Jennifer didn’t give you no hankie to cry in.”

“You know about the hankie?”

“Can’t help knowing. You been holding it since we left the farm.”

&

 

 

Jess Cartwright almost fell off his chair when Watts walked in. “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you.”

“I had some business to attend to.”

“The Company’s decided that because of your good record, they’ll let you off with just a warning.”

“I guess that’s good news.”

“You’re on the afternoon shift tomorrow.”

“Where’s my locomotive?”

“She’s out in the yard. Hey! What happened to that girl you picked up?”

“What girl? Oh, that girl. She ran off the morning I got suspended. Haven’t seen her since.”

“Good! They’re nothing but trouble, these little tramps. They’ll steal you blind and stick a knife in your gut without even blinking.”

Watts stopped in his tracks and turned. He felt his anger release like a volcano that had been dormant far too long. “They’re just children . . . and the only difference between those brats you have at home and them, is that your brats have a home. They’re not innocent because society made them old before their time and they’re opportunistic because that’s what it takes to survive out there.”

“Okay . . . Okay! I get the picture. Jeez! I didn’t think you cared.”

Watts smiled and muttered as he walked away. “You’re right about that. I didn’t think I cared either.”

He ran his hand along the smoothness of her side. Then he climbed up and sat in silence as he touched her polished brass fittings and the copper on her controls. They were cold and there was no movement—no quiver of excitement—no hint of recognition. He knew then that she only came alive when he did—that the only feelings she had, were his.

“Goodbye, girl! We had some good times together but it’s time for me to move on. I know that I have your blessing.”

He froze when he heard a loud clunking sound and felt a strong vibration from below.

“That you, Watts? Sorry to startle you . . . just checking the wheels.”

 

It was 1934; the time of the Great Depression and Keith Watts was living a simple life and doing a simple job driving his train on the Southern Line. It was the uncomplicated existence he chose where he was in control and there was little possibility of being hurt again. Then he does a reckless thing by stopping his train to pick up a little, roving girl on the uphill run to Gooseneck Pass. He follows this with even more folly when he decides to accompany the girl on her quest to find a rich grandmother she has never met.

Armed with scanty resources, they set out on foot on a journey that has Watts doing things he never imagined and feeling things he tried so hard to escape.

Has the strange, shy girl with the weird way of expressing herself, touched his life and the lives of others they meet along the way? Or is a series of coincidences forcing the changes? And just how far can love transcend all barriers?

 

A story packed with drama, mystery, adventure, and humor.


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ANJEL: The Agresian Enchantress by KEN KLOPPER

 

 

As Airofis glanced towards the entrance, he noticed the familiar figure of his sixteen-year-old daughter standing in the shadows. She had the perfect features of her mother—tall and strong—with flowing locks of fiery, blonde hair tied back in a single ponytail. He quietly walked over to her.

“What are you doing here, Anjel? Is something wrong?” he whispered.

“No, Father, nothing’s wrong.”

“Then you still haven’t answered my question.”

“I’ve come to speak to the Council.”

“What! You know that is impossible.”

“But I must speak to them.”

“I forbid it—it is against all the rules.” He spoke sharply—his annoyance showing—and louder than he intended.

“Is something the matter, Lord Airofis?” Archos asked. The entire gathering was now focused on the two figures standing at the entrance.

“Ah-um . . . no, Lord Archos. My daughter brought me a message and was just leaving.”

Anjel sidestepped her father so swiftly that he failed to realize that she had entered the cave until it was too late. All the wizards focused their attention on the beautiful, young woman standing in their midst, even those that had previously dozed off.

She spoke boldly and with authority. “I have come to seek an audience with the Council.”

The murmuring and buzz settled down quickly as the wizards waited for a reaction from the Council members. A welcome break in the tedium of everyday affairs brought about by a striking, young lady.

Archos spoke monotonously. “There is a rule that only elders have a voice in this Forum and you are not even a wizard, but a young . . .”

“Woman? Is there a rule that women may not speak at this Forum?”

“Well . . . um . . . no, but it stands to reason that that is the position.”

Airofis touched her arm gently and said, “Come along, Anjel. You have no place here.”

“No wait, Father! Hear me out. It’s important that I speak now.” She turned and faced the Council table. “If there is no rule against a woman speaking then that cannot be the reason for denying me an audience. Only that which is written applies.”

“Yes . . . but there were no women in Egotia until you were born,” Archos said. He threw his hands up in the air.

“Unfortunately . . . she is right,” Benjamas said. “Only that which is written applies . . . and rules cannot simply be made up as we go along. That is the law of Egotia.”

“And everyone here knows that I was born with the power of Jerrop  . . . and I can cast any spell in the Book of Charms which makes me more of a wizard than anyone here.”

“She is right about that too,” Jagmas said, nodding his head.        

“Yes . . . but only senior wizards have the right to speak in the Forum,” Archos insisted, “and even if we accept her argument . . . she does not have sufficient seniority.”

“Then it is settled,” Airofis added.

“No . . . any citizen of Egotia can raise an issue of national importance in the Forum,” Anjel said defiantly.

“Yes, once again . . . a true reflection of the law,” Benjamas added, “but in order to do so prior notice of the issue concerned must be given to the Council and the Council must—”

Jagmas slammed his fist down hard on the table. “Enough! For the love of Zubar! Let the girl speak! She’s been doing so for some time now while you keep babbling to and fro. What is it you wish to tell us, Anjel?”

“Thank you, your majesty. Before my birth an inscription appeared in the Book indicating that the Fountain would remain barren until a union of strangers took place.”

“We all know that,” Creedon said.

“Everyone believed that the union had taken place when my mother and father united and I was born, but nothing happened after my birth . . . and the Fountain brought forth no offspring despite the death of many wizards.”

“Again you repeat what we already know,” Creedon said.

“I do so to make the next point, Lord Creedon.” She paused before she continued; knowing that what she had to say would not be received well. “You were wrong to believe that that was the final solution.”

There was anger now and a mass of raised voices, some objecting to her insults, others shouting that she should not be in the Forum in the first place.

“Wait!” Jagmas shouted. “Hear her out!”

“I studied our history closely and the lessons of those who know the inhabitants of the other sectors. I looked closely at the words in the Book of Charms and asked myself why nothing happened after my birth. The answer is simply because the union of strangers to which the Book refers . . . was not the union between my parents . . . but a much bigger and broader union. It is a union of all the inhabitants of Prisma.”

The din was overwhelming with wizards hurling insults and others insisting that she is removed from the Forum. It only stopped when Creedon took the floor. “I admire your audacity, and your fertile mind,” he said. “Your theory sounds very much like the theories of Lord Jagmas before he became king.”

“I am aware of those theories and agree with most of them,” Anjel said. “We were one nation when the ships left Zubar, and it was only by misfortune that each ship landed in an isolated sector. The Book is telling us that the time has come to change that situation—the different nations must unite and become one again.”

Creedon laughed mockingly. “With respect to our king, but I will be forgiven for thinking that he has put you up to this and filled your head with his frivolous ideas.”

Anjel looked at him defiantly. “The Journals show that similar allegations made by you have been proven wrong in the past, Lord Creedon.”

“And the theories of Jagmas have also been proven wrong,” Creedon snapped.

Laughter and jeering followed.

“Let’s . . . let’s look—”

“Order! Let’s hear what Lord Nobalt has to say,” Archos shouted.

Nobalt closed his eyes. When he opened them, he smiled at Anjel and spoke gently. “I admire your courage, young lady. It’s not easy trying to convince a group that wants everything to appear in black and white. But let’s look at the situation with some practicality and common sense. It has been years that the inhabitants of the sectors . . . have been divided. I have personally documented the changes and differences as we gained knowledge thereof in the Journal. To the east . . . and in Sector 2 are tribes of women—the tribes to which your mother belongs—who because of the harsh and perilous conditions in which they live    . . . have adapted into a powerful, but horribly vicious group. The Agresians will not be interested in unification under these circumstances. To the south of that tribe lives a nation of simpletons . . . who live in harmony with each other but fear the raids and captivity by the Agresians. They are the Dullites. There can be no union between those groups.” He coughed to clear his throat before he continued. “Our neighbors to the south are a strange group—although friendly—and have nothing in common with us . . . and no desire to share the violent world outside their domain.”

 

 

“Well spoken, Lord Nobalt!” Creedon clapped his hands. “The words of a wise man as opposed to the foolish ranting of a girl—a half breed—who is neither wizard nor warrior.”

“Now, hold on, Creedon!” Airofis said. “You go too far. My daughter has the wellbeing of Egotia at heart. She is as much a part of it as anyone else here.”

“Then I withdraw my harsh words, Lord Airofis,” Creedon said, sneering, “but the logic of Lord Nobalt, as always, is irrefutable.”

Jagmas stood up from his position at the table. “You have heard what Lord Nobalt had to say, Anjel. Let us accept that what you said concerning the Book of Charms is correct. Just how does the Book expect us to bring about this union?”

“The Book has given you the means to bring about unity, although it says clearly that it is not without danger.”

“And pray tell us this great mystery and put us out of our misery,” Creedon said sarcastically.

“It is no mystery, Lord Creedon. I must bring about that union. It is the reason for my birth,” Anjel replied.

After the commotion subsided, Creedon was eager to have the last word. “And . . . what if you fail?”

Anjel was quick to reply. “That too is simple, Lord Creedon—then Egotia is dead.”

 

 

One nation divided by fate into strange and diverse groups. Wizards, warriors, fools, and robots struggling to forge an existence in their isolated worlds. When the demand for change finally comes, all eyes are on a young, courageous enchantress who must find a way to unite them . . . despite the dangers.


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The Boat in the Bay Window by KEN KLOPPER

 

A dark cloud was still looming over our future and the simple bliss we found in experiencing things we had taken for granted before our captivity. We were still POWs and subjects of a power far greater than Captain Takenaka and his ten men. I had almost forgotten about the war when my dream-world romance with Faye began. Masaru Wakahisa had left the island with the rest of the troops without an opportunity for well wishes or a simple goodbye, but I still had an ally amongst the ten chosen to remain behind or abandoned by the Japanese Imperial Command, depending on how you looked at it. The soldiers themselves chose the latter option, believing that they weren’t good enough to face the final onslaught or to deserve the honor of dying for the Japanese nation. Their spirits were broken and without Yamada to drive them forward, they were lost like newborn puppies suddenly taken away from their mother.

“The news from Japan is not good,” Hiroki Matsumoto said.

“What’s up? Has something happened to your family?” I asked.

“No. They are scared but still all alive despite the bombings.”

Japan was burning and the Allied air force refused to let the flames burn out. Night after night incendiary bombs were dropped down like molten ash after a volcanic eruption as wave after wave of B-17 bombers raided the skies above the island empire.

“It concerns an order received from the Japanese High Command,” Hiroki said.

“What’s it about,” I asked.

“Please . . . this is very sensitive information. If they find out I told you . . . they will shoot me.”

 I could tell by the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he was nervous and afraid.

“It stays between the two of us,” I said. I broke that promise the same day when I told Faye what he had told me, but I was pretty certain that it would spread no further.

“Captain Takenaka has received orders to leave no prisoners behind when the final evacuation orders are received.”

“Do you mean they must all be killed?”

“Yes, every last one.”

Somehow I wasn’t shocked or surprised. The general treatment of the prisoners showed that they were not interested in keeping us alive, and I always had the feeling that Yamada was just doing what his masters required while Takenaka was trying to avoid and postpone it.

“How does Takenaka intend doing it?” I asked.

“The captain doesn’t want to comply, but in the end he will have to  . . . or face a firing squad himself for insubordination.”

“Hmm! Thank you for warning me, Hiroki. You have been a good friend even if we are supposed to be enemies. My wish is that you and your family are kept safe and are reunited at the end of the war.”

There was no time to waste. I had to get off the island and return with help that would save Faye and the others. There was no easy way to escape, and even if I did, I could never be certain that I would find the assistance I needed. But I had to try. We were so near to freedom that I could taste the foam on my beer.

Only Faye knew of my plans as she helped me gather the material necessary to build a little raft. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Eyes still watched for signs of prohibited activity or contraventions of camp rules.

She found a length of old rope near the hospital tent and I found a piece of torn parachute material in an old store. I cut and trimmed some logs with the bush knife that Walker had found and secured them together with the rope. The material would serve as a sail while a broad, flattened length of timber acted as a rudder.

I tested it out at Baptist Bay and it seemed like it would stay afloat and take my weight although there was no way of knowing what it would do in the open sea. Faye pleaded with me to take her with me but it was too risky to place two people on the flimsy craft I had built, and the material we had scrounged was insufficient to build anything larger or sturdier. It was also too dangerous for both of us to go drifting around in the open sea in the hope that a passing ship would pick us up. What would happen if it turned out to be an enemy ship? I couldn’t bear the thought of her being taken to another POW camp, being mistreated and put through the same hell all over again.

I had gathered some food and water in an old container and I was ready to go one morning early. We held each other for a long time without saying anything.

 

 

“You can tell Walker that I’ve gone for help and will be back in a few days,” I said.

“I want to go with you. Take me with you,” Faye pleaded.

“I want you to come but it’s too dangerous. I have no idea what’s out there.”

“What if you never come back?”

“I will, I promise.”

“I’m so scared I won’t ever see you again.”

“You will, I promise.”

“How long do you think it will take?”

“A couple of days, a week at the most. Once I get picked up, I can make contact with my superiors . . . and we’ll come back and get you.”

It sounded so simple—so uncomplicated, but I knew that the first part was dependent on a shitload of luck and a wind that took me straight into the Allied sea-lanes.

“I’m going to set a course westwards and head for an area where I know there’s a lot of sea traffic,” I said. I gazed into her eyes and placed my hands on her shoulders. “Now, I want you to be brave and wait for my return. It’ll be soon, I promise.”

“I’ll wait here every day so that I can see your boat coming into the bay,” she said. “That’s what will keep me going.”

“That’s my girl!” I said. “Yes, look out for the boat in the bay. That’s me coming to get you.”

“I love you!” she said tearfully. “I’ll be waiting.”

I pushed my raft out into the water and started paddling through the waves like a surfer on his way out. I turned and saw her standing in the shallow water, protecting her eyes from the rising sun and waving. I waved back and shouted as loudly as I could, “I love you! I’ll be back soon!” My final words seemed to travel to shore with the tiny waves that licked her feet and legs like little, overexcited dogs.

There was no time for regret, or heartache as I battled over the larger waves until I reached a point where I could no longer see the land. No time for tears as I hoisted my little sail and tried to tack my way in a direction that I judged was west. I was fortunate and the sea was relatively calm on my first day out with a fresh breeze that drove my little raft towards the open ocean at a steady pace. This is going to work, I thought. With luck, I would be picked up by a passing ship and be back within a few days to fulfill my promise to Faye.

The dice was still rolling my way and early the next morning, I was spotted by a merchant ship on its way to Auckland and picked up. The New Zealand Defence Force wired Army Headquarters and I was flown to the military base near Atherton. I remember feeling elated after the thorough medical checkup. Thank God! Within a few days I had made it back and I was now in a position to help Faye and the others. My beloved Faye would soon be in my arms again.

The young captain, Morris I think his name was, asked a lot of questions, but I became annoyed when he focused on what the Japs were doing and what they intended to do next. In my eagerness to get back and rescue my love from the clutches of the Japanese, I had forgotten one very vital element. There was a war going on and it had reached a stage where the rivals were throwing everything they had at each other in order to secure a victory.

“Captain, please, there are people on that island that need to be rescued. The Japanese are threatening to kill them all,” I said anxiously.

“How many Australian citizens did you say are still there?” Morris asked.

“Three Australian nurses . . . and an American Marine.”

“Three? Sergeant, you’ll understand that we have you marked down as missing in action and we’re very happy to see that you’re still alive. But at this moment our resources are stretched to the limit across the Pacific, in defense of our own borders and in other places. We—”

“Look, sir, I just need a few men and transport to the island. There won’t be any resistance from the Japanese.”

“There are prisoners of war scattered all over, Sergeant . . . and in far greater numbers than the three you mentioned. We can’t help them until the war is over.”

“Those people are going to die if I don’t get back with a rescue party. I promised them that I’d return before that happened.”

“Well, I’m very sorry to hear that . . . but as I said we just can’t spare the resources right now.”

It felt like they were beating me with a stick every time they refused my request. I kicked up a fuss and demanded to see a superior officer, and when that failed, I went home to ask my father for help. My homecoming was like Lazarus being raised from the dead. My parents wanted to celebrate but all I could see was Faye, standing barefoot on our beach, waiting . . .  waiting for the boat in the bay.

And I was also silently mourning the death of my younger brother when I heard that he had been killed in action. No . . . there was really no cause for celebration.

In my haste to leave the island and with the confidence that I would return to rescue Faye, I hadn’t even thought about asking her for details of her family or that the need to contact them would ever arise.

My father was reluctant at first because he agreed that the war had reached a crucial stage, and crusades like the one I was suggesting were against military policy. Prisoners of war were rescued and taken to places of relief as military forces gained victory in the area where camps were established, he said. Specific missions to rescue them were unheard of. He eventually agreed to help and after a few phone calls, I was told to report to Colonel Bradfield at headquarters in Atherton.

Listening to what my father had to say, I knew even before I saw the colonel that I would be given the runaround—a dash of empathy, an explanation about the war situation, and a pat on the back.

“You must have gone through a terrible time at the hand of those Jap bastards,” Bradfield said as he stared at me over the piles of files on his desk.

“Yes sir, it was no joyride,” I said.

 Empathy done and dusted.

“Come over here, son, and let me show you just what we have on our plate right now.”

I was given a graphic update on the situation in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific, all laid out in a scale model of those areas. It was impressive and it allowed me to catch up on what I had missed over the months in captivity . . . but it didn’t help Walker, the villagers, or my girl who was most probably waiting for me on that beach like I said she should.

That’s the explanation about the state of warfare ticked off.

I couldn’t wait around for the pat on the back. “So are you going to help me, or not, sir. I made a promise that I would bring help and save them from the Japanese firing squad.”

“I’m very sorry, son, but—”

I didn’t wait for him to finish. I couldn’t. I had failed them. I had failed Faye. I had left them to die. How long would she stand in the waves at Baptist Bay and wait for me? What would go through her mind when I didn’t return? Oh God, how would I forgive myself if they killed her?

A part of me froze that day when I realized that I had broken my promise. It wasn’t what they had put us through. It wasn’t the visible scars and permanent impediment. It was the knowledge that I had failed and that I couldn’t be trusted. I couldn’t be relied upon to produce what I said I would as their last pillar of hope. And damn the brass to hell and back! I had lost my love . . . my darling Faye.

It’s hard to explain how low the human mind can go. How deep the pit of despair and regret really is. I know that I reached the bottom more than once in the weeks that followed. I hit the road not caring or knowing where I was going and sat for days in a fuzzy haze in beer halls and bars, and rolled around in drunken stupors in alleyways and gutters until the military police finally caught up with me.

The army could have charged me with quite a few offences but they didn’t. It may have been the influence of my father that kept me out of the detention barracks or maybe there was an understanding of what I had gone through and what I was still going through at that moment. Instead, they gave me counseling and cleaned me up. Then they offered me an administrative post as a sergeant major at Army Headquarters in Atherton. At first, I declined saying that I was a soldier not a clerk, but that was stupid because I would never see active service or combat again. The only alternative was a discharge.

Then I had a strange dream one night in which I saw Faye standing on the beach waiting for the boat like she said she would. I heard her say that she would be alright and that they wouldn’t kill her. And she looked so pretty as the sun’s rays touched her long, red hair and her rosy cheeks were kissed by the breeze.

I took the post because it allowed me to stay informed about the progress of the war. I had renewed hope that Takenaka would not kill the prisoners and they would still be alive when the war ended. Bradfield also gave me the assurance that at the first opportunity after the war had ended, he would personally attend to the arrangements to have the prisoners on the island rescued without any further delay.

The Germans were launching a massive counter-offensive in Ardennes in an attempt to obtain a strategic victory by splitting the Allied Forces and capturing the port at Antwerp. They failed, but I noticed that the German defense in Italy remained strong and we didn’t seem to be making much progress there. The Soviets did well in Poland by January 1945, and in February, the Soviets advanced to Vienna while the Western Allies pushed into Western Germany, crossed the Rhine, and conquered German Army Group B. By April, the Western advance was in Italy and across Western Germany while the Poles and Soviets conquered Berlin. Both forces met at the Elbe River in late April. By the end of the same month, the Reichstag had been captured.

Things moved quickly after the death of Roosevelt and Mussolini and when I received the news that Adolf Hitler had committed suicide, I knew that the war against Germany was drawing to a close. Surrender came on 29 April 1945.

It wasn’t really about the war. Every advance by the Allies and every victory brought me closer to the reality of finding Faye alive. It was the war in the Pacific that really mattered.

I requested help a couple of times after the war with Germany ended but the answer remained the same. The focus was now on the war with Japan . . . and I would have to wait.

The Americans continued to bomb cities in Japan after B-29 bombers hit Tokyo with firebombs in March. Our troops landed in Borneo in May and overran the oilfields there while the British reached Rangoon. While the Chinese were counter-attacking, the Americans moved towards Japan and took Iwo Jima and Okinawa between March and June. Not only were the Japanese feeling the sting of the American bombers, but they were also being blocked by American submarines from getting supplies through to their forces.

The news came through that the Allies were calling for the unconditional surrender by Japan but the Japanese had not responded. Early August, and messages were relayed that the Americans had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while the Soviets defeated the Kwantung Army at Manchuria. They also took Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.

Damn! It was all over. There was an air of relief and celebrations everywhere but I couldn’t join in until Faye was safely in my arms.

Colonel Bradfield hadn’t forgotten his undertaking after Japan officially surrendered onboard the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. My head was spinning and my heartbeat was irregular when he summoned me to his office that afternoon.

“Sit down, son,” he said. “Can I offer you a drink?”

“No thank you, sir.”

“So it’s all over.”

“Yes, at last, sir.”

“We’re in contact with a Soviet vessel that’s sweeping the islands that were occupied by the Japs. I spoke to the captain about a week ago and told him about the prisoners on Accon . . . and he said that they were in that area and would check it out.”

I knew that the news wasn’t good when I stepped into his office. When he offered me a drink he confirmed the need to take the edge off whatever he was about to tell me.

“They landed there this morning. I’m afraid that the report that the captain gave me isn’t what you want to hear. The only inhabitants on the island were a few people from a neighboring island. They had come to see what they could salvage. They said that the island was deserted when they arrived there and that no one on the island had survived the war. I’m very sorry, son . . . but this war has left us all with a bitter cross to bear.”

A bitter cross to bear. There were no tears—no emotions. That part of me had frozen inside. The only image in my mind was of Faye standing on the beach . . . waiting . . . waiting for the boat in the bay.

 

From the author of The Casket comes a gripping story of war, tragedy, romance, and drama.

 

Arthur Munro has carried the burden of his ghosts of the past for more than 40 years without ever really sharing his story with anyone. When his grandson visits him on his farm in South Africa, he finds himself lowering the barrier for the first time as he relives the tragedy of a time best forgotten.

 

Co-opted into a squad of US Marines because of a special ability, the young Munro finds himself on a special assignment aimed at eliminating the Japanese forces on a remote island in the Pacific during WWII. What was supposed to be a straightforward operation turns into a living nightmare when Munro and his men are captured and kept as prisoners of war on the island.

After spending months of torment and agony at the hands of his captors, he gains his freedom after a desperate escape, but leaves behind a promise to return. His failure to keep that promise haunts him for four decades until by a strange twist of events, he is finally able to break the yoke of guilt and regret.


 

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON WORLDWIDE

 

Author Ken Klopper’s books are also available in paperback at Createspace and in South Africa at takealot.com

©kjklopper 2017