22 October, 2014

#SpecialFeature :: #ShortStory - Shining the Light By Neil Grimmett


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*** SPECIAL FEATURE - October 2014 ***

Shining the Light by Neil Grimmett


Because I am an honest man I need to put down this tale exactly as it happened. I start by stating this fact for it has been said ‘that all Cretans are liars’ – but the man who said that was a Cretan.
My very good friend – and husband to my wife’s cousin – Yiorgos, had opened a bar, high on a hill overlooking the sea with a view of Theodori Island floating in the Gulf of Chania. He’d even thought of putting one of those pay-as-you-peep telescopes on the terrace, so the customers could take a turn with the possibility of seeing one of the rare Kri Kri, the ancestral wild goats that inhabit the place. Of course, as usual, it came to me to point out that as most of his customers would be turning up after dark, his money might have been better spent.
I hadn’t the heart to tell him on what, say a stair lift or cable-car. I’ve been watching the tourists since they first started coming and, for most of them in our heat, a steep walk of nearly a kilometre for an expensive cocktail with no Mousaka or Greek dancing is an unlikely event. They like to saunter up and down in their ugly shorts, T-shirts and caps, keeping on the flat strip yards away from the sea. Harassed and herded by restaurant touts, excursion guides and souvenir shop owners, while they weigh the price of everything and seem desperate to find what we laughingly call, ‘a Kafenion friend’. That special someone to make sure you stay in touch with this wonderful land. Your private Greek god to guide your footsteps and make certain you come back – and to the right place.
Now it has become a duty for me to turn up here and, in truth, act as bait for anyone determined enough to have made the ascent. The theory being, if it is good enough for the Greeks then it must be pukka and well-priced.
 I’v been sitting alone for some time, looking down at the spreading mass that was once a village, thinking about what a fool I’d made of myself with a girl young enough to be my daughter. To my credit I saw the truth and called the stop; to my shame it took too long and my children may know and the ghost of my poor wife haunts our villa, souring the wine and refusing to forgive. Yiorgos is playing backgammon with the very pretty waitress – hired especially for her attributes - and is either on the way to, or is already making the same sort of fool of himself. As Kondylakis wrote: women are the ‘devils’.
Alien music, English or American rock, drifts down towards what remains of the old heart of the village where, paradoxically, someone sits on their terrace playing a lyra. A black and white cat prowls the stone floor of the bar and cicadas fretsaw the night into geometric unswallowable portions. 
Then they arrive.
I think straight away the woman is Greek, possibly from this island.  Cretan women are the most beautiful in the world: thick-lipped, big-breasted, black-haired arrogant Amazons that have turned many conquerors into slaves. And she could hold her own with the best of them in Chania. Much too stunning to be English, though the man clearly is, and speaks it to her. She has dark hair and refined features; her lips are voluptuous, eyes deep, demanding that you look and look quickly away. She is wearing a very short black dress covered with tendrils of yellow flowers. It is tight fitting and her figure makes even this old man gasp. Her partner is quick-moving and has wolfish, intelligent eyes that are pretending to be unobservant while cutting through everyone with X-ray precision. She speaks to him in perfect English, before bending down and sweeping the cat to her full breasts. They sit down at a table near to me and I hope, for once, the German couple will not arrive on the dot.
The man orders red house wine – ignoring Yiorgos and the now, made-to-look plain waitress’s attempts to get them to take one of the toxic cocktails or evening specials. They remain close together and stare down over Chania bay where a few fishing boats sway their lights like fireflies lost at sea and the wise Cretans count how many are out and decide if it should be fish or meat for tomorrow.
Yiorgos keeps nodding, slyly, he thinks, but really like a donkey. It’s his signal begging me to go and offer them drinks and seats at my table to make certain this becomes their special place for the rest of the holiday. But there is something about these young lovers: a sadness - which, I sense, has nothing to do with how they feel about each other – but still one I do not wish to intrude upon. I see their hands close together over the coolness of the rail; the cat already asleep on her lap opens and closes a paw on the whiteness of her thigh. And the strangest thing is, I believe they want to meet me and are waiting.
I hear the German tourists stamping up the hill and know that they will ignore me and make straight for this interesting-looking couple. I decide to go over to them first.
“Excuse me,” I say, “may I welcome you to my good friend Yiorgos’s music bar and to Kreta. My name is Spiros.”
The woman smiles and reaches out a hand: “Thank you,” she says, “I’m Marietta and this is my husband, Richard. We’re from England.”
He flashes me a look: not friendly, not hostile, but wary, as if he has learnt something about Greeks that he does not trust.
“Would you like to join us?” Marietta asks – beating me to it - and I say yes.
I accept a glass of wine, while telling the waitress who brings my glass to fetch some tsikoudia.
“Yamas,” I say, giving it the full over-the-top Zorba bit.
And they respond with a gentle ‘s’yeia’, pronouncing it correctly and confirming my suspicion that they know more about this place than most visitors ever would. The small bottle of iced tsikoudia arrives and I fill three glasses. “This is raki,” I tell them: “our traditional gesture of welcome. The hand of friendship being offered.”
We down the drinks in one swallow and bang the glasses on the table.
“Where did this one come from?” Richard asks me.
“The raki?” I respond.
“The tsikoudia,” he says, using its Cretan name and again getting the stresses perfect. “From which village still, which ‘kazani’?”
I could easily say that I don’t know. Or give him one of the commonly known places; somewhere tourist-friendly with, at the right time of year, the chance to see the spirit being distilled. They even do a demonstration on Chania harbour which I could direct them to. Instead, I tell the name of the obscure little village not even on most maps. I was in charge of the kazani there and am proud to believe that I produced the best tsikoudia on Crete. But I become aware, as he locks eyes, questioningly, with his wife that it is not the real reason for him asking me. So I’m glad when the German couple arrive and there is little room for us to continue.
One lesson you learn quickly in the tourist trade is that the English and Germans can be a problem together. And the signs are not always obvious. Forget those patriotic T-shirts or indelible tattoos of intolerance carved into flesh. It’s the deep smoldering fire you must learn to watch for in case it ignites. But this gathering, smartly dressed and sipping drinks, seem safe. Even the normally nervous Yiorgos looks content and smug.
The Germans have been coming to the island for years, and love to offer their instant appraisals and opinions on everything, from how quickly you can ‘do’ Samaria Gorge to how much you should pay to own a slice of Crete. Foreigners are buying the place up in droves at the moment: every plot of land or old ruin now seems to carry a price tag. I know one village not far from here where just about every old house has been restored and piece of land developed. I asked Nikos - who’s been mayor twice – the last time I saw him sitting on a donkey and working the poor thing to death, the lazy bastard, “What do you think of all these Franks buying up your village?”
“Ah,” he replied, tying the beast’s urine-soaked rope around someone else’s hedge so that it got a free feed, “The village was dead. Now it is alive again.”
I’ve heard the truth though: how the Germans have taken one section, the English the other. They do not stray into the same tavernas – which incidentally, the English call ‘The Pub’ – or use the same store or bakery. They criticize and blame each other for the constant water shortages their pools and endless demands make. One English tourist got bit by a horse fly and I heard the taverna owner tell her that it was because she had wandered through the German ‘sector’. This same man also told me something else: that the English wanted to book his place for their Christmas party.  He could understand why they said no Germans or Scandinavian guests were wanted. “But why,” he asked me, “did they also insist that there should be no Greeks allowed in that night? Why?”
Tonight, I do not think I will have to try too hard to keep things sweet – though I am more than willing. In truth, I’m retired, but  have a small investment in this place. I like to keep a few irons warming. My eldest son runs the hotel now – another lazy slug with a big mouth and no brain to control it.  He spends the day sleeping, then raises hell all night. But what can you do? He’s mine for life. As is his brother, sister and their children. This is Crete: everything is for the family and its continuance. I could even see one of my grandchildren running this place when I help put it in order.
The English couple have gone quieter and I sense they are getting ready to leave. Herr Doctor and his wife have been to visit the Orthodox Academy in Kolimbari and are insisting that the English must go there – they have also been to the German war cemetery in Maleme and are clearly moved by the whole experience, I think.
Herr Doctor (he’s a doctor of teeth and she, his second wife, a former dental nurse) is telling us how he met the director of the academy and judged him well-intentioned and quite intelligent, though he did not understand all of the stuff about his shard of broken mirror and his need to keep shining a light from it into all of the darkness.
Apparently, Herr Doctor explains, the director took a piece of glass from an antique mirror that had been shattered when a stray German bomb destroyed his house killing his father and grandparents. He then kept going around through the rest of his childhood and adolescence, reflecting the sun off its surface into all the hidden shadows, until he saw the light and knew what he must do: illuminate the dark places of this world.
 Dark places? I often think they are best left undisturbed. Who really wants to keep going back into what was obscured, usually for the best reasons?
There’s an awful silence. The clack of backgammon pieces sound like rifle shots in a Sfakian dawn. So I must try to explain,
“If you go to Kolimbari,” I say, “and climb the coast road a little way towards the monastery and then wait until the night comes, you will see, high on the cliff above the academy, a cross light up and glow from a church cut into the rock. It marks the site of a mass grave of young Cretans killed as they tried to defend the airfield at Maleme.” I feel the Germans tense and add quickly, “On the other side of the Bay of Kissamou, facing that cross ,there is another light: it glows from the war cemetery of Germans killed in the same battle. 
“Telemacus, the director, built the academy in the hope that if some sort of reconciliation could be reached here, it may be possible that it could be achieved everywhere. That is what this great man saw by shining his little light into the darkness. It’s what we see now in these lights that really counts, I believe.”
The Germans raise their glasses to my speech. Richard gets to his feet,
“What about a girl who vanished,” he says loudly: “A young mother, an English lady who’d fallen in love with a Cretan. One who may have had a village named after her. What ray, and from whose shard of mirror-glass will shine some light onto her?”
His beautiful partner gets up and I see tears in her eyes. My blood  turns colder than ice and words are frozen in my throat. Richard tosses some money onto the table – more than enough to pay for all of the drinks – and walks off with Marietta holding his hand.
Everyone else is staring at me as if it is something that I have said,
“Ha,” I recover slightly, “let me give you a warning about this drink.”  I lift the empty bottle so that the idiot Yiorgos jumps up thinking I’m calling for a refill. “When the Turks conquered Crete and discovered tsikoudia, they quickly made up a saying: ‘One glass  is worth a gold piece, two glasses are worth two gold pieces, three glasses though are worth a farthing’. And our young friend just had four.”
They look slightly appeased, though still not certain. 
“Did you not see his face?” I ask, desperate to leave. “Another Turkish expression, ‘fezzed’ – red like the hat – to be drunk.” Now they laugh and Yiorgos slams down another frozen bottle of tsikoudia, which he will pay for.
It is not difficult for me, with all my contacts to discover where the English couple are staying: a small private villa that belongs to a nice family from Italy. I actually found it for them years ago, and an uncle of mine acts as their letting agent, another young cousin does the maintenance. It seems that you need everything in the family these days to get by: except too many secrets. 
It’s possible, if you walk the right track, to pick your way through the vines and olive trees and end up directly under the villa’s bedroom balcony unseen. I have to make my way to it in case there’s any chance of overhearing them. To learn, if I can, what else they may know.
I get myself into position and wait. At first, all I can hear are the cicadas. There are many large, ancient trees in this grove and they are all full of them by the sound of it. Then I can make out the gentle mournful poo poo of the Scops owls as their question and answer game becomes a harmony, becomes a song. Then, as all the noises become as uniform as the soughing of a gentle sea, I hear them. It’s an unmistakable noise and everything about my character wants to leave them to this intimacy. But my legs refuse to move. The bed is sending out a powerful rhythm and I can hear her gently moaning. Pillow talk often follows sex. I try to convince myself I must just wait in case there is any. On and on it goes. And though we Greeks are the best lovers in the world, these are clearly experts. In my long marriage – with also, quite a few flights of the wild bee – I have not heard the like. It makes me yearn to be young again – for a night anyway. But then, as they say, it takes two.
My feet are aching, I want to water a thousand year old olive tree, and I rarely go more than half-an-hour without lighting a cigarette. Now the bed is creaking so violently I guess the owner will soon be on the market for a new one! Shadows are wildly dancing out from the window, and her screams are making the Cretan cats sound tame. I see a slight  movement on one of the trees and catch the tzitzikas in my hand. I hold it and let its vibrations send out the good luck to them as I hear their painful joyous ending. A pulse of heady scent from the night flower moves towards them as I creep off to my empty bed. They will have no troubled words tonight – and I envy them their comfort.
~
They do not turn up at the bar the next evening, nor the following one. I take a walk but the villa is closed up. I leave a bottle of my twenty-five year old wine on the stone table outside their door. A thick potent brew, once red, now brown and fortified many times with the best Cretan brandy. When I sneak my next look it has gone and a 4x4 hire vehicle is parked outside. I can see that it has been working very hard and wonder where they have been exploring.
The same evening – just as a party of water-colourists make Yiorgos’s month by ordering pastel shades of ice cream and vivid brush strokes of cocktails – Richard arrives alone and makes straight for me.
“Thank you for the wine,” he says and sits at my table.
I am taking a little ouzo and water and signal to the waitress to bring another.
“We discovered the village,” Richard tells me after I pour some cold water to turn the clear spirit milky and release the aroma of herbs. “The one the tsikoudia came from.” I am shocked, but try to keep my reaction hidden. “I even found the kazani. Cold of course - though we tried to picture it working. But it was hard to really imagine. Could you explain?”
So I do:
“After the grapes have been gathered and the wine made, the pulp that remains is put into containers and left to ferment. Then, when all the correct licenses have been granted, the kazani is lit with a huge olive wood fire that will be kept going day and night. The vessel above the fire will have its secret mixture of herbs and aromatics thrown into it followed by the fermented pulp. Next, a copper lid with its long elephant trunk will be fitted to the top and sealed with clay to make it airtight.”
Then I get carried away:  always I love to tell stories and cannot help myself from spilling out my soul in sentences that wind out and curl back until I am satisfied I have said enough, or said too much, as I try to paint the full picture: a huge man stripped to the waist, glistening in sweat, with his smaller, almost impotent, helpers gathered around. He is the Devil stoking the inferno - oblivious to the heat, sparks and smoke while the cauldron boils. I try to sketch the villagers gathered around feasting, as the afterglow of the day gives way to the dancing flame and the breath of spirit begins to condense from a stream of alcoholic fire into liquid. The first glass is carried to the head of the village for approval. Finally, shovelfuls of hot coals are thrown onto grills and the meat begins to sizzle and the chestnuts wait. I am just going to describe the end of the first batch and the hissing removal of the lid, when I realize he is not listening but leading. My father had many sayings, but one in particular has served me well: ‘One little Greek can do more in business than any two Jews put together’. And believe the little Greek: he was right. So I know when I am being set up, only too easily. I stop talking and let my smile stay firm.
“So when exactly do they do it?” he asks.
I give a vague answer that tells him little. I mention it has nothing to do with any calendar he would understand – and that even the pull of the moon can be taken into account. But he pushes the matter, asking if they would be allowed to watch if they returned at the correct time. Would I even take them?
“Look,” I coax, “there are sometimes demonstrations on the harbour in Chania. Go to one. Why do you want to visit that village anyway? There are many others, bigger ones, used to tourists, that will offer you hospitality. Why do you think I would be made welcome at that particular one?”
“We saw your family name on a monument. To a leader of the Resistance who was executed.”
“It is a common name on Crete,” I inform him.
“What do you know about a girl who was hung in that place? I asked in the village and was told by one very drunk man that the village was named after her, then by several others that it was not and just something dreamed up for the inevitable arrival of tourism.”
“Then I should believe who is the most sober.” The Germans arrive and take one look at the two of us, now leaning forward on our seats: a young goat and an old ram about to lock horns – and they flee to join the soft water-colours of spring flowers and sun-lit seas.
“Marietta’s grandmother came to Crete when she was seventeen. She fell in love with a much older man, a married man, a Kapetanios who loved her in return. She sent some letters home which the family still have. They were full of romance and pain: about their love, the hatred from all of his family and the hostility of the other villagers towards her. They had a child and lived for a time on the edge of the village in a old stone house. Then the war came. My wife’s mother came back from here to England as an orphan with a few possessions. But those possessions have stayed and haunted all of us who have seen them. Nothing will induce her to return to this country. Now she is terminally ill and Marietta wants to find out the truth for her before she dies. Among the papers we found your family name. It is your village, isn’t it?”
“There are many tales about most names on Crete.”
“Was there one about an English woman and a love affair?”
“English women are always falling in love with Greeks. Look at it now. All of us stalked by a bunch of Shirley Valentines. We’ve even got the German, Dutch and Scandinavian versions on the prowl.”
“And what about red silk panties? Beautifully embroidered with a two-tailed mermaid. There was a pair laid flat between two sheets of tissue paper. ‘These cost my mother her life’, was something Marietta got told many times by her mother.”
I  give a nonchalant shrug, though my head feels as heavy as an olive root, and my heart softer than Cretan honey. “Maybe,” I whisper, “the man’s real wife gave them to her at some time. Excuse me for saying this, but she would have been considered a whore. It is a Cretan way of telling her so. The name of the creature is Gorgona and she is the symbol for a loose woman.”
I can see that he does not believe me and is struggling to find another line of attack when Marietta arrives. She appears more Greek than ever now and is wearing – I cannot still help but notice - the latest fashion worn by some of the prettiest devils in Chania: three-quarter length skin tight trousers, high heels and a strapless top that forces her perfect breasts up into your vision like some mirage you would risk crossing any desert to reach. I sense how easy or natural it is for her to become assimilated to this place. Maybe, also, how necessary. I begin to understand that she is owed something. But how much? I watch the Germans and English ‘artists’ making faces and passing sly remarks about her - disapproving ones, I guess, about her appearance and probably her morals too. I make my decision,
“Tomorrow evening, if you have no plans, I would like to invite you to visit my country retreat. You have found the village and guessed I come from there. So what is left but to welcome you to it properly? We will, if you want, eat and drink something together.”
Marietta places a long bare arm around her husband’s shoulders and they leave after accepting my offer.
~
I watch their car arriving from my roof terrace where I have been preparing the table. Though I spend a lot of time away and do not come to my village as often as I’d like, its patterns remain unchanging. Most cars are either recognized, or know exactly where they are heading: usually straight through this place as they search for the next village with its rumoured lost acropolis. This car is slowing down and the people inside are seeking someone;  I know they are my guests. I see the 4x4 stop at the tin shed which is our kafenion, garage and general store. The men sit out drinking and the women are at their eternal lace work: they will not tell the strangers where I live.
I let them drive by the hidden entrance to my house: they will not get too far before the only road sign not yet totally obliterated by bullet holes, will announce that they have left the village. But it will give me a little more time and by their return I will be at the bottom of the slope waiting. I’ve worked most of the day, tidying the house, preparing some food, picking a token for them to take. Though mainly trying to decide what I should tell them.
I have never brought foreigners to my family home before and am both excited and nervous. After all my years of serving tourists, this feels like the first genuine offer of hospitality and I know my intentions are for the right reason.
They arrive and I rush out to greet them. And already want to be evasive. I show the cross carved into the stone of a Venetian arch; I encourage them to look down into the depths of my glass-covered well; and for their hands to touch the shattered fragments of the stone oven. “It broke the day my father died,” I explain. “It is one of our many superstitions: when the owner dies, the oven crumbles before it can be used again and must be rebuilt. You may not believe it: but this is Crete and many unbelievable things happen.”
Neither of them ask how many times this one has broken and why I have not bothered to repair it. I sense they are listening but not really interested. I stop the tour and put the flowers they have brought for the table in some water while they open their gift. It is an icon for their wall when they return home. My saint to watch over them. I resist suggesting they should hang it over their bed and try not to imagine his bony finger trembling in disapproval above their sweating bodies.
Marietta tells me that she loves the house. “It’s just so romantic,” she says. “Did your wife love it when you were young and here together?”
I take her hand and lead her to the table. How to explain that words like love and romance are not what we had in this place: instead, it was all family, duty and work. “Take a look,” I want to say, “come here and stay for some time. See how old all the people are who remain. How they move in rhythm with the beasts, the olives and grapes. And most of all the cycle that is Crete.”
Richard fingers one of the antique guns I have hanging on the walls. I see he knows weapons and is gentle and almost reverent about this one, as if he realizes how many lives it has ended. 
I serve them a salad with wild greens and capers, some of my olives, bread of course, my aunt’s mizithra cheese and her delicious pies. We drink new wine from the barrel dripping slowly under my stairs. I want to keep it light and tell them, “The priest only blessed the barrel last month – and drank about half of it for his trouble!” We make small talk and I note how little they are drinking. Afterwards, we sit on the roof terrace with a glass of my rare tsikoudia made from mulberries, under the stars with the village lullaby of cicadas, owls, the constant yapping of roped dogs, mating cats and a demented cockerel crowing at dawn six hours early.
“Look at all the abandoned, crumbling houses,” I say, “only fit for the agents to try and sell for tourists’ dreams. There are no young people here now. This village is dying.” Then, because it is time, I add, “It does not need to be tortured along the way for its past sins.” I know this is the opening and wait.
“I was just thinking about the man,” Richard says, “the one who took his shard of mirror and shone it into all those dark places. And through his actions, how hope was born.”
As he says this, Marietta opens a locket hanging around her neck. On one side it has a picture of a woman, on the other there is an empty, polished mirror of gold. I do not need to take a second glance at the woman. Marietta catches a beam of light from a wall spotlight and lets it shine down over the village and into some of the derelict houses, slowly and trembling, until it returns and touches both my eyes and holds there.
“I will tell you all I know,” I say. “There was at some time an English woman who came here. According to rumour – and we are the masters of mythology – she was just passing through when one of the men in the village met her and fell in love. He may have been either an idiot or a great Kapetanios. Whatever, he was married with a child and many relatives, but this did not matter. Against everyone’s wishes they set up a home on the fringe of the village. This new woman would not have been trusted or accepted. She would have been hated for what she was doing with a Cretan man and to his family. It is possible they had a child. But the war came. The Battle of Crete was bloody. All battles for Crete are bloody. Kazantzakis wrote: ‘Dig a spade into the earth anywhere on Crete and you will turn up blood.’ But this was terrible. The cemeteries resembled those in France after the First World War. At one stage the Germans used gliders and paratroopers to try and take the island. My father told me the Resistance shot them from the sky as they floated down. Killing them was not the trouble: counting how many dead was the biggest problem! Hitler’s crack airborne division was effectively wiped out.  But then he unleashed the full force of his anger upon our island.
“After that the Germans took the airfield and victory was inevitable. Most of the Cretan men still alive fled to the mountains and formed the Resistance – to fight and get the Allied soldiers to safety. The idiot or Kapetanios, from what I can find out, was killed. I  could never discover anything more about the woman. Nothing. All of his remaining family deny that she ever existed. That it is lies made up by their enemies. They will show you a photograph of him lying in his coffin, surrounded by flowers, with his wife seated next to him.”
They both keep staring down into the village while I speak. A gun goes off, a heavy calibre pistol. Then another, this time a machine gun. It’s usual around here for this time of night but I am surprised that neither of them flinch.
Marietta snaps the locket closed with a noise louder than any of the shots.
“My mother is dying,” she tells me. “She wanted so badly to know what happened to her mother and father. Who sent her back to England? What was the significance of those red panties? I am going back with no more than I came here with.”
“Let us be romantic,” I say. “Imagine that she sent her daughter home to some chance of safety at the start of the war, and went up in the hills with her lover to fight for freedom. There are many, many unmarked graves all over Crete. Maybe they died together. What matters about how it happened? Nothing will bring her back.”
I see the loneliness and loss in her eyes this inspires and wish I had not said it. I decide to risk a little more that might take some of the hurt away. “Look,” I say, “when the German paratroopers were killed, the Cretans used to take the parachutes and the women used the white silk for making dresses and shirts. We produce fine white silk on the island so they were never sure where it came from. Then they started using bright red silk in their parachutes and announced that anyone caught wearing this material would be hung. To defy them, the women made underwear from it. You might picture the washing lines at night – dripping in scarlet silk, drying colourless in the cold moon-lit night.”
I give them a glass more of iced tsikoudia and lead them indoors.
“I might return to this village,” Richard says, “rent one of these houses for a couple of months and stay while they light the kazani. We’ll make certain our Greek is better and do a bit of research ourselves.”
“There is nothing more,” I assure him. “You will not get anything out of his family or their neighbours except scorn. It is an insult to them and they will take offence.”
Marietta goes to the bathroom and he looks at me, man to man,
“I know something,” he says. “Those panties were not just given to insult her grandmother for her love. They were given to her so the Germans had an excuse to execute her. And you know it. How deep can such hatreds go? To betrayal and revenge, even when there were bigger enemies and threats all around?”
His wife comes back and he says it is time to leave. I offer them a bed for the night while wishing they would go. He shakes my hand firmly and she brushes my cheeks with a light kiss. They keep burning as I watch her leave and know it is the last time we’ll meet. He will not bring her back to this place. He has seen enough. As I hear the car drive off, I take a photograph from its hiding place and look at them for the first time in over a decade. She is as beautiful as her granddaughter. My heroic father, not an idiot, but the great Kapetanios, is as handsome and proud as any lover of this woman would be.
I stand at the window and look at the car winding its way down through the gorge. And I swear, as I hold the photograph, a flash of golden light from their rear windscreen hits it and bathes their two faces with its warmth. I place it back in its darkness and go to put some roses on a hidden grave before another cold dawn arrives.


THE END

About the Books
A young couple arrive on the Greek island of Crete and begin prying into the execution of a beautiful English woman during the German occupation sixty years before. They enter a labyrinth of forbidden love, betrayals, murder, greed and vendettas, old and new. 
Then they disappear. 
A feisty Scottish woman and an irascible, Zorba-like Greek form a reluctant allegiance in a desperate attempt to find and rescue them. They both have very different motives for their involvement. Their search will take them to hidden rituals, ceremonies, remote gatherings, famous monasteries and villages abandoned after decades of vendettas. To the remote island of Gavdos and finally back to a place that, “Even God does not know exists”. 
They will encounter characters good and evil; some modern and pragmatic, others ancient and magical. 
All the time they are being stalked by the sons of man who seeks to complete the crimes of his father and sate his own greed and insane desire for vengeance. These men are more animal than human and have been raised in the remote mountains for the sole purpose of carrying out the brutal will of their father. 
The mystery of the real, hidden Crete runs deep, and THE THRESHING CIRCLE explores some of the myths and romance while not shying away from its often violent nature. 
By the end choices will have to be made. If such actions are really possible on an island where many Cretans still believe that: “The Cycle of Blood”, can never stop flowing.



The Hoard is a thriller set in the secretive, dangerous world of a Royal Ordnance Factory; a vast, surreal place full of some of the most volatile elements on the planet. 
Thirty years before the main story, the nitration house at the ROF in Bridgwater exploded in a fireball that could be seen for miles around. The entire crew was killed, and the source of the explosion was never found; authorities claimed that the charge in the nitrator had gone critical and that the chargehand was unable to stop a lethal cook-off. But Gunner Wade, the man the nitration crew sent for help that day knows differently: they were murdered; and he was branded a coward. 
Now Byron, the son of one of the victims, enters the sprawling Gormenghast-like compound of the top secret factory to discover the truth about his father's death. But what he finds in the dark heart of this world is a hidden hoard of super-high explosives; illegally produced and drenched in the blood of those killed to conceal its existence. As the threat of discovery mounts, Byron finds himself at the centre of a struggle between good and evil; both to prevent a destructive force from being unleashed again and to bring the sadistic mass murderers who killed his father to justice. He is aided by an unlikely alliance of helpers, including the beautiful widow of a murdered chemist and Gunner Wade. Against them are the original perpetrators and their new legion of evil acolytes. 

Inspired by a massive explosion that killed six men at the real-world ROF Bridgwater facility in 1951 - no cause was ever found - The Hoard is a gripping, grim novel that offers a glimpse into a self-contained apocalyptic landscape scarred both by the birthing of the materiel that fuels war, and the hearts of evil men who would do anything for greed.




About the Author
Neil Grimmett has had over eighty five short stories published. In the
UK by among others: London Magazine, Stand, Panurge, Iron, Ambit, Postscripts Magazine, Pretext etc. Australia, Quadrant, South Africa, New Contrast. Plus stories in the leading journals of Singapore, India, France, Canada, and the USA, where he has appeared in Fiction, The Yale Review, DoubleTake, The southern Humanities Review, Green Mountains Review, Descant, The Southern Review, West Branch and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He has appeared online in Blackbird, Plum Ruby Review, Tatlin's Tower, Web Del Sol, In Posse Review, m.a.g., Word Riot, Blue Moon Review, 3AM, Gangway, Eclectica, The Cortland Review, Segue, The Dublin Quarterly , Ducts, Sugar Mule, Mysterical E, Thuglit and over thirty others. His stories have also appeared in the anthologies: ENGLAND CALLING, BOOK OF VOICES and Italy’s ISBN’s Top International Stories. He has made the storySouth Million Writers Notable Short Story list for the last three years. In addition, he has won the Write On poetry award, 7 Oppenheim John Downes Awards, 5 major British Arts Council Awards, a Royal Society of Authors award and has been awarded two major grants from the Royal Literary Fund.  He has been signed over the last ten years by twelve of the leading literary agents in both the UK and USA. His current agent is Jon Elek at United Agents.
His first thriller, THE THRESHING CIRCLE, was published on Amazon KDP Select. Followed by the second, THE HOARD.


Giveaway
1 Digital Copy of The Threshing Circle & 1 Digital Copy of The Hoard up for grabs for International Readers!
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