PAPERBACK BOOKS
FORCE OF NATURE

 

This book is in five parts but the true number of parts is infinite. The parts can be read in any order as separate short stories, yet they are also connected by characterisation. 

Force of Nature took a lifetime to write but a moment to put down on paper.

The thousand-mile journey begins with your own two feet. 

Enjoy the journey. 

 

In Store Price: $AU22.95 
Online Price:   $AU21.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-48-1
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:154
Genre: Fiction

 

Author: Colin Chalk
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Colin Chalk is a poet and illustrator whose work has been published throughout Australia. 

Originally from the UK, he immigrated to Australia with his wife and small daughter in 1988 and it was there, through meditation and mysticism, that he found the influences that fuelled his exceptional debut volume, Lovelight.  

Force of Nature is his second book.

Part One (Part Sample Only)

‘Cold overcomes Heat.’

Tao Te Ching.

T

hrough the frosted window of the Russian rattler, Pledger, with half-closed eyes, allowed himself to sink into oblivion. Images of shattered reality seeped into his consciousness and he again allowed the dream to play out. Now, completely detached from the game, he let himself become the actor and star of the show, taking on a different role.

He had long been criticised by his superiors for carrying the old Mauser HSC automatic. As far as they were concerned, the weapon should be consigned to the scrap heap. Some even argued that Pledger himself belonged there; sometimes he thought so too. However, he had grown used to the weapon to the extent that it was now almost an extra part of himself, like some parasitic twin, a love/hate relationship perhaps, but a necessary one nevertheless.

Only once had it let him down. During his mad chase after Ivan Keelover across six blocks of Moscow back alleys. He had fired his full clip at the twisting assassin, to no avail. Suddenly Ivan had stopped, spun around and in one smooth action, withdrew his Glock and unleashed three shots of his own at the speeding Pledger. In a cross between a leaping tiger and a suicidal salmon, Pledger flew himself away from the outstretched aiming arms of the Russian bear and landed in a judo roll behind a parked, pale green Trabant. Its proud owner looked startled for a moment as three shots exploded into his passenger side window. Trabant Man, in a hurry to protect his pride and joy, threw open his glove box and reached for a well-oiled wartime Luger. Snapping back the toggle action, he echoed Ivan’s three shots with three of his own.

The surprised Russian wheeled around and darted across the road towards the park. Pledger took the moment of respite to calmly eject and reload his weapon and once again was on the heels of his quarry. Ivan leaped the waist-high wall with the agility of a hurdles jumper but Pledger was having none of it. Taking up the position, he lined up his shot through the rose bushes. An explosion of red rose petals flew into the fragrant air in a dramatic swirl of colour against the blue sky. He had killed both the assassin and the flower with the same bullet. Somehow, it seemed to him less painful to have killed the man.

It had been a fine shot for a ten-yard moving target and the neat hole it made in the back of the Russian’s neck left only one drop of life fluid. It rested for a moment upon a leaf before sliding off beside a surprised ladybird. Pledger did not wait to check his sleeping target. There was no need. Soon he was lost among the milling crowd, the still warm Mauser next to his heart, which beat now perhaps a little faster.

 

His slumber was arrested by a reflection in the clear space he had thawed in the window. Blonde, blue eyed, perfect, she stood over him in bejewelled radiance.

‘Is this seat taken?’ she asked, already knowing the answer.

Pledger withdrew his feet from the seat allowing access to the bombshell, who slid into the vacancy as though she were made for the position. He caught the first whiff of her perfume and knew at last the meaning of Russian hospitality.

‘May I buy you a drink?’ he enquired.

‘Not without first knowing your name,’ she replied.

‘The name is Pledger, Charles Pledger.’ He grinned.

‘Wild Turkey on the rocks,’ he ordered, ‘and for the lady?’

‘I’ll have the same,’ she said.

The rattler rolled on into the velvet night, its journey now taking a different turn.

‘My name is Rose Thorne,’ she said.

‘I can see I am going to have to be careful how I handle you,’ he laughed.

She pretended she had not had the same response a million times before. But the irony of her name and the coincidence of his dream had not escaped him.

He smiled as he studied the neat curves packaged in the tight black dress. Her long artistic fingers revealed she was a gifted player and Pledger already had in mind the instrument he wanted her to practise on.

‘Are you going far?’ she asked.

‘All the way, I hope,’ he replied with a grin.

Suddenly he no longer felt tired. Only the faint trace of a bullet scar on her left hand made him feel uneasy. She noticed him staring.

‘An old gardening wound I’m afraid,’ she lied.

Nine millimetre shears, I expect, he thought.

A pained expression shadowed her eyes for a moment. He noticed its depth as he traced his fingers over the scar.

‘Did it hurt?’ he enquired.

Before she could respond, Rose, with a look of trepidation, looked past Pledger and seemed to wither on the vine. In an unsteady voice, she told him, ‘That man! He’s been following me all day!’

Pledger spun around in the direction of her pointing finger.

Beneath a brown felt trilby, a weasel face looked up.

‘Why have you been following this lady?’ Pledger demanded.

‘I not follow nobody!’ the Weasel hissed.

Pledger dismissed the lie and like a stalking man-eater surveyed his prey. Dressed in a bad suit of indifferent cut, Weasel Face smiled behind a row of crooked tombstone teeth. A long, thin scar etched his already misshapen face, giving it the appearance of a half-finished jigsaw puzzle. Two bloodshot rodent eyes glared from beneath the brim of his hat.

‘I not follow nobody. Go away fucken!’ he swore.

Unfazed, Pledger glared directly into Weasel’s eyes.

‘I’m glad to hear it,’ he said, with a note of threat in his voice.

For a second a twitching hand made a move towards a concealed blade but the man thought better of it. The movement was not lost on Pledger, however, who made a fist and brushed it against his own chin in a slow calculated movement, whose intention was a clear sign that Weasel had better leave well alone.

As Pledger returned to his seat, Weasel scowled and grimaced as if he had just drunk a cup of acid. His fingers traced the edge of the scabbard beneath his jacket. Sub-vocally he hissed, ‘I make you dead duck fucken.’

 

Victor Violia aka ‘The Blade’. Hit man for SMERSH, the Russian secret service. Eighteen known kills. Specialised in the art of torture. Favourite killing tool, the kris, a Malaysian dagger of wicked invention, designed to kill a man with the utmost pain. Once a heroic survivor of Stalingrad, where he lived for months among rotting corpses and rubble, he had suffered badly when a grenade burst in front of him. Crudely patched up he crawled back into the ruins and lived like a rat in the sewers until liberation.

According to his own account, which was always suspect, he shot many, many Germans. Whilst it is certain that his grasp on reality was fragile at best, he was a useful killer. He was certainly a ‘known face’ as far as Pledger was concerned; their paths had crossed once before.

He well remembered the severed head of agent Frank Godber, late of the CIA, as it rested on the mantelpiece next to the Georgian carriage clock. It had only been a matter of minutes but the precision of a master at work was all too obvious. Little excess blood, clean, precise cuts. He counted twelve, the head made thirteen.

Godber he knew to be a good man, but careless when he drank too much and he drank a little too much the night he crossed paths with Violia. Only the blade could kill this way. His signature handiwork was everywhere. Radio full volume to deaden the screams, silver duct tape binding broken limbs to a chair, an unhurried and professional kill.

The still warm blood signalled the act had been carried out very recently, perhaps moments before. Pledger had just missed him. The open fire escape window, the shadow beneath the street corner lamp. Not enough time for a snapshot. Too far away to follow.

‘I make you dead duck fucken,’ the Weasel cursed in the night.

Ever the professional hunter, Pledger sighed.

‘Next time, old boy!’

 

A good killing machine needs plenty of oiling and Pledger was always ready for action. Lean framed, lithe, with the flowing, graceful deliberation of movement derived from years of tai chi practice. An aura of Black Panther pervaded his presence and exuded from him. Muscular, where it counted, dark piercing eyes with a hint of world-weariness about them. He carried himself with the detachment of one who is in the world but not of it.

‘Do tell.’ He smiled.

She struggled for a moment to read his eyes before her full lips continued.

‘I know you work for British Intelligence. I am in grave danger from the man who is following me. I too am an agent of the secret service. My cover is blown,’ she sighed.

‘Mine too,’ he echoed with a smirk.

‘What are we going to do?’ she asked, with a trace of fear in her voice.

‘Why! Let him catch us of course!’ replied Pledger.

The whisky tasted good, warm and cold at the same time, as it slid around the rapidly melting shards of ice. Blood will have blood. He knew it was time to stop running. Surveying the carriage, he saw at once the plan of action.

As the full moon seeped its life force into the gloom, a scrawny hand turned a worn brass handle. The other hand clutched the ebony and silver inlaid handle of a long, curve-bladed, antique dagger. In the shadows, the blade struck again and again with a fearful frenzy of whirling activity. Feathers flew like a snowstorm as the hidden pillows were butchered into rags.

Two silenced shots tore through two shattered legs as Pledger let the Mauser speak for him. From beneath his bunk, he slid out alongside the crumpled form of Violia. The Blade spat his venom but this time the kris was beyond his grasp.

‘This one’s for Godber,’ said Pledger, as he fired point blank into the back of the Weasel’s skull. From the luggage compartment, Rose unfolded and poured herself to the floor.

‘Thank God he’s dead!’ she exclaimed.

‘Amen to that,’ echoed Pledger.

The crumpled corpse was unfolded and neatly flung from the speeding train without incident, the brown felt trilby carelessly tossed from the window several minutes later. What blood and brains were left were quickly cleaned from the carpet-less floor and flushed down the toilet.

Her smile, when it came, reminded him of wheat fields and warm, sunny days in southern France. He drank in the glow of the full moon reflected in her eyes. She was a fragile, porcelain doll, whose perfect skin seemed luminous in the moonlight. Drops of rainbow light hung from her neck capturing a million stars, skin on skin, producing a magnetic spark of polarisation, tingling every nerve ending with intensity. The clear and present force of nature was so great between them; he swam in her fragrant embrace, all resistance vanished in the avalanche of emotion.

At last, the door was opened and the waiter brought a tray. Black Russian bread, honey, coffee, British newspapers. A sense of unease came with the dawn. Perhaps Violia had not worked alone. It was rare for the KGB to make a mistake. They would want to be sure of a kill by having a backup.

He did not express his concerns to the girl, for now, as she lay sleeping; he wanted to preserve forever that look of serenity in her dreaming face. He had assumed the mantle of protector yet again. It was a role he relished, as he turned over in his hands the cold steel of a kris. Knives were not his style, yet he would use whatever came to hand at a push and who knew if this blade might yet be put to good use. He placed it under the pillow where it lay like some malevolent dragon tooth. Finally, the lady opened her eyes.

‘Good morning, Charles,’ she yawned.

The long night of satin and silk was ripped from his grasp.

‘Good morning, Rose Thorne,’ he answered with a resigned look in his eye.

He glanced at the English papers. Power cuts. Floods. Earthquakes. Fires. Wars. The four horsemen were busy pounding the planet with hoofs of death.

‘Anything in the papers?’ she asked.

‘We’re going to hell in a hand basket,’ he calmly replied.

The coffee tasted good and brought with it a renewed sense of purpose. After the second cup his mind was racing.

‘We’re getting off at the next stop,’ he said. ‘Get your stuff together.’

The slate grey sky of the city was oppressive and the air tasted heavy with grit and the impurities of man. They walked briskly along the iron railway bridge, sure now that they were being followed. A leather trench coat with a Beretta in the pocket shadowed the fleeing pair. It stopped for a moment to light a cigarette with a heavy, gold lighter. A steely determined flint flared into action, its one aim to fire and burn what was in front of it.

Too open, too many people. Now is not the time to kill, he decided. The deadly game of cat and mouse must play out a little longer. Pledger glanced back as he pushed into a Trabant taxi. It rattled into life like a demented clockwork toy. He slid in beside her and they soon became a part of the endless snake of steel and smoke.

A flickering neon star reflected in the water of the dirty river below the hotel. Pledger drew the curtains and turned to face the girl.

‘They seem determined to get us,’ he said. ‘Unless it’s me they’re after.’

‘Perhaps it’s both of us,’ she offered.

‘Are you armed?’ he asked.

She placed a nickel-plated nine-millimetre automatic on the coffee table beside him. He picked it up and examined the weight, hefting it for balance.

‘Nice,’ he said, handing her back the piece. She returned it to the Gucci bag she always carried.

‘Ever used it?’ he asked.

She recalled a time in Hong Kong when a junk full of gunrunners opened up on the police launch she was in. One stray round creased her hand as she returned fire. The junk had exploded after being rammed. The water, strewn with matchwood and body parts, burned with rainbow pools of machine oil. She rubbed the back of her hand as if to erase all memory. Nothing worked.

‘We’ve got company!’ growled Pledger as he spotted two figures in the lamplight below. They glanced up and moved towards the lobby. The door burst the lock on impact; size twelve hobnails will do that. Framed for a second in the doorway, a leather trench coat moved with desperate speed. The Beretta barked twice into the shadows whilst a pair of responding automatics fired simultaneously. Both shots struck their target as trench coat flipped backwards.

‘Vest!’ shouted Pledger as a leather coat began to rise from the floor. This time there was no mistake. Twin shots blew apart a head like an overripe watermelon. The body twitched once then lay still, oozing on the carpet. A heavy gold lighter slid from a pocket. Its flint would burn no more.

A red star winked below the bridge as a furtive figure leaped into a waiting sedan.

‘Where is Boris?’ the driver enquired.

‘He did not make it,’ came the reply.

The driver spat an obscenity as the car sped into the night.

Quickly pocketing the Beretta, the couple fled the scene in moments, prepared as they were for instant flight. They were marked for death in a world full of killers.

‘It takes a lot of lights to make a city,’ she mused as they viewed the panorama from the bridge.

‘Searchlights!’ he said. ‘I wish blackness would swallow them up.’

She looked at him with an intensity he had not seen before.

‘We make a good team,’ she said.

‘I’ll watch your back, you watch mine,’ he rejoined.

The river oozed its stinking way to the sea carrying with it the filth of humanity. Leaden doom hung like a curse in the poisoned air.

‘What chance have we got?’ she asked.

‘Separately, none. Together, I’d say evens,’ he lied.

She knew he was bluffing but pretended otherwise, her perfect complexion betraying no emotion. Privately she steeled herself for the worst and calculated they had a snowball’s chance in Hell.

He gunned the field grey Zundap into spluttering life.

‘Get on!’ he ordered, as Rose sat astride the throbbing monster. Soon the air became cleaner as they headed out of the city towards freedom.

Man and machine became one roaring blur of flesh and steel. Trees, fences, signposts flew past in a torrent of colours and shapes. Time, an alien concept now, was lost in a cacophony of engine noise.

Then the unmistakable banshee wail of a police siren broke into his consciousness. Pulling up hard behind the motorcycle and with coloured lights flashing, Commie cops ordered him to stop.

He swerved and wobbled slightly in an effort to throttle back the go-juice. The ancient springs were worn and protesting, offering little protection from the cracked and pot-holed country road. It was flight or fight time and he knew it. He could ill afford capture by either clean or dirty police and he had no way of knowing which ones were on his tail. The chase took on a new dimension as he accelerated the Zundap to top speed. He was running on bile and adrenalin and the bike seemed to be feeding from his life force, giving it the wings to fly.

It barked in protest as the revs were piled to screaming point. The cascading road dipped, reared and bent like a crazy helter-skelter. This was motorcycle country and soon the old machine was gaining its lead on the frustrated cops. Soon Pledger saw his chance. A long curve allowed him to decelerate rapidly and pull the bike off the road into the shadows of a group of pine trees.

Before long the blaring police siren flashed past leaving them unseen and safe. They waited half an hour among the birdsong and pine needles before making a break from cover. Rough gave way to smooth as the tyres settled into the comfort zone of a sealed road.

Lost among fields of waving golden wheat, beneath a clear, clean sky two fugitives slept in the late afternoon sun. Soft birdsong and the occasional butterfly brought to them a sense of inner peace. Unknown since childhood. Lost in a world beyond the game of death, Pledger dared to dream of the future again. He gazed with soft-focused eyes at his sleeping partner.

Her hair, the colour of the wheat, blew gently over her cheek. Her face glowed with the serenity of a fallen angel. She breathed with the restfulness of one who has tasted freedom and loved it. He brushed away a tiny ladybird whose red shell wings had landed the curious creature onto her neck; it too was lost in her perfection. He gently kissed the spot newly vacated by the insect and his three-day growth caused her to stir a little. Her soft, translucent skin yielded to his gentle touch and again they became one with all nature.

The dead Zundap lay in a ditch covered by branches and leaves. Its heart had broken under the strain of the chase and now it lay in a long rusted rest. All they had, they now carried in a black, leather motorcycle pannier. He slung it over his shoulder and roused her from her dreaming.

‘Time to go!’ he said softly. They arose and headed towards the setting sun. A dragonfly stared at them through a kaleidoscopic eye. His long, blue body hovered and darted in the warm air. Only a nest-like depression in the crop spoke of a visit from two universal transients.

They cast long shadows by the time they reached the fishing village. For a few roubles, they were welcomed to spend the night at the local tavern. It had even been possible to get hold of a smuggled bottle of Wild Turkey. On a bearskin rug by the fire, the lovers slept until dawn.

Arrangements were made with a local smuggler. The trip in his boat along the coast passed without incident. Soon they had arrived at a safe house.

 

The transmitter in the pommel of Violia’s kris screamed out its telltale heart. Resting in the bottom of the bag Pledger carried, a poisonous Judas revealed their every move. The enemy was moving another piece on the game of death board. Like the black spider inked into his hand, Igor Penzikov aka ‘The Spider’ was moving in for the kill.

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