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Friday, September 12, 2014

Stokahlo, Jim... Stokahlo


They packed frantically. Lucky called his school friends and said his father was being reassigned to Beirut – which was the hasty cover that had been concocted. Donna knew better and they had a brief, but passionate farewell at her house, vowing to stay in touch.

“We’ll see each other in D.C.,” she said.

“Sure we will,” Lucky said. And, miracle of all miracles, they did.

Lucky telephoned Athena, but Yorgo had forbidden any contact whatsoever, so no one would call her to the phone. Andreas and his other Cypriot friends were unreachable – they had no phones. He felt bad about leaving without a word, but there was nothing he could do about it.

He called Jim, however, and told him the concocted tale. An hour later Jim showed up. He saw the hurried packing and what he must have thought of it, Lucky couldn’t guess. Jim took Helen aside and spoke softly to her. She nodded, agreeing with what whatever he was proposing.

Jim returned to Lucky. “Let’s go for a farewell drive,” he said. “Your mother’s given her permission.”

Lucky gladly accepted the invitation.

They headed out of town in the old black Plymouth. Lucky said little, too stunned by the swift moving events following right on the heels of the Metaxa Square attack. Jim filled in the silence, chatting about books, art and philosophy as if these subjects were the most important things in the world, rather than Lucky’s impending flight from Cyprus.

They drove into the mountains, past a castle set on the edge of a great, sheer cliff that dropped away into the Mediterranean. The front of the castle faced a steep slope covered with shale. A small cart track ran up from the main road to the gates.

“In the old days,” Jim said, pointing out the castle, “when the enemy approached the king’s men would catapult boulders onto the shale. And this would create a landslide that would kill, or maim, the invaders.”

Lucky pictured the scene – the marching men, confident of victory. The boulders crashing down and the avalanche of rocks crushing them. He wished he could live in that castle and be its king. Then when the CIA cops came and told them he had to leave Cyprus, he would bury them in tumbling rocks.

As if reading his thoughts, Jim said, “In the coming days make a place like this in your mind, Lucky, and you will be safe.”

Lucky didn’t answer, but he soaked it up like a sponge plucked from the reefs at Limmasol.

Jim turned off onto a bumpy path and drove up and up until he came to grove of tall pine. He stopped there and they got out. Lucky followed Jim through the grove of pine and along a narrow path until they came to a cliff with a breath-taking view of the blue, blue Mediterranean.

Lucky saw fishing boats, colorful sails ablaze with the afternoon sun, as the boats plied the waters. He could make out the eyes painted on their bows so they could peer magically through fog and storm.

“There was once a temple to Aphrodite here,” Jim said, indicating shards of marble littering the ground and stone stumps where columns might have been. Jim smiled, teeth flashing in the sun. “Of course, this should be no surprise to you, because I’ve shown you that temples to the goddess were everywhere.”

Thinking of the fat old mother goddess in the Troodos Mountqains, Lucky laughed, which made Jim’s grin broaden.

“But, you know, this was no ordinary temple,” he said, “and it was no ordinary statue of Aphrodite. Because this place, my dear, dear Lucky, is known as Stokahlo Hill, or the Goodbye Hill.”

“There’s a song,” Lucky said, remembering the man he’d met on the plane to Cyprus. The man’s name was Paul, Lucky remembered, his eyes suddenly tearing “A song called Stokahlo.” The meeting on the plane seemed long ago.

Jim beamed. “Yes, yes, and this is the place where that song was born,” he said. “That inspired it.”

He turned to Lucky. “You know, whenever a dear friend or family member must leave our island, if we want to make certain that they will return to us someday, we bring them to this place. This place blessed by Aphrodite long ago.

“And here, we can say our Stokahlos, knowing that the goddess’ holy winds will carry them back to Cyprus once again.”

Now the tears were spilling down Lucky’s cheeks. He wanted to stop crying, but he couldn’t.

Jim placed his hands on Lucky’s shoulders and looked deep into his eyes. “So, Stokahlo, my friend,” he said. “And come back to Cyprus as soon as you can.”

“Stokahlo,” Lucky said, as manfully as he could. He hugged Jim and despite all his efforts, he couldn’t stem the flood of tears.

And neither could Jim.
 *****
He never saw Jim again for the Goddess Aphrodite was not so kind.

Six months after Lucky returned to the States, his father came home one night and told Lucky he needed to speak to him.

He sat the boy down at the kitchen table and Lucky was startled to see tears welling up in his father’s eyes.

“I have bad news,” he said, getting right to the point. “It’s about Jim.”

Lucky couldn’t speak. He could only nod - go on.

“Jim was killed by terrorists,” his father said.

Lucky’s heart stopped. “How… How…” He couldn’t get it out. And he really didn’t want to know the details.

“Jim was having lunch with the mayor and some other businessmen,” Lucky’s father said. “They threw a bomb under the table. It was quick and everybody said he didn’t suffer.”

Lucky couldn’t move. He just stared at his father and suddenly he was swept back to that hill again, the hill that overlooked the glittering sea and pale blue skies and the fishing boats – sails stretched wide – speeding across the waters.

Jim was standing over him, hands on his shoulders. And Lucky was turning his head to see Jim’s face and that fabulous, crooked smile and the tears were streaming down his teacher’s cheeks and Jim was saying, “Stokahlo, Lucky. Stokahlo.”

“I’ll be back, Jim,” Lucky had said. “I promise.”

 ***** 
AFTERWARD

 His name was Jim. Jim Demetrakis. And he was father, brother and teacher to me. I think he would have been a great man, a rare voice of moderation and gentle wisdom in a region where hate and violence are endemic.

But a frightened man with a bomb robbed his country, his people, of Jim’s influence. Just as Jim was robbed of the long and rich life he deserved. An orphan, he dreamed of the day when he would have a family of his own with a loving wife and children he could spoil. And books - he dreamed of having so many books in so many languages that it would take him a lifetime to read them all. As for his public life, Jim might not have coaxed the lion to lay down with the lamb, but he might have taught a few Greeks and Turks to at least tolerate one another.

As for me – as for Lucky –  more than a half a century later I can still hear all those voices – those clamoring voices – vying for my attention. Church and school, flag and country and the CIA. All turning truth inside out and standing reality on its head to suit their purposes.

But Jim’s voice always rings through the clamor. Casting his shadow – his shade - between what is true and what is false. He taught me to always test a thing, like a stallkeeper bites a coin of large value to make certain that it’s real.

But he also taught me to accept what might be a fabrication - if only in my heart, but not my mind - to get at the truth beyond. It didn’t matter whether Mr. Socrates, the wheelwright, really was related to the ancient philosopher. What mattered was that through all those years, all those generations, the story was delivered whole and as full of nuggets of ideas as Jason’s legendary golden fleece.

Jim was delighted when I found the battered copy of the Rubaiyat at the marketplace and we spent many an hour reading the poems aloud to one and all.

This was his favorite:

“There was the Door to which I found no Key; 
There was the Veil through which I could not see; 
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee. 
There was -- and then no more of Thee and Me.”


Jim slipped beyond that veil long ago. I suspect I shall soon follow.

And that is why I’ve written this tale. This story of Lucky, A Teacher, An Earthquake, Some Terrorists, And The CIA.

So at least there will be a little talk of Jim and Me.

Before there is no more of me.

THE END 

*****

 LUCKY IN CYPRUS: IT'S A BOOK!



Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 


Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke, Bookloons.com
*****
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF

THE HATE PARALLAX

THE HATE PARALLAX: What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)

*****
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:

A new novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan


After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm ravaged night.



BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 
*****



Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India

TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK!

Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself. 



Friday, September 5, 2014

BLOWN COVER

*****
*****
Sinon Spinning Lies About The Trojan Horse

It was Thursday, the day before New Year’s Eve and Lucky’s mother was standing on a chair, while Leda pinned up the hem of the cocktail dress she was going to wear at the British embassy party. She and Lucky’s father would be the guests of the Digby’s.

Lucky, meanwhile, planned to spend the evening at Keith’s house with a few friends from school. He figured he and Keith would spend half the night telling about their adventures in Metaxa Square, a conversation he’d rather not have just now. Every time he thought about it, his stomach churned like a washing machine. However, Mr. Jacobs – the new CIA medic and semi-official youth counselor – said that the more he told the tale, the less effect it would have.

“Think of it as creating an emotional callus,” he said. “The more you talk about it, the less it will bother you.” He gave Lucky a playful thump on the shoulder with a half-balled up fist. “Not that it’s bothering you that much, right?” he added. “You’re a real soldier. I could tell the moment we met.”

Lucky had the sudden urge to flatten the man’s nose with one of his grandfather’s patented punches. He immediately felt ashamed of himself. The guy was just saying Lucky needed to be tough – what was wrong with that? Nothing, right? Tough was good. Scared was bad.

Lucky’s father entered. Normally he’d be getting “tuned up,” as he put it, for the New Year’s celebration. But he was on standby and could drink nothing stronger than coffee.

“Just got the call,” he told Helen, who was being helped off the chair by Leda. “Joe dumped that new bike of his.” Helen started to get alarmed, but his father raised a hand. “He’s fine. In the hospital, but fine. Nothing but bruises and badly wounded pride.”

Joe had bought himself a motorcycle. Not a motor bike, like Yorgo’s, but a powerful British Triumph – the Tiger 110 - that Joe had shipped from England. He told everyone who’d listen that it was the fastest Triumph to date and that it was similar to the bike that Marlon Brando straddled in the “The Wild Ones.”

“Thank God for that,” Lucky’s mother said. “Not to sound callous, but does that mean he’s going to work, or do you have to take his shift.”

Lucky’s father shook his head. “No such luck,” he said. “They want to keep him under observation for the weekend.” He checked his watch. “There’s a cab on the way to pick me up.”

Helen sighed resignedly – but with good nature. “That’s life at the Pickle Factory,” she said.

The cab came about 6 p.m. Lucky’s father kissed Helen goodbye and waved to Lucky as he hopped in and the car sped away. The usual procedure was that his dad would take the cab to the U.S. embassy, which was his cover job. There, a special pool car would ferry him to the base. It wasn’t a fool-proof system, but it had the value of being simple and not drawing attention to itself. Embassy people were routinely whisked here and there on assignments.

Recently, however, some people had been getting paranoid about the transportation setup. That had been Joe’s stated reason for getting the Triumph – so he could drive himself to work.

After his father departed the evening progressed normally. Lucky and his mother and Charlie had dinner. After Charlie went to sleep, they listened to the radio for awhile – “Suspense Theater” had been imported from the States. Then they went to bed. Lucky was reading “Andersonville,” MacKinlay Kantor’s fabulous Civil War novel about the infamous Confederate POW camp. The U.S. embassy maintained a revolving library of new works for its personnel and their dependents.

It was a gripping tale, but the hour grew late and Lucky fell asleep with book the across his chest. Hours later a door slammed violently shut and he came suddenly awake, alert and his nerves thrilling. He looked around – the bedside light was still on. Were they under attack again? He listened closely – no rattling on the roof, or running feet on the veranda.

Then he heard voices – his mother’s, urgent and frightened. His father’s voice – a rumble, but very weak. His first thought was that his father was drunk and abusing his mother again. He jumped out of bed, ready to race out and defend her. Then he remembered that his father was supposed to be at the base. What had happened? He heard the phone ring and then his mother answering it. She mumbled something, then very clearly he heard her say, “Hurry!”

Lucky shrugged on his robe and went to see what was happening. He found his parents in the living room and it was a bizarre sight.

His father was sitting in a straight-backed chair, his sports coat flung open, his white dress shirt peeled back to reveal a bloody T-shirt. Lucky stared at the darkest spot, which was a long gash across his stomach that was bubbling blood. His mother had a pan of hot water, a bottle of alcohol and several towels. Everything was a smear of red.

Lucky’s father looked up. His face was gray and pinched with pain, but he forced a smile that was more of a grimace than anything. “Had an argument about the cab fare,” he said.

Lucky’s mother turned. “The bastard stabbed him,” she said. “I’ve called the medic.”

“Who stabbed you?” Lucky demanded.

His father waved a tired hand. “Just get me some brandy,” he said.

Lucky ran to fetch it. His father drank down a hefty shot and some of the color returned to his face. “Don’t ask any more questions,” he said. “They wouldn’t like it.”

Lucky knew that by “they” he meant the CIA investigators – Agency cops. Just by invoking them, he realized that his father expected the investigators to arrive along with the medic at any moment. And sure enough, fifteen minutes later, the medic and two large men in sports coats and open-necked shirts arrived. The medic treated his father on the spot – getting Helen to spread sheets across the couch. He cleaned the wound, shot the area full of Novocain and looped in several stitches.

“He was lousy with a knife,” he told Lucky’s dad. “Missed all the internal organs.”

“You’d better go find him,” his dad told the two large men. “I left him in a ditch. His cab’s outside.”

One of the men caught Lucky listening in. “Why don’t you find something to do, son,” he said.

Lucky made himself scarce. However, he stopped by the front window to look out. There was a taxi in front and for some reason its windshield wipers were going, flipping back and forth. Lucky slipped outside and went to the cab. The engine was still running. He switched it off, then found the wiper button and switched that off as well. He noticed that the back window was smashed in and there was glass and blood all over the seats.

A CIA cop loomed up behind him. “Good thinking,” he said. “Don’t want to wake up the whole neighborhood.”

Lucky returned to the house. He found his mother in the kitchen. Leda was up and Lucky’s mother was telling her to go sleep in Charlie’s room in case the noise disturbed him. But Leda was sleepy and frightened and it was hard for her to understand.

Lucky said in Greek, “There was a small accident at my father’s office. The doctor is with him now, so there is no need to worry. But we don’t want to upset the baby, you understand? He would worry about his father.”

This calmed her immediately. Work-related accidents were a normal part of Cypriot life. “I’ll see to Charlie,” she said, going to the refrigerator and getting out some milk in case he woke up.

When she was gone, Lucky asked his mother what had happened.

“Somehow they found out,” his mother said. He didn’t have to ask what she meant – obviously, his father’s cover had been blown.

“He never got to the embassy,” she went on. Her face was pale, but she was very much in control of herself. “The cab driver tried to kidnap him. They got out into the country and your father knew he had to do something fast, before other men came. There was a fight and your father was stabbed. But he got the knife away from the cab driver and chased him out of the cab. Then drove home.”

“And the cab driver?” Lucky asked, remembering that his father’d said he’d left him in a ditch.

“He might be dead,” she replied. “Your father wasn’t sure.”

Before she could say more, one of the CIA cops entered and said he needed to confer with Mrs. Cole in private. Lucky didn’t mind being left out, knowing there was little his mother could add.

The talking went on for an hour or more. Lucky went to bed. The next day his father – looking gray and a little woozy from pain pills – was driven to the base to meet with Mr. Sisco.

When he returned home he said they had thirty six hours to get out of Cyprus.


NEXT: GOODBYE TO JIM ON STOKAHLO HILL



*****

 LUCKY IN CYPRUS: IT'S A BOOK!



Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 


Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke, Bookloons.com
*****
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF

THE HATE PARALLAX

THE HATE PARALLAX: What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)

*****
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:

A new novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan


After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm ravaged night.



BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 
*****



Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India

TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK!

Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.