Low Flight of Angels in the BeneluxEd Hurst / Romance & Love / Thrillers & Crime
Low Flight of Angels in the Benelux
By Ed Hurst
Copyright 2013 by Ed Hurst
Copyright notice: People of honor need no copyright laws; they are only too happy to give credit where credit is due. Others will ignore copyright laws whenever they please. If you are of the latter, please note what Moses said about dishonorable behavior – “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)
Permission is granted to copy, reproduce and distribute for non-commercial reasons, provided the book remains in its original form.
Cover Art: “Dinant: Meuse embankment,” .Marc Ryckaert Used by permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license; source.
Low Flight of Angels in the Benelux
Part 1 – Of Images and Angels
Part 2 – Of Wheels and Angels
Part 3 – Of Children and Angels
Part4 – Of Truth and Angels
Part 1 – Of Images and Angels
No Pulitzers here, but maybe something that would keep him from going hungry.
Preston was reviewing the images from the last three days of whizzing around The Hague. He did his best to avoid the touristy stuff and captured angles with an artsy edge. His work filled a very narrow niche that saw the wire services buying sometimes almost as much as ten percent of what he submitted.
The park behind the Noord Hove shopping center was relatively quiet that morning. He had been wandering all over Zoetermeer since dawn with the help of a district tourist map and a borrowed bicycle. His camera was recent technology, but still on the low end of the price range. He bought it because it was the most he could get in such a tiny pocket digicam.
For the third time he reminded himself he really should carry the laptop on these forays. The bigger screen would make it much easier to discard images with major flaws. It would take him awhile but he decided to head back to the village where his host was part owner of an inland marina. The tiny village of Hoogmade sat among the polders east of Leiden just off the A4.
As he pedaled along the narrow lanes, zigzagging his way in a northerly direction, his mind wandered back over the events that brought him there.
Two decades ago as a freshly minted soldier, he hadn’t even known that there were US military installations in the Netherlands. He worked maintenance in one of the not-so-secret forward storage sites for heavy military vehicles. His post was several acres of steel warehouses surrounded by blacktop and high security fencing; his job was a mind-numbing boredom of rotating the aging vehicles in and out of storage for routine inspection and lubrication. Occasionally someone up the chain of command mandated an upgrade of some component, then back into storage it went.
On the other hand, it was as close to a paid vacation as you could get in the military. The Dutch were wonderful hosts, the country wide open to exploration and he was officially encouraged to take full advantage of it. Preston’s photography hobby was a prime excuse for blindly grabbing a train headed somewhere new and he saw most of the Lowlands during his tour. Eventually he bought a nice mountain bike and light backpack for longer jaunts overnight, sometimes taking in on the train. He made a lot of new friends, but one in particular became a lifelong buddy.
During one of his long rides he found himself on the shore of a large lake at the foot of three conical cooling towers. Nuclear energy had always been big in Europe. Out on the lake in a stiff breeze were a large number of wind-surfers. Apparently it was some kind of competition. When he pulled out his camera and began seeking a good angle, someone called out to him from atop a rather large enclosed cargo van. The fellow had backed as close as permitted to the edge of the water and stood on top. He had a tripod supporting a rather ancient VHS video camera.
Preston found the Dutch typically eager to speak English, but he decided to learn as much Dutch as possible, careful to mimic the sounds he heard. It prevented a quick stop from turning into a long conversation when he didn’t feel like hanging around some place. This fellow’s patter was loaded with too much jargon, so after a couple of comments while the man gestured to a built-in ladder on the back door, Preston called out in English.
“How come you aren’t out there riding the wind with the rest of them?”
Without breaking stride, the man switched to English. “I’m the primary sponsor of this event!”
Between getting some good shots, helping the man get more from his video equipment and enjoying a few beers, they became fast friends. Preston learned the man called himself Harry for some odd reason, though it bore no relation to any part of his real name. The fellow’s family had been nautical builders from way back, even bearing the name Botenbouwer (roughly translated as Boatwright). Harry insisted on paying him in advance for some large photo prints of the event. The family business near Leiden became a frequent stop for Preston on his wanderings over the years while stationed in the Netherlands.
So that was long ago, and Harry had kept in touch when Preston returned stateside. Preston kept working in heavy equipment maintenance as a civilian, becoming a manager quickly. However, he never lost his love for photography. He spent a lot of time online with other photography buffs and kept in touch with Harry through nautical forums and email.
You would have thought it would go on like that forever, but at some point Preston stumbled across the manosphere on the Net. As he began implementing the changes, his pushy wife was not amused. She pretended it was just another hobby, but Preston took it to heart and the friction became unbearable. She refused to change. It was an ugly divorce and the courts ruled against him 100%. She moved her toy-boy into the house while he was on a business trip and changed to locks on the doors. He found most of his personal belongings had been delivered to the hunting lodge he shared up on the mountains. He stayed there while tying up the loose ends.
Preston had prepared well. He had already made a deal to sell all his assets on short notice, written up and dated before her move, so she ended up with the physical property only. The house and car she had were already paid off, so he felt no further obligation to her. Preston decided it was a good time to take Harry up on his offer to photograph the test run in the North Atlantic for a new sloop design. The one remaining teenage daughter at home begged Preston to take her with him, but he didn’t want to defy the court decree directly, having skated around the edges of it so much already.
So Preston shipped out with Harry and his crew, and the voyage ended up back home in the Netherlands. Preston lived frugally and began selling some of his images wherever he could, hoping he could avoid touching his hidden offshore accounts for a couple of years. With so many banks collapsing around the world, he wasn’t sure he’d ever see the money, anyway. For now, he was biking through the regions around The Hague and taking lots of pictures.