“Chapter 1”


Steve Conway eased off the pillion of the motor scooter, yawned and stretched his legs cramped from the 40km journey which had brought him to the gates of Da Phuoc cemetery, a dismal, lonely graveyard located at the end of a narrow, pot-holed strip of bitumen in Long An province south of Saigon. He took a well-worn handkerchief from his jeans, wiped the sweat from his brow and shaded his eyes from the fierce midday sun.

‘Wait for me, I won’t be long,’ he said to the xe om (motor cycle taxi driver).

It was early in the week and apart from someone who was probably a gravedigger, the place was deserted. It had been a while since his last visit; more plots had been added, changing the formation he remembered. Beside the first row, he paused, then, now sure of his bearings, made his way slowly past a garden of newly-planted red and white roses into a hard-packed, uneven brown dirt track, before turning right into a narrow path of large white concrete tiles, inlaid with a diamond of green grass fronting each grave.

He scanned each headstone finally stopping at number B1, a dark grey polished marble and granite edifice; the last resting place of the girl he had once hoped to marry, Hoang Thi Kim Anh.

Somewhere he’d read, that although the grave only contained bones and dust of the departed, the spirit of the loved one would be there. He stood staring in silence at her face smiling out at him from the oval inlaid photo on the headstone and, for just a moment, he could feel her presence and the memories came flooding back. Her voice, laughter and tears…so immediate, so clear, as if she was standing beside him.

He shook his head trying to banish them from his thoughts but knew he never would, never could. It was all that was left now of their time together.

‘Hi Kimmee, back again,’ he said softly, returning her smile. ‘If only we had known on the day we met how it would all turn out. Bloody fate. It’s not fair. You had so much to give, so much to live for …’

He laid a single red rose upon the grave, lit an incense stick and placed it in a small urn before bowing his head in prayer. A few minutes later he raised his head, opened his eyes and stared at a face he would never see again on this earth plane.

‘Goodbye darling,’ he said and walked slowly from the cemetery without a backward glance.

‘Where to now sir?’ asked the young xe om. ‘Back to Saigon.’ On the outskirts of the city Conway tapped the boy on the shoulder. ‘District 5.’



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